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Title: The Beautiful Miss Brooke
Author: Zangwill, Louis, 1869-1938
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.

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[Illustration: Cover]

THE BEAUTIFUL MISS BROOKE

      *      *      *      *      *

SOME PRESS OPINIONS

Of "Z. Z.'s" Previous Work.


          _Daily Chronicle_ (London).--In all modern fiction
          there is no novel which contains a more able and
          finished analysis of character. It is a serious
          contribution to literature.

          _Echo_ (London).--His work reveals a grand
          dramatic instinct There are indeed possibilities
          of fine work in "Z. Z.," and we may anticipate
          valuable studies of life in the immediate future.
          Mr. Louis Zangwill should cut a pretty figure in
          latter-day fiction.

          _Academy_ (London).--A few masterful novelists
          like "Z. Z." have it in their power to attain to a
          complete achievement.

          _Daily Telegraph_ (London).--One of the ablest
          works of recent fiction.

          _Illustrated London News._--One of the cleverest
          novels of the day.

          _Graphic_ (London).--The new novel by "Z. Z." is a
          tragedy of which the power can not possibly be
          denied. Never for one moment does the author lose
          his grip.

          _Weekly Sun_ (London).--He is one of the forces to
          be counted with in contemporary literature. Great
          qualities have gone to the making of his book, and
          with these qualities Mr. Louis Zangwill is bound
          to travel far.

      *      *      *      *      *


THE BEAUTIFUL MISS BROOKE

[Illustration: Decoration]

By "Z. Z."
Author of A Drama in Dutch,
The World and a Man, Etc.



New York
D. Appleton and Company
1897

Copyright, 1897,
D. Appleton and Company.



THE BEAUTIFUL MISS BROOKE.



CHAPTER I.


THE opening bars of a waltz sounded through the house above the
irregular murmur of conversation, bearing their promise and summons
along festal corridors and into garlanded nooks and alcoves. Paul
Middleton drew a breath of relief as the girl to whom he had been
talking was carried off to dance, for she had bored him intolerably. The
refreshment room, crowded a moment ago, was thinning down, and, glad of
the respite, he took another sandwich and slowly sipped the remainder of
his coffee. His humour was of the worst. If his hostess had not been his
mother's oldest friend, he would never have allowed himself to be
persuaded to accept her invitation after he had once decided to decline
it. Why had his mother so persisted, when she knew very well he was
looking forward to playing in an important chess match? Certainly the
evening so far had not compensated him for the pleasure he had thus
missed.

He had been chafing the whole time, and intermittently he had played
with the idea of slipping out and taking a hansom down to the chess
club. But he had ticked off five dances on Celia's programme--Celia was
of course Celia--and he was to take her to supper. Moreover, on his
arrival at the small-and-early, Mrs. Saxon had led him round--he feeling
that his amiable expression made him a hypocrite--and, mechanically
repeating his request for the pleasure of a dance, he had scrawled his
name on several programmes with scarcely a glance at their owners. It
was, however, more particularly his engagements with Celia, and one or
two other girls he knew well, that had made him stay on. Once more he
glanced at his watch. It was getting well on towards midnight now, and
the issue of the chess match must already have been decided. After some
speculation as to the winning side, he resigned himself to finishing the
evening where he was.

At the best of times Paul Middleton's interest in the ballroom was only
lukewarm. He frankly professed not to care about it at all, and, though
he was in the habit of dancing every dance, he looked upon himself more
as a spectator than a participator on such rare occasions as he accepted
cards for. He had no favourite partners. Into the inner and intimate
life of that circle of light made for human pleasure he could never
enter; he had always shrunk from exploring its labyrinth of flirtation,
coquetry, and petty manoeuvring, the very thought of the intricacies
of which affrighted his plain-sailing temperament. To him one girl in a
ballroom was much the same as another--a green, white, or pink gown with
sometimes an eye-glass attached. He knew very well, though--if only from
his mother having instilled it into him--that no such indifference
attached to him, a young man of twenty-three, who was absolute master of
at least eleven thousand pounds a year, and not without claim to other
merits.

Becoming aware that the music was in full swing upstairs, he began to
think it was high time to look for his partner. But the name "Brooke" on
his programme, which he made out with some difficulty, called up no
picture, no living personality. He could not even recollect the moment
when he had written it, and it did not appear he had made any note to
help him identify the girl. His last partner had had to be pointed out
to him by Mrs. Saxon, and he did not care to trouble her again.
"Besides," he reflected, "this Miss Brooke, whoever she is, will most
likely be hidden away in some nook or other and will be only too glad
not to be hunted up."

He had almost made up his mind to skip the dance when there came into
the room an old schoolfellow, more or less a friend of his. The two
interchanged a word. Thorn, it appeared, wanted a whisky and soda before
going home. He had to turn in early to be in good form for the morrow's
cricket. It was the first match of the season, and he was anxious to do
brilliantly. Paul took the opportunity of asking him if, by any chance,
he knew or had danced with a Miss Brooke.

"The beautiful Miss Brooke you mean, don't you?" asked Thorn.

Paul explained he didn't know which Miss Brooke he meant, but that he
ought to be dancing with _a_ Miss Brooke. Any girl who answered to that
name would satisfy him.

"Well, if the one you mean, or don't mean, is the one I mean, she's just
outside the door talking to a big Yankee chap. I never heard of her
before to-night, but she's a stunning girl. She's the daughter of some
American millionaire, a railway king, or something of that sort--at
least everybody says so. I tried to get a dance with her, but I wasn't
in luck. I envy you. Good-night, old boy!"

"I suppose, then, _I_ must consider myself in luck," thought Paul,
staying yet a moment as he caught sight of his full reflection in a
glass. It was a medium, slightly built figure that met his gaze, easy
and graceful of carriage. The face was fair with a tiny light beard--the
silken hair cut short, the features intelligent, the eyes grey, the
teeth beautiful. A suspicion of a freckle here and there did not seem
unsuited to the type of complexion. The survey seemed to please him, and
he stepped forward with the intention of taking possession of "the
beautiful Miss Brooke."

Thorn's indication proved correct. To his surprise Miss Brooke seemed to
recognise him as he approached, for she welcomed him with a smile, from
which he deduced, moreover, that she must have been waiting for him. He
had a general sense of enchantment and diaphanousness, of a delicate
harmony of colour-tones; an impression as of an idealised figure that
had stepped out of a decorative painting. He wondered how he had escaped
the impression at the time of his introduction to her, and, despite her
smile, he was chilled by a doubt that it might, after all, be some other
Miss Brooke on whose programme he had written. Of the man she had been
talking to he scarcely took any note at all, beyond verifying he was a
"big Yankee." He took her up to the dancing-room, and they began
waltzing. Paul considered himself a pretty good dancer, and there were
even moments when he could conscientiously say he was enjoying himself.
But somehow he found himself going badly with Miss Brooke. Things seemed
to be wrong at the very start. There was an uncomfortable drag. Paul was
compelled to take enormous steps to counteract it, and after a dozen
turns both agreed to give it up.

"You dance the English step, of course, Mr. Middleton," she observed as
they sauntered round. Her American accent was of the slightest, and few
as were the words she had so far spoken, they seemed to Paul subtly to
vibrate with a pleasant friendliness. Her voice was sweet and clear,
with an under-quality of softness and caress. The suggestion that there
were waltz steps other than the one he was wont to dance was new to him.

"I suppose mine is the English step," he replied, "though I never heard
of any other. Is yours very different?"

"Oh, yes. We Americans really waltz, whilst you English just go round
and round and round, with your stiff legs for all the world like a pair
of compasses."

Paul could not agree with her, and patriotically proceeded to defend the
English waltz, surprised to find himself expending oratory on so trivial
a subject. He asserted it was not the mere monotonous turning to which
Miss Brooke would reduce it, but that a spirit went with it; whereupon
Miss Brooke shook her head, declaring she had shown the American step to
a good many English people, and, no matter how sceptical before, they
had vowed, one and all, never to dance the English step again.

They had wandered away from the mass of rotating figures and taken
possession of a couple of seats in a corner outside the dancing-room.
Paul had now an opportunity of observing Miss Brooke more narrowly.
Other partners he had already forgotten. He could hardly have identified
them again. So far as he was concerned, they had got completely lost in
the crowd from which they had temporarily emerged. But of Miss Brooke he
felt sure a perfectly definite picture would remain in his mind. What
struck him most at once was a certain spirit of frank good humour that
seemed to exhale from her, that made him feel, even with her first few
words, as if she were merely resuming an interrupted conversation with
him. Her manner suggested the natural falling-into-step by the side of
an established friend, overtaken _en route_, and it was hard for him to
realise this was really their first talk together.

Paul had never danced with an American girl before, else he would have
been aware of the incompatibility of their steps. His notions of the
American girl--or at least the American girl that comes to Europe--were
of the vaguest. He had in the course of his existence met perhaps two or
three of the class, but he had never really talked to them. He had heard
the American girl spoken of--praised, damned, or tolerated; he had read
about her push and businesslike qualities; and a short time since he had
seen the type portrayed on the stage--a dashing, masterful creature, a
piece of egotism incarnate, with a twang as pronounced as her
self-assertiveness, a terrible determination, and an equally terrible
assurance of carrying it through. But he had never thought about her
coherently; never consciously crystallized these more or less
contradictory notions of her that had come to him in so scattered and
chaotic a fashion. It was quite certain, however, that Miss Brooke had
nothing in common with the monstrosity that had given so much delight to
that English audience, and raised in it a due consciousness of its own
virtue of modest moderation. Nor could he associate her with the
dreadfully improper and unabashable person he had heard more than one
British matron declare the American girl to be.

Miss Brooke did not address her words to the floor, but sitting with her
chair at an angle to his, looking straight at him as she spoke. Paul
found the ordeal a fascinating but sufficiently trying one. He had no
chance against this wonderful girlish face, with its sparkling blue eyes
and its subtle quality of sincerity and spirituality; tantalising by the
charm of its smile, which suggested moments of wickedness and kissing,
and provoking by its air of unawareness of its calm-destroying powers.
He was conscious, too, of a long, white neck rising above a pair of
well-knit shoulders, out of a mass of white fluffy trimmings, in which
were set with careless art a few deep-red velvet flowers. On her
forehead lay two roguish curls that moved freely, and each temple was
covered by a bewitching lock, whose end curled inwards toward the ear.
At the back her hair was drawn right up into curls, leaving the whole
neck free, and showing the contour of the gracefully-poised head. Her
white gown seemed woven of some fairy substance, embroidered with myriad
gold spots, and encircled round the waist with three golden bands. The
pink, round flesh of the upper arm showed firm and cool through the web
of the sleeve that met the long white glove at the elbow. The bodice
followed closely the modelling of the bust, and the skirt swept
downwards, ending in a mass of foam-like fluff amid which nestled the
tips of two neat shoes. Altogether a superb girl, dainty and supple,
without any suggestion of fragility.

The comparative merits of the English and American waltzes were still
occupying their attention.

"Now, tell me, Mr. Middleton," she asked, after enthusiastically
descanting on the pleasure and grace of the "long glide," "haven't I
really converted you?"

"I want very much to be converted, but your waltz seems formidable. I am
afraid of it."

"I'm sure it would not take you long to learn. Cannot I really coax you
into a promise to try it? I enjoy making converts--I have missionary
tendencies in the blood."

"That's interesting. Because there are tendencies in my blood, too.
Anti-missionary ones, however. To be true to the family tradition, I'm
not sure whether I ought not resist your coaxings."

"Which I'm sure you're not going to do." Her face took on an expression
of mock imploration. "But, tell me, how far back does your tradition
go, and how did it arise?"

"It began with my grandfather, whose pet idea was that the energy and
money spent on missions should be employed at home for the raising of
the lower classes. My father went a step further by deciding the
particular form in which the lower classes should reap the benefit, and
he died with the hope that the dream of two generations should be
realised by me."

"There is quite a touch of poetry in what you tell me," said Miss
Brooke. "My family history is more prosaic, but it has a dash of
adventure in it. The missionary hobby began with my great-grandfather,
who was devoted, body and soul, to it--certainly body, for he was eaten
by cannibals. Poor savages!"

"Poor savages!" echoed Paul, for the moment supposing Miss Brooke meant
to throw doubts on her ancestor's digestibility.

"Yes, for grandfather went out to preach to them! A very mean revenge, I
call that."

"How do you reconcile that statement with your own missionary leanings?"
asked Paul, thinking it strange a railway king should be the son of an
earnest missionary, and vaguely speculating whether the millionaire was
in the habit of giving large sums to "revenge" his grandfather.

"Oh, as a woman I have the right to make contradictory statements. 'Tis
a valuable right, and I find it very convenient not to yield it up,
though I _did_ learn logic at college."

"But surely it must be ever so much nicer to triumph by logic."

"If one were only sure of triumphing! But I am really in no difficulty,
so you will not get an exhibition of logic to-night. My missionary
tendencies are purely a matter of instinct, my anti-missionary ones a
matter of sentiment. Do not instinct and sentiment pull different ways
in human beings? Confess, Mr. Middleton, don't you often _want_ to do
things you _feel_ you ought not?"

