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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

´╗┐Title: Pink Gods and Blue Demons
Author: Stockley, Cynthia, 1883-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pink Gods and Blue Demons" ***

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



Pink Gods and Blue Demons
By Cynthia Stockley
Published by George H. Doran Company, New York.
This edition dated 1920.

Pink Gods and Blue Demons, by Cynthia Stockley.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
PINK GODS AND BLUE DEMONS, BY CYNTHIA STOCKLEY.

CHAPTER ONE.

Kimberley was once the most famous diamond diggings in the world.
Rhodes founded his fortunes there, and the friendships that backed him
throughout his career.  In the tented camps, hundreds of men became
millionaires, and hundreds of others went to jail for the crime of
I.D.B. (illicit diamond buying).  Later, stately buildings and
comfortable homes took the place of tent and tin hut, and later still,
the town, like a good many other mining towns in South Africa, became
G.I.  A mine is G.I. (meaning "gone in") when there is no longer any
output.  This was hardly true of Kimberley.  It continues until this day
to put out diamonds, and still may be found there "the largest hole in
the world."  But Kimberley's day was over when gold was found in the
Transvaal, and the adventuring crowd left it, never to return.

At the present time, it is chiefly remarkable for its scandals, dust,
heat, and the best hotel in South Africa, which is not so much a hotel
as a palatial country house started by the De Beers magnates for the
entertainment of their friends or for their own use when they are bored
with home life.  Notabilities are often entertained there as guests of
the famous company, but, even if not a guest of De Beers', a traveller
may stay at the Belgrove for about a pound a day and be silent and cool
as in an ice-house while all the rest of Kimberley is a raging furnace.
Mr Rhodes entertained General French at dinner here after the relief of
Kimberley.  There is a picture over the dining-room mantelpiece of the
two men meeting on the famous occasion of the relief of Kimberley.

Loree Temple, seated at a table just below it, looked often at this
picture and then contemplatively at her own image in a mirror on the
wall.  It seemed a pity that Rhodes was dead, the Boer War over and all
the mining adventurers gone away.  She would have liked to live and love
among such men instead of being married to Pat Temple.  None but the
brave deserve the fair, and she imagined her beauty adorning a scene of
"triumph and roses and wine" when gallantry returned to white arms and
the soft rewards of victory.  She had often dreamed herself back in
ancient Rome, seated in a chariot beside some blood-stained general,
with pearls strung in her hair and immense uncut rubies and emeralds
against her dazzling whiteness.  Or perhaps led into the banquet as a
slave, with chains upon her wrists, part of the spoils of war, proud and
sad and exquisite in her doom.  At other hours, she remembered the words
of Arthur, bitter and tender, to his queen:

  --With beauty such as never woman wore
  Until it came a kingdom's curse with thee.

No doubt she took an exaggerated view of her own case.  At any rate, her
women friends would have found much pleasure in telling her so.  It was
only natural she should think herself a great deal more beautiful than
she was.  All pretty women do.  But there is no denying that the sight
of her, as she sat there, would have spoiled many a woman's sleep and
gladdened the heart of any man--a girl with red hair and a redder rose
in it, the milky skin such hair ensures, a sweet ensnaring mouth, eyes
with a plaintive expression in them, a string of small but perfect
pearls round her young throat, and a black georgette gown by Viola.  Pat
always liked her to wear black while he was away.  The simple soul had
an idea that in black she would not be looked at so much.

Needless to say, Pat Temple was neither a blood-stained general nor a
mining adventurer.  He made his income honestly enough out of a
cold-storage plant, and though indirectly he dealt with corpses, they
were legitimate corpses of beef and mutton.  This was hard on Loraine
Loree (as her mother had romantically named her after Kingsley's poem),
with her secret thirst for glamour and glory and strange jewels.  But
husbands often know nothing of their wives' secret thirsts.  Pat Temple
knew that he had found the girl he wanted growing like a flower in a
Channel Island garden--a "Jersey lily," with French blood in her veins--
and that was enough for him.  He meant to get her the best the world can
give before he had finished, but he never mentioned his intentions.  At
the moment, he was up North trying to persuade Rhodesians to install
cold-storage plants in all their big towns.  That was why Loree was
alone in the luxurious Kimberley hotel.  He had told her it was better
for her to keep cool and comfortable there than be bucketing about all
over Rhodesia.

So there she sat in her black gown, reflecting and drawing the string of
little pearls softly back and forth across her fresh lips.  The
difference between real pearls and false is that you can play with the
real ones in this manner or twist them perpetually between your fingers;
artificial ones should be more discreetly used and are best worn
unassumingly under chiffon or only allowed to peep with modesty from the
V of your gown.

Loree had always adored jewels, but never owned any until she married.
This string of three hundred and sixty-five little pearls, one for each
day in the year, was more precious to her than bread.  Which was only
right, for its purchase had made a considerable dent in Pat's capital
(though he had never mentioned that, either).  She also had two rather
fine single pearls in her ears, and some pearl rings.  For a dealer in
carcasses, Pat Temple's taste in jewellery was curiously eclectic.  She
had never possessed a diamond.  Nor had she particularly wished to do
so, though, like most women, she sometimes lingered to gaze at a display
of them in a shop window, wondering if they would become her.  But it
was only since she came to Kimberley that the romance of them had taken
hold of her imagination.  It was seeing "the biggest hole in the world"
that started it.  She had gone by herself, and gazed, long into the vast
excavation delved by the hands of men in the search for those strange
little _cadres_ of imprisoned light, each with a mysterious past behind
it and an almost eternal future before it.  She wondered what became of
diamonds.  They seem indestructible, yet where were all the millions of
them that had been taken from this one great hole alone--that, down
_there_, out of the light, were still being dug and groped and sweated
for?

