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Title: Tante
Author: Sedgwick, Anne Douglas, 1873-1935
Language: English
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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 "Tante" ***

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Author of "Franklin Winslow Kane," "A Fountain Sealed," "Amabel
Channice," "The Shadow of Life," Etc.

New York
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1911, by
The Century Co.

Published, December, 1911.




It was the evening of Madame Okraska's concert at the old St. James's
Hall. London was still the place of the muffled roar and the endearing
ugliness. Horse-'buses plied soberly in an unwidened Piccadilly. The
private motor was a curiosity. Berlin had not been emulated in an
altered Mall nor New York in the façades of giant hotels. The Saturday
and Monday pops were still an institution; and the bell of the
muffin-man, in such a wintry season, passed frequently along the foggy
streets and squares. Already the epoch seems remote.

Madame Okraska was pausing on her way from St. Petersburg to New York
and this was the only concert she was to give in London that winter. For
many hours the enthusiasts who had come to secure unreserved seats had
been sitting on the stone stairs that led to the balcony or gallery, or
on the still narrower, darker and colder flight that led to the
orchestra from Piccadilly Place. From the adjacent hall they could hear
the strains of the Moore & Burgess Minstrels, blatant and innocuously
vulgar; and the determined mirth, anatomized by distance, sounded a
little melancholy. To those of an imaginative turn of mind it might have
seemed that they waited in a tunnel at one far end of which could be
perceived the tiny memory of tea at an Aerated Bread shop and at the
other the vision of the delights to which they would emerge. For there
was no one in the world like Madame Okraska, and to see and hear her was
worth cold and weariness and hunger. Not only was she the most famous of
living pianists but one of the most beautiful of women; and upon this
restoring fact many of the most weary stayed themselves, returning again
and again to gaze at the pictured face that adorned the outer cover of
the programme.

Illuminated by chill gas-jets, armed with books and sandwiches, the
serried and devoted ranks were composed of typical concert-goers, of
types, in some cases, becoming as extinct as the muffin-man; young
art-students from the suburbs, dressed in Liberty serges and velveteens,
and reading ninepenny editions of Browning and Rossetti--though a few,
already, were reading Yeats; middle-aged spinsters from Bayswater or
South Kensington, who took their weekly concert as they took their daily
bath; many earnest young men, soft-hatted and long-haired, studying
scores; the usual contingent of the fashionable and economical lady; and
the pale-faced business man, bringing an air of duty to the pursuit of

Some time before the doors opened a growing urgency began to make itself
felt. People got up from their insecurely balanced camp-stools or rose
stiffly from the stone steps to turn and stand shoulder to shoulder,
subtly transformed from comrades in discomfort to combatants for a
hazardous reward. The field for personal endeavour was small; the stairs
were narrow and their occupants packed like sardines; yet everybody
hoped to get a better seat than their positions entitled them to hope
for. Hope and fear increased in intensity with the distance from the
doors, those mute, mystic doors behind which had not yet been heard a
chink or a shuffle and against which leaned, now balefully visible, the
earliest comers of all, jaded, pallid, but insufferably assured. The
summons came at length in the sound of drawn bolts and chains and a
peremptory official voice, blood-tingling as a trumpet-call; and the
crowd, shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot, with rigid lips and eyes
uplifted, began to mount like one man. Step by step they went, steady
and wary, each pressing upon those who went before and presenting a
resistant back to those who followed after. The close, emulous contacts
bred stealthy strifes and hatreds. A small lady, with short grey hair
and thin red face and the conscienceless, smiling eye of a hypnotized
creature, drove her way along the wall and mounted with the agility of a
lizard to a place several steps above. Others were infected by the
successful outlawry and there were some moments of swaying and striving
before the crowd adjusted itself to its self-protective solidity.
Emerged upon the broader stairs they ascended panting and scurrying, in
a wild stampede, to the sudden quiet and chill and emptiness of the
familiar hall, with its high-ranged plaster cupids, whose cheeks and
breasts and thighs were thrown comically into relief by a thick coating
of dust. Here a permanent fog seemed to hang under the roof; only a few
lights twinkled frugally; and the querulous voice of the
programme-seller punctuated the monotonous torrent of feet. Row upon
row, the seats were filled as if by tumultuous waters entering appointed
channels, programmes rustled, sandwiches were drawn from clammy packets,
and the thin-faced lady, iniquitously ensconced in the middle of the
front row in the gallery, had taken out a strip of knitting and was
blandly ready for the evening.

"I always come up here," said one of the ladies from Kensington to a
friend. "One hears her pianissimo more perfectly than anywhere else.
What a magnificent programme! I shall be glad to hear her give the
Schumann Fantaisie in C Major again."

"I think I look forward more to the Bach Fantaisie than to anything,"
said her companion.

She exposed herself to a pained protest: "Oh surely not; not Bach; I do
not come for my Bach to Okraska. She belongs too definitely to the
romantics to grasp Bach. Beethoven, if you will; she may give us the
Appassionata superbly; but not Bach; she lacks self-effacement."

"Liszt said that no one played Bach as she did."

Authority did not serve her. "Liszt may have said it; Brahms would not
have;" was the rejoinder.

Down in the orchestra chairs the audience was roughly to be divided into
the technical and the personal devotees; those who chose seats from
which they could dwell upon Madame Okraska's full face over the shining
surfaces of the piano or upon her profile from the side; and those who,
from behind her back, were dedicated to the study of her magical hands.

"I do hope," said a girl in the centre of the front row of chairs, a
place of dizzy joy, for one might almost touch the goddess as she sat at
the piano, "I do hope she's not getting fat. Someone said they heard she
was. I never want to see her again if she gets fat. It would be too

The girl with her conjectured sadly that Madame Okraska must be well
over forty.

"I beg your pardon," a massive lady dressed in an embroidered sack-like
garment, and wearing many strings of iridescent shells around her
throat, leaned forward from behind to say: "She is forty-six; I happen
to know; a friend of mine has met Madame Okraska's secretary. Forty-six;
but she keeps her beauty wonderfully; her figure is quite beautiful."

An element of personal excitement was evident in the people who sat in
these nearest chairs; it constituted a bond, though by no means a
friendly one. Emulation, the irrepressible desire to impart knowledge,
broke down normal barriers. The massive lady was slightly flushed and
her manner almost menacing. Her information was received with a vague,
half resentful murmur.

"She looks younger," she continued, while her listeners gave her an
unwilling yet alert attention. "It is extraordinary how she retains her
youth. But it tells, it tells, the tragic life; one sees it in her eyes
and lips."

The first girl now put forward with resolution her pawn of knowledge.

"It has been tragic, hasn't it. The dreadful man she was married to by
her relations when she was hardly more than a child, and the death of
her second husband. He was the Baron von Marwitz; her real name is von
Marwitz; Okraska is her maiden name. He was drowned in saving her life,
you know."

"The Baron von Marwitz was drowned no one knows how; he was found
drowned; she found his body. She went into a convent after his death."

"A convent? I was reading a life of her in a magazine the other day and
nothing was said about a convent."

The massive lady smiled tolerantly: "Nothing would be. She has a horror
of publicity. Yes, she is a mystic as well as an artist; she only
resigned the religious life because of what she felt to be her duty to
her adopted daughter. One sees the mystical side in her face and hears
it in her music."

Madame Okraska was one of those about whose footsteps legends rise, and
legend could add little to the romantic facts of her life;--the poverty
of her youth; her _début_ as a child prodigy at Warsaw and the sudden
fame that had followed it; the coronets that had been laid at her feet;
her private tragedies, cosmopolitan friendships, her scholarship,
caprices and generosities. She had been the Egeria, smiling in mystery,
of half a dozen famous men. And it was as satisfactory to the devotee to
hear that she always wore white and drank coffee for her breakfast, as
that Rubinstein and Liszt had blessed her and Leschetitsky said that she
had nothing to learn. Her very origin belonged to the realm of romantic
fiction. Her father, a Polish music-master in New Orleans, had run away
with his pupil, a beautiful Spanish girl of a good Creole family. Their
child had been born in Cracow while the Austrians were bombarding it in

The lights were now all up and the stalls filling. Ladies and gentlemen
from the suburbs, over early, were the first comers; eager schoolgirls
marshalled by governesses; scrupulous students with music under their
arms, and, finally, the rustling, shining, chattering crowd of
fashionable London.

The massive lady had by now her little audience, cowed, if still
slightly sulky, well in hand. She pointed out each notability to them,
and indirectly, to all her neighbours. The Duchess of Bannister and Lady
Champney, the famous beauty; the Prime Minister, whom the girls could
have recognized for themselves, and Sir Alliston Compton, the poet. Had
they read his sonnet to Madame Okraska, last year, in the "Fortnightly"?
They had not. "I wonder who that odd looking girl is with him and the
old lady?" one of them ventured.

"A little grand-daughter, a little niece," said the massive lady, who
did not know. "Poor Sir Alliston's wife is in a lunatic asylum; isn't it
a melancholy head?"

But now one of her listeners, a lady also in the front row, leaned
forward to say hurriedly and deprecatingly, her face suffused with
shyness: "That nice young girl is Madame Okraska's adopted daughter. The
old lady is Mrs. Forrester, Madame Okraska's great friend; my
sister-in-law was for many years a governess in her family, and that is
how I come to know."

All those who had heard her turned their eyes upon the young girl, who,
in an old-fashioned white cloak, with a collar of swansdown turned up
round her fair hair, was taking her place with her companions in the
front row of the orchestra-stalls. Even the massive lady was rapt away
to silence.

"But I thought the adopted daughter was an Italian," one girl at last
commented, having gazed her fill at the being so exalted by fortune.
"Her skin is rather dark, but that yellow hair doesn't look Italian."

"She is a Norwegian," said the massive lady, keeping however an eye on
the relative of Mrs. Forrester's governess; "the child of Norwegian
peasants. Don't you know the story? Madame Okraska found the poor little
creature lost in a Norwegian forest, leaped from her carriage and took
her into her arms; the parents were destitute and she bought the child
from them. She is the very soul of generosity."

"She doesn't look like a peasant," said the girl, with a flavour of
discontent, as though a more apparent rusticity would have lent special
magnanimity to Madame Okraska's benevolence. But the massive lady
assured her: "Oh yes, it is the true Norse type; their peasantry has its
patrician quality. I have been to Norway. Sir Alliston looks very much
moved, doesn't he? He has been in love with Madame Okraska for years."
And she added with a deep sigh of satisfaction: "There has never been a
word whispered against her reputation; never a word--'Pure as the foam
on midmost ocean tossed.'"

Among the crowds thronging densely to their places, a young man of
soldierly aspect, with a dark, narrow face, black hair and square blue
eyes, was making his way to a seat in the third row of stalls. His name
was Gregory Jardine; he was not a soldier--though he looked one--but a
barrister, and he was content to count himself, not altogether
incorrectly, a Philistine in all matters æsthetic. Good music he
listened to with, as he put it, unintelligent and barbarous enjoyment;
and since he had, shamefully, never yet heard the great pianist, he had
bought the best stall procurable some weeks before, and now, after a
taxing day in the law courts, had foregone his after-dinner coffee in
order not to miss one note of the opening Appassionata; it was a sonata
he was very fond of. He sometimes picked out the air of the slow
movement on the piano with heavy deliberation; his musical equipment did
not carry him as far as the variations.

When he reached his seat he found it to be by chance next that of his
sister-in-law, his brother Oliver's wife, a pretty, jewelled and
jewel-like young woman, an American of a complicatedly cosmopolitan
type. Gregory liked Betty Jardine, and always wondered how she had come
to marry Oliver, whom he rather scorned; but he was not altogether
pleased to find her near him. He preferred to take his music in
solitude; and Betty was very talkative.

"Well, this is nice, Gregory!" she said. "You and Captain Ashton know
each other, don't you. No, I couldn't persuade Oliver to come; he
wouldn't give up his whist. Isn't Oliver dreadful; he moves from the
saddle to the whist-table, and back again; and that is all. Captain
Ashton and I have been comparing notes; we find that we have missed
hardly any of Madame Okraska's concerts in London. I was only ten when I
heard the first she ever gave here; my governess took me; and actually
Captain Ashton was here on that day, too. Wasn't she a miracle of
loveliness? It was twenty years ago; she had already her European
reputation. It was just after she had divorced that horrible first
husband of hers and married the Baron von Marwitz. This isn't your
initiation, of course, Gregory?"

"Actually my initiation," said Gregory, examining the portrait of Madame
Okraska on the cover of the programme.

"But you've seen her at Mrs. Forrester's? She always stays with Mrs.

"I know; but I've always missed her, or, at all events, never been asked
to meet her."

"I certainly never have been," said Betty Jardine. "But Mrs. Forrester
thinks of me as frivolity personified, I know, and doesn't care to admit
anything lower than a cabinet minister or a poet laureate when she has
her lion domiciled. She is an old darling; but, between ourselves, she
does take her lions a little too seriously, doesn't she. Well, prepare
for a _coup de foudre_, Gregory. You'll be sure to fall in love with
her. Everybody falls in love with her. Captain Ashton has been in love
with her for twenty years. She is extraordinary."

"I'm ready to be subjugated," said Gregory. "Do people really hang on
her hands and kiss them? Shall I want to hang on her hands and kiss

"There is no telling what she will do with us," said Lady Jardine.

Gregory Jardine's face, however, was not framed to express enthusiasm.
It was caustic, cold and delicate. His eyes were as clear and as hard as
a sky of frosty morning, and his small, firm lips were hard. His chin
and lower lip advanced slightly, so that when he smiled his teeth met
edge to edge, and the little black moustache, to which he often gave an
absent upward twist, lent an ironic quality to this chill, gay smile, at
times almost Mephistophelian. He sat twisting the moustache now, leaning
his head to listen, amidst the babel of voices, to Betty Jardine's
chatter, and the thrills of infectious expectancy that passed over the
audience like breezes over a corn-field left him unaffected. His
observant, indifferent glance had in it something of the schoolboy's
barbarian calm and something of the disabused impersonality of worldly

"Who is the young lady with Mrs. Forrester?" he asked presently. "In
white, with yellow hair. Just in front of us. Do you know?"

Betty had leaned forward to look. "Don't you even know her by sight?"
she said. "That is Miss Woodruff, the girl who follows Madame Okraska
everywhere. She attached herself to her years ago, I believe, in Rome or
Paris;--some sort of little art-student she was. What a bore that sort
of devotion must be. Isn't she queer?"

"I had heard that she's an adopted daughter," said Captain Ashton; "the
child of Norwegian peasants, and that Madame Okraska found her in a
Norwegian forest--by moonlight;--a most romantic story."

"A fable, I think. Someone was telling me about her the other day. She
is only a camp-follower and _protégée_; and a compatriot of mine. She is
an orphan and Madame Okraska supports her."

"She doesn't look like a _protégée_," said Gregory Jardine, his eyes on
the young person thus described; "she looks like a protector."

"I should think she must be most of all a problem," said Betty. "What a
price to pay for celebrity--these hangers-on who make one ridiculous by
their infatuation. Madame Okraska is incapable of defending herself
against them, I hear. The child's clothes might have come from Norway!"

The _protégée_, protector or problem, who turned to them now and then
her oddly blunted, oddly resolute young profile, had tawny hair, and a
sun-browned skin. She wore a little white silk frock with flat bows of
dull blue upon it. Her evening cloak was bordered with swansdown. Two
black bows, one at the crown of her head and one at the nape of her
neck, secured the thick plaits of her hair, which was parted and brushed
up from her forehead in a bygone school-girlish fashion. She made
Gregory think of a picture by Alfred Stevens he had seen somewhere and
of an archaic Greek statue, and her appearance and demeanour interested
him. He continued to look at her while the unrest and expectancy of the
audience rolled into billows of excitement.

A staid, melancholy man, forerunner of the great artist, had appeared
and performed his customary and cryptic function. "Why do they always
screw up the piano-stool at the last moment!" Betty Jardine murmured.
"Is it to pepper our tongues with anguish before the claret?--Oh, she
must be coming now! She always keeps one waiting like this!"

The billows had surged to a storm. Signs of frenzy were visible in the
faces on the platform. They had caught a glimpse of the approaching

"Here she is!" cried Betty Jardine. Like everybody else she was clapping
frantically, like everybody, that is, except Gregory Jardine; for
Gregory, his elbow in his hand, his fingers still neatly twisting the
end of his moustache, continued to observe the young girl in the front
row, whose face, illuminated and irradiated, was upturned to the figure
now mounting to the platform.


The hush that had fallen was like the hush that falls on Alpine watchers
in the moment before sunrise, and, with the great musician's slow
emerging from below, it was as if the sun had risen.

She came, with her indolent step, the thunder of hands and voices
greeting her; and those who gazed at her from the platform saw the
pearl-wreathed hair and opulent white shoulders, and those who gazed at
her from beneath saw the strange and musing face. Then she stood before
them and her dark eyes dwelt, impassive and melancholy, upon the sea of
faces, tumultuous and blurred with clapping hands. The sound was like
the roaring of the sea and she stood as a goddess might have stood at
the brink of the ocean, indifferent and unaware, absorbed in dreams of
ancient sorrow. The ovation was so prolonged and she stood there for so
long--hardly less the indifferent goddess because, from time to time,
she bowed her own famous bow, stately, old-fashioned, formally and
sublimely submissive,--that every eye in the great audience could feast
upon her in a rapturous assurance of leisure.

She was a woman of forty-eight, of an ample though still beautiful
figure. Her flowing dress of white brocade made no attempt to compress,
to sustain or to attenuate. No one could say that a woman who stood as
she did, with the port of a goddess--the small head majestically poised
over such shoulders and such a breast--was getting fat; yet no one could
deny that there was redundancy. She was not redundant as other women
were; she was not elegant as other women were; she seemed in nothing
like others. Her dress was strange; it had folds and amplitudes and dim
disks of silver broideries at breast and knee that made it like the
dress of some Venetian lady, drawn at random from an ancestral marriage
coffer and put on dreamily with no thought of aptness. Her hair was
strange; no other woman's hair was massed and folded as was hers, hair
dark as night and intertwined and looped with twisted strands of pearl
and diamond. Her face was strange, that crowning face, known to all the
world. Disparate racial elements mingled in the long Southern oval and
the Slavonic modelling of brow and cheek-bone. The lips, serene and
passionate, deeply sunken at the corners and shadowed with a pencilling
of down, were the lips of Spain; all the mystery of the South was in the
grave and tragic eyes. Yet the eyes were cold; and touches of wild
ancestral suffering, like the sudden clash of spurs in the languors of a
Polonaise, marked the wide nostrils and the heavy eyelids and the broad,
black crooked eyebrows that seemed to stammer a little in the perfect
sentence of her face.

She subjugated and she appealed. Her adorers were divided between the
longing to lie down under her feet and to fold her protectingly in their
arms. Calf-love is an undying element in human-nature, a shame-faced
derogatory name for the romantic, self-immolating emotion woven from
fancy, yearning and the infection of other's ardour. Love of this foam
and flame quality, too tender to be mere æsthetic absorption in a
beautiful object, too selfless to be sensual, too intense to be only
absurd, rose up towards Madame Okraska and encompassed her from hundreds
of hearts and eyes. The whole audience was for her one vast heart of
adoration, one fixed face of half-hypnotized tenderness. And there she
stood before them;--Madame Okraska whom crowned heads delighted to
honour; Madame Okraska who got a thousand pounds a night; Madame Okraska
who played as no one in the world could play; looking down over them,
looking up and around at them, as if, now, a little troubled by the
prolonged adulation, patient yet weary, like a mistress assaulted, after
long absence, by the violent joy of a great Newfoundland dog; smiling a
little, though buffeted, and unwilling to chill the ardent heart by a
reprimand. And more than all she was like a great white rose that,
fading in the soft, thick, scented air of a hot-house, droops languidly
with loosened petals.

They let her go at last and she took her place at the piano. Her hands
fell softly on a group of dreamy ascending chords. Her face, then, in a
long pause, took on a rapt expectancy and power. She was the priestess
waiting before her altar for the descent of the god, glorious and
dreadful. And it was as if with the chill and shudder of a possession
that, breathing deeply, drawing her shoulders a little together, she
lifted her hands and played. She became the possessed and articulate
priestess, her soul, her mind, her passion lent to the message spoken
through her. The tumult and insatiable outcry of the Appassionata spread
like a river over her listeners. And as she played her face grew more
rapt in its brooding concentration, the eyes half-closed, the nostrils
wide, the jaw dropping and giving to the mouth an expression at once
relaxed and vigilant.

To criticize with the spell of Madame Okraska's personality upon one was
hardly possible. Emerged from the glamour, there were those, pretending
to professional discriminations, who suggested that she lacked the
masculine and classic disciplines of interpretation; that her rendering,
though breathed through with noble dignities, was coloured by a
capricious and passionate personality; that it was the feeling rather
than the thought of the music that she excelled in expressing, its
suffering rather than its serenity. Only a rare listener, here and there
among her world-wide audiences, was aware of deeper deficiencies and of
the slow changes that time had wrought in her art. For it was
inspiration no longer; it was the memory of inspiration. The Nemesis of
the artist who expresses, not what he feels, but what he is expected to
feel, what he has undertaken to feel, had fallen upon the great woman.
Her art, too, showed the fragrant taint of an artificial atmosphere. She
had played ten times when she should have played once. She lived on her
capital of experience, no longer renewing her life, and her renderings
had lost that quality of the greatest, the living communication with the
experience embodied in the music. It was on the stereotyped memories of
such communication that she depended, on the half hypnotic possession by
the past; filling in vacancies with temperamental caprice or an emotion
no longer the music's but her own.

But to the enchanted ear of the multitude, professional and
unprofessional, the essential vitality was there, the vitality embodied
to the enchanted eye by the white figure with its drooping,
pearl-wreathed head and face sunken in sombre ecstasy. She gave them all
they craved:--passion, stormy struggle, the tears of hopeless love, the
chill smile of lassitude in accepted defeat, the unappeasable longing
for the past. They listened, and their hearts lapsed back from the
hallucinated unity of enthusiasm each to its own identity, an identity
isolated, intensified, tortured exquisitely by the expression of dim
yearnings. All that had been beautiful in the pain and joy that through
long ages had gone to the building up of each human consciousness,
re-entered and possessed it; the fragrance of blossoming trees, the
farewell gaze of dying eyes, the speechless smile of lovers, ancestral
memories of Spring-times, loves, and partings, evoked by this poignant
lure from dim realms of sub-consciousness, like subterranean rivers
rising through creaks and crannies towards the lifted wand of the
diviner. It seemed the quintessence of human experience, the ecstasy of
perfect and enfranchising sorrow, distilled from the shackling,
smirching half-sorrows of actual life. Some of the listening faces
smiled; some were sodden, stupefied rather than enlightened; some showed
a sensual rudimentary gratification; some, lapped in the tide, yet
unaware of its significance, were merely silly. But no Orpheus, wildly
harping through the woods, ever led more enthralled and subjugated

Gregory Jardine's face was neither sodden nor silly nor sensual; but it
did not wear the enchanted look of the true votary. Instinctively this
young man, though it was emotion that he found in music, resisted any
too obvious assault upon his feelings, taking refuge in irony from their
force when roused. For the form of music, and its intellectual content,
he had little appreciation, and he was thus the more exposed to its
emotional appeal; but his intuition of the source and significance of
the appeal remained singularly just and accurate. He could not now have
analysed his sense of protest and dissatisfaction; yet, while the charm
grasped and encircled him, making him, as he said to himself,
idiotically grovel or inanely soar, he repelled the poignant sweetness
and the thrills that went through him were thrills of a half-unwilling

He sat straightly, his arms folded, his head bent as he twisted the end
of his moustache, his eye fixed on the great musician; and he wondered
what was the matter with him, or with her. It was as if he couldn't get
at the music. Something interfered, something exquisite yet ambiguous,
alluring yet never satisfying.

His glance fell presently from the pianist's drooping head to the face
of the _protégée_, and the contrast between what was expressed by this
young person's gaze and attitude and what he was himself feeling again
drew his attention to her. No grovelling and no soaring was here, but an
elation almost stern, a brooding concentration almost maternal, a
dedicated power. Madame Okraska, he reflected, must be an extraordinary
person if she really deserved that gaze. He didn't believe that she
quite did. His dissatisfaction with the music extended itself to the
musician and, looking from her face to the girl's, he remembered with
scepticism Betty's account of their relation.

A group of Chopin Preludes and a Brahms Rhapsodie Hongroise brought the
first half of the concert to a close, and Gregory watched with
amusement, during the ensuing scene, the vagaries of the intoxicated
crowd. People rose to their feet, clapping, shouting, bellowing,
screaming. He saw on the platform the face of the massive lady, haggard,
fierce, devouring; the face of the shy lady, suffused, the eyes half
dazed with adoration like those of a saint in rapture. Old Mrs.
Forrester, with her juvenile auburn head, laughed irrepressibly while
she clapped, like a happy child. The old poet was nearly moved to tears.
Only the _protégée_ remained, as it were, outside the infection. She
smiled slightly and steadily, as if in a proud contentment, and clapped
now and then quite softly, and she turned once and scanned the audience
with eyes accustomed to ovations and appraising the significance of this

Madame Okraska was recalled six times, but she could not be prevailed
upon to give an encore, though for a long time a voice bayed
intermittently:--"The Berceuse! Chopin's Berceuse!" The vast harmonies
of entreaty and delight died down to sporadic solos, taken up more and
more faint-heartedly by weary yet still hopeful hands.

Still smiling slightly, with a preoccupied air, the young girl looked
about her, or leaned forward to listen to some kindly bantering
addressed to her by Sir Alliston. She hardly spoke, but Gregory
perceived that she was by no means shy. She so pleasantly engaged his
attention that when Sir Alliston got up from his seat next hers there
was another motive than the mere wish to speak to his old friend in his
intention of joining Mrs. Forrester for a few moments. The project was
not definite and he abandoned it when his relative, Miss Eleanor
Scrotton, tense, significant and wearing the sacramental expression
customary with her on such occasions, hurried to the empty seat and
dropped into it. Eleanor's enthusiasms oppressed him and Betty had told
him that Madame Okraska was become the most absorbing of them. His
mother and Eleanor's had been cousins. Her father, the late Sir Jonas
Scrotton, heavily distinguished in the world of literature and politics,
had died only the year before. Gregory remembered him as a vindictive
and portentous old man presiding at Miss Scrotton's tea-parties in a
black silk skull-cap, and one could but admire in Miss Scrotton the
reverence and devotion that had not only borne with but gloried in him.
If the amplitude of his mantle had not descended upon her one might
metaphorically say that the black skull-cap had. Gregory felt that he
might have liked Eleanor better if she hadn't been so unintermittently
and unilluminatingly intelligent. She wrote scholarly articles in the
graver reviews--articles that he invariably skipped--she was always
armed with an appreciation and she had the air of thinking the
intellectual reputation of London very much her responsibility. Above
all she was dowered with an overwhelming power of enthusiasm. Eleanor
dressed well and had a handsome, commanding profile with small,
compressed lips and large, prominent, melancholy eyes that wickedly
reminded Gregory of the eyes of a beetle. Beneath the black feather boa
that was thrown round her neck, her thin shoulder-blades, while she
talked to Mrs. Forrester and sketched with pouncing fingers the phrasing
of certain passages, jerked and vibrated oddly. Mrs. Forrester nodded,
smiled, acquiesced. She was rather fond of Eleanor. Their talk was for
each other. Miss Woodruff, unheeded, but with nothing of the air of one
consciously insignificant, sat looking before her. Beside Eleanor's
vehemence and Mrs. Forrester's vivacity she made Gregory think of a
tranquil landscape seen at dawn.

He was thus thinking, and looking at her, when, as though
sub-consciously aware of his gaze, she suddenly turned her head and
looked round at him.

Her eyes, in the long moment while their glances were interchanged, were
so clear and deliberate, so unmoved by anything but a certain surprise,
that he felt no impulse to pretend politely that he had not been caught
staring. They scrutinized each other, gravely, serenely, intently, until
a thunder of applause, like a tidal wave surging over the hall, seemed
to engulf their gaze. Madame Okraska was once more emerging. Miss
Scrotton, catching up her boa, her programme and her fan, scuttled back
to her seat with an air of desperate gravity; Sir Alliston returned to
his; Mrs. Forrester welcomed him with a smile and a finger at her lips;
and as the pianist seated herself and cast a long glance over the still
disarranged and cautiously rustling audience, Gregory saw that Miss
Woodruff had no further thought for him.


Mrs. Forrester was dispensing tea in her lofty drawing-room which, with
its illumined heights and dim recesses, gave to the ceremony an almost
ritualistic state. Mrs. Forrester's drawing-room and Mrs. Forrester
herself were long-established features of London, and not to have sat
beneath the Louis Quinze chandelier nor have drunk tea out of the blue
Worcester cups was to have missed something significant of the typical
London spectacle.

The drawing-room seemed most characteristic when one came to it from a
fog outside, as people had done to-day, and when Mrs. Forrester was
found presiding over the blue cups. She was an old lady with auburn hair
elaborately dressed and singularly bound in snoods of velvet. She wore
flowing silken trains and loose ruffled sacques of a curious bygone cut,
and upon each wrist was clasped, mounted on a velvet band, a large
square emerald, set in heavily chased gold. The glance of her eyes was
as surprisingly youthful as the color of her hair, and her face, though
complicatedly wrinkled, had an almost girlish gaiety and vigour. Abrupt
and merry, Mrs. Forrester was arresting to the attention and rather
alarming. She swept aside bores; she selected the significant; socially
she could be rather merciless; but her kindness was without limits when
she attached herself, and in private life she suffered fools, if not
gladly at all events humorously, in the persons of her three heavy and
exemplary sons, who had married wives as unimpeachable and as
uninteresting as themselves and provided her with a multitude of
grandchildren. Mrs. Forrester fulfilled punctiliously all her duties
towards these young folk, and it never occurred to her sons and
daughters-in-law that they and their interests were not her chief
preoccupation. The energy and variety of her nature were, however,
given, to her social relations and to her personal friendships, which
were many and engrossing. These friendships were always highly
flavoured. Mrs. Forrester had a _flair_ for genius and needed no popular
accrediting to make it manifest to her. And it wasn't enough to be
merely a genius; there were many of the species, eminent and emblazoned,
who were never asked to come under the Louis Quinze chandelier. She
asked of her talented friends personal distinction, the power of being
interesting in more than their art.

Such a genius, pre-eminently such a one, was Madame von Marwitz. She was
more than under the chandelier; Mrs. Forrester's house, when she was in
London, was her home. "I am safe with you," she had said to Mrs.
Forrester, "with you I am never pursued and never bored." Where Mrs.
Forrester evaded and relegated bores, Madame von Marwitz sombrely and
helplessly hated them. "What can I do?" she said. "If no one will
protect me I am delivered to them. It is a plague of locusts. They
devour me. Oh their letters! Oh their flowers! Oh their love and their
stupidity! No, the earth is black with them."

Madame von Marwitz was protected from the swarms while she visited her
old friend. The habits of the house were altered to suit hers. She
stayed in her rooms or came down as she chose. She had complete liberty
in everything.

To-day she had not as yet appeared, and everyone had come with the hope
of seeing her. There was Lady Campion, the most tactful and discreet of
admirers; and Sir Alliston, who would be perhaps asked to go up to her
if she did not come down; and Eleanor Scrotton who would certainly go up
unasked; and old Miss Harding, a former governess of Mrs. Forrester's
sons and a person privileged, who had come leading an evident yet
pathetic locust, her brother's widow, little Mrs. Harding, the shy lady
of the platform. Miss Harding had told Mrs. Forrester about this
sister-in-law and of how, since her husband's death, she had lived for
philanthropy, and music in the person of Madame Okraska. She had never
met her. She did not ask to meet her now. She would only sit in a corner
and gaze. Mrs. Forrester had been moved by the account of such humble
faith and had told Miss Harding to bring her sister-in-law.

"I have sent for Karen," Mrs. Forrester said, greeting Gregory Jardine,
who came in after Miss and Mrs. Harding; "she will tell us if our
chances are good. It was your first time, last night, wasn't it,
Gregory? I do hope that she may come down."

Gregory Jardine was not a bore, but Mrs. Forrester suspected him to be
one of the infatuated. He belonged, she imagined, seeing him appear so
promptly after his initiation, to the category of dazzled circlers who
fell into her drawing-room in their myriads while Mercedes was with her,
like frizzled moths into a candle. Mrs. Forrester had sympathy with
moths, and was fond of Gregory, whom she greeted with significant

"I never ask her to come down," she went on now to explain to him and to
the Hardings. "Never, never. She could not bear that. But she often does
come; and she has heard to-day from Karen Woodruff that special friends
are hoping to see her. So your chances are good, I think. Ah, here is

Gregory did not trouble to undeceive his old friend. It was his habit to
have tea with her once or twice a month, and his motive in coming to-day
had hardly been distinguishable from his usual impulse. If he had come
hoping to see anybody, it had been to see the _protégée_, and he watched
her now as she advanced down the great room with her cheerful,
unembarrassed look, the look of a person serenely accustomed to a
publicity in which she had no part.

Seen thus at full length and in full face he found her more than ever
like an Alfred Stevens and an archaic Greek statue. Long-limbed,
thick-waisted, spare and strong, she wore a straight, grey dress--the
dress of a little convent girl coming into the _parloir_ on a day of
visits--which emphasized the boyish aspect of her figure. Narrow frills
of white were at wrist and neck; her shoes were low heeled and square
toed; and around her neck a gold locket hung on a black velvet ribbon.

Mrs. Forrester held out her hand to her with the undiscerning kindliness
that greets the mere emissary. "Well, my dear, what news of our Tante?
Is she coming, do you think?" she inquired. "This is Lady Campion; she
has never yet met Tante." The word was pronounced in German fashion.

"I am not sure that she will come," said Miss Woodruff, looking around
the assembled circle, while Mrs. Forrester still held her hand. "She is
still very tired, so I cannot be sure; I hope so." She smiled calmly at
Sir Alliston and Miss Scrotton who were talking together and then lifted
her eyes to Gregory who stood near.

"You know Mr. Jardine?" Mrs. Forrester asked, seeing the pleased
recognition on the girl's face. "It was his first time last night."

"No, I do not know him," said Miss Woodruff, "but I saw him at the
concert. Was it his first time? Think of that."

"Now sit here, child, and tell me about Tante," said Mrs. Forrester,
drawing the girl down to a chair beside her. "I saw that she was very
tired this morning. She had her massage?" Mrs. Forrester questioned in a
lower voice.

"Yes; and fortunately she was able to sleep for two hours after that.
Then Mr. Schultz came and she had to see him, and that was tiring."

Mr. Schultz was Madame Okraska's secretary.

"Dear, dear, what a pity that he had to bother her. Did she drink the
egg-flip I had sent up to her? Mrs. Jenkins makes them excellently as a

"I did my best to persuade her," said Miss Woodruff, "but she did not
seem to care for it."

"Didn't care for it? Was it too sweet? I warned Mrs. Jenkins that her
tendency was to put in too much sugar."

"That was it," Miss Woodruff smiled at the other's penetration. "She
tasted it and said: '_Trop sucré_,' and put it down. But it was really
very nice. I drank it!" said Miss Woodruff.

"But I am so grieved. I shall speak severely to Mrs. Jenkins," Mrs.
Forrester murmured, preoccupied. "I am afraid our chances aren't good
to-day, Lady Campion," she turned from Miss Woodruff to say. "You must
come and dine one night while she is with me. I am always sure of her
for dinner."

"She really isn't coming down?" Miss Scrotton leaned over the back of
Miss Woodruff's chair to ask with some asperity of manner. "Shall I wait
for a little before I go up to her?"

"I can't tell," the young girl replied. "She said she did not know
whether she would come or not. She is lying down and reading."

"She does not forget that she comes to me for tea to-morrow?"

"I do not think so, Miss Scrotton."

"Lady Campion wants to talk to you, Karen," Mrs. Forrester now said;
"come to this side of the table." And as Sir Alliston was engaged with
Miss and Mrs. Harding, Gregory was left to Eleanor Scrotton.

Miss Scrotton felt irritation rather than affection for Gregory Jardine.
Yet he was not unimportant to her. Deeper than her pride in old Sir
Jonas was her pride in her connection with the Fanshawes, and Gregory's
mother had been a Fanshawe. Gregory's very indifference to her and to
the standards of the Scrottons had always given to intercourse with him
a savour at once acid yet interesting. Though she knew many men of more
significance, she remained far more aware of him and his opinions than
of theirs. She would have liked Gregory to show more consciousness of
her and his relationship, of the fact that she, too, had Fanshawe blood
in her veins. She would have liked to impress, or please or, at worst,
to displease him. She would very much have liked to secure him more
frequently for her dinners and her teas. He vexed and he allured her.

"Do you really mean that last night was the first time you ever heard
Mercedes Okraska?" she said, moving to a sofa, to which, somewhat
unwillingly, Gregory followed her. "It makes me sorry for you. It's as
if a person were to tell you that they'd never before seen the mountains
or the sea. If I'd realised that you'd never met her I could have
arranged that you should. She often comes to me quite quietly and meets
a few friends. She was so devoted to dear father; she called him The
Hammer of the Gods. I have the most wonderful letter that she wrote me
when he died," Miss Scrotton said, lowering her voice to a reverent
pause. "Between ourselves," she went on, "I do sometimes think that our
dear Mrs. Forrester cherishes her a little too closely. I confess that I
love nothing more than to share my good things. I don't mean that dear
Mrs. Forrester doesn't; but I should ask more people, frequently and
definitely, to meet Mercedes, if I were in her place."

"But if Madame Okraska won't come down and see them?" Gregory inquired.

"Ah, but she will; she will," Miss Scrotton said earnestly; "if it is
thought out; arranged for carefully. She doesn't, naturally, care to
come down on chance, like to-day. She does want to know whom she's to
meet if she makes the effort. She knows of course that Sir Alliston and
I are here, and that may bring her; I do hope so for your sake; but of
course if she does not come I go up to her. With Mrs. Forrester I am, I
think, her nearest friend in England. She has stayed with me in the
country;--my tiny flat here would hardly accommodate her. I am going,
did you know it, to America with her next week."

"No; really; for a tour?"

"Yes; through the States. We shall be gone till next summer. I know
several very charming people in New York and Boston and can help to make
it pleasant for Mercedes. Of course for me it is the opportunity of a
life-time. Quite apart from her music, she is the most remarkable woman
I have ever known."

"She's clever?"

"Clever is too trivial a word. Her genius goes through everything. We
read a great deal together--Dante, Goethe, French essayists, our English
poets. To hear her read poetry is almost as wonderful an experience as
to hear her play. Isn't it an extraordinary face? One sees it all in her
face, I think."

"She is very unusual looking."

"Her face," Miss Scrotton pursued, ignoring her companion's trite
comments, "embodies the thoughts and dreams of many races. It makes me
always think of Pater's Mona Lisa--you remember: 'Hers is the head upon
which all the ends of the world are come and the eyelids are a little
weary.' She is, of course, a profoundly tragic person."

"Has she been very unfortunate?"

"Unfortunate indeed. Her youth was passed in bitter poverty; her first
marriage was disastrous, and when joy came at last in an ideal second
marriage it was shattered by her husband's mysterious death. Yes; he was
drowned; found drowned in the lake on their estate in Germany. Mercedes
has never been there since. She has never recovered. She is a
broken-hearted woman. She sees life as a dark riddle. She counts herself
as one of the entombed."

"Dear me," Gregory murmured.

Miss Scrotton glanced at him with some sharpness; but finding his blue
eyes fixed abstractedly on Karen Woodruff exonerated him from intending
to be disagreeable. "Her childlessness has been a final grief," she
added; "a child, as she has often told me, would be a resurrection from
the dead."

"And the little girl?" Gregory inquired. "Is she any solace? What is the
exact relationship? I hear that she calls her Tante."

"The right to call her Tante is one of Mercedes's gifts to her. She is
no relation at all. Mercedes picked her up, literally from the roadside.
She is twenty-four, you know; not a child."

"So the story is true, about the Norwegian peasants and the forest?"

"I have to contradict that story at least twice a day," said Miss
Scrotton with a smile half indulgent and half weary. "It is true that
Karen was found in a forest, but it was the forest of Fontainebleau,
_tout simplement_; and it is true that she has Norwegian blood; her
mother was a Norwegian; she was the wife of a Norwegian artist in Rome,
and there Karen's father, an American, a sculptor of some talent, I
believe, met her and ran away with her. They were never married. They
lived on chestnuts up among the mountains in Tuscany, I believe, and the
mother died when Karen was a little child and the father when she was
twelve. Some relatives of the father's put her in a convent school in
Paris and she ran away from it and Mercedes found her on the verge of
starvation in the forest of Fontainebleau. The Baron von Marwitz had
known Mr. Woodruff in Rome and Mercedes persuaded him to take the child
into their lives. She hadn't a friend or a penny in the world. The
father's relatives were delighted to be rid of her and Mercedes has had
her on her hands ever since. That is the true story."

"Isn't she fond of her?" Gregory asked.

"Yes, she is fond of her," Miss Scrotton with some impatience replied;
"but she is none the less a burden. For a woman like Mercedes, with a
life over-full and a strength continually overtaxed, the care and
responsibility is an additional weight and weariness."

"Well, but if she misses children so much; this takes the place,"
Gregory objected.

"Takes the place," Miss Scrotton repeated, "of a child of her own? This
little nobody, and an uninteresting nobody, too? Oh, she is a good girl,
a very good girl; and she makes herself fairly useful in elementary
ways; but how can you imagine that such a tie can satisfy maternal

"How does she make herself useful?" Gregory asked, waiving the question
of maternal cravings. He had vexed Miss Scrotton a good deal, but the
theme was one upon which she could not resist enlarging; anything
connected with Madame von Marwitz was for her of absorbing interest.

"Well, she is a great deal in Cornwall, at Mercedes's place there," she
informed him. "It's a wonderfully lovely place; Les Solitudes; Mercedes
built the house. Karen and old Mrs. Talcott look after the little farm
and keep things in order."

"Old Mrs. Talcott? Where does she come in?"

"Ah, that is another of Mercedes's romantic benevolences. Mrs. Talcott
is a sort of old pensioner; a distant family connection; the funniest
old American woman you can conceive of. She has been with Mercedes since
her childhood, and, like everybody else, she is so devotedly attached to
her that she regards it as a matter of course that she should be taken
care of by her for ever. The way Karen takes her advantages as a matter
of course has always vexed me just a little."

"Is Mrs. Talcott interesting?" Gregory pursued his questions with a
placid persistence that seemed to indicate real curiosity.

"Good heavens, no!" Miss Scrotton said. "The epitome of the commonplace.
She looks like some of the queer old American women one sees in the
National Gallery with Baedekers in their hands and bags at their belts;
fat, sallow, provincial, with defective grammar and horrible twangs; the
kind of American, you know," said Miss Scrotton, warming to her
description as she felt that she was amusing Gregory Jardine, "that the
other kind always tell you they never by any chance would meet at home."

"And what kind of American is Miss Woodruff? The other kind or Mrs.
Talcott's kind?"

"By the other kind I mean Lady Jardine's," said Miss Scrotton; "or--no;
she constitutes a further variety; the rarest of all; the kind who would
never think about Mrs. Talcott one way or the other. But surely Karen is
no kind at all. Could you call her an American? She has never been
there. She is a sort of racial waif. The only root, the only nationality
she seems to have is Mercedes; her very character is constituted by her
relation to Mercedes; her only charm is her devotion--for she is indeed
sincerely and wholeheartedly devoted. Mercedes is a sort of
fairy-godmother to her, a sun-goddess, who lifted her out of the dust
and whirled her away in her chariot. But she isn't interesting," Miss
Scrotton again assured him. "She is literal and unemotional, and, in
some ways, distinctly dull. I have seen the poor fairy-godmother sigh
and shrug sometimes over her inordinately long letters. She writes to
her with relentless regularity and I really believe that she imagines
that Mercedes quite depends on hearing from her. No; I don't mean that
she is conceited; it's not that exactly; she is only dull; very, very
dull; and I don't know how Mercedes endures having her so much with her.
She feels that the girl depends on her, of course, and she is helplessly

Gregory Jardine listened to these elucidations, leaning back in the
sofa, a hand clasping his ankle, his eyes turning now on Miss Scrotton
and now on the subject of their conversation. Miss Scrotton had amused
him. She was entertainingly simple if at moments entertainingly
intelligent, and he had divined that she was jealous of the crumbs that
fell to Miss Woodruff's share from the table of Madame von Marwitz's
bounty. A slight malice that had gathered in him during his talk with
Eleanor Scrotton found expression in his next remark. "She is certainly
charming looking; anyone so charming looking has a right to be dull."
But Miss Scrotton did not heed him. She had risen to her feet. "Here she
is!" she exclaimed, looking towards the door in radiant satisfaction.
"You will meet her after all. I'll do my very best so that you shall
have a little talk with her."

The door had been thrown open and Madame Okraska had appeared upon the


She stood for a moment, with her hand resting on the lintel, and she
surveyed an apparently unexpected audience with contemplative
melancholy. If she was not pleased to find them so many, she was, at all
events unresentful, and Gregory imagined, from Mrs. Forrester's bright
flutter in rising, that resentment from the sun-goddess was a peril to
be reckoned with. Smiling, though languidly smiling, she advanced up the
room, after her graceful and involuntary pause. White fringes rippled
softly round her; a white train trailed behind her; on her breast the
silken cloak that she wore over a transparent under-robe was clasped
with pearls and silver. She was very lovely, very stately, very simple;
but she struck her one hypercritical observer as somewhat prepared;
calculated and conscious, as well.

"Thanks, dearest friend," she said to Mrs. Forrester, who, meeting her
halfway down the room and taking her hand, asked her solicitously how
she did; "I am now a little rested; but it has been a bad night and a
busy morning." She spoke with a slightly foreign accent in a voice at
once fatigued and sonorous. Her eyes, clear, penetrating and singularly
steady, passed over the assembled faces, turned, all of them, towards

She greeted Sir Alliston with a welcoming smile and a lift of the
strange crooked eyebrows, and to Miss Scrotton, who, eager and
illuminated, was beside her: "_Ah, ma chérie_," she said, resting her
hand affectionately on her shoulder. Mrs. Forrester had her other hand,
and, so standing between her two friends, she bowed gravely and
graciously to Lady Campion, to Miss Harding, to Mrs. Harding--who, in
the stress of this fulfilment had become plum-coloured--and to Gregory
Jardine. Then she was seated. Mrs. Forrester poured out her tea, Miss
Harding passed her cake and bread-and-butter, Lady Campion bent to her
with frank and graceful compliments, Miss Scrotton sat at her feet on a
low settle, and Sir Alliston, leaning on the back of her chair, looked
down at her with eyes of antique devotion. Gregory was left on the
outskirts of the group and his attention was attracted by the face of
little Mrs. Harding, who, all unnoticed and unseated, gazed upon Madame
Okraska with the intent liquid eye of a pious dog; the wavering,
uncertain smile that played upon her lips was like the humble thudding
of the dog's tail. Gregory remembered her face now as one of those, rapt
and hypnotized, that he had seen on the platform the night before. In
the ovation that Madame Okraska had received at the end of the concert
he had noticed this same plum-coloured little lady seizing and kissing
the great woman's hand. Shy, by temperament, as he saw, to the point of
suffering, he felt sure that only the infection of the crowd had carried
her to the act of uncharacteristic daring. He watched her now, finding
her piteous and absurd.

But someone beside himself was aware of Mrs. Harding. Miss Woodruff
approached her, smiling impersonally, with rather the air of a kindly
verger at a church. Yes, she seemed to say, she could find a seat for
her. She pointed to the one she had risen from. Mrs. Harding, almost
tearful in her gratitude, slid into it with the precaution of the
reverent sight-seer who fears to disturb a congregation at prayer, and
Miss Woodruff, moving away, went to a table and began to turn over the
illustrated papers that lay upon it. Her manner, retired and cheerful,
had no humility, none of the poor dependent's unobtrusiveness; rather,
Gregory felt, it showed a happy pride, as if, a fortunate priestess in
the temple, she had opportunities and felicities denied to mere
worshippers. She was interested in her papers. She examined the pictures
with something of a child's attentive pleasure.

Gregory came up to her and raising her eyes she smiled at him as though,
on the basis of last night's encounter, she took him for granted as
potentially a friend.

"What are you looking at?" he asked her, as he might have asked a
friendly child.

She turned the paper to him. "The Great Wall of China. They are
wonderful pictures."

Gregory stood beside her and looked. The photographs were indeed
impressive. The sombre landscape, the pallid sky, and, winding as if for
ever over hill and valley, the astonishing structure, like an infinite
lonely consciousness. "I should like to see that," said Miss Woodruff.

"Well, you travel a great deal, don't you?" said Gregory. "No doubt
Madame Okraska will go to China some day."

Miss Woodruff contemplated the desolate wall. "But this is thousands and
thousands of miles from the places where concerts could be given; and I
do not know that my guardian has ever thought of China; no, it is not
probable that she will ever go there. And then, unfortunately, I do not
always go with her. I travel a great deal; but I stop at home a great
deal, too. My guardian likes best to be called von Marwitz in private
life, by those who know her personally," Miss Woodruff added, smiling
again as she presented him with the authorized liturgy.

Gregory was slightly taken aback. He couldn't have defined Miss
Woodruff's manner as assured, yet it was singularly competent; and no
one could have been in less need of benevolent attentions.

"I see," he said. "She looks so much more Polish than German, doesn't
she? What do you call home?" he added. "Have you lived much in England?"

"By home I mean Cornwall," said Miss Woodruff, who was evidently used to
being asked questions. "My guardian has a house there; but it has not
been for long. It used to be in Germany, and then for a little in Italy;
she has only had Les Solitudes for four years." She looked across at the
group under the chandelier. "There is still room for a chair." Her
glance indicated a gap in Madame von Marwitz's circle.

This kindly solicitude amused Gregory very much. She had him on her mind
as a sight-seer, as she had had Mrs. Harding; and she was full of
sympathy for sight-seers. "Oh--thanks--no," he said, his eyes following
hers. "I won't go crowding in."

"She won't mind. She will not even notice;" Miss Woodruff assured him.

"Oh, well, I like to be noticed if I do crowd," Gregory returned

His slight irony was lost upon her; yet, he was sure of it, she was not
dull. Her smile showed him that she congratulated him on an ambitious
spirit. "Well, later, then, we will hope," she said. "You would of
course rather talk with her. And here is Mr. Drew, so that this chance
is gone."

"Who is that singular young man?" Gregory inquired watching with Miss
Woodruff the newcomer, who found a place at once in the gap near Madame
von Marwitz and was greeted by her with a brighter interest than she had
yet shown.

"Mr. Claude Drew?" Miss Woodruff replied with some surprise. "Do you not
know? I thought that everybody in London knew him. He is quite a famous
writer. He has written poetry and essays. 'Artemis Wedded' is by
him--that is poetry; and 'The Bow of Ulysses'--the essay on my guardian
comes in that. Oh, he is quite well known."

Mr. Claude Drew was suave and elegant, and his high, stock-like collar
and folded satin neck-gear gave him a somewhat recondite appearance.
With his dark eyes, pale skin, full, smooth, golden hair, and the vivid
red of an advancing Hapsburgian lip, he had the look of a young French
dandy drawn by Ingres.

"My guardian is very much interested in him," Miss Woodruff went on.
"She believes that he has a great future. She is always interested in
promising young men." This, no doubt, was why Miss Woodruff had so
kindly encouraged him to take his chances.

"He looks a clever fellow," said Gregory.

"Do you like his face?" Miss Woodruff inquired. Mr. Drew, as if aware of
their scrutiny, had turned his eyes upon them for a moment. They were
large, jaded eyes, lustrous, yet with the lustre of a surface rather
than of depth; dense, velvety and impenetrable.

"Well, no, I don't," said Gregory, genially decisive. "He looks
unwholesome, I think."

"Oh! Unwholesome?" Miss Woodruff repeated the word thoughtfully rather
than interrogatively. "Yes; perhaps it is that. It is a danger of
talented modern young men, isn't it. They are not strong enough to be so
intelligent; one must be very strong--in character, I mean--if one is to
be so intelligent. Perhaps he is not strong in character. Perhaps that
is what one feels. Because I do not like his face, either; and I go
greatly by faces."

"So do I," said Gregory. After a moment, in which they both continued to
look at Mr. Drew, he went on. "I wondered last night what nationality
you belonged to. I had been wondering about you for a long while before
you looked round at me."

"You had heard about me?" she asked.

He was pleased to be able to say: "Oh, I wondered about you before I

"People are so often interested in me because of my guardian," said Miss
Woodruff; "everything about her interests them. But I am an American--if
you were not told; that is to say my father was an American--and my
mother was a Norwegian; but though I have never been to America I count
myself as an American, and with right, I think," she added. "We always
spoke English when I was a child, and I remember so many of my father's
friends. Some day I hope I may go to America. Have you been there? Do
you know New England? My father came from New England."

"No; I've never been there. I'm very insular and untravelled."

"Are you? It is a pity not to travel, isn't it," Miss Woodruff remarked.

"But you like it here in England?"

"Yes, I like it here, with Mrs. Forrester; and in Cornwall. But here
with Mrs. Forrester always seems to me more like the life of Europe.
English life, as a rule, is, I think, rather like boxes one inside the
other." She was perfectly sweet and undogmatic, but her air of
cosmopolitan competence amused Gregory, serenely of opinion, for his
part, that English was the only life.

"Well, the great thing is that the boxes should fit comfortably into one
another, isn't it," he observed; "and I think that on the whole we've
come to fit pretty well in England. And we all come out of our boxes,
don't we," he added, pleased with his application of her simile, "for a
Madame von Marwitz."

"Yes, I know," said Miss Woodruff, also, evidently, pleased. "That is
quite true; you all come out of your boxes for her. But, as a nation,
they are not artists, the English, are they? They are kind to the
beautiful things; they like to see them; they will take great trouble to
see them; but they do not make them. Beauty does not grow here--that is
what I mean. It is in its box, too, and it is taken out and passed round
from time to time. You do not mind my saying this? You, perhaps, are
yourself an artist?"

"Dear me, no; I'm only a lawyer. I'm shut up in the tightest of the
boxes," said Gregory.

Miss Woodruff scrutinized him with a smile. "I should not think that of
you," she said. "You do not look like an artist, it is true; few of us
can be artists; but you do not look shut into a box, either. Beauty, to
you, is something real; not a pastime, a fashion; no, I cannot think it.
When I saw your face last night I thought: Here is one who cares. One
counts those faces on one's fingers--even at a great concert. So many
think they care who only want to care. To you art is a serious thing and
an artist the greatest thing a country can produce. Is not that so?"

Gregory continued to be amused by what he felt to be Miss Woodruff's
_naiveté_. He was inclined to think that artists, however admirable in
their functions, were undesirable in their persons, and the reverent
enthusiasm that Miss Woodruff imagined in him was singularly
uncharacteristic. He didn't quite know how to tell her so without
seeming rude, so he contented himself with confessing that beauty, in
his life, was kept, he feared, very much in its box.

They, went on talking, going to an adjacent sofa where Miss Woodruff,
while they talked, stroked the deep fur of an immense Persian cat,
Hieronimus by name, who established himself between them. Gregory found
her very easy to talk to, though they had so few themes in common, and
her face he discovered to be even more charming than he had thought it
the night before. She was not at all beautiful and he imagined that in
her world of artists she would not be particularly appreciated; nor
would she be appreciated in his own world of convention--a girl with
such a thick waist, such queer clothes, a face so broad, so brown, so
abruptly modelled. She was, he felt, a grave and responsible young
person, and something in her face suggested that she might have been
through a great deal; but she was very cheerful and she laughed with
facility at things he said and that she herself said; and when she
laughed her eyes nearly closed and the tip of her tongue was caught,
with an effect of child-like gaiety, between her teeth. The darkness of
her skin made her lips, by contrast, of a pale rose, and her hair, where
it grew thickly around her brows and neck, of an almost infantile
fairness. Her broad, brown eyebrows lay far apart and her grey eyes were
direct, deliberate and limpid.

From where Gregory sat he had Madame von Marwitz in profile and he
observed that once or twice, when they laughed, she turned her head and
looked at them. Presently she leaned a little to question Mrs. Forrester
and then, rather vexed at a sequence, natural but unforeseen, he saw
that Mrs. Forrester got up to fetch him.

"Tante has sent for you!" Miss Woodruff exclaimed. "I am so glad."

It really vexed him a little that he should still be supposed to be
pining for an introduction; he would so much rather have stayed talking
to her. On the sofa she continued to stroke Hieronimus and to keep a
congratulatory gaze upon him while he was conducted to a seat beside the
great woman.

Madame von Marwitz was very lovely. She was the type of woman with whom,
as a boy, he would have fallen desperately in love, seeing her as poetry
personified. And she was the type of woman, all indolent and indifferent
as she was, who took it for granted that people would fall desperately
in love with her. Her long gaze, now, told him that. It seemed to give
him time, as it were, to take her in and to arrange with himself how
best to adjust himself to a changed life. It was not the glance of a
flirt; it held no petty consciousness; it was the gaze of an enchantress
aware of her own inevitable power. Gregory met the cold, sweet,
melancholy eyes. But as she gazed, as she slowly smiled, he was aware,
with a perverse pleasure, that his present seasoned self was completely
immune from her magic. He opposed commonplace to enchantment, and in him
Madame von Marwitz would find no victim.

"I have never seen you here before, I think," she said. She spoke with a
beautiful precision; that of the foreigner perfectly at ease in an alien
tongue, yet not loving it sufficiently to take liberties with it.

Gregory said, no, she had never seen him there before.

"Mrs. Forrester is, it seems, a mutual friend," said Madame von Marwitz.
"She has known you since boyhood. You have been very fortunate."

Gregory assented.

"She tells me that you are in the law," Madame von Marwitz pursued; "a
barrister. I should not have thought that. A diplomat; a soldier, it
should have been. Is it not so?"

Gregory had not wanted to be a barrister. It did not please him that
Madame von Marwitz should guess so accurately at a disappointment that
had made his youth bitter. "I'm a younger son, you see," he said. "And I
had to make my living."

When Madame von Marwitz's gaze grew more intent she did not narrow her
eyes, but opened them more widely. She opened them more widely now,
putting back her head a little. "Ah," she said. "That was hard. That
meant suffering. You are caged in a calling you do not care for."

"Oh, no," said Gregory, smiling; "I'm very well off; I'm quite

"Contented?" she raised her crooked eyebrow. "Are you indeed so
fortunate?--or so unfortunate?"

To this large question Gregory made no reply, continuing to offer her
the non-committal coolness of his smile. He was not liking Madame von
Marwitz, and he was becoming aware that if one didn't like her one did
not appear to advantage in talking with her. He cast about in his mind
for an excuse to get away.

"The law," Madame von Marwitz mused, her eyes dwelling on him. "It is
stony; yet with stone one builds. You would not be content, I think,
with the journeyman's work of the average lawyer. You shape; you create;
you have before you the vision of the strong fortress to be built where
the weak may find refuge. You are an architect, not a mason. Only so
could you find contentment in your calling."

"I'm afraid that I don't think about it like that," said Gregory. "I
should say that the fortress is built already."

There was now a change in her cold sweetness; her smile became a little
ambiguous. "You remind me," she said, "that I was speaking in somewhat
pretentious similes. I was not asking you what had been done, but what
you hoped to do. I was asking--it was that that interested me in you, as
it does in all the young men I meet--what was the ideal you brought to
your calling."

It was as though, with all her sweetness, she had seen through his
critical complacency and were correcting the manners of a conceited boy.
Gregory was a good deal taken aback. And it was with a touch of boyish
sulkiness that he replied: "I don't think, really, that I can claim

Definitely, now, the light of mockery shone in her eye. In evading her,
in refusing to be drawn within her magic circle, he had aroused an irony
that matched his own. She was not the mere phrase-making woman; by no
means the mere siren. "How afraid you English are of your ideals," she
said. "You live by them, but you will not look at them. I could say to
you--as Statius to Virgil in the Purgatorio--that you carry your light
behind you so that you light those who follow, but walk yourselves in
darkness. You will not claim them; no, and above all, you will not talk
about them. Do not be afraid, my young friend; I shall not tamper with
your soul." So she spoke, sweetly, deliberately, yet tersely, too, as
though to make him feel that she had done all she could for him and that
he had proved himself not worth her trouble. Mr. Claude Drew was still
on her other hand, carrying on an obviously desultory conversation with
Miss Scrotton, and to him Madame von Marwitz turned, saying: "And what
is it you wished to tell me of your Carducci? You will send me the
proofs? Good. Oh, I shall not be too tired to read what you have

Here was a young man, evidently, who was worth her trouble. Gregory sat
disposed of and a good deal discomposed, the more so since he had to own
that he had opened himself to the rebuff. He rose and moved away,
looking about and seeing that Miss Woodruff had left the room; but Mrs.
Forrester came to him, her brilliant little face somewhat clouded.

"What is it, my dear Gregory?" she questioned. "She asked to have you
brought. Haven't you pleased her?"

Mrs. Forrester, who had known not only himself, but his father in
boyhood, was fond of him, but was not disposed to think of him as
important. And she expected the unimportant to know, in a sense, their
place and to show the important that they did know it. There was a hint,
now, of severity, in her countenance.

It would sound, he knew, merely boyish and sulky to say: "She hasn't
pleased me." But he couldn't resist: "I wasn't _à la hauteur_."

Mrs. Forrester, at this, looked at him hard for a moment. She then
diagnosed his case as, one of bad temper rather than of malice, and
could forgive it in one who had failed to interest the great woman and
been discarded in consequence; Mercedes, she knew, could discard with

"Well, when you talk to a woman like Madame von Marwitz, you must try to
be worthy of your opportunities," she commented, tempering her severity
with understanding. "You really had an opportunity. Your face interested
her, and your kindness to little Karen. She always likes people who are
kind to little Karen."

It was pleasantly open to him now to say: "Little Karen has been kind to

"A dear, good child," said Mrs. Forrester. "I am glad that you talked to
her. You pleased Mercedes in that."

"She is a delightful girl," said Gregory.

He now took his departure. But he was again to encounter Miss Woodruff.
She was in the hall, talking French to a sallow little woman in black,
evidently a ladies' maid, who had the oppressed, anxious countenance and
bright, melancholy eyes of a monkey.

"_Allons_," Miss Woodruff was saying in encouraging tones, while she
paused on the first step of the stairs, her hand on the banister; "_ce
n'est pas une cause perdue, Louise; nous arrangerons la chose_."

"_Ah, Mademoiselle, c'est que Madame ne sera pas contente, pas contente
du tout quand elle verra la robe_," was Louise's mournful reply as
Gregory came up.

"I hoped we might go on with our talk," he said. He still addressed her
somewhat as one addresses a friendly child; "I wanted to hear the end of
that story about the Hungarian student."

"He died, in Davos, poor boy," said Miss Woodruff, looking down at him
from her slightly higher place, while Louise stood by dejectedly. "He
wrote to my guardian and we went to him there and she played to him. It
made him so happy. We were with him till he died."

"Shall I see you again?" Gregory asked. "Will you be here for any time?
Are you staying in London?"

"My guardian goes to America next week--did you not know?--with Miss

"Oh yes, Eleanor told me. And you're not going too? You're not to see
America yet?"

"No; not this time. I go to Cornwall."

"You are to be alone with Mrs. Talcott all the winter?"

"You know Mrs. Talcott?" Miss Woodruff exclaimed in pleased

"No; I don't know her; Eleanor told me about her, too."

"It is not being alone," said Miss Woodruff. "She and I have a most
happy time together. I thought it strange that you should know Mrs.
Talcott. I never met anyone who knew her unless they knew my guardian
very well."

"And when are you coming back?"

"From Cornwall? I do not know. I am afraid we shall not see each
other--oh, for a very long time," said Miss Woodruff. She smiled. She
gave him her hand, leaning down to him from behind the banister. Gregory
said that he had friends in Cornwall and that he might run down and see
them one day--and then he might see her and Les Solitudes, too. And Miss
Woodruff said that that would be very nice.

He heard the last words of the colloquy with Louise as his coat was put
on in the hall. "_Alors il ne faut pas renvoyer la robe, Mademoiselle?_"

"_Mais non, mais non; nous nous tirerons d'affaire_," Miss Woodruff
replied, springing gaily up the stairs, her arm, with a sort of
dignified familiarity, in which was encouragement and protection, cast
round Louise's shoulders.


Gregory walked at a brisk pace from Mrs. Forrester's house in Wilton
Crescent to Hyde Park Corner, and from there, through St. James's Park,
to Queen Anne's Mansions where he had a flat. He had moved into it from
dismal rooms when prosperity had first come to him, five or six years
ago, and was much attached to it. It was high up in the large block of
buildings and its windows looked over the greys and greens and silvers
of the park, the water shining in the midst, and the dim silhouettes of
Whitehall rising in stately significance on the evening sky. Gregory
went to the balcony and overhung his view contemplatively for a while.
The fog had lifted, and all London was alight.

The drawing-room behind him expressed an accepted convention rather than
a personal predilection. It was not the room of a young man of conscious
tastes. It was solid, cheerful and somewhat _naif_. There was a great
deal of very clean white paint and a great deal of bright wall-paper.
There were deep chairs covered with brighter chintz. There were blue and
white tiles around the fireplace and heavy, polished brass before. On
the tables lay buff and blue reviews and folded evening papers, massive
paper-cutters and large silver boxes. Photographs in silver frames also
stood there, of female relatives in court dress and of male relatives in
uniform. Behind the photographs were pots of growing flowers; and on the
walls etchings and engravings after well-known landscapes. It was the
room of a young man uninfluenced by Whistler, unaware of Chinese screens
and indifferent to the rival claims of Jacobean and Chippendale
furniture. It was civilised, not cultivated; and it was thoroughly

Gregory thought of himself as the most commonplace of types;--the
younger son whose father hadn't been able to do anything for him beyond
educating him; the younger son who, after years of uncongenial drudgery
had emerged, tough, stringy, professional, his boyish dreams dead and
his boyish tastes atrophied; a useful hard-working, clear-sighted member
of society. And there was truth in this conception of himself. There was
truth, too, in Madame von Marwitz's probe. He had more than the normal
English sensitiveness where ideals were concerned and more than the
normal English instinct for a protective literalness. He didn't intend
that anybody should lay their hand on his heart and tell him of lofty
aims that it would have made him feel awkward to look at by himself; his
fastidiousness was far from commonplace, and so were his disdains; they
made cheap successes and cheap ambitions impossible to him. He would
never make a fortune out of the law; yet already he was distinguished
among the younger men at the bar. With nothing of the air of a paladin
he brought into the courts a flavour of classic calm and courtesy. He
was punctiliously fair. He never frightened or bullied or confused. His
impartiality could become alarming at times to his own clients, and
shady cases passed him by. Everybody respected Gregory Jardine and a
good many people disliked him. A few old friends, comrades at Eton and
Oxford, were devoted to him and looked upon him, in spite of his
reputation for almost merciless common-sense, as still potentially
Quixotic. As a boy he had been exceptionally tender-hearted; but now he
was hard, or thought himself so. He had no vanity and looked upon his
own resolution and dignity as the heritage of all men worth their salt;
in consequence he was inclined to theoretic severity towards the
worsted. The sensitiveness of youth had steeled itself in irony; he was
impatient of delusions and exaltations, and scornful of the shambling,
shame-faced motives that moved so many of the people who came under his

Yet, leaning on the iron railing, his gaze softening to a grave,
peaceful smile as he looked over the vast, vaporous scene, laced with
its moving and motionless lines of light, it was this, and its
mysteries, its delicacies, its reticent radiance, that expressed him
more truly than the commonplaces of the room behind him, accurately as
these symbolized the activities of his life. The boy and youth,
emotional and poetic, dreamy if also shrewdly humorous, still survived
in a sub-conscious region of his nature, an Atlantis sunken beneath the
traffic of the surface; and, when he leaned and gazed, as now, at the
lovely evocations of the evening, it was like hearing dimly, from far
depths, the bells of the buried city ringing.

He was thinking of nothing as he leaned there, though memories, linked
in their associated loveliness, floated across his mind--larch-boughs
brushed exquisitely against a frosty sky on a winter morning in
Northumberland, when, a boy, with gun and dogs, he had paused on the
wooded slopes near his home to look round him; or the little well of
chill, clear water that he had found one summer day gushing from a mossy
source under a canopy of leaves; or the silver sky, and hills folded in
greys and purples, that had surrounded him on a day in late autumn when
he had walked for miles in loneliness and, again, had paused to look,
receiving the scene ineffaceably, so that certain moods always made it
rise before him. And linked by some thread of affinity with these
pictures, the face of the young girl he had met that afternoon rose
before him. Not as he had just seen her, but as he had seen her, for the
first time, the night before at the concert. Her face came back to him
with the larch-boughs and the spring of water and the lonely hills,
while he looked at London beneath him. She touched and interested him,
and appealed to something sub-conscious, as music did. But when he
passed from picturing her to thinking about her, about her origin and
environment and future, it was with much the same lucid and unmoved
insight with which he would have examined some unfortunate creature in
the witness-box.

Miss Woodruff seemed to him very unfortunate. For her irregular birth he
had contempt and for her haphazard upbringing only pity. He saw no place
in a well-ordered society for sculptors who ran away with other men's
wives and lived on chestnuts and left their illegitimate children to be
picked up at the roadside. He was the type of young man who,
theoretically, admitted of and indeed admired all independences in
women; practically he preferred them to be sheltered by their male
relatives and to read no French novels until they married--if then. Miss
Woodruff struck him as at once sheltered and exposed. Her niche under
the extended wing of the great woman seemed to him precarious. He saw no
real foothold for her in her present _milieu_. She only entered Mrs.
Forrester's orbit, that was evident, as a tiny satellite in attendance
on the streaming comet. In the wake of the comet she touched, it was
true, larger orbits than the artistic; but it was in this accidental and
transitory fashion, and his accurate knowledge of the world saw in the
nameless and penniless girl the probable bride of some second-rate
artist, some wandering, dishevelled musician, or ill-educated,
ill-regulated poet. Girls like that, who had the aristocrat's assurance
and simplicity and unconsciousness of worldly lore, without the
aristocrat's secure standing in the world, were peculiarly in danger of
sinking below the level of their own type.

He went in to dress. He was dining with the Armytages and after thinking
of Miss Woodruff it was indeed like passing from memories of larch-woods
into the chintzes and metals and potted flowers of the drawing-room to
think of Constance Armytage. Yet Gregory thought of her very contentedly
while he dressed. She was well-dowered, well-educated, well-bred; an
extremely nice and extremely pretty young woman with whom he had danced,
dined and boated frequently during her first two seasons. The Armytages
had a house at Pangbourne and he spent several week-ends with them every
summer. Constance liked him and he liked her. He was not in love with
her; but he wondered if he might not be. To get married to somebody like
Constance seemed the next step in his sensible career. He could see her
established most appropriately in the flat. He could see her beautifully
burnished chestnut hair, her pretty profile and bright blue eyes above
the tea-table; he could see her at the end of the dinner-table presiding
charmingly at a dinner. She would be a charming mother, too; the
children, when babies, would wear blue sashes and would grow up doing
all the proper things at the proper times, from the French _bonne_ and
the German _Fräulein_ to Eton and Oxford and dances and happy marriages.
She would continue all the traditions of his outer life, would fulfil it
and carry it on peacefully and honourably into the future.

The Armytages lived in a large house in Queen's Gate Gardens. They were
not interesting people, but Gregory liked them none the less for that.
He approved of the Armytage type--the kind, courageous, intolerant old
General who managed to find Gladstone responsible for every misfortune
that befell the Empire--blithe, easy-going Lady Armytage, the two sons
in the army and the son in the navy and the two unmarried girls, of whom
Constance was one and the other still in the school-room. It was a small
dinner-party that night; most of the family were there and they had
music after it, Constance singing very prettily--she was taking
lessons--the last two songs she had learned, one by Widor and one by

Yet as he drove home late Gregory was aware that Constance still
remained a pleasant possibility to contemplate and that he had come no
nearer to being in love with her. It might be easier, he mused, if only
she could offer some trivial trick or imperfection, if she had been
freckled, say, or had had a stammer, or prominent teeth. He could
imagine being married to her so much more easily than being in love with
her, and he was a little vexed with himself for his own

Constance was the last thing that he thought of before going to sleep;
yet it was not of her he dreamed. He dreamed, very strangely, of the
little cosmopolitan waif whom he had met that afternoon. He was walking
down a road in a forest. The sky above was blue, with white clouds
heaving above the dark tree-tops, and it was a still, clear day. His
mood was the boyish mood of romance and expectancy, touched with a
little fear. At a turning of the road he came suddenly upon Karen
Woodruff. She was standing at the edge of the forest as if waiting for
him, and she held a basket of berries, not wild-strawberry and not
bramble, but a fairy-tale fruit that a Hans Andersen heroine might have
gathered, and she looked like such a heroine herself, young, and
strange, and kind, and wearing the funny little dress of the concert,
the white dress with the flat blue bows. She held out the basket to him
as he approached, and, smiling at each other in silence, they ate the
fruit with its wild, sweet savour. Then, as if he had spoken and she
were answering him, she said: "And I love you."

Gregory woke with this. He lay for some moments still half dreaming,
with no surprise, conscious only of a peaceful wonder. He had forgotten
the dream in the morning; but it returned to him later in the day, and
often afterwards. It persisted in his memory like a cluster of
unforgettable sensations. The taste of the berries, the scent of the
pine-trees, the sweetness of the girl's smile, these things, rather than
any significance that they embodied, remained with him like one of the
deep impressions of his boyhood.


On the morning that Gregory Jardine had waked from his dream, Madame von
Marwitz sat at her writing-table tearing open, with an air of impatient
melancholy, note after note and letter after letter, and dropping the
envelopes into a waste-paper basket beside her. A cigarette was between
her lips; her hair, not dressed, was coiled loosely upon her head; she
wore a white silk _peignoir_ bordered with white fur and girdled with a
sash of silver tissue. She had just come from her bath and her face,
though weary, had the freshness of a prolonged toilet.

The room where she sat, with its grand piano and its deep chairs, its
sofa and its capacious writing-table, was accurately adjusted to her
needs. It, too, was all in white, carpet, curtains and dimity coverings.
Madame von Marwitz laughed at her own vagary; but it had had only once
to be clearly expressed, and the greens and pinks that had adorned her
sitting-room at Mrs. Forrester's were banished as well as the
rose-sprigged toilet set and hangings of the bedroom. "I cannot breathe
among colours," she had said. "They seem to press upon me. White is like
the air; to live among colours, with all their beauty, is like swimming
under the water; I can only do it with comfort for a little while."

Madame von Marwitz looked up presently at a wonderful little clock of
gold and enamel that stood before her and then struck, not impatiently,
but with an intensification of the air of melancholy, an antique silver
bell that stood beside the clock. Louise entered.

"Where is Mademoiselle?" Madame von Marwitz asked, speaking in French.
Louise answered that Mademoiselle had gone out to take Victor for his
walk, Victor being Madame von Marwitz's St. Bernard who remained in
England during his mistress's absences.

"You should have taken Victor yourself, Louise," said Madame von
Marwitz, not at all unkindly, but with decisive condemnation. "You know
that I like Mademoiselle to help me with my letters in the morning."

Louise, her permanent plaintiveness enhanced, murmured that she had a
bad headache and that Mademoiselle had kindly offered to take Victor,
had said that she would enjoy taking him.

"Moreover," Madame von Marwitz pursued, as though these excuses were not
worthy of reply, "I do not care for Mademoiselle to be out alone in such
a fog. You should have known that, too. As for the dress, don't fail to
send it back this morning--as you should have done last night."

"Mademoiselle thought we might arrange it to please Madame."

"You should have known better, if Mademoiselle did not. Mademoiselle has
very little taste in such matters, as you are well aware. Do my feet
now; I think that the nails need a little polishing; but very little; I
do not wish you to make them look as though they had been varnished; it
is a trick of yours."

Madame von Marwitz then resumed her cigarette and her letters while
Louise, fetching files and scissors, powders and polishers, mournfully
knelt before her mistress, and, drawing the _mule_ from a beautifully
undeformed white foot, began to bring each nail to a state of perfected
art. In the midst of this ceremony Karen Woodruff appeared. She led the
great dog by a leash and was still wearing her cap and coat.

"I hope I am not late, Tante," she said, speaking in English and going
to kiss her guardian's cheek, while Victor stood by, majestically

"You are late, my Karen, and you had no business to take out Victor at
this hour. If you want to walk with him let it be in the afternoon.
_Aïe! aïe!_ Louise! what are you doing? Have mercy I beg of you!" Louise
had used the file awkwardly. "What is that you have, Karen?" Madame von
Marwitz went on. Miss Woodruff held in her hand a large bouquet
enveloped in white paper.

"An offering, Tante; they just arrived as I came in. Roses, I think."

"I have already sent half a dozen boxes downstairs for Mrs. Forrester to
dispose of in the drawing-room. You will take off your things now,
child, and help me, please, with all these weary people. _Bon Dieu!_ do
they really imagine that I am going to answer their inept effusions?"

Miss Woodruff had unwrapped a magnificent bunch of pink roses and laid
them beside her guardian. "From that good little dark-faced lady of
yesterday, Tante."

Madame von Marwitz, pausing meditatively over a note, glanced at them.
"The dark-faced lady?"

"Don't you remember? Mrs. Harding. Here is her card. She sat and gazed
at you, so devoutly, while you talked to Mr. Drew and Lady Campion. And
she looked very poor. It must mean a great deal for her to buy roses in
January--_un suprême effort_," Miss Woodruff quoted, she and her
guardian having a host of such playful allusions.

"I see her now," said Madame von Marwitz. "I see her face;
_congestionnée d'émotion, n'est-ce-pas_." She read the card that Karen

"Silly woman. Take them away, child."

"But no, Tante, it is not silly; it is very touching, I think; and you
have liked pink roses sometimes. It makes me sorry for that good little
lady that you shouldn't even look at her roses."

"No. I see her. Dark red and very foolish. I do not like her or her
flowers. They look stupid flowers--thick and pink, like fat, smiling
cheeks. Take them away."

"You have read what she says, Tante, here on the back? I call that very

"I see it. I see it too often. No. Go now, and take your hat off. Good
heavens, child, why did you wear that ancient sealskin cap?"

Karen paused at the door, the rejected roses in her arms. "Why, Tante,
it was snowing a little; I didn't want to wear my best hat for a morning

"Have you no other hat beside the best?"

"No, Tante. And I like my little cap. You gave it to me--years
ago--don't you remember; the first time that we went to Russia

"Years ago, indeed, I should imagine from its appearance. Well; it makes
no difference; you will soon be leaving town and it will do for Cornwall
and Tallie."

When Karen returned, Madame von Marwitz, whose feet were now finished,
took her place in an easy chair and said: "Now to work. Leave the
accounts for Schultz. I've glanced at some of them this morning and, as
usual, I seem to be spending twice as much as I make. How the money runs
away I cannot imagine. And Tallie sends me a great batch of bills from
Cornwall, _bon Dieu_!" _Bon Dieu_ was a frequent ejaculation with Madame
von Marwitz, often half sighed, and with the stress laid on the first

"Never mind, you will soon be making a great deal more money," said

"It would be more to the point if I could manage to keep a little of
what I make. Schultz tells me that my investments in the Chinese
railroads are going badly, too. Put aside the bills. We will go through
the rest of the letters."

For some time they worked at the pile of correspondence. Karen would
open each letter and read the signature; letters from those known to
Madame von Marwitz, or from her friends, were handed to her; the letters
signed by unknown names Karen read aloud:--begging letters; letters
requesting an autograph; letters recommending to the great woman's
kindly notice some budding genius, and letters of sheer adulation,
listened to, these last, sometimes with a dreamy indifference to the
end, interrupted sometimes with a sudden "_Assez_."

There were a dozen such letters this morning and when Karen read the
signature of the last: "Your two little adorers Gladys and Ethel
Bocock," Madame von Marwitz remarked: "We need not have that. Put it
into the basket."

"But, Tante," Karen protested, looking round at her with a smile, "you
must hear it; it is so funny and so nice."

"So stupid I call it, my dear. They should not be encouraged."

"But you must be kind, you will be kind, even to the stupid. See, here
are two of your photographs, they ask you to sign them. There is a
stamped and addressed envelope to return them in. Such love, Tante! such
torrents of love! You must listen."

Madame von Marwitz resigned herself, her eyes fixed absently on the
smoke curling from her cigarette as if, in its fluctuating evanescence,
she saw a symbol of human folly. Gladys and Ethel lived in Clapham and
told her that they came in to all her concerts and sat for hours waiting
on the stairs. Their letter ended: "Everyone adores you, but no one can
adore you like we do. Oh, would you tell us the colour of your eyes?
Gladys thinks deep, dark grey, but I think velvety brown; we talk and
talk about it and can't decide. We mustn't take up any more of your
precious time.--Your two little adorers, Gladys and Ethel Bocock."

"Bocock," Madame von Marwitz commented. "No one can adore me like they
do. Let us hope not. _Petites sottes._"

"You will sign the photographs, Tante--and you will say, yes, you
must--'To my kind little admirers.' Now be merciful."

"Bocock," Madame von Marwitz mused, holding out an indulgent hand for
the pen that Karen gave her and allowing the blotter with the
photographs upon it to be placed upon her knee. "And they care for
music, _parbleu_! How many of such appreciators are there, do you think,
among my adorers? I do this to please you, Karen. It is against my
principles to encourage the _schwärmerei_ of schoolgirls. There," she
signed quickly across each picture in a large, graceful and illegible
hand, adding, with a smile up at Karen,--"To my kind little admirers."

Karen, satisfied, examined the signatures, held them to the fire for a
moment to preserve their vivid black in bold relief, and then put them
into their envelope, dropping in a small slip of paper upon which she
had written: "Her eyes are grey, flecked with black, and are not

They had now reached the end of the letters.

"A very good, helpful child it is," said Madame von Marwitz. "You are
methodical, Karen. You will make a good housewife. That has never been
my talent."

"And it is my only one," said Karen.

"Ah, well, no; it is a good, solid little head in other directions, too.
And it is no mean musician that the child has become. Yes; there are
many well-known artists to whom I would listen less willingly than to my
Karen. It is only in the direction of _la toilette_," Madame von Marwitz
smiled with a touch of roguishness, "only in the direction of _la
toilette_ that the taste is rather rudimentary as yet. I was very cross
last night, _hein_?"

"It was disappointing not to have pleased you," said Karen, smiling.

"And I was cross. Louise has her _souffre-douleur_ expression this
morning to an exasperating degree."

"We thought we were going to make the dress quite right," said Karen.
"It seemed very simple to arrange the lace around the shoulders; I stood
and Louise draped me; and Louise is clever, you know."

"Not clever enough for that. It was all because with your solicitude
about Louise you wanted her to escape a scolding. She took the lace to
Mrs. Rolley too late and did not explain as I told her to do. And you
did not save her, you see. Put those two letters of Mr. Drew's in the
portfolio; so. And now come and sit, there. I want to have a serious
talk with you, Karen."

Karen obeyed. Madame von Marwitz sat in her deep chair, the window
behind her. The fog had lifted and the pale morning sunlight struck
softly on the coils of her hair and fell on the face of the young girl
sitting before her. With her grey dress and folded hands and serene gaze
Karen looked very like the little convent _pensionnaire_. Madame von
Marwitz scrutinized her thoughtfully for some moments.

"You are--how old is it, Karen?" she said at last.

"I shall be twenty-four in March," said Karen.

"_Bon Dieu!_ I had not realised that it was so much; you are singularly
young for your years."

"Am I, Tante? I don't know," Karen reflected, genially. "I often feel,
oh far older than the people I talk with."

"Do you, _mon enfant_. Some children, it is true, are far wiser than
their elders. You are a wise child; but you are young, Karen, very young
for your years, in appearance, in demeanour, in candour of outlook. Tell
me; have you ever contemplated your future? asked yourself about it?"

Karen, looking gravely at her, shook her head. "Hardly at all, Tante. Is
that very stupid?"

"Not stupid, perhaps; but, again, very child-like. You live in the

"The past was so sad, Tante, and since I have been with you I have been
so happy. There has seemed no reason for thinking of anything but the

"Well, that is right. It is my wish to have you happy. As far as
material things go, too, your future shall be assured; I see to that.
But, you are twenty-three years old, Karen; you are a woman, and a child
no longer. Do you never dream dreams of _un prince charmant_; of a home
of your own, and children, and a life to build with one who loves you?
If I were to die--and one can count on nothing in life--you would be
very desolate."

Karen, for some silent moments, looked at her guardian, intently and
with a touch of alarm. "No; I don't dream," she said then. "And perhaps
that is because you fill my life so, Tante. If someone came who loved me
very much and whom I loved, I should of course be glad to marry;--only
not if it would take me from you; I mean that I should want to be often
with you. And when I look forward at all I always take it for granted
that that will come in time--a husband and children, and a home of my
own. But there seems no reason to think of it now. I am quite contented
as I am."

The kindly melancholy of Madame von Marwitz's gaze continued to fix her.
"But I am not contented for you," she observed. "I wish to see you
established. Youth passes, all too quickly, and its opportunities pass,
too. I should blame myself if our tie were to cut you off from a wider
life. Good husbands are by no means picked up on every bush. One cannot
take these things for granted. It is of a possible marriage I wish to
speak to you this morning, my Karen. We will talk of it quietly." Madame
von Marwitz raised herself in her chair to stretch her hand and take
from the mantelpiece a letter lying there. "This came this morning, my
Karen," she said. "From our good Lise Lippheim."

Frau Lippheim was a warm-hearted, talented, exuberant Jewess who had
been a fellow student of Madame von Marwitz's in girlhood. The
eagle-flights of genius had always been beyond her, yet her pinions were
wide and, unburdened by domestic solicitudes, she might have gone far.
As it was, married to a German musician much her inferior, and immersed
in the care and support of a huge family, she ranked only as second or
third rate. She gave music-lessons in Leipsig and from time to time,
playing in a quintet made up of herself, her eldest son and three eldest
girls, gave recitals in Germany, France and England. The Lippheim
quintet, in its sober way, held a small but dignified position.

Karen had been deposited by her guardian more than once under the
Lippheim's overflowing roof in Leipsig, and it was a vision of Frau
Lippheim that came to her as her guardian unfolded the letter--of the
near-sighted, pale blue eyes, heavy, benignant features, and crinkled,
red-brown hair. So very ugly, almost repulsively so; yet so kind, so
valiant, so untiring. The thought of her was touching, and affectionate
solicitude almost effaced Karen's personal anxiety; for she could not
connect Frau Lippheim with any matrimonial project.

Madame von Marwitz, glancing through her letter, looked up from the last
sheet. "I have talked with the good Lise more than once, Karen," she
said, "about a hope of hers. She first spoke of it some two years ago;
but I told her then that I would say nothing to you till you were older.
Now, hearing that I am going away, to leave you for so long, she writes
of it again. Did you know that Franz was very much attached to you,
Karen?" Franz was Frau Lippheim's eldest son.

The vision that now flashed, luridly, for Karen, was that of an immense
Germanic face with bright, blinking eyes behind glasses; huge lips; a
flattened nose, modelled thickly at the corners, and an enormous laugh
that rolled back the lips and revealed suddenly the Semitic element and
a boundless energy and kindliness. She had always felt fond of Franz
until this moment. Now, amazed, appalled, a violent repulsion went
through her. She became pale. "No. I had not guessed that," she said.