"More often I don't want to do things I feel I ought to."

"That is a piece of new humour."

"I meant the inversion seriously. But I'm glad to find that we are
agreed at least in sentiment."

"And I do try and turn the instinct into useful channels. Americans, you
know, never let force run to waste. Now, you _will_ learn that waltz,
won't you, Mr. Middleton? Promise me quickly, as some one is coming to
take me to dance. There comes the top of his head."

"Dear me, has the next dance come round already!" ejaculated Paul. "You
may consider me a sincere convert," he added quickly, "if--if you will
spare me another dance."

"If you can find one," she replied; and, slipping her programme into his
hand, she rose in response to the smile of the newcomer. To Paul's
surprise, the man was the same from whom he had carried off Miss Brooke
only a minute or two ago, as it appeared to him. Which fact caused him
now to take keen notice of him. "The fellow" was quite six feet high,
and of slim, supple build. His face was dark, and, to Paul,
distinctively American. He wore a short pointed beard and a
carefully-trimmed moustache. His black hair somewhat eccentrically hung
down in lines cut to the same length. His eyes gleamed with an almost
unnatural brightness, and his teeth showed themselves polished and
white.

"Write thick over somebody else's name." Paul was conscious of Miss
Brooke speaking to him in almost a whisper; then in a moment she had
bowed and moved off. He could not help feeling angry with the man for
taking her away, and his displeasure showed itself in his face. There
seemed, too, something proprietorial in the way "the confounded fellow"
walked off with her, and a thousand foolish conjectures hustled in his
brain. However, he remembered he had Miss Brooke's programme, which,
together with her last injunction, formed a comforting assurance she
had taken him into special favour. It had been decidedly nice to
talk to this girl, who seemed just the sort of person--simple and
straightforward despite her wonderful charm--he felt he could get on
with, and it gave him pleasure to picture her again sitting by his side,
fresh, cool, sweet, and surpassingly beautiful.

After lingering a little he went into the ballroom again. Miss Brooke's
figure alone drew his eye--the rest of the world was a mere dancing
medley. She was obviously enjoying her dance, and Paul found himself
envying her partner his easy mastery of the American waltz step. He
could not help observing now what a superb note she struck in that
crowd. He could see, too, she was being noticed, and divined talk about
her by many moving lips.

He found an opportunity of returning her programme, which she received
with a marked look of surprise that changed into a smile of thanks. Paul
was much puzzled. Her manner seemed to make it appear that she had
dropped the programme and he had picked it up. He rather resented this,
till it occurred to him she had slipped it into his hand so as not to be
seen by her present cavalier, and probably she had played this little
comedy because she did not want to rouse his suspicion. Paul's fears
that the man might be something to her were reawakened, but they were
palliated by a sense of triumph over him. Had not Miss Brooke played a
part--for his sake?

Mrs. Saxon passed near him and stopped to talk to him a moment. He made
absent-minded replies--indeed, five minutes later he recalled that he
had said something particularly foolish and hated himself. In this mood
he sought cousin Celia and took her to supper. He examined her more
critically now, finding her handsome, solid, and only passably
interesting. He noted, too, that her manner lacked sprightliness and
enthusiasm, and that the things she talked about didn't interest him in
the least. He found himself apologising again and again for not having
heard what she said. That was whenever there were questions for him to
answer. He had, however, enough wit left to feel it was fortunate she
did not ask questions more frequently. Meanwhile his eye wandered
constantly towards a little table some distance off, which Miss Brooke
and her American friend had all to themselves, the other two covers
being as yet unappropriated. Once or twice he became aware that Celia's
eye was following his. He saw a gleam of understanding flash across her
face, followed by a flush whose meaning was obvious. But somehow he felt
reckless.

An hour later he was with Miss Brooke again. At her laughing suggestion
they had found a hiding-place, more "towards the upper regions," in
order to keep out of the way of the man whose name had been written
over, and who, indeed, never appeared. Miss Brooke was admiring an
exquisite little painting of a picturesque boy looking over a rude
wooden bridge on to a small stream. The work, which hung just opposite
them, bore a well-known French signature, and had attracted her
attention at once. The enthusiasm with which she spoke of the artist
led Paul to inquire if she herself painted.

"I try to," she answered self-deprecatingly. "I am appallingly
interested in my work. I always lose myself when talking about it."

She was evidently serious, and Paul was glad to have struck such a mood,
which promised possibilities of intimate conversation.

"You have taken up art seriously?" he asked.

"One must do something to fill one's life," she replied, with
unmistakable earnestness; and set Paul musing about the inability of
fortune to compensate for a want of purpose in life, as he had, indeed,
felt long ago. That a woman, however, should give expression to the
sentiment surprised him. Her next words astonished him still more.

"I have always been ambitious, and I might have achieved something in
art if I hadn't wasted so many years trying other things."

"But, surely you must find the knowledge you have acquired worth
having."

"I would willingly exchange it all for two years' progress in my work.
The mistakes began by poppa discovering I was a musical genius, and as I
was just mad to do something big in the world, I believed him. The next
discovery was mine--that I was a great writer, and when, two years after
that, an artist friend declared some sketches of mine were full of
inspiration, my enthusiasm for writing fizzed out immediately, and I
rushed into painting, and over to Paris to study. Of course, I'm only in
the student stage, but my professor has given me distinct encouragement.
In my heart I really believe I should succeed if only----" She broke off
with a curious laugh, but went on almost immediately: "If only I don't
transfer my enthusiasm to sculpture before long. You see I know my
little ways. Besides, the temptation to change is as strong as it
possibly can be. It would be such a distinction to have completed the
round of the arts."

"Poetry would still be left untouched."

"Oh, I've written poetry as well. That was part and parcel of my
literary mania."

"And naturally expired with it."

"No. Let me confess. Poetry is the one thing I keep up in order to be
able to feel I am made of fine stuff. It's the one unsaleable thing I
devote my time to, and without it I should feel utterly ignoble. With
all my ambition to achieve greatness, I am quite unable to say how much
of my enthusiasm is due to the hope of accompanying dollars."

Paul was startled for a moment, then laughed in high amusement at the
idea of a railway king's daughter eking out her income by Art.

"I mean it. I'm not as noble as I look, but thank you for the compliment
all the same. If I have allowed myself any illusions on the point, they
were all dissipated when I heard of the price a Salon picture sold for
last year. My feeling of envy was too naked to be mistaken--naked and
unashamed. I don't know if you've ever experienced the sort of
thing--whether you've ever written poetry to keep your self-respect."

"I fear writing poetry would be no test for me. I don't mean to imply
that the result would _not_ be unsaleable," he added, smiling, "but that
I am not so avaricious as you profess to be. I am quite satisfied that
my work in life shall bring me no return."

"I wish I were as fine as that," said Miss Brooke.

"I am afraid I am far from being fine," said Paul, modestly. "I am
simply content with my fortune. As you said before, one must do
something to fill one's life. I am only too grateful for the prospect of
being able to employ my energies. So you see I am really selfish at
bottom."

"We each appear to have a due sense of the clay in us, so let us agree
we are neither of us precisely the saints we appear. But you've not yet
told me in what particular way you purpose satisfying that selfishness
of yours."

"Thereby hangs a long tale," said Paul, laughing again. "It is connected
with the family tradition I mentioned to you before."

"I remember. Your father laid some injunction on you about converting
missionary energies and subscriptions for home use."

"That is a quaint way of putting it. It is true his injunction first set
me thinking, and it led to my developing certain Utopian ideas of my
own. As the result, I am now studying architecture. No doubt you will
think it a strange choice. There begins another dance, and we've both
partners."

"How vexatious!" said Miss Brooke. "Just when I am so interested. I am
really longing to hear all about your Utopia."

"I should so much have liked to tell you," murmured Paul, thinking he
might even have sat out another dance if it were not for his foolish
exclamation.

"Oh, but you're going to call, Mr. Middleton."

"I shall be very happy," said Paul, repressing a start.

She wrote her address for him on the back of his programme, adding, "I
shall be in on Wednesday afternoon."

He thanked her and took her down to the dancing-room where she was
pounced upon immediately, and he then discovered, to his surprise, that
he and Miss Brooke _had_ sat out two dances! Moreover, the frown which
Celia gave him over her partner's shoulder as she waltzed by made him
refer to his programme, when he found he had overlooked the little tick
at the side of dance number fourteen.



CHAPTER II.


"A DAY and a half to wait before seeing Miss Brooke again," was Paul's
first reflection the next morning. "All I should have laughed at as
absurd a month ago, proves to be true. I am fast in the toils." And all
through the day Miss Brooke filled his thoughts. He was, somehow, a
different person from before, as if he had awakened from some sluggish
torpor.

All his life Paul had suffered from an excess of parental love, which
had considerably curtailed his freedom; and even when the death of his
father a year before had left him his own master, he had no thought of
living away from his mother, much to her secret gratification. Her
fondness for him had been such that she had had him educated at home for
several years, and was only persuaded to let him go to school under
great pressure from her husband. She had established her influence over
her boy from the beginning, and his pliable and obedient disposition had
enabled her to maintain it now that he was grown up. His father, who had
divided his time between collecting beautiful beetles, representing a
rural constituency, enacting the good Samaritan, and, as Paul had told
Miss Brooke, thundering and writing letters to the press against foreign
missions, had cherished an ambitious career for his son. He himself, he
felt, was a mere pawn on the parliamentary chessboard, and he dreamt of
a really great political future for Paul, who, moreover, he hoped, would
leave his mark on the social life of the generation by promoting the
increase of public fine-art collections. Beautiful centres of
art--beautiful buildings with beautiful contents--could be established,
he argued, if the money subscribed for foreign missions could be used
for the purpose; and he had the necessary statistics ready to hurl at
the head of the sceptic.

Acting on the advice of a friend who considered the Bar afforded the
best training in oratory, he began by placing the boy in a solicitor's
office immediately after he had left college. Some eighteen months later
the father was carried off in an epidemic of influenza. Paul, who had
long since discovered that oratory _viâ_ the law was not adapted to one
of his temperament, had decision enough to desist from it. His attitude
towards his sire's dream had never been a very reverent one, for he knew
well he was not of the stuff of which Parliamentary leaders are made.
But, as the affection between the two had been really strong, the son
wished to respect the father's ideas so far as possible, if only for
sentimental reasons; and, finding in himself a natural taste for making
beautiful designs as well as an innocent love for illuminated books, old
carvings and mouldings, and such curious antiques as had a real art
value, it occurred to him he might make a thorough study of architecture
from the art as well as the practical side. Later on he would design art
galleries for the people, and set a movement on foot to promote their
construction. Without taking himself too solemnly, he liked to think
that what he purposed would have given his father pleasure; and he was
always able to take good-humouredly such jesting remarks as had
reference to his schemes.

Meanwhile mother and son had settled down in a small house in Elm Park
Road. The country house was let on a long lease, as Mrs. Middleton did
not wish to have the trouble of keeping it up, preferring to travel for
three months in the year. The household consumed but a small part of
their revenues, and consequently the amount of money in the family
threatened to increase from year to year, despite that Mr. Middleton's
good works were continued, and that Paul, going a-slumming, started
additional good works on his own account.

Mrs. Middleton was only too pleased at Paul's leaving "that nasty dark,
close office," asserting it must have injured his health. Besides, her
faith in his talents was so absolute that she was certain he would one
day be a very great man indeed, whatever the profession he espoused. So
she ceded to him for his study perhaps the pleasantest room in the
house. It was at the back and opened on to a narrow garden, so that he
could saunter out occasionally and pace up and down. As he was here
quite isolated, he never felt the need of having rooms elsewhere.

Despite the vigilance under which Paul had grown up, he had yet managed
to have one or two boyish love-affairs without his parents suspecting
anything; and he had at times dreamt of an ideal love and an ideal
happiness. But of late he had developed different notions, and had come
to pride himself on his freedom from all mawkish sentiment.
Notwithstanding this, he was chivalrous enough to believe that women
were angels; which belief, curiously enough, was unimpaired by the fact
that, in practice, he was a little bit afraid and suspicious of them.
Nor did he always find them interesting; he would sooner play a game of
chess any day than talk to one of them.

Cousin Celia was often at the house to join him and his mother at their
quiet tea, and one day the idea entered his head that Mrs. Middleton had
a certain pet scheme. But modesty prevented it from taking root in him,
and he preferred to believe that the notion of a marriage between him
and Celia had occurred only to himself, and would greatly surprise
everybody else if he broached it. Celia was an orphan, and he had heard
her pitied all his life. She was considered to possess an extraordinary
share of good looks and an uncommon degree of affability. Good judges
assured one another she would make an excellent wife, and Mrs. Middleton
had taken good care that the said judges should discuss the girl in the
presence of her boy, who could scarcely contend against so subtle an
undermining. Despite his vague knowledge of the wiles of match-making,
he began to persuade himself that he really liked Celia, and he played
more and more with the idea of marrying her. The leading-strings were
handled so lightly and skilfully, he would have been much astonished to
hear that his inclinations were not absolutely uninfluenced. In Celia
was all that straightforwardness by which he set such store; from her
was absent all that caprice and flirtatiousness he was so afraid of. It
was easy to know her wishes, easy to please her; and she had never made
him the victim of moods.

