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Title: Jane Oglander
Author: Lowndes, Marie Belloc, 1868-1947
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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Mrs. Belloc Lowndes

     "Something even more imperious than reason admonishes us that
     life's inmost secret lies not in the slow adaptation of man to
     circumstance, but in his costly victories and splendid defeats."

New York
Charles Scribner's Sons

Copyright, 1911, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Published April, 1911



    "Elle fut née pour plaire aux nobles âmes,
    Pour les consoler un peu d'un monde impur."

Jane Oglander was walking across Westminster Bridge on a late September

It was a little after four o'clock--on the bridge perhaps the quietest
time of the working day--but a ceaseless stream of human beings ebbed to
and fro. She herself came from the Surrey side of the river, and now and
again she stayed her steps and looked over the parapet. It was plain--or
so thought one who was looking at her very attentively--that she was
more interested in the Surrey side, in the broken line of St. Thomas's
Hospital, in the grey-red walls of Lambeth Palace and the Lollards'
Tower, than in the mass of the Parliament buildings opposite.

But though Miss Oglander stopped three times in her progress over the
bridge, she did not stay at any one place for more than a few
moments--not long enough to please the man who had gradually come up
close to her.

Having first noticed her in front of the bridge entrance of St. Thomas's
Hospital, this man had made it his business to keep, if well behind,
then in step with her.

A human being--and especially a woman--may be described in many ways.
For our purpose it was fortunate that on this eventful afternoon of her
life Miss Oglander happened to attract the attention of an observer,
who, if then living in great penury and solitude, was yet destined to
become what a lover of literature has described as the greatest
interpreter of the human side of London life since Dickens.

When he was not writing, this man--whose name, by the way, was Ryecroft,
and whose misfortune it was to be temperamentally incapable of
sustained, wage-earning work--spent many hours walking about the London
streets studying the human side of London's traffic, and especially that
side which to a certain type of observer, of saunterer in the labyrinth,
is full of ever recurring mystery and charm. He wrote of the depths,
because the depths were all he knew, with an intimate and a terrible
knowledge. But he had your true romancer's craving for romance, and his
eager face with its curiously high, straight forehead crowned with a
shock of rather long auburn hair, was the face and head of the idealist,
of the humourist, and--now that he is dead, why not say so?--of the
lover, of the man that is to whom the most interesting thing in the
world remains, when all is said and done,--woman, and man's pursuit, not
necessarily conquest, of the elusive creature.

Ryecroft had been already on Westminster Bridge for some time before he
became aware that a feminine figure of more than common distinction and
interest, a young lady whose appearance and light buoyant step sharply
differentiated her from those about her, was walking toward him. As he
saw her his eyes lighted up with a rather pathetic pleasure, and in an
instant he had become sensitively aware of every detail of her dress.
She wore a plain grey coat and skirt, and a small hat of which the
Mercury wings, to the whimsical fellow watching her, evoked the Hellas
of his dreams. A black and white spotted veil, which, as was then the
fashion, left the wearer's delicately cut sensitive mouth bare, shadowed
her hazel eyes.

Ryecroft noticed--he always saw such things--that the young lady wore
odd gloves, the one on her right hand was light grey, that clothing her
left moleskin in colour. The trifling fact pleased him. It showed, or so
he argued with himself, that this sweet stranger had a soul above the
usual pernickety vanities of young womanhood.

For a moment their eyes met, and he admired the gentle, not unkind
indifference with which she received his eager, measuring glance.

In a sense, Jane Oglander never saw at all the man who was gazing at her
so intently, and he never saw her again, but for some moments--perhaps
for as long as half an hour--this singular and gifted being felt himself
to be in sensitive, even close, sympathy with her, and in his emotional
memory she henceforth occupied a niche labelled "The Lady of Westminster

Ryecroft allowed Miss Oglander to pass by him, and then quietly and very
unobtrusively he followed her; stopping when she stopped, following the
direction of her eyes, trying as far as might be to think her thoughts,
and meanwhile weaving in his mind a portrait of her having as little
relation to reality as has a woodland scene in tapestry to a real sun
and shadow-filled glade.

"Here," he said to himself, "is a girl who is assuredly not accustomed
to walking the more populous thoroughfares of London by herself. Were
she quite true to type she would be what they called 'chaperoned' by a
lady's maid, that is by a woman who would be certainly aware that I was
following them, and who would probably take my attention for herself. A
dozen men might follow this young lady and she would not be aware of
their proximity. There is something about her of Una, but Una so
completely protected by a quality in herself, and by her upbringing and
character, that she has no need of a lion.

"For me she holds a singular appeal, because she is unlike the only
woman I ever have the chance of meeting, and because we, that gentle,
austerely attractive creature and I, have much in common. Effortless
she has achieved all that I long for and that I know I shall never
obtain--intellectual distinction in those she frequents, the
satisfaction attendant on proper pride, and doubtless, in her daily
life, refined beauty of surroundings. She is very plainly dressed, but
that is because she has a delicate and elevated taste, and happily
belongs to that small, privileged class which is able to pay the highest
price, and so command the best type of gown, the prettiest shoes, the
best fitting gloves--even if she wears them odd--and the most becoming

"But what has Una been doing on the Surrey side of the Thames?"

Ryecroft smiled; he thought the answer to his question obvious.

"She has been"--he went on, talking to himself, and forming the words
with his lips, for he was a very lonely man--"to St. Thomas's Hospital,
either to see some friend who is in the paying ward, or to visit a poor
person in whom she is--to use the shibboleth of Mayfair--'interested.'
It is a more or less new experience, and though she is evidently in a
hurry, she cannot help lingering now and again, thinking over the
strange, dreadful things with which she has, doubtless for the first
time, now come in contact. She doesn't care for the Houses of
Parliament--they represent to her the thing she knows, for she often
takes part in that odd rite, 'Tea on the Terrace.' But she is
timorously attracted to the other side--to the dark, to the pregnant
side of life. And above all what fascinates her is the river--the river
itself, at once so like and so unlike the Thames she knows above
Richmond where she goes boating with her brothers' friends, with the
young men with whom she seems on such intimate terms and of whom she
knows so extraordinarily little, and who treat her, very properly, as
something fragile, to be cared for, respected...."

When she reached the end of the bridge, after looking to the right and
to the left, the young lady walked across the roadway with an assured
step, and Ryecroft's eager, sensitive face brightened. This was in the
picture, the picture he had drawn and coloured with his own pigments.
"For this kind of young Englishwoman the traffic stops instinctively of
itself," he said to himself; "and she has no fear of being run over"
(perhaps it should be added, that this little one-sided adventure of
Henry Ryecroft's took place before the advent of the trams). And still
he followed, keeping close behind her. Suddenly she turned toward the
Underground Railway, and this annoyed him; he had hoped that she (and
he) would walk down Great George Street, across the two parks, and so
into old Mayfair.

As an alternative he had promised himself the pleasure of seeing her get
into a hansom-cab. Were she to disappear into the ugly gulf of the
Underground it would disappoint him unreasonably. But stop! She had
turned her back on the cavernous entrance to the station and she was
gazing down at the posters of the evening papers.

The placards were all emblazoned with the same piece of news,
differently worded: "General Lingard in London," "Reception of Lingard
at Victoria," "Return of a Famous Soldier."

Ryecroft's lip curled. He had an intellectual contempt for the fighting
man as such, and a horror, nay a loathing, of war. He knew what even a
brief and successful war means to those among whom his own lot was cast,
the London woman whose son, whose brother, whose lover is so often
called Thomas Atkins.

And now, at last, he heard his lady's voice. She beckoned to the
smallest and most ragged of the lads selling newspapers:--

"I want all to-night's papers:" her voice fell with an agreeable cadence
on Ryecroft's ears. He was singularly susceptible to the cadences of the
human voice, and he thought he had never heard a sweeter. She took a
shilling out of her purse, and, rather to his surprise, he saw that her
purse was small, black and worn.

"How much?" she asked gently.

The boy hesitated, and then answered, "Five-pence halfpenny."

She handed him a shilling. "You can keep the change," she said, and a
very charming smile quivered across her face, "for yourself."

The man who was watching her felt touched--unreasonably moved. "Thank
God," he said to himself, "that, unlike many of her friends, she has
nothing to do with the C.O.S.!"

Then to Ryecroft's surprise, instead of going on as he expected her to
do--he had already made up his mind that she was taking the papers home
to an invalid father, or to a brother who had hurt himself in one of
those mad games in which, as the watcher knew well, the young English
oligarch delights to spend his spare time--the young lady turned, and
crossed over again on to the bridge, but this time she chose the other
side, the side which commands the more beautiful view of the London

"Dear me," he said to himself, "the plot thickens!" and then he suddenly
told himself that of course she was going back to the hospital. The
person she was going to see had asked for an evening paper, and in her
generosity she had bought them all.

But on the bridge she stayed her steps, and, opening one of the papers,
spread it out against the parapet, and began eagerly reading it,
unheeding of the human stream flowing to and fro behind her.

Ryecroft gently approached closer and closer to her, and at last he was
able to see what it was she was bending over and reading with such
intentness: "_General Lingard's Home-coming._" "_Splendid Reception at
Victoria Station._" So was the column headed, and already her eyes had
travelled down to the last paragraph:

     "To conclude: by his defeat of the great Mahomedan Emir of Bobo,
     General Lingard has added to the British Crown another magnificent
     jewel in the Sultanate of Amadawa."

Then came a cross-head--"Pen Portrait."

     "Lingard is above all things a fighter. His eye is keen, alert,
     passionless. He is a tall man, and he dominates those with whom he
     stands. His life as a soldier has been from the beginning a wooing
     of peril, and as a result he has commanded a victorious expedition
     at an age when his seniors are hoping to command a regiment. He
     does not talk as other men talk--he is no teller of 'good stories.'
     He is a Man."

Jane Oglander looked up, and there came a glow--a look of proud, awed
gladness on her face.

Then, folding the paper, she walked steadily on. But though she crossed
over the bridge as if she were going to the hospital, to the side
entrance where visitors are admitted, she walked on past the mass of
buildings. Then she turned sharply to the left, Ryecroft still
following, till she came to a small row of houses, respectable, but poor
and mean in appearance, in a narrow street which was redeemed to a
certain extent by the fact that there was a Queen Anne church at one end
of it, and next to the church a substantial rectory or vicarage house.
To Ryecroft's measureless astonishment, she opened her purse, took out a
latch-key and let herself into the front-door of one of the small

Three weeks later Henry Ryecroft happened to be in that same
neighbourhood, and he suddenly remembered his Lady of Westminster
Bridge. Greatly daring--but he ever loved such daring--he rang at the
door of the house at which he had seen her go in.

A typical Londoner of the hard-working, self-respecting class answered
his ring. She stood for a moment looking at him, waiting for him to

"Is the lady in?" he asked, feeling suddenly ashamed and foolish. "I
mean the young lady who lives here."

"Miss Oglander?" said the woman. "No, she's away. But I'll give you her

She handed him a piece of paper on which was written in what he thought
was a singularly pretty handwriting:--

     Rede Place,

He took the little piece of paper and walked away. When he found himself
on the bridge he dropped the paper into the river. "Oglander," he said
to himself, "a curious, charming name, rhyming with Leander,
philander----" he shook his head and smiled, "no, no, not philander," he
said, speaking the words aloud. "Lavender, that's what her name should
rhyme to,--Lavender...."

Henry Ryecroft, in his way a philosopher, would have been at first
gently amused, and then perhaps moved and interested, had he known both
how right and how wrong had been the kitcat portrait he had evolved out
of his inner consciousness.

He had been right as to the type. He had even been successful in
realizing something of Miss Oglander's inward mind and character from
her outward appearance, but he had been quite wrong as to the present
circumstances of her life.

It was true that she belonged to the privileged class who alone in the
seething world of London have the command of money, and also the
command, materially speaking, of the best. But if born and bred in the
west of London, she now belonged by deliberate choice to the south side
of the Thames. At a moment when she desired to hide herself from the
world, she had chosen that ugly, formless district of London which lies
between Westminster Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge because a distant
relation of her mother's had married a clergyman whose parish lay there,
and he had offered to find her in that parish plenty of hard work to
still her pain.

As a young girl, Jane Oglander had lived the life that Ryecroft imagined
her to be living now. While keeping house for a bachelor brother, she
had seen, from a pleasantly sheltered standpoint, all that was most
agreeable and amusing in the cultivated London world. Treated with the
gentle gallantry and respect Ryecroft had supposed by her brother's
friends, she was--as is so often the case with a young woman who has
been almost entirely educated by men and surrounded with masculine
influences--graver, less frivolous, more austerely refined than were
most of her contemporaries.

Her nature, the core of her, was happy, tender, sensitive, capable also
of a depth of feeling--and feeling always implies a certain
violence--unsuspected by those round her. Thanks to the circumstances of
her birth and upbringing Jane Oglander might conceivably have lived a
long beneficent life, and have finally slipped out of that life without
becoming aware that there were such tragic things as sin, shame, and
acute suffering in the world.

Humility was not lacking to one endowed with many of the other endearing
graces. Jane Oglander was very conscious of the lack in herself of those
practical qualities which make their fortunate possessors ever punctual
and unforgetful of the minor duties of life. She would forget to answer
unimportant letters, mistake the hour of unessential invitations,
arrive late for trains, and, as we have seen, tempt gifts her way by
putting on odd articles of clothing which her wiser friends always wore
in pairs.

But she was never found lacking in that beautiful quality which the
French call _la politesse du coeur_. Thus, her mental lapses were
never of a nature to hurt the feelings or the pride of those whose
feelings and whose pride are often regarded by people more fortunate in
a material sense than themselves as so unimportant as to be probably

First her father, and then her brother, had been instinctively careful
that she should only know the best of life. They had preserved her with
firm decision from any of those influences which might have injured,
thrown ever so small a speck or blemish, on her feminine delicacy. Her
father's death, occurring when she was eighteen, had meant that the
first year of her life as a grown-up girl had been spent in sincere

Two very happy years had followed, and then on a certain thirteenth of
September--that is, almost exactly five years ago--there had befallen
Jane Oglander a thing which befalls daily, it might be said hourly, some
unfortunate human being.

There had cut right into and across her young, peaceful life a tragedy
full of ignoble horror, of that horror which attracts the eager interest
and attention of the morbid, the idle, and the vulgar.

Jane Oglander's kind brother, some years older than herself, whom she
had taken as completely on trust as all normal young women take those
who are near and dear to them, had left the club where he had been
dining, and hailing a cab, had driven to a distant quarter of the town,
a quarter of which the very name was unknown to his sister and to those
with whom she generally associated. There, in the space of a very few
moments, he had killed, not only a man who was regarded as in a special
sense his friend and as a peculiarly harmless individual, but also the
woman with whom he had found this man.

Certain circumstances of the affair, circumstances of quite an everyday
nature, though they had appeared to the amazed and agonised sister
incredible, had roused a good deal of public sympathy with Jack
Oglander. Though the fact that he had taken a pistol with him, as well
as some confidences he had made to yet another friend who had played a
minor part in the sordid drama, pointed to premeditation, the verdict
had been manslaughter.

Fortunately, as everyone except his poor sister thought, Jack Oglander
fell ill and died a normal death in the prison infirmary within two
months of his trial.

Friends had rallied--too many rather than too few--round the unfortunate
girl; but her best friends, those to whom she felt she owed the
greatest gratitude, were a certain Richard Maule, one of the trustees
of her small fortune, and Richard Maule's wife, Athena.

Mr. Maule, at the time of the tragedy already an invalid, had been able
to do nothing in an active sense, but his country house, Rede Place, had
immediately become, whenever she chose that it should be so, Miss
Oglander's home. In this matter the husband and wife were one in a sense
they had scarcely ever been, but in the happy, cloudless days which now
seemed to have belonged to a former existence, Jane Oglander had already
become as much as a young girl can be to a married woman some years
older than herself, Mrs. Maule's closest friend.

With these two dear friends was joined in the same wordless sense of
deep gratitude Dick Wantele, Richard Maule's cousin, and in this affair
his spokesman and representative.

It was this young man who, shaking himself free of a constitutional
lethargy, had become the indispensable adviser and friend of both
brother and sister; it was he who had persuaded Jack Oglander to plead
"not guilty"; it was he who had gone to great personal trouble in order
that Miss Oglander might be spared, as much as was possible, the
dreadful publicity into which each such tragic happening brings innocent

During the weeks which elapsed between the arrest and the trial, Miss
Oglander learnt to lean on Dick Wantele, to ask for, and defer to, his
advice, far more than she was at the time aware. Wantele's tact and good
feeling, and his intelligent withholding of the sympathy with which she
was at that time nauseated, were almost uncannily clever considering the
end he had in view.

An offer of marriage very seldom takes a woman by surprise, but twice
Jane Oglander was so surprised immediately after her brother's arrest.

The very next day a man much older than herself--whom she had regarded
with the kindly affection and indifference with which girls so often
regard one whom they unconsciously consider as a contemporary of their
parents rather than their own--had come and implored her to marry him
there and then. He was a member of the administration then in office,
and he had hinted that by doing this--that is, by marrying him--she
would almost certainly benefit her brother's cause. But though she was
touched, and touched to tears, by the strangely worded proposal, it
formed but an incident, to herself an unimportant incident, in days
crowded with such pain and amazing unhappiness.

Some weeks later, while driving back with Jane Oglander from her first
interview with her brother in prison, during that long--it appeared to
her that endless--drive from Holloway to Westminster, Dick Wantele also
asked her to marry him, and this offer she also refused. But Wantele
would not allow his disappointment to affect their apparently placid
friendship. He it was who brought her the news that her brother was ill,
and he was actually present at Jack Oglander's mournful deathbed in the
prison infirmary.

Rather ruefully aware that it was so, Dick Wantele now stood to Jane
Oglander much in the position her dead brother had once stood. She had
come to feel for him a deep unquestioning affection; it was to him she
would have turned in any new distress.

They met frequently, for though Miss Oglander had become absorbed in the
work among the London poor to which she henceforth dedicated her life,
her happiest, her only peaceful days--for she took keenly to heart the
material cares and sorrows of those with whom she was brought in
contact--were the weeks she spent each year at Rede Place.

When there, the thrice welcome guest of Richard and Athena Maule, and of
their kinsman and housemate Dick Wantele, Jane's content would have been
absolute had her host and hostess been on the terms of amity Miss
Oglander supposed all married people as noble as Richard and as good and
beautiful as was Athena should be. But she had in this matter, as one so
often has to do when dealing with a dual human relation, to compromise.
She gave, that is, her grateful love to both these people who, if
themselves on unhappy terms, were yet one in their affection for her.

It was to her an added perplexity and pain that her friend Dick sided
with his cousin Richard Maule rather than with Richard's wife Athena.
Nay, he went further--he took no pains to conceal his contemptuous
indifference to the beautiful woman who was perforce his housemate for
much of the year. Small wonder that Mrs. Richard Maule generally
absented herself from home when her friend Jane Oglander was there to
take the place only a woman can fill in a country house of which the
master is an invalid, his heir a bachelor.

So it was that the two women only saw much of one another when Mrs.
Maule was in London.


    "A flag for those who go out to war,
    A flag for those who return,
    A flag for those who escape hell fire,
    And a flag for those who burn."

In spite of many a proverb to the contrary, a plan or plot, when
carefully imagined and carried out by an intelligent human being, does
not often miscarry or go wrong.

The fact that Mrs. Kaye was now sitting staring through the window of
the little waiting-room of Selford Junction was the outcome of a
plan--what she knew well the one most concerned would have called a
plot--which had succeeded beyond her expectations. She had come there
secretly in order that she might see the last, the very last, of her son
now starting on his way to rejoin his regiment in India. She was here in
direct disobedience to his wish, aware that had he known she would be
there he would have found some way of eluding her vigilance.

The plan she had made had succeeded by its very simplicity.

After the quiet, measured "Good-bye and God bless you, Bayworth!"
uttered by the father to his only son at the gate of the
poverty-stricken garden of the vicarage; after the mother's more
emotional farewell, Mrs. Kaye, leaving her husband to go out into the
village, had hastened back to the house. There she had flung on her
shabby bonnet, and waiting a moment till the trap in which her boy was
driving to Selford Junction, some four miles off, had turned the corner,
she had gone quickly out of the garden. Walking at a rapid pace, for she
was still a vigorous woman, she had taken a short cut across the fields
to the small station where she knew she would be able to catch the slow
local train which was run in connection with the London express.

Once at Selford Junction, it had been a comparatively easy matter for
her to slip into the waiting-room and take up her station close to the
grimy window commanding the platform alongside of which the express had
already drawn up.

Mrs. Kaye had had two motives in doing what she had done. Her first and
very natural motive was that of seeing the last, the very last, of her
son. Her second, which she hid even from herself, was to discover why he
had refused, with a certain fierce decision, her company as far as
Selford Junction, where, ever since he was a little boy bound for his
first school, she--his mother--had always gone with him when there had
come the hard moment of saying good-bye.

To the tired labourer in the further corner of the waiting-room; to the
sickly-looking, weary working woman, accompanied by two children, who
had unwillingly made way for her, the sight of Mrs. Kaye was familiar,
and, in an apathetic way, unpleasing.

Each of them--even the children--had disagreeable associations with her
tall, spare figure, her severe looking weather-beaten face, crowned with
still abundant fair hair streaked with grey. They knew, with a long,
contemptuous knowledge, her short black serge skirt and the
old-fashioned beaded mantle, which formed her usual week-day, outdoor
costume in any but the very hottest weather.

The poor are better judges of character than the rich. Mrs. Kaye's hard
good sense and intelligent idea of justice, secured her the grudging
respect of her husband's parishioners, but her rigid closeness about
money--which they argued must mean either exceptional poverty or else
unusual meanness--alienated them. And yet the working woman, sitting
there, looked at Mrs. Kaye with a certain furtive sympathy. She well
knew that Bayworth Kaye--he had been christened Bayworth because it was
his mother's maiden name--was leaving for India that day.

Now Bayworth was in a sense part of the village. He had been born at the
Vicarage. His father's parishioners had followed him through each of the
stages of his successful young life, and they all liked him; partly
because the kind of success Bayworth Kaye had achieved is not the kind
which arouses dislike or envy, and even more because he was an
open-handed and good-natured young gentleman, very unlike--so the
villagers would have told you--either his gentle, unpractical father or
his hard mother.

Also, and this was very present to the woman now watching Mrs. Kaye,
"th' parson's son" had been, during the last few months, the hero of one
of those dramas which, because of certain elemental passions slumbering
in all men and in most women, whatever their rank or condition, always
arouse a certain uneasy, speculative interest and sympathy in the
onlooker. All unconsciously the village was grateful to young Kaye for
having provided them with something to talk about, something to laugh
about, something, above all, to relieve the uneventful dullness of their

This was why the man and woman whom Mrs. Kaye--if she was conscious of
their presence at all--regarded as merely of the earth, earthy, were
keenly aware of the last act of the tragi-comedy being played before
their eyes. They knew why their clergyman's wife was sitting here in the
waiting-room, instead of standing out on the platform saying a last word
to her son; and over each stolid face there came, when the eyes of these
same faces thoroughly realised at what the lady sitting by the window
was looking, an expression of cunning amusement, as well as of doubtful

Mrs. Kaye's eyes were fixed on a group composed of two people, a man and
a woman. The man--her son Bayworth Kaye--was standing inside one of the
first-class carriages of the London express; and below him on the
platform, her right hand resting on the sash of the open carriage
window, stood Mrs. Maule, the woman whom Mrs. Kaye had only half
expected to see there. In coming to Selford Junction to see the last of
Bayworth Kaye, Mrs. Maule was doing a very daring thing; those of her
neighbours and acquaintances whose opinion counted in the neighbourhood
would have said a very improper and shocking thing.

To Mrs. Kaye--such being her nature--there was a certain cruel
satisfaction in the knowledge that she had been right in her suspicion
as to why her son had told her that he would far prefer, this time, to
say good-bye at home. Given all that had gone before, it was not
surprising that Mrs. Kaye had guessed the reason why her boy had refused
her company at Selford Junction.

And yet, now that the reason stood before her, embodied in a slim,
gracefully posed figure which she and the two dumb spectators of the
little scene knew to be that of the squire's wife, she felt a dull pang
of resentful surprise.

She had hoped against hope that Bayworth would be here alone, and that
there might perhaps come her chance of a last word which would break
down the high, gateless barrier which had risen during the last few
months between herself and her son. Mrs. Kaye staring dumbly through the
waiting-room window knew that last word would never now be uttered.

Young Kaye's good-looking, fair face--the look of breeding derived from
his mother's forebears crossed with the more solid good looks which had
been his father's--was set in hard lines; yet he was making a gallant
effort to bear himself well, and he was smiling the painful smile which
is so far removed from mirth. The anguished pain of parting, the agony
he was feeling had found refuge only in the eyes which were fixed on his
companion's face.

Mrs. Kaye tried to see if that beautiful face, into which her son was
gazing with so strange and tragic a look of hungry pain, reflected any
of his feeling. But the delicately pure profile, the perfect curve of
cheek and neck, the tiny ear half concealed by carefully dressed masses
of dark hair, in their turn covered by a long grey veil becomingly wound
round the green deer-stalker hat, revealed nothing.

Now and again she could see Mrs. Maule's red lips--lips that told of
admirable physical fitness--move as if in answer to something the other

Bayworth Kaye was leaning out, speaking earnestly. With a sudden gesture
his lean, brown fingers closed on the little gloved hand resting on the
window-sill. Mrs. Kaye could not hear what her son was saying, and she
would have given the world to know, but in the composed, steady glance
directed by her through the waiting-room window there was nothing to
show the bitter, helpless anger which oppressed her.

The excursion train for which the express had been waiting glided into
the station. Mrs. Kaye reminded herself with a strange mixture of
feelings that the time was growing very short; that not long would her
eyes be offended, as they were now being offended. In five minutes the
London train was due to start.

And then there came over the mother an overmastering desire which swept
everything before it. She must hear what it was her boy was saying; she
must see him clearly once more; she must run the risk of his becoming
aware that she had spied on him.

Mrs. Kaye rose from the hard wooden seat, and she made what was for her
a mighty effort to open the grimy waiting-room window; but it remained

Words were muttered behind her, words of which in her agitation she was
quite unconscious.

"Help the lady, can't ye!"

The big labourer in the corner rose to his feet; he lumbered across the
boarded floor, and laid his mighty shoulder against the sash; the flange
gave way, and as the window opened there seemed to rush in a loud,
confused wave of sound. A crowd of Saturday holiday-makers were
streaming over the platform, and as they swayed backwards and forwards
they completely hid for a moment the man and woman on whom Mrs. Kaye's
eyes had been fixed.

Then, as if the scene before her had been stage-managed by some master
of his craft, the crowd thinned, divided in two, seeking on either side
the few third-class carriages in the express, and Mrs. Kaye once more
saw her son and Athena Maule; saw, with a sharp pang, that the look of
strain and anguish had deepened on Bayworth Kaye's face, that his poor
pretence at a smile had gone.

The train groaned and moved a little forward, bringing the first-class
carriages quite close to the waiting-room window. Putting out her hand,
Mrs. Kaye could almost have touched Mrs. Maule on the shoulder; she
shrank back, but the two on whom her whole attention was fixed were so
far absorbed in each other as to be quite oblivious of everything round
them. And at last Mrs. Kaye heard the voice she loved best in the world,
nay the only voice she had ever really loved--asking the pitiful, futile
little question:

"Athena? Darling--say you're sorry I'm going!"

There was a pause, and then the woman to whom the question had been put
did in answer a very extraordinary thing. After having looked round, and
with furtive, deliberate scrutiny noted that the platform was now
practically deserted save for one man standing some way off, facing the
bookstall and with his back to the express--she moved for a moment up on
to the step of the railway carriage and turned her face, the lovely face
now flushed with something like tenderness and pity, up to the young

"Of course I'm sorry you're going----"

Her clear, delicately modulated tones floated across the short space to
where Mrs. Kaye was sitting.

"Kiss me," breathed the beautiful lips; and then with a touch of
impatience, "You can kiss me good-bye. Don't you understand?"

His sudden response, the way his arm shot out and crushed her face, her
slender shoulders, was far more than she had bargained for. She stepped
back and shook herself like a bird whose plumage has been ruffled.

And then the train began to move.

Young Kaye leant out, dangerously far, but, in answer to a slight
movement of Mrs. Maule's hand, he sank back quite out of his mother's
sight. She heard his last hoarse cry of "good-bye," and for the moment
it had a strange effect on her heart. It seemed to set a seal on her
deep pain and wrath, to bring a certain fierce comfort in the knowledge
that her boy was gone, that he had left the shameful joy of the last
year, the tragic pain of the last few weeks, behind him. She even told
herself that, in the years that must elapse before he came home again,
he would have time to forget--as men do forget--the woman who had made
such a fool and worse, such a traitor, of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Maule stood for a while looking after the train. Things had not
fallen out quite as she had expected them to do. She sometimes--not
often--acted on sheer impulse, but she seldom did so without very soon
repenting of it. She had been suddenly moved to do a daring thing,--one
of those things which give a sharp edge to a blurred emotion. But she
had not known how to allow, so she told herself, frowning, for the
existence in the subject of her experiment of an unreasonably primitive
violence of feeling.

She moved back and looked about her with an uncomfortable, rather
fearful, look in her eyes. As she did so, the man standing by the
bookstall also moved, and she became aware, with the quick instinct she
had for such things, that he had a striking, in fact, a very peculiar
face. She hoped he had seen nothing of that foolish little scene with
Bayworth Kaye.

As she looked at the stranger--he was still unconscious of her
presence--a wave of colour came over her face, or rather over as much of
her face as the veil swathed about her hat allowed to be seen of it.
With a curious, impulsive, un-English movement she pulled off one of her
gloves and put up her hand to her hot cheek. Then she turned abruptly
and began walking to the further end of the platform.

Mrs. Kaye, looking grimly after her, believed that Athena Maule had seen
her, and, having the grace to be ashamed, had blushed. But, in so
thinking, the clergyman's wife made one of her usual mistakes concerning
the men and women with whom her life brought her into unwilling contact.
Mrs. Maule had not seen her, and had she done so it may be doubted
whether she would have felt any more ashamed or annoyed than she did

       *       *       *       *       *

With a feeling of infinite lassitude, of physical as well as mental
fatigue, Mrs. Kaye turned her back on the window through which she had
seen a sight which was to remain with her for ever.

There were still some minutes to run before there would come into the
station the local train in which she could return to her now empty home,
and so drearily her mind went back, taking a rapid survey of the whole
of her son's short life and hitherto most prosperous career.

Mrs. Kaye came herself of a long line of distinguished soldiers, and
even before her child's birth she had been determined that he should
follow in the footsteps of her own people, not in those of his mild,
kindly father's. From his cradle the lad had been dedicated to the god
of battles, and only the mother herself knew what her intention had
cost her in the way of self-denial and of incessant effort.

Inadequate as had been their clerical income, supplemented by pitifully
small private means, she and her husband had grudged nothing to
Bayworth. Mrs. Kaye was a clever woman, cleverer than most; she had been
at some pains to find out the best way in which to put a boy through the
modern military mill, and everything had gone with almost fairy-like
smoothness from first to last.

From the preparatory school, where she had ascertained that he would
have among his mates the sons of the then Minister for War, down to the
day when he had won the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst, young Kaye had
been everything that even his exacting mother had desired. Nay more, he
had once or twice said a word--only a word, but still it had amply
repaid Mrs. Kaye for all she had gone through--implying that he
understood the sacrifices his father and mother had made for his sake.

When he had been specially chosen to take part in a dangerous frontier
expedition, it was his father who had appeared miserably anxious, but it
was with his mother, softened, carried out of herself, that the whole
neighbourhood had eagerly sympathised when there had come the glorious
news that Bayworth Kaye had been mentioned in despatches for an act of
reckless courage and gallantry, and recommended for the Victoria Cross.

Then had followed the lad's happy home-coming, and quite suddenly,
before--so it now seemed to his mother--Bayworth had been back a week,
Mrs. Maule had thrown over him the web of her fascinations. Not content
with having him constantly about her at Rede Place, she had procured for
him invitations to the houses where she stayed, and made him her slave
in a sense Mrs. Kaye had not known men could be enslaved.

Mother and son had had one painful discussion in which the mother had
been worsted. With terror she had plumbed for a moment the hidden depths
of her boy's heart. "You tell me there has been talk," he said very
quietly. "If you will give me the name of any man who has talked
unbecomingly of Mrs. Maule, I will deal with him----" "Deal with him,
Bayworth? What could you do?" "I could kill him." He had uttered the
words almost indifferently, and Mrs. Kaye looking into his set face had
said no more.

It was well that his father had known and suspected nothing.

The whole matter was to Mrs. Kaye the more amazing and iniquitous
because she had hitherto always defended Mrs. Maule when that lady's
conduct was discussed, as it constantly was discussed, in the
neighbourhood of Rede Place. At Redyford Vicarage such talk had never
been tolerated; and with a few stinging words of rebuke Mrs. Kaye had
ever put the gossips in their places.

It had suited her far better to have to deal with a brilliant,
beautiful, rather reckless woman, who was much away from home, and who
always treated her with the courtesy and indifferent good-humour due to
an equal, rather than with the type of great lady to whom she knew some
of the other clergy's wives were in subjection.


     "L'opinion dispose de tout. Elle fait la beauté, la justice, et le
     bonheur qui est le tout du monde."

To say that the most important events of life often turn on trifling
incidents has become a truism, and yet it may be doubted if any of us
realise how especially true this is concerning the greatest of human
riddles, the riddle of sex.

Had the man of whose presence on the platform of Selford Junction Mrs.
Maule had become aware, turned round and watched the London express
before it steamed out of the station, his own immediate future, to say
nothing of that secret, inner life of memory which each human being
carries as a burden, might have been considerably modified. But at the
moment when Mrs. Maule had been engaged in trying her not very happy
experiment with Bayworth Kaye, the only other occupant of the platform
was staring with a good deal of interest and curiosity at a long row of
illustrated newspaper pages pinned dado-wise round the top of the

The newsagent's clerk, when arranging his wares that morning, had had
what he felt to be an unusually bright idea. Picking out what he
considered the two most attractive items in the illustrated paper with
which he was dealing, he had repeated these items alternately with what
to most onlookers would have seemed an irritating regularity.

The two pages he had selected for this honour were very different. The
one consisted of a set of photographs, nine officers in uniform:
_General Hew Lingard and his Staff, just returned home after the
victorious Amadawa Expedition_. "Here," the bookstall clerk had probably
argued unconsciously, and quite wrongly, to himself, "is a page that
will interest gentlemen and boys. Now I must find something that will
cause ladies to purchase the paper," and he had accordingly put next to
the page of military portraits one consisting of a single
illustration--the reproduction of a beautiful painting of a beautiful

The man staring up at the black and white pages was true to what the
clerk took to be the masculine type of newspaper buyer and reader, for
he devoted his whole attention to the group of military portraits. He
had, however, a special reason for staring up as he was now doing at the
rather absurd dado, for it was his own portrait which occupied the place
of honour in the centre of the page.

Being the manner of man he was, Hew Lingard felt at once elated and
ashamed at seeing himself hung up in this queer pillory of fame. He was
moved more than he would have cared to admit, even to himself, at seeing
the honour paid to that old photograph taken some seven years before,
at a time when he was out of love with life, having been, as he
imagined, shelved by a small home appointment.

The portraits of his staff were comparatively new; they had doubtless
been supplied in haste by the happy mothers and sisters of the sitters,
and his grey eyes, set under deep overhanging brows, rested on them
proudly. It was to these eight comrades--so he would have been the first
to admit, nay to insist--that he had owed much of the sudden
overwhelming success which had now come to him.

At last he resolutely concentrated his attention on the opposite
illustration, and coming up a little closer to the stall, he read what
was printed underneath:

"This modern picture, only painted ten years ago, fetched ten thousand
pounds at Christie's last week. It is a portrait of the beautiful Mrs.
Richard Maule in the character of a Greek nymph. Mrs. Maule, before her
marriage to the well-known owner of Rede Place, one of the show places
of Surrey, was Miss Athena Durdon. Her father was British Consul at
Athens, and her mother a Greek lady of rank; hence her interesting and
unusual Christian name."

"Why, it's Jane's friend," he said to himself. "How very odd that I
should see it here and now!"

General Lingard had glanced at the illustration, when his eye had first
caught sight of it, with distaste. But now that he knew that this rather
fantastic picture was a painting of the dearest friend of the woman who
was going to be his wife, he looked with kind, considering, and even
eager eyes at the Greek nymph.

The famous soldier did not find it easy to adjust his imaginary portrait
of Athena Maule, Jane Oglander's Athena, to this lovely embodiment of a
pagan myth. But artists, or so he supposed, sometimes times take strange
liberties with their sitters--besides, this was not in any sense a

"Your train's in, sir. Redyford is the second station from here."

He turned away and walked quickly to the side-platform where the short
local train was standing ready to start.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were still some minutes to spare, and Mrs. Maule, on her way to
the train, stopped and looked up with a curious sensation in which
pleasure and anger both played a part, at the dado formed of the two
pages taken from the _Illustrated London News_.

Only one of those pages--that which was a reproduction of the picture
sold the week before at Christie's--attracted her attention and aroused
in her very mixed sensations: pleasure at the thought that her portrait
should be displayed in a fashion so wholly satisfying to her own
critical and now highly educated taste; anger at the knowledge that the
splendid painting had been sold to an American, instead stead of taking
its place in the picture-gallery of Rede Place. When the picture had
suddenly come into the market, she had ardently desired that her
husband should buy it, and she had even ventured to convey her wish to
him through his cousin, Dick Wantele, but to her mortification Richard
Maule had refused.

Mrs. Maule now remembered with a sharp pang of self-pity the
circumstances which had surrounded the painting of this picture. A
portrait which her husband had commissioned the famous artist to paint
of her was scarcely begun when the painter, who had taken an adjoining
villa to theirs at Naples for the winter, had asked her whether she
would sit to him in the character of a Greek nymph. Pleased and
flattered, she had assented. Then, mentioning what she was about to do
to her then indulgent and adoring husband, he, to her great
astonishment, had disliked the idea: disliked it sufficiently to beg her
as a personal favour to himself to make some excuse for not keeping her

But even in those malleable days Athena Maule was incapable of denying
herself a fleeting gratification. While appearing to assent to her
husband's wish she had secretly fulfilled her promise to the artist, and
the picture had excited such keen admiration when it was first exhibited
that it had made Mrs. Richard Maule's beauty famous even before she came
to England. The episode had also resulted in her first serious quarrel
with Richard Maule.

When he had first seen the painting--for rather against her will the
great artist had insisted on showing it to him--Mr. Maule had expressed
an admiration it was impossible not to feel for the technical qualities
of the work, but he had refused, with angry decision, any thought of
commissioning a replica for Rede Place.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last Mrs. Maule made her way to the train, and deliberately she chose
a carriage which had, as its one occupant, the man she had noticed
standing by the bookstall a quarter of an hour before. She had liked the
look of him then, and she liked it even more now. She wondered where he
was going to stay--whether with people she knew.

As she sat down in the opposite corner, she glanced at him with
instinctive interest and curiosity; he was lean and brown, and his face
had the taut, tense look of the man who achieves--whose life is spent in
combating forces greater than himself.

She longed for something to distract her mind from the emotion--a
mingling of impatient annoyance and self-pity--induced by her parting
scene with Bayworth Kaye. She blamed herself for having come to Selford
Junction; they, she and Bayworth, had said good-bye, in a real sense,
yesterday. Why, acting on a good-natured impulse, had she been so
foolish as to write him a last word saying she would come and see him
off? He had not understood, poor fellow--men never did. Instead of
having something touching, sentimental--in a word, soothing to look
back to--there would only be a sad, painful memory. She was still, even
now, haunted by young Kaye's desperate, unhappy eyes--and yet she had
been so kind, so very kind to him!

Yes, she had made a mistake in coming to Selford Junction. With a
pettish movement she pulled down her veil yet further over her face.

Three more travellers made sudden irruption into the railway carriage,
and both Athena Maule and the man opposite to her turned round with
frowning faces; they were one in their dislike of noise and vulgarity.
But the man soon looked away, indifferent to his surroundings; he opened
a German Service paper, and was soon reading it intently.

Athena Maule glanced distastefully at the three people who had just come
into the carriage. She knew them to be a Lady Barking and Lady Barking's
married daughter, very wealthy people new to the neighbourhood. They had
been pointed out to her by her husband's cousin, Dick Wantele, only a
day or two before, driving past in one of the horseless carriages which
were then becoming the fashion, but with which Richard Maule obstinately
refused to supersede--or even allow them to be added to--his stables.