Her eyes were averted. Madame von Marwitz glanced at her and vexation
clouded her countenance. She knew that flinty, unresponsive look. In
moments of deep emotion Karen could almost disconcert her. Her face
expressed no hostility; but a sternness, blind and resisting, like that
of a rock. At such moments she did not look young.

Madame von Marwitz, after her glance, also averted her eyes, sighing
impatiently. "I see that you do not care for the poor boy. He had hoped,
with his mother to back him, that he might have some chance of winning
you;--though it is not Franz who writes."

She paused; but Karen said nothing. "You know that Franz has talent and
is beginning, now, to make money steadily. Lise tells me that. And I
would give you a little _dot_; enough to assure your future, and his. I
only speak of the material things because it is part of your
childishness never to consider them. Of him I would not have spoken at
all, had I not believed that you felt friendship and affection for him.
He is so good, so strong, so loyal that I did not think it impossible."

After another silence Karen found something to say. "I have friendship
for him. That is quite different."

"Why so, Karen?" Madame von Marwitz inquired. "Since you are not a
romantic school-girl, let us speak soberly. Friendship, true friendship,
for a man whose tastes are yours, whose pursuits you understand, is the
soundest basis upon which to build a marriage."

"No. Only as a friend, a friend not too near, do I feel affection for
Franz. It is repulsive to me--the thought of anything else. It makes me
hate him," said Karen.

"_Tiens!_" Madame von Marwitz opened her eyes in genuine surprise. "I
could not have imagined such, decisive feeling. I could not have
imagined that you despised the good Franz. I need not tell you that I do
not agree with you there."

"I do not despise him."

"Ah, there is more than mere negation in your look, your voice, my
child. It is pride, wounded pride, that speaks; and it is as if you told
me that I had less care for your pride than you had, and thought less of
your claims."

"I do not think of my claims."

"You feel them. You feel Franz your inferior."

"I did not think of such things. I thought of his face, near me, and it
made me hate him."

Karen continued to look aside with a sombre gaze. And, after examining
her for another moment, Madame von Marwitz held out her hand. "Come,"
she said, "come here, child. I have blundered. I see that I have
blundered. Franz shall be sent about his business. Have I hurt you? Do
not think of it again."

The girl got up slowly, as if her stress of feeling made her awkward.
Stumbling, she knelt down beside her guardian and, taking the hand and
holding it against her eyes, she said in a voice heavy with unshed
tears: "Am I a burden? Am I an anxiety? Let me go away, then. I can
teach. I can teach music and languages. I can do translations, so many
things. You have educated me so well. You will always be my dear friend
and I shall see you from time to time. But it is as you say, I am a
woman now. I would rather go away than have you troubled by me."

Madame von Marwitz's face, as she listened to the heavy voice, that
trembled a little over its careful words, darkened. "It is not well what
you say, Karen," she replied. "No. You speak to me as you have no right
to speak, as though you had a grievance against me. What have I ever
done that you should ask me whether you are a burden to me?"

"Only--" said Karen, her voice more noticeably trembling--"only that it
seemed to me that I must be in the way if you could think of Franz as a
husband for me. I do not know why I feel that. But it hurt me so much
that it seemed to me to be true."

"It has always been my joy to care for you," said Madame von Marwitz. "I
have always loved you like my own child. I do not admit that to think of
Franz as a husband for you was to do you a wrong. I would not listen to
an unfitting suitor for my child. It is you who have hurt me--deeply
hurt me--by so misunderstanding me." Sorrow and reproach grew in her

"Forgive me," said Karen, who still held the hand before her eyes.

Madame von Marwitz drew her hand gently away and raising Karen's head so
that she could look at her, "I forgive you, indeed, Karen," she said.
"How could I not forgive you? But, child, do not hurt me so again. Never
speak of leaving me again. You must never leave me except to go where a
fuller happiness beckons. You do not know how they stabbed--those words
of yours. That you could think them, believe them! No, Karen, it was not
well. Not only are you dear to me for yourself; there is another bond.
You were dear to him. You were beside me in the hour of my supreme
agony. You desecrate our sacred memories when you allow small suspicions
and fears to enter your thoughts of me. So much has failed me in my
life. May I not trust that my child will never fail me?"

Tragic grief gazed from her eyes and Karen's eyes echoed it.

"Forgive me, Tante, I have hurt you. I have been stupid," she spoke
almost dully; but Madame von Marwitz was looking into the eyes, deep
wells of pain and self-reproach.

"Yes, you have hurt me, _ma chérie_," she replied, leaning now her cheek
against Karen's head. "And it is not loving to forget that when a cup of
suffering brims, a drop the more makes it overflow. You are harsh
sometimes, Karen, strangely harsh."

"Forgive me," Karen repeated.

Madame von Marwitz put her arms around her, still leaning her head
against hers. "With all my heart, my child, with all my heart," she
said. "But do not hurt me so again. Do not forget that I live at the
edge of a precipice; an inadvertent footstep, and I crash down to the
bottom, to lie mangled. Ah, my child, may life never tear you, burn you,
freeze you, as it has torn and burned and frozen me. Ah, the memories,
the cruel memories!" Great sighs lifted her breast. She murmured, while
Karen knelt enfolding her, "His dead face rises before me. The face that
we saw, Karen. And I know to the full again my unutterable woe." It was
rare with Madame von Marwitz to allude thus explicitly to the tragedy of
her life, the ambiguous, the dreadful death of her husband. Karen knelt
holding her, pale with the shared memory. They were so for a long time.
Then, sighing softly, "_Bon Dieu! bon Dieu!_" Madame von Marwitz rose
and, gently putting the girl aside, she went into her bedroom and closed
the door.


It was a hard, chill morning and Gregory, sauntering up and down the
platform at Euston beside the open doors of the long steamer-train, felt
that the taste and smell of London was, as nowhere else, concentrated,
compressed, and presented to one in tabloid form, as it were, at a
London station on a winter morning. It was a taste and smell that he,
personally, rather liked, singularly compounded as it was, to his fancy,
of cold metals and warm sooty surfaces; of the savour of kippers cooking
over innumerable London grates and the aroma of mugs of beer served out
over innumerable London bars; something at once acrid yet genial,
suggesting sordidness and unlimited possibility. The vibration of
adventure was in it and the sentiment, oddly intermingled, of human
solidarity and personal detachment.

Gregory, as he strolled and waited for his old friend and whilom Oxford
tutor, Professor Blackburn, whom he had promised to see off, had often
to pause or to deviate in his course; for, though it was still early,
and the season not a favourite one for crossing, the platform was quite
sufficiently crowded, and crowded, evidently, with homeward-bound
Americans, mostly women. Gregory tended to think of America and its
people with the kindly lightness common to his type. Their samenesses
didn't interest him, and their differences were sometimes vexatious. He
had a vague feeling that they'd really better have been Colonials and be
done with it. Professor Blackburn last night had reproved this insular
levity. He was going over with an array of discriminations that Gregory
had likened to an explorer's charts and instruments. He intended to
investigate the most minute and measure the most immense, to lecture
continually, to dine out every evening and to write a book of some real
appropriateness when he came home. Gregory said that all that he asked
of America was that it should keep its institutions to itself and share
its pretty girls, and the professor told him that he knew more about the
latter than the former. There were not many pretty girls on the platform
this morning, though he remarked one rather pleasing young person who
sat idly on a pile of luggage and fixed large, speculative, innocently
assured eyes upon him when he went by, while near her her mother and a
tawny sister disputed bitterly with a porter. Most of the ladies who
hastened to and fro seemed, while very energetic, also very jaded. They
were packed as tightly with experiences as their boxes with contraband
clothing, and they had both, perhaps, rather heavily on their minds,
wondering, it was probable, how they were to get them through. Some of
them, strenuous, eye-glassed and scholastic, looked, however, as they
marshalled their pathetically lean luggage, quite innocent of material

Among these alien and unfamiliar visages, Gregory caught sight suddenly
of one that was alien yet recognizable. He had seen the melancholy,
simian features before, and after a moment he placed the neat, black
person, walking beside a truck piled high with enormous boxes, as
Louise, Madame von Marwitz's maid. To recognise Louise was to think of
Miss Woodruff. Gregory looked around the platform with a new interest.

Miss Woodruff was nowhere to be seen, but a new element pervaded the
dingy place, and it hardly needed the presence of four or five richly
dressed ladies bearing sheaves of flowers, or that of two silk-hatted
impresario-looking gentlemen with Jewish noses, to lead Gregory to infer
that the element was Madame von Marwitz's, and that he had,
inadvertently, fallen upon the very morning of her departure. Already an
awareness and an expectancy was abroad that reminded him of that in the
concert hall. The contagion of celebrity had made itself felt even
before the celebrity herself was visible; but, in another moment, Madame
von Marwitz had appeared upon the platform, surrounded by cohorts of
friends. Dressed in a long white cloak and flowing in sables, a white
lace veil drooping about her shoulders, a sumptuous white feather
curving from her brow to her back, she moved amidst the scene like a
splendid, dreamy ship entering some grimy Northern harbour.

Mrs. Forrester, on heels as high as a fairy-godmother's and wearing a
strange velvet cloak and a stranger velvet bonnet, trotted beside her;
Sir Alliston was on the other hand, his delicate Vandyke features nipped
with the cold; Mr. Claude Drew walked behind and before went Eleanor
Scrotton, smiling a tight, stricken smile of triumph and responsibility.
As the group passed Gregory, Miss Scrotton caught sight of him.

"We are in plenty of time, I see," she said. "Dear me! it has been a
morning! Mercedes is always late. Could you, I wonder, induce these
people to move away. She so detests being stared at."

Eleanor, as usual, roused a mischievous spirit in Gregory. "I'm afraid
I'm helpless," he replied. "We're in a public place, and a cat may look
at a king. Besides, who could help looking at those marvellous clothes."

"It isn't a question of cats but of impertinent human beings," Miss
Scrotton returned with displeasure. "Allow me, Madam," she forged a
majestic way through a gazing group.

"Where is Miss Woodruff?" Gregory inquired. He was wondering.

"Tiresome girl," Miss Scrotton said, watching the ladies with the
flowers who gathered around her idol. "She will be late, I'm afraid. She
had forgotten Victor."

"Victor? Is Victor the courier? Why does Miss Woodruff have to remember

"No, no. Victor is Mercedes's dog, her dearly loved dog," said Miss
Scrotton, her impatience with an ignorance that she suspected of
wilfulness tempered, as usual, by the satisfaction of giving any and
every information about Madame von Marwitz. "It is a sort of
superstition with her that he should always be on the platform to see
her off. It will be serious, really serious, if Karen doesn't get him
here in time. It may depress Mercedes for the whole of the voyage."

"And where has she gone to get him?"

"Oh, she turned back nearly at once. She was with us in the carriage and
we passed Louise in the omnibus with the boxes and fortunately Karen
noticed that Victor wasn't with her. It turned out, when we stopped and
asked Louise about him, that she had given him to the footman to take
for a walk and she thought he had been brought back to Karen. Karen took
a hansom at once and went back. She really ought to have seen to it
before starting. I do hope she will get him here in time. Madam, if you
please; we really can't get by."

A little woman, stout but sprightly, in whom Gregory recognized the
agitated mother of the pretty girl, evaded Miss Scrotton's extended hand
and darted past her to place herself in front of Madame von Marwitz. She
wore a large, box-like hat from which a blue veil hung. Her small
features, indeterminate in form and incoherent in assemblage, expressed
to an extraordinary degree determination and strategy. She faced the
great woman.

"Baroness," she said, in swift yet deliberate tones; "allow me to
present myself; Mrs. Hamilton K. Slifer. We have mutual friends; Mrs.
Tollman, Mrs. General Tollman of St. Louis, Missouri. She had the
pleasure of meeting you in Paris some years ago. An old family friend of
ours. My girls, Baroness; Maude and Beatrice. They won't forget this
day. We're simply wild about you, Baroness. We were at your concert the
other night." Maude, the lean and tawny, and Beatrice, the dark and
pretty, had followed deftly in their mother's wake and were smiling,
Maude with steely brightness, Beatrice with nonchalant assurance, at
Madame von Marwitz.

"_Bon Dieu!_" the great woman muttered. She gazed away from the Slifers
and about her with helpless consternation. Then, slightly bowing her
head and murmuring: "I thank you, Madam," she moved on, her friends
closing round her. Miss Scrotton, pale with wrath, put the Slifers aside
as she passed them.

"Well, girls, I knew I could do it!" Mrs. Slifer ejaculated, drawing a
deep breath. They stood near Gregory, and Beatrice, who had adjusted her
camera, was taking a series of snaps of the retreating celebrity. "We've
met her, anyway, and perhaps if she ever comes on deck we'll get another
chance. That's a real impertinent woman she's got with her. Did you see
her try and shove me back?"

"Never mind, mother," said Beatrice, who was evidently easy-going; "I
snapped her as she did it and she looked ugly enough to turn milk sour.
My! do look at that girl with the queer cap and the big dog. She's a
freak and no mistake! Stand back, Maude, and let me have a shot at her."

"Why, I believe it's the adopted daughter!" Maude exclaimed. "Don't you
remember. She was in the front row and we heard those people talking
about her. I think she's _distinguée_ myself. She looks like a Russian

It was indeed Miss Woodruff who had arrived and Gregory, whose eyes
followed the Slifers', was aware of a sudden emotion on seeing her. It
was the emotion of his dream, touched and startled and sweet, and even
more than in his dream she made him think of a Hans Andersen heroine
with the little sealskin cap on her fair hair, and a long furred coat
reaching to her ankles. She stood holding Victor by a leash, looking
about her with a certain anxiety.

Gregory made his way to her and when she saw him she started to meet
him, gladly, but without surprise. "Where is Tante?" she said, "Is she
already in the train? Did she send you for me?"

"You are in very good time," he reassured her. "She is over there--you
see her feather now, don't you. I'll take you to her."

"Thank you so much. It has been a great rush. You have heard of the
misfortunes? By good chance I found the quickest cab."

She was walking beside him, her eyes fixed before them on the group
where she saw her guardian's plume and veil. "I don't know what Tante
would have done if Victor had not been here in time to say good-bye to

Madame von Marwitz was holding a parting reception before the open door
of her saloon carriage. Flowers and fruits lay on the tables. Louise and
Miss Scrotton's maid piled rugs and cushions on the chairs and divans.
One of the Jewish gentlemen stood with his hat pushed off his forehead
talking in low, important tones to a pallid young newspaper man who made
rapid notes.

Madame von Marwitz at once caught sight of Karen and Victor. Past the
intervening heads she beckoned Karen to come to her and she and Gregory
exchanged salutes. In her swift smile on seeing him he read a mild
amusement; she could only think that, like everybody else, he had come
to see her off.

The cohorts opened to receive Miss Woodruff and Madame von Marwitz
enfolded her and stooped to kiss Victor's head.

Gregory watched the little scene, which was evidently touching to all
who witnessed it, and then turned to find Professor Blackburn at his
elbow. He, too, it appeared, had been watching Madame von Marwitz. "Yes;
I heard her two years ago in Oxford," he said; "and even my antique
blood was stirred, as much by her personality as by her music. A most
romantic, most pathetic woman. What eyes and what a smile!"

"I see that you are one of the stricken," said Gregory. "Shall I
introduce you to my old friend, Mrs. Forrester? She'll no doubt be able
to get you a word with Madame Okraska, if you want to hear her speak."

No, the professor said, he preferred to keep his idols remote and
vaguely blurred with incense. "Who is the young Norse maiden?" he
inquired; "the one you were with. Those singular ladies are accosting
her now."

Karen Woodruff, on the outskirts of the group, had been gazing at her
guardian with a constrained smile in which Gregory detected
self-mastery, and turned her eyes upon the Slifers as the professor
asked his question. Mrs. Slifer, marshalling her girls, and stooping to
pat Victor, was introducing herself, and while Gregory told the
professor that that was Miss Woodruff, Madame Okraska's ward, she bent
to expound to the Slifers the inscription on Victor's collar, speaking,
it was evident, with kindness. Gregory was touched by the tolerance with
which, in the midst of her own sad thoughts, she satisfied the Slifers'

"Then she really is Norse," said the professor.

"Really half Norse."

"I like her geniality and her reticence," said the professor, watching
the humours of the little scene. "Those enterprising ladies won't get
much out of her. Ah, they must relinquish her now; her guardian is
asking for her. I suppose it's time that I got into my compartment."

The groups were breaking up and the travellers, detaching themselves
from their friends, were taking their places. Madame von Marwitz, poised
above a sea of upturned faces on the steps of her carriage, bent to
enfold Karen Woodruff once more. Doors then slammed, whistles blew,
green flags fluttered, and the long train moved slowly out of the

Standing at a little distance from the crowd, and holding Victor by his
leash, Miss Woodruff looked after the train with a fixed and stiffened
smile. She was near tears. The moment was not a propitious one for
speaking to her; yet Gregory felt that he could not go without saying
good-bye. He approached her and she turned grave eyes upon him.

"And you are going to Cornwall, now?" said Gregory, patting Victor's

"Yes; I go to-morrow," said Miss Woodruff in a gentle voice.

"Have you friends there?" Gregory asked, "and books? Things to amuse

"We see the rector and his wife and one or two old ladies now and then.
But it is very remote, you know. That is why my guardian loves it so
much. She needs the solitude after her rushing life. But books; oh yes;
my guardian has an excellent library there; she is a great reader; I
could read all day, in every language, if I wanted to. As for amusement,
Mrs. Talcott and I are very busy; we see after the garden and the little
farm; I practice and take Victor out for walks."

She had quite mastered her emotion and Gregory could look up at her
frankly. "Isn't there something I could send you," he said, "to help to
pass the time? Magazines? Do you have them? And sweets? Do you like
sweets?" His manner was half playful and he smiled at her as he might
have smiled at a young school-girl. If only those wide braids under the
little cap had been hanging over her shoulders the manner would have
been justified. As it was, Gregory felt with some bewilderment that his
behaviour was hardly normal. He was not in the habit of offering
magazines and sweets to young women. But his solicitude expressed itself
in these unconventional forms and luckily she found nothing amiss with
them. She was accustomed, no doubt, to a world where such offerings
passed freely.

"It is very kind of you," said Miss Woodruff. "I should indeed like to
see a review now and then. Mr. Drew is writing another little article on
my guardian, in one of this month's reviews, I did not hear which one;
and I would like to see that very much. But sweets? No; when I like them
I like them too much and eat too many and then I am sorry. Please don't
send me sweets." She was smiling.

"What do you like to eat, then, that doesn't make you sorry--even when
you eat a great deal?"

"Roast-beef!" she said, laughing, and the tip of her tongue was caught
between her teeth. He was charmed to feel that, for the moment, at
least, he had won her from her sadness.

"But you get roast-beef in Cornwall."

"Oh, excellent. I will not have roast-beef, please."

"Fruit, then? You like fruit?"

"Yes; indeed."

"And you don't get much fruit in Cornwall in winter."

"Only apples," she confessed, "and dried apricots."

He elicited from her that nectarines and grapes were her favourite
fruits. But in the midst of their talk she became suddenly grave again.

"I do not believe that you had a single word with her after I came!"

His face betrayed his bewilderment.

"Tante," she enlightened him. "But before then? You did speak with her?
She had sent you to look for me?" The depths of her misconception as to
his presence were apparent.

"No; it was by chance I saw you," he said. "And I didn't have any talk
with Madame von Marwitz." He had no time to undeceive her further if it
had been worth while to undeceive her, for Mrs. Forrester, detaching
herself from the larger group of bereaved ones, joined them.

"I can't give you a lift, Gregory?" she asked. "You are going citywards?
We are all feeling very bleak and despoiled, aren't we? What an awful
place a station is when someone has gone away from it."

"Mrs. Forrester," said Karen Woodruff, with wide eyes, "he did not have
one single word with her; Mr. Jardine did not get any talk at all with
Tante. Oh, that should have been managed."

But Mrs. Forrester, though granting to his supposed plight a glance of
sympathetic concern, was in a hurry to get home and he was, again,
spared the necessity of a graceless confession. He piloted them through
the crowd, saw them--Miss Woodruff, Mrs. Forrester and Victor,--fitted
into Mrs. Forrester's brougham, and then himself got into a hansom. It
was still the atmosphere of the dream that hovered about him as he
decided at what big fruit-shop he should stop to order a box of
nectarines. He wanted her to find them waiting for her in Cornwall. And
the very box of nectarines, the globes of sombre red fruit nested in
cotton-wool, seemed part of the dream. He knew that he was behaving
curiously; but she was, after all, the little Hans Andersen heroine and
one needn't think of ordinary customs where she was concerned.


     "Les Solitudes,
     "February 2nd.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--How very, very kind of you. I could hardly
     believe it when Mrs. Talcott told me that a box was here for me. I
     could think of nothing to explain it. Then when we opened it and
     saw, row upon row, those beautiful things like pearls in a
     casket--it made me feel quite dazed. Nectarines are not things that
     you expect to have, in rows, all to yourself. Mrs. Talcott and I
     ate two at once, standing there in the hall where we opened them;
     we couldn't wait for chairs and plates and silver knives; things
     taste best of all when eaten greedily, I think, and I think that
     these will all be eaten greedily. It is so kind of you. I thank you
     very much.--Yours sincerely,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "February 9th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--It is most kind of you to write me this nice
     note and to send me these reviews. I often have to miss the things
     that come out in the reviews about my guardian, for the
     press-cuttings go to her. Mr. Drew says many clever things, does he
     not; he understands music and he understands--at least almost--what
     my guardian is to music; but he does not, of course, understand
     her. He only sees the greatness and sees it made out of great
     things. When one knows a great person intimately one sees all the
     little things that make them great; often such very little things;
     things that Mr. Drew could not know. That is why his article is, to
     me, rather pretentious; nor will you like it, I think. He fills up
     with subtleties the gaps in his knowledge, and that makes it all so
     artificial. But I am most glad to have, it.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "February 18th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--The beautiful great box of fruit arrived
     to-day. It is too good and kind of you. I am wondering now whether
     muscatel grapes are not even more my favourites than nectarines!
     This is a day of rain and wind, soft rain blowing in gusts and the
     wind almost warm. Victor and I have come in very wet and now we are
     both before the large wood fire. London seems so far away that New
     York hardly seems further. You heard of the great ovation that my
     guardian had. I had a note from her yesterday and two of the New
     York papers. If you care to read them I will gladly send them; they
     tell in full about the first great concert she has given and the
     criticism is good. I will ask you to let me have them back when you
     have read them.--With many, many thanks.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "February 28th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--I am glad that you liked the box of snowdrops
     and that they reached you safely, packed in their moss. I got them
     in a little copse a few miles from here. The primroses will soon be
     coming now and, if you like, I will send you some of them. I know
     one gets them early in London; but don't you like best to open
     yourself a box from the country and see them lying in bunches with
     their leaves. I like even the slight flatness they have; but mine
     are very little flattened; I am good at packing flowers! My
     guardian always tells me so! You are probably right in not caring
     to see the papers; they are always much alike in what they say. It
     was only the glimpse of the great enthusiasm they gave that I
     thought might have interested you. Next week she goes to Chicago. I
     am afraid she will be very tired. But Miss Scrotton will take care
     of her.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "March 17th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--I have taken up my pen for only two purposes
     since I left London--to write my weekly letter to my guardian--and
     to thank you over and over again. Only now you have quite spoiled
     Mrs. Talcott and me for our stewed dried fruit that we used to
     think so nice before we lived on grapes and nectarines. Indeed I
     have not forgotten the primroses and I shall be so delighted to
     pick them for you when the time comes, though I suspect it is sheer
     kindness in you that gives me the pleasure of sending you
     something. Your nice letter interested me very much. Yes, we have
     'Dominique' in the library here, and I will perhaps soon read it; I
     say perhaps, because I am reading 'Wilhelm Meister'--my guardian
     was quite horrified with me when she found I had never read it--and
     must finish that first, and it is very long. Is 'Dominique' indeed
     your favourite French novel? My guardian places Stendahl and
     Flaubert first. For myself I do not care much for French novels. I
     like the Russians best.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "April 2nd.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--You make a charming picture of the primroses in
     the blue and white bowls for me. And of your view over the park.
     London can be so beautiful; I, too, care for it very much. It is
     beautiful here now; the hedges all white with blackthorn and the
     woods full of primroses. My guardian must now be in San Francisco!
     She is back in New York in May, and is to give three more great
     concerts there. I am impatiently waiting for my next letter from
     her. I am so glad you like the primroses. Many, many thanks for the
     fruit.--Yours sincerely,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "April 5th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--What you say makes me feel quite troubled. I
     know you write playfully, yet sometimes one can _dire la vérité en
     riant_, and it is as if you had found my letters very empty and
     unresponsive. I did not mean them to be that of course; but I am
     not at all in the habit of writing letters except to people I am
     very intimate with. Indeed, I am in the habit only of writing to my
     guardian, and it is difficult for me to think that other people
     will be interested in the things I am doing. And in one way I do so
     little here. Nothing that I could believe interesting to you;
     nothing really but have walks and practise my music and read; and
     talk sometimes with Mrs. Talcott. About once in two months the
     vicar's wife has tea with us, and about once in two months we have
     tea with her; that is all. And I am sure you cannot like
     descriptions of landscapes. I love to look at landscapes and
     dislike reading what other people have to say about them; and is
     not that the same with you? It is quite different that you should
     write to me of things and people; for you see so many and you do so
     much and you know that to someone in the depths of the country all
     this must be very interesting. So do not punish me for my dullness
     by ceasing to write to me.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "April 10th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--Of course I will write you descriptions of
     landscapes!--and of all my daily routine, if you really care to
     hear. No; I am not lonely, though of course I miss my guardian very
     much. I have the long, long walks with Victor, in wet weather over
     the inland moors along the roads, and in fine weather along the
     high cliff paths; sometimes we walk ten miles in an afternoon and
     come back very tired for tea. In the evenings I sit with Mrs.
     Talcott over the fire. You ask me to describe Mrs. Talcott to you,
     and to tell you all about her. She is with me now, and we are in
     the morning room, where we always sit; for the great music-room
     that opens on the verandah and fronts the sea is shut when my
     guardian is not here. This room looks over the sea, too, but from
     the side of the house and through an arabesque of trees. The walls
     are filled with books and flowering bulbs stand in the windows. We
     have had our tea and the sunlight slants in over the white freesia
     and white hyacinths. There are primroses everywhere, too, and they
     make the room seem more full of sunlight. You could hardly see a
     more beautiful room. Mrs. Talcott sits before the fire with her
     skirt turned up and her feet in square-toed shoes on the fender and
     looks into the fire. She is short and thick and very old, but she
     does not seem old; she is hard; not soft and withered. She has a
     large, calm face with very yellow skin, and very light blue eyes
     set deeply under white eyebrows. Her hair is white and drawn up
     tightly to a knot at the top of her head. She wears no cap and
     dresses always in black; very plain, with, in the daytime, a collar
     of white lawn turning over a black silk stock and bow, such as
     young girls wear, and, in the evening, a little fichu of white net,
     very often washed, and thin and starchy. And since her skirts are
     always very short, and her figure so square, she makes one think of
     a funny little girl as well as of an old woman. She comes from the
     State of Maine, and she remembers a striving, rough existence in a
     little town on the edge of wildernesses. She is a very distant
     relation of my guardian's. My guardian's maternal grandparents were
     Spanish and lived in New Orleans, and a sister of Señor Bastida's
     (Bastida was the name of my guardian's grandfather)--married a New
     Englander, from Vermont--and that New Englander was an uncle of
     Mrs. Talcott's--do you follow!--her uncle married my guardian's
     aunt, you see. Mrs. Talcott, in her youth, stayed sometimes in New
     Orleans, and dearly loved the beautiful Dolores Bastida who left
     her home to follow Pavelek Okraska. Poor Dolores Okraska had many
     sorrows. Her husband was not a good husband and her parents died.
     She was very unhappy and before her baby came--she was in Poland
     then,--she sent for Mrs. Talcott. Mrs. Talcott had been married,
     too, and had lost her husband and was very poor. But she left
     everything and crossed to Europe in the steerage--and what it must
     have been in those days!--imagine!--to join her unfortunate
     relative. My guardian has told me of it; she calls Mrs. Talcott:
     '_Un coeur d'or dans un corps de bois._' She stayed with Dolores
     Okraska until she died a little time after. She brought up her
     child. They were in great want; my guardian remembers that she had
     sometimes not enough to eat. When she was older and had already
     become famous, some relatives of the Bastidas heard of her and
     helped; but those were years of great struggle for Mrs. Talcott;
     and it is so strange to think of that provincial, simple American
     woman with her rustic ways and accent, living in Cracow and Warsaw,
     and Vienna, and steadily doing what she had set herself to do. She
     speaks French with a most funny accent even yet, though she spent
     so many years abroad, so many in Paris. I do not know what would
     have become of my guardian if it had not been for her. Her father
     loved her, but was very erratic and undisciplined. Mrs. Talcott has
     been with my guardian for almost all the time ever since. It is a
     great and silent devotion. She is very reticent. She never speaks
     of herself. She talks to me sometimes in the evenings about her
     youth in Maine, and the long white winters and the sleigh-rides;
     and the tapping of the maple-trees in Spring; and the nutting
     parties in the fall of the year. I think that she likes to remember
     all this; and I love to hear her, for it reminds me of what my
     father used to tell me of his youth; and I love especially to hear
     of the trailing arbutus, that lovely little flower that grows
     beneath the snow; how one brushes back the snow in early Spring and
     finds the waxen, sweet, pink flowers and dark, shining leaves under
     it. And I always imagine that it is a doubled nostalgia that I feel
     and that my mother's Norway in Spring was like it, with snow and
     wet woods. There is a line that brings it all over me: 'In May,
     when sea-winds pierced our solitudes.' It is by Emerson. The Spring
     here is very lovely, too, but it has not the sweetness that arises
     from snow and a long winter. Through the whole winter the fuchsias
     keep their green against the white walls of the little village,
     huddled in between the headlands at the edge of the sea beneath us.
     You know this country, don't you? The cliffs are so beautiful. I
     love best the great headlands towards the Lizard, black rock or
     grey, all spotted with rosettes of orange lichen with sweeps of
     grey-green sward sloping to them. Victor becomes quite intoxicated
     with the wind on these heights and goes in circles round and round,
     like a puppy. Later on, all the slopes are veiled in the delicate
     little pink thrift, and the stone walls are festooned with white

     "Then Mrs. Talcott and I have a great deal to do about the little
     farm. Mrs. Talcott is so clever at this. She makes it pay besides
     giving my guardian all the milk and eggs and bacon, too, she needs.
     There is a farmer and his wife, and a gardener and a boy; but with
     the beautiful garden we have here it takes most of the day to see
     to everything. The farmer's wife is a stern looking woman, but
     really very gentle, and she sings hymns all the day long while she
     works. She has a very good voice, so that it is sweet to hear her.
     Yes; I do play. I have a piano here in the morning-room, and I am
     very fond of my music. And, as I have told you, I read a good deal,
     too. So there you have all the descriptions and the details. I
     liked so much what you told me of the home of your boyhood. When I
     saw you, I knew that you were a person who cared for all these
     things, even if you were not an artist. What you tell me, too, of
     the law-courts and the strange people you see there, and the ugly,
     funny side of human life amused me, though it seems to me more
     sorrowful than you perhaps feel it. People amuse me very much
     sometimes, too; but I have not your eye for their foibles. You draw
     them rather as Forain does; I should do it, I suspect, with more
     sentimentality. The fruit comes regularly once a week, and punctual
     thanks seem inappropriate for what has become an institution. But
     you know how grateful I am. And for the weekly _Punch_;--so
     _gemütlich_ and _bien pensant_ and, often, very, very funny, with a
     funniness that the Continental papers never give one; their jests
     are never the jests of the _bien pensant_. It is the acrid
     atmosphere of the café they bring, not that of the dinner party,
     or, better still, for _Punch_, the picnic. The reviews, too, are
     very interesting. Mrs. Talcott reads them a good deal, she who
     seldom reads. She says sometimes very acute and amusing things
     about politics. My guardian has a horror of politics; but they
     rather interest Mrs. Talcott. I know nothing of them; but I do not
     think that my guardian would agree with what you say; I think that
     she would belong more to your party of freedom and progress. What a
     long letter I have written to you! I have never written such a long
     one in my life before, except to my guardian.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Les Solitudes,
     "April 15th.

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--How very nice to hear that you are coming to
     Cornwall for Easter and will be near us--at least Falmouth is quite
     near with a motor. It is beautiful country there, too; I have
     driven there with my guardian, and it is a beautiful town to see,
     lying in a wide curve around its blue bay. It is softer and milder
     than here. A bend of the coast makes so much difference. But why am
     I telling you all this, when of course you know it! I forget that
     anyone knows Cornwall but Mrs. Talcott and my guardian and me. But
     you have not seen this bit of the coast, and it excites me to think
     that I shall introduce you to our cliffs and to Les Solitudes. If
     only my guardian were here! It is not itself, this place, without
     her. It is not to see Les Solitudes if you do not see the great
     music-room opening its four long windows on the sea and sky; and my
     guardian sitting in the shade of the verandah looking over the sea.
     But Mrs. Talcott and I will do the honours as best we may and tell
     you everything about my guardian that you will wish to know. Let us
     hear beforehand the day you are coming; for the cook makes
     excellent cakes, and we will have some baked specially for you. How
     very nice to see you again.--Sincerely yours,

     "Karen Woodruff."


On a chill, sunny morning in April, Gregory Jardine went out on to his
balcony before breakfast and stood leaning there as was his wont,
looking down over his view. The purpling tree-tops in the park emerged
from a light morning mist. The sky, of the palest blue, seemed very high
and was streaked with white. Spring was in the air and he could see
daffodils shining here and there on the slopes of green.

He had just read Karen Woodruff's last letter, and he was in the mood,
charmed, amused and touched, that her letters always brought. Never, he
thought, had there been such sweet and such funny letters; so frank and
so impersonal; so simple and so mature. During these months of their
correspondence the thought of her had been constantly in his mind,
mingling now not only with his own deep and distant memories, but, it
seemed, with hers, so that while she still walked with him over the
hills of his boyhood and stooped to look with him at the spring gushing
from under the bracken, they also brushed together the dry, soft snow
from the trailing arbutus, or stood above the sea on the Cornish
headlands. Never in his life had he so possessed the past and been so
aware of it. His youth was with him, even though he still thought of his
relation to Karen Woodruff as a paternal and unequal one; imagining a
crisis in which his wisdom and knowledge of the world might serve her; a
foolish love-affair, perhaps, that he would disentangle; or a disaster
connected with the great woman under whose protection she lived; he
could so easily imagine disasters befalling Madame von Marwitz and
involving everyone around her. And now in a week's time he would be in
Cornwall and seeing again the little Hans Andersen heroine. This was the
thought that emerged from the sweet vagrancy of his mood; and, as it
came, he was pierced suddenly with a strange rapture and fear that had
in it the very essence of the spring-time.

Gregory had continued to think of the girl he was to marry in the guise
of a Constance Armytage, and although Constance Armytage's engagement to
another man found him unmoved, except with relief for the solution of
what had really ceased to be a perplexity--since, apparently, he could
not manage to fall in love with her--this fact had not been revealing,
since he still continued to think of Constance as the type, if she had
ceased to be the person. Karen Woodruff was almost the last type he
could have fixed upon. She fitted nowhere into his actual life. She only
fitted into the life of dreams and memories.

So now, still looking down at the trees and daffodils, he drew a long
breath and tried to smile over what had been a trick of the imagination
and to relegate Karen to the place of half-humorous dreams. He tried to
think calmly of her. He visualized her in her oddity and child-likeness;
seeing the flat blue bows of the concert; the old-fashioned gold locket
of the tea; the sealskin cap of the station. But still, it was apparent,
the infection of the season was working in him; for these trivial bits
of her personality had become overwhelmingly sweet and wonderful. The
essential Karen infused them. Her limpid grey eyes looked into his. She
said, so ridiculously, so adorably: "My guardian likes best to be called
von Marwitz by those who know her personally." She laughed, the tip of
her tongue caught between her teeth. From the place of dream and memory,
the living longing for her actual self emerged indomitably.

Gregory turned from the balcony and went inside. He was dazed. Her
primroses stood about the room in the white and blue bowls. He wanted to
kiss them. Controlling the impulse, which seemed to him almost insane,
he looked at them instead and argued with himself. In love? But one
didn't fall in love like that between shaving and breakfast. What
possessed him was a transient form of _idée fixe_, and he had behaved
very foolishly in playing fairy-godfather to a dear little girl. But at
this relegating phrase his sense of humour rose to mock him. He could
not relegate Karen Woodruff as a dear little girl. It was he who had
behaved like a boy, while she had maintained the calm simplicities of
the mature. He hadn't the faintest right to hope that she saw anything
in his correspondence but what she had herself brought to it. Fear fell
more strongly upon him. He sat down to his breakfast, his thoughts in
inextricable confusion. And while he drank his coffee and glanced
nervously down the columns of his newspaper, a hundred little filaments
of memory ran back and linked the beginning to the present. It had not
been so sudden. It had been there beside him, in him; and he had not
seen it. The meeting of their eyes in the long, grave interchange at the
concert had been full of presage. And why had he gone to tea at Mrs.
Forrester's? And why, above all why, had he dreamed that dream? It was
his real self who had felt no surprise when, at the edge of the forest,
she had said: "And I love you." The words had been spoken in answer to
his love.

Gregory laid down his paper and stared before him. He was in love.
Should he get over it? Did he want to get over it? Was it possible to
get over it if he did want to? And, this was the culmination, would she
have him? These questions drove him forth.

When Barker, his man, came to clear away the breakfast things he found
that the bacon and eggs had not been eaten. Barker was a stone-grey
personage who looked like a mid-Victorian Liberal statesman. His gravity
often passed into an air of despondent responsibility. "Mr. Jardine
hasn't eaten his breakfast," he said to his wife, who was Gregory's
cook. "It's this engagement of Miss Armytage's. He was more taken with
her than we'd thought."

Gregory had intended to motor down to Cornwall, still a rare opportunity
in those days; a friend who was going abroad had placed his car at his
disposal. But he sent the car ahead of him and, on the first day of his
freedom, started by train. Next day he motored over to the little
village near the Lizard.

It was a pale, crystalline Spring day. From heights, where the car
seemed to poise like a bird in mid-air, one saw the tranquil blue of the
sea. The woods were veiled in young green and the hedges thickly starred
with blackthorn. Over the great Goonhilly Downs a silvery sheen trembled
with impalpable colour and the gorse everywhere was breaking into gold.
It was a day of azure, illimitable distances; of exultation and delight.
Even if one were not in love one would feel oneself a lover on such a

Gregory had told himself that he would be wise; that he would go
discreetly and make sure not only that he was really in love, but that
there was in his love a basis for life. Marriage must assure and secure
his life, not disturb and disintegrate it; and a love resisted and put
aside unspoken may soon be relegated to the place of fond and transient
dream. Perhaps the little Hans Andersen heroine would settle happily
into such a dream. How little he had seen of her. But while he thus
schooled himself, while the white roads curved and beckoned and unrolled
their long ribbons, the certainties he needed of himself merged more and
more into the certainties he needed of her. And he felt his heart, in
the singing speed, lift and fly towards the beloved.

He had written to her and told her the hour of his arrival, and at a
turning he suddenly saw her standing above the road on one of the stone
stiles of the country. Dressed in white and poised against the blue,
while she kept watch for his coming, she was like a calm, far-gazing
figure-head on a ship, and the ship that bore her seemed to have soared
into sight.

She was new, yet unchanged. Her attitude, her smile, as she held up an
arresting hand to the chauffeur, filled him with delight and anxiety. It
disconcerted him to find how new she was. He felt that he spoke
confusedly to her when she came to shake his hand.

"People often lose their way in coming to see Tante," she said, and it
struck him, even in the midst of his preoccupation with her, as too
sweetly absurd that the first sentence she spoke to him should sound the
familiar chime. "They have gone mistakenly down the lane that leads to
the cliff path, that one there, or the road that leads out to the moors.
And one poor man was quite lost and never found his way to us at all. It
meant, for he had only a day or two to spend in England, that he did not
see her for another year. Tante has had signs put up since then; but
even now people can go wrong."

She mounted beside the chauffeur so that she could guide him down the
last bit of road, sitting sideways, her arm laid along the back of the
seat. From time to time she smiled at Gregory.

She was a person who accepted the unusual easily and with no personal
conjecture. She was so accustomed, no doubt, to the sudden appearance of
all sorts of people, that she had no discriminations to apply to his
case. There was no shyness and no surmise in her manner. She smiled at
him as composedly as she had smiled over the Great Wall of China in Mrs.
Forrester's drawing-room, and her pleasure in seeing him was neither
less frank nor more intimate.

She wore a broad hat of sun-burnt straw and a white serge coat and skirt
that looked as if they had shrunk in frequent washings. Her white blouse
had the little frills at neck and wrists and around her throat was the
gold locket on its black ribbon. Her eyes, when she turned them on him
and smiled, seemed to open distances like the limitlessness of the
moorland. Her tawny skin and shining golden hair were like the gorse and
primroses and she in her serenity and gladness like the day personified.

They did not attempt to talk through the loudly purring monotones of the
car, which picked its way swiftly and delicately down the turning road
and then skimmed lightly on the level ground between hedges of fuchsia
and veronica. As the prospect opened Karen pointed to the golden
shoulder of a headland bathed in sunlight and the horizon line of the
sea beyond. They turned among wind-bitten Cornish elms, leaning inland,
and Gregory saw among them the glimmer of Les Solitudes.

It was a white-walled house with a high-pitched roof of grey shingles,
delicately rippling; a house almost rustic, yet more nearly noble, very
beautiful; simple, yet unobtrusively adapted to luxury. Simplicity
reigned within, though one felt luxury there in a chrysalis condition,
folded exquisitely and elaborately away and waiting the return of the

Karen led him across the shining spaces of the hall and into the
morning-room. Books, flowers and sunlight seemed to furnish it, and,
with something austere and primitive, to make it the most fitting
background for herself. But while her presence perfected it for him, it
was her guardian's absence that preoccupied Karen. Again, and comically,
she reminded Gregory of the sacristan explaining to the sight-seer that
the famous altar-piece had been temporarily removed and that he could
not really judge the chapel without its culminating and consecrating
object. "If only Tante were here!" she said. "It seems so strange that
anyone should see Les Solitudes who has not seen her in it. I do not
remember that it has ever happened before. This is the dining-room--yes,
I like to show it all to you--she planned it all herself, you know--is
it not a beautiful room? You see, though we are Les Solitudes, we can
seat a large dinner-party and Tante has sometimes many guests; not often
though; this is her place of peace and rest. She collected all this
Jacobean furniture; connoisseurs say that it is very beautiful. The
music-room, alas, is closed; but I will show you the garden--and Mrs.
Talcott in it. I am eager for you and Mrs. Talcott to meet."

He would rather have stayed and talked to her in the morning-room; but
she compelled him, rather as a sacristan compels the slightly bewildered
sight-seer, to pass on to the next point of interest. She led him out to
the upper terrace of the garden, which dropped, ledge by ledge, with low
walls and winding hedges, down the cliff-side. She pointed out to him
the sea-front of the house, with its wide verandah and clustered trees
and the beautiful dip of the roof over the upper windows, far gazing
little dormer windows above these. Tante, she told him, had designed the
house. "That is her room, the corner one," she said. "She can see the
sunrise from her bed."

Gregory was interested neither in Madame von Marwitz's advantages nor in
her achievements. He asked Karen where her own room was. It was at the
back of the house, she said; a dear little room, far up. She, too, had a
glimpse of the Eastern headland and of the sunrise.

They were walking along the paths, their borders starred as yet frugally
with hints of later glories; but already the aubrietia and arabis made
bosses of white or purple on the walls, and in a little copse daffodils
grew thickly.

"There is Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, quickening her pace. Evidently she
considered Mrs. Talcott, in her relation to Tante, as an important
feature of Les Solitudes.

It was her relation to Karen that caused Gregory to look with interest
at the stout old lady, dressed in black alpaca, who was stooping over a
flower-border at a little distance from them. He had often wondered what
this sole companion of Karen's cloistered life was like. Mrs. Talcott's
skirts were short; her shoes thick-soled and square-toed, fastening with
a strap and button over white stockings at the ankle. She wore a round
straw hat, like a child's, and had a basket of gardening implements
beside her.

"Mrs. Talcott, here is Mr. Jardine," Karen announced, as they approached

Mrs. Talcott raised herself slowly and turned to them, drawing off her
gardening gloves. She was a funny looking old woman, funnier than Karen
had prepared him for finding her, and uglier. Her large face,
wallet-shaped and sallow, was scattered over with white moles, or
rather, warts, one of which, on her eyelid, caused it to droop over her
eye and to blink sometimes, suddenly. She had a short, indefinite nose
and long, large lips firmly folded. With its updrawn hair and
impassivity her face recalled that of a Chinese image; but more than of
anything else she gave Gregory the impression, vaguely and incongruously
tragic, of an old shipwrecked piece of oaken timber, washed up, finally,
out of reach of the waves, on some high, lonely beach; battered, though
still so solid; salted through and through; crusted with brine, and with
odd, bleached excrescences, like barnacles, adhering to it. Her look of
almost inhuman cleanliness added force to the simile.

"Mr. Jardine heard Tante last winter, you know," said Karen, "and met
her at Mrs. Forrester's."

"I'm very happy to make your acquaintance, Sir," said Mrs. Talcott,
giving Gregory her hand.

"Mrs. Talcott is a great gardener," Karen went on. "Tante has the ideas
and Mrs. Talcott carries them out. And sometimes they aren't easy to
carry out, are they, Mrs. Talcott!"

Mrs. Talcott, her hands folded at her waist, contemplated her work.

"Mitchell made a mistake about the campanulas, Karen," she remarked.
"He's put the clump of blue over yonder, instead of the white."

"Oh, Mrs. Talcott!" Karen turned to look. "And Tante specially wanted
the white there so that they should be against the sea. How very stupid
of Mitchell."

"They'll have to come out, I presume," said Mrs. Talcott, but without

"And where is the _pyramidalis alba_?"

"Well, he's got that up in the flagged garden where she wanted the
blue," said Mrs. Talcott.

"And it will be so bad for them to move them again! What a pity! They
have been sent for specially," Karen explained to Gregory. "My guardian
heard of a particularly beautiful kind, and the white were to be for
this corner of the wall, you see that they would look very lovely
against the sea, and the blue were to be among the white veronica and
white lupins in the flagged garden. And now they are all planted wrong,
and so accurately and solidly wrong," she walked ahead of Mrs. Talcott
examining the offending plants. "Are you quite sure they're wrong, Mrs.

"Dead sure," Mrs. Talcott made reply. "He did it this morning when I was
in the dairy. He didn't understand, or got muddled, or something. I'll
commence changing them round as soon as I've done this weeding. It'll be
a good two hours' work."

"No, you must not do it till I can help you," said Karen. "To-morrow
morning." She had a manner at once deferential and masterful of
addressing the old lady. They were friendly without being intimate. "Now
promise me that you will wait till I can help you."

"Well, I guess I won't promise. I like to get things off my mind right
away," said Mrs. Talcott. If Karen was masterful, she was not yielding.
"I'll see how the time goes after tea. Don't you bother about it."

They left her bending again over her beds. "She is very strong, but I
think sometimes she works too hard," said Karen.

By a winding way she led him to the high flagged garden with its
encompassing trees and far blue prospect, and here they sat for a little
while in the sunlight and talked. "How different all this must be from
your home in Northumberland," said Karen. "I have never been to
Northumberland. Is your brother much there? Is he like you? Have you
brothers and sisters?"

She questioned him with the frank interest with which he wished to
question her. He told her about Oliver and said that he wasn't like
himself. A faint flavour of irony came into his voice in speaking of his
elder brother and finding Karen's calm eyes dwelling on him he wondered
if she thought him unfair. "We always get on well enough," he said, "but
we haven't much in common. He is a good, dull fellow, half alive."

"And you are very much alive."

"Yes, on the whole, I think so," he answered, smiling, but sensitively
aware of a possible hint of irony in her. But she had intended none. She
continued to look at him calmly. "You are making use of all of yourself;
that is to be alive, Tante always says; and I feel that it is true of
you. And his wife? the wife of the dull hunting brother? Does she hunt
too and think of foxes most?"

He could assure her that Betty quite made up in the variety of her
activities for Oliver's deficiencies. Karen was interested in the
American Betty and especially in hearing that she had been at the
concert from which their own acquaintance dated. She asked him, walking
back to the house, if he had seen Mrs. Forrester. "She is an old friend
of yours, isn't she?" she said.

"That must be nice. She was so kind to me that last day in London. Tante
is very fond of her; very, very fond. I hardly think there is anyone of
all her friends she has more feeling for. Here is Victor, come to greet
you. You remember Victor, and how he nearly missed the train."

The great, benignant dog came down the path to them and as they walked
Karen laid her hand upon his head, telling Gregory that Sir Alliston had
given him to Tante when he was quite a tiny puppy. "You saw Sir
Alliston, that sad, gentle poet? There is another person that Tante
loves." It was with a slight stir of discomfort that Gregory realised
more fully from these assessments how final for Karen was the question
of Tante's likes and dislikes.

They were on the verandah when she paused. "But I think, though the
music-room is closed, that you must see the portrait."

"The portrait? Of you?" Actually, and sincerely, he was off the track.

"Of me? Oh no," said Karen, laughing a little. "Why should it be of me?
Of my guardian, of course. Perhaps you know it. It is by Sargent and was
in the Royal Academy some years ago."

"I must have missed it. Am I to see it now?"

"Yes. I will ask Mrs. Talcott for the key and we will draw all the
blinds and you shall see it." They walked back to the garden in search
of Mrs. Talcott.

"Do you like it?" Gregory asked.

Karen reflected for a moment and then said; "He understands her better
than Mr. Drew does, or, at all events, does not try to make up for what
he does not understand by elaborations. But there are blanks!--oh
blanks!--However, it is a very magnificent picture and you shall see.
Mrs. Talcott, may I have the key of the music-room? I want to show the
Sargent to Mr. Jardine."

They had come to the old woman again, and again she slowly righted
herself from her stooping posture. "It's in my room, I'll come and get
it," said Mrs. Talcott, and on Karen's protesting against this, she
observed that it was about tea-time, anyway. She preceded them to the

"But I do beg," Karen stopped her in the hall. "Let me get it. You shall
tell me where it is."

Mrs. Talcott yielded. "In my left top drawer on the right hand side
under the pile of handkerchiefs," she recited. "Thanks, Karen."

While Karen was gone, Mrs. Talcott in the hall stood in front of Gregory
and looked past him in silence into the morning-room. She did not seem
to feel it in any sense incumbent upon her to entertain him, though
there was nothing forbidding in her manner. But happening presently,
while they waited, to glance at the droll old woman, he found her eyes
fixed on him in a singularly piercing, if singularly impassive, gaze.
She looked away again with no change of expression, shifting her weight
from one hip to the other, and something in the attitude suggested to
Gregory that she had spent a great part of her life in waiting. She had
a capacity, he inferred, for indefinite waiting. Karen came happily
running down the stairs, holding the key.

They went into the dim, white room where swathed presences stood as if
austerely welcoming them. Karen drew up the blind and Mrs. Talcott,
going to the end of the room, mounted a chair and dexterously twitched
from its place the sheet that covered the great portrait. Then, standing
beside it, and still holding its covering, she looked, not at it, but,
meditatively, out at the sea that crossed with its horizon line the four
long windows. Karen, also in silence, came and stood beside Gregory.

It was indeed a remarkable picture; white and black; silver and green.
To a painter's eye the arresting balance of these colours would have
first appealed and the defiant charm with which the angular surfaces
of the grand piano and the soft curves of the woman seated at it
were combined. The almost impalpable white of an azalea with its
flame-green foliage, and a silver statuette, poised high on a
slender column of white chalcedony, were the only accessories. But
after the first delighted draught of wonder it was the face of Madame
Okraska--pre-eminently Madame Okraska in this portrait--that compelled
one to concentration. She sat, turning from the piano, her knees
crossed, one arm cast over them, the other resting along the edge of the
key-board. The head drooped slightly and the eyes looked out just below
the spectator's eyes, so that in poise and glance it recalled somewhat
Michael Angelo's Lorenzo da Medici. And something that Gregory had felt
in her from the first, and that had roused in him dim hostilities and
ironies, was now more fully revealed. The artist seemed to have looked
through the soft mask of the woman's flesh, through the disturbing and
compelling forces of her own consciousness, to the very structure and
anatomy of her character. Atavistic, sub-conscious revelations were in
the face. It was to see, in terms of art, a scientific demonstration of
race, temperament, and the results of their interplay with environment.
The languors, the feverish indolences, the caprice of generations of
Spanish exiles were there, and the ambiguity, the fierceness of Slav
ancestry. And, subtly interwoven, were the marks of her public life upon
her. The face, so moulded to indifference, was yet so aware of
observation, so adjusted to it, so insatiable of it, that, sitting
there, absorbed and brooding, lovely with her looped pearls and
diamonds, her silver broideries and silken fringes, she was a product of
the public, a creature reared on adulation, breathing it in softly,
peacefully, as the white flowers beside her breathed in light and air.
Her craftsmanship, her genius, though indicated, were submerged in this
pervasive quality of an indifference based securely on the ever present
consciousness that none could be indifferent to her. And more than the
passive acceptance and security was indicated. Strange, sleeping
potentialities lurked in the face; as at the turn of a kaleidoscope,
Gregory could fancy it suddenly transformed, by some hostile touch, some
menace, to a savage violence and rapacity. He was aware, standing
between the girl who worshipped her and the devoted old woman, of the
pang of a curious anxiety.

"Well," said Karen at last, and she looked from the picture to him.
"What do you think of it?"

"It's splendid," said Gregory. "It's very fine. And beautiful."

"But does it altogether satisfy you?" Her eyes were again on the
portrait. "What is lacking, I cannot say; but it seems to me that it is
painted with intelligence only, not with love. It is Madame Okraska, the
great genius; but it is not Tante; it is not even Madame von Marwitz."

The portrait seemed to Gregory to go so much further and so much deeper
than what he had himself seen that it was difficult to believe that hers
might be the deepest vision, but he was glad to take refuge in the
possibility. "It does seem to me wonderfully like," he said. "But then I
don't know 'Tante.'"

Karen now glanced at Mrs. Talcott. "It is a great bone of contention
between us," she said, smiling at the old lady, yet smiling, Gregory
observed, with a touch of challenge. "She feels it quite complete. That,
in someone who does know Tante, I cannot understand."

Mrs. Talcott, making no reply, glanced up at the portrait and then,
again, out at the sea.

Gregory looked at her with awakened curiosity. This agreement was an
unexpected prop for him. "You, too, think it a perfect likeness?" he
asked her. Her old blue eyes, old in the antique tranquillity of their
regard, yet still of such a vivid, unfaded turquoise, turned on him and
again he had that impression of an impassive piercing.

"It seems to me about as good a picture as anyone's likely to get," said
Mrs. Talcott.

"Yes, but, oh Mrs. Talcott"--with controlled impatience Karen took her
up--"surely you see,--it isn't Tante. It is a genius, a great woman, a
beautiful woman, a beautiful and poetic creature, of course;--he has
seen all that--who wouldn't? but it is almost a woman without a heart.
There is something heartless there. I always feel it. And when one
thinks of Tante!" And Mrs. Talcott remaining silent, she insisted: "Can
you really say you don't see what I mean?"

"Well, I never cared much about pictures anyway," Mrs. Talcott now

"Well, but you care for this one more than I do!" Karen returned, with a
laugh of vexation. "It isn't a question of pictures; it's a question of
a likeness. You really think that this does Tante justice? It's that I
can't understand."

Mrs. Talcott, thus pursued, again looked up at the portrait, and
continued, now, to look at it for several moments. And as she stood
there, looking up, she suddenly and comically reminded Gregory of the
Frog gardener before the door in "Alice," with his stubborn and
deliberate misunderstanding. He could almost have expected to see Mrs.
Talcott advance her thumb and rub the portrait, as if to probe the cause
of her questioner's persistence. When she finally spoke it was only to
vary her former judgment: "It seems to me about as good a picture as
Mercedes is likely to get taken," she said. She pronounced the Spanish
name: "Mursadees."

Karen, after this, abandoned her attempt to convince Mrs. Talcott. Tea
was ready, and they went into the morning-room. Here Mrs. Talcott
presided at the tea-table, and for all his dominating preoccupation she
continued to engage a large part of Gregory's attention. She sat,
leaning back in her chair, slowly eating, her eyes, like tiny, blue
stones, immeasurably remote, immeasurably sad, fixed on the sea.

"Is it long since you were in America?" he asked her. He felt drawn to
Mrs. Talcott.

"Why, I guess it's getting on for twenty-five years now," she replied,
after considering for a moment; "since I've lived there. I've been over
three or four times with Mercedes; on tours."

"Twenty-five years since you came over here? That is a long time."

"Oh, it's more than that since I came," said Mrs. Talcott. "Twenty-five
years since I lived at home. I came over first nearly fifty years ago.
Yes; it's a long time."

"Dear me; you have lived most of your life here, then."

"Yes; you may say I have."

"And don't you ever want to go back to America to stay?"

"I don't know as I do," said Mrs. Talcott.

"You're fonder of it over here, like so many of your compatriots?"

"Well, I don't know as I am," Mrs. Talcott, who had a genius it seemed
for non-committal statements, varied; and then, as though aware that her
answers might seem ungracious, she added: "All my folks are dead.
There's no reason for my wanting to go home that I can think of."

"Besides, Mrs. Talcott," Karen now helped her on, "home to you is where
Tante is, isn't it. Mrs. Talcott has lived with Tante ever since Tante
was born. No one in the world knows her as well as she does. It is
rather wonderful to think about." She had the air, finding Mrs. Talcott
appreciated, of putting forward for her her great claim to distinction.

"Yes; I know Mercedes pretty well," Mrs. Talcott conceded.

"How I love to hear about it," said Karen; "about her first concert, you
know, Mrs. Talcott, when you curled her hair--such long, bright brown
hair, she had, and so thick, falling below her waist, didn't it?" Mrs.
Talcott nodded with a certain complacency. "And she wore a little white
muslin frock and white shoes and a blue sash; she was only nine years
old; it was a great concert in Warsaw. And she didn't want her hair
curled, and combed it all out with her fingers just before going on to
the platform--didn't she?"

Mrs. Talcott was slightly smiling over these reminiscences. "Smart
little thing," she commented. "She did it the last minute so as it was
too late for me to fix it again. It made me feel dreadful her going on
to the platform with her head all mussed up like that. She looked mighty
pretty all the same."

"And she was right, too, wasn't she?" said Karen, elated, evidently, at
having so successfully drawn Mrs. Talcott out. "Her hair was never
curly, was it. It looked better straight, I'm sure."

"Well, I don't know about that," said Mrs. Talcott. "I always like it
curled best, when she was little. But I had to own to myself she looked
mighty pretty, though I was so mad at her."

"Tante has always had her own way, I imagine," said Karen, "about
anything she set her mind on. She had her way about being an infant
prodigy; though you were so right about that--she has often said so,
hasn't she, and how thankful she is that you were able to stop it before
it did her harm. I must show you our photographs of Tante, Mr. Jardine.
We have volumes and volumes, and boxes and boxes of them. They are far
more like her, I think, many of them, than the portrait. Some of them
too dear and quaint--when she was quite tiny."

Tea was over and Karen, rising, looked towards the shelves where,
evidently, the volumes and boxes were kept.

"I really think I'd rather see some more of this lovely place, first,"
said Gregory. "Do take me further along the cliff. I could see the
photographs, you know, the next time I come."

He, too, had risen and was smiling at her with a little constraint.

Karen, arrested on her way to the photographs, looked at him in
surprise. "Will you come again? You are to be in Cornwall so long?"

"I'm to be here about a fortnight and I should like to come often, if I
may." She was unaware, disconcertingly unaware; yet her surprise showed
the frankest pleasure.

"How very nice," she said. "I did not think that you could come all that
way more than once."

While they spoke, Mrs. Talcott's ancient, turquoise eyes were upon them,
and in her presence Gregory found it easier to say things than it would
have been to say them to Karen alone. Already, he felt sure, Mrs.
Talcott understood, and if it was easy to say things in her presence
might that not be because he guessed that she sympathised? "But I came
down to Cornwall to see you," he said, leaning on his chair back and
tilting it a little while he smiled at Karen.

Her pleasure rose in a flush to her cheek. "To see me?"

"Yes; I felt from our letters that we ought to become great friends."

She looked at him, pondering the unlooked-for possibility he put before
her. "Great friends?" she repeated. "I have never had a great friend of
my own. Friends, of course; the Lippheims and the Belots; and Strepoff;
and you, of course, Mrs. Talcott; but never, really, a great friend
quite of my own, for they are Tante's friends first and come through
Tante. Of course you have come through Tante, too," said Karen, with
evident satisfaction; "only not quite in the same way."

"Not at all in the same way," said Gregory. "Don't forget. We met at the
concert, and without any introduction! It has nothing to do with Madame
von Marwitz this time. It's quite on our own."

"Oh, but I would so much rather have it come through her, if we are to
be great friends," Karen returned, smiling, though reflectively. "I
think we are to be, for I felt you to be my friend from that first
moment. But it was at the concert that we met and it was Tante's
concert. So that it was not quite on our own. I want it to be through
Tante," she went on, "because it pleases me very much to think that we
may be great friends, and my happy things have come to me through Tante,


He came next day and every day. They were favoured with the rarely given
gift of a perfect spring. They walked along the cliffs and headlands.
They sat and talked in the garden. He took her with Mrs. Talcott for
long drives to distant parts of the coast which he and Karen would
explore, while Mrs. Talcott in the car sat, with apparently interminable
patience, waiting for them.

Karen played to him in the morning-room; and this was a new revelation
of her. She was not a finished performer and her music was limited by
her incapacity; but she had the gift for imparting, with transparent
sincerity and unfailing sensitiveness, the very heart of what she
played. There were Arias from Schubert Sonatas, and Bach Preludes, and
loving little pieces of Schumann, that Gregory thought he had never
heard so beautifully played before. Everything they had to say was said,
though, it might be, said very softly. He told her that he cared more
for her music than for any he had listened to, and Karen laughed, not at
all taking him seriously. "But you do care for music, though you are no
musician," she said. "I like to play to you; and to someone who does not
care it is impossible."

Her acceptances of their bond might give ground for all hope or for
none. As for himself there had been, from the moment of seeing her
again, of knowing in her presence that fear and that delight, no further
doubt as to his own state and its finality. Yet his first perplexities
lingered and could at moments become painful.

He felt the beloved creature to be at once inappropriate and inevitable.
With all that was deepest and most instinctive in him her nature chimed;
the surfaces, the prejudices, the principles of his life she
contradicted and confused. She talked to him a great deal, in answer to
his questions, about her past life, and what she told him was often
disconcerting. The protective tenderness he had felt for her from the
first was troubled by his realisation of the books she had placidly
read--under Tante's guidance--the people whose queer relationships she
placidly took for granted as in no need of condonation. When he
intimated to her that he disapproved of such contacts and customs, she
looked at him, puzzled, and then said, with an air of kindly maturity at
once touching and vexatious: "But that is the morality of the

It was, of course, and Gregory considered it the very best of
moralities; but remembering her mother he could not emphasize to her how
decisively he held by it.

It was in no vulgar or vicious world that her life, as the child of the
unconventional sculptor, as the _protégée_ of the great pianist, had
been passed. But it was a world without religion, without institutions,
without order. Gregory, though his was not the religious temperament,
had his reasoned beliefs in the spiritual realities expressed in
institutions and he had his inherited instincts of reverence for the
rituals that embodied the spiritual life of his race. He was impatient
with dissent and with facile scepticisms. He did not expect a woman to
have reasoned beliefs, nor did he ask a credulous, uncritical orthodoxy;
but he did want the Christian colouring of mind, the Christian outlook;
he did want his wife to be a woman who would teach her children to say
their prayers at her knees. It was with something like dismay that he
gathered from Karen that her conception of life was as untouched by any
consciousness of creed as that of a noble young pagan. He was angry at
himself for feeling it and when he found himself applying his rules and
measures to her; for what had it been from the first but her spiritual
strength and loveliness that had drawn him to her? Yet he longed to make
her accept the implications of the formulated faiths that she lived by.
"Oh, no, you're not," he said to her when, turning unperturbed eyes upon
him, she assured him: "Oh yes, I am quite, quite a pagan." "I don't
think you know what you mean when you say you're a pagan," Gregory

"But, yes," she returned. "I have no creed. I was brought up to think of
beauty as the only religion. That is my guardian's religion. It is the
religion, she says, of all free souls. And my father thought so, too."
It was again the assurance of a wisdom, not her own, yet possessed by
her, a wisdom that she did not dream of anybody challenging. Was it not

"Well," he remarked, "beauty is a large term. Perhaps it includes more
than you think."

Karen looked at him with approbation. "That is what Tante says; that it
includes everything." And she went on, pleased to reveal to him still
more of Tante's treasure, since he had proved himself thus
understanding; "Tante, you know, belongs to the Catholic Church; it is
the only church of beauty, she says. But she is not _pratiquante_; not
_croyante_ in any sense. Art is her refuge."

"I see," said Gregory. "And what is your refuge?"

Karen, at this, kept silence for a moment, and then said: "It is not
that; not art. I do not feel, perhaps, that I need refuges. And I am
happier than my dear guardian. I believe in immortality; oh yes,
indeed." She looked round gravely at him--they were sitting on the turf
of a headland above the sea. "I believe, that is, in everything that is
beautiful and loving going on for ever."

He felt abashed before her. The most dependent and child-like of
creatures where her trust and love were engaged, she was, as well, the
most serenely independent. Even Tante, he felt, could not touch her

"You mustn't say that you are a pagan, you see," he said.

"But Plato believed in immortality," Karen returned, smiling. "And you
will not tell me that Plato was _pratiquant_ or _croyant_."

He could not claim Plato as a member of the Church of England, though he
felt quite ready to demonstrate, before a competent body of listeners,
that, as a nineteenth century Englishman, Plato would have been. Karen
was not likely to follow such an argument. She would smile at his
seeming sophistries.

No; he must accept it, and as a very part of her lovableness, that she
could not be made to fit into the plan of his life as he had imagined
it. She would not carry on its traditions, for she would not understand
them. To win her would be, in a sense, to relinquish something of that
orderly progression as a professional and social creature that he had
mapped out for himself, though he knew himself to be, through his
experience of her, already a creature more human, a creature enriched.
Karen, if she came to love him, would be, through love, infinitely
malleable, but in the many adjustments that would lie before them it
would be his part to foresee complications and to do the adjusting.
Change in her would be a gradual growth, and never towards mere

He felt it to be the first step towards adjustments when he motored
Karen and Mrs. Talcott to Guillian House to lunch with his friends the
Lavingtons. The occasion must mark for him the subtle altering of an old
tie. Karen and the Lavingtons could never be to each other what he and
the Lavingtons had been. It was part of her breadth that congeniality
could never for her be based on the half automatic affinities of caste
and occupation; and it was part of her narrowness, or, rather, of her
inexperience, that she could see people only as individuals and would
not recognize the real charm of the Lavingtons, which consisted in their
being, like their house and park, part of the landscape and of an
established order of things. Yet, once he had her there, he watched the
metamorphosis that her presence worked in his old associations with
pleasure rather than pain. It pleased him, intimately, that the
Lavingtons should see in him a lover as yet uncertain of his chances. It
pleased him that they should not find in Karen the type that they must
have expected the future Mrs. Jardine to be, the type of Constance
Armytage and the type of Evelyn Lavington, Colonel and Mrs. Lavington's
unmarried daughter, who, but for Karen, might well have become Mrs.
Jardine one day. He observed, with a lover's fond pride, that Karen, in
her shrunken white serge and white straw hat, Karen, with her pleasant
imperturbability, her mingled simplicity and sophistication, did, most
decisively, make the Lavingtons seem flavourless. Among them, while Mrs.
Lavington walked her round the garden and Evelyn elicited with kindly
concern that she played neither golf, hockey nor tennis, and had never
ridden to hounds, her demeanour was that of a little rustic princess
benignly doing her social duty. The only reason why she did not appear
like this to the Lavingtons was that, immutably unimaginative as they
were, they knew that she wasn't a princess, was, indeed, only the odd
appendage of an odd celebrity with whom their friend had chosen, oddly,
to fall in love. They weren't perplexed, because, since he had fallen in
love with her, she was placed. But they, in the complete contrast they
offered, had little recognition of individual values and judged a dish
by the platter it was served on. A princess was a princess, and an
appendage an appendage, and a future Mrs. Jardine a very recognizable
person; just as, had a subtle _charlotte russe_ been brought up to lunch
in company with the stewed rhubarb they would have eaten it without
comment and hardly been aware that it wasn't an everyday milk-pudding.

"Did you and Mrs. Lavington and Evelyn and Mrs. Haverfield find much to
talk of after lunch?" Gregory asked, as he motored Mrs. Talcott and
Karen back to Les Solitudes.

"Yes; we talked of a good many things," said Karen. "But I know about so
few of their things and they about so few of mine. Miss Lavington was
very much surprised to think that I had never been to a fox-hunt; and
I," Karen smiled, "was very much surprised to think that they had never
heard Tante play."

"They hardly ever get up to town, you see," said Gregory. "But surely
they knew about her?"

"Not much," said Karen. "Mrs. Lavington asked me about her--for
something pleasant to say--and they were such strange questions; as
though one should be asked whether Mr. Arthur Balfour were a Russian
nihilist or Metchnikoff an Italian poet." Karen spoke quite without
grievance or irony.

"And after your Sargent," said Gregory, "you must have been pained by
that portrait of Mrs. Haverfield in the drawing-room."

"Mrs. Lavington pointed it out to me specially," said Karen, laughing,
"and told me that it had been in the Academy. What a sad thing; with all
those eyelashes! And yet opposite to it hung the beautiful Gainsborough
of a great-grandmother. Mrs. Lavington saw no difference, I think."

"They haven't been trained to see differences," said Gregory, and he
summed up the Lavingtons in the aphorism to himself as well as to Karen;
"only to accept samenesses." He hoped indeed, by sacrificing the
æsthetic quality of the Lavingtons, to win some approbation of their
virtues; but Karen, though not inclined to proffer unasked criticism,
found, evidently, no occasion for commendation. Later on, when they were
back at Les Solitudes and walking in the garden, she returned to the
subject of his friends and said: "I was a little disturbed about Mrs.
Talcott; did you notice? no one talked to her at all, hardly. It was as
if they thought her my _dame de compagnie_. She isn't my _dame de
compagnie_; and if she were, I think that she should have been talked

Gregory had observed this fact and had hoped that it might have escaped
Karen's notice. To the Lavingtons Mrs. Talcott's platter had been
unrecognizable and they had tended to let its contents alone.

"It's as I said, you know," he put forward a mitigation; "they've not
been trained to see differences; she is very different, isn't she?"

"Well, but so am I," said Karen, "and they talked to me. I don't mean to
complain of your friends; that would be very rude when they were so nice
and kind; and, besides, are your friends. But people's thoughtlessness
displeases me, not that I am not often very thoughtless myself."

Gregory was anxious to exonerate himself. "I hope she didn't feel left
out;" he said. "I did notice that she wasn't talking. I found her in the
garden, alone--she seemed to be enjoying that, too--and she and I went
about for quite a long time together."

"I know you did," said Karen. "You are not thoughtless. As for her, one
never knows what she feels. I don't think that she does feel things of
that sort at all; she has been used to it all her life, one may say; but
there's very little she doesn't notice and understand. She
understands--oh, perfectly well--that she is a queer old piece of
furniture standing in the background, and one has to remember not to
treat her like a piece of furniture. It's a part of grace and tact,
isn't it, not to take such obvious things for granted. You didn't take
them for granted with her, or with me," said Karen, smiling her
recognition at him. "For, of course, to most people I am furniture, too;
and if Tante is about, there is, of course, nothing to blame in that;
everybody becomes furniture when Tante is there."

"Oh no; I can't agree to that," said Gregory. "Not everybody."

"You know what I mean," Karen rejoined. "If you will not agree to it for
me, it is because from the first you felt me to be your friend; that is
different." They were walking in the flagged garden where the blue
campanulas were now safely established in their places and the low
afternoon sun slanted in among the trees. Karen still wore her hat and
motoring veil and the smoky grey substance flowed softly back about her
shoulders. Her face seemed to emerge from a cloud. It had always to
Gregory's eyes the air of steadfast advance; the way in which her hair
swept back and up from her brows gave it a wind-blown, lifted look. He
glanced at her now from time to time, while, in a meditative and
communicative mood, she continued to share her reflections with him.
Gregory was very happy.

"Even Tante doesn't always remember enough about Mrs. Talcott," she went
on. "That is of course because Mrs. Talcott is so much a part of her
life that she sometimes hardly sees her. She _is_, for her, the dear old
restful chair that she sinks back into and forgets about. Besides, some
people have a right not to see things. One doesn't ask from giants the
same sort of perception that one does from pygmies."

This was indeed hard on the Lavingtons; but Gregory was not thinking of
the Lavingtons, who could take care of themselves. He was wondering, as
he more and more wondered, about Madame von Marwitz, and what she saw
and what she permitted herself not to see.

"You aren't invisible to her sometimes?" he inquired.

Her innocence before his ironies made him ashamed always of having
spoken them. "It is just that that makes me feel sometimes so badly
about Mrs. Talcott," she answered now; "just because she is, in a sense,
sometimes invisible, and I'm not. Mrs. Talcott, of course, counts for a
great deal more in the way of comfort and confidence than I do; I don't
believe that Tante really is as intimate with anybody in the world as
with Mrs. Talcott; but she doesn't count as much as I do, I am nearly
sure, in the way of tenderness. I really think that in the way of
tenderness I am nearer than anybody."

They left the flagged garden now, and came down to a lower terrace. Here
the sun shone fully; they walked to and fro in the radiance. "Of
course," Karen continued to define and confide, "as far as interest goes
any one of her real friends counts for more than I do, and you mustn't
think that I mean to say that I believe myself the most loved; not at
all. But I am the tender, home thing in her life; the thing to pet and
care for and find waiting. It is that that is so beautiful for me and so
tragic for her."

"Why tragic?"

"Oh, but you do not feel it? A woman like that, such a heart, and such a
spirit--and no one nearer than I am? That she should have no husband and
no child? I am a makeshift for all that she has lost, or never had."

"And Mrs. Talcott?" said Gregory after a moment. "Is it Mrs. Talcott's
tragedy to have missed even a makeshift?"

Karen now turned her eyes on him, and her face, as she scrutinized him,
showed a slight severity. "Hardly that. She has Tante."

"Has her as the chair has her, you mean?" He couldn't for the life of
him control the question. It seemed indeed due to their friendship that
he should not conceal from her the fact that he found disproportionate
elements in her devotion. Yet it was not the right way in which to be
frank, and Karen showed him so in her reply. "I mean that Tante is
everything to her and that, in the nature of things, she cannot be so
much to Tante. You mustn't take quite literally what I said of the
chair, you know. It can hardly be a makeshift to have somebody like
Tante to love and care for. I don't quite know what you mean by speaking
like that," Karen said. Her gaze, in meeting his, had become almost
stern. She seemed to scan him from a distance.

Gregory, though he felt a pang of disquietude, felt no disposition to
retreat. He intended that she should be made to understand what he
meant. "I think that what it comes to is that it is you I am thinking
of, rather than of Mrs. Talcott," he said. "I don't know your guardian,
and I do know you, and it is what she gets rather than what she gives
that is most apparent to me."

"Gets? From me? What may that be?" Karen continued to return his gaze
almost with haughtiness.

"The most precious thing I can imagine," said Gregory. "Your love. I
hope that she is properly grateful for it."

She looked at him and the slow colour mounted to her cheeks; but it was
as if in unconscious response to his feeling; it hardly, even yet,
signified self-consciousness. She had stood still in asking her last
question and she still did not move as she said: "I do not like to hear
you speak so. It shows me that you understand nothing."

"Does it? I want to understand everything."

"You care for me," said Karen, standing still, her eyes on his, "and I
care for you; but what I most wish in such a friend is that he should
see and understand. May I tell you something? Will you wait while I
tell you about my life?"

"Please tell me."

"I want you to see and understand Tante," said Karen. "And how much I
love her; and why."

They walked on, from the terrace to the cliff-path. Karen stopped when
they had gone a little way and leaned her elbows on the stone wall
looking out at the sea. "She has been everything to me," she said.

He was aware, as he leaned beside her in the mellow evening light, of a
great uneasiness mingling with the beautiful gravity of the moment. She
was near him as she had never yet been near. She had almost recognized
his love. It was there between them, and it was as if, not turning from
it, she yet pointed to something beyond and above it, something that it
was his deep instinct to evade and hers to show him. He must not take a
step towards her, she seemed to tell him, until he had proved to her
that he had seen what she did. And nothing she could say would, he felt
sure of it, alter his fundamental distrust of Madame von Marwitz.

"I want to tell you about my life," said Karen, looking out at the sea
from between her hands. "You have heard my story, of course; people are
always told it; but you have never heard it from my side. You have heard
no doubt about my father and mother, and how she left the man she did
not love for him. My mother died when I was quite little; so, though I
remember her well she does not come into the part of my story that I
want to tell you. But I was thirteen years old when my father died, and
that begins the part that leads to Tante. It was in Rome, in winter when
he died; and I was alone with him; and there was no money, and I had
more to bear than a child's mind and heart should have. He died. And
then there were dreadful days. Cold, coarse people came and took me and
put me in a convent in Paris. That convent was like hell to me. I was so
miserable. And I had never known restraint or unkindness, and the French
girls, so sly and so small in their thoughts, were hateful to me. And I
did not like the nuns. I was punished and punished--rightly no doubt. I
was fierce and sullen, I remember, and would not obey. Then I heard, by
chance, from a girl whose family had been to her concert in Paris, that
Madame Okraska was with her husband at Fontainebleau. Of her I knew
nothing but the lovely face in the shop-windows. But her husband's name
brought back distant days to me. He had known my father; I remembered
him--the fair, large, kindly smiling, very sad man--in my father's
studio among the clay and marble. He bought once a little head my father
had done of me when I was a child. So I ran away from the convent--oh,
it was very bad; I knocked down a nun and escaped the portress, and hid
for a long time in the streets. And I made my way through Paris and
walked for a day and night to Fontainebleau; and there in the forest, in
the evening, I was lost, and almost dead with hunger and fatigue. And as
I stood by the road I saw the carriage approaching from very far away
and saw sitting in it, as it came nearer, the beautiful woman. Shall I
ever forget it? The dark forest and the evening sky above and her face
looking at me--looking, looking, full of pity and wonder. She has told
me that I was the most unhappy thing that she had ever seen. My father's
friend was with her; but though I saw him and knew that I was safe, I
had eyes only for her. Her face was like heaven opening. When the
carriage stopped and she leaned to me, I sprang to her and she put her
arms around me. They have been round me ever since," said Karen, joining
her fingers over her eyes and leaning her forehead upon them so that her
face was hidden; and for a moment she did not speak. "Ever since," she
went on presently, "she has been joy and splendour and beauty. What she
has given me is nothing. It is what she is herself that lifts the lives
of other people. Those who do not know her seem to me to have lives so
sad and colourless compared to mine. You cannot imagine it, anyone so
great, yet at the same time so little and so sweet. She is merry like no
one else, and witty, and full of cajoleries, like a child. One cannot be
dull with her, not for one moment. And there is through it all her
genius, the great flood of wonderful music; can you think what it is
like to live with that? And under-lying everything is the great
irremediable sorrow. I was with her when it came; the terrible thing. I
did not live with them while he was alive, you know, my Onkel Ernst; he
was so good and kind--always the kindest of friends to me; but he loved
her too deeply to be able to share their life, and how well one
understands that in her husband. He had me put at a school in Dresden. I
did not like that much, either. But, even if I were lonely, I knew that
my wonderful friends--my Tante and my Onkel--were there, like the sun
behind the grey day, and I tried to study and be dutiful to please them.
And in my holidays I was always with them, twice it was, at their
beautiful estate in Germany. And it was there that the horror came that
wrecked her life; her husband's death, his death that cannot be
explained or understood. He drowned himself. We never say it, but we
know it. That is the fear, the mystery. All his joy with her, his love
and happiness--to leave them;--it was madness; he had always been a sad
man; one saw that in his face; the doctors said it was madness. He
disappeared without a word one day. For three weeks--nothing. Tante was
like a creature crying out on the rack. And it was I who found him by
the lake-edge one morning. She was walking in the park, I knew; she used
to walk and walk fast, fast, quite silent; and with horrible fear I
thought: If I can keep her from seeing. I turned--and she was beside me.
I could not save her. Ah--poor woman!" Karen closed her hands over her

They stood for a long time in silence, Gregory leaning beside her and
looking down at the sea. His thought was not with the stricken figure
she put before him; it dwelt on the girl facing horror, on the child
bearing more than a child should bear. Yet he was glad to feel, as a
background to his thoughts, that Madame von Marwitz was indeed very

"You understand," said Karen, straightening herself at last and laying
her hands on the wall. "You see how it is."

"Yes," said Gregory.

"It is kind of you, and beautiful, to feel me, as your friend, a person
of value," said Karen. "But it does not please me to have the great fact
of my life belittled."

"I haven't meant to do that, really. I see why it means so much, to you.
But I see you before I see the facts of your life; they interest me
because of you," said Gregory. "You come first to me. It's that I want
you to understand."

Karen had at last turned her eyes upon his and they met them in a long
encounter that recalled to Gregory their first. It was not the moment
for explicit recognitions or avowals; the shadow of the past lay too
darkly upon her. But that their relation had changed her deepened gaze
accepted. She took his hand, she had a fashion almost boyish of taking
his rather than giving her hand, and said: "We shall both understand
more and more; that is so, is it not? And some day you will know her.
Until you know her you cannot really understand."


Karen and he had walked back to the house in silence, and at the door,
where she stood to see him off, it had been arranged that he was to
lunch at Les Solitudes next day and that she was to show him a favourite
headland, one not far away, but that he had never yet been shown. From
the sweetness, yet gravity, of her look and voice he could infer nothing
but that she recognized change and a new significance. Her manner had
neither the confusion nor the pretended unconsciousness of ordinary
girlhood. She was calm, but with a new thoughtfulness. He arrived a
little early next day and found Mrs. Talcott alone in the morning-room
writing letters. He noticed, as she rose from the bureau, her large,
immature, considered writing. "Karen'll be down in a minute or two, I
guess," she said. "Take a chair."

"Don't let me interrupt you," said Gregory, as Mrs. Talcott seated
herself before him, her hands folded at her waist. But Mrs. Talcott,
remarking briefly, "Don't mention it," did not move back to her former
place. She examined him and he examined her and he felt that she probed
through his composure to his unrest. "I wanted a little talk," she
observed presently. "You've gotten pretty fond of Karen, haven't you,
Mr. Jardine?"

This was to come at once to the point. "Very fond," said Gregory,
wondering if she had been diagnosing his fondness in a letter to Madame
von Marwitz.

"She hasn't got many friends," Mrs. Talcott, after another moment of
contemplation, went on. "She's always been a lonesome sort of child."

"That's what has struck me, too," said Gregory.

"Sometimes Mercedes takes her along; but sometimes she don't," Mrs.
Talcott pursued. "It ain't a particularly lively sort of life for a
young girl, going on in an out-of-the-way place like this with an old
woman like me. She's spent most of her time with me, when you come to
reckon it up." There was no air of criticism or confidence in Mrs.
Talcott. She put forward these remarks with unbiassed placidity.

"I suppose Madame von Marwitz couldn't arrange always to take her?"
Gregory asked after a pause.

"It ain't always convenient toting a young girl round with you," said
Mrs. Talcott. "Sometimes Mercedes feels like it and sometimes she don't.
Karen and I stay at home, now that I'm too old to go about with her, and
we see her when she's home. That's the idea. But she ain't much at home.
She's mostly travelling and staying around with folks."

"It isn't a particularly lively time, it seems to me, for either of
you," said Gregory. It was his instinct to blame Madame von Marwitz for
the featureless lives led by her dependents, though he could but own
that it might, perhaps, be difficult to fit them into the vagabondage of
a great pianist's existence.

"Well, it's good enough for me," said Mrs. Talcott. "I'm very contented
if it comes to that; and so is Karen. She's known so much that's worse,
the same as I have. But she's known what's better, too; she was a pretty
big girl when her Poppa died and she was a companion to him and I reckon
that without figuring it up much to herself she's lonesome a good deal."

Gregory for a moment was silent. Then he found it quite natural to say
to Mrs. Talcott: "What I hope is that she will marry me."

"I hope so, too," said Mrs. Talcott with no alteration of tone. "I hoped
so the moment I set eyes on you. I saw that you were a good young man
and that you'd make her a good kind husband."

"Thanks, very much," said Gregory, smiling yet deeply touched. "I hope I
may be. I intend to be if she will have me."

"The child is mighty fond of you," said Mrs. Talcott. "And it's not as
if she took easy to people. She don't. She's never seemed to need folks.
But I can see that she's mighty fond of you, and what I want to say is,
even if it don't seem to work out like you want it to right away, you
hang on, Mr. Jardine; that's my advice; an old woman like me understands
young girls better than they understand themselves. Karen is so wrapped
up in Mercedes and thinks such a sight of her that perhaps she'll feel
she don't want to leave her and that sort of thing; but just you hang

"I intend to," said Gregory. "I can't say how much I thank you for being
on my side."

"Yes; I'm on your side, and I'm on Karen's side; and I want to see this
thing put through," said Mrs. Talcott.

Something seemed to hover between them now, a fourth figure that must be
added to the trio they made. He wondered, if he did hang on successfully
and if it did work out as he intended that it should, how that fourth
figure would work in. He couldn't see a shared life with Karen from
which it could be eliminated, nor did he, of course, wish to see it
eliminated; but he did not see himself, either, as forming one of a band
of satellites, and the main fact about the fourth figure seemed to be
that any relation to it involved one, apparently, in discipleship. There
seemed even some disloyalty to Mrs. Talcott in accepting her sympathy
while anxieties and repudiations such as these were passing through his
mind; for she, no doubt, saw in Karen's relation to Madame von Marwitz
the chief asset with which she could present a husband; and he expected
Mrs. Talcott, now, to make some reference to this asset; but none came;
and if she expected from him some recognition of it, no expectancy was
visible in the old blue eyes fixed on his face. A silence fell between
them, and as it grew longer it grew the more consoling. Into their
compact of understanding she let him see, he could almost fancy, that
the question of Madame von Marwitz was not to enter.

Karen, when she appeared, was looking preoccupied, and after shaking his
hand and giving him, for a moment, the sweet, grave smile with which
they had parted, she glanced at the writing-table. "You are writing to
Tante, Mrs. Talcott?" she said. "You heard from her this morning?"

"Yes; I heard from her," said Mrs. Talcott. Gregory at once inferred
that Madame von Marwitz had been writing for information concerning

She must by now have become aware of his correspondence with Karen and
its significant continuity.

"Are there any messages?--any news?" asked Karen, and she could not keep
dejection from her voice. She had had no letter.

"It's only a business note," said Mrs. Talcott. "Hasn't Miss Scrotton

"Does my cousin keep you posted as a rule?" Gregory asked, as Karen
shook her head.

"No; but Tante asks her to write sometimes, when she is too tired or
rushed; and I had a letter from her, giving me their plans, only a few
days ago; so that I know that all is well. It is only that I am always
greedy for Tante's letters, and this is the day on which they often

They went in to lunch. Karen spoke little during the meal. Gregory and
Mrs. Talcott carried on a desultory conversation about hotels and the
different merits of different countries in this respect. Mrs. Talcott
had a vast experience of hotels. From Germany to Australia, from New
York to St. Petersburg, they were known to her.