And it was all for women!  That gave her a thrill she had never felt
before.  Men slaved and wore out their lives and were killed down there,
so that women might wear diamonds.  Those little sparkling stones were
tokens of love between men and women--imperishable counters of passion!

It began to stir her uneasily from that moment to think she had never
possessed a diamond.  Why had Pat only given her tristful white pearls?
Perhaps she was missing something.  Perhaps the great things of life
were passing her by.

Her eyes wandered round the dining-room.  There were not many women, but
every one of them had a glimmer of light somewhere--in her ears, at the
bosom, or on her fingers.  One woman, who, like Loree, was dining alone,
wore a single stone slung round her neck on an almost invisible chain,
and at every movement it sent long pin-rays of light darting across the
room to where Loree sat.  Every time a ray reached her, it seemed to
give her a prick, increasing her uneasy sense that she was missing
something in life.  There seemed a magical power in the thing.  She
determined that after dinner she would, speak to the wearer and examine
the jewel more closely.

The lady was a Mrs Cork, a dark woman who did her hair in a classical
knot at the back of her head and looked as if she had a past.  She was a
widow from Johannesburg, not beautiful, but the kind of woman who would
be looked at in a room before all the pretty women.  Her brilliant,
weary eyes wore an expression of having seen everything in the world
worth seeing, and finding that nothing was worth having.  Loree admired
and intensely envied her air of "having lived," and the cynical flavour
of her speech.  They had already exchanged smiles and fragments of
conversation when meeting in the lounge and drawing-room, and Mrs Cork
had told her that she was in Kimberley to consult a noted pedicurist
about some trouble with her left foot.

Another person who interested Mrs Temple now entered the dining-room
and sat down at a table a few yards away, with his chair so placed that
there was nothing between him and an uninterrupted view of Loree except
the little delicately shaded electric lamp.  Very unobtrusively, he
moved the light slightly aside.  Immediately Loree experienced the same
odd pricking in her blood as the rays of the diamond seemed to cause
her.  Only, she no longer felt that she was missing something, or that
life was passing her by on the other side.

For three days he had deliberately courted her with a pair of fine,
golden-brown eyes that contained melancholy, power, a whimsical
reflective expression, and a whole world of admiration for Loree Temple.
He was a dark, gracefully-built man with thick dark hair brushed back
smoothly on his well-shaped head.  Everything about him was right, from
his hair to his shoes.  He was the kind of man who could not make any
mistake about dress, and gave distinction to anything he wore.  His name
was Quelch, and Loree was aware that he was a power in the hotel and in
Kimberley.

The first day at lunch, when the heat was sizzling outside among the
fernlike leaves of the pepper-trees and coming through the windows in
almost visible waves--Mrs Temple's red head had drooped rather like a
poppy overtired by the sun, and she had fanned herself a little wearily
with the menu-card.  A low-spoken word at Quelch's table and a shade of
the outside verandah was moved by swift hands so that it darkened the
window behind her without shutting off the air.  A moment later, a huge
block of ice standing in a deep tray of greenery miraculously appeared
on the window-sill, and a fan daintily composed of lace and ivory lay at
her elbow.  In the evening, she found that beside her table a wooden
tree had sprung up through the floor and blossomed into an electric fan
whose zephyrs were for her exclusive refreshment.  There were lovely
flowers everywhere, but a silver bowl of deep-red roses distinguished
her table from the others.  There are some things you know for certain
without knowing them for sure, as the saying is.  Without any evidence,
Loree was aware of Quelch's responsibility for these delicate miracles.
He was a power.  He spoke, and things happened.

The roses were there again to-night, deep and red and dewy, as if they
had been plucked in a misty valley and were still wet with the dawn.

As she left the table, she took one from the bowl and stuck it into the
V of her gown.  It was carelessly done, but her hands trembled a little
and her veins thrilled again as if in answer to some magnetic current
which, whether it came from a magic stone or from a man's eyes, made her
feel curiously alive and daring.  There is no thrill like the thrill of
playing with fire that _may_ blaze out and consume you (but you won't
let it), or standing on the edge of a precipice where you _might_ fall
over (but you are not going to).

Betaking herself to the cool gloom of the verandah, where coffee was
served, she sat down by Mrs Cork.  Out in the garden spectral figures
were drenching the trees and flowers with water after the cruel heat of
the day, and the place was full of the scent of wet earth.  Said Mrs
Cork:

"I have been so dull all day.  Not a thought but to lie _perdue_ under
my mosquito-curtains until the sun went down."

"Do you dislike the heat?" said Loree.  "I find it stimulating."

The other woman considered her with heavily shadowed eyes.

"It flattens me out like a glass of spilled milk.  You haven't been here
long enough for it to take toll of you, but it will--body, soul, and
spirit."

Loree laughed, secure in her fresh beauty.  Besides, it felt very safe
to be Pat Temple's wife.

"I should be inclined to challenge that if I had come to stay.  We are
only out here on a trip."

"You're lucky.  Africa is all right as long as you can get away from
her.  But you should not challenge her.  Like Fate, you never know what
she has up her sleeve."

She sipped her coffee, looking moodily into the dark garden.  Loree
snatched this opportunity to scrutinise the diamond.  It winked at her
like a little demon with bluish-green eyes.