And the more he thought of marrying her, the more he began to decry
romantic love to himself. Whether it really existed or not he would not
pretend to say, though, in the light of his own experience, he could
just imagine its existence. Those old boyish ideas of his were all a
mistake. And thereupon he fell back eagerly on the theory of sensible
companionship as the only sound basis for marriage--which theory had now
abruptly to be rejected.

Already Paul, promenading his garden whilst beautiful coloured plates of
Egyptian decoration lay neglected on his table, was bothering himself as
to whether he could leave Celia out of the account with a clear
conscience. The question he kept asking himself was whether such
attention as he had paid her could reasonably be interpreted as bearing
any real significance. He was certain he had never actively made love to
her, as he had always hesitated to begin, but he had seen a great deal
of her of late and their intimacy had made great strides. Moreover, she
had allowed him his five dances the evening before without a word of
demur. He knew, too, he had often felt himself flushing on hearing her
praised, feeling a sort of proprietary pride in the subject of
discussion; and he wondered now if his demeanour on such occasions had
been observed.

All these considerations caused him considerable uneasiness in view of
the fact that he was perfectly sure now he did not want to marry her.
Miss Brooke had come into his horizon, and lo! the whole world was
changed. Oh, to be free to woo and win such a girl!

Suddenly he had a flash of shrewder insight, and he was able to find
comfort in that first suspicion, which now returned to him, that his
mother was really responsible for this Celia affair. Why--and his
awakened mind now ran over a score of memories--he had scarcely ever met
Celia out without his mother having supplied the impulse for his going
to the particular place! He had been a fool not to see how she had
worked matters from the beginning. And now there arose in him a shade of
resentment against her, and his man's independence revolted for the
first time against this subtle subordination of his will to hers. He had
a definite perception--attended with a distinct sense of shame--of the
fact that he had never really ceased to be, so far as she was
concerned, the good little boy who had learnt his letters at her knee.
He had an individuality of his own, he told himself, and it behoved him
to play the part of a man. He should begin his emancipation at once by
putting a prompt stop to "this Celia business."



CHAPTER III.


AS Paul rang at the address Miss Brooke had scribbled down on his
programme, his dominating thought was that American millionaire's
daughters chose rather shabby houses to stay in. Though the name of the
street had surprised him when he had first read it, he had yet conceived
it possible she might be staying at some kind of private hotel; but he
had not anticipated a dusty card with the word "apartments." He took it
for granted her mother was with her, and, though he had not formed any
clear conception of Mrs. Brooke, she looming mistily in his mind as a
handsome, stately personage that had decidedly to be taken into the
reckoning, he had wondered how she would receive him.

A maid-servant ushered him up two flights of stairs into a front room
and announced his name. As he entered he was conscious of three persons
sitting at the far end where a bright fire burned, and was somewhat
startled to recognise the long lithe figure, the dark face and hair, and
the piercing black eyes of the American Miss Brooke had danced with. A
peculiar shade of expression flitted across the man's face, telling Paul
the recognition was mutual. At the same time Paul was assuming that the
bonneted and cloaked mature-looking lady was no other than Mrs. Brooke
herself, and he wondered why she should receive callers when so
obviously dressed for going out. Miss Brooke rose to greet him with a
pleasant smile of welcome. In a simple dress with wide sleeves that
fitted tight round the wrists, her short front hair, evenly divided,
falling over her temples in rippling masses, she seemed less phantasmal
and fairylike, less remote from this world--a being more humanly sweet
and that one might dare to woo.

But unfortunately in that moment he became aware of the huge bulk of a
high bed against the wall on his right, and a tall screen that cut off a
corner of the room struck him as having the air of concealing something.
Though he kept control over himself physically, his mind grew perfectly
vacant. He did not dare to think--it seemed vain to make any
surmise--but bowed to the bonneted lady as he heard Miss Brooke say:
"Katharine, let me introduce my friend, Mr. Middleton--Mrs. Potter."

Paul had seldom felt so many emotions at one time. Added to his surprise
at the expected Mrs. Brooke changing at the last moment into a Mrs.
Potter, and to his bewilderment at being received in a bedroom, was a
thrill of pleasure at Miss Brooke's reference to him as "my friend." He
had, too, a sense of gratified curiosity at learning the next moment
that the man's name was Pemberton; it was convenient, moreover, to have
a definite symbol by which to refer to him in thought.

"I think the water's boiling, dear," said Mrs. Potter. "Doesn't it mean
'boiling' when steam comes out of the spout like that?"

"Not yet, Katharine. Half a minute more. You are just in nice time, Mr.
Middleton, to get your cup of tea at its best." And Miss Brooke busied
herself cutting up a big lemon into thin slices at a little table that
was laid with a pretty Japanese tea-set.

"Lisa's tea is quite wonderful," chimed in Mrs. Potter. "I always spoil
mine--I can never quite tell when the water boils. That's my pet
stupidity."

For a moment Paul watched the artistic copper kettle as it sang its
pleasant song. Mrs. Potter already struck him as an obviously cheerful
personality, and he felt absurdly grateful to her for mentioning Miss
Brooke's first name. He had not yet given up Mrs. Brooke, expecting her
to enter the room very soon now; and he found it hard not to fix his
gaze noticeably on the bed, half-surprised that everybody else ignored
it, seeming totally unconscious that any such piece of furniture was
there at all.

Mr. Pemberton took little part in the somewhat banal but good-humoured
conversation that now sprang up, but drummed idly with his fingers on
the settee on which he was lounging. Now and again a monosyllabic drawl
fell languidly from him, and Paul read into this demeanour annoyance at
his presence.

Mrs. Potter, he soon learnt--for the lady was loquacious--was a widow
and a journalist on a three months' stay in Europe, of which she was
passing a month in London, endeavouring to make as much copy out of it
as possible. She related with glee, and without any apparent qualms of
conscience, how she had "fixed up" accounts of various great society
functions, writing her copy in the first person.

"Lisa is so good and helpful to me. I impose on her dreadfully. I should
never have been able to get them fixed up without her. And then her
spelling is so perfect--she runs over my copy and puts it right in a
jiffy."

"Lemon or cream, Mr. Middleton, please?" asked Miss Brooke. "Two lumps
of sugar or one? What, none at all! Oh, yes, everybody thinks these cups
sweetly pretty. I'm taking them home with me as a souvenir."

"What shall I do without you in Paris?" broke in Mrs. Potter again. "I
shall be lost there. Can't I coax you to come back with me, Lisa dear?"

"Can't disappoint poppa," said Miss Brooke laconically.

"You'll have me to come to," drawled Mr. Pemberton.

"You'll be handy for some things, but your spelling's worse than mine,"
said Mrs. Potter; and somewhat irrelevantly went on to suppose that Paul
must know Paris well.

Paul, alas! had only two visits to boast of, one of a week's, the other
of two weeks' duration, both in the company of his mother. Whereupon a
sound, as of a suppressed snigger, came from the direction of Pemberton.

Something like the truth had begun to dawn on Paul's mind, and he knew
better now than to continue to expect Mrs. Brooke to appear. He had
sufficiently gathered from the conversation that Miss Brooke was on her
way home from Paris to America, and that she was going to travel alone,
and had taken London _en route_, probably armed with letters of
introduction. Most likely, he argued, she must have considered the one
room sufficient for her needs, and had not anticipated callers. Or
perhaps Americans, for all he knew, did not mind receiving callers in a
bedroom. This, he concluded, was probably the case, as no one seemed in
the least _gêné_, despite that the bed was such a palpable fact, and
stood there in massive unblushingness. Otherwise an atmosphere of
feminine daintiness seemed to surround Miss Brooke, transforming even
this lodging-house bedroom.

However, he did not grasp the facts without an almost overwhelming sense
of pain.

His romance had been rudely shattered at one blast, and he felt his
breath draw heavily when he first comprehended Miss Brooke was on the
point of leaving London. A sense of helplessness came upon him as he
realised he could do nothing but just get through with his call. There
seemed not the slightest chance now of his telling her about the career
he purposed for himself. He had dreamed, too, of her showing him her
verses, perhaps some of her sketches. But the presence of the others
stood in the way. He would have liked to hate them both, but being
forced to like Mrs. Potter, he had to bestow a double amount of dislike
on Mr. Pemberton, which he was very glad to do. And then he wanted to
know the exact relation between Mr. Pemberton and Miss Brooke. From a
hint the "fellow" had dropped, it was clear he lived in Paris--where
Miss Brooke had been living. Was he a relative? Who was he? Why was he
in London? How came he to be at Mrs. Saxon's dance? For a moment Paul
thought of asking Mrs. Saxon about him, and also about Miss Brooke, but
he put the idea from him as underhand and unworthy.

Meanwhile the conversation went on, pleasant and banal. Mrs. Potter
deluged Paul with questions about the London season and English painters
and the Academy. She narrated the comicalities of her shopping
expeditions, various little misadventures that had arisen from the
different usage of everyday words by the two nations. By imperceptible
stages along a tortuous and varied route they drifted on to the subject
of love, and Mrs. Potter, still keeping the talk almost all to herself,
related several touching romances of her friends' lives. Once or twice
Paul's gloom was lightened by the smile of Miss Brooke that met his look
each time he turned his face towards her. A lien, invisible to the
others, seemed to be established between them.

At length Mrs. Potter, drawing Mr. Pemberton's attention to the hour,
rose to go, and the two left together. Despite some mad idea of
declaring himself to Miss Brooke there and then, which had occurred to
him, Paul had also risen, but to his astonishment Miss Brooke drew her
chair closer to the fire, and motioned him to take a seat in the
opposite chimney corner. He obeyed as if hypnotised. "What would my
mother think of this?" he asked himself, and awaited developments. As
for Miss Brooke, at no moment did she seem aware of the slightest
unconventionality in the situation.

"Katharine is so sweet," she began thoughtfully. "You can't imagine how
pleased I was when she wrote she was coming. Charlie is piloting her
about a little. He is so good-natured."

"Charlie is, I presume, Mr. Pemberton."

"Why, of course. And he'll be of so much use to her in Paris. He has a
studio there. But I hope she won't fall in love with him," she added
laughingly. "Katharine is so romantic; she is always in love with some
man or other."

Though he knew as a general biological fact that women fall in love with
men, Paul, despite all the love-stories he had read, had never yet been
able to grasp it and admit it to himself as a fact of actual life.
Somehow, he had always felt that the onus of falling in love and of
courtship rested on men, and that it was very good and condescending of
women to allow themselves to be loved at all. But Miss Brooke's way of
talking seemed to take it for granted that it was a perfectly natural
and proper thing for a woman to be in love, that romance was a thing a
woman might own to without any shame; making him realise more distinctly
than ever before that women were not so entirely passive and
passionless. But all this he rather felt than thought, and it did not
interfere with the sentence that was on the tip of his tongue; the
outcome of his sense of disappointment and desolation at her threatened
departure out of his life, which was only mitigated by the reflection
that Pemberton was being left behind.

"And now you are going home!"

The words were obviously equivalent to a sigh of regret.

"But not for good, I hope," said Miss Brooke; and Paul's universe
changed at once into a wonderful enchanted garden. "Of course, it will
be very nice to be at home with poppa and mamma again, but I should not
be leaving Paris from choice. I was making such progress at school that
my professor was quite angry I couldn't stay. But perhaps I shall be
back in a year's time. I certainly shall if everything goes well."

"I do hope it's nothing serious that calls you away, and that keeps you
from your studies so long a time," exclaimed Paul fervently.

"From my point of view it's certainly serious," smiled Miss Brooke,
good-humouredly. "As I've already tried to make you believe, I am a very
greedy person, with a fondness for dollars, and the whole trouble is
that they keep out of reach. Poor hardworked poppa can't send me any
more money just now, but he'll be getting a bigger salary next year, and
I shall be able to go back and paint a masterpiece for the Salon. In the
meanwhile I shall have to amuse myself as best I can sketching about the
place, and watching poppa getting through big batches of couples. He's a
minister--you know the cloth's hereditary in our family--and marries off
people wholesale."

Till that moment Miss Brooke had been the railway king's daughter. For
Paul to find now that she was a comparatively poor girl, whose anxiety
to earn money by making her mark in art was no mere jesting pretence,
involved a complete readjustment of his mental focus. But its
instantaneity made the operation a violent one, especially as he strove
hard not to exhibit any external signs of discomposure. At the same time
a good deal that had bewildered him was explained, though there were
points yet on which he needed enlightenment. And with all his
astonishment went an unbounded admiration for the cheerful way in which
she accepted her position, the lover's keen lookout for every scrap of
virtue in the beloved seizing on this greedily for commendation. What a
splendid, plucky girl she was! The glamour of his romance was
heightened. Mere millionaires and all that appertained to them seemed
suddenly prosaic.

Into what a bizarre misconception had he fallen! She herself was not to
blame. If his mind had not been clogged up by what Thorn had told him
beforehand he would not so persistently have misunderstood her
references to money; but how should he have thought of challenging what
he knew only now to have been a mere speculative rumour? There had been
nothing in her appearance and personality to belie that rumour, and, as
obviously she was not called upon to contradict statements about herself
she had never heard, such manifestations of the truth as had since
become visible to him had only served to mystify him.