She also knew, and in a more real sense, the man who was with the two
ladies. He was a Major Biddell, one of those men only to be found, so
Mrs. Maule now reminded herself, in hospitable England. Such men drift
about from country house to country house, making themselves useful to
the hostess; they are able to take part with modest success in any of
the games and sports that may be going on; and with advancing years they
endear themselves to the dowagers by an unceasing flow of malicious and
often very unsavory gossip.

Athena Maule had no use for this type of man, and as for the particular
specimen who was now fussing round his two companions, thrusting
illustrated papers into their hands, pulling up and down the window, and
offering to change seats with them--she remembered that she had snubbed
him once, cruelly. They had met at a moment when she was enjoying the
new, the intoxicating experience of a suddenly acclaimed beauty.

She turned her head away, for she did not wish to be recognised by Major
Biddell; and then, as the train moved out of the station, she suddenly
became aware, not without a certain amusement, that she was being
discussed by the two ladies.

The younger lady, "the vulgar married daughter," as Athena mentally
described her, had opened the illustrated paper with which Major Biddell
had provided her, and begun looking at the reproduction of the picture
which had fetched a record price at Christie's.

"If that is really like Mrs. Maule, then she's a very beautiful woman,"
she said thoughtfully. "Is she really very like that, Major Biddell? You
know her, don't you?"

"Oh yes. I know her quite well," he said promptly. "She often stays with
the Kershaws of Cumberland, old friends of mine."

He bent his sleek head over the page, and jerked his eyeglass in and out
of his right eye. "H'm," he said, "rather a fancy portrait that! I doubt
if the fair Athena was ever as lovely. Of course she may have been when
she first married poor Maule, a matter of fifteen to sixteen years ago."

"Has she been married as long as that?" said Lady Barking. "I _am_
surprised! I thought Mrs. Maule was still quite a young woman."

"She's fairly young still--but then Maule married her when she was
almost a child. She was Greek, you know, and the women blossom and fade
very quickly out there. But still, I'm not denying that she's
good-looking. In fact she's still an uncommonly handsome woman," he
admitted generously. "I saw her at Ascot this year, and I was quite
struck by the way she was wearing."

The elder lady leant forward with sudden eagerness. "If you know her so
well"--she hesitated--"I wonder if you would mind going over and seeing
her, Major? Rede Place is the only house that hasn't called on us since
we've been in the neighbourhood."

Major Biddell shook his head very decidedly.

"Oh no," he said, "you don't understand the kind, my dear lady! It's
true that I do know her very well in a sense--but the likes of her
doesn't condescend to look at the likes of me," he laughed
uncomfortably. "She has no use for any one who isn't in love with her,
or who hasn't been in love with her. The first time I saw her the whole
crowd were at her feet. I was the only one who stood apart, so you can
imagine whether she likes me or not!"

"Do tell us, Major Biddell; is it really true that----" the voice
dropped, but the two other silent, unknown occupants of the carriage
caught a word or two which the young lady who spoke them had certainly
not intended them to hear.

"They're all like that in her particular set," declared Major Biddell
briefly. He looked round uncomfortably. It is always a mistake to talk
of people, especially women, by their names, in a railway carriage or
any other semi-public place.

Then the mother chimed in: "One does hear very peculiar stories about
her, Major."

The little man winced. "Well," he said, "there's a lot of excuse for
her, isn't there? Think of the state Maule's in! There she is, a
beautiful woman tied to a kind of mummy!"

"I don't think a woman, however good-looking she may be, has any excuse
for breaking her marriage vows," said the elder lady uncompromisingly.

She felt that Major Biddell was not behaving very nicely to her. She had
understood that he was a very useful man to know, but during the last
two or three days it had begun to strike her that he was a selfish
little man. Of course he could have contrived a meeting between herself
and Mrs. Maule if he really had a mind to do so! She also felt indignant
with him for pretending to her and to her daughter that there was
nothing specially scandalous in the behaviour of Mrs. Maule.

Why, everybody knew what Mrs. Maule was like! Even before she, Lady
Barking, had become a part of Society, she had heard of the beautiful
Mrs. Maule and her "goings on"; and in this part of the world the
escapades of Mrs. Maule, the extraordinary things she had been known to
do, were the standing gossip dish of the neighourhood. Even now,
everyone was talking of the way in which she had bewitched young
Bayworth Kaye, the Redyford clergyman's son, during the last few months.
It was absurd for Major Biddell to pretend that Mrs. Maule was just like
everybody else!

Perhaps something of what she was feeling betrayed itself on her large,
round face, for Major Biddell moved a little nearer to her. After all,
Lady Barking was his hostess, and he desired to stay on at her
comfortable, luxuriously appointed house for at least another ten days.

"I see you know a good bit about her," he said, grinning. "I can tell
you one really funny story about her," and then he proceeded to tell it,
the two hanging on his lips, though the elder of his listeners felt
uncomfortable, half-ashamed at listening so eagerly to what in another
mood she would probably have described as "garbage."

A hand was suddenly laid on Major Biddell's shoulder. He faced about
quickly. A stranger of whose presence in the railway carriage he had
scarcely been aware, was standing before him, tall, grim, formidable.

"I must ask you, sir," the stranger spoke very clearly, "to withdraw
every word that you have said concerning Mrs. Richard Maule. As for the
story you have just told, you and I heard it at Undulah a good many
years ago. It was told--I remember the fact, if you do not--of another
lady, of, of--no matter--" he stopped himself abruptly.

Major Biddell jumped up. If no gentleman in the higher sense of the
word, he was also no coward.

"I shall say exactly what I like," he said sharply, "and I question your
right to interfere with me in any way. You say you met me at Undulah a
good many years ago? If that's the case, you have the advantage of me!"

There was a moment's pause; then it was broken by a nervous laugh and a
whisper from daughter to mother, "Poor man, I suppose he's another of
Mrs. Maule's victims!"

"Perhaps I should add," said the stranger, his voice thick with anger
and contempt, "that though I have never met Mrs. Maule, I know quite
enough of her to be assured that this vile gossip, these--these foul
allegations, are utterly, damnably untrue."

Major Biddell felt very much relieved. For a horrible moment he had
supposed, not unnaturally, that the man who had just administered so
sharp a rebuke to him was nearly related to Mrs. Maule. He had at once
realized that the speaker was a member of the profession he had once
adorned, nay more, he was uncomfortably aware that the man's dark face
had been seen by him before. The unpleasant stranger was eccentric--to
say the least of it. But of course there are such men in the
world--Major Biddell thanked God he hadn't hitherto met many such--who
go through life breaking lances for the sex.

The little scene was over in a very few moments, and, after one quick
look round, the woman who sat in the furthest corner had apparently
taken no interest in what was going on. Her face was turned away. She
was staring out of the narrow window. Major Biddell, glancing at her
apprehensively, could only see her slim, straight back, and the veil
twisted round her small hat hiding the dark shining coils of hair.

The train began to slow down. The two ladies got up with an air of
rather ostentatious relief. Major Biddell opened the door and jumped
out. He carefully helped his companions down the high steps. As all
three moved away, Lady Barking's sonorous voice could be heard saying,
"I should think that man was mad!"

"Oh no, he wasn't, mother," said her daughter loudly. "He's an adorer of
the lady--that's what it is. I expect he's on his way to stay there

"But they never have any visitors at Rede Place except that Miss

The train moved on. To the woman sitting in the corner the atmosphere of
the railway carriage was still charged with a not unpleasing

Very deliberately she raised her veil and subjected the man sitting
opposite to a long, thoughtful scrutiny. She raked her memory in vain
for the strongly-drawn dark face, the large, loosely-made figure.

Suddenly he raised his eyes and met her full, considering glance. No,
they had never met before. No man who had ever known Athena Maule, even
for only a brief space of time, would look into her lovely, mobile face,
meet the peculiar glance of her large heavy-lidded violet eyes, as this
stranger was now doing, coldly, unchallengingly.

Mrs. Maule reddened, and hurriedly pulled down her veil. She felt--and
it was a disconcerting sensation--as if she had been snubbed.


    "The world is oft to treason not unkind,
    But ne'er the traitor can admirers find."

It was the evening of the same day.

Two men were sitting together in what was called the Greek Room by the
household of Rede Place.

The elder of the two was close to the fireplace, his stiff, thin hands
held out to the blue shooting flames of a wood fire. Although he was
dressed for dinner, there was that about him which suggested invalidism.
Cushions were piled behind him in the deep, capacious chair in which he
seemed to crouch rather than to sit, and a light rug was thrown across
his knees, although it was only the 1st of October.

This was Richard Maule, whose name was known to the cosmopolitan world
of scholars as a Hellenist, an authority on classical archæology, on the
slowly excavated story of long-buried civilizations. To those who dwelt
in the present, and who only cared for the things of to-day, he was
enviable as the owner of a delightful and, in its way, a famous estate
in Surrey.

Rede Place! The enchanting, rather artificial pleasaunce created out of
what had been a primeval stretch of woodland by an early Victorian
millionaire! The banker _virtuoso_, Theophilus Joy, had committed what
we should now consider the crime of pulling down a fine old Tudor
manor-house in order to reproduce in the keener English climate and
alien English soil those Palladian harmonies of form which have their
natural home only beneath southern skies.

There had been a time in the 'fifties and the 'sixties when Rede Place
had been a synonym for all that was exquisite and perfect in art and
life. But Richard Maule, though he shared many of the tastes, and had
inherited all the wealth of his grandfather, was a recluse. Not even the
possession of a singularly beautiful and attractive wife ever made him
throw open Rede Place in the old, hospitable, magnificent way in which
it had been thrown open during his own childhood and early youth.

As far as was possible, he lived alone--alone, that is, with the
companionship of his wife, when she was willing to favour him with her
companionship, and fortunate in the constant society of his kinsman,
Dick Wantele, whom all the world knew to be Richard Maule's ultimate
heir, that is, the future owner of Rede Place.

Each of the rooms of the long Italianate house was filled with curious,
rare, and costly works of art, offering many points of interest to the
collector and student, and this was specially true of the room in which
now sat Richard Maule and Dick Wantele.

In 1843 Theophilus Joy, the friend rather than the patron of Turner, had
persuaded that eccentric and secretive genius to accompany him from
Italy to Greece. The enduring result of this journey was a remarkable
series of water-colours forming the decoration of what was henceforth
called the Greek Room of Rede Place. Over the mantelpiece was a copy, by
the artist, of "Ulysses deriding Polyphemus." Below the Turner
water-colours, and forming a latticed dado round the room, were a row of
lacquered bookcases containing Richard Maule's unique collection of
books and pamphlets, in every language, dealing with the Greece of the
past and of the present.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dick Wantele sat as far from the fire as was possible, close to a window
which he would have preferred to have open. His long, angular figure was
bent almost in two over his knee, on which there lay propped up a block
of drawing paper. He was drawing busily, sketching a small house, by the
side of which was a rough plan of what was evidently to be the inside of
the house. A heavily-shaded lamp left in shadow his pale, lantern-jawed
face, only redeemed from real ugliness by its expression of alert

The two, unlike most men living in the difficult juxtaposition of owner
and heir, were on the most excellent terms the one with the other.
Theirs indeed was the happy kind of intimacy which requires no words,
no futile exchange of small talk, to prove kindliness and understanding;
and when at last Richard Maule spoke, he did not even turn round, for he
was used to the other's instant comprehension and sympathy.

"Then the Paches are bringing over General Lingard to dinner next

The younger man looked up quickly. "Yes, on Tuesday," he said. "Athena
seems to think that will be the best day for them to come. You see, Jane
Oglander will be here then."

"I'm glad of that," said Richard Maule.

"I hope their coming won't bore you, Richard. Athena couldn't get out of
it. You see Pache practically asked her to ask them over. They want to
show their lion, and they also want to entertain their lion! I confess
I'm rather looking forward to seeing Lingard."

"I've seen so many lions." Mr. Maule spoke with a touch of weary
irritation. And then he added, after a rather long pause, "I never cared
for soldiers, at any rate not for your modern man of war who goes out
with a Gatling gun to kill a lot of poor niggers."

"Lingard has done more than that, Richard. He succeeded where three
other men had failed, and what is really wonderful, he did it on the

"That I admit _is_ wonderful," said Richard Maule dryly, "but I don't
suppose the people who are now fêting him are doing it as a reward for
his economy. However, no matter, we'll entertain the Pachian hero."

The mahogany door at the end of the long room opened, then it was closed
quietly, and a woman came in, bringing with her a sudden impression of
vitality, of youth, of buoyant strength into the shadowed, over-heated

Athena Maule advanced with easy, graceful steps till she stood, a
radiant figure, in the circle of warring light cast by the fire and by
the shaded lamps. Her cheeks were flushed, tinted to an exquisite
carmine that seemed to leave more white her low forehead and now heaving

She stopped just between the two men, glancing quickly first at one and
then at the other. And then at last, after a perceptible pause, she
spoke, her clear accents, slightly foreign in their intonation, falling
ominously on the ears of her small audience of two.

"I've just had a letter from Jane Oglander."

The younger of the two men wondered with a certain lazy amusement
whether Athena was aware of how dramatic had been her announcement of a
singularly insignificant fact. As to the older man--he who sat by the
fireplace--he had turned and deliberately looked away as the door
opened. But now it was he who spoke, and this to Dick Wantele was
significant, for Richard Maule very seldom spoke of his own accord, to
his wife.

"Then isn't she coming to-morrow? It seems a long time since Jane left
us--in August, wasn't it?"

"Jane Oglander," said Mrs. Maule, her left hand playing with the tassel
terminating the Algerian scarf which slipped below her bare dimpled
shoulders, "Jane Oglander wishes me to tell you both that--that she is
going to be married."

Richard Maule fixed his stern, sunken eyes on his wife. It was a
terrible look--a look of mingled contempt and hatred.

"Anyone we know?" asked Dick Wantele quietly.

Athena Maule looked at him with a grudging admiration. Dick was
certainly what some of her English friends called "game," and her French
friends "_crâne_." She had now lived in England for some eight years,
but she did not yet understand Englishmen and their ways; and of all the
strange Englishmen she had come across, there were few that struck her
as so queer--queer was the word--as her husband's cousin, Dick Wantele.
But he had long ceased really to interest her.

Walking slowly down the long gallery upstairs, Mrs. Maule had thought
deeply how she should make her startling announcement, how reveal the
news which had hurt her so shrewdly as to make her wish--such being her
nature--that others should share her pain.

She had thought of coming in with Jane Oglander's letter open in her
hand, but no, this she decided would be rather cheap, and would also in
a measure prepare Dick--it was Dick whom she wished to hurt, whom she
knew she would hurt. Richard Maule was incapable of being hurt by
anything. But still it was very pleasant to know that even Richard would
be irritated at the thought that Jane Oglander, who had now been for so
long the one healing, soothing presence in their sombre household, and
whom he had stupidly believed would end by marrying Dick Wantele was now
going to disappear into the morass of British matronhood.

"Anyone we know?" she repeated consideringly. "No, not exactly, but
someone who is quite famous and whom we shall know very soon."

Dick Wantele shrugged his shoulders with a nervous movement. His
cousin's wife was fond of talking in enigmas, especially to him, and
especially when she knew he desired to be told a simple fact simply and

Then something unexpected happened. Richard Maule again spoke, and again
addressed his wife.

"I suppose," he said, "you mean General Lingard?"

"How did you know? Has Jane written to you?" Mrs. Maule flashed the
questions out.

The one who looked on was vividly aware that this was the first time, so
far as he knew, for years, that Athena Maule had asked direct questions
of her husband, questions demanding answers.

Even now Richard Maule did not vouchsafe his wife the courtesy of a
reply. It seemed to him that her questions answered themselves, and in
the negative.

But Dick Wantele got up. "Is this true, Athena?" he asked abruptly. "Is
Jane engaged to General Lingard? What an extraordinary thing! Why, he
hasn't been back from West Africa more than a fortnight."

She nodded. "Yes!--it's quite true. Apparently his parents were friends
of her father ages ago. She knew him when she was a child. They met
again quite by chance last time he was in England. Then he began to
write to her. It all seems to have been arranged by letter. At least she
says they corresponded all the time he was away, and then he appears to
have gone straight to her on the evening of the day he arrived in
London. I suppose," she concluded not very pleasantly, "that she could
not dash his triumph--and so she accepted him. It is very difficult,"
she continued, "for a woman to say no to a hero."

Dick Wantele smiled. His eyes met hers with a curious flash of rather
cruel raillery. Her own dropped for a moment; then they seemed to dilate
as she went on, "I really do know what I am talking about, for you see,
Dick, Richard was a hero when I married him. In Greece we all looked
upon the great, the noble, the famous Mr. Maule as quite a hero!"

For a moment she allowed her full glance to rest on the unheroic figure
crouching by the fire, and Dick Wantele felt keenly vexed with himself.
He was not often so foolish as to wage war with Richard Maule's wife in
Richard Maule's presence.

All three hailed with relief the interruption caused by the announcement
of dinner. Wantele got up with more alacrity than usual. He walked with
a quick, sliding step to where Mrs. Maule was still standing. With a
little bow he offered her his arm.

As they left the room Mr. Maule's valet came in by another door.
Quickly, noiselessly, he brought forward an invalid table and placed on
it a tray. There was soup, some whole-meal bread, a little very fine
fruit, and a small decanter of claret. Then after the man had asked, "Is
there anything else you require, sir?" and had noted the scarcely
perceptible shake of the head with which Mr. Maule answered him, the
master of Rede Place was left alone.

Richard Maule looked at the silver bowl containing his half-pint of
soup--everything he ate was measured and weighed and prepared with the
most scrupulous accuracy according to a great doctor's ordinance--with a
kind of fastidious distaste. Since his illness he had grown particular
about his food, and yet as youth and man no one had been more
indifferent than he to the kind of luxury by which most men set such
store. During the years which had immediately preceded his marriage, it
had been his boast that he could live for days and even weeks on the
rough, unpalatable fare dear to the Greek peasant.

Steadying his right hand with his left, he ate a spoonful of soup, then
pushed the bowl away. The news his wife had taken such malicious
pleasure in telling had disturbed and pained him more than he thought
anything could now disturb and pain him. He was attached to Jane
Oglander; she was the only human being apart from Dick whose presence
was, if not agreeable, at least not unpleasant to him. In the rare
moments of kindly thought and musing on the future which sometimes
visited him, he saw Jane mistress of Rede Place, bringing peace and,
what is so much nearer the heart of life, love satisfied, to Dick
Wantele. He had felt sure that Jane, with her tenderness, her simplicity
of nature, would end where most women of her type end, by surrender.

That she would marry anyone excepting Dick Wantele had seemed
impossible. But in this life, as Richard Maule had learnt far too late,
it is what would have seemed impossible which happens.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dick Wantele and Mrs. Maule sat opposite one another at a round table
set at one end of the great tapestry-hung dining-room. A stranger
seeing them would have thought the plain young man singularly blessed in
having so lovely a table-mate sitting with him at so perfectly cooked
and noiselessly served a meal as they were now enjoying.

But though there was a side of his nature peculiarly alive to certain
sensuous forms of beauty, to-night Wantele only saw in Athena the
malicious, almost the malignant, bearer of ill news.

But civilized man, if eating in company, must also talk, and so at last,
"One sees now," he said reflectively, "why the worthy Paches have been
so greatly honoured."

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Maule. It was, she found, sometimes
easier to ask Dick to explain himself than to try and guess what he

"I mean," said Wantele, "that one can now understand why General Lingard
accepted his dull relations' invitation. It was because he knew that his
young woman would be in the neighbourhood, staying here with us."

"Your choice of phrase," said Athena sharply, "is not very refined."

"Isn't it?" he said mildly. "But then, Athena, I don't know that I ever
set up to be a particularly refined person."

And then, as they sat sparring and jarring as they so often did at their
quickly-served meals, Dick Wantele gradually became aware that Mrs.
Maule was eating nothing, nay more, that her short upper lip was
trembling--large tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Why!--Athena?" he exclaimed. "You mustn't allow this unexpected news
to"--he hesitated for a word--"to upset you so much." He looked up
across at her with a not very kind curiosity. His light observant eyes
suddenly seized on what was to him an amazing sight, namely that a
folded letter, covered with a fine clear handwriting he knew with a dear
familiar knowledge, was working up out of Mrs. Maule's short bodice and
forming a grey patch on her white neck. In spite of himself, Wantele was
rather touched.

"Of course I have always known that Jane was devoted to you," he said
musingly, "but I didn't realise that the feeling was reciprocated to
such an extent as it seems to be!"

A flush of stormy anger reddened Mrs. Maule's face.

"With Jane often here it has been bad enough!" she said passionately.
"But what will my life be like henceforth?--I mean when I shan't even
have her to look forward to? Richard will force me to be here more than
ever now."

"I think you will still manage to be a good deal away----"

He had been right after all. Athena was only thinking of Jane Oglander's
marriage as it affected herself.

"Of course I shall stay away as much as I can!" she cried. "You and
Richard much prefer my absence to my presence----" her look challenged a
contradiction Wantele did not--could not utter.

"And then--and then that isn't all, Dick! I didn't mind being here when
Jane was here too to make things go well----"

"Perhaps Jane will sometimes leave her hero during the very few weeks of
the year that you are, as it were, in residence, Athena. He's going, it
seems, to be given a home appointment. I suppose they will be married
very soon?"

Wantele did not look at her as he spoke. He was tracing an imaginary
pattern on the tablecloth. The numbness induced by the horrible blow she
had dealt him was beginning to give way to stinging stabs of pain. He
longed to know more--to know everything--to turn as it were a jagged
knife in his heart-wound.

Mrs. Maule dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, then she laughed.

"No, no, Dick," she cried, "there's no such luck in store for you--I
mean for us! We're going to lose Jane--once for all. Jane has taken it
rather badly. I never thought that dear saint would fall in love!" She
suddenly became aware that his eyes were fixed on the letter she had
thrust into the bodice of her gown when walking down the long gallery
upstairs. She took it out of her warm and scented bodice, and held it
out to him.

"I think you'd better read what she says."

Wantele looked at the pretty hand holding Jane Oglander's letter, but he
made no attempt to take the folded paper. "I should _like_ to read it--"
he said lightly, "but I think I'd better not."

"Yes, do read it, Dick. Why shouldn't you?" She added slowly, "There's
something about you in it too----"

Wantele hesitated, and then he fell. He leant over and took Jane
Oglander's letter from her hand. His own was shaking, and that angered
him. He turned his chair right round, and holding the two sheets of grey
paper up close to his eyes deliberately read them slowly through.

As at last he handed them back to her, he said quietly, "You told me a
lie just now, Athena. I am not mentioned in Jane's letter."

"Indeed you are!" She pointed to a thin line of writing across the top
of the second sheet.

"'I hope Dick won't mind much'--" she read aloud.

"There's something else!" he cried quickly, and getting up strode round
and took the letter again from her with a masterful hand. "'I hope Dick
won't mind much'--" he read aloud, "'or dear Richard either.'"

Then he let the letter drop on the cloth beside her. The numbness had
all gone, the pain he felt had become almost intolerable.

Mrs. Maule again tucked Jane Oglander's letter inside her bodice, then
she got up. As he held the door open for her, Wantele put his hand, his
cool, long-fingered, impersonal hand, on her arm.

"Athena," he said softly. "I wonder how it is that you have always had
the gift of making me do things of which I knew I should live to feel
ashamed. A unique gift, dear cousin----"

She turned and laughed mischievously up into his pale suffering face.
"The woman tempted me, and so of course I ate!" she exclaimed. "You're
not much of a man, Dick, but you have always been a thorough man in the
matter of making excuses for yourself!"


    "He smarteth most who hides his smart
    And sues for no compassion."

After he had closed the door behind his cousin, Dick Wantele did not go
back to the little round table, its fruit and wine. Instead he began
walking up and down the dining-room, his hands clasped behind his back.
The reading of Jane Oglander's letter had brought with it sharp and
instant punishment.

Even to her dearest woman friend Jane had said little of her inmost
feelings, but the man who knew her with a far more intimate knowledge
than any other human being would ever know her, understood. Jane loved
Lingard. Loved him in a way he, Wantele, had not thought her capable of
loving, and the revelation hurt him horribly. Why had he failed where
another had succeeded with such apparent ease?

He felt a sudden hatred of the house he was in and of everything and
everybody in it. Feeling pursued, accompanied by mocking demons, he
hurried out of the dining-room and made his way into the square hall or
atrium, as old Theophilus Joy had called it. Each of the marble figures
there seemed alive to his humiliation and defeat.

Passing into a vestibule which led directly out of doors he put on a
light coat, for he was delicate, Mrs. Maule would have said over-careful
of himself--then he jammed a wide-brimmed soft hat on his head, and
quietly let himself out of the house.

It was a still, warm night, but the moist fragrant air was heavy with
the premonition of coming winter. Wantele walked a certain distance down
the broad carriage way, then he cut sharply to the left, among the
brambles and underwood, under high beech trees. Once there, he began to
walk more slowly, keeping to the narrow path by a kind of instinct.

He welcomed the tangible fact of solitude. Even were he urgently sought
for, it would be a long time before they could find him unless he
himself raised his voice and gave a hulloo. Richard, for once, must
spend his evening solitary.

Could she have seen Wantele's long thin face as it was now, serious with
the seriousness born of distress, Athena Maule would have been satisfied
that the news she had been at the pains to tell in so dramatic a fashion
had struck at the heart of at least one of her hearers.

Dick Wantele belonged to the type of man who achieves what he desires to
achieve because his desire is generally well within the measure of his

He had been confident that in time he would wear down Jane Oglander's
gentle resistance, and lately--all the very time she had been
corresponding with General Lingard, certainly receiving and perhaps even
writing love-letters--he had believed that she was making up her mind to
reward him for what had become his long fidelity. He had even gone so
far as to think that only Athena Maule's watchful antagonism stood
between Jane Oglander and himself.

To Wantele, the knowledge that he had been a fool stung intolerably. He
had one poor consolation, the consolation of knowing that he had hidden
successfully the various feelings provoked in him by the announcement,
both from the cruel eyes and from the kind eyes which had watched to see
how he took news which meant so much to him. But that, after all, was
but an ignoble consolation in his great bereavement.

Walking there in the darkness, with memory as his only companion, he
realised all too shrewdly what the disappearance of Jane Oglander from
his life would mean. Till to-night, Wantele had been wont to tell
himself bitterly that the existence he was forced to lead was one by no
means to be envied by other men of his age and standing. But he now
looked back to yesterday with longing, for yesterday still held a future
of which the major possibility was the fact that Jane might become his

He had first met Miss Oglander at a moment when he had just come through
a terrible secret crisis, one which had left him free of all the
familiar moorings of his early life.

He had touched pitch, and to his own conscience and imagination he had
been most vilely defiled. And yet circumstances had made it imperative
that he should not only pretend to be clean, but also that he should
affect complete ignorance of the pitch he had touched. Jane Oglander,
then a young, clear-eyed girl, with a certain tender gaiety, a
straightforward simplicity of nature which had strongly appealed to his
own more complex character, had helped him and indeed made it possible
for him to do this.

Then had come Jack Oglander's mad act and its awful consequences, and
even this had helped Dick Wantele further to obliterate the memory of
his own ignominious secret. He had thrown himself, with his cousin,
Richard Maule's, full assent, into the whole terrible business, and Jane
Oglander had found his dry sense and quiet, efficient help an untold
comfort. No wonder the ties of confidence and friendship between them
had grown ever closer and closer, seeming to justify the young man in
the hope that the time must come when Jane would become his wife.

To-night the news flung at him by Athena Maule wiped out the immediate
peaceful past, and phantoms which he believed himself to have banished
for ever sprang into being--dread reminders that no man can ever hope
to escape wholly from his past.

At last, with a feeling of lassitude and relief he came to a broad low
gate. The gate was locked, but he climbed over it, as he had often done
before. The path went on still under trees and among underwood till it
widened and became merged in a clearing, in the middle of which stood a
long low building still called by its old name of the Small Farm, and
now the home of one to whom Wantele often made his way in moments of
depression and revolt.

When Dick Wantele had first made Mabel Digby's acquaintance, she had
been a plain, observant, self-reliant little girl of nine, whose most
striking features were bright brown eyes set in a fair freckled face,
and masses of light yellow hair worn by her in two long pigtails. The
only child of a certain Colonel Digby, whose death had taken place when
she was sixteen, Mabel Digby had elected to go on living in the place
where her father had brought her motherless, seven years before, and
Dick Wantele had been largely instrumental in her settlement in the old
farmhouse which was on the edge of the Rede Place estate.

At first the governess who had brought her up, and who had educated her
in the old-fashioned, thorough, and perhaps rather limited way more
usual forty years ago than now, had lived with her; but when Mabel was
nineteen this lady had had to go back to her own people, and she had
had no successor.

To the scandal rather than to the surprise of the neighbourhood, Miss
Digby decided that henceforth she would live alone. She was well aware,
though those about her were not, that her father's old soldier servant
and his wife were really more efficient and vigilant chaperons than the
kind, gentle governess had been.

With Wantele the relations of Mabel Digby had always been of a
singularly close and sexless nature. She had naturally begun by looking
at him with her father's, the old Indian Mutiny veteran's eyes; that is,
she had been gently tolerant of his fads, while neither understanding
nor sharing them.

Then, as she grew older, as she read the books that he lent her and
talked over with her, she had moved some way from her father's--the
simple-minded soldier's--position, and she judged Dick Wantele rather
hardly, half despising him for having so contentedly, or so she thought,
sunk into the position of adopted son to his wealthy cousin. When she
had become aware that he desired to marry Jane Oglander, a fact of which
she had possessed herself by asking him the direct question, and
receiving an equally direct answer, she had at once decided that he was
not nearly good enough for the lady on whom he had fixed his affection,
and time had in no sense modified her first view.

Still, without her knowing it, Dick Wantele counted for much in Mabel
Digby's life. She was proud of his friendship and believed herself to be
the recipient of all his secrets. When he was attacked, as he often was
in her presence--for she was on the whole liked, and he was regarded by
the neighbourhood as "superior" and "supercilious"--she always took his

Intimate as they were with one another, and with that comfortable
intimacy which knows nothing of the doubts or recriminations which lead
to what are significantly called "lovers' quarrels," there were subjects
on which neither ever touched to the other. Never since the day on which
Mabel Digby, at the time only fifteen, had asked him the indiscreet
question which she was now ashamed to remember, had either made any
allusion to Wantele's feeling for Jane Oglander. The other subject which
was taboo between them was Mabel Digby's relation to young Kaye.

Wantele was no schemer, but there was something in him which made him
aware of the schemes of others, even against his own will and desire. He
had become aware that Mrs. Kaye regarded Mabel Digby as a suitable
daughter-in-law elect, almost on the day that the thought had first
presented itself to the clergyman's wife and on Mabel's behalf he had at
once said to himself, "Why not?" But during the last year he had been
glad to believe that Mabel had so little suspected or assented to Mrs.
Kaye's wishes as to ignore her one-time playfellow's infatuation for

       *       *       *       *       *

His eyes had become accustomed to the star-lit darkness, and he could
see the straight stone-flagged path which led to the porch of the Small
Farm. As he walked up it a dog rushed out from its kennel and began
barking. "Be quiet," said Wantele harshly. "Be quiet, old dog! Keep that
sort of thing for your enemies and the enemies of your mistress--not for

Then he walked on, the dog at his heels, till he got to the porch. There
he waited for a moment, for it had suddenly occurred to him that Mabel
Digby might not be alone; one of the tiresome people who lived in
Redyford--the village which had now grown into a town--might be spending
the evening with her. Before knocking at her door he must assure himself
that she was alone. Old friends as he and she were, he had never come
there before so late as this.

He walked on past the porch, till he stood opposite the uncurtained
window of the curious hall dining-room of the person he had come to see.
He remembered that Colonel Digby had hated curtains, and that his
daughter shared the prejudice.

Mabel Digby was dressed in the rather old-fashioned looking high white
muslin dress she generally wore in the evening when at home by herself.
Her fair hair was drawn back very plainly from her forehead, and coiled
in innumerable plaits. Colonel Digby had desired his girl to do her hair
in that way when she had first turned it up, and by a queer little bit
of sentiment in a nature which prided itself on its lack of sentiment,
Mabel had always remained faithful to her father's fancy.

Sitting on a low chair between the deep fireplace and the long narrow
oak table which ran down the middle of the room, Mabel Digby was now
engaged in burning packets of letters, and she was going through the
disagreeable task in the rather precise way which made her do well
whatever she took in hand. Her long and not very easy task was nearly at
an end, and Wantele saw clearly the few letters that remained scattered
on the table. He recognised the bold black handwriting, the large square
envelopes, the blue Indian stamps.

"How odd," he told himself, "that the child should have waited till
to-night to burn these old letters of Bayworth Kaye!"

Mabel had never made any secret of her correspondence with the young
soldier. Still, when one came to think of it, it was odd that she had
troubled to keep Bayworth's letters--odder still that now to-night, the
day of Bayworth Kaye's departure, she should be burning them....

After all, why should he go in and see her now? People have to bear
certain troubles alone. Mabel Digby had set him, in this matter, a good

Wantele turned on his heel. He walked on to the grass and plunged into
the herbaceous border which still formed a fragrant autumn hedge to the
little lawn. His object was to get away without being seen or heard, by
the gate which gave on to the country road and which formed the proper,
orthodox entrance to the Small Farm. But as he was making his way to the
gate the front door opened, and Mabel Digby came out into the darkness.

"Aren't you coming in, Dick?" she called out. "I couldn't think what had
happened to you! I saw you at the window, and then you disappeared
suddenly. Why didn't you let yourself in? The door isn't locked, but the
gate is." Mabel Digby had a loud, rather childish voice, but now Wantele
was glad enough to turn and follow her into the low-pitched living room
of the old farmhouse.

As he walked through into the curious and charming room, at once so like
and so unlike the living-rooms of the smaller farms on his cousin's
estate, he saw that Mabel Digby had thrown a large, brightly-coloured
Italian handkerchief over those of the letters which still remained on
the table.

"The women in the cottages do that," she said, following the direction
of his eyes. "When they hear the step of a visitor at the door, they
throw a dishcloth over whatever it is they want to hide, the little drop
of comfort or what not, but it doesn't deceive the visitor--at least it
never deceives me! I always know what there is under the dishcloth. And
you know--I mean you saw, Dick, what there is under my dishcloth."

She spoke quickly, a little defiantly. Her cheeks were burning, her
brown eyes very bright. She also felt unhappy, moved out of her usual
self to-night.

Wantele walked over to the fireplace. He sat down in the ingle nook and
held out his hands. He was a chilly creature, and though he had been
walking fast he felt curiously cold.

Poor little Mabel! This was interesting and--and rather sad. He wondered
uncomfortably how much she had seen, guessed, of Bayworth's infatuation
for Athena Maule. She must have seen something....

"Yes," he said at last. "It's never much use trying to prevent one's
neighbours knowing what one's got under one's dishcloth. But there have
never been any letters under mine. As a matter of principle I always
burn any letters I receive, however temporarily precious they may be."

"There's a great deal to be said for your plan," she said. Then she
began tearing up each of the few letters which remained on the long oak
table, and threw the pieces, one by one, into the heart of the fire.

He watched her in uncomfortable silence. At last she came and sat down
opposite Wantele.

"I suppose you have heard the great news," he said abruptly. "I mean,
the piece of good fortune which has befallen the Paches?"

The girl looked up. Wantele was still staring into the fire, but his
expression told her nothing.

"No," she said indifferently, "what is it?"

"They've got General Lingard staying with them, and they're bringing him
over to dinner on Tuesday. Athena is going to ask you to meet him."

"Lingard?" cried the girl. "Not Lingard of the Amadawa Expedition! D'you
really mean that I'm going to meet him?"

A ring of genuine pleasure had come into the young voice which a few
moments before had only too plainly told a tale of dejection and

Wantele turned and looked at her. For the first time that evening he
smiled broadly, and there came into his eyes the humorous light which
generally dwelt there.

"I suppose you know all about him," he said dryly. "I suppose you
followed every step of the Expedition?"

"Of course I did!" she exclaimed. "How father would have loved to meet
General Lingard"--there came a touch of keen regret into her voice.

"I expect you'll meet your hero very often before you've done with him,
Mabel"--as he said the words he struck a match and lit a cigarette--"for
he and Jane Oglander are going to be married."

"General Lingard and Jane Oglander?" Mabel could not keep a measure of
extreme surprise and excitement out of her voice, but she was, what her
dead father's old soldier servant always described her as being, "a
thorough little lady," and after hearing Wantele's quiet word of assent
to her involuntary question, she refrained, without any seeming effort,
from pursuing the subject.

At last Wantele got up. "Well," he said. "Well, Mabel? This is a queer,
'unked' kind of world, isn't it?"

She nodded her head, and without offering him her hand she unlatched the

When she knew him to be well away, she came back and, laying her head on
the table, burst into tears. She loved Jane Oglander--she rejoiced in
Jane's good fortune--but the contrast was too great between Jane's fate
and hers.

But for Athena Maule, but for the spell Athena had cast over Bayworth
Kaye, she, Mabel, would probably by now have been Bayworth's wife, on
the way to India--India the land of her childish, of her girlish


     "Nay, but the maddest gambler throws his heart."

Richard Maule waited a while to see if his cousin would come to him, and
then he went up to his bedroom.

He soon dismissed his man-servant, and the book he had meant to read in
the night--a book on the newly-revealed treasures of Cretan art--lay
ready to his feeble hand on the table by the wide, low bed which was the
only new piece of furniture placed there since the room had been the
nursery of his happy childhood. But he felt unwontedly restless, and
soon he began moving about the low-ceilinged, square room with dragging,
heavy footsteps.

When they had brought him back ill to death, as he had hoped, from Italy
eight years before, it was here that he had insisted on being put; and
there were good reasons for his choice, for the room communicated by
easy shallow stairs with that part of the house where were the Greek
Room, and the library which had been arranged for him by his grandfather
as a delightful surprise on his seventeenth birthday.

Mr. Maule's bedchamber was in odd contrast to the rest of Rede Place.
The furnishings were frankly ugly, substantial veneered furniture had
been chosen by the sensible, middle-aged woman to whom Theophilus Joy,
after anxious consultation with the leading doctor of the day, had
confided his precious orphan grandson. His old nurse's clean,
self-respecting presence haunted, not unpleasantly, the room at times
when Richard Maule only asked to forget the present in the past.

His wife, Athena, had never been in this room. Even when he was lying
helpless, scarcely able to make himself understood by his nurses, the
stricken man had been able to convey his strong wish concerning this
matter of his wife's banishment from his sick room to Dick Wantele, and
Athena had quietly acquiesced....

As time had gone on, Richard Maule had become in a very real sense
master of this one room; here at least none had the right to disturb him
or to spy on his infirmities unless he gave them leave.

He went across to the window which commanded a side view of the door by
which the inmates of Rede Place generally let themselves in and out.
Dick, so he felt sure, was out of doors--no doubt walking off, as the
young and hale are able to do, his anger and his pain.

A great yearning for his kinsman came over Richard Maule. Drawing the
folds of his luxurious dressing-gown round his shrunken limbs, he
painfully pushed a chair to a window and sat down there. And as he
looked out into the October night, waiting for the sound which would
tell him that Dick had come in, he allowed himself to do what he very
seldom did--he thought of the past and surveyed, dispassionately, the

To the majority of people there is something repugnant in the sight of
an old man married to a lovely young woman, and this feeling is
naturally intensified when the husband happens to be in any way infirm.
Richard Maule was aware that these were the feelings with which he and
his wife had long been regarded, both by their immediate neighbours and
by the larger circle of the outer world where Mrs. Maule enjoyed the
popularity so easily accorded to any woman who contributes beauty and a
measure of agreeable animation to the common stock.

But this knowledge, painful as it might have been to a proud and
sensitive man, found Richard Maule almost indifferent. Had he been
compelled to define his feeling in words, he would probably have
observed that, after having brought his life to such utter shipwreck as
he had done, this added mortification was not of a nature to trouble him

Richard Maule, in his day, and still by courtesy, a noted Hellenist, had
come to a sure if secret conclusion concerning human life. He believed
that the old Greeks were right in thinking that Fate dogs the steps of
the fortunate, and lies in ambush eager to deal those who are too happy
stinging, and sometimes deadly, blows. How else account for that which
had befallen himself?

Till he had been forty-four, that is, till only ten years ago--for
Richard Maule was by no means old as age counts now--his life had been,
so he was now tempted to think looking back, ideal from every point of

True, he had lost both his parents in childhood, but he had been adored
and tenderly cherished by his mother's father, the cultivated, benignant
Theophilus Joy, of whom he often thought with a vivid affection and
gratitude seldom vouchsafed to the dead. He trusted that the old man in
the Elysian Fields was ignorant of the strange gloom which now enwrapped
Rede Place.