"Will you think me very inquisitive if I ask whether your diamond came
out of the Kimberley mine?" she said.

Mrs Cork smiled indifferently.

"No: it is a Brazilian.  Are you interested in diamonds?"

"They exercise a sort of fascination over me," said Loree slowly.
"Though I never thought about them much before."

The other woman examined her thoughtfully.

"Yes: one does begin to think about them here.  Kimberley is a wicked
place."

The statement gave Loree a sensation--not altogether disagreeable.

"It seems so quiet and peaceful."

The other smiled cryptically.

"There is a _mot_ current in South Africa with regard to the degree of
wickedness to be found in different towns.  It runs: `Kimberley, first
prize; Cradock, second; Hell, highly recommended.'"

Loree could not help laughing, and at that moment Quelch sauntered out
from the hall and stood in the light close beside them.  Mrs Cork,
lifting her voice slightly, addressed him.

"Mr Quelch, come here and help me convince Mrs Temple that the
wickedness of Babylon was as nothing compared to the wickedness of this
sweet and tranquil town."

He laughed: they all laughed, and a moment or two later they were
sitting together, discussing the matter.  Quelch repudiated the libel on
Kimberley.  If "wickedness" was in question, he thought that
Johannesburg ought, at any rate, to receive an honourable mention.

"There are no diamonds in Johannesburg," said Mrs Cork.

"Diamonds!"  Quelch looked musingly at Loree.  "`The most exquisite of
gems, known only to kings.'  Pliny wrote that of them in the year 100
_Anno Domini_!"

His voice held a melancholy cadence; the dark beauty of his face
suggested the East where women are addressed with a musical, caressing
softness.  Loree was susceptible to voices and she listened fascinated.
It appeared that the Tintara, a mine outside Kimberley which had
produced some remarkable diamonds, belonged to him, but he spoke of it
carelessly, as if it were a broken-kneed horse he owned.  He showed them
a stone that had been discovered that day.  It was rather like a piece
of washing soda, with no glitter or spangle at all.  Difficult to
believe that it could be cut and polished into dazzling beauty.  It must
go to Europe for that though.  There are no lapidaries in Africa.

Loree heard for the first time of the theory that diamonds come from the
skies, and of the possibility that the mines in various parts of the
world are meteorites so immense that in falling they penetrated the
earth's crust and became part of it.  This theory is backed by the
curious fact that meteorites which fell in Arizona, Russia and Chile all
contained small diamonds.  As to the destructibility of diamonds she
learned that they can be converted by the action of heat or electricity
into that most banal substance--black lead!  Entranced by these strange
tales by Quelch's wonderful voice, she sat spellbound while he told of
the famous diamonds of the world.  The _Star of South Africa_ bought by
Lord Dudley for 25,000 pounds; the _Great Mogul_, "a rose-cut stone tall
on one side"; the _Orloff_ stolen by a French soldier from the eye of a
Brahmin idol, and stolen again and again until it was bought for 90,000
pounds for Catherine the Second and kept among the Russian crown jewels
ever after; the blue-white _Koh-i-noor_ shaped like an egg; the lovely
pale rose pear-shaped _Taj-e-mah_ belonging to the Shah of Persia; the
_Nassak_, a beautiful stone in the possession of the Duke of
Westminster; the brilliant blue Hope diamond lost and found so often,
and reputed to bring bad luck; the _Tiffany_, a magnificent
orange-yellow stone of 125.5 carats; the _Dresden_, part of the Saxon
crown jewels, only 40 carats in weight but of a unique apple-green
colour.  Then there were the lovely little stones to be gathered like
dewdrops in a forest in Rhodesia--the Somabula.  Most of the best South
African diamonds it seemed were of a flawless clearness and water-white.
It was wonderful to head Quelch speak of them.  It seemed to Loraine
that his words were like the gems themselves sparkling and rippling and
tumbling in cascades.

Before they parted that night, he invited them to go next day and see
the diamonds at the De Beers offices.  They accepted with fervour, and
he said he would have a car waiting for them.

"He is not a De Beers man himself," Mrs Cork told Loree as they went
upstairs, "but immensely rich and hand in glove with the diamond crowd
here.  He can do anything he likes in Kimberley.  Fascinating brute,
isn't he?"

"Why brute?" asked Loree, surprised.  It was not a word she would have
thought of applying to him.

"He has such a gentle voice," Mrs Cork said, and seemed to think that
answer enough.  "He had a wife once--a lovely woman, they say.  He is
mad about beauty.  She died in childbirth about fifteen years ago,
leaving him a son whom he adores.  He has the reputation of being
extreme in his loves and hates.  Extreme people are always dangerous."

Smiling her weary enigmatic smile, Mrs Cork bade her good night.

A beautifully appointed car fetched them the next day in the cool of the
afternoon, and Quelch met them at the door of the famous Diamond Office,
a substantial stone building with no hint in its squat face of the
romance it housed.  Quelch trod its corridors as if he owned them.
Because of being his guests, they were not constrained, like other
visitors, to stand behind a rail, but invited to approach the counter
where men and women sat pushing innumerable little objects that looked
like dull bits of broken glass into cone-shaped heaps.  It was difficult
to believe in the concealed splendour of those dingy heaps.  The two
women lingered, plunging their fingers into hidden glory and speculating
on the possible future of each stone.  Some were for the engagement
rings of little shop-girls, some might gleam in a crown, and be dyed
with a queen's blood, as were the diamonds of poor Draga of Serbia.  The
past of each was silence, a secret buried in the earth's bowels; its
future endless, almost eternal, like the hills.  _Tout passe, tout
lasse, tout casse_--only the hills remain--and diamonds!