After lunch he and Karen started on their walk. It had been a morning of
white fog and the mist still lay thickly over the sea, so that from the
high cliff-path, a clear, pale sky above them, they looked down into
milky gulfs of space. Then, as the sun shone softly and a gentle breeze
arose, a rift of dark, still blue appeared below, as the sky appears
behind dissolving clouds, and fold upon fold, slumbrously, the mist
rolled back upon itself. The sea lay like a floor of polished sapphire
beneath the thick, soft webs. Far below, in a cavern, the sound of
lapping water clucked, and a sea-gull, indolently intent, drifted by
slowly on dazzling wings.

Karen and Gregory reached their headland and, seating themselves on the
short, warm turf, looked out over the sea. During the walk they had
hardly spoken, and he had wondered whether her thoughts were with him
and with their last words yesterday, or dwelling still on her
disappointment. But presently, as if her preoccupation had drifted from
her as the fog had drifted from the sea, Karen turned tranquil eyes upon
him and said: "I suddenly thought, and the stillness made me think it,
and Mrs. Talcott's hotels, too, perhaps, of all that is going on in the
world while we sit here so lonely and so peaceful. Frenchmen with fat
cheeks and flat-brimmed silk hats sitting at little tin tables in
boulevards; isn't it difficult to realize that they exist? and Arabs on
camels crossing deserts; they are quite imaginable; and nuns praying in
convent cells; and stokers, all stripped and sweating, under the engines
of great steamers; and a little Japanese artist carving so carefully the
soles of the feet of some tiny image; there they are, all going on; as
real to themselves as we are, at the very moment that we sit here and
feel that only we, in all the world, are real." She might almost have
been confiding her fancies to a husband whose sympathy had been tested
by years of fond companionship.

Gregory, wondering at her, loving her, pulled at the short turf as he
lay, propped on an elbow, beside her, and said: "What nice thoughts you

"You have them, too, I think," said Karen, smiling down at him. "And
nicer ones. Mine are usually only amusing, like those; but yours are
often beautiful. I see that in your face, you know. It is a face that
makes me think always of a cold, clear, steely pool;--that is what it
looks like if one does not look down into it but only across it, as it
were; but if one bends over and looks down, deep down, one sees the sky
and passing white clouds and boughs of trees. I saw deep down at once.
That is why," her eyes rested upon him, "we were friends from the

"It's what you bring that you see," said Gregory; "you make me think of
all those things."

"Ah, but you think them for yourself, too; when you are alone you think

"But when I am alone and think them, without you in the thought of them,
it's always with sadness, for something I've lost. You bring them back,
with happiness. The thought of you is always happy. I have never known
anyone who seemed to me so peacefully happy as you do. You are very
happy, aren't you?" Gregory looked down at his little tufts of turf as
he asked this question.

"I am glad I seem to you like that," said Karen. "I think I am usually
quiet and gay and full of confidence; I sometimes wonder at my
confidence. But it is not always so. No, I am not always happy.
Sometimes, when I think and remember, it is like feeling a great hole
being dug in my heart--as if the iron went down and turned up dark
forgotten things. I have that feeling sometimes; and then I wonder that
I can ever be happy."

"What things, dear Karen?"

"You know, I think." Karen looked out at the sea. "Tante's face when I
found her husband's body. And my father's face when he was dying; he did
not know what was to become of me; he was quite weak, like a little
child, and he cried on my breast. And my mother's face when she died. I
have not told you anything of my mother."

"Will you? I want to hear everything about you; everything," said

"This is her locket," Karen said, putting her hand over it. "Her face is
in it; would you like to see it?"

He held out his hand, and slipping the ribbon over her head she pressed
the little spring and laid the open locket in it.

He saw the tinted photograph of a young girl's head, a girl younger than
Karen and with her fair hair and straight brows and square chin; but it
was a gentler face and a clumsier, and strange with its alien

"I always feel as if she were my child and I her mother when I look at
that," said Karen. "It was taken before I was born. She had a happy
life, and yet my memory of her breaks my heart. She was so very young
and it frightened her so much to die; she could not bear to leave us."

Gregory, holding the little locket, looked at it silently. Then he put
it to his lips. "You care for me, don't you, Karen?" he said.

"You know, I think," said Karen, repeating her former words.

He laid the locket in her hand, and the moment had for him a sacramental
holiness so that the locket was like a wedding-ring; holding it and her
hand together he said, lifting his eyes to hers, "I love you. Do you
love me?"

Her eyes had filled with tears when he had kissed her mother's face, and
there was young awe in her gaze; but no shadow, no surprise.

"Yes," she said, unhesitatingly. "Yes, I love you, dear Gregory."

The simplicity, the inevitableness of his bliss overwhelmed him. He held
her hand and looked down at it. All about them was the blue. All her
past, its beauty, its dark, forgotten things, she had given to him. She
was his for ever. "Oh, my darling Karen," he murmured.

She bent down to look at him now, smiling and unclosing her hand from
his gently, so that she could look at her mother's face. "How glad she
would be if she could know," she said. "Perhaps she does know. Do you
not think so?"

"Dear--I don't know what I think about those hopes. I hope."

"Oh, it is more than hope, my belief that she is there; that she is not
lost. Only one cannot tell how or when or where it all may be. For that,
yes, it can be only hope. She, too, would love you, I am sure," Karen

"Would she? I'm glad you think so, darling."

"We are so much alike, you see, that it is natural to feel sure that we
should think alike. Do you not think that her face is much like mine?
What happiness! I am glad it is not a day of rain for our happiness."
And she then added, "I hope we may be married."

"Why, we are to be married, dear child," Gregory said, smiling at her.
"There is no 'may' about it, since you love me."

"Only one," said Karen, who still looked at her mother's face. "And
perhaps it will be well not to speak much of our love till we can know.
But I feel sure that she will say this happiness is for me."

"She?" Gregory repeated. For a moment he imagined that she meant some
superstition connected with her mother.

Karen, slipping the ribbon over her head, had returned the locket to its
place. "Yes; Tante," she said, still with the locket in her hand.

"Tante?" Gregory repeated.

At his tone, its change, she lifted startled eyes to his.

"What has she to do with it?" Gregory asked after a moment in which she
continued to gaze at him.

"What has Tante to do with it?" said Karen in a wondering voice. "Do you
think I could marry without Tante's consent?"

"But you love me?"

"I do not understand you. Was it wrong of me to have said so before I
had her consent? Was that not right? Not fair to you?"

"Since you love me you ought to be willing to marry me whether you have
your guardian's consent or not." His voice strove to control its
bitterness; but the day had darkened; all his happiness was blurred. He
felt as if a great injury had been done him.

Karen continued to gaze at him in astonishment. "Would you have expected
me to marry you without my mother's consent? She is in my mother's

"If you loved me I should certainly expect you to say that you would
marry me whether your mother consented or not. You are of age. There is
nothing against me. Those aren't English ideas at all, Karen."

"But I am not English," said Karen, "my guardian is not English. They
are our ideas."

"You mean, you seriously mean, that, loving me, you would give me up if
she told you to?"

"Yes," said Karen, now with the heaviness of their recognized division.
"She would not refuse her consent unless it were right that I should
give you up."

For some moments after this Gregory, in silence, looked down at the
grass between them, clasping his knees; for he now sat upright. Then,
controlling his anger to argumentative rationality, he said, while again
wrenching away at the strongly rooted tufts: "If she did refuse, what
reason could she give for refusing? As I say, there's absolutely nothing
against me."

Karen had kept her troubled eyes on his downcast face. "There might be
things she did not like; things she would not believe for my happiness
in married life," she replied.

"And you would take her word against mine?"

"You forget, I think," he had lifted his eyes to hers and she looked
back at him, steadily, with no entreaty, but with all the perplexity of
her deep pain. "She has known me for eleven years. I have only known you
for three months."

He could not now control the bitterness or the dismay; for, coldly,
cuttingly he knew it, it was quite possible that Madame von Marwitz
would not "like things" in him. Their one encounter had not been of a
nature to endear him to her. "It simply means," he said, looking into
her eyes, "that you haven't any conception of what love is. It means
that you don't love me."

They looked at each other for a moment and then Karen said, "That is
hard." And after another moment she rose to her feet. Gregory got up and
they went down the cliff-path towards Les Solitudes.

He had not spoken recklessly. His words expressed his sense of her
remoteness. He could not imagine what sort of love it was that could so
composedly be put aside. And making no feminine appeal or protest, she
walked steadily, in silence, before him. Only at a turning of the way
did he see that her lips were compressed and tears upon her cheeks.

"Karen," he said, looking into her face as he now walked beside her;
"won't you talk it over? You astonish me so unspeakably. Can she destroy
our friendship, too? Would you give me up as a friend if she didn't like
things in me?"

The tears expressed no yielding, for she answered "Yes."

"And how far do you push submission? If she told you to marry someone
she chose for you, would you consent, whether you loved him or not?"

"It is not submission," said Karen. "It is our love, hers and mine. She
would not wish me to marry a man I did not love. The contrary is true.
My guardian before she went away spoke to me of a young man she had
chosen for me, someone for whom she had the highest regard and
affection; and I, too, am very fond of him. She felt that it would be
for my happiness to marry him, and she hoped that I would consent. But I
did not love him. I told her that I could never love him; and so it
ended immediately. You do her injustice in your thoughts of her; and you
do me injustice, too, if you think of me as a person who would marry
where I did not love."

He walked beside her, bitterly revolving the sorry comfort of this last
speech. "Who was the young man?" he asked. Not that he really cared to

"His name is Herr Franz Lippheim," said Karen, gravely. "He is a young

"Herr Franz Lippheim," Gregory repeated, with an irritation glad to
wreak itself on this sudden object presented opportunely. "How could you
have been imagined as marrying someone called Lippheim?"

"Why not, pray?"

"Is he a German Jew?" Gregory inquired after a moment.

"He is, indeed, of Joachim's nationality," Karen answered, in a voice
from which the tears were gone.

They walked on, side by side, the estrangement cutting deep between
their new-won nearness. Yet in the estrangement was an intimacy deeper
than that of the merely blissful state. They seemed in the last
miserable half hour to have advanced by years their knowledge of each
other. Mrs. Talcott and tea were waiting for them in the morning-room.
The old woman fixed her eyes upon each face in turn and then gave her
attention to her tea-pot.

"I am sorry, Mrs. Talcott, that we are so late," Karen said. Her
composure was kept only by an effort that gave to her tones a stately

"Don't mention it," said Mrs. Talcott. "I'm only just in myself."

"Has it not been a beautiful afternoon?" Karen continued. "What have you
been doing in the garden, Mrs. Talcott?"

"I sowed a big bed of mignonette down by the arbour, and Mitchell and I
set out a good lot of plants."

Mrs. Talcott made her replies to the questions that Karen continued to
ask, in an even voice in which Gregory, who kept his dismal eyes upon
her, detected a melancholy patience. Mrs. Talcott must perceive his
state to be already one of "hanging on." Of her sympathy he was, at all
events, assured. She showed it by rising as soon as he and Karen had
drunk their tea. "I've got some more things to do," she said. "Good-bye,
Mr. Jardine. Are you coming over to-morrow?"

"No," said Gregory taking Mrs. Talcott's hand. "My holiday is over. I
shall be going back to town to-morrow."

Mrs. Talcott looked into his eyes. "Well, that's too bad," she observed.

"Isn't it? I'd far rather stay here, I can assure you," said Gregory.

"We'll miss you, I guess," said Mrs. Talcott. "I'm very glad to have had
the pleasure of making your acquaintance."

"And I of making yours."

Mrs. Talcott departed and Gregory turned to Karen. She was standing near
the window, looking at him.

"We must say good-bye, too, I suppose," said Gregory, mastering his
grief. "You will give me your guardian's address so that I can write to
her at once?"

Her face had worn the aspect of a grey, passive sheet of water; a
radiant pallor now seemed struck from its dulled surface.

"You are going to write to Tante?" she said.

"Isn't that the next step?" Gregory asked. "You will write, too, won't
you? Or is it part of my ordeal that I'm to plead my cause alone?"

Karen had clasped her hands together on her breast and, in the eyes
fixed on his, tears gathered. "Do not speak harshly," she said. "I am so
sorry there must be the ordeal. But so happy, too--so suddenly. Because
I believed that you were going to leave me since you thought me so wrong
and so unloving."

"Going to leave you, Karen?" Gregory repeated in amazement. Desperate
amusement struggled in his face with self-reproach. "My darling child,
what must you think of me? And, actually, you'd have let me go?" He had
come to her and taken her hands in his.

"What else could I do?"

"Such an idiot would have deserved it? Could you believe me such an
idiot? Darling, you so astonish me. What a strange, indomitable creature
you are."

"What else could I do, Gregory?" she repeated, looking into his face and
not smiling in answer to his smiling, frowning gaze.

"Love me more; that's what you could have done--a great deal more," said
Gregory. "That's what you must do, Karen. I can't bear to think that you
wouldn't marry me without her consent. I can't bear to think that you
don't love me enough. But leave you because you don't love me as much as
I want you to love me! My darling, how little you understand."

"You seemed very angry," said Karen. "I was so unhappy. I don't know how
I should have borne it if you had gone away and left me like this. But
love should not make one weak, Gregory. There you are wrong, to think it
is because I do not love you."

"Ah, you'll find out if I'm wrong!" Gregory exclaimed with tender
conviction. "You'll find out how much more you are to love me. Oh, yes,
I will kiss you good-bye, Karen. I don't care if all the Tantes in the
world forbid it!"

In thinking afterwards of these last moments that they had had together,
the discomfitures and dismays of the afternoon tended to resolve
themselves for Gregory into the memory of the final yielding. She had
let him take her into his arms, and with the joy was the added sweetness
of knowing that in permitting and reciprocating his unauthorized kiss
she sacrificed some principles, at all events, for his sake.


Madame von Marwitz was sitting on the great terrace of a country-house
in Massachusetts, opening and reading her post, as we have already seen
her do. Impatient and weary as the occupation often made her, she yet
depended upon the morning waves of adulation that lapped in upon her
from every quarter of the earth. To miss the fullness of the tide gave
her, when by chance there was deficiency, the feeling that badly made
_café au lait_ gave her at the beginning of the day; something was
wrong; the expected stimulant lacked in force or in flavour, and coffee
that was not strong and sweet and aromatic was a mishap so unusual that,
when it occurred, it became an offence almost gross and unnatural, as
did a post that brought few letters of homage and appreciation. To-day
the mental coffee was as strong and as perfumed as that of which she had
shortly before partaken in her lovely little _Louis Quinze_ boudoir,
after she had come in from her bath. The bath-room was like that of a
Roman Empress, all white marble, with a square of emerald water into
which one descended down shallow marble steps. Madame von Marwitz was
amused by the complexities of luxury among which she found herself, some
of which, even to her, were novel. "_Eh, eh, ma chère_," she had said to
Miss Scrotton, "beautiful if you will, and very beautiful; but its nails
are too much polished, its hair too much _ondulé_. I prefer a porcelain
to a marble bath-tub." But the ingenuities of hospitality which the
Aspreys--earnest and accomplished millionaires--lavished upon their
guests made one, she owned, balmily comfortable. And as she sat now in
her soft white draperies under a great silken sunshade, raised on a
stand above her and looking in the sunlight like a silver bell, the
beauty of her surroundings--the splendid Italian gardens, a miracle of
achievement even if lacking, as the miraculous may, an obvious relation
with its surroundings; the landscape with its inlaid lake and wood and
hill and great arch of bluest sky; the tall, transparent, Turneresque
trees in the middle distance;--all this stately serenity seemed to have
wrought in her an answering suavity and gladness. There was almost a
latent gaiety in her glance, as, with her large, white, securely moving
hands, which seemed to express their potential genius in every deft and
delicate gesture, she took up and cut open and unfolded her letters,
pausing between them now and then to tweak off and eat a grape as large
as a plum from the bunch lying on its leaves in a Veronese-like silver
platter beside her.

This suavity, this gladness and even gaiety of demeanour were apparent
to Miss Eleanor Scrotton when she presently emerged from the house and
advanced slowly along the terrace, pausing at intervals beside its
balustrade to gaze with a somewhat melancholy eye over the prospect.

Miss Scrotton was struggling with a half formulated sense of grievance.
It was she who had brought Madame von Marwitz and the Aspreys together.
Madame von Marwitz already knew, of course, most of the people in
America who were worth knowing; if she hadn't met them there she had met
them in Europe; but the Aspreys she had, till then, never met, and they
had been, indisputably, Miss Scrotton's possession. Miss Scrotton had
known them slightly for several years; her father and Mr. Asprey had
corresponded on some sociological theme and the Aspreys had called on
him in London in a mood of proper deference and awe. She had written to
the Aspreys before sailing with Mercedes, had found that they were
wintering in Egypt, but would be back in America in Spring, ready to
receive Madame von Marwitz and herself with open arms; and within those
arms she had, a week ago, placed her treasure. No doubt someone else
would have done it if she hadn't; and perhaps she had been too eager in
her determination that no one else should do it. Perhaps she was
altogether a little too eager. Madame von Marwitz liked people to care
for her and showed a pretty gratitude for pains endured on her behalf;
at least she usually did so; but it may well have been that the great
woman, at once vaguely aloof and ironically observant, had become a
little irked, or bored, or merely amused at hearing so continually, as
it were, her good Scrotton panting beside her, tense, determined and
watchful of opportunity. However that may have been, Miss Scrotton, as
Madame von Marwitz's glance now lifted and rested upon herself, detected
the sharper gaiety defined by the French as "_malice_," lighting, though
ever so mildly, her friend's eyes and lips. Like most devotees Miss
Scrotton had something of the valet in her composition, and with the
valet's capacity for obsequiousness went a valet-like shrewdness of
perception. She hadn't spent four months travelling about America with
Madame von Marwitz without seeing her in undress. She had long since
become uncomfortably aware that when Madame von Marwitz found one a
little ridiculous she could be unkind, and that when one added
plaintiveness to folly she often amused herself by giving one, to speak
metaphorically, soft yet sharp little pinches that left one nervously
uncertain of whether a caress or an aggression had been intended.

Miss Scrotton was plaintive, and she could not conceal it. Glory as she
might in the _rôle_ of second fiddle, she was very tenaciously aware of
what was due to that subservient but by no means insignificant
performer; and the Aspreys had not shown themselves enough aware,
Mercedes had not shown herself aware at all, of what they all owed to
her sustaining, discreet and harmonious accompaniment. In the carefully
selected party assembled at Belle Vue for Madame von Marwitz's
delectation, she had been made a little to feel that she was but one of
the indistinguishable orchestra that plucked out from accommodating
strings a mellow bass to the one thrilling solo. Not for one moment did
she grudge any of the recognitions that were her great friend's due; but
she did expect to bask beside her; she did expect to find transmitted to
her an important satellite's share of beams; and, it wasn't to be
denied, Mercedes had been too much occupied with other people--and with
one other in particular--to shine upon her in any distinguishing degree.
Mercedes had the faculty, chafe against it as one might--and her very
fondness, her very familiarity were a part of the effect--of making one
show as an unimportant satellite, as something that would revolve when
wanted and be contentedly invisible when that was fitting. "I might
almost as well be a paid _dame de compagnie_," Miss Scrotton had more
than once murmured to herself with a lip that trembled; and, obscurely,
she realised that close association with the great might reveal one as
insignificant rather than as glorified. It was therefore with her air of
melancholy that she paused in her advance along the terrace to gaze out
at the prospect, and with an air of emphasized calm and dignity that she
finally came towards her friend; and, as she came, thus armed, the
blitheness deepened in the great woman's eyes.

"Well, _ma chèrie_," she remarked, "How goes it?" She spoke in French.

"Very well, _ma bien aimée_," Miss Scrotton replied in the same
language. Her French was correct, but Mercedes often made playful
sallies at the expense of her accent. She preferred not to talk in
French. And when Madame von Marwitz went on to ask her where her fellow
_convives_ were, it was in English that she answered, "I don't know
where they all are--I have been busy writing letters; Mrs. Asprey and
Lady Rose are driving, I know, and Mr. Asprey and Mr. Drew I saw in the
smoking-room as I passed. The Marquis I don't think is down yet, nor
Mrs. Furnivall; the young people are playing tennis, I suppose."

Miss Scrotton looked about the terrace with its rhythmic tubs of
flowering trees, its groups of chairs, its white silk parasols, and then
wandered to the parapet to turn and glance up at the splendid copy of an
Italian villa that rose above it. "It is really very beautiful,
Mercedes," she observed. "It becomes the more significant from being so
isolated, so divorced from what we are accustomed to find in Europe as a
setting for such a place, doesn't it? Just as, I always think, the
people of the Asprey type, the best this country has to offer, are more
significant, too, for being picked out from so much that is
indistinguishable. I do flatter myself, darling, that in this visit, at
least, I've been able to offer you something really worth your while,
something that adds to your experience of people and places. You _are_
enjoying yourself," said Miss Scrotton with a manner of sad

"Yes; truly," Madame von Marwitz made genial reply. "The more so for
finding myself surrounded by so many old acquaintances. It is a
particular pleasure to see again Lady Rose and the vivacious and
intelligent Mrs. Furnivall; it was in Venice that we last met; her
Palazzo there you must one day see. Monsieur de Hautefeuille and Mr.
Drew I counted already as friends in Europe."

"And Mrs. Asprey you will soon count as one, I hope. She is really a
somewhat remarkable woman. She comes, you know, of one of their best and
oldest families."

"Oh, for that, no; not remarkable. Good, if you will--_bon comme du
pain_; it strikes me much, that goodness, among these American rich whom
we are accustomed to hear so crudely caricatured in Europe;--and it is
quite a respectable little aristocracy. They ally themselves, as we see
here in our excellent host and hostess, with what there is of old blood
in the country and win tradition to guide their power. They are not the
flaunting, vulgar rich, of whom we hear so much from those who do not
know them, but the anxious, thoughtful, virtuous rich, oppressed by
their responsibilities and all studying so hard, poor dears, at stiff,
deep books, in order to fulfil them worthily. They all go to
_conférences_, these ladies, it seems, and study sociology. They take
life with a seriousness that I have never seen equalled. Mrs. Asprey is
like them all; good, oh, but yes. And I am pleased to know her, too.
Mrs. Furnivall had promised her long since, she tells me, that it should
be. She and Mrs. Furnivall are old school-mates."

Miss Scrotton, all her merit thus mildly withdrawn from her, stood
silent for some moments looking away at the lake and the Turneresque

"It was so very kind of you, Mercedes, to have had Mr. Drew asked here,"
she observed at last, very casually. "It is a real opportunity for a
young bohemian of that type; you are a true fairy-godmother to him;
first Mrs. Forrester and now the Aspreys. Curious, wasn't it, his
appearing over here so suddenly?"

"Curious? It did not strike me so," said Madame von Marwitz, showing no
consciousness of the thrust her friend had ventured to essay. "People
come to America a great deal, do they not; and often suddenly. It is the
country of suddenness. His books are much read here, it seems, and he
had business with his publishers. He knew, too, that I was here; and
that to him was also an attraction. Why curious, my Scrotton?"

Miss Scrotton disliked intensely being called "my Scrotton;" but she had
never yet found the necessary courage to protest against the
appellation. "Oh, only because I had had no hint of it until he
appeared," she returned. "And I wondered if you had had. Yes; I suppose
he would be a good deal read over here. It is a very derivative and
artificial talent, don't you think, darling?"

"Rather derivative; rather artificial," Madame von Marwitz replied

"He doesn't look well, does he?" Miss Scrotton pursued, after a little
pause. "I don't like that puffiness about the eyelids and chin. It will
be fatal for him to become fat."

"No," said Madame von Marwitz, as serenely as before, her eyes now on a
letter that she held. "Ah, no; he could rise above fat, that young man.
I can see him fat with impunity. Would it become, then, somewhat the
Talleyrand type? How many distinguished men have been fat. Napoleon,
Renan, Gibbon, Dr. Johnson--" she turned her sheet as she mildly brought
out the desultory list. "And all seem to end in n, do they not? I am
glad that I asked Mr. Drew. He flavours the dish like an aromatic herb;
and what a success he has been; _hein_? But he is the type of personal
success. He is independent, indifferent, individual."

"Ah, my dear, you are too generous to that young man," Miss Scrotton
mused. "It's beautiful, it's wonderful to watch; but you are, indeed,
too kind to him." She mused, she was absent, yet she knew, and knew that
Mercedes knew, that never before in all their intercourse had she
ventured on such a speech. It implied watchfulness; it implied
criticism; it implied, even, anxiety; it implied all manner of things
that it was not permitted for a satellite to say.

The Baroness's eyes were on her letter, and though she did not raise
them her dark brows lifted. "_Tiens_," she continued, "you find that I
am too kind to him?"

Miss Scrotton, to keep up the appearance of ingenuousness, was forced to
further definition. "I don't think, darling, that in your sympathy, your
solicitude, where young talent is concerned, you quite realize how much
you give, how much you can be made use of. The man admires you, of
course, and has, of course, talent of a sort. Yet, when I see you
together, I confess that I receive sometimes the impression of a
scattering of pearls."

Madame von Marwitz laid down her letter. "Ah! ah!--oh! oh!--_ma bonne_,"
she said. She laughed out. Her eyes were lit with dancing sparks. "Do
you know you speak as if you were very, very jealous of this young man
who is found so charming?"

"Jealous, my dear Mercedes?" Miss Scrotton's emotion showed itself in a
dark flush.

"_Mais oui; mais oui_; you tell me that my friend is a swine. Does
that not mean that you, of late, have received too few pearls?"

"My dear Mercedes! Who called him a swine?"

"One doesn't speak of scattered pearls without rousing these
associations." Her tone was beaming.

Was it possible to swallow such an affront? Was it possible not to? And
she had brought it upon herself. There was comfort and a certain
restoration of dignity in this thought. Miss Scrotton, struggling
inwardly, feigned lightness. "So few of us are worthy of your pearls,
dear. Unworthiness doesn't, I hope, consign us to the porcine category.
Perhaps it is that being, like him, a little person, I'm able to see Mr.
Drew's merits and demerits more impartially than you do. That is all. I
really ought to know a good deal about Mr. Drew," Miss Scrotton pursued,
regaining more self-control, now that she had steered her way out of the
dreadful shoals where her friend's words had threatened to sink her;
"I've known him since the days when he was at Oxford and I used to stay
there with my uncle the Dean. He was sitting, then, at the feet of
Pater. It's a derivative, a _parvenu_ talent, and, I do feel it, I
confess I do, a derivative personality altogether, like that of so many
of these clever young men nowadays. He is, you know, of anything but
distinguished antecedents, and his reaction from his own _milieu_ has
been, perhaps, from the first, a little marked. Unfortunately his
marriage is there to remind people of it, and I never see Mr. Drew _dans
le monde_ without, irrepressibly, thinking of the dismal little wife in
Surbiton whom I once called upon, and his swarms--but swarms, my
dear--of large-mouthed children."

Miss Scrotton wondered, as she proceeded, whether she had again too far
abandoned discretion.

The Baroness examined her next letter for a moment before opening it and
if she, too, had received her sting, she abandoned nothing.

She answered with complete, though perhaps ominous, mildness: "He is
rather like Shelley, I always think, a sophisticated Shelley who had sat
at the feet of Pater. Shelley, too, had swarms of children, and it is
possible that they were large-mouthed. The plebeian origin that you tell
me of rather attracts me. I care, especially, for the fine flame that
mounts from darkness; and I, too, on one side, as you will remember, _ma
bonne_, am _du peuple_."

"My dear Mercedes! Your father was an artist, a man of genius; and if
your parents had risen from the gutter, you, by your own genius,
transcend the question of rank as completely as a Shakespeare."

The continued mildness was alarming Miss Scrotton; an eagerness to make
amends was in her eye.

"Ah--but did he, poor man!" Madame von Marwitz mused, rather
irrelevantly, her eyes on her letter. "One hears now, not. But thank
you, my Scrotton, you mean to be consoling. I have, however, no dread of
the gutter. _Tiens_," she turned a page, "here is news indeed."

Miss Scrotton had now taken a chair beside her and her fingers tapped a
little impatiently as the Baroness's eye--far from the thought of pearls
and swine--went over the letter.

"_Tiens, tiens_," Madame von Marwitz repeated; "the little Karen is
sought in marriage."

"Really," said Miss Scrotton, "how very fortunate for the poor little
thing. Who is the young man, and how, in heaven's name, has she secured
a young man in the wilds of Cornwall?"

Madame von Marwitz made no reply. She was absorbed in another letter.
And Miss Scrotton now perceived, with amazement and indignation, that
the one laid down was written in the hand of Gregory Jardine.

"You don't mean to tell me," Miss Scrotton said, after some moments of
hardly held patience, "that it's Gregory?"

Madame von Marwitz, having finished her second letter, was gazing before
her with a somewhat ambiguous expression.

"Tallie speaks well of him," she remarked at last. "He has made a very
good impression on Tallie."

"Are you speaking of Gregory Jardine, Mercedes?" Miss Scrotton repeated.

Madame von Marwitz now looked at her and as she looked the tricksy light
of malice again grew in her eye. "_Mais oui; mais oui._ You have guessed
correctly, my Scrotton," she said. "And you may read his letter. It is
pleasant to me to see that stiff, self-satisfied young man brought to
his knees. Read it, _ma chère_, read it. It is an excellent letter."

Miss Scrotton read, and, while she read, Madame von Marwitz's cold, deep
eyes rested on her, still vaguely smiling.

"How very extraordinary," said Miss Scrotton. She handed back the

"Extraordinary? Now, why, _ma bonne_?" her friend inquired, all limpid
frankness. "He looked indeed, a stockish, chill young man, of the
cold-nosed type--_ah, que je n'aime pas ça!_--but he is a good young
man; a most unimpeachable young man; and our little Karen has melted
him; how much his letter shows."

"Gregory Jardine is a very able and a very distinguished person," said
Miss Scrotton, "and of an excellent county family. His mother and mine
were cousins, as you know, and I have always taken the greatest interest
in him. One can't but wonder how the child managed it." Mercedes, she
knew, was drawing a peculiar satisfaction from her displeasure; but she
couldn't control it.

"Ah, the child is not a manager. She is so far from managing it, you
see, that she leaves it to me to manage. It touches and surprises me, I
confess, to find that her devotion to me rules her even at a moment like
this. Yes; Karen has pleased me very much."

"Of course that old-fashioned formality would in itself charm Gregory.
He is very conventional. But I do hope, my dear Mercedes, that you will
think it over a little before giving your consent. It is really a most
unsuitable match. Karen's feelings are, evidently, not at all deeply
engaged and with Gregory it must be a momentary infatuation. He will get
over it in time and thank you for saving him; and Karen will marry Herr
Lippheim, as you hoped she would."

"Now upon my word, my Scrotton," said Madame von Marwitz in a manner as
near insolence as its grace permitted, "I do not follow you. A
barrister, a dingy little London barrister, to marry my ward? You call
that an unsuitable marriage? I protest that I do not follow you and I
assert, to the contrary, that he has played his cards well. Who is he? A
nobody. You speak of your county families; what do they signify outside
their county? Karen in herself is, I grant you, also a nobody; but she
stands to me in a relation almost filial--if I chose to call it so; and
I signify more than the families of many counties put together. Let us
be frank. He opens no doors to Karen. She opens doors to him."

Miss Scrotton, addressed in these measured and determined tones, changed
colour. "My dear Mercedes, of course you are right there. Of course in
one sense, if you take Gregory in as you have taken Karen in, you open
doors to him. I only meant that a young man in his position, with his
way to make in the world, ought to marry some well-born woman with a
little money. He must have money if he is to get on. He ought to be in
parliament one day; and Karen is without a penny, you have often told me
so, as well as illegitimate. Of course if you intend to make her a large
allowance, that is a different matter; but can you really afford to do
that, darling?"

"I consider your young man very fortunate to get Karen without one
penny," Madame von Marwitz pursued, in the same measured tones, "and I
shall certainly make him no present of my hard-earned money. Let him
earn the money for Karen, now, as I have done for so many years. Had she
married my good Franz, it would have been a very different thing. This
young man is well able to support her in comfort. No; it all comes most
opportunely. I wanted Karen to settle and to settle soon. I shall cable
my consent and my blessings to them at once. Will you kindly find me a
servant, _ma chère_."

Miss Scrotton, as she rose automatically to carry out this request, was
feeling that it is possible almost to hate one's idols. She had
transgressed, and she knew it, and Mercedes had been aware of what she
had done and had punished her for it. She even wondered if the quick
determination to accept Gregory as Karen's suitor hadn't been part of
the punishment. Mercedes knew that she had a pride in her cousin and had
determined to humble it. She had perhaps herself to thank for having
riveted this most disastrous match upon him. It was with a bitter heart
that she walked on into the house.

As she went in Mr. Claude Drew came out and Miss Scrotton gave him a
chill greeting. She certainly hated Mr. Claude Drew.

Claude Drew blinked a little in the bright sunlight and had somewhat the
air of a graceful, nocturnal bird emerging into the day. He was dressed
with an appropriateness to the circumstances of stately _villégiature_
so exquisite as to have a touch of the fantastic.

Madame von Marwitz sat with her back to him in the limpid shadow of the
great white parasol and was again looking, not at Karen's, but at
Gregory Jardine's, letter. One hand hung over the arm of her chair.

Mr. Drew approached with quiet paces and, taking this hand, before
Madame von Marwitz could see him, he bowed over it and kissed it. The
manner of the salutation made of it at once a formality and a caress.

Madame von Marwitz looked up quickly and withdrew her hand. "You
startled me, my young friend," she said. In her gaze was a mingled
severity and softness and she smiled as if irrepressibly.

Mr. Drew smiled back. "I've been wearying to escape from our host and
come to you," he said. "He will talk to me about the reform of American
politics. Why reform them? They are much more amusing unreformed, aren't
they? And why talk to me about them. I think he wants me to write about
them. If I were to write a book for the Americans, I would tell them
that it is their mission to be amusing. Democracies must be either
absurd or uninteresting. America began by being uninteresting; and now
it has quite taken its place as absurd. I love to hear about their fat,
bribed, clean-shaven senators; just as I love to read the advertisements
of tooth-brushes and breakfast foods and underwear in their magazines,
written in the language of persuasive, familiar fraternity. It was
difficult not to confess this to Mr. Asprey; but I do not think he would
have understood me." Mr. Drew spoke in a soft, slightly sibilant voice,
with little smiling pauses between sentences that all seemed vaguely
shuffled together. He paused now, smiling, and looking down at Madame
von Marwitz.

"You speak foolishly," said Madame von Marwitz. "But he would have
thought you wicked."

"Because I like beauty and don't like democracy. I suppose so." Still
smiling at her he added, "One forgets democracies when one looks at you.
You are very beautiful this morning."

"I am not, this morning, in a mood for unconventionalities," Madame von
Marwitz returned, meeting his gaze with her mingled severity and

And again, with composure, he ignored her severity and returned her
smile. It would have been unfair to say that there was effrontery in Mr.
Drew's gaze; it merely had its way with you and, if you didn't like its
way, passed from you unperturbed. With all his rather sickly grace and
ambiguous placidity, Mr. Drew was not lacking in character. He had risen
superior to a good many things, the dismal wife at Surbiton and the
large-mouthed children perhaps among them, and he had won his
detachment. The homage he offered was not unalloyed by humour. To a
person of Madame von Marwitz's calibre, he seemed to say, he would not
pretend to raptures or reverences they had both long since seen through.
It would bore him to be rapturous or reverent, and if you didn't like
him, so his whole demeanour mildly demonstrated, you could leave him,
or, rather, he could leave you. So that when Madame von Marwitz sought
to quell him she found herself met with a gentle unawareness, even a
gentle indifference. Cogitation and a certain disquiet were often in her
eye when it rested on this devotee.

"Does one make conventional speeches to the moon?" he now remarked,
taking a chair beside her and turning the brim of his white hat over his
eyes so that of his face only the sensual, delicate mouth and chin were
in sunlight. "I shouldn't want to make speeches to you if you were
conventional. You are done with your letters? I may talk to you?"

"Yes, I have done. You may talk, as foolishly as you please, but not
unconventionally; whether I am or am not conventional is not a matter
that concerns you. I have had good news to-day. My little Karen is to

"Your little Karen? Which of all the myriads is this adorer?"

"The child you saw with me in London. The one who stays in Cornwall."

"You mean the fair, square girl who calls you Tante? I only remember of
her that she was fair and square and called you Tante."

"That is she. She is to marry an excellent young man, a young man," said
Madame von Marwitz, slightly smiling at him, "who would never wish to
make speeches to the moon, who is, indeed, not aware of the moon. But he
is very much aware of Karen; so much so," and she continued to smile, as
if over an amusing if still slightly perplexing memory, "that when she
is there he is not aware of me. What do you say to that?"

"I say," Mr. Drew replied, "that the barbarians will always be many and
the civilized few. Who is this barbarian?"

"A Mr. Gregory Jardine."

"Jardine? _Connais-pas_," said Mr. Drew.

"He is a cousin of our Scrotton's," said Madame von Marwitz, "and a man
of law. Very stiff and clean like a roll of expensive paper. He has
asked me very nicely if he may inscribe the name of Mrs. Jardine upon a
page of it. He is the sort of young man of law, I think I distinguish,"
Madame von Marwitz mused, her eyes on the landscape, "who does not smoke
a briar wood pipe and ride on an omnibus, but who keeps good cigars in a
silver box and always takes a hansom. He will make Karen comfortable
and, I gather from her letter, happy. It will be a strange change of
_milieu_ for the child, but I have, I think, made her independent of
_milieus_. She will write more than Mrs. Jardine on his scroll. It is a
child of character."

"And she will no longer be in Cornwall," Mr. Drew observed. "I am glad
of that."

"Why, pray? I am not glad of it. I shall miss my Karen at Les

"But I, you see, don't want to have other worshippers there when I go to
stay with you," said Mr. Drew; "for, you know, you are going to let me
stay a great deal with you in Cornwall. You will play to me, and I will
write something that you will, perhaps, care to read. And the moon will
be very kind and listen to many speeches. You know," he added, with a
change of tone, "that I am in love with you. I must be alone with you at
Les Solitudes."

"Let us have none of that, if you please," said Madame von Marwitz. She
looked away from him along the sunny stretches of the terrace and she
frowned slightly, though smiling on, as if with tolerant affection. And
in her look was something half dazed and half resentful like the look of
a fierce wild bird, subdued by the warmth and firmness of an enclosing


Gregory went down to Cornwall again only nine days after he had left it.
He and Karen met as if under an arch of infinite blessings. He had his
cable to show her and she hers to show him, and, although Gregory did
not see them as the exquisite documents that Karen felt them to be, they
did for him all that he asked Madame von Marwitz to do.

"I give her to you. Be worthy of my trust. Mercedes von Marwitz"--his
read. And Karen's: "I could only yield you to a greater joy than you can
find with me--but it could not be to a greater love. Do not forget me in
your happiness. You are mine, my beloved child, not less but more than

Karen's joy was unshadowed. It made him think of primroses and crystal
springs. She was not shy; he was shyer than she, made a little dumb, a
little helpless, by his man's reverence, his man's awed sense of the
beloved's dawn-like wonder. She was not changed; any change in Karen
would come as quiet growth, not as transformation. Gregory's gladness
had not this simplicity. It revealed to him a new world, a world newly
beautiful but newly perilous, and a changed self,--the self of boyhood,
renewed yet transformed, through whose joy ran the reactionary
melancholy that, in a happiness attained, glances at fear, and at a
climax of life, is aware of gulfs of sorrow as yet unsounded. More than
his lover's passion was a tenderness for her and for her unquestioning
acceptances that seemed near tears. Karen was in character so wrought
and in nature so simple. Her subtleties were all objective, subtleties
of sympathy, of recognition, of adaptation to the requirements of
devoted action; her simplicity was that of a whole-heartedness unaware
at high moments of all but the essential.

She had to tell him fully, holding his hand and looking into his eyes,
all about her side of it; what she had thought when she saw him at the
concert--certain assumptions there gave Gregory his stir of
uneasiness--"You were caring just as much as I was--in the same way--for
her music"; what she had thought at Mrs. Forrester's, and at the railway
station, and when the letters went on and on. She had of course seen
what was coming that evening after they had been to the Lavington's;
"When you didn't understand about me and Tante, you know; and I made you
understand." And then he had made her understand how much he cared for
her and she for him; only it had all come so quietly; "I did not think a
great deal about it, or wonder; it sank into me--like stars one sees in
a still lake, so that next day it was no surprise at all, when you told
me; it was like looking up and seeing all the real stars in the sky.
Afterwards it was dreadful for a little while, wasn't it?" Karen held
his hand for a moment to her cheek.

When all the past had been looked at together, Gregory asked her if she
would not marry him quite soon; he hoped, indeed, that it might be
within the month. "You see, why not?" he said. "I miss you so dreadfully
and I can't be here; and why should you be? Let me come down and marry
you in that nice little church on the other side of the village as soon
as our banns can be called."

But, for the first time, a slight anxiety showed in her eyes. "I miss
you dreadfully, too," she said. "But you forget, Tante will not be back
till July. We must wait for Tante, Gregory. We are in May now, it is not
so far to July. You will not mind too much?"

He felt, sitting under the arch of blessings as he was, that it would be
most ungrateful and inappropriate to mind. But then, he said, if they
must put it off like that, Karen would have to come to London. She must
come and stay with Betty. "And get your trousseau"; this was a brilliant
idea. "You'll have to get your trousseau, you know, and Betty is an
authority on clothes."

"Oh, but clothes. I never have clothes in that sense," said Karen. "A
little seamstress down here makes most of them and Louise helps her
sometimes if she has time. Tante gave me twenty pounds before she went
away; would twenty pounds do for a trousseau?"

"Betty would think twenty pounds just about enough for your gloves and
stockings, I imagine," said Gregory.

"And will you expect me to be so luxurious? You are not rich? We shall
not live richly?"

"I'm not at all rich; but I want you to have pretty things--layers and
layers of the nice, white, soft things brides always have, and a great
many new hats and dresses. Couldn't I give you a little tip--to begin
the trousseau?"

"Ah, it can wait, can't it?" said Karen easily. "No; you can't give me a
tip. Tante, I am sure, will see that I have a nice trousseau. She may
even give me a little _dot_ when I marry. I have no money at all; not
one penny, you know. Do you mind?"

"I'd far rather have you without a penny because I want to give you
everything. If Tante doesn't give you the little _dot_, I shall."

Karen was pondering a little seriously. "I don't know what Tante will
feel since you have enough for us both. It was when she wished me to
marry Franz that she spoke of a _dot_. And Franz is of course very poor
and has a great family of brothers and sisters to help support. You will
know Franz one day. You did not speak very nicely of Franz that time,
you know; that was another reason why I thought you were so angry. And
it made me angry, too," said Karen, smiling at him.

"Wasn't I nice? I am sure Franz is."

"Oh, so good and kind and true. And very talented. And his mother would
be a wonderful musician if she had not so many children to take care of;
that has harmed her music. And she, too, is a golden-hearted person; she
used often to help me with my dresses. Do you remember that little white
silk dress of mine? perhaps so; I wore it at the concert, such a pretty
dress, I think. Frau Lippheim helped me with that--she and a little
German seamstress in Leipsig. I see us now, all bending over the
rustling silk, round the table with the lamp on it. We had to make it so
quickly. Tante had sent for me to come to her in Vienna and I had
nothing to wear at the great concert she was to give. We sat up till
twelve to finish it. Franz and Lotta cooked our supper for us and we
only stopped long enough to eat. Dear Frau Lippheim. Some day you will
know all the Lippheims."

He listened to her with dreamy, amused delight, seeing her bending in
the ugly German room over the little white silk dress and only vaguely
aware of the queer figures she put before him. He had no inclination to
know Franz and his mother, and no curiosity about them. But Karen
continued. "That is the one, the only thing I can give you," she said,
reflecting. "You know so few artists, don't you; so few people of
talent. As to people, your life is narrow, isn't it so? I have met so
many great people in my life, first through my father and then through
Tante. Painters, poets, musicians. You will probably know them now, too;
some of them certainly, for some are also friends of mine. Strepoff, for
example; oh--how I shall like you to meet him. You have read him, of
course, and about his escape from Siberia and his long exile."

"Strepoff? Yes, I think so. A dismal sort of fellow, isn't he?"

Gregory's delight was merging now in a more definite amusement, tinged,
it may be confessed, with alarm. He remembered to have seen a photograph
of this celebrity, very turbulently haired and very fixed and fiery of
eye. He remembered a large bare throat and a defiant neck-tie. He had no
wish to make Strepoff's acquaintance. It was quite enough to read about
him in the magazines and admire his exploits from a distance.

"Dismal?" Karen had repeated, with a touch of severity. "Who would not
be after such a life? Yes, he is a sad man, and the thought of Russia
never leaves him. But he is full of gaiety, too. He spent some months
with us two years ago at the Italian lakes and I grew so fond of him. We
had great jokes together, he and I. And he sometimes writes to me now,
such teasing, funny letters. The last was from San Francisco. He is
giving lectures out there, raising money; for he never ceases the
struggle. He calls me Liebchen. He is very fond of me."

"What do you call him?" Gregory inquired.

"Just Strepoff; everybody calls him that. Dear Belot, too," Karen
pursued. "He could not fail to interest you. Perhaps you have already
met him. He has been in London."

"Belot? Does he write poetry?"

"Poetry? No. Belot is a painter; a great painter. Surely you have heard
of Belot?"

"Well, I'm afraid that if I have I've forgotten. You see, as you say, I
live so out of the world of art."

"Did you not see his portrait of Susanne Mauret--the great French
actress? It has been exhibited through all the world."

"Of course I have. Belot of course. The impressionist painter. It looked
to me, I confess, awfully queer; but I could see that it was very

"Impressionist? No; Belot would not rank himself among the
impressionists. And he would not like to hear his work called clever; I
warn you of that. He has a horror of cleverness. It was not a clever
picture, but sober, strange, beautiful. Well, I know Belot and his wife
quite intimately. They are great friends of the Lippheims, too, and call
themselves the Franco-Prussian alliance. Madame Belot is a dear little
woman. You must have often seen his pictures of her and the children. He
has numbers of children and adores them. _La petite_ Margot is my
special pet and she always sends me a little present on my birthday.
Madame Belot was once his model," Karen added, "and is quite _du
peuple_, and I believe that some of his friends were sorry that he
married her; but she makes him very happy. That beautiful nude in the
Luxembourg by Chantefoy is of her--long before she married, of course.
She does not sit for the _ensemble_ now, and indeed I fear it has lost
all its beauty, for she is very fat. It would be nice to go to Paris on
our wedding-tour and see the Belots," said Karen.

Gregory made an evasive answer. He reflected that once he had married
her it would probably be easy to detach Karen from these most
undesirable associates. He hoped that she would take to Betty. Betty
would be an excellent antidote. "And you think your sister-in-law will
want me?" said Karen, when he brought her from the Belots back to Betty.
"She doesn't know me."

"She must begin to know you as soon as possible. You will have Mrs.
Forrester at hand, you see, if my family should oppress you too much.
Barring Betty, who hardly counts as one of them, they aren't
interesting, I warn you."

"I may oppress them," said Karen, with the shrewdness that often
surprised him. "Who will they take refuge with?"

"Oh, they have all London to fall back upon. They do nothing when
they're up but go out. That's my plan; that they should leave you a good
deal when they go out, and leave you to me."

"That will be nice," said Karen. "But Mrs. Forrester, you know," she
went on, "is not exactly an intimate of mine that I could fall back
upon. I am, in her eyes, only a little appendage of Tante's."

"Ah, but you have ceased, now, to be an appendage of Tante's. And Mrs.
Forrester is an intimate, an old one, of mine."

"She'll take me in as your appendage," Karen smiled.

"Not at all. It's you, now, who are the person to whom the appendage
belongs. I'm your appendage. That quite alters the situation. You will
have to stand in the foreground and do all the conventional things."

"Shall I?" smiled Karen, unperturbed. She was, as he knew, not to be
disconcerted by any novel social situation. She had witnessed so many
situations and such complicated ones that the merely conventional were,
in her eyes, relatively insignificant and irrevelant. There would be for
her none of the débutante's sense of awkwardness or insufficiency. Again
she reminded him of the rustic little princess, unaware of alien
customs, and ready to learn and to laugh at her own blunders.

It was arranged, Mrs. Talcott's appearance helping to decisions, that as
soon as Karen heard from her guardian, who might have plans to suggest,
she should come up to London and stay with Lady Jardine.

Mrs. Talcott, on entering, had grasped Gregory's hand and shaken it
vigorously, remarking: "I'm very pleased to see you back again."

"I didn't tell Mrs. Talcott anything, Gregory," said Karen. "But I am
sure she guessed."

"Mrs. Talcott and I had our understandings," said Gregory, "but I'm sure
she guessed from the moment she saw me down here. She was much quicker
than you, Karen."

"I've seen a good many young folks in my time," Mrs. Talcott conceded.

Gregory's sense of the deepened significance in all things lent a
special pathos to his conjectures to-day about Mrs. Talcott. He did not
know how far her affection for Karen went and whether it were more than
the mere kindly solicitude of the aged for the young; but the girl's
presence in her life must give at least interest and colour, and after
Mrs. Talcott had spoken her congratulations and declared that she
believed they'd be real happy together, he said, the idea striking him
as an apt one, "And Mrs. Talcott, you must come up and stay with us in
London sometimes, won't you?"

"Oh, Mrs. Talcott--yes, yes;" said Karen, delighted. He had never seen
her kiss Mrs. Talcott, but she now clasped her arm, standing beside her.
Mrs. Talcott did not smile; but, after a moment, the aspect of her face
changed; it always took some moments for Mrs. Talcott's expression to
change. Now it was like seeing the briny old piece of shipwrecked oak
mildly illuminated with sunlight on its lonely beach.

"That's real kind of you; real kind," said Mrs. Talcott reflectively. "I
don't expect I'll get up there. I'm not much of a traveller these days.
But it's real kind of you to have thought of it."

"But it must be," Karen declared. "Only think; I should pour out your
coffee for you in the morning, after all these years when you've poured
out mine; and we would walk in the park--Gregory's flat overlooks the
park you know--and we would drive in hansoms--don't you like
hansoms--and go to the play in the evening. But yes, indeed, you shall

Mrs. Talcott listened to these projects, still with her mild
illumination, remarking when Karen had done, "I guess not, Karen; I
guess I'll stay here. I've been moving round considerable all my life
long and now I expect I'll just stay put. There's no one to look after
things here but me and they'd get pretty muddled if I was away, I
expect. Mitchell isn't a very bright man."

"The real difficulty is," said Karen, holding Mrs. Talcott's arm and
looking at her with affectionate exasperation, "that she doesn't like to
leave Les Solitudes lest she should miss a moment of Tante. Tante
sometimes turns up almost at a moment's notice. We shall have to get
Tante safely away to Russia, or America again, before we can ask you;
isn't that the truth, Mrs. Talcott?"

"Well, I don't know. Perhaps there's something in it," Mrs. Talcott
admitted. "Mercedes likes to know I'm here seeing to things. She
mightn't feel easy in her mind if I was away."

"We'll lay it before her, then," said Karen. "I know she will say that
you must come."


It was not until some three weeks after that Karen paid her visit to
London. Tante had not written at once and Gregory had to control his
discontent and impatience as best he might. He and Karen wrote to each
other every day and he was aware of a fretful anxiety in his letters
which contrasted strangely with the serenity of hers. Once more she made
him feel that she was the more mature. In his brooding imaginativeness
he was like the most youthful of lovers, seeing his treasure menaced on
every hand by the hazards of life. He warned Karen against cliff-edges;
he warned her, now that motors were every day becoming more common,
against their sudden eruption in "cornery" lanes; he begged her
repeatedly to keep safe and sound until he could himself take care of
her. Karen replied with sober reassurances and promises and showed no
corresponding alarms on his behalf. She had, evidently, more confidence
in the law of probability.

She wired at last to say that she had heard from Tante and would come up
next day if Lady Jardine could have her at such short notice. Gregory
had made his arrangements with Betty, who showed a most charming
sympathy for his situation, and when, at the station, he saw Karen's
face smiling at him from a window, when he seized her arm and drew her
forth, it was with a sense of relief and triumph as great as though she
were restored to him after actual perils.

"Darling, it has seemed such ages," he said.

He was conscious, delightedly, absorbedly, of everything about her. She
wore her little straw hat with the black bow and a long hooded cape of
thin grey cloth. In her hand she held a small basket containing her
knitting--she was knitting him a pair of golf stockings--and a book.

He piloted her to the cab he had in waiting. Her one small shabby box
was put on the top and a very large dressing-case, curiously contrasting
in its battered and discoloured magnificence with the box, placed
inside; it was a discarded one of Madame von Marwitz's, as its tarnished
initials told him. It was only as the cab rolled out of the station,
after he had kissed Karen and was holding her hand, that he realized
that she was far less aware of him than he of her. Not that she was not
glad; she sighed deeply with content, smiling at him, holding his hand
closely; but there was a shadow of preoccupation on her.

"Tell me, darling, is everything all right?" he asked. "You have had
good news from your guardian?"

She said nothing for a moment, looking out of the window, and then back
at him. Then she said: "She is beautiful to me. But I have made her

"Made her sad? Why have you made her sad?" Gregory suppressed--only just
suppressed--an indignant note.

"I did not think of it myself," said Karen. "I didn't think of her side
at all, I'm afraid, because I did not realise how much I was to her. But
you remember what I told you I was, the little home thing; I am that
even more deeply than I had thought; and she feels--dear, dear one--that
that is gone from her, that it can never be the same again." She turned
her eyes from him and the tears gathered thickly in them.

"But, dearest," said Gregory, "she can't want to make you sad, can she?
She must really be glad to have you happy. She herself wanted you to get
married, and had found Franz Lippheim for you, you know." Instinct
warned him to go carefully.

Karen shook her head with a little impatience. "One may be glad to have
someone happy, yet sad for oneself. She is sad. Very, very sad."

"May I see her letter?" Gregory asked after a moment, and Karen,
hesitating, then drew it from the pocket of her cloak, saying, as she
handed it to him, and as if to atone for the impatience, "It doesn't
make me love you any less--you understand that, dear Gregory--because
she is sad. It only makes me feel, in my own happiness, how much I love

Gregory read. The address was "Belle Vue."

     "My Darling Child,--A week has passed since I had your letter and
     now the second has come and I must write to you. My Karen knows
     that when in pain it is my instinct to shut myself away, to be
     quite still, quite silent, and so to let the waves go over me. That
     is why, she will understand, I have not written yet. I have waited
     for the strength and courage to come back to me so that I might
     look my sorrow in the face. For though it is joy for you, and I
     rejoice in it, it is sorrow, could it be otherwise, for me. So the
     years go on and so our cherished flowers drop from us; so we feel
     our roots of life chilling and growing old; and the marriage-veil
     that we wrap round a beloved child becomes the symbol of the shroud
     that is to fold us from her. I knew that I should one day have to
     give up my Karen; I wished it; she knows that; but now that it has
     come and that the torch is in her hand, I can only feel the
     darkness in which her going leaves me. Not to find my little Karen
     there, in my life, part of my life;--that is the thought that
     pierces me. In how many places have I found her, for years and
     years; do you remember them all, Karen? I know that in heart we are
     not to be severed; I know that, as I cabled to you, you are not
     less but more mine than ever; but the body cries out for the dear
     presence; for the warm little hand in my tired hand, the loving
     eyes in my sad eyes, the loving heart to lean my stricken heart
     upon. How shall I bear the loneliness and the silence of my life
     without you?

     "Do not forget me, my Karen. Ah, I know you will not, yet the cry
     arises. Do not let this new love that has come to you in your youth
     and gladness shut me out more than it must. Do not forget the old,
     the lonely Tante. Ah, these poor tears, they fall and fall. I am
     sad, sad to death, my Karen. Great darknesses are behind me, and
     before me I see the darkness to which I go.

     "Farewell, my darling.--_Lebewohl._--Tell Mr. Jardine that he must
     make my child happy indeed if I am to forgive him for my loss.

     "Yes; it shall be in July, when I return. I send you a little gift
     that my Karen may make herself the fine lady, ready for all the
     gaieties of the new life. He will wish it to be a joyful one, I
     know; he will wish her to drink deep of all that the world has to
     offer of splendid, and rare, and noble. My child is worthy of a
     great life, I have equipped her for it. Go forward, my Karen, with
     your husband, into the light. My heart is with you always.


Gregory read, and instinctively, while he read, he glanced at Karen,
steadying his face lest she should guess from its tremor of contempt how
latent antagonisms hardened to a more ironic dislike. But Karen gazed
from the window--grave, preoccupied. Such suspicions were far indeed
from her. Gregory could give himself to the letter and its intimations
undiscovered. Suffering? Perhaps Madame von Marwitz was suffering; but
she had no business to say it. Forgive him indeed; well, if those were
the terms of forgiveness, he promised himself that he should deserve it.
Meanwhile he must conceal his resentment.

"I'm so sorry, darling," he said, giving the letter back to Karen. "We
shall have to cheer her up, shan't we? When she sees how very happy you
are with me I am sure she'll feel happier." He wasn't at all sure.

"I don't know, Gregory. I am afraid that my happiness cannot make her
less lonely."

Karen's griefs were not to be lightly dispersed. But she was not a
person to enlarge upon them. After another moment she pointed out
something from the window and laughed; but the unshadowed gladness that
he had imagined for their meeting was overcast.

Betty awaited them with tea in her Pont Street drawing-room, a room of
polished, glittering, softly lustrous surfaces. Precious objects stood
grouped on little Empire tables or ranged in Empire cabinets. Flat, firm
cushions of rose-coloured satin stood against the backs of Empire chairs
and sofas. On the walls were French engravings and a delicate portrait
of Betty done at the time of her marriage by Boutet de Monvel. The room,
like Betty herself, combined elegance and cordiality.

"I was there, you know, at the very beginning," she said, taking Karen's
hands and scanning her with her jewel-like eyes. "It was love at first
sight. He asked who you were at once and I'm pleased to think that it
was I who gave him his first information. Now that I look back upon it,"
said Betty, taking her place at the tea-table and holding Karen still
with her bright and friendly gaze, "I remember that he was far more
interested in you than in anything else that evening. I don't believe
that Madame Okraska existed for him." Betty was drawing on her
imagination in a manner that she took for granted to be pleasing.

"I should be sorry to think that," Karen observed and Gregory was
relieved to see that she did not take Betty's supposition seriously. She
watched her pretty hands move among the teacups with an air of pleased

"Would you really? You would want him to retain all his æsthetic
faculties even while he was falling in love? Do you think one could?"
Betty asked her questions smiling. "Or perhaps you think that one would
fall in love the more securely from listening to Madame Okraska at the
same time. I think perhaps I should. I do admire her so much. I hope now
that some day I shall know her. She must be, I am sure, as lovely as she

"Yes, indeed," said Karen. "And you will meet her very soon, you see,
for she comes back in July."

Gregory sat and listened to their talk, satisfied that they were to get
on, yet with a slight discomfort. Betty questioned and Karen replied,
unaware that she revealed aspects of her past that Betty might not
interpret as she would feel it natural that they should be interpreted,
supremely unaware that any criticism could attach itself to her guardian
as a result of these revelations. Yes; she had met so-and-so and this
and that, in Rome, in Paris, in London or St. Petersburg; but no,
evidently, she could hardly say that she knew any of these people,
friends of Tante's though they were. The ambiguity of her status as
little camp-follower became defined for Betty's penetrating and
appraising eyes and the inappropriateness of the letter, with its
broken-hearted maternal tone, returned to Gregory with renewed irony. He
didn't want to share with Betty his hidden animosities and once or
twice, when her eye glanced past Karen and rested reflectively upon
himself, he knew that Betty was wondering how much he saw and how he
liked it. The Lippheims again made their socially unillustrious
appearance; Karen had so often stayed with them before Les Solitudes had
been built and while Tante travelled with Mrs. Talcott; she had never
stayed--Gregory was thankful for small mercies--with the Belots; Tante,
after all, had her own definite discriminations; she would not have
placed Karen in the charge of Chantefoy's lady of the Luxembourg,
however reputable her present position; but Gregory was uneasy lest
Karen should disclose how simply she took Madame Belot's past. The fact
that Karen's opportunities in regard to dress were so obviously
haphazard, coming up with the question of the trousseau, was somewhat
atoned for by the sum that Madame von Marwitz now sent--Gregory had
forgotten to ask the amount. "A hundred pounds," said Betty cheerfully;
"Oh, yes; we can get you very nicely started on that."

"Tante seems to think," said Karen, "that I shall have to be very gay
and have a great many dresses; but I hope it will not have to be so very
much. I am fond of quiet things."

"Well, especially at first, I suppose you will have a good many dinners
and dances; Gregory is fond of dancing, you know. But I don't think you
lead such a taxing social life, do you, Gregory? You are a rather sober
person, aren't you?"

"That is what I thought," said Karen. "For I am sober, too, and I want
to read so many things, in the evening, you know, Gregory. I want to
read Political Economy and understand about politics; Tante does not
care for politics, but she always finds me too ignorant of the large
social questions. You will teach me all that, won't you? And we must
hear so much music; and travel, too, in your holidays; I do not see how
we can have much time for many dinners. As for dances, I do not know how
to dance; would that make any difference, when you went? I could sit and
look on, couldn't I?"

"No, indeed; you can't sit and look on; you'll have to dance with me,"
said Gregory. "I will teach you dancing as well as Political Economy.
She must have lessons, mustn't she, Betty? Of course you must learn to

"I do not think I shall learn easily," Karen said, smiling from him to
Betty. "I do not think I should do you credit in a ballroom. But I will
try, of course."

Gregory was quite prepared for Betty's probes when Karen went upstairs
to her room. "What a dear she is, Gregory," she said; "and how clever it
was of you to find her, hidden away as she has been. I suppose the life
of a great musician doesn't admit of formalities. She never had time to
introduce, as it were, her adopted daughter."

"Well, no; a great musician could hardly take an adopted or a real
daughter around to dances; and Karen isn't exactly adopted."

"No, I see." Betty's eyes sounded him. "She is really very nice I
suppose, Madame von Marwitz? You like her very much? Mrs. Forrester
dotes upon her, of course; but Mrs. Forrester is an enthusiast."

"And I'm not, as you know," Gregory returned, he flattered himself, with
skill. "I don't think that I shall ever dote on Madame von Marwitz. When
I know her I hope to like her very much. At present I hardly know her
better than you do."

"Ah--but you must know a great deal about her from Karen," said Betty,
who could combine tact with pertinacity; "but she, too, in that respect,
is an enthusiast, I suppose."

"Well, naturally. It's been a wonderful relationship. You remember you
felt that so much in telling me about Karen at the very first."

"Of course; and it's all true, isn't it; the forest and all the rest of
it. Only, not having met Karen, one didn't realize how much Madame von
Marwitz was in luck." Betty, it was evident, had already begun to wonder
whether Tante was as lovely as she looked.


"Dear Mrs. Forrester, you know that I worship the ground she treads on,"
said Miss Scrotton; "but it can't be denied--can you deny it?--that
Mercedes is capricious."

It was one day only after Miss Scrotton's return from America and she
had returned alone, and it was to this fact that she alluded rather than
to the more general results of Madame von Marwitz's sudden postponement.
Owing to the postponement, Karen to-day was being married in Cornwall
without her guardian's presence. Miss Scrotton had touched on that. She
had said that she didn't think Mercedes would like it, she had added
that she couldn't herself, however inconvenient delay might have been,
understand how Karen and Gregory could have done it. But she had not at
first much conjecture to give to the bridal pair. It was upon the fact
that Mercedes, at the last moment, had thrown all plans overboard, that
she dwelt, with a nipped and tightened utterance and a gaze, fixed on
the wall above the tea-table, almost tragic. Mrs. Forrester was the one
person in whom she could confide. It was through Mrs. Forrester that she
had met Mercedes; her devotion to Mercedes constituted to Mrs.
Forrester, as she was aware, her chief merit. Not that Mrs. Forrester
wasn't fond of her; she had been fond of her ever since, as a relative
of the Jardines' and a precociously intelligent little girl who had
published a book on Port-Royal at the age of eighteen, she had first
attracted her attention at a literary tea-party. But Mrs. Forrester
would not have sat so long or listened so patiently to any other theme
than the one that so absorbed them both and that so united them in their
absorption. Miss Scrotton even suspected that a tinge of bland and
kindly pity coloured Mrs. Forrester's readiness to sympathize. She must
know Mercedes well enough to know that she could give her devotees bad
half hours, though the galling thing was to suspect that Mrs. Forrester
was one of the few people to whom she wouldn't give them. Mrs. Forrester
might worship as devoutly as anybody, yet her devotion never let her in
for so much forbearance and sacrifice. Perhaps, poor Miss Scrotton
worked it out, the reason was that to Mrs. Forrester Mercedes was but
one among many, whereas to herself Mercedes was the central prize and
treasure. Mrs. Forrester was incapable of a pang of jealousy or
emulation; she was always delighted yet never eager. When, in the first
flow of intimacy with Mercedes, Miss Scrotton had actually imagined, for
an ecstatic and solemn fortnight, that she stood first with her, Mrs.
Forrester had met her air of irrepressible triumph with a geniality in
which was no trace of grievance or humiliation. The downfall had been
swift; Mercedes had snubbed her one day, delicately and accurately, in
Mrs. Forrester's presence, and Miss Scrotton's cheek still burned when
she remembered it. There were thus all sorts of unspoken things between
her and Mrs. Forrester, and not the least of them was that her folly
should have endeared her. Miss Scrotton at once chafed against and
relied upon her old friend's magnanimity. Her intercourse with her was
largely made up of a gloomy demand for sympathy and a stately evasion of

Mrs. Forrester now poured her out a second cup of tea, answering,
soothingly, "Yes, she is capricious. But what do you expect, my dear
Eleanor? She is a force of nature, above our little solidarities and
laws. What do you expect? When one worships a force of nature, _il faut
subir son sort_." It was kind of Mrs. Forrester to include herself in
these submissions.

"I had really built all my summer about the plans that we had made,"
Miss Scrotton said. "Mercedes was to have come back with me, I was to
have stopped in Cornwall for Karen's marriage and after my month here in
London I was to have joined her at Les Solitudes for August. Now August
is empty and I had refused more than one very pleasant invitation in
order to go to Mercedes. She isn't coming back for another three

"You didn't care to go with the Aspreys to the Adirondacks?"

"How could I go, dear Mrs. Forrester, when I was full of engagements
here in London for July? And, moreover, they didn't ask me. It is rather
curious when one comes to think of it. I brought the Aspreys and
Mercedes together, I gave her to them, one may say, but, I am afraid I
must own it, they seized her and looked upon me as a useful rung in the
ladder that reached her. It has been a disillusionizing experience, I
can't deny it; but _passons_ for the Aspreys and their kind. The fact
is," said Miss Scrotton, dropping her voice a little, "the real fact is,
dear Mrs. Forrester, that the Aspreys aren't responsible. It wasn't for
them she'd have stayed, and I think they must realize it. No, it is all
Claude Drew. He is at the bottom of everything that I feel as strange
and altered in Mercedes. He has an unholy influence over her, oh, yes, I
mean it, Mrs. Forrester. I have never seen Mercedes so swayed before."

"Swayed?" Mrs. Forrester questioned.

"Oh, but yes, indeed. He managed the whole thing--and when I think that
he would in all probability never have seen the Aspreys if it had not
been for me!--Mercedes had him asked there, you know; they are very, but
very, very fashionable people, they know everybody worth knowing all
over the world. I needn't tell you that, of course. But it was all
arranged, he and Mercedes, and Lady Rose and the Marquis de
Hautefeuille, and a young American couple--with the Aspreys in the
background as universal providers--it made a little group where I was
plainly _de trop_. Mr. Drew planned everything with her. She is to have
her piano and he is to write a book under her aegis. And they are to
live in the pinewoods with the most elaborate simplicity. However, I am
sure the Adirondacks will soon bore her."

"And how soon will Mr. Drew bore her?" asked Mrs. Forrester, who had
listened to these rather pitiful revelations with, now and then, a
slight elevation of her intelligent eyebrows.

The question gave Miss Scrotton an opportunity for almost ominous
emphasis; she paused over it, holding Mrs. Forrester with a brooding

"He won't bore her," she then brought out.

"What, never? never?" Mrs. Forrester questioned gaily.

"Never, never," Miss Scrotton repeated. "He is too clever. He will keep
her interested--and uncertain."

"Well," Mrs. Forrester returned, as if this were all to the good, "it is
a comfort to think that the poor darling has found a distraction."

"You feel it that? I wish I could. I wish I could feel it anything but
an infatuation. If only he weren't so much the type of a great woman's
folly; if only he weren't so of the region of whispers. It isn't like
our wonderful Sir Alliston; one sees her there standing high on a
mountain peak with the winds of heaven about her. To see her with Mr.
Drew is like seeing her through some ambiguous, sticky fog. Oh, I can't
deny that it has all made me very, very unhappy." Tears blinked in Miss
Scrotton's eyes.

Mrs. Forrester was kind, she leaned forward and patted Miss Scrotton's
hand, she smiled reassuringly, and she refused, for a moment, to share
her anxiety. "No, no, no," she said, "you are troubling yourself quite
needlessly, my dear Eleanor. Mercedes is amusing herself and the young
man is an interesting young man; she has talked to me and written to me
about him. And I think she needed distraction just now, I think this
marriage of little Karen's has affected her a good deal. The child is of
course connected in her mind with so much that is dear and tragic in the

"Oh, Karen!" said Miss Scrotton, who, drying her eyes, had accepted Mrs.
Forrester's consolations with a slight sulkiness, "she hasn't given a
thought to Karen, I can assure you."

"No; you can't assure me, Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester returned, now with a
touch of severity. "I don't think you quite understand how deep a bond
of that sort can be for Mercedes--even if she seldom speaks of it. She
has written to me very affectingly about it. I only hope she will not
take it to heart that they could not wait for her. I could not blame
them. Everything was arranged; a house in the Highlands lent to them for
the honeymoon."

"Take it to heart? Dear me no; she won't like it, probably; but that is
a different matter."

"Gregory is radiant, you know."

"Is he?" said Miss Scrotton gloomily. "I wish I could feel radiant about
that match; but I can't. I did hope that Gregory would marry well."

"It isn't perhaps quite what one would have expected for him," Mrs.
Forrester conceded; "but she is a dear girl. She behaved very prettily
while she was here with Lady Jardine."

"Did she? It is a very different marriage, isn't it, from the one that
Mercedes had thought suitable. She told you, I suppose, about Franz

"Yes; I heard about that. Mercedes was a good deal disappointed. She is
very much attached to the young man and thought that Karen was, too. I
have never seen him."

"From what I've heard he seemed to me as eminently suitable a husband
for Karen as my poor Gregory is unsuitable. What he can have discovered
in the girl, I can't imagine. But I remember now how much interested in
her he was on that day that he met her here at tea. She is such a dull
girl," said Miss Scrotton sadly. "Such a heavy, clumsy person. And
Gregory has so much wit and irony. It is very curious."

"These things always are. Well, they are married now, and I wish them

"No one is at the wedding, I suppose, but old Mrs. Talcott. The next
thing we shall hear will be that Sir Alliston has fallen in love with
Mrs. Talcott," said Miss Scrotton, indulging her gloomy humour.

"Oh, yes; the Jardines went down, and Mrs. Morton;"--Mrs. Morton was a
married sister of Gregory's. "Lady Jardine has very much taken to the
child you know. They have given her a lovely little tiara."

"Dear me," said Miss Scrotton; "it is a case of Cinderella. No; I can't
rejoice over it, though, of course I wish them joy; I wired to them this
morning and I'm sending them a very handsome paper-cutter of dear
father's. Gregory will appreciate that, I think. But no; I shall always
be sorry that she didn't marry Franz Lippheim."


The Jardines did not come back to London till October. They had spent a
month in Scotland and a month in Italy and two weeks in France,
returning by way of Paris, where Gregory passed through the ordeal of
the Belots. He saw Madame Belot clasp Karen to her breast and the long
line of little Belots swarm up to be kissed successively, Monsieur
Belot, a short, stout, ruddy man, with outstanding grey hair and a
square grey beard, watching the scene benignantly, his palette on his
thumb. Madame Belot didn't any longer suggest Chantefoy's picture; she
suggested nothing artistic and everything domestic. From a wistful
Burne-Jones type with large eyes and a drooping mouth she had relapsed
to her plebeian origins and now, fat, kind, cheerful, she was nothing
but wife and mother, with a figure like a sack and cheap tortoiseshell
combs stuck, apparently at random, in the untidy _bandeaux_ of her hair.

Following Karen and Monsieur Belot about the big studio, among canvases
on easels and canvases leaned against the walls, Gregory felt himself
rather bewildered, and not quite as he had expected to be bewildered.
They might be impossible, Madame Belot of course was impossible; but
they were not vulgar and they were extremely intelligent, and their
intelligence displayed itself in realms to which he was almost
disconcertingly a stranger. Even Madame Belot, holding a stalwart,
brown-fisted baby on her arm, could comment on her husband's work with a
discerning aptness of phrase which made his own appreciation seem very
trite and tentative. He might be putting up with the Belots, but it was
quite as likely, he perceived, that they might be putting up with him.
He realized, in this world of the Belots, the significance, the
laboriousness, the high level of vitality, and he realized that to the
Belots his own world was probably seen as a dull, half useful, half
obstructive fact, significant mainly for its purchasing power. For its
power of appreciation they had no respect at all. "_Il radote, ma
chèrie_," Monsieur Belot said to Karen of a famous person, now, after
years of neglect, loudly acclaimed in London at the moment when, by
fellow-artists, he was seen as defunct. "He no longer lives; he repeats
himself. Ah, it is the peril," Monsieur Belot turned kindly including
eyes on Gregory; "if one is not born anew, continually, the artist dies;
it becomes machinery."

Karen was at home among the Belot's standards. She talked with Belot, of
processes, methods, technique, the talk of artists, not artistic talk.
"_Et la grande Tante?_" he asked her, when they were all seated at a
nondescript meal about a long table of uncovered oak, the children
unpleasantly clamorous and Madame Belot dispensing, from one end,
strange, tepid tea, but excellent chocolate, while Belot, from the
other, sent round plates of fruit and buttered rolls. Karen was laughing
with _la petite Margot_, whom she held in her lap.

"She is coming," said Karen. "At last. In three weeks I shall see her
now. She has been spending the summer in America, you know; among the

One of the boys inquired whether there were not danger to Madame von
Marwitz from _les Peaux-Rouges_, and when he was reassured and the
question of buffaloes disposed of Madame Belot was able to make herself
heard, informing Karen that the Lippheims, Franz, Frau Lippheim, Lotta,
Minna and Elizabeth, were to give three concerts in Paris that winter.
"You have not seen them yet, Karen?" she asked. "They have not yet met
Monsieur Jardine?" And when Karen said no, not yet; but that she had
heard from Frau Lippheim that they were to come to London after Paris,
Madame Belot suggested that the young couple might have time now to
travel up to Leipsig and take the Lippheims by surprise. "_Voilà de
braves gens et de bons artistes_," said Monsieur Belot.

"You did like my dear Belots," Karen said, as she and Gregory drove
away. She had, since her marriage, grown in perception; Gregory would
have found it difficult, now, to hide ironies and antipathies from her.
Even retrospectively she saw things which at the time she had not seen,
saw, for instance, that the idea of the Belots had not been alluring to
him. He knew, too, that she would have considered dislike of the Belots
as showing defect in him not in them, but cheerfully, if with a touch of
her severity. She had an infinite tolerance for the defects and foibles
of those she loved. He was glad to be able to reply with full sincerity:
"_Ils sont de braves gens et de bons artistes._"

"But," Karen said, looking closely at him, and with a smile, "you would
not care to pass your life with them. And you were quite disturbed lest
I should say that I wanted to go and take the Lippheims by surprise at
Leipsig. You like _les gens du monde_ better than artists, Gregory."

"What are you?" Gregory smiled back at her. "I like you better."

"I? I am _gens du monde manqué_ and _artiste manqué_. I am neither fish,
flesh nor fowl," said Karen. "I'm only--positively--my husband's wife
and Tante's ward. And that quite satisfies me."

He knew that it did. Their happiness was flawless; flawless as far as
her husband's wife was concerned. It was in regard to Tante's ward that
Gregory was more and more conscious of keeping something from Karen,
while more and more it grew difficult to keep anything from her.
Already, if sub-consciously, she must have become aware that her
guardian's unabated mournfulness did not affect her husband as it did
herself. She had showed him no more of Tante's letters, and they had
been quite frequent. She had told him while they were in Scotland that
it had hurt Tante very much that they should not have waited till her
return; but she did not enlarge on the theme; and Gregory knew why; to
enlarge would have been to reproach him. Karen had yielded, against her
own wishes, to his entreaties. She had agreed that their marriage should
not be so postponed at the last minute. In his vehemence Gregory had
been skilful; he had said not one word of reproach, against Madame von
Marwitz for her disconcerting change of plan. It was not surprising to
him; it was what he had expected of Madame von Marwitz, that she would
put Karen aside for a whim. Karen would not see her guardian's action in
this light; yet she must know that her beloved was vulnerable to the
charge, at all events, of inconsiderateness, and she had been grateful
to him, no doubt, for showing no consciousness of it. She had consented,
perhaps, partly through gratitude, though she had felt her pledged word,
too, as binding. Once she had consented, whatever the results, Gregory
knew that she would not visit them on him. It was of her own
responsibility that she was thinking when, with a grave face, she had
told him of Tante's hurt. "After all, dearest," Gregory had ventured,
"we did want her, didn't we? It was really she who chose not to come,
wasn't it?"

"I am sure that Tante wanted to see me married," said Karen, touching on
her own hidden wound.

He helped her there, knowing, in his guile, that to exonerate Tante was
to help not only Karen but himself. "Of course; but she doesn't think
things out, does she? She is accustomed to having things arranged for
her. I suppose she didn't a bit realise all that had been settled over
here, nor what an impatient lover it was who held you to your word."

Her face cleared as he showed her that he recognised Tante's case as so
explicable. "I'm so glad that you see it all," she said. "For you do.
She is oh! so unpractical, poor darling; she would forget everything,
you know, unless I or Mrs. Talcott were there to keep reminding
her--except her music, of course; but that is like breathing to her. And
I am so sorry, so dreadfully sorry; because, of course, to know that she
hurt me by not coming must hurt her more. But we will make it up to her.
And oh! Gregory, only think, she says she may come and stay with us."

One of her first exclamations on going over his flat with him was that
they could put up Tante, if she would come. The drawing-room could be
devoted to her music; for there was ample room for the grand
piano--which accompanied Madame von Marwitz as invariably as her
tooth-brush; and the spare-bedroom had a dressing-room attached that
would do nicely for Louise. Now there seemed hope of this dream being

Karen had not yet received a wedding-present from her guardian, but in
Paris, on the homeward way, she heard that it had been dispatched from
New York and would be awaiting her in London, and it was of this gift
that she had been talking as she and Gregory drove from the station to
St. James's on a warm October evening. Tante had not told her what the
present was, but had written that Karen would care for it very much. "To
find her present waiting for us is like having Tante to welcome us,"
Karen said. After her surmise about the present she relapsed into happy
musings and Gregory, too, was silent, able only to give a side-glance of
gratitude, as it were, at the thought that Tante was to welcome them by

His mood was one of almost tremulous elation. He was bringing her home
after bridal wanderings that had never lost their element of dream-like
unreality. There had always been the feeling that he might wake any day
to find Italy and Karen both equally illusory. But to see Karen in his
home, taking her place in his accustomed life, would be to feel his joy
linking itself securely with reality.

The look of London at this sunny hour of late afternoon and at this
autumnal season matched his consciousness of a tranquil metamorphosis.
Idle still and empty of its more vivid significance, one yet felt in it
the soft stirrings of a re-entering tide of life. Cabs passed, piled
with brightly badged luggage; the drowsily reminiscent shop-windows
showed here and there an adventurous forecast, and a house or two, among
the rows of dumb, sleeping faces, opened wide eyes at the leisurely
streets. The pale, high pinks of the sky drooped and melted into the
greys and whites and buffs below, and blurred the heavy greens of the
park with falling veils of rose. The scene seemed drawn in flat delicate
tones of pastel.

Karen sat beside him in the cab and, while she gazed before her, she had
slipped her hand into his. She had preserved much of the look of the
unmarried Karen in her dress. The difference was in the achievement of
an ideal rather than in a change. The line of her little grey travelling
hat above her brows was still unusual; with her grey gloves and long
grey silken coat she had an air, cool, competent, prepared for any
emergency of travel. She would have looked equally appropriate dozing
under the hooded light in a railway carriage, taking her place at a
_table d'hôte_ in a provincial French town, or walking in the wind and
sun along a foreign _plage_. After looking at the London to which he
brought her, Gregory looked at her. Marriage had worked none of its even
superficial disenchantments in him. After three months of intimacy,
Karen still constantly arrested him with a sense of the undiscovered,
the unforeseen. What it consisted in he could not have defined; she was
simple, even guileless, still; she had no reticences; yet she seemed to
express so much of which she was unaware that he felt himself to be
continually making her acquaintance. That quiet slipping now of her hand
into his, while her gaze maintained its calm detachment, the charm of
her mingled tenderness and independence, had its vague sting for
Gregory. She accepted him and whatever he might mean with something of
the happy matter-of-fact with which she accepted all that was hers. She
loved him with a completeness and selflessness that had made the world
suddenly close round him with gentle arms; but Gregory often wondered if
she were in love with him. Rapture, restlessness and fear all seemed
alien to her, and to turn from thoughts of her and of their love to
Karen herself was like passing from dreams of poignant, starry ecstasy
to a clear, white dawn, with dew on the grass and a lark rising and the
waking sweetness of a world at once poetical and practical about one.
She strengthened and stilled his passion for her. And she seemed unaware
of passion.

They arrived at the great, hive-like mansion and in the lift, which took
them almost to the top, Karen, standing near him, again put her hand in
his and smiled at him. She was not feeling his tremor, but she was
limpidly happy and as conscious as he of an epoch-making moment.

Barker opened the door to them, murmuring a decorous welcome and they
went down the passage towards the drawing-room. They must at once
inaugurate their home-coming, Gregory said, by going out on the balcony
and looking at the view together.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Barker, who followed after them, "but I
hope you and Mrs. Jardine will think it best what I've done with the
large case, sir, that has come. I didn't know where you'd like it put,
and it was a job getting it in anywhere. There wasn't room to leave it
standing here."

"Tante's present!" Karen exclaimed. "Oh, where is it?"

"I had it put in the drawing-room, Ma'am," said Barker. "It made a hole
in the wall and knocked down two prints, sir; I'm very sorry, but there
was no handling it conveniently."

They turned down the next passage; the drawing-room was at the end.
Gregory threw open the door and he and Karen paused upon the threshold.
Standing in the middle of the room, high and dark against the
half-obliterated windows, was a huge packing-case, an incredibly huge
packing-case. At a first glance it had blotted out the room. The
furniture, huddled in the corners, seemed to have drawn back from the
apparition, scared and startled, and Gregory, in confronting it, felt an
actual twinge of fear. The vast, unexpected form loomed to his
imagination, for a moment, like a tidal-wave rising terrifically in
familiar surroundings and poised in menace above him and his wife. He
controlled an exclamation of dismay, and the ominous simile receded
before a familiar indignation; that, too, he controlled; he could not
say: "How stupid!"

"Is it a piano?" Karen, after their long pause, asked in a hushed,
tentative voice.

"It's too high for a piano, darling," said Gregory, who had her arm in
his--"and I have my little upright, you see. I can't imagine."

"Shall I get the porter, sir, to help open it while you and Mrs. Jardine
have tea?" Barker asked. "I laid tea in the dining-room, Ma'am."

"Yes; let us have it opened at once," said Karen. "But I must be here
when it is opened." She drew her arm from Gregory's and made the tour of
the case. "It is probably something very fragile and that is why it is
packed in such a great box; it cannot itself be so big."

"Barker will begin peeling off the outer husks while we get ready for
tea; we shall have plenty of time," said Gregory. "Get the porter up at
once, Barker. I'm afraid your guardian has an exaggerated idea of the
size of our domain, darling. The present looks as if only baronial halls
could accommodate it."

She glanced up at him while he led her to their room and he knew that
something in his voice struck her; he hadn't been able to control it and
it sounded like ill-temper. Perhaps it was ill-temper. It was with a
feeling of relief, and almost of escape, that he shut the door of the
room upon tidal-waves and put his arms around his wife. "Darling," he
said, "this is really it--at last--our home-coming."

She returned his clasp and kiss with her frank, sweet fervour, though he
saw in her eyes a slight bewilderment. He insisted--he had often during
their travels been her maid--on taking off her hat and shoes for her
before going into his adjoining dressing-room. Karen always protested.
"It is so dear and foolish; I am so used to waiting on myself; I am so
unused to being the fine idle lady." And she protested now, adding, as
he knelt before her, and putting her hand on his head: "And besides, I
believe that in some ways I am stronger than you. It should not be you
to take care of me."

"Stronger? In what ways? Upon my word, Madam!" Gregory exclaimed smiling
up at her, "Do you know that I was one of the best men of my time at

"I don't mean in body, I mean in feelings, in nerves," said Karen. "It
is more like Tante."

He wondered, while in his little dressing-room he splashed restoringly
in hot water, what she quite did mean. Did she guess at the queer,
morbid moment that had struck at his blissful mood? It was indeed
disconcerting to have her find him like Tante.

"Do you mind," said Karen, when he joined her again, smiling at him and
clasping her hands in playful entreaty, "seeing at once what the present
is before we have tea? I do not know how I could eat tea while I had not
seen it."

"Mind? I'm eager to see it, too," said Gregory, with a pang of
self-reproach. "Of course we must wait tea."

The porter, in the passage, was carrying away the outer boards of the
packing-case and in the drawing-room they found Barker, knee deep in
straw, ripping the heavy sacking covering that enveloped a much
diminished but still enormous parcel.

Gregory came to his aid. They drew forth fine shavings and unwrapped
layers of paper, neatly secured; slowly the core of the mystery
disclosed itself in a temple-like form with a roof of dull black lacquer
and dimly gilded inner walls, a thickly swathed figure wedged between
them. The gift was, they now perceived, a Chinese Bouddha in his shrine,
and, as Gregory and Barker disengaged the figure and laid it upon the
ground, amusement, though still of an acrid sort, overcame Gregory's
vexation. "A Bouddha, upon my word!" he said. "This is a gorgeous gift."

Karen stooped to help unroll as if from a mummy, the multitudinous
bandages of fine paper; the passive bronze visage of the idol was
revealed, and by degrees, the seated figure, ludicrously prone. They
moved the temple to the end of the room, where two pictures were taken
down and a sofa pushed away to make room for it; the Bouddha was
hoisted, with difficulty, on to its lotus, and there, dark on its
glimmering background of gold, it sat and ambiguously blessed them.

Karen had worked with them neatly and expeditionary, and in silence, and
Gregory, glancing at her face from time to time, felt sure that she was
adjusting herself to a mingled bewilderment and disappointment; to the
wish also, that she might be worthy of her new possession. She stood now
before the Bouddha and gazed at it.

They had turned up the electric lights, but the curtains were not drawn
and the scent, and light, and vague, diffused roar of London at this
evening hour came in at the open windows. Barker, the porter and the
housemaid were carrying away the litter of paper and straw. The bright
cheerful room with its lovable banality and familiar comfort smiled its
welcome; and there, in the midst, the majestic and alien presence sat,
overpowering, and grotesque in its inappropriateness.