The way, too, she had taken certain things for granted as perfectly
natural and proper, somewhat astonished him, to wit, her inviting him to
call here, her reception of him in a bedroom, and his presence alone
with her now. These facts contravened the ideas in which he had been
brought up, and he could only suppose that American ideas probably
differed from English. This surmise seemed, on the whole, corroborated
by the glimpse he had had that day into the spirit of the American
independent woman--a type entirely new to him--as exemplified both by
Mrs. Potter and Miss Brooke.

He asked how soon she was leaving, and learnt she was sailing on the
Saturday, so that barely two days of London remained to her. He did not
like the idea at all, as he had formed the hope he might somehow see her
again before her departure.

"My berth is taken," explained Miss Brooke, perhaps amused by his
evident discontent. "Some boxes have gone on. Besides, I could not stay
here any longer. Dollars are getting scarce. I'm going to have some more
tea--won't you join me?"

"Willingly." He wanted to stay longer, and tea, by filling the time
plausibly, would help to lessen his constraint at the original position
in which he found himself.

"I am so pleased you were able to call!" went on Miss Brooke, as she
poured out the beverage. "You haven't forgotten your promise to tell me
all about your work--and your Utopia as well," she added, smiling, and
handing him his cup.

Her sweetness as she spoke enchanted him. When he himself had been
hesitating on the brink of the chasm, with what ease had she taken him
across it at one leap! Soon he found himself telling her how he had come
to abandon his father's ideas and plan out his life his own way, with as
much emotion as if he were relating his inmost secrets to an affianced
wife. And certainly no affianced wife could have listened with a graver
attention, or more sympathetic demeanour.

"Has it ever occurred to you to study architecture at Paris?" she asked.
"The Beaux Art School is, I think, one of the finest in the world, and
you could scarcely get a more artistic atmosphere."

The effect of her remark was as that of an electric spark that fuses
many elements into one new whole. He was conscious of a struggling
chaotic mass of thought, followed by a clear perception of the
conditions of his existence in all its bearings. And in a flash he had
made up his mind to plunge into the delicious indefiniteness of what
offered itself. A soft purple haze floated before him as in a dream, and
an odour of incense and a harmony of sweet sounds seemed to steal upon
him. And the haze, parting a moment, allowed him a glimpse of a magic
city in its depths. And in that city, he knew, were "Lisa" and himself.

That was to be the future! The awakening of the man in him was complete.
By an abrupt mastercoup he would wrench himself away from the
influences that had well-nigh reduced him to a puppet. His reply to Miss
Brooke now would be the beginning of the necessary forward impulse.

"The idea has not come to me, though, of course, I should have had to
consider the question of a formal course before very long. But I like
the suggestion very much."

"Lots of the boys take the course there," added Miss Brooke. "There are,
of course, many more American than English boys, but you'll find them
all a sociable set."

He asked for details about the student life, and Miss Brooke tried to
give him some notion of it. In this way quite half an hour slipped by,
during which Paul became worked up to a high pitch of enthusiasm and
took care to leave no doubt in Miss Brooke's mind that his decision was
finally taken.

"Charlie, too, might be useful to you," said Miss Brooke, as Paul rose
to take his leave. "I'm sure he'd be delighted to be of service to you.
And how nice, too, if we were to meet there again! Perhaps we shall."

Her face gleamed as with the pleasure of anticipation.

"I shall always bear the hope with me," said Paul gravely; and, wishing
her a pleasant crossing, he bade her "good-bye."

"Let us say '_Au revoir_' rather," and once again she pressed his hand,
which was more than he had dared hope for.

But what had "Charlie" to do with Miss Brooke? he asked himself a
thousand times that evening.



CHAPTER IV.


A MONTH later--about the beginning of June--Paul had entered the École
des Beaux Arts as a student of architecture. Not to have succeeded in
tearing himself away would have been to lose all self-respect. He had
determined to justify himself to himself, to prove he had a will he need
not be ashamed of. Thus it was that his astonished mother and a
favourite uncle--Celia's guardian--who both had a good deal to say about
Paris and its temptations, expended their speech to no purpose.

Paul entered into his student life with zest, working hard and
conscientiously in a very methodical fashion. He allowed himself,
however, plenty of time for enjoying the city; going to the theatres,
and peeping into all the show places, and hunting up curios at old
shops, and lounging and playing billiards at the cafés, and drinking
beer _al fresco_ on the boulevards. Occasionally he rode in the Bois, or
made excursions up and down the Seine, and into the neighbouring
country--mostly, of course, in company, for he soon struck acquaintance
with some of the men, many of whom he found had to manage on very little
money. So he said nothing about his own easy circumstances, rather
enjoying the two-franc seat at the theatre and the fifteen-centime ride
on the tops of tramcars. When he wanted expensive amusement he went
alone.

No one he knew had so far mentioned Miss Brooke's name, and though he
was often on the point of asking one or other of his new friends about
her, some instinct invariably restrained him. He had nurtured his love
for her, all his solitary thought turning to her, and it seemed a sort
of sacrilege to make even the most innocent inquiry about her in her
absence. This waiting for her in silence was part of the romance.

He understood the American girl a little better now, fellow-students
having introduced him to girl friends--that is to say, he was better
acquainted with her and her ways. And he was satisfied that whatever
appeared right to Miss Brooke, no matter how much it violated his own
notions, must be right absolutely. With her the fact of riches or
poverty was reduced to a mere indifferent background, against which her
personality stood out in all its charm and dignity. A girl like her
could make her home in one room, and yet make you welcome in it with as
much ease and grace as any lady in a fine drawing-room.

Time passed, and still nobody, by any chance, referred to Miss Brooke.
This was not surprising, for Paris was large, and American girl students
were plentiful and scattered all over it. Moreover, a girl who had gone
home months before was likely to be soon forgotten. Pemberton he had
never met, but he had seen him just once from the top of a tramcar. The
hot weather came on and Paul passed a delicious month at Montmorency in
company with one of the men. After his return he settled to work again,
and the months went by almost without his keeping count of them--for,
Miss Brooke having mentioned a year as the time she was likely to remain
in America, he would not look for her till the spring came on again. In
the meanwhile he inflicted much misery on himself by speculating as to
whether home and home ties might not have absorbed for good so ideal and
affectionate a girl as he conceived her to be, especially after so long
a residence abroad. But deep down was implanted in him an unswerving
faith in her coming, and, though the manner of their meeting had been
left so undefined, he was certain there would be no difficulty when the
time came, and that his life after that would be one long fairy tale.

The spring came at last, and with it _vernissage_ at the Salon. Paul
knew one or two men who were exhibiting, so he decided to pass his
afternoon at the Palais de l'Industrie. The tens of thousands that
thronged the galleries made picture-inspection difficult and tedious;
but the crowd itself presented many compensating features of interest.
Paul was hoping, too, he might see Miss Brooke there, as it was not
impossible she might by now be back in Paris. Occasionally he fancied a
girl resembled Miss Brooke, but when, after infinite striving, he had
got close to his quarry, he found the points of likeness were but few.
Once or twice the fair one eluded his pursuit, and got irretrievably
swallowed up.

On his going to _déjeuner_ the next day, at a little restaurant close by
the school, where he was in the habit of dropping in at mid-day--he
dined in the evening in state at a more pretentious establishment--there
sat Miss Brooke herself at a table at the end of the room, her face
towards the door. None of the usual clients had yet arrived, as it was a
trifle early, and _mademoiselle_ was distributing the newly-written
menus among the various tables. In any case he must have caught sight of
her at once, as the cluster of sharp red and black wings that shot up
from one side of the little toque, which just seemed to rest on her
hair, drew the eye at once. Her face showed glowing and bright, set
above the dark mass of her stuff dress. As the door swung to she looked
up from the menu she had been studying.

"How do you do, Mr. Middleton? You seem real scared to see me."

Her greeting seemed as calm and laughing as if they had but parted the
day before, and Paul felt some vague dissatisfaction with it--he did not
quite know why. It seemed, somehow, as if there were no romance between
them at all, as if they were the merest acquaintances. Perhaps it was
that the pent-up emotion of months of waiting needed more dramatic
expression than this commonplace situation afforded.

He asked permission, and sat down opposite her, scarcely knowing what
to say to her first.

"Can you tell me whether _cervelle de veau_ is anything good to eat?
It's the only unfamiliar thing on the menu, and my only hope."

He took the sheet of paper as she held it to him, but found the dish was
equally unknown to him. They appealed to _mademoiselle_, who informed
them, "_C'est dans la tête._"

"I wonder if she means 'brains.' I was hoping not to have to translate
_cervelle_ literally."

"I am not afraid of experimenting," suggested Paul.

"For my benefit. That is real kind of you. Whenever I've been curious
about things with strange names, I've always had to order them, which is
rather an expensive way of increasing one's French vocabulary."

When the dish came, neither Paul nor Miss Brooke liked the curly look of
it, so they fell back on _bifteck_, salad, cheese, and fruit.

"And so you are here after all," said Miss Brooke, musingly.

"Why? Did you think I was not serious about coming?"

"I didn't mean that. My expression was a sort of acknowledgment to
myself that I had found you--or rather, to be proper, that you had found
me."

His heart fairly leaped with pleasure. She had certainly then thought of
him during the past months!

"I must thank the happy chance that led you in here," he murmured,
feeling his emotion at length control him.

"Happy chance!" She charmed his ear with a ripple of laughter. "Why,
I've exhausted almost every restaurant near the Beaux Arts, that being
the most feminine way of pursuing you. The mathematical theory of
probability--college learning _does_ prove useful at times--told me the
happening of the event, that is, of the event I wanted to happen, was a
certainty. For some particular restaurant or other is a habit which
everybody contracts; it is, indeed, the first vice one picks up in
Paris. And it's a habit that can't be broken. Day after day you
revolt--if you're a man, you swear--against the _cuisine_. Things are
becoming intolerable. Time was when everything was perfect, when the
menu was varied, and always included your favourite dishes; when one
could eat the salad without too close an inspection of the under-side of
the leaves, and when the wine at eighty centimes a litre didn't turn
blue or taste like ink. To-day is, most certainly, the last time you
will ever set foot in the place. But the morrow comes, and at _déjeuner_
time your feet bear you there again, and you are so meek about it that
you scarcely protest."

"That is just my experience," he confessed.

"I was sure it would be. That is what enabled me to calculate so
infallibly. You see I speak my thoughts quite unashamed. Paris makes one
so frightfully immodest."

"I'm glad, then, I didn't take it into my head to apply the same method
in my search for you. Not only would it have upset your mathematics,
but, having no particular landmark, I might have wandered on forever.
All the same, I have kept my eyes open. In fact, I was hoping to see you
yesterday at _vernissage_."

"Were you there?" she exclaimed. "What a silly question!" she added
immediately, laughing. "What I meant to say was _I_ was there. But, of
course, it was quite impossible to find any one in such a crowd." Paul
noticed with pleasure that the conversation on both sides assumed the
fact of a positive rendezvous between them. Miss Brooke went on to
chatter about the _vernissage_.

"I see this morning's _Herald_ puts us down as a low lot. Its reporter
must be very _exigeant_. In spite of our presence he insists the models
gave the _ton_ to the assembly."

"Were there many models present?" asked Paul. "I don't remember seeing
any."

"There were quite enough of them to be noticeable. Perhaps you thought
they were all countesses."

"I did have some such idea," he admitted. "I didn't know models dressed
like countesses."

"They do when their artists take them to _vernissage_. Which affords
food for reflection."

Paul felt slightly embarrassed and did not answer.

"And now," resumed Miss Brooke, contemplating her _coeur à la crême_,
"if I may venture to intrude on your reflections, will you please pass
me the sugar?"

"Is it long since you returned?" he inquired soon. "I was going to ask
you before, only the _cervelle_ puzzle arose and somehow I forgot."

"Just three weeks," she replied. "Poppa had his bigger salary, and as it
was getting tedious seeing couples married I made haste to come over
again. You can't imagine how impatient I was to get back in time for
_vernissage_. It gives such a fillip to your ambitions to see crowds
round your friends' pictures, and to read about them in the papers; it
makes you realise your own powers, and sets you wondering why _you_
hadn't dared to send something in. When you are tired of lamenting your
folly you begin to admire your modesty, and of course you remember that
modesty is the mark of true genius."

"And you had all those thoughts?"

"Oh, no! They are the thoughts I should have had if I hadn't been busy
admiring the dresses. The pictures must wait--I shall be going again to
see those, perhaps two or three times. Most students do. One is supposed
to learn from them, but in practice one only criticises. The boys say
everything is rotten. We girls pretend to agree with them, only, of
course, it wouldn't be proper to express our opinion as violently as
that. Do you dine here as well?"

"I dine as the whim takes me. You see I haven't yet acquired a habit for
evening wear. Not every Bohemian can make that boast."

Miss Brooke laughed. "Bohemians mostly acquire bad habits for evening
wear. But I'm going to cut Bohemianism altogether so far as my meals are
concerned, and settle down in a _pension_. Two or three of the girls
live there, and they report well of it. I also made friends while
crossing with a girl who was being consigned there."