The Fate in which Richard Maule believed had only dealt two backward
blows at the cultivated hedonist whom Richard Maule now knew his
grandfather to have been. One had been the premature death, by
consumption, of the wife so carefully chosen, to whom there had never
been a successor; and then, twenty-two years later, the death of his
only child, Richard Maule's mother.

But these two offerings had satisfied grim Nemesis, and perhaps it was
open to question whether the creator of Rede Place had not spent a
really happier old age in moulding and fashioning his grandson, as far
as possible, to his own image, than if the beloved wife and only
daughter had lived.

In these latter days, when Richard Maule was enduring, not enjoying,
life, he was apt to find a certain consolation in going back to the days
of his delightful childhood. His grandfather had been the King, he the
Heir Apparent, of a kingdom full of infinite delights and happy
surprises to an imaginative and highly-strung little boy.

Each of the ornate rooms of Rede Place, each of the grassy glades
outside, was to him peopled with groups of agreeable ghosts--the ghosts
of the clever men and witty women whom his grandfather delighted to
bring there at certain times of each year, especially during the three
summer months, when the beautiful pleasaunce he had created out of an
equally exquisite wilderness was in glowing perfection.

The only dark period of the boy's life--and that he would now have been
unwilling to admit--was the two years spent at Eton--the Eton of the
'sixties. His grandfather, though worldly-wise enough not to wish the
lad to grow up too singular a human being, had not realized that the
life he had made his grandson lead up to the age of fourteen was not a
fit preliminary to a public school. At the end of two years the boy was
withdrawn from Eton and once more entrusted, as he had been before, to
the care of an intelligent tutor, and to teachers of foreign tongues.

Oxford proved more successful, but with Balliol, with which he had many
pleasant memories, Richard Maule had one sad association. It was while
he was sitting there in Hall that he had received the news of his
grandfather's death.

Then had begun for Richard Maule the second happy period of his life.

He had become a wanderer, but a wanderer possessed of the carpet of
Fortunatus, and with a youth, a vigour, a zest for life sharpened to
finer issues than had been the nature of Theophilus Joy.

Very soon Richard Maule made a real place for himself among that band of
thinkers and lovers of the best which may always be found at the apex of
every civilised society. His enthusiasm for the Greece of the past
translated itself into an ardent love of modern Attica. He built a villa
on Pentelicus, and there, within sight of the Ægean waters, he dreamed
dreams with the Greek patriots to whose aspirations he showed himself
willing to sacrifice, if need be, both blood and treasure. There also he
would bring together each winter bands of young Englishmen, dowered with
more romance than pence. The very brigands respected the rose-red marble
villa and its English owner, and Greece for many years was his true
country and his favourite dwelling-place.

This being so, it was perhaps not so very strange that in time Richard
Maule should have chosen an Ionian wife. His large circle--for in those
days the owner of Rede Place was a man with admiring friends in every
rank and condition of life, almost, it might be said, in every country
and capital of Europe--were much interested to learn that if Mrs. Maule
had borne before her marriage the respectable English name of Durdon,
she was through her Greek mother a Messala, the representative of a
house whose ancestors had borne titles transmitted to them from the days
when Venice held sway over the seven islands.

As was meet, the philo-Hellenist had met his future wife during a stay
in Athens, and to him there had been something at once fragrant and
austere in a courtship conducted in a rather humble villa reared on the
cliff at Phaleron, from whose cramped verandah there lay unrolled the
marvellous panorama of the plain of Athens, and eastwards, across the
bay, Hymettus.

It was there that Athena Durdon, her beauty made the more nymph-like and
ethereal by the opalescent light of a May moon, consented to exchange
the meagre life which had been led by her in the past as daughter of the
British Vice-Consul at Athens, for the life she had only known--but
known how well!--in dreams, that of the wife of an Englishman possessed
of a limitless purse and the key to every world.

Now, to-night, looking back on it all, stirred out of his usual
apathetic endurance by the knowledge of what Dick Wantele was feeling,
Richard Maule smiled, a grim inward smile, when he remembered how, even
during their brief honeymoon, spent at his ardent desire at Corinth,
Athena had made it quite clear that what she longed for was Paris,
London, or perhaps it would be more true to say the Champs Elysées and
Mayfair! They had been standing--he looking far younger than his
forty-five years, she in one of the white gowns in which he loved to see
her, but the simplicity of which she even then deplored--close to the
Pierian spring, when she had, by a few playful, but very eager, words
shown him what was in her heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet, whatever he might now believe, during the first two years which
had followed his marriage Richard Maule had been a happy man--happier,
he had been then wont to assure himself, than in the days before he had
married his enchanting, wayward, and often tantalisingly mysterious
Athena. In those days none had ever seemed to regard Richard Maule as
unreasonably older than Athena, for he had retained an amazing look, as
also an amazing feeling, of youth.

Then in a day, an hour, nay a moment, he had been struck down.

Not even his cousin, the young man whom he now trusted and loved as men
only trust and love an only son, had ever received any explanation of
what had happened. To that stroke--that act of the malicious gods, as
Richard Maule believed--neither he nor his wife ever made any allusion;
indeed, when Dick Wantele had once spoken of the matter to Athena she
had shrunk from the subject with shuddering annoyance.

The facts were briefly these. Richard Maule, walking in the garden of a
villa he had taken close to Naples, had suddenly been seized with some
kind of physical attack. He had lain in the hot sun till by a fortunate
chance there had come up to where he was lying his wife, Athena herself.
She had been accompanied by a young man, an Italian protégé of the
Maules, who had discovered well-born musical genius starving in a garret
of the paternal palace he had had to let out in suites of apartments to
pay debts contracted not only by himself but by his brothers.

This youth had been treated with the kindliest, most delicate generosity
by the man whom he was wont to describe as his English saviour. The two,
Mrs. Maule and the young Italian count, had been in a summer-house not
many yards from where Mr. Maule must have fallen, but so absorbed had
they been in a score on which the count was working that they had heard
and seen nothing of what was happening in the garden outside.

One curious effect of the change in Mr. Maule's physical condition was
the sudden dislike, almost horror, he betrayed for the genius to whom he
had been so kind. So it had finally been arranged by Mrs. Maule, with,
it was understood, the full assent of her husband, that the young man
whose friendship with his benefactor had been so strangely and sadly
interrupted, should continue his musical studies at the latter's
expense, the only stipulation being that he should never come to England
when the Maules happened to be there.

Since that time, that is eight years ago, Richard Maule had practically
recovered, not his health, but what he was inclined to style with a
twisted smile, his wits.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly Dick Wantele's dark figure emerged into the moonlight from
under the trees which in the daytime now formed a ruddy wall round the
formal gardens of Rede Place. Mr. Maule moved back from his window. He
did not wish Dick to think he had been waiting, watching for him.

And then the sight of the dark figure in the moonlight had recalled to
the owner of Rede Place other vigils kept by him during the last year.

Sometimes, very often of late, Bayworth Kaye, unthinking of the honour
of the woman he loved, had tried to lengthen the precious moments he was
to spend with her by striking across that piece of moonlit sward which
could be seen so clearly from Richard Maule's window.

But the young soldier had always left the house by a more secret
way--Athena had seen to that--a way that led almost straight from her
boudoir on the ground floor of the house into the Arboretum and so into
the wider stretches of the wooded park.


     "Friendship, I fancy, means one heart between two."

Dick Wantele opened the door of the drawing-room. Lined with panels of
cedar-wood and sparsely furnished with fine examples of early French
Empire furniture, the great room looked, as did so many of the
apartments of Rede Place, foreign rather than English, and it was only
used by Mr. and Mrs. Maule on the rare occasions when they gave a

The master and mistress of Rede Place were awaiting their guests.
Richard Maule, his figure looking thinner, more attenuated than ever,
leant heavily with his right hand on a stick, his left lay on the
mantelpiece. Dick noticed that he looked more alive than usual; there
were two spots of red on his cheeks. Mrs. Maule was moving restlessly
about the room: she disliked exceedingly finding herself alone with her
husband, and she seldom allowed so untoward an accident to befall her.

Wantele looked at her curiously. His cousin's wife had the power of ever
surprising him anew. To-night it was her dress which surprised him. It
was deep purple in tint, of a diaphanous material, and rendered
opalescent, shot with gleams of pale blue and pale yellow, by some
cunning arrangement of silk underneath. Made, as even he could see, with
but slight regard to the fashion of the moment, Wantele realised that
this gown, beautiful, even magnificent as was its effect, would not
appear a proper evening dress to the conventional eye of Mrs. Pache and
of Mrs. Pache's daughter.

A fold of the thin shimmering stuff veiled Athena's dimpled shoulders,
and swept up almost to her throat, and her arms gleamed whitely through
cunningly arranged twists of the same transparent stuff carried down to
the wrist.

Her dark, naturally curling hair, instead of being puffed out stiffly as
was the ugly fashion of the moment, was braided closely to her head, and
on her head was placed a wreath made of bunches of small deep purple
grapes unrelieved by leaves. The only ornament worn by her was a large
burnt topaz--that stone which fire turns a rose red tint--attached to a
seed pearl chain.

Wantele told himself with rueful amusement that Mrs. Pache would
probably take the opportunity of wearing this evening her ancient
diamond tiara and her most _décolleté_ gown.

"I suppose you'll come back here after dinner?" he addressed Athena, and
as he spoke he could not help telling himself that she was really
enchantingly lovely. Mrs. Maule looked to-night as if she had stepped
down from one of the friezes of the Parthenon, or perhaps had leapt from
a slender vase garlanded with nymphs dancing to the strains of
celestial music.

The Frenchman who had designed her dress was evidently, as are so many
modern Parisians, a lover and a student of Greek art.

"Yes, I suppose we must. It would be cruel to inflict Mrs. Pache and
Patty on Richard."

But she did not look at her husband while she spoke. She often conveyed
messages, and even asked questions of him, by the oblique medium of Dick

Richard Maule gave no sign of having heard her words.

"I suppose you will like to have a talk with General Lingard?" The young
man turned to the silent, frail-looking figure standing by the
mantelpiece. He was himself unaware of how much his tone changed and
softened when he addressed his cousin.

"Yes, I'd like a few words with General Lingard. I wonder if Jane has
told him that I'm her trustee. Perhaps he won't mind coming in alone to
me for a few moments."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Miss Digby."

The girl advanced into the room a little timidly. She had put on her
best evening gown in honour of the famous soldier who was Jane
Oglander's betrothed. It was a pale blue satin dress, touched here and
there with pink. Wantele told himself regretfully that Mabel Digby's
gown looked stiff, commonplace, in fact positively ugly, by contrast
with Athena's beautiful costume. He liked Mabel best in the plain coats
and skirts, the simple flannel or linen shirts, she always wore in the

The door was again flung open, and a small crowd of people came into the
room. Mrs. Pache was wearing, as Wantele noticed with concern, her
tiara, and a mauve velvet dress which had done duty at one of the last
of Queen Victoria's Drawing-rooms. Hard on her mother followed Patty
Pache, looking as her type of young English womanhood so often looks,
younger than twenty-seven, which was her age; and then Mr. Pache and his
son Tom, the latter a neat young man with a pleasant job in the Board of
Trade, whom his mother fondly believed to be one of the governing forces
of the Empire. Lagging behind the others was a tall lean man wearing
old-fashioned, not very well-cut evening clothes. This must of course be
General Lingard, the guest of the evening.

Richard Maule steadied himself on his stick and took a step forward.
There was a moment of confused talking and of hand-shaking. Dick Wantele
and Mabel Digby drew a little to one side. Mrs. Pache's face broke into
a nervous smile. She was wondering whether high dresses were about to
become the fashion, or whether Mrs. Maule had a cold.

"May I introduce you," she said, "I mean may I introduce to you my
husband's cousin, General Lingard? I think you must have heard us speak
of him----"

Athena Maule held out her little hand; it lay for a moment grasped in
the strong fingers of her guest. She smiled up into his face, and
instantly Lingard knew her for the woman in the railway carriage, the
woman he had--snubbed; the woman he had--defended. "I have often heard
of General Lingard--not only from you"--she hesitated a moment--"but
also from others, dear Mrs. Pache."

Tom Pache gave a sudden laugh, as if his hostess had made an
extraordinarily witty joke, and Athena nodded at him gaily. He and she
were excellent friends, though Tom had never, strange to say, fallen in
love with her.

For a moment the five men stood together on the hearthrug.

No formal introduction had taken place between Wantele and Lingard, but
each man looked at the other with a keen, measuring look. "My cousin
never dines with us," Dick said in a low voice, "but we shall join him
after dinner. He is looking forward to a talk with you." Then he turned
to young Pache. "I'm afraid, Tom, you'll have to take in your sister.
There's no way out of it!"

Tom Pache made a little face of mock resignation.

"Isn't Miss Oglander here?" he whispered. "Why isn't Miss Oglander
here?" Then he drew the other aside. "I say, Dick, isn't this a _go_?"

Wantele nodded his head; a wry smile came over his thin lips. "Yes, it
_is_ rather a go," he answered dryly.

"We didn't even know Hew Lingard knew Miss Oglander!"

"And we only knew quite lately that you were related to General

Tom Pache grinned. "Father was his guardian, and would go on guardianing
him after he was grown up. He and my father had a row--years ago. But of
course we made it up with him when he blossomed out into a famous
character. Mother wrote and asked him to stay with us last time he was
in England. He wouldn't come then. But the other day he wrote her quite
a decent letter telling her of his engagement. They don't want it
announced--I can't think why----"

"I suppose they both hate fuss," said Wantele briefly. "We tried to get
Jane here before to-night--but she's nursing a sick friend, and she
can't come for another week. By the way, I've forgotten to ask how you
like your motor?"

"Ripping!" said young Pache briefly. "Unluckily Patty insists on driving
it, and father weakly lets her do it."

Dinner was announced, and the four curiously assorted couples went into
the dining-room.

While avoiding looking at him across the round table, Wantele was
intently conscious of the presence of the man who was to become Jane
Oglander's husband.

Hew Lingard was absolutely unlike what he had expected him to be.
Wantele had never cared for soldiers, while admitting unwillingly that
there must be in the great leaders qualities very different from those
which adorned his few military acquaintances. He had thought to see a
trim, well-groomed--hateful but expressive phrase!--good-looking man. He
saw before him a loosely-built, powerful figure and a dark, clean-shaven
face, of which the dominant features were the strong jaw and
secretive-looking mouth, which seemed rather to recall the wild soldier
of fortune of another epoch than the shrewd strategist and coldly able
organiser Lingard had shown himself to be.

Newspaper readers had been told how extraordinary was Lingard's personal
influence over his men. An influence exerted not only over his own
soldiers, but over the friendly native tribesmen.

Wantele, who read widely and who remembered what he read, recalled a
phrase which had caught his fancy, a phrase invented to meet a very
different case:

     "They grow, like hounds, fond of the man who shows them sport, and
     by whose hallo they are wont to be encouraged."

Lingard looked a man who could show sport....

Almost against his will, he could not help liking the look of Jane
Oglander's lover. There was humour as well as keen intelligence in Hew
Lingard's ugly face. When he smiled, his large mouth had generous curves
which belied the strong, stern jaw. Wantele divined that he was half
amused, half ashamed, at the honours which were now being heaped upon
him, and certainly he was doing his best to make all those about him
forget that he was in any sense unlike themselves.

Wantele also became aware, with a satisfaction he would have found it
hard to analyse, that General Lingard was paying no special attention to
his hostess; or rather, while paying Mrs. Maule all the attention that
was her due, there was quite wanting in his manner any touch of the
ardent interest, the involuntary emotion, which most men showed when
brought in contact for the first time with Athena. And yet how beautiful
she looked to-night! How full of that subdued, eloquent radiance which
is the dangerous attribute of a certain type of rare feminine

Mrs. Maule was making herself charming--charming, not only to the famous
soldier who was her guest, but also to the dull old man who sat on her
other side, and to his tiresome, pompous wife. She was also showing
surprising knowledge of those local interests which she was supposed to

Wantele's mind travelled back to the last time a dinner-party had been
given at Rede Place.

Jane Oglander had been there, and on that occasion Athena had been in
one of her ill moods, proclaiming with rather haughty irony her contempt
for the dull neighbourhood in which she had perforce to live during
certain portions of each year. Wantele remembered how he had watched her
with a certain lazy annoyance, too content to feel really angry, for
Jane Oglander had been divinely kind to him that day, and he had
thought--poor fool that he had been!--that at last he was adventuring
further than she had yet allowed him to do into her reserved, sensitive

How little we poor humans know of what the future holds for us! Till a
few days ago Dick had always thought of himself as a young man. To-night
he felt that youth lay behind him--so far behind as to be almost
forgotten--as the three young people talked and laughed across him to
one another.

Athena was now talking to Mr. Pache, inclining her graceful head towards
him with an air of amiable, placid interest; and, as Wantele noted with
satirical amusement, Mr. Pache had the foolish, happy look that even the
most sensible of elderly men assume when talking to a very pretty

Mrs. Pache did not look either happy or at ease. Even to a nimble mind
it is difficult entirely to readjust one's views of a human being. Till
a short time ago, in fact till his name began to be frequently mentioned
in the _Morning Post_, the worthy lady had considered Hew Lingard the
black sheep of her husband's highly respectable family.

There had once been a great trouble about him. That was a good many
years ago--perhaps as much as seventeen years ago, just at the time that
dear Tom had had the measles. She had tried to pump her husband about it
last night, but he had refused to say anything, which was very tiresome,
and she couldn't remember much about it.

Hew Lingard had got into a scrape with a woman; that static, dreadful
fact of course Mrs. Pache remembered. Such things are never forgotten by
the Mrs. Paches of this world. It was worse than a scrape, for Hew had
nearly _married_ a most unsuitable person--in fact he would have married
her if the person hadn't at the last moment made up her mind that he
wasn't good enough.

That was pretty well all Mrs. Pache could remember about it. She hadn't
forgotten that rather vulgar phrase "not good enough," because her
husband had come back from London to Norfolk, where they were then
living, and had walked into the room with the words: "Well, it's all
over and done with! She's gone and married another young fool whom she
has had up her sleeve the whole time! She didn't think Hew Lingard good

Hew had taken the business very hard, instead of rejoicing as he ought
to have done at his lucky escape. And they, the Paches, had seen nothing
of him for many years.

Three years ago, however, dear Tom had made her write to Hew Lingard,
and though Hew had refused her kind invitation, he had written quite a
nice letter.

This time both she and her husband had written to him, reminding
him--strangely enough, they had both used the same phrase in their
letters--that "blood is thicker than water," and urging their now
creditable relative to pay them a _long_ visit.

In accepting the invitation, Hew Lingard had announced his engagement to
Jane Oglander--the Miss Oglander whom they all knew so well, the Jane
Oglander who was often, for weeks at a time, one of their nearest
neighbours, and who, everybody had thought, would end by marrying Dick

Still, to-night Mrs. Pache told herself that Hew Lingard's engagement to
Miss Oglander was odd--odd was the word which Mrs. Pache had used in
this connection, not once but many times, when discussing the matter
with her sleepy husband on the night Hew Lingard's letter had come, and
when eagerly talking it over with her daughter the next morning.

It was so _odd_ that Jane Oglander had never spoken of General Lingard.
Surely she must have known that they, the Paches, were closely related
to him? It was to be hoped that now Hew Lingard had become a great man,
he was not going to be ashamed of the relations who had always been so
kind to him, and who in the past, when he was an unsatisfactory,
eccentric young man, had always advised him for his good.

What a pity it was that Hew had been in such a hurry! From what they
could make out he must have gone and proposed to Miss Oglander the very
day of his arrival in London.

And then there was that disgraceful story about Miss Oglander's brother.
It was indeed a pity Hew Lingard hadn't waited a bit! He might marry
anybody now--a girl, for instance, whose people were connected with the
Government, someone who could help on dear Tom, and get him promotion.
Jane Oglander was very nice, thoroughly nice, but she would never be of
any use to the Pache family.

Such were the troubled and disconnected thoughts which hurried through
Mrs. Pache's mind while she listened with apparent attention to her odd,
but now celebrated kinsman. General Lingard was trying to make himself
pleasant to his cousin Annie by telling her of a missionary expedition
to Tibet.

Mrs. Pache had always been interested in missionaries; she was a
subscriber to the S.P.C.K. The Society's publications satisfied that
passion for romance which sometimes survives in the most commonplace
human being, especially if that human being be a woman.

Just now General Lingard was speaking with kindling enthusiasm of a
certain medical missionary's fine work in West Africa. But Mrs. Pache's
face clouded distrustfully. She had suddenly remembered a scene in her
school-room, her children, Tom and his sister, together with two little
friends, sitting round Hew Lingard listening with breathless interest to
the adventures of another missionary.

This divine had sent home as relics the clothes he had worn when he had
succeeded in converting a whole village in Africa, and Mrs. Pache
vividly recalled the foolish verses which Lingard had declaimed to her
young people with solemn face and twinkling eyes--verses which cruelly
misinterpreted the missionary's intention.

Against her will the jingling lines ran in her head--

    "He preached--and did not bore them;
    Their chief, a hoary man,
      Replied, 'We are converted,
    But, to turn to other topics,
      Betrousered and beshirted,
    You're _outré_ in the Tropics.'

      The preacher is convinced in turn
    And dresses--like his flock...."

She remembered with irritation how the children had insisted on making a
copy of these absurd, most unbecoming, rhymes, and how they had
continually sung them to the beautiful old tune of "She Wore a Wreath of

Mrs. Pache allowed her eyes to wander round the table. How wizened and
old Dick Wantele was beginning to look! If poor Mr. Maule lasted much
longer, Wantele would be quite middle-aged before he came into this fine

At one time--oh, long ago now, ten years ago, when they first moved into
the neighbourhood, when Patty was only sixteen--Mrs. Pache had had a
vague hope that Dick Wantele and her Patty might take a liking to one
another. Oddly enough, quite the opposite had happened! Though thrown
into the conventional intimacy induced by propinquity, Patty had
disliked Dick from the first; she thought him priggish and affected, and
he was never more than coldly civil; how odd now to think that till the
other day, they had all vaguely supposed that he would end by marrying
Miss Oglander....

Mrs. Pache looked fondly at her daughter. Patty didn't look as well as
usual to-night--her gown showed too much red arm. No doubt high evening
dresses were "coming in," for Mrs. Maule was generally in advance of the

Patty was leaning forward trying to join in the conversation of Mrs.
Maule and of her father. Mrs. Pache wished pettishly that Hew Lingard
would stop talking. She wanted to hear what Patty was saying, and her
wish became at last painted very legibly on her face.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Barkings? Oh, Mrs. Maule, they're such nice people! I do hope you
will call on them"--Patty's voice was raised in unusual animation. And
then her father's gruff voice broke in: "They were out when my wife
called on them; but Lady Barking wrote a note asking Patty over to
dinner. They have four men staying in the house just now, and only their
married daughter to entertain them."

"Wasn't it lucky? And I enjoyed myself so much!" Everyone looked at the
fortunate Patty. Even Wantele felt a thrill of lazy interest. Newcomers
in a country neighbourhood count for much, and rightly so, to the old

"You remember what Halnaver House used to look like in the days of poor
dear old Lady Morell? Well, now it's quite different! You remember the
staircase, the famous old carved oak staircase?"

Patty looked round the table eagerly, and Wantele nodded assent.

"Well, they've taken the staircase away! They're building a most
delightful house in town, right in the middle of London, and yet it's to
be exactly like a country house! So they're going to put that oak
staircase there, and they've installed a lift at Halnaver instead! You
press a button and the lift takes you up to any floor--even right to the
very top of the house, where the garrets have been turned into the most
delightful bachelors' rooms----"

"Oh Patty, you didn't tell me that," cried her mother. "What an
extraordinary thing! Then where are the servants' quarters to be?"

"I did tell you, mother--I know I did! Where the old stables used to be,
of course! They've built a wing out there. It really has become a
wonderful house," said Patty happily. It was not often that she was
listened to with such respectful attention. "By simply pressing a button
as you lie in bed you can lock and unlock the door of your room!"

"The house must be all buttons"--observed Wantele thoughtfully.

But Patty went on: "One of the men staying there, a Major Biddell, said
he had never stayed in such a comfortable house! In fact he said--and he
seems to know everybody and go everywhere--that it was as comfortable as
the Paris Ritz Hotel. Indeed, he went further, and declared that not
even the Ritz Hotel has a quarter of the clever contrivances that Lady
Barking has managed to put into that poor old place!"

"There can be no doubt at all," said Mrs. Pache, "that the Barkings will
prove a most delightful addition to the neighbourhood." She looked
insistently at Athena Maule. "I do hope you are going to call on them,"
she said.

Athena looked down. Mrs. Pache noticed with some irritation that her
hostess had extraordinarily long and silken eyelashes. She almost
wondered if they could be real.

"I think not," Mrs. Maule at last answered, very quietly.

Lingard was struck by the purity of her enunciation. To Mrs. Maule her
father's tongue was an acquired language. As a child she had only spoken
modern Greek and French.

"I have seen the Barkings. Dick and I passed them once when we were
driving. And then last week I found myself, for a few minutes, in a
railway carriage with Lady Barking and her daughter----"

For a swift moment Athena, raising her eyes, looked straight at General
Lingard; then her violet, dark fringed eyes dropped, and she added, "I
dare say they are excellent people."

"They're much--much more than that!" cried Patty, offended.

"But surely a little noisy? I did not feel them to be of our sort--I
mean Richard's and mine," said Athena. "We are very quiet folk. No," she
threw her head back with the proud, graceful little gesture most of
those present were familiar with--"I do not think it likely that we
shall know the Barkings."

"Oh, but, Mrs. Maule, do stretch a point"--Patty's voice was full of
earnest entreaty. "They are so anxious to know you! They have heard so
much about Rede Place!" She turned appealingly to Wantele, but he
looked, as those about him so often saw him look, irritatingly
indifferent, almost bored.

Again Mrs. Maule smilingly shook her head.

"If they entertain as much as they are going to do, I'm sure that
friends of yours will often be staying with them," Patty said defiantly.

"I do not think that very likely." Mrs. Maule spoke with a touch of
scorn in her voice, and Patty Pache felt a wave of anger sweep through
her. She had _promised_ her new friends that Mrs. Maule should call at
Halnaver House.

"Then you'll be rather surprised to hear that even now there is a man
there, that Major Biddell--such an amusing, delightful man--who _does_
know you! Lady Barking wanted to send him over to call. He seemed rather
shy about it, but I told him that you and Dick were always pleased to
see people, even when Mr. Maule did not feel up to the exertion."

"I hope, Miss Patty, that you do not often take my name in vain"--there
was a touch of severity in Dick Wantele's voice.

She blushed uncomfortably. "Oh, but it's true!" she cried. "You and Mrs.
Maule often see people when Mr. Maule isn't well!"

As the ladies walked out of the room, Athena lingered a moment at the
door. "Please bring them all back to the drawing-room," she whispered
hurriedly to Wantele. "I wish to take General Lingard in to Richard
myself. Jane asked me to do so in her last letter."

Wantele looked at her musingly. He felt certain Jane had done nothing of
the kind. Athena was fond of telling little useful lies. It was a matter
of no importance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty minutes later Athena Maule and Hew Lingard passed slowly across
the square atrium, which formed the centre of Rede Place.

Save for the white marble presences about them they were alone, alone
for the first time since that brief moment of dual solitude in the
railway carriage when Lingard had looked at her in cold, mute apology
for the scene he had provoked, and which she had perforce witnessed.

The door of the room they were approaching opened, and a man-servant
came out with a covered dish in his hand.

"My husband is not quite ready for us," Athena spoke a little
breathlessly. She felt excited, wrought up to a high pitch of emotion.
For once Chance, the fickle goddess, was on her side. "Shall we wait
here a few moments?" She led him aside into a deep recess.

Then, when the servant's footsteps had died away, she turned her face up
to him and Lingard saw that her beautiful mouth was quivering with
feeling, her eyes suffused with tears. So might Andromeda have stood
before Perseus when at last unloosened from the cruel rock, the living,
eloquent embodiment of passionate and innocent shame.

"I want to thank you----" she whispered. "And--and--let me tell you
this. Simply to know that there is in this base, hateful world a man who
could do what you did for a woman unknown to him, has altered my life,
given me courage to go on!"

Mrs. Maule spoke the truth as far as the truth was in her to speak. The
incident in the railway carriage had powerfully moved and excited her;
she had thought of little else even after Jane Oglander's letter
announcing her engagement had come to divert the current of her life.
Nay, the news conveyed in Jane's letter had brought with it the
explanation of what had happened. Athena had leapt instinctively on the
truth. Her unknown friend--her noble defender--could have been no other
than General Lingard himself, on his way to stay with the Paches.

It was Athena Maule, in her character of Jane Oglander's dearest friend,
who had made the quixotic stranger's sword spring from its scabbard. The
knowledge had stung; but she was now engaged in drawing the venom out of
the sting. It was surely her right to make this remarkable, this famous
man value and respect her for herself--not simply for Jane's sake.

"I wish I could have killed the cur!" Lingard's voice was low, but his
face had become fierce, tense--the face of a fighter in the thick of

Mrs. Maule was filled with a feeling of exquisite satisfaction. Once
more she found life worth living....

But General Lingard must not be allowed to forget Jane Oglander,
Athena's friend--Athena's almost sister--the one woman who loved and
admired her whole-heartedly, unquestioningly.

"Because of what you did the other day, and--and because of Jane"--her
voice shook with excitement--"we must be friends, General Lingard." She
held out her hand, and Lingard, taking the slender fingers in his, wrung
Athena's hand, and then with a sudden, rather awkward movement he raised
it to his lips.

"And now we must go on," she said quietly. "Richard is waiting for us."

All emotion has a common denominator. The last time Lingard had been as
moved as he was now was when he had parted from Jane Oglander in the
little sitting-room in that shabby house on the south side of the

There was in Jane a certain austerity, a delicate reserve of manner,
which had made him feel that she was a creature to be worshipped from
afar, rather than a woman responsive to the man she loves.

Each happy day of the week they had spent together practically alone in
London, Lingard had had to woo her afresh. But that, to a man of the
great soldier's temperament, had been no matter for complaining. Her
scruples and delicacies had been met by him with infinite indulgence and

Then on the last day, they had had their first lovers' quarrel. He had
entreated her to come away with him, to accept, that is, the Maules'
eager invitation. Was he not going to the Paches' simply because they
lived near Rede Place? But Jane had promised to stay a week with a
friend who was ill--and she would not break her word. Lingard had become
suddenly angry, and in his anger had turned cold.

For the first time in his knowledge of her, tears had sprung to Jane's
eyes. Where is the man who does not early make the woman who loves him
weep? But these tears, or so it had seemed to him, had unlocked a deep
spring of poignant feeling in her heart, or perchance had made it
possible for her to allow her lover to know that it was there.

He had moved away from her side, and then, in a moment, had come from
her a smothered cry, a calling of her whole being for and to him. She
had thrown out her hands with the instinctive gesture of a child who
wishes to turn one who has been unkind, kind. And when she was in his
arms, there had come to her that sense of spiritual and physical
response which had brought to him the moment of exultant triumph he had
thought would never be his.

How strange that after that she should still have held out, still have
kept her word to the sick woman who needed her! It was of Jane
Oglander--of Jane as she had been, all tenderness and fire, on that day
when they had parted, that Lingard thought as he followed the woman whom
he now called friend into the room where Richard Maule sat waiting for

       *       *       *       *       *

The Paches' horseless carriage was proceeding through the park at a pace
which two of the five sitting in it felt to be, if delightful, then
rather dangerous.

"Athena grows more beautiful every time I see her," said Tom Pache
suddenly. He and Hew Lingard were sitting side by side opposite Mr. and
Mrs. Pache. Patty was wedged in between her parents.

"I thought her gown very odd and unsuitable," said his mother sharply.
"It isn't as if she had a cold. I suppose she keeps her smart evening
gowns for her smart visits."

"Yes, I thought it a pity she should hide anything so good as her
shoulders," answered her son thoughtfully.

The man by his side made a restless movement, and increased the distance
between himself and his young cousin.

"I told you the Barkings had heard all about Athena Maule and Bayworth
Kaye, mother," said Patty eagerly.

"They probably know a great deal more than there is to know," said her
father gruffly. "People talk of London as the home of scandal. I say I
never heard as much scandal in my life as since we came to live in this

"But, father, you must admit Bayworth Kaye was quite cracked about
Athena? I don't think anyone could deny that who ever saw them together.
Why it made one feel quite uncomfortable!"

Lingard felt as if he must get out, away from these horrible people.
When he had last seen the Paches, Patty had been a pretty little girl,
pert perhaps, but not too much so in the eyes of the young, indulgent
soldier. He now judged her with scant mercy.

"I don't think Athena could very well help what happened," said Tom
Pache judicially. He and his father generally took the same side.
"Bayworth Kaye had the run of Rede Place since he was born. And
so--well, I don't suppose it took very long for the mischief to be
done--so far as he was concerned, I mean."

"Oh, but, Tom, it was much more than that! Athena could have helped
it--of course she could!" Patty's voice rose. "Why, she got him asked to
a lot of houses where she was staying herself, and they say in the
village that she gave him her key of the Garden Room. He used to stay
there fearfully late--long after Mr. Maule and Dick Wantele had gone to

"It was very hard on Mabel Digby," said Mrs. Pache irrelevantly. She had
a tepid liking for her young neighbour.

"I don't think Mabel really cared for him, mother." There was a streak
of thin loyalty in Patty Pache's nature. "You know she was almost a
child when Bayworth Kaye first went to India."

"She was seventeen," said Mrs. Pache, "very nearly eighteen. And I know
they wrote to one another by every mail--his mother told me so."

"It's rather hard on the women of the neighbourhood, when one comes to
think of it," said Tom Pache, smiling in the darkness. "Athena's a
formidable rival." His mother and his sister felt that he spoke more
truly than he knew.

"There's only one person," cried Patty suddenly, "who's never been in
love with Athena! And it's so odd, because he's always with her--I mean
Dick Wantele."

"My dear child, how you let your tongue run on," said her mother
reprovingly. "You seem to forget that Athena is a married woman!" In
another, a more natural, tone she added: "And then Dick Wantele, as you
know perfectly well, has always been attached to----"

Her husband gave her a violent shove and she did not finish her
sentence. They had all forgotten the large, silent, alien presence of
Hew Lingard.


     "Who ever rigged fair ships to lie in harbours?"

Dick Wantele was driving back to Rede Place from Selford Junction. He
had been away for four days, and now he was very glad to be home again.
He very seldom left Rede Place unless Jane Oglander was there,--in fact,
this was the first time he had gone away leaving Richard Maule and
Athena alone together since they had returned, eight years before, from
what had proved so disastrous a winter in Italy.

Wantele had grown accustomed to his servitude, but there came moments
when the strain of the life he was leading became intolerable, and then,
suddenly, he would go away for a few days, sometimes to an old friend,
sometimes alone.

This time both Richard and Athena had pressed him to keep an engagement
he had made some weeks before. He had known Richard's motive--Jane was
to arrive during his absence, and Richard had wished him to be spared
certain difficult moments--those of bidding Jane welcome, of wishing
Jane joy.

As to Athena's motive in wishing him away, he had been less clear. None
the less had he been sure that she had a motive.

And so he had gone, this time to an old college friend, and he had
enjoyed the desultory talking, the indifferent shooting, and the lazy
reading, he had managed to cram into his short holiday. He had now come
back, as he always did, after a thorough change of scene and of
atmosphere, feeling, if not a new man, then patched in places, and once
more facing life in his usual philosophical, slightly satirical, spirit.

Now their old coachman was telling him all sorts of bits of news that
amused him; for a great deal can happen, in fact a great deal always
does happen, during four days, in a country neighbourhood.

The most exciting bit of news was that of an accident to the Paches' new
motor. The coachman told the tale with natural relish.

"The hind wheel just sank down in that deep rut by that there Windy
Common corner--you know, sir. The machine went over as gentle as a
babby! But they had a rare job getting the queer thing righted again, so
I'm told, sir."

"I hope no one was hurt, Jupp?"

"Miss Patty--she as caused all the mischief--escaped scot free. But
Squire Pache, so they say, was shook something dreadful! And as for Mrs.
Pache, why, her arm was quite twisted. There's some people as says
she'll never get it right again."

"Oh, but that's a dreadful thing!" exclaimed Wantele, rousing himself.
He felt suddenly ashamed of his long and deep-seated dislike of Mrs.
Pache and of poor Patty. He and Jane Oglander might drive over there
this afternoon to enquire how they all were.

Then the young man's fair, lined face became overcast. He reminded
himself bitterly that Jane's time and thoughts now belonged to someone
else. Lingard would naturally spend every moment he could escape from
the afflicted Paches at Rede Place; and when he, her lover, was not
there, Jane would be closeted with Athena, or occupied in amusing

"They do say, sir, that Mrs. Pache is so bad that she says she'll never
ride in that dratted motor-car again."

"That's bad, Jupp, very bad! I'll go over and enquire to-morrow
morning----By the way, when did the accident happen?"

"The very day after you left, sir."

They were now within the boundaries of Rede Place. The rather fantastic
foreign-looking house lay before them, its whiteness softened by the
ruddy autumn tints of the trees.

Wantele, for the first time in his life, felt a sudden dislike of the
place and of its artificial beauty sweep over him. His existence there
had only been rendered tolerable, kept warmly human, by the coming and
going of Jane Oglander.

No doubt she would now be in the hall, waiting for him alone--she always
did instinctively the kind, the tactful thing. But for the moment he had
no wish to see her. There ran a tremor through him, and the young horse
he was driving swerved violently. He flicked the horse sharply on the
under side. How--how stupid, how absurd of him to feel like this!

While he had been away he had tried to forget Jane, but whenever he was
alone, and during the long wakeful hours of each night, his thoughts had
enwrapped her more closely than ever. It seemed so strange that she
would no longer be free to console him, to chide him, to laugh at and
with him.

From to-day everything in their relationship would be changed. Even now,
Jane was probably with her lover. Wantele averted his thoughts quickly
from the vision his morbid imagination forced upon him. Lingard looked
the man to be a masterful, a happy wooer.

In two or three days the famous soldier would be an inmate of Rede
Place--his visit had been arranged just before Wantele had gone away.
Richard Maule had himself suggested it. In fact, as Athena had observed
on the day following their first acquaintance with Lingard, it seemed
absurd that such a man should be staying with the Paches....

They were now close to the house, and the thought of an immediate
meeting with Jane became suddenly intolerable to Wantele.

"I'll get out here," he said hurriedly, throwing the reins to Jupp. "You
can take my bag round while I walk up through the arboretum and let
myself in by the Garden Room."

In '51, when crystal houses, as they were called for a brief span,
became a fashion, Theophilus Joy had built a large conservatory on to
one end of his country house. Ugly though it was, the Garden Room, as it
soon became called, had greatly added to the amenities of Rede Place.
Fragrant and cool in summer, warm and scented in winter, it was
considered a delightful novelty by the old banker's guests.

Those had been the days when the boy Richard, moving among the amusing
and amused worldlings who formed his grandfather's large circle of
acquaintances, had not known that there were such things as disease,
tragedy, and passion in the world. Let us eat and be merry--so much of
his grandfather's philosophy young Richard had imbibed, and no more.

The Garden Room was still a delightful place, with its marble fountain
brought forty years before from Naples, its flowering creepers, and the
rare plants which still made it the pride of the head-gardener of Rede

Yet it was but little used. Now and again on a rainy day Richard Maule
would drag his feeble limbs along the warm moist stone pavement for the
little gentle exercise recommended by his old friend and neighbour, Dr.
Mannet. But he never did this when his wife was at Rede Place, for
Athena's boudoir, the sitting-room which she had herself chosen and
arranged to her fancy soon after her first coming to England, was the
end room on the ground floor of the house, and so next to the Garden

Some years before, when a neighbouring country house had been burgled,
new locks had been fitted to the various doors giving access to the
gardens and the park, and now the door of the Garden Room was always
kept locked. There were three keys--Wantele and Athena each had one, and
the head-gardener kept the third.

As Wantele passed through into the house, he heard the murmur of voices
in the boudoir; Athena's clear voice dominated by a man's deep,
vibrating tones.

Yes, instinct born of jealous pain had served him truly--Lingard was now
at Rede Place. They were there--Jane and Lingard--behind that door....

He hurried the quicker to escape from the sound of voices. The broad
corridor which had been a concession to English taste was very airless,
for in deference to Richard Maule's state of health the house was always
over-heated. Athena, too, had a dread, a hatred of cold; in all
essentials she was a southerner.

Dick Wantele loved wild weather and chill winter. He hated the languor
and heat in which he was condemned to spend so much of each day.

At last, when in the hall, Wantele stayed his steps.