Among the exhibits specially shown to the guests of Heseltine Quelch was
a macabresque souvenir of the swift and sharp death that sometimes
descends upon those who work in the depths of a diamond mine.  It was a
strange cleft object, floating in a jar of spirits-of-wine.  Mrs Cork
gave one quick glance and looked away with a shiver, but Loree stared in
great curiosity.

"What can it be?" she exclaimed.

"A thing often spoken of but seldom seen," said the young De Beers man.
"A broken heart."

It was indeed a human heart that had once beaten in a man's breast, and
it was cleft apart from top to point almost as if divided by a sharp
knife or hatchet.  But no weapon had performed this grim piece of
artistry.  It was the fantastic result of a great fall of reef upon the
head of a native.  Death must of course have been instantaneous, for
though when the body was recovered it was not so crushed as might have
been expected, a medical investigation revealed the strange phenomena of
the broken heart which is kept to this day by De Beers, as one of the
wonders of the world.

There were freakish stones, too.  Curiosities kept just as they had been
dug from the mine.  One had the face of a clock clearly marked on it,
though by no human agency; another showed a church window, another a
perfectly shaped capital V.  One was like the bead of a rosary, with all
its points pushed in instead of projecting.  Mrs Cork exclaimed much
over these, but what moved Loree most was the sight of the cut and
polished gems which a clerk set out before them.  These were the
show-stones kept for the glory of De Beers and the ravishment of
visitors, row upon row of them nesting in cases upon such delicate
shades of velvet as best became their beauty.

Loree's breath came in little gasps as she gazed upon them--rose-red,
amber-coloured, silvery, sherry-brown, smoky blue and water-white.  It
seemed to her that she was drinking some magic draught in an enchanted
garden full of roses, dancing daffodils, and frozen dewdrops imprisoning
a thousand spurts of flame.

Quelch stepped into the garden, too.  The slow music of his voice as he
gathered up the stones and let them fall from his fingers to hers was
for her alone, and became part of the glamour and the dream.  One
exquisite thing, the colour of a dog-rose and radiating a thousand
minute roses of fire, fell into the pearly pinkness of her palm and
nestled there.

"As if it wishes to stay," said Quelch.  "As if it knows that for such
hands diamonds are sought and found."

The words were spoken musingly and very low.  Loree heard them, but they
did not disturb her.  The spell of diamonds was on her.  The garden had
turned into enchanted woods, and Pan was fluting there.

When they were leaving the building some minutes later, they met a man
who stopped Quelch and showed him something he had picked up.  Loree
recognised it, for already her eye had learned to discern a diamond in
the rough.  Quelch gave a glance and handed it back.

"Worth about a hundred and seventy," he said carelessly.

"What was it?  Where did he find it?" asked Mrs Cork eagerly, as they
passed on.

"A seven-carat diamond.  He found it in the street close by, and is
going to hand it in."

"But may one not keep a diamond if one finds it?" asked Loree wistfully.
He smiled at her ignorance.

"I'm afraid not, Mrs Temple.  Findings are not keepings here.  Every
stone within a large radius is the property of the De Beers Company."

"How strange!" she sighed.  "One would think that what is lying loose in
the world would be every one's property?"

"On the contrary, if that fellow had kept it, he might have got from
five to ten years in jail for illegal possession."

"And for being honest--what will he get?" inquired Mrs Cork.

"Nothing.  He is a company's man.  De Beers employes are not expected to
pick up seven-carat diamonds in the street.  If encouraged such
accidents might develop into habits."

"And if I had found it?" she pursued.

"Ah!  You, as an innocent stranger, would be paid a reward of twenty per
cent on its value."

"It seems worth while to keep one's eyes open," she laughed, and began
to shuffle with the toe of her shoe in the dusty street.

"I should hardly advise that course," smiled Quelch.  "There are
detectives all about us, as well as in the office.  The innocence of
strangers is only presumed as long as they keep a roving look out of
their eyes and do not stoop down to pick interesting things from the
dust."

Both women looked startled.  Mrs Cork, indeed, was rather indignant.

"How horrible!  Do you mean to say that even _we_ might be suspected?
That we were being watched in there?"

"I'm afraid so," admitted Quelch apologetically.  "As you said yourself,
this is a wicked place."

They got into the car, and he asked permission to accompany them,
suggesting a drive round the open mine.  Loree did not mention that she
had already been there.  She longed to see it again.  Mrs Cork sulkily
declared that, though she did not mind prolonging the drive, she wanted
no more to do with mines.  When they reached the big hole, she closed
her eyes, tucked herself under her mauve sunshade and said they could
inspect it if they liked, but that her interest in the diamond industry
was damped for ever.

"I believe she is really upset," said Loree to Quelch, as they walked
away.

"She need not be.  The rule of watching is never relaxed.  Every one is
suspect while in contact with diamonds, and no one trusted.  Even the
watchers are watched."

"How curious--and how terrible!"

"In spite of it, many thousands of pounds' worth are stolen every year."

They looked down into the mine.  The pit's colourings ranged from
surface red and yellowish clay to the famous "blue ground" in which the
gems are found.  Far below, amid the jutting blocks of rusty rocks that
are the barren "reef," tiny figures moved busily, pushing infinitesimal
trucks.  But Quelch explained that surface work had practically ceased.
The real labour took place out of sight.