Karen now turned her eyes on her husband and slightly smiled. "It is
very wonderful," she said, "but I feel as if Tante expected a great deal
of me in giving it to me--a great deal more than is in me. It ought to
be a very deep and mystic person to have that Bouddha."

"Yes, it's a wonderful thing; quite awesome. Perhaps she expects you to
become deep and mystic," said Gregory. "Please don't."

"There is no danger of that," said Karen. "Of course it is the beauty of
it and the strangeness, that made Tante care for it. It is the sort of
thing she would love to have herself."

"Where on earth is he to go?" Gregory surmised. "Yes, he might look well
in that big music-room at Les Solitudes, or in some vast hall where he
would be more of an episode and less of a white elephant. I hardly thing
he'll fit anywhere into the passage," he ventured.

Karen had been looking from him to the Bouddha. "But Gregory, of course
he must stay here," she said, "in the room we live in. Tante, I am sure,
meant that." Her voice had a tremor. "I am sure it would hurt her
dreadfully if we put him out of the way."

Barker was now gone and Gregory put his arm around her. "But it makes
all the room wrong, doesn't it? It will make us all wrong--that's what I
rather feel. We aren't _à la hauteur_." He remembered, after speaking
them, that these were the words he had used of his one colloquy with
Madame von Marwitz.

"I don't think," said Karen after a moment, "that you are quite kind."

"Darling--I'm only teasing you," said Gregory. "I'll like the thing if
you want me to, and make offerings to him every morning--he looks in
need of sacrifices and offerings, doesn't he? And what a queer Oriental
scent is in the air. Rather nice, that."

"Please don't call it the 'thing,'" said Karen. He saw into her divided
loyalty. And his comfort was to know that she didn't like the Bouddha

"I won't," he promised. "It isn't a thing, but a duty, a privilege, a
responsibility. He shall stay here, where he is. He really won't crowd
us too impossibly, and that sofa can go."

"You see," said Karen, and tears now came to her eyes, "it would hurt
her so dreadfully if she could dream that we did not love it very, very

"I know," said Gregory, kissing her. "I perfectly understand. We will
love it very, very much. Come now, you must be hungry; let us have our


Madame von Marwitz sat in the deep chintz sofa with Karen beside her,
and while she talked to the young couple, Karen's hand in hers, her eyes
continually went about the room with an expression that did not seem to
match her alert, if rather mechanical, conversation. Karen had already
seen her, the day before, when she had gone to the station to meet her
and had driven with her to Mrs. Forrester's. But Miss Scrotton had been
there, too, almost tearful in her welcoming back of her great friend,
and there had been little opportunity for talk in the carriage. Tante
had smiled upon her, deeply, had held her hand, closely, and had asked,
with the playful air which forestalls gratitude, how she liked her
present. "You will see it, my Scrotton; a Bouddha in his shrine--of the
best period; a thing really rare and beautiful. Mr. Asprey told me of
it, at a sale in New York; and I was able to secure it. _Hein, ma
petite_; you were pleased?"

"Oh, Tante, my letter told you that," said Karen.

"And your husband? He was pleased?"

"He thought that it was gorgeous," said Karen, but after a momentary
hesitation not lost upon her guardian.

"I was sorely tempted to keep it myself," said Madame von Marwitz. "I
could see it in the music-room at Les Solitudes. But at once I felt--it
is Karen's. My only anxiety was for its background. I have never seen
Mr. Jardine's flat. But I knew that I could trust the man my child had
chosen to have beauty about him."

"It isn't exactly a beautiful room," Karen confessed, smiling. "It isn't
like the music-room; you won't expect that from a London flat--or from
us. But it is very bright and comfortable and, yes, pretty. I hope that
you will like my home."

Miss Scrotton, Karen felt, while she made these preparatory statements,
had eyed her in a somewhat gaunt manner; but she was accustomed to a
gaunt manner from Miss Scrotton, and Miss Scrotton's drawing-room,
certainly, was not as nice as Gregory's. Karen had not cared at all for
its quality of earnest effort. Miss Scrotton, not many years ago, had
been surrounded with art-tinted hangings and photographs from Rossetti,
and the austerity of her eighteenth-century reaction was now almost
defiant. Her drawing-room, in its arid chastity, challenged you, as it
were, to dare remember the æsthetics of South Kensington.

Karen did not feel that Gregory's drawing-room required apologies and
Tante had been so mild and sweet, if also a little absent, that she
trusted her to show leniency.

She had, as yet, to-day, said nothing about the Bouddha or the
background on which she found him. She talked to Gregory, while they
waited for tea, asking him a great many questions, not seeming, always,
to listen to his answers. "Ah, yes. Well done. Bravo," she said at
intervals, as he told her about their wedding-trip and how he and Karen
had enjoyed this or that. When Barker brought in the tea-tray and set it
on a little table before Karen, she took up one of the cups--they were
of an old English ware with a wreath of roses inside and lines of half
obliterated gilt--and said--it was her first comment on the
background--"_Tiens, c'est joli._ Is this one of your presents, Karen?"

Karen told her that the tea-set was not a present; it had belonged to a
great-grandmother of Gregory's.

Madame von Marwitz continued to examine the cup and, as she set it down
among the others, with the deliberate nicety of gesture that gave at
once power and grace to her slightest movement, she said: "You were
fortunate in your great-grandmother, Mr. Jardine."

Her voice, her glance, her gestures, were already affecting Gregory
unpleasantly. There was in them a quality of considered control, as
though she recognised difficulty and were gently and warily evading it.
Seated on his chintz sofa in the bright, burnished room, all in white,
with a white lace head-dress, half veil, half turban, binding her hair
and falling on her shoulders, she made him think, in her
inappropriateness and splendour, of her own Bouddha, who, in his
glimmering shrine, lifted his hand as if in a gesture of bland exorcism
before which the mirage of a vulgar and trivial age must presently fade
away. The Bouddha looked permanent and the room looked transient; the
only thing in it that could stand up against him, as it were, was Karen.
To her husband's eye, newly aware of æsthetic discriminations, Karen
seemed to interpret and justify her surroundings, to show their
commonplace as part of their charm and to make the Bouddha and Madame
von Marwitz herself, in all their portentous distinction, look like
incidental ornaments.

Madame von Marwitz's silence in regard to the Bouddha had already become
a blight, but it was, perhaps, the growing crisp decision in Gregory's
manner that made Karen first aware of constraint. Her eyes then turned
from Tante to the shrine at the end of the room, and she said: "You
don't care for the way it looks here, Tante, do you--your present?"

Madame von Marwitz had finished her tea and she turned in the sofa so
that she could consider the Bouddha no longer incidentally but
decisively. "I am glad that it is yours, _ma chérie_," she said, after
the pause of her contemplation. "Some day you must place it more
happily. You don't intend, do you, Mr. Jardine, to live for any length
of time in these rooms?"

"Oh, but I like it here so much, Tante," Karen took upon herself the
reply. "I want to go on living where Gregory has lived for so long. We
have such a view, you see; and such air."

Madame von Marwitz mused upon her for a moment and then giving her chin
a little pinch, half meditative, half caressing, she inquired, with
Continental frankness: "A very pretty sentiment, _ma petite_, but what
will you do when the babies come?"

Karen was not disconcerted. "I rather hope we may not have babies for a
year or two, Tante; and when they do come there will be room, quite
happily, for several. You don't know how big the flat is; you will see.
Gregory has always been able to put up his married sister and her
husband; that gives us one quite big room over and a small one."

"But then you can have no friends if your rooms are full of babies,"
Madame von Marwitz objected, still with mild playfulness.

"No," Karen had to admit it; "but while they were very small I do not
think I should have much time for friends in the house, should I. And we
think, Gregory and I, of soon taking a tiny cottage in the country,

"Then, while you remain here, and unless my Bouddha is to look very
foolish," said Madame von Marwitz, "you must, I think, change your
drawing-room. It can be changed," she gazed about her with a touch of
wildness. "Something could be done. It could be darkened; quieted; it
talks too much and too loudly now, does it not? But you could move these
so large chairs and couches away and have sober furniture, of a good
period; one can still pick up good things if one is clever; a Chinese
screen here and there; a fine old mirror; a touch of splendour; a
flavour of dignity. The shape of the room is not impossible; the
outlook, as you say, gives space and breathing; something could be

Karen's gaze followed hers, cogitating but not acquiescent. "But you
see, Tante," she remarked, "these are things that Gregory has lived
with. And I like them so, too. I should not like them changed."

"But they are not things that you have lived with, _parbleu_!" said
Madame von Marwitz laughing gently. "It is a pretty sentiment, _ma
petite_, it does you honour; you are--but oh! so deeply--the wife,
already, are you not, my Karen? but I am sure that your husband will not
wish you to sacrifice your taste to your devotion. Young men, many of
them do not care for these domestic matters; do not see them. My Karen
must not pretend to me that she does not care and see. I am right, am I
not, Mr. Jardine? you would not wish to deprive Karen of the bride's
distinctive pleasure--the furnishing of her own nest."

Gregory's eyes met hers;--it seemed to be their second long
encounter;--eyes like jewels, these of Madame von Marwitz; full of
intense life, intense colour, still, bright and cold, tragically cold.
He seemed to see suddenly that all the face--the long eyebrows, with the
plaintive ripple of irregularity bending their line, the languid lips,
the mournful eyelids, the soft contours of cheek and throat,--were a
veil for the coldness of her eyes. To look into them was like coming
suddenly through dusky woods to a lonely mountain tarn, lying fathomless
and icy beneath a moonlit sky. Gregory was aware, as if newly and more
strongly than before, of how ambiguous was her beauty, how sinister her

Above the depths where these impressions were received was his
consciousness that he must be careful if Karen were not to guess how
much he was disliking her guardian. It was not difficult for him to
smile at a person he disliked, but it was difficult not to smile
sardonically. This was an apparently trivial occasion on which to feel
that it was a contest that she had inaugurated between them; but he did
feel it. "Karen knows that she can burn everything in the room as far as
I'm concerned," he said. "Even your Bouddha," he added, smiling a little
more nonchalantly, "I'd gladly sacrifice if it gave her pleasure."

Nothing was lost upon Madame von Marwitz, of that he was convinced. She
saw, perhaps, further than he did; for he did not see, nor wish to,
beyond the moment of guarded hostility. And it was with the utmost
gentleness and precaution, with, indeed, the air of one who draws softly
aside from a sleeping viper found upon the path, that she answered: "I
trust, indeed, that it may never be my Karen's pleasure, or yours, Mr.
Jardine, to destroy what is precious; that would hurt me very much. And
now, child, may I not see the rest of this beloved domain?" She turned
from him to Karen.

Gregory rose; he had told Karen that he would leave them alone after
tea; he had letters to write and he would see Madame von Marwitz before
she went. He had the sense, as he closed the door, of flying before
temptation. What might he not say to Madame von Marwitz if he saw too
much of her?

When she and Karen were left alone, Madame von Marwitz's expression
changed. The veils of lightness fell away; her face became profoundly
melancholy; she gazed in silence at Karen and then held out her arms to
her; Karen came closer and was enfolded in their embrace.

"My child, my child," said Madame von Marwitz, leaning, as was her wont
at these moments, her forehead against Karen's cheek.

"Dear Tante," said Karen. "You are not sad?" she murmured.

"Sad?" her guardian repeated after a moment. "Am I ever anything but
sad? But it is not of my sadness that I wish to speak. It is of you. Are
you happy, my dear one?"

"Oh, Tante--so happy, so very happy; more than I can say."

"Is it so?" Madame von Marwitz lifted her head and stroked back the
girl's hair. "Is it so indeed? He loves you very much, Karen?"

"Oh, yes, Tante."

"It is a great love? selfless? passionate? It is a love worthy of my

"Yes, indeed." A slight austerity was now apparent in Karen's tone.
Silence fell between them for a moment, and then, stroking again the
golden head, Madame von Marwitz continued, with great tenderness; "It is
well. It is what I have prayed for--for my child. And let me not cast
one shadow, even of memory, upon your happiness. Yet ah--ah Karen--if
you could have let me share in the sunshine a little. If you could have
remembered how dark was my way, how lonely. That my child should have
married without me. It hurts. It hurts--"

She did not wish to cast a shadow, yet she was weeping, the silent,
undisfigured weeping that Karen knew so well, showing only in the slow
welling of tears from darkened eyes.

"Oh, Tante," Karen now leaned her head to her guardian's shoulder, "I
did not dream you would mind so much. It was so difficult to know what
to do."

"Have I shown myself so indifferent to you in the past, my Karen, that
you should have thought I would not mind?"

"I do not mean that, Tante. I thought that you would feel that it was
what it was best for me to do. I had given my word. All the plans were

"You had given your word? Would he not have let you put me before your
word? For once? For that one time in all our lives?"

"It was not that, Tante. Gregory would have done what I wished. You must
not think that I was forced in any way." Karen now had raised her head.
"But we had waited for you. We thought that you were coming. It was only
at the last moment that you let us know, Tante, and you did not even say
when you were coming back."

Madame von Marwitz kept silence for some moments after this, savouring
perhaps in the words--though Karen's eyes, in speaking them, had also
filled with tears--some hint of resistance. She looked away from the
girl, keeping her hand in hers, as she said: "I could not come. I could
not tell you when I was to come. There were reasons that bound me; ties;
claims; a tangle of troubled human lives--the threads passing through my
fingers. No; I was not free; and there I would have had you trust me.
No, no, my Karen, we will speak of it no farther. I understand young
hearts--they are forgetful; they cannot dwell on the shadowed places.
Let us put it aside, the great grief. What surprises me is to find that
the littlest, littlest ones cling so closely. I am foolish, Karen. I
have had much to bear lately, and I cannot shake off the little griefs.
That others than myself should have chosen my child's trousseau; oh, it
is small--so very small a thing; yet it hurts; it hurts. That the joy of
seeking all the pretty clothes together--that, that, too, should have
been taken from me. Do not weep, child."

"Tante, you could not come, and the things had to be made ready. They
all--Mrs. Forrester--Betty--seemed to feel there was no time to lose.
And I have always chosen my own clothes; I did not know that you would
feel this so."

"Betty? Who is Betty?" Madame von Marwitz mournfully yet alertly

"Lady Jardine, Gregory's sister-in-law. You remember, Tante, I have
written of her. She has been so kind."

"Betty," Madame von Marwitz repeated, sadly. "Yes, I remember; she was
at your wedding, I think. There, dry your eyes, child. I understand. It
is a loving heart, but it forgot. The sad old Tante was crowded out by
new friends--new joys."

"No, you must not say that, Tante. It is not true."

The hardness that Madame von Marwitz knew how to interpret was showing
itself on Karen's face, despite the tears. Her guardian rose, passing
her arm around her shoulders. "It is not true, then, _chérie_. When one
is very sad one is foolish. Ah, I know it; one imagines too quickly
things that are not true. They float and then they cling, like the tiny
barbed down of the thistle, and then, behold, one's brain is choked with
thorny weeds. That is how it comes, my Karen. Forgive me. There; kiss

"Darling Tante," Karen murmured, clasping her closely. "Nothing, nothing
crowded you out. Nothing could ever crowd you out. Say that you believe
me. Say that all the thistles are rooted up and thrown away."

"Rooted up and burned--burned root and branch, my child. I promise it. I
trust my child; she is mine; my loving one. _Ainsi soit-il._ And now,"
Madame von Marwitz spoke with sudden gaiety, "and now show me your home,
my Karen, show me all over this home of yours to which already you are
so attached. Ah--it is a child in love!"

They went from room to room, their arms around each other's waists.
Madame von Marwitz cast her spell over Mrs. Barker in the kitchen, and
smiled a long smile upon Rose, the housemaid. "Yes, yes, very nice, very
pretty," she said, in the spare-room, the little dressing-room, the
dining-room and kitchen. In Karen's room, with its rose-budded chintz
and many photographs of herself, of Gregory, she paused and looked
about. "Very, very pretty," she repeated. "You like bedsteads of brass,
my Karen?"

"Yes, Tante. They look so clean and bright."

"So clean and bright. I do not think that I could sleep in brass,"
Madame von Marwitz mused. "But it is a simple child."

"Yes, that is just it, Tante," said Karen, smiling. "And I wanted to
explain to you about the drawing-room. You see it is that; I am simple;
not a sea-anemone of taste, like you. I quite well see things. I see
that Les Solitudes is beautiful, and that this is not like Les
Solitudes. Yet I like it here just as it is."

"Because it is his, is it not so, my child-in-love? Ah, she must not be
teased. You can be happy, then, among so much brass?--so many things
that glitter and are highly coloured?"

"Yes, indeed. And it is a pretty bedroom, Tante. You must say that it is
a pretty bedroom?"

"Is it? Must I? Pretty? Yes, no doubt it is pretty. Yet I could have
wished that my Karen's nest had more distinction, expressed a finer
sense of personality. I imagine that every young woman in this vast
beehive of homes has just such a bedroom."

"You think so, Tante? I am afraid that if you think this like
everybody's room you will find Gregory's library even worse. You must
see that now; it is all that you have not seen." Karen took her last
bull by the horns, leading her out.

"Has it red wall-paper, sealing-wax red; with racing prints on the walls
and a very large photograph over the mantelpiece of a rowing-crew at
Oxford?" Madame von Marwitz questioned with a mixture of roguishness and

"Yes, yes, you wicked Tante. How did you know?"

"I know; I see it," said Madame von Marwitz. "But a man's room expresses
a man's past. One cannot complain of that."

They went to the library. Madame von Marwitz had described it with
singular accuracy. Gregory rose from his letters and his eyes went from
her face to Karen's, both showing their traces of tears.

"It is _au revoir_, then," said Madame von Marwitz, standing before him,
her arm round Karen's shoulders. "I am happy in my child's happiness,
Mr. Jardine. You have made her happy, and I thank you. You will lend her
to me, sometimes? You will be generous with me and let me see her?"

"Of course; whenever you want to; whenever she wants to," said Gregory,
leaning his hands on the back of his chair and tilting it a little while
he smiled the fullest acquiescence.

Madame von Marwitz's eyes brooded on him. "That is kind," she said

"Oh no, it isn't," Gregory returned.

"I think," said Madame von Marwitz, becoming even more gentle, "that you
misunderstand my meaning. When people love, it is hard sometimes not to
be selfish in the joy of love, and the lesser claims tend to be
forgotten. I only ask that you should make it easy for Karen to come to

To this Gregory did not reply. He continued to tilt his chair and to
smile at Madame von Marwitz.

"This husband of yours, Karen," said Madame von Marwitz, "does not
understand me yet. You must interpret me to him. Adieu, Mr. Jardine.
Will you come with me alone to the door, Karen. It is our first farewell
in a home I do not give you."

She gave Gregory her hand. They left him and went down the passage
together. Madame von Marwitz kept her arm round the girl's shoulders,
but its grasp had tightened.

"My child! my own child!" she murmured, as, at the door, she turned and
clasped her. Her voice strove with deep emotion.

"Dear, dear Tante," said Karen, also with a faltering voice.

Madame von Marwitz achieved an uncertain smile. "Farewell, my dear one.
I bless you. My blessing be upon you." Then, on the threshold she
paused. "Try to make your husband like me a little, my Karen," she said.

Karen did not come back to him in the smoking-room and Gregory presently
got up and went to look for her. He found her in the drawing-room,
sitting in the twilight, her elbow on her knee, her chin in her hand. He
did not know what she could be feeling; the fact that dominated in his
own mind was that her guardian had made her weep.

"Well, darling," he said. He stooped over her and put his hand on her

The face she lifted to him was ambiguous. She had not wept again; on the
contrary, he felt sure that she had been intently thinking. The result
of her thought, now, was a look of resolute serenity. But he was sure
that she did not feel serene. For the first time, Karen was hiding her
feeling from him. "Well, darling," she replied.

She got up and put her arms around his neck; she looked at him, smiling
calmly; then, as if struck by a sudden memory, she said: "It is the
night of the dance, Gregory."

They were to dine at Edith Morton's and go on to Karen's first dance.
Under Betty's supervision she had already made progress through
half-a-dozen lessons, though she had not, she confessed to Gregory,
greatly distinguished herself at them. "_I'll_ get you round all right,"
he had promised her. They looked forward to the dance.

"So it is," said Gregory. "It's not time to dress yet, is it?"

"It's only half-past six. Shall I wear my white silk, Gregory, with the
little white rose wreath?"

"Yes, and the nice little square-toed white silk shoes--like a Reynolds
lady's--and like nobody else's. I do so like your square toes."

"I cannot bear pinched toes," said Karen. "My father gave me a horror of
that; and Tante. Her feet are as perfect as her hands. She has all her
shoes made for her by a wonderful old man in Vienna who is an artist in
shoes. She was looking well, wasn't she, Tante?" Karen added, in even
tones. Gregory and she were sitting now on the sofa together, their arms
linked and hand-in-hand.

"Beautiful," said Gregory with sincerity. "How well that odd head-dress
became her."

"Didn't it? It was nice that she liked those pretty teacups, wasn't it.
And appreciated our view; even though," Karen smiled, taking now another
bull by the horns, "she was so hard on our flat. I'm afraid she feels
her Bouddha _en travestie_ here."

"Well, he is, of course. I do hope," said Gregory, also seizing his
bull, "that she didn't think me rude in my joke about being willing to
burn him. And you will change everything--burn anything--barring the
Bouddha and the teacups--that you want to, won't you, dear?"

"No; I wouldn't, even if I wanted to; and I don't want to. Perhaps Tante
did not quite understand. I think it may take a little time for her to
understand your jokes or you her outspokenness. She is like a child in
her candour about the things she likes or dislikes." A fuller ease had
come to her voice. By her brave pretence that all was well she was
persuading herself that all could be made well.

Perhaps it might be, thought Gregory, if only he could go on keeping his
temper with Madame von Marwitz and if Karen, wise and courageous
darling, could accept the unspoken between them, and spare him
definitions and declarations. A situation undefined is so often a
situation saved. Life grows over and around it. It becomes a mere
mummied fly, preserved in amber; unsightly perhaps; but unpernicious.
After all, he told himself--and he went on thinking over the incidents
of the afternoon while he dressed--after all, Madame von Marwitz might
not be much in London; she was a comet and her course would lead her
streaming all over the world for the greater part of her time. And above
all and mercifully, Madame von Marwitz was not a person upon whose
affections one would have to count. He seemed to have found out all
sorts of things about her this afternoon: he could have given Sargent
points. The main strength of her feeling for anyone, deep instinct told
him, was an insatiable demand that they should feel sufficiently for
her. And the chief difficulty--he refused to dignify it by the name of
danger--was that Madame von Marwitz had her deep instincts, too, and
had, no doubt, found out all sorts of things about him. He did not like
her; he had not liked her from the first; and she could hardly fail to
feel that he liked her less and less. He was able to do Madame von
Marwitz justice. Even a selflessly devoted mother could hardly rejoice
wholeheartedly in the marriage of a daughter to a man who disliked
herself; and how much less could Madame von Marwitz, who was not a
mother and not selflessly devoted to anybody, rejoice in Karen's
marriage. She was right in feeling that it menaced her own position. He
did her justice; he made every allowance for her; he intended to be
straight with her; but the fact that stood out for Gregory was that,
already, she was not straight with him. Already she was picking
surreptitiously, craftily, at his life; and this was to pick at Karen's.

He would give her a long string and make every allowance for the
vexations of her situation; but if she began seriously to tarnish
Karen's happiness he would have to pull the string smartly. The
difficulty--he refused to see this as danger either--was that he could
not pull the string upon Madame von Marwitz without, by the same
gesture, upsetting himself as well.


The unspoken, for the first month or so of Madame von Marwitz's return,
remained accepted. There were no declarations and no definitions, and
Gregory's immunity was founded on something more reassuring than the
mere fact that Madame von Marwitz frequently went away. When she was in
London, it became apparent, he was to see very little of her, and as
long as they did not meet too often he felt that he was, in so far,
safe. Madame von Marwitz was tremendously busy. She paid many week-end
visits; she sat to Belot--who had come to London to paint it--for a
great portrait; she was to give three concerts in London during the
winter and two in Paris, and it was natural enough that she had not
found time to come to the flat again.

But although Gregory saw so little of her, although she was not in his
life as a presence, he felt her in it as an influence. She might have
been the invisible but portentous comet moving majestically on the far
confines of his solar system; and one accounted for oddities of
behaviour in the visible planets by inferring that the comet was the
cause of them. If he saw very little of Madame von Marwitz, he saw, too,
much less of his twin planet, Karen. It was not so much that Karen's
course was odd as that it was altered. If Madame von Marwitz sent for
her very intermittently, she had, all the same, in all her life, as she
told Gregory, never seen so much of her guardian. She frankly displayed
to him the radiance of her state, wishing him, as he guessed, to share
to the full every detail of her privileges, and to realise to the full
her gratitude to him for proving so conclusively to Tante that there was
none of the selfishness of love in him. Tante must see that he made it
very easy for her to go to her, and Gregory derived his own secret
satisfaction from the thought that Karen's radiance was the best of
retorts to Madame von Marwitz's veiled intimations. As long as she made
Karen happy and let him alone, he seemed to himself to tell her, he
would get on very well; and he suspected that her clutch of Karen would
soon loosen when she found it unchallenged. In the meantime there was
not much satisfaction for him elsewhere. Karen's altered course left him
often lonely. Not only had the readings of Political Economy, begun with
so much ardour in in their spare evenings, almost lapsed for lack of
consecutiveness; but he frequently found on coming home tired for his
tea, and eager for the sight of his wife, a little note from her telling
him that she had been summoned to Mrs. Forrester's as Tante was "with
Fafner in his cave" and wanted her.

Fafner was the name that Madame von Marwitz gave to her moods of
sometimes tragic and sometimes petulant melancholy. Karen had told him
all about Fafner and how, in the cave, Tante would lie sometimes for
long hours, silent, her eyes closed, holding her hand; sometimes asking
her to read to her, English, French, German or Italian poetry; their
range of reading always astonished Gregory.

He gathered, too, from Karen's confidences, how little, until now, he
had gauged the variety of the great woman's resources, how little done
justice to her capacity for being merely delightful. She could be
whimsically gay in the midst of melancholy, and her jests and merriment
were the more touching, the more exquisite, from the fact that they
flowered upon the dark background of the cave. It was, he saw, with a
richer flavour that Karen tasted again the charm of old days, when,
after some great musical or social event, in which the girl had played
her part of contented observer, they had laughed together over follies
and appreciated qualities, in the familiar language of allusion evolved
from long community in experience.

Karen repeated to him Tante's sallies at the expense of this or that
person and the phrase with which she introduced these transformations of
human foolishness to the service of comedy. "Come, let us make
_méringues_ of them."

The dull or ludicrous creatures, so to be whipped up and baked crisp,
revealed, in the light of the analogy, the tempting vacuity of a bowl of
white of egg. When Tante introduced her wit into the colourless
substance she frothed it to a sparkling work of art.

Gregory was aware sometimes of a pang as he listened. He and Karen had,
indeed, their many little jokes, and their stock of common association
was growing; but there was nothing like the range of reference, nothing
like the variety of experience, that her life with Madame von Marwitz
had given her to draw upon. It was to her companionship, intermittent as
it had been, with the world-wandering genius that she owed the security
of judgment that often amused yet often disconcerted him, the
catholicity of taste beside which, though he would not acknowledge its
final validity, he felt his own taste to be sometimes narrow and
sometimes guileless. He saw that Karen had every ground for feeling her
own point of view a larger one than his. It was no personal complacency
that her assurance expressed, but the modest recognition of privilege.
Beyond their personal tie, so her whole demeanour showed him, he had
nothing to add to her highly dowered life.

Gregory had known that his world would mean nothing to Karen; yet when,
under Betty's guidance, she fulfilled her social duties, dined out, gave
dinners, received and returned visits, the very compliance of her
indifference, while always amusing, vexed him a little, and a little
alarmed him, too. He had known that he would have to make all the
adjustments, but how adjust oneself to a permanent separation between
one's private and one's social life? Old ties, lacking new elements of
growth, tended to become formalities. When Karen was not there, he did
not care to go without her to see people, and when she was with him the
very charm of her personality was a barrier between him and them. His
life became narrower as well as lonelier. There was nothing much to be
done with people to whom one's wife was indifferent.

It was very obvious to him that she found the sober, conventional people
who were his friends very flavourless, especially when she came to them
from Fafner's cave. He had always taken his friends for granted, as part
of the pleasant routine of life, like one's breakfast or one's bath; but
now, seeing them anew, through Karen's eyes, he was inclined more and
more to believe that they weren't as dull as she found them. She lacked
the fundamental experience of a rooted life. She was yet to learn--he
hoped, he determined, she should learn--that a social system of
harmonious people, significant perhaps more because of their places in
the system than as units, and bound together by a highly evolved code,
was, when all was said and done, a more satisfactory place in which to
spend one's life than an anarchic world of erratic, undisciplined,
independent individuals. Karen, however, did not understand the use of
the system and she saw its members with eyes as clear to their defects
as were Gregory's to the defects of Madame von Marwitz.

Gregory's friends belonged to that orderly and efficient section of the
nation that moves contentedly between the simply professional and the
ultra fashionable. They had a great many duties, social, political and
domestic, which they took with a pleasant seriousness, and a great many
pleasures which they took seriously, too. They "came up" from the quiet
responsibilities of the country-side for a season and "did" the concerts
and exhibitions as they "did" their shopping and their balls. Art, to
most of them, was a thing accepted on authority, like the latest cut for
sleeves or the latest fashion for dressing the hair. A few of them, like
the Cornish Lavingtons, had never heard Madame Okraska; a great many of
them had never heard of Belot. The Madame Okraskas and the Belots of the
world were to them a queer, alien people, regarded with only a mild,
derivative interest. They recognized the artist as a decorative
appurtenance of civilized life, very much as they recognized the dentist
or the undertaker as its convenient appurtenances. It still struck them
as rather strange that one should meet artists socially and, perhaps, as
rather regrettable, their traditional standard of good faith requiring
that the people one met socially should, on the whole, be people whom
one wouldn't mind one's sons and daughters marrying; and they didn't
conceive of artists as entering that category.

Gregory, with all his acuteness, did not gauge the astonishment with
which Karen came to realize these standards of his world. Her cheerful
evenness of demeanour was a cloak, sometimes for indignation and
sometimes for mirth. She could only face the fact that this world must,
in a sense, be hers, by relegating it and all that it meant to the
merest background in their lives. Her real life consisted in Gregory; in
Tante. All that she had to do with these people--oh, so nice and kind
they were, she saw that well, but oh so stupid, most of them, so
inconceivably blind to everything of value in life--all that she had to
do was, from time to time, to open their box, their well-padded,
well-provendered box, and look at them pleasantly. She felt sure that
for Gregory's sake, if not for theirs, she should always be able to look
pleasantly; unless--she had been afraid of this sometimes--they should
say or do things that in their blindness struck at Tante and at the
realities that Tante stood for. But all had gone so well, so Karen
believed, that she felt no misgivings when Tante expressed a wish to
look into the box with her and said, "You must give a little
dinner-party for me, my Karen, so that I may see your new _milieu_."

Gregory controlled a dry little grimace when Karen reported this speech
to him. He couldn't but suspect Tante's motives in wanting them to give
a little dinner-party for her. But he feigned the most genial interest
in the plan and agreed with Karen that they must ask their very nicest
to meet Tante.

Betty had helped Karen with all her dinners; she had seen as yet very
little of the great woman, and entered fully into Karen's eagerness that
everything should be very nice.

"Gregory will take her in," said Betty; "and we'll put Bertram Fraser on
her other side. He's always delightful. And we'll have the
Canning-Thompsons and the Overtons and the Byngs; the Byngs are so
decorative!" Constance Armytage was now Mrs. Byng.

"And my dear old General," said Karen, sitting at her desk with a paper
on her knee and an obedient pencil in her hand; "I forget his name, but
we met him at the dinner that you gave after we married; you know,
Betty, with the thin russet face and the little blue eyes. May he take
me in?"

"General Montgomery. Yes; that is a good idea; glorious old man. Though
Lady Montgomery is rather a stodge," said Betty; "but Oliver can have

"I remember, a sleek, small head--like a turtle--with salmon-pink
feathers on it. Poor Oliver. Will he mind?"

"Not a bit. He never minds anything but the dinner; and with Mrs. Barker
we can trust to that."

"Tante often likes soldiers," said Karen, pleased with her good idea.
"Our flags, she says, they are, and that the world would be
drab-coloured without them."

So it was arranged. Bertram Fraser was an old family friend of the
Jardines'. His father was still the rector of their Northumberland
parish, and he and Gregory and Oliver had hunted and fished and shot and
gone to Oxford together. Bertram had been a traveller in strange
countries since those days, had written one or two clever books and was
now in Parliament. The Overtons, also country neighbours, were fond of
music as well as of hunting, and Mr. Canning-Thompson was an eminent, if
rather ponderous, Q.C., for whose wife, the gentle and emaciated Lady
Mary, Gregory had a special affection. She was a great philanthropist
and a patient student of early Italian art, and he and she talked
gardens and pictures together.

Betty and Oliver were the first to arrive on the festal night, Betty's
efficiency, expressed by all her diamonds and a dress of rose-coloured
velvet, making up for whatever there might be of inefficiency in Karen's
appearance and deportment. Karen was still, touchingly so to her
husband's eyes, the little Hans Andersen heroine in appearance. She wore
to-night the white silk dress and the wreath of little white roses.

Oliver and Gregory chatted desultorily until the Byngs arrived. Oliver
was fair and ruddy and his air of dozing contentment was always
vexatious to his younger brother. He had every reason for contentment.
Betty's money had securely buttressed the family fortunes and he had
three delightful little boys to buttress Betty's money. Gregory grew a
little out of temper after talking for five minutes to Oliver and this
was not a fortunate mood in which to realise, as the Montgomerys, the
Overtons and the Canning-Thompsons followed the Byngs, at eight-fifteen,
that Madame von Marwitz was probably going to be late. At eight-thirty,
Karen, looking at him with some anxiety expressed in her raised brows,
silently conveyed to him her fear that the soup, at the very least,
would be spoiled. At eight-forty Betty murmured to Karen that they had
perhaps better begin without Madame von Marwitz--hadn't they? She must,
for some reason, be unable to come. Dinner was for eight. "Oh, but we
must wait longer," said Karen. "She would have telephoned--or Mrs.
Forrester would--if she had not been coming. Tante is always late; but
always, always," she added, without condemnation if with anxiety. "And
there is the bell now. Yes, I heard it."

It was a quarter to nine when Madame von Marwitz, with Karen, who had
hastened out to meet her, following behind, appeared at last, benign and
unperturbed as a moon sliding from clouds. In the doorway she made her
accustomed pause, the pause of one not surveying her audience but
indulgently allowing her audience to survey her. It was the attitude in
which Belot was painting his great portrait of her. But it was not met
to-night by the eyes to which she was accustomed. The hungry guests
looked at Madame von Marwitz with austere relief and looked only long
enough to satisfy themselves that her appearance really meant dinner.

Gregory led the way with her into the dining-room and suspected in her
air of absent musing a certain discomfiture.

She was, as usual, strangely and beautifully attired, as though for the
operatic stage rather than for a dinner-party. Strings of pearls fell
from either side of her head to her shoulders and a wide tiara of pearls
banded her forehead in a manner recalling a Russian head-dress. She
looked, though so lovely, also so conspicuous that there was a certain
ludicrousness in her appearance. It apparently displeased or surprised
Lady Montgomery, who, on Gregory's other hand, her head adorned with the
salmon-pink, ostrich feathers, raised a long tortoiseshell lorgnette and
fixed Madame von Marwitz through it for a mute, resentful moment. Madame
von Marwitz, erect and sublime as a goddess in a shrine, looked back. It
was a look lifted far above the region of Lady Montgomery's formal, and
after all only tentative, disapprobations; divine impertinence,
sovereign disdain informed it. Lady Montgomery dropped her lorgnette
with a little clatter and, adjusting her heavy diamond bracelets, turned
her sleek mid-Victorian head to her neighbour. Gregory did not know
whether to be amused or vexed.

It was now his part to carry on a conversation with the great woman: and
he found the task difficult. She was not silent, nor unresponsive. She
listened to his remarks with the almost disconcerting closeness of
attention that he had observed in her on their meeting of the other day,
seeming to seek in them some savour that still escaped her good-will.
She answered him alertly, swiftly, and often at random, as though by her
intelligence and competence to cover his ineptitude. Her smile was
brightly mechanical; her voice at once insistent and monotonous. She had
an air, which Gregory felt more and more to be almost insolent, of doing
her duty.

Bertram Fraser's turn came and he rose to it with his usual buoyancy. He
was interested in meeting Madame von Marwitz; but he was a young man who
had made his way in the world and perhaps exaggerated his achievement.
He expected people to be interested also in meeting him. He expected
from the great genius a reciprocal buoyancy. Madame von Marwitz bent her
brows upon him. Irony grew in her smile, a staccato crispness in her
utterance. Cool and competent as he was, Bertram presently looked
disconcerted; he did not easily forgive those who disconcerted him, and,
making no further effort to carry on the conversation, he sat silent,
smiling a little, and waited for his partner to turn to him again. Had
Gregory not taken up his talk, lamely and coldly, with Madame von
Marwitz, she would have been left in an awkward isolation.

She answered him now in a voice of lassitude and melancholy. Leaning
back in her chair, strange and almost stupefying object that she was,
her eyes moved slowly round the table with a wintry desolation of
glance, until, meeting Karen's eyes, they beamed forth a brave warmth of
cherishing, encouraging sweetness. "Yes, _ma chérie_," they seemed to
say; "Bear up, I am bearing up. I will make _méringues_ of them for

She could make _méringues_ of them; Gregory didn't doubt it. Yet, and
here was the glow of malicious satisfaction that atoned to him for the
discomforts he endured, they were, every one of them, making _méringues_
of her.

In their narrowness, in their defects, ran an instinct, as shrewd as it
was unconscious, that was a match for Madame von Marwitz's intelligence.
They were so unperceiving that no one of them, except perhaps Betty and
Karen--who of course didn't count among them at all--was aware of the
wintry wind of Madame von Marwitz's boredom; yet if it had been
recognised it would have been felt as insignificant. They knew that she
was a genius, and that she was very odd looking and that, as Mrs.
Jardine's guardian, she had not come in a professional capacity and
might therefore not play to them after dinner. So defined, she was seen,
with all her splendour of association, as incidental.

Only perhaps in this particular section of the British people could this
particular effect of cheerful imperviousness have been achieved. They
were not of the voracious, cultured hordes who make their way by their
well-trained appreciations, nor of the fashionable lion-collecting tribe
who do not need to make their way but who need to have their way made
amusing. Well-bred, securely stationed, untouched by boredom or anxiety,
they were at once too dull and too intelligent to be fluttered by the
presence of a celebrity. They wanted nothing of her, except, perhaps,
that after their coffee she should give them some music, and they did
not want this at all eagerly.

If Madame von Marwitz had come to crush, to subjugate or to enchant, she
had failed in every respect and Gregory saw that her failure was not
lost upon her. Her manner, as the consciousness grew, became more
frankly that of the vain, ill-tempered child, ignored. She ceased to
speak; her eyes, fixed on the wall over Sir Oliver's head, enlarged in a
sullen despondency.

Lady Montgomery was making her way through a bunch of grapes and Lady
Mary had only peeled her peach, when, suddenly, taking upon herself the
prerogative of a hostess, Madame von Marwitz caught up her fan and
gloves with a gesture of open impatience, and swept to the door almost
before Gregory had time to reach it or the startled guests to rise from
their places.


When the time came for going to the drawing-room, Gregory found Betty
entertaining the company there, while Karen, on a distant sofa, was
apparently engaged in showing her guardian a book of photographs. He
took in the situation at a glance, and, as he took it in, he was aware
that part of its significance lay in the fact that it obliged him to a
swift interchange with Betty, an interchange that irked him, defining as
it did a community of understanding from which Karen, in her simplicity,
was shut out.

He went across to the couple on the sofa. Only sudden illness could have
excused Madame von Marwitz's departure from the dining-room, yet he
determined to ask no questions, and to leave any explanations to her.

Karen's eyes, in looking at him, were grave and a little anxious; but
the anxiety, he saw, was not on his account. "Tante wanted to see our
kodaks," she said. "Do sit here with us, Gregory. Betty is talking to
everybody so beautifully."

"But you must go and talk to everybody beautifully, too, now, darling,"
said Gregory. He put his hand on her shoulder and looked down at her
smiling. The gesture, with its marital assurance, the smile that was
almost a caress, were involuntary; yet they expressed more than his
tender pride and solicitude, they defined his possession of her, and
they excluded Tante. "It's been a nice little dinner, hasn't it," he
went on, continuing to look at her and not at Madame von Marwitz. "I saw
that the General was enjoying you immensely. There he is, looking over
at you now; he wants to go on talking about Garibaldi with you. He said
he'd never met a young woman so well up in modern history."

Madame von Marwitz's brooding eyes were on him while he thus spoke. He
ignored them.

Karen looked a little perplexed. "Did you think it went so well, then,

"Why, didn't you?"

"I am not sure. I don't think I shall ever much like dinners, when I
give them," she addressed herself to her guardian as well as to her
husband. "They make one feel so responsible."

"Well, as far as you were responsible for this one you were responsible
for its being very nice. Everybody enjoyed themselves. Now go and talk
to the General."

"I did enjoy him," said Karen, half closing her book. "But Tante has
rather a headache--I am afraid she is tired. You saw at dinner that she
was tired."

"Yes, oh yes, indeed, I thought that you must be feeling a little ill,
perhaps," Gregory observed blandly, turning his eyes now on Madame von
Marwitz. "Well, you see, Karen, I will take your place here, and it will
give me a chance for a quiet talk with your guardian."

"People must not bother her," Karen rose, pleased, he could see, with
this arrangement, and hoping, he knew, that the opportunity was a
propitious one, and that in it her dear ones might draw together. "You
will see that they don't bother her, Gregory, and go on showing her

"They won't bother a bit, I promise," said Gregory, taking her place as
she rose. "They are all very happily engaged, and Madame von Marwitz and
I will look at the photographs in perfect peace."

Something in these words and in the manner with which her guardian
received them, with a deepening of her long, steady glance, arrested
Karen's departure. She stood above them, half confident, yet half

"Go, _mon enfant_," said Madame von Marwitz, turning the steady glance
on her. "Go. Nobody here, as your husband truly says, is thinking of me.
I shall be quite untroubled."

Still with her look of preoccupation Karen moved away.

Cheerfully and deliberately Gregory now proceeded to turn the pages of
the kodak album, and to point out with painstaking geniality the charms
and associations of each view, "_Tu l'as voulu, Georges Dandin_,"
expressed his thought, for he didn't believe that Madame von Marwitz,
more than any person not completely self-abnegating, could tolerate
looking at other people's kodaks. But since it was her chosen
occupation, the best she could find to do with their dinner-party, she
should be gratified; should be shown Karen standing on a peak in the
Tyrol; Karen feeding the pigeons before St. Mark's; Karen, again--wasn't
it rather nice of her?--in a gondola. Madame von Marwitz bent her head
with its swinging pearls above the pictures, proffering now and then a
low murmur of assent.

But in the midst of the Paris pictures she lifted her head and looked at
him. It was again the steady, penetrating look, and now it seemed, with
the smile that veiled it, to claim some common understanding rather than
seek it. "Enough," she said. She dismissed the kodaks with a tap of her
fan. "I wish to talk with you. I wish to talk with you of our Karen."

Gregory closed the volume. Madame von Marwitz's attitude as she leaned
back, her arms lightly folded, affected him in its deliberate grace and
power as newly significant. Keeping his frosty, observant eyes upon her,
Gregory waited for what she had to say. "I am glad, very glad, that you
have given me this opportunity for a quiet conversation," so she took up
the threads of her intention. "I have wanted, for long, to consult with
you about various matters concerning Karen, and, in especial, about her
future life. Tell me--this is what I wish in particular to ask you--you
are going, are you not, in time, when she has learned more skill in
social arts, to take my Karen into the world--_dans le monde_," Madame
von Marwitz repeated, as though to make her meaning genially clear.
"Skill she is as yet too young to have mastered--or cared to master. But
she had always been at ease on the largest stage, and she will do you
credit, I assure you."

It was rather, to Gregory's imagination--always quick at similes--as
though she had struck a well-aimed blow right in the centre of a huge
gong hanging between them. There she was, the blow said. It was this she
meant. No open avowal of hostility could have been more reverberating or
purposeful, and no open avowal of hostility would have been so sinister.
But Gregory, though his ears seemed to ring with the clang of it, was
ready for her. He, too, with folded arms, sat leaning back and he, too,
smiled genially. "That's rather crushing, you know," he made reply, "or
didn't you? Karen is in my world. This is my world."

Madame von Marwitz gazed at him for a moment as if to gauge his
seriousness. And then she turned her eyes on his world and gazed at
that. It was mildly chatting. It was placid, cheerful, unaware of
deficiency. It thought that it was enjoying itself. It was, indeed,
enjoying itself, if with the slightest of materials. Betty and Bertram
Fraser laughed together; Lady Mary and Oliver ever so slowly conversed.
Constance Byng and Mr. Overton discussed the latest opera, young Byng
had joined Karen and the General, and a comfortable drone of politics
came from Mrs. Overton and Mr. Canning-Thompson. Removed a little from
these groups Lady Montgomery, very much like a turtle, sat with her head
erect and her eyes half closed, evidently sleepy. It was upon Lady
Montgomery that Madame von Marwitz's gaze dwelt longest.

"You are contented," she then said to Gregory, "with these good people;
for yourself and for your wife?"

"Perfectly," said Gregory. "You see, Karen has married a commonplace

Madame von Marwitz paused again, and again her eyes dwelt on Lady
Montgomery, whose pink feathers had given a sudden nod and then serenely
righted themselves. "I see," she then remarked. "But she is not

"Ah, come," said Gregory. "You can't shatter the conceit of a happy
husband so easily, Madame von Marwitz. You ask too much of me if you ask
me to believe that Karen makes confidences to you that she doesn't to
me. I can't take it on, you know," he continued to smile.

He had already felt that the loveliness of Madame von Marwitz's face was
a veil for its coldness, and hints had come to him that it masked, also,
some more sinister quality. And now, for a moment, as if a primeval
creature peeped at him from among delicate woodlands, a racial savagery
crossed her face with a strange, distorting tremor. The blood mounted to
her brow; her skin darkened curiously, and her eyes became hot and heavy
as though the very irises felt the glow.

"You do not accept my word, Mr. Jardine?" she said. Her voice was
controlled, but he had a disagreeable sensation of scorching, as though
a hot iron had been passed slowly before his face.

Gregory shook his foot a little, clasping his ankle. "I don't say that,
of course. But I'm glad to think you're mistaken."

"Let me tell you, Mr. Jardine," she returned, still with the curbed
elemental fury colouring her face and voice, "that even a happy
husband's conceit is no match for a mother's intuition. Karen is like my
child to me; and to its mother a child makes confidences that it is
unaware of making. Karen finds your world narrow; _borné_; it does not
afford her the wide life she has known."

"You mean," said Gregory, "the life she led with Mrs. Talcott?"

He had not meant to say it. If he had paused to think it over he would
have seen that it exposed him to her as consciously hostile and also as
almost feminine in his malice. And, as if this recognition of his false
move restored to her her full self-mastery, she met his irony with a
masculine sincerity, putting him, as on the occasion of their first
encounter, lamentably in the wrong. "Ah," she commented, her eyes
dwelling on him. "Ah, I see. You have wondered. You have criticized. You
have, I think, Mr. Jardine, misunderstood my life and its capacities.
Allow me to explain. Your wife is the creature dearest to me in the
world, and if you misread my devotion to her you endanger our relation.
You would not, I am sure, wish to do that; is it not so? Allow me
therefore to exculpate myself. I am a woman who, since childhood,
has had to labour for my livelihood and for that of those I love.
You can know nothing of what that labour of the artist's life
entails,--interminable journeys, suffocating ennui, the unwholesome
monotony and publicity of a life passed in hotels and trains. It was not
fit that a young and growing girl should share that life. As much as has
been possible I have guarded Karen from its dust and weariness. I have
had, of necessity, to leave her much alone, and she has needed
protection, stability, peace. I could have placed her in no lovelier
spot than my Cornish home, nor in safer hands than those of the guardian
and companion of my own youth. Do you not feel it a little unworthy, Mr.
Jardine, when you have all the present and all the future, to grudge me
even my past with my child?"

She spoke slowly, with a noble dignity, all hint of sultry menace
passed; willing, for Karen's sake, to stoop to this self-justification
before Karen's husband. And, for Karen's sake, she had the air of
holding in steady hands their relation, hers and his, assailed so
gracelessly by his taunting words. Gregory, for the first time in his
knowledge of her, felt a little bewildered. It was she who had opened
hostilities, yet she almost made him forget it; she almost made him feel
that he alone had been graceless. "I do beg your pardon," he said. "Yes;
I had wondered a little about it; and I understand better now." But he
gathered his wits together sufficiently to add, on a fairer foothold: "I
am sure you gave Karen all you could. What I meant was, I think, that
you should be generous enough to believe that I am giving her all I

Madame von Marwitz rose as he said this and he also got up. It was not
so much, Gregory was aware, that they had fought to a truce as that they
had openly crossed swords. Her eyes still dwelt on him, and now as if in
a sad wonder. "But you are young. You are a man. You have ambition. You
wish to give more to the loved woman."

"I don't really quite know what you mean by more, Madame von Marwitz,"
said Gregory. "If it applies to my world, I don't expect, or wish, to
give Karen a better one."

They stood and confronted each other for a moment of silence.

"_Bien_," Madame von Marwitz then said, unemphatically, mildly. "_Bien._
I must see what I can do." She turned her eyes on Karen, who,
immediately aware of her glance, hastened to her. Madame von Marwitz
laid an arm about her neck. "I must bid you good-night, _ma chérie_. I
am very tired."

"Tante, dear, I saw that you were so tired, I am so sorry. It has all
been a weariness to you," Karen murmured.

"No, my child; no," Madame von Marwitz smiled down into her eyes,
passing her hand lightly over the little white-rose wreath. "I have seen
you, and seen you happy; that is happiness enough for me. Good-night,
Mr. Jardine. Karen will come with me."

Pausing for no further farewells, Madame von Marwitz passed from the
room with a majestic, generalized bending of the head.

Betty joined her brother-in-law. "Dear me, Gregory," she said. "We've
had the tragic muse to supper, haven't we. What is the matter, what has
been the matter with Madame von Marwitz? Is she ill?"

"She says she's tired," said Gregory.

"It was disconcerting, wasn't it, her trailing suddenly out of the
dining-room in that singular fashion," said Betty. "Do you know,
Gregory, that I'm getting quite vexed with Madame von Marwitz."

"Really? Why, Betty?"

"Well, it has been accumulating. I'm a very easy-going person, you know;
but I've been noticing that whenever I want Karen, Madame von Marwitz
always nips in and cuts me out, so that I have hardly seen her at all
since her guardian came to London. And then it did rather rile me, I
confess, to find that the one hat in Karen's trousseau that I specially
chose for her is the one--the only one--that Madame von Marwitz objects
to. Karen never wears it now. She certainly behaved very absurdly
to-night, Gregory. I suppose she expected us to sit round in a circle
and stare."

"Perhaps she did," Gregory acquiesced. "Perhaps we should have."

He was anxious to maintain the appearance of bland lightness before
Betty. Karen had re-entered as they spoke and Betty called her to them.
"Tell me, Karen dear, is Madame von Marwitz ill? She didn't give me a
chance to say good-night to her." Betty had the air of wishing to
exonerate herself.

"She isn't ill," said Karen, whose face was grave. "But very tired."

"Now what made her tired, I wonder?" Betty mused. "She looks such a
robust person."

It was bad of Betty, and as Karen stood before them, looking from one to
the other, Gregory saw that she suspected them. Her face hardened. "A
great artist needs to be robust," she said. "My guardian works every day
at her piano for five or six hours."

"Dear me," Betty murmured. "How splendid. I'd no idea the big ones had
to keep it up like that."

"There is great ignorance about an artist's life," Karen continued
coldly to inform her. "Do you not know what von Bulow said: If I miss my
practising for one day I notice it; if for two days my friends notice
it; if I miss it for three days the public notices it. The artist is
like an acrobat, juggling always, intent always on his three golden
balls kept flying in the air. That is what it is like. Every atom of
their strength is used. People, like my guardian, literally give their
lives for the world."

"Oh, yes, it is wonderful, of course," Betty assented. "But of course
they must enjoy it; it can hardly be called a sacrifice."

"Enjoy is a very small word to apply to such a great thing," said Karen.
"You may say also, if you like, that the saint enjoys his life of
suffering for others. It is his life to give himself to goodness; it is
the artist's life to give himself to beauty. But it is beauty and
goodness they seek, not enjoyment; we must not try to measure these
great people by our standards."

Before this arraignment Betty showed a tact for which Gregory was
grateful to her. He, as so often, found Karen, in her innocent
sententiousness, at once absurd and adorable, but he could grant that to
Betty she might seem absurd only.

"Don't be cross with me, Karen," she said. "I suppose I am feeling sore
at being snubbed by Madame von Marwitz."

"But indeed she did not mean to snub you, Betty," said Karen earnestly.
"And I am not cross; please do not think that. Only I cannot bear to
hear some of the things that are said of artists."

"Well, prove that you're not cross," said Betty, smiling, "by at last
giving me an afternoon when we can do something together. Will you come
and see the pictures at Burlington House with me to-morrow and have tea
with me afterwards? I've really seen nothing of you for so long."

"To-morrow is promised to Tante, Betty. I'm so sorry. Her great concert
is to be on Friday, you know; and till then, and on the Saturday, I have
said that I will be with her. She gets so very tired. And I know how to
take care of her when she is tired like that."

"Oh, dear!" Betty sighed. "There is no hope for us poor little people,
is there, while Madame von Marwitz is in London. Well, on Monday, then,
Karen. Will you promise me Monday afternoon?"

"Monday is free, and I shall like so very much to come, Betty," Karen

When Gregory and his wife were left alone together, they stood for some
moments without speaking on either side of the fire, and, as Karen's
eyes were on the flames, Gregory, looking at her carefully, read on her
face the signs of stress and self-command. The irony, the irritation and
the oppression that Madame von Marwitz had aroused in him this evening
merged suddenly, as he looked at Karen into intense anger. What had she
not done to them already, sinister woman? It was because of her that
constraint, reticence and uncertainty were rising again between him and

"Darling," he said, putting out his hand and drawing her to him; "you
look very tired."

She came, he fancied, with at first a little reluctance, but, as he put
his arm around her, she leaned her head against his shoulder with a
sigh. "I am tired, Gregory."

They stood thus for some moments and then, as if the confident
tenderness their attitude expressed forced her to face with him their
difficulty, she said carefully: "Gregory, dear, did you say anything to
depress Tante this evening?"

"Why do you ask, darling?" Gregory, after a slight pause, also carefully

"Only that she seemed depressed, very much depressed. I thought, I hoped
that you and she were talking so nicely, so happily."

There was another little pause and then Gregory said: "She rather
depressed me, I think."

"Depressed you? But how, Gregory?"

He must indeed be very careful. It was far too late, now, for simple
frankness; simple frankness had, perhaps, from the beginning been
impossible and in that fact lay the insecurity of his position, and the
immense advantage of Madame von Marwitz's. And as he paused and sought
his words it was as if, in the image of the Bouddha, looking down upon
him and Karen, Madame von Marwitz were with them now, a tranquil and
ironic witness of his discomfiture. "Well," he said, "she made me feel
that I had only a very dingy sort of life to offer you and that my
friends were all very tiresome--_borné_ was the word she used. That did
rather--well--dash my spirits."

Standing there within his arm, of her face, seen from above, only the
brow, the eyelashes, the cheek visible, she was very still for a long
moment. Then, gently, she said--and in the gentleness he felt that she
put aside the too natural suspicion that he was complaining of Tante
behind her back: "She doesn't realise that I don't care at all about
people. And they are rather _bornés_, aren't they, Gregory."

"I don't find them so," said Gregory, reasonably. "They aren't geniuses,
of course, or acrobats, or saints, or anything of that sort; but they
seem to me, on the whole, a very nice lot of people."

"Very nice indeed, Gregory. But I don't think it is saints and geniuses
that Tante misses here; she misses minds that are able to recognise
genius." Her quick ear had caught the involuntary irony of his

"Ah, but, dear, you mustn't expect to find the average nice person able
to pay homage at a dinner-party. There is a time and a place for
everything, isn't there."

"It was not that I meant, Gregory, or that Tante meant. There is always
a place for intelligence. It wasn't an interesting dinner, you must have
felt that as well as I, not the sort of dinner Tante would naturally
expect. They were only interested in their own things, weren't they? And
quite apart from homage, there is such a thing as realisation. Mr.
Fraser talked to Tante--I saw it all quite well--as he might have talked
to the next dowager he met. Tante isn't used to being talked to as if
she were _toute comme une autre_; she isn't _toute comme une autre_."

"But one must pretend to be, at a dinner-party," Gregory returned. To
have to defend his friends when it was Tante who stood so lamentably in
need of defence had begun to work upon his nerves. "And some dowagers
are as interesting as anybody. There are all sorts of ways of being
interesting. Dowagers are as intelligent as geniuses sometimes." His
lightness was not unprovocative.

"It isn't funny, Gregory, to see Tante put into a false position."

"But, my dear, we did the best we could for her."

"I know that we did; and our best isn't good enough for her. That is all
that I ask you to realise," said Karen.

She was angry, and from the depths of his anger against Madame von
Marwitz Gregory felt a little gush of anger against Karen rise. "You are
telling me what she told me," he said; "that my best isn't good enough
for her. You may say it and think it, of course; but it's a thing that
Madame von Marwitz has no right to say."

Karen moved away from his arm. Something more than the old girlish
sternness was in the look with which she faced him, though that flashed
at him, a shield rather than a weapon. He recognised the hidden pain and
astonishment and his anger faded in tenderness. How could she but resent
and repell any hint that belittled Tante's claims and justifications?
how could she hear but with dismay the half threat of his last words,
the intimation that from her he would accept what he would not accept
from Tante? The sudden compunction of his comprehension almost brought
the tears to his eyes. Karen saw that his resistance melted and the
sternness fell from her look. "But Gregory," she said, her voice a
little trembling, "Tante did not say that. Please don't make mistakes.
It is so dreadful to misunderstand; nothing frightens me so much. I say
it; that our best isn't good enough, and I am thinking of Tante; only of
Tante; but she--too sweetly and mistakenly--was thinking of me. Tante
doesn't care, for herself, about our world; why should she? And she is
mistaken to care about it for me; because it makes no difference, none
at all, to me, if it is _borné_. All that I care about, you know that,
Gregory, is you and Tante."

Gregory had his arms around her. "Do forgive me, darling," he said.

"But was I horrid?" Karen asked.

"No. It was I who was stupid," he said. "Do you know, I believe we were
almost quarrelling, Karen."

"And we can quarrel safely--you and I, Gregory, can't we?" Karen said,
her voice still trembling.

He leaned his head against her hair. "Of course we can. Only--don't let
us quarrel--ever. It is so dreadful."

"Isn't it dreadful, Gregory. But we must not let it frighten us, ever,
because of course we must quarrel now and then. And we often have
already, haven't we," she went on, reassuring him, and herself. "Do you
remember, in the Tyrol, about the black bread!--And I was right that
time.--And the terrible conflict in Paris, about _La Gaine d'Or_; when I
said you were a Philistine."

"Well, you owned afterwards, after you read about the beastly thing,
that you were glad we hadn't gone."

"Yes; I was glad. You were right there. Sometimes it is you and
sometimes I," Karen declared, as if that were the happy solution.

So, in their mutual love, they put aside the menacing difference.
Something had happened, they could but be aware of that; but their love
tided them over. They did not argue further as to who was right and who
wrong that evening.


The first of Madame von Marwitz's great concerts was given on Friday,
and Karen spent the whole of that day and of Saturday with her, summoned
by an urgent telephone message early in the morning. On Sunday she was
still secluded in her rooms, and Miss Scrotton, breaking in determinedly
upon her, found her lying prone upon the sofa, Karen beside her.

"I cannot see you, my Scrotton," said Madame von Marwitz, with kindly
yet listless decision. "Did they not tell you below that I was seeing
nobody? Karen is with me to watch over my ill-temper. She is a soothing
little milk-poultice and I can bear nothing else. I am worn out."

Before poor Miss Scrotton's brow of gloom Karen suggested that she
should herself go down to Mrs. Forrester for tea and leave her place to
Miss Scrotton, but, with a weary shake of the head, Madame von Marwitz
rejected the proposal. "No; Scrotton is too intelligent for me to-day,"
she said. "You will go down to Mrs. Forrester for your tea, my Scrotton,
and wait for another day to see me."

Miss Scrotton went down nearly in tears.

"She refused to see Sir Alliston," Mrs. Forrester said, soothingly. "She
really is fit for nothing. I have never seen her so exhausted."

"Yet Karen Jardine always manages to force her way in," said Miss
Scrotton, controlling the tears with difficulty. "She has absolutely
taken possession of Mercedes. It really is almost absurd, such devotion,
and in a married woman. Gregory doesn't like it at all. Oh, I know it.
Betty Jardine gave me a hint only yesterday of how matters stand."

"Lady Jardine has always seemed to me a rather trivial little person. I
should not accept her impression of a situation," said Mrs. Forrester.
"Mercedes sends for Karen constantly. And I am sure that Gregory is glad
to think that she can be of use to Mercedes."

"Oh, Betty Jardine thinks, too, that it is Mercedes who takes Karen from
her husband. But I really can't agree with her, or with you, dear Mrs.
Forrester, there. Mercedes is simply too indolent and kind-hearted to
defend herself from the sort of habit the girl has imposed upon her. As
for Gregory being grateful I can only assure you that you are entirely
mistaken. My own impression is that he is beginning to dislike Mercedes.
Oh, he is a very jealous temperament; I have always felt it in him. He
is one of those cold, passionate men who become the most infatuated and
tyrannical of husbands."

"My dear Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester raised her eyebrows. "I see no sign of
tyranny. He allows Karen to come here constantly."

"Yes; because he knows that to refuse would be to endanger his relation
to her. Mercedes is angelic to him of course, and doesn't give him a
chance for making things difficult for Karen. But it is quite obvious to
me that he hates the whole situation."

"I hope not," said Mrs. Forrester, gravely now. "I hope not. It would be
tragical indeed if this last close relation in Mercedes's life were to
be spoiled for her. I could not forgive Gregory if he made it difficult
in any way for Karen to be with her guardian."

"Well, as long as he can conceal his jealousy, Mercedes will manage, I
suppose, to keep things smooth. But I can't see it as you do, Mrs.
Forrester. I can't believe for a moment that Mercedes needs Karen or
that the tie is such a close one. She only likes to see her now because
she is bored and impatient and unhappy, and Karen is--she said it just
now, before the girl--a poultice for her nerves. And the reason for her
nerves isn't far to seek. I must be frank with you, dear Mrs. Forrester;
you know I always have been, and I'm distressed, deeply distressed about
Mercedes. She expected Claude Drew to be back from America by now and I
heard yesterday from that horrid young friend of his, Algernon Bently,
that he has again postponed his return. It's that that agonizes and
infuriates Mercedes, it's that that makes her unwilling to be alone with
me. I've seen too much; I know too much; she fears me, Mrs. Forrester.
She knows that I know that Claude Drew is punishing her now for having
snubbed him in America."

"My dear Eleanor," Mrs. Forrester murmured distressfully. "You
exaggerate that young man's significance."

"Dear Mrs. Forrester," Miss Scrotton returned, almost now with a solemn
exasperation, "I wish it were possible to exaggerate it. I watched it
grow. His very effrontery fascinates her. We know, you and I, what
Mercedes expects in devotion from a man who cares for her. They must
adore her on their knees. Now Mr. Drew adored standing nonchalantly on
his feet and looking coolly into her eyes. She resented it; she had
constantly to put him in his place. But she would rather have him out of
his place than not have him there at all. That is what she is feeling
now. That is why she is so worn out. She is wishing that Claude Drew
would come back from America, and she is wanting to write one letter to
his ten and finding that she writes five. He writes to her constantly, I

"I believe he does," Mrs. Forrester conceded. "Mercedes is quite open
about the frequency of his letters. I am sure that you exaggerate,
Eleanor. He interests her, and he charms her if you will. Like every
woman, she is aware of devotion and pleased by it. I don't believe it's
anything more."

"I believe," said Miss Scrotton, after a moment, and with resolution,
"that it's a great passion; the last great passion of her life."

"Oh, my dear!"

"A great passion," Miss Scrotton persisted, "and for a man whom she
knows not to be in any way her equal. It is that that exasperates her."

Mrs. Forrester meditated for a little while and then, owning to a
certain mutual recognition of facts, she said: "I don't believe that
it's a great passion; but I think that a woman like Mercedes, a genius
of that scope, needs always to feel in her life the elements of a
'situation'--and life always provides such women with a choice of
situations. They are stimulants. Mr. Drew and his like, with whatever
unrest and emotion they may cause her, nourish her art. Even a great
passion would be a tempest that filled her sails and drove her on; in
the midst of it she would never lose the power of steering. She has
essentially the strength and detachment of genius. She watches her own
emotions and makes use of them. Did you ever hear her play more
magnificently than on Friday? If Mr. Drew _y était pour quelque chose_,
it was in the sense that she made mincemeat of him and presented us in
consequence with a magnificent sausage."

Miss Scrotton, who had somewhat forgotten her personal grievance in the
exhilaration of these analyses, granted the sausage and granted that
Mercedes made mincemeat of Mr. Drew--and of her friends into the
bargain. "But my contention and my fear is," she said, "that he will
make mincemeat of her before he is done with her."

Miss Scrotton did not rank highly for wisdom in Mrs. Forrester's
estimation; but for her perspicacity and intelligence she had more
regard than she cared to admit. Echoes of Eleanor's distrusts and fears
remained with her, and, though it was but a minor one, such an echo
vibrated loudly on Monday afternoon when Betty Jardine appeared at
tea-time with Karen.

It was the afternoon that Karen had promised to Betty, and when this
fact had been made known to Tante it was no grievance and no protest
that she showed, only a slight hesitation, a slight gravity, and then,
as if with cheerful courage in the face of an old sadness: "_Eh bien_,"
she said. "Bring her back here to tea, _ma chérie_. So I shall come to
know this new friend of my Karen's better."

Betty was not at all pleased at being brought back to tea. But Karen
asked her so gravely and prettily and said so urgently that Tante wanted
especially to know her better, and asked, moreover, if Betty would let
her come to lunch with her instead of tea, so that they should have
their full time together, that Betty once more pocketed her suspicions
of a design on Madame von Marwitz's part. The suspicion was there,
however, in her pocket, and she kept her hand on it rather as if it were
a small but efficacious pistol which she carried about in case of an
emergency. Betty was one who could aim steadily and shoot straight when
occasion demanded. It was a latent antagonist who entered Mrs.
Forrester's drawing-room on that Monday afternoon, Karen, all guileless,
following after. Mrs. Forrester and the Baroness were alone and, in a
deep Chesterfield near the tea-table, Madame von Marwitz leaned an arm,
bared to the elbow, in cushions and rested a meditative head on her
hand. She half rose to greet Betty. "This is kind of you, Lady Jardine,"
she said. "I feared that I had lost my Karen for the afternoon. _Elle me
manqué toujours_; she knows that." Smiling up at Karen she drew her down
beside her, studying her with eyes of fond, maternal solicitude. "My
child looks well, does she not, Mrs. Forrester? And the pretty hat! I am
glad not to see the foolish green one."

"Oh, I like the green one very much, Tante," said Karen. "But you shall
not see it again."

"I hope I'm to see it again," said Betty, turning over her pistol. "I
chose it, you know."

Madame von Marwitz turned startled eyes upon her. "Ah--but I did not
know. Did you tell me this, Karen?" the eyes of distress now turned to
Karen. "Have I forgotten? Was the green hat, the little green hat with
the wing, indeed of Lady Jardine's choosing? Have I been so very rude?"

"Betty will understand, Tante," said Karen--while Mrs. Forrester, softly
chinking among her blue Worcester teacups, kept a cogitating eye on
Betty Jardine--"that I have so many new hats now that you must easily
forget which is which."

"All I ask," said Betty, laughing over her mishap, "is that I,
sometimes, may see Karen in the green hat, for I think it charming."

"Indeed, Betty, so do I," said Karen, smiling.

"And I must be forgiven for not liking the green hat," Madame von
Marwitz returned.

Betty and Karen were supplied with tea, and after they had selected
their cakes, and a few inconsequent remarks had been exchanged, Madame
von Marwitz said:

"And now, my Karen, I have a little plan to tell you of; a little treat
that I have arranged for you. We are to go together, on this next
Saturday, to stay at Thole Castle with my friends the Duke and Duchess
of Bannister. I have told them that I wish to bring my child."

"But how delightful, Tante. It is to be in the country? We shall be
there, you and I and Gregory, till Monday?"

"I thought that I should please you. Yes; till Monday. And in beautiful
country. But it is to be our own small treat; yours and mine. Your
husband will lend you to me for those two days." Holding the girl's hand
Madame von Marwitz smiled indulgently at her, with eyes only for her.
Betty, however, was listening.

"But cannot Gregory come, too, Tante?" Karen questioned, her pleasure

"These friends of mine, my Karen," said Madame von Marwitz, "have heard
of you as mine only. It is as my child that you will come with me; just
as it is as your husband's wife that you see his friends. That is quite
clear, quite happy, quite understood."

Karen's eyes now turned on Betty. They did not seek counsel, they asked
no question of Betty; but they gave her, in their slight bewilderment,
her opportunity.

"But Karen, I think you are right," so she took up the gage that Madame
von Marwitz had flung. "I don't think that you must accept this
invitation without, at least, consulting Gregory."

Madame von Marwitz did not look at her. She continued to gaze as
serenely at Karen as though Betty were a dog that had barked
irrelevantly from the hearth-rug. But Karen fixed widened eyes upon her.

"I do not need to consult Gregory, Betty," she said. "We have, I know,
no engagements for this Saturday to Monday, and he will be delighted for
me that I am to go with Tante."

"That may be, my dear," Betty returned with a manner as imperturbable as
Madame von Marwitz's; "but I think that you should give him an
opportunity of saying so. He may not care for his wife to go to
strangers without him."

"They are not strangers. They are friends of Tante's."

"Gregory may not care for you to make--as Madame von Marwitz suggests--a
different set of friends from his own."

"If they become my friends they will become his," said Karen.

During this little altercation, Madame von Marwitz, large and white, her
profile turned to Betty, sat holding Karen's hand and gazing at her with
an almost slumbrous melancholy.

Mrs. Forrester, controlling her displeasure with some difficulty,
interposed. "I don't think Lady Jardine really quite understands the
position, Karen," she said. "It isn't the normal one, Lady Jardine.
Madame von Marwitz stands, really, to Karen in a mother's place."

"Oh, but I can't agree with you, Mrs. Forrester," Betty replied. "Madame
von Marwitz doesn't strike me as being in the least like Karen's mother.
And she isn't Karen's mother. And Karen's husband, now, should certainly
stand first in her life."

A silence followed the sharp report. Mrs. Forrester's and Karen's eyes
had turned on the Baroness who sat still, as though her breast had
received the shot. With tragic eyes she gazed out above Karen's head;
then: "It is true," she said in a low voice, as though communing with
herself; "I am indeed alone." She rose. With the slow step of a Niobe
she moved down the room and disappeared.

"I do not forgive you for this, Betty," said Karen, following her
guardian. Betty, like a naughty school-girl, was left confronting Mrs.
Forrester across the tea-table.

"Lady Jardine," said the old lady, fixing her bright eyes on her guest,
"I don't think you can have realised what you were saying. Madame von
Marwitz's isolation is one of the many tragedies of her life, and you
have made it clear to her."

"I'm very sorry," said Betty. "But I feel what Madame von Marwitz is
doing to be so mistaken, so wrong."

"These formalities don't obtain nowadays, especially if a wife is so
singularly related to a woman like Madame von Marwitz. And Mercedes is
quite above all such little consciousnesses, I assure you. She is not
aware of sets, in that petty way. It is merely a treat she is giving the
child, for she knows how much Karen loves to be with her. And it is only
in her train that Karen goes."

"Precisely." Betty had risen and stood smoothing her muff and not
feigning to smile. "In her train. I don't think that Gregory's wife
should go in anybody's train."

"It was markedly in Mercedes's train that he found her."

"All the more reason for wishing now to withdraw her from it. Karen has
become something more than Madame von Marwitz's _panache_."

Mrs. Forrester at this fixed Betty very hard and echoes of Miss Scrotton
rang loudly. "You must let me warn you, Lady Jardine," she said, "that
you are making a position, difficult already for Mercedes, more
difficult still. It would be a grievous thing if Karen were to recognize
her husband's jealousy. I'm afraid I can't avoid seeing what you have
made so plain to-day, that Gregory is trying to undermine Karen's
relation to her guardian."

At this Betty had actually to laugh. "But don't you see that it is
simply the other way round?" she said. "It is Madame von Marwitz who is
trying to undermine Karen's relation to Gregory. It is she who is
jealous. It's that I can't avoid seeing."

"I don't think we have anything to gain by continuing this
conversation," Mrs. Forrester replied. "May I give you some more tea
before you go?"

"No, thanks. Is Karen coming with me, I wonder? We had arranged that I
was to take her home."

Mrs. Forrester rang the bell and she and Betty stood in an uneasy
silence until the man returned to say that Mrs. Jardine was to spend the
evening with Madame von Marwitz who had suddenly been taken very ill.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" Mrs. Forrester almost moaned. "This means one of
her terrible headaches and we were to have dined out. I must telephone
excuses at once."

"I wish I hadn't had to make you think me such a pig," said Betty.

"I don't think you a pig," said Mrs. Forrester, "but I do think you a
very mistaken and a very unwise woman. And I do beg you, for Gregory and
for Karen's sake, to be careful what you do."


"I'm afraid you think that I've made a dreadful mess of things, Gregory.
I simply couldn't help myself," said Betty, half an hour later. "If only
she hadn't gone on gazing at Karen in that aggressive way I might have
curbed my tongue, and if only, afterwards, Mrs. Forrester hadn't shown
herself such an infatuated partisan. But I'm afraid she was right in
saying that I was an unwise woman. Certainly I haven't made things
easier for you, unless you want a _situation nette_. It's there to your
hand if you do want it, and in your place I should. It was a challenge
she gave, you know, to you through me. After the other night there was
no mistaking it. I should forbid Karen to go on Saturday."

Gregory stood before her still wearing his overcoat, for they had driven
up simultaneously to the door below, his hands in his pockets and eyes
of deep cogitation fixed on his sister-in-law. He was inclined to think
that she had made a dreadful mess of things; yet, at the same time, he
was feeling a certain elation in the chaos thus created.

"You advise me to declare war on Madame von Marwitz?" he inquired.
"Come; the situation is hardly _nette_ enough to warrant that; what?"

"Ah; you do see it then!" Betty from the sofa where she sat erect, her
hands in her muff, almost joyfully declared. "You do see, then, what she
is after!"

He didn't intend to let Betty see what he saw, if that were now
possible. "She's after Karen, of course; but why not? It's a jealous and
exacting affection, that is evident; but as long as Karen cares to
satisfy it I'm quite pleased that she should. I can't declare war on
Madame von Marwitz, Betty, even if I wanted to. Because, if she is fond
of Karen, Karen is ten times fonder of her."

"Expose her to Karen!" Betty magnificently urged. "You can I'm sure.
You're been seeing things more and more clearly, just as I have; you've
been seeing that Madame von Marwitz, as far as her character goes, is a
fraud. Trip her up. Have things out. Gregory, I warn you, she's a
dangerous woman, and Karen is a very simple one."

"But that's just it, my dear Betty. If Karen is too simple to see, now,
that she's dangerous, how shall I make her look so? It's I who'll look
the jealous idiot Mrs. Forrester thinks me," Gregory half mused to
himself. "And, besides, I really don't know that I should want to trip
her up. I don't know that I should like to have Karen disillusioned.
She's a fraud if you like, and Karen, as I say, is ten times fonder of
her than she is of Karen; but she is fond of Karen; I do believe that.
And she has been a fairy-godmother to her. And they have been through
all sorts of things together. No; their relationship is one that has its
rights. I see it, and I intend to make Madame von Marwitz feel that I
see it. So that my only plan is to go on being suave and acquiescent."

"Well; you may have to sacrifice me, then. Karen is indignant with me, I
warn you."

"I'm a resourceful person, Betty. I shan't sacrifice you. And you must
be patient with Karen."

Betty, who had risen, stood for a moment looking at the Bouddha.
"Patient? I should think so. She is the one I'm sorriest for. Are you
going to keep that ridiculous thing in here permanently, Gregory?"

"It's symbolic, isn't it?" said Gregory. "It will stay here, I suppose,
as long as Madame von Marwitz and Karen go on caring for each other.
With all my griefs and suspicions I hope that the Bouddha is a fixture."

He felt, after Betty had gone, that he had burned a good many of his
boats in thus making her, to some extent, his confidant. He had
confessed that he had griefs and suspicions, and that, in itself, was to
involve still further his relation to his wife. But he had kept from
Betty how grave were his grounds for suspicion. The bearing away of
Karen to the ducal week-end wasn't really, in itself, so alarming an
incident; but, as a sequel to Madame von Marwitz's parting declaration
of the other evening, her supremely insolent, "I must see what I can
do," it became sinister and affected him like the sound of a second,
more prolonged, more reverberating clash upon the gong. To submit was to
show himself in Madame von Marwitz's eyes as contemptibly supine; to
protest was to appear in Karen's as meanly petty.

His reflections were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone and
when he went to it Karen's voice told him that she was spending the
evening with Tante, who was ill, and that she would not be back till
ten. Something chill and authoritative in the tones affected him
unpleasantly. Karen considered that she had a grievance and perhaps
suspected him of being its cause. After all, he thought, hanging up the
receiver with some abruptness, there was such a thing as being too
simple. One had, indeed, to be very patient with her. And one thing he
promised himself whatever came of it; he wasn't going to sacrifice Betty
by one jot or tittle to his duel with Madame von Marwitz.

It was past ten when Karen returned and his mood of latent hostility
melted when he saw how tired she looked and how unhappy. She, too, had
steeled herself in advance against something that she expected to find
in him and he was thankful to feel that she wouldn't find it. She was to
find him suave and acquiescent; he would consent without a murmur to
Madame von Marwitz's plan for the week-end.

"Darling, I'm so sorry that she's ill, your guardian," he said, taking
her hat and coat from her as she sank wearily on the sofa. "How is she

She looked up at him in the rosy light of the electric lamps and her
face showed no temporizing recognitions or gratitudes. "Gregory," she
said abruptly, "do you mind--does it displease you--if I go with Tante
next Saturday to stay with some friends of hers?"

"Mind? Why should I?" said Gregory, standing before her with his hands
in his pockets. "I'd rather have you here, of course. I've been feeling
a little deserted lately. But I want you to do anything that gives you

She studied him. "Betty thought it a wrong thing for me to do. She hurt
Tante's feelings deeply this afternoon. She spoke as if she had some
authority to come between you and me and between me and Tante. I am very
much displeased with her," said Karen, with her strangely mature

The moment had come, decisively, not to sacrifice Betty. "Betty sees
things more conventionally and perhaps more wisely," he said, "than you
or I--or Madame von Marwitz, even, perhaps. She feels a sense of
responsibility towards you--and towards me. Anything she said she meant
kindly, I'm sure."

Karen listened carefully as though mastering herself. "Responsibility
towards me? Why should she? I feel none towards her."

"But, my dear child, that wouldn't be in your place," he could not
control the ironic note. "You are a younger woman and a much more
inexperienced one. It's merely as if you'd married into a family where
there was an elder sister to look after you."

Karen's eyes dwelt on him and her face was cold, rocky. "Do you forget,
as she does, that I have still with me a person who, for years, has
looked after me, a person older still and more experienced still than
the little Betty? I don't need any guidance from your sister; for I have
my guardian to tell me, as she always has, what is best for me to do. It
is impertinent of Betty to imagine that she has any right to interfere.
And she was more than impertinent. I had not wished to tell you; but you
must understand that Betty has been insolent."

"Come, Karen; don't use such unsuitable words. Hasty perhaps; not
insolent. Betty herself has told me all about it."

A steely penetration came to Karen's eyes. "She has told you? She has
been here?"


"She complained of Tante to you?"

"She thinks her wrong."

"And you; you think her wrong?"

Gregory paused and looked at the young girl on the sofa, his wife. There
was that in her attitude, exhausted yet unappealing, in her face, weary
yet implacable, which, while it made her seem pitiful to him, made her
also almost a stranger; this armed hostility towards himself, who loved
her, this quickness of resentment, this cold assurance of right. He
could understand and pity; but he, too, was tired and overwrought. What
had he done to deserve such a look and such a tone from her except
endure, with unexampled patience, the pressure upon his life, soft,
unremitting, sinister, of something hateful to him and menacing to their
happiness? What, above all, was his place in this deep but narrow young
heart? It seemed filled with but one absorbing preoccupation, one
passion of devotion.

He turned from her and went to the mantelpiece, and shifting the vases
upon it as he spoke, remembering with a bitter upper layer of
consciousness how Madame von Marwitz's blighting gaze had rested upon
these ornaments in her first visit;--"I'm not going to discuss your
guardian with you, Karen," he said; "I haven't said that I thought her
wrong. I've consented that you should do as she wishes. You have no
right to ask anything more of me. I certainly am not going to be forced
by you into saying that I think Betty wrong. If you are not unfair to
Betty you are certainly most unfair to me and it seems to me that it is
your tendency to be fair to one person only. I'm in no danger of
forgetting her control and guidance of your life, I assure you. If you
were to let me forget it, she wouldn't. She is showing me now--after
telling me the other night what she thought of my _monde_--how she
controls you. It's very natural of her, no doubt, and very natural of
you to feel her right; and I submit. So that you have no ground of
grievance against me." He turned to her again. "And now I think you had
better go to bed. You look very tired. I've some work to get through, so
I'll say good-night to you, Karen dear."

She rose with a curious automatic obedience, and, coming to him, lifted
her forehead, like a child, for his kiss. Her face showed, perhaps, a
bleak wonder, but it showed no softness. She might be bewildered by this
sudden change in their relation, but she was not weakened. She went
away, softly closing the door behind her.

In their room, Karen stood for a moment before undressing and looked
about her. Something had happened, and though she could not clearly see
what it was it seemed to have altered the aspect of everything, so that
this pretty room, full of light and comfort, was strange to her. She
felt an alien in it; and as she looked round it she thought of how her
little room at Les Solitudes where, with such an untroubled heart, she
had slept and waked for so many years.

Three large photographs of Tante hung on the walls, and their eyes met
hers as if with an unfaltering love and comprehension. And on the
dressing-table was a photograph of Gregory; the new thing in her life;
the thing that menaced the old. She went and took it up, and Gregory's
face, too, was suddenly strange to her; cold, hard, sardonic. She
wondered, gazing at it, that she had never seen before how cold and hard
it was. Quickly undressing she lay down and closed her eyes. A
succession of images passed with processional steadiness before her
mind; the carriage in the Forest of Fontainebleau and Tante in it
looking at her; Tante in the hotel at Fontainebleau, her arm around the
little waif, saying: "But it is a Norse child; her name and her hair and
her eyes;" Tante's dreadful face as she tottered back to Karen's arms
from the sight at the lake-edge; Tante that evening lying white and
sombre on her pillows with eyelids pressed down as if on tears, saying:
"Do they wish to take my child, too, from me?"

Then came the other face, the new face; like a sword; thrusting among
the sacred visions. Consciously she saw her husband's face now, as she
had often, with a half wilful unconsciousness, seen it, looking at
Tante--ah, a fierce resentment flamed up in her at last with the
unavoidable clearness of her vision--looking at Tante with a courteous
blankness that cloaked hostility; with cold curiosity; with mastered
irony, suspicion, dislike. He was, then, a man not generous, not large
and wise of heart, a man without the loving humour that would have
enabled him to see past the defects and flaws of greatness, nor with the
heart and mind to recognize and love it when he saw it. He was petty,
too, and narrow, and arrogantly sure of his own small measures. Her
memories heaped themselves into the overwhelming realisation. She was
married to a man who was hostile to what--until he had come--had been
the dearest thing in her life. She had taken to her heart something that
killed its very pulse. How could she love a man who looked such things
at Tante--who thought such things of Tante? How love him without
disloyalty to the older tie? Already her forbearance, her hiding from
him of her fear, had been disloyalty, a cowardly acquiescence in
something that, from the first hint of it, she should openly have
rebelled against. Slow flames of shame and anger burned her. How could
she not hate him? But how could she not love him? He was part of her
life, as unquestionably, as indissolubly, as Tante.

Then, the visions crumbling, the flames falling, a chaos of mere feeling
overwhelmed her. It was as though her blood were running backward,
knotting itself in clots of darkness and agony. He had sent her away
unlovingly--punishing her for her fidelity. Her love for Tante destroyed
his love for her. He must have known her pain; yet he could speak like
that to her; look like that. The tears rose to her eyes and rolled down
her cheeks as she lay straightly in the bed, on her back, the clothes
drawn to her throat, her hands clasped tightly on her breast. Hours had
passed and here she lay alone.

Hours had passed and she heard at last his careful step along the
passage, and the shock of it tingled through her with a renewal of fear
and irrepressible joy. He opened, carefully, the dressing-room door. She
listened, stilling her breaths.

He would come to her. They would speak together. He would not leave her
when she was so unhappy. Even the thought of Tante's wrongs was effaced
by the fear and yearning, and, as the bedroom door opened and Gregory
came in, her heart seemed to lift and dissolve in a throb of relief and

But, with her joy, the thought of Tante hovered like a heavy darkness
above her eyes, keeping them closed. She lay still, ashamed of so much
gladness, yet knowing that if he took her in his arms her arms could but
close about him.

The stillness deceived Gregory. In the dim light from the dressing-room
he saw her, as he thought, sleeping placidly, her broad braids lying
along the sheet.

He looked at her for a moment. Then, not stooping to her, he turned


If only, Gregory often felt, in thinking it over and over in the days of
outer unity and inner estrangement that followed, she had not been able
to go to sleep so placidly.

All resentment had faded from his heart when he went in to her. He had
longed for reconciliation and for reassurance. But as he had looked at
the seeming calm of Karen's face his tenderness and compunction passed
into a bitter consciousness of frustrated love. Her calm was like a
repulse. Their personal estrangement and misunderstanding left her
unmoved. She had said what she had to say to him; she had vindicated her
guardian; and now she slept, unmindful of him. He asked himself, and for
the first time clearly and steadily, as he lay awake for hours
afterwards in the little dressing-room bed, whether Karen's feelings for
him passed beyond a faithful, sober affection that took him for granted,
unhesitatingly and uncritically, as a new asset in a life dedicated
elsewhere. Romance for her was personified in Tante, and her husband was
a creature of mere kindly domesticity. It was to think too bitterly of
Karen's love for him to see it thus, he knew, even while the torment
grasped him; but the pressure of his own love for her, the loveliness,
the romance that she so supremely personified for him, surged too
strongly against the barrier of her mute, unanswering face, for him to
feel temperately and weigh fairly. There was a lack in her, and because
of it she hurt him thus cruelly.