He asked whether she had had a good crossing, and whether she were a
good sailor. Miss Brooke replied that the weather had been perfect the
whole way and she had enjoyed herself, and she proceeded to entertain
him by relating incidents of the passage. Meanwhile the little
restaurant had filled, and was nearly empty again. They rose at last and
settled their _additions_. Paul then noticed that Miss Brooke had her
painting materials with her, and insisted on carrying them so far as her
school. They stepped out into the sunshine, and became aware how fine a
day it was.

"The afternoon almost tempts me to cut the Beaux Arts," said Paul.

"By the way, how are you getting on there?" asked Miss Brooke.

He was only too eager to tell her of his progress, and to discuss his
chances of a medal. He also gave her an account of the new friends he
had made--he liked the American "boys" very much, was indebted to them
for endless kindnesses.

"Why didn't you look up Charlie?" she asked suddenly.

"How could I?" he asked, annoyed at the mention of the man's name,
reminding him, as it did, of the apparent and inexplicable intimacy
between the two, and also telling him they must already have seen each
other.

"You could easily have found him if you had inquired among the boys. He
lives in his studio and he has scarcely left it the whole time I've been
away. By the way, you remember Katharine, don't you? She's married
again. To her editor this time. This is my school."

They came to a standstill and faced each other to say "good-bye."

"I scarcely feel like working this afternoon," observed Miss Brooke. "My
laziness really overpowers my ambition. Did you not say something
before, Mr. Middleton, about your being tempted to cut the Beaux Arts?
Do be nice and yield to that temptation. I want to give way to mine so
badly, but being a woman I daren't do anything unless somebody else is
doing it at the same time."

Paul's fibres of resistance did not relax gradually; they collapsed all
at once.

"Well," he laughed. "I've been so good all along, I think I've earned
the right to play truant for once."

"Mr. Middleton! That's bringing morality into it again, and I wanted to
indulge in undiluted wickedness. You have to carry my box as I'm
sufficiently occupied in holding up my skirts. I'll give you some tea
afterwards as a reward."

They strolled slowly in the sunshine, making for the river and crossing
by the Pont des Arts; and passed through the Jardins des Tuileries,
where the freshness of the greens, and the playing fountains, and the
leafy trees, and the pretty children, and the odour of lilac proclaimed
the spring. They sauntered across the Place de la Concorde and into the
shady avenues of the Champs Elysées, where huge spots of sunlight
freckled the ground; talking the while of the life of the city, of the
foreign elements, of the Old and New Salons. Miss Brooke explained how
her own day was spent. Seven o'clock in the morning found her punctually
at school, and she worked two hours before taking her _café au lait_,
afterwards continuing till midday. In the afternoon she usually copied
and studied at the Louvre or Luxembourg. Such had been the routine of
her work before, and she had had no difficulty in falling into it again.
She could not hope to exhibit even next year, as she could neither
afford a studio nor the expense of models. At the present she was living
with some friends at their _appartement_ in the Avenue de Wagram. After
their departure at the end of May she would enter into the _pension_,
which was within a stone's throw of her school.

Paul, eagerly listening to all these details, was only conscious in a
far-off way of the eternal roll of smart carriages in the roadway, or of
the multitude of children playing under the trees in charge of _bonnes_,
whilst the mammas sat about on chairs, chatting, or with books or
needlework. Onward the pair strolled past the Arc de Triomphe and down
the great Avenue into the Bois de Boulogne, only stopping to rest by the
laughing lake. Here the appeal of the water and the moored boats soon
became irresistible. They fleeted the remainder of the afternoon
ideally, till Miss Brooke announced it was time to repair to the Avenue
de Wagram. Paul was afraid of her friends--he was scarcely presentable.

"Be calm, my friend," she reassured him. "We shall have a nice little
tea all to ourselves. The others have gone to Versailles and are only
coming back in time to dine. We dine _chez nous_, as we have a _bonne_
who cooks. Of course I can't be in to _déjeuner_, as the distance is too
great from my school. You must come one evening and I'll present you."

He thanked her for the suggestion, glad to welcome every arrangement
that promised in any way to throw their lives together, for he had been
not a little afraid he might not after all have the opportunity of
seeing very much of her.

As Miss Brooke made the tea in the pretty drawing room of the cosy flat,
Paul began to realise with surprise how much progress their friendship
had made in that one day. His dream had turned out true! He was so happy
that the consciousness of all but the moment faded from him. London, his
mother, Celia, and even chess were for the time absolutely non-existent.
"Charlie," too, was forgotten, as the obnoxious name had not again
dropped from Miss Brooke's lips.

He took his leave at last, filled with joy by Miss Brooke's promise to
run in on the morrow to _déjeuner_ at the same little restaurant. But as
he turned from the broad stairway into the hall, he almost collided in
his pre-occupation with a tall well-dressed man. Both murmured
"_Pardon!_" and pursued their ways. Paul had seen the other's face, but
he had taken several steps forward before the features sank into his
brain, and he realised with a great shock they were those of "Charlie."



CHAPTER V.


HOWEVER, Miss Brooke said nothing to him about Charlie in the days that
followed, though he saw her often. Without it being specially mentioned
again, it was somehow understood they were, for the present, to meet at
mid-day at the little restaurant, and, moreover, she allowed him to take
her several times to the two Salons. He might easily have dragged in
references to Pemberton, but he felt it would not be right to do so for
the mere purpose of discovering what it would have been an impertinence
to demand outright.

And the more his _camaraderie_ with Miss Brooke became an established
fact, the more did this question of Charlie disturb him. He had
discovered by this time that a harmless friendship between a man and a
girl was by no means unusual among the students and was not necessarily
assumed to imply matrimonial intentions. He knew, moreover, that such
friendships grew rapidly on this soil where the English-speaking
students gravitated together during the years of their voluntary exile.
But, if this thought pacified him as to Miss Brooke and Charlie, the
very pacification carried with it a sting. For it led to the further
tormenting suspicion that Miss Brooke did not take the relationship
between her and himself as seriously as he would have liked her to. Her
conduct and bearing towards him were all he could wish, yet he seemed to
feel behind them a stern limit to the intimacy, a barrier, as it were,
that might bear on its face: "I am put here by way of giving you a
reminder you are not to make any mistakes as to the extent of your
rights over this property."

Sometimes, indeed, in envisaging the position, he came to the conclusion
that this was entirely due to his own imagination and that he might
safely ask her to share his life. But at that point uncertainty would
rise again, warning him that to make any such impulsive proposition just
then might be to jeopardise the future of his romance. The remembrance
of the distress caused him by his effort to determine the precise degree
of Celia's claim on him by reason of his having engaged her for five
dances in the same evening intruded in grotesque contrast now that he
was endeavouring to determine the precise degree of his claim on Miss
Brooke.

Despite these prickings, and despite Charlie, sweetness predominated in
his life. He felt untrammelled and unwatched over, recalling with a
shudder the old strands that had tethered him. Though he wrote regularly
to his mother, whom he had seen twice last autumn, on her way southward
and on her return, all reference to Miss Brooke was excluded from his
letters. He would not discuss his relation to her with anybody else,
foreseeing that would only lead to a deal of useless and perhaps endless
talk.

After Miss Brooke had moved to the _pension_, where she had arranged to
take all her meals, he no longer saw her every day. But it was
understood he could take his chance of finding her at home whenever he
chose to call in the evenings. She generally received him in her little
oblong sitting-room on the second floor, that opened out on a pleasant
balcony, overlooking the street. He soon grew to love this room, to the
decorations of which she had added a huge Japanese umbrella, which hung
from the ceiling, and two Japanese lights, and a piece of Oriental
tapestry, besides her personal nicknacks. Paul's usual lounging-place,
whilst Miss Brooke gave him his after-dinner coffee, was an old
cretonne-covered ottoman, on which a broken spring made a curious hump,
and over his head were suspended some book-shelves. Now and again he
would find other callers, of both sexes, for Miss Brooke was "at home"
once a week to all her friends. Of course, Paul did not abuse his
privilege, but firmly restricted the number of his visits. Occasionally,
too, he had the happiness of taking her to dine at some one or other of
the great cafés on the Grands Boulevards, and they would stroll back
together along the river bank, enchanted by the wonderful nocturnes. On
Sunday sometimes, they would make an excursion beyond the
fortifications to some rural spot, she taking her paint-box and
sketching lazily whilst they talked; and if, on rare afternoons, he left
his work, and looked in at the Luxembourg to find her deftly plying her
brush in her big blue coarse linen apron, with its capacious pockets,
she seemed by no means displeased.

Every legitimate topic was talked over between them. He had long since
exhausted the theme of his own life, that is, he had told it so far as
he cared to tell it. Celia, for one thing, did not appear in it, and
there were one or two little matters he was especially careful to
suppress. He felt vaguely saint-like, when, in the course of this
judicious selection from his biography, he arrived at his slumming
experiences, and hinted at his charities, which were being continued
during his absence. Miss Brooke repaid the confidence in kind, enabling
him, by her various reminiscences, to reconstruct a fairly continuous
account of her existence, which, it never struck him, might also be
selected.

They drifted, too, into the realm of ideas, exchanging their notions
on--among other things--love and platonic friendship. They discussed the
last-mentioned phenomenon in great detail, Paul, aflame with
self-consciousness, but quite unable to pierce beneath the sphinx-like
demeanour with which Miss Brooke made her impartial and freezingly
impersonal statements. From ideas they passed on to the consideration of
conduct and how it should be determined under divers subtle conditions.

"Yes, but don't you really think that one _ought_ to listen to such an
appeal _if_....," she would gravely interpose with her sweet voice as
her brush made sensuous strokes on the canvas. And Paul became more and
more impressed with the nobility of her soul, and strove likewise--as
was but natural in the circumstances--to impress her with the nobility
of his. He usually felt ethically perfect after such conversations, and,
had the occasion immediately arisen, it would have found him equal to
acting along the lines of the "ought" laid down by Miss Brooke. He
imagined that he certainly was receiving endless benefit from this
threshing out of things with a quick and sympathetic personality.

So ran by a couple of months, "Charlie" continuing to be the chief cause
of disturbance in Paul's existence. The two men had by now met several
times at Miss Brooke's, had saluted civilly, but had little to say to
each other. Paul felt sure his hatred was returned, and neither showed
the least disposition to become better acquainted. Neither asked the
other to dine or drink, or play billiards, or even to walk with him,
and if rarely they passed in the street a nod was all they exchanged.
The lines of their lives occasionally met in a point, but never ran
together.

The enmity between them only became irksome when no others were present,
but never did Miss Brooke herself manifest the least suspicion of it.
Whatever the relation between Miss Brooke and Pemberton, it never seemed
to interfere in practice with the relation between Miss Brooke and
himself. She alluded to "Charlie" in her talk much more freely than
heretofore, but always apropos, always impersonally, just as she might
casually mention Katharine, who was so happy now. Charlie had such and
such a habit, such and such a way of looking at things, such and such
ideas of art.

But Paul's jealousy grew till he became well-nigh intolerable to
himself. It made him resort to underhand watchings, from the mere
thought of which, in saner moments, he shrank with shame and remorse.
But he had thus ascertained that Charlie was, if anything, a more
frequent visitor than himself, and had less scruples in the matter of
standing on ceremony.



CHAPTER VI.


ONE night Paul was at the Opera when he caught sight of Miss Brooke and
Pemberton with her. His evening was spoilt and he left at once. He felt
both angry and hurt, for he had seen her for a few minutes in the
afternoon, and she had said nothing about her plans for the evening
beyond warning him it was highly probable she might not be at home.

The climax had come. He was determined that things should not continue
as they were. If Miss Brooke simply regarded their connection as a mere
students' companionship, agreeable to both parties but strictly
temporary, then he must end it immediately. Miss Brooke must at once be
made aware of what this friendship meant to him. What he had so far
deemed inexpedient seemed to him the only expediency--to stake all on
one coup.

In the stress of the crisis the prejudices that were his by inheritance
and teaching, and that his new life had caused to slumber, asserted
themselves again, crying aloud against these friendships. Miss Brooke
ought never to have expected him to be proof against that sort of thing,
of which he had never had experience. Pemberton might be able and
content to flutter round without hurt, but he himself had been a lost
man from the beginning.

It soothed him to map out the future as he wished it to be, and all
seemed so natural and reasonable that, if she cared for him in the
least, she could not but admit his views on every point. He felt himself
filled with an infinite longing, an infinite tenderness. He would
surround her with his love so that escape from it should be impossible.
It should permeate every fibre of her being, and she should in the end
come to him and give up everything to fulfil the duties of a wife,
presiding over his household, absorbing herself in his career, and
giving all her thought to the unity their two lives would constitute. Of
course, she could paint in such time as was left to her, and any glory
she might achieve would redound to the credit of his name. Still when a
woman had once become a wife, he argued, her ambition generally faded.
Wifehood was absorbing. Greater glory than that of being a perfect wife
there could not be.