"It is down in the bowels of the earth that the work goes on," he said.
"Thousands of natives groping and toiling in the gloom--for women."  He
had only put her own thoughts into words, but, somehow, spoken in his
arresting tones, the fact became more potent.  "I was going to say for
women like you, but that would have been foolish.  There is no other
woman in the world like you."

His habit of looking abstractedly into distance while he talked lent an
impersonal note to his remarks that was strangely contradicted by his
voice.  Young as she was, Loree Temple had tasted the sweets of homage
before now, and learned when it is fitting to lightly accept or coldly
pass them by.  But this man's homage, both bold and subtle, was outside
of her experience.  She was a little frightened--disturbed yet held in
thrall.  She had an instinct that he was dangerous, but wild horses
could not have dragged her away.  In the meantime, she used such women's
gifts as the good God had given her.  She gave a little careless laugh.

"Oh--there are lots of women like me in the world.  But diamonds are not
for all of us."

He looked steadily across the mine.

"If I believed there was another--"

Perhaps he saw the fleeting glance she cast toward the car, for he broke
off abruptly, and she did not hear what would happen if he believed
there was another woman like her in the world.  But her pulses were
beating furiously.  If some one had tried to push her into the mine and
she had escaped by a hair's breadth, she could not have been more
inwardly perturbed.  Yet there was no outward and visible occasion for
it.  He was talking calmly and interestingly as he had done the night
before, about diamonds.  They were _not_ for everybody, he said, but for
beauty only.  From Cleopatra down to Cleo de Merode it had been the
same.  The advent of a lovely woman, duchess or actress, into the world
affects the diamond market as the sensitive plant is affected by the
approach of a human hand.  A thousand waves and wheels are set in
motion.  Dealers, designers, skilled workmen, and common cutter--all
feel the magnetic thrill.  Even the thieves in the underworld become
busier and greater quantities of raw diamonds are stolen.  Buyers make
hurried journeys to Amsterdam and Antwerp.

Parcels of rare stones change hands.  Immense sums are expended on pure
chance--as in the case of the famous necklace commenced in France
immediately on the advent of Dubarry into Royal favour and afterwards
bought by Rohan for Marie Antoinette, becoming the _clou_ of the great
Court Scandal.  In modern time such beautiful women as Mrs Langtry,
Cora Brown-Potter, Gaby Deslys, Pavlova and Edna May had all had their
influence on the diamond market and set it moving.  Beauty was the pivot
round which the diamond market revolved, he said.  The jewels that fill
shop windows are, it seems, only for ordinary women.  For the
extraordinary ones, something special must be made.  For them the
combination of flawless stones, exquisite enamels, and rare design.

It was strangely interesting to hear these things.  Loree did not know
why they should move her so profoundly, and become all mixed up with the
sparkling joys of the flowers in her enchanted garden.  Perhaps the
fluting of Pan had something to do with it.

When they returned to the car, Mrs Cork had recovered her good humour.
Quelch proposed a drive to Alexandersfontein (a sort of Southern Coney
Island) and dismissing the chauffeur, took the wheel himself.  Loree had
the sensation of tasting life very sweet between the lips as they flew
along through the cooling air into the heart of a blazing sunset.  She
knew that the strangely attractive man beside her was more than a little
in love with her--and when will such knowledge cease to exhilarate a
woman's blood?  The only crumpled rose-leaf in her happy cup was an
accident that happened as they dismounted from the car for tea.  Quelch
stepped on her frock and tore it from its gathers, necessitating her
retiral to a dressing-room and the assistance of a maid, who took some
time to fix it up.  Mrs Cork's temper appeared to be of uncertain
quality and unable to bear strain of any kind, for she looked very sulky
at being kept waiting for her tea, and all Loree's apologies (on her
return) and Quelch's civilities, surmounted by a heavenly tea, could not
disperse her gloom.  She said that the drive had made her eyes ache, and
the sight of strawberries and cream made her sick.  For the homeward
drive Loree offered her the front seat, but she preferred silence and
solitude in the body of the car, and the others did not deny her.  When
two people are on the brink of an entrancing flirtation, they cannot
truthfully "grieve as them that have no hope," if they are left to
themselves.  In the warm rushing darkness of the night no word was
exchanged between Quelch and Loree, but they advanced quite a long way
on the perilous path of forbidden primroses.  Arrived at the hotel, Mrs
Cork said abruptly:

"You won't see me again to-night.  I've got one of my awful headaches
and shall go straight to bed!"

They breathed sad sympathy over her, smiling in their hearts.  It was
plain to see that the poor woman was suffering.  Her attractiveness had
quite gone, and her skin taken a yellowish pallor with heavy lines about
her eyes.  Loree was really sorry, but the heart of youth is light, and
the troubles of other people do not unduly depress it.  Moreover, she
was in the throes of the first interesting thing that had happened to
her since she married Pat Temple a year ago.  She was sure that she was
very strong and clever and well able to look after herself, and keep
Quelch where he ought to be kept--outside of Pat Temple's garden of
happiness.  But it was fascinating to philander over the gate, and would
hurt no one _who ought not to be hurt_.

"I don't want to make him unhappy, of course," she murmured virtuously,
as she hurried out of her afternoon things and splashed herself with
cooling waters.  "But if men will go looking for scalps, they must
expect a few scars."

It was past the dinner-hour.  She flung on the little black gown and
fastened Pat's pearls in her ears and about her neck.  They seemed
extraordinary unimaginative ornaments, somehow--not a sparkle or glimmer
about them anywhere.  More virtuous indignation moved her--this time
against the giver of the pearls.