They met next morning over a mutual misinterpretation, and, with a sense
of mingled discord and relief, found themselves kissing and smiling as
if nothing had happened. Pride sustained them; the hope that, since the
other seemed so unconscious, a hurt dealt so unconsciously need not, for
pride's sake, be resented; the fear that explanation or protest might
emphasise estrangement. The easiest thing to do was to go on acting as
if nothing had happened. Karen poured out his coffee and questioned him
about the latest political news. He helped her to eggs and bacon and
took an interest in her letters.

And since it was easiest to begin so, it was easiest so to go on. The
routine of their shared life blurred for them the sharp realisations of
the night. But while the fact that such suffering had come to them was
one that could, perhaps, be lived down, the fact that they did not speak
of it spread through all their life with a strange, new savour.

Karen went to her ducal week-end; but she did not, when she came back
from it, regale her husband with her usual wealth of detailed
description. She could no longer assume the air of happy confidence
where Tante and her doings with Tante were concerned. That air of
determined cheerfulness, that pretence that nothing was really the
matter and that Tante and Gregory were bound to get on together if she
took it for granted that they would, had broken down. There was relief
for Gregory, though relief of a chill, grey order, in seeing that Karen
had accepted the fact that he and Tante were not to get on. Yet he
smarted from the new sense of being shut out from her life.

It was he who assumed the air; he who pretended that nothing was the
matter. He questioned her genially about the visit, and Karen answered
all his questions as genially. Yes; it had been very nice; the great
house sometimes very beautiful and sometimes very ugly; the beauty
seemed, in a funny way, almost as accidental as the ugliness. The people
had been very interesting to look at; so many slender pretty women;
there were no fat women and no ugly women at all, or, if they were, they
contrived not to look it. It all seemed perfectly arranged.

Had she talked to many of them? Gregory asked. Had she come across
anybody she liked? Karen shook her head. She had liked them all--to look
at--but it had gone no further than that; she had talked very little
with any of them; and, soberly, unemphatically, she had added: "They
were all too much occupied with Tante--or with each other--to think much
of me. I was the only one not slender and not beautiful!"

Gregory asked who had taken her in to dinner on the two nights, and
masked ironic inner comments when he heard that on Saturday it had been
a young actor who, she thought, had been a little cross at having her as
his portion. "He didn't try to talk to me; nor I to him, when I found
that he was cross," she said. "I didn't like him at all. He had fat
cheeks and very shrewd black eyes." On Sunday it had been a young son of
the house, a boy at Eton. "Very, very dear and nice. We had a great talk
about climbing Swiss mountains, which I have done a good deal, you

Tante, it appeared, had had the ambassador on Saturday and the Duke
himself on Sunday. And she and Tante, as usual, had had great fun in
their own rooms every night, talking everybody over when the day was
done. Karen said nothing to emphasise the contrast between the duke's
friends and Gregory's, but she couldn't have failed to draw her
comparison. Here was a _monde_ where Tante was fully appreciated. That
she herself had not been was not a matter to engage her thoughts. But it
engaged Gregory's. The position in which she had been placed was a
further proof to him of Tante's lack of consideration. Where Karen was
placed depended, precisely, he felt sure of it, on where Madame von
Marwitz wished her to be placed. It was as the little camp-follower that
she had taken her.

After this event came a pause in the fortunes of our young couple.
Madame von Marwitz, with Mrs. Forrester, went to Paris to give her two
concerts there and was gone for a fortnight. In this fortnight he and
Karen resumed, though warily, as it were, some old customs. They read
their political economy again in the evenings when they did not go out,
and he found her at tea-time waiting for him as she had used to do. She
shared his life; she was gentle and thoughtful; yet she had never been
less near. He felt that she guarded herself against admissions. To come
near now would be to grant that it had been Tante's presence that had
parted them.

She wrote to Madame von Marwitz, and heard from her, constantly. Madame
von Marwitz sent her presents from Paris; a wonderful white silk
dressing-gown; a box of chocolate; a charming bit of old enamel picked
up in a _rive gauche_ curiosity shop. Then one day she wrote to say that
Tallie had been quite ill--_povera vecchia_--and would Karen be a kind,
kind child and run down and see her at Les Solitudes.

Gregory had not forgotten the plan for having Mrs. Talcott with them
that winter and had reminded Karen of it, but it appeared then that she
had not forgotten, either; had indeed, spoken to Tante of it; but that
Tante had not seemed to think it a good plan. Tante said that Mrs.
Talcott did not like leaving Les Solitudes; and, moreover, that she
herself, might be going down there for the inside of a week at any
moment and Karen knew how Tallie would hate the idea of not being on the
spot to prepare for her. Let them postpone the idea of a visit; at all
events until she was no longer in England.

Gregory now suggested that Karen might bring Mrs. Talcott back with her.
There was some guile in the suggestion. Encircling this little oasis of
peace where he and Karen could, at all events, draw their breaths, were
storms and arid wastes. Madame von Marwitz would soon be back. She might
even be thinking of redeeming her promise of coming to stay with them.
If old Mrs. Talcott, slightly invalided, could be installed before the
great woman's return, she might keep her out for the rest of her stay in
London, and must, certainly, keep Karen in to a greater extent than when
she had no guest to entertain.

Karen could not suspect his motive; he saw that from her frank look of
pleasure. She promised to do her best. It was worth while, he reflected,
to lose her for a few days if she were to bring back such a bulwark as
Mrs. Talcott might prove herself to be. And, besides, he would be
sincerely glad to see the old woman. The thought of her gave him a sense
of comfort and security.

He saw Karen off next morning. She was to be at Les Solitudes for three
or four days, and on the second day of her stay he had his first letter
from her. It was strange to hear from her again, from Cornwall. It was
the first letter he had had from Karen since their marriage and, with
all its odd recalling of the girlish formality of tone, it was a sweet
one. She had found Mrs. Talcott much better, but still quite weak and
jaded, and very glad indeed to see her. And Mrs. Talcott really seemed
to think that she would like to get away. Karen believed that Mrs.
Talcott had actually been feeling lonely, uncharacteristic as that
seemed. She would probably bring her back on Saturday. The letter ended:
"My dear husband, your loving Karen."

Mrs. Talcott, therefore, was expected, and Mrs. Barker was told to make
ready for her.

But on Saturday morning, when Karen was starting, he had a wire from her
telling him that plans were altered and that she was coming back alone.

He went to meet her at Paddington, remembering the meeting when she had
come up after their engagement. It was a different Karen, a Karen furred
and finished and nearly elegant, who stepped from the train; but she
had, as then, her little basket with the knitting and the book; and the
girlish face was scarcely altered; there was even a preoccupation on it
that recalled still more vividly the former meeting at Paddington.
"Well, dearest, and why isn't Mrs. Talcott here, too?" were his first

Karen took his arm as he steered her towards the luggage. "It is only
put off, I hope, that visit," she said, "because I heard this morning,
Gregory, and wired to you then, that Tante asks if she may come to us
next week." Her voice was not artificial; it expressed determination as
well as gentleness and seemed to warn him that he must not show her if
he were not pleased. Yet duplicity, in his unpleasant surprise, was
difficult to assume.

"Really. At last. How nice," he said; and his voice rang oddly. "But
poor old Mrs. Talcott. Madame von Marwitz didn't know, I suppose," he
went on, "that we'd just been planning to have her?"

Karen, her arm still in his, stood looking over the heaped up luggage
and now pointed out her box to the porter. Then, as they turned away and
went towards their cab, she said, more gently and more determinedly:
"Yes; she did know we had planned it. I wrote and told her so, and that
is why she wrote back so quickly to ask if we could not put off Mrs.
Talcott for her; because she will be leaving London very soon and it
will be, this next week, her only chance of being with us. Mrs. Talcott
did not mind at all. I don't think she really wanted to come so much,
Gregory. It is as Tante says, you know," Karen settled herself in a
corner of the hansom, "she really does not like leaving Les Solitudes."

Gregory had the feeling of being enmeshed. Why had Madame von Marwitz
thrown this web? Had she really divined in a flash his hope and his
intention? Was there any truth in her sudden statement that this was the
only week she could give them? "Oh! Really," was all that he found to
say to Karen's explanations, and then, "Where is Madame von Marwitz
going when she leaves us then?"

"To the Riviera, with the Duchess of Bannister, I think it is arranged.
I may wire to her, then, Gregory, at once, and say that she is to come?"

"Of course. How long are we to have the pleasure of entertaining her?"

"She did not say; for a week at least, I hope. Perhaps, even, for a
fortnight if that will be convenient for you. It will be a great joy to
me," Karen went on, "if only"--she was speaking with that determined
steadiness, looking before her as they drove; now, suddenly, she turned
her eyes on him "if only you will try to enjoy it, too, Gregory."

It was, in a sense, a challenge, yet it was, too, almost an appeal, and
it brought them nearer than they had been for weeks.

Gregory's hand caught hers and, holding it tightly, smiling at her
rather tremulously, he said: "I enjoy anything, darling, that makes you

"Ah, but," said Karen, her voice keeping its earnest control, "I cannot
be happy with you and Tante unless you can enjoy her for yourself. Try
to know Tante, Gregory," she went on, now with a little breathlessness;
"she wants that so much. One of the first things she asked me when she
came back was that I should try to make you care for her. She felt at
once--and oh! so did I, Gregory--that something was not happy between

Her hand holding his tightly, her earnest eyes on his, Gregory felt his
blood turn a little cold as he recognized once more the soft,
unremitting pressure. It had begun, then, so early. She had asked Karen
that when she first came back. "But you see, dearest," he said, trying
to keep his head between realizations of Madame von Marwitz's craft and
Karen's candour, "I've never been able to feel that Madame von Marwitz
wanted me to care for her or to come in at all, as it were. I don't mean
anything unkind; only that I imagined that what she did ask of me was to
keep outside and leave your relation and hers alone. And that's what
I've tried to do."

"Oh, you mistake Tante, Gregory, you mistake her." Karen's hand grasped
his more tightly in the urgency of her opportunity. "She cared for me
too much--yes, it is there that you do not understand--to feel what you
think. For she knows that I cannot be happy while you shut yourself away
from her."

"Then it's not she who shuts me out?" he tried to smile.

"No; no; oh, no, Gregory."

"I must push in, even when I seem to feel I'm not wanted?"

She would not yield to his attempted lightness. "You mustn't push in;
you must be in; with us, with Tante and me."

"Do you mean literally? I'm to be a third at your _tête-à-têtes_?"

"No, Gregory, I do not mean that; but in thought, in sympathy. You will
try to know Tante. You will make her feel that you and I are not parted
when she is there."

She saw it all, all Tante's side, with a dreadful clearness. And it was
impossible that she should see what he did. He must submit to seeming
blurred and dull, to pretending not to see anything. At all events her
hand was in his. He felt able to face the duel at close quarters with
Madame von Marwitz as long as Karen let him keep her hand.


Tante arrived on Monday afternoon and the arrival reminded Gregory of
the Bouddha's installation; but, whereas the Bouddha had overflowed the
drawing-room only, Madame von Marwitz overflowed the flat.

A multitude of boxes were borne into the passages where, end to end,
like a good's train on a main line, they stood impeding traffic.

Louise, harassed and sallow, hurried from room to room, expostulating,
explaining, replying in shrill tones to Madame von Marwitz's sonorous
orders. Victor, led by Mrs. Forrester's footman, made his appearance
shortly after his mistress, and, set at large, penetrated unerringly to
the kitchen where he lapped up a dish of custard; while Mrs. Barker, in
the drawing-room, already with signs of resentment on her face, was
receiving minute directions from Madame von Marwitz in regard to a cup
of chocolate. In the dining-room, Gregory found two strange-looking men,
to whom Barker, also clouded, had served whisky and soda; one of these
was Madame von Marwitz's secretary, Schultz; the other a concert
impresario. They greeted Gregory with a disconcerting affability.

In the midst of the confusion Madame von Marwitz moved, weary and
benignant, her arm around Karen's shoulders, or seated herself at the
piano to run her fingers appraisingly over it in a majestic surge of
arpeggios. Gregory found her hat and veil tossed on the bed in his and
Karen's room, and when he went into his dressing-room he stumbled over
three band-boxes, just arrived from a modiste's, and hastily thrust
there by Louise.

Victor bounded to greet him as he sought refuge in the library, and
overturned a table that stood in the hall with two fine pieces of
oriental china upon it. The splintering crash of crockery filled the
flat. Mrs. Barker had taken the chocolate to the drawing-room some time
since, and Madame von Marwitz, the cup in her hand, appeared upon the
threshold with Karen. "Alas! The bad dog!" she said, surveying the
wreckage while she sipped her chocolate.

Rose was summoned to sweep up the pieces and Karen stooped over them
with murmured regret.

"Were they wedding-presents, my Karen?" Madame von Marwitz asked.
"Console yourself; they were not of a good period--I noticed them. I
will give you better."

The vases had belonged to Gregory's mother. He was aware that he stood
rather blankly looking at the fragments, as Rose collected them. "Oh,
Gregory, I am so sorry," said Karen, taking upon herself the
responsibility for Victor's mischance. "I am afraid they are broken to
bits. See, this is the largest piece of all. They can't be mended. No,
Tante, they were not wedding-presents; they belonged to Gregory and we
were very fond of them."

"Alas!" said Madame von Marwitz above her chocolate, and on a deeper

Gregory was convinced that she had known they were not wedding-presents.
But her manner was flawless and he saw that she intended to keep it so.
She dined with them alone and at the table addressed her talk to him,
fixing, as ill-luck would have it, on the theatre as her theme, and on
_La Gaine d'Or_ as the piece which, in Paris, had particularly
interested her. "You and Karen, of course, saw it when you were there,"
she said.

It was the piece of sinister fame to which he had refused to take Karen.
He owned that they had not seen it.

"Ah, but that is a pity, truly a pity," said Madame von Marwitz. "How
did it happen? You cannot have failed to hear of it."

Unable to plead Karen as the cause for his abstention since Madame von
Marwitz regretted that Karen had missed the piece, Gregory said that he
had heard too much perhaps. "I don't believe I should care for anything
the man wrote," he confessed.

"_Tiens!_" said Madame von Marwitz, opening her eyes. "You know him?"

"Heaven forbid!" Gregory ejaculated, smiling with some tartness.

"But why this rigour? What have you against M. Saumier?"

It was difficult for a young Englishman of conventional tastes to
formulate what he had against M. Saumier. Gregory took refuge in
evasions. "Oh, I've glanced at reviews of his plays; seen his face in
illustrated papers. One gets an idea of a man's personality and the kind
of thing he's likely to write."

"A great artist," Madame von Marwitz mildly suggested. "One of our

"Is he really? I'd hardly grasped that. I had an idea that he was merely
one of the clever lot. But I never can see why one should put oneself,
through a man's art, into contact with the sort of person one would
avoid having anything to do with in life."

Madame von Marwitz listened attentively. "Do you refuse to look at a
Cellini bronze?"

"Literature is different, isn't it? It's more personal. There's more
life in it. If a man's a low fellow I don't interest myself in his
interpretation of life. He's seen nothing that I'm likely to want to

Madame von Marwitz smiled, now with a touch of irony. "But you frighten
me. How am I to tell you that I know M. Saumier?"

Gregory was decidedly taken back. "That's a penalty you have to pay for
being a celebrity, no doubt," he said. "All celebrities know each other,
I suppose."

"By no means. I allow no one to be thrust upon me, I assure you. And I
have the greatest admiration for M. Saumier's talent. A great artist
cannot be a low fellow; if he were one he would be so much more than
that that the social defect would be negligible. Few great artists, I
imagine, have been of such a character as would win the approval of a
garden party at Lambeth Palace. I am sorry, indeed sorry, that you and
Karen missed _La Gaine d'Or_. It is not a play for the _jeune fille_;
no; though, holding as I do that nothing so fortifies and arms the taste
as liberty, I should have allowed Karen to see it even before her
marriage. It is a play cruel and acrid and beautiful. Yes; there is
great beauty, and it flowers, as so often, on a bitter root. Ah, well,
you will waive your scruples now, I trust. I will take Karen with me to
see it when we are next in Paris together, and that must be soon. We
will go for a night or two. You would like to see Paris with me again;
_pas vrai, chérie?_"

Gregory had been uncomfortably aware of Karen's contemplation while he
defended his prejudices, and he was prepared for an open espousal of her
guardian's point of view; it was, he knew, her own. But he received once
more, as he had received already on several occasions, an unexpected and
gratifying proof of Karen's recognition of marital responsibility. "I
should like to be in Paris with you again, Tante," she said, "but not to
go to that play. I agreed not to go to it when Gregory and I were there.
I should not care to go when he so much dislikes it." Her eyes met her
guardian's while she spoke. They were gentle and non-committal; they
gave Gregory no cause for triumph, nor Tante for humiliation; they
expressed merely her own recognition of a bond.

Madame von Marwitz rose to the occasion, but--oh, it was there, the soft
pressure, never more present to Gregory's consciousness than when it
seemed most absent--she rose too emphatically, as if to a need. Her eyes
mused on the girl's face, tenderly brooded and understood. And Karen's
voice and look had asked her not to understand.

"Ah, that is right; that is a wife," she murmured. "Though, believe me,
_chérie_, I did not know that I was so transgressing." And turning her
glance on Gregory, "_Je vous fais mes compliments_," she added.

Karen said that he must bring his cigar into the drawing-room, for Tante
would smoke her cigarette with him, and there, until bedtime, things
went as well as they had at dinner--or as badly; for part of their
badness, Gregory more and more resentfully became aware, was that they
were made to seem to go well, from her side, not from his.

She had a genius, veritably uncanny for, with all sweetness and
hesitancy, revealing him as stiff and unresponsively complacent. It was
impossible for him to talk freely with a person uncongenial to him of
the things he felt deeply; and, pertinaciously, over her coffee and
cigarettes, it was the deep things that she softly wooed him to share
with her.

He might be stiff and stupid, but he flattered himself that he wasn't
once short or sharp--as he would have been over and over again with any
other woman who so bothered him. And he was sincerely unaware that his
courtesy, in its dry evasiveness, was more repudiating than rudeness.

When Karen went with her guardian to her room that night, the little
room that looked so choked and overcrowded with the great woman's
multiplied necessities, Madame von Marwitz, sinking on the sofa, drew
her to her and looked closely at her, with an intentness almost tragic,
tenderly smoothing back her hair.

Karen looked back at her very firmly.

"Tell me, my child," Madame von Marwitz said, as if, suddenly, taking
refuge in the inessential from the pressure of her own thoughts, "how
did you find our Tallie? I have not heard of that from you yet."

"She is looking rather pale and thin, Tante; but she is quite well
again; already she will go out into the garden," Karen answered, with,
perhaps, an evident relief.

"That is well," said Madame von Marwitz with quiet satisfaction. "That
is well. I cannot think of Tallie as ill. She is never ill. It is
perhaps the peaceful, happy life she leads--_povera_--that preserves
her. And the air, the wonderful air of our Cornwall. I fixed on Cornwall
for the sake of Tallie, in great part; I sought for a truly halcyon spot
where that faithful one might end her days in joy. You knew that,

"No, Tante; you never told me that."

"It is so," Madame von Marwitz continued to muse, her eyes on the fire,
"It is so. I have given great thought to my Tallie's happiness. She has
earned it." And after a moment, in the same quiet tone, she went on.
"This idea of yours, my Karen, of bringing Tallie up to town; was it
wise, do you think?"

Karen, also, had been looking at the flames. She brought her eyes now
back to her guardian. "Wasn't it wise, Tante? We had asked her to come
and stay--long ago, you know."

"Had she seemed eager?"

"Eager? No; I can't imagine Mrs. Talcott eager about anything. We hoped
we could persuade her, that was all. Why not wise, Tante?"

"Only, my child, that after the quiet life there, the solitude that she
loves and that I chose for her sake, the pure sea air and the life among
her flowers, London, I fear, would much weary and fatigue her. Tallie is
getting old. We must not forget that Tallie is very old. This illness
warns us. It does not seem to me a good plan. It was your plan, Karen?"

Karen was listening, with a little bewilderment. "It seemed, to me very
good. I had not thought of Mrs. Talcott as so old as that. I always
think of her as old, but so strong and tough. It was Gregory who
suggested it, in the first place, and this time, too. When I told him
that I was going he thought of our plan at once and told me that now I
must persuade her to come to us for a good long visit. He is really very
fond of Mrs. Talcott, Tante, and she of him, I think. It would please
you to see them together."

Karen spoke on innocently; but, as she spoke, she became aware from a
new steadiness in her guardian's look, that her words had conveyed some
significance of which she was herself unconscious.

Madame von Marwitz's hand had tightened on hers. "Ah," she said after a
moment. She looked away.

"What is it, Tante?" Karen asked.

Madame von Marwitz had begun to draw deep, slow breaths. Karen knew the
sound; it meant a painful control. "Tante, what is it?" she repeated.

"Nothing. Nothing, my child." Madame von Marwitz laid her arm around
Karen's shoulders and continued to look away from her.

"But it isn't nothing," said Karen, after a little pause. "Something
that I have said troubles or hurts you."

"Is it so? Perhaps you say the truth, my child. Hurts are not new to me.
No, my Karen, no. It is nothing for us to speak of. I understand. But
your husband, Karen, he must have found it thoughtless in me,
indelicate, to force myself in when he had hoped so strongly for another

A slow flush mounted to Karen's cheek. She kept silence for a moment,
then in a careful voice she said: "No, Tante; I do not believe that."

"No?" said Madame von Marwitz. "No, my Karen?"

"He knew, on the contrary, that I hoped to have you soon--at any time
that you could come," said Karen, in slightly trembling tones.

Madame von Marwitz nodded. "He knew that, as you tell me; and, knowing
it, he asked Tallie; hoping that with her installed--for a long
visit--my stay might be prevented. Do not let us hide from each other,
my Karen. We have hidden too long and it is the beginning of the end if
we may not say to each other what we see."

Sitting with downcast eyes, Karen was silent, struggling perhaps with
new realisations.

Madame von Marwitz bent to kiss her forehead and then, resuming the
tender stroking of her hair, she went on: "Your husband dislikes me. Let
us look the ugly thing full in the face. You know it, and I know it,
and--_parbleu!_--he knows it well. There; the truth is out. Ah, the
brave little heart; it sought to hide its sorrow from me. But Tante is
not so dull a person. The loneliness of heart must cease for you. And
the sorrow, too, may pass away. Be patient, Karen. You will see. He may
come to feel more kindly towards the woman who so loves his wife.
Strange, is it not, and a chastisement for my egotism, if I have still
any of that frothy element lingering in my nature, that I should find,
suddenly, at the end of my life--so near me, bound to me by such
ties--one who is unwilling to trust me, oh, for the least little bit; so
unwilling to accept me at merely my face value. Most people," she added,
"have loved me easily."

Karen sat on in silence. Her guardian knew this apathetic silence, and
that it was symptomatic in her of deep emotion. And, the contagion of
the suffering beside her gaining upon her, her own fictitious calm
wavered. She bent again to look into the girl's averted face. "Karen,
_chérie_," she said, and now with a quicker utterance; "it is not worse
than I yet realise? You do not hide something that I have not yet seen.
It is dislike; I accept it. It is aversion, even. But his love for you;
that is strong, sincere? He will not make it too difficult for me? I am
not wrong in coming here to be with my child?"

Karen at length turned her eyes on her guardian with a heavy look. "What
would you find too difficult?" she asked.

Madame von Marwitz hesitated slightly, taken aback. But she grasped in
an instant her advantage. "That by being here I should feel that I came
between you and your husband. That by being here I made it more
difficult for you."

"I should not be happier if you were away--if what you think is true,
should I?" said Karen.

"Yes, my child," Madame von Marwitz returned, and now almost with
severity. "You would. You would not so sharply feel your husband's
aversion for me if I were not here. You would not have it in your ears;
before your eyes."

"I thought that you talked together quite easily to-night," Karen
continued. "I saw, of course, that you did not understand each other;
but with time that might be. I thought that if you were here he would by
degrees come to know you, for he does not know you yet."

"We talked easily, did we not, my child, to shield you, and you were not
more deceived by the ease than he or I. He does not understand me? I
hope so indeed. But to say that I do not understand him shows already
your wish to shield him, and at my expense. I do understand him; too
well. And if there is this repugnance in him now, may it not grow with
the enforced intimacy? That is my fear, my dread."

"He has never said that he disliked you."

"Said it? To you? I should imagine not, _parbleu_!"

"He has only said," Karen pursued with a curious doggedness, "that he
did not feel that you cared for him to care."

"Ah! Is it so? You have talked of it, then? And he has said that? And
did you believe it? Of me?"

But the growing passion and urgency of her voice seemed to shut Karen
more closely in upon herself rather than sweep her into impulsive
confidence. There was a hot exasperation in Madame von Marwitz's eye as
it studied the averted, stubborn head. "No," was the reply she received.

"No, no, indeed. It was not the truth that he said to you and you know
that it was not the truth. Oh, I make no accusation against your
husband; he believed it the truth; but you cannot believe that I would
rest satisfied with what must make you unhappy. And how can you be happy
if your husband does not care for me? How can you be happy if he feels
repugnance for me? You cannot be. Is it not so? Or am I wrong?"

"No," Karen again repeated.

"Then," said Madame von Marwitz, and a sob now lifted her voice, "then
do not let him put it upon me. Not that! Oh promise me, my Karen! For
that would be the end."

Karen turned to her suddenly, and passed her arms around her.
"Tante--Tante," she said; "what are you saying? The end? There could not
be an end for us! Do not speak so. Do not. Do not." She was trembling.

"Ah--could there not! Could there not!" With the words Madame von
Marwitz broke into violent sobs. "Has it not been my doom,
always--always to have what I love taken from me! You love this man who
hates me! You defend him! He will part you from me! I foresee it! From
the first it has been my dread!"

"No one can ever part us, Tante. No one. Ever." Karen whispered, holding
her tightly, and her face, bending above the sobbing woman, was suddenly
old and stricken in its tormented and almost maternal love. "Tante;
remember your own words. You gave me courage. Will you not be patient?
For my sake? Be patient, Tante. Be patient. He does not know you yet."


Gregory heard no word of the revealing talk; yet, when he and Karen were
alone, he was aware of a new chill, or a new discretion, in the
atmosphere. It was as if a veil of ice, invisible yet impassable, hung
between them, and he could only infer that she had something to hide, he
could only suspect, with a bitterer resentment, that Madame von Marwitz
had been more directly exerting her pressure.

The pressure, whatever it had been, had the effect of making Karen, when
they were all three confronted, more calm, more mildly cheerful than
before, more than ever the fond wife who did not even suspect that a
flaw might be imagined in her happiness.

Gregory had an idea--his only comfort in this sorry maze where he found
himself so involved--that this attitude of Karen's, combined with his
own undeviating consideration, had a disconcerting effect upon Madame
von Marwitz and at moments induced her to show her weapon too openly in
their wary duel. If he ever betrayed his dislike Karen must see that it
was Tante who wouldn't allow him to conceal it, who, sorrowfully and
gently, turned herself about in the light she elicited and displayed
herself to Karen as rejected and uncomplaining. He hoped that Karen saw
it. But he could be sure of nothing that Karen saw. The flawless loyalty
of her outward bearing might be but the shield for a deepening hurt. All
that he could do was what, in former days and in different conditions,
Mrs. Talcott had advised him to do; "hang on," and parry Madame von
Marwitz's thrusts. She had come, he more and more felt sure of it, urged
by her itching jealousy, for the purpose of making mischief; and if it
was not a motive of which she was conscious, that made her but the more
dangerous with her deep, instinctive craft.

Meanwhile if there were fundamental anxieties to fret one's heart, there
were superficial irritations that abraded one's nerves.

Karen was accustomed to the turmoil that surrounded the guarded shrine
where genius slept or worked, too much accustomed, without doubt, to
realise its effect upon her husband.

The electric bells were never silent. Seated figures, bearing band-boxes
or rolls of music, filled the hall at all hours of the day and night.
Alert interviewers button-holed him on his way in and out and asked for
a few details about Mrs. Jardine's youth, and her relationship to Madame

Madame von Marwitz rose capriciously and ate capriciously; trays with
strange meals upon them were carried at strange hours to her rooms, and
Barker, Mrs. Barker and Rose all quarrelled with Louise.

Madame von Marwitz also showed oddities of temper which, with all her
determination to appear at her best, it did not occur to her to control,
oddities that met, from Karen, with a fond tolerance.

It startled Gregory when they saw Madame von Marwitz, emerging from her
room, administer two smart boxes upon Louise's ears, remarking as she
did so, with gravity rather than anger: "_Voilà pour toi, ma fille._"

"Is Madame von Marwitz in the habit of slapping her servants?" he asked
Karen in their room, aware that his frigid mien required justification.

She looked at him through the veil of ice. "Tante's servants adore her."

"Well, it seems a pity to take such an advantage of their adoration."

"Louise is sometimes very clumsy and impertinent."

"I can't help thinking that that sort of treatment makes servants

"I do not care to hear your criticism of my guardian, Gregory."

"I beg your pardon," said Gregory.

Betty Jardine met him on a windy April evening in Queen Anne's Gate. "I
see that you had to sacrifice me, Gregory," she said. She smiled; she
bore no grudge; but her smile was tinged with a shrewd pity.

He felt that he flushed. "You mean that you've not been to see us since
the occasion."

"I've not been asked!" Betty laughed.

"Madame von Marwitz is with us, you know," Gregory proffered rather

"Yes; I do know. How do you like having a genius domiciled? I hear that
she is introducing Karen into a very artistic set. After the Bannisters,
Mr. Claude Drew. He is back from America at last, it seems, and is an
assiduous adorer. You have seen a good deal of him?"

"I haven't seen him at all. Has he been back for long?"

"Four or five days only, I believe; but I don't know how often he and
Madame von Marwitz and Karen have been seen together. Don't think me a
cat, Gregory; but if she is engaged in a flirtation with that most
unpleasant young man I hope you will see to it that Karen isn't used as
a screen. There have been some really horrid stories about him, you

Gregory parted from his sister-in-law, perturbed. Indiscreet and naughty
she might be, but Betty was not a cat. The veil of ice was so
impenetrable that no sound of Karen's daily life came to him through it.
He had not an idea of what she did with herself when he wasn't there,
or, rather, of what Madame von Marwitz did with her.

"You've been seeing something of Mr. Claude Drew, I hear," he said to
Karen that evening. "Do you like him better than you used to do?" They
were in the drawing-room before dinner and dinner had been, as usual,
waiting for half an hour for Madame von Marwitz.

Gregory's voice betrayed more than a kindly interest, and Karen answered
coldly, if without suspicion; "No; I do not like him better. But Tante
likes him. It is not I who see him, it is Tante. I am only with them

"And I? Am I to be with them sometimes?" Gregory inquired with an air of

"If you will come back to tea to-morrow, Gregory," she answered gravely,
"you will meet him. He comes to tea then."

For the last few days Gregory had fallen into the habit of only getting
back in time for dinner. "You know it's only because I usually find that
you've gone out with your guardian that I haven't come back in time for
tea," he observed.

"I know," Karen returned, without aggressiveness. "And so, to-morrow,
you will find us if you come."

He got back at tea-time next day, expecting to make a fourth only of the
small group; but, on his way to the drawing-room, he paused, arrested,
in the hall, where a collection of the oddest looking hats and coats he
had ever seen were piled and hung.

One of the hats was a large, discoloured, cream-coloured felt, much
battered, with its brown band awry; one was of the type of flat-brimmed
silk, known in Paris as the _Latin Quartier_; another was an enormous
sombrero. Gregory stood frowning at these strange signs somewhat as if
they had been a drove of cockroaches. He had, as never yet before, the
sense of an alien and offensive invasion of his home, and an old, almost
forgotten disquiet smote upon him in the thought that what to him was
strange was to Karen normal. This was her life and she had never really
entered his.

In the drawing-room, he paused again at the door, and looked over the
company assembled under the Bouddha's smile. Madame von Marwitz was its
centre; pearl-wreathed, silken and silver, she leaned opulently on the
cushions of the sofa where she sat, and Karen at the tea-table seemed
curiously to have relapsed into the background place where he had first
found her. She was watching, with her old contented placidity, a scene
in which she had little part. No, mercifully, though in it she was not
of it. This was Gregory's relieving thought as his eye ran over them,
the women with powdered faces and extravagant clothes and the men with
the oddest collars and boots and hair. "Shoddy Bohemians," was his terse
definition of them; an inaccurate definition; for though, in the main,
Bohemians, they were not, in the main, shoddy.

Belot was there, with his massive head and sagacious eyes; and a famous
actress, ugly, thin, with a long, slightly crooked face, tinted hair,
and the melancholy, mysterious eyes of a llama. Claude Drew, at a little
table behind Madame von Marwitz, negligently turned the leaves of a
book. Lady Rose Harding, the only one of the company with whom Gregory
felt an affinity, though a dubious one, talked to the French actress and
to Madame von Marwitz. Lady Rose had ridden across deserts on camels,
and sketched strange Asiatic mountains, and paid a pilgrimage to
Tolstoi, and written books on all these exploits; and she had been to
the Adirondacks that summer with the Aspreys and Madame von Marwitz, and
was now writing a book on that. In a corner a vast, though youthful,
German Jew, with finely crisped red-gold hair, large lips and small,
kind eyes blinking near-sightedly behind gold-rimmed spectacles, sat
with another young man, his hands on his widely parted knees, in an
attitude suggesting a capacity to cope with the most unwieldy
instruments of an orchestra; his companion, black and emaciated, talked
in German, with violent gestures and a strange accent, jerking
constantly a lock of hair out of his eyes. A squat, fat little woman,
bundled up, clasping her knees with her joined hands, sat on a footstool
at Madame von Marwitz's feet, gazing at her and listening to her with a
smile of obsequious attention, and now and then, suddenly, and as if
irrelevantly, breaking into a jubilant laugh. Her dusty hair looked as
though, like the White Queen's, a comb and brush might be entangled in
its masses; the low cut neck of her bodice displayed a ruddy throat
wreathed in many strings of dirty seed-pearls, and her grey satin dress
was garnished with dirty lace.

Gregory had stood for an appreciable moment at the door surveying the
scene, before either Karen or her guardian saw him, and it was then the
latter who did the honours of the occasion, naming him to the bundled
lady, who was an English poetess, and to Mlle. Suzanne Mauret, the
French actress. The inky-locked youth turned out to be a famous Russian
violinist, and the vast young German Jew none other than Herr Franz
Lippheim, to whom--this was the fact that at once, violently, engaged
Gregory's attention--Madame von Marwitz had destined Karen.

Franz Lippheim, after Gregory had spoken to everybody and when he at
last was introduced, sprang to his feet and came forward, beaming so
intently from behind his spectacles that Gregory, fearing that he might,
conceivably, be about to kiss him, made an involuntary gesture of
withdrawal. But Herr Lippheim, all unaware, grasped his hand the more
vigorously. "Our little Karen's husband!" "Unserer kleinen Karen's
Mann!" he uttered in a deeply moved German.

In the driest of tones Gregory asked Karen for some tea, and while he
stood above her Herr Lippheim's beam continued to include them both.

"Sit down here, Franz, near me," said Karen. She, too, had smiled
joyously as Herr Lippheim greeted her husband. The expression of her
face now had changed.

Herr Lippheim obeyed, placing, as before, his hands on his knees, the
elbows turned outward, and contemplating Karen's husband with a gaze
that might have softened a heart less steeled than Gregory's.

This, then, was Madame von Marwitz's next move; her next experiment in
seeing what she could "do." Was not Herr Lippheim a taunt? And with what
did he so unpleasantly associate the name of the French actress? The
link clicked suddenly. _La Gaine d'Or_, in its veiling French, was about
to be produced in London, and it was Mlle. Mauret who had created the
heroine's role in Paris. These were the people by means of whom Madame
von Marwitz displayed her power over Karen's life;--a depraved woman (he
knew and cared nothing about Mlle. Mauret's private morality; she was
the more repulsive to him if her morals weren't bad; only a woman of no
morals should be capable of acting in _La Gaine d'Or_;) that impudent
puppy Drew, and this preposterous young man who addressed Karen by her
Christian name and included himself in his inappropriate enthusiasm.

He drank his tea, standing in silence by Karen's side, and avoiding all
encounter with Herr Lippheim's genial eyes.

"It is like old times, isn't it, Franz?" said Karen, ignoring her
husband and addressing her former suitor. "It has been--oh, years--since
I have heard such talk. Tante needs all of you, really, to draw her out.
She has been wonderful this afternoon, hasn't she?"

"_Ah, kolossal!_" said Herr Lippheim, making no gesture, but expressing
the depths of his appreciation by an emphasized solemnity of gaze.

"You are right, I think, and so does Tante, evidently," Karen continued,
"about the _tempo rubato_ in the Mozart. It is strange that Monsieur
Ivanowski doesn't feel it."

"Ah! but that is it, he does feel it; it is only that he does not think
it," said Herr Lippheim, now running his fingers through his hair. "Hear
him play the Mozart. He then contradicts in his music all that his words
have said."

But though Karen talked so pointedly to him, Herr Lippheim could not
keep his eyes or his thoughts from Gregory. "You are a musician, too,
Mr. Jardine?" he smiled, bending forward, blinking up through his
glasses and laboriously carving out his excellent English. "You do not
express, but you have the soul of an artist? Or perhaps you, too, play,
like our Karen here."

"No," Gregory returned, with a chill utterance. "I know nothing about

"Is it so, Karen?" Herr Lippheim questioned, his guileless warmth hardly

"My husband is no artist," Karen answered.

It was from her tone rather than from Gregory's that Herr Lippheim
seemed to receive his intimation; he was a little disconcerted; he could
interpret Karen's tones. "Ach so! Ach so!" he said; but, his good-will
still seeking to find its way to the polished and ambiguous person who
had gained Karen's heart,--"But now you will live amongst artists, Mr.
Jardine, and you will hear music, great music, played to you by the
greatest. So you will come to feel it in the heart." And as Gregory, to
this, made no reply, "You will educate him, Karen; is it not so? With
you and the great Tante, how could it be otherwise?"

"I am afraid that one cannot create the love of art when it is not
there, Franz," Karen returned. She was neither plaintive nor confiding;
yet there was an edge in her voice which Gregory felt and which, he
knew, he was intended to feel. Karen was angry with him.

"Have you seen Belot's portrait of Tante, yet, Franz?"--she again
excluded her husband;--"It is just finished."

Herr Lippheim had seen it only that morning and he repeated, but now in
preoccupied tones, "_Kolossal_!"

They talked, and Gregory stood above them, aloof from their conversation
frigidly gazing over the company, his elbow in his hand, his neat
fingers twisting his moustache. If he was giving Madame von Marwitz a
handle against him he couldn't help it. Over the heads of Karen and Herr
Lippheim his eyes for a moment encountered hers. They looked at each
other steadily and neither feigned a smile.

Eleanor Scrotton arrived at six, flushed and flustered.

"Thank heaven, I haven't missed her!" she said to Gregory, to whom,
to-day, Eleanor was an almost welcome sight. Her eyes had fixed
themselves on Mlle. Mauret. "Have you had a talk with her yet?"

"I haven't had a talk and I yield my claim to you," said Gregory. "Are
you very eager to meet the lady?"

"Who wouldn't be, my dear Gregory! What a wonderful face! What thought
and suffering! Oh, it has been the most extraordinary of stories. You
don't know? Well, I will tell you about her some time. She is,
doubtless, one of the greatest living actresses. And she is still quite
young. Barely forty."

He watched Eleanor make her way to the actress's side, reflecting
sardonically upon the modern growths of British tolerance. Half the
respectable matrons in London would, no doubt, take their girls to see
_La Gaine d'Or_; mercifully, they would in all probability not
understand it; but if they did, was there anything that inartistic
London would not swallow in its terror of being accused of philistinism?

The company was dispersing. Herr Lippheim stood holding Karen's hands
saying, as she shook them, that he would bring _das Mütterchen_ and _die
Schwesterchen_ to-morrow. Belot came for a last cup of tea and drank it
in sonorous draughts, exchanging a few words with Gregory. He had
nothing against Belot. Mr. Drew leaned on Madame von Marwitz's sofa and
spoke to her in a low voice while she looked at him inscrutably, her
eyes half closed.

"Lucky man," said Lady Rose to Gregory, on her way out, "to have her
under your roof. I hope you are a scrupulous Boswell and taking notes."
In the hall Barker was assorting the sombrero, the _Latin Quartier_ and
the cream-coloured felt; the last belonged to Herr Lippheim, who was
putting it on when Gregory escorted Lady Rose to the door.

Gregory gave the young man a listless hand. He couldn't forgive Herr
Lippheim. That he should ever, under whatever encouragements from
Karen's guardian, have dared to aspire to her, was a monstrous fact.

He watched the thick rims of Herr Lippheim's ears, under the
cream-coloured felt, descending in the lift and wondered if the sight
was to be often inflicted upon him.

When he went back to the drawing-room, Karen was alone. Madame von
Marwitz had taken Miss Scrotton to her own room. Karen was standing by
the tea-table, looking down at it, her hands on the back of the chair
from which she had risen to say good-bye to her guardian's guests. She
raised her eyes as her husband came in and they rested on him with a
strange expression.


"Will you shut the door, Gregory?" Karen said. "I want to speak to you."
The feeling with which he looked at her was that with which he had faced
her sleeping, as he thought, after their former dispute. The sense of
failure and disillusion was upon him. As before, it was only of her
guardian that she was thinking. He knew that he had given Madame von
Marwitz a handle against him.

He obeyed her and when he came and stood before her she went on. "Before
we all meet at dinner again, I must ask you something. Do not make your
contempt of Tante's guests--and of mine--more plain to her than you have
already done this afternoon."

"Did I make it plain?" Gregory asked, after a moment.

"I think that if I felt it so strongly, Tante must have felt it," said
Karen, and to this, after another pause, Gregory found nothing further
to say than "I'm sorry."

"I hardly think," said Karen, holding the back of her chair tightly and
looking down again while she spoke, "that you can have realized that
Herr Lippheim is not only Tante's friend, but mine. I don't think you
can have realized how you treated him. I know that he is very simple and
unworldly; but he is good and kind and faithful; he is a true
artist--almost a great one, and he has the heart of a child. And beside
him, while you were hurting and bewildering him so to-day, you looked to
me--how shall I say it--petty, yes, and foolish, yes, and full of

The emotion with which Gregory heard her speak these words,
deliberately, if in a hardened and controlled voice, expressed itself,
as emotion did with him, in a slight, fixed smile. He could not pause to
examine Karen's possible justice; that she should speak so, to him, was
the overpowering fact.

"I imagined that I behaved with courtesy," he said.

"Yes, you were courteous," Karen replied. "You made me think of a
painted piece of wood while he was like a growing tree."

"Your simile is certainly very mortifying," said Gregory, continuing to
smile. But he was not mortified. He was cruelly hurt.

"I do not wish to mortify you. I have not mortified you, because you
think yourself above it all. But I would like, if I could," said Karen,
"to make you see the truth. I would like to make you see that in
behaving as you have you show yourself not above it but below it."

"And I would like to make you see the truth, too," Gregory returned, in
the voice of his bitter hurt; "and I ask you, if your prejudice will
permit of it, to make some allowance for my feeling when I found you
surrounded by--this rabble."

"Rabble? My guardian's friends?" Karen had grown ashen.

"I hope they're not; but I'm not concerned with her friends; I'm
concerned with you. She can take people in, on the artistic plane, whom
it's not fit that you should meet. That horrible actress,--I wouldn't
have her come within sight of you if I could help it. Your guardian
knows my feeling about the parts she plays. She had no business to ask
her here. As for Herr Lippheim, I have no doubt that he is an admirable
person in his own walk of life, but he is a preposterous person, and it
is preposterous that your guardian should have thought of him as a
possible husband for you." Gregory imagined that he was speaking
carefully and choosing his words, but he was aware that his anger
coloured his voice. He had also been aware, some little time before, in
a lower layer of consciousness, of the stir and rustle of steps and
dresses in the passage outside--Madame von Marwitz conducting Eleanor
Scrotton to the door. And now--had she actually been listening, or did
his words coincide with the sudden opening of the door?--Madame von
Marwitz herself appeared upon the threshold.

Her face made the catastrophe all too evident. She had heard him. She
had, he felt convinced, crept quietly back and stood to listen before
entering. His memory reconstructed the long pause between the departing
rustle and this apparition.

Madame von Marwitz's face had its curious look of smothered heat. The
whites of her eyes were suffused though her cheeks were pale.

"I must apologise," she said. "I overheard you as I entered, Mr.
Jardine, and what I heard I cannot ignore. What is it that you say to
Karen? What is it that you say of the man I thought of as a possible
husband for her?"

She advanced into the room and laying her arm round Karen's shoulders
she stood confronting him.

"I don't think I can discuss this with you," said Gregory. "I am very
sorry that you overheard me." The slight smile of his pain had gone. He
looked at Madame von Marwitz with a flinty eye.

"Ah, but you must discuss it; you shall," said Madame von Marwitz. "You
say things to my child that I am not to overhear. You seek to poison her
mind against me. You take her from me and then blacken me in her eyes. A
possible husband! Would to God," said Madame von Marwitz, with sombre
fury, "that the possibility had been fulfilled! Would to God that it
were my brave, deep-hearted Franz who were her husband--not you, most
ungrateful, most ungenerous of men."

"Tante," said Karen, who still stood looking down, grasping her
chair-back and encircled by her guardian's arm, "he did not mean you to
hear him. Forgive him."

"I beg your pardon, Karen," said Gregory, "I am very sorry that Madame
von Marwitz overheard me; but I have said nothing for which I wish to

"Ah! You hear him!" cried Madame von Marwitz, and the inner
conflagration now glittered in her eyes like flames behind the windows
of a burning house. "You hear him, Karen? Forgive him! How can I forgive
him when he has made you wretched! How can I ever forgive him when he
tears your life by thrusting me forth from it--me--and everything I am
and mean! You have witnessed it, Karen--you have seen my efforts to win
your husband. You have seen his contempt for me, his rancour, his
half-hidden insolence. Never--ah, never in my life have I faced such
humiliation as has been offered to me beneath his roof--humiliations,
endured for your sake, Karen--for yours only! Ah"--releasing Karen
suddenly, she advanced a step towards Gregory, with a startling cry,
stretching out her arm--"ungrateful and ungenerous indeed! And you find
yourself one to scorn my Franz! You find yourself one to sneer at my
friends, to stand and look at them and me as if we were vermin infesting
your room! Did I not see it! You! _justes cieux!_ with your bourgeois
little world; your little--little world--so small--so small! your people
like dull beasts pacing in a cage, believing that in the meat thrust in
between their bars and the number of steps to be taken from side to side
lies all the meaning of life; people who survey with their heavy eyes of
surfeit the free souls of the world! Hypocrites! Pharisees! And to this
cage you have consigned my child! and you would make of her, too, a
creature of counted paces and of unearned meat! You would shut her in
from the life of beauty and freedom that she has known! Ah never! never!
there you do not triumph! You have taken her from me; you have won her
love; but her mind is not yours; she sees the cage as I do; you do not
share the deep things of the soul with her. And in her loyal heart--ah,
I know it--will be the cry, undying, for one whose heart you have trod
upon and broken!"

With these last words, gasped forth on rising sobs, Madame von Marwitz
sank into the chair where Karen still leaned and broke into passionate

Gregory again was smiling, with the smile now of decorum at bay, of
embarrassment rather than contempt; but to Karen's eyes it was the smile
of supercilious arrogance. She looked at him sternly over her guardian's
bowed and oddly rolling head. "Speak, Gregory! Speak!" she commanded.

"My dear," said Gregory--their voices seemed to pass above the clash and
uproar of stormy waters, Madame von Marwitz had abandoned herself to an
elemental grief--"I have nothing to say to your guardian."

"To me, then," Karen clenched her hands on the back of the chair; "to
me, then, you have something to say. Is it not true? Have you not
repulsed her efforts to come near you? Have you not, behind her back,
permitted yourself to speak with scorn of the man she hoped I would

Gregory paused, and in the pause, as he observed, Madame von Marwitz was
able to withhold for a moment her strange groans and gaspings while she
listened. "I don't think there has been any such effort," he said. "We
were both keeping up appearances, your guardian and I; and I think that
I kept them up best. As for Herr Lippheim, it was only when you accused
me of rudeness to him that I confessed how much it astonished me to find
that he was the man your guardian had wished you to marry. It does
astonish me. Herr Lippheim isn't even a gentleman."

"Enough!" cried Madame von Marwitz. She sprang to her feet. "Enough!"
she said, half suffocated. "It is the voice of the cage! We will not
stay to hear its standards applied. Come with me, Karen, that I may say
farewell to you."

She caught Karen by the arm. Her face was strange, savage, suffused.
Gregory went to open the door for them. "Base one!" she said to him.
"Ignominious one!"

She drew Karen swiftly along the passage and, still keeping her sharp
clasp of her wrist while she opened and closed the door of her room, she
sank, encircling her with her arms, upon the sofa, and wept loudly over

Karen, too, was now weeping; heavy, shaking sobs.

"My child! My poor child!" Madame von Marwitz murmured brokenly after a
little time had gone. "I would have spared you this. It has come. We
have both seen it. And now, so that your life may not be ruined, I must
leave it."

"But Tante--my Tante--" sobbed Karen--Madame von Marwitz did not remember
that Karen had ever so sobbed before--"you cannot mean those words. What
shall I do if you say this? What is left for me?"

"My child, your life is left you," said Madame von Marwitz, holding her
close and speaking with her lips in the girl's hair. "Your husband's
love is left; the happiness that you chose and that I shall shatter if I
stay; ah, yes, my Karen, how deny it now? I see my path. It is plain
before me. To-night I go to Mrs. Forrester and to-morrow I breathe the
air of Cornwall."

"But Tante--wait--wait. You will see Gregory again? You will let him
explain? Oh, let me first talk with him! He says bitter things, but so
do you, Tante; and he does not mean to offend as much as you think."

At this, after a little pause, Madame von Marwitz drew herself slightly
away and put her handkerchief to her eyes and cheeks. The violence of
her grief was over. "Does he still so blind you, Karen?" she then asked.
"Do you still not see that your husband hates me--and has hated me from
the beginning?"

"Not hate!--Not hate!" Karen sobbed. "He does not understand you--that
is all. Only wait--till to-morrow. Only let me talk to him!"

"No. He does not understand. That is evident," said Madame von Marwitz
with a bitter smile. "Nor will he ever understand. Will you talk to him,
Karen, so that he shall explain why he smirches my love and my
sincerity? You know as well as I what was the meaning of those words of
his. Can you, loving me, ask me to sue further for the favour of a man
who has so insulted me? No. It cannot be. I cannot see him again. You
and I are still to meet, I trust; but it cannot again be under this

Karen now sobbed helplessly, leaning forward, her face in her hands, and
Madame von Marwitz, again laying an arm around her shoulders, gazed with
majestic sorrow into the fire. "Even so," she said at last, when Karen's
sobs had sunken to long, broken breaths; "even so. It is the law of
life. Sacrifice: sacrifice: to the very end. Life, to the artist, must
be this altar where he lays his joys. We are destined to be alone,
Karen. We are driven forth into the wilderness for the sins of the
people. So I have often seen it, and cried out against it in my tortured
youth, and struggled against it in my strength and in my folly. But now,
with another strength, I am enabled to stand upright and to face the
vision of my destiny. I am to be alone. So be it."

No answer came, from Karen and Madame von Marwitz, after a pause,
continued, in gentler, if no less solemn tones: "And my child, too, is
brave. She, too, will stand upright. She, too, has her destiny to
fulfil--in the world--not in the wilderness. And if the burden should
ever grow too heavy, and the road cut her feet too sharply, and the joy
turn to dust, she will remember--always--that Tante's arms and heart are
open to her--at all times, in all places, and to the end of life. And
now," this, with a sigh of fatigue, came on a more matter-of-fact
note--"let a cab be called for me. Louise will follow with my boxes."

Karen's tears had ceased. She made no further protest or appeal.

Rising, she dried her eyes, rang and ordered the cab to be called and
found her guardian's white cloak and veiled hat.

And while she shrouded her in these, Madame von Marwitz, still gazing,
as if at visions, in the fire, lifted her arms and bent her head with
almost the passivity of a dead thing. Once or twice she murmured broken
phrases: "My ewe-lamb;--taken;--I am very weary. _Mon Dieu, mon
Dieu_,--and is this, then, the end...."

She rested heavily on Karen's shoulder in rising. "Forgive me," she
said, leaning her head against hers, "forgive me, beloved one. I have
done harm where I meant to make a safer happiness. Forgive me, too, for
my bitter words. I should not have spoken as I did. My child knows that
it is a hot and passionate heart."

Karen, in silence, turned her face to her guardian's breast.

"And do not," said Madame von Marwitz, speaking with infinite
tenderness, while she stroked the bent head, "judge your husband too
hardly because of this. He gives what love he can; as he knows love. It
is as my child said; he does not understand. It is not given to some to
understand. He has lived in a narrow world. Do not judge him hardly,
Karen; it is for the wiser, stronger, more loving soul to lift the
smaller towards the light. He can still give my child happiness. In that
trust I find my strength."

They went down the passage together. Gregory came to the drawing-room
door. He would have spoken, have questioned, but, shrinking from him and
against Karen, as if from an intolerable searing, Madame von Marwitz
hastened past him. He heard the front door open and the last silent
pause of farewell on the threshold.

Louise scuttled by past him to her mistress's vacated rooms. She did not
see him and he heard that she muttered under her breath: "_Ah! par
exemple! C'est trap fort, ma parole d'honneur!_"

As Karen came back from the door he went to meet her.

"Karen," he said, "will you come and talk with me, now?"

She put aside his hand. "I cannot talk. Do not come to me," she said. "I
must think." And going into their room she shut the door.


The telephone sounded while Gregory next morning ate his solitary
breakfast, and the voice of Mrs. Forrester, disembodied of all but its
gravity, asked him, if he would, to come and see her immediately.

Gregory asked if Madame von Marwitz were with her. He was not willing,
after the final affront that she had put upon him, to encounter Madame
von Marwitz again in circumstances where he might seem to be justifying
himself. But, with a deeper drop, the disembodied voice informed him
that Madame von Marwitz, ten minutes before, had driven to the station
on her way to Cornwall. "You will understand, I think, Gregory," said
Mrs. Forrester, "that it is hardly possible for her to face in London,
as yet, the situation that you have made for her."

Gregory, to this, replied, shortly, that he would come to her at once,
reserving his comments on the imputed blame.

He had passed an almost sleepless night, lying in his little
dressing-room bed where, by a tacit agreement, never explicitly
recognized, he had slept, now, for so many nights. Cold fears, shaped at
last in definite forms, stood round him and bade him see the truth. His
wife did not love him. From the beginning he had been as nothing to her
compared with her guardian. The pale, hard light of her eyes as she had
said to him that afternoon, "Speak!" seemed to light the darkness with
bitter revelations. He knew that he was what would be called,
sentimentally, a broken-hearted man; but it seemed that the process of
breaking had been gradual; so that now, when his heart lay in pieces,
his main feeling was not of sharp pain but of dull fatigue, not of
tragic night, but of a grey commonplace from which all sunlight had
slowly ebbed away.

He found Mrs. Forrester in her morning-room among loudly singing
canaries and pots of jonquils; and as he shook hands with her he saw
that this old friend, so old and so accustomed that she was like a part
of his life, was embarrassed. The wrinkles on her withered, but oddly
juvenile, face seemed to have shifted to a pattern of perplexity and
pained resolution. He was not embarrassed, though he was beaten and done
in a way Mrs. Forrester could not guess at; yet he felt an awkwardness.

They had known each other for a life-time, he and Mrs. Forrester, but
they were not intimate; and how intimate they would have to become if
they were to discuss with anything like frankness the causes and
consequences of Madame von Marwitz's conduct! A gloomy indifference
settled on Gregory as he realized that her dear friend's conduct was the
one factor in the causes and consequences that Mrs. Forrester would not
be able to appraise at its true significance.

She shook his hand, and seating herself at a little table and slightly
tapping it with her fingers, "Now, my dear Gregory," she said, "will
you, please, tell me why you have acted like this?"

"Isn't my case prejudged?" Gregory asked, reconstructing the scene that
must have taken place last night when Madame von Marwitz had appeared
before her friend.

"No, Gregory; it is not," Mrs. Forrester returned with some terseness,
for she felt his remark to be unbecoming. "I hope to have some sort of
explanation from you."

"I'm quite ready to explain; but it's hardly possible that my
explanation will satisfy you," said Gregory. "You spoke, just now, when
you called me up, of a situation and said I'd made it. My explanation
can only consist in saying that I didn't make it; that Madame von
Marwitz made it; that she came to us in order to make it and then to fix
the odium of it on me."

Already Mrs. Forrester had flushed. She looked hard at the pot of
jonquils near her. "You really believe that?"

"I do. She can't forgive me for not liking her," said Gregory.

"And you don't like her. You own to it."

"I don't like her. I own to it," Gregory replied with a certain frosty
relief. It was like taking off damp, threadbare garments that had
chilled one for a long time and facing the winter wind, naked, but
invigorated. "I dislike her very much."

"May I ask why?" Mrs. Forrester inquired, with careful courtesy.

"I distrust her," said Gregory. "I think she's dangerous, and tyrannous,
and unscrupulous. I think that she's devoured by egotism. I'm sorry. But
if you ask me why, I can only tell you."

Mrs. Forrester sat silent for a moment, and then, the flush on her
delicate old cheek deepening, she murmured: "It is worse, far worse,
than Mercedes told me. Even Mercedes didn't suspect this. Gregory,--I
must ask you another question: Do you really imagine that you and your
cruel thoughts of her would be of the slightest consequence to Mercedes
Okraska, if you had not married the child for whose happiness she holds
herself responsible?"

"Of course not. She wouldn't give me another thought, if I weren't
there, in her path; I am in her path, and she feels that I don't like
her, and she hasn't been able to let me alone."

"She has not let you alone because she hoped to make your marriage
secure in the only way in which security was possible for you and Karen.
What happiness could she see for Karen's future if she were to have cut
herself apart from her life; dropped you, and Karen with you? That,
doubtless, would have been the easy thing to do. There is indeed no
reason why women like Mercedes Okraska, women with the world at their
feet, should trouble to think of the young men they may chance to meet,
whose exacting moral sense they don't satisfy. I am glad you see that,"
said Mrs. Forrester, tapping her table.

"It would have been far kinder to have dropped Karen than deliberately
to set to work, as she has done, to ruin her happiness. She hasn't been
able to keep her hands off it. She couldn't stand it--a happiness she
hadn't given; a happiness for which gratitude wasn't due to her."

"Gregory, Gregory," Mrs. Forrester raised her eyes to him now; "you are
frank with me, very frank; and I must be frank with you. There is more
than dislike here, and distrust, and morbid prejudice. There is
jealousy. Hints of it have come to me; I've tried to put them aside;
I've tried to believe, as my poor Mercedes did, that, by degrees, you
would adjust yourself to the claims on Karen's life, and be generous and
understanding, even when you had no spontaneous sympathy to give. But it
is all quite clear to me now. You can't accept the fact of your wife's
relation to Mercedes. You can't accept the fact of a devotion not wholly
directed towards yourself. I've known you since boyhood, Gregory, and
I've always had regard and fondness for you; but this is a serious
breach between us. You seem to me more wrong and arrogant than I could
trust myself to say. And you have behaved cruelly to a woman for whom my
feeling is more than mere friendship. In many ways my feeling for
Mercedes Okraska is one of reverence. She is one of the great people of
the world. To know her has been a possession, a privilege. Anyone might
be proud to know such a woman. And when I think of what you have now
said of her to me--when I think of how I saw her--here--last
night,--broken--crushed,--after so many sorrows--"

Tears had risen to Mrs. Forrester's eyes. She turned her head aside.

"Do you mean," said Gregory after a moment, in which it seemed to him
that his grey world preceptibly, if slightly, darkened, "do you mean
that I've lost your friendship because of Madame von Marwitz?"

"I don't know, Gregory; I can't tell you," said Mrs. Forrester, not
looking at him. "I don't recognize you. As to Karen, I cannot imagine
what your position with her can be. How is she to bear it when she knows
that it is said that you insulted her guardian's friends and then turned
her out of your house?"

"I didn't turn her out," said Gregory; he walked to the window and
stared into the street. "She went because that was the most venomous
thing she could do. And I didn't insult her friends."

"You said to her that the man she had thought of as a husband for Karen
was not a gentleman. You said that you did not understand how Mercedes
could have chosen such a man for her. You said this with the child
standing between you. Oh, you cannot deny it, Gregory. I have heard in
detail what took place. Mercedes saw that unless she left you Karen's
position was an impossible one. It was to save Karen--and your relation
to Karen--that she went."

Gregory, still standing at the window, was silent, and then asked: "Have
you seen Herr Lippheim?"

"No, Gregory," Mrs. Forrester returned, and now with trenchancy, the
concrete case being easier to deal with openly. "No; I have not seen
him; but Mercedes spoke to me about him last winter, when she hoped for
the match, and told me, moreover, that she was surprised by Karen's
refusal, as the child was much attached to him. I have not seen him; but
I know the type--and intimately. He is a warm-hearted and intelligent

"Your bootmaker may be warm-hearted and intelligent."

"That is petulant--almost an insolent simile, Gregory. It only reveals,
pitifully, your narrowness and prejudice--and, I will add, your
ignorance. Herr Lippheim is an artist; a man of character and
significance. Many of my dearest friends have been such; hearts of gold;
the salt of the world."

"Would you have allowed a daughter of yours, may I ask, to marry one of
these hearts of gold?"

"Certainly; most certainly," said Mrs. Forrester, but with a haste and
heat somewhat suspicious. "If she loved him."

"If he were personally fit, you mean. Herr Lippheim is undoubtedly
warm-hearted and, in his own way, intelligent, but he is as unfit to be
Karen's husband as your bootmaker to be yours."

They had come now, on this lower, easier level, to one of the points
where temper betrays itself as it cannot do on the heights of contest.
Gregory's reiteration of the bootmaker greatly incensed Mrs. Forrester.

"My dear Gregory," she said, "I yield to no one in my appreciation of
Karen; owing to the education and opportunities that Mercedes has given
her, she is a charming young woman. But, since we are dealing with,
facts, the bare, bald, worldly aspects of things, we must not forget the
facts of Karen's parentage and antecedents. Herr Lippheim is, in these
respects, I imagine, altogether her equal. A rising young musician, the
friend and _protégé_ of one of the world's great geniuses, and a
penniless, illegitimate girl. Do not let your rancour, your jealousy,
blind you so completely."

Gregory turned from the window at this, smiling a pallid, frosty smile
and Mrs. Forrester was now aware that she had made him very angry. "I
may be narrow," he said, "and conventional and ignorant; but I'm
unconventional and clear-sighted enough to judge people by their actual,
not their market, value. Of Herr Lippheim I know nothing, except that
his parentage and antecedents haven't made a gentleman, or anything
resembling one, of him; while of Karen I know that hers, unfortunate as
they certainly were, have made a lady and a very perfect one. I don't
forgive Madame von Marwitz for a great many things in regard to her
treatment of Karen," Gregory went on with growing bitterness, "chief
among them that she has taken her at her market value and allowed her
friends to do the same. I've been able, thank goodness, to rescue Karen,
at all events, from that. Madame von Marwitz can't carry her about any
longer like a badge from some charitable society on her shoulder. No
woman who really loved Karen, or who really appreciated her," Gregory
added, falling back on his concrete fact, "could have thought of Herr
Lippheim as a husband for her."

Mrs. Forrester sat looking up at him, and she was genuinely aghast.

"You are incredible to me, Gregory," she said. "You set your one year of
devotion to Karen against Mercedes's life-time, and you presume to
discredit hers."

"Yes. I do. I don't believe in her devotion to Karen."

"Do you realize that your attitude may mean a complete rupture between
Karen and her guardian?"

"No such luck; I'm afraid!" said Gregory with a grim laugh. "My only
hope is that it may mean a complete rupture between Madame von Marwitz
and me. It goes without saying, feeling as I do, that, if it wouldn't
break Karen's heart, I'd do my best to prevent Madame von Marwitz from
ever seeing her again."

There was a little silence and then Mrs. Forrester got up sharply.

"Very well, Gregory," she said. "That will do."

"Are you going to shake hands with me?" he asked, still with the grim

"Yes. I will shake hands with you, Gregory," Mrs. Forrester replied.
"Because, in spite of everything, I am fond of you. But you must not
come here again. Not now."

"Never any more, do you really mean?"

"Not until you are less wickedly blind."

"I'm sorry," said Gregory. "It's never any more then, I'm afraid."

He was very sorry. He knew that as he walked away.


Mrs. Forrester remained among her canaries and jonquils, thinking. She
was seriously perturbed. She was, as she had said, fond of Gregory, but
she was fonder, far, of Mercedes von Marwitz, whom Gregory had caused to
suffer and whom he would, evidently, cause to suffer still more.

She controlled the impulse to telephone to Eleanor Scrotton and consult
with her; a vague instinct of loyalty towards Gregory restrained her
from that. Eleanor would, in a day or two, hear from Cornwall and what
she would hear could not be so bad as what Mrs. Forrester herself could
tell her. After thinking for the rest of the morning, Mrs. Forrester
decided to go and see Karen. She was not very fond of Karen. She had
always been inclined to think that Mercedes exaggerated the significance
of the girl's devotion, and Gregory's exaggeration, now, of her general
significance--explicable as it might be in an infatuated young
husband--disposed her the less kindly towards her. She felt that Karen
had been clumsy, dull, in the whole affair. She felt that, at bottom,
she was somewhat responsible for it. How had Gregory been able, living
with Karen, to have formed such an insensate conception of Mercedes? The
girl was stupid, acquiescent; she had shown no tact, no skill, no
clarifying courage. Mrs. Forrester determined to show them all--to talk
to Karen.

She drove to St. James's at four o'clock that afternoon and Barker told
her that Mrs. Jardine was in the drawing-room. Visitors, evidently, were
with her, and it affected Mrs. Forrester very unpleasantly, as Barker
led her along the passage, to hear rich harmonies of music filling the
flat. She had expected to be perhaps ushered into a darkened bedroom; to
administer comfort and sympathy to a shattered creature before
administering reproof and counsel. But Karen not only was up; she was
not alone. The strains were those of chamber-music, and a half-perplexed
delight mingled with Mrs. Forrester's displeasure as she recognized the
heavenly melodies of Schumann's Pianoforte Quintet. The performers were
in the third movement.

Karen rose, as Barker announced her, from the side of a stout lady at
the piano, and Mrs. Forrester, nodding, her finger at her lips, dropped
into a chair and listened.

The stout lady at the piano had a pale, fat, pear-shaped face, her
grizzled hair parted above it and twisted to a large outstanding knob
behind. She wore eyeglasses and peered through them at her music with
intelligent intensity and profound humility. The violin was played by an
enormous young man with red hair, and the viola, second violin and
'cello by three young women, all of the black-and-tan Semitic type.

Mrs. Forrester was too much preoccupied with her wonder to listen as she
would have wished to, but by the time the end of the movement was come
she had realized that they played extremely well.

Karen came forward in the interval. She was undoubtedly pale and
heavy-eyed; but in her little dress of dark blue silk, with her narrow
lawn ruffles and locket and shining hair, she showed none of the
desperate signs appropriate to her circumstances nor any embarrassment
at the incongruous situation in which Mrs. Forrester found her.

"This is Frau Lippheim, Mrs. Forrester," she said. "And these are
Fräulein Lotta and Minna and Elizabeth, and this is Herr Franz. I think
you have often heard Tante speak of our friends."

Her ears buzzing with the name of Lippheim since the night before, Mrs.
Forrester was aware that she showed confusion, also that for a brief,
sharp instant, while her eyes rested on Herr Franz, a pang of perverse
sympathy for Gregory, in a certain aspect of his wickedness,
disintegrated her state of mind. He was singular looking indeed, this
untidy young man, whose ill-kept clothes had a look of insecurity, like
arrested avalanches on a mountain. "No, I can feel for Gregory somewhat
in this," Mrs. Forrester said to herself.

"We are having some music, you see," said Karen. "Herr Lippheim promised
me yesterday that they would all come and play to me. Can you stay and
listen for a little while? They must go before tea, for they have a
rehearsal for their concert," she added, as though to let Mrs. Forrester
know that she was not unconscious of the matter that must have brought

There was really no reason why she shouldn't stay. She could not very
well ask to have the Lippheims and their instruments turned out.
Moreover she was very fond of the Quintet. Mrs. Forrester said that she
would be glad to stay.

When they went on to the fourth movement, and while she listened, giving
her mind to the music, Mrs. Forrester's disintegration slowly recomposed
itself. It was not only that the music was heavenly and that they played
so well. She liked these people; they were the sort of people she had
always liked. She forgot Herr Franz's uncouth and mountainous aspect.
His great head leaning sideways, his eyes half closed, with the
musician's look of mingled voluptuous rapture and cold, grave, listening
intellect, he had a certain majesty. The mother, too, all devout
concentration, was an artist of the right sort; the girls had the gentle
benignity that comes of sincere self-dedication. They pleased Mrs.
Forrester greatly and, as she listened, her severity towards Gregory
shaped itself anew and more forcibly. Narrow, blind, bigoted young man.
And it was amusing to think, as a comment on his fierce consciousness of
Herr Lippheim's unfitness, that here Herr Lippheim was, admitted to the
very heart of Karen's sorrow. It was inconceivable that anyone but very
near and dear friends should have been tolerated by her to-day. Karen,
too, after her fashion, was an artist. The music, no doubt, was helpful
to her. Soft thoughts of her great, lacerated friend, speeding now
towards her solitudes, filled Mrs. Forrester's eyes more than once with

They finished and Frau Lippheim, rubbing her hands with her
handkerchief, stood smiling near-sightedly, while Mrs. Forrester
expressed her great pleasure and asked all the Lippheims to come and see
her. She planned already a musical. Karen's face showed a pale beam of

"And now, my dear child," said Mrs. Forrester, when the Lippheims had
departed and she and Karen were alone and seated side by side on the
sofa, "we must talk. I have come, of course you know, to talk about this
miserable affair." She put her hand on Karen's; but already something in
the girl's demeanour renewed her first displeasure. She looked heavy,
she looked phlegmatic; there was no response, no softness in her glance.

"You have perhaps a message to me, Mrs. Forrester, from Tante," she

"No, Karen, no," Mrs. Forrester with irrepressible severity returned. "I
have no message for you. Any message, I think should come from your
husband and not from your guardian."

Karen sat silent, her eyes moving away from her visitor's face and
fixing themselves on the wall above her head.

The impulse that had brought Mrs. Forrester was suffering alterations.

Gregory had revealed the case to her as worse than she had supposed;
Karen emphasized the revelation. And what of Mercedes between these two
young egoists? "I must ask you, Karen," she said, "whether you realise
how Gregory has behaved, to the woman to whom you, and he, owe so much?"

Karen continued to look fixedly at the wall and after a moment of
deliberation replied: "Tante did not speak rightly to Gregory, Mrs.
Forrester. She lost her temper very much. You know that Tante can lose
her temper."

Mrs. Forrester, at this, almost lost hers. "You surprise me, Karen. Your
husband had spoken insultingly of her friends--and yours--to her. Why
attempt to shield him? I heard the whole story, in detail, from your
guardian, you must remember."

Again Karen withdrew into a considering silence; but, though her face
remained impassive, Mrs. Forrester observed that a slight flush rose to
her cheeks.

"Gregory did not intend Tante to overhear what he said," she produced at
last. "It was said to me--and I had questioned him--not to her. Tante
came in by chance. It is not likely, Mrs. Forrester, that my version
would differ in any way from hers."

"You mustn't take offence at what I say, Karen," Mrs. Forrester spoke
with more severity; "your version does differ. To my astonishment you
seem actually to defend your husband."

"Yes; from what is not true: that is not to differ from Tante as to what
took place." Karen brought her eyes to Mrs. Forrester's.

"From what is not true. Very well. You will not deny that he so
intensely dislikes your guardian and has shown it so plainly to her that
she has had to leave you. You will not deny that, Karen?"

"No. I will not deny that," Karen replied.

"My poor child--it is true, and it is only a small part of the truth. I
don't know what Gregory has said to you in private, but even Mercedes
had not prepared me for what he said to me this morning."

"What did he say to you this morning, Mrs. Forrester?"

"He believes her to be a bad woman, Karen; do you realise that; has he
told you that; can you bear it? Dangerous, unscrupulous, tyrannous,
devoured by egotism, were the words he used of her. I shall not forget
them. He accused her of hypocrisy in her feeling for you. He hoped that
you might never see her again. It is terrible, Karen. Terrible. It puts
us all--all of us who love Mercedes, and you through her, into the most
impossible position."

Karen sat, her head erect, her eyes downcast, with a rigidity of
expression almost torpid.

"Do you see the position he puts us in, Karen?" Mrs. Forrester went on
with insistence. "Have you had the matter out with Gregory? Did you
realise its gravity? I must really beg you to answer me."

"I have not yet spoken with my husband," said Karen, in a chill,
lifeless tone.

"But you will? You cannot let it pass?"

"No, Mrs. Forrester. I will not let it pass."

"You will insist that he shall make a full apology to Mercedes?"

"Is he to apologise to her for hating her?" Karen at this asked

"For hating her? What do you mean?" Mrs. Forrester was taken aback.

"If he is to apologise," said Karen, in a still colder, still more
lifeless voice, "it must be for something that can be changed. How can
he apologise to her for hating her if he continues to hate her?"

"He can apologise for having spoken insultingly to her."

"He has not done that. It was Tante who overheard what she was not
intended to hear. And it was Tante who spoke with violence."

"It amazes me to hear you put it on her shoulders, Karen. He can
apologise, then, for what he has said to me," said Mrs. Forrester with
indignation. "You will not deny that what he said of her to me was

"He is to tell her that he has said those words and then apologise, Mrs.
Forrester? Oh, no; you do not think what you say."

"Really, my dear Karen, you have a most singular fashion of speaking to
a person three times your age!" Mrs. Forrester exclaimed, the more
incensed for the confusion of thought into which the girl's persistence
threw her. "The long and short of it is that he must make it possible
for Mercedes to meet him, with decency, in the future."

"But I do not know how that can be," said Karen, rising as Mrs.
Forrester rose; "I do not know how Tante, now, can see him. If he thinks
these things and does not say them, there may be pretence; but if he
says them, to Tante's friends, how can there be pretence?"

There was no appeal in her voice. She put the facts, so evident to
herself, before her visitor and asked her to look at them. Mrs.
Forrester was suddenly aware that her advice might have been somewhat
hasty. She also felt suddenly as though, on a reconnoitring march down a
rough but open path, she found herself merging in the gloomy mysteries
of a forest. There were hidden things in Karen's voice.

"Well, well," she said, taking the girl's hand and casting about in her
mind for a retreat; "that's to see it as hopeless, isn't it, and we
don't want to do that, do we? We want to bring Gregory to reason, and
you are the person best fitted to do that. We want to clear up these
dreadful ideas he has got into his head, heaven knows how. And no one
but you can do it. No one in the world, my dear Karen, is more fitted
than you to make him understand what our wonderful Tante really is.
There is the trouble, Karen," said Mrs. Forrester, finding now the
original clue with which she had started on her expedition; "he
shouldn't have been able, living with you, seeing your devotion, seeing
from your life, as you must have told him of it, what it was founded on,
he shouldn't have been able to form such a monstrous conception of our
great, dear one. You have been in fault there, my dear, you see it now,
I am sure. At the first hint you should have made things clear to him. I
know that it is hard for a young wife to oppose the man she loves; but
love mustn't make us cowardly," Mrs. Forrester murmured on more
cheerfully as they moved down the passage, "and Gregory will only love
you more wisely and deeply if he is made to recognize, once for all,
that you will not sacrifice your guardian to please him."

They were now at the door and Karen had not said a word.

"Well, good-bye, my dear," said Mrs. Forrester. Oddly she did not feel
able to urge more strongly upon Karen that she should not sacrifice her
guardian to her husband. "I hope I've made things clearer by coming. It
was better that you should, realize just what your guardian's friends
felt--and would feel--about it, wasn't it?" Karen still made no reply
and on the threshold Mrs. Forrester paused to add, with some urgency:
"It was right, you see that, don't you, Karen, that you should know what
Gregory is really feeling?"

"Yes," Karen now assented. "It is better that I should know that."


Gregory when he came in that evening thought at first, with a pang of
fear, that Karen had gone out. It was time for dressing and she was not
in their room. In the drawing-room it was dark; he stood in the doorway
for a moment and looked about it, sad and tired and troubled, wondering
if Karen had gone to Mrs. Forrester's, wondering whether, in her grave
displeasure with him, she had even followed her guardian. And then, from
beside him, came her voice. "I am here, Gregory. I have been waiting for

His relief was so intense that, turning up the lights, seeing her
sitting there on a little sofa near the door, he bent involuntarily over
her to kiss her.

But her hand put him away.

"No; I must speak to you," she said.

Gregory straightened himself, compressing his lips.

Karen had evidently not thought of changing. She wore her dark-blue silk
dress. She had, indeed, been sitting there since Mrs. Forrester went. He
looked about the room, noting, with dull wonder, the grouped chairs, and
open piano. "You have had people here?"

"Yes. The Lippheims came and played to me. I would have written to them
and told them not to come; but I forgot. And Mrs. Forrester has been

"Quite a reception," said Gregory. He walked to the window and looked
out. "Well," he said, not turning to his wife, "what have you to say to
me, Karen?" His tone was dry and even ironic.

"Mrs. Forrester came to tell me," said Karen, "that you had seen her
this morning."

"Yes. Well?"

"And she told me," Karen went on, "that you had a great deal to say to
her about my guardian--things that you have never dared to say to me."

He turned to her now and her eyes from across the room fixed themselves
upon him.

"I will say them to you if you like," said Gregory, after a moment. He
leaned against the side of the window and folded his arms. And he
examined his wife with, apparently, the cold attention that he would
have given to a strange witness in the box. And indeed she was strange
to him. Over his aching and dispossessed heart he steeled himself in an
impartial scrutiny.

"It is true, then," said Karen, "that you believe her tyrannous and
dangerous and unscrupulous, and that you think her devoured by egotism,
and hypocritical in her feeling for me, and that you hope that I may
never see her again?"

She catalogued the morning's declarations accurately, like the witness
giving unimpeachable testimony. But it was rather absurd to see her as
the witness, when, so unmistakably, she considered herself the judge and
him the criminal in the dock. There was relief in pleading guilty to
everything. "Yes: it's perfectly true," he said.

She looked at him and he could discover no emotion on her face.

"Why did you not tell me this when you asked me to marry you?" she

"Oh--I wasn't so sure of it then," said Gregory. "And I loved you and
hoped it would never come out. I didn't want to give you pain. That's
why I never dared tell you, as you put it."

"You wanted to marry me and you knew that if you told me the truth I
would not marry you; that is the reason you did not dare," said Karen.

"Well, there's probably truth in that," Gregory assented, smiling; "I'm
afraid I was an infatuated creature, perhaps a dishonest one. I can't
expect you to make allowances for my condition, I know."

She lowered her eyes and sat for so long in silence that presently,
rather ashamed of the bitterness of his last words, he went on in a
kinder tone: "I know that I can never make you understand. You have your
infatuation and it blinds you. You've been blind to the way in which,
from the very beginning, she has tracked me down. You've been blind to
the fact that the thing that has moved her hasn't been love for you but
spite, malicious spite, against me for not giving her the sort of
admiration she's accustomed to. If I've come to hate her--I didn't in
the least at first, of course--it's only fair to say that she hates me
ten times worse. I only asked that she should let me alone."

"And let me alone," said Karen, who had listened without a movement.

"Oh no," Gregory said, "that's not at all true. You surely will be fair
enough to own that it's not; that I did everything I could to give you
both complete liberty."

"As when you applauded and upheld Betty for her insolent interference;
as when you complained to me of my guardian because she asked that I
should have a wider life; as when you hoped to have Mrs. Talcott here so
that my guardian might be kept out."

"Did she suggest that?"

"She showed it to me. I had not seen it even then. Do you deny it?"

"No; I don't suppose I can, though it was nothing so definite. But I
certainly hoped that Madame von Marwitz would not come here."

"And yet you can tell me that you have not tried to come between us."

"Yes; I can. I never tried to come between you. I tried to keep away.
It's been she, as I say, who has tracked me down. That was what I was
afraid of if she came here; that she'd force me to show my dislike. Can
you deny, Karen, I ask you this, that from the beginning she has made
capital to you out of my dislike, and pointed it out to you?"

"I will not discuss that with you," said Karen; "I know that you can
twist all her words and actions."

"I don't want to do that. I can see a certain justice in her malice. It
was hard for her, of course, to find that you'd married a man she didn't
take to and who didn't take to her; but why couldn't she have left it at

"It couldn't be left at that. It wasn't only that," said Karen. "If she
had liked you, you would never have liked her; and if you had liked her
she would have liked you."

The steadiness of her voice as she thus placed the heart of the matter
before him brought him a certain relief. Perhaps, in spite of his cold
realizations and the death of all illusion as to Karen's love for him,
they could really, now, come to an understanding, an accepted
compromise. His heart ached and would go on aching until time had
blunted its hurts, and a compromise was all he had to hope for. He had
nothing to expect from Karen but acceptance of fact and faithful
domesticity. But, after all the uncertainties and turmoils, this bitter
peace had its balms. He took up her last words.

"Ah, well, she'd have liked my liking," he analysed it. "I don't know
that she'd have liked me;--unless I could have managed to give her
actual worship, as you and her friends do. But I'm not going to say
anything more against her. She has forced the truth from me, and now we
may bury it. You shall see her, of course, whenever you want to. But I
hope that I shall never have to speak of her to you again."

The talk seemed to have been brought to an end. Karen, had risen and
Barker, entering at the moment, announced dinner.

"By Jove, is it as late as that," Gregory muttered, nodding to him. He
turned to Karen when Barker was gone and, the pink electric lights
falling upon her face, he saw as he had not seen before how grey and
sunken it was. She had made no movement towards the door.

"Gregory," she said, fixing her eyes upon him, and he then saw that he
had misinterpreted her quiet, "I tell you that these things are not
true. They are not true. Will you believe me?"

"What things?" he asked. But he was temporizing. He saw that the end had
not come.

"The things you believe of Tante. That she is a heartless woman, using
those who love her--feeding on their love. I say it is not true. Will
you believe me?"

She stood on the other side of the room, her arms hanging at her sides,
her hands hanging open, all her being concentrated in the ultimate
demand of her compelling gaze.

"Karen," he said, "I know that she must be lovable; I know, of course,
that she has power, and charm, and tenderness. I think I can understand
why you feel for her as you do. But I don't think that there is any
chance that I shall change my opinion of her; not for anything you say.
I believe that she takes you in completely."

Karen gazed at him. "You will still believe that she is tyrannous, and
dangerous, and false, whatever I may say?"

"Yes, Karen. I know it sounds horrible to you. You must try to forgive
me for it. We won't speak of it again; I promise you."

She turned from him, looking before her at the Bouddha, but not as if
she saw it. "We shall never speak of it again," she said. "I am going to
leave you, Gregory."

For a moment he stared at her. Then he smiled. "You mustn't punish me
for telling you the truth, Karen, by silly threats."

"I do not punish you. You have done rightly to tell me the truth. But I
cannot live with a man who believes these things."

She still gazed at the Bouddha and again Gregory stared at her. His face
hardened. "Don't be absurd, Karen. You cannot mean what you say."

"I am going to-night. Now," said Karen.

"Going? Where?"

"To Cornwall, back to my guardian. She will take care of me again. I
will not live with you."

"If you really mean what you say," said Gregory, after a moment, "you
are telling me that you don't love me. I've suspected it for some time."

"I feel as if that were true," said Karen, looking now down upon the
ground. "I think I have no more love for you. I find you a petty man."
It was impossible to hope that she was speaking recklessly or
passionately. She had come to the conclusion with deliberation; she had
been thinking of it since last night. She was willing to cast him off
because he could not love where she loved. How deeply the roots of hope
still knotted themselves in him he was now to realize. He felt his heart
and mind rock with the reverberation of the shattering, the pulverizing
explosion, and he saw his life lying in a wilderness of dust about him.

Yet the words he found were not the words of his despair. "Even if you
feel like this, Karen," he said, "there is no necessity for behaving
like a lunatic. Go and stay with your guardian, by all means, and
whenever you like. Start to-morrow morning. Spend most of your time with
her. I shall not put the smallest difficulty in your way. But--if only
for your own sake--have some common-sense and keep up appearances. You
must remain my wife in name and the mistress of my house."

"Thank you, you mean to be kind, I know," said Karen, who had not looked
at him since her declaration; "But I am not a conventional woman and I
do not wish to live with a man who is no longer my husband. I do not
wish to keep up appearances. I do not wish it to be said--by those who
know my guardian and what she has done for me and been to me--that I
keep up the appearance of regard for a man who hates her. I made a
mistake in marrying you; you allowed me to make it. Now, as far as I
can, I undo it by leaving you. Perhaps," she added, "you could divorce
me. That would set you free."

The remark in its childishness, callousness, and considerateness struck
him as one of the most revealing she had made. He laughed icily. "Our
laws only allow of divorce for one cause and I advise you not to seek
freedom for yourself--or for me--by disgracing yourself. It's not worth
it. The conventions you scorn have their solid value."

She had now turned her head and was looking at him. "I think you are
insulting me," she said.

For the first time he observed a trembling in her voice and interpreted
it as anger. It gave him a hurting satisfaction to have made her angry.
She had appalled and shattered him.

"I am not insulting you, I am warning you, Karen," he said. "A woman who
can behave as you are behaving is capable of acts of criminal folly. You
don't believe in convention, and in your guardian's world you will meet
many men who don't."

"What do you mean by criminal folly?"

"I mean living with a man you're not married to."

He had simply and sincerely forgotten something. Karen's face grew

"You mean that my mother was a criminal?"

Even at this moment of his despair Gregory was horribly sorry. Yet the
memory that she recalled brought a deeper fear for her future. He had
spoken with irony of her suggestion about divorce and freedom. But did
not her very blood, as well as her environment, give him reason to
emphasise his warning?

"I didn't mean that. I wasn't thinking of that," he said, "as you must
know. And to be criminally foolish is a very different thing from being
a criminal. But I'm convinced that to break social laws--and these laws
about men and women have deeper than merely social sanctions--to break
them, I'm convinced, can bring no happiness. I feel about your mother,
and what she did--I say it with all reverence--that she was as mistaken
as she was unfortunate. And I beg of you, Karen, never to follow her

"It is not for you to speak of her!" Karen said, not moving from her
place but uttering the words with a still and sudden passion that he had
never heard from her. "It is not for you to preach sermons to me on the
text of my mother's misfortunes. I do not call them misfortunes--nor did
she. I do not accept your laws, and she was not afraid of them. How dare
you call her unfortunate? She lost nothing that she valued and she
gained great happiness, and gave it, for she was happy with my father.
It was a truer marriage than any I have known. She was more married than
you or I have ever been or could ever have been; for there was deep love
between them, and trust and understanding. Do not speak to me of her. I
forbid it."

She turned to the door. Gregory sprang to her side and seized her wrist.
"Karen! Where are you going? Wait till to-morrow!" he exclaimed, fear
for her actual safety surmounting every other feeling.

She stood still under his hand and looked at him with her still passion
of repudiation. "I will not wait. I shall go to-night to Frau Lippheim.
And to-morrow I shall go to Cornwall. I shall tell Mrs. Barker to pack
my clothes and send them to me there."

"You have no money."

"Frau Lippheim will lend me money. My guardian will take care of me. It
is not for you to have any thought for me."