During his brief absences from home letters were not sent on to him, for
he was always glad to escape for a few days from his usual
correspondence, letters connected with his cousin's affairs and with the
estate, important to the senders if not to the recipient. But there was
always a moment of reckoning when he came back, and now he knew that
there must be many little matters waiting to be dealt with. He might as
well find out what there was before going on to see Richard in the Greek

Then, while walking across to the marble table where his letters were
always placed, the young man was astonished to see on the floor a large
half-filled postman's sack. The label on it bore General Lingard's name;
the Paches' address had been crossed out, and that of Rede Place

Really, it was rather cool of Lingard to have his correspondence sent on
in this fashion! It was also a proof that he must be spending the major
part of each day at Rede Place. Heavens! what a correspondence the man
must have. That was a privilege of fame he could well spare his
successful rival.

He turned to his own letters. There were many more than usual. And
then, as he tore the envelopes rapidly open, it seemed to him that most
of his acquaintances within a certain radius had written to him during
the four days he had been away!

Each letter he opened--and this both diverted and angered Wantele--ran
on the same theme and contained the same request.

"Dear Mr. Wantele--I am writing to you because Mrs. Maule may be away.
We hear that General Lingard is staying with you for a few days. It
would give us such pleasure if you would bring him over, either to lunch
or dinner, whichever suits you best. It will be an honour as well as a
pleasure to make General Lingard's acquaintance. If you will send me a
line by return, we could manage to make any day convenient that would
suit you and General Lingard."

Old friends, new friends, people whom he had never met and whom he had
no intention of meeting--were each and all in full cry.

The last letter he opened was in Tom Pache's handwriting. The young man
had written at his mother's dictation, and the note contained a long
list of the people whom she had promised to invite, or had actually
invited, to meet her famous relative.

There was a postscript from Tom himself.

"It is most awfully good of Mr. and Mrs. Maule to have asked Hew Lingard
over a few days before they expected him. As you see, mother's plans
are all upset, and she is dreadfully worried about it all."

Then Lingard was already here? Wantele wondered how he was to answer
those absurd letters--how to put off these people. He made a point of
being on good, if not on very cordial, terms with his neighbours. He and
Richard both acknowledged a certain duty to the neighbourhood. In spite
of Mr. Maule's physical condition, Rede Place did its fair share of
quiet, very quiet, entertaining, generally when Mrs. Maule happened to
be away and when Jane Oglander happened to be there.

Athena had long ago decided that her neighbours were the dullest set of
people to be found in an English countryside, and that the receiving of
them at lunch or dinner bored her to tears.

Well! There was nothing for it now but to go and consult Athena as to
what should be done. After all, she was the mistress of Rede Place, and
Richard was in no state to be asked tiresome questions or required to
make tiresome decisions.

Holding the letters which had so perturbed him in his hand, Wantele
slowly retraced his steps. He might as well meet Jane now as at any
other time or in any other way.

Wantele knocked at the door of the boudoir. Since her arrival at Rede
Place, eight years ago, he had remained on very formal terms with his
cousin's wife.

There fell a sudden silence on the occupants of the room, and then,
after a perceptible pause, Athena called out in her clear, exquisitely
modulated voice, "Come in. Who is it?"

Dick Wantele slowly turned the handle of the door, and in a flash he saw
that Jane Oglander was not there.

There were but two people in the room. One was Mrs. Maule; she was
sitting on a low seat close to the fire, her lovely head bent over an
embroidery frame; the other, General Lingard, was standing, looking down
at her with an eager, absorbed expression on his face.

Athena was wearing a white gown, fashioned rather like a monk's habit.
It left the slender, rounded column of her neck bare.

The intruder, feeling at once relieved and disappointed, stared
doubtfully at the famous soldier. General Lingard looked a younger man
than he had done the other night--younger and somehow different, far,
far more vividly alive. Perhaps it was his clothes; rough morning
clothes are more becoming to the type of man Wantele now took Lingard to
be than is evening dress. Both he and Mrs. Maule looked most happily and
intimately at ease.

Wantele felt a pang of angry irritation. How like Athena to take General
Lingard away from Jane! And to keep him with her while her friend was
doubtless engaged in doing what should have been her own job--that is,
in looking after Richard.

But many years had gone by since Athena had even made a pretence of
looking after Richard. Had Wantele been just, which he was at this
moment incapable of being, he would have admitted to himself that
Richard would have given Athena small thanks for her company.

"Dick! Is that you? Why, I thought you weren't coming back till the
afternoon! Have you seen Richard?"

Athena had a subtle way with her of making a man feel an intruder.

But Wantele held his ground.

"I always meant to come back in the morning," he said shortly. "No, I
haven't seen Richard."

"I'm glad you've come, for Richard's worried about some tiresome letters
he's had this morning."

"Is Jane with Richard?" he asked abruptly.

It was odd of General Lingard not to have come forward and shaken hands.
The soldier had just nodded--that was all. He also seemed to feel the
young man's presence an intrusion.

"Jane hasn't come. Didn't you know? I thought she would have written to
you. She is staying a week longer with that tiresome friend of hers.
There's to be an operation now, it seems, and the woman's implored Jane
to stay with her till it's over. Oh, but ever so many things have

Athena put aside her work and got up. "The poor Paches have had a motor
accident, and so we--I mean Richard and I--asked General Lingard to
come here at once instead of waiting till the end of the week. I'm
afraid he's had rather a dull time, though the Paches have very kindly
allowed us to use their motor car--the car wasn't hurt in any way--" she
turned to her guest and smiled. "But now that you're back, Dick, it will
be all right."

She sat down again, and again bent over the embroidery frame. Each of
the men looking down at her felt himself dismissed.

Together they left the room, and Dick Wantele could have laughed aloud
to see General Lingard's air of discomfiture.

He thought he could reconstitute the events of the last three days. No
doubt Richard had insisted on Jane's lover being asked over to stay, and
Athena, as was her way, had resented the trouble of entertaining
Richard's guest.

Mrs. Maule had no liking for a man on half terms. With her it must be
all or nothing--too often it was all that she received; seldom, as in
this case--nothing. Wantele felt a malicious pleasure in the knowledge
that for once Athena's spells would be powerless, that in this unique
instance there was stretched before her a gateless barrier. Hew Lingard
was the lover of her friend, and Athena, so Wantele acknowledged, loved
Jane Oglander with whatever truth was in her.

Such were his disconnected thoughts as he walked silently by the other's
side. Yes, Lingard seemed strangely unlike the man who had dined there a
week ago. Dick Wantele possessed an almost feminine power of
observation, of intuition. He would have been a happier man had he
lacked it.

"I must go and find my cousin," he said at last. "I haven't seen him
yet. But he won't keep me long."

"Please don't trouble about me. I've a lot of letters to write. Mrs.
Maule has been good enough to give me a sitting-room."

Lingard spoke with a touch of rather curt impatience. He had no wish to
be entertained by this odd, idle young man. Mr. Maule's heir did not
attract him; Dick Wantele took too much upon himself.

Lingard was already on excellent terms with his host--his poor, feeble,
afflicted host. As for Mrs. Maule--he thought of her as Athena, had she
not already asked him to call her Athena?--she was, if only as Jane
Oglander's intimate friend, already set apart on a pedestal. And then
Athena had said a word--only a word--of the painful position she
occupied in her husband's house, that of an occasional and not very
welcome guest. It had made Lingard seethe with unspoken, but the more
deeply felt, indignation.

There is something moving, to a generous masculine mind something very
pathetic, in the sight of a beautiful woman hardly used by fate. Lingard
already suspected that in this case Dick Wantele played the ugly part of
fate. True, Jane seemed very fond of the young man, and he had been
good to her in the terrible affair of her brother; but the taste of
women in the matter of men is not always to be trusted.

General Lingard, in spite of the qualities which made him a successful
leader of fighting men, had not troubled himself, indeed he had not had
the time, to probe or question certain accepted axioms.

As the two came into the hall, Lingard stepped aside and took up the
heavy mail bag.

"Please don't do that! It must be awfully heavy!" The host in Dick
Wantele was roused. "It ought to have been put in your sitting-room long

Lingard gave a short, not very pleasant, laugh. He was very strong and
Wantele looked delicate, languid--not the sort of man Lingard liked or
was accustomed to meet. It was a pity Wantele had come back so soon. The
three days alone with Richard Maule--and with Athena--had been very

Dick went on, with his quick, light steps, into the Greek Room. He had
again shouldered his burden, and it was pressing on him even more hardly
than usual. If only Jane had been there! He now longed for her presence
as a man longs for a lamp in dark subterranean places from which he
knows no issue.

With a shock of surprise he realised that the letters he had meant to
show Athena were still in his hand, and that he had said nothing to her
of their contents.

He found Richard Maule sitting, as he always did sit in any but the
hottest summer weather, crouched up in front of the fire; but when Dick
came in Mr. Maule smiled as a man smiles at his own son, and the other
saw that his cousin looked more vigorous, more alive, than usual. There
was even a little colour in his white drawn cheeks.

It was a long time since they had had any visitor, any man that is,
staying at Rede Place; and Wantele now asked himself whether they were
wise in leading so quiet a life. Richard was evidently enjoying General
Lingard's visit.

"He's a good fellow, Dick. He grows on one with acquaintance. I don't
know but that Jane----" He stopped abruptly. The thought in his mind to
which he had all but given utterance was that Jane Oglander, after all,
had done well for herself. "He's not a bit spoilt. And yet there must be
a lot of people running after him! Just look at these letters! We shall
have to do something about them. Eh? Some of these people will have to
be asked here to meet him, I suppose?"

And Wantele, again with mingled annoyance and amusement, saw another
pile of notes--far smaller, it was true, than his own--lying on the
reading-desk which was always close to his cousin's hand.

"The duke has written to me. They want to have him over there for a
couple of nights--if we can spare him."

Mr. Maule smiled, not unkindly.

"It's evident we can't hope to keep the hero all to ourselves. It's
lucky Jane Oglander isn't here! I thought it such a pity yesterday, but
now I'm glad. We may be able to ask a few people over before she
arrives--when she's here, Lingard won't want a crowd about. We might
begin with the Sumners--you see they ask themselves, it's very good of
them, for to-morrow!" he laughed outright, a thin, satirical and yet
again not an unkindly laugh.

Dick had never seen his cousin so animated, so interested, in a word, so
amused, for years. He was rather surprised.

"It'll be an awful bore," he said slowly, "and Richard--are you sure
that you wish it? I think I could manage to put off most of these
people--I mean without giving offence."

"No, no, Dick! I know it'll give you a certain amount of trouble"--the
older man looked attentively at the younger--"but I've felt lately that
we didn't see enough people. I don't see why my state and Athena's
selfishness"--he uttered the word very deliberately--"should force you
to live such an unnatural life as you've now been leading for so
long----" He waited a moment and then said, more lightly, "I'm afraid
that we both, you and I, have grown to believe that Jane Oglander's the
only young woman in the world."

Wantele gave him a swift look.

"She's the only woman in the world for me," he muttered. "Lingard may be
a good fellow, Richard, but I wish--I would give a good deal to know
what Jane sees in him." He also was trying to speak lightly.

"Ah, one always feels that!" Richard Maule lay back in his chair. The
short discussion had tired him. "Then will you see about it all, Dick?"

"Yes," cried Wantele hastily, "of course I will! I agree that we've been
too much shut up."

He went back to Athena, and this time she welcomed him graciously. She
also had received letters asking for a peep of their hero.

Wantele looked at his cousin's wife with reluctant admiration. He had
not seen her looking as animated, as radiant as--as seductive as she
looked now for a very long time.

"Don't you see the change in Richard?" she asked eagerly. "He's become
quite another creature since General Lingard came here. I've always
thought you kept Richard far too much shut up, Dick----"

"You never said so before," he said sharply.

She shrugged her shoulders. "It was none of my business."

Her face clouded, and with hasty accord they changed the subject, and
with exactly the same words: "Who had we better ask first?" And then
they stopped, and laughed. For the moment these two, Richard Maule's
heir and Richard Maule's wife, were on more cordial terms than they had
been for years.

"You have now got all the letters," she cried gaily--"Richard's, mine,
and yours! Look them over, and make out a list--I'm sure you're much
better at that sort of thing than I am!"

He left her to carry out her behest.

If there was anything like real entertaining to be done at Rede Place,
all kinds of arrangements would have to be made, and the making of them
must fall on Dick Wantele. Athena had told the truth when she had
described herself to General Lingard as only a guest in her husband's
house. But she had omitted to add that it was an arrangement which had
hitherto suited her perfectly, and the only one she would have


     "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."

During the days that followed Dick Wantele's return home, it seemed to
him as though a magic wand had been waved over Rede Place.

Mrs. Maule had no wish to keep her famous guest to herself. Even to the
two men who watched her with a rather cruel scrutiny so much was clear.
She seemed, indeed, to delight in exhibiting General Lingard to the
neighbourhood, and the neighbourhood were only too willing to fall in
with her pleasure.

The gatherings were small, when one came to think of it--eight or ten
people to lunch, ten or twelve people to dinner.

How accustomed Dick grew to the formula which had at first so much
surprised him! "Dear Mrs. Maule," or "Dear Mr. Wantele" (as the case
might be) "We hear that General Lingard is staying at Rede Place. It
would give us very great pleasure if you would bring him over to lunch
or dinner, whichever suits you best."

But there Athena wisely drew the line. No, she would not take General
Lingard, or allow him to be taken, here and there and everywhere! He
was at Rede Place for rest. But the agreeable people, the people who
would amuse and interest him, and the people who if dull had, as it
were, a right to meet the lion, were asked in their turn to come.

They would arrive about half-past one, filling the beautiful rooms
generally so empty of human sounds, with a pleasant bustle of talk and
laughter. They would lunch in the tapestry dining-room, none too young
or too old to enjoy the far-famed skill of Richard Maule's Corsican
chef; and then, according to their fancy, or according to Athena's whim,
they would wander about the house, looking at the pictures and fingering
the curios which enjoyed an almost legendary reputation; or better still
stream out into the formal gardens, now brilliant with strangely tinted
autumn flowers, and fantastically peopled with the marble fauns and
stone dryads brought from Italy and Greece by old Theophilus Joy.

Finally they would go away, thanking Athena earnestly for the delightful
time they had had and telling themselves and each other that Mrs. Maule
was, after all, a very charming person, and that the stories of her
heartless conduct to her husband, of her long absences from home, of
her--well--her flirtations, were probably all quite untrue!

The dinner-parties were slightly more formal affairs, but they also,
thanks to all those concerned--and especially to Mrs. Maule--were quite
successful, and very pleasant.

For the first time for many years, Athena Maule and Dick Wantele were
thrown into a curious kind of intimacy. They had constantly to consult
each other, and to confer together. "You see, I want to get all this
sort of thing over before Jane arrives!" she once exclaimed; and Wantele
had looked at her musingly. After all, perhaps she spoke the truth.

Strange ten days! No wonder that Dick Wantele was surprised, almost
bewildered, by Athena in her new rôle--by Athena, that is, in the part
of good-humoured, graceful, tactful hostess of Rede Place. Hitherto his
imagination had never followed his cousin's wife on the long visits she
paid to other people's houses. Now, with astonishment he realised that
she must be, even apart from her singular beauty, and what had become to
him her perverse, and most dangerous charm, an agreeable guest.

She thought of everything, she thought of everybody, even of Mabel
Digby. Mabel Digby was allowed to have her full share in the
festivities, in the glorifications--for they were nothing else--of
General Lingard, and that although Athena had never liked Mabel, and
thought her a tiresome, priggish girl. Yes, all that fell to Mrs.
Maule's share was managed with infinite tact, good humour, and good
taste. The guests were not allowed to bother Richard, or to interfere
with Richard's comfort and love of ease. Occasionally one or two old
friends, who perchance had hardly seen him for years, would be taken
into the Greek Room to talk to him for ten minutes....

Not the least strange thing was that General Lingard apparently enjoyed
it all. Sometimes, nay often, he said a deprecating word or two to one
or other of his hosts--a word or two implying that he saw the humour of
the whole thing. But within the next hour he would be accepting rather
shame-facedly the flattery lavished on him by some pretty, silly girl,
or, what was more to his credit, listening patiently to an older woman's
account of a son who was in "the service," and for whom the great man
she was speaking to might "do something."

       *       *       *       *       *

To the amateur soldier who in any capacity forms part of an army on
active service, the most extraordinary thing, that which at once strikes
his imagination and goes on doing so repeatedly until the campaign is
over, is the fact that for most of the weary time, he and his fellows
are fighting an invisible enemy.

During each of these long, unreal days when he had scarce a moment to
himself, for it fell to his share to see that everything ran smoothly,
Dick Wantele found himself engaged in close watchful combat with an
invisible foe. He would have given much to be convinced that he was
pursuing a phantom bred of his own evil imagination, and sometimes he
was so convinced.

Then the mists with which he was surrounded would part, suddenly, and
the fearsome thing was there, before him.

Mabel Digby was the first lantern which lighted up the dark recess into
which Wantele's mind was already glancing with such foreboding.

It was the third day after his return home, and with the aid of
telegrams and messengers a considerable party had been gathered together
for what had been a really amusing and successful luncheon party. When
the last guest--with the exception of Mabel, who hardly counted as a
guest--had been duly sped, Mrs. Maule and General Lingard slipped away
together; and Wantele offered to walk back with Mabel to the Small Farm.

They were already some way from the house, when she told him a piece of
news that was weighing very heavily on her heart.

"Have you been told," she asked, "about Bayworth Kaye? He's at Aden, it
seems, and seriously ill. They think it's typhoid. His parents only
heard yesterday. They're awfully worried about him. Mrs. Kaye can't make
up her mind whether she ought to go out to him or not."

And then, as he turned to her, startled, genuinely sorry, he saw a look
on her young face he had never seen there before; it was a terrible
expression--one of aversion and of passionate contempt.

Mrs. Maule and General Lingard were walking together, pacing slowly side
by side. Though a turn of the path brought them very near, Lingard was
so absorbed in what Athena was saying that he did not see Wantele and
Miss Digby. But Athena saw them, and with a quick, skilful movement she
guided her own and her companion's steps in a direction that made it
impossible for the four to meet.

Mabel Digby remained silent for some moments, and then she turned
abruptly to Wantele.

"Why isn't Jane Oglander here?" she asked. "I thought you expected her
last week. Her friend must be a very selfish woman!"

"I don't think Jane would care for the sort of thing we had to-day,"
Wantele said reflectively. Why had Mabel looked at Athena with so
strange--so--so contemptuous a look? "Still, she'll have to get used to
seeing him lionized."

"Write and ask her to come as soon as she can, Dick. It's--it's stupid
of her to stay away like that!"

Wantele glanced round at the speaker; and then, to his concern and
surprise, he saw that her face was flushed, her brown eyes soft with
tears. "I was thinking of Bayworth," she faltered. "He looked so
dreadfully unhappy when he went away, Dick, and--and I can't help
knowing why."

The hours and the days wore themselves away quickly--all too quickly for
Athena Maule and Hew Lingard, slowly and full of acute discomfort and
suspicion for Dick Wantele.

Occasionally the young man tried to tell himself that perhaps the real
reason of his discontent was their guest's attitude to himself. It was
clear that the famous soldier did not like the younger of his hosts, in
fact he hardly made any attempt to conceal his prejudice, and the two
men, though of course forced into a kind of intimacy, saw as little as
they could of one another.

It was with his hostess that General Lingard spent every odd
moment,--every moment that he could spare from the work on which he was
engaged--a book he had promised to write by a certain date. And after a
very few days Wantele discovered with amusement, discomfiture, amazement
that Lingard was actually consulting Athena about his book, reading her
passages as he wrote them.

And then Wantele told himself with shame that the doing of this was not
so foolish or so strange, after all,--for the book was to appeal to the
general public, and Mrs. Maule might reasonably be supposed to belong to
that public.

But not even Wantele in his darkest, most suspicious moods suspected the
depth, the reality of Lingard's peril.

The exciting, exhilarating experiences which were now befalling him
produced on one who was essentially a man of action, not a philosopher
and thinker, an extraordinary mental and even physical effect.

The absurd homage, the crude flattery, to which Lingard found himself
subjected by the young and the foolish among Mrs. Maule's guests annoyed
rather than pleased him, but he would be moved to the soul when a word
said--often an awkward, shy word--showed how great was the place he had
conquered in the estimation of those of his fellow-countrymen and
countrywomen who were jealous for their country's glory.

He had instinctively discounted the newspaper fame showered so freely
upon him on his immediate arrival in England; he was humorously
conscious that he owed it in a great measure to the absence of any other
competing lion of the moment.

True, he had at once received a number of invitations from hostesses of
the kind who make it their business to secure the latest celebrity, and
he had grudged the time he spent over the writing of coldly civil
refusals. Lingard had also been plagued with innumerable letters from
people who vaguely hoped he would be able to do something which would
contribute in some way to their advancement, or that of their near
relations. And then there had come absurd and painful communications
from lunatics, begging-letter writers, and autograph hunters.

Not till he came to Rede Place did the position he had won become really
clear to him, though pride and good breeding made him appear to take his
triumph lightly.

And Athena Maule shared it all with him! The very letters he received
were, at her entreaty, shown to, and discussed with her in a way which
gave each of them a special value and importance. Athena was much more
impressed with his triumph than he allowed himself to be; and when alone
with her,--and they were very often alone together,--Lingard
unconsciously moved in a delightful atmosphere of subtle, wordless
sympathy and flattery.

Jane Oglander, absorbed in the physical crisis through which was passing
the friend with whom she was staying, became even to her lover
infinitely remote; though Lingard liked to remind himself, now and
again, that it was Jane who had given him his new, enchanting comrade
and friend.

Athena Maule appeared to Hew Lingard the most selfless human being he
had ever known. And yet, each day, when the guests, the people she so
kindly asked to meet him, were all gone, and when he and she were
enjoying an hour of rest and solitude together, to which he had now
learnt to look forward so eagerly, she was always ready to talk to him
about herself. Soon there was no subject of conversation between them
which held for Lingard so potent, so entrancing a lure.

There came a day when the soldier, more moved, more secretly excited,
more exhilarated than usual, was able to express to her something of
what he felt.

Among those who had been bidden to Rede Place was an old man, a Crimean
veteran who in his day had enjoyed, though of course on a smaller scale,
much the same kind of experience Hew Lingard was now passing through.
The two had been allowed, by tacit consent, to have a considerable
amount of talk together, and Lingard had been greatly touched and moved
by the other's words of understanding praise, and appreciation, of the
difficult, perilous task he had accomplished.

Sure of her sympathy and understanding, he told Mrs. Maule all that the
veteran's words had meant to him, and at once, as was her wont,--though
he remained quite unconscious of it,--she brought the subject round to
the personal, the intimate standpoint: "You don't know," she said
softly, "what it means to me to know that you met that dear old man

And that had given him his chance of saying what he felt each day more
and more, namely that he owed everything, _everything_ to her,--to her
thoughtful kindness and to her instinctive knowledge of what would at
once please and move him.

How amazed he would have been could he have seen into Athena's heart!
She had thought it rather absurd that Lingard should care so much for
praise uttered by such an unimportant person as the poor, broken old
officer who led a quiet and rather eccentric existence on the edge of a
lonely common some way from Rede Place. He had originally come into the
neighbourhood in order to be near Mabel Digby's father, and Athena had
never thought him to be of the slightest consequence,--indeed, she had
only assented to his being asked to meet General Lingard because Mabel
had earnestly begged that he might be.

       *       *       *       *       *

Conscious hypocrisy is far rarer than the world is apt to believe, and
only succeeds in its designs with those who are mentally ill-equipped.
The women who work the most mischief in civilized communities are
supreme egoists, and an egoist is never a conscious hypocrite.

When dealing with a being of the opposite sex to her own, Athena Maule
always held up to his enraptured gaze a magic mirror in which was
reflected the beautiful and pathetic figure of a deeply injured woman:
one who had made a gallant fight against the harsh fate which had
married her to such a man as Richard Maule, and which placed her in
subjection to so cruel and contemptible a creature as was Richard's
kinsman and heir, Dick Wantele.

Mrs. Maule was also affected, and very powerfully so, by all that took
place during the ten days which elapsed between Dick Wantele's return
and Jane Oglander's arrival.

The people among whom she habitually lived knew nothing of such men as
Hew Lingard. Rich and idle always, vicious or virtuous according to
their temperament and the measure of their temptations, they had no use
for the great workers of the world, unless indeed those workers'
struggles, victories, and defeats lay in the world of finance.

Thus it was that General Lingard presented to Athena Maule the
attractive human bait of something new, untasted, unrehearsed.

She did not mean to act ill by Jane Oglander; on the contrary, as the
days went on, Lingard's betrothed became in Mrs. Maule's imagination a
cruel, almost a pitiless rival. She could not help contrasting her own
life with that which was now opening before her friend. Jane was about
to be lifted, through no merit, no effort of her own, into a delightful,
a passionately interesting and shifting atmosphere, that which surrounds
a commanding officer's wife in one of the great military centres of the
Empire at home or abroad.

Athena longed to try her power--the power she knew to be almost
limitless in one direction--on the type of man with whom Jane would
henceforth be surrounded, a type of whose very presence Jane, she knew
well, would scarcely be aware! It was strange, it--it was horrible to
think that Jane would be leading a delightful and stimulating existence
while she, Athena, would be going the same dreary round among the same
selfish, stupid people of whom she had grown so tired.

During those days when she was acting, for the first time, as the real
mistress of Rede Place, and as hostess to a man whom all the world
wished at that moment to meet and entertain, Mrs. Maule told herself
again and again, with deep, wordless anger, that life was indeed using
her hardly.

How ironic the stroke of fate which made a Jane Oglander be chosen by a
Hew Lingard! There was one consolation--but Athena was in no mood for
finding consolation--in the thought that both General Lingard and Jane
would ever regard Mrs. Richard Maule as the most welcome, the most
honoured of their guests. Thanks to that fact, she would enter and
doubtless achieve the social conquest of that official section of the
English world into which her incursions had been few and seldom


    "FERDINAND.--I have this night digged up a mandrake.
    CARDINAL.--Say you?
    FERDINAND.--And I am grown mad with it."

And now the evening of the last of their delightful days had come,--so
at least Athena Maule thought of it, for Jane Oglander was arriving the
next morning.

Wantele and Athena had had a sharp difference that afternoon. She wished
that the gay, the amusing doings of the last few days should continue,
and she had made out a further list--a short list, so she assured
herself,--of people who had been forgotten, and who might as well be
asked now. To her anger and surprise, Dick Wantele had refused her
reasonable request backing up his refusal with the authority of her
husband, of Richard himself.

"Richard thinks we've had enough of it, and that Jane would so hate it
all," he said, having reminded her half jokingly that they had arranged
everything of the kind should end with Jane Oglander's arrival. "I think
we owe Jane some consideration. She would be miserable married to a man
who was always being lionised in this absurd fashion----"

He stopped, then added lightly, "You don't know England, my dear cousin:
there will be a new lion soon, then our friend will have to take a back
place. To do him justice I think he's already getting rather sick of it

Mrs. Maule remained silent for a moment, and then she exclaimed, with a
rather curious look on her lovely face, "I don't agree! I think that he
enjoys it, Dick, and surely it is good for his career that he should do
so. Jane should understand that!"

Wantele lifted his eyebrows. It was a trick of his when surprised or
amused. "He will go on having plenty of that sort of thing after he's
married--if Jane lets him!"

Athena turned pettishly away. Thanks to Dick Wantele she was never
allowed to forget the fact that her delightful, her famous guest was
going to be married--and to her own dearest friend. Dick never spared
her. He seemed to delight in "rubbing it in." It was the more irritating
inasmuch as Hew Lingard never spoke to her of Jane.

During those pleasant, exciting days Mrs. Maule had sometimes asked
herself whether Lingard ever thought of Jane when--when he was with her,
with Athena. She had taken the trouble to find out, by means not wholly
creditable, that Lingard wrote to Jane every day; and there was always
one letter from the many that reached him each morning which he picked
out first and put in his pocket. The sight of his doing this gave Athena
a little pang of jealous pain. It annoyed her that any man when with
her should concern himself with another woman.

And then something else on this last day added to Mrs. Maule's
depression. Her husband was not well. He was feeling the effects of the
excitement of the last few days. Just after her unpleasant little
discussion with Dick, Richard Maule had addressed her directly--a thing
he scarcely ever did. "Aren't you going away?" he asked ungraciously. "I
thought you were going away as soon as Jane Oglander arrived."

She had answered briefly that her plans were changed, that she would not
be leaving Rede Place for nearly another month. But as, a moment later,
she had swept out of the room, she had told herself with rage that her
present life was intolerable,--that no woman had ever to put up with
such insults as she had to put up with, from Dick on the one hand, and
Richard on the other!

Within an hour her feelings were assuaged. Lingard, seeking her as he
had now fallen into the way of doing, had found her quivering with
anger, and what he took to be bitter pain.

She had told him of her husband's desire that she should leave Rede
Place on her friend's arrival, and he had received her confidences with
burning indignation and passionate sympathy. Nay more, the atmosphere
between them became electric, almost oppressive. Then, to Athena's sharp
surprise and annoyance, Lingard suddenly turned on his heel and left
the room, muttering something about having work to do.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening, for the first time for many days, Athena, General Lingard,
and Dick Wantele dined without the restraining presence of strangers.
Dick, unlike the other two, was in good spirits, nay more, lively and,
in his own rather caustic way, amusing.

Jane Oglander would be here to-morrow! He dwelt on the thought with
satisfaction and an almost malicious pleasure. Ten days ago the thought
of seeing Jane at Rede Place had been painful, but now he would welcome
her presence. It was time, high time, she were here.

Now and again, while talking to Athena,--he could always compel her
attention,--he stole a glance at Jane Oglander's lover. Lingard did not
look as looks the man who is going to see his love on the morrow. His
expression was one of deep gravity, almost of suffering. There was a
strained look about his eyes, his mouth was set in grim lines, and
unless directly addressed he remained silent.

Mrs. Maule soon finished her more than usually frugal evening meal. She
got up and left the table, and as she did so Lingard sprang to the door.
He seemed to delight in rendering her the smallest personal service.

Before leaving the room, she turned round and addressed Wantele: "Don't
hurry," she said softly. "We won't go into the drawing-room to-night.
I've got to write some notes. Quite a batch of letters came this
afternoon. There were just one or two people I should have liked to have
asked next week--" she looked at him pleadingly, reproachfully....

Wantele stared at her coldly. "Of course you can ask one or two people,"
he said, and, with a slight smile, "Don't make yourself out more of a
martyr than you must, Athena!"

Hew Lingard, standing aside, his hand still on the handle of the door,
felt an overmastering impulse to go back to the table and strike Dick
Wantele's sneering face across the mouth. How awful to think, to see,
that such a woman as Athena Maule, so kind, so gentle, so generous,
so--so lovely and so defenceless, was subject to this young man's

But he could do nothing--nothing; and Jane, amazing thought, was
actually fond of Wantele!

He shut the door behind his hostess and walked slowly back to the table.
There was a moment of awkward silence, and then Wantele broke it by
speaking of Jane. It was the first time her name had passed his lips in
Lingard's presence.

"Since Miss Oglander lost her brother in the strange and terrible way
you know," he said, "she has shrunk very much from seeing people, I mean
from mixing in ordinary society. That is one reason why she has always
enjoyed her visits here. The state of my cousin, Richard Maule's,
health compels us to lead a very quiet life." He forced himself to go
on: "Mrs. Maule, as you know, is a good deal away. She naturally does
not care for the extreme dulness, the solitariness, of the life----"

Lingard muttered a word of assent, but he made no other comment on the
other man's words. He took them to mean that Dick Wantele felt rather
ashamed of himself, as indeed he ought to do. Was it not pitifully clear
that Mrs. Maule, poor beautiful Athena, had no part or place in her
husband's house? All invalids tend to become self-absorbed and selfish;
but he judged Wantele hardly for encouraging, nay for fostering, Mr.
Maule's egoistic unkindness to his wife.

Both men were glad when the time came for them to part. Dick, as always,
went off to Richard, and Lingard, after a few unquiet moments in the
smoking-room, made his way slowly to Athena's boudoir, the charming,
restful room which, alone of the many rooms in the big quiet house,
seemed to be in a real sense her territory, and where he and she had
spent so many delightful hours together.

But to-night he was met there with something very like a rebuff.

Athena had been standing thinking, doing nothing, but when she heard
Lingard's now familiar steps in the corridor she moved swiftly to her
writing-table, and bent over it.

As he came in she lifted her head: "I really must finish these notes,"
she said deprecatingly. "You see, I had hoped to soften, if not
Richard's, then Dick's heart! Well, I failed, as I generally do fail
with him. And I feel"--her voice quivered--"very much as poor Cinderella
must have felt when the clock was about to strike twelve."

As he stood, irresolute, before her, she added, "Take a book and sit
down. I'll be as quick as I can." She got up with a swift movement and
put a box of cigarettes and matches close to his hand.

It was such a little thing, and yet, in the emotional state in which he
was now, Lingard felt touched, inexpressibly touched. How
extraordinarily kind and thoughtful she was! No wonder Jane was so fond
of her.

Mrs. Maule went back to her writing-table, intensely conscious that
Lingard's ardent, melancholy gaze was fixed on her. Now and again,
perhaps three or four times, she looked up for a moment and smiled, her
glance full of confident friendliness. But she did not speak, and thus
was spent one of the shortest and most poignant half-hours of Lingard's

At last there came harsh, unwelcome interruption in the person of Dick
Wantele. For a moment he stood between them, his back to Lingard, facing

"I've only come to tell you," he exclaimed, rather breathlessly, "that
Richard agrees that there are two or three more people we ought to ask.
I suggested the Dight-Suttons."

"I've just written, this moment, to say we can't have them," said Athena

Dick shrugged his shoulders with what seemed to the man watching him an
unmannerly gesture of irritation. "I'm sorry," he said curtly. "I had no
idea that you would be writing to them to-night, or indeed to anyone
to-night. Surely to-morrow morning will be time enough. However, there
are one or two other people----"

Lingard got up. "I think I'll go out of doors for a bit," he said
abruptly. "I haven't walked enough to-day." It was horrible to him to
stand by and see Mrs. Maule insulted in her own house, in her own room.
He felt afraid that if he stayed there he would lose control of himself
and say something he would regret having said to Dick Wantele.

And Athena, moving to one side, saw his lowering face, and she felt a
thrill of possessive pride. What a man Lingard seemed by the side of
Dick Wantele! How well he must look in uniform. She wondered, jealously,
if Jane had ever seen him in uniform....

"Yes--do go out. And take the key--you know--the key of the Garden Room
off the mantelpiece. But you must get a coat. It's cold to-night."

He shook hands with them both, and went out. Dick only stayed a very few
moments,--long enough, however, to be told very plainly the names of the
people whom Athena wished to be invited. He went off to Richard with her

Mrs. Maule began moving about the boudoir aimlessly. It was tiresome of
Lingard to stay out so long. She was used to another type of man,--one
more civilised, who would have understood in a moment what her quick
glance at him had tried to convey. That sort of man would have hung
about in the Garden Room till Dick Wantele had left her, and then he
would have come back at once.

But the great soldier--and the fact, it must be admitted, was part of
his attraction for Athena Maule--was not in the least like that.

Lingard knew nothing of flirtation, as the word was understood in Mrs.
Maule's circle. She supposed him, rightly, to be a man with but little
knowledge of the world in which the pursuit of the tenderer emotions is
carried to a fine art; she judged him, erroneously, to be a man
strangely lacking in certain primitive instincts. But that made the
state of bondage to which she had already reduced him the greater

To a thinking mind there is something sombre, disturbing, in the thought
that the attraction of a man to a woman, whatever be the quality of that
attraction, manifests itself in much the same way.

Athena knew the signs. To-night every omen pointed one way. She put the
thought--the slightly insistent memory--of Jane away from her. Jane
should have known how to guard what had perhaps never been really hers.

She set her door ajar. It would be very annoying if General Lingard
were to come in and, as she knew he had done some nights ago, creep up
silently through the house....

At last there came the sounds of footfalls across the flags of the
Garden Room. Athena began to experience that curious sensation which
goes by the name of a beating heart. In other words, she felt strung up
to a high pitch of emotion.

Bayworth Kaye had given her some delicious moments, but she had never
felt with him what she felt now. For the first time Athena--skilful
huntress of men--had found a quarry worthy of pursuit. Was it possible
that to-night her quarry would elude her? Was it conceivable that
Lingard would push his scruples, his sense of absurd delicacy, as far as

Athena had not yet learnt to reckon with Hew Lingard's conscience,--the
conscience, perhaps it would be more true to say the honour, he had
already deliberately thrust aside to-night, during those few unquiet
moments in the smoking-room.

She remained, however, absolutely still.

Lingard advanced a few steps nearer to the partly open door. He was
evidently hesitating, and Athena felt she could bear the suspense no

"Is anyone there?" she called out in a low voice. "Is it Hew?" She only
called him by that name when they were alone together.

He opened the door and came in.

"You must be cold," she said tremulously. "Do come nearer the fire."

Lingard came towards her. No, he was not cold. He had been walking,
covering miles in the hour he had spent trying to tire, to deaden,
himself out. It had been a terrible time of self-communion,
self-reproach, self-abasement.

The state he found himself in to-night recalled with piteous vividness
that episode of his stormy youth which had led to his long break with
the Paches.

It was horrible that he should couple, even in thought, Athena Maule and
that--that creature, over whom he had wasted, squandered, such treasures
of adoring love. Rosie had been one of those young ladies who, to use a
technical term, "walk on"; and because she was extraordinarily pretty,
she was always placed in the front row of the foolish musical comedy of
which he could still recall, not only every tune, but almost every word,
so often had he been to the theatre after that first meeting.

At the end of ten days,--he had known Athena Maule ten days, what a
strange coincidence!--at the end of ten days he had asked Rosie to marry
him. She had shilly-shallied for a while, and then, to his rapturous
surprise, she had said "Yes." How angry, how scandalised, how shocked
his relations had been!

Tommy Pache--in those days old Mr. Pache had been "Tommy" to his
relations--had hurried up to London and said all the usual things that
one does say to a young fool on such an occasion, but even he had been
struck by the girl's beauty, though of course Tommy had been careful not
to let this out to the others when he had got back to them.

How it all came back to him to-night! Lingard remembered the letters he
had received, the letters he had written. It had gone on for some
weeks--he couldn't quite remember how long now,--that time of anger, of
impatience, of longing, of rapture. And then, within a very few days of
that fixed for the quiet wedding which was to take place in a city
church,--he had always avoided that part of London ever since,--Rosie
had become the wife of another man, of a young idiot with a vacuous face
and an enormous fortune, of whom he had not even troubled to be jealous,
although his presence in the flat Rosie shared with another girl had
often made him impatient.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now Lingard felt desperately tired--tired in body, tired in spirit. But
he was glad--glad that he had disregarded the promptings of his
conscience, of his honour. It was delicious to be here indoors, with
this kind, this enchanting, this angelically beautiful woman close, very
close, to him.

Athena held out her foot to the fire, and Lingard, staring down, saw
that she was wearing a curious kind of slipper, one unlike any that he
had ever noticed on a woman's foot before. A sandal rather than a shoe,
it left visible the lovely lines of the arched instep and slender ankle.

"You were out a long time," she said, and fixed her eyes on the clock.
It was one of the curious costly toys of which Rede Place was full, and
for which old Theophilus Joy had had a marked predilection. Fashioned
like a tiny wall sundial, across its face was written in faded gold
letters, "I only mark the sunny hours." The hands now pointed to three
minutes to midnight.

Lingard said no word. He went on staring down at Athena's little foot.
He was wondering if she knew how exquisitely perfect she was physically,
how unlike all other women.

"Isn't it odd to think," she whispered, "that in a few moments another
day will begin? I feel more like Cinderella than ever--now. You have
given me such a good time," her voice trembled, and he looked up and
stared at her strangely. "You've almost made me in love again with
life," and she was sincere in what she said.

"I?" said Lingard hoarsely. "I?"

"Yes, you! You don't know--how could you know?--what it's been to me,
what it would have been to any woman, to have a man for a friend, to
feel at last that there is someone to whom one can say everything----"

He looked away from her. At all costs he must prevent himself from
showing what he felt--the violent, the primitive emotion her simple,
touching words had called forth.

How utterly she would despise him if she knew! He swore to himself she
should never know that she had made him all unwittingly traitor to the
woman she loved,--the woman alas! whom they both loved. Lingard, and
that was part of the punishment he already had to endure, never left off
loving Jane Oglander. Jane was always, in a spiritual sense, very near
to him; it was her physical self which was remote.

The tiny gong behind the little clock began to strike, quick precipitate

"Isn't it in a hurry?" said Athena plaintively, "in such a hurry to end
the last of my happy days." Her voice broke into a sob, and Lingard, at
last looking straight into her face, saw that tears were rolling down
her cheeks.