"If I flirt a little it is his fault for leaving me behind in this dull
place--while he is enjoying himself."

Even her own cheek blushed at this casuistry, and a photograph of Pat on
the mantelpiece gave her a reproachful glance.  She remembered that she
had not written to him that day.

"I will after dinner," she murmured.  "Not that he deserves it.  If he
really cared for me he would not neglect me in this manner."

Another blush brightened her cheek.  But it rally served to enhance the
violet of her eyes.

Needless to say, she did not write after dinner.  It was so very
pleasant sitting in the verandah, smelling the drenched roses out in the
gloom of the garden and listening to Quelch's voice.  He no longer
talked about diamonds, but about life.  Of its loneliness.  Of its
irony.  Of chance that comes too late.  Of being rich and going empty.
Of suffering thirst and knowing the torment of mirage.  Of the
desolation of being on the wrong side of the gate of the one "blue
garden" in all the wide desert of the world.  Among the things that she
learned was that it is not right for any woman's hair to have the rich
red browns of the back of an old violin--a priceless Stradivarius--and
that when a man sees a certain plaintive _priez-pour-moi_ look in a
woman's eyes, he is ready to throw his immortal soul under her feet.

She felt extremely elated when she went up to bed at somewhere about
eleven o'clock.  It had been a charming evening, and the morrow held a
further prospect.  Quelch was to fetch her in his racing car at five and
take her to see the Rhodes Memorial.

Her garments of the afternoon still lay in confusion about the room.
The servants had turned down the bed and arranged the mosquito-net, but
everything else was as she had left it.  She began to pick up things and
put them away, but her mind was preoccupied.  She stopped to examine the
colour of her hair in the glass as though she had never seen it before.
And she looked long at her eyes.  Had they really a _priez-pour-moi_
expression?  At last she hung up her gown and prepared leisurely for
bed.  Her gloves lay flung on the dressing-table, and she took them up
and put them into a drawer.  Then she stood still staring.  Where the
gloves had lain something glittered.  Something was lying there like a
fallen star.

At first she hardly dared touch it.  But at length she lifted it
tremulously and gazed into its scintillating heart.  It was the lovely
dog-rose diamond that had nestled in her palm that afternoon.  The touch
of it warmed her all through, then slowly froze her into fright.  How
had it come there?  The only possible explanation seemed to be that,
after playing with and handling the diamonds, this one had slipped into
some fold of her clothes and been brought home by her.  The alternative
was that some one had brought it and placed it on her dressing-table.
But that seemed too fantastic.  The one person connected in her mind
with this stone was Quelch.  Yet she had found him in the dining-room
when she went down and had been with him ever since.  Who on earth would
have any object in leaving a valuable diamond on her dressing-table?
She _must_ have brought it herself.  But how terrible!  The watching
detectives must know that it was missing.  Even now she might be under
suspicion of stealing it!  A wild impulse came to her to fly and tell
Quelch.  But he had gone to bed, and she did not know where his room
was.  Besides, she realised in a moment that was an impossible idea.
Quelch was the last person she could go to.  Mrs Cork, then?  But her
room was also unknown.  And she was so bad-tempered and would be furious
at being disturbed.  It was late, too.  Midnight.  She had been dawdling
and dreaming longer than she supposed.  Impossible to do anything about
it until morning.  With the decision came relief.  There was poignant
pleasure in the thought that she could spend the night alone with the
rose-coloured diamond!

For another hour or more she stood turning the smiling thing in her
hand, twisting it, flashing it this way and that.  It was the size of a
good-shaped pea, only flatter and exquisitely cut.  Its rays seemed to
mesmerise her eyes and paralyse her will.  At last she finished
undressing and approached the bed.  Kneeling down, she murmured her
prayers as usual, but mechanically, her eyes fixed all the time on the
heart of rose-pink fire lying before her.  An unrequested phrase thrust
itself into her mind:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

She could not remember where such an odd injunction came from.  It
sounded like the Bible and reminded her of her childhood, so she thrust
it out of her mind again quickly.  Neither the Bible nor her childhood
harmonised with the rose-red diamond.  She got into bed, taking the
stone with her, and lay awake a long time watching it.  At length, when
her eyes grew heavy, she slid it under her pillow just beneath her head.
But even in her sleep her hand jealously guarded the treasure.

As soon as she woke, her first thought was how lovely it would look in
the morning light.  Eagerly she drew it forth and plunged her gaze once
more into its mysterious depths.  Hitherto, her happy custom had been to
rise and seek the breakfast-table with healthy interest.  But to-day she
broke her habit and stayed long abed with her fascinating companion.
She felt no hunger or thirst but for its beauty.  Besides, it was safer
in her room.  She had an idea that if she once opened her door, the
delicious thing might be ravished from her grasp.  Who knew?  Perhaps a
hateful detective waited in the corridor!  A plan must be formulated by
which she could thwart any evil-intentioned person and keep the diamond
in her possession.  After all, it was hers.  Plainly it was hers.  Was
there not a sort of magic predestination about the whole affair?  Quelch
had said, when the diamond lay in her palm, that it seemed as if it
wished to be there--as if it knew it had been sought and found _for
her_.  And lo!--she had found it.  It had come to her--followed of its
own accord!  If that was not lawful possession, she would like to know
what was.  Surely a natural preference on the part of the diamond should
rank higher than any mere stupid diamond law!