A few days later, when his emotion had somewhat calmed down, and he
could trust himself sufficiently to see her, he called at the _pension_,
but, as had happened occasionally from the beginning, he did not find
her at home. So the next morning he sent her a great heterogeneous mass
of flowers with the half-jesting, half-reproachful hope they might meet
with better fortune than he. Whereupon he immediately received a letter
explaining she had passed the previous evening with some very nice
people in the Avenue Kléber, and announcing her intention of taking him
there on the morrow. Would he dine early and call for her? She thanked
him for the flowers in a postscript, saying they had transformed her
room into a veritable bower.

At the time appointed he climbed the well-known two flights of stairs
and the _bonne_ showed him into the little room, saying _mademoiselle_
would join him "in a little minute." Several big minutes passed, and
then the door-hanging was pushed aside and Miss Brooke stood smiling at
him. She had always appealed to his æsthetic side, giving him the sense
of contemplating an exquisite piece of art-work; but the particular
impression he had to-night differed from all previous ones. Her figure
seemed slenderer in its black net evening dress, covered with bead-work
that glistened with a wonderful shading of green into blue and blue into
green. Above the turquoise-blue velvet trimming of the bodice, her long
neck made a dazzling whiteness, and her face looked pink and babyish,
whilst her curls lay about with just a shade more severity than usual.
She wore a necklace of turquoises set in antique gold, and in her hair
was a big gold comb inset with the same stones, irregularly cut. The
note of colour thus given made her blue eyes appear like two large
jewels amid the constellation. Paul told himself he had never realised
before _how_ beautiful those eyes were. The lightly-parted lips
intensified the babyishness, so that she ceased to be the independent,
self-willed girl, fitting in rather with that other conception he had
lingered on as the ideal she might develop into as his wife--a woman
clinging to her husband and glad of his strength.

He was sure he saw her now as she really was. The conditions of her life
were alone to blame for forcing on her the necessity of a career.
Woman's true sphere was the home. An outside existence subjected to
hardening influences a delicate soul whose very nature was to thirst for
tender nurture and love. Such had always been his mother's conviction;
such was his fervent belief. The association of Miss Brooke with
money-earning seemed an ugly blot on the universe.

There seemed, too, a tenderer, more intimate quality in her voice, and a
sort of clinging in her touch as she went down the stairway with her
hand on his arm. That forbidding barrier of which he had always been
conscious had vanished!

"It's the McCook's last 'At-Home,'" she explained, as the _voiture_
began to move. "They are such nice people--I'm sure you'll like them.
Dora's an old college chum of mine, and she's asked me to stay with her
to-night. Dora and I chat such a deal when we get together, and we
always enjoy sitting up nice and quiet by ourselves after everybody else
has gone. I told her you would escort me home, but she seemed quite
shocked at the idea. As if you haven't escorted me back from the
theatre! Dora has become quite conventional since her marriage. She used
to argue with her mother and do pretty well as she liked not so very
long ago. Now I believe her mother shocks her sometimes. She's leaving
with her husband in a few days for Perros-Guirec, and they're going to
take me with them."

Her words rang with a childlike joy. He asked where Perros-Guirec was in
a voice that was somewhat desolate at the prospect of losing her.

"It's in Brittany--a whole day's journey from Paris. I was there two
years ago, and sketched most of the time. Everybody is thinking of
leaving now, the heat will soon be getting unbearable. The Grand Prix
has been run, the Battle of Flowers has been fought, and the Allée de
Longchamps is deserted. All the smart people are in _villégiature_. How
nice is the evening after the sultry day!"

They were passing through the Boulevard St. Germain. Miss Brooke was
sitting just close enough to Paul for them to touch with the swaying of
the carriage. He felt singularly happy. The hushed sounds of the city
over which the dusk hung mystic came to him like a soft sustained tone
of music; its lights gleamed in upon them with magic rays. He was
conscious of the great dark masses of palaces, of shadowy pedestrians
moving noiselessly on the side-paths. No fever in the air now, only a
far-reaching calm.

"The night makes one almost sorry to leave Paris," resumed Miss Brooke.
Her voice made the harmonies sweeter, blending them all into one perfect
harmony.

"But the breezes, and the woods, and the rye-fields, and the farm-houses
with their delicious old oak presses, and the kind-hearted people, and
the quaint children who love to watch you sketch and see you squeeze the
paint out of the tubes--the memory of all these things draws you back to
them. I long for Brittany almost as much as I once longed to leave
everything and everybody and be just myself--and by myself. It seems so
long ago now."

She had almost unconsciously moved closer to him now.

"Won't you tell me when that was--Lisa?"

It was the first time he had dared to call her by this name. In his
longing to utter it in articulate speech it had rushed to the tip of his
tongue.

"It was three years ago--before I came here. Every place had
associations that hurt me. I wanted to get away--to work, work, work. I
seemed to hate everybody. So I came here, and for months I thought I was
as hard as a stone. Then one day I found myself angry with a girl--a
fellow-student--and I was quite surprised to find I could feel at all.
And then I was suddenly glad I was a human being again."

Her voice melted away into the vast murmur of the soft-twinkling city.
Beyond the fact that he was selfishly glad she had had trouble--it
afforded him the exquisite pleasure of sympathy--there was no active
thought in him now, no estimation of the position. His soul alone
dominated; it had been moved to responsiveness and it now wrought out
its mood, subtly surrounding her, he felt, with its comfort.

They crossed the mysterious, glistening river, and came upon the myriad
flame-points of the Place de la Concorde. They turned into the Champs
Elysées betwixt woods enchanted by the sorcerer Night; catching glimpses
of palaces of light amid the trees whence melody came floating, mingled
with the incense of the summer.

"Won't you tell me, Lisa--that is, if you think you can trust me."

It was sweet to exercise the privilege of calling her "Lisa." He felt it
was his for always now.

"I know I can trust you, Paul. Would you really care to hear? Of course
you would," she continued quickly, giving him no time to reply. "What a
silly question for me to ask! Still there is little to tell! I loved a
man. We were to be married. His mind was poisoned against me by an
enemy. He was harsh and unjust. A few words sum all up. He is married to
another. A commonplace chapter, is it not? But to have lived through
it--to have lived through it!"

He grew dazed and white. "To have lived through it!" Those simple words
seemed to his comprehending mood athrob with the sobbing of great grief.

"But you do not love him now?" he breathed.

"No, no! All is over now. But I brooded and brooded and thought--the
experience made me a woman. Life is a serious thing to me now. I feel
better and stronger for what I have suffered. But the memory remains."

"You have nothing to reproach yourself with, Lisa. Surely there are
happier memories in store for you. It is for you but to shape the
future."

He longed for her impulsive "How?" and had his answer ready. It seemed a
strange thing, but this confession of a past love, this telling of a
great sorrow in her life, had wrought a spell upon him. His eyes were
full of tears. In that moment his love for her seemed to have increased
a thousandfold. The surprise with which the revelation had overwhelmed
him was lost in the rush of pity. She had suffered, and by his love he
would make everything up to her.

But now there came a sudden change, slight in its outward manifestation,
but felt by him like a chill blast, for his soul vibrated to hers,
registering every subtle shade of her mood. She did not speak
immediately, and he knew that moment of silence was fatal.

They had passed the round point of the Champs Elysées, and the woods and
gardens had ended. Only the giant _hôtels_ rose on either hand. There
seemed more carriages darting about now, a greater movement of life, a
general sense of disenchantment in the air, of an awakening from a dream
to the clattering reality of things. Paul realised that the spell was
broken.

Miss Brooke had turned her head for a moment to look through the window.

"We shall be there in two or three minutes now," she said, as a sort of
natural outcome of her ascertaining their exact whereabouts. "I am
afraid I must rather have depressed you. It is scarcely courteous to our
hostess for us to arrive in so gloomy a mood."

She gave a little laugh which set his every nerve a-tingle, so certainly
did its ring lack the appealing quality that had brought him so close
to her. It seemed to thrust him back abruptly and brutally.

"Tell me, Paul, haven't you ever had any love affairs?" she went on to
ask, and there was a suspicion of banter in her tone. "I've told you all
about my tragedy, now tell me about yours or all yours. I know we've
told each other all our lives before, but of course we both bowdlerized.
The most interesting parts have yet to be told."

As she had asked him a direct question he felt constrained to answer it.
He found himself considering whether his relation to Celia need count as
a love affair, but he was so convinced he had never been in love with
her at all that he decided he could leave her out without doing violence
to his conscience. Altogether there had been in his life two very minor
and foolish amourettes that might have became entanglements; one with a
barmaid when he was in the lawyer's office, some of the clerks having
persuaded him the girl "was gone on him," the other with a simple maiden
of sixteen, the daughter of a market gardener, which idyll had proceeded
at his father's country seat. Paul told the latter--it was a boyish
passion that had come to nothing and stood for nothing in his life; the
former he was ashamed of. "I proposed to her and gave her a mortal
fright. She was so scared she ran away. We were both shamefaced when we
met again, and my spurt of pluck was at an end. I dared not say another
word to her, and somehow we drifted out of being sweethearts. I was
barely nineteen at the time."

Miss Brooke laughed again heartily, but Paul only felt the gloomier.

"Tell me some more, please. You put me into quite a cheerful humour.
What was your next love affair?"

She had resumed her old militant badinage.

"There is nothing more in my biography that is likely to entertain you,"
he answered evasively.

"Is it so bad as that, Paul? I think you might tell me all the same. I'm
not easily shocked."

"You mistake me. I have told you all," he replied, driven to the lie
direct.

"Come, come, Mr. Paul. In a woman one might expect such a want of
candour. But suppose I tell you _my_ other affairs--will that encourage
you to tell me yours? Is it a bargain?"

"Your other affairs?" he repeated.

"Did you imagine I've had only one in my life? That's paying me a very
poor compliment. This is our destination."

"Why do you tease me, Lisa?" he asked, as they descended. He was
relieved that the drive had come to an end. It had been a trying time
for him. He wondered what it was all coming to? Just when the critical
moment had come she had practically inhibited him from speaking. She was
a strange, baffling girl, and he was helpless in her hands.

"I'm not teasing you, I simply want to finish my confessions. You must
dance three dances with me, and talk to me a lot after. Perhaps I shall
succeed in softening you and then you'll be more tractable. We dance
till midnight. After that we sup and converse till dawn. It seems there
are special complications and permissions for dancing and music in the
small hours, as one's neighbours above and below are apt to want to
sleep just then. Dora shirked the bother, especially as her French is so
weak and her husband's worse."

They went up the stairway and were warmly welcomed by Mrs. McCook. It
was a pleasant gathering of nice-looking men and pretty girls, but Paul
was only half alive to it. To him it was scarcely more than a mere
background for the further development of his drama. So far he took
these further love-affairs of Miss Brooke as the purest make-believe,
but all the same he was curiously uneasy and anxious to hear what she
had in mind to tell him.

When he could talk to her again, he could discover no trace in her
manner of her having lived through with him a supreme emotional moment.
The softness that had given him a glimpse of infinite love, and which he
had perhaps hoped might reveal itself again, was absent; in its place
the old niceness and the frank friendliness of comradeship, and with
them the old warning to him to stand back. She proceeded to give him
the promised account of her various lovers in a light, mocking mood.

"I began very early, much earlier than your simple country maiden. My
memories of childhood are rather hazy, but I should say I must have had
a lover before I was out of my cradle. But I was thirteen before my
heart was really moved. Since then I have been in love with so many men
that I really can't remember half of them. However, I'll try and pick
out those that affected me most seriously at the time. The first one was
really a very nice schoolboy. His idea of love-making was to feed me
incessantly with candy, which he did for a whole year till I fell a
victim to the charms of another boy. The two fought. Both emerged from
the combat with black eyes, which rather spoilt their beauty, and
therefore killed my interest in them. It required quite an heroic
effort, though, to refuse their offerings."

"And was this method of love-making as satisfying to them as it was to
you?" asked Paul, beginning to be confirmed in his supposition that Miss
Brooke was joking.

"Oh, we used to have clandestine meetings and we used to kiss, of
course. That made me rather tired of them. They wanted to be kissing the
whole time."

Paul had a momentary vertigo, though he professed by his manner to be
listening in the same spirit as Miss Brooke narrated.

"The first one was always a nice boy even when he grew up and was always
ready to fall in love with me again. But one fine day he got engaged,
wrote to tell me about it, and asked me to congratulate him. He married.
That finishes with him.

"The next interesting one was a college man. I was about sixteen then
and at the height of my musical ambition. He was musical, too, in fact
quite an enthusiast. He used to pilot me about to concerts and send me
tickets for the opera. Besides I was struggling then with Latin, Greek,
and Conic Sections, and he used to help me polish off things--for
selfish reasons, of course."

"And used you to kiss this time as well?" he asked, no longer
questioning that he was hearing her personal history.

"Only at very sentimental moments," she replied, apparently overlooking
the mockery in his voice. "I was older and a greater expert in emotions.
One's first experiments are necessarily crude. But, to proceed, my
cavalier lost his head one day and wanted me to marry him at once, which
was rather absurd. So I had to give him his _congé_ and accept the
attentions of a less violent lover. I had always a reserve to draw upon,
but so long as a man behaved nicely and didn't get altogether
unreasonable, I let it accumulate. My musical friend, however, gave me
some trouble. We had several stormy interviews, and at last I had
positively to refuse to see him. One fine day he, too, got engaged and
wrote to me asking me to congratulate him. I know he was divorced some
time since, but I've completely lost sight of him."