He dropped her arm. "Very well. Go then," he said.

He turned from her. He heard that she paused, the knob of the door in
her hand. "Good-bye," she then said.

Again it was, inconceivably, the mingled childishness, callousness and
considerateness. That, at the moment, she could think of the formality,
suffocated him. "Good-bye," he replied, not looking round.

The door opened and closed. He heard her swift feet passing down the
passage to their room.

She was not reckless. She needed her hat and coat at least. Quiet,
rational determination was in all her actions.

Yet, as he waited to hear her come out again, a hope that he knew to be
chimerical rose in him. She would, perhaps, return, throw herself in his
arms and, weeping, say that she loved him and could not leave him.
Gregory's heart beat quickly.

But when he heard her footsteps again they were not returning. They
passed along to the kitchen; she was speaking to Mrs. Barker--Gregory
had a shoot of surface thought for Mrs. Barker's astonishment; they
entered the hall again, the hall door closed behind them.

Gregory stood looking at the Bouddha. The tears kept mounting to his
throat and eyes and, furiously, he choked them back. He did not see the

But, suddenly becoming aware of the bland contemplative gaze of the
great bronze image, his eyes fixed themselves on it.

He had known it from the first to be an enemy. Its presage was
fulfilled. The tidal wave had broken over his life.



Karen sat in her corner of the railway carriage looking out at familiar

Reading and the spring-tide beauties of the Thames valley had gone by in
the morning. Then, after the attendant had passed along the corridor
announcing lunch, and those who were lunching had followed him in single
file, had come the lonely majesty of the Somerset downs, lying like
great headlands along the plain, a vast sky of rippled blue and silver
above them. They had passed Plymouth where she had always used to look
down from the high bridges and wonder over the lives of the midshipmen
on the training-ships, and now they were winding through wooded Cornish

Karen had looked out of her window all day. She had not read, though
kind Frau Lippheim had put the latest _tendenz-roman_, paper-bound, into
the little basket, which was also stocked with stout beef-sandwiches, a
bottle of milk, and the packet of chocolate and bun in paper bag that
Franz had added to it at the station.

Poor Franz. He and his mother had come to see her off and they had both
wept as the train moved away, and strange indeed it must have been for
them to see the Karen Jardine who, only yesterday, had been, apparently,
so happy, and so secure in her new life, carried back to the old; a wife
who had left her husband.

Karen had slept little the night before, and kind Franz must have slept
less; for he had given her his meagre bedroom and spent the night on the
narrowest, hardest, most slippery of sofas in the sitting-room of the
Bayswater lodging-house where Karen had found the Lippheims very
cheaply, very grimly, not to say greasily, installed. It was no wonder
that Franz's eyes had been so heavy, his face so puffed and pale that
morning; and his tears had given the last touch of desolation to his

Karen herself had not wept, either at the parting or at the meeting of
the night before. She had told them, with no explanations at all, that
she had left her husband and was going back to her guardian, and the
Lippheims had asked no questions.

It might have been possible that Franz, as he sat at the table, his
fingers run through his hair, clutching his head while he and his mother
listened to her, was not so dazed and lost as was Frau Lippheim, who had
not seen Gregory. Franz might have his vague perceptions. "_Ach! Ach!_"
he had ejaculated once or twice while she spoke.

And Frau Lippheim had only said: "_Liebes Kind! Liebes, armes Kind!_"

She was, after all, going back to the great Tante and they felt, no
doubt, that no grief could be ultimate which had that compensatory

She was going back to Tante. As the valleys, in their deepened shadows,
streamed past her, Karen remembered that it had hardly been at all of
Tante that she had thought while the long hours passed and her eyes
observed the flying hills and fields. Perhaps she had thought of
nothing. The heavy feeling, as of a stone resting on her heart, of doom,
defeat and bitterness, could hardly have been defined as thought. She
had thought and thought and thought during these last dreadful days;
every mental cog had been adjusted, every wheel had turned; she had held
herself together as never before in all her life, in order to give
thought every chance. For wasn't that to give him every chance? and
wasn't that, above all, to give herself any chance that might still be
left her?

And now the machinery seemed to lie wrecked. There was not an ember of
hope left with which to kindle its activity. How much hope there must
have been to have made it work so firmly and so furiously during these
last days! how much, she hadn't known until her husband had come in last
night, and, at last, spoken openly.

Even Mrs. Forrester's revelations, though they had paralyzed her, had
not put out the fires. She had still hoped that he could deny, explain,
recant, own that he had been hasty, perhaps; perhaps mistaken; give her
some loophole. She could have understood--oh, to a degree almost
abject--his point of view. Mrs. Forrester had accused her of that. And
Tante had accused her of it, too. But no; it had been slowly to freeze
to stillness to hear his clear cold utterance of shameful words, see the
folly of his arrogance and his complacency, realise, in his glacial look
and glib, ironic smile, that he was blind to what he was destroying in
her. For he could not have torn her heart to shreds and then stood
bland, unaware of what he had done, had he loved her. Her young spirit,
unversed in irony, drank in the bitter draught of disillusion. They had
never loved each other; or, worse, far worse, they had loved and love
was this puny thing that a blow could kill. His love for her was dead.

She still trembled when the ultimate realization surged over her,
looking fixedly out of the window lest she should weep aloud.

She had only one travelling companion, an old woman who got out at
Plymouth. Karen had found her curiously repulsive and that was one
reason why she had kept her eyes fixed on the landscape. She had been
afraid that the old woman would talk to her, perhaps offer her
refreshments, or sympathy; for she was a kind old woman, with bland eyes
and a moist warm face and two oily curls hanging forward from her
old-fashioned bonnet upon her shoulders. She was stout, dressed in tight
black cashmere, and she sat with her knees apart and her hands, gloved
in grey thread gloves, lying on them. She held a handkerchief rolled
into a ball, and from time to time, as if furtively, she would raise
this handkerchief to her brow and wipe it. And all the time, Karen felt,
she looked mildly and humbly at her and seemed to divine her distress.

Karen was thankful when she got out. She had been ashamed of her

Bodmin Road was now passed and the early spring sunset shone over the
tree-tops in the valleys below. Karen leaned her head back and closed
her eyes. She was suddenly aware of her great fatigue, and when they
reached Gwinear Road she found that she had been dozing.

The fresh, chill air, as she walked along the platform, waiting for the
change of trains, revived her. She had not been able to eat her beef
sandwiches and the thought that so much of Frau Lippheim's good food
should be wasted troubled her; she was glad to find a little wandering
fox-terrier who ate the meat eagerly. She herself, sitting beside the
dog, nibbled at Franz's chocolate. She had had nothing on her journey
but the milk and part of the bun which Franz had given her.

Now she was in the little local train and the bleak Cornish country,
nearing the coast, spread before her eyes like a map of her future life.
She began to think of the future, and of Tante.

She had not sent word to Tante that she was coming. She felt that it
would be easiest to appear before her in silence and Tante would
understand. There need be no explanations.

She imagined that Tante would find it best that she should live,
permanently now, in Cornwall with Mrs. Talcott. It could hardly be
convenient for her to take about with her a wife who had left her
husband. Karen quite realized that her status must be a very different
one from that of the unshadowed young girl.

And it would be strange to take up the old life again and to look back
from it at the months of life with Gregory--that mirage of happiness
receding as if to a blur of light seen over a stretch of desert. Still
with her quiet and unrevealing young face turned towards the evening
landscape, Karen felt as if she had grown very old and were looking
back, after a life-time without Gregory, at the mirage. How faint and
far it would seem to be when she was really old--like a nebulous star
trembling on the horizon. But it would never grow invisible; she would
never forget it; oh never; nor the dreadful pain of loss. To the very
end of life, she was sure of it, she would keep the pang of the shining

When they reached Helston, dusk had fallen. She found a carriage that
would drive her the twelve miles to the coast. It was a quiet, grey
evening and as they jolted slowly along the dusty roads and climbed the
steep hills at a snail's pace, she leaned back too tired to feel
anything any longer. And now they were out upon the moors where the
gorse was breaking into flowers; and now, over the sea, she saw at last
the great beacon of the Lizard lighthouse sweeping the country with its
vast, desolate, yet benignant beam.

They reached the long road and the stile where, a year before, she had
met Gregory. Here was the hedge of fuchsia; here the tamarisks on their
high bank; here the entrance to Les Solitudes. The steeply pitched grey
roofs rose before her, and the white walls with their squares of orange
light glimmered among the trees.

She alighted, paid the man, and rang.

A maid, unknown to her, came to the door and showed surprise at seeing
her there with her bag.

Yes; Madame von Marwitz was within. Karen had entered with the asking.
"Whom shall I announce, Madam?" the maid inquired.

Karen looked at her vaguely. "She is in the music-room? I do not need to
be announced. That will go to my room." She put down the bag and crossed
the hall.

She was not aware of feeling any emotion; yet a sob had taken her by the
throat and tears had risen to her eyes; she opened them widely as she
entered the dusky room, presenting a strange face.

Madame von Marwitz rose from a distant sofa.

In her astonishment, she stood still for a moment; then, like a great,
white, widely-winged moth, she came forward, rapidly, yet with hesitant,
reconnoitring pauses, her eyes on the girl who stood in the doorway
looking blindly towards her.

"Karen!" she exclaimed sharply. "What brings you here?"

"I have come back to you, Tante," said Karen.

Tante stood before her, not taking her into her arms, not taking her

"Come back to me? What do you mean?"

"I have left Gregory," said Karen. She was bewildered now. What had
happened? She did not know; but it was something that made it impossible
to throw herself in Tante's arms and weep.

Then she saw that another person was with them. A man was seated on the
distant sofa. He rose, wandering slowly down the room, and revealed
himself in the dim light that came from the evening sky and sea as Mr.
Claude Drew. Pausing at some little distance he fixed his eyes on Karen,
and in the midst of all the impressions, striking like chill, moulding
blows on the melted iron of her mood, she was aware of these large, dark
eyes of Mr. Drew's and of their intent curiosity.

The predominant impression, however, was of a changed aspect in
everything, and as Tante, now holding her hands, still stood silent,
also looking at her with intent curiosity, the impression vaguely and
terribly shaped itself for her as a piercing question: Was Tante not
glad to have her back?

There came from Tante in another moment a more accustomed note.

"You have left your husband--because of me--my poor child?"

Karen nodded. Mr. Drew's presence made speech impossible.

"He made it too difficult for you?"

Karen nodded again.

"And you have come back to me." Madame von Marwitz summed it up rather
than inquired. And then, after another pause, she folded Karen in her

The piercing question seemed answered. Yet Karen could not now have
wept. A dry, hard desolation filled her. "May I go to my room, Tante?"

"Yes, my child. Go to your room. You will find Tallie. Tallie is in the
house, I think--or did I send her in to Helston?--no, that was for
to-morrow." She held Karen's hand at a stretch of her arm while she
seemed, with difficulty still, to collect her thoughts. "But I will come
with you myself. Yes; that is best. Wait here, Claude." This to the
silent, dusky figure behind them.

"Do not let me be a trouble." Karen controlled the trembling of her
voice. "I know my way."

"No trouble, my child; no trouble. Or none that I am not glad to take."

Tante had her now on the stair--her arm around her shoulders. "You will
find us at sixes and sevens; a household hastily organized, but Tallie,
directed by wires, has done wonders. So. My poor Karen. You have left
him. For good? Or is it only to punish him that you come to me?"

"I have left him for good."

"So," Madame von Marwitz repeated.

With all the veils and fluctuations, one thing was growing clear to
Karen. Tante might be glad to have her back; but she was confused,
trying to think swiftly, to adjust her thoughts. They were in Karen's
little room overlooking the trees at the corner of the house. It was
dismantled; a bare dressing-table, the ewer upturned in the basin, the
bed and its piled bedding covered with a sheet. Madame von Marwitz sat
down on the bed and drew Karen beside her.

"But is not that to punish him too much?"

"It is not to punish him. I cannot live with him any longer."

"I see; I see;" said Madame von Marwitz, with a certain briskness, as
though, still, to give herself time to think. "It might have been wiser
to wait--to wait for a little. I would have written to you. We could
have consulted. It is serious, you know, my Karen, very serious, to
leave one's husband. I went away so that this should not come to you."

"I could not wait. I could not stay with him any longer," said Karen

"There is more, you mean. You had words? He hates me more than you

Karen paused, and then assented: "Yes; more than I thought."

Above the girl's head, which she held pressed down on her shoulder,
Madame von Marwitz pondered for some moments. "Alas!" she then uttered
in a deep voice. And, Karen saying nothing, she repeated on a yet more
melancholy note: "Alas!"

Karen now raised herself from Tante's shoulder; but, at the gesture of
withdrawal, Madame von Marwitz caught her close again and embraced her.
"I feared it," she said. "I saw it. I hoped to hide it by my flight. My
poor child! My beloved Karen!"

They held each other for some silent moments. Then Madame von Marwitz
rose. "You are weary, my Karen; you must rest; is it not so? I will send
Tallie to you. You will see Tallie--she is a perfection of discretion;
you do not shrink from Tallie. And you need tell her nothing; she will
not question you. Between ourselves; is it not so? Yes; that is best.
For the present. I will come again, later--I have guests, a guest, you
see. Rest here, my Karen." She moved towards the door.

Karen looked after her. An intolerable fear pressed on her. She could
not bear, in her physical weakness, to be left alone with it. "Tante!"
she exclaimed.

Madame von Marwitz turned. "My child?"

"Tante--you are glad to have me back?"

Her pride broke in a sob. She hid her face in her hands.

Madame von Marwitz returned to the bed.

"Glad, my child?" she said. "For all the sorrow that it means? and to
know that I am the cause? How can I be glad for my child's unhappiness?"

She spoke with a touch of severity, as though in Karen's tears she felt
an unexpressed accusation.

"Not for that," Karen spoke with difficulty. "But to have me with you
again. It will not be a trouble?"

There was a little silence and then, her severity passing to melancholy
reproof, Madame von Marwitz said: "Did we not, long since, speak of
this, Karen? Have you forgotten? Can you so wound me once again? Only my
child's grief can excuse her. It is a sorrow to see your life in ruins;
I had hoped before I died to see it joyous and secure. It is a sorrow to
know that you have maimed yourself; that you are tied to an unworthy
man. But how could it be a trouble to me to have you with me? It is a
consolation--my only consolation in this calamity. With me you shall
find peace and happiness again."

She laid her hand on Karen's head. Karen put her hand to her lips.

"There. That is well," said Madame von Marwitz with a sigh, bending to
kiss her. "That is my child. Tante is sad at heart. It is a heavy blow.
But her child is welcome."

When she had gone Karen lay, her face in the billows of the bed, while
she fixed her thoughts on Tante's last words.

They became a sing-song monotone. "Tante is sad at heart. But her child
is welcome. It is a heavy blow. But her child is welcome."

After the anguish there was a certain ease. She rested in the given
reassurance. Yet the sing-song monotone oppressed her.

She felt presently that her hat, wrenched to one side, and still fixed
to her hair by its pins, was hurting her. She unfastened it and dropped
it to the floor. She felt too tired to do more just then.

Soon after this the door opened and Mrs. Talcott appeared carrying a
candle, a can of hot water, towels and sheets.

Karen drew herself up, murmuring some vague words of welcome, and Mrs.
Talcott, after setting the candle on the dressing-table and the hot
water in the basin, remarked: "Just you lie down again, Karen, and let
me wash your face for you. You must be pretty tired and dirty after that
long journey."

But Karen put her feet to the ground. They just sustained her. "Thank
you, Mrs. Talcott. I will do it," she said.

She bent over the water, and, while she washed, Mrs. Talcott, with
deliberate skill, made up the bed. Karen sank in a chair.

"You poor thing," said Mrs. Talcott, turning to her as she smoothed down
the sheet; "Why you're green. Sit right there and I'll undress you. Yes;
you're only fit to be put to bed."

She spoke with mild authority, and Karen, under her hands, relapsed to

"This all the baggage you've brought?" Mrs. Talcott inquired, finding a
nightdress in Karen's dressing-case. She expressed no surprise when
Karen said that it was all, passed the nightdress over her head and,
when she had lain down, tucked the bed-clothes round her.

"Now what you want is a hot-water bottle and some dinner. I guess you're
hungry. Did you have any lunch on the train?"

"I've had some chocolate and a bun and some milk, oh yes, I had enough,"
said Karen faintly, raising her hand to her forehead; "but I must be
hungry; for my head aches so badly. How kind you are, Mrs. Talcott."

"You lie right there and I'll bring you some dinner." Mrs. Talcott was
swiftly tidying the room.

"But what of yours, Mrs. Talcott? Isn't it your dinner-time?"

"I've had my supper. I have supper early these days."

Karen dimly reflected, when she was gone, that this was an innovation.
Whoever Madame von Marwitz's guests, Mrs. Talcott had, until now, always
made an _acte de présence_ at every meal. She was tired and not feeling
well enough after her illness, she thought.

Mrs. Talcott soon returned with a tray on which were set out hot
_consommée_ and chicken and salad, a peach beside them. Hot-house fruit
was never wanting when Madame von Marwitz was at Les Solitudes.

"Lie back. I'll feed it to you," said Mrs. Talcott. "It's good and
strong. You know Adolphe can make as good a _consommée_ as anybody, if
he's a mind to."

"Is Adolphe here?" Karen asked as she swallowed the spoonfuls.

"Yes, I sent for Adolphe to Paris a week ago," said Mrs. Talcott.
"Mercedes wrote that she'd soon be coming with friends and wanted him.
He'd just taken a situation, but he dropped it. Her new motor's here,
too, down from London. The chauffeur seems a mighty nice man, a sight
nicer than Hammond." Hammond had been Madame von Marwitz's recent
coachman. Mrs. Talcott talked on mildly while she fed Karen who, in the
whirl of trivial thoughts, turning and turning like midges over a deep
pool, questioned herself, with a vague wonder that she was too tired to
follow: "Did Tante say anything to me about coming to Cornwall?"

Mrs. Talcott, meanwhile, as Madame von Marwitz had prophesied, asked no

"Now you have a good long sleep," she said, when she rose to go. "That's
what you need."

She needed it very much. The midges turned more and more slowly, then
sank into the pool; mist enveloped everything, and darkness.


Karen was waked next morning by the familiar sound of the
_Wohltemperirtes Clavier_.

Tante was at work in the music-room and was playing the prelude in D
flat, a special favourite of Karen's.

She lay and listened with a curious, cautious pleasure, like that with
which, half awake, one may guide a charming dream, knowing it to be a
dream. There was so much waiting to be remembered; so much waiting to be
thought. Tante's beautiful notes, rising to her like the bubbles of a
spring through clear water, seemed to encircle her, ringing her in from
the wider consciousness.

While she listened she looked out at the branches of young leaves,
softly stirring against the morning sky. There was her wall-paper, with
the little pink flower creeping up it. She was in her own little bed.
Tante was practising. How sweet, how safe, it was. A drowsy peace filled
her. It was slowly that memory, lapping in, like the sinister, dark
waters of a flood under doors and through crevices, made its way into
her mind, obliterating peace, at first, rather than revealing pain.
There was a fear formless and featureless; and there was loss, dreadful
loss. And as the sense of loss grew upon her, consciousness grew more
vivid, bringing its visions.

This hour of awakening. Gregory's eyes smiling at her, not cold, not
hard eyes then. His hand stretched out to hers; their morning kiss.
Tears suddenly streamed down her face.

It was impossible to hide them from Mrs. Talcott, who came in carrying a
breakfast tray; but Karen checked them, and dried her eyes.

Mrs. Talcott set the tray down on the little table near the bed.

"Is it late, Mrs. Talcott?" Karen asked.

"It's just nine; Mercedes is up early so as to get some work in before
she goes out motoring."

"She is going motoring?"

"Yes, she and Mr. Drew are going off for the day." Mrs. Talcott adjusted
Karen's pillow.

"But I shall see Tante before she goes?" It was the formless,
featureless fear that came closer.

"My, yes! You'll see her all right," said Mrs. Talcott. "She was asking
after you the first thing and hoped you'd stay in bed till lunch. Now
you eat your breakfast right away like a good girl."

Karen tried to eat her breakfast like a good girl and the sound of the
_Wohltemperirtes Clavier_ seemed again to encircle and sustain her.

"How'd you sleep, honey?" Mrs. Talcott inquired. The term hardly
expressed endearment, yet it was such an unusual one from Mrs. Talcott
that Karen could only surmise that her tears had touched the old woman.

"Very, very well," she said.

"How'd you like me to bring up some mending I've got to do and sit by
you till Mercedes comes?" Mrs. Talcott pursued.

"Oh, please do, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen. She felt that she would like
to have Mrs. Talcott there with her very much. She would probably cry
unless Mrs. Talcott stayed with her, and she did not want Tante to find
her crying.

So Mrs. Talcott brought her basket of mending and sat by the window,
sewing in silence for the most part, but exchanging with Karen now and
then a quiet remark about the state of the garden and how the plants
were doing.

At eleven the sound of the piano ceased and soon after the stately tread
of Madame von Marwitz was heard outside. Mrs. Talcott, saying that she
would come back later on, gathered up her mending as she appeared. She
was dressed for motoring, with a long white cloak lined with white fur
and her head bound in nun-like fashion with a white coif and veil.
Beautiful she looked, and sad, and gentle; a succouring Madonna; and
Karen's heart rose up to her. It clung to her and prayed; and the
realisation of her own need, her own dependence, was a new thing. She
had never before felt dependence on Tante as anything but proud and
glad. To pray to her now that she should never belie her loveliness, to
cling to that faith in her without which all her life would be a thing
distorted and unrecognisable, was not pride or gladness and seemed to be
the other side of fear. Yet so gentle were the eyes, so tender the smile
and the firm clasp of the hands taking hers, while Tante murmured,
stooping to kiss her: "Good morning to my child," that the prayer seemed
answered, the faith approved.

If Madame von Marwitz had been taken by surprise the night before, if
she had had to give herself time to think, she had now, it was evident,
done her thinking. The result was this warmly cherishing tenderness.

"Ah," she said, still stooping over Karen, while she put back her hair,
"it is good to have my child back again, mine--quite mine--once more."

"I have slept so well, Tante," said Karen. She was able to smile up at

Madame von Marwitz looked about the room. "And now it is to gather the
dear old life closely about her again. Gardening, and reading; and quiet
times with Tante and Tallie. Though, for the moment, I must be much with
my guest; I am helping him with his work. He has talent, yes; it is a
strange and complicated nature. You did not expect to find him here?"

Karen held Tante's hand and her gaze was innocent of surmise. Mr. Drew
had never entered her thoughts. "No. Yes. No, Tante. He came with you?"

"Yes, he came with me," said Madame von Marwitz. "I had promised him
that he should see Les Solitudes one day. I was glad to find an
occupation for my thoughts in helping him. I told him that if he were
free he might join me. It is good, in great sorrow, to think of others.
Now it is, for the young man and for me, our work. Work, work; we must
all work, _ma chérie_. It is our only clue in the darkness of life; our
only nourishment in the desert places." Again she looked about the room.
"You came without boxes?"

"Yes, Mrs. Barker is to send them to me."

"Ah, yes. When," said Madame von Marwitz, in a lower voice, "did you
leave? Yesterday morning?"

"No, Tante. The night before."

"The night before? So? And where did you spend the night? With Mrs.
Forrester? With Scrotton? I have not yet written to Scrotton."

"No. I went to the Lippheims."

"The Lippheims? So?"

"The others, Tante, would have talked to me; and questioned me. I could
not have borne that. The Lippheims were so kind."

"I can believe it. They have hearts of gold, those Lippheims. They would
cut themselves in four to help one. And the good Lise? How is she? I am
sorry to have missed Lise."

"And she was, oh, so sorry to have missed you, Tante. She is well, I
think, though tired; she is always tired, you remember. She has too much
to do."

"Indeed, yes; poor Lise. She might have been an artist of the first rank
if she had not given herself over to the making of children. Why did she
not stop at Franz and Lotta and Minna? That would have given her the
quartette,"--Madame von Marwitz smiled--she was in a mildly merry mood.
"But on they go--four, five, six, seven, eight--how many are there--_bon
Dieu!_ of how many am I the god-mother? One grows bewildered. It is
almost a rat's family. Lise is not unlike a white mother-rat, with the
small round eye and the fat body."

"Oh--not a rat, Tante," Karen protested, a little pained.

"A rabbit, you think? And a rabbit, too, is prolific. No; for the rabbit
has not the sharpness, not the pointed nose, the anxious, eager look--is
not so the mother, indeed. Rat it is, my Karen; and rat with a golden
heart. How do you find Tallie? She has been with you all the morning?
You have not talked with Tallie of our calamities?"

"Oh, no, Tante."

"She is a wise person, Tallie; wise, silent, discreet. And I find her
looking well; but very, very well; this air preserves her. And how old
is Tallie now?" she mused.

Though she talked so sweetly there was, Karen felt it now, a
perfunctoriness in Tante's remarks. She was, for all the play of her
nimble fancy, preoccupied, and the sound of the motor-horn below seemed
a signal for release. "Tallie is, _mon Dieu_," she computed,
rising--"she was twenty-three when I was born--and I am nearly
fifty"--Madame von Marwitz was as far above cowardly reticences about
her age as a timeless goddess--"Tallie is actually seventy-two. Well, I
must be off, _ma chérie_. We have a long trip to make to-day. We go to
Fowey. He wishes to see Fowey. I pray the weather may continue fine. You
will be with us this evening? You will get up? You will come to dinner?"

She paused at the mantelpiece to adjust her veil, and Karen, in the
glass, saw that her eyes were fixed on hers with a certain intentness.

"Yes, I will get up this morning, Tante," she said. "I will help Mrs.
Talcott with the garden. But dinner? Mrs. Talcott says that she has
supper now. Shall I not have my supper with her? Perhaps she would like

"That would perhaps be well," said Madame von Marwitz. "That is perhaps
well thought." Still she paused and still, in the glass, she fixed
cogitating eyes on Karen. She turned, then, abruptly. "But no; I do not
think so. On second thoughts I do not think so. You will dine with us.
Tallie is quite happy alone. She is pleased with the early supper. I
shall see you, then, this evening."

A slight irritation lay on her brows; but she leaned with all her
tenderness to kiss Karen, murmuring, "_Adieu, mon enfant_."

When the sound of the motor had died away Karen got up, dressed and went

The music-room, its windows open to the sea, was full of the signs of

The great piano stood open. Karen went to it and, standing over it,
played softly the dearly loved notes of the prelude in D flat.

She practised, always, on the upright piano in the morning-room; but
when Tante was at home and left the grand piano open she often played on
that. It was a privilege rarely to be resisted and to-day she sat down
and played the fugue through, still very softly. Then, covering the
keys, she shut the lid and looked more carefully about the room.

Flowers and books were everywhere. Mrs. Talcott arranged flowers
beautifully; Karen recognized her skilful hand in the tall branches of
budding green standing high in a corner, the glasses of violets, the
bowls of anemones and the flat dishes of Italian earthenware filled with

On a table lay a pile of manuscript; she knew Mr. Drew's small, thick
handwriting. A square silver box for cigarettes stood near by; it was
marked with Mr. Drew's initials in Tante's hand. How kind she was to
that young man; but Tante had always been lavish with those of whom she
was fond.

Out on the verandah the vine-tendrils were already green against the
sky, and on a lower terrace she saw Mrs. Talcott at work, as usual,
among the borders. Mrs. Talcott then, had not yet gone to Helston and
she would not be alone and she was glad of that. In the little cupboard
near the pantry she found a pair of old gardening gloves and her own old
gardening hat. The day was peaceful and balmy; all was as it had always
been, except herself.

She worked all the morning in the garden and walked in the afternoon on
the cliffs with Victor. Victor had come down with Tante.

Mrs. Talcott had adjourned the trip to Helston; so they had tea
together. Her boxes had not yet come and when it was time to dress for
dinner she had nothing to change to but the little white silk with the
flat blue bows upon it, the dress in which Gregory had first seen her.
She had left it behind her when she married and found it now hanging in
a cupboard in her room.

The horn of the returning motor did not sound until she was dressed and
on going down she had the music-room to herself for nearly half an hour.
Then Mr. Drew appeared.

The tall white lamps with their white shades had been brought in, but
the light from the windows mingled a pale azure with the gold. Mr. Drew,
Karen reflected, looked in the dual illumination like a portrait by
Besnard. He had, certainly, an unusual and an interesting face, and it
pleased her to verify and emphasize this fact; for, accustomed as she
was to watching Tante's preoccupations with interesting people, she
could not quite accustom herself to her preoccupation with Mr. Drew. To
account for it he must be so very interesting.

She was not embarrassed by conjectures as to what, after her entry of
last night, Mr. Drew might be thinking about her. It occurred to her no
more than in the past to imagine that anybody attached to Tante could
spare thought to her. And as in the past, despite all the inner
desolation, it was easy to assume to this guest of Tante's the attitude
so habitual to her of the attendant in the temple, the attendant who,
rising from his seat at the door, comes forward tranquilly to greet the
worshipper and entertain him with quiet comment until the goddess shall

"Did you have a nice drive?" she inquired. "The weather has been

Mr. Drew, coming up to her as she stood in the open window, looked at
her with his impenetrable, melancholy eyes, smiling at her a little.

There was no tastelessness in his gaze, nothing that suggested a
recollection of what he had heard or seen last night; yet Karen was made
vaguely aware from his look that she had acquired some sort of
significance for him.

"Yes, it's been nice," he said. "I'm very fond of motoring. I'd like to
spend my days in a motor--always going faster and faster; and then drop
down in a blissful torpor at night. Madame von Marwitz was so kind and
made the chauffeur go very fast."

Karen was somewhat disturbed by this suggestion. "I am sure that she,
too, would like going very fast. I hope you will not tempt her."

"Oh, but I'm afraid I do," Mr. Drew confessed. "What is the good of a
motor unless you go too fast in it? A motor has no meaning unless it's a
method of intoxication."

Karen received the remark with inattention. She looked out over the sea,
preoccupied with the thought of Tante's recklessness. "I do not think
that going so fast can be good for her music," she said.

"Oh, but yes," Mr. Drew assured her, "nothing is so good for art as
intoxication. Art is rooted in intoxication. It's all a question of how
to get it."

"But with motoring you only get torpor, you say," Karen remarked. And,
going on with her own train of thoughts, "So much shaking will be bad,
perhaps, for the muscles. And there is always the danger to consider. I
hope she will not go too fast. She is too important a person to take
risks." There was no suggestion that Mr. Drew should not take them.

"Don't you like going fast? Don't you like taking risks? Don't you like
intoxication?" Mr. Drew inquired, and his eyes travelled from the blue
bows on her breast to the blue bows on her elbow-sleeves.

"I have never been intoxicated," said Karen calmly--she was quite
accustomed to all manner of fantastic visitors in the temple--"I do not
think that I should like it. And I prefer walking to any kind of
driving. No, I do not like risks."

"Ah yes, I can see that. Yes, that's altogether in character," said Mr.
Drew. He turned, then, as Madame von Marwitz came in, but remained
standing in the window while Karen went forward to greet her guardian.
Madame von Marwitz, as she took her hands and kissed her, looked over
Karen's shoulder at Mr. Drew.

"Why did you not come to my room, _chérie_?" she asked. "I had hoped to
see you alone before I came down."

"I thought you might be tired and perhaps resting, Tante," said Karen,
who had, indeed, paused before her guardian's door on her way down, and
then passed on with a certain sense of shyness; she did not want in any
way to force herself on Tante.

"But you know that I like to have you with me when I am tired," Madame
von Marwitz returned. "And I am not tired: no: it has been a day of

She walked down the long room, her arm around Karen, with a buoyancy of
tread and demeanour in which, however, Karen, so deep an adept in her
moods discovered excitement rather than gaiety. "Has it been a good day
for my child?" she questioned; "a happy, peaceful day? Yes? You have
been much with Tallie? I told Tallie that she must postpone the trip to
Helston so that she might stay with you." Tante on the sofa encircled
her and looked brightly at her; yet her eye swerved to the window where
Mr. Drew remained looking at a paper.

Karen said that she had been gardening and walking.

"Good; bravo!" said Tante, and then, in a lower voice: "No news, I

"No; oh no. That could not be, Tante," said Karen, with a startled look,
and Tante went on quickly: "But no; I see. It could not be. And it has,
then, been a happy day for my Karen. What is it you read, Claude?"

Karen's sense of slight perplexity in regard to Tante's interest in Mr.
Drew was deepened when she called him Claude, and her tone now, half
vexed, half light, was perplexing.

"Some silly things that are being said in the House," Mr. Drew returned,
going on reading.

"What things?" said Tante sharply.

"Oh, you wouldn't expect me to read a stupid debate to you," said Mr.
Drew, lifting his eyes with a smile.

Dinner was announced and they went in, Tante keeping her arm around
Karen's shoulders and sweeping ahead with an effect of unawareness as to
her other guest. She had, perhaps, a little lost her temper with him;
and his manner was, Karen reflected, by no means assiduous: At the
table, however, Tante showed herself suave and sweet.

One reason why things seemed a little strange, Karen further reflected,
was that Mrs. Talcott came no longer to dinner; and she was vaguely
sorry for this.


Karen's boxes arrived next day, neatly packed by Mrs. Barker. And not
only her clothes were in them. She had left behind her the jewel-box
with the pearl necklace that Gregory had given her, the pearl and
sapphire ring, the old enamel brooch and clasp and chain, his presents
all. The box was kept locked, and in a cupboard of which Gregory had the
key; so that he must have given it to Mrs. Barker. The photographs, too,
from their room, not those of him, but those of Tante; of her father;
and a half a dozen little porcelain and silver trinkets from the
drawing-room, presents and purchases particularly hers.

It was right, quite right, that he should send them. She knew it. It was
right that he should accept their parting as final. Yet that he should
so accurately select and send to her everything that could remind him of
her seemed to roll the stone before the tomb.

She looked at the necklace, the ring, all the pretty things, and shut
the box. Impossible that she should keep them yet impossible to send
them back as if in a bandying of rebuffs. She would wait for some years
to pass and then they should be returned without comment.

And the clothes, all these dear clothes of her married life; every dress
and hat was associated with Gregory. She could never wear them again.
And it felt, not so much that she was locking them away, as that Gregory
had locked her out into darkness and loneliness. She took up the round
of the days. She practised; she gardened, she walked and read. Of Tante
she saw little.

She was accustomed to seeing little of Tante, even when Tante was there;
quite accustomed to Tante's preoccupations. Yet, through the fog of her
own unhappiness, it came to her, like an object dimly perceived, that in
this preoccupation of Tante's there was a difference. It showed, itself
in a high-pitched restlessness, verging now and again on irritation--not
with her, Karen, but with Mr. Drew. To Karen she was brightly,
punctually tender, yet it was a tenderness that held her away rather
than drew her near.

Karen did not need to be put aside. She had always known how to efface
herself; she needed no atonement for the so apparent fact that Tante
wanted to be left alone with Mr. Drew as much as possible. The
difficulty in leaving her came with perceiving that though Tante wanted
her to go she did not want to seem to want it.

She caressed Karen; she addressed her talk to her; she kept her; yet,
under the smile of the eyes, there was an intentness that Karen could
interpret. It devolved upon her to find the excuse, the necessity, for
withdrawal. Mrs. Talcott, in the morning-room, was a solution. Karen
could go to her almost directly after dinner, as soon as coffee had been
served; for on the first occasion when she rose, saying that she would
have her coffee with Mrs. Talcott, Tante said with some sharpness--after
a hesitation: "No; you will have your coffee here. Tallie does not have
coffee." Groping her way, Karen seemed to touch strange forms. Tante
cared so much about this young man; so much that it was almost as if she
would be willing to abandon her dignity for him. It was more than the
indulgent, indolent interest, wholly Olympian, that she had so often
seen her bestow. She really cared. And the strangeness for Karen was in
part made up of pain for Tante; for it almost seemed that Tante cared
more than Mr. Drew did. Karen had seen so many men care for Tante; so
many who were, obviously, in love with her; but she had seen Tante
always throned high above the prostrate adorers, idly kind; holding out
a hand, perhaps, for them to kiss; smiling, from time to time, if they,
fortunately, pleased her; but never, oh never, stepping down towards

It seemed to her now that she had seen Tante stepping down. It was only
a step; she could never become the suppliant, the pursuing goddess; and,
as if with her hand still laid on the arm of her throne, she kept all
her air of high command.

But had she kept its power? Mr. Drew's demeanour reminded Karen
sometimes of a cat's. Before the glance and voice of authority he would,
metaphorically, pace away; pausing to blink up at some object that
attracted his attention or to interest himself in the furbishing of
flank or chest. At a hint of anger or coercion, he would tranquilly
disappear. Tante, controlling indignation, was left to stare after him
and to regain the throne as best she might, and at these moments Karen
felt that Tante's eye turned on her, gauging her power of
interpretation, ready, did she not feign the right degree of
unconsciousness, to wreak on her something of the controlled emotion.
The fear that had come on the night of her arrival pressed closely on
Karen then, but, more closely still, the pain for Tante. Tante's clear
dignity was blurred; her image, in its rebuffed and ineffectual
autocracy, became hovering, uncertain, piteous. And, in seeing and
feeling all these things, as if with a lacerated sensitiveness, Karen
was aware that, in this last week of her life, she had grown much older.
She felt herself in some ways older than her guardian.

It was on the morning of her seventh day at Les Solitudes that she met
Mr. Drew walking early in the garden.

The sea was glittering blue and gold; the air was melancholy in its
sweetness; birds whistled.

Karen examined Mr. Drew as he approached her along the sunny upper

With his dense, dark eyes, delicate face and golden hair, his white
clothes and loose black tie, she was able to recognize in him an object
that might charm and even subjugate. To Karen he seemed but one among
the many strange young men she had seen surrounding Tante; yet this
morning, clearly, and for the first time, she saw why he subjugated
Tante and why she resented her subjugation. There was more in him than
mere pose and peculiarity; he had some power; the power of the cat: he
was sincerely indifferent to anything that did not attract him. And at
the same time he was unimportant; insignificant in all but his
sincerity. He was not a great writer; Tante could never make a great
writer out of him. And he was, when all was said and done, but one among
many strange young men.

"Good morning," he said. He doffed his hat. He turned and walked beside
her. They were in full view of the house. "I hoped that I might find
you. Let us go up to the flagged garden," he suggested; "the sea is
glittering like a million scimitars. One has a better view up there."

"But it is not so warm," said Karen. "I am walking here to be in the

Mr. Drew had also been walking there to be in the sun; but they were in
full view of the house and he was aware of a hand at Madame von
Marwitz's window-curtain. He continued, however, to walk beside Karen up
and down the terrace.

"I think of you," he said, "as a person always in the sun. You suggest
glaciers and fields of snow and meadows full of flowers--the sun pouring
down on all of them. I always imagine Apollo as a Norse God. Are you
really a Norwegian?"

Karen was, as we have said, accustomed to young men who talked in a
fantastic manner. She answered placidly: "Yes. I am half Norwegian."

"Your name, then, is really yours?--your untamed, yet intimate, name. It
is like a wild bird that feeds out of one's hand."

"Yes; it is really mine. It is quite a common name in Norway."

"Wild birds are common," Mr. Drew observed, smiling softly.

He found her literalness charming. He was finding her altogether
charming. From the moment that she had appeared at the door in the dusk,
with her white, blind, searching face, she had begun to interest him.
She was stupid and delightful; a limpid and indomitable young creature
who, in a clash of loyalties, had chosen, without a hesitation, to leave
the obvious one. Also she was married yet unawakened, and this, to Mr.
Drew, was a pre-eminently charming combination. The question of the
awakened and the unawakened, of the human attitude to passion,
preoccupied him, practically, more than any other. His art dealt mainly
in themes of emotion as an end in itself.

The possibilities of passion in Madame von Marwitz, as artist and
genius, had strongly attracted him. He had genuinely been in love with
Madame von Marwitz. But the mere woman, as she more and more helplessly
revealed herself, was beginning to oppress and bore him.

He had amused himself, of late, by imaging his relation to her in the
fable of the sun and the traveller. Her beams from their high, sublime
solitudes had filled him with delight and exhilaration. Then the
radiance had concentrated itself, had begun to follow him--rather in the
manner of stage sunlight--very unflaggingly. He had wished for intervals
of shade. He had been aware, even during his long absence in America, of
sultriness brooding over him, and now, at these close quarters, he had
begun to throw off his cloak of allegiance. She bored him. It wasn't
good enough. She pretended to be sublime and far; but she wasn't sublime
and far; she was near and watchful and exacting; as watchful and
exacting as a mistress and as haughty as a Diana. She was not, and had,
evidently, no intention of being, his mistress, and for the mere
pleasure of adoring her Mr. Drew found the price too high to pay. He did
not care to proffer, indefinitely, a reverent passion, and he did not
like people, when he showed his weariness, to lose their tempers with
him. Already Madame von Marwitz had lost hers. He did not forget what
she looked like nor what she said on these occasions. She had mentioned
the large-mouthed children at Wimbledon--facts that he preferred to
forget as much as possible--and he did not know that he forgave her.
There was a tranquil malice in realizing that as Madame von Marwitz
became more and more displeasing to him, Mrs. Jardine, more and more,
became pleasing. A new savour had come into his life since her
appearance and he had determined to postpone a final rupture with his
great friend and remain on for some time longer at Les Solitudes. He
wondered if it would be possible to awaken Mrs. Jardine.

"Haven't I heard you practising, once or twice lately?" he asked her
now, as they turned at the end of the terrace and walked back.

"Yes," said Karen; "I practise every morning."

"I'd no idea you played, too."

"It is hardly a case of 'too', is it," Karen said, mildly amused.

"I don't know. Perhaps it is. One may look at a Memling after a Michael
Angelo, you know. I wish you'd play to me."

"I am no Memling, I assure you."

"You can't, until I hear you. Do play to me. Brahms; a little Brahms."

"I have practised no Brahms for a long time. I find him too difficult."

"I heard you doing a Bach prelude yesterday; play that."

"Certainly, if you wish it, I will play it to you," said Karen, "though
I do not think that you will much enjoy it."

Mrs. Talcott was in the morning-room over accounts; so Karen went with
the young man into the music-room and opened the grand piano there.

She then played her prelude, delicately, carefully, composedly. She knew
Mr. Drew to be musicianly; she did not mind playing to him.

More and more, Mr. Drew reflected, looking down at her, she reminded him
of flower-brimmed, inaccessible mountain-slopes. He must discover some
method of ascent; for the music brought her no nearer; he was aware,
indeed, that it removed her. She quite forgot him as she played.

The last bars had been reached when the door opened suddenly and Madame
von Marwitz appeared.

She had come in haste--that was evident--and a mingled fatigue and
excitement was on her face. Her white cheeks had soft, sodden
depressions and under her eyes were little pinches in the skin, as
though hot fingers had nipped her there. She looked almost old, and she
smiled a determined, adjusted smile, with heavy eyes. "_Tiens, tiens_,"
she said, and, turning elaborately, she shut the door.

Karen finished her bars and rose.

"This is a new departure," said Madame von Marwitz. She came swiftly to
them, her loose lace sleeves flowing back from her bare arms. "I do not
like my piano touched, you know, Karen, unless permission is given. No
matter, no matter, my child. Let it not occur again, that is all. You
have not found the right balance of that phrase," she stooped and
reiterated with emphasis a fragment of the prelude. "And now I will
begin my work, if you please. Tallie waits for you, I think, in the
garden, and would be glad of your help. Tallie grows old. It does not do
to forget her."

"Am I to go into the garden, too?" Mr. Drew inquired, as Madame von
Marwitz seated herself and ran her fingers over the keys. "I thought we
were to motor this morning."

"We will motor when I have done my work. Go into the garden, by all
means, if you wish to."

"May I come into the garden with you? May I help you there?" Mr. Drew
serenely drawled, addressing Karen, who, with a curious, concentrated
look, stood gazing at her guardian.

She turned her eyes on him and her glance put him far, far away, like an
object scarcely perceived. "I am not going into the garden," she said.
"Mrs. Talcott is working in the morning-room and does not need me yet."

"Ah. She is in the morning-room," Madame von Marwitz murmured, still not
raising her eyes, and still running loud and soft scales up and down.
Karen left the room.

As the door closed upon her, Madame von Marwitz, with a singular effect
of control, began to weave a spider's-web of intricate, nearly
impalpable, sound. "Go, if you please," she said to Mr. Drew.

He stood beside her, placid. "Why are you angry?" he asked.

"I am not pleased that my rules should be broken. Karen has many
privileges. She must learn not to take, always, the extra inch when the
ell is so gladly granted."

He leaned on the piano. Her controlled face, bent with absorption above
the lacey pattern of sound that she evoked, interested him.

"When you are angry and harness your anger to your art like this, you
become singularly beautiful," he remarked. He felt it; and, after all,
if he were to remain at Les Solitudes and attempt to scale those Alpine
slopes he must keep on good terms with Madame von Marwitz.

"So," was her only reply. Yet her eyes softened.

He raised the lace wing of her sleeve and kissed it, keeping it in his

"No foolishness if you please," said Madame von Marwitz. "Of what have
you and Karen been talking?"

"I can't get her to talk," said Mr. Drew. "But I like to hear her play."

"She plays with right feeling," said Madame von Marwitz. "She is not a
child to express herself in speech. Her music reveals her more truly."

"_Nur wo du bist sei alles, immer kindlich_," Mr. Drew mused. "That is
what she makes me think of." With anybody of Madame von Marwitz's
intelligence, frankness was far more likely to allay suspicion than
guile. And for very pride now she was forced to seem reassured. "Yes.
That is so," she said. And she continued to play.


Karen meanwhile made her way to the cliff-path and, seating herself on a
grassy slope, she clasped her knees with her hands and gazed out over
the sea. She was thinking hard of something, and trying to think only of
that. It was true, the permission had been that she was to play on the
grand-piano when it was left open. There had been no rule set; it had
not been said that she was not to play at other times and indeed, on
many occasions, she had played unrebuked, before Tante came down. But
the thing to remember now, with all her power, was that, technically,
Tante had been right. To hold fast to that thought was to beat away a
fear that hovered about her, like a horrible bird of prey. She sat there
for a long time, and she became aware at last that though she held so
tightly to her thought, it had, as it were, become something lifeless,
inefficacious, and that fear had invaded her. Tante had been unkind,
unjust, unloving.

It was as though, in taking refuge with Tante, she had leaped from a
great height, seeing security beneath, and as though, alighting, she
slipped and stumbled on a sloping surface with no foothold anywhere.
Since she came, there had been only this sliding, sliding, and now it
seemed to be down to unseen depths. For this was more and worse than the
first fear of her coming. Tante had been unkind, and she so loved Mr.
Drew that she forgot herself when he bestowed his least attention

Karen rose to her feet suddenly, aware that she was trembling.

She looked over the sea and the bright day was dreadful to her. Where
was she and what was she, and what was Tante, if this fear were true?
Not even on that far day of childhood when she had lost herself in the
forest had such a horror of loneliness filled her. She was a lost, an
unwanted creature.

She turned from the unanswering immensities and ran down the cliff-path
towards Les Solitudes. She could not be alone. To think these things was
to feel herself drowning in fear.

Emerging from the higher trees she caught sight below her of Mrs.
Talcott's old straw hat moving among the borders; and, in the midst of
the emptiness, the sight was strength and hope. The whole world seemed
to narrow to Mrs. Talcott. She was secure and real. She was a spar to be
clung to. The nightmare would reveal itself as illusion if she kept near
Mrs. Talcott. She ran down to her.

Mrs. Talcott was slaying slugs. She had placed pieces of orange-peel
around cherished young plants to attract the depredators and she held a
jar of soot; into the soot the slugs were dropped as she discovered

The sight of her was like a draught of water to parching lips. Reality
slowly grew round Karen once more. Tante had been hasty, even unkind;
but she was piteous, absorbed in this great devotion; and Tante loved

She walked beside Mrs. Talcott and helped her with the slugs.

"Been out for a walk, Karen?" Mrs. Talcott inquired. They had reached
the end of the border and moved on to a higher one.

"Only to the cliff," said Karen.

"You look kind of tired," Mrs. Talcott remarked, and Karen owned that
she felt tired. "It's so warm to-day," she said.

"Yes; it's real hot. Let's walk under the trees." Mrs. Talcott took out
her handkerchief and wiped her large, saffron-coloured forehead.

They walked slowly in the thin shadow of the young foliage.

"You're staying on for a while, aren't you?" Mrs. Talcott inquired
presently. She had as yet asked Karen no question and Karen felt that
something in her own demeanour had caused this one.

"For more than a while," she said. "I am not going away again." In the
sound of the words she found a curious reassurance. Was it not her home,
Les Solitudes?

Mrs. Talcott said nothing for some moments, stooping to nip a drooping
leaf from a plant they passed. Then she questioned further: "Is Mr.
Jardine coming down here?"

"I have left my husband," said Karen.

For some moments, Mrs. Talcott, again, said nothing, but she no longer
had an eye for the plants. Neither did she look at Karen; her gaze was
fixed before her. "Is that so," was at last her comment.

The phrase might have expressed amazement, commiseration or protest; its
sound remained ambiguous. They had come to a rustic bench. "Let's sit
down for a while," she said; "I'm not as young as I was."

They sat down, the old woman heavily, and she drew a sigh of relief.
Looking at her Karen saw that she, too, was very tired. And she,
too--was it not strange that to-day she should see it for the first
time?--was very lonely. A sudden pity, profound and almost passionate,
filled her for Mrs. Talcott.

"You'll not mind having me here--for all the time now--again, will you?"
she asked, smiling a little, with determination, for she did not wish
Mrs. Talcott to guess what she had seen.

"No," said Mrs. Talcott, continuing to gaze before her, and shaking her
head. "No, I'll be glad of that. We get on real well together, I think."
And, after another moment of silence, she went on in the same
contemplative tone: "I used to quarrel pretty bad with my husband when I
was first married, Karen. He was the nicest, mildest kind of man, as
loving as could be. But I guess most young things find it hard to get
used to each other all at once. It ain't easy, married life; at least
not at the beginning. You expect such a high standard of each other and
everything seems to hurt. After a while you get so discouraged, perhaps,
finding it isn't like what you expected, that you commence to think you
don't care any more and it was all a mistake. I guess every young wife
thinks that in the first year, and it makes you feel mighty sick. Why,
if marriage didn't tie people up so tight, most of 'em would fly apart
in the first year and think they just hated each other, and that's why
it's such a good thing that they're tied so tight. Why I remember once
the only thing that seemed to keep me back was thinking how Homer--Homer
was my husband's name, Homer G. Talcott--sort of snorted when he
laughed. I was awful mad with him and it seemed as if he'd behaved so
mean and misunderstood me so that I'd got to go; but when I thought of
that sort of childish snort he'd give sometimes, I felt I couldn't leave
him. It's mighty queer, human nature, and the teeny things that seem to
decide your mind for you; I guess they're not as teeny as they seem. But
those hurt feelings are almost always a mistake--I'm pretty sure of it.
Any two people find it hard to live together and get used to each other;
it don't make any difference how much in love they are."

There was no urgency in Mrs. Talcott's voice and no pathos of
retrospect. Its contemplative placidity might have been inviting another
sad and wise old woman to recognize these facts of life with her.

Karen's mood, while she listened to her, was hardening to the iron of
her final realization, the realization that had divided her and Gregory.
"It isn't so with us, Mrs. Talcott," she said. "He has shown himself a
man I cannot live with. None of our feelings are the same. All my sacred
things he despises."

"Mercedes, you mean?" Mrs. Talcott suggested after a moment's silence.

"Yes. And more." Karen could not name her mother.

Mrs. Talcott sat silent.

"Has Tante not told you why I was here?" Karen presently asked.

"No," said Mrs. Talcott. "I haven't had a real talk with Mercedes since
she got back. Her mind is pretty well taken up with this young man."

To this Karen, glancing at Mrs. Talcott in a slight bewilderment, was
able to say nothing, and Mrs. Talcott pursued, resuming her former tone:
"There's another upsetting thing about marriage, Karen, and that is that
you can't expect your families to feel about each other like you feel.
It isn't in nature that they should, and that's one of the things that
young married people can't make up their minds to. Now Mr. Jardine isn't
the sort of young man to care about many people; few and far between
they are, I should infer, and Mercedes ain't one of them. Mercedes
wouldn't appeal to him one mite. I saw that as plain as could be from
the first."

"He should have told me so," said Karen, with her rocky face and voice.

"Well, he didn't tell you he found her attractive, did he?"

"No. But though I saw that there was blindness, I thought it was because
he did not know her. I thought that when he knew her he would care for
her. And I could forgive his not caring. I could forgive so much. But it
is worse, far worse than that. He accuses Tante of dreadful things. It
is hatred that he feels for her. He has confessed it." The colour had
risen to Karen's cheeks and burned there as she spoke.

"Well now!" Mrs. Talcott imperturbably ejaculated.

"You can see that I could not live with a man who hated Tante," said

"What sort of things for instance?" Mrs. Talcott took up her former

"How can I tell you, Mrs. Talcott. It burns me to think of them.
Hypocrisy in her feeling for me; selfishness and tyranny and deceit. It
is terrible. In his eyes she is a malignant woman."

"Tch! Tch!" Mrs. Talcott made an indeterminate cluck with her tongue.

"I struggled not to see," said Karen, and her voice took on a sombre
energy, "and Tante struggled, too, for me. She, too, saw from the very
first what it might mean. She asked me, on the very first day that they
met, Mrs. Talcott, when she came back, she asked me to try and make him
like her. She was so sweet, so magnanimous," her voice trembled. Oh the
deep relief, so deep that it seemed to cut like a knife--of remembering,
pressing to her, what Tante had done for her, endured for her! "So
sweet, so magnanimous, Mrs. Talcott. She did all that she could--and so
did I--to give him time. For it was not that I lacked love for my
husband. No. I loved him. More, even more, than I loved Tante. There was
perhaps the wrong. I was perhaps cowardly, for his sake. I would not
see. And it was all useless. It grew worse and worse. He was not rude to
her. It was not that. It was worse. He was so careful--oh I see it
now--not to put himself in the wrong. He tried, instead, to put her in
the wrong. He misread every word and look. He sneered--oh, I saw it, and
shut my eyes--at her little foibles and weaknesses; why should she not
have them as well as other people, Mrs. Talcott? And he was
blind--blind--blind," Karen's voice trembled more violently, "to all the
rest. So that it had to end," she went on in broken sentences. "Tante
went because she could bear it no longer. And because she saw that I
could bear it no longer. She hoped, by leaving me, to save my happiness.
But that could not be. Mrs. Talcott, even then I might have tried to go
on living with that chasm--between Tante and my husband--in my life; but
I learned the whole truth as even I hadn't seen it; as even she hadn't
seen it. Mrs. Forrester came to me, Mrs. Talcott, and told me what
Gregory had said to her of Tante. He believes her a malignant woman,"
said Karen, repeating her former words and rising as she spoke. "And to
me he did not deny it. Everything, then, was finished for us. We saw
that we did not love each other any longer."

She stood before Mrs. Talcott in the path, her hands hanging at her
sides, her eyes fixed on the wall above Mrs. Talcott's head.

Mrs. Talcott did not rise. She sat silent, looking up at Karen, and so
for some moments they said nothing, while in the spring sunshine about
them the birds whistled and an early white butterfly dipped and
fluttered by.

"I feel mighty tired, Karen," Mrs. Talcott then said. Her eyelid with
the white mole twitched over her eye, the lines of her large, firm old
mouth were relaxed. Karen's eyes went to her and pity filled her.

"It is my miserable story," she said. "I am so sorry."

"Yes, I feel mighty tired," Mrs. Talcott repeated, looking away and out
at the sea. "It's discouraging. I thought you were fixed up all safe and
happy for life."

"Dear Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, earnestly.

"I don't like to see things that ought to turn out right turning out
wrong," Mrs. Talcott continued, "and I've seen a sight too many of them
in my life. Things turning out wrong that were meant to go right. Things
spoiled. People, nice, good people, like you and Mr. Jardine, all upset
and miserable. I've seen worse things, too," Mrs. Talcott slowly rose as
she spoke. "Yes, I've seen about as bad things happen as can happen, and
it's always been when Mercedes is about."

She stood still beside Karen, her bleak, intense old gaze fixed on the

Karen thought that she had misheard her last words. "When Tante is
about?" she repeated. "You mean that dreadful things happen to her? That
is one of the worst parts of it now, Mrs. Talcott--only that I am so
selfish that I do not think of it enough--to know that I have added to
Tante's troubles."

"No." Mrs. Talcott now said, and with a curious mildness and firmness.
"No, that ain't what I mean. Mercedes has had a sight of trouble. I
don't deny it, but that ain't what I mean. She makes trouble. She makes
it for herself and she makes it for other people. There's always trouble
going, of some sort or other, when Mercedes is about."

"I don't understand you, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen. An uncanny feeling
had crept over her while the old woman spoke. It was as if, helplessly,
she were listening to a sleep-walker who, in tranced unconsciousness,
spoke forth mildly the hidden thought of his waking life.

"No, you don't understand, yet," said Mrs. Talcott. "Perhaps it's fair
that you don't. Perhaps she can't help it. She was born so, I guess."
Mrs. Talcott turned and walked towards the house.

The panic of the cliff was rising in Karen again. Mrs. Talcott was worse
than the cliff and the unanswering immensities. She walked beside her,
trying to control her terror.

"You mean, I think," she said, "that Tante is a tragic person and people
who love her must suffer because of all that she has had to suffer."

"Yes, she's tragic all right," said Mrs. Talcott. "She's had about as
bad a time as they make 'em--off and on. But she spoils things. And it
makes me tired to see it going on. I've had too much of it," said Mrs.
Talcott, "and if this can't come right--this between you and your nice
young husband--I don't feel like I could get over it somehow." Leaning
on Karen's arm with both hands she had paused and looked intently down
at the path.

"But Mrs. Talcott," Karen's voice trembled; it was incredible, yet one
was forced by Mrs. Talcott's whole demeanour to ask the question without
indignation--"you speak as if you were blaming Tante for something. You
do not blame her, do you?"

Mrs. Talcott still paused and still looked down, as if deeply pondering.
"I've done a lot of thinking about that very point, Karen," she said.
"And I don't know as I've made up my mind yet. It's a mighty intricate
question. Perhaps we've all got only so much will-power and when most of
it is ladled out into one thing there's nothing left to ladle out into
the others. That's the way I try, sometimes, to figure it out to myself.
Mercedes has got a powerful sight of will-power; but look at all she's
got to use up in her piano-playing. There she is, working up to the last
notch all the time, taking it out of herself, getting all wrought up.
Well, to live so as you won't be spoiling things for other people needs
about as much will-power as piano-playing, I guess, when you're as big a
person as Mercedes and want as many things. And if you ain't got any
will-power left you just do the easiest thing; you just take what you've
a mind to; you just let yourself go in every other way to make up for
the one way you held yourself in. That's how it is, perhaps."

"But Mrs. Talcott," said Karen in a low voice, "all this--about me and
my husband--has come because Tante has thought too much of us and too
little of herself. It would have been much easier for her to let us
alone and not try and make Gregory like her. I do not recognise her in
what you are saying. You are saying dreadful things."

"Well, dreadful things have happened, I guess," said Mrs. Talcott. "I
want you to go back to your nice husband, Karen."

"No; no. Never. I can never go back to him," said Karen, walking on.

"Because he hates Mercedes?"

"Not only that. No. He is not what I thought. Do not ask me, Mrs.
Talcott. We do not love each other any longer. It is over."

"Well, I won't say anything about it, then," said Mrs. Talcott, who,
walking beside her, kept her hand on her arm. "Only I liked Mr. Jardine.
I took to him right off, and I don't take to people so easy. And I take
to you, Karen, more than you know, I guess. And I'll lay my bottom
dollar there's some mistake between you and him, and that Mercedes is
the reason of it."

They had reached the house.

"But wait," said Karen, turning to her. She laid both her hands on the
old woman's arm while she steadied her voice to speak this last thought.
"Wait. You are so kind to me, Mrs. Talcott; but you have made everything
strange--and dreadful. I must ask you--one question, Mrs. Talcott. You
have been with Tante all her life. No one knows her as you do. Tell me,
Mrs. Talcott. You love Tante?"

They faced each other at the top of the steps, on the verandah. And the
young eyes plunged deep into the old eyes, passionately searching.

For a moment Mrs. Talcott did not reply. When she did speak, it was
decisively as if, while recognising Karen's right to ask, Karen must
recognise that the answer must suffice. "I'd be pretty badly off if I
didn't love Mercedes. She's all I've got in the world."


The sound of the motor, whirring skilfully among the lanes, was heard at
six, and shortly after Madame von Marwitz's return Mrs. Talcott knocked
at her door.

Madame von Marwitz was lying on the sofa. Louise had removed her wraps
and dress and was drawing off her shoes. Her eyes were closed. She
seemed weary.

"I'll see to Madame," said Mrs. Talcott with her air of composed and
unassuming authority. It was somewhat the air of an old nurse, sure of
her prerogatives in the nursery.

Louise went and Mrs. Talcott took off the other shoe and fetched the
white silk _mules_.

Madame von Marwitz had only opened her eye for a glimmer of recognition,
but as Mrs. Talcott adjusted a _mule_, she tipped it off and muttered
gloomily: "Stockings, please. I want fresh stockings."

There was oddity--as Mrs. Talcott found, and came back, with a pair of
white silk stockings--in the sight of the opulent, middle-aged figure on
the sofa, childishly stretching out first one large bare leg and then
the other to be clothed; and it might have aroused in Mrs. Talcott a
vista of memories ending with the picture of a child in the same
attitude, a child as idle and as autocratic.

"Thank you, Tallie," Madame von Marwitz said, wearily but kindly, when
the stockings were changed.

Mrs. Talcott drew a chair in front of the sofa, seated herself and
clasped her hands at her waist. "I've come for a talk, Mercedes," she

Madame von Marwitz now was sleepily observing her.

"A talk! _Bon Dieu!_ But I have been talking all day long!"

She yawned, putting a folded arm under her head so that, slightly
raising it, she could look at Mrs. Talcott more comfortably. "What do
you want to talk about?" she inquired.

Mrs. Talcott's eyes, with their melancholy, immovable gaze, rested upon
her. "About Karen and her husband," she said. "I gathered from some talk
I had with Karen to-day that you let her think you came away from London
simply and solely because you'd had a quarrel with Mr. Jardine."

Madame von Marwitz lay as if arrested by these words for some moments of
an almost lethargic interchange, and then in an impatient voice she
returned: "What business is it of Karen's, pray, if I didn't leave
London simply and solely on account of my quarrel with her husband? I
had found it intolerable to be under his roof and I took the first
opportunity for leaving it. The opportunity happened to coincide with my
arrangements for coming here. What has that to do with Karen?"

"It has to do with her, Mercedes, because the child believes you were
thinking about her when, as a matter of fact, you weren't thinking about
her or about anyone but this young man you've gotten so taken up with.
Karen believes you care for her something in the same way she does for
you, and it's a sin and a shame, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott spoke with no
vehemence at all of tone or look, but with decision, "a sin and a shame
to let that child ruin her life because of you."

Again Madame von Marwitz, now turning her eyes on the ceiling, seemed to
reflect dispassionately. "I never conceived it possible that she would
leave him," she then said. "I found him insufferable and I saw that
unless I went Karen also would come to see him as insufferable. To spare
the poor child this I came away. And I was amazed when she appeared
here. Amazed and distressed," said Madame von Marwitz. And after another
moment she took up: "As for him, he has what he deserves."

Mrs. Talcott eyed her. "And what do you deserve, I'd like to know, for
going meddling with those poor happy young things? Why couldn't you let
them alone? Karen's been a bother to you for years. Why couldn't you be
satisfied at having her nicely fixed up and let her tend to her own
potato-patch while you tended to yours? You can't make me believe that
it wasn't your fault--the whole thing--right from the beginning. I know
you too well, Mercedes."

Again Madame von Marwitz lay, surprisingly still and surprisingly
unresentful. It was as if, placidly, she were willing to be undressed,
body or soul, by her old nurse and guardian. But after a moment, and
with sudden indignation, she took up one of Mrs. Talcott's sentences.

"A bother to me? I am very fond of Karen. I am devoted to Karen. I
should much like to know what right you have to intimate that my feeling
for her isn't sincere. My life proves the contrary. As for saying that
it is my fault, that is merely your habit. Everything is always my fault
with you."

"It always has been, as far as I've been able to keep an eye on your
tracks," Mrs. Talcott remarked.

"Well, this is not. I deny it. I absolutely," said Madame von Marwitz,
and now with some excitement, "deny it. Did I not give her to him? Did I
not go to them with tenderest solicitude and strive to make possible
between him and me some relation of bare good fellowship? Did I not curb
my spirit, and it is a proud and impatient one, as you know, to endure,
lest she should see it, his veiled insolence and hostility? Oh! when I
think of what I have borne with from that young man, I marvel at my own
forbearance. I have nothing to reproach myself with, Tallie; nothing;
and if his life is ruined I can say, with my hand on my heart,"--Madame
von Marwitz laid it there--"that he alone is to blame for it. A more
odious, arrogant, ignorant being," she added, "I have never encountered.
Karen is well rid of him."

Mrs. Talcott remained unmoved. "You don't like him because he don't like
you and that's about all you've got against him, I reckon, if the truth
were known," she said. "You can make yourself see it all like that if
you've a mind to, but you can't make me; I know you too well, Mercedes.
You were mad at him because he didn't admire you like you're used to
being admired, and you went to work pinching and picking here and there,
pretending it was all on Karen's account, but really so as you could get
even with him. You couldn't stand their being happy all off by
themselves without you. Why I can see it all as plain and clear as if
I'd been there right along. Just think of your telling that poor deluded
child that you wanted her to make her husband like you. That was a nice
way, wasn't it, for setting her heart at rest about you and him. If you
didn't like him and saw he didn't like you, why didn't you keep your
mouth shut? That's all you had to do, and keep out of their way all you
could. If you'd been a stupid woman there might have been some excuse
for you, but you ain't a stupid woman, and you know precious well what
you're about all the time. I don't say you intended to blow up the whole
concern like you've done; but you wanted to get even with Mr. Jardine
and show him that Karen cared as much for you as she did for him, and
you didn't mind two straws what happened to Karen while you were doing

Madame von Marwitz had listened, turning on her back and with her eyes
still on the ceiling, and the calm of her face might have been that of
indifference or meditation. But now, after a moment of receptive
silence, indignation again seemed to seize her. "It's false!" she

"No it ain't false, Mercedes, and you know it ain't," said Mrs. Talcott

"False, and absolutely false!" Madame von Marwitz repeated. "How could I
keep my mouth shut--as you delicately put it--when I saw that Karen saw?
How keep my mouth shut without warping her relation to me? I spoke to
her with lightest, most tender understanding, so that she should know
that my heart was with her while never dreaming of the chasms that I saw
in her happiness. It was he who forced me to an open declaration and he
who forced me to leave; for how was happiness possible for Karen if I
remained with them? No. He hated me, and was devoured by jealousy of
Karen's love for me."

"I guess if it comes to jealousy you've got enough for two in any
situation. It don't do for you to talk to me about jealousy, Mercedes,"
Mrs. Talcott returned, "I've seen too much of you. You can't persuade me
it wasn't your fault, not if you were to talk till the cows come home. I
don't deny but what it was pretty hard for you to see that Mr. Jardine
didn't admire you. I make allowances for that; but my gracious me," said
Mrs. Talcott with melancholy emphasis, "was that any reason for a big
middle-aged woman like you behaving like a spiteful child? Was it any
reason for your setting to work to spoil Karen's life? No, Mercedes,
you've done about as mean a thing as any I've seen you up to and what I
want to know now is what you're going to do about it."

"Do about it?" Madame von Marwitz wrathfully repeated. "What more can I
do? I open my house and my heart to the child. I take her back. I mend
the life that he has broken. What more do you expect of me?"

"Don't talk that sort of stage talk to me, Mercedes. What I want you to
do is to make it possible so as he can get her back."

"He is welcome to get her back if he can. I shall not stand in his way.
It would be a profound relief to me were he to get her back."

"I can see that well enough. But how'll you help standing in his way?
The only thing you could do to get out of his way would be to help Karen
to be quit of you. Make her see that you're just as bad as he thinks
you. I guess if you told her some things about yourself she'd begin to
see that her husband wasn't so far wrong about you."

"_Par exemple!_" said Madame von Marwitz with a short laugh. She raised
herself to give her pillow a blow and turning on her side and
contemplating more directly her ancient monitress she said, "I sometimes
wonder what I keep you here for."

"I do, too, sometimes," said Mrs. Talcott, "and I make it out that you
need me."

"I make it out," Madame von Marwitz repeated the phrase with a noble
dignity of manner, "that I am too kind of heart, too aware of what I owe
you in gratitude, to resent, as I have every right to do, the license
you allow yourself in speaking to me."

"Yes; you'll always get plain speaking from me, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott
remarked, "just as long as you have anything to do with me."

"Indeed I shall. I am but too well aware of the fact," said Madame von
Marwitz, "and I only tolerate it because of our life-long tie."

"You'll go on tolerating it, I guess, Mercedes. You'd feel mighty queer,
I expect, if the one person in the world who knew you through and
through and had stood by you through everything wasn't there to fall
back on."

"I deny that you know me through and through," Madame von Marwitz
declared, but with a drop from her high manner; sulkily rather than with
conviction. "You have always seen me with the eye of a lizard." Her
simile amused her and she suddenly laughed. "You have somewhat the
vision of a lizard, Tallie. You scrutinize the cracks and the fissures,
but of the mountain itself you are unaware. I have cracks and fissures,
no doubt, like all the rest of our sad humanity; but, _bon Dieu!_--I am
a mountain, and you, Tallie," she went on, laughing softly, "are a
lizard on the mountain. As for Mr. Jardine, he is a mole. But if you
think that Karen will be happier burrowing underground with him than
here with me, I will do my best. Yes;" she reflected; "I will write to
Mrs. Forrester. She shall see the mole and tell him that when he sends
me an apology I send him Karen. It is a wild thing to leave one's
husband like this. I will make her see it."

"Now you see here, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, rising and fixing an
acute gaze upon her, "don't you go and make things worse than they are.
Don't you go interfering between Karen and her husband. The first move's
got to come from them. I don't trust you round the corner where your
vanity comes in, and I guess what you've got in your mind now is that
you'd like to make it out to your friends how you've tried to reconcile
Karen and her husband after he's treated you so bad. If you want to tell
Karen that he was right in all the things he believed about you and that
this isn't the first time by a long shot that you've wrecked people with
your jealousy, and that he loves her ten times more than you do, that's
a different thing, and I'll stand by you through it. But I won't have
you meddling any more with those two poor young things, so you may as
well take it in right here."

Madame von Marwitz's good humour fell away. "And for you, may I ask you
kindly to mind your own business?" she demanded.

"I'll make this affair of Karen's my business if you ain't real careful,
Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, standing solid and thick and black, in the
centre of the room. "Yes, you'd better go slow and sure or you'll find
there are some things I can't put up with. This affair of Karen has made
me feel pretty sick, I can tell you. I've seen you do a sight of mean
things in your life, but I don't know as I've seen you do a meaner. I
guess," Mrs. Talcott continued, turning her eyes on the evening sea
outside, "it would make your friends sit up--all these folks who admire
you so much--if they could know a thing or two you've done."

"Leave the room," said Madame von Marwitz, now raising herself on her
elbow and pointing to the door. "Leave the room at once. I refuse to lie
here and be threatened and insulted and brow-beaten by you. Out of my

Mrs. Talcott looked at the sea for a moment longer, in no provocative
manner, but rather as if she had hardly heard the words addressed to
her; and then she looked at Mercedes, who, still raised on her elbow,
still held her arm very effectively outstretched. This, too, was no
doubt a scene to which she was fully accustomed.

"All right," she said, "I'm going." She moved towards the door. At the
door she halted, turned and faced Madame von Marwitz again. "But don't
you forget, Mercedes Okraska," she said, "that I'll make it my affair if
you ain't careful."


Karen, during the two or three days that followed her strange
conversation with Mrs. Talcott, felt that while she pitied and cared for
Mrs. Talcott as she had never yet pitied and cared for her, she was also
afraid of her. Mrs. Talcott had spoken no further word and her eyes
rested on her with no more than their customary steadiness; but Karen
knew that there were many words she could speak. What were they? What
was it that Mrs. Talcott knew? What secrets were they that she carried
about in her lonely, ancient heart?

Mrs. Talcott loomed before her like a veiled figure of destiny bearing
an urn within which lay the ashes of dead hopes. Mrs. Talcott's eyes
looked at her above the urn. It was always with them. When they gardened
together it was as if Mrs. Talcott set it down on the ground between
them and as if she took it up again with a sigh of fatigue--it was
heavy--when they turned to go. Karen felt herself tremble as she
scrutinized the funereal shape. There was no refuge with Mrs. Talcott.
Mrs. Talcott holding her urn was worse than the lonely fears.

And, for those two or three days of balmy, melancholy spring, the lonely
fears did not press so closely. They wheeled far away against the blue.
Tante was kinder to her and was more aware of her. She almost seemed a
little ashamed of the scene with the piano. She spoke to Karen of it,
flushing a little, explaining that she had slept badly and that Karen's
rendering of the Bach had made her nervous, emphasizing, too, the rule,
new in its explicitness, that the grand piano was only to be played on
by Karen when it was left open. "You did not understand. But it is well
to understand rules, is it not, my child?" said Madame von Marwitz. "And
this one, I know, you will not transgress again."

Karen said that she understood. She had something of her rocky manner in
receiving these implicit apologies and commands, yet her guardian could
see an almost sick relief rising in her jaded young eyes.

Other things were different. Tante seemed now to wish very constantly to
have her there when Mr. Drew was with her. She made much of her to Mr.
Drew. She called his attention to her skill in gardening, to her
directness of speech, to her individuality of taste in dress. These
expositions made Karen uncomfortable, yet they seemed an expression of
Tante's desire to make amends. And Mr. Drew, with his vague,
impenetrable regard, helped her to bear them. It was as if, a clumsy
child, she were continually pushed forward by a fond, tactless mother,
and as if, mildly shaking her hand, the guest before whom she was
displayed showed her, by kind, inattentive eyes, that he was paying very
little attention to her. Mr. Drew put her at her ease and Tante
embarrassed her. She became, even, a little grateful to Mr. Drew. But
now, aware of this strange bond, it was more difficult to talk to him
when they were alone and when, once or twice, he met her in the garden
or house, she made always an excuse to leave him. She and Mr. Drew could
have nothing to say to each other when Tante was not there.

One evening, returning to Les Solitudes after a walk along the cliffs,
Karen found that tea was over, as she had intended that it should be,
Tante and Mr. Drew not yet come in from their motoring, and Mrs. Talcott
safely busied in the garden. There was not one of them with whom she
could be happily alone, and she was glad to find the morning-room empty.
Mrs. Talcott had left the kettle boiling for her on the tea-table and
the small tea-pot, which they used in their usual _tête-à-tête_, ready,
and Karen made herself a cup.

She was tired. She sat down, when she had had her tea, near the window
and looked out over the ranged white flowers growing in their low white
pots on the window-seat, at the pale sea and sky. She sat quietly, her
cheek on one hand, the other in her lap, and from time to time a great
involuntary sigh lifted her breast. It seemed nearer peace than fear,
this mood of immeasurable, pale sorrow. It folded her round like the
twilight falling outside.

The room was dim when she heard the sound of the returning motor and she
sat on, believing that here she would be undisturbed. Tante rarely came
to the morning-room. But it was Tante who presently appeared, wearing
still her motoring cloak and veil, the nun-like veil bound round her
head. Karen thought, as she rose, and looked at her, that she was like
one of the ghost-like white flowers. And there was no joy for her in
seeing her. She seemed to be part of the sadness.

She turned and closed the door with some elaboration, and as she came
nearer Karen recognized in her eyes the piteous look of quelled

"You are sitting here, alone, my child?" she said, laying her hand, but
for a moment only, on Karen's shoulder. Karen had resumed her seat, and
Tante moved away at once to take up a vase of flowers from the
mantelpiece, smell the flowers, and set it back. "Where is Tallie?"

"Still in the garden, I think. I worked with her this morning and before
tea. Since tea I have had a walk."

"Where did you walk?" Madame von Marwitz inquired, moving now over to
the upright piano and bending to examine in the dusk the music that
stood on it. Karen described her route.

"But it is lonely, very lonely, for you, is it not?" Tante murmured
after a moment's silence. Karen said nothing and she went on, "And it
will be still more lonely if, as I think probable, I must leave you here
before long. I shall be going; perhaps to Italy."

A sensation of oppression that she could not have analyzed passed over
Karen. Why was Tante going to Italy? Why must she leave Les Solitudes?
Her mind could not rest on the supposition that her own presence drove
Tante forth, that the broken _tête-à-tête_ was to be resumed under less
disturbing circumstances. She could not ask Tante if Mr. Drew was to be
in Italy; yet this was the question that pressed on her heart.

"Oh, but I am very used to Les Solitudes," she said.

"Used to it. Yes. Too used to it," said Madame von Marwitz, seating
herself now near Karen, her eyes still moving about the room. "But it is
not right, it is not fitting, that you should spend your youth here.
That was not the destiny I had hoped for you. I came here to find you,
Karen, so that I might talk to you." Her fingers slightly tapped her
chair-arm. "We must talk. We must see what is to be done."

"Do you mean about me, Tante?" Karen asked after a moment. The look of
the ghostly room and of the white, enfolded figure seated before her
with its restless eyes seemed part of the chill that Tante's words

"About you. Yes. About who else, _parbleu_!" said Madame von Marwitz
with a slight laugh, her eyes shifting about the room; and with a change
of tone she added: "I have it on my heart--your situation--day and
night. Something must be done and I am prepared to do it."

"To do what?" asked Karen. Her voice, too, had changed, but not, as
Madame von Marwitz's, to a greater sweetness.

"Well, to save it--the situation; to help you." Madame von Marwitz's ear
was quick to catch the change. "And I have come, my Karen, to consult
with you. It is a matter, many would say, for my pride to consider; but
I will not count my pride. Your happiness, your dignity, your future are
the things that weigh with me. I am prostrated, made ill, by the
miserable affair; you see it, you see that I am not myself. I cannot
sleep. It haunts me--you and your broken life. And what I have to
propose," Tante looked down at her tapping fingers while she spoke, "is
that I offer myself as intermediary. Your husband will not take the
first step forward. So be it. I will take it. I will write to Mrs.
Forrester. I will tell her that if your husband will but offer me the
formal word of apology I will myself induce you to return to him. What
do you say, my Karen? Oh, to me, as you know, the forms are indifferent;
it is of you and your dignity that I think. I know you; without that
apology from him to me you could not contemplate a reconciliation. But
he has now had his lesson, your young man, and when he knows that,
through me, you would hold out the olive-branch, he will, I predict,
spring to grasp it. After all, he is in love with you and has had time
to find it out; and even if he were not, his mere man's pride must
writhe to see himself abandoned. And you, too, have had your lesson, my
poor Karen, and have seen that romance is a treacherous sand to build
one's life upon. Dignity, fitness, one's rightful place in life have
their claims. You are one, as I told you, to work out your destiny in
the world, not in the wilderness. What do you say, Karen? I would not
write without consulting you. _Hein!_ What is it?"

Karen had risen, and Madame von Marwitz's eyelashes fluttered a little
in looking up at her.

"I will never forgive you, I will never forgive you," said Karen in a
harsh voice, "if you speak of this again."

"What is this that you say to me, Karen?" Madame von Marwitz, too, rose.

"Never speak to me of this again," said Karen.

In the darkening room they looked at each other as they had never in all
their lives looked before. They were equals in maturity of demand.

For a strange moment sheer fury struggled with subtler emotions in
Madame von Marwitz's face, and then self-pity, overpowering, engulfing
all else. "And is this the return you make me for my love?" she cried.
Her voice broke in desperate sobs and long-pent misery found relief. She
sank into her chair.

"I asked for no reconciliation," said Karen. "I left him and we knew
that we were parting forever. There is no love between us. Have you no
understanding at all, and no thought of my pride?"

It was woman addressing woman. The child Karen was gone.

"Your pride?" Madame von Marwitz repeated in her sobs. "And what of
mine? Was it not for you, stony-hearted girl? Is it not your happiness I
seek? If I have been mistaken in my hopes for you, is that a reason for
turning upon me like a serpent!"

Karen had walked to the long window that opened to the verandah and
looked out, pressing her forehead to the pane. "You must forgive me if I
was unkind. What you said burned me."

"Ah, it is well for you to speak of burnings!" Madame von Marwitz
sobbed, aware that Karen's wrath was quelled. "I am scorched by all of
you! by all of you!" she repeated incoherently. "All the burdens fall
upon me and, in reward, I am spurned and spat upon by those I seek to

"I am sorry, Tante. It was what you said. That you should think it

"Sorry! Sorry! It is easy to say that you are sorry when you have rolled
me in the dust of your insults and your ingratitude!" Yet the sobs were

"Let us say, then, that it has been misunderstanding," said Karen. She
still stood in the window, but as she spoke the words she drew back
suddenly. She had found herself looking into Mr. Drew's eyes. His face,
gazing in oddly upon her, was at the other side of the pane, and, in the
apparition, its suddenness, its pallor, rising from the dusk, there was
something almost horrible.

"Who is that?" came Tante's voice, as Karen drew away. She had turned in
her chair.

It seemed to Karen, then, that the room was filled with the whirring
wings of wild emotions, caught and crushed together. Tante had sprung up
and came with long, swift strides to the window. She, too, pressed her
face against the pane. "Ah! It is Claude," she said, in a hushed strange
voice, "and he did not see that I was here. What does he mean by looking
in like that?" she spoke now angrily, drying her eyes as she spoke. She
threw open the window. "Claude. Come here."

Mr. Drew, whose face seemed to have sunk, like a drowned face, back into
dark water, returned to the threshold and paused, arrested by his
friend's wretched aspect. "Come in. Enter," said Madame von Marwitz,
with a withering stateliness of utterance. "You have the manner of a
spy. Did you think that Karen and I were quarrelling?"

"I couldn't think that," said Mr. Drew, stepping into the room, "for I
didn't see that you were here."

"We have had a misunderstanding," said Madame von Marwitz. "No more. And
now we understand again. Is it not so, my Karen? You are going?"

"I think I will go to my room," said Karen, who looked at neither Madame
von Marwitz nor Mr. Drew. "You will not mind if I do not come to dinner

"Certainly not. No. Do as you please. You are tired. I see it. And I,
too, am tired." She followed Karen to the door, murmuring: "_Sans
rancune, n'est-ce-pas?_"

"Yes, Tante."

As the door closed upon Karen, Madame von Marwitz turned to Mr. Drew.

"If you wish to see her, why not seek her openly? Who makes it difficult
for you to approach her?" Her voice had the sharpness of splintering

"Why, no one, _ma chére_," said Mr. Drew. "I wasn't seeking her."

"No? And what did it mean, then, your face pressed close to hers, there
at the window?"

"It meant that I couldn't see who it was who stood there. Just as I can
hardly now see more than that you are unhappy. What is the matter, my
dear and beautiful friend?" His voice was solicitous.

Madame von Marwitz dropped again into her chair and leaning forward, her
hands hanging clasped between her knees, she again wept. "The matter is
the old one," she sobbed. "Ingratitude! Ingratitude on every hand! My
crime now has been that I have sought--at the sacrifice of my own
pride--to bring a reconciliation between that stubborn child and her
husband, and for my reward she overwhelms me with abuse!"

"Tell me about it," said Mr. Drew, seating himself beside her and,
unreproved, taking her hand.


Karen did not go to her room. She was afraid that Mrs. Talcott would
come to her there. She asked the cook for a few sandwiches and going to
one of the lower terraces she found a seat there and sat down. She felt
ill. Her mind was sore and vague. She sat leaning her head on her hand,
as she had sat in the morning-room, her eyes closed, and did not try to

She had escaped something--mercifully. Yes, the supreme humiliation that
Tante had prepared for her was frustrated. And she had been strangely
hard and harsh to Tante and in return Tante had been piteous yet
unmoving. Her heart was dulled towards Tante. She felt that she saw her
from a great distance.

The moon had risen and was shining brightly when she at last got up and
climbed the winding paths up to the house.

A definite thought, after the hours that she had sat there, had at last
risen through the dull waters of her mind. Why should Tante go away? Why
should not she herself go? There need be no affront to Tante, no
alienation. But, for a time, at least, would it not be well to prove to
Tante that she could be something more than a problem and a burden?
Could she not go to the Lippheims in Germany and teach English and
French and Italian there--she knew them all--and make a little money,
and, when Tante wanted her again to come to Les Solitudes, come as an
independent person?

It was a curious thought. It contradicted the assumptions upon which her
life was founded; for was she not Tante's child and Tante's home her
home? So curious it was that she contemplated it like an intricate
weapon laid in her hand, its oddity concealing its significance.

She turned the weapon over. She might be Tante's child and Tante's home
might be hers; yet a child could gain its own bread, could it not? What
was there to pierce and shatter in the thought that it would be well for
her to gain her bread? "Tante has worked for me too long," she said to
herself. She was not pierced or shattered. Something very strange was in
her hand, but she was only reasonable.

She had stood still, in the midst of her swift climbing towards the
house, to think it all out clearly, and it was as she stood there that
she saw the light of a cigarette approaching her. It was Mr. Drew and he
had seen her. Karen was aware of a deep stirring of displeasure and
weariness. "But, please," he said, as, slightly bowing her head, and
murmuring, "Good-night," she passed him; "I want--I very particularly
want--to see you." He turned to walk beside her, tossing away his
cigarette. "There is something I particularly want to say."

His tone was grave and kind and urgent. It reproached her impatient
impulse. He might have come with a message from Tante.

"Where is my guardian?" she asked.

"She has gone to bed. She has a horrible headache, poor thing," said Mr.
Drew, who was leading her through the little copse of trees and along
the upper paths. "Here, shall we sit down here? You are not cold?"

They were in the flagged garden. Karen, vaguely expectant, sat down on
the rustic bench and Mr. Drew sat beside her. The moonlight shone
through the trees and fell fantastically on the young man's face and
figure and on Karen, sitting upright, her little shawl of white knitted
wool drawn closely about her shoulders and enfolding her arms. "Not for
long, please," she said. "It is growing late and although I am not cold
I am tired. What have you to say, Mr. Drew?"

He had so much to say and it was, so obviously, his opportunity, his
complete opportunity at last, that, before the exquisite and perilous
task of awakening this creature of flowers and glaciers, Mr. Drew
collected his resources with something of the skill and composure of an
artist preparing canvas and palette. He must begin delicately and
discreetly, and then he must be sudden and decisive.

"I want to make you feel, in the first place, if I can," he said,
leaning forward to look into her face and observing with satisfaction
that she made no movement of withdrawal as he came a little nearer in so
doing, "that I'm your friend. Can I, do you think, succeed in making you
feel that?" His experience had told him that it really didn't matter so
much what one said. To come near was the point, and to look deeply.
"I've had so few chances of showing you how much your friend I am."

"Thank you," said Karen. "You are kind." She did not say that he would
succeed in making her feel him a friend.

"We have been talking about you, talking a great deal, since you left
us, your guardian and I," Mr. Drew continued, and he looked at the one
of Karen's hands that was visible, emerging from the shawl to clasp her
elbow, the left hand with its wedding-ring, "and ludicrous as it may
seem to you, I can't but feel that I understand you a great deal better
than she does. She still thinks of you as a child--a child whose little
problems can be solved by facile solutions. Forgive me, I know it may
sound fatuous to you, but I see what she does not see, that you are a
suffering woman, and that for some problems there are no solutions." His
eyes now came back to hers and found them fixed on him with a wide
astonished gaze.