The question next arose as to where to keep it out of the range of
vulgar and prying eyes yet in her close and constant company.  The
answer was:--a tiny bag to be slung round her neck and hidden in her
bosom.  Diligently she hunted for a scrap of silk and a needle and
cotton.  Then as the air in her room was close, and the be-blinded
balcony, which ran all round the square-built hotel, seemed steeped in
silence and solitude, she stepped out of the French window and seated
herself in a basket chair.  The diamond lay in her lap and blinked at
her lazily while she sewed.  She felt like a happy young mother making a
dainty garment for her baby.

So peaceful and preoccupied was she that Mrs Cork, coming suddenly
round a corner, was upon her before she was aware.  She caught the
treasure up in her clenched hand, but not before the shrewd eye of the
other had spied it out.

"But how lovely!" she cried.  "What is it?"

"Only a little pink topaz of mine," said Loree calmly, and held it fast
and hidden.  But her heart beat wildly and her cheek was pinker than any
topaz ever found on an island in the Red Sea.

"Ah," said Valeria Cork, "I've never seen a pink topaz close enough to
really examine it."

This was a plain hint, but Loree sewed furiously, her left hand
clutching both stone and silk.

"And what is the little bag for?"

Without hesitation Loree answered firmly.

"To wear a piece of camphor in round my neck."

"But there is no epidemic about, is there?"

"No: it's just a superstition of mine."

Brusquely she rose, stuffing sewing and stone into her pocket.  She
glanced at her inquisitor coldly.  We usually dislike people to whom we
are obliged to lie.

"How dreadfully ill you look!" she remarked, with an accent on the
"dreadfully."  A faint colour came into the elder woman's cheek.  She
had looked upon the face of forty, and to-day the fact was painfully
revealed.  The contrast between herself and the girl in all the bloom
and heyday of youth was striking.

"Bad heads take time to get over," she said curtly, "and it is stuffy in
one's room."

"Ah yes.  Where is your room?" asked Loree eagerly.  Anything to get
away from the subject of topazes and camphor-bags.

"On the hot side of the hotel," said Mrs Cork dryly.  "We can't all
afford the best side, like you."

This was the first time Loree had heard of a best or worst side but not
the first time it had been brought home to her that, where she was
concerned, Pat never considered the best too good.

"I should have come round to you last night if I had known where your
room was," she said thoughtlessly.

Valeria Cork looked surprised.

"Why?  Did you need anything?"

"Only to borrow an aspirin tablet," said Loree, looking sweet and pure
and good, and as though she had never told a lie in her life.  And, in
fact, until this morning, lying had not been among her accomplishments.

"You had better come round now; then you will know where I am if you
want me any time," suggested the other, and they strolled idly round the
balcony.  There was no one about except a negro flicking dust from
chairs and glancing with sleepy black eyes into the open bedrooms as he
passed.

Mrs Cork's room was indeed tiny, and not to be compared with Loree's
for comfort.  She proffered cigarettes and gave her visitor the most
comfortable chair.  There were beautiful ivory articles on the
dressing-table, but they were yellow from use and the monograms faded.
The silk wrapper she was wearing had a faded loveliness, too.  All her
possessions wore an air of yesterday, as of things bought in prosperity
and never renewed.  The only up-to-date object was a photograph of a
hopeful-looking boy in his teens.  On inquiry, Loree discovered that
this was her only son, and was vaguely surprised to hear the name of the
public school he was at--one of the most expensive in England.  He had
his mother's handsome eyes, but not their haggard glance.

The two women gossiped awhile, then Loree rose, saying she must dress
for luncheon.  Mrs Cork announced her intentions of lying down again,
as her headache was returning.

In her bedroom, Loree hastened to finish the little bag and place her
treasure in it.  When it lay in her warm bosom, she felt excited yet
curiously content.  The prickle of it against her skin was as pleasing
to her as the rasp of his hair shirt to the saintly hermit.  She went
down to lunch in a kind of dream of joy.  Quelch was not there.  He
always lunched at his club.  There were but few people about, and those
casual and uninteresting.  No one looked like a detective.  Loree felt
secure, but not calm.  Her feverish desire was to be alone with her
twinkling treasure once more, and she wasted no time in getting back to
her room.

Late in the afternoon she dressed hurriedly in a delightful frock of
transparent blue muslin the colour of asphodels, and prepared for her
drive with Quelch.  When she glanced into the mirror just before
leaving, she saw that, like Bathsheba, she was fair to look upon.  But
it was a new and glittering beauty that she had.  Her cheek glowed; her
eyes burned.  Pat Temple would hardly have known his wife.

Quelch's eyes told her even more than the mirror.  As she came down the
main stairway, she saw him standing in the hall, reading a letter which
had just been handed to him from the office.  Its perusal seemed to
afford him pleasure, but nothing like the unfeigned gladness with which
he looked up at her.  Neither he nor any one else could have guessed
from outward and visible signs that the sweet vision in diaphanous
draperies of Madonna blue carried a canker at her heart--a canker in a
little silk bag.

The racing car was at the door--a keen-nosed silvery affair, with no
seats, only flat cushions of sleek grey silk.  They had to climb over
the sides and sit cheek by jowl on the floor, and there was a great
sheaf of scarlet roses for Loree's lap.  It is no use denying that these
charming attentions touch women deeply.  Only stupid men underrate the
magic influence of gifts, especially the fragrant gift of flowers.
Those roses scented all the afternoon.