He gave a hoarse inarticulate cry. Athena thought he said "My God!" She
was filled with a sense of intoxicating happiness and triumph. Each of
the wild, broken words--words of self-abasement, self-blame,
self-rebuke, which Lingard uttered, holding both her hands in his firm
grasp,--meant to her what fluttering white flags of surrender mean to

With downcast eyes, with beating heart she listened while Lingard,
abasing himself and exalting her, took all the blame--and shame--on
himself. His words fell very sweetly and comfortingly on her ears.
Athena had no wish to act treacherously by Jane.

Any other man but this strange man would have had her long ago in his
arms, but Lingard, though he held her hands so tightly that his grasp
hurt, made no other movement towards her, not even when with a sobbing
sigh she admitted--and as she did so there came across her a slight
feeling of shame--that she, too, had been a traitor, an unwilling, an
unwitting traitor, to Jane these last few days.

At last they made a compact--how often are such compacts made, and
broken?--that Jane should never, never, know the strange madness which
had seized them both.

Lingard spoke of leaving the next day. Nothing would be easier than to
urge important business in London. But again the tears sprang to
Athena's eyes.

"Don't go away," she murmured brokenly. "I couldn't bear it! I promise
you that Jane shall never know. Don't leave me with Dick and
Richard--they've both been kinder--indeed, indeed they have--since
you've been here, Hew----"

He eagerly assured her that he would stay. Flight was a cowardly
expedient at best, and the feeling he intended henceforth to cherish for
Athena Maule was nothing of which he need be ashamed. It was a high, a
noble feeling of compassion and respect. It was well, nay most
fortunate, that they had had this explanation; henceforth they would be
friends. The very touch of her cool hands resting so confidingly in his,
had driven forth certain black devils from his heart--made him indeed
once more true to Jane,--Jane who, if she knew all, would understand.
For there were things Athena had told him of her life with Richard which
Jane did not know,--things which it was not desirable Jane should ever
know, and which had filled him with an infinite compassion for Richard's
young, beautiful wife.

When Lingard bade her good-night, he resisted the temptation, the
curiously strong temptation, of asking Mrs. Maule if she would allow him
to kiss her feet.


     "The passion of love has a danger for very sensitive, reserved and
     concentrated minds unknown to creatures of more volatile, expansive
     and unreflective dispositions."

Dick Wantele walked with swinging nervous strides up and down the short
platform of the little country station of Redyford. He had already been
there some time, for the local train run in connection with the London
express was late. But he was in no hurry--there would always be time to
tell Jane that she would not see her lover for some hours.

Mrs. Maule had taken General Lingard over to the Paches to lunch. It was
a small matter, an altogether unimportant matter, and it was certainly
no business of Wantele's to care about it one way or the other. And yet
he did care. He was jealous for Jane in a way she never would be for
herself. And then--and then Lingard had allowed himself to be
bamboozled--no other word so well expressed it--as to the time of Jane's

It had happened at breakfast. "Mrs. Pache is expecting us--you and
me--over to lunch," Athena said to Lingard.

And Wantele had cut in--"Jane is coming this morning."

"No, indeed she isn't! We shall be back long before she arrives," and
then Athena had gone on, addressing no one in particular, "Jane is the
most casual person in the world----"

Lingard, throwing back his head with a quizzical look on his face, had
exclaimed, "Yes, that's one of the good things about her." He had shot
out the words as a sword leaps from its scabbard.

There had followed a moment of silence. And then Athena had broken out
into eager praise of Jane--eager, inconsequent praise. But for once Hew
Lingard had seemed indifferent, hardly aware of the sound of her voice.

Instead he looked across to Wantele: "I wonder if you remember that
curious phrase of George Herbert? 'There is an hour wherein a man might
be happy all his life could he but find it--'"

Athena had stared at Lingard--what did he mean by saying such an odd

Then she had reminded Dick that the last time Jane had been coming to
Rede Place she had changed her mind not once but three times, and what
Athena said had irritated Wantele the more because she spoke the truth.

Jane was curiously uncertain and casual--women of her temperament often
are. She only made an effort to be mindful of her engagements when
dealing with those concerning whom most people would have said
punctuality did not matter--with those forlorn men and women adrift on
the dark sea of South London, to whose service she had given herself
since her brother's death.

For a moment he, Dick Wantele, and Hew Lingard, had been in that
wordless sympathy which between men means friendship. Wantele was eager
to be convinced that his suspicions were both base and baseless. If only
Athena would remove her disturbing presence from Rede Place! But he knew
her too well to hope that she would go--yet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here was the train at last, but where was Jane Oglander? Dick looked
before and behind him. No, she was not there. She hadn't come after all.
She had, as usual, changed her plans at the last moment. Athena was
right, Jane was really too casual! When he reached home he would find a
telegram from her explaining----

And then suddenly he saw her walking towards him from the extreme end of
the platform. And the mere sight of her dispelled, not only the
irritation of which he was now ashamed, but the anxieties, the
suspicions of the last ten days.

He had vaguely supposed that Jane would look unlike herself, that the
fact that she was going to be Lingard's wife would have produced in her
some outward change. But she looked as she always looked--set apart from
the women about her, especially from those of her own age, by the
greater simplicity, the almost austerity of her dress. An old cottage
woman had once said to Wantele, "Grey is Miss Oglander's colour, and if
she was 'appy perhaps light blue."

And as she came up to him, smiling, he remembered what the old woman had
said, for Miss Oglander was wearing a long grey cloak; it was open at
the neck, and showed some kind of white vest with a touch of blue
underneath. On her fair hair, framing her face, rested a Quakerish
little cap-like hat with strings tied under her soft chin.

"Dick," she said, "how kind of you to come and meet me! I'm so glad to
see you!"

And he saw with a queer feeling of mingled pleasure and jealous pain
that she did indeed look glad; also that there had in very truth come a
change over her face. Jane Oglander possessed that which is not always
the attribute of beauty, a great and varying charm of expression, but
Wantele had never seen her eyes filled, as they were to-day, with

"I nearly came by the later train," she said. "For I had to see a child
off to the country, to a convalescent home, and its train went at the
same time as mine. But I found a kind, understanding porter, and so it
was all right. Working people are so good to one another, Dick. The
porter wouldn't take the sixpence I offered him for looking after the
little boy----" And in her voice there was still that under-current of
joyousness which was so new, and, to Wantele, so unexpected.

Jane Oglander looked as if the six last years had been blotted out,--as
if she were again a happy girl, pathetically, confidently ignorant of
the ugly realities of life.

They walked out of the station together, and with a simultaneous
movement they turned into the field path which formed a short cut to
Rede Place. Soon they fell into the easy, desultory talk of those who
have many interests and occupations in common. The young man had saved
up many little things to tell her--things that he thought would amuse
Jane, things about which he wished to consult her.

And as they walked side by side, Wantele kept reminding himself, with
deep, voiceless melancholy, that this was the last time--the last time
that Jane Oglander would be what she had been for so long, his chief
friend and favourite companion. Lingard--happy Lingard had been right.
More fortunate than Wantele, he had found that hour most men seek and
never find, the hour wherein a man may be happy all his life.

They were now close to the house, and as yet neither had spoken the name
of Jane's lover. "Shall we go in by the Garden Room?" asked Wantele.

Now had come the moment when he must tell her of Athena's and Lingard's
absence; also, when he must, if he could bring himself to do so, wish
her joy.

"You'll have to put up with me for a bit longer, Jane. Athena has taken
General Lingard to lunch at the Paches'. Of course you heard of the

"Yes," she said. "Poor Patty!" And then, with a rather quizzical
expression in her kind eyes, "It's odd, isn't it, Dick, that Hew should
be related to the Paches----"

With no answering smile on his face, he exclaimed, "Amazing!"

He put the key in the lock, and turning it pushed open the glass door.
Then he fell back so that she should pass in before him.

"Jane," he muttered hoarsely, "Jane, you know what I would say to
you--how truly I wish you joy----"

She looked up, and then quickly cast down her eyes. Wantele had grown
very pale, across his plain face was written suffering and renunciation.

"I knew," she said in a low voice, "I knew that you would wish me joy."

Neither spoke again till they reached the Greek Room.

There Wantele left her, and then Richard Maule also said his word, his
dry word, of congratulation.

"I like your soldier, Jane! You know what I had hoped would happen--but
things that I hope for never do happen----"

But apart from these two interludes, the first afternoon of Jane
Oglander's stay at Rede Place passed exactly as had passed innumerable
other afternoons spent by her there in recent years. She took a walk
with Dick round the walled gardens which were his special interest and
pleasure; she read aloud for a while to Richard.

Nothing was changed, and yet everything was different. Last time Miss
Oglander had stayed at Rede Place, she had been almost daughter to
Richard Maule, almost wife to Dick Wantele. Now she was about to pass
for ever out of their lives, and on all three of them the knowledge lay

       *       *       *       *       *

At four o'clock the Paches' motor returned with a message that Mrs.
Maule and General Lingard were walking back and would not be home before

Miss Oglander's first meeting with her lover at Rede Place took place in
the Greek Room. It was six o'clock, she had given the two men their tea,
and then, voicing what they were all thinking, "They're very late," said
Richard Maule, and as he uttered the words the door opened and the
truants walked in.

Wantele, sitting in his favourite place, away from the fire, close under
one of the high windows, noted with reluctant approval that Athena did
not overdo her surprise. "Why, Jane, I didn't expect you till the
six-twenty train!"--that was all she said as she came forward and warmly
greeted her friend.

Wantele went on looking dispassionately at his cousin's wife. To-day
Athena had chosen the plainest of out-of-door costumes. A girl of
seventeen might have worn the very short skirt and simple little coat,
but like everything she wore, they made her, at the moment, look her
best. The long walk, and the companionship in which she had taken the
walk, had exhilarated her--intensified her superb vitality. She looked
like some wild, lovely thing out of the woods, a nymph on whom Time
would never dare lay his disfiguring touch.

Lingard, hanging back behind her, showed himself no actor. He looked
moody, preoccupied, almost sullen.

"Has anything happened to-day?" asked Mrs. Maule. "Apart, I mean, from
the happy fact of Jane's arrival----" she smiled radiantly at the other

Her husband's voice unexpectedly answered her, and as he spoke he cast
on her a look of hate, and then his eyes rested with an air of rather
malignant, speculative curiosity on Lingard's dark, gloomy face and
restless eyes.

"Yes, something did happen during your short absence. I had a call this
morning from Mr. Kaye----" In an aside he muttered for Lingard's
benefit, "Mr. Kaye is our excellent clergyman," and then he went on,
"I'm sorry to say he brought bad news of his son."

All the caressing glow died from Athena's face; it became suddenly
watchful, wary.

Mr. Maule went on, "Bayworth Kaye, it seems, is lying very ill at Aden."

Mrs. Maule gave a slight sigh of relief. That was not what she had
thought, with a sudden overwhelming fear, to hear Richard say.

"The Kayes are thinking of going out to him, and they thought that I
should be able to tell them something about the place--how to get there,
and so on. But I advised them to wait a day or two for further news.

"I heard about Bayworth Kaye's illness some days ago," said Wantele
slowly. "But I forgot to tell you. I did, however, enquire about him
yesterday. They seemed to know very little then----"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I have been longing, longing, _longing_ to see you, Jane! Now, at last
we can have a talk----"

Putting both her hands on Jane's unresisting shoulders, Mrs. Maule
gently pushed her friend down into a low chair, and then knelt down by

They were in Jane's bedroom, and it still wanted three-quarters of an
hour to dinner.

Jane's eyes filled with happy tears. She was moved to the heart. How
good they all were to her!

She could still feel the clinging, the convulsive, grasp of Lingard's
hand. She had not seen him alone, even for a moment, but now, at last,
they were under the same roof, and each of his letters from Rede Place
had been a cry of longing for her.

"We ought not to have gone to the Paches'," cried Athena remorsefully.
"But honestly it never occurred to me that you would come till the
evening train, Jane."

Jane laughed through her tears. "I'm very glad you went! I enjoyed my
quiet day here. And oh I am so glad to see you, Athena! I was afraid
that you might be away."

"Do you really think I should leave Rede Place--now?" Athena looked
searchingly into Jane's face. "I know we are none of us conventional,
but still the proprieties have to be respected--sometimes!"

Jane reddened uncomfortably. She had not thought of it in that way. She
and Hew had been so happy together alone in London. But no doubt Athena
was right.

Athena rose slowly, gracefully, from her knees, and stood looking down
at her friend with a rather inscrutable smile. Jane moved uneasily, she
felt as if the other woman was gently, remorselessly stripping her soul
of its wrappings....

"You look just the same," said Mrs. Maule, still smiling that probing,
mysterious smile, "just as much a white and grey nun as you did before,
Jane. But I think this is the first time I ever saw you blush. Go on
blushing, dear--it makes you look quite pretty and worldly!"

Jane flinched beneath the intent questioning gaze. She felt suddenly
defenceless against a form of attack she had not expected from her
friend. She could not bear the lightest touch of raillery, still less
any laughing comment, on what was so deep and sacred a thing to herself
as her relation to Lingard.

She got up, walked over to a window, and pulled back the curtain.

Athena moved swiftly after her, and with a gentle violence put her soft
arms round Jane and pillowed the girl's head on her breast.

"Jane!" she whispered, "do forgive me--I understand, indeed I do!
But--but the sight of your happiness makes me a little bitter. Richard
has been worse than ever this time. And Dick has been--well, Dick at his
very worst. I can't think why he dislikes me so--but to be sure I have
never liked him either!"

Jane heard her in troubled silence. Her feelings of restful happiness,
of exquisite content, had gone.

"I'm sure that General Lingard must have noticed Richard's extraordinary
manner to me," Athena spoke musingly. "Has he said anything about it in
any of his letters to you?"

"No, never." Jane released herself from Mrs. Maule's circling arms.

"I like your man so much," went on Athena, stroking Jane's hair, "so
very, very much! I think I like him more than I ever thought to like a
man again. But then he's so unlike most men, Jane."

Jane did not need Athena's words to convince her that Hew Lingard was
unlike other men. But still her friend's words touched and pleased her.

"He's been so awful good to me these last ten days! He's made everything
easier. Fortunately Richard took a great fancy to him. And he and I--I
know you won't be jealous, Jane--have become true friends. When Dick
isn't looking, we call each other Hew and Athena!"

"I am so glad," said Jane in a low voice; and indeed she was glad that
the two had "made friends."

But again she was touched with vague discomfort, again she shrank, when
Mrs. Maule, leading her back into the room, rained eager, insistent
questions on her----

"Do tell me all about it! How did it all begin? How did you ever come to
know each other so well before he went away? What made him first write
to you? Were they love letters, Jane? Come, of course you must know
whether they were love letters or not! You're not so simple as all that
comes to--no woman ever is!"

But at last, driven at bay, her heart bruised by the other's indelicate
curiosity, Jane said slowly, "I dare say I'm foolish--but I would rather
not talk about it, Athena."

A look of deep offence passed over Mrs. Maule's face. Later on--much
later on--Jane wondered whether she had been wrong in saying those few
words--words said feelingly, apologetically.

"Of course we won't speak of your engagement if you would rather not.
I'm sorry. I had no idea you would mind. I must go and dress now. But
just one word more, Jane. Of course you and General Lingard will like to
be a good deal alone together--I'll give Dick a hint."

"No, no!" cried Jane. "Please don't do that, Athena. I don't want
anything of the sort said to Dick."

But Mrs. Maule went on as if she had not heard the other's words, "And
you can always sit together in my boudoir. Mrs. Pache was saying to-day
that it was a pity I didn't use the drawing-room more than I do. She
thought--it was so like an Englishwoman to say so--that it smelt damp!"

"As if we should think of turning you out of your own room! How can you
imagine such a thing? I don't want you to make the slightest difference
while I'm here. Hew and I will have plenty of opportunities of seeing
one another when we get back to London. Please don't speak to Dick--I
should be very, very sorry if you spoke to Dick, Athena."


     "Tu peux connaître le monde, tu peux lire à livre ouvert dans les
     plus caverneuses consciences, mais tu ne liras jamais, oh! pauvre
     femme, le coeur de ton ami."

And then there came a short sequence of days, full of deep calm without,
full of strife and disturbance within.

Jane was ailing, and each day she fought with the knowledge of what
ailed her as certain strong natures fight, and even for a while keep at
bay, physical disease.

But there came a moment when she had to face the truth; when she had to
tell herself that the new, the agonising pain which racked her soul
night and day, leaving her no moment of peace, was that base passion,

It was horrible to feel that it was of Athena she was jealous--Athena
who seemed to be always there, between Lingard and herself. She could
not think so ill of her friend as to suppose that this was Mrs. Maule's
fault; still less would she accuse Lingard.

Gradually the knowledge had come to her that when they three were
together--Athena, Jane, and Lingard--it was as if she, Jane, was not, so
entirely was Lingard absorbed in, possessed by, Athena.

Jane Oglander could not fight with the weapons another woman in her
place might have used. She could not, that is, make the most of such odd
moments, of such scanty opportunities as she might have snatched from
Athena Maule. How could the trifling events which made up the sum of
five or six days have brought about such a change?

She had thought to be so happy at Rede Place. She had come there filled
with a sense of tremulous and yet certain gladness; in the mood to be
sought by, rather than in that which seeks, the beloved. Athena,
Richard, and Dick, if they did not love each other, surely each loved
her sufficiently to understand, to respect her joy.

The circumstances of her brother's death which had fallen like a pall on
her young life had set Jane Oglander apart from happy, normal women. To
her the world had only contained one lover--Hew Lingard; and those days
they had spent together in a peopled solitude had taught her all she
knew of the ways of love.

It was instinct which had made her shrink, that first night of her stay
at Rede Place, from Athena's insistent questioning; natural delicacy
which had made her refuse, almost with disgust, the suggestion that she
and Lingard should be set apart in an artificial solitude. As yet their
engagement was secret from the world which seemed to take so great,
so--so impertinent an interest in Hew Lingard, and she wished to keep it
so as long as possible.

Then there was another reason, one which she now told herself Athena
should have divined, why Jane wished little notice to be taken of her
engagement. She had no wish to flaunt her happiness before Dick Wantele.

But now there was no happiness to flaunt--in its place only a dumb
misery and a jealousy of which she felt an agonising shame.

To Jane Oglander it was as if another entity had entered Hew Lingard's
bodily shape--the bodily shape that was alas! so terribly dear to her.

Lingard was not unkind, he was ever careful of her comfort in all little
ways, but when they were alone together--and this happened strangely
seldom--he would fall into long silences, as if unaware that she, his
love, was there.

From these abstracted moods Jane soon learnt that she could rouse him
only in one way. He was ever ready to talk of Athena,--of their noble,
lovely, and ill-used friend; and Jane, assenting, would tell herself
that it was all true, and that only long familiarity with the strange
conditions of existence at Rede Place had made her take as calmly as she
did the tragedy of Athena Maule's life--that tragedy which now weighed
so heavily on Lingard that it blotted out for him everything and
everybody else.

"I have told her she can always come and stay with us when things get
intolerable here," he had exclaimed during one such talk, looking at
Jane with eager, ardent eyes; and she had bent her head.

Then it was with Athena he discussed their future, his and Jane's--the
future in which Mrs. Maule was, it seemed, to have so great a share.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on the seventh day of Jane's stay at Rede Place that her lover
for the first time, or so it seemed to her sore heart, sought her

It fell about in this wise. Athena had been caught by Mrs. Pache, who,
taking a drive in her old safe brougham for the first time since the
motor accident, had naturally chosen Rede Place. Lingard and Dick
Wantele at last escaped, leaving Mrs. Maule prisoned by her guest. They
had gone out of doors, and chance had led them across Jane--Jane on her
way back from the Small Farm where Mabel Digby, for the first time in
her young life, lay ill in bed, unwilling to see anyone, excepting Jane.

On hearing who had called, Miss Oglander had wished to hurry in, but
Lingard had cried imperiously, "No! you shan't be made to endure Cousin
Annie's congratulations! Come instead for a walk with me!" He had said
the words in his old voice--the voice Jane knew, loved, obeyed.

Dick Wantele looked quickly at them both. Was it possible that Lingard
was working himself free of the fetters of which he was--Dick wished to
think it possible--still unaware? "Take him to the Oakhanger," he said
to Jane. "You can get there and back in an hour----"

Side by side they hastened, walking not as lovers walk, but as do those
who feel themselves to be escaping from some danger which lies close
behind them. Jane was taking Lingard the shortest way out of the park.

At last, at last she and Lingard would be alone, away from Athena as
they had never yet been away from her during these long, to Jane these
most miserable, days.

For a while neither spoke to the other, then, as they turned into one of
the narrow streets of the little country town, Lingard broke into
hurried, disconnected speech, only to fall into moody silence as they
again emerged into the lonely country lane leading to the large,
enclosed piece of ground for which they were bound.

The Hanger, as it was familiarly called in the neighbourhood of
Redyford, was a huge natural mound rising from a low, undulating stretch
of wild furze-covered common. Through the eighteenth century it had
formed part of the estate of Rede Place, or rather it had been enclosed
and appropriated, together with other common land.

Thanks to the generosity, perhaps it should be said the sense of
justice, of Theophilus Joy, The Hanger now belonged to the little town
of Redyford. In warm weather it was used by the town folk as a picnic
resort, though the nature and formation of the ground, and of the
mountainous height which gave the place its name, made the playing of
games there impossible. This was as well, for the huge mound remained
unspoilt, and in its stark way beautiful.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sharply the two breasted the rising ground. The wind swept athwart them
in short, strong gusts. Now and then there fell a spot of rain.

There was something in Jane Oglander's nature, something hidden from
those about her, which responded to wild weather. She now welcomed the
battle against wind and rain, and mounted with secret exhilaration the
steep slippery path winding its way through and under the oak-trees
which clothed the right flank of The Hanger.

Once she tripped, and Lingard for a moment put his arm round her, but
she sprang forward, away from its strong shelter; surprised, and a
little piqued, he kept behind her, letting her lead the now darkling
way, for twilight was falling.

On they climbed, till at last, emerging from under the low oak branches,
they stood, solitary figures, on a grassy ridge, bare save for a clump
of high twisted fir-trees which swayed gauntly against the vast grey
expanse of sky.

Owing to its peculiar formation, The Hanger presented, especially at
this time of the early evening, an impression of almost monstrous height
and loneliness.

Sheer down on the right from whence they had come lay the little town of
Redyford, the grey and red roofs partly hidden by the thick-set oaks.
On the left the ground sloped away more gently; but it looked to-night
as if a leap over the edge would fling one down, down into the valley of
meadowlands now white with curling mists.

Slowly they turned and walked along the ridge, their feet sinking into
the short soft turf growing in patches of pale green among the
mauve-grey and brown heather. The path led up to a summer house, a
curious circular building crowning the apex of the hill, and so wide
open to wind, rain, and view that only the deep-eaved roof afforded any
shelter to those under it.

It was there that Lingard, after a moment of hesitation, led the way.
"Jane," he said, "let us come and sit down for a moment. I have
something to ask you." And she followed him into the poor shelter the
summer house afforded. It had stopped raining; the high wind reigned
alone, victorious.

The bench on which they sat down was heavily scored with the initials of
generations of Redyford lovers; for the little round building had ever
been a temple of innocent courtship, and in the spring and summer
evenings never lacked couples sitting in silent, inarticulate happiness.

Lingard's bare hand involuntarily rested on the dented figures, the
interlaced initials....

Three weeks ago he would have prayed Jane's leave to add a J. and an H.
to these rude scores, for three weeks ago he had been one of the great
company of the world's lovers, understanding and sympathising with all
the absurdities of love.

And now--even now, though he knew himself for a traitor to the woman
sitting silent by his side, he yet felt in a strange way that the link
between them was eternal--that in no way could it be broken. Each, so he
assured himself fiercely, had a call on the other.

He was about to put this belief, this instinctive certainty, to the

"As I said just now, I've something to ask you, Jane----" His words came
haltingly; to his listener they sounded very cold.

"Yes, Hew?" She looked round at him. He was staring at the ground as if
something lay there he alone could see.

"I asked you to come out with me to-night, because--because"--and then
in a voice so low, so hoarse, that she had to bend forward to catch the
words--"I want to ask you, to implore you, Jane--to marry me at once."

"At once?" she repeated. "When do you mean by at once, Hew?" She also
spoke in a still, low voice. They seemed to be hatching a conspiracy of
which one, if not both, should feel ashamed.

And more than ever it seemed to Jane Oglander as if another man, a
stranger, had taken possession of Hew Lingard's shape.

"I mean at once!" he answered harshly. "To-morrow--or the day after
to-morrow. There's no necessity why we should ever go back to Rede
Place! Why shouldn't we walk down to the station now, from here? We
should be in London in an hour and a half. People have often done
stranger things than that. We could send a message from the station
to----" His voice wavered, his lips refused to form Mrs. Maule's name.

He thrust the thought of Athena violently from him; and with the
muttered words, "Can't you understand? I love you--I want you, Jane----"
he turned and gathered the woman sitting so stilly by his side into his

She gave a stifled cry of surprise; and then, as he kissed her fiercely
once, twice, and then again, there broke from her a low, bitter
sigh--the sigh of a woman who feels herself debased by the caresses for
which she has longed, of which she has been starved.

To Jane Oglander a kiss, so light, so willing a loan on the part of many
women, was so intimate a gift as to be the forerunner of complete
surrender. And to-night each of Hew Lingard's kisses was to her a
profaned sacrament. Not so had they kissed on that day in London. Now
his kisses told her, as no words could have done, of a divided

She lay unresponsive, trembling in his arms, her eyes full of a wild,
piteous questioning....

With a sudden sense of self-loathing and shame he released her from his

"Well?" he said sullenly. "Well, Jane?" but he knew what her answer
would and must be.

"I can't do what you wish, Hew. I don't think that either of us would be
happy now--if we did that." She spoke in a quiet, restrained voice. She
was too miserable, too deeply humiliated, for tears.

Together they walked out of the summer house and retraced their steps
along the ridge.

"As I cannot do what you wish, would you like me to end our engagement?"

He turned on her fiercely. "I did not think," he cried, "that there
lived a woman in the world who could be as cruel as you have been to me

"I did not mean to be cruel," she said mournfully.

"Unless you wish to drive me to the devil, don't speak like that again,"
he said violently. "Promise me, I mean, that you won't think of breaking
our engagement."

She made no answer, and a few moments later in a gentler tone he asked,
"Can't you understand, Jane?"

She said humbly, "I try to understand."

A great and a healing flood of tenderness filled her heart, and as if
the spiritual tie between them was indeed of so close a nature that
Lingard felt her softening for the first time put his hand in hers.

"Jane," he said huskily, "forgive me. Try to forget to-night."

So they walked in silence, hand in hand, through the solitary lane and
the now lighted streets of Redyford, uncaring of the few passers-by.

But when they came to the park gates Lingard withdrew his hand from
hers, and at the door of the Garden Room he left her. "I won't come in
yet," he said abruptly, and turning on his heel he disappeared into the

       *       *       *       *       *

And with Jane's going something good and noble in Lingard went too, and
as he walked into the darkness he lashed himself into a sea of deep
injury and pain. His heart filled with anger rather than with shame when
he evoked the look almost of aversion, of protesting anguish, which had
come into her face while his lips had sought and found unresponsive her
sweet, tremulous mouth.

He had been longing, craving, for that which he had now only the right
to demand from her, and she had cruelly repulsed him.

How amazing that a fortnight--or was it three weeks?--could have so
altered a woman!

Even now the memory of those days they had spent together immediately on
his return home was dear and sacred to him.

Could he have been mistaken,--such was the question he asked himself
to-night,--in his belief that Jane Oglander had been exquisitely
sensitive, responsive as are few human beings to every high demand of

Was it that his unspoken, unconfessed treachery had killed, obliterated
in her the power of response? Nay, it was far more likely that he had
made a mistake,--that the woman he loved was cold, as many tender women
are cold, temperamentally incapable of that fusion of soul and body
which is the essence of love between a man and a woman.

Had he not discovered this lack in Jane through his contact with a very
different nature--with one who was full of quick, warm-blooded, generous
impulses? Athena Maule might do foolish things,--she had admitted to him
that more than once she had been tempted to do wild, reckless
things,--but it was only her heart that would lead her astray.

The man in Lingard, knowing as he thought the hidden truth which
underlay her story, felt full of burning sympathy.

As he at last walked back to the house, it was pleasant to him to feel
that he would be able to forget the painful, the humiliating hour he had
gone through with the woman who was to be his wife, in the company of
Athena Maule.

       *       *       *       *       *

Athena was in her boudoir. She had been there alone for two hours, and
they had been hours filled with impatient revolt and anxiety.

After Mrs. Pache had gone Athena had tried to find first Jane, and then
Lingard. Then Dick Wantele, meeting her, had casually observed that the
two others had gone out for a long walk.

Jane and Lingard out together beyond her ken and pursuit? The knowledge
stabbed her. Athena was convinced, aye quite honestly convinced, that
these two, her friends both of them, were ill-suited the one to the

She felt the breach between herself and Jane, and it hurt her the more
because she had done nothing--nothing to deserve that Jane should avoid
her as she sometimes felt sure Jane was doing.

It was not her fault if General Lingard was gradually coming to see the
terrible mistake he had made. But to-night, while waiting, too excited,
too impatient to do anything but sit and stare into the fire, she told
herself that she was also disappointed in Lingard.

What a strange, peculiar man he was! Since the night before Jane
Oglander's arrival he had said nothing--nothing that is, that all the
world might not have heard. And yet she could not mistake his thraldom.
If nothing else had proved it, Dick Wantele's behaviour would have done
so. Twice in the last few days Dick had made a strong, a meaning, appeal
to Athena to leave Rede Place. Her heart swelled at the thought of
Dick's discourtesy and unkindness. She even wondered if he had dared to
say anything to Lingard. During the last two days Lingard had certainly
avoided finding himself alone with her....

The only one of them all who seemed perfectly at ease, and who was as
usual absorbed in his own selfish ills and in his dull books, was
Richard. Fortunately he took up a great deal of Jane's time.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last, when it was nearly seven o'clock, the door opened, and Lingard
came in. He had instinctively made his way to her, without stopping to
think whether he were wise or no in what he was doing. During the last
two days, putting a strong restraint on himself, he had avoided Athena,
and his strange request to Jane, his pleading for an immediate marriage,
had been the outcome of the state in which he found himself.

But now everything was changed. Jane had denied him, and he felt an
imperative need of the kind, comfortable words Athena would lavish on
him. He was sick of lies--of the lies he had told himself. He hungered
for Athena's presence. What an unmannerly brute she must have thought
him, to have avoided her as he had done, all that day and all the day

Very gently she bade him sit down, and in some subtle fashion she
ministered to Lingard in a way that restored to a certain extent his
feeling of self-respect. And then at last, when secure that there would
be no interruptions, for the dinner bell had rung some moments before,
she leant forward and said slowly, "Is something the matter? Is anything
troubling you, Hew? Is it a matter in which I can help?"

She desired above all things that he should speak to her of Jane
Oglander. But her wish was not to be gratified.

"Everything is troubling me," he said sombrely. "Everything!"

She moved a little nearer to him. Her hand lay close to his. Suddenly he
took her hand and held it. "I loathe myself," he said in a low voice. "I
needn't tell you the reason why, Athena,--you know, you understand----"

"Ah! Yes--I understand," there was a thrill in her voice. "How often I
have felt ashamed of my own longing--of my longing to be free!"

It was a bow at a venture. He looked at her with dazed eyes. That was
not what he had meant. Then suddenly he caught fire from her thin flame.
"If you were free?" he repeated thickly. "I wish to God, Athena, that
you were free----"

She withdrew her hand from his, and got up. "It's nearly eight o'clock,"
she said quietly. "We must go up and dress now."


                      "There's not a crime
    But takes its proper change still out in crime
    If once rung on the counter of this world."

All that night Athena lay awake. Her brain was extraordinarily alive.
She had not had so bad a bout of wakefulness for years.

If only she were free!

She lay wondering what Lingard had meant by those words--words which she
had put into his mouth, and which he had uttered in the thick tones of a
man who has lost control of himself, and who speaks scarce knowing what
he says.

In the world in which Mrs. Maule lived when she was not at Rede Place,
it was a firmly-established belief that those unhappily or unsuitably
married could, by making a determined effort, strike off their fetters.
And in this connection it had been gradually borne in upon her that the
good old proverb which declares that where there's a will there's a way
is, in the England of to-day, peculiarly true of everything that
pertains to the marital relations of men and women.

The question had never before touched her nearly, and Athena as a rule
only concerned herself with what did touch her nearly.

However much she chafed against the bonds which bound her to Richard
Maule, the thought that she, Mrs. Maule of Rede Place, should join the
crowd of ambiguous women who are neither maids, nor wives, nor widows,
was unthinkable. Her day, so she often secretly reasoned with herself,
would come later--after Richard's death. At the time of their marriage
he had made magnificent, absurdly magnificent settlements. He could do
nothing to alter that fact; so much she had been at some pains to
ascertain. Meanwhile, she made the best she could of life.

But now, with a dramatic suddenness which strongly appealed to her
calculating and yet undisciplined nature--an unlooked for piece of good
fortune had come her way. Were she free, or within reasonable sight of
freedom, the kind of life for which she now longed passionately was
almost certainly within her grasp.

Lingard the man roused in Athena Maule none of that indescribable
sensation, part physical, part mental, which she had at first thought,
nay hoped, he would do. But that, so she told herself with unconscious
cynicism, was a fortunate thing. She had now set her whole heart on
being Lingard's wife,--only to secure that end would she be Lingard's
lover. Her wild oats were sown. Never more would she allow herself to
become the prey of passion,--that "creature of poignant thirst and
exquisite hunger...."

She gave but a very fleeting thought to Lingard's engagement to Jane
Oglander. Engagements are perpetually made and broken, and fortunately
this particular engagement had not even been publicly announced.

No; what deeply troubled her, what stood in the way of the fruition of
her desire was--Richard, the man who had so slight a hold on life, and
yet who seemed so tenacious of that which had surely lost all savour.

In the darkness of the night, the pallid face of Athena's husband rose
before her,--cruel, watchful, streaked, as it so often was when Richard
looked her way, with contempt as well as hatred.

How amazingly Richard had altered in the ten years she had known him,
and in nothing more than in the expression of his face, which she now
visioned with such horrible vividness!

In old days Richard Maule had had a handsome, dreamy, placid face,--the
kind of profile which looks to great advantage on a cameo or medal. Now,
as Athena often told herself, it was the face of a suffering devil, and
of a devil, alas! who looked as if he would never die.

But the days when she had measured anxiously the span of Richard's life
were past. Athena, now, could not afford to wait for her husband's
death; she must find some other way to freedom.

There was a story which had remained imprinted for two years--or was it
three?--on the tablets of Mrs. Maule's memory, and this was the more
strange, the more significant, because she had not come across the case
in any direct way.

All she could remember of the affair--luckily she had a very good memory
for such things--had been told her by a certain Mrs. Stanwood, who was
noted for her extraordinary knowledge of other people's business, and
for whom Athena had never had any particular liking.

But now the idle words of this casual acquaintance became tremendously
significant, pregnant with vital issues.

She sat up in the darkness and pressed her hands against her face in her
effort to recapture every word of what had been at the time so
unimportant a piece of gossip.

The story had been told her at Ranelagh. She could still see the
low-ceilinged entrance hall where the eagerly whispered words had been

They were standing together, Athena and Maud Stanwood, waiting for the
rest of their party, when there had swept by them a pretty,
well-dressed, tired-looking woman. Suddenly, a man had come forward and
the two for a moment met face to face. Then, with a muttered word of
apology, the man passed on.

Mrs. Stanwood clutched Athena's arm. "Do look at them!" she whispered.
"How very dramatic! I wonder if this is the first time they have met
since the case!" And Athena obediently stared at the pretty,
tired-looking woman; the man had disappeared.

"Who is she? Who are they? What case do you mean?" she asked.

And the other answered provokingly, "Surely you remember all about it?"

"But I don't remember. Please tell me? Was it a divorce case?" Athena
spoke a little pettishly.

"Divorce? Oh, _no_! Something quite different. Why, if she had been
divorced she would not be here. No, no; their marriage was annulled. The
case made quite a talk because they had been married so long--I believe
fourteen years. I was at the wedding. She was such a pretty bride. Of
course she married again--the other man. But it's rather bad taste of
her to come here now, for she used to be here a good deal with him--I
mean with her first husband."

Athena, amused with the tale, had pressed the other to tell her all
about it, and Mrs. Stanwood, nothing loth, had proceeded to do so,
quoting similar cases, and intimating, with the shrewdness which always
distinguished her, how odd it was that more childless women didn't have
recourse to so easy, so reputable a way of ridding themselves of dull
and undesirable husbands!

A sensation of intense relief, nay more, of triumphant satisfaction,
stole into Athena's heart. What that woman, that nervous, pretty,
faded-looking woman, had done after fourteen years of marriage, Athena
could certainly do now. No one looking at Richard--at that poor,
miserable wreck of a man--could doubt that Mrs. Maule had a right to her

"If only you were free!" She was not quite sure in what sense Lingard
had uttered those memorable words, but it was enough for her that he
could, if necessary, be reminded of having said them. Once she were
indeed free, Lingard, so Athena felt comfortably sure, would not need to
be so reminded.

Nature, so unkind to woman, has given her one great advantage over man.
She can, while herself remaining calm, rouse in him a whirlwind of
tempestuous emotion.

Many a time in the last few years Mrs. Maule had heard the cry, "If only
you were free!" but, while listening with downcast eyes to the hopeless
wish, she had known well that the speaker did not really mean what he
said, or if he meant it--poor Bayworth Kaye had meant it--then he was,
like Bayworth, ineligible, or if eligible as a lover, absurdly
ineligible as a husband.

Her acute, subtle mind, trained from childhood only to concentrate
itself on those problems which affected, or might affect, herself,
turned to the lesser problem of Jane Oglander.

Jane Oglander was an obstacle. Far less an one than Richard, but still
likely to be a formidable obstacle owing to Lingard's strained sense of

So much must be frankly admitted. But it would be a mistake to make too
much of Jane. Once Jane realised how unsuited she was to become Hew
Lingard's wife, she would draw back--of that Athena felt assured.

But how could Jane be brought to understand? Would Lingard himself ever
allow her to see the truth, or would the task fall to her--to Athena?

If what the world now thought were true, Hew Lingard might hope to rise
to almost any eminence in the delightful, the glorious career of arms.
But for that, and again Athena was quite sincere with herself, he would
need to have by his side a clever and brilliant woman, without whose
help he might find himself shelved as many another man of action has
been. It was this fact that someone ought to convey to poor Jane

Within the last few months, by merely saying a word to a distinguished
personage at the War Office, Mrs. Maule had been able, so she quite
believed, to advance Bayworth Kaye materially--to procure him, that is,
a post on which he had set his heart, and for which he was eminently

The official in question had been extremely cautious, not to say cold,
during their little conversation, but a week or two later Athena had
been gratified to receive from the great man a pretty little note in
which he had informed her that her protégé--as he called poor
Bayworth--was going, after all, to be given the post for which he was so
admirably qualified.

Athena had no reason to under-estimate her powers. The average man
always, and the exceptional man generally, capitulated at once. Even
politicians were indulgent to her ignorance, nay more, amused by her
lack of knowledge of British public affairs. But Athena was now coming
to see the value of such knowledge.

Since the arrival of General Lingard, she had realised that there were
all sorts of things which ordinary women--such women as Jane Oglander
and Mabel Digby--know, but which she had never taken the trouble to
learn. Lingard had already taught her a good deal. She had early adopted
the excellent principle, when with a man, of allowing him to talk,
especially when the subject was one about which she knew little or

Lingard would have been amazed indeed had he known that a fortnight ago
Athena Maule had scarcely heard of these subjects--so vitally
interesting to those concerned with the expansion of our Empire in
Africa--about which she now questioned him so intelligently.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day opened with very ill news--the news that Bayworth Kaye was

As is the way in the country, the servants heard the bare fact some time
before it reached their betters. It formed the subject of discussion in
the servants' hall on the previous evening, for the fatal telegram had
reached the rectory at seven o'clock, and its contents had made their
way, first to the stables of Rede Place, and from thence to the house
half an hour later, at the very time Lingard was echoing Athena's words,
"If only you were free!"

"You'll 'ave to tell her when you go in with the cup of tea," observed
Mr. Maule's valet to Mrs. Maule's French maid, Félicie. But the woman
shrugged her shoulders, with a "Ma foi, non!"

They had all wondered, with sighs and mysterious winks, how Mrs. Maule
would take the news. The Corsican chef expressed great concern. "Ce
pauvre jeune homme est mort d'amour!" he exclaimed to Félicie, and she
nodded solemnly, explaining and expanding his remark to the others.