At this moment Miss Brooke was led away to dance, but was able to join
him again before very long.

"The next----" were her first words, in a mock-solemn, long-drawn-out
tone, as she took his arm and then she broke into laughter. "The next
was a tall Southerner with nice manners, a soft voice, and a pretty way
of calling me 'ma'am.' He, too, was musical--naturally, I preferred
musical lovers then. The Colonel, as everybody called him, literally
worshipped me, but he was as poor as a church mouse, and I used to
think myself very noble to be satisfied to get stuck with him in back
seats at concert-halls. He went back South after graduating, swearing
he'd never forget me; but, as soon as he'd made his fortune, he was
coming back to marry me. I thought that if the illusion would help him
to make his fortune, he might as well keep it. In any case I should have
given him cause to be grateful to me. He wrote to me half-a-dozen times,
then there was a break of some months; and, when I had almost forgotten
him, one fine day I got a letter from him."

"Announcing his engagement and asking you to congratulate him," said
Paul, with bitterness.

"Yes. I think you may take that for granted. It is what they all do. Is
it any use my telling you more? I'm beginning to think the recital is
getting monotonous. And then there are some coming along and I can't
remember the exact order, which came before which."

She seemed to hurry over her last words as though impatient to be done,
and wearied and bored by the memory of all these dallyings with
sentiment. The mocking merriment appeared also to have died out of her
face and voice. She gazed idly at the dancers who, in the restricted
space, almost constantly brushed up against them as they stood pressed
close to the wall. Paul wondered if he were looking haggard. The air of
careless merriment he had at first forced himself to assume had given
way, as he listened, to a sort of nervous apathy. The one great passion
of hers she had confided to him had drawn him closer to her by its
intrinsic dignity. It had appealed to his finer nature, stirring it to
its very depths. But these later revelations of hers revolted him by
their very pettiness. What had her parents been at that such a girl had
been allowed to run wild in that fashion? It was monstrous she had not
been supervised and prevented from stooping to these foolish and
frivolous relations with foolish and frivolous men--men she had allowed
to kiss her lips!

The pang that tore him at the image revealed to him how powerless he
was. He glanced at her again as she stood at his side. There was a
half-sad expression now on her face, which had resumed all its
babyishness again. The lock of hair near her ear lay about in a dainty
twist. Her lips showed innocent and red. To kiss them _he_ would lay
down his life!

He was shaken; he wanted to sob aloud. But he was at a festive
gathering. Round, round, up and down the room went the dancers,
shuffling forward with their rapid glide, the men bending their long,
supple bodies, the flowing curves of the women's dresses imparting a
greater grace to the movement. The whole scene was dreamy to him. His
inner thought was the only reality.

Why had she told him, why had she told him? he moaned within himself.
Then as he saw a new softness appear in her face, a gleam of comfort
came to him. Perhaps it had been from motives of conscience and she
really repented all; perhaps, too, she had thought it right to tell him
everything before allowing him to ask her to be his.

He would overlook all those episodes if only she would be his. If even
they had been more serious, if even she had been a dishonoured woman, he
knew now he would have had no strength not to condone. If any one had
told him a year ago that he--Paul--would one day be both willing and
eager to make such concessions as regards the past of a woman he
contemplated making his wife, he would have denied the statement
indignantly as a libel on himself.

She turned suddenly, and their looks met. Her face lighted up with a
smile. "Come, Paul, it's your turn now?"

"My turn!" he echoed, her words for the moment startlingly sounding like
an invitation to take his place in the procession of her lovers.

"Yes," she said. "Who was your sweetheart after the gardener's
daughter?"

He denied any further love, though hating to tell the lie. But Miss
Brooke persisted, entreating, provoking, urging, coaxing, pouting;
subtly transforming herself into the child with its lovable moods and
movements; enslaving him, rendering him powerless at her will, with this
one strange exception--he could be strong enough to withhold from her
the episode he was ashamed of.

"Paul, Paul," she said sternly. "Tell the truth. Are you not in love
now?"

He scarcely dared look at her. He was conscious of that lock again and
of another on her forehead.

"Silence betrays. Did you come to Paris for the sake of your
architecture or to be near me?"

"To be near you, Lisa," he breathed.



CHAPTER VII.


ALTHOUGH the thought of Lisa's old flirtations obtruded and pricked
occasionally, Paul went about the next morning in a state of subdued
happiness. A wonderful calm had come over him, disturbed only at the
moments when he had to thrust from him those images of other men kissing
Lisa's lips. Those meaningless loves had been long dead, he argued, and,
since she had made the confession voluntarily at the risk of estranging
his love, it would be unfair to her for him to dwell upon them now.

At the same time he could never have conceived the possibility of such a
line of argument on his part in the days before he had met Miss Brooke.
Love had, indeed, set at naught all the principles he had thought to
abide by--had made him yield his demand for that absolute soul-virginity
he had deemed the very basis of his choice.

But away with all that now! Her love for him was, of a surety, the first
that had come into her life since her great sorrow. As for Pemberton,
there had never been the slightest sentiment between her and him. No
doubt the fellow would now take a suitable place in the background of
their life, and they would welcome him as an acquaintance. Why should he
bear the man animosity?

He could not do any work that morning, but strolled hither and thither,
getting joyous impressions from the sun-lit city. Lisa had not only
promised to dine in the evening at the Café Pousset and afterwards to go
with him to see a melodrama at the Ambigu, most of the other theatres
having closed their doors, but she had given him permission to take his
holiday at Perros-Guirec during the whole two months of her stay there,
so that he would be virtually one of the party. The immediate outlook
was, therefore, very agreeable.

He returned to the _maison meublée_ where his quarters were, immediately
after his mid-day meal, and passed the afternoon packing away his
luggage, which occupation gave him the pleasurable feeling that his
preparations for the happy time to come were in full swing. He sang and
whistled as he worked, his overflowing vigour manifesting itself in the
bold ornamental letters with which he made out the labels for his
trunks: "Middleton, Paris à Perros-Guirec." At half-past five he began
to think of taking a stroll before dinner, and was on the point of doing
so when the _concierge_ brought him up a letter with the characteristic
explanation that it had come in the morning, shortly after monsieur had
gone out, and that he had forgotten about it as monsieur passed by
before.

Paul recognised his mother's writing, and stayed to read it. At first it
did not seem to contain anything of special importance, covering much
the same ground as many of its predecessors, and dealing with one or two
business matters. On the third page came a reproach that he had allowed
three weeks go by without writing.

"I can understand," continued his mother, "that all those hours of
engrossing work every day must leave you quite fatigued, my poor child.
But surely I am very reasonable in my demands, and one letter a week is
not such a very heavy tax on you. Are you sure you are not overworking
yourself, dear Paul? You were always a delicate child, and you are
certainly not strong enough to go on living in a French hotel, with
only strangers to look after you. Don't you think you ought to take a
long holiday now? I am going to take Celia to Dieppe--it has all been
decided and arranged to-day. The poor child has been worried and
fretting and poorly for a long time past, and sadly needs this entire
change of scene. Now suppose, dear Paul, you come and join us at Dieppe.
You will be near to me, and I can look after you again, if only for a
couple of months. We shall be starting the day after to-morrow, and we
shall be staying at the Hôtel de Paris. Write to me, dear Paul, direct
there, or, better still, come down and surprise us. Celia, I am sure,
will be _delighted_ to see you. I never understood what happened between
you two exactly. You said 'good-bye' so stiffly that I made sure you had
quarrelled, though Celia assures me that was not so. She is a dear,
good girl, and I love her as if she were my own daughter."

Of course he couldn't go. What a bother to have to refuse! Why had they
just fixed on Dieppe when they might have gone to Norway or taken a
jaunt up to Scotland! And then, too, confound it! they might even make a
descent upon him at Perros-Guirec, for he would have to tell his mother
that was the place where he had already arranged to spend his holiday
with friends. He must discuss the matter with Lisa before replying to
her or telling her of his intended marriage.

But he had scarcely time to digest the letter before the man brought him
up another which the postman had just left. This time the writing was
Lisa's. What could she have to write to him about if it were not to
postpone the evening's engagement? His nervous fingers tore at the
envelope.

          "DEAR PAUL.--Please don't come for me this
          evening, and, indeed, you must never come for me
          again. In writing this I am acting the part of a
          very good friend to you, and it is as a very good
          friend I should like you to remember me, as I
          shall always remember you.--Yours sincerely,

                                          "ELIZABETH BROOKE."

So all was over! Behind the simplicity of the words he perceived a
terrible inexorableness. If only she had signed "Lisa," it would not
have crushed him so much; but the "Elizabeth Brooke" was paralyzing.

When his hand was steady enough, he wrote:--

          "DEAR LISA:--Need I say your note has quite
          stunned me? Won't you give me a word of
          explanation?               PAUL."

The concierge's boy delivered this at Miss Brooke's _pension_.

He scarcely knew how he got through the night. Every now and again he
woke up and tossed about; and when he did lose consciousness, he had a
sense of a grey infinity in which there was a great chasm. He wanted to
rush to it to close it up, but was held back by some strange power.

The morning's post brought him Miss Brooke's reply.

          "DEAR PAUL.--I am glad your letter is so sensible
          and to the point. Of course I owe you an
          explanation, but I want you not to insist on it,
          because I fear it will hurt you too much. The pain
          it would give me I deserve.--Yours,      LISA."



He found this note infinitely softer than the first and was encouraged
to write again.

          "DEAR LISA.--I am not strong enough to face the
          punishment unless I know my sin. The pain of
          listening to you can be nothing to the pain of
          this horrible gap in my mind. Won't you let me see
          you--for the last time? Remember it is only a day
          since you told me you loved me. Don't refuse.
                                           PAUL."

To which came the reply by his own messenger.

          "DEAR PAUL.--Come this evening at eight and you
          will find me alone.--Yours,

                                                 "LISA."

All day long he nerved himself for the interview. He would rehearse
nothing, anticipate nothing. When the time came, he would speak straight
from his heart. Perhaps he might yet move her.



CHAPTER VIII.


MISS BROOKE received him with the same cheery frankness as of yore, gave
him a quick hand-shake, and installed him in his old place on the
knobby-springed ottoman beneath the hanging book-shelves. The little
table was laid, as usual, for after-dinner coffee, and the small copper
kettle was boiling over a spirit-lamp. She was the first to speak.

"You were right, Paul. I have been thinking a good deal, and I have come
to agree with you that we ought to have a last talk together. I am
sensible that I am a thoroughly unscrupulous person--please don't
contradict me, I mean it in sober earnest--but I am not without my
redeeming moments, and so it happens I feel I ought to make my apology
to you before we part. Apology! That is a very weak word to use after my
immoral behaviour towards you. I mean to talk to you very openly, in
fact, I am going to confess the whole extent of my misconduct. Only I
want you to believe that to do so will hurt me if possible even more
than you. I really do want your sympathy very badly, Paul, although I
know I don't deserve it."

Her beautiful face was grave, and her voice a shade anxious. In her eyes
was an expression of sincerity that compelled acceptance.

"I know you will make me understand everything, Lisa," he said.

"You must withhold your judgment till I have finished. I am going to be
absolutely candid, though I am not sure whether I have ever succeeded
in telling the truth about things, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, even to myself. One shrinks from laying bare the causes and
motives of one's thoughts and conduct, even when no other eye is
looking. But I should feel myself quite vile now if I concealed the
least thing from you."

"One can over-accentuate the baseness of one's motives as well as cover
it up," he suggested.

"It is very kind of you, Paul, to try and spare me. But please save up
your mercy; I warn you I shall be sadly in need of it later on. To come
to facts now, Paul, I have tried to victimise you from the beginning. I
have dissembled and told you lies throughout. I have systematically
acted a part. I have never loved you."

He tried to make some articulation, but not a muscle moved. He sat as
if turned to stone.

"That first evening we met I knew I had turned your head, and I could
see at once you were inexperienced with women as surely as if the fact
had been branded upon you. I had heard somebody point you out and say
you were worth fifteen thousand pounds a year, and, as afterwards you
yourself told me you were rich, any doubt I might have had on the point
was removed. My own poverty had just been painfully brought home to me,
for I had been forced to leave Paris for want of money at the very
moment my ambition began to look reasonable. I was feeling particularly
bitter about it as there was no certainty at all of my being able to
come back here. Poppa's savings had all gone in starting me with a good
stock of dresses and keeping me here two years. He had hoped to be able
to do more for me, but he could only send me my passage-money. Fifteen
or even ten thousand pounds a year is a great temptation to a poor girl.
Chance had never yet thrown in my way a really rich suitor, and there
was I, at the moment of meeting him, almost on the eve of departure,
with very little money in my pocket and indebted to the kindness of a
lady for her invitation to stay the month in London. She had taken my
room for me as she could not accommodate me at her own house. You see
how poor I was! I set myself puzzling in the coolest possible way as to
how I could get you. Instinct as well as the ease with which I had
bewitched you told me there were romantic possibilities in you, of which
you had scarcely any suspicion and which might easily be played upon.
And a plan formed at once in my mind in the ultimate success of which I
had the fullest confidence. To put the idea into your head that we meet
again here in a year's time was to appeal to your romantic side. That is
why I mentioned the Beaux Arts to you--your love for architecture made
my game easy. I was now determined that nothing should stand in the way
of my returning to Paris, that poppa somehow must raise the necessary
money--even if he ran into debt. Happily he was able to send me back and
to see his way clear to keep me going as long as I chose to stay."