"Has my guardian asked you to say anything to me?" she said.

"No, not exactly that," said Mr. Drew, a little disconcerted by her tone
and look, while at the same time he was marvelling at the greater and
greater beauty he found in the impassive moonlit face--how had he been
so unconscionably stupid as not to see for so long how beautiful she
was!--"No, she certainly hasn't asked me to say anything to you. She is
going away, you know, to Italy; it's a sudden decision and she's been
telling me about it. I can't go with her. I don't think it a good plan.
I can stay on here, but I can't go to Italy. Perhaps she'll give it up.
She didn't find me altogether sympathetic and I'm afraid we've had
something of a disagreement. I am sure you've seen since you've been
here that if your guardian doesn't understand you she doesn't understand
me, either."

"But I cannot speak of my guardian to you," said Karen. She had kept her
eyes steadily upon him waiting to hear what he might have to say, but
now the thought of Tante in her rejected queenliness broke insufferably
upon her making her sick with pity. This man did not love Tante. She
rose as she spoke.

"Do not speak of her to me," she said.

"But we will not speak of her. I do not wish to speak of her," said Mr.
Drew, also rising, a stress of excitement and anxiety making itself felt
in his soft, sibilant, hurried tones; "I understand every exquisite
loyalty that hedges your path. And I'm hedged, too; you see that. Wait,
wait--please listen. We won't speak of her. What I want to speak of is
you. I want to ask you to make use of me. I want to ask you to trust me.
You love her, but how can you depend on her? She is a child, an
undisciplined, capricious child, and she is displeased with you,
seriously displeased. Who is there in the world you can depend on? You
are unutterably alone. And I ask you to turn to me."

Her frosty scrutiny disconcerted him. He had not touched her in the

"These are things you cannot say to me," she said. "There is nothing
that you can do for me. I only know you as my guardian's friend; you
forgot that, I think, when you brought me here." She turned from him.

"Oh, but you do not understand! I have made you angry! Oh, please, Mrs.
Jardine;" his voice rose to sharp distress. He caught her hand with a
supplicating yet determined grasp. "You can't understand. You are so
inconceivably unaware. It is because of you; all because of you. Haven't
you really seen or understood? She can't forgive you because I love you.
I love you, you adorable child. I have only stayed on and borne with her
because of you!"

His passion flamed before her frozen face. And as, for a transfixed
moment of stupor, she stood still, held by him, he read into her
stillness the pause of the woman to whom the apple of the tree of life
is proffered, amazed, afraid, yet thrilled through all her being,
tempted by the very suddenness, incapable of swift repudiation. He threw
his arms around her, taking, in a draught of delight, the impression of
silvery, glacial loveliness that sent dancing stars of metaphor
streaming in his head, and pressed his lips to her cheek.

It was but one moment of attainment. The thrust that drove him from her
was that, indeed, of the strong young goddess, implacable and outraged.
Yet even as he read his deep miscalculation in her aspect he felt that
the moment had been worth it. Not many men, not even many poets, could
say that they had held, in such a scene, on such a night, an unwilling
goddess to their breast.

She did not speak. Her eyes did not pause to wither. They passed over
him. He had an image of the goddess wheeling to mount some chariot of
the sky as, with no indignity of haste, she turned from him. She turned.
And in the path, in the entrance to the flagged garden, Tante stood
confronting them.

She stood before them in the moonlight with a majesty at once
magnificent and ludicrous. She had come swiftly, borne on the wings of a
devouring suspicion, and she maintained for a long moment her Medusa
stare of horror. Then, it was the ugliest thing that Karen had ever
seen, the mask broke. Hatred, fury, malice, blind, atavistic passions
distorted her face. It was to fall from one nightmare to another and a
worse; for Tante seized her by the shoulders and shook and shook and
shook her, till the blood sprang and rang in her ears and eyeballs, and
her teeth chattered together, and her hair, loosened by the great jerks,
fell down upon her shoulders and about her face. And while she shook
her, Tante snarled--seeming to crush the words between her grinding
teeth, "Ah! _perfide! perfide! perfide!_"

From behind, other hands grasped Karen's shoulders. Mr. Drew grappled
with Tante for possession of her.

"Leave me--with my guardian," she gathered her broken breath to say. She
repeated it and Mr. Drew, invisible to her, replied, "I can't. She'll
tear you to pieces."

"Ah! You have still to hear from me--vile seducer!" Madame von Marwitz
cried, addressing the young man over Karen's shoulder. "Do you dare
dispute my right to save her from you--foul serpent! Leave us! Does she
not tell you to leave us?"

"I'll see her safely out of your hands before I leave her," said Mr.
Drew. "How dare you speak of perfidy when you saw her repulse me? You'd
have found it easier to forgive, no doubt, if she hadn't."

These insolent words, hurled at it, convulsed the livid face that
fronted Karen. And suddenly, holding Karen's shoulders and leaning
forward, Madame von Marwitz broke into tears, horrible tears--in all her
life Karen had never pitied her as she pitied her then--sobbing with
raking breaths: "No, no; it is too much. Have I not loved him with a
saintly love, seeking to uplift what would draw me down? Has he not
loved me? Has he not sought to be my lover? And he can spit upon me in
the dust!" She raised her head. "Did you believe me blind, infatuated?
Did you think by your tricks and pretences to evade me? Did I not see,
from the moment that she came, that your false heart had turned from
me?" Her eyes came back to Karen's face and fury again seized her. "And
as for you, ungrateful girl--perfidious, yes, and insolent one--you
deserve to be denounced to the world. Oh, we understand those retreats.
What more alluring to the man who pursues than the woman who flees? What
more inflaming than the pose of white, idiotic innocence? You did not
know. You did not understand--" fiercely, in a mincing voice, she
mimicked a supposed exculpation. "You are so young, so ignorant of
life--so _immer kindlich_! Ah!" she laughed, half strangled, "until the
man seizes you in his arms you are quite unaware--but quite, quite
unaware--of what he seeks from you. Little fool! And more than fool.
Have I not seen your wiles? From day to day have I not watched you? Now
it is the piano. You must play him your favourite little piece; so
small; you have so little talent; but you will do your best. Now the
chance meeting in the garden; you are so fond of flowers; you so love
the open air, the sea, the wandering on the cliffs; such a free, wild
creature you are. And now we have the frustrated _rendezvous_ of this
evening; he should find you dreaming, among your flowers, in the dusk.
The pretty picture. And no, you want no dinner; you will go to your own
room. But you are not to be found in your own room. Oh, no; it is again
the garden; the moon; the sea and solitude that you seek! Be silent!"
this was almost shouted at Claude Drew, who broke in with savage
denials. "Do you think still to impose on me--you traitor?--No," her
eyes burned on Karen's face. "No; you are wiser. You do not speak. You
know that the time for insolence has passed. What! You take refuge with
me here. You fly from your husband and throw yourself on my hands and
say to me,"--again she assumed the mincing tones--"Yes, here I am again.
Continue, pray, to work for me; continue, pray, to clothe and feed and
lodge me; continue to share your life with me and all of rich and wide
and brilliant it can offer; continue, in a word, to hold me high--but
very high--above the gutter from which I came--and I take you, I receive
you in my arms, I shelter you from malicious tongues, I humble myself in
seeking to mend your shattered life; and for my reward you steal from me
the heart of the one creature in the world I loved--the one--the only
one! Until you came he was mine. Until you came he yearned for me--only
for me. Oh, my heart is broken! broken! broken!" She leaned forward,
wildly sobbing, and raising herself she shook the girl with all her
force, crying: "Out of my sight! Be off! Let me see no more of you!"
Covering her face with her hands, she reeled back, and Karen fled down
the path, hearing a clamour of sobs and outcries behind her.

She fled along the cliff-path and an incomparable horror was in her
soul. Her life had been struck from her. It seemed a ghost that ran,
watched by the moon, among the trees.

On the open cliff-path it was very light. The sky was without a cloud.
The sea lay like a vast cloth of silk, diapered in silver.

Karen ran to where the path led to a rocky verge.

From here, in daylight, one looked down into a vast hollow in the coast
and saw at the bottom, far beneath, a stony beach, always sad, and set
with rocks. To-night the enormous cup was brimmed with blackness.

Karen, pausing and leaning forward, resting on her hands, stared across
the appalling gulf of inky dark, and down into the nothingness.

Horror had driven her to the spot, and horror, like a presence, rose
from the void, and beckoned her down to oblivion. Why not? Why not? The
question of despair seemed, like a vast pendulum, to swing her to and
fro between the sky and the blackness, so that, blind and deaf and dumb,
she felt only the horror, and her own pulse of life suspended over
annihilation. And while her fingers clutched tightly at the rock, the
thought of Gregory's face, as it had loved her, dimly, like a far
beacon, flashed before her. Their love was dead. He did not love her.
But they had loved. She moved back, trembling. She did not want to die.
She lay down with her face to the ground on the grassy cliff.

When she raised herself it was as if after a long slumber. She was
immensely weary, with leaden limbs. Horror was spent; but a dull
oppression urged her up and on. There was something that she must never
see again; something that would open before her again the black abyss of
nothingness; something like the moon, that once had lived, but was now a
ghost, white, ghastly, glittering. She must go. At once. And, as if far
away, a tiny picture rose before her of some little German town, where
she might earn a living and be hidden and forgotten.

But first she must see Mrs. Talcott. She must say good-bye to Mrs.
Talcott. There was nothing now that Mrs. Talcott could show her.

She went back softly and carefully, pausing to listen, pushing through
unused, overgrown paths and among thickets of gorse and stunted Cornish
elms. In the garden all was still; the dreadful clamour had ceased. By
the back way she stole up to her room.

A form rose to meet her as she opened the door. Mrs. Talcott had been
waiting for her. Taking her hand, Mrs. Talcott drew her in and closed
the door.


Mrs. Talcott sat down on the bed and Karen knelt before her with her
head in her lap. The old woman's passed quietly over her hair while she
wept, and the homely gentleness, like the simplicity of milk to famished
lips, flowed into her horror-haunted mind.

She tried to tell Mrs. Talcott what had happened. "She does not love me,
Mrs. Talcott. She has turned me out. Tante has told me to go."

"I've seen her," said Mrs. Talcott, stroking on. "I was just going out
to look for you if you didn't come in. Did she tear your hair down like
this? It's all undone."

"It was when she shook me, Mrs. Talcott. She found me with Mr. Drew. He
had kissed me. I could not help it. She knew that I could not help it.
She knows that I am not a bad woman."

"You mustn't take Mercedes at her word when she's in a state like that,
Karen. She's in an awful state. She's parted from that young man."

"And I am going, Mrs. Talcott."

"Well, I've wanted you to go, from the first. Now you've found her out,
this ain't any place for you. You can't go hanging on for all your life,
like I've done."

"But Mrs. Talcott--what does it mean? What have I found out? What is
Tante?" Karen sobbed. "For all these years so beautiful--so
beautiful--to me, and suddenly to become my enemy--someone I do not

"You never got in her way before. She's got no mercy, Mercedes hasn't,
if you get in her way. Where'd you thought of going, Karen?"

"To Frau Lippheim. She is still in London, I think. I could join her
there. You could lend me a little money, Mrs. Talcott. Enough to take me
to London."

Mrs. Talcott was silent for a moment. "Come up here, on the bed, Karen,"
she then said. "Here, wrap this cloak around you; you're awful cold.
That's right. Now I want you to sit quiet while I explain things to you
the best I can. I've made up my mind to do it. Mercedes will be in her
right mind to-morrow and frantic to get hold of you again and get you to
forgive her. Oh, I know her. And I don't want her to get hold of you
again. I want you to be quit of her. I want you to see, as clear as day,
how your husband was right about Mercedes, all along."

"Oh, do not speak of him--" Karen moaned, covering her face as she sat on
the bed beside Mrs. Talcott.

"I ain't going to speak about him. I'm going to tell you about me and
Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. "I'm going to explain Mercedes. And I'm
going way back to the very beginning to do it."

"Explain it to me. What is she? Has it all been false--all her

"I don't know about false," said Mrs. Talcott. "Mercedes ain't all bad;
not by a long shot. She feels good sometimes, like most folks, when it
ain't too much trouble. You know how it began, Karen. You know how I'm a
sort of connection of Mercedes's mother and I've told you about Dolores.
The prettiest creature you ever set eyes on. Mercedes looks like her;
only it was a softer face than Mercedes's with great, big black eyes. I
can see her now, walking round the galleries of that lovely house in New
Orleans with a big white camellia in her black hair and a white muslin
dress, standing out round her--like they wore then; singing--singing--so
young and happy--it almost breaks my heart to think about her. I've told
you about Mercedes's father, too, Pavelek Okraski, and how he came out
to New Orleans and gave lessons to Dolores Bastida and made love to her
on the sly and got her to run away with him--poor silly thing. When I
think it all over I seem to piece things out and see how Mercedes came
to be what she is. Her mother was just as sweet and loving as she could
be, but scatter-brained and hot-tempered. And Pavelek was a mighty mean
man and a mighty bad man, too, a queer, tricky, sly sort of man; but
geniusy, with very attractive manners. Mercedes has got his eyes and his
way of laughing; she shows her teeth just like he used to do when he
laughed. Well, he took Dolores off to Poland and spent all her money as
fast as he could get it, and then Señor Bastida and the two boys--nice,
hot-tempered boys they were and perfect pictures--all got killed in a
vendetta they had with another family in Louisiana, and poor Señora
Bastida got sick and died and all the family fortunes went to pieces and
there was no more home and no more money either, for Dolores. She just
lost everything straight off.

"She sent for me then. Her baby was coming and Pavelek had gone off and
she didn't know where he was and she was about distracted. I'd been
married before she ran away with Pavelek, but Homer only lived four
years and I was a widow then. I had folks left still in Maine; but no
one very near and there wasn't anybody I seemed to take to so much as I
always had to Dolores. You may say she had a sort of fascination for me.
So I sold out what I had and came. My, what a queer journey that was. I
don't know how I got to Cracow. I only spoke English and travelling
wasn't what it is nowadays. But I got there somehow and found that poor
child. She was the wretchedest creature you ever set eyes on; thin as
thin; and all haggard and wild. Pavelek neglected her and ran after
other women and drank, and when he got drunk and she used to fly out at
him--for she was as hot-tempered as she could be--he used to beat her.
Yes; that man used to beat Dolores." A note of profound and enduring
anger was in Mrs. Talcott's voice.

"He came back after I got there. I guess he thought I'd brought some
money, and he came in drunk one day and tried to hit her before me. He
didn't ever try it again after that. I just got up and struck him with
all my might and main right in the face and he fell down and hurt his
head pretty bad and Dolores began to shriek and said I'd killed her
husband; but he didn't try it again. He was sort of scared of me, I
guess. No: I ain't forgiven Pavelek Okraski yet and I reckon I never
shall. I don't seem to want to forgive him, neither in this world nor
the next--if there is a next," Mrs. Talcott commented.

"Well, the time for the baby came and on the day Mercedes was born the
Austrians bombarded Cracow; it was in '48. I took Dolores down to the
cellar and all day long we heard the shells bursting, and the people
screeching. And that was the time Mercedes came into the world. Dolores
most died, but she got through. But afterwards I couldn't get proper
care for her, or food either. She just pined off and died five months
after the baby came. Pavelek most went off his head. He was always fond
of her in his own mean way, and I guess he suffered considerable when
she died. He went off, saying he'd send some money for me and the baby,
but precious little of it did I ever see. I made some by sewing and
giving lessons in English--I reckon some of those young Poles got queer
ways of speaking from me, I was never what you'd call a polished
speaker--and I scraped on. Time and time again we were near starving.
My! that little garret room, and that big church--Panna Marya they
called it--where I'd go and sit with the baby when the services were on
to see if I could keep warm in the crowd! And the big fire in '50, when
I carried the baby out in a field with lots of other people and slept
out. It lasted for ten days that fire.

"It seems like a dream sometimes, all that time," Mrs. Talcott mused,
and the distant sorrow of her voice was like the blowing of a winter
wind. "It seems like a dream to think I got through with the child
alive, and that my sweet, pretty little Dolores went under. There's some
things that don't bear thinking about. Well, I kept that baby warm and I
kept it fat, and it got to be the prettiest, proudest thing you ever set
eyes on. She might have been a queen from the very beginning. And as for
Pavelek, she just ruled him from the time she began to have any sense.
It was mighty queer to see that man, who had behaved so bad to her
mother, cringing before that child. He doted on her, and she didn't care
a button for him. It used to make me feel almost sorry for Pavelek,
sometimes. She'd look at him, when he tried to please her and amuse her,
like he was a performing dog. It kept Pavelek in order, I can tell you,
and made things easier for me. She'd just say she wanted things and if
she didn't get them straight off she'd go into a black rage, and he'd be
scared out of his life and go and work and get 'em for her. And then she
began to show she was a prodigy. Pavelek taught her the violin first and
then the piano and when he realized she was a genius he most went off
his head with pride. Why that man--the selfishest, laziest creature by
nature--worked himself to skin and bone so that she should have the best
lessons and everything she needed. We both held our noses to the
grindstone just as tight as ever we could, and Mercedes was brought up
pretty well, I think, considering.

"She gave that first concert in Warsaw--we'd moved to Warsaw--and then
Pavelek seemed to go to pieces. He just drank himself to death. Well,
after that, rich relations of Mercedes's turned up--cousins of the
Bastidas', who lived in Paris. They hadn't lifted a finger to help
Dolores, or me with the baby after Dolores died; but they remembered
about us now Mercedes was famous and made us come to live with them in
Paris and said they had first claim on Mercedes. I didn't take to the
Bastidas. But I stayed on because of Mercedes. I got to be a sort of
nurse for her, you may say. Well, as she got older, and prettier and
prettier, and everyone just crazy about her, I saw she didn't have much
use for me. I didn't judge her too hard; but I began to see through her
then. She'd behaved mighty bad to me again and again, she used to fly at
me and bite me and tear my hair, when she was a child, if I thwarted
her; but I always believed she really loved me; perhaps she did, as much
as she can. But after these rich folks turned up and her life got so
bright and easy she just seemed to forget all about me. So I went home.

"I stayed home for four or five years and then Mercedes sent for me. She
used to write now and then to her 'Dearest Tallie' as she always called
me, and I'd heard all about how she'd come out in Paris and Vienna as a
great pianist, and how she'd quarrelled with her relations and how she'd
run away with a young English painter and got married to him. It was an
awful silly match, and they'd all opposed it; but it pleased me somehow.
I thought it showed that Mercedes was soft-hearted like her mother, and
unworldly. Well, she wrote that she was miserable and that her husband
was a fiend and broke her heart and that she hated all her relations and
they'd all behaved like serpents to her--Mercedes is always running
across serpents--and how I was the only true friend she had and the only
one who understood her, and how she longed for her dear Tallie. So I
sold out again--I'd just started a sort of little farm near the old
place in Maine, raising chickens and making jam--and came over again. I
don't know what it is about Mercedes, but she gets a hold over you. And
guess I always felt like she was my own baby. I had a baby, but it died
when it was born. Well, she was living in Paris then and they had a fine
flat and a big studio, and when Mercedes got into a passion with her
husband she'd take a knife and slash up his canvases. She quarrelled
with him day and night, and I wasn't long with them before I saw that it
was all her fault and that he was a weak, harmless sort of young
creature--he had yellow hair, longish, and used to wear a black velvet
cap and paint sort of dismal pictures of girls with long necks and wild
sort of eyes--but that the truth was she was sick of him and wanted to
marry the Baron von Marwitz.

"You can commence to get hold of the story now, Karen. You remember the
Baron. A sad, stately man he was, as cultured and intellectual as could
be and going in the best society. Mercedes had found pretty quick that
there wasn't much fun in being married to a yellow-haired boy who lived
on the money she made and wasn't a mite in society. And the Baron was
just crazy over her in his dignified, reverential way. Poor fellow!"
said Mrs. Talcott pausing in a retrospect over this vanished figure,
"Poor fellow! I guess he came to rue the day he ever set eyes on her.
Well, Mercedes made out to him how terrible her life was and how she was
tied to a dissipated, worthless man who lived on her and was unfaithful
to her. And it's true that Baldwin Tanner behaved as he shouldn't; but
he was a weak creature and she'd disillusionized him so and made him so
miserable that he just got reckless. And he'd never asked any more than
to live in a garret with her and adore her, and paint his lanky people
and eat bread and cheese; he told me so, poor boy; he just used to lay
his head down on my lap and cry like a baby sometimes. But Mercedes made
it out that she was a victim and he was a serpent; and she believed it,
too; that's the power of her; she's just determined to be in the right
always. So at last she made it all out. She couldn't divorce Baldwin,
being a Catholic; but she made it out that she wasn't really married to
him. It appears he didn't get baptized by his folks; they hadn't
believed in baptizing; they were free-thinkers. And the Baron got his
powerful friends to help and they all set to work at the Pope, and they
got him to fix it up, and Mercedes's marriage was annulled and she was
free to marry again. That's what was in her mind in sending for me, you
see; she'd quarrelled with her folks and she wanted a steady respectable
person who knew all about her to stand by her and chaperon her while she
was getting rid of Baldwin. Mercedes has always been pretty careful
about her reputation; she's hardly ever taken any risks.

"Well, she was free and she married the Baron, and poor Baldwin got a
nice young English girl to marry him, and she reformed him, and they're
alive and happy to this day, and I guess he paints pretty poor pictures.
And it makes Mercedes awful mad to hear about how happy they are; she
has a sort of idea, I imagine, that Baldwin didn't have any right to get
married again. I've always had a good deal of satisfaction over
Baldwin," said Mrs. Talcott. "It's queer to realize that Mercedes was
once just plain Mrs. Baldwin Tanner, ain't it? It was a silly match and
no mistake. Well, it took two or three years to work it all out, and
Mercedes was twenty-five when she married the Baron. I didn't see much
of them for a while. They put me around in their houses to look after
things and be there when Mercedes wanted me. She'd found out she
couldn't get along without me in those two or three years. Mercedes was
the most beautiful creature alive at that time, I do believe, and all
Europe was wild about her. She and the Baron went about and she gave
concerts, and it was just a triumphal tour. But after a spell I began to
see that things weren't going smooth. Mercedes is the sort of person
who's never satisfied with what she's got. And the Baron was beginning
to find her out. My! I used to be sorry for that man. I'll never forget
his white, sick face the first time she flew out at him and made one of
her scenes. '_Emprisonné ma jeunesse_,'" Mrs. Talcott quoted with a
heavy accent. "That's what she said he'd done to her. He was twenty
years older than Mercedes, the Baron. Mercedes always liked to have men
who were in love with her hanging about, and that's what the trouble was
over. The more they cared the worse she treated them, and the Baron was
a very dignified man and didn't like having them around. And she was
dreadful jealous of him, too, and used to fly out at him if he so much
as looked at another woman; in her way I guess he was the person
Mercedes cared for most in all her life; she respected him, too, and she
knew he was as clever as she was and more so, and as for him, in spite
of everything, he always stayed in love with her. They used to have
reconciliations, and when he'd look at her sort of scornful and loving
and sad all together, it would make her go all to pieces. She'd throw
herself in his arms and cry and cry. No, she ain't all bad, Mercedes.
And she thought she could make things all right with him after she'd let
herself go; she depended on his caring for her so much and being sorry
for her. But I saw well enough as the years went on that he got more and
more depressed. He was a depressed man by nature, I reckon, and he read
a sight of philosophy of the gloomy kind--that writer Schopenhauer was a
favourite of his, I recollect, and Mercedes thought a sight of him,
too--and after ten years or so of Mercedes I expect the Baron was pretty
sick of life.

"Well, you came. You thought it was Mercedes who was so good to you, and
it was in a way. But it was poor Ernst who really cared. He took to you
the moment he set eyes on you, and he'd liked your father. And he wanted
to have you to live with them and be their adopted daughter and inherit
their money when they died. It had always been a grief to him that
Mercedes wouldn't have any children. She just had a horror of having
children, and he had to give up any hope of it. Well, the moment
Mercedes realized how he cared for you she got jealous and they had a
scene over you right off, in that hotel at Fontainebleau. She took on
like her heart would break and put it that she couldn't bear to have any
one with them for good, she loved him so. It was true in a way. I didn't
count of course. He looked at her, sick and scornful and loving, and he
gave way. That was why you were put to school. She tried to make up by
being awful nice to you when you came for your holidays now and then;
but she never liked having you round much and Ernst saw it and never
showed how much he cared for you. But he did care. You had a real friend
in him, Karen. Well, after that came the worst thing Mercedes ever did."
Mrs. Talcott paused, gazing before her in the dimly lighted room. "Poor
things! Poor Mercedes! It nearly killed her. She's never been the same
since. And it was all her fault and she knows it and that's why she's
afraid. That's why," she added in a lower voice, "you're sorry for her
and put up with everything, because you know she's a miserable woman and
it wouldn't do for her to be alone.

"A young man turned up. His name don't matter now, poor fellow. He was
just a clever all-over-the-place young man like so many of them,
thinking they know more about everything than God Almighty;--like this
young man in a way, only not a bad young man like him;--and downright
sick with love of Mercedes. He followed her about all over Europe and
went to every concert she gave and laid himself out to please her in all
the ways he could. And he had a great charm of manner--he was a Russian
and very high-bred--and he sort of fascinated her, and she liked it all,
I can tell you. Her youth was beginning to go, and the Baron was mighty
gloomy, and she just basked in this young man's love, and pretty soon
she began to think she was in love with him--perhaps she was--and had
never loved before, and she certainly worked herself up to suffer
considerably. Well, the Baron saw it. He saw she didn't treat him the
way she'd treated the others; she was kind of humble and tender and
distracted all the time. The Baron saw it all, but she never noticed
that he was getting gloomier and gloomier. I sometimes wonder if things
might have been different if he'd been willing to confide in me some. It
does folks a sight of good if there's someone they can tell things to.
But the Baron was very reserved and never said a word. And at last she
burst out with a dreadful scene. You were with them; yes, it was that
summer at Felsenschloss; but you didn't know anything about it of
course. I was pretty much in the thick of it all, as far as Mercedes
went, and I tried to make her see reason and told her she was a sinful
woman to treat her husband so; but I couldn't hold her back. She broke
out at him one day and told him he was like a jailor to her, and that he
suffocated her talent and that he hung on her like a vampire and sucked
her youth, and that she loved the other man. I can see her now, rushing
up and down that long saloon on that afternoon, with the white blinds
drawn down and the sun filtering through them, snatching with her hands
at her dress and waving her arms up and down in the air. And the Baron
sat on a sofa leaning on his elbow with his hand up over his eyes and
watched her under it. And he didn't say one word. When she fell down on
another sofa and cried and cried, he got up and looked at her for a
moment; but it wasn't the scornful, loving look; it was a queer, dark,
dead way. And he just went out. And we never saw him alive again.

"You know the rest, Karen. You found him. But no one knows why he did
it, no one but you and me. He put an end to himself, because he couldn't
stand it any longer, and to set her free. They called it suicidal mania
and the doctors said he must have had melancholia for years. But I
shan't ever forget his face when he went out, and no more will Mercedes.
After he was gone she thought she'd never cared for anything in the
world but him. She never saw that young man again. She wrote him a
letter and laid the blame on him, and said he'd tried to take her from
her adored husband and that she'd never forgive him and loathed the
thought of him, and that he had made her the most wretched of women, and
he went and blew his brains out and that was the end of him. I had
considerable difficulty in getting hold of that letter. It was on him
when he killed himself. But I managed to talk over the police and hush
it up. Mercedes gave me plenty of money to manage with. I don't know
what she thinks about that poor fellow; she's never named his name since
that day. And she went on like a mad thing for two years or more. You
remember about that, Karen. She said she'd never play the piano again or
see anybody and wanted to go and be a nun. But she had a friend who was
a prioress of a convent, and she advised her not to. I guess poor
Mercedes wouldn't have stayed long in a convent. And the reason she was
nice to you was because the Baron had been fond of you and she wanted to
make up all she could for that dreadful thing in her life. She had you
to come and live with her. You didn't interfere with anything any longer
and it sort of soothed her to think it was what he'd have liked. She's
fond of you, too. She wouldn't have put up with you for so long if she
hadn't been. She'd have found some excuse for being quit of you. But as
for loving you, Karen child, like you thought she did, or like you love
her, why it's pitiful. I used to wonder how long it would be before you
found her out."

Karen's face was hidden; she had rested it upon her hands, leaning
forward, her elbows on her knees, and she had not moved while Mrs.
Talcott told her story. Now, as Mrs. Talcott sat silent, she stirred

"Tante! Tante!" she muttered. "My beautiful!"

Mrs. Talcott did not reply to this for some moments; then she laid her
hand on Karen's shoulder. "That's it," she said. "She's beautiful and it
most kills us to find out how cruel and bad she can be. But I guess we
can't judge people like Mercedes, Karen. When you go through life like a
mowing-machine and see everyone flatten out before you, you must get
kind of exalted ideas about yourself. If anything happens that makes a
hitch, or if anybody don't flatten out, why it must seem to you as if
they were wrong in some way, doing you an injury. That's the way it is
with Mercedes. She don't mean to be cruel, she don't mean to be bad; but
she's a mowing-machine and if you get in her way she'll cut you up fine
and leave you behind. And the thing for you to do, Karen, is to get out
of her way as quick as you can."

"Yes, I am going," said Karen.

Again Mrs. Talcott sat silent. "I'd like to talk to you about that,
Karen," she then said. "I want to ask you to give up going to Frau
Lippheim. There ain't any sense in that. It's a poor plan. What you
ought to do, Karen, is to go right back to your nice young husband."

Karen, who sat on as if crushed beyond the point where anything could
crush her further, shook her head. "Do not ask me that, Mrs. Talcott,"
she said. "I can never go back to him."

"But, Karen, I guess you've got to own now that he was right and you
were wrong in that quarrel of yours. I guess you'll have to own that it
must have made him pretty sick to see her putting him in the wrong with
you all the time and spoiling everything; and there's no one on earth
can do that better than Mercedes."

"I see it all," said Karen. "But that does not change what happened
between Gregory and me. He does not love me. I saw it plainly. If he had
me back it would only be because he cares for conventions. He said cruel
things to me."

"I guess you said cruel things to him, Karen."

Karen shook her head slightly, with weariness rather than impatience.

"No, for he saw that it was my loyalty to her--my love of her--that he
was wounding. And he never understood. He never helped me. I can never
go back to him, for he does not love me."

"Now, see here, Karen," said Mrs. Talcott, after a pause, "you just let
me work it out. You'll have a good sleep and to-morrow morning I'll see
you off, before Mercedes is up, to a nice little farm near here that I
know about--just a little way by train--and there you'll stay, nice and
quiet, and I'll not let Mercedes know where you are. And I'll write to
Mr. Jardine and tell him just what's happened and what you meant to do,
and that you want to go to Frau Lippheim; and you mark my words, Karen,
that nice young husband of yours'll be here quicker than you can say
Jack Robinson."

Karen had dropped her hands and was looking at her old friend intently.
"Mrs. Talcott, you do not understand," she said. "You cannot write to
him. Have I not told you that he does not love me?"

"Shucks!" said Mrs. Talcott. "He'll love you fast enough now that
Mercedes is out of the way."

"But, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, rising and looking down at the old
woman, whose face, in the dim light, had assumed to her reeling mind an
aspect of dangerous infatuation--"I do not think you know what you are
saying. What do I want of a man who only loves me when I cease to love
my guardian?"

"Well, say you give up love, then," Mrs. Talcott persisted, and a panic
seized Karen as she heard the unmoved tones. "Say you don't love him and
he don't love you. You can have conventions, then--he wants that you
say, and so can you--and a good home and a nice husband who won't treat
you bad in any way. That's better than batting about the world all by
yourself, Karen; you take my word for it. And you can take my word for
it, too, that if you behave sensible and do as I say, you'll find out
that all this is just a miserable mistake and that he loves you just as
much as ever. Now, see here," Mrs. Talcott, also, had risen, and stood
in her habitual attitude, resting heavily on one hip, "you're not fit to
talk and I'm not going to worry you any more. You go to sleep and we'll
see about what to do to-morrow. You go right to sleep, Karen," she
patted the girl's shoulder.

The panic was deepening in Karen. She saw guile on Mrs. Talcott's
storm-beaten and immutable face; and she heard specious reassurance in
her voice. Mrs. Talcott was dangerous. She had set her heart on this
last desire of her passionless, impersonal life and had determined that
she and Gregory should come together again. It was this desire that had
unsealed her lips: she would never relinquish, it. She might write to
Gregory; she might appeal to him and put before him the desperate plight
in which his wife was placed. And he might come. What were a wife's
powers if she was homeless and penniless, and a husband claimed her?
Karen did not know; but panic breathed upon her, and she felt that she
must fly. She, too, could use guile. "Yes," she said. "I will go to
sleep. And to-morrow we will talk. But what you hope cannot be.
Good-night, Mrs. Talcott."

"Good-night, child," said Mrs. Talcott.

They had joined hands and the strangeness of this farewell, the
knowledge that she might never see Mrs. Talcott again, and that she was
leaving her to a life empty of all that she had believed it to contain,
rose up in Karen so strongly that it blotted out for a moment her own

"You have been so good to me," she said, in a trembling voice. "Never
shall I forget what you have done for me, Mrs. Talcott. May I kiss you

They had never kissed.

Mrs. Talcott's eyes blinked rapidly, and a curious contortion puckered
her mouth and chin. Karen thought that she was going to cry and her own
eyes filled with tears.

But Mrs. Talcott in another moment had mastered her emotion, or, more
probably, it could find no outlet. The silent, stoic years had sealed
the fount of weeping. Only that dry contortion of her face spoke of her
deep feeling. Karen put her arms around her and they kissed each other.

"Good-night, child," Mrs. Talcott then said in a muffled voice, and
disengaging herself she went out quickly.

Karen stood listening to the sound of her footsteps passing down the
corridor. They went down the little flight of stairs that led to another
side of the house and faded away. All was still.

She did not pause or hesitate. She did not seem to think. Swiftly and
accurately she found her walking-shoes and put them on, her hat and
cloak; her purse with its half-crown, its sixpence and its few coppers.
Swiftly she laid together a change of underwear and took from her
dressing-table its few toilet appurtenances. She paused then, looking at
the ornaments of her girlhood. She must have money. She must sell
something; yet all these her guardian had given her.

No; not all. Her little gold watch ticked peacefully, lying on the table
beside her bed as it had lain beside her for so many years; her
beautiful little watch, treasured by her since the distant birthday when
Onkel Ernst had given it.

She clutched it tightly in her hand and it seemed to her, as she had
once said to Gregory, that the iron drove deep into her heart and turned
up not only dark forgotten things but dark and dreadful things never
seen before.

She leaned against the table, putting the hand that held Onkel Ernst's
watch to her eyes, and his agony became part of her own. How he had
suffered. And the other man, the young, forgotten Russian. Mrs.
Talcott's story became real to her as it had not yet been. It entered
her; it filled her past; it linked itself with everything that she had
been and done and believed. And the iron drove down deeper, until of her
heart there seemed only to be left a deep black hole.


Mrs. Talcott had a broken night and it was like a continuation of some
difficult and troubled dream when she heard the voice of Mercedes saying
to her: "Tallie, Tallie, wake up. Tallie, will you wake! _Bon Dieu!_ how
she sleeps!"

The voice of Mercedes when she had heard it last had been the voice of
passion and desperation, but its tone was changed this morning; it was
fretful, feverishly irritable, rather than frantic.

Mrs. Talcott opened her eyes and sat up in bed. She wore a Jaeger
nightgown and her head, with its white hair coiled at the top, was
curiously unaltered by its informal setting.

"What do you mean by coming waking me up like this after the night
you've given me," she demanded, fully awakened now. "Go right straight
away or I'll put you out."

"Don't be a fool, Tallie," said Madame von Marwitz, who, in a silken
dressing-gown and with her hair unbound, had an appearance at once
childish and damaged. "Where is Karen? I've been to her room and she is
not there. The door downstairs is unbolted. Is she gone out to walk so

Mrs. Talcott sat still and upright in her bed. "What time is it?" she

"It is seven. I have been awake since dawn. Do you imagine that I have
had a pleasant night?"

Mrs. Talcott did not answer this query. She sprang out of bed.

"Perhaps she's gone to meet the bus at the cross-roads. But I told her I
was going to take her. Tell Burton to come round with the car as quick
as he can. I'll go after her and see that she's all right. Why, the
child hasn't got any money," Mrs. Talcott muttered, deftly drawing on
her clothes beneath her nightgown which she held by the edge of the neck
between her teeth.

Madame von Marwitz listened to her impeded utterance frowning.

"The bus? What do you mean? Why is she meeting the bus?"

"To take her to London where she's going to the Lippheims," said Mrs.
Talcott, casting aside the nightgown and revealing herself in chemise
and petticoat. "You go and order that car, Mercedes," she added, as she
buckled together her sturdy, widely-waisted stays. "This ain't no time
for talk."

Madame von Marwitz looked at her for another moment and then rang the
bell. She put her head outside the door to await the housemaid and, as
this person made some delay, shouted in a loud voice: "Handcock! Jane!
Louise! Where are you? _Fainéantes!_" she stamped her foot, and, as the
housemaid appeared, running; "Burton," she commanded. "The car. At once.
And tell Louise to bring me my tea-gown, my shoes and stockings, my fur
cloak, at once; but at once; make haste!"

"What are you up to, Mercedes?" Mrs. Talcott inquired, as Madame von
Marwitz thrust her aside from the dressing-table and began to wind up
her hair before the mirror.

"I am getting ready to go with you, _parbleu_!" Madame von Marwitz
replied. "Is that you, Louise? Come in. You have the things? Put on my
shoes and stockings; quickly; _mais dépêchez-vous donc_! The
tea-gown--yes, over this--over it I say! So. Now bring me a motor-veil
and gloves. I shall do thus."

Mrs. Talcott, while Louise with an air of profoundest gloom arrayed her
mistress, kept silence, but when Louise had gone in search of the
motor-veil she remarked in a low but imperative voice: "You'll get out
at the roadside and wait for me, that's what you'll do. I won't have you
along when I meet Karen. She couldn't bear the sight of you."

"Peace!" Madame von Marwitz commanded, adjusting the sash of her
tea-gown. "I shall see Karen. The deplorable misunderstanding of last
night shall be set right. Her behaviour has been undignified and
underhanded; but I misunderstood her, and, pierced to the heart by the
treachery of a man I trusted, I spoke wildly, without thought. Karen
will understand. I know my Karen."

It was not the moment for dispute. Louise had re-entered with the veil
and Madame von Marwitz bound it about her head, standing before the
mirror, and gazing at herself, fixedly and unseeingly, with dark eyes
set in purpled orbits. She turned then and swept from the room, and Mrs.
Talcott, pinning on her hat as she went, followed her.

Not until they were speeding through the fresh, chill air, did Mrs.
Talcott speak. Madame von Marwitz, leaning to one side of the open car,
scanned the stretch of road before them, melancholy and monotonous under
the pale morning sky, and Mrs. Talcott, moving round determinedly in her
corner, faced her.

"I want to tell you, right now, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, "that
Karen's done with you. There's no use in your coming, for you'll never
get her back. I've told her all about you, Mercedes;--yes, I ain't
afraid of you and you know it;--I told her. I made up my mind to it last
night after I'd seen you and heard all your shameful story and how you'd
treated her. I made up my mind that you shouldn't get hold of her again,
not if I could help it. The time had come to tell that child that her
husband was right all along and that you ain't a woman to be trusted.
She'd seen for herself what you could do, and I made a sure thing of it.
I've held my tongue for all my life, but I spoke out last night. I want
her to be quit of you for good. I want her to go back to her husband.
Yes, Mercedes; I've burst up the whole concern."

Madame von Marwitz, her hand holding tightly the side of the car and her
eyes like large, dark stones in her white face, was sitting upright and
was staring at her. She could not speak and Mrs. Talcott went on.

"She knows all about you now; about you and Baldwin Tanner and you and
Ernst, and about that pitiful young Russian. She knows how you treated
them. She knows how it wasn't you but Ernst who was her real friend, and
how you didn't want her to live with you. She knows that you're a mighty
unfortunate creature and a mighty dangerous one; and what I advise you
to do, Mercedes, is to get out here and go right home. Karen won't ever
come back to you again, I'm as sure of it as I'm sure my name's Hannah

They sped, with softly singing speed, through the chill morning air. The
hard, tight, dark eyeballs still fixed themselves on the old woman
almost lifelessly, and still she sat grasping the side of the car. She
had the look of a creature shot through the heart and maintaining the
poise and pride of its startled and arrested life. Mechanical forces
rather than volition seemed to sustain her.

"Say, Mercedes, will you get out?" Mrs. Talcott repeated. And the rigid
figure then moved its head slightly in negation.

They reached the cross-roads where a few carts and an ancient fly stood
waiting for the arrival of the omnibus that plied between the Lizard and
Helston. Karen was nowhere to be seen.

"Perhaps she went across the fields and got into the bus at the Lizard,"
said Mrs. Talcott. "We'll wait and see, and if she isn't in the bus
we'll go on to Helston. Perhaps she's walking."

Madame von Marwitz continued to say nothing, and in a moment they heard
behind them the clashing and creaking of the omnibus. It drew up at the
halt and Karen was not in it.

"To Helston," said Mrs. Talcott, standing up to speak to the chauffeur.

They sped on before the omnibus had resumed its journey.

Tints of azure and purple crept over the moors; the whitening sky showed
rifts of blue; it was a beautiful morning. Mrs. Talcott, keeping a keen
eye on the surrounding country, became aware presently that Mercedes had
turned her gaze upon her and was examining her.

She looked round.

There was no anger, no resentment, even, on the pallid face. It seemed
engaged, rather, in a deep perplexity--that of a child struck down by
the hand that, till then, had cherished it. It brooded in sick wonder on
Mrs. Talcott, and Mrs. Talcott looked back with her ancient, weary eyes.
Madame von Marwitz broke the silence. She spoke in a toneless voice.
"Tallie--how could you?" she said. "Oh, Tallie--how could you have told

"Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, gently but implacably, "I had to. It was
right to make sure you shouldn't get hold of her again. She had to go,
and she had to go for good. If you want me to go, too, I will, but it's
only fair to tell you that I never felt much sorrier for you than I do
at this minute."

"There have been tragedies in my life," Madame von Marwitz went on in
the low, dulled voice. "I have been a passion-tossed woman. Yes, I have
not been guiltless. But how could you cut out my heart with all its
scars and show it to my child?"

"It was right to do it, Mercedes, so as you shouldn't ruin her life.
She's not your child, and you've shown her she's not. A mother don't
behave so to her child, however off her head she goes."

"I was mad last night." The tears ran slowly down Madame von Marwitz's
cheeks. "I can tell that to Karen. I can explain. I can throw myself on
her mercy. I loved him and my heart was broken. One is not responsible.
It is the animal, wounded to death, that shrieks and tears at the spear
it feels entering its flesh."

"I'm awful sorry for you, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott.

And now, hiding her face in her hands and leaning back in her cushions,
Madame von Marwitz began to weep with the soft reiterated sobbing of a
miserable child. "I have no one left. I am alone," she sobbed. "Even you
have turned against me."

"No, I haven't turned against you," said Mrs. Talcott. "I'm here." And
presently, while Mercedes wept, Mrs. Talcott took her hand and held it.

They reached Helston and climbed the steep, stony road to the station.
There was no sign of Karen. Mrs. Talcott got out and made inquiries. She
might have gone to London by the train that left at dawn; but no one had
noticed such a young lady. Mrs. Talcott came back to the car with her
fruitless story.

Mercedes, by this time, had dried her eyes and was regaining,
apparently, her more normal energies. "Not here? Not seen? Not heard
of?" she repeated. "But where is she then?"

Mrs. Talcott stood at the door of the car and looked at her charge.
"Well, I'm afraid she made off in the night, straight away, after I'd
talked to her."

"Made off in the night?" A dark colour suddenly suffused Madame von
Marwitz's face.

"Yes, that's it, I reckon. I must have said something to scare her about
her going back to her husband. Perhaps she thought I'd bring him down
without her knowing, and perhaps she wasn't far wrong. I'm afraid I've
played the fool. She thought I'd round on her in some way and so she
just lit out."

Madame von Marwitz stared at her. The expression of her face had
entirely altered; there was no trace of the dazed and wretched child.
Dark forces lit her eyes and the relaxed lines of her lips tightened.

"Get in," she commanded. "Tell him to drive back, and get in." And when
Mrs. Talcott had taken her place beside her she went on in a low,
concentrated voice: "Is it not possible that she has joined that vile

Mrs. Talcott eyed her with the fixity of a lion-tamer. Their moment of
instinctive closeness had passed. "Now see here, Mercedes," she said; "I
advise you to be careful what you say."

"Careful! I am half mad! Between you all you will drive me mad!" said
Madame von Marwitz with intensity of fury. "You fill Karen's mind with
lies about my past--oh, there are two sides to every story! she shall
hear my side!--you drive her forth with your threats to hand her over to
the man she loathes, and she takes refuge--where else?--with that
miscreant. Why not? Where else had she to go? You say that she had no
money. We call now at the hotel. If he is gone, and if within the day we
do not hear that she is with Lise, we will send at once for detectives."

"You'd better control yourself, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. "If Karen
ain't found it'll be a mighty ugly story for you to face up to, and if
she's found it won't be all plain sailing for you either; you've got to
pay the price for what you've done. But if it gets round that you drove
her out and then spread scandal about her, you'll do for yourself--just
keep your mind on that if you can."

"Scandal! What scandal shall I spread? If he disappears and she with
him, will the facts not shriek aloud? If she is found she will be found
by me. I will wire at once to Lise."

"We'll wire to Lise and we'll wire to Mr. Jardine, that's what we'll do.
Karen may have changed her mind. She may have felt shy of telling me she
had. She may have come to see that he's the thing she's got to hang on
to. What I hope for is that if she ain't in London already with him,
she's hiding somewhere about here and has sent for him herself."

"Ah, I understand your hope; it is of a piece with all your treachery,"
said Madame von Marwitz in a voice suffocated by conflicting angers. "If
she is with her husband he, too, will hear the story--the false, garbled
story of my crimes. He is my enemy, you know it; my malignant enemy; you
know that he will spread this affair broadcast. And you can rejoice in
this! You are glad for my disgrace and ruin!" Tears again streamed from
her eyes.

"Don't take on so, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott. "If Karen's with her
husband all they're likely to be thinking about is that he was right and
has got her back again. Karen's bound to tell him something about what
happened, and you can depend upon Karen for saying as little as she can.
But if you imagine that you're going to be let off from being found out
by that young man, you're letting yourself in for a big disappointment,
and you can take my word for it. It's because he's right about you that
Karen'll go back to him."

Madame von Marwitz turned her head away and fixed her eyes on the

They reached the little village near Les Solitudes, and at the little
hotel, with its drowsy, out-of-season air, Mrs. Talcott descended,
leaving Mercedes proudly seated in the car, indifferent to the possible
gaze from above of her faithless devotee. Mrs. Talcott returned with the
information that Mr. Drew was upstairs and not yet awake. "Go up. Go up
to him," said the tormented woman, after a moment of realized relief or
disappointment--who can say? "He may have seen her. He may have given
her money for her journey. They may have arranged to meet later."

Mrs. Talcott again disappeared and she only returned after some ten
minutes. "Home," she then said to Burton, climbing heavily into the car.
"Yes, there he was, sleeping as peaceful as a dormouse in his silk
pyjamas," she remarked. "I startled him some, I reckon, when I waked him
up. No, he don't know anything about her. Wanted to jump up and look for
her when I told him she was missing. Keep still, Mercedes--what do you
mean by bouncing about like that--folks can see you. I talked to him
pretty short and sharp, that young man, and I told him the best thing he
could do now was to pack his grip-sack and clear out. He's going right
away and he promised to send me a telegram from London to-night. He can
catch the second train."

Madame von Marwitz leaned back. She closed her eyes. The car had climbed
to the entrance of Les Solitudes and the fuchsia hedge was passing on
each side. Mrs. Talcott, looking at her companion, saw that she had
either actually fainted or was simulating a very realistic fainting-fit.
Mercedes often had fainting-fits at moments of crisis; but she was a
robust woman, and Mrs. Talcott had no reason to believe that any of them
had been genuine. She did not believe that this one was genuine, yet she
had to own, looking at the leaden eyelids and ashen face, that Mercedes
had been through enough in the last twelve hours to break down a
stronger person. And it was appropriate that she should return to her
desolate home in a prostrate condition.

Mrs. Talcott, as often before, played her part. The maids were summoned;
they supported Madame von Marwitz's body; Burton took her shoulders and
Mrs. Talcott her feet. So the afflicted woman was carried into the house
and upstairs and laid upon her bed.

Mrs. Talcott then went and sent telegrams to Frau Lippheim and to
Gregory Jardine. She asked them to let her know if Karen arrived in
London during the day. She had her answers that evening. That from
Gregory ran--"Not seen or heard of Karen. What has happened? Write by
return. Or shall I come to you?" The other was from the Lippheims'
landlady and said that the Lippheims had returned to Germany four days
before and that no one had arrived to see them.

The evening post had gone. Mrs. Talcott went out and answered Gregory by
wire: "Writing to-morrow morning. We think Karen is in London. Stay
where you are."


Mrs. Talcott went early to Madame von Marwitz's room next morning, as
soon, in fact, as she had seen her breakfast-tray carried away. She had
shown Mercedes her telegrams the evening before, and Mercedes, lying on
her bed where she had passed the day in heavy slumbers, had muttered,
"Let me sleep. The post is gone. We can do nothing more till to-morrow."
Like a wounded creature she was regaining strength and wholeness in
oblivion. When Mrs. Talcott had gone softly into her room at bedtime,
she had found her soundly sleeping.

But the fumes and torpors of grief and pain were this morning dispersed.
Mercedes sat at the desk in her bedroom attired in a _robe-de-chambre_,
and rapidly and feverishly wrote.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott,
closing the door and coming to her side. "We've got a lot to talk over
this morning. I guess we'll have to send for those detectives. What are
you writing there?"

Madame von Marwitz, whose face had the sodden, slumbrous look that
follows long repose, drew the paper quickly to one side and replied:
"You may mind your affairs and leave me to mind my own. I write to my
friend. I write to Mrs. Forrester."

"You hand me that letter, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, in a mild but
singularly determined tone, and after a moment Madame von Marwitz did
hand it to her.

Mrs. Talcott perused the first page. Then she lifted her eyes to her
companion, who, averting hers with a sullen look, fixed them on the sea
outside. It was raining and the sea was leaden.

"Now just you listen to me, Mercedes Okraska," said Mrs. Talcott,
heavily emphasizing her words and leaning the hand that held the letter
on the writing-table, "I'll go straight up to London and tell the whole
story to Mr. Jardine and Mrs. Forrester--the same as I told it to Karen
with all that's happened here besides--I will as sure as my name's
Hannah Talcott--if you write one word of that shameful idea to your
friends. Lay down that pen."

Madame von Marwitz did not lay it down, but she turned in her chair and
confronted her accuser, though with averted eyes. "You say 'shameful.' I
say, yes; shameful, and true. She has not gone to her husband. She has
not gone to the Lippheims. I believe that he has joined her. I believe
that it was arranged. I believe that she is with him now."

"You can't look me in the eye and say you believe it, Mercedes," said
Mrs. Talcott.

Madame von Marwitz looked her in the eye, sombrely, and she then varied
her former statement. "He has pursued her. He has found her. He will try
to keep her. He is a depraved and dangerous man."

"We'll let him alone. We're done with him for good and all, I guess. My
point is this: don't you write any lies to your friends thinking that
you're going to whiten yourself by blackening Karen. I'm speaking the
sober truth when I say I'll go straight off to London and tell Mr.
Jardine and Mrs. Forrester the whole story, unless you write a letter,
right now, as you sit here, that I can pass."

Again averting her eyes, Madame von Marwitz clutched her pen in rigid
fingers and sat silent.

"It is blackmail! Tyranny!" she ejaculated presently.

"All right. Call it any name you like. But my advice to you, Mercedes,
is to pull yourself together and see this thing straight for your own
sake. I know what's the matter with you, you pitiful, silly thing; it's
this young man; it makes you behave like a distracted creature. But
don't you see as plain as can be that what Karen's probably done is to
go to London and that Mr. Jardine'll find her in a day or two. Now when
those two young people come together again, what kind of a story will
Karen tell her husband about you--what'll he think of you--what'll your
friends think of you--if they all find out that in addition to behaving
like a wild-cat to that poor child because you were fairly daft with
jealousy, and driving her away--oh, yes you did, Mercedes, it don't do
any good to deny it now--if in addition to all that they find out that
you've been trying to save your face by blackening her character? Why,
they'll think you're the meanest skunk that ever walked on two legs; and
they'll be about right. Whereas, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott had been
standing square and erect for some time in front of her companion, and
now, as her tone became more argumentative and persuasive, she allowed
her tired old body to sag and rest heavily on one hip--"whereas if you
write a nice, kind, loving, self-reproachful letter, all full of your
dreadful anxiety and affection--why, if Karen ever sees it it'll soften
her towards you perhaps; and it'll make all your friends sorry for you,
too, and inclined to hush things up if Mr. Drew spreads the story
around--won't it, Mercedes?"--Madame von Marwitz had turned in her chair
and was staring before her with a deeply thoughtful eye.--"Why, it's as
plain as can be, Mercedes, that that's your line."

"True," Madame von Marwitz now said. "True." Her voice was deep and
almost solemn. "You are right. Yes; you are right, Tallie."

She leaned her forehead on her hand, shading her eyes as she pondered.
"A letter of noble admission; of sorrow; of love. Ah! you recall me to
my better self. It will touch her, Tallie; it is bound to touch her, is
it not? She cannot feel the bitterness she now feels if she reads such a
letter; is not that so, Tallie?"

"That's so. You've got it," said Mrs. Talcott.

Madame von Marwitz, however, continued to lean on her desk and to shade
her eyes, and some moments of silence passed thus. Then, as she leaned,
the abjectness of her own position seemed suddenly borne in upon her.
She pushed back her chair and clutching the edge of the desk with both
hands, gave a low cry.

Mrs. Talcott looked at her, inquiring, but unmoved.

"Oh--it is easy for you--standing there--watching my humiliation--making
your terms!" Madame von Marwitz exclaimed in bitter, trembling tones.
"You see me in the dust,--and it is you who strike me there. I am to
drag myself--with precautions--apologies--to that child's feet--that
waif!--that bastard!--that thing I picked up and made! I am to be glad
because I may hope to move her to mercy! Ah!--it is too much! too much!
I curse the day that I saw her! I had a presentiment--I remember it
now--as I saw her standing there in the forest with her foolish face. I
felt in my inmost soul that she was to bring me sorrow. She takes him
from me! She puts me to shame before the world! And I am to implore her
to take pity on me!"

She had extended her clenched hand in speaking and now struck it
violently on the desk. The silver blotter, the candlesticks, the
pen-tray and ink-stand leaped in their places and the ink, splashing up,
spattered her white silk robe.

"There now," said Mrs. Talcott, eyeing her impassively, "you've gone and
spoiled your nice dress."

"Damn the dress!" said Madame von Marwitz. Leaning her elbows on the
desk and her face on her hands, she wept; the tears trickled between her

But in a very little while the storm passed. She straightened herself,
found her lace-edged handkerchief and dried her eyes and cheeks; then,
taking a long breath, she drew forward a pad of paper.

"I am a fool, am I not, Tallie," she remarked. "And you are wise; a
traitor, yet wise. I will do as you say. Wait there and you shall see."

Mrs. Talcott now subsided heavily into a chair and for some fifteen
minutes there was no sound but the scratching of Madame von Marwitz's
pen and the deep sighs that from time to time she heaved.

Then: "So: will that do?" she asked, leaning back with the deepest of
the sighs and handing the pages to Mrs. Talcott.

Her dark, cold eyes, all clouded with weeping, had a singularly
child-like expression as she thus passed on her letter for inspection.
And--as when she had stretched out her legs for Mrs. Talcott to put on
her stockings--one saw beyond the instinctively confiding gesture a long
series of scenes reaching back to childhood, scenes where, in crises,
her own craft and violence and unscrupulous resource having undone her,
she had fallen back in fundamental dependence on the one stable and
inalienable figure in her life.

Mrs. Talcott read:

     "My Friend--Dearest and best Beloved,--I am in the straits of a
     terrible grief.--I am blind with weeping, dazed from a sleepless
     night and a day of anguish.--My child, my Karen, is gone and, oh my
     friend, I am in part to blame.--I am hot of blood, quick of tongue,
     as you know, and you know that Karen is haughty, resentful,
     unwilling to brook reproof even from me. But I do not attempt to
     exonerate myself. I will open my heart to you and my friend will
     read aright and interpret the broken words. You know that I cared
     for Claude Drew; you guessed perhaps how strong was the hold upon
     me of the frail, ambiguous, yet so intelligent modern spirit. It
     was to feel the Spring blossom once more on my frosty branches when
     this young life fell at my knees and seemed to find in me its
     source and goal. Mine was a sacred love and pain mingled with my
     maternal tenderness when he revealed himself to me as seeking from
     me the lesser things of love, the things I could not give, that
     elemental soil of sense and passion without which a man's devotion
     so strangely withers,--I could give him water from the wells and
     light from the air; I could not give him earth. My friend, he was
     here when Karen came, and, already I had seen it, his love was
     passing from me. Her youth, her guilelessness, her courage and the
     loyalty of her return to me, aroused his curiosity, his indolent
     and--you will remember--his unsatisfied, passion. I saw at once,
     and I saw danger. I knew him to be a man believing in neither good
     nor evil, seeking only beauty and the satisfaction of desire. Not
     once--but twice, thrice, did I warn Karen, and she resented my
     warnings. She is a creature profoundly pure and profoundly simple
     and her stubborn spirit rests in security upon its own assurances.
     She resented my warnings and she repulsed my attempts to lead and
     guard her. Another difference had also come between us. I hoped to
     effect a reconciliation between her and her husband; I suggested to
     Karen that I should write to you and offer myself as an
     intermediary; I could not bear to see her young life ruined for my
     sake. Karen was not kind to me; the thought of her husband is
     intolerable to her and she turned upon me with bitterness. I was
     hurt and I told her so. She brought me to tears. My friend, it was
     late on the night of that day--the night before last--that I found
     her with Claude Drew in the garden; and found her in his arms. Do
     not misunderstand; she had not returned his love; she repulsed him
     as I came upon them; but I, in my consternation, my anger, my
     dismay, snatched her from him and spoke to them both with
     passionate reproof. I sent Karen to the house and remained behind
     to deal with the creature who had so betrayed my trust. He is now
     my avowed enemy. So be it. I do not see him again.

     "At dawn, after a sleepless night, I went to Karen's room to take
     her in my arms and to ask her pardon for my harsh words. She was
     gone. Gone, my friend. Tallie tells me that she believed me to have
     said that unless she could obey me I must forbid her to remain
     under my roof. These were not my words; but she had misunderstood
     and had fiercely resented my displeasure. She told Tallie that she
     would go to the Lippheims,--for them, as I have told you, she has a
     deep affection. Tallie urged upon her that she should communicate
     with her husband, let him know what had happened, return to
     him--even if it were to blacken me in his eyes--and would to God
     that it had been so!--But she repulsed the suggestion with
     bitterness. It must also have filled her with terror lest we should
     ourselves make some further attempt to bring about a
     reconciliation; for it was in the night, and immediately after her
     talk with Tallie, that she went, although she and Tallie had
     arranged that she was to go to the Lippheims next day.

     "We have wired to the Lippheims and find that they have left
     England. And we have wired to Mr. Jardine, and she is not with him.
     She may be on her way to Germany; she may be concealed in the
     country near here; she may be in London. Unless we have news of her
     to-morrow I send for a detective. Oh, to hold her in my arms! I am
     crushed to the earth with sorrow and remorse. Show this letter to
     her husband. I have no thought of pride.

     "Your devoted and unhappy Mercedes."

Mrs. Talcott read and remained for some moments reflecting after she had
read. "Well, I suppose that's got to do," she commented, "though I don't
call it a satisfactory letter. You've fixed it up real smart, but it's a
long way off the truth."

Madame von Marwitz, while Mrs. Talcott read, had been putting back the
disordered strands of her hair, adjusting her laces, and dabbing vaguely
with her handkerchief at the splashes of ink that disfigured the front
of her dress--thereby ruining the handkerchief; she looked up sharply

"I deny that it is a long way off the truth."

"A long way off," Mrs. Talcott repeated colourlessly; "but I guess it'll
have to do. I'm willing you should make the best story out for yourself
you can to your friends, so long as Karen knows the truth and so long as
you don't spread scandal about her. Now I'll write to Mr. Jardine."

Madame von Marwitz's eyes were still fixed sharply on her and a sudden
suspicion leapt to them. "Here then!" she exclaimed. "You write in my
presence as I have done in yours. And we go to the village together that
I may see you post the self-same letter. I have had enough of

Mrs. Talcott allowed a grim smile to touch her lips. "My, but you're
silly, Mercedes," she said. "Get up, then, and let me sit there. I'd
just as leave I'm sure. You know I'm determined that Karen shall go back
to her husband and that I'm going to do all I can so as she shall. So
there's nothing I want to hide."

She took up the pen and Madame von Marwitz leaned over her shoulder and
read as she wrote:

     "Dear Mr. Jardine,--Mercedes and Karen have had a disagreement and
     Karen took it very hard and has made off, we don't know where. Go
     round to Mrs. Forrester and see what Mercedes has got to say about
     it. Karen will tell you her side when you see her. She feels very
     bad about you yet; and thinks things are over between you; but you
     hang on, Mr. Jardine, and it'll all come right. You'd better find
     out whether Karen's called at the Lippheims' and get a detective
     and try and trace her out. If she's with them in Germany I advise
     you to go right over and see her.--Yours sincerely,

     "Hannah Talcott."

Mrs. Talcott, as she finished, heard that the breathing of Mercedes,
close upon her, had become heavier. She did not look at her. She knew
what Mercedes was feeling, and dreading; and that Mercedes was helpless.

"There's no reason under the sun why Handcock shouldn't take these
letters as usual," she remarked; "but if you're set on it that you're
being betrayed, put on your shoes and dress and we'll walk down and mail
them together."


It was on the second morning after this that the letters were brought in
to Madame von Marwitz while she and Mrs. Talcott sat in the music-room

The two days had told upon them both. The face of Mercedes was like a
beautiful fruit, rain-sodden and gnawed at the heart by a worm. Mrs.
Talcott's was more bleached, more desolate, more austere.

The one letter that Handcock brought to Mrs. Talcott was from Gregory

     "Dear Mrs. Talcott," it said, "Thank you for your kind note. I am
     very unhappy and only a little less unhappy than when Karen left
     me. One cause of our estrangement is, perhaps, removed; but the
     fact borne in upon me at the time of that parting was that, while
     she was everything in life to me, she hardly knew the meaning of
     the words love and marriage. I need not tell you that I will do all
     in my power to induce her to return to me, and all in my power to
     win her heart. It was useless to make any attempt at reconciliation
     while her guardian stood between us. I cannot pretend that I feel
     more kindly towards Madame von Marwitz now; rather the reverse. It
     is plain to me that she has treated Karen shamefully. You must
     forgive me for my frankness.--Sincerely yours,

     "Gregory Jardine."

Mrs. Talcott when she looked up from this letter saw that Mercedes was
absorbed in hers. Her expression had stiffened as she read, and when she
had finished the hand holding it dropped to her side. She sat looking
down in a dark contemplation.

Mrs. Talcott asked no question. United in the practical exigencies of
their search for Karen, united in their indestructible relation of
respective dependence and stability, which the last catastrophe had
hardly touched--for Mercedes had accepted her betrayal with a singular
passivity, as if it had been a force of nature that had overtaken
her--there was yet a whole new region of distrust between them. She and
Mercedes, as Mrs. Talcott cheerlessly imaged it, were like a constable
and his captive adrift, by a curious turn of fortune, on the waters of a
sudden inundation. Together they baled out water and worked at the oar,
but both were aware that when the present peril was past a sentence had
still to be carried out on one of them. Mercedes could not evade her
punishment. If Karen were found Gregory Jardine must come to know that
her guardian had, literally, driven her from her home. In that case it
rested with Gregory's sense of mercy whether Mercedes should be exposed
to the world or not. And after reading Gregory's letter Mrs. Talcott
reflected that there was not much to hope of mercy from him. So she
showed a tactful consideration of her companion's state of nerves by
pressing her no further than was necessary.

On this occasion, however, there was no need for pressure; Mercedes, in
her dismal plight, turned to her with the latest development of it.

"Ah," she said, while she still continued to gaze down fixedly, "this it
is to have true friends. This is human loyalty. It is well."

"What's the matter, Mercedes?" Mrs. Talcott asked, as she was evidently
invited to do.

"Read if you will," said Madame von Marwitz. She held out the letter
which Mrs. Talcott rose to take.

It was from Mrs. Forrester and was full of sympathy for her afflicted
friend, and full of sympathy for foolish, headstrong little Karen. The
mingled sympathies rang strangely. She avowed self-reproach. She was
afraid that she had precipitated the rupture between Karen and her
husband, not quite, perhaps, understanding the facts. She had seen
Gregory, she was very sorry for him. She was, apparently, sorry for
everyone; except of course, Mr. Drew, the villain of the piece; but of
Mr. Drew and of Mercedes's sacred love for him, she made no mention.
Mrs. Forrester was fond, but she was wary. She had received, evidently,
her dim thrust of disillusion. Mercedes had blamed herself and Mrs.
Forrester did not deny that Mercedes must be to blame.

"Yes; she's feeling pretty sick," Mrs. Talcott commented when she had
read. "The trouble is that anybody who knows how much Karen loved you
knows that she wouldn't have made off like that without you'd treated
her ugly. That'll be the trouble with most of your friends, I reckon.
Who's your other letter from?"

Madame von Marwitz roused herself from her state of contemplation. She
opened the second letter saying, tersely: "Scrotton."

"She ain't likely to take sides with Karen," Mrs. Talcott observed,
inserting her hand once more in the stocking she was darning, these
homely occupations having for the last few days been brought into the
music-room, since Mercedes would not be left alone. "She was always just
as jealous of Karen as could be."

She proceeded to darn and Madame von Marwitz to read, and as she read a
dark flush mounted to her face. Clenching her hand on Miss Scrotton's
letter, she brought it down heavily on the back of the chair she sat in.
Then, without speaking, she got up, tossed the letter to Mrs. Talcott,
and began to pace the room, setting the furniture that she encountered
out of her way with vindictive violence.

     "My Darling, Darling Mercedes," Miss Scrotton wrote, "This is too
     terrible. Shall I come to you at once? I thought this morning after
     I had seen Mrs. Forrester and read your heartbreaking letter that I
     would start to-day; but let me hear from you, you may be coming up
     to town. If you stay in Cornwall, Mercedes, you must not be alone;
     you must not; and I am, as you know, devoted heart and soul. If all
     the world turned against you, Mercedes, I should keep my faith in
     you. I need hardly tell you what is being said. Claude Drew is in
     London and though, naturally, he does not dare face your friends
     with his story, rumours are abroad. Betty Jardine does not know
     him, but already she has heard; I met her only a few hours ago and
     the miserable little creature was full of malicious satisfaction.
     The story that she has heard--and believes--and that London will
     believe--is the crude, gross one that facts, so disastrously, have
     lent colour to; you, in a fit of furious jealousy, driving Karen
     away. My poor, great, suffering friend, I need not tell you that I
     understand. Your letter rings true to me in every line, and is but
     too magnanimous.--Oh Mercedes!--had you but listened to my warnings
     about that wretched man. Do you remember that I told you that you
     were scattering your pearls before swine? And your exculpation of
     Karen did not convince me as it seemed to do Mrs. Forrester. A
     really guileless woman is not found--late at night--in a man's
     arms. I cannot forget Karen's origins. There must be in her the
     element of reckless passion. Mr. Drew is spreading a highly
     idealised account of her and says that to see you together was to
     see Antigone in the clutches of Clytemnestra. There is some
     satisfaction in knowing that the miserable man is quite distracted
     and is haunted by the idea that Karen may have committed suicide.
     Betty Jardine says that in that case you and he would have to
     appear at the inquest.--Oh, my poor Mercedes!--But I feel sure that
     this is impossible. Temper, not tragedy, drove Karen from you and
     it was on her part a dastardly action. I am seeing everybody that I
     can; they shall have my version. The Duchess is in the country; I
     have wired to her that I will go to her at once if you do not send
     for me; it is important that she should have the facts as I see
     them before these abominable rumours reach her. Dear Mrs. Forrester
     means, I am sure, to do loyally; you may count upon her to listen
     to no scandal; but its breath alarms and chills her: she does not
     interpret your letter as I do.

     "Good-bye, my dear one. Wire to me please, at once. Ever and always
     _ton Eleanor devouée_."

"Well," Mrs. Talcott commented warily, folding the letter and glancing
at Madame von Marwitz; "she don't let any grass grow under her feet,
does she? Do you want her down?"

"Want her! Why should I want her! The insufferable fool!" cried Madame
von Marwitz still striding to and fro with tigerish regularity. "Does
she think me, too, a fool, to be taken in by her grimaces of loyalty
when it is as apparent as the day that delight is her chief emotion.
Here is her opportunity--_parbleu!_--At last! I am in the dust--and if
also in the dock so much the better. She will stand by me when others
fall away. She will defend the prostrate Titaness from the vultures that
prey upon her and gain at last the significance she has, for so long, so
eagerly and so fruitlessly pursued. Ah!--_par exemple!_ Let her come to
me expecting gratitude. I will spurn her from me like a dog!" Madame von
Marwitz, varying her course, struck a chair aside as she spoke.

"Well, I shouldn't fly out at her if I was you," said Mrs. Talcott.
"She's as silly as they make 'em, I allow, but it's all to the good if
her silliness keeps her sticking to you through thick and thin. It's
just as well to have someone around to drive off the vultures, even if
it's only a scarecrow--and Miss Scrotton is better than that. She's a
pretty brainy woman, for all her silliness, and she's pretty fond of
you, too, only you haven't treated her as well as she thinks you ought
to have, and it makes her feel kind of spry and cheerful to see that her
time's come to show you what a fine fellow she is. Most folks are like
that, I guess," Mrs. Talcott mused, returning to her stocking, "they
don't suffer so powerful over their friends' misfortunes if it gives
them a chance of showing what fine fellows they are."

"Friends!" Madame von Marwitz repeated with scorching emphasis.
"Friends! Truly I have proved them, these friends of mine. Cowards and
traitors all, or crouching hounds. I am to be left, I perceive, with the
Scrotton as my sole companion." But now she paused in her course, struck
by a belated memory. "You had a letter. You have heard from the

"Yes, I have," said Mrs. Talcott, "and you may as well see it." She drew
forth Gregory's letter from under the heap of darning appliances on her

Madame von Marwitz snatched it from her and read it, once rapidly, once
slowly; and then, absorbed again in dark meditations, she stood holding
it, her eyes fixed on the ground.

"He ain't as violent as might be expected, is he?" Mrs. Talcott
suggested. Distrust was abroad in the air between her and Mercedes; she
offered the fact of Gregory's temperateness as one that might mitigate
some anticipations.

"He is as insolent as might be expected," said Madame von Marwitz. She
flung the letter back to Mrs. Talcott, resuming her pacing, with a
bitter laugh. "And to think," she said presently, "that I hoped--but
truly hoped--with all my heart--to reconcile them! To think that I
offered myself to Karen as an intermediary. It was true--yes, literally
true--what I told Mrs. Forrester--that I spoke to Karen of it--with all
love and gentleness and that she turned upon me like a tigress."

"And you'll recollect," said Mrs. Talcott, "that I told you to keep your
hands off them and that you'd made enough mischief as it was. Why I
guess you did hope she'd go back. You wanted to get rid of Karen and to
have that young man to yourself; that's the truth, but you didn't tell
that to Mrs. Forrester."

"I deny it," said Madame von Marwitz; but mechanically; her thoughts
were elsewhere. She still paced.

"Well," said Mrs. Talcott, "you'd better send that telegram to Miss
Scrotton, telling her not to come, or you'll have her down here as soon
as she's seen the Duchess."

"Send it; send it at once," said Madame von Marwitz. "Tell her that I do
not need her. Tell her that I will write." The force of her fury had
passed; counsels of discretion were making themselves felt. "Go at once
and send it."

She paused again as Mrs. Talcott rose. "If Karen is not found within
three days, Tallie, I go to London. I believe that she is in London."

Mrs. Talcott faced her. "If she's in London she'll be found as soon by
Mr. Jardine as by you."

"Yes; that may be," said Mercedes, and discretion, now, had evidently
the mastery; "but Karen will not refuse to see me. I must see her. I
must implore her forgiveness. You would not oppose that, would you,

"No, I'd not oppose your asking her to forgive you," Mrs. Talcott
conceded, "when she's got back to her husband. Only I advise you to stay
where you are till you hear she's found."

"I will do as you say, Tallie," said Madame von Marwitz meekly. She went
to the piano, and seating herself began to play the _Wohltemperirtes


Six days had passed since Karen's disappearance. The country had been
searched; London, still, was being examined, and the papers were
beginning to break into portraits of the missing girl. Karen became
remote, non-existent, more than dead, it seemed, when her face, like
that of some heroine of a newspaper novelette, gazed at one from the
breakfast-table. The first time that this happened, Madame von Marwitz,
flinging the sheet from her, had burst into a violent storm of weeping.

She sat, on the afternoon of the sixth day, in a sunny corner of the
lower terrace and turned the leaves of a book with a listless hand. She
was to be alone till dinner-time; Tallie had gone in to Helston by bus,
and she had the air of one who feels solitude at once an oppression and
a relief. She read little, raising her eyes to gaze unseeingly over the
blue expanses stretched beneath her or to look down as vaguely into the
eyes of Victor, who lay at her feet. The restless spirit of the house
had reached Victor. He lay with his head on his extended paws in an
attitude of quiescence; but his ears were pricked to watchfulness, his
eyes, as he turned them now and again up to his mistress, were troubled.
Aware of his glance, on one occasion, Madame von Marwitz stooped and
caressed his head, murmuring: "_Nous sommes des infortunés, hein, mon
chien._" Her voice was profoundly sad. Victor understood her. Slightly
thudding his tail he gave a soft responsive groan; and it was then,
while she still leaned to him and still caressed his head, that shrill,
emphatic voices struck on Madame von Marwitz's ear.

The gravelled nook where she sat, her garden chair, with its adjusted
cushions, set against a wall, was linked by ascending paths and terraces
to the cliff-path, and this again, though only through a way overgrown
with gorse and bramble, to the public coast-guards' path along the
cliff-top. The white stones that marked the way for the coast-guards
made a wide _détour_ behind Madame von Marwitz's property and this
nearer egress to the cliff was guarded by a large placard warning off
trespassers. Yet, looking in the direction of the voices, Madame von
Marwitz, to her astonishment, saw that three ladies, braving the
interdict, were actually marching down in single file upon her.

One was elderly and two were young; they wore travelling dress, and, as
she gazed at them in chill displeasure, the features of the first became
dimly familiar to her. Where, she could not have said, yet she had seen
that neat, grey head before, that box-like hat with its depending veil,
that firmly corseted, matronly form, with its silver-set pouch,
suggesting, typical of the travelling American lady as it was, a
marsupial species. She did not know where she had seen this lady; but
she was a travelling American; she accosted one in determined tones,
and, at some time in the past, she had waylaid and inconvenienced her.
Madame von Marwitz, as the three trooped down upon her, did not rise.
She pointed to the lower terrace. "This is private property," she said,
and her aspect might well have turned the unwary visitors, Acteon-like,
into stags, "I must ask you to leave it at once. You see the small door
in the garden wall below; it is unlocked and it leads to the village.
Good-day to you."

But, with a singularly bright and puckered look, the look of a
surf-bather, who measures with swift eye the height of the rolling
breaker and plunges therein, the elderly lady addressed her with
extraordinary volubility.

"Baroness, you don't remember us--but we've met before, we have a mutual
friend:--Mrs. General Tollman of St. Paul's, Minnesota.--Allow me to
introduce myself again:--Mrs. Slifer--Mrs. Hamilton K. Slifer:--my
girls, Maude and Beatrice. We had the privilege of making your
acquaintance over a year ago, Baroness, at the station in London, just
before you sailed, and we had some talks on the steamer to that
perfectly charming woman, Miss Scrotton. I hope she's well. We're over
again this year, you see; we pine for dear old England and come just as
often as we can. We feel we belong here more than over there sometimes,
I'm afraid,"--Mrs. Slifer laughed swiftly and deprecatingly.--"My girls
are so often taken for English girls, the Burne-Jones type you know.
We've got friends staying at Mullion, so we thought we'd just drop down
on Cornwall for a little tour after we landed at Southampton, and we
drove over this afternoon and came down by the cliff--we are just crazy
about your scenery, Baroness--it's just the right setting for you--we've
been saying so all day--to have a peek at the house we've heard so much
about; and we don't want to disturb you, but it's the greatest possible
pleasure, Baroness, to have this beautiful glimpse of you--with your
splendid dog--how d' ye do, Victor--why I do believe he remembers me; we
petted him so much at the station when your niece was holding him. We
saw Mrs. Jardine the other day, Baroness--such a pleasant surprise that
was, too--only we're sorry to see she's so delicate. The New Forest will
be just the place for her. We stayed there three days after landing,
because my Beatrice here was very sea-sick and I wanted her to have a
little rest. We were simply crazy over it. I do hope Mrs. Jardine's
getting better."

All this had been delivered with such speed, such an air of decision and
purpose, that Madame von Marwitz, who had risen in her bewildered
indignation and stood, her book beneath her arm, her white cloak caught
about her, had found no opportunity to check the torrent of speech, and
as these last words came as swiftly and as casually as the rest she
could hardly, for a moment, collect her faculties.

"My niece? Mrs. Jardine?" she repeated, with a wild, wan utterance.
"What do you say of her?"

It was at this moment that Miss Beatrice began, in the background, to
adjust her camera. She told her mother and sister afterwards that she
seemed to feel it in her bones that something was doing.

Mrs. Slifer, emerging from her breaker in triumph, struck out, blinking
and smiling affably. "We heard all about the wedding in America," she
said, "and we thought we might call upon her in London and see that
splendid temple you'd given her--we heard all about that, too. I never
saw a picture of him, but I knew her in a minute, naturally, though she
did look so pulled down. Why, Baroness--what's the matter!"

Madame von Marwitz had suddenly clutched Mrs. Slifer's arm with an
almost appalling violence of mien and gesture.

"What is the matter?" Madame von Marwitz repeated, shaking Mrs. Slifer's
arm. "Do you know what you are saying? My niece has been lost for a
week! The whole country is searching for her! Where have you seen her?
When was it? Answer me at once!"

"Why Baroness, by all means, but you needn't shake my head off," said
Mrs. Slifer, not without dignity, raising her free hand to straighten
her hat. "We've never heard a word about it. Why this is perfectly
providential.--Baroness--I must ask you not to go on shaking me like
that. I've got a very delicate stomach and the least thing upsets my

"_Justes cieux!_" Madame von Marwitz cried, dropping Mrs. Slifer's arm
and raising her hands to her head, while, in the background, Miss
Beatrice's kodak gave a click--"Will the woman drive me mad! Karen! My
child! Where is she!"

"Why, we saw her at the station at Brockenhurst--in the New
Forest--didn't we Maude," said Mrs. Slifer, "and it must have been--now
let me see--" poor Mrs. Slifer collected her wits, a bent forefinger at
her lips. "To-day's Thursday and we got to Mullion yesterday--and we
stopped at Winchester for a day and night on our way to the New Forest,
it was on Saturday last of course. We'd been having a drive about that
part of the forest and we were taking the train and they had just come
and we saw them on the opposite platform. He was just helping her out of
the train and we didn't have any time to go round and speak to them--"

"They!" Madame von Marwitz nearly shouted. "She was with a man! Last
Saturday! Who was it? Describe him to me! Was he slender--with fair
hair--dark eyes--the air of a poet?" She panted. And her aspect was so
singular that Miss Beatrice, startled out of her professional readiness,
failed to snap it.

"Why no," said Mrs. Slifer, keeping her clue. "I shouldn't say a
poetical looking man, should you, Maude? A fleshy man--very big and
fleshy, and he was taking such good care of her and looked so kind of
tender and worried that I concluded he was her husband. She looked like
a very sick woman, Baroness."

"Fleshy?" Madame von Marwitz repeated, and the word, in her moan, was
almost graceful. "Fleshy, you say? An old man? A stout old man?" she
held her hands distractedly pressed to her head. "What stout old man
does Karen know? Is it a stranger she has met?"

"No, he wasn't old. This was a young man, Baroness. He had--now let me
see--his hair was sort of red--I remember noticing his hair; and he wore
knee-pants and a soft hat with a feather in it and was very high

"_Bon Dieu!_" Madame von Marwitz gasped. She had again, while Mrs.
Slifer spoke, seized her by the arm as though afraid that she might
escape her and she now gazed with a fixed gaze above Mrs. Slifer's head
and through the absorbed Maude and Beatrice. "Red hair?--A large young
man?--Was he clean shaven? Did he wear eyeglasses? Had he the face of a
musician? Did he look like an Englishman--an English gentleman?"

Mrs. Slifer, nodding earnest assent to the first questions, shook her
head at the latter. "No, he didn't. What I said to Maude and Beatrice
was that Mr. Jardine looked more German than English. He looked just
like a German student, Baroness."

"Franz Lippheim!" cried Madame von Marwitz. She sank back upon the seat
from which she had risen, putting a hand before her eyes.

Victor, at her knees, laid a paw upon her lap and whined an
interrogative sympathy. The three American ladies gathered near and
gazed in silence upon the great woman, and Beatrice, carefully adjusting
her camera, again took a snap. The picture of Madame von Marwitz, with
her hand before her eyes, her anxious dog at her knees, found its way
into the American press and illustrated touchingly the story of the lost
adopted child. Madame von Marwitz was not sorry when, among a batch of
press-cuttings, she came across the photograph and saw that her most
genuine emotion had been thus made public.

She looked up at last, and the dizziness of untried and perilous freedom
was in her eyes; but curious, now, of other objects, they took in,
weighed and measured the little group before her; power grew in them, an
upwelling of force and strategy.

She smiled upon the Slifers and she rose.

"You have done me an immeasurable service," she said, and as she spoke
she took Mrs. Slifer's hand with a noble dignity. "You have lifted me
from despair. It is blessed news that you bring. My child is safe with a
good, a talented man; one for whom I have the deepest affection. And in
the New Forest--at Brockenhurst--on Saturday. Ah, I shall soon have her
in my arms."

Still holding Mrs. Slifer's hand she led them up the terraces and
towards the house. "The poor child is ill, distraught. She had parted
from her husband--fled from him. Ah, it has been a miserable affair,
that marriage. But now, all will be well. _Bon Dieu!_ what joy! What
peace of heart you have brought me! I shall be with her to-morrow. I
start at once. And you, my good friends, let me hear your plans. Let me
be of service to you. Come with me for the last stage of your journey. I
will not part with you willingly."

"It's all simply too wonderful, Baroness," Mrs. Slifer gasped, as she
skipped along on her short legs beside the goddess-like stride of the
great woman, who held her--who held her very tightly. "We were just
going to drift along up to Tintagel and then work up to London, taking
in all the cathedrals we could on our way."

"And you will change your route in order to give me the pleasure of your
company. You will forfeit Tintagel: is it not so?" Madame von Marwitz
smiled divinely. "You will come with me in my car to Truro where we take
the train and I will drop you to-night at the feet of a cathedral. So.
Your luggage is at Mullion? That is simple. We wire to your friends to
pack and send it on at once. Leave it to me. You are in my hands. It is
a kindness that you will do me. I need you, Mrs. Slifer," she pressed
the lady's arm. "My old friend, who lives with me, has left me for the
day, and, moreover, she is too old to travel. I must not be alone. I
need you. It is a kindness that you will do me. Now you will wait for me
here and tea will be brought to you. I shall keep you waiting but for a
few moments."

It was to be lifted on the back of a genie. She had wafted them up,
along the garden paths, across the verandah, into the serenity and
spaciousness and dim whites and greens and silvers of the great
music-room, with a backward gaze that had, in all its sweetness,
something of hypnotic force and fixity.

She left them with the Sargent portrait looking down at them and the
room in its strangeness and beauty seemed part of the spell she laid
upon them. The Slifers, herded together in the middle of it, gazed about
them half awe-struck and spoke almost in whispers.

"Why, girls," said Mrs. Slifer, who was the first to find words, "this
is the most thrilling thing I ever came across."

"You've pulled it off this time, mother, and no mistake," said Maude,
glancing somewhat furtively up at the Sargent. "Do look at that
perfectly lovely dress she has on in that picture. Did you ever see such
pearls; and the eyes seem to follow you, don't they?"

"The poor, distracted thing just clings to us," said Mrs. Slifer. "I
shouldn't wonder if she was as lonely as could be."

"All the same," Beatrice, the doubting Thomas of the group, now
commented, "I don't think however excited she was she ought to have
shaken you like that, mother." Beatrice had examined the appurtenances
of the great room with a touch of nonchalance. It was she whom Gregory
had seen at the station, seated on the pile of luggage.

"That's petty of you, Bee," said Mrs. Slifer gravely. "Real small and
petty. It's a great soul at white heat we've been looking at."

Handcock at this point brought in tea, and after she had placed the tray
and disposed the plates of cake and bread-and-butter and left the
Slifers alone again, Mrs. Slifer went on under her breath, seating
herself to pour out the tea. "And do look at this tea-pot, girls; isn't
it too cute for words. My! What will the Jones say when they hear about
this! They'd give their eye-teeth to be with us now."

The Slifers, indeed, were never to forget their adventure. It was to be
impressed upon their minds not only by its supreme enviableness but by
its supreme discomfort. It was almost five when, like three Ganymedes
uplifted by the talons of a fierce, bright bird, they soared with Madame
von Marwitz towards Truro, and at Truro, in spite of a reckless speed
which desperately dishevelled their hair and hats, they arrived too late
to catch the 6.40 train for Exeter.

Madame von Marwitz strode majestically along the platform, her white
cloak trailing in the dust, called for station-masters, demanded special
trains, fixed haughty, uncomprehending eyes upon the officials who
informed her that she could not possibly get a train until ten, resigned
herself, with sundry exclamations of indignation and stamps of the foot,
to the tedious wait, sailed into the refreshment room only to sail out
again, mounted the car not yet dismissed, bore the Slifers to a hotel
where they had a dinner over which she murmured at intervals "_Bon Dieu,
est-ce-donc possible!_" and then, in the chill, dark evening, toured
about in the adjacent country until ten, when Burton was sent back to
Les Solitudes and when they all got into the train for Exeter.

She had never in all her life travelled alone before. She hardly knew
how to procure her ticket, and her helplessness in regard to box and
dressing-case was so apparent that Mrs. Slifer saw to the one and Maude
carried the other, together with the fur-lined coat when this was thrown

The hours that they passed with her in the train were the strangest that
the Slifers had ever passed. They were chilled, they were sleepy, they
were utterly exhausted; but they kept their eyes fixed on the
perplexing, resplendent object that upbore them.