"Gammon! An Englishman--an officer and a gentleman--don't die of such a
thing as love," the butler said scornfully, and Félicie again had
shrugged her shoulders. What did these unimaginative barbarians know of
the tender passion?--nothing, save when it touched their own sluggish
souls and bodies. Poor Monsieur Bayworth--so young, so gallant, always
kindly and civil to Félicie herself. So unlike that prude, his mamma!
Félicie had but one regret--that she had never seen Monsieur Bayworth in

Wantele was told the next morning. Bayworth Kaye--Bayworth, whom he had
known with an affectionate, kindly knowledge from his birth
upwards--dead? He felt a sharp pang remembering how coldly he and the
young man had said good-bye less than a month ago. After all, it was
not Bayworth who had been to blame for all that had happened during the
last year....

He came down to breakfast hoping that the news which he had himself
learnt but a few moments before was already known to Athena. If that
were the case, she would probably stay upstairs. Breakfast in bed is one
of the many agreeable privileges civilised life offers woman.

Only since General Lingard had been staying at Rede Place had Mrs. Maule
come down each morning. She had evidently begun doing so during those
three days which had laid so solid a foundation to her friendship with

But if Athena were still in ignorance of young Kaye's death, then to
him, Wantele, must fall the painful, the odious, task of telling her. He
could not be so cruel as to allow her to discover the fact from the
morning papers. Of late--and again Dick traced a connection between the
fact and Lingard's presence at Rede Place--Mrs. Maule generally glanced
over one of the papers before opening her letters.

Lingard came into the dining-room, and then, a moment after, Mrs. Maule
and Jane Oglander together.

Wantele glanced quickly at his cousin's wife. With relief he told
himself that Athena had heard the melancholy news. She looked ill and
tired, her eyelids were red, her beauty curiously obscured.

She came up languidly to the breakfast table, and Lingard looked at her
solicitously. She put out her hand and let it rest for a moment in his
grasp. Her hand was cold, and he muttered a word of concern.

"I couldn't sleep," she said. "I shall have to take chloral again--it's
the only vice Richard and I ever had in common!"

Lingard turned abruptly away. It had become disagreeable to him to hear
her utter Richard Maule's name. And Athena felt suddenly discomfited.
The plans she had made in the night became remote from reality.

She sat down and her eyes began following Lingard. He was waiting on
Jane, taking trouble to get Jane what he supposed she liked to eat--and
leaving her, Athena, his hostess, to Dick Wantele's care.

So far, she had never had the power to make Lingard neglect Jane in
those small material things which mean so much to some women and so
little to others. Personal service meant a great deal to Athena Maule.
The sight of Lingard and Jane Oglander together was becoming unendurable
to her.

"D'ye know, Dick, if there's any more news of Bayworth Kaye?"

It was Jane who spoke. She also felt ill and tired; she also had not
slept that night; but Lingard's anxious look and muttered word of
concern had not been for her. True, he was "looking after her" now,
bringing her food she had no wish to eat, making her--and what a mockery
it was--his special care.

But what was this that Dick was saying in so hushed a voice, in answer
to her idle question?

"Yes, I'm sorry to say there is news--bad news."

The speaker was intensely conscious of Athena's presence. Did she know,
or did she not know, what he was about to say? He added slowly, "Poor
Bayworth Kaye is dead."

Jane uttered an exclamation of horror and concern. Athena said nothing;
but she took a piece of toast out of the tiny rack in front of her
plate, and began crumbling it in her hand.

"Yes, it's a terrible thing"--Wantele was now speaking to Lingard. "The
poor fellow was an only son--indeed, an only child. We've known him all
his life. It will be a shock to Richard----" He talked on, and still
Athena remained silent.

But when at last Jane turned to her with, "I suppose you will be going
down to the rectory this morning?" Mrs. Maule threw back her head and
spoke with a touch of angry excitement in her voice:--

"Why did you tell me now, Dick, before breakfast? You've made me
miserable--miserable! You know I hate being told of anyone's death. I
hate death! No, I shan't go to the rectory--you can go, Jane, and say
all that should be said from Richard and from me."

Lingard looked severely at Wantele. How stupid, how heartless, the young
man was always showing himself! Why had he hastened to tell sad news
which he must have known would so much distress Athena and Jane

"I'm so sorry! I was afraid you would see it in one of the papers,"
Wantele spoke as if he did indeed repent of his cruel lack of thought.

Athena accepted his apology in silence. After a while she turned to her

"I wish you had met poor Bayworth Kaye," she said musingly, "he was just
the sort of man you would have liked. He was tremendously keen----" Then
she stopped short; looking up she had met Dick Wantele's light-coloured
eyes fixed on her face with an expression of--was it extreme surprise or
angry disgust?

She looked straight at him: "Don't you agree, Dick?"

"Yes, yes," he said hastily, "I certainly agree," and his eyes wavered
and fell before her frank, questioning gaze.


    "L'amour et la douleur sont parallels
    Ces deux lignes-là vont à jamais ensemble."

Owing to the peculiar conditions of his life, a life led almost entirely
apart from the rest of his household, Richard Maule seldom had occasion
to see Hew Lingard and Athena together. But the owner of Rede Place
always realised a great deal more of what was going on than those about
him credited him with doing, and on his wife he kept a constant, secret
watch of which she alone became sometimes uncomfortably aware.

As the fine autumn days--to the stricken man the pleasantest time of the
year--wore themselves away, Richard Maule grew particularly kind and
considerate to Jane Oglander.

He was very susceptible to the physical condition of those about him,
and he noticed that she had altered strangely during the short time she
had been at Rede Place. She was pale and listless; and often when with
him she sat doing nothing, saying nothing.

Every time they were alone together--and that now was very often--the
past came back to Richard Maule, especially that time of his life when
he lay ill to death eight years ago in Italy.

Looking furtively at her strained, unhappy face, he would recall the
agony of rage and despair in which he had lain at a time when he had
been supposed by those about him to be absorbed in his physical
condition--if indeed conscious of anything at all.

In those days Athena had still preserved a simulacrum of regard, of
affection for her husband, and when she came into his room, when she
stood at the bottom of his bed looking with mingled repugnance and pity
at his distorted face, he longed to rise and destroy the wanton who had
been so adoringly loved and so wholly trusted.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were sitting together now, Jane Oglander and Richard Maule, on the
afternoon of the day which had opened with the news of Bayworth Kaye's
death. It was warm and sunny, and the three others had gone out of doors
after luncheon--for Dick Wantele, Athena was well aware of it, had
fallen into the way of never leaving the other two alone together if he
could possibly prevent it.

Wantele could not understand Jane's attitude. Did she suspect her
friend's treachery? He found it impossible to make up his mind one way
or the other. In any case Jane and Lingard were not like normal
lovers--but Wantele had lived long enough in the world to know that
there is every variety of lover. Sometimes he thought Jane trusted
Lingard so implicitly as to be still blind.

A letter addressed to Miss Oglander was brought in to her.

"It's from Mrs. Kaye," she said quickly. "May I open it, Richard?"

She glanced through it:--

"Dear Miss Oglander" (it ran), "My husband and myself thank you
sincerely for your kind words of sympathy. Had I known you were the
bearer of your letter I would have seen you. I am writing to ask if you
will do me a kindness. I know that General Lingard is staying at Rede
Place, and I write to ask if it would be possible for me to see him on a
matter of business connected with my son. I venture to ask if he will
kindly come at eleven o'clock on Thursday. I cannot fix any time before
that day. I should have written to Mr. Wantele, but as I had to answer
your note, I thought I would ask you to arrange this for me."

She told herself with quivering lip that of course Hew should go and see
poor Mrs. Kaye. Hew was always kind. He would be patient and
understanding with the unhappy woman.

Jane got up. Perhaps she could go and settle the matter at once. She
looked at Richard Maule. He was turning over the leaves of a book.
Richard would not miss her. There came over her a despairing feeling
that no one now needed her, in any dear and intimate sense....

Once she had asked her small vicarious favour of Hew, she could write to
Mrs. Kaye, and take the note to the rectory herself. It would give her
something to do, and just now Jane Oglander was in desperate need of
things to do.

Athena had said something of showing General Lingard the walled gardens
which were all that remained of the old Tudor manor house from which
Rede Place took its name, and which had been left by Theophilus Joy as a
concession to English taste.

It was there, some way from the house, that Jane made her way, and there
that she at last found those she sought.

Mrs. Maule had suddenly become alive to the many and varied outdoor
beauties of her country home. All the nice women she knew were fond of
gardening. It was the feminine fad of the moment, and one with which she
had hitherto had very little sympathy.

Athena sincerely believed herself to be devoted to flowers, but she
preferred those varieties that look best cut and in water. Still, to be
interested in her garden, and in what grew there, belonged to the part
which was, for the moment, so much herself that she was scarcely
conscious of playing it.

Perhaps one reason why Mrs. Maule had never cared for gardening was
because her husband's cousin was so exceedingly fond of it. The old
gardens of Rede Place were to Wantele an ever-recurring pleasure, and,
what counted far more in the life he had to lead, an infinitely various,
as well as a congenial occupation.

As Jane walked through an arch leading to the pear orchard, she saw that
Dick was giving instructions to one of the gardeners; a small sack of
bulbs lay at their feet.

Hew Lingard and Athena Maule stood a little back, and as Jane came down
the path, Mrs. Maule, instead of coming forward, moved further away.
Instinct told her that Jane was seeking Hew Lingard with some definite
purpose in her mind--and she determined to thwart the other woman. To
allow Hew Lingard to continue his anxious deference to Jane were but
cruel kindness to them both.

She put out her gloveless hand and laid a finger on Lingard's arm--it
was the merest touch, but it produced an instant, a magical effect. He
turned, and in a moment gave her his entire, his ardently entire,

Wantele welcomed Jane with an eager, "What would you think, Jane, of
putting a mass of starch hyacinths over in that corner?"

She tried obediently to give her mind to the question, but it was of no
use, and she shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "I--I can't
remember what was there before----"

And then she called out, "Hew!"

But Lingard did not hear the call.

She moved a little nearer to where he and Athena were standing. Again
she said her lover's name; but this time she uttered it in so low, so
faltering a tone that Lingard might indeed have been excused for not
hearing it.

She waited a moment for the answer that did not come, and then she
turned and walked slowly away, down to and through the arch in the wall.

To Wantele, witness of the little scene, what had just happened seemed
full of a profound and sinister significance.

As he had heard Jane Oglander utter Lingard's name, he had told himself
that he would have heard her voice--had it been calling "Dick"--across
the world. But Lingard was deaf to everything, to everybody, but Athena.
He had become her thrall.

With a last muttered word of instruction to the gardener, Wantele turned
and hurried out of the orchard. He glanced anxiously down each of the
straight walks, and peered through the leafless fruit-trees. It was
clear that Jane had already passed out of the walled gardens, and that
she had taken the shortest way of escape.

He started in pursuit, his one desire being--in some ways Wantele was
very like a woman in his dealings with his beloved--to assuage her pain,
to lighten her humiliation....

Suddenly he saw her. She was standing on a little pier which jutted
rather far out into the lake. Her slight figure was reflected into the
water, now dotted with yellow leaves, and she was staring down into the
blue, golden-flecked depths. Wantele felt afraid to call out, so
perilously near was she to the unguarded edge.

He began walking quickly along the path which, circling round the oval
piece of water, led to the pier, and Jane, looking up, became aware that
he was there.

Without speaking, she turned and made her way along the rough boards.

Nothing was changed since yesterday, since this morning, and yet in a
sense Wantele felt that everything was changed. Till now he had been
doubtful as to what she knew--almost of what there was to know. He
distrusted, with reason, his sharp, intolerable jealousy of Lingard.

He had spent a miserable hour after he had himself speeded the two to
the Oakhanger. There are no relations so difficult to probe as the
relations of lovers--even of those who have been and are no longer

Jane put out her hand as if they had not met before that day, and Dick
took the poor cold hand in his and held it tightly for a moment before
he dropped it.

"D'you know what to-day is?" she asked abruptly. "I hadn't meant to
remind you of it, Dick--dear, kind Dick. To-day is the twenty-fifth of
October, the day my brother died."

He uttered an exclamation of dismay, self-rebuke. How could he have
forgotten? So well had he remembered the date last year that he had
written and urged Jane to come to Rede Place, and on her refusal to do
so he had gone up to London for two or three days; together they had
made the long, the interminable, journey to the suburban churchyard
where Jack Oglander had been buried.

Wantele's mind went back six years to that melancholy, that sordid,
scene in the prison infirmary. They had sent the sister away, reassured
her, told her there was a change for the better. And then suddenly young
Oglander had sunk--but he, Wantele, had been there, with him....

She was speaking again, in a low musing tone:--

"It's so strange----" she said, and then amended her words--"Isn't it
strange that death is so material, so horribly real a thing? It seems so
hard that there has to be so much fuss. If only one could slip away into
nothingness how much better it would be, Dick--wouldn't it?"

Her mind swung back to her brother. There came a gentler, a softer tone
in her sad voice.

"I wonder if you remember that you were the only one who did not bid me
rejoice that Jack was dead. I have never forgotten that. And you were
right, Dick. It was a great misfortune for me that he died. He would
have been out of prison by now--and we should have been together,
abroad----He was so clever, I think we should have been able to make
some kind of life--and you would have come and stayed with us
sometimes----But it's no use talking like that, is it? I know I'm
foolish, unreasonable, to-day, and you are the only person to whom I
ever talk of Jack."

She was putting up her dead brother as a shield between herself and her
distress, and Wantele respected the poor subterfuge.

"I know, I know," he said feelingly.

They walked on in silence for a while, then. "I think, Dick, that I had
better go away."

"No, no!" he cried. "Don't do that, Jane! Believe me, that would be a
very unwise thing to do. I take it that you and General Lingard"--he
brought out the name of her betrothed with an effort--"have other joint
visits to pay?"

She shook her head. "I haven't told anybody. Only the Paches know. He
thought he ought to tell them."

"If you go away, Jane, he will almost certainly stay on here. It would
be a pity for him to do that," Wantele spoke with studied calmness.

"Yes, I suppose it would," the colour rushed into her face. "I want to
tell you something, Dick. Hew was very noble about my brother. I told
him about it very soon after we first met one another. You see we became
friends so soon----" She sighed. "Just friends, you know."

Wantele turned and looked into her face with an indefinable expression
of shamed curiosity--an expression that seemed to ask a thousand
questions he had no right to ask.

"And then he began to write to me," she went on rather breathlessly, as
if answering some inward questioning of her own rather than of his. "I
was amazed when I received his first letter--it seemed such a strange
thing for him to write to me, and then he asked if he might come and see
me before he went away."

She waited a moment, and went on, "I was the only person to whom he
wrote while he was away. He's had a very lonely life, Dick,--no
brothers, no sisters, and his mother died when he was a little child."

There was a world of anxious apology, of excuse, underlying her

When, at last, they went back into the house, they found General Lingard
sitting with his host, and it was in Richard Maule's presence that Jane
made her request--a request to which Lingard gave eager assent.

Of course he would go and see Mrs. Kaye, and bestir himself concerning
her son's affairs! He had been very much struck by Mrs. Maule's account
of Bayworth Kaye that morning. She had said other things of him to
Lingard, but he naturally made no allusion to these when discussing his
coming interview with Mrs. Kaye.

Athena had told Lingard, with angry scorn, of the way certain people in
the neighbourhood had talked of her friendship with the young soldier,
and he had felt that inarticulate rage and disgust which any decent man
would have felt on receiving Athena's confidences. Lingard's opinion of
the world had altered, and greatly for the worse, since he had made Mrs.
Maule's acquaintance.


     "Opportunity creates a sinner: at least it calls him into action,
     and like the warming sun invites the sleeping serpent from its

The dramas of love, of jealousy, of hatred, which play so awful a part
in human existence, only form eddies, perhaps it would be more true to
say whirlpools, on the vast placid current of life.

The owners of Rede Place were not allowed to forget for long that in
General Lingard they were entertaining a guest who belonged to the world
at large, rather than to them or to himself.

It had been arranged that the next day, the twenty-sixth of October,
Wantele was to take Lingard to a big shoot. Athena, when reminded of the
fact by a casual word the night before, felt curiously pleased. The
absence of the two men for a long day would relieve the strain, and make
it possible for her to have a serious talk with Jane Oglander. Somehow,
it seemed almost impossible to do so with Wantele and Lingard always

Athena was no coward, and the time had come when she felt she must
discover what her friend knew, or rather, what her friend suspected--for
as yet there was very little to know. And if Jane suspected the
truth--the little, that is, there was to suspect--she must discover what
Jane meant to do.

The men made an early start, and from one of her bedroom windows Mrs.
Maule watched the dogcart spinning down the broad road through the park.
Dick Wantele was driving; Hew Lingard sitting stiffly, with folded arms,
by his side.

At last they turned the corner at the end of the avenue, and Athena went
back to bed with the feeling that it was pleasant to know that she need
not get up for another two hours, and also that, after her talk with
Jane Oglander, she would be free to do what she liked all day.

As she lay back, feeling a little stupid and drowsy, for she had taken a
dose of chloral the night before, Athena gave a regretful, kindly
thought to Bayworth Kaye.

Yes, though no one knew it but herself, the gods had shown the young man
that kindness which is said to prove their love. His only fault as a
lover--a serious one from Mrs. Maule's point of view--had been an almost
insane jealousy. He would have taken badly, perhaps very badly, her
marriage to such a man as General Lingard.

It was well for Bayworth, and, in a lesser sense, well for her also,
that he had died in this sad, sudden way. Death is the only final, as it
is the only simple, solution of many a painful riddle.

Athena had not allowed the thought of Bayworth Kaye to trouble her
unduly; but she had been uncomfortably aware that he might remain, for a
long time, a point of danger in her life. She acknowledged that in the
matter of this young man she had been imprudent, but he had come across
her at a moment when she was feeling dull and "under the weather."

Poor Bayworth! He had taken the whole thing far too seriously. He had
been so young, so ardent, so--so grateful. His death at this juncture
was a relief. Athena paid his memory the tribute of a sigh.

And then she turned her thoughts to Jane Oglander. During the last few
years she had had many proofs of Jane's deep and loyal affection for
herself; but the type of woman to which Mrs. Maule belonged can never
form any true intimacy with a member of her own sex.

Jane had always been ignorant of everything that concerned Athena's real
inward life--the vivid, exciting, emotional life, which she lived when
away from Rede Place. Bayworth Kaye had been the one exception to the
wise rule she had made for herself very soon after her arrival in

Jane Oglander, so Athena was quite convinced, knew nothing of the
greatest of the great human games--had never fallen a victim to that
jealous, compelling passion which plays so tragic a part in the lives of
most of those sentient human beings who are not absorbed in one of the
other master-passions.

For Mrs. Maule had valued Jane's unquestioning love; she had rested in
the knowledge that Jane believed her to be as spotless a being as
herself. Why, Jane had not even suspected poor Bayworth Kaye's
infatuation! Athena forgot that Jane had never seen Bayworth and herself

But though Mrs. Maule told Jane Oglander nothing of her own intimate
concerns, she had taken it for granted that she knew all Jane's innocent
secrets. And now, when musing over her coming conversation with her
friend, she felt a sharp pang of irritation when she remembered how
little Jane had really trusted her concerning Lingard. Why, she hadn't
even told her of the correspondence between them! Jane Oglander, Athena
was sorry to think of such a thing of one whom she had always set apart
in her mind as an exception, had been--sly.

Since the night of Jane Oglander's arrival at Rede Place, the night when
Jane had behaved, so Athena now reminded herself, so queerly, the two
women had never discussed Jane and Lingard's engagement--indeed, they
hardly ever found themselves alone together. This, of course, was Jane's
fault quite as much as hers.

Now at last had come the opportunity to--to "have it out" with Jane; to
defend herself, if need be, from any charge of disloyalty.

       *       *       *       *       *

It took Mrs. Maule a considerable time to find her friend. Miss Oglander
was in none of the usual living-rooms, neither was she in her own room
or with Richard.

Was it possible that Jane had gone off for the day to the Small Farm in
order to avoid the very explanation Athena wished to provoke? That was a
disturbing thought.

And then, unexpectedly, she ran Jane to earth in a corner of the large
library which only Dick Wantele habitually used, and which was at the
extreme end of the house, furthest away from Mrs. Maule's boudoir.

"I've been looking for you everywhere," she exclaimed. "What made you
hide yourself here, Jane?"

"Dick wanted something copied out of a book, and I thought I would do it

There was a look of fear, of painful constraint, in Jane Oglander's
face; and as she came forward she kept the book she had been holding, a
manual on practical cottage architecture, in her hand, open.

"There are such heaps of things I want to say to you, Jane, and somehow
we never seem to have a moment!"

Jane looked into Athena's face--it was a penetrating, questioning look.
Was it possible--perhaps it was possible--that Athena was speaking in
good faith?

The other hurried on, a little breathlessly: "Of course I want to hear
all about your plans. I know you mean to be married quietly in
London----" She vaguely remembered that Jane had said something to that
effect during their one conversation together. "But what will you do
afterwards? Hew is not obliged to take up his new appointment yet, is

There was a long pause--and then, "I don't know exactly what he means to
do," Jane answered in a low voice.

They were both standing before the fireplace; Jane Oglander was looking
straight at Athena, but Athena's lovely head was bent down.

"Haven't you thought about it? But I suppose you'll pay some visits

There was a touch of sharp envy in Athena Maule's voice. It was absurd,
it was irritating, to think that Jane, even if only for a short time
longer, would be Hew Lingard's companion, sharer in his triumphal
progress--unless of course something could bring about the end of their

"I meant I did not know about his appointment." In each of the letters
he had written to Jane during the ten days they had been apart, Hew
Lingard had discussed the possibility of his being offered an immediate
appointment, but she was only now being made aware that the offer had
actually been made.

As a matter of fact, it had not been made.

Jane tried to believe that her ignorance of a fact so vital to Lingard
was not in any way Athena's fault--indeed, that it was nobody's fault
except perchance her own.

"You mean you don't know whether he will accept what will be offered
him? But, Jane, forgive my interference--he and I have become such
friends--you must _make_ him take it. It would be a splendid thing, a
stepping-stone to something really big. You'll have to train yourself
now to be a little worldly----"

Athena spoke with forced lightness. It would be dreadful if Jane in her
folly made Lingard do anything which would be irrevocable. "You can't
always live with your head in the clouds, you know!"

Jane felt as if the other had struck her; this flippant, hard-voiced
woman was not the Athena she had always known.

"I don't suppose," said Mrs. Maule, at last looking up, and smiling into
Jane's face, "that you've even made up your mind where you will spend
your honeymoon?"

She was feeling slightly ashamed,--ashamed and yet exhilarated by this
absurd, make-believe conversation.

Jane shut the book she held in her hand, and put it down.

"Athena," she said quietly, "I did not mean to tell you yet, but now I
think I had better do so. I am going to break my engagement. I see--of
course I can't help seeing--that it's been a mistake from the

"He was not good enough for you, Jane," said Mrs. Maule impulsively.
"What he wants is a wife who will help him. You did not understand. I
saw that from the first----"

Jane went on quickly:

"After all, men--and women, too, I suppose,--often do make that sort of
mistake. It's a good thing when they find it out in time--as I have
done. But I would rather not talk about it."

She changed the subject abruptly: "I feel rather worried about Mabel
Digby. She's really quite ill. I thought of lunching there to-day, if
you have no objection."

"Yes, do go there! Surely you know I always want you to do just what you
like when you're here?"

Athena's voice sounded oddly loud in her own ears. It seemed to her as
if she had lost control over its modulations....

As the door of the library closed behind Jane Oglander, Athena Maule sat
down. She felt oppressed, almost scared, by this piece of good fortune.
She had never thought things would be made so easy for her.

How mistaken she had been in Jane's attitude, not only to Hew Lingard,
but to life! And how mistaken Lingard had been! Athena could not help
feeling a certain contempt for him; but all men, so she reminded
herself, are vain where women are concerned. They always put a far
higher value on themselves than does the woman on whom they are wasting
their pity, their--their remorse.

Why, Jane had shown herself more than reasonable just now. She had made
no stupid "fuss," attempted no disagreeable accusations. She hadn't even
cried! But then, Jane Oglander was just--Jane; that is a sensible, a
thoughtful, to tell truth, a cold creature! Athena, to be sure, had seen
her moved, terribly so, over that business of her brother, but all the
emotional side of the girl's nature had been exhausted over that sad

What Athena was beginning to long for with all the strength of her being
had now entered the domain of immediate possibility.

There would be some disagreeable, difficult moments to go through before
she could become Hew Lingard's wife. Mrs. Richard Maule, sitting there
in the library of Rede Place, faced that fact with the cool, calculating
courage which was perhaps her chief asset in the battle of life.

But she was popular, well liked by a large circle of people; she had
little doubt that many of them would take her part--again she reminded
herself that it would be very difficult for anyone to do anything else
who, knowing her, had ever seen Richard Maule as he now was. She had
heard of women doing far stranger things than that she was about to do
in order to attain their wish.

She tried to remember the two or three names Mrs. Stanwood had uttered
in a similar connection--but they were gone, irretrievably gone from
her memory. No matter, the position of a woman whose marriage has been
dissolved is quite other than that of a divorcée. Little as she really
knew of English sentiment and prejudice, Mrs. Maule could be sure of

Athena's violet eyes grew tender. Hew Lingard respected as well as
worshipped her; and should her dream, the delightful dream which was now
taking such living shape, become reality, should she, that is, become
Lingard's wife, she would never, never allow him to regret it.

She renewed, and most solemnly, the vow she had taken two nights ago.
Ah! yes indeed--her wild oats were all sown! Athena Lingard would be a
very different woman from Athena Maule. Besides, as Lingard's wife she
would be free of England for a while.

She remembered vividly the day that he had casually told her that he
expected an appointment abroad, for it had been the first time she had
realised how utterly unsuited Jane was to be Lingard's wife.

Athena possessed the confident belief in herself and in her own powers
that every beautiful woman is apt early to acquire in her progress
through an admiring world. Such a wife as herself would be of
immeasurable use to such a man as was Hew Lingard. Of that she could
have no doubt.

Hew was not exactly a man of the world, in fact he seemed astonishingly
indifferent to other people's opinion. Well, that told two ways. Just
now, it was a good thing that he cared so little what others might say
or think. Instinct told her that as long as he was at peace with his own
conscience, his own sense of honour, Lingard would care mighty little
what the world said--besides, the world would have nothing to say. They,
she and Lingard, would have to be careful till the legal matter was
settled--that was all.

During the long hour that she sat alone in the library of Rede Place,
Athena Maule had time to think of many things, for she was no longer
anxious or excited now--everything was going well. The rest, to such a
woman as herself, presented no real difficulty.

She dwelt with a feeling of exultation on the thought of the punishment
she was going to inflict on Richard. She wondered idly whether the step
she was about to take would affect her marriage settlements. They had
been splendid--with none of those tiresome "if and if clauses" that she
was told settlements often contain. Well, that was a matter of
comparatively small consequence. From what she knew of Lingard, it was
unlikely that he would allow her to continue in receipt of another man's
money. From a practical point of view it was a pity, of course, that Hew
was like that, but she liked him the better for it.

She could not, as yet, form any very definite plan of action. There was
plenty of time for that now that Jane was out of the way. She would go
to London--London was very pleasant at this time of year--and once there
she would get one of her clever friends to recommend her a really good

Constructive thought--thought such as Athena had now been indulging in
for an hour--is a fatiguing mental process. She felt tired, and quite
ready for lunch, the principal meal of her day, when the gong sounded.

But before going off to her solitary meal, Mrs. Maule went over to that
portion of the library where were kept several rows of old law books
that had belonged to Dick Wantele's father. She marked the place where
stood a solid volume inscribed, "A Digest of the Marriage Laws of

When she had a quiet hour to spare, and when no one was likely to see
her engaged on the task, she would take that book down, and study it
carefully: it doubtless contained information as to several matters of
which she was as yet ignorant, and which it now behoved her to know.


     "... that supreme disintegrant, the Tyranny of Love...."

The Small Farm had become dear to Jane during the long miserable days
she had lived through in the last fortnight. She had gone there whenever
she wanted to escape from the intolerable pain of seeing Lingard's
absorption in Athena Maule.

Each of the familiar rooms of Rede Place now held for her some bitter,
some humiliating association. She never took refuge in her own room
upstairs without remembering the long, intimate talk with Athena the
evening of her arrival when she had been compelled to reveal more of her
inner self than she had ever done in response to the other woman's
curiously insistent, eager questioning.

Yes, no doubt Athena was right. Hew Lingard probably regarded a suitable
marriage as a necessity of his career. She, Jane, had misunderstood him
from the very first, proving herself, so she told herself with shamed
anguish, a romantic fool.

In the region of the emotions there are certain secret ordeals which
must be faced in solitude. Hew Lingard had taught Jane Oglander what
love between a man and woman can come to mean. She had been ready not
only to give all--but to receive all. This being so, she could not
bring herself to endure the marriage of convenience she now believed to
be all he sought of her.

She would have given all the exquisite happiness of the last two
years--happiness the greater and the more intense because it was so
largely bred of her imagination--to blot out the week she and Lingard
had spent together in London. It was during those days she had learnt to
love him in the simple human way which now made the thought of parting

Unwittingly Lingard had done her a terrible mischief during those
enchanted days. She felt as if he had stolen her from herself, rifling
all the hidden chambers of her heart. She had given everything in
exchange for what she had believed to be the great, the sacred, treasure
of his love. And now he was scattering the treasure which she had
thought hers at the feet of another woman who, she believed, had not
sought it and to whom it was dross.

She had heard of such enthralments--a blunderer had so tried to excuse,
to explain to her, her brother Jack Oglander's crime. Yes, Jack had been
mad about that woman he had killed; that had been the word used--mad.

Mad? Jane Oglander, walking to the Small Farm, repeated the word--yes,
Lingard had been made mad by Athena in much the same way as Jack had
been made mad. When Lingard had implored her to marry him at once,
during that hour on The Hanger, he had really been beseeching her to
help him to escape. She saw that now--and perhaps, had she loved him
less, she would have yielded.

But there are moments when love, though the most dissembling of the
passions, cannot lie. Jane Oglander, when in her lover's arms, could not
accept as gold the baser metal he, perhaps unknowingly, pressed upon

One thing remained to her. Nothing could take away from her the two
years which had gone before. She had not yet destroyed, she did not feel
that she need be called upon to destroy--until Lingard married some
other woman--the letters he had written to her in those two years. She
told herself that they had not been love letters, although to her simple
heart they had seemed strangely like it.

Any day during the past two years she might have opened a paper
containing the news of Lingard's death. But if that of which she had had
so sick a dread had happened, she would have had something dear,
something intimately secret and sacred, to bear about with her, locked
in the inner shrine of her heart, for the rest of her life.

The present and the immediate future must be considered, and, as she had
now told Athena of her decision, they must be considered to-day.

She remembered the many broken engagements of which she had heard--Jane
wondered if those other women had suffered as she was suffering now.

The one thing she felt she could not do would be to go back to that
little house in London, which to her would ever be filled with Hew
Lingard--not Lingard as he was now, gloomy, preoccupied, avoiding her
presence and yet painfully eager to obey her slightest wish--but Lingard
the happy, the masterful lover who yet had been so tender, so patient
with her.

What did other people do when they broke off an engagement or--or were

Jane tried to remember what she had heard such people did. One girl had
been sent on a voyage round the world--another had refused to leave
home, she had stayed and "faced it out."

Fortunately she was not compelled to consider either of these
alternatives. She was mistress of her own life, and she had already
learnt the hard lesson that to deaden pain--heart pain--there is nothing
like incessant, unending work. She made up her mind to go to another
part of London, and start once more the salvage work which lay on the
edge of the great sea strewn with human wreckage.

But before Jane could do this, she must put an end to what had become,
certainly to herself, and probably to Lingard also, an intolerable

       *       *       *       *       *

Jane found Mabel Digby in bed; and the girl, though but little given to
caresses, drew her down and laid her head on the other's kind breast.

"Yes, it's true," she said, "I'm ill, and I don't know what's the
matter with me"--she lifted her face and pushed her hair back from her
forehead with a tired gesture. "No, I won't lie. I don't see why I
should pretend--with you! I'm ill, Jane, because Bayworth Kaye is dead.
I lie here thinking--thinking only of Bayworth. It's all so horrible--I
mean that he should have died when he was so unhappy. I burnt all his
letters the day he went away. You can't think how sorry I am now that I
did that, Jane. There was nothing in them, they weren't love letters--at
least I don't think so----"

Jane gave a muffled cry of pain.

"Jane, come nearer, and I'll tell you something which may make you think
a little less poorly of me. Bayworth did speak to me three years ago,
before he first went to India. I have never told anybody--not even his
mother, though she was always trying to find out. And when he came back
I was so happy--just for a few days--and then, almost at once, he fell
into Athena's clutches----"

And as she saw the other make a restless movement of recoil she added,
"I suppose you don't believe me, but it's true--horribly true. I saw it
all happening, but I could do nothing except feel miserable. I used to
think--poor fool that I was--that everything would come right at the
last. I thought she would get tired of him, and that I would get what
was left." She broke into hard sobs. "She did get tired of him--but too
late--too late for me!"

"I wonder, Mabel, whether you would like me to come and stay with you
for a few days."

Jane felt that the way was at last opening before her. The grief, the
angry pain, of the poor child now lying here before her soothed her sore

"Jane! What an unselfish angel you are!" Mabel did not see the other's
almost vehement gesture of denial. "Of course it would be the greatest
comfort to have you here!"

Then, as the girl was nervously afraid that Jane should imagine her
unwilling to speak of her engagement: "If you come here, I suppose
General Lingard will leave Rede Place?"

"Yes, I suppose he will."

Mabel looked up. It seemed to her as if her own suffering was reflected,
intensified, in Jane Oglander's sad eyes.

If only she could stay on here now to-day--and not see Lingard again!
Such was Jane Oglander's thought, but she lacked the cruel courage.
Richard Maule would be hurt and angered were she thus to disappear
suddenly. More, it might even make him suspect the truth--the truth as
to Lingard's infatuation--of which Jane thought him ignorant.

And so, when the dusk began to fall, she got up. Athena would be annoyed
if she were not back by tea-time. Athena disliked very much being alone
with her husband.

"Good-bye, Mabel. You'll see me some time to-morrow."

She hurried along the path through the trees and the bushes now stripped
of leaves. She was oppressed, haunted, by the thought of Bayworth Kaye.
Could Mabel Digby's story be true? Was Athena Maule a cruel, devouring
Circe, lacking mercy, honour, shame?

Jane could not think so. To believe what Mabel Digby had told her would
have required a readjustment of her whole view and conception of a
nature and character she had humbly admired and loved from early
girlhood. Jane had always unquestioningly accepted Athena's account of
the humiliations and the trials which befall beauty bereft of the care
and devotion of beauty's natural protector. Mrs. Maule, so Jane
believed, made an unwilling conquest of almost every man who came within
her magic ring, but till now Jane had never seen the spell working....

When more than halfway to the house, she heard the sound of wheels. Dick
Wantele and Hew Lingard were coming back an hour sooner than they were

She was glad it was so dark--but for that they must see her. She waited
till the dogcart flashed past within two or three yards of the path on
which she stood.

It looked as if Wantele was urging his eager horse, already within sight
of his stable, to go faster.

Jane drew further into the underwood. She saw, as if the scene were
actually before her, what would happen if she continued her way on into
the house.

Tea was now served in Athena's boudoir instead of in the Greek Room.
There the four of them, Jane, Athena, and the two men, came together
each afternoon. Dick never stayed long. After a few minutes he would go
to Richard, leaving the others--a strange unnatural trio,--till Jane
also escaped, sometimes to sit with her host, oftener to some place
where she could be alone.

This was what happened every day; and now she suddenly made up her mind
that it should never happen again. It was her heart, her mind, which was
sick and tired, not her body. It would do her good to go on walking till
the time came when she could creep quietly into the house and go up to
her room. Athena and Hew would think, if they thought of her at all,
that she had stayed on for tea with Mabel Digby....

All at once, out of the darkness, she heard a familiar voice: "Hullo,
Jane! You've managed to travel a good way in ten minutes. I don't think
it is ten minutes since we drove by. I thought I'd lost you!"

It was Dick Wantele, a little breathless, a little excited by the chase.

"Then you saw I was there?"

"I always see you, Jane."

He spoke quite lightly, but Jane Oglander felt touched--horribly
touched. The tears came into her eyes for the first time that day. Dick,
and Dick's friendship, was all that remained to her--now.

"Did it all go off quite right? Had you a good time?" she made a valiant
effort to control herself.

"A very good time! The duchess is most anxious General Lingard should go
on straight there after leaving here."

She felt the underlying, criticising dislike of Lingard in the tone in
which Wantele uttered the words, and she felt troubled.

Suddenly she stumbled, and her companion, putting out his thin hand,
grasped her arm.

"Jane," he said quickly, "wait a moment! It's not cold. I want to say
something to you, and I'd rather say it out here, where no one can
interrupt us, than indoors."

He took his hand from her arm. "I trust to your--your kindness not to
take offence."

"I shan't be offended, but--but must you speak to me, Dick? I've been so
grateful to you for not speaking."

"Yes, I must speak. It's been cowardly of me not to do it before. It's
about Lingard, Jane."

He waited a moment, but she made no movement.

"We are both agreed--at least, I suppose we are both agreed--that
Lingard is taking the sort of adulation, the--the rather ridiculous
homage, to which he is now being subjected, very well. But I don't think
you realise, my dear,----" he waited a moment; never had he called Jane
Oglander his dear before--"the effect on the real man--the
extraordinarily disturbing, upsetting effect such an experience as that
he is now going through is bound to have on any human being."

"I don't quite understand what you mean," her voice faltered; and yet
what he said brought vague comfort with it.

"Well, it isn't very easy to explain. But I can't help thinking that one
ought to be very merciful to a man who's being subjected to such an
ordeal. Athena hasn't made it easier," he tried, and failed, to make the
mention of his cousin's wife casual, easy. "Doubtless, without meaning
it, Athena intensifies everything--she never allows Lingard to forget
for a moment that he is a great man--a hero. You must remember that we
had ten days--ten days of incessant glorification of Lingard before you
arrived. He took it awfully well, but----"

"I do know what you mean," she said painfully. "Yet surely----" she
stopped abruptly. Not even with Wantele could she discuss--not even with
him could she admit Hew Lingard's attitude to Athena Maule.

"I want to tell you--perhaps I ought to have told you before,
Dick,--that I've made up my mind to end my engagement."

They walked on in silence for a few moments.

"I suppose you realise what the effect of your doing this now will be on
Lingard?" he said. "Mind you, Jane, I don't say that he doesn't deserve
it! But I do say that if you do this you will drive him straight to the
devil----" he waited a moment, but she made no answer to his words.

"Have you told Athena?" Wantele was ashamed of the question, but burning
curiosity and jealous pain impelled him to ask it.

"Yes, I told her this morning. But, Dick, I want to tell you, I think I
ought to tell you, that I don't----" she hesitated, hardly knowing how
to frame her sentence--"I don't blame Athena. I'm sure she couldn't help
what's happened."

"You press very hardly on Lingard, Jane."

He spoke with a terrible irony, but Jane did not understand.

"No, no!" she cried, distressed. "I press hard on nobody, least of all
on Hew."


     "Quand le coeur reste fidèle, les vilenies du corps sont peu de
     chose. Quand le coeur a trahi, le reste n'est plus rien."

Athena, sitting alone in the boudoir, heard the return of the two men;
but she waited in vain for Lingard to come to her, as he always did come
to her, with that blind longing for her presence which he was only now,
with dawning consciousness, beginning to resist.

To-night instinct, the wise instinct which always stood her in good
stead in all her dealings with men, warned her against seeking him out.

Mrs. Maule had no wish to make Lingard either an unwilling or even a
willing accomplice in the scheme which was to result in their ultimate
happiness. She had gone quite as far as she dared to go with him the
night before. Treachery is one of the few burdens which a human being
can bear better alone than in company.

Athena realised that Lingard now regarded his violent, unreasoning
attraction to herself as a thing of which to be mortally ashamed. But
she was convinced that, once his engagement to Jane Oglander was at an
end, he would "let himself go," especially if he was convinced that she,
Athena, had been blameless.

And her instinct served her truly. Lingard, in spite of, or perhaps
because of, the long day spent away from Rede Place, was in no mood for
a renewal of the sentimental dalliance to which Athena had accustomed

What had happened--the quick exchange of words, his echo of Mrs. Maule's
longing for freedom from a tie which she had led him to believe had ever
lacked reality, had brought him, and roughly, to his bearings.

The evening which had followed, spent in company with the two women--the
woman to whom he owed allegiance, and whom he had held but a few hours
before in his arms, and that other woman who had provoked the unreal
words of which he was now ashamed, had contained some of the most odious
moments of his life.