Miss Brooke paused a moment and poured out Paul's coffee, which,
however, he let stand untouched.

"Everything turned out just as I had calculated," she continued, after
taking a sip at her own. "You had carried me in your mind the whole
time, and you had been waiting for me and counting on my coming. So far
I was delighted. For a time all went smoothly. You were mine
completely. But then an unforeseen force began suddenly to act on the
position. My old enthusiasm for my work came back, and with it my old
mad ambitions. Do you know what first gave me those mad ambitions? You
shall hear in a moment. Anyway, my old intolerance against anything like
dependence rose up in me. I wanted to make a great name and a great deal
of money, all by myself. A picture by a great master--we admired it
together at the salon--had just sold for thirty thousand dollars, and
that inflamed me. No woman painter has yet existed of absolutely the
first rank; one and all have been influenced, more or less, by a man. I
wanted to be the first woman whose work should be absolutely great,
absolutely original. I wanted the honour for America, for I am proud of
being an American woman. But you were on the spot, and I had only to
move my little finger to get you. You were an eternal temptation. Don't
you think I knew you were jealous of Charlie? He has been in love with
me ever since I first came here; but, poor devil, he only just manages
to get along, and is only too glad if he's not behindhand with his
studio rent. The reason I allowed him to hang round so much was partly
because he had become a habit of mine, and partly to help me not to be
tempted to give you too much of my company.

"I really wanted to fight against the temptation of your money, but more
for my own sake than yours. In the first place I did not love you. And
in the second, I could read your nature like a book. Your ideas and mine
would never go together. I wanted a husband who would be content with
such moments of love as I could spare him out of my career; to whom I
could go for love when I wanted love; who would be content to live out
his own life and leave me to work out mine. I do not want to be kept by
my husband--rather than that I should prefer to keep him. All my rooted
independence had sprung up as by magic the moment I took up my brush and
palette again and looked at the model. Your notions were far too
primitive for me. You would have allowed me to go on with my art as a
concession--to do credit to your name, perhaps. You would have looked
upon my pictures as sacred, to be hung in your house and worshipped by
you before your guests; I should have wanted to sell them, to convert
them into dollars.

"Do you wonder now I was strong enough to hesitate? I was only too glad
when Dora said she was going to carry me off to Perros-Guirec. It would
take me away from you and--temptation. Then you sent me those flowers. I
was touched. Not by the flowers, but by the train of thought they set
going. The ghost of my conscience came up, suggesting I should be
treating you badly, seeing 'you had 'em so bad.' And then you had, say,
ten thousand pounds a year! That, I suppose, had something to do with
the rising of the phantom. So I determined to take you to Dora's--of
course, she replied at once she would be pleased to welcome you--and I
made up my mind, half to amuse myself, that I would make you propose in
the cab on the way to her. I could read you through and through, and
knew your every thought. So far I had kept you at a perceptible
distance, now it pleased me to draw you close to me, and to see you obey
without my uttering a single word of command. I told you about my old
engagement just then because it gave me a sensation of daring. I
calculated on stirring the romance and chivalry in you still more
deeply. The experiment was risky--but it succeeded. You responded like a
good ship to its helm. Then for the first time since I had known you,
Paul, I suffered remorse--real remorse. Why it came just then I have
never been able to make out, but all of a sudden I was dreadfully sorry
for you.

"I saw clearly that even if I _had_ loved you, our lives could never
harmonise; that after the first honeymoon cooings, the conflict of wills
and ideas would inevitably set in, and we should both be utterly and
hopelessly miserable. But I did _not_ love you, and I felt myself in a
terrible dilemma. You were on the point of speaking, and the only thing
I could think of to stop you, and to stop you for always, was to tell
you my early flirtations. I was hoping to play on your prejudices and
set you against me. I was true to myself then; I was throwing away--how
many thousands a year?

"But I caused you suffering to no purpose, and, as I realised nothing
would make you desist, the temptation of all those thousands came upon
me again. I argued I was the stronger personality of the two, and I
should be able to manage you--easily. Curious how I accentuated the
'easily,' and twisted my arguments to suit it. There was little to do--I
just pulled the wire and the puppet worked. You'll forgive me for
calling you a puppet, Paul, but you were one, you know.

"Perhaps now you will begin to understand how I felt the next morning. I
really liked you, Paul, and I had done you so great a wrong from the
very moment of our first meeting. I had not cried for more than three
years, Paul, but I cried then. The situation was desperate, and there
was nothing for it but to apply a desperate remedy.

"I have not told you all. I have purposely kept back something to the
end. If I had mingled it with the rest it would have been lost, and as
it is my only claim on your sympathy, I have kept it for use by itself.
It is unfortunate that even here I have to begin with the confession of
another lie, but I have already confessed to so many, I am hoping that
one more won't make me sink any lower in your estimation. Besides, my
motive in telling it was good. I refer to my old engagement The fact was
true, but the details I gave you were false. I had intended telling you
the truth, but somehow it stuck on my lips. I felt I ought never to have
used so sacred an experience for such a purpose. I _had_ to invent a lie
as I went on. But I cut it as short as I could.

"I did love the man as, it seemed to me, no woman could have loved a man
before. He was almost penniless, but I did not mind that. I would have
married him, and he would not have interfered with my ambitions. He
would have been content to have me live away from him whilst I worked
according to my own spirit, and developed the gifts he was the first to
discover in me. For he was a painter, too; had starved to get a training
in Europe, had starved while getting it. To help us get a start I was
content at first to absorb myself in his work. That was a fatal mistake.
I can scarcely trace out how it came about--and to linger on it makes me
suffer terribly--but with the lapse of time I ceased to exist for him as
a creature of flesh and blood. I suddenly realised that I had become a
mere inspiration to him--it was only the artist in me he worshipped. All
his heart and soul went into his work--he was no longer a man, but a
mere mind wielding a brush. I can see him how absorbed before his
canvas, tall and thin with his scholar's stoop--for Nesbit _was_ a
scholar! But it had to end at last. I cried bitterly for many a night
after. I had a letter from him one fine day----"

"Announcing his engagement and asking you to congratulate him?" broke
from Paul's lips. His eyes were too dry for tears.

"It is the only letter of his I haven't burnt. He is famous now, but the
first picture he ever sold went to buy my turquoise necklace to match
the comb I had from my mother. His example was a noble one--the first
picture I am offered money for shall go to poppa instead. But he would
never take the gift back, and now I value it as his. It has always given
me great joy to wear it--in fact, that is my one great joy apart from my
work."

"You still love him! You have loved him all through!" cried Paul.

Her face softened. "You see I have quite an extraordinary vein of
sentiment in me. I am not sure whether I am not ashamed of it."

"Tell me, Lisa--if I may still call you Lisa--all those flirtations you
told me about were true?"

"What a quaint question! You haven't drunk your coffee." He gulped down
the cold contents of the tiny cup at one draught, for his mouth was
parched.

"They all happened just as I told you, and I haven't told you a
quarter."

"And do you mind my asking you another quaint question? Have you and
Charlie ever kissed?"

"I have always liked to have nice men kiss me. It is a mania with me,
and I shall go on doing so till the end of the chapter."

"All the same, Lisa, I love you still. Is there no hope for me? I have
no prejudices. I want you, Lisa, just as you are. Your life shall be
perfectly free--your career your own."

"You are good, Paul, and I have played with you precisely as a cat
plays with a mouse. You will have observed I have a good deal of the cat
in me. Believe me, I am in earnest when I say I am quite unworthy of
your love----"

"No, Lisa," he began.

"Listen, Paul. I want you to understand how much I love my lost darling.
If he were to leave his wife and child, now and come to me and say he
loved me, I would go with him to the end of the earth. No, no, Paul. My
hope is only in my work. I know I shall realise my ambition. Some day
you will marry a better woman than I am. And if," she continued, with a
smile, "you care to write and let me know, be sure I shall congratulate
you right heartily. Now tell me I have your sympathy, and then let us
say good-bye."

"I love you, Lisa. Is that not sufficient proof of my sympathy? I shall
leave Paris to-night."

"Come, Paul, kiss me! For the first time and last!"

He brushed her lips so lightly that he scarce had the consciousness of
doing so; then he staggered from the room.



CHAPTER IX.


HE wandered he knew not whither, penetrating into strange, silent
regions his foot had never trod. At the end of an hour he found he had
taken a long circuit round, and that he had arrived again at the _hôtel_
where Lisa lived. He crossed the narrow street, and, standing in the
shadow, looked up at the window he knew so well. It stood wide open, and
he could see the white ceiling of the lighted room, with the huge
Japanese umbrella making a glare of colour against it. In the balcony
sat two figures full in the light that flooded out. One was Miss Brooke,
the other a stalwart young man in a Norfolk suit he could not recollect
having seen before. A vague sound of their cheerful talking came down to
him.

He turned away with a sigh, and strode rapidly to his lodging. He
lighted his lamp, and, sinking into a chair, sat looking at his trunks.
The labels with their bold ornamental lettering--"Middleton, Paris à
Perros-Guirec"--stared him mockingly in the face. He averted his eyes,
instinctively seeking in his pocket for his mother's letter, which he
had till now forgotten, and was surprised to find it rolled into a ball.
Smoothing it out, he read it through again.

"Write to me, dear Paul, direct there, or, better still, come down and
surprise us. Celia, I am sure, will be _delighted_ to see you. I never
understood what happened between you two exactly. You said 'good-bye' so
stiffly that I made sure you had quarrelled, though Celia assures me
that it was not so. She is a dear, good girl, and I love her as if she
were my own daughter."

And with these words he seemed to read the inevitableness of his fate.
His rebellion against it was over. He had broken loose from the maternal
leading-strings, but had made a miserable failure without them. Now he
would help to fix them on him again.

The millionaire's daughter, the keynote of whose character had struck
him as a charming, simple frankness, and in pursuit of whom he had set
out, had proved to be a more complex specimen of womanhood than he could
have imagined to exist, the very essence of that femininity of which he
had always had an instinctive distrust. Celia was not brilliant, but she
was safe--he knew her well enough to be sure of that.

He seized a small brush and inked over the flamboyant "Perros-Guirec,"
writing over the black strip the word "Dieppe" in the plainest of
lettering. Then, finishing what little packing there remained to be
done, he went out to consult a time-table at a neighbouring café, where
he wrote and posted a note to his professor, and another to the
_massier_ of his class. He next hailed a cab at the rank, and the
concierge carried down his trunks. "_À la gare St. Lazare!_"

The _cocher_ cracked his whip, and Paul, lost in thought, was only
vaguely conscious of the streets and boulevards that had become so dear
to him.


THE END.



D. APPLETON & CO.'S PUBLICATIONS.



RUDYARD KIPLING'S NEW BOOK.


          _THE SEVEN SEAS'_ A new volume of poems by RUDYARD
          KIPLING, author of "Many Inventions,"
          "Barrack-Room Ballads," etc. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50;
          half calf, $3.00; morocco, $5.00.

          "The spirit and method of Kipling's fresh and
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          sonorous!... The ring and diction of this verse
          add new elements to our song.... The true laureate
          of Greater Britain."--_E. C. Stedman, in the Book
          Buyer._

          "The most original poet who has appeared in his
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          lifted in the world, the clearest, the bravest,
          with the fewest false notes in it.... I do not see
          why, in reading his book, we should not put
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          and consent to put off our mourning for the high
          ones lately dead."--_W. D. Howells._

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          "He has the very heart of movement, for the lack
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          far because he can."--_London Academy._

          "'The Seven Seas' is the most remarkable book of
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          Kipling's prodigious gifts.... Whoever reads 'The
          Seven Seas' will be vexed by the desire to read it
          again. The average charm of the gifts alone is
          irresistible."--_Boston Journal._

          New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.


_MARCH HARES._ By HAROLD FREDERIC, author of "The Damnation of Theron
Ware," "In the Valley," etc. 16mo. Cloth, special binding, $1.25.

          In "March Hares" Mr. Frederic has written an
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          World._


_GREEN GATES. An Analysis of Foolishness._ By Mrs. K. M. C. MEREDITH
(Johanna Staats), author of "Drumsticks," etc. 16mo. Cloth, $1.25.

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Eustace," "The Green Carnation," etc. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

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          in the New York World._


_CORRUPTION._ By PERCY WHITE, author of "Mr. Bailey-Martin," etc. 12mo.
Cloth, $1.25.

          "A drama of biting intensity. A tragedy of
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          Mall Gazette._


_A HARD WOMAN. A Story in Scenes._ By VIOLET HUNT. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

          "A good story, bright, keen, and dramatic.... It
          is out of the ordinary, and will give you a new
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          New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.





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