Beatrice, it is true, showed by degrees, a slight sulkiness. She had not
liked it when, at Truro, Madame von Marwitz had supervised their wires
to the Jones, and she liked it less when Madame von Marwitz explained to
them in the train that she relied upon them not to let the Jones--or
anybody for the present--know anything about Mrs. Jardine. Something in
Madame von Marwitz's low-toned and richly murmured confidences as she
told Maude and Mrs. Slifer that it was important for Mrs. Jardine's
peace of mind, and for her very sanity, that her dreaded husband should
not hear of her whereabouts, made Beatrice, as she expressed it to
herself, "tired."

She looked out of the window while her mother and sister murmured, "Why
certainly, Baroness; why yes; we perfectly understand," leaning forward
in the illuminated carriage like docile conspirators.

After this Madame von Marwitz said that she would try to sleep; but,
propped in her corner, she complained so piteously of discomfort that
Mrs. Slifer and Maude finally divested themselves of their jackets and
contrived a pillow for her out of them. They assured her that they were
not cold and Madame von Marwitz, reclining now at full length, murmured
"_Mille remerciements_." Soon she fell asleep and Mrs. Slifer and Maude,
very cold and very unresentful, sat and watched her slumbers. From time
to time she softly snored. She was very comfortable in her fur-lined

It was one o'clock when they reached Exeter and drove, dazed and numbed,
to a hotel. Here Madame von Marwitz further availed herself of the
services of Maude and Mrs. Slifer, for she was incapable of unpacking
her box and dressing-case. Mrs. Slifer maided her while Maude, with
difficulty at the late hour, procured her hot water, bouillon and toast.
Beatrice meanwhile, callously avowing her unworthiness, said that she
was "dead tired" and went to bed.

Madame von Marwitz bade Mrs. Slifer and Maude the kindest good-night,
smiling dimly at them over her bedroom candlestick as she ushered them
to the door. "So," she said; "I leave you to your cathedral."

When the Slifers arose next day, late, for they were very weary, they
found that Madame von Marwitz had departed by an early train.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, at Les Solitudes, old Mrs. Talcott turned from side to side
all night, sleepless. Her heart was heavy with anxiety.

Karen was found and to-morrow Mercedes would be with her; she had sent
for Mercedes, so the note pinned to Mrs. Talcott's dressing-table had
informed her, and Mercedes would write.

What had happened? Who were the unknown ladies who had appeared from no
one knew where during her absence at Helston and departed with Mercedes
for Truro?

"Something's wrong. Something's wrong," Mrs. Talcott muttered to herself
during the long hours. "I don't believe she's sent for Mercedes--not
unless she's gone crazy."

At dawn she fell at last into an uneasy sleep. She dreamed that she and
Mercedes were walking in the streets of Cracow, and Mercedes was a
little child. She jumped beside Mrs. Talcott, holding her by the hand.
The scene was innocent, yet the presage of disaster filled it with a
strange horror. Mrs. Talcott woke bathed in sweat.

"I'll get an answer to my telegram this morning," she said to herself.
She had telegraphed to Gregory last night, at once: "Karen is found.
Mercedes has gone to her. That's all I know yet."

She clung to the thought of Gregory's answer. Perhaps he, too, had news.
But she had no answer to her telegram. The post, instead, brought her a
letter from Gregory that had been written the morning before.

     "Dear Mrs. Talcott," it ran. "Karen is found. The detectives
     discovered that Mr. Franz Lippheim had not gone to Germany with his
     family. They traced him to an inn in the New Forest. Karen is with
     him and has taken his name. May I ask you, if possible, to keep
     this fact from her guardian for the present.--Yours sincerely,

     "Gregory Jardine."

When Mrs. Talcott had read this she felt herself overcome by a sudden
sickness and trembling. She had not yet well recovered from her illness
of the Spring. She crept upstairs to her room and went to bed.


It seemed to Karen, after hours had passed, that she had ceased to be
tired and that her body, wafted by an involuntary rhythm, was as light
as thistle-down on the wind.

She had crossed the Goonhilly Downs where the moonlight, spreading far
and wide with vast unearthly brightness, filled all the vision with
immensities of space and brought memories of strains from Schubert's
symphonies, silver monotonies of never-ending sound.

She had plunged down winding roads, blackly shadowed by their hedgerow
trees, passing sometimes a cottage that slept between its clumps of
fuchsia and veronica. She had climbed bare hill-sides where abandoned
mines or quarries had left desolate mementoes that looked in the
moonlight like ancient tombs and catacombs.

Horror lay behind her at Les Solitudes, a long, low cloud on the horizon
to which she had turned her back. The misery that had overpowered and
made her one with its dread realities lay beneath her feet. She was
lifted above it in a strange, disembodied enfranchisement all the night,
and the steady blowing of the wind, the leagues of silver, the mighty
sky with its far, high priestess, were part of an ecstasy of sadness,
impersonal, serene, hallucinated, like that of the music that
accompanied the rhythm of her feet.

The night was almost over and dawn was coming, when, on a long uphill
road, she felt her heart flag and her footsteps stagger.

The moon still rode sharp and high, but its light seemed concentrated in
its own glittering disk and the world was visible in an uncanny darkness
that was not dark. The magic of the night had vanished and the beat of
vast, winding melodies melted from Karen's mind leaving her dry and
brittle and empty, like a shell from which the tides have drawn away.

She knew what she had still to do. At the top of the road she was to
turn and cut across fields to a headland above Falmouth--from which a
path she knew led to the town. She had not gone to Helston, but had
taken this cross-country way to Falmouth because she knew that at any
hour of the night she might be missed and followed and captured. They
would not think of Falmouth; they would not dream that she could walk so
far. In the town she would pawn Onkel Ernst's watch and take the early
train to London and by evening she would be with Frau Lippheim. So she
had seen it all, in flashes, last night.

But now, toiling up the interminable road, clots of darkness floating
before her eyes, cold sweats standing on her forehead, the sense of her
exhaustion crushed down upon her. She tried to fix her thoughts on the
trivial memories and forecasts that danced in her mind. The odd blinking
of Mrs. Talcott's eyelid as she had told her story; the pattern of the
breakfast set that she and Gregory had used--ah, no!--not that! she must
not fix that memory!--the roofs and chimneys of some little German town
where she was to find a refuge; for though it was to join the Lippheims
that she fled, she did not see her life as led with theirs. Leaning upon
these pictures as if upon a staff she held, she reached the hill-top.
Her head now seemed to dance like a balloon, buffeted by the great
throbs of her blood. She trailed with leaden feet across the fields. In
the last high meadow she paused and looked down at the bend of the great
bay under the pallid sky and at the town lying like a scattering of
shells along its edge. How distant it was. How like a mirage.

A little tree was beside her and its leaves in the uncanny light looked
like crisp black metal. The sea was grey. The sunrise was still far off.
Karen sank beneath the tree and leaned her head against it. What should
she do if she were unable to walk on? There was still time--hours and
hours of time--till the train left Falmouth; but how was she to reach
Falmouth? Fears rolled in upon her like dark breakers, heaping
themselves one upon the other, stealthy, swift, not to be escaped. She
saw the horrible kindness in Mrs. Talcott's eyes, relegated, not
relinquished. She saw herself pursued, entrapped, confronted by Gregory,
equally entrapped, forced by her need, her helplessness, to come to her
and coldly determined--as she had seen him on that dreadful evening of
their parting--to do his duty by her, to make her and to keep her safe,
and his own dignity secure. To see him again, to strive against him
again, weaponless, now, without refuge, and revealed to herself and to
him as a creature whose whole life had been founded on illusion, to
strive not only against his ironic authority but, worst of all, against
a longing, unavowed, unlooked at, a longing that crippled and unstrung
her, and that ran under everything like a hidden river under granite
hills--she would die, she felt, rather than endure it.

She had closed her eyes as she leaned her head against the tree and when
she opened them she saw that the leaves of the tree had turned from
black to green and that the grass was green and the sea and sky faintly
blue. Above her head the long, carved ripples of the morning cirri
flushed with a heavenly pink and there came from a thicket of a little
wood the first soft whistle of a wakened bird. Another came and then
another, and suddenly the air was full of an almost jangling sweetness.
Karen felt herself trembling. Shudders ran over her. She was ravished to
life, yet without the answering power of life. Her longing, her
loneliness, her fear, were part of the intolerable loveliness and they
pierced her through and through.

She struggled to her feet, holding the tree in her clasp, and, after the
galvanised effort, she closed her eyes again, and again leaned her head
upon the bark.

Then it was that she heard footsteps, sudden footsteps, near. For a
moment a paralysis of fear held down her eyelids. "_Ach Gott!_" she
heard. And opening her eyes, she saw Franz Lippheim before her.

Franz Lippheim was dressed, very strangely dressed, in tweeds and
knicker-bockers and wore a soft round hat with a quill in it--the oddest
of hats--and had a knapsack on his back. The colours of the coming day
were caricatured in his ruddy face and red-gold hair, his bright green
stockings and bright red tie. He was Germanic, flagrant, incredible, and
a Perseus, an undreamed of, God-sent Perseus.

"_Ach Gott!_ Can it be so!" he was saying, as he approached her, walking
softly as though in fear of dispersing a vision.

And as, not speaking, still clasping her tree, she held out her hand to
him, he saw the extremity of her exhaustion and put his arm around her.

She did not faint; she kept her consciousness of the blue sky and the
cirri--golden now--and even of Franz's tie and eyeglasses, glistening
golden in the rising sunlight; but he had lowered her gently to the
ground, kneeling beside her, and was supporting her shoulders and
putting brandy to her lips. After a little while he made her drink some
milk and then she could speak to him.

She must speak and she must tell him that she had left her guardian. She
must speak of Tante. But what to say of her? The shame and pity that had
gone with her for days laid their fingers on her lips as she thought of
Tante and of why she had left her. Her mind groped for some availing

"Franz," she said, "you must help me. I have left Tante. You will not
question me. There is a breach between us; she has been unkind to me. I
can never see her again." And now with clearer thought she found a
sufficient truth. "She has not understood about me and my husband. She
has tried to make me go back to him; and I have fled from her because I
was afraid that she would send for him. She is not as fond of me as I
thought she was, Franz, and I was a burden to her when I came. Franz,
will you take me to London, to your mother? I am going with you all to
Germany. I am going to earn my living there."

"_Du lieber Gott!_" Herr Lippheim ejaculated. He stared at Karen in
consternation. "Our great lady--our great Tante--has been unkind to you?
Is it then possible, Karen?"

"Yes, Franz; you must believe me. You must not question me."

"Trust me, my Karen," said Herr Lippheim now; "do not fear. It shall be
as you say. But I cannot take you to the Mütterchen in London, for she
is not there. They have gone back to Germany, Karen, and it is to
Germany that we must go."

"Can you take me there, Franz, at once? I have no money; but I am going
to pawn this watch that Onkel Ernst gave me."

"That is all simple, my Karen. I have money. I took with me the money
for my tour; I was on a walking-tour, do you see, and reached Falmouth
last night and had but started now to pay my respects at Les Solitudes.
I wished to see you, Karen, and to see if you were well. But it is very
far to your village. How have you come so far, at night?"

"I walked. I have walked all night. I am so tired, Franz. So tired. I do
not know how I shall go any further." She closed her eyes; her head
rested against his shoulder.

Franz Lippheim looked down at her with an infinite compassion and
gentleness. "It will all be well, my Karen; do not fear," he said. "The
train does not go from Falmouth for three hours still. We will take it
then and go to Southampton and sail for Germany to-night. And for now,
you will drink this milk--so, yes; that is well;--and eat this
chocolate;--you cannot; it will be for later then. And you will lie
still with my cloak around you, so; and you will sleep. And I will sit
beside you and you will have no troubled thoughts. You are with your
friends, my Karen." While he spoke he had wrapped her round and laid her
head softly on a folded garment that he drew from his knapsack; and in a
few moments he saw that she slept, the profound sleep of complete

Franz Lippheim sat above her, not daring to light his pipe for fear of
waking her. He, watched the glory of the sunrise. It was perhaps the
most wonderful hour in Franz's life.

Phrases of splendid music passed through his mind, mingling with the
sound of the sea. No personal pain and no personal hope was in his
heart. He was uplifted, translated, with the beauty of the hour and its

Karen needed him. Karen was to come to them. He was to see her
henceforward in his life. He was to guard and help her. He was her
friend. The splendour and the peace of the golden sky and golden sea
were the angels of a great initiation. Nothing could henceforth be as it
had been. His brain stirred with exquisite intuitions, finding form for
them in the loved music that, henceforth, he would play as he had never
before played it. And when he looked from the sea and sky down at the
sleeping face beside him, wasted and drawn and piteous in its repose,
large tears rose in his eyes and flowed down his cheeks, and the sadness
was more beautiful than any joy that he had known.

What she had suffered!--the dear one. What they must help her to forget!
To her, also, the hour would send it angels: she would wake to a new

He turned his eyes again to the rising sun, and his heart silently
chanted its love and pride and sadness in the phrases of Beethoven, of
Schubert and of Brahms, and from time to time, softly, he muttered to
himself, this stout young German Jew with the red neck-tie and the
strange round hat: "_Süsses Kind! Unglückliches Kind! Oh--der schöne


Madame Von Marwitz looked out from her fly at the ugly little wayside
inn with its narrow lawn and its bands of early flowers. Trees rose
round it, the moors of the forest stretched before. It was remote and
very silent.

Here it was, she had learned at the station, some miles away, that the
German lady and gentleman were staying, and the lady was said to be very
ill. Madame von Marwitz's glance, as it rested upon the goal of her
journey, had in it the look of vast, constructive power, as when, for
the first time, it rested on a new piece of music, realized it, mastered
it, possessed it, actual, in her mind, before her fingers gave it to the
world. So, now, she realized and mastered and possessed the scene that
was to be enacted.

She got out of the fly and told the man to carry in her box and
dressing-case and then to wait. She opened the little gate, and as she
did so, glancing up, she saw Franz Lippheim standing looking out at her
from a ground-floor window. His gaze was stark in its astonishment. She
returned it with a solemn smile. In another moment she had put the
landlady aside with benign authority and was in the little sitting-room.
"My Franz!" she exclaimed in German. "Thank God!" She threw her arms
around his neck and burst into sobs.

Franz, holding a pipe extended in his hand, stood for a moment in
silence his eyes still staring their innocent dismay over her shoulder.
Then he said: "How have you come here, _gnädige Frau_?"

"Come, Franz!" Madame von Marwitz echoed, weeping: "Have I not been
seeking my child for the last six days! Love such as mine is a torch
that lights one's path! Come! Yes; I am come. I have found her! She is
safe, and with my Franz!"

"But Karen is ill, very ill indeed," said Franz, speaking with some
difficulty, locked as he was in the great woman's arms. "The doctor
feared for her life three days ago. She has been delirious. And it is
you, _gnädige Frau_, whom she fears;--you and her husband."

Madame von Marwitz leaned back her head to draw her hand across her
eyes, clearing them of tears.

"But do I not know it, Franz?" she said, smiling a trembling smile at
him. "Do I not know it? I have been in fault; yes; and I will make
confession to you. But--oh!--my child has punished me too cruelly. To
leave me without a word! At night! It was the terror of her husband that
drove her to it, Franz. Yes; it has been a delirium of terror. She was
ill when she went from me."

She had released him now, though keeping his hands in hers, and she
still held them as they sat down at the centre table in the little room,
he on one side, she on the other, she leaning to him across it; and she
read in his face his deep discomfort.

"But you see, _gnädige Frau_," Franz again took up his theme; "she
believes that you wish to send her back to him; she has said it; she
could not trust you. And so she fled from you. And I have promised to
take care of her. I am to take her to my mother in Germany as soon as
she can travel. We were on our way to Southampton and would have been,
days since, with the Mütterchen, if in the train Karen had not become so
ill--so very ill. It was a fever that grew on her, and delirium. I did
not know what was best to do. And I remembered this little inn where the
Mütterchen and we four stayed some years ago, when we came first to
England. The landlady was very good; and so I thought of her and brought
Karen here. But when she is better I must take her to Germany, _gnädige
Frau_. I have promised it."

While Franz thus spoke a new steadiness had come to Madame von Marwitz's
eyes. They dilated singularly, and with them her nostrils, as though she
drew a deep new breath of realisation. It was as if Franz had let down a
barrier; pointed out a way. There was no confession to be made to Franz.
Karen had spared her.

She looked at him, looked and looked, and she shook her head with
infinite gentleness. "But Franz," she said, "I do not wish her to go
back to her husband. I was in fault, yes, grave fault, to urge it upon
her; but Karen's terror was her mistake, her delirium. It was for my
sake that she had left him, Franz, because to me he had shown insolence
and insult;--for your sake, too, Franz, for he tried to part her from
all her friends and of you he spoke with an unworthy jealousy. But
though my heart bled that Karen should be tied to such a man, I knew him
to be not a bad man; hard, narrow, but in his narrowness upright, and
fond, I truly believed it, of his wife. And I could not let her break
her marriage--do you not see, Franz,--if it were for my sake. I could
not see her young life ruined in its dawn. I wished to write to my good
friend Mrs. Forrester--who is also Karen's friend, and his, and I
offered myself as intermediary, as intercessor from him to Karen, if
need be. Was it so black, my fault? For it was this that Karen resented
so cruelly, Franz. Our Karen can be harsh and quick, you know that,
Franz. But no! Can she--can you, believe for one moment that I would now
have her return to him, if, indeed, it were any longer possible? No,
Franz; no; no; no; Karen shall never see that man again. Only over my
dead body should he pass to her. I swear it, not only to you, but to
myself. And Franz, dear Franz, what I think of now is you, and your love
and loyalty to my Karen. You have saved her; you have saved me; it is
life you bring--a new life, Franz," and smiling upon him, her cheeks
still wet with tears, she softly sang Tristan's phrase to Kurvenal:
"_Holder! Treuer!--wie soll dir Tristan danken!_"

Her joy, her ecstasy of gratitude, shone upon him. She was the tutelary
goddess of his family. Trust, for himself and for his loved Karen, went
out to her and took refuge beneath the great wings she spread. And as
she held his hands and smiled upon him he told her in his earnest,
honest German, all that had happened to him and Karen; of his
walking-tour; and of the meeting on the Falmouth headland at dawn; and
of their journey here. "And one thing, _gnädige Frau_," he said, "that
troubled me, but that will now be well, since you are come to us, is
that I have told them here that Karen is my wife. See you, _gnädige
Frau_, the good landlady knows us all and knows that Lotta, Minna and
Elizabeth are the only daughters that the Mütterchen has--besides the
little ones. I remembered that the Mütterchen had told her this; she
talked much with her; it was but three years ago, _gnädige Frau_; it was
not time enough for a very little one to grow up; so I could not say
that Karen was my sister; and I have to be much with her; I sit beside
her all through the night--for she is afraid to be alone, the _armes
Kind_; and the good landlady and the maid must sleep. So it seemed to me
that it was right to tell them that Karen was my wife. You think so,
too, _nicht wahr, gnädige Frau_?"

Madame von Marwitz had listened, her deeply smiling eyes following,
understanding all; and as the last phase of the story came they deepened
to only a greater sweetness. They showed no surprise. A content almost
blissful shone on Franz Lippheim.

"It is well, Franz," she said. "Yes, you have done rightly. All is well;
more well than you yet perhaps see. Karen is safe, and Karen shall be
free. What has happened is God-sent. The situation is in our hands."

For a further moment, silent and weighty, she gazed at him and then she
added: "There need be no fear for you and Karen. I will face all pain
and difficulty for you both. You are to marry Karen, Franz."

The shuttle that held the great gold thread of her plan was thrown. She
saw the pattern stretch firm and fair before her. Silently and sweetly,
with the intentness of a sibyl who pours and holds forth a deep potion,
she smiled at him across the table.

Franz, who all this time had been leaning on his arms, his hands in
hers, his eyes, through their enlarging pince-nez, fixed on her, did not
move for some moments after the astounding statement reached him. His
stillness and his look of arrested stupor suggested, indeed, a large
blue-bottle slung securely in the subtle threads of a spider's web and
reduced to torpid acquiescence by the spider's stealthy ministrations.
He gazed with mildness, almost with blandness, upon the enchantress, as
if some prodigy of nature overtopping all human power of comment had
taken place before him. Then in a small, feeble voice he said: "_Wass
meinen Sie, gnädige Frau?_"

"Dear, dear Franz," Madame von Marwitz murmured, pressing his hands with
maternal solicitude, and thus giving him more time to adjust himself to
his situation. "It is not as strange as your humility finds it. And it
is now inevitable. You do not I think realize the position in which you
and Karen are placed. I am not the only witness; the landlady, the
doctor, the maid, and who knows who else,--all will testify that you
have been here with Karen as your wife, that you have been with her day
and night. Do not imagine that Mr. Jardine has sought to take Karen back
or would try to. He has made no movement to get her back. He has most
completely acquiesced in their estrangement. And when he hears that she
has fled with you, that she has passed here, for a week almost, as your
wife, he will be delighted--but delighted, with all his anger against
you--to seize the opportunity for divorcing her and setting himself

But while she spoke Franz's large and ruddy face had paled. He had drawn
his hands from hers though she tried to retain them. He rose from his
chair. "But, _gnädige Frau_," he said, "that is not right. No; that is
wrong. He may not divorce Karen."

"How will you prevent him from divorcing her, Franz?" Madame von Marwitz
returned, holding him with her eye, while, in great agitation, he passed
his hand repeatedly over his forehead and hair. "You have been seen. I
have been told by those who had seen you that you and Karen were here.
Already Karen's husband must know it. And if you could prevent it, would
you wish to, Franz? Would you wish, if you could, to bind her to this
man for life? Try to think clearly, my friend. It is Karen's happiness
that hangs in the balance. It is upon that that we must fix our eyes. My
faith forbids divorce; but I am not _dévote_, and Karen is not of my
faith, nor is her husband, nor are you. I take my stand beside Karen. I
say that one so young, so blameless, so unfortunate, shall not have her
life wrecked by one mistake. With me as your champion you and Karen can
afford to snap your fingers at the world's gross verdict. Karen will be
with me. I will take her abroad. I will cherish her as never child was
cherished. We make no defence. In less than a year the case is over.
Then you will come for Karen and you will be married from my house. I
will give Karen a large dot; she shall want for nothing in her life. And
you and she will live in Germany, with your friends and your great
music, and your babies, Franz. What I had hoped for two years ago shall
come to pass and this bad dream shall be forgotten."

Franz, looking dazedly about him while she spoke, now dropped heavily on
his chair and joining his hands before his eyes leaned his head upon
them. He muttered broken ejaculations. "_Ach Gott! Unbegreiflich!_ Such
happiness is not to think on! You are kind, kind, _gnädige Frau_. You
believe that all is for the best. But Karen--_gnädige Frau_, our little
Karen! She does not love me. How could she be happy with me? Never for
one moment have I hoped. It was against my wish that the Mütterchen
wrote to you that time two years ago. No; always I saw it; she had
kindness only for me and friendliness; but no love; never any love. And
it will be to smirch our Karen's name, _gnädige Frau_. It will be to
accept disgrace for her. We must defend her from this accusation, for it
is not true. Ah, _gnädige Frau_, you are powerful in the world. Can you
not make it known that it is untrue, that Karen did not come to me?"

He leaned his forehead on his clasped hands, protesting, appealing,
expostulating, and Madame von Marwitz, leaning slightly back in her
chair, resting her cheek against her finger, scrutinized his bent head
with a change of expression. Intently, almost fiercely, with half-closed
lids, she examined Franz's crisp upstanding hair, the thick rims of his
ruddy ears, the thick fingers with their square and rather dirty nails
and the large turquoise that adorned one of them. Cogitation,
self-control and fierce determination were in her gaze; then it veiled
itself again in gentleness and, with a steady and insistent patience,
she said: "You are astray, my friend, much astray, and very ignorant.
Look with me at fact, and then say, if you can, that we can make it
known that it is untrue. You are known to be in love with Karen; you are
known to have asked me for her hand. Karen makes a marriage that is
unhappy; it is known that she is not happy with her husband. Did you not
yourself see that all was not well with them? It has been known for
long. You arrive in London; Karen sees you again; next day she flies
from Mr. Jardine and takes refuge with you at your lodgings. Yes, you
will say, but your mother, your sisters, too, were there. Yes, the world
will answer, and she came to me to wait till they were gone and you free
to join her. In a fortnight's time she seizes a pretext for leaving
me--I speak of what the world will say Franz--and meets you. Will the
world, will Karen's husband, believe that it was by chance? She is found
hidden with you here, those who see you come to me; it is so I find you,
and she is here bearing your name. Come, my friend, it is no question of
saving Karen from smirches; the world will say that it is your duty as
an honourable man to marry Karen. Better that she should be known as
your wife than as your abandoned mistress. So speaks the world, Franz.
And though we know that it speaks falsely we have no power to undeceive
it. But now, mark me, my friend; I have no wish to undeceive it. I do
not see the story, told even in these terms, as disgraceful; I do not
see my Karen smirched. I am not one who weighs the human heart and its
needs in the measures of convention. Bravely and in truth, Karen frees
herself. So be it. You say that she does not love you. I say, Franz, how
do you know that? I say that if she does not love you yet, she will love
you; and I add, Franz, for the full ease of your conscience, that if
Karen, when she is free, does not wish to marry you, then--it is very
simple--she remains with me and does not marry. But what I ask of you
now is bravery and discretion, for our Karen's sake. She must be freed;
in your heart you know that it is well that Karen should be freed. In
your heart you know that Karen must not be bound till death to this man
she loathes and dreads and will never see again. If not you, Franz, is
it not possible that Karen may love another man one day? But it is you
that she will love; nay, it is you she loves. I know my Karen's heart.
Tell me, Franz, am I not right in what I say?"

For some time now Franz had been looking at her and her voice grew more
tender and more soft as she saw that he found no word of protest. He sat
upright, still, at intervals, running his fingers through his hair,
breathing deeply, near tears, yet arrested and appeased. And hope,
beautiful, strange hope, linking itself to the intuitions of the dawn
when he had sat above Karen's sleep, stole into his heart. Why could it
not be true? Why should not Karen come to love him? She would be with
him, free, knowing how deep and tender was his love for her, and that it
made no claim. Would not her heart answer his one day? And as if
guessing at his thoughts Madame von Marwitz added, the dimness of tears
in her own eyes: "See, my Franz, let it be in this wise. I bring Karen
to your mother in a few days; she will be strong enough for travel in a
few days, is it not so? She will then be with you and yours in Germany,
and I watching over you. So you will see her from day to day? So you
will gently mend the torn young heart and come to read it. And you may
trust a wise old woman, Franz, when I prophesy to you that Karen's heart
will turn and grow to yours. You may trust one wise in hearts when she
tells you that Karen is to be your loving wife."

She rose, and the sincerity of her voice was unfeigned. She was moved,
deeply moved, by the beauty of the pattern she wove. She was deeply
convinced by her own creation.

Franz, too, got up, stumbling.

"And now, Franz," she said, "we say _au revoir_. I have come and it is
not seemly that you remain here longer. You go to Germany to make ready
for us and I write to your mother to-day. Ah!--the dear Lise! Her heart
will rejoice! Where is your room, Franz, and where is Karen's?"

There were three doors in the little sitting-room. She had entered from
the passage by one. She looked now towards the others.

Franz opened one, it showed a flight of stairs. "Karen's room is up
those stairs," he said, closing it very softly. "And mine is here, next
this one where we are. We are very quiet, you see, and shut in to
ourselves. There is no other way to Karen's room but this, and her room
is at the back, so that no disturbance reaches her. I think that she
still sleeps, _gnädige Frau_; we must not wake her if she sleeps. I will
take you to her as soon as she is awake."

Madame von Marwitz, with her unchanging smile, was pressing him towards
the door of his own room.

"I will wait. I will wait until she wakes, Franz. Your luggage? It is
here? I will help you to pack, my Franz."

She had drawn him into his room, her arm passed into his, and, even
while she spoke, she pointed out the few effects scattered here and
there. And, with his torpid look of a creature hypnotized, Franz obeyed
her, taking from her hands the worn brush, the shaving appliances, the
socks and book and nightshirt.

When all were laid together in his knapsack and he had drawn the straps,
he turned to her, still with the dazzled gaze. "But this may wait," he
said, "until I have said good-bye to Karen."

Madame von Marwitz looked at him with an almost musing sweetness. She
had the aspect of a conjuror who, with a last light puff of breath or
touch of a magic finger, puts forth the final resource of a stupefying
dexterity. So delicately, so softly, with a calm that knew no doubt or
hesitation, she shook her head. "No; no farewells, now, my Franz. That
would not be well. That would agitate her. She could not listen to all
our story. She could not understand. Later, when she is in my arms, at
peace, I will tell her all and that you are gone to wait for us, and
give her your adieu."

He gazed at the conjuror. "But, _gnädige Frau_, may I not say good-bye
to Karen? Together we could tell her. It will be strange to her to wake
and find that I am gone."

Her arm was passed in his again. She was leading him through the
sitting-room. And she repeated with no change of voice: "No, my Franz. I
know these illnesses. A little agitation is very bad. You will write to
her daily. She shall have your letters, every day. You promise me--but I
need not ask it of our Franz--to write. In three days, or in four, we
will be with you."

She had got him out of his room, out of the sitting-room, into the
passage. The cab still waited, the cabman dozed on his box in the spring
sunlight. Before the landlady Madame von Marwitz embraced Franz and
kissed and blessed him. She kept an arm round him till she had him at
the cab-door. She almost lifted him in.

"You will tell Karen--that you did not find it right--that I should say
good-bye to her," he stammered.

And with a last long pressure of the hand she said: "I will tell her,
Franz. We will talk much of you, Karen and I. Trust me, I am with you
both. In my hands you are safe."

The cab rolled away and Franz's face, from under the round hat and the
quill, looked back at the triumphant conjuror, dulled and dazed rather
than elated, by the spectacle of her inconceivable skill.


Karen lay sleeping in the little room above. She had slept so much since
they had carried her, Franz, and the two women with kind faces, into
this little room; deep draughts of sleep, as though her exhausted nature
could never rest enough. Fever still drowsed in her blood and a haze of
half delirious visions often accompanied her waking. They seemed to
gather round her now, as, in confused and painful dreams, she rose from
the depths towards consciousness again. Dimly she heard the sound of
voices and her dream wove them into images of fear and sorrow.

She was running along the cliff-top. She had run for miles and it was
night and beside her yawned the black gulfs of the cliff-edge. And from
far below, in the darkness, she heard a voice wailing as if from some
creature lost upon the rocky beach. It was Gregory in some great peril.
Pity and fear beat upon her like black wings as she ran, and whether it
was to escape him or to succour him she did not know.

Then from the waking world came distinctly the sound of rolling wheels,
and opening her eyes she looked out upon her room, its low uneven
ceiling, its coloured print of Queen Victoria over the mantelpiece, its
text above the washhand-stand and chest of drawers. On the little table
beside her bed Onkel Ernst's watch ticked softly. The window was open
and a tree rustled outside. And through these small, familiar sounds she
still heard the rolling of retreating wheels. The terror of her dream
fastened upon this sound until another seemed to strike, like a soft,
stealthy blow, upon her consciousness.

Footsteps were mounting the stairs to her room. Not Franz's footsteps,
nor the doctor's, nor the landlady's, nor Annie the housemaid's. She
knew all these.

Who was it then who mounted, softly rustling, towards her? The terror of
the dream vanished in a tense, frozen panic of actuality.

She wished to scream, and could not; she wished to leap up and fly, but
there was no way of escape. It was Tante who came, slowly, softly,
rustling in silken fabrics; the very scent of her garments seemed wafted
before her, and Karen's heart stopped in its heavy beating as the door
handle gently turned and Tante stood within the room.

Karen looked at her and Madame von Marwitz looked back, and Madame von
Marwitz's face was almost as white as the death-like face on the pillow.
She said no word, nor did Karen, and in the long stillness delirium
again flickered through Karen's brain, and Tante, standing there, became
a nightmare presence, dead, gazing, immutable. Then she moved again, and
the slow, soft moving was more dreadful than the stillness, and coming
forward Tante fell on her knees beside the bed and hid her face in the

Karen gave a strange hoarse cry. She heard herself crying, and the sound
of her own voice seemed to waken her again to reality: "Franz! Franz!

Madame von Marwitz was weeping; her large white shoulders shook with
sobs. "Karen," she said, "forgive me! Karen, it is I. Forgive me!"

"Franz!" Karen repeated, turning her head away on the pillow.

"Karen, you know me?" said Madame von Marwitz. She had lifted her head
and she gazed through her tears at the strange, changed, yet so
intimately known, profile. It was as if Karen were the more herself,
reduced to the bare elements of personality; rocky, wasted, alienated.
"Do not kill me, my child," she sobbed, "Listen to me, Karen! I have
come to explain all, and to implore for your forgiveness." She possessed
herself of one of the hot, emaciated hands. Karen drew it away, but she
turned her head towards her.

Tante's tears, her words and attitude of abjection, dispersed the
nightmare horror. She understood that Tante had come not as a ghastly
wraith; not as a pursuing fury; but as a suppliant. Her eyes rested on
her guardian and their gaze, now, was like cold, calm daylight. "Why are
you here?" she asked.

Madame von Marwitz's sobs, at this, broke forth more violently. "You
remember our parting, my child! You remember my mad and shameful words!
How could I not come!" she articulated brokenly. "Oh, I have sought you
in terror, in unspeakable longing! My child--it was a madness. Did you
not see it? I went to you at dawn that day to kneel before you, as I
kneel now, and to implore your pardon. And you were gone! Oh, Karen--you
will listen to me now!"

"You need not tell me," said Karen. "I understand."

"Ah, no: ah, no:" said Madame von Marwitz, laying her supplicating hand
on the sleeve of Karen's nightdress. "You do not understand. How could
you--young and cold and flawless--understand my heart, my wild, stained
heart, Karen, my fierce and desolate and broken heart. You are air and
water; I am earth and fire; how could you understand my darkness and my
rage?" She spoke, sobbing, with a sincerity dreadful and irrefragable,
as if she stripped herself and showed a body scarred and burning. With
all the forces of her nature she threw herself on Karen's pity, tearing
from herself, with a humility far above pride and shame, the glamour
that had held Karen's heart to hers. Deep instinct guided her
spontaneity. Her glamour, now, must consist in having none; her nobility
must consist in abasement, her greatness in being piteous.

"Listen to me, Karen," she sobbed, "The world knows but one side of
me--you have known but one side;--even Tallie, who knows so much, who
understands so much--does not know the other--the dark and tortured
soul. I am not a good woman, Karen, the blood that flows in my veins is
tainted, ambiguous. I have sinned. I have been savage and dastardly; but
it has always been in a madness when I could not seize my better self:
flames seem to sweep me on. Listen, Karen, you are so strong, so calm,
how could you dream of what a woman's last wild passion can be, a woman
whose whole soul is passion? Love! it is all that I have craved. Love!
love! all my inner life has been enmeshed in it--in craving, in seeking,
in destroying. It is like a curse upon me, Karen. You will not
understand; yet that love of love, is it not so with all us wretched
women; do we not long, always, all of us, for the great flame to which
we may surrender, the flame that will appease and exalt us, annihilate
us, yet give us life in its supremacy? So I have always longed; and not
grossly; mine has never been the sensual passion; it has been beauty and
the heights of life that I have sought. And my curse has been that for
me has come no appeasement, no exaltation, but only, always, a dark
smouldering of joylessness. With my own hand I broke the great and
sacred devotion that blessed my life, because I was thus cursed.
Jealousy, the craving for a more complete possession, for the ecstasy I
had not found, blind forces in my blood, drove me on to the destruction
of that precious thing. I wrecked myself, I killed him. Oh, Karen, you
know of whom I speak." Convulsively, the blackness of her memories
assailing her in their old forms of horror, Madame von Marwitz sobbed,
burying her face in the bed-clothes, her hand forgetting to clutch at
Karen's sleeve. She lifted her face and the tears streamed from under
her closed lids. "Let me not think of it or I shall go mad. How could I,
having known that devotion, sink to the place where you have seen me? Be
pitiful. He needed me so much--I believed. My youth was fading; I was
growing old. Soon the time was to come when no man's heart would turn to
me. Be pitiful. You do not know what it is to look without and see life
slowly growing dark and look within and see only sinister memories. It
came to me like late sunlight--like cool, sweet water--his love. I
believed in it. I loved him. Oh--" she sobbed, "how I loved him, Karen!
How my heart was torn with sick jealousy when I saw that his had turned
from me to you. I loved you, Karen, yet I hated you. Open your generous
heart to me, my child; do not spurn me from you. Understand how it may
be that one can strike at the thing one loves. I knew myself in the
grasp of an evil passion, but I could not tear it from me. I even
feared, with a savage fear that seemed to eat into my brain, that you
responded to his love. Oh, Karen, it was not I who spoke those shameful
words, when I found you with him, but a creature maddened with pain and
jealousy, who for days had fought against her madness and knew when she
spoke that she was mad. When I had sent him from me, when he was gone
from my life, and I knew that all was over, the evil fury passed from my
brain like a mist. I knew myself again. I saw again the sweet and sacred
places of my life. I saw you, Karen. Oh, my child," again the pleading
hand trembled on Karen's sleeve, "it has not all been misplaced, your
love for me; not all illusion. I am still the woman who has loved you
through so many years. You will not let one hour of frenzy efface our
happy years together?"

The words, the sobbing questions that waited for no answer, the wailing
supplications, had been poured forth in one great upwelling. Through the
tears that streamed she had seen Karen's face in blurred glimpses, lying
in profile to her on its pillow. Now, when all had been said and her
mind was empty, waiting, she passed her hand over her eyes, clearing
them of tears, and fixed them on Karen.

And silence followed. So long a silence that wonder came. Had she
understood? Was she half unconscious? Had all the long appeal been

But Karen at last spoke and the words, in their calm, seemed to the
listening woman to pass like a cold wind over buds and tendrils of
reviving life, blighting them.

"I am sorry for you," said Karen. "And I understand."

Madame von Marwitz stared at her for another silent moment. "Yes," she
then said, "you are sorry for me. You understand. It is my child's great
heart. And you forgive me, Karen?"

Again came silence; then, restlessly turning her head as if the effort
to think pained her, Karen said, "What do you mean by forgiveness?"

"I mean pity, Karen," said Madame von Marwitz. "And compassion, and
tenderness. To be forgiven is to be taken back."

"Taken back?" Karen repeated. "But I do not feel that I love you any
longer." She spoke in a dull, calm voice.

Madame von Marwitz remained kneeling for some moments longer. Then a
dark flush mounted to her face. She became aware that her knees were
stiff with kneeling and her cheeks salt with tears. Her head ached and a
feeling of nausea made her giddy. She rose and looked about her with dim

A small wooden chair stood against the wall at a little distance from
the bed. She went to it and sank down upon it, and leaning her head upon
her hand she wept softly to herself. Her desolation was extreme.

Karen listened to her for a long time, and without any emotion. Now that
the horror had passed, her only feeling was one of sorrow and
oppression. She was very sorry for the weeping woman; but she wished
that she would go away. And her mind at last wandered from the thought
of Tante. "Where is Franz?" she asked.

The fount of Madame von Marwitz's tears was exhausted. She dried her
eyes and cheeks. She blew her nose. She gathered together her thoughts.
"Karen," she said, "I will not speak of myself. You say that you do not
love me. I can only pray that my love for you may in time win you to me
again. Never again, I know it, can I stand before you, untarnished, as I
stood before; but I will trust my child's deep heart as strength once
more comes to her. Pity will grow to love. I will love you; that will be
enough. But I have come to you not only as a mother to her child. I have
come to you as a friend to whom your welfare is of the first importance.
I have much to say to you, Karen."

Madame von Marwitz rose. She went to the washhand-stand and bathed her
face. The triumph that she had held in her hand seemed melting through
her fingers; but, thinking rapidly and deeply, she drew the scattered
threads of the plan together once more, faced her peril and computed her

The still face on the pillow was unchanged, its eyes still calmly
closed. She could not attempt to take the hand of this alien Karen, nor
even to touch her sleeve. She went back to her chair.

"Karen," she said, "if you cannot love me, you can still think of me as
your friend and counsellor. I am glad to hear you speak of our Franz.
That lights my way. I have had much talk with our good and faithful
Franz. Together we have faced all that there is of difficult and sad to
face. My child shall be spared all that could trouble her. Franz and I
are beside you through it all. Your husband, Karen, is to divorce you
because of Franz. You are to be set free, my child."

A strange thing happened then. If Madame von Marwitz had plunged a
dagger into Karen's heart, the change that transformed her deathly face
could hardly have been more violent. It was as if all the amazed and
desperate life fled to her eyes and lips and cheeks. Colour flooded her.
Her eyes opened and shone. Her lips parted, trembled, uttered a loud
cry. She turned her head and looked at her guardian. Her dream was with
her. What was that loud cry for help, hers or his?

Madame von Marwitz looked back and her face, too, was changed.
Realizations, till then evaded, flashed over it as though from Karen's
it caught the bright up-flaming of the truth. Fear followed, darkening
it. Karen's truth threatened the whole fabric of the plan, threatened
her life in all that it held of value. Resentment for a moment convulsed
it. Then, with a steady mastery, yet the glance, sunken, sickened, of
one who holds off disabling pity while he presses out a fluttering life
beneath his hand, she said: "Yes, my child. Your wild adventure is
known. You have been here for days and nights with this young man who
loves you and he has given you his name. Your husband seizes the
opportunity to free himself. Can you not rejoice, Karen, that it is to
set you free also? It is of that only that I have thought. I have
rejoiced for you. And I have told Franz that I will stand by you and by
him so that no breath of shame or difficulty shall touch you. In me you
have the staunchest friend."

Madame von Marwitz, while she addressed these remarks to the strange,
vivid face that stared at her with wide and shining eyes, was aware of a
sense of nausea and giddiness so acute that she feared she might succumb
to sickness. She put her hand before her eyes, reflecting that she must
have some food if she were to think clearly. She sat thus for some
moments, struggling against the invading weakness. When she looked up
again, the flame whose up-leaping had so arrested her, which had, to be
just, so horrified her, was fallen to ashes.

Karen's eyes were closed. A bitter composure, like that sometimes seen
on the face of the dead, folded her lips.

Madame von Marwitz, suddenly afraid, rose and went to her and stooped
over her. And, for a dreadful moment, she did not know whether it was
with fear or hope that she scanned the deathly face. Abysses of horror
seemed to fall within her as she thus bent over Karen and wondered
whether she had died.

It had been a foolish fear. The child had not even fainted. Madame von
Marwitz's breath came back to her, almost in a sob, as, not opening her
eyes, Karen repeated her former question: "Where is Franz?"

"He will be back soon; Franz will soon be here," said Madame von Marwitz
gently and soothingly.

"I must see him," said Karen.

"You shall. You shall see him, my Karen," said Madame von Marwitz. "You
are with those who love you. Have no fear. Franz is of my mind in this
matter, Karen. You will not wish to defend yourself against your
husband's suit, is it not so? Defence, I fear, my Karen, would be
useless. The chain of evidence against you is complete. But even if it
were not, if there were defence to make, you would not wish to sue to
your husband to take you back?"

Karen still with closed eyes, turned her head away on the pillow. "Let
him be free," she said. "He knows that I wished him to be free. When I
left him I told him that I hoped to set him free. Let him believe that I
have done so."

Madame von Marwitz still leaned above her and, as when Franz had
imparted the unlooked-for tidings of Karen's reticence, so now her eyes
dilated with a deepened hope.

"You told him so, Karen?" she repeated gently, after a moment.

"Yes," said Karen, "I told him so. I shall make no defence. Will you go
now? I am tired. And will you send Franz to me when he comes back?"

"Yes, my child; yes," said Madame von Marwitz. "It is well. I will be
below. I will watch over you." She raised herself at last. "There is
nothing that I can do for you, my Karen?"

"Nothing," said Karen. Her voice, too, seemed sinking into ashes.

Madame von Marwitz opened the door to the dark little staircase and
closed it. In the cloaking darkness she paused and leaned against the
wall. "_Bon Dieu!_" she murmured to herself "_Bon Dieu!_"

She felt sick. She wished to sleep. But she could not sleep yet. She
must eat and restore her strength. And she had letters to write; a
letter to Mrs. Forrester, a letter to Frau Lippheim, and a note to
Tallie. It was as if she had thrown her shuttle across a vast loom that,
drawing her after the thread she held, enmeshed her now with all the
others in its moving web. She no longer wove; she was being woven into
the pattern. Even if she would she could not extricate herself.

The thought of this overmastering destiny sustained and fortified her.
She went on down the stairs and into the little sitting-room.


The days that passed after her arrival at the inn were to live in Madame
von Marwitz's memory as a glare of intolerable anxiety, obliterating all
details in its heat and urgency. She might, during the hours when she
knelt supplicating beside Karen's bed, have been imaged as a furnace and
Karen as a corpse lying in it, strangely unconsumed, passive and
unresponsive. There was no cruelty in Karen's coldness, no unkindness
even. Pity and comprehension were there; but they were rocks against
which Madame von Marwitz dashed herself in vain.

When she would slip from her kneeling position and lie grovelling and
groaning on the ground, Karen sometimes would say: "Please get up.
Please don't cry," in a tone of distress. But when the question,
repeated in every key, came: "Karen, will you not love me again?"
Karen's answer was a helpless silence.

Schooling the fury of her eagerness, and in another mood, Madame von
Marwitz, after long cogitations in the little sitting-room, would mount
to point out to Karen that to persist in her refusal to marry Franz,
when she was freed, would be to disgrace herself and him, and to this
Karen monotonously and immovably would reply that she would not marry

Madame von Marwitz had not been able to keep from her beyond the evening
of the first day that Franz had gone. "To Germany, my Karen, where he
will wait for you." Karen's eyes had dwelt widely, but dully, on her
when she made this announcement and she had spoken no word; nor had she
made any comment on Madame von Marwitz's further explanations.

"He felt it right to go at once, now that I had come, and bring no
further scandal on your head. He would not have you waked to say

Karen lay silent, but the impassive bitterness deepened on her lips.
When Franz's first letter to Karen arrived Madame von Marwitz opened,
read and destroyed it. It revealed too plainly, in its ingenuous
solicitude and sorrow, the coercion under which Franz had departed. Yes;
the plan was there and they were all enmeshed in it; but what was to
happen if Karen would not marry Franz? How could that be made to match
the story she had now written to Mrs. Forrester? And what was to happen
if Karen refused to come with her? It would not do, Madame von Marwitz
saw that clearly, for an alienated Karen to be taken to the Lippheims'.
Comparisons and disclosures would ensue that would send the loom, with a
mighty whirr, weaving rapidly in an opposite direction to that of the
plan. Franz, in Germany, must be pacified, and Karen be carried off to
some lovely, lonely spot until the husband's suit was safely won. It was
not fatal to the plan that Karen should be supposed, finally, to refuse
to marry Franz; that might be mitigated, explained away when the time
came; but a loveless Karen at large in the world was a figure only less
terrifying than a Karen reunited to her husband. She felt as if she had
drawn herself up from the bottom of the well where Karen's flight had
precipitated her and as if, breathing the air, seeing the light of the
happy world, she swung in a circle, clutching her wet rope, horrible
depths below her and no helping hand put out to draw her to the brink.

Gregory's letter in answer to the letter she had sent to Mrs. Forrester,
with the request that he should be informed of its contents, came on the
second morning. It fortified her. There was no questioning; no doubt. He
formally assured her that he would at once take steps to set Karen free.

"Ah, he does not love her, that is evident," said Madame von Marwitz to
herself, and with a sense of quieted pulses. The letter was shown to

Mrs. Forrester's note was not quite reassuring. It, also, accepted her
story; but its dismay constituted a lack of sympathy, even, Madame von
Marwitz felt, a reproach.

She wrote of Gregory's broken heart. She lamented the breach that had
come between him and Karen and made this disaster possible.

Miss Scrotton's pæan was what it inevitably would be. From Tallie came
no word, and this implied that Tallie, too, was convinced, though
Tallie, no doubt, was furious, and would, as usual, lay the blame on

Danger, however, lurked in Tallie's direction, and until she was safely
out of England with Karen she should not feel herself secure.
Pertinaciously and blandly she insisted to the doctor that Frau Lippheim
was now quite well enough to make a short sea voyage. She would secure
the best of yachts and the best of trained nurses, and a little voyage
would be the very thing for her. The doctor was recalcitrant, and Madame
von Marwitz was in terror lest, during the moments they spent by her
bedside, Karen should burst forth in a sudden appeal to him.

A change for the worse, very much for the worse, had, he said, come over
his patient. He was troubled and perplexed. "Has anything happened to
disturb her?" he asked in the little sitting-room, and something in his
chill manner reminded her unpleasantly of Gregory Jardine;--"her
husband's sudden departure?"

Madame von Marwitz felt it advisable, then, to take the doctor into her
confidence. He grew graver as she spoke. He looked at her with eyes more
scrutinizing, more troubled and more perplexed. But, reluctantly, he saw
her point. The unfortunate young woman upstairs, a fugitive from her
husband, must be spared the shock of a possible brutal encounter.
Perhaps, in a day or two, it might be possible to move her. She could be
taken in her bed to Southampton and carried on board the yacht.

Madame von Marwitz wired at once and secured the yacht.

It was after this interview with the doctor, after the sending of the
wire, that she mounted the staircase to Karen's room with the most
difficult part of her task still before her. She had as yet not openly
broached to Karen the question of what the immediate future should be.
She approached it now by a circuitous way, seating herself near Karen's
bed and unfolding and handing to her a letter she had that morning
received from Franz. It was a letter she could show. Franz was in

"The dear Franz. The good Franz," Madame von Marwitz mused, when Karen
had finished and her weak hand dropped with the letter to the sheet. "No
woman had ever a truer friend than Franz. You see how he writes, Karen.
He will never trouble you with his hopes."

"No; Franz will never trouble me," said Karen.

"Poor Franz," Madame von Marwitz repeated. "He will be seen by the world
as a man who refuses to marry his mistress when she is freed."

"I am not his mistress," said Karen, who, for all her apathy, could show
at moments a disconcerting vehemence.

"You will be thought so, my child."

"Not by him," said Karen.

"No; not by him," Madame von Marwitz assented with melancholy.

"Not by his mother and sisters," said Karen. "And not by Mrs. Talcott."

"Nor by me, my Karen," said Madame von Marwitz with a more profound

"No; not by you. No one who knows me will think so," said Karen.

Madame von Marwitz paused after this for a few moments. Experience had
taught her that to abandon herself to her grief was not the way to move
Karen. When she spoke again it was in a firm, calm voice.

"Listen, my Karen," she said. "I see that you are fixed in this resolve
and I will plead with you no further. I will weary you no more. Remember
only, in fairness, that it is for your sake that I have pleaded. You
will be divorced; so be it. And you will not marry Franz. But after this
Karen? and until this?"

Karen lay silent for a moment and then turned her head restlessly away.

"Why do you ask me? How can I tell?" she said. "I wish to go to Frau
Lippheim. When I am well again I wish to work and make my living."

"But, my Karen," said Madame von Marwitz with great gentleness, "do you
not see that for you to go to Franz's mother now, in her joy and belief
in you, is a cruelty? Later on, yes; you could then perhaps go to her,
though it will be at any time, with this scandal behind you, to place
our poor Lise, our poor Franz, in an ambiguous position indeed. But now,
Karen? While the case is going on? Your husband says, you remember, that
he starts proceedings at once."

Karen lay still. And suddenly the tears ran down her cheeks. "Why cannot
I see Franz?" she said. "Why do you ask me questions that I cannot
answer? How do I know what I shall do?" She sobbed, quick, dry, alarming

"Karen--my Karen," Madame von Marwitz murmured, "do not weep, my dear
one. You exhaust yourself. Do not speak so harshly to me, Karen. Will
you let me think for you? See, my child, I accept all. I ask for
nothing. You do not forgive me--oh, not truely--you do not love me. Our
old life is dead. I have killed it with my own hand. I see it all,
Karen. And I accept my doom. But even so, can you not be merciful to me
and let me help you now? Do not break my heart, my child. Do not crush
me down into the dust. Come with me. I will take you to quiet and
beautiful shores. I will trouble you in nothing. There will be no more
pleading; no more urgency. You shall do as it pleases you in all things,
and I will ask only to watch over you. Let me do this until you are free
and can choose your own life. Do not tell me that you hate me so much
that you will not do this for me."

Her voice was weighted with its longing, its humility, its tenderness.
The sound of it seemed to beat its way to Karen through mists that lay
about her as Tante's cries and tears had not done. A sharper thrust of
pity pierced her. "I do not hate you," she said. "You must not think
that. I understand and I am very sorry. But I do not love you. I shall
not love you again. And how could I come with you? You said--what did
you say that night?" She put her hand before her eyes in the effort of
memory. "That I was ungrateful;--that you fed and clothed me;--that I
took all and gave nothing. And other, worse things; you said them to me.
How can that be again? How could I come with a person who said those
things to me?"

"Oh--but--my child--" Madame von Marwitz's voice trembled in its hope and
fear, though she restrained herself from rising and bending to the girl:
"did I not make you believe me when I told you that I was mad? Do you
not know that the vile words were the weapons I took up against you in
my madness? That you gave nothing, Karen? When you are my only stay in
life, the only thing near me in the world--you and Tallie--the thing
that I have thought of as mine--as if you were my child. And if you came
to me now you would give still more. If it is known that you will not
return--that you will not forgive me and come with me--I am disgraced,
my child. All the world will believe that I have been cruel to you. All
the world will believe that you hate me and that hatred is all that I
have deserved from you."

Karen again had put her hand to her head. "What do you mean?" she
questioned faintly. "Will it help you if I come with you?"

Madame von Marwitz steadied her voice that now shook with rising sobs.
"If you will not come I am ruined."

"You ask to have me to come--though I do not love you?"

"I ask you to come--on any terms, my Karen. And because I love you;
because you will always be the thing dearest in the world to me."

"I could go to Frau Lippheim, if you would help to send me to her," said
Karen, still holding her hand to her head; "I could, I am sure, explain
to her and to Franz so that they would not blame me. But people must not
think that I hate you."

"No; no?" Madame von Marwitz hardly breathed.

"They must not think that; for it is not true. I do not love you, but I
have no hatred for you," said Karen.

"You will come then, Karen?"

Still with her eyes hidden the girl hesitated as if bewildered by the
pressure of new realisations. "You would leave me much alone? You would
not talk to me? I should be quiet?"

"Oh, my Karen--quiet--quiet--" Madame von Marwitz was now sobbing. "You
will send for me if you feel that you can see me; unless you send I do
not obtrude myself on you. You will have an attendant of your own. All
shall be as you wish."

"And when I am free I may choose my own life?"

"Free! free! the world before you! all that I have at your feet, to
spurn or stoop to!" Tante moaned incoherently.

"When will it be--that we must go?" Karen then, more faintly, asked.
Madame von Marwitz had risen to her feet. In her ecstasy of gladness she
could have clapped her hands above her head and danced. And the strong
control she put upon herself gave to her face almost the grimace of a
child that masters its weeping. She was drawn from her well. She stood
upon firm ground. "In two days, my child, if you are strong enough. In
two days we will set sail."

"In two days," Karen repeated. And, dully, she repeated again; "I come
with you in two days."

Madame von Marwitz now noticed that tears ran from under the hand. These
tears of Karen's alarmed her. She had not wept at all before to-day.

"My child is worn and tired. She would rest. Is it not so? Shall I leave
her?" she leaned above the girl to ask.

"Yes; I am tired," said Karen.

And leaning there, above the hidden face, above the heart wrung with its
secret agony, in all her ecstasy and profound relief, Madame von Marwitz
knew one of the bitterest moments of her life. She had gained safety.
But what was her loss, her irreparable loss? In the dark little
staircase she leaned, as on the day of her coming, against the wall, and
murmured, as she had murmured then: "_Bon Dieu! Bon Dieu!_" But the
words were broken by the sobs that, now uncontrollably, shook her as she
stumbled on in the darkness.


Some years had passed since Mrs. Talcott had been in London, and it
seemed to her, coming up from her solitudes, noisier, more crowded, more
oppressive than when she had seen it last. She had a jaded yet an acute
eye for its various aspects, as she drove from Paddington towards St.
James's, and a distaste, born of her many years of life in cities, took
more definite shape in her, even while the excitement of the movement
and uproar accompanied not inappropriately the strong impulses that
moved her valorous soul.

Mrs. Talcott wore a small, round, black straw hat trimmed with a black
bow. It was the shape that she had worn for years; it was unaffected by
the weather and indifferent to the shifting of fashion. Her neck-gear
was the one invariable with her in the daytime; a collar of lawn turned
down over a black silk stock. About her shoulders was a black cloth
cape. Sitting there in her hansom, she looked very old, and she looked
also very national and typical; the adventurous, indomitable old girl of
America, bent on seeing all that there was to see, emerged for the first
time in her life from her provinces, and carrying, it might have been, a
Baedeker under her arm.

It was many years since Mrs. Talcott had passed beyond the need of
Baedekers, and her provinces were a distant memory; yet she, too, was
engaged, like the old American girl, in the final adventure of her life.
She did not know, as she drove along in her hansom with her shabby
little box on the roof, whether she were ever to see Les Solitudes

"Carry it right up," she said to the porter at the mansions in St.
James's when she arrived there. "I've come for the night, I expect."

The porter had told her that Mr. Jardine had come in. And he looked at
Mrs. Talcott curiously.

At the door of Gregory's flat Mrs. Talcott encountered a check. Barker,
mournful and low-toned as an undertaker, informed her firmly that Mr.
Jardine was seeing nobody. He fixed an astonished eye upon Mrs.
Talcott's box which was being taken from the lift.

"That's all right," said Mrs. Talcott. "Mr. Jardine'll see me. You tell
him that Mrs. Talcott is here."

She had walked past Barker into the hall and her box was placed beside

Barker was very much disconcerted, yet he felt Mrs. Talcott to be a
person of weight. He ushered her into the drawing-room.

In the late sunlight it was as gay and as crisp as ever, but for the
lack of flowers, and the Bouddha still sat presiding in his golden

"Mr. Jardine is in the smoking-room, Madam," said Barker, and, gauging
still further the peculiar significance of this guest whose name he now
recovered as one familiar to him on letters, he added in a low voice:
"He has not used this room since Mrs. Jardine left us."

"Is that so?" said Mrs. Talcott gravely. "Well, you go and bring him
here right away."

Mrs. Talcott stood in the centre of the room when Barker had gone and
gazed at the Bouddha. And again her figure strongly suggested that of
the sight-seer, unperturbed and adequate amidst strange and alien
surroundings. Gregory found her before the Bouddha when he came in. If
Mrs. Talcott had been in any doubt as to one of the deep intuitions that
had, from the first, sustained her, Gregory's face would have reassured
her. It had a look of suffocated grief; it was ravaged; it asked nothing
and gave nothing; it was fixed on its one devouring preoccupation.

"How do you do, Mrs. Talcott," he said. They shook hands. His voice was
curiously soft.

"I've come up, you see," said Mrs. Talcott. "I've come up to see you,
Mr. Jardine."

"Yes?" said Gregory gently. He had placed a chair for her but, when she
sat down, he remained standing. He did not, it was evident, imagine her
errand to be one that would require a prolonged attention from him.

"Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott, "what was your idea when you first
found out about Karen from the detective and asked me not to tell?"

Gregory collected his thoughts, with difficulty. "I don't know that I
had any idea," he answered. "I was stunned. I wanted time to think."

"And you hoped it wasn't true, perhaps?"

"No; I hadn't any hope. I knew it was true. Karen had said things to me
that made it nothing of a surprise. But perhaps my idea was that she
would be sorry for what she had done and write to me, or to you. I think
I wanted to give Karen time."

"Well, and then?" Mrs. Talcott asked. "If she had written?"

"Well, then, I'd have gone to her."

"You'd have taken her back?"

"If she would have come, of course," said Gregory, in his voice of
wraith-like gentleness.

"You wanted her back if she'd gone off with another man like that and
didn't love you any more?"

Gregory was silent for a moment and she saw that her persistence
troubled and perplexed him.

"As to love," he said, "Karen was a child in some things. I believe that
she would have grown to love me if her guardian hadn't come between us.
And it might have been to escape from her guardian as well as with the
idea of freeing herself from me that she took refuge with this man. I am
convinced that her guardian behaved badly to her. It's rather difficult
for me to talk to you, Mrs. Talcott," said Gregory, "though I am
grateful for your kindness, because I so inexpressibly detest a person
whom you care for."

"Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott, fixing her eyes upon him, "I want to
say something right here, so as there shan't be any mistake about it.
You were right about Mercedes, all along; do you take that in? I don't
want to say any more about Mercedes than I've got to; I've cut loose
from my moorings, but I guess I do care more about Mercedes than
anyone's ever done who's known her as well as I do. But you were right
about her. And I'm your friend and I'm Karen's friend, and it pretty
near killed me when all this happened."

Gregory now had taken a chair before her and his eyes, with a new look,
gazed deeply into hers as she went on: "I wouldn't have accepted what
your letter said, not for a minute, if I hadn't got Mercedes's next
thing and if I hadn't seen that Mercedes, for a wonder, wasn't telling
lies. I was a mighty sick woman, Mr. Jardine, for a few days; I just
seemed to give up. But then I got to thinking. I got to thinking, and
the more I thought the more I couldn't lie there and take it. I thought
about Mercedes, and what she's capable of; and I thought about you and
how I felt dead sure you loved Karen; and I thought about that poor
child and all she'd gone through; and the long and short of it was that
I felt it in my bones that Mercedes was up to mischief. Karen sent for
her, she said; but I don't believe Karen sent for her;--I believe she
got wind somehow of where Karen was and lit out before I could stop her;
yes, I was away that day, Mr. Jardine, and when I came back I found that
three ladies had come for Mercedes and she'd made off with them. It may
be true about Karen; she may have done this wicked thing; but if she's
done it I don't believe it's the way Mercedes says she has. And I've
worked it out to this: you must see Karen, Mr. Jardine; you must have it
from her own mouth that she loves Franz and wants to go off with him and
marry him before you give her up."

Gregory's face, as these last words were spoken, showed a delicate
stiffening. "She won't see me," he said.

"Who says so?" asked Mrs. Talcott.

"Don't imagine that I'd have accepted her guardian's word for it," said
Gregory, "but everything Madame von Marwitz has written has been merely
corroborative. She told us that Karen was there with this man and I knew
it already. She said that Karen had begun to look to him as a rescuer
from me on the day she saw him here in London, and what I remembered of
that day bore it out. She said that I should remember that on the night
we parted Karen told me that she would try to set herself free. Karen
has confided in her; it was true. And it's true, isn't it, that Karen
was in terror of falling into my hands. You can't deny this, can you?
Why should I torture Karen and myself by seeing her?" said Gregory. He
had averted his eyes as he spoke.

"But do you want her back, Mr. Jardine?" Mrs. Talcott had faced his
catalogue of evidence immovably.

"Not if she loves this man," said Gregory. "And that's the final fact. I
know Karen; she couldn't have done this unless she loved him. The
provocation wasn't extreme enough otherwise. She wouldn't, from sheer
generosity, disgrace herself to free me, especially since she knew that
I considered that that would be to disgrace me, too. No; her guardian's
story has all the marks of truth on it. She loves the man and she had
planned to meet him. And all I've got to do now is to see that she is
free to marry him as soon as possible." He got up as he spoke and walked
up and down the room.

Mrs. Talcott's eye followed him and his despair seemed a fuel to her
faith. "Mr. Jardine," she said, after a moment of silence, "I'll stake
my life on it you're wrong. I know Karen better than you do; I guess
women understand each other better than a man ever understands them. The
bed-rock fact about a woman is that she'll hide the thing she feels most
and she'll say what she hopes ain't true so as to give the man a chance
for convincing her it ain't true. And the blamed foolishness of the man
is that he never does. He just goes off, sick and mournful, and leaves
her to fight it out the best she can. Karen don't love Franz Lippheim,
Mr. Jardine; nothing'll make me believe she loves him. And nothing'll
make me believe but what you could have got her to stay that time she
left you if you'd understood women better. She loves you, Mr. Jardine,
though she mayn't know it, and it's on the cards she knows it so well
that she's dead scared of showing it. Because Karen's a wife through and
through; can't you see it in her face? You're youngish yet, and a man,
so I don't feel as angry with you as you deserve, perhaps, for not
understanding better and for letting Karen get it into her head you
didn't love her any more; for that's what she believes, Mr. Jardine. And
what I'm as sure of as that my name's Hannah Talcott is that she'll
never get over you. She's that kind of woman; a rare kind; rocky; she
don't change. And if she's gone and done this thing, like it appears she
has, it isn't in the way Mercedes says; it's only to set you free and to
get away from the fear of being handed over to a man who don't love her.
For she didn't understand, either, Mr. Jardine. Women are blamed foolish
in their way, too."

Gregory had stopped in his walk and was standing before Mrs. Talcott
looking down at her; and while Mrs. Talcott fixed the intense blue of
her eyes upon him he became aware of an impression almost physical in
its vividness. It was as if Mrs. Talcott were the most wise, most
skilful, most benevolent of doctors who, by some miraculous modern
invention, were pumping blood into his veins from her own
superabundance. It seemed to find its way along hardened arteries, to
creep, to run, to tingle; to spread with a radiant glow through all his
chilled and weary body. Hope and fear mounted in him suddenly.

He could not have said, after that, exactly what happened, but he could
afterwards recall, brokenly, that he must have shed tears; for his first
distinct recollection was that he was leaning against the end of the
piano and that Mrs. Talcott, who had risen, was holding him by the hand
and saying: "There now, yes, I guess you've had a pretty bad time. You
hang on, Mr. Jardine, and we'll get her back yet."

He wanted to put his head on Mrs. Talcott's shoulder and be held by her
to her broad breast for a long time; but, since such action would have
been startlingly uncharacteristic of them both, he only, when he could
speak, thanked her.

"What shall I do, now?" he asked. He was in Mrs. Talcott's hands. "It's
no good writing to Karen. Madame von Marwitz will intercept my letter if
what you believe is true. Shall we go down to the New Forest directly?
Shall I force my way in on Karen?"

"That's just what you'll have to do; I don't doubt it," said Mrs.
Talcott. "And I'll go with you, to manage Mercedes while you get hold of
Karen. And I'm not fit for it till I've had a night's rest, so we'll go
down first thing to-morrow, Mr. Jardine. I'm spending the night here so
as we can talk it all out to-night. But first I'm going round to Mrs.
Forrester's. If I'm right, Mr. Jardine, and there ain't any 'if' about
it in my own mind, it's important that people should know what the truth
is now, before we go. We don't want to have to seem to work up a story
to shield Karen if she comes back to you. I'm going to Mrs. Forrester's
and I'm going to that mighty silly woman, Miss Scrotton, and I'll have
to tell them a thing or two that'll make them sit up."

"But wait first, you must be so tired. Do have some tea first," Gregory
urged, as the indomitable old woman made her way towards the door. "And
what can you say to them, after all? We are sure of nothing."

Mrs. Talcott paused with her hand on the door knob; "I'm sure of one
thing, and they've got to hear it; and that is that Mercedes treated
Karen so bad she had to go. Mercedes isn't going to get let off that. I
told her so. I told her I'd come right up and tell her friends about her
if she stole a march on me, and that's what she's done. Yes," said Mrs.
Talcott, opening the door, "I've cut loose from my moorings and
Mercedes's friends have got to hear the truth of that story and I'm
going to see that they do right away. Good-bye, Mr. Jardine. I don't
want any tea; I'll be back in time for dinner, I guess."


Peace had descended upon the little room where Karen lay, cold, still
peace. There were no longer any tears or clamour, no appeals and
agonies. Tante was often with her; but she seldom spoke now and Karen
had ceased to feel more than a dull discomfort when she came into the

Tante smiled at her with the soft, unmurmuring patience of her exile,
she tended her carefully, she told her that in a day or two, at
furthest, they would be out at sea in the most beautiful of yachts. "All
has been chosen for my child," she said. "The nurse meets us at
Southampton and we wing our way straight to Sicily."

Karen was willing that anything should be done with her except the one
thing. It had surprised her to find how much it meant to Tante that she
should consent to go back to her. It had not been difficult to consent,
when she understood that that was all that Tante wanted and why she
wanted it so much. It was the easier since in her heart she believed
that she was dying.

All these days it had been like holding her way through a whirlpool. The
foam and uproar of the water had beat upon her fragile bark of life, had
twisted it and turned it again and again to the one goal where she would
not be. Tante had been the torrent, at once stealthy and impetuous, and
the goal where she had wished to drive her had been marriage to Franz.
Karen had known no fear of yielding, it would have been impossible to
her to yield; yet she had thought sometimes that the bark would crack
under the onslaught of the torrent and she be dragged down finally to

All that torment was over. She seemed to be sliding rapidly and smoothly
down a misty river. She could see no banks, no sky; all was white, soft,
silent. There was no strength left in her with which to struggle against
the thought of death, no strength with which to fear it.

But, as she lay in the little room, her hands folded on her breast,
corpse-like already in her placidity, something wailed within her and
lamented. And sometimes tears rose slowly and swelled her eyelids and
she felt herself a creature coffined and underground, put away and
forgotten, though not yet a creature dead. Her heart in the darkness
still lived and throbbed. Thoughts of Gregory were with her always,
memories of him and of their life together which, now that she had lost
him forever, she might cherish. She felt, though she lay so still, that
she put out her hands always, in supplication, to Gregory. He would
forget her, or remember her only as his disgrace. It seemed to her that
if she could feel Gregory lean to her and kiss her forehead in
tenderness and reconciliation her breath could sweetly cease.

The day before the departure was come and it was a warm, quiet
afternoon. Tante had been with her in the morning, engaged in
preparations for the journey. She had brought to show to Karen the
exquisite nightgowns and wrappers, of softest wool and silk, that she
was to wear on the yacht. The long cloak, too, of silk all lined with
swansdown, such a garment as the tenderest, most cherished of mortals
should wear. This was for Karen when she lay on deck in the sun. And
there was a heavier fur-lined cloak for chilly days and the loveliest of
shoes and stockings and scarves. All these things Tante had sent for for
Karen, and Karen thanked her, as she displayed them before her, gently
and coldly. She felt that Tante was piteous at these moments, but
nothing in her was moved towards her. Already she was dead to Tante.

She was alone now, again, and she would not see Tante till tea-time.
Tante had asked her if she could sleep and she had said yes. She lay
with eyes closed, vaguely aware of the sounds that rose to her from the
room beneath, where Tante was engaged with the landlady in arranging the
new possessions in boxes, and of the fainter sounds from the road in
front of the house. Wheels rolled up and stopped. They often came,
during these last days; Tante's purchases were arriving by every post.
And the voices below seemed presently to alter in pitch and rhythm,
mounting to her in a sonorous murmur, dully rising and falling. Karen
listened in indifference.

But suddenly there came another sound and this was sharp and near.

There was only one window in the little room; it was open, and it looked
out at the back of the house over a straggling garden set round with
trees and shrubberies. The sound was outside the window, below it and
approaching it, the strangest sound, scratching, cautious, deliberate.

Karen opened her eyes and fixed them on the window. The tree outside
hardly stirred against the blue spring sky. Someone was climbing up to
her window.

She felt no fear and little surprise. She wondered, placidly, fixing her
eyes upon the patterned square of blue and green. And upon this
background, like that of some old Italian picture, there rose the head
and shoulders of Mrs. Talcott.

Karen raised herself on her elbow and stared. The river stopped in its
gliding; the mists rolled away; the world rocked and swayed and settled
firmly into a solid, visible reality; Mrs. Talcott's face and her round
black straw hat and her black caped shoulders, hoisting themselves up to
the window-sill. Never in her life was she to forget the silhouette on
the sky and the branching tree, nor Mrs. Talcott's resolute, large, old,
face, nor the gaze that Mrs. Talcott's eyes fixed on her as she came.

Mrs. Talcott put her knee on the window-sill and then struggled for a
moment, her foot engaged in the last rung of the ladder; then she turned
and stepped down backwards into the room.

Karen, raised on her elbow, was trembling.

"Lay down, honey," said Mrs. Talcott, gently and gravely, as they looked
at each other; and, as she came towards the bed, Karen obeyed her and
joined her hands together. "Oh, will you come with us?" she breathed.
"Will you stay with me? I can live if you stay with me, Mrs.
Talcott--dear Mrs. Talcott."

She stretched out her hands to her, and Mrs. Talcott, sitting down on
the bed beside her, took her in her arms.

"You're all right, now, honey. I'm not going to leave you," she said,
stroking back Karen's hair.

Karen leaned her head against her breast, and closed her eyes.

"Listen, honey," said Mrs. Talcott, who spoke in low, careful tones: "I
want to ask you something. Do you love Franz Lippheim? Just answer me
quiet and easy now. I'm right here, and you're as safe as safe can be."

Karen, on Mrs. Talcott's breast, shook her head. "Oh, no, Mrs. Talcott;
you could not believe that. Why should I love dear Franz?"

"Then it's only so as to set your husband free that you're marrying
Franz?" Mrs. Talcott went on in the same even voice.

"But no, Mrs. Talcott," said Karen, "I am not going to marry Franz." And
now she lifted her head and looked at Mrs. Talcott. "Why do you ask me
that? Who has told you that I am to marry Franz?"

Mrs. Talcott, keeping an arm around her, laid her back on the pillow.

"But, Karen, if you run off like that with Franz and come here and stay
as his wife," she said, "and get your husband to divorce you by acting
so, it's natural that people should think that you're going to marry the
young man, ain't it?"

A burning red had mounted to Karen's wasted cheeks. Her sunken eyes
dwelt on Mrs. Talcott with a sort of horror. "It is true," she said. "He
may think that; he must think that; because unless he does he cannot
divorce me and set himself free, and he must be free, Mrs. Talcott; he
has said that he wishes to be free. But I did not run away with Franz. I
met him, on the headland, that morning, and he was to take me to his
mother, and I was so ill that he brought me here. That was all."

Mrs. Talcott smoothed back her hair. "Take it easy, honey," she said.
"There's nothing to worry over one mite. And now I've asked my questions
and had my answers, and I've got something to tell. Karen, child, it's
all been a pack of lies that Mercedes has told so as to get hold of you,
and so as he shouldn't--so as your husband shouldn't, Karen. Listen,
honey: your husband loves you just for all he's worth. I've seen him. I
went up to him. And he told me how you were all the world to him, and
how, if only you didn't love this young man and didn't want to be free,
he'd do anything to get you back, and how if you'd done the wicked thing
he'd been told and then gotten sorry, he'd want you back just the same
because you were his dear wife, and the one woman he loved. But he
couldn't force himself on you if you loved someone else and hated him.
So I just told him that I didn't believe you loved Franz; and I got him
to hope it, too, and we came down together, Karen, and Mercedes is like
a lion at bay downstairs, and she's in front of that door that leads up
here and swears it'll kill you to see us; and I'd seen the ladder
leaning on the wall and I just nipped out while she was talking, and
brought it round to what I calculated would be your window and climbed
up, and that's what I've come to tell you, Karen, that he loves you, and
that he's downstairs, and that he's waiting to know whether you'll see

Mrs. Talcott rose and stood by the bed looking down into Karen's eyes.
"Honey, I can bring him up, can't I?" she asked.

Karen's eyes looked up at her with an intensity that had passed beyond
joy or appeal. Her life was concentrated in her gaze.

"You would not lie to me?" she said. "It is not pity? He loves me?"

"No, I wouldn't lie to you, dearie," said Mrs. Talcott, with infinite
tenderness; "lies ain't my line. It's not pity. He loves you, Karen."

"Bring him," Karen whispered. "I have always loved him. Don't let me die
before he comes."


Mrs. Talcott, as she descended the staircase, heard in the little
sitting-room a voice, the voice of Mercedes, speaking on and on, in a
deep-toned, continuous roll of vehement demonstration, passionate
protest, subtle threat and pleading. Gregory's voice she did not hear.
No doubt he stood where she had left him, at the other side of the
table, confronting his antagonist.

Mrs. Talcott turned the knob of the door and slightly pushed it. A heavy
weight at once was flung against it.

"You shall not come in! You shall not! I forbid it! I will not be
disturbed!" cried the voice of Mercedes, who must, in the moment, have
guessed that she had been foiled.

"Quit that foolishness," said Mrs. Talcott sternly. She leaned against
the door and forced it open, and Mercedes, dishevelled, with eyes that
seemed to pant on her like eyes from some dangerous jungle, flung
herself once more upon the door and stood with her back against it.

"Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott, not looking at her recovered captive,
"Karen is upstairs and wants to see you. She doesn't love Franz Lippheim
and she isn't going to marry him. She didn't run away with him; she met
him when she'd run away from her guardian and he was going to take her
to his mother, only she got sick and he had to bring her here. She was
told that you wanted to divorce her and wanted to be free. She loves
you, Mr. Jardine, and she's waiting up there; only be mighty gentle with
her, because she's been brought to death's door by all that she's been

"I forbid it! I forbid it!" shrieked Madame von Marwitz from her place
before the door, spreading her arms across it. "She is mad! She is
delirious! The doctor has said so! I have promised Franz that you shall
not come to her unless across my dead body. I have sworn it! I keep my
promise to Franz!"

Gregory advanced to the door, eyeing her. "Let me pass," he said. "Let
me go to my wife."

"No! no! and no!" screamed the desperate woman. "You shall not! It will
kill her! You shall be arrested! You wish to kill a woman who has fled
from you! Help! Help!" He had her by the wrists and her teeth seized his
hands. She fought him with incredible fury.

"Hold on tight, Mr. Jardine," Mrs. Talcott's voice came to him from
below. "There; I've got hold of her ankles. Put her down."

With a loud, clashing wail through clenched and grinding teeth, Madame
von Marwitz, like a pine-tree uprooted, was laid upon the floor. Mrs.
Talcott knelt at her feet, pinioning them. She looked along the large
white form to Gregory at the other end, who was holding down Madame von
Marwitz's shoulders. "Go on, Mr. Jardine," she said. "Right up those
stairs. She'll calm down now. I've had her like this before."

Gregory rose, yet paused, torn by his longing, yet fearful of leaving
the old woman with the demoniac creature. But Madame von Marwitz lay as
if in a trance. Her lids were closed. Her breast rose and fell with
heavy, regular breaths.

"Go on, Mr. Jardine," said Mrs. Talcott. So he left them there.

He went up the little stairs, dark and warm, and smelling--he was never
to forget the smell--of apples and dust, and entered a small, light room
where a window made a square of blue and green. Beyond it in a narrow
bed lay Karen. She did not move or speak; her eyes were fixed on his;
she did not smile. And as he looked at her Mrs. Talcott's words flashed
in his mind: "Karen's that kind: rocky: she don't change."

But she had changed. She was his as she had never been, never could have
been, if the sinister presence lying there downstairs had not finally
revealed itself. He knelt beside her and she was in his arms and his
head was laid in the old sacred way beside his darling's head. They did
not seem to speak to each other for a long time nor did they look into
each other's eyes. He held her hand and looked at that, and sometimes
kissed it gently. But after words had come and their eyes had dared to
meet in joy, Karen said to him: "And I must tell you of Franz, Gregory,
dear Franz. He is suffering, I know. He, too, was lied to, and he was
sent away without seeing me again. We will write to Franz at once. And
you will care for my Franz, Gregory?"

"Yes; I will care for your Franz; bless your Franz," said Gregory, with
tears, his lips on her hand.

"He came to me like an angel that morning," Karen said in her breath of
voice; "and he has been like a beautiful mother to me; he has taken care
of me like a mother. It was on the headland over Falmouth--that he came.
Oh, Gregory," she turned her face to her husband's breast, "the birds
were beginning to sing and I thought that I should never see you again."


When the door had shut behind Gregory, Madame von Marwitz spoke, her
eyes still closed:

"Am I now permitted to rise?"

Mrs. Talcott released her ankles and stood up.

"You've made a pretty spectacle of yourself, Mercedes," she remarked as
Madame von Marwitz raised herself with extraordinary stateliness. "I've
seen you behave like you were a devil before, but I never saw you behave
like you were quite such a fool. What made you fight him and bite him
like that? What did you expect to gain by it I'd like to know? As if you
could keep that strong young man from his wife."

Madame von Marwitz had walked to the small mirror over the mantelpiece
and was adjusting her hair. Her face, reflected between a blue and gold
shepherd and shepherdess holding cornucopias of dried honesty, was still
ashen, but she possessed all her faculties. "This is to kill Karen," she
now said. "And yours will be the responsibility."

"Taken," Mrs. Talcott replied, but with no facetiousness.

Several of the large tortoiseshell pins that held Madame von Marwitz's
abundant locks were scattered on the floor. She turned and looked for
them, stooped and picked them up. Then returning to the mirror she
continued, awkwardly, to twist up and fasten her hair. She was
unaccustomed to doing her own hair and even the few days without a maid
had given her no facility.

Mrs. Talcott watched her for a moment and then remarked: "You're getting
it all screwed round to one side, Mercedes. You'd better let me do it
for you."

Madame von Marwitz for a moment made no reply. Her eyes fixed upon her
own mirrored eyes, she continued to insert the pins with an air of
stubborn impassivity; but when a large loop fell to her neck she allowed
her arms to drop. She sank upon a chair and, still with unflawed
stateliness, presented the back of her head to Mrs. Talcott's skilful
manipulations. Mrs. Talcott, in silence, wreathed and coiled and pinned
and the beautiful head resumed its usual outlines.

When this was accomplished Madame von Marwitz rose. "Thank you," she
uttered. She moved towards the door of her room.

"What are you going to do now, Mercedes?" Mrs. Talcott inquired. Her
eyes, which deepened and darkened, as if all her years of silent
watchfulness opened long vistas in them, were fixed upon Mercedes.

"I am going to pack and return to my home," Madame von Marwitz replied.

"Well," said Mrs. Talcott, "you'll want me to pack for you, I expect."

Madame von Marwitz had opened her door and her hand was on the
door-knob. She paused so and again, for a long moment, she made no
reply. "Thank you," she then repeated. But she turned and looked at Mrs.
Talcott. "You have been a traitor to me," she said after she had
contemplated her for some moments, "you, in whom I completely trusted.
You have ruined me in the eyes of those I love."

"Yes, I've gone back on you, Mercedes, that's a fact," said Mrs.

"You have handed Karen over to bondage," Madame von Marwitz went on.
"She and this man are utterly unsuited. I would have freed her and given
her to a more worthy mate." Her voice had the dignity of a disinterested
and deep regret.

Mrs. Talcott made no reply. The long vistas of her eyes dwelt on
Mercedes. After another moment of this mutual contemplation Madame von
Marwitz closed the door, though she still kept her hand on the

"May I ask what you have been saying of me to Mrs. Forrester, to Mr.

"Well, as to Mr. Jardine, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott, "there was no
need of saying anything, was there, if I turned out right in what I told
him I suspected. He sees I'm right. He'd been fed up, along with the
rest of them, on lies, and Karen can help him out with the details if he
wants to ask for them. As for the old lady, I gave her the truth of the
story about Karen running away. I made her see, and see straight, that
your one idea was to keep Karen's husband from getting her back because
you knew that if he did the truth about you would come out. I let you
down as easy as I could and put it that you weren't responsible exactly
for the things you said when you went off your head in a rage and that
you were awful sorry when you found Karen had taken you at your word and
made off. But that old lady feels mighty sick, Mercedes, and I allow
she'll feel sicker when she's seen Mr. Jardine. As for Miss Scrotton, I
saw her, too, and she's come out strong; you've got a friend there,
Mercedes, sure; she won't believe anything against her beloved
Mercedes," a dry smile touched Mrs. Talcott's grave face as she echoed
Miss Scrotton's phraseology, "until she hears from her own lips what she
has to say in explanation of the story. You'll be able to fix her up all
right, Mercedes, and most of the others, too, I expect. I'd advise you
to lie low for a while and let it blow over. People are mighty glad to
be given the chance for forgetting things against anyone like you. It'll
simmer down and work out, I expect, to a bad quarrel you had with Karen
that's parted you. And as for the outside world, why it won't mind a
mite what you do. Why you can murder your grandmother and eat her, I
expect, and the world'll manage to overlook it, if you're a genius."

"I thank you," said Madame von Marwitz, her hand clasping and unclasping
the door-knob. "I thank you indeed for your reassurance. I have murdered
and eaten my grandmother, but I am to escape hanging because I am a
genius. That is a most gratifying piece of information. You, personally,
I infer, consider that the penalty should be paid, however gifted the

"I don't know, Mercedes, I don't know," said Mrs. Talcott in a voice of
profound sadness. "I don't know who deserves penalties and who don't, if
you begin to argue it out to yourself." Mrs. Talcott, who had seated
herself at the other side of the table, laid an arm upon it, looking
before her and not at Mercedes, as she spoke. "You're a bad woman; that
ain't to be denied. You're a bad, dangerous woman, and perhaps what
you've been trying to do now is the worst thing you've ever done. But I
guess I'm way past feeling angry at anything you do. I guess I'm way
past wanting you to get come up with. I can't make out how to think
about a person like you. Maybe you figured it all out to yourself
different from the way it looks. Maybe you persuaded yourself to believe
that Karen would be better off apart from her husband. I guess that's
the way with most criminals, don't you? They figure things out different
from the way other people do. I expect you can't help it. I expect you
were born so. And I guess you can't change. Some bad folks seem to
manage to get religion and that brings 'em round; but I expect you ain't
that kind."

Madame von Marwitz, while Mrs. Talcott thus shared her psychological
musings with her, was not looking at the old woman: her eyes were fixed
on the floor and she seemed to consider.

"No," she said presently. "I am not that kind."

She raised her eyes and they met Mrs. Talcott's. "What are you going to
do now?" she asked.

"Well," said Mrs. Talcott, drawing a long sigh of fatigue, "I've been
thinking that over and I guess I'll stay over here. There ain't any
place for me in America now; all my folks are dead. You know that money
my Uncle Adam left me a long time ago that I bought the annuity with.
Well, I've saved most of that annuity; I'd always intended that Karen
should have what I'd saved when I died. But Karen don't need it now.
It'll buy me a nice little cottage somewhere and I can settle down and
have a garden and chickens and live on what I've got."

"How much was it, the annuity?" Madame von Marwitz asked after a moment.

"A hundred and ten pounds a year," said Mrs. Talcott.

"But you cannot live on that," Madame von Marwitz, after another moment,

"Why, gracious sakes, of course I can, Mercedes," Mrs. Talcott replied,
smiling dimly.

Again there was silence and then Madame von Marwitz said, in a voice a
little forced: "You have not got much out of life, have you, Tallie?"

"Well, no; I don't expect you would say as I had," Mrs. Talcott
acquiesced, showing a slight surprise.

"You haven't even got me--now--have you," Madame von Marwitz went on,
looking down at her door-knob and running her hand slowly round it while
she spoke. "Not even the criminal. But that is a gain, you feel, no
doubt, rather than a loss."

"No, Mercedes," said Mrs. Talcott mildly; "I don't feel that way. I feel
it's a loss, I guess. You see you're all the family I've got left."

"And you," said Madame von Marwitz, still looking down at her knob, "are
all the family I have left."

Mrs. Talcott now looked at her. Mercedes did not raise her eyes. Her
face was sad and very pale and it had not lost its stateliness. Mrs.
Talcott looked at her for what seemed to be a long time and the vistas
of her eyes deepened with a new acceptance.

It was without any elation and yet without any regret that she said in
her mild voice: "Do you want me to come back with you, Mercedes?"

"Will you?" Madame von Marwitz asked in a low voice.

"Why, yes, of course I'll come if you want me, Mercedes," said Mrs.

Madame von Marwitz now opened her door. "Thank you, Tallie," she said.

"You look pretty tired," Mrs. Talcott, following her into the bedroom,
remarked. "You'd better lie down and take a rest while I do the packing.
Let's clear out as soon as we can."

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