He had hailed with intense relief the engagement which took him away for
a whole day; and on his return he had gone straight to the sitting-room
set apart for his use, his supposed work, and where, after the first two
days of his stay under Richard Maule's roof, he had spent so little of
his time.

The rather elaborate apparatus connected with the book he was engaged in
writing, filled him with contempt for himself. There were the maps, the
books, the reports of his staff, his own rough notes, and--in a locked
despatch-box--the long diary-letters he had written to Jane Oglander
during the course of the Expedition.

The man who is all man, whose nature lacks, that is, any admixture of
femininity, is almost always without the dangerous gift of
self-analysis. Such a man was Hew Lingard.

All through his life he had always known exactly what he wanted, and
when denied he had suffered as suffers a child, with a dumb and hopeless
anger. It was this want of knowledge of himself that had ever made him
ready to embark blindly in those perilous adventures of the soul in
which the body plays so great a sub-conscious part.

Now, for the first time in his life, Lingard did not know what he
wanted, and the state in which he found himself induced a terrible and
humiliating disquietude.

His was the miserable state of mind of a man who finds himself on the
point of becoming unfaithful to a wife who is still loved. Jane
Oglander, even now, seemed in a most intimate sense part of himself.
When he had seen her the first time--it had been in summer, in a
garden--he had experienced the strange sensation that he had at last
found the woman for whom he had been always seeking, and whom he had
always known to be somewhere waiting, could he but find her.

Almost at once he had told Jane that he loved her, and almost, even
then, had he convinced her that it was true. He had not tried to bind
her by any formal engagement, and he had kept to the spirit as well as
to the letter of the law. The long diary-letters which he had written to
her day by day, and which had reached her at such irregular intervals,
were not in any obvious sense love-letters.

He had felt that wherever he was she was there too, and sometimes, when
he was in danger, and he was often in danger during those two years, the
sense of Jane Oglander's spiritual nearness became curiously
intensified. Now that they were together, under the same roof, she often
seemed infinitely remote.

Could he now have analysed his own emotions--which, perhaps fortunately
for himself, he was incapable of doing--he would have known that his
chance of being faithful to Jane would have been increased rather than
decreased had they not spent together that week in London.

He had come to Rede Place in a state of spiritual and physical
exaltation which had made him peculiarly susceptible to any and every
emotion, and for a time he had believed the feeling he was lavishing on
Athena Maule to be pity--a passion of pity for one who had been most
piteously used by fate.

The physical exercise of the day's shooting, spent in a place entirely
lacking the emotional atmosphere induced by Athena, had restored
Lingard's sense of perspective. With a rather angry discomfiture he
realised that he had become afraid of Mrs. Maule and of her power over
him. For the first time since he had known her he had been free of
Athena, and then, as he and Dick Wantele got nearer and nearer to Rede
Place, it had almost seemed as if she were beckoning to him, and he had
longed to respond to her call....

It had required a strong effort of will on his part to go straight
upstairs instead of to the room where he knew her to be.

For the first time in his life Lingard did not know what he wanted, or,
rather, he was grievously aware that one side of his nature was
imperiously demanding of him something he was determined not to grant.
Last night he had thrown a sop to the ravening, hungry beast, but that,
so he now swore to himself, should not happen again.

It was seven o'clock when Athena heard a key being turned in the lock of
the Garden Room, and her eyes quickly sought the place where her own key
was always kept. It was in its place; Lingard always returned it with
scrupulous care immediately after having used it.

Then it must be Dick Wantele who was coming into the house. She wondered
where he had been--perhaps to the Small Farm to fetch Jane Oglander.

What a fool Dick was! And yet--and yet not such a fool after all. Dick,
if he were patient--Athena smiled a little to herself--and he certainly
would be patient, might yet be granted the wish of his heart. Jane
Oglander's marriage to Dick Wantele, so Mrs. Maule now admitted to
herself, would be a most excellent thing for them all.

Yes--the two she would fain see become lovers had come in together; she
could hear their voices in the corridor. And then, to her surprise, the
door opened, and Wantele came in alone.

Athena felt suddenly afraid--afraid and uncomfortable. She told herself
angrily that her nerves were playing her odious tricks, for as Dick came
towards her she had the sensation, almost the knowledge, that he longed
to strike her, and it was a very odd, a very unpleasant, sensation.

He came up close to her. "You know that Jane Oglander intends to break
her engagement?" he said abruptly, and there was an angry, a menacing
expression on his face.

Athena regained complete possession of herself. She felt quite cool,
ready to parry any attack.

"Yes," she said quietly; "Jane told me this morning. I was surprised,
but--not sorry, Dick."

He made no answer, dealt her none of those quick, sarcastic retorts of
which he was master. She looked at him fixedly. He had no business to
come in and speak to her like that!

"No one who knows and--and likes them both can think them suited to one
another. You know that as well as I do, Dick."

"I deny it absolutely," he cried, "and even if it were true I shouldn't
care! Our business in this matter--yours and mine--is to stand by Jane.
I take it that you won't deny that Jane loves Lingard?" And then he went
on, without waiting for her assent: "Do you remember the letter she
wrote to you--the letter you showed me? That showed how Jane felt--how
she now feels."

Her lips framed a sentence in answer, but she changed her mind and did
not utter it. There was no object in making Dick angry, angrier than he
already was; for Athena was well aware that Wantele was very, very angry
with her.

"And what do you think we can do?" she said slowly.

"Look here, Athena." He tried to make his voice pleasant,
conciliating--and he actually succeeded. Then he wasn't angry, she
thought, after all. "This matter is much too serious for you and me to
fence about it. I asked you a few days ago to go away--I ask it of you
again. After all, what you are doing now can lead to nothing. Lingard
must give you but very poor sport, and what is sport to you--eh, what,

She remained silent, listening to him with an odd look on her face.

He ventured further: "I feel sure that you had no idea that the matter
would become serious, and I agree that if Jane were a different sort of
woman she would understand----"

"Understand what?" she said haughtily. "Are you accusing me of breaking
off Jane's engagement? I did not think, Dick, that even your dislike of
me could go so far. Till she told me this morning, I had no idea she
thought of doing such a thing."

Wantele shrugged his shoulders, but he was determined not to lose his

"I don't accuse you," he said slowly, "and I don't wish to be unfair.
We'll put it in another way, Athena. Lingard came--saw--was conquered!
It's no use our discussing it at this time of day. Still less is it any
use for you to try to deny it; you and I both know what happened. I
think--nay, I'm quite sure--that if you were to go away, everything
would come right between these two people."

"And do you really wish everything to come right between Hew Lingard and
Jane Oglander?"

Athena looked at the man standing before her in a very singular manner.
Her voice was charged with significance.

He met her challenging look quite coolly. "Yes, I do wish it to come
right," he said, "because I believe that it would be for Jane's ultimate
happiness. Come, Athena, make an effort!"

He spoke good-humouredly, as a grown-up person speaks to a spoilt child,
and a cruel little devil entered into Mrs. Maule's mind.

"Isn't it funny," she said lightly, "how Jane the Good, and I, Athena
the Bad, always attract the same man? They don't always like us at the
same time, but----"

She stopped speaking, for Dick Wantele had turned and left the room,
leaving the door open behind him, a thing he very seldom did.


     "Nous devrions baiser les pantoufles de certaines femmes du côté où
     les pantoufles touchent à la terre, car en dedans ce serait tout au
     plus digne des anges."

The long day came to an end at last. Jane felt a sense of almost
physical relief in the knowledge that to-morrow night she would no
longer be there, and yet she had not spoken of her decision to the

For Athena Maule the day was not yet over. She waited till the house was
sunk into darkness and stillness, and then, dismissing her maid, she put
on a dressing-gown and went downstairs to the library.

The book she had mentally marked down that morning was found by her in a
moment; but instead of looking at it there she took it to her boudoir.
It was possible that Wantele--Wantele who had been so rude and unkind to
her this afternoon--might, like herself, feel wakeful, and come down to
the library.

With the heavy old law book in her arms, she made her way through the
now dark corridor which ran the whole length of Rede Place till she
reached her own sitting-room, and there, before turning up the light,
she locked the door.

Then she sat down, and drawing forward a little table she spread the
book out open before her.

The dying wood fire suddenly burst into flame; Athena looked round her.
She wondered if she would ever have so pretty a room again.

There was no hurry; she knew all that it was really necessary for her to
know, thanks to Maud Stanwood's idle words.

Maud Stanwood? What would Maud Stanwood say of her when she heard what
Mrs. Maule was about to do? So wondering, Athena suddenly made up her
mind that there would be no necessity for her to go on knowing that
lady. A woman who talked as Maud Stanwood talked would be no friend for
General Lingard's wife!

The important thing--the one thing she must find out, and that this book
would doubtless tell her--was how long a period must elapse after the
dissolution of her marriage to Richard Maule before any second marriage
contracted by her would be legal. She was aware that after a divorce a
full six months must elapse between the Nisi and the Absolute; also that
it was actually left to the good feeling of the offended party--that was
very unfair--as to whether the decree should be made absolute at all.

Athena felt a tremor of fear. It would indeed be an awful thing if she
put it into Richard's power to leave her in the disagreeable, the
ridiculous, position of being neither married nor single.

But thanks to the excellent index of this useful work on the marriage
laws of England, it only took Mrs. Maule a very few moments to discover
that in this important matter her fear was quite groundless. Once
judgment was given--once, that is, a marriage was dissolved--there was
no impediment to an immediate remarriage on the part of the injured

She looked up and gave a long, unconscious sigh of relief. There had
been a secret, unacknowledged terror in her heart, that she might find,
now at the last moment, some hidden snag.

Sitting back in her straight, carved Italian chair, she began to make a
mental list of her large circle of acquaintances. Which of them would
give her shelter during the weeks, nay the months, that must perhaps
elapse before she would be free?

Mrs. Maule had but one intimate friend--that friend was Jane Oglander.
She had little doubt that as soon as the painful business of the
engagement was over, she and Jane would return to their old terms of
unquestioning affection.

What a pity it was that Hew Lingard's rather absurd conscience and
his--well, his sense of delicacy, would make any arrangement with Jane
impossible! However, she knew several good-natured women who might help
her through such a pass--especially if she could venture to whisper the
truth as to what the future held for her....

But there were certain other facts it would be well for her to know
before taking so important a step as that of consulting a lawyer. Athena
Maule did not believe in trusting people too much.

Bending once more over the table, she set herself seriously to study the
sense of the dry and yet very clearly expressed chapter containing the
information she sought.

And then, as she read on, slowly mastering the legal phraseology,
conning over the cases quoted in support of each assertion, it gradually
became horribly, piteously plain to her that if her husband cared to
defend the suit, she had but a very poor chance of obtaining what this
work so rightly styled "relief."

The knowledge brought with it a terrible feeling of revolt and of
despair to Athena Maule.

She pushed the book away, then got up and stared into a small Venetian
looking-glass. She was frightened by what she saw there; the shock of
her discovery had drained all the colour from her face, and, for the
moment, destroyed her youth.

She turned away from the mirror with a feeling of sick disgust. Her
face, as reflected there, actually reminded her of Richard's face. It
was absurd, disquieting, that such a notion should ever come into her
mind, and it showed the state in which her nerves must be.

She looked round her fearfully. The room on which she had wasted a
regretful thought had become an airless cage in which she would have to
spend all that remained to her of young life and of the wonderful beauty
which had, so she now told herself bitterly, brought her so little

She had actually believed--how Richard would grin if he knew it!--that
if she only could make up her mind to a certain amount of "scandal" and
"publicity," she could free herself of him. How could she have supposed
that the law--a law framed and devised by men--would put such a power in
a woman's hand?...

And yet--and yet it was still true that nothing but Richard's will stood
between herself and complete, honourable freedom--between her and the
man who had in his gift everything that she longed for and believed
herself specially fitted by nature to possess.

So much, and surely it was a great deal, the book which was still lying
open on the little table made quite clear. If only Richard Maule could
be brought to that state of mind in which he would consent to be
merciful and leave his wife's suit undefended, all would yet go well.

Athena sat down again and began to concentrate her mind intensely.

How could she bend, coerce Richard to her will?--that was the formidable
problem which was now presented to her, and she set herself to consider
it from every point of view.

Mrs. Maule was afraid of her husband--it was an instinctive, involuntary
fear; her whole being shrank from him with a dreadful aversion. When he
had been hale and strong, adoring her with the rather absurd ardour of
adoration a middle-aged man so often lavishes on a young wife, she had
despised him. Now that he was stricken, old, and feeble, he inspired her
with terror.

It had amused her to deceive him when he had been the doting, lover-like
husband, in days which seemed to belong to another life; but now, when
his sunken eyes gleamed as they always gleamed when staring into hers,
seeming full of a cruel knowledge of the pardonable weaknesses into
which her heart betrayed her, then her body as well as her spirit

Suddenly a great light came into the dark chamber of her mind. Athena
Maule saw in a moment a way in which the problem might be solved. How
amazing that she had not thought of it yesterday--even this morning!

Jane Oglander should be her advocate with Richard. Richard would do for
Jane what he would do for no one else. That had been proved many times.
To take a recent instance--how harshly he had always resisted his wife's
wish to ask people to Rede Place! But when General Lingard had come into
the neighbourhood, it was Richard who had suggested that Jane Oglander's
lover should be bidden to stay, and to stay a long time.

Athena's face became flushed, fired with hope, with energy. She had been
foolish to be so frightened. How fortunate it was that Jane had spoken
to her--had told her of her intention to break the foolish engagement
with Lingard! It made everything quite easy.

She shut the book--the sinister old book which had given her so awful a

Why not go up and see Jane now--at once? It was still early, not much
after midnight. Athena glanced at the tiny clock which had played its
little part just before Jane's arrival at Rede Place in provoking Hew
Lingard's avowal of--of weakness. Yes, it was only ten minutes past
twelve. Jane was probably wide awake still.

Athena went to the library and carefully put back the volume in its
place among the other legal books which had belonged to Wantele's
father. Then she made her way, in the deep, still darkness, to the door
of Jane Oglander's room. Knocking lightly, and without waiting for an
answer, she walked in.

In old days this room had been known as "the White Room," now it went by
the name of "Miss Oglander's Room." Only Jane Oglander ever occupied it.

Jane was asleep--sleeping more soundly than she had done for many days,
but as the door of her room opened she woke, and sitting up turned on,
with an instinctive gesture, the electric light which swung over her

Athena came quickly across the room. She was wearing a rather bright
blue silk wrapper, and her graceful form made a patch of brilliant
colour against the varying whitenesses of the walls, of the curtains,
and of the rugs which covered the floor.

"I couldn't get to sleep," Athena's voice shook with excitement and
emotion, for she was going to take a great risk--to stake her whole
future life on one throw. "Somehow I guessed you were awake, like me."

Jane looked at Athena without speaking; she was telling herself that Hew
could not help being enthralled--that no man could have helped it. She
had never seen her friend look as lovely as she looked to-night; and
there was a pathetic, a very appealing expression on the beautiful face
now bending over her.

Mrs. Maule kissed Jane Oglander.

Then she straightened herself.

"I can't sleep because I keep thinking of all you told me this morning,"
she said at last. "I know you don't want to talk about it, and yet--and
yet I feel I must tell you that what you told me is making me wretched,
Jane. Are you sure that you really wish to break off your engagement?"

Jane was very pale; she was spent with suffering, and yet, as Athena saw
with a pang of envy, she looked very young; her fair hair lay in two
long thick plaits, one on each side of her face. It was that perhaps
which made her look so young, so placid--so defenceless.

"It seems to me the only thing I can do," she spoke in a very low voice,
but to the woman listening she seemed irritatingly calm.

Athena climbed on to Jane's bed, as she had so often done in the days
when she and Jane happened to be at Rede Place together--days which had
come far oftener four and five years ago than recently.

It hurt Jane to see Athena there. The contrast between the past and the
present cut so shrewdly. She did not wish to judge her friend--or rather
she did judge her, and very leniently.

Athena could not help what had happened. Of that Jane felt sure. But
still Athena must know the truth--she could not but be aware of the
effect she had had on Lingard; she must know that without meaning it she
had witched his heart away.

But whatever Athena knew or did not know, any allusion to what had
happened would be degrading to them both. Certain things slumber when
left in peace; they leap into life if once discussed. Jane Oglander
believed in the honour of the man she loved. Hew would go away, and in
time he would batten down, fight and conquer his infatuation for Mrs.

"Of course I wish to break my engagement. But I would rather not talk
about it," she said, at last.

"But I must talk about it!" cried Athena desperately. "You don't realise
how I feel, Jane, how--how miserable, how ashamed I am about it all! Of
course I know how you must be hating me."

An expression of anguish came over the younger woman's face. She
believed her friend. But deep in her heart was breathed the inarticulate
prayer: "Oh God, do not let her mention Hew--do not let her speak of

Athena suddenly covered her face with her hands. "Oh, Jane, I could not
help it," she wailed, in her low, vibrating voice. "Oh, Jane, tell me
that you know I could not help it!"

"I know you could not help it," repeated Jane mechanically.

She was being tortured,--tortured with a singular refinement of cruelty.
But even now she did not blame Athena. Athena had meant kindly by her in
coming here to-night. But oh! if she would only go away. It was agony to
Jane to see her there.

"He respects you!" whispered Mrs. Maule, leaning forward. "He admires
you! He esteems you! Oh, Jane, I should feel proud if any man spoke of
me as he speaks of you----"

But Jane did not feel proud. Jane felt humiliated to the dust. During
the many miserable hours she had spent in the last fortnight, she had
been spared the hateful suspicion that Hew Lingard ever spoke of her to
Athena Maule.

And indeed Lingard had never so spoken, yet the strange thing was that
Athena, when uttering those lying words, half believed them to be true.
In the first days of her acquaintance with Lingard, she had herself said
many kind, warm, affectionate things of Jane Oglander, to which he had
perforce assented. It now pleased her to imagine, and even more to say,
that it was he who had spoken those words of praise, of liking, of warm
but unlover-like affection....

"If you only knew how he feels," she went on rapidly, "you would feel
sorry for him, Jane, deeply sorry; not, as you have a right to feel,
angry--angry both with him and with me! I'm afraid--I know, that often
he feels wretched--horribly wretched about it all."

"I am very sorry," said Jane Oglander in a low voice, "sorry, not--not
angry, Athena----" and then she stopped short.

"Sorry" seemed a poor, inadequate word, but it was the only word she
could find. Her heart was wrung with sorrow, with unavailing, useless
sorrow for both these unhappy people, as well as for herself. Judging
them by what she would have felt had she been either of them, she
believed them to be very miserable.

Athena was now huddled up on the bed. She was crying bitterly, her face
hidden in her hands, the tears trickling through the fingers. She was
dreadfully, dreadfully sorry for herself.

Jane Oglander could not see anyone as unhappy and as abased as she
believed her friend to be feeling, and make no attempt at consolation.
Bending forward, she put out her arms and gathered to her the slender
rounded shoulders, the beautiful dark head.

"If only something could be done," she whispered, "if only there was a
way out, Athena!"

Athena Maule raised her tear-stained face. Her moment had at last come.

"There is a way out," she said slowly, impressively.

She put the palms of her hands on the other woman's breast--"Tell me,
Jane, would it make you very unhappy, would you ever be able to forgive
me--if I married Hew Lingard?"

Jane looked at her with troubled eyes. "I don't understand," she
faltered. "Do you mean when--when Richard is dead, Athena?"

"No. Of course I don't mean that! What a horrible idea! But, Jane, there
is a chance that I may become free. It is difficult to explain, but you
may believe me when I tell you that if Richard were a different kind of
man, if he was noble, if he was high-minded, as you are noble and
high-minded----" Jane shook her head.

"Yes, you are--you are----What was I saying? Yes: if Richard were
different he could have given me my freedom long ago, and our marriage
could be dissolved even now."

As the younger woman made no movement, said no word, only went on
looking at her in puzzled silence, Athena drew herself out of Jane's
arms, and there came a look of impatience over her face.

"You are not a child! Surely you know what I mean, Jane? You must have
heard of marriages being annulled? Richard has kept me tied to him all
these years--years that I might have been free."

And, again, the strange thing was that Athena Maule, as she said those
words, believed them--with certain mental reservations--to be true. It
was certainly true that for the last eight years she, a passionate,
living woman, had been tied to death in life.

She would have been shocked, angered, had any still small voice reminded
her that the scheme she was now determined to carry through was a new
scheme, one that she had never considered seriously till now, though she
had told the lie which was the keystone of her scheme so often that she
had at last begun to believe it must be true.

"Oh, Jane!" she cried, and then she slipped off the bed and threw
herself on her knees. "Oh, Jane, there is only one person in the world
to whom Richard will ever listen----No, I'm wrong--there are
two--there's Dick as well as you. But Dick"--a look of hatred for a
moment convulsed her face--"Dick loathes me," she said slowly, "even
more than Richard does," and this was true.

"You, Jane, are my only hope--mine and Hew's only hope----"

"Do you mean," said Jane slowly, "that you want me to speak to Richard,
Athena,--to suggest his taking this step?"

For the first time Jane Oglander felt a touch of physical repulsion from
Athena. It was a curious sensation, and one which troubled her

"Richard would have to do nothing--nothing! Simply leave my suit
undefended. And if you could bring yourself to speak to him, Jane, I
honestly believe that he might do now what he ought to have done long
ago--release me. Nothing can give me back the years--the long miserable
years I have spent with him, but I should at least have the future----"

She looked furtively at Jane. It would be so much more--well,
comfortable, if she and Lingard could count on Jane's approval, on her
blessing, as it were.

Jane Oglander lay back and turned her face away, to the wall. Athena,
with remarkable self-control, stilled her eager, impulsive tongue. But
the moments of waiting seemed very long.

At last Jane turned and once more sat up. She had made up her mind that
it was her duty--her duty, not only to Athena, but also to Hew
Lingard,--to do this difficult, this repulsive thing which was being
required of her.

"I will speak to Richard to-morrow, Athena--but if he is shocked, if he
is hurt by what I shall say to him--and I fear he will be both--you must
not expect me ever to come back to Rede Place."

Mrs. Maule gave a little cry. It was only now that she realised how
doubtful she had been of success. She might have known Jane better. Jane
had always been her one loyal friend. Athena was fond of the word

"Oh, Jane," she said humbly, "I--I don't know how to thank you. Will you
mind very much?"

"You mustn't be surprised if I fail," Jane said slowly.

Athena again sank on to her knees. But all the humility had gone from
the voice in which she uttered her words. "Oh, but you mustn't fail,
Jane! It would kill me." She hesitated--"You will be very careful what
you say to Richard? You will not--you need not mention----"

Jane put out her hand with a quick gesture as if to ward off the name
Athena was about to utter.

"No, no," she cried vehemently, and it was the first time she had spoken
with any strength in her tones. "You need not be afraid. Of course I
shall mention no one--I think you can trust me, Athena."


     "Il y a des hommes qu'on trompe, et d'autres qu'on trahit, en
     accomplissant le même acte."

Richard Maule heard the door of his bedroom close behind Jane Oglander.

He had been so ailing the last day or two that he had been obliged to
stay upstairs with Dick's companionship as his only solace, and his
cousin had persuaded him to say good-bye to Jane there.

She was only going as far as the Small Farm, to look after Mabel Digby
who was ill. She would still be at Rede Place every day, but she was
old-fashioned and punctilious; she did not wish to leave Mr. Maule's
house without thanking him for his hospitality, not only to herself but
to General Lingard, who had been asked there for her sake.

She had come upstairs about six, already dressed in her outdoor things,
and Dick had left her for a few moments with Richard in order that she
might say good-bye.

The few moments had prolonged themselves into half an hour, only half an
hour, though the time had seemed a great deal longer to them both, and
then she had left him with a gentle "Good-bye, Richard."

As he stared at the door which she had closed quietly behind her,
Richard Maule wondered whether he would ever see her again. Indeed, he
was not sure that he wished ever to see Jane Oglander again.

He had stood up to bid his guest good-bye, but, though he felt weak and
a little dazed, he did not sit down again in his padded armchair near
the fire. Instead, he went over to a glass case where were kept a number
of fine old snuff-boxes collected by Theophilus Joy before there was a
craze for such things.

Opening the case, he brought out from the back a snuff-box which had an
interesting history. It was believed to have been a gift from Madame du
Barri to Louis the Fifteenth. It was of dull gold, embossed with

Richard Maule's faithful valet thought he knew everything about his
master that there was to know, but there was one thing, a trifling
thing, that Mr. Maule had managed to keep entirely secret over many
years. It was an innocent, in fact a womanish secret; it was simply that
sometimes, not very often, he used a little rouge.

He kept the small supply he required, which lasted him a long time, in
the snuff-box he now held in his hand. This box possessed the rare
peculiarity of a false bottom.

What the careful valet never suspected, had naturally never entered into
Dick Wantele's mind. All he noted was that on certain occasions his
cousin was more flushed, and so looked in better health than usual.
Richard Maule's usual colouring was a curious chalky white, and those of
his visitors whose breeding was perhaps not quite so perfect as it might
have been, almost always commented, either to Mrs. Maule or to Dick
Wantele, on Mr. Maule's peculiar complexion.

He closed the glass case, and went over to a narrow mirror near the
fireplace. There, in a few moments, he achieved his very rudimentary
"make up" with the aid of a small piece of cotton-wool.

Yes--now he looked better; placing the snuff-box on the table which was
drawn up close to his chair, he rang, and then sat down.

He wished his man would come. He felt physically very uncomfortable and
oppressed. The talk with Jane Oglander had shaken him almost as much--he
was quite honest about the matter--as it had shaken her.

Poor Jane! Dick's pretty Jane! How strange that a woman like Athena
should possess the power of putting such a creature as was Jane Oglander
to torture.

Modern medical science has standardised the body much as mechanical
science has standardised the most intricate machinery. Richard Maule,
fortunate in a physician who kept in touch with every new discovery and
palliative, had it in his power to fit his physical self for any special
effort, especially if that effort were mental rather than physical.

The valet received careful instructions. Mr. Maule would rest both
before and after his light dinner, till ten o'clock. Then, and not
before, he would be glad to see Mr. Wantele. He felt, however, too far
from well to receive General Lingard, as he so often did for a few
moments in the evening.

Everything fell out as the master of Rede Place had ordained it should
do. With the help of certain colourless and odourless drops, he relieved
the oppression which was troubling him. He forced himself to eat more
than usual. He read with what seemed to him fresh zest an idyll of
Theocritus, and then he waited, doing nothing, his eyes on the door,
till he heard his kinsman's light, familiar step on the bare floor

       *       *       *       *       *

Dick Wantele came into his cousin's bedroom very unwillingly. He
wondered why Jane had stayed so long with Richard. He feared she had
told him of her intention of breaking her engagement.

Wantele felt convinced that Richard Maule had seen nothing of the drama
which had been going on round him--though never actually in his
presence--during Lingard's long sojourn at Rede Place.

Every day Lingard spent about an hour with his invalid host, and Wantele
was aware that those hours had been very pleasant to Richard Maule. The
Greek Room had become a place where they all, with the exception of
Athena, had fled now and again as if into sanctuary. There Jane, so
Wantele had soon divined, spent her only peaceful moments, for her host
was very dependent on her; when with him, she played chess or read
aloud, always doing, in a word, something which perforce distracted her
mind from everything but the matter in hand.

But Richard Maule had been very unwell during the last few days;
compelled to take each night the opiate which was the one habit--the bad
habit--he and his wife had in common. Conversation after half-past nine
or ten o'clock, even of the mildest type, excited him, and gave him,
even with the aid of a powerful opiate, a restless, bad night. Why then
had he put off seeing Dick till ten o'clock?

The young man was in no mood to control himself, to assume the quiet,
equable manner he always assumed. The hour just spent with those
two,--with Athena and Lingard alone,--had tried his nerves.

Mr. Maule was dressed in the evening clothes he had put on early before
saying good-bye to Jane Oglander. It was a little matter, but it
surprised Wantele; his cousin, as a rule, was always eager to get into
the dressing-gown in which he lived when upstairs.

"I had an odd conversation with Jane this evening----"

Wantele nodded his head. Then it was as he had feared,--she had told

"----and I wish to talk the matter over with you, Dick." He motioned
the younger man to sit down, and there was a long moment of silence
between them before he spoke again.

"Jane Oglander has got a very strange notion into her head; and I should
like to know if she said anything of it to you. Perhaps"--a slight smile
came over his unsmiling lips--"perhaps I ought not to call it Jane
Oglander's notion, it is evidently the notion--plot would be the better
name--of another person. Do you know anything of it, Dick?" He looked
fixedly at Wantele.

"No, Jane said nothing to me--nothing that could be described in the
terms you have used, Richard."

Wantele's face was overcast with an expression of anxiety and unease.

"Are you quite sure of that, Dick? I beg of you not to spare me."

"Quite sure, Richard."

"Jane seems to think----" Richard Maule was still looking at his cousin
intently, and Dick Wantele moved under that look uncomfortably in his
chair. "Jane seems to think," Mr. Maule repeated deliberately, "that it
would be possible for my marriage with Athena to be annulled. From what
I could make out, but Jane was--well, I'm afraid she was very much
distressed at proposing such a thing to me,--she evidently thinks I
ought to free my wife, that is my duty to make it possible, in fact, for
Athena to start afresh--to marry again."

"Good God!"

"Yes, it's an odd notion--a very odd suggestion to come from a nice
young woman. And it gratifies me to see that you too are surprised,
Dick." There was an edge of irony in his low, tired voice. "I was very
much surprised myself--surprised, first, that the notion had never
before presented itself to Athena's active brain; and even more
surprised," he spoke more slowly and all the irony was gone, "that the
suggestion should have come in any way through Jane Oglander."

Dick Wantele turned deliberately away and stared into the fire.

"I did not explain to her that what she was good enough to suggest was
quite--well, impossible. That she had been, to put it crudely,

Dick Wantele stared at his cousin. "You did _not_ explain that to her,

"No, I wished to consult you about the matter, and hear what you had to
say. The scheme of course originated with Athena. Our English marriage
laws make life very difficult to the sort of woman I have the honour to
have for my wife."

The other made no answer.

"You never even suspected that such a plot was in the hatching?"
insisted Richard Maule. "I want a true answer, mind!"

Dick Wantele got up from his chair. He put his hand on the back of it
and stared down into his cousin's face.

"Once, many years ago, Athena spoke to me as if such a thing would be
possible," he said.

He never lied, he never had lied--in words--to Richard Maule, and he was
not going to begin now.

"You mean in Italy, when I was ill?"

Wantele nodded his head, and then he felt gripped--in the throes of a
horrible fear. It was as if a pit had suddenly opened between his cousin
and himself, between the man whom he loved,--whose affection and respect
he wished above all things to retain, for they were all that remained to
him,--and his miserable self. He wondered whether the secret thing he
feared showed itself in his face.

Richard Maule slowly got up. Wantele made an instinctive movement to
help him, but the other waved him off, not unkindly, but a little

"Dick?" he said. "My boy, I want to ask you a question--an indiscreet
question. You need not answer it, but if you answer it, please answer it

Wantele opened his mouth and then closed it again. He could not think of
the words with which to entreat the other man to desist----

Richard Maule, looking at him, knew the answer to his question before he
had uttered it, but even so he spoke, obsessed by the cruel wish _to

"In Italy----?" His voice sank to a muffled whisper, but he did not
take his eyes, his suffering, sunken eyes, from Wantele's tortured face.

Still the other did not--could not--speak.

"I knew it. At least I felt sure of it." He sighed a quick convulsive
sigh, and then in mercy averted his eyes.

"But never here?" he muttered questioningly. "Everything was over by the
time we came back here?"

"Yes, Richard. I swear it."

"I knew that too--at least I felt sure of it. I'm afraid you must have
suffered a good bit, Dick?"

The younger man nodded his head. "I have loathed and I have despised
myself ever since."

"I'm sorry you did that. I'm sorry I waited till now to tell you that I
knew, that I understood."

"How you must have hated me!" said Wantele sombrely.

"Never, Dick. I--I knew her by then. If you had been the first"--he
quickly amended his phrase--"if I had been fool enough to believe you
were the first, I think it would have killed me. As it was," his voice
hardened, "it only made me curse myself for my blind folly--folly which
brought wretchedness and shame on you, Dick, and--and now, I fear, on
Jane Oglander"--he saw the confirmation he sought on the other's face.
"It's about Jane I wish to speak to you to-night. For a moment I ask of
you to think of me as God----"

Wantele stared at Richard Maule; it was the first time his cousin had
ever uttered the word in his presence.

"If I were God--Providence--Fate--and gave you your choice, would you
choose that Lingard should marry Jane or that you should marry her?"

And as Wantele still stared at him in amazement: "Take it from me--I
have never deceived you--that the choice is open to you. I don't wish to
hurry you. Take a few moments to think it over."

"I--I don't understand," stammered Wantele.

"There is no necessity for you to understand. In fact I hope that, after
to-night, you will dismiss the whole of this conversation from your
mind. But I repeat--the choice is open to you."

And he added, musingly, "I think, Dick, that with the others out of the
way you could make Jane happy--in time." But there was doubt--painful,
deliberating doubt, in his tone.

Wantele shook his head.

"I don't agree," he said shortly. "You see, Richard, Jane"--he moistened
his lips--"Jane's never loved me. She loves Lingard. And so, if God gave
me the choice, I would give her to Lingard."

"You think well of the man?" Maule spoke lightly, and as if he himself
had no reason to dissent from any word commending the soldier.

"You mustn't ask me to judge Lingard"--the words were difficult to
utter, and he brought them out with difficulty. "I've been there, you
see. I know what the poor devil's going through. I loved you,
Richard--but that didn't save me. Lingard loved Jane, I believe he still
loves her, and--and I should take him to be a man jealous of his
honour--but neither his love nor his honour has saved him."

Wantele began walking up and down the room with long nervous strides.
Then he stopped short--"What is it you mean to do, Richard?" he asked.

Richard Maule hesitated. He knew very well what he now meant to do, but
he did not intend that his cousin should have any inkling, either now or
hereafter, of his decision. And Dick, as he knew well, was not easily
deceived. Still, he put his mind, the mind which was in some ways
clearer, harder, than it had been before his illness, to the task.

"There are three courses open to me," he said slowly. "The one is to
allow matters to remain as they are, _in statu quo_; the second is to do
what Jane Oglander suggests--allow my wife to bring a suit for the
dissolution of our marriage, and to allow it to go undefended--it is
that which I should have done, Dick, had your answer been other than it

"And the third course?" Wantele was looking at his cousin fixedly.

"The third course, which I may probably adopt, will be for me to begin
proceedings for divorce. I take it that Lingard knows nothing of the
real woman? I mean, he looks at Athena as she looks at herself?"

Wantele nodded. That was certainly a good way in which to describe
Lingard's mental attitude.

"But I have not quite made up my mind as to the best course," said
Richard Maule. "I shall think the matter over for a day or two. But I
fear--and I don't mind telling you, Dick, that the thought isn't exactly
a pleasant one to me--that it must be what I said just now."

He beckoned to the other to come nearer, and Wantele did so, his pale
face full of pain and anger.

"I want you to understand," his cousin added, in a low voice, "that when
I've said that I've said all. The business won't affect me as it would
most men. I never gave a thought to the world's opinion in old days, and
why should I do so now?"

He spoke hesitatingly, awkwardly. It was disagreeable to him to be thus
lying to his cousin--to be filling the heart of the man who loved him
with a flood of indignant pity and pain. But the tragi-comedy had to be
played out.

"I shall really feel very much more comfortable when it's all over," he
said. "I don't fancy even lawyers waste as much time as they used to do
over this kind of thing. And this case is so simple, so straightforward.
I shall be sorry for the Kayes. But they must have known it. I fancy
everybody in this neighbourhood knew it. People will pity Athena; they
will agree that she had every excuse----"

He leant back in his chair. There was nothing more to say.

"Shall I call Carver?" asked Wantele solicitously.

"No. Not now. But I should be obliged if you will tell him that I shall
want him in an hour. I shall try and read for a while by the fire."

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Maule waited till he heard the sounds of his cousin's quick
footsteps die away. Then he rose feebly and walked over to the recess
which had been fitted up as a medicine cupboard in the days of his
childhood, when drugs were more the fashion than they are now.

In a wide-necked, glass-stoppered bottle were the crystals of chloral
which he had long used in preference to the more usual liquid form. He
knew to a nicety the dose which he himself could take with safety, the
dose which sometimes failed to induce sleep.

He now measured out in his hand some three times his usual dose.

Had Dick Wantele's answer been different, Richard Maule would have
administered to himself the crystals he now held in his hand. But Dick's
decision--what the man of average morality would have regarded as his
noble and unselfish decision--had signed another human being's

The thought that this was so suddenly struck Richard Maule as the most
ironic of the many avenging things he had known to happen in our strange
world. And, almost for the first time since he had formed his awful
conception of the meaning of life, he knew the cruel joy of laughing
with the gods, instead of writhing under their lash.

As he shook the crystals into an envelope and slipped it into his
waistcoat pocket, he told himself that revenge was at last to be his.
The gods were yielding him one of their most cherished attributes.


     "The fact that the world contains an appreciable number of wretches
     who ought to be exterminated without mercy when an opportunity
     occurs, is not quite so generally understood as it ought to be, and
     many common ways of thinking and feeling virtually deny it."

Richard Maule turned the handle of his wife's bedroom door. A glance
assured him that the beautiful room was empty. So far the gods whose
sport he believed himself to be had been kind, for he had met no one
during his slow, painful progress through the house, and Athena, as he
knew well, would not be up for another hour.

Standing just within the door, he looked round the room with a terrible,
almost a malignant, curiosity. The fire had evidently just been built
up; it threw dancing shafts of light over the rose-red curtains of the
low First Empire bed, at once vivifying and softening the brilliant
colouring of the room.

Till to-night, the owner of Rede Place had never seen this oval
bedchamber since it had been transformed nearly nine years before in
view of the home-coming of his wife--the home-coming which had been
delayed for two years after their marriage.

He had planned out with infinite care and lingering delight every detail
of the decoration, taking as his model the bedchamber of the Empress
Josephine at Malmaison. He and the expert who had helped him in his
labour of love had journeyed out--even now he remembered the journey
vividly--to the country house near Paris where Napoleon spent his
happiest hours.

As for the room next door, the room which was to have been his, it had
long ago been dismantled, and was now the sewing-room of his wife's

Athena had arranged her life in a way that exactly suited her. She had
lived on unruffled by the thunder-bolt, hurled unwittingly by herself,
which had destroyed him. But a tree blasted by lightning outstands the
most radiant of living blossoms....

He felt a wave of hatred heat his blood. Stepping slowly over the
garlanded Aubusson carpet, he moved across the room till he stood by the
side of the low, wide bed.

On a gilt-rimmed table was placed a crystal tray he well remembered, and
on the tray were a decanter of water, a medicine glass, and a bottle of
chloral. Above the wick of a spirit-lamp stood a tiny gold kettle filled
with the chocolate which Mrs. Maule always heated and drank after she
was in bed.

Her intimate ways of life were very present to her husband's memory. It
was not likely that time had modified any habit governing Athena's
appearance and general well-being.

He remembered the day they had first seen the gold kettle. It had been
at a sale held in the house of one of those frail Parisian beauties who,
following a fashion of the moment, had put up her goods to auction. The
notion that his wife should possess anything that had once belonged to
such a woman had offended Richard Maule's taste, and he had resisted
longer than he generally did any wish of hers. But she had cajoled him,
as she always in those days could cajole him into anything.

He put out his thin hand and noted with satisfaction that it was shaking
less than usual. Slowly he lifted back the lid of the gold kettle.

Yes--there was the chocolate still warm, still in entire solution.

Straightening himself, Richard Maule stood for a moment listening....

Silence reigned within and without Rede Place. Steadying his right hand
with his left, he shook the crystals of chloral he had brought with him
into the dark liquid. Then he turned, and walked languidly towards the
fire. The emotion caused by his short conversation with Dick Wantele had
wearied him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly there fell on his listening ears the sound of footsteps in the
corridor. He knew them for those of his wife. But it was hate, not
fear, that heralded Athena.

He turned round slowly, uncertain for a moment how to explain his
presence there.

She swept in--God! how superb, how radiantly alive--and then gave a
swift cry. "Richard! You have frightened me!" But she faced him proudly.
"I've come up to find something I wish to show General Lingard----"

She turned on the lights, and Richard Maule, looking at her fixedly,
found his first quick impression modified. Her lovely face was thin and
strained. There were shadows under her dark, violet eyes. But even so,
how strong she was, how full of vibrating vitality! By her side Richard
Maule felt that he must appear dead, or worse, ill to death.

Athena was dressed in the purple gown she had worn the night Lingard had
first come to Rede Place. So had she looked when she had opened the door
of the Greek Room and led in their--hers and Richard's--illustrious

There was something desperate, defiant in the look she now cast on him.
She was telling herself how awful it was to know that this wreck of a
man standing before her could hold the whole of her future in his weak
and yet tenacious grasp! How cruel that this--this cripple should
possess the right to grant or to deny what had become the crowning wish
of her heart!

Perhaps something of what was in her mind penetrated to Richard Maule's
quick brain.

"The ailing and the infirm," he said, staring at her fixedly, "are
treated by the kind folk about them like children. They are never left
alone. I do not choose that our household should know that I desire to
have a private interview with you, and so I thought the simplest thing
would be to come here and wait for you----"

"What is it you wish to say to me?" Her voice shook with suspense. She
clasped her hands together with an unconscious gesture of supplication.

"I have brought you--I have brought us all--the order of release."

A feeling of exultant joy--of relief which pierced so keenly that it was
akin to pain, filled Athena Maule's soul. She had indeed been well
inspired to tell Jane all that was in her heart--and Hew's. And here was
Richard actually saying so! For, "You chose a most excellent Mercury,"
he observed dryly.

"You mean Jane Oglander?" her voice again shook a little. "She was not
my messenger. She asked my permission to speak to you----"

"Yes, I mean Jane Oglander. She showed me where my duty lay. For a while
I hesitated between two courses--for you know, Athena, there were two
courses open to me."

She looked at him without speaking. How cruel, how--how unmanly, of
Richard to say this! And how futile. There was only one moment when he
could have divorced her. Providence had stood her friend by choosing
just that moment to make him ill. Since then--she thought she had learnt
enough English law to know that--he would be held to have condoned.

But her look made him feel ashamed. The javelin does not thus play with
its victim.

"I beg your pardon," he muttered almost inaudibly.

"I know you have always hated me," she said passionately.

"You have not known that always," he answered sombrely--and for a moment
she hung her head.

"Perhaps now, Richard, we may be better friends."

She reminded herself that in old days--in the days when she had been his
idol, his goddess--she had had a certain contemptuous fondness for her
husband. She would be generous--now. Jane had taught her that it was
good to be generous.

How true a friend had Jane Oglander been to her! Athena felt a rush of
warm gratitude to the woman who still--how strange, how absurd it
seemed--was engaged to Lingard. Jane, like the angel she was, would help
them--Athena and Hew Lingard--over what must be for some time to come
very delicate ground. Their progress, albeit that of happy and, what was
so satisfactory, of innocent lovers, would be hampered with small
difficulties. How fortunate it was, how more than fortunate, that
Lingard's engagement to Jane had not yet been publicly announced....

"Have you told Dick?" she asked nervously. Her husband--he was still her
husband--had smiled strangely as only reply to her kindly words. "Was it
about that you wished to see him to-night?"

"No, I have not yet told Dick of my decision."

"I suppose it can all be managed very quietly?" she said plaintively. "I
hope I shan't have to go and appear before a judge--or shall I?"

Richard Maule looked at her thoughtfully. "That is a thing I cannot tell
you," he said slowly. "Many would say to you most confidently--yes, that
you will have to appear before the Judge."

"I thought there was a thing in England called taking evidence on
commission. You yourself, Richard, could not possibly appear in person.
And then--I want to know, it is rather important that I should
know"--her husband bent his head gravely--"if there will be any delay?"

"You mean any lapse of time before the decree can be obtained?"

Her eyes dropped. "Yes, that is what I do mean." In old days it had
always been better to be quite frank with Richard.

"I think not. In this kind of case I think there is no delay. The legal
procedure is quite simple."

He waited a moment. "You of course will bring the suit, and I shall not
oppose it. You see, Athena,--no doubt you have been at the pains to
inform yourself of the fact, for to my surprise Jane Oglander was aware
of it,--the dissolution of a marriage carries with it no stain--no
stain, that is, on the wife who has been so poorly used."

There came a look of raillery on his white face, and Athena again told
herself that he was very cruel--cruel and heartless.

"The wife, I repeat, goes out into the world unsullied, ready, if so the
fancy takes her, to become another man's bride--his wife in reality as
well as in name."

He looked at her significantly, and added, more lightly, "The world has
become more liberal since the days of my youth. I am sure there will be
great sympathy felt for you, Athena. Such a marriage as ours is in truth
a monstrous thing. I did not need Jane to tell me that, though it was
odd of Jane to have thought of it."

There came over him a terrible feeling of lassitude. "And now I'm afraid
I must ask you to help me to get back to my room."

This punishment he put on himself. He must not be met coming out of his
wife's room alone.

"Of course!" she cried eagerly. "You know I would have done much more
for you--I mean since you became ill--if you had only allowed it! But
Dick was always jealous--Dick has always hated me!"

"Surely not always?" he said mildly.

"Yes, always!"

He would not take her arm, or lean on her. She simply walked by his
side, her mind in a whirl of amazement, of gratitude, of almost
hysterical excitement, till he dismissed her, curtly, at his door.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hour that followed was perhaps the happiest hour of Athena Maule's
not unhappy life. It bore a curious resemblance to that which had
immediately followed Richard Maule's proposal of marriage, the proposal
for which her father and mother, as well as herself, had watched and
waited so anxiously. But now there was added what had been quite lacking
before--a sufficiently strong feeling of attraction to the man who would
place her in the position she longed feverishly to enjoy and adorn.

That Lingard, in the throes of his passion for her, should go through
moments of acute self-depreciation and remorse, only made her feel her
power, her triumph, the more.

She now came down to him gentle, subdued, as he had never yet seen
her,--Nature provides such women with a wonderfully complex and full
armoury--and Lingard, alas! once more under the spell, sprang towards
her. The unexpected departure of Jane to the Small Farm had angered

"I have seen Richard." The pregnant words were uttered solemnly. "I
found him, for the first time in my life, in--in my room. Jane spoke to
him to-day, and he is going to release me, to let me out of prison--at
last!" and then, not till then, Athena allowed herself to fall on
Lingard's breast, and feel the clasp of his strong arms about her.

It mattered naught to her that the man who was now murmuring wild,
broken words of love and passionate joy at her release from intolerable
bonds, felt what the traitor feels--that his intoxication was even now
seared with livid streaks of self-loathing and self-contempt.

She knew well that he would not trouble her overmuch with his remorse.
She could almost hear him, in his heart, say the words he had said the
night before Jane Oglander had come to disturb and trouble the sunlit
waters into which they two had already glided. "It is not your
fault,--any fault there may be is mine."

But just before they said good-night Lingard frightened Athena Maule,
and sent her away from him cold, almost angry.

"If I were the brave man men take me to be," he said suddenly,
unclasping the hands which lay in his, "I should go out into the night
and shoot myself."

She had made him beg, entreat, her forgiveness for his wild, wicked
words. But they frightened her--dashed her deep content.

Athena Maule did not know Hew Lingard with the intimate knowledge she
had known other men who had loved her. But there was this comfort--about
this man she would be able to consult Jane--Jane who was so kind, so
reasonable, and who only wished to do the best for them both.

She reminded herself that men are always blind where women are
concerned. If nothing else would convince Hew Lingard that Jane, after
all, did not care so very much, then Jane must be persuaded, after a
decent interval, to marry Dick Wantele. After what had happened to-day,
everything was possible....

Athena, to-night, was "fey." She felt as if she held the keys of fate in
her hands. But even so, she went on thinking of Lingard's bitter words
long after they had parted, and when, having dismissed her maid, she was
heating the cup of chocolate which sometimes sent her to sleep without
an opiate.

And then, as she lay down among her pillows, there came over Athena
Maule the curious sensation that she was not alone. Bayworth Kaye--poor
Bayworth, of whom she had thought so kindly, so regretfully, only two
nights ago--seemed to be there, close to her, watching, waiting....

Athena did not believe in ghosts, and so she did not feel frightened,
only surprised--very much surprised.

She turned on the light and sat up in bed.

This feeling of another presence close to her--how strong it still
was!--must be a result of the emotion she had just gone through, of her
exciting little scene with Hew Lingard.

It was strange that she should think of Bayworth Kaye here, in this room
where he had never been but once, and then only for a moment on a June
night when they had both been more reckless than usual. It would have
been so much more natural to have felt a survival of Bayworth's presence
downstairs--when she had been in Lingard's arms....

Suddenly she was overwhelmed with an intense, an overmastering
drowsiness, and, quite unconscious of what was happening to her, she
fell back, asleep.

The light above the low rose-red bed was still burning when they found
her in the morning.


    "Who spake of Death? Let no one speak of Death.
    What should Death do in such a merry house?
    With but a wife, a husband, and a friend
    To give it greeting?..."

Richard Maule sat up in bed. He had taken a rather larger dose of
chloral than usual the night before, and he had over-slept himself.

'Twixt sleeping and waking he had seemed to hear a number of
extraordinary sounds--they were, however, sounds to which he had become
accustomed, for they were produced by the Paches' motor.

Now his servant was drawing up the blinds, moving about the room with
well-trained, noiseless steps. It seemed to him that the man avoided
looking across at the bed; but when, at last, his persistent glance
caused the servant to look round, nothing could be seen in the other's
impassive face.

"Is it a fine morning, Carver?"

"No, sir--at least, yes, sir. But it's been raining."

"I thought I heard a car drive away a few moments ago, or did I dream

The man hesitated.

"Yes, sir--perhaps you did, sir. Mr. Wantele had the machine out to go
for the doctor. Mrs. Maule is not very well, sir, and Mr. Wantele
thought he'd better fetch the doctor as quickly as possible."

Carver's voice gained confidence. His master was behaving "very
sensible," and did not seem at all upset. The upsetting part was to be
left to Dr. Mallet.

"I was to say, sir, that the doctor would like to see you."

"Who went for the doctor?" asked Richard Maule suddenly.

"Mr. Wantele himself, sir. I heard him say he thought it would lose less
time for him to go off at once, than to wait and send anyone."

"And did Mr. Wantele bring the doctor back with him?"

"Yes, sir, I think he did--I think they came back together."

There was a knock at the door, and then the murmur of words outside.

"Who's there?" called out Richard Maule in a strong voice. "What's all
that whispering about?" He spoke querulously, as he sometimes did in the

"It's only I--Mallet!"

The doctor came in. He and Richard Maule were old friends--in fact,
contemporaries. But there was a great difference between the two
men--the one was broad, ruddy, and did not look his years; the other
was the wreck we know.

"I'm sorry to say Mrs. Maule is very ill." The doctor plunged at once
into the business which had brought him. Long experience had taught him
the futility, the cruelty, of "breaking" bad news.

"What's the matter with her? She's always enjoyed remarkably good
health." Richard Maule moved a little in his bed.

"Yes, I should have taken her to be a remarkably healthy woman, though
of course as you know--we both know--she has always been very sleepless.
Almost as if she caught insomnia from you, eh?"

The doctor's courage was beginning to fail him, curiously. It was
strange, it--it was horrible, the hatred, the contempt Richard Maule
felt for his wife.

"Mallet--come here, closer. I believe you are concealing something from
me. If there's bad news I'd rather hear whatever it is from you than
from Dick." Mr. Maule spoke in a hard, rather breathless tone.

"There is something to hear. Your wife last night took an overdose of

The doctor said no word of sympathy. The words would have stuck in his
throat. He knew too well the real relationship of the husband and wife.
Richard Maule would receive plenty of condolences from others. But even
so, to learn suddenly of the death of a human being with whom one has
been associated over long years is always a shock, is always painful.

Richard Maule straightened himself in bed. "An overdose of chloral," he
repeated, "then she's--she's----"

The other bent his head.

"She thought she would outlive me many years."

The doctor looked thoughtfully at his patient. He knew that illness of a
certain type atrophies the memory and the affections, while leaving
unaffected the mind and a certain fierce instinct of self-preservation.
Dr. Mallet was not so much shocked or so much surprised by Richard
Maule's remark as a layman would have been.

Again the bereaved husband spoke, and this time questioningly. "A
peaceful death, Mallet? A happy death?"

"Yes--yes, certainly." Something impelled him to add, "But a terrible
thing when it comes to one so young, so beautiful, as was your wife!"

He compared the stillness, the equanimity, of the man lying before him,
with the awful agitation of Dick Wantele--an agitation so terrible, a
horror so overwhelming, that it had confirmed Dr. Mallet in a theory of
his, a theory formed a good many years ago, and of which he had
sometimes felt ashamed.

But the mind of an intelligent medical man who has enjoyed for many
years a large family practice becomes like one of those old manuals for
the use of confessors. His mind perforce becomes a store-house of
strange sins, of troubled, abnormal happenings, which belong, from the
point of view of the happy and the sane, to a fifth dimension,
unimagined, unimaginable. The wise physician, like the wise confessor,
does not allow his mind to dwell on these things, but he does not make
the mistake of telling himself--as so many of us do--that they are not
there. The doctor had formed a suspicion, which had now become a
certainty. Yet he was surprised by Richard Maule's next words.

"It must have been an awful shock to Dick, Mallet. He was thrown so much
more with Athena than I could be of late years, though to be sure she
was a great deal away."

He waited a moment, and as the doctor made no comment, "Although they
didn't pull it off well together, still for my sake they both kept up a
kind of armed truce, eh, Mallet?" He looked searchingly at the other
man. "I am telling you nothing you do not know."

The other nodded gravely.

"Where's Dick now?" Mr. Maule asked abruptly; and the doctor saw that
the thin hand holding the coverlet shook a little.

"I sent him off to get Ricketts. I thought it better to give him
something to do; for as you say, as you have guessed, he was very much
over-wrought and upset. Of course Ricketts can do nothing, but I
thought he had better be sent for. And to tell you the truth, I wanted
to give Dick a job."

"Has anyone told General Lingard, Mallet?"

"No. He went out for a walk before breakfast--an odd thing to do, but it
seems he generally does go out every morning. They're expecting him in
in a few minutes. Would you like me to tell him?"

"I should be grateful if you would. And after you've told him, Mallet, I
should like to see him--just for a few moments. My poor wife was very
fond of him. You know he's engaged to Jane Oglander?"

"Yes. Dick told me. But I understood it was a secret?"

"Yes--yes, so it is."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mrs. Maule? Dead? An overdose of chloral?"

Lingard repeated what the doctor had just said very quietly, but he
stammered out the words, and his face had gone an ashen grey colour.

They were in the dining-room. Breakfast had only been laid for two.

Dr. Mallet was surprised, that is as far as anything of this kind could
surprise him.

Here was a man used to facing death, and to seeing death dealt out to
others--nay, he had doubtless in his time dealt out death to many. And
yet now this famous soldier was unmanned--yes, unmanned was the word, by
what was, after all, not a very unusual accident.

"Yes, it's a terrible thing," the doctor said briefly, "a terrible

Lingard walked over to the sideboard. He poured himself out some brandy,
and drank it.

"You must forgive me. I had a touch of fever yesterday--jungle fever,"
he said. "Your news has given me a great shock."

"Yes, yes. Naturally."

"Will you tell me again? I don't quite understand."

He had come back and now stood facing Dr. Mallet. His face was set,
expressionless, but he kept on opening and closing his right hand with a
nervous movement.

"It happened, as these things always do, in the most simple way in the
world. I had a similar case six months ago. Poor Mrs. Maule took an
overdose of chloral last night. When her husband first became ill in
Italy many years ago, she had a very anxious time, and had to supervise,
so I understand, very inadequate nurses. Her anxiety, and the strain
generally, brought on insomnia, and the doctors there--very wrongly from
my point of view--gave her chloral. It is a most insidious drug, as you
probably know, General Lingard. She and Mr. Maule have both taken it for

"Then there is no doubt as to its having been an accident?" Lingard's
voice sank in a whisper.

"No doubt at all," said the doctor emphatically, "I never saw a woman
who, taking all things into consideration, enjoyed life more than did
Mrs. Maule. The thought of suicide is out of the question. The maid who
saw her the last thing tells me that she hadn't seen her so well or
happy--gay was the word the Frenchwoman used--for many months. Before
she went to bed, she wrote a letter addressed to Miss Oglander at the
Small Farm which she gave orders should be taken over there this
morning. It went by hand nearly a couple of hours before the sad truth
was discovered."

"And then they sent for you at once?"

Lingard felt as if he was in an evil dream. He could not bring himself
to believe, to face the fact that Athena was dead--gone, for ever, out
of his life, out of all their lives.

"Yes. Mr. Wantele came and fetched me without losing a moment," said the
doctor gravely. "But of course I saw at once that there was nothing to
be done. I have, however, sent for a colleague of mine. Mr. Wantele,
who, as you can easily imagine, is very much--well, upset, went off to
fetch him. I wonder they're not back yet."

There was a long silence between the two men.

Dr. Mallet looked at the famous soldier with interest and curiosity.

General Lingard was a remarkable-looking man apart from his reputation.
But there were lines on his seamed face that told of strain--an older
strain than that induced by the shocking news which had just been told
him. He had now pulled himself together; he was doubtless annoyed with
himself for having been so terribly affected. But Mrs. Maule possessed a
very compelling, vivid personality--even the doctor could not yet think
of her as anything but living.

"I'm afraid, General Lingard, that I must prepare you for a rather
painful ordeal. Mr. Maule wishes to see you, and if possible at once."

The other made an involuntary movement of recoil.

"To see me?" he repeated. "Why should he wish to see me?" And then he
added hurriedly, "But of course I'll go and see him. He and--and Mrs.
Maule"--he brought out her name with an effort--"have both been most
kind to me, though our acquaintance has been short."

Again there was a pause. And then Lingard said abruptly, "Well--shall I
go up and see him now? I--I suppose you will come with me?" If
restrained, there was no less an appeal in his hushed voice.

"I'll just go up with you, and then I'm afraid I shall have to leave you
with him. Perhaps I ought to tell you that Mr. Maule took the news very
quietly, General Lingard. He's in a sad state--a sad state. A man in
that condition does not take things to heart in the same way that we
who are hale and strong do."

As they passed along the corridor, a housemaid was engaged in drawing
down the blinds, and it was into a darkened room that Lingard was
introduced by the doctor.

Richard Maule did not rise to receive the condolences of his guest. He
was up and in his dressing-gown, and he sat huddled in a deep invalid
chair. To Lingard's eyes he looked pitifully broken.

Various feelings--anger, contemptuous pity, and an unwilling respect for
the man who had, only the day before, made up his mind to face the
greatest humiliation open to manhood--all these jostled one another in
the soldier's mind as he stood staring down at his host.

Their hands just touched--Lingard's icy cold, Richard Maule's burning

"Thank you, thank you, General Lingard. I felt sure that I should have
your sympathy."

There was an odd gleam in the stricken man's eyes, but the other, intent
on preserving his own self-command, saw nothing of it.

"Do sit down. Yes, it's a strange, a most strange thing. She was always
so strong, so well. Poor Athena! Thanks to you in a great measure, her
last weeks of life were very bright and happy."

He looked furtively at Lingard. The man was taking his punishment like a
Stoic. But bah! what were his sufferings to those which Maule himself
had endured eight years before?

"I've troubled you to come to me," he continued, "not so much to receive
your kind sympathy, as to speak to you of Jane--of Jane Oglander. She
was, as you know, my poor wife's best friend--and in a very real sense.
This will be a most terrible shock to her. She would naturally receive
the news better from you than from anyone else, and I really asked to
see you that I might beg you to go at once, as soon as possible, over to
the Small Farm. Thanks to my good friend Dr. Mallet, we have managed to
establish a cordon round the house. But of course the truth will be
known very shortly in the village--if, indeed, it is not known there

Lingard rose from the chair on which he had reluctantly sat down in
obedience to his host's wish.

"Yes," he said in a low, firm voice. "I will certainly do as you wish. I
know how truly, how devotedly, Jane and Mrs. Maule loved one another."

"It would be idle for me to pretend to you, General Lingard, now that
you have formed part of our household for nearly a month, that my poor
wife and I were on close or sympathetic terms--" The other made a sudden
restless movement. "It is, however, a comfort to me to feel that last
night, for the first time for many years--" he was looking narrowly at
his victim, and Lingard fell into the trap.

"I know--I know," he exclaimed hastily. "It must be a comfort to you
now, Mr. Maule, to feel that you--that you--" he stopped awkwardly.

Richard Maule smiled a curious smile, and Lingard felt inexpressibly
shamed, humiliated. But what was this Richard Maule was saying?

"Ah, so she told you! Strange--strange are the ways of the modern woman,
General Lingard. But I suppose that to Athena you and Jane Oglander were
as good as husband and wife. She thought that what she could say without
impropriety to the one she could say to the other. Well, I won't keep
you now. I should be sorry indeed if Jane heard what has happened from
anyone but yourself."


    "It is my life; I bring it torn and stained
    Out of the battles I have lost and gained;
    Once captured, won back from the enemy
    At a great loss; yet here I hold it still,
    My own to render up as now I do;
    I render it up joyfully to you,
    Choosing defeat: do with it as you will."

To be out of doors, away from that strange, unreal house of mourning,
brought with it a sensation of almost physical relief.

Lingard walked rapidly along, on his way to the Small Farm. He was
pursued, obsessed, by the horror of the fact. He felt as if he had never
before realised the awful obliteration of death.

Many a mother, wife, sister, kept among the most precious of her
treasures letters signed "Hew Lingard"--letters speaking in high terms
of a dead son, of a dead husband, of a dead brother. But those men and
lads on whose dead faces he had gazed had died the death which to
Lingard and his like puts the crown on a soldier's life. He had lost
comrades who had been dear to him and whose loss he had lamented sorely.
But never, never had the sudden cancelling, so to speak, of a human
being brought with it this sense of chilling horror, of nothingness
where so much had been.

And then there was something else--something which at once revolted and
distressed him inexpressibly. The immediate past, the events of the last
four weeks, became, in so far as they concerned the woman who was now
lying dead, both fantastic and shameful.

Last night, for the first time, something of Athena's ruthless egotism
had forced itself upon Lingard's perception. Hitherto he had been too
deeply concerned with his own egotism, his own cruelty, his own remorse,
to give thought to hers.

That she should have used Jane Oglander as her ambassador to Richard
Maule had shocked, nay more, had disgusted him, as soon as he had found
himself away from the magic of her presence.

Wholly absorbed in the future, Athena, after her first words of eager
gratitude for Jane's intervention, had dismissed Jane from her mind,
expelled her from her mental vision. Nay, she had gone further, for in
answer to a muttered word from Lingard, she had at last said something
which had jarred his taste, as well as roused that instinctive
dog-in-the-manger attitude which slumbers in all men with regard to any
woman who has been beloved.

"Jane," Athena had said impatiently, "will end by marrying Dick Wantele.
But for me she would have done it long ago!" And angrily the listener's
heart, his memory, had given Athena the lie.

After Mrs. Maule had left him the night before, Lingard had gone out of
doors, and now chance brought him to the spot where he had stood for a
long time staring at the long low house which now sheltered Jane
Oglander, driven there, as he knew well, by his base, it now seemed his
inconceivable, cruelty. How clearly he had visualised her last night!
Imagining her as widely awake as he was himself, but denied by a
thousand scruples from the relief of being able to go out, alone, into
the darkness and solitude. If they had met there last night, he might at
least have told Jane of his fight--of his losing fight for his lost
honour. Now she would always believe that he had surrendered without a

He walked on and into the curious, formal little garden of the Small
Farm, even now gay with late autumn blossoms. The beams of a wintry sun
lay athwart the picturesque old house.

From the first,--nay, not quite at first, but very soon,--Lingard had
disliked Mabel Digby. He had thought of her as an ally of Dick Wantele,
and at a time when he was still trying to lie to himself as to the
nature of his attraction to Athena, he had often seen her clear brown
eyes fixed on him with a puzzled, troubled expression. Even now he could
not be sorry she was ill. He felt that to-day he could not have faced
those honest, questioning eyes.

Lingard walked up to the porch, and rang the bell. By an odd twist, he
began to think, as he stood there, how it would have been with him had
it been Jane who was lying dead. Clearly he realised that Jane, dead,
would still in a sense have been to him alive. But Athena? Athena was
gone--gone into nothingness. He felt a tremor run through him, a touch
of the old fever....

"Miss Oglander? I think she's upstairs with Miss Digby, sir. But I'll
fetch her down. Will you come into the drawing-room?"

Lingard went through the hall into the long sitting-room which he
remembered, as men remember a place to which they have been in dreams.
Jane had brought him there on the first morning after her arrival at
Rede Place. They had not had a very pleasant walk, for each seemed to
have so curiously little to say to the other, and Lingard, at least, had
hailed with pleasure the moment when they had gone into the house.

He remembered that he had been amused and touched by the many mementoes
of the Indian Mutiny the room contained--quaint coloured prints and
amateurish drawings of Delhi, before and during the great epic struggle,
curious engraved portraits of the various Mutiny veterans under whom
Mabel Digby's father had fought,--signs of a hero-worship the old
soldier had transmitted to his daughter.

He also recalled the feeling of acute irritation with which he had
noticed Mabel Digby's look of shy congratulation at Jane and at himself.
She had been at once too shy and too well-bred to make any allusion to
an engagement which was not yet announced, but there had been no
mistaking her glance, her smile.

How long ago all that seemed! It might have been years--instead of only

He went and stood by the fireplace, and then stared up at Outram's
portrait. Was that man, and were that man's comrades and contemporaries,
whose virtues as well as whose courage have become famous as the virtues
and the courage of ancient legendary heroes--were they untouched by the
failings and weaknesses of our poor common humanity? It was certainly
not true of their own immediate predecessors, or--or of their

       *       *       *       *       *

A click of the latch--and Jane came into the room. She was pale, but her
manner had regained its old quietude and gentleness.

As she came towards him and saw his ravaged face, a feeling of great
concern, of pity so maternal in texture that it swept away every other
feeling from her heart, almost broke down her new, unnatural composure.

She wished ardently--and Jane was full of hidden fire--to make
everything easy for him. But oh! she could not bear him to look as he
now looked.

It was not in order that Hew Lingard should look, should feel, as he was
now looking and feeling that she had made the great renouncement--the
renouncement which Wantele had implored her with such fierce,
passionate energy to refrain from making. Was it possible that Wantele
had been right, and that she was doing an evil thing by the man she
loved?--such was the agonised question which went through Jane
Oglander's mind as she advanced quietly towards him.

Only a few moments ago she had destroyed Athena's note of wild joy, of
gratitude to herself. As she had watched the paper burn, as she had seen
Athena's delicate, graceful monogram vanish in the flame, Jane had felt
as if her heart was shrivelling up with it.

She had been in the room but a very few moments, and already her
presence was bringing peace to Lingard's seared unhappy soul.

There was nothing on her face to show the conflicting emotions with
which she was being shaken, and to him she breathed renunciation,
serenity. How amazing to remember that only yesterday her nearness had
brought him intolerable unease, as well as keen shame. Now he felt as if
a touch from her hand would cure him of all his shameful ills.

Jane Oglander's pity, and he knew that she was very pitiful, had the
divine quality of raising, instead of debasing, as does so much of the
pity lavished on others in this sad, strange world.

She held out her hand; he felt it fluttering for a moment in his strong
grasp, but alas! it was her unease, her miserable misgiving that she now
bestowed on him. There came over her eyes and brow a look of suffering,
and Lingard dropped her hand quickly. No--he could not tell now, at
once, what he had come to tell her.

"Will you come out with me, Jane?" he asked abruptly.

"Yes. Of course I will." It seemed a long, long time since he had asked
her to do anything--with him.

They went out into the little hall. As he helped her on with her coat,
she made a slight shrinking movement which cut him shrewdly; he reminded
himself that she had the right to hate, as well as to despise, him.

With common consent they turned into the lonely country road, instead of
under the beeches of Rede Place, and as they walked, each kept rather
further from the other than do most people walking side by side. Jane
respected his moody silence, and her memory went back to the first walk
he and she had taken together on the day of his triumphant return home.

It had been a clear starry London night in autumn, and they had crossed
from the shabby, quiet little street where she lived to that portion of
the Embankment which lies between the river and St. Thomas's
Hospital,--a stone-flagged pavement open only to walkers.

There Lingard had linked his arm through hers, and the movement had
given her a delicious thrill of joy, deepening in her that protective
instinct which makes every woman long for the man she loves to cling to

As they had paced up and down, so happily alone in the peopled solitude
London offers to her lovers, Jane's tender heart could not forget what
lay so near, and she had compared her blest lot with that meted out to
the suffering and the forlorn, who lie in their serried ranks in the
wards she so often visited.

How gladly now she would have changed places with the one among them who
was nearest to death.

They were close to the Rectory gate, and Jane suddenly remembered that
Lingard had promised to go in and see Mrs. Kaye this morning. She had
forced herself to ask him to do so, and she remembered now that he had
assented to her wish with almost painful eagerness. Perhaps he thought
she meant him to go there with her. That would explain his coming to the
Farm so early.

"Mr. Maule asked me to come to you," he said at last, breaking the long
oppressive silence. "He thought--God knows why he thought it!--that a
certain terrible thing which has happened--which happened last
night--would reach you best from me."

"Something which happened last night?" Jane repeated in a low voice. "I
know it already. Athena wrote to me."

She turned and faced him steadily.

"Don't look like that, Hew. I--I can't bear it. I know you couldn't
help what's happened. I know you never loved me in the way a man ought
to love a woman whom he is going to marry."

"I did," he said hoarsely. "I swear to God I did!"

She shook her head.

"We both made a mistake," she answered steadily--"and it is fortunate
that we discovered it in time. After all, engagements are often broken
off, and we were engaged such a little--little while. I am glad Mr.
Maule has made up his mind to do what is right."

She flushed for the first time a deep red. The discussion was hateful to

"You are going to the Rectory to see Mrs. Kaye? I won't go in with you,
but I will wait here till you come out; and then we will walk together
to Rede Place. I am going away to-day, back to London, and I can't go
away without saying good-bye to them. I promised Athena I would come for
a few moments----"

The emotion she was restraining, the tears she kept from falling,
stained her face with faint patches of red, and thickened her eyelids.
The measure of beauty which was hers, that beauty which owed so much to
her ever-varying expression, was wholly obscured to-day.

Lingard felt intolerably moved. It was horrible to him to feel that he
had bartered the right, the right he had owned for so short a time and
had yielded so lightly, of taking Jane into his arms, and yet he felt
he had never loved her as he loved her now, defenceless, before him. He
could not wound and shock her by telling her of the terrible thing which
had happened. Mr. Maule had asked too much of him.

His mind turned with relief to the task Jane had set him to do. In this
matter of comforting the mother of a dead soldier son he would be able
surely to bear himself in the old way.

He opened the Rectory gate and walked up, alone, the winding path which
led to the front door.

Yes--Kaye was the name of the poor young fellow who had died at Aden.
What were his disagreeable associations with the name of Bayworth Kaye?

He remembered.

For the first time since the doctor had told Lingard of what had
happened the night before, it seemed as if Athena, her actual physical
presence, was close to him again. He could almost hear the sound of her
melodious voice as it had sounded when, thrilling with anger and scorn,
she had told him of the gossip there had been about herself and this
very man, this young Kaye, whose subsequent death seemed to arouse so
much pity and concern in the neighbourhood.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Kaye had been watching and waiting for General Lingard since ten
o'clock. She had spent the hour in her shabby drawing-room going and
coming from one window to the other, a tall, gaunt figure, clad in the
deepest black.

When she saw him walking through the garden she retreated far back into
the room, and there came into her face a look of fierce relief. She had
so greatly feared that Mrs. Maule would prevent the fulfilment of his

She was, as we know, a woman who made plans, and who carried out her
plans to a successful issue. The rector, in his own way as bereaved, as
heartbroken as was his wife, was in his study. She had told him curtly
that he must stay there until she came and fetched him.

The cook had been sent into the market town four miles away, and the
village girl, who was being trained with a kind of hard efficient care
into a parlourmaid, had received her instructions.

General Lingard was to be shown straight into the drawing-room on his
arrival; and then the girl was to start immediately on an errand to the

There was to be no eavesdropper at the interview Mrs. Kaye intended to
have with the great soldier who was coming to offer his condolences on
the death of her only son.

Strange rumours had reached the rectory, or rather Mrs. Kaye, for the
rector had known nothing of them--rumours which she had drunk in with
cruel avidity, rumours of General Lingard's extraordinary absorption in
his beautiful hostess, of the long walks and drives they took together,
of the many hours they spent alone in her sitting-room.

As yet, however, not even village gossip had linked together the names
of Lingard and Jane Oglander. That secret had been well kept, as are
most innocent secrets.

At last the young servant announced, in a nervous, fluttered voice,
"General Lingard, please, ma'am."

As Lingard walked in, as he saw the figure in deep mourning, his face
relaxed and softened.

He himself came of clerical stock. His grandfather had been one of the
Golden Canons of Durham, and as a child, as a youth, he had lived much
in the more prosperous section of the Church of England. Often in the
holidays he had accompanied relations on calls to rectories and
vicarages which were as poverty-stricken, as full of self-respecting
economy, as was this house. In those days all Lingard's instinct had
stood up in rebellion against the clerical atmosphere in which he was
being bred. But with years there came across him a queer feeling of
loyalty to the cloth, to what had been his father's cloth.

Poor young Kaye! And yet most fortunate young Kaye. Such was Lingard's
involuntary thought as he glanced round the homely room--for the lad
whose mother stood there mourning him had known that a devoted father
and mother watched with solicitude, with pride, with anxiety, every step
of his career.

How different from Lingard's own case!--deprived of his parents in
babyhood, and with none to care whether he did well in his profession or
whether he went to the devil--as he had so very nearly gone to the devil
some twenty years ago.

As he shook hands with the grey-haired woman who stood there with so
tragic, so oppressed, a look on her face, there came across him the
thought of his own long dead mother, and for a moment he was freed of
the terrible happenings of the last few hours.

With an effort he set himself to remember all that he had heard to
Bayworth Kaye's credit. Those who had mentioned him had nearly all of
them alluded to his reckless bravery, to his indifference to physical
danger, to his Victoria Cross....

Ah! it was easy to utter a eulogy of such a son when speaking to the
bereaved mother. It was so strange, so tragic, too, that he should have
died in the way he had died, of fever. Lingard remembered hearing of the
alternate hours of anxiety, of hope, and lastly of despair, through
which the unfortunate parents had passed between the time they had first
heard of their son's illness and of his lonely death.

Mrs. Kaye listened to the kind, heartfelt words of condolence, of
respectful pity for herself and for her husband, in silence; and the
eyes which she kept fixed on Lingard's face were tearless and very
bright. Lingard, moving a little uneasily under their fixed scrutiny,
asked himself whether she really heard and understood what he was
saying? So far, she had not asked him to sit down.

He remembered a long interview of this kind he had had with another
mother. That poor lady had received him surrounded by mementoes of a son
who had been a trusty and sure comrade to himself. He recalled the
photographs which had been brought out for his inspection, the floods of
tears which had punctuated each of his words. But Mrs. Kaye was far more
truly stricken than that other mother had been--Mrs. Kaye required no
photograph of her son to remind her of his face. She had not yet been
granted the relief of tears. Hers was evidently grief of a terrible, a
passionate intensity.

"It is good of you to say these things to me, General Lingard--and to
spare the time to come and see me," she said at last. "But I should not
have troubled you--I should not have presumed to trouble you, were it
not that I wish to consult you about what is to me a very important

He bowed his head gravely, and sat down in the shabby armchair to which
she rather imperiously motioned him.

"I am entirely at your service," he said quietly. No doubt she wanted
some message transmitted to the War Office.

"I have no one else to ask or to consult," she said in low, rapid tones.
"It is not a matter about which I desire to trouble my husband, and I am
glad to think that he knows, as yet, nothing of what I am going to say
to you. Whether he has to learn it or not will depend, General Lingard,
on your advice."

Lingard looked at her attentively. He was puzzled and rather disturbed
by her words.

"When they told my son he was not likely to live," she said, "he
persuaded the doctor to allow him to write a letter to me, his mother."

She stopped a moment, then went on steadily: "In it he made a certain
request. It is about that request I wish to consult you, General
Lingard. I wish to know whether you consider that I ought to be bound by
his wishes. My son desired that his Victoria Cross and one or two other
things which he greatly valued, and which we, his parents, naturally
value even more than he valued them, should be handed over, given by us
to--to a lady."

Lingard felt a sudden feeling of recoil from the woman who sat opposite
to him, watching for his answer. Then it was jealousy, pathetic but
rather ignoble jealousy, that was making poor Mrs. Kaye look as she
looked now--jealousy rather than grief....

There came the sound of a motor-car in the road which was above the
level of the rectory garden.

It stopped, and Lingard saw through the window Wantele jump out and
cross over to where Jane Oglander was walking up and down.

They spoke together for some moments, and Lingard felt a great
lightening of his heart. Wantele must be telling Jane the awful thing
which had happened, and he, Lingard, would be spared the dreadful task.

Jane came up close to the car. Lingard could not see the expression on
her face. At last, or so it seemed to him, they both got in under the

So Jane, breaking her promise to wait for him, had gone on to the house?

Making a determined effort over himself, Lingard forced himself to
return to the matter--the painful, the rather absurd matter--in hand.

"I suppose you know all the circumstances," he began awkwardly.

"The circumstances, General Lingard, are perfectly simple." The fingers
of Mrs. Kaye's thin right hand plucked nervously at the buttons which
fastened her black woollen bodice. "The lady in question is a married
woman. She got hold of my boy, and she bewitched him into forgetting the
meaning of what I thought he valued more than life itself--his honour."

She rose up and stared down at Lingard, and there was a terrible look on
her face.

"Having amused herself for the best part of a year--having got from him
all she wanted--she threw my son aside like a squeezed orange. His heart
was broken, General Lingard. I cannot doubt he allowed himself to die.
And it is to this woman that he desires I should give all that he has
left me to remember him by----"

Lingard had also risen to his feet.

"You are bringing a very serious accusation," he said coldly, "against a
lady for whom, as you yourself admit, Mrs. Kaye, your son entertained a
great regard. Young men--forgive me for reminding you of what you must
know as well as I--sometimes form strange, secret attachments which are,
believe me, often as entirely unprovoked as--as--they are unrequited. I
have known more than one such instance."

She drew from her breast a piece of paper.

"I ask you, nay, after what you have just said I implore you, to read
what is written here----"

She almost thrust it into his reluctant hand.

"I don't wish to trouble you with my private concerns, but read
this--read these lines," her shaking finger drew his troubled eyes to
the words: "Do not be hurt, mother. You've never understood. In the
sight of God Athena is my wife. She was nothing--she was never anything,
to that wretched, cruel old man whose name she bears--and to whom she is
so good when he allows her to be."

Lingard read the words over twice very deliberately. Then he folded the
letter, and handed it back to its owner.

"This letter," he said firmly, "should be destroyed. I am sorry you
showed it me, Mrs. Kaye. It was meant for no eyes but yours."

"Ah!" she cried, and tears at last welled up into her eyes. "You blame
my poor boy! But he told me nothing I did not already know----"

She went to the fire and, stooping down, held the piece of paper over
the tongues of shooting flame till he thought her hand must surely be

She turned on him. "There! It's gone!" she exclaimed. "No one but you,
General Lingard, and I, his mother, will ever know that my son wrote
that letter. Perhaps I was wrong to have shown it to you. But what you
said--but what you said"--she gave a hard, short sob--"hurt me, made me
angry. I did not know how else to make you understand. And now, if you
say I ought to do what my son asks, I will abide by your decision."

"In your place," he said quietly, "I should certainly carry out your
son's wishes."

But as the mother looked into Lingard's fiercely set face, she told
herself, with sombre triumph, that her boy was avenged.

At the door he turned and faced her.

"I cannot help wondering," he said in measured tones, "whether you have
heard what has happened at Rede Place? Mrs. Maule took an overdose of
chloral last night. She was found dead this morning."

Mrs. Kaye was for a moment utterly astounded by the news. Then, quickly
gathering herself together, she said in a low dry tone, "I will ask you
to believe, General Lingard, that I was ignorant of this--this judgment
when I spoke to you just now."

Lingard made no answer; he looked all round him like a man who seeks
some way of escape.

Suddenly there came into his view the figure of Jane Oglander, moving
patiently up and down on the road beyond the gate.

So she had waited for him....

       *       *       *       *       *

As Mrs. Kaye went down the passage leading to her husband's study, she
murmured once or twice, "Vengeance is mine!" It was a comfortable
thought that she was alone in the house. She did not consider her
husband anyone. "Vengeance is mine!" she repeated the words in a louder
tone. And then she went into the rector's study and very quietly told
him what she had just heard.

Mr. Kaye was truly shocked and grieved. He had always liked Athena. She
had always been quite civil to him, and so kind, so remarkably kind, to
his dear dead son.

He got up and began looking for his hat. He hoped his wife would not
interfere, and prevent his doing what he thought right. It was surely
his place, as the clergyman of the parish, to go up to Rede Place and
offer his sincere condolences to the bereaved husband.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jane Oglander" ***

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