Quelch had the art of communicating himself without words.  Loree was
acutely aware of his insolent pride in her beauty as they drove through
the streets.  Men possess a curious degree this scratch-brant delight in
the lust of the eye and pride of life.  In Africa, perhaps they indulge
it more than in most places.  Climate may have something to do with it,
but it is a dull affair to be a plain woman there, and to be a pretty
one singularly intoxicating.  There was something barbaric in the warm,
bold satisfaction of Quelch's eyes as they rested on her.  She had the
sense once more of living life to the full, and that old dream of hers
of driving triumphant through the streets of Rome seemed curiously
fulfilled.  It was not strange to hear him say, very low:

"Don't you feel that we have been together before somewhere?"

She did not answer, only smiled.  A blue ripple of her gown resting on
his grey-clad knee acted like an electric current between them.

The Rhodes Memorial stands a little way out of the town--a rather
enchanted-looking Asian Temple, built of sandstone from the Matoppo
Hills.  They climbed its steep stairs and stood gazing from
marble-pillared openings at a great vista of empty veld and a far line
of hills.  The Boers occupied those hills during the siege, and peppered
Kimberley with fifteen hundred shells from their Long Tom, being
blithely answered by Long Cecil, the big gun made in the De Beers
workshops.  Quelch recounted the tragic fate of Labran, the maker of
this gun, who was killed by the second response from Long Tom.

Afterward, he fell into silence.  It was Loree who talked lightly and
incessantly.  She had become aware of the danger of silence.  When you
are loitering on the perilous precipices, where the fire-flowers blow,
words are little ropes and holds by which you keep your footing.  But
Quelch smiled like a man who has his feet on firm ground, and enfolded
her always with his bold yet subtle glance.

She was vaguely thankful for the presence of a man reading on a bench,
and when Quelch wanted to drive her out into the empty veld, which the
sinking sun had flooded with blood-red light, she resisted the
adventure, murmuring that she must return and write a letter to catch
the night post for Rhodesia.

His face darkened at the words.  Pat Temple had never been mentioned
between them, but Loree felt no doubt that he knew where her husband was
and all about him.  One of the first things you learn in Africa is that
every one knows your private affairs nearly as well as you do yourself.

So the drive into the veld was renounced, but home was reached only by a
route both long and obvious.  Loree missed the post for Rhodesia by just
ten minutes.  There was time for nothing before dinner except a few
moments' secret genuflection at the shrine of a rose-pink idol.  And
after dinner-time flew past in the same astonishing fashion of the
previous evening.  Mrs Cork's headache had evidently persisted, for she
did not appear, and they neither missed nor mourned her.  Instead of
sitting in the verandah, where the rest of the world was liable to note
the silence that now held between them, they walked in the garden among
the wet roses and languorously scented night-flowers.  Playing with
danger is fascinating anywhere, but in Africa the _mise en scene_ is
always specially arranged for this pastime.

Next morning, by the early post there was news from Pat.  He had been
down with a touch of malaria, and the Wingates were looking after him.
Ethel Wingate was a remote cousin and her husband an old school-friend.
They had not much money, Pat wrote, but it was wonderful to see their
happiness.  They had been married ten years and never parted a day,
weathering storms and sunshine together.

"It has made me think a bit (the letter ran) and realise that while one
is busy hustling about the earth, piling up a fortune for the future,
one may be missing something more important in the present.  What do you
think, darling mine?"

Loree was disturbed by the question, as a happy dreamer might be
disturbed by a shout in the ear.  She had closed the door of her
thinking mind for the time being, and did not wish to open it, for fear
of what was crouching there--a little drab-faced thing called
conscience.  She desired no communication with that thing, nor with her
soul, which was a soul obsessed.  The best way to forget Pat's query was
to get out the little idol that lay in her bosom, and lose herself in
its sparkling loveliness.  But, somehow, it did not look quite so
beautiful as before.  Its lustre seemed dimmed.  Its fires had paled a
little.  This annoyed her.  She felt as if she were being cheated in the
value of something for which she had paid a heavy price.

Discontent seized her, and she went down to lunch feverishly anxious for
any excitement that would revive the delicious spell under which she had
lain for forty-eight hours and which now appeared to be dying off.
Quelch was sitting in the hall, gossiping idly with Mrs Cork and
watching the staircase.  His habit of lunching at the club, for reasons
of his own not far to seek, had been renounced.  If ever a man took a
woman into his arms with his eyes, he did it as Loree came toward him.
The excitement she sought was supplied.  Hot colour surged in her cheek
and glowed to her hair.

Valeria Cork's cynical eye computed the situation, and she smiled
somewhat dryly behind her cigarette.  She was looking better, but still
proclaimed her inability for dissipation of any kind, and refused
Quelch's invitation to the theatre that night.  He had a box for _The
Gay Lord Quex_.  Loree hesitated to accept alone.  But they both seemed
to think it surprisingly simple of her to suppose that there were any
conventions of outrage in South Africa, also that, as a married woman,
she did not do as she pleased.  Put on her pride in this manner of
course she decided to go.  Something fluttered like a frightened bird
behind that door of her mind (or heart, or soul) which she had so
carefully closed.  It might have been the little drab-faced conscience.
However, a fascinating champagne cocktail drugged it into silence, and
they enjoyed a merry lunch together.

The afternoon was spent about as busily as the lilies of the field spend
their afternoons.  She rested a good deal, shook out her best gown for
the evening, tried a new way of doing her hair, and brooded over the
diamond in an effort to recapture the first fine early magic of
possession.  In this she was not altogether successful, but, at any
rate, she managed to obliterate from her memory Pat's query and the
general wistfulness of his letter.  That, at least, was something
accomplished, something done to earn a night's amusement.

Certainly the lilies of the field could not have been fairer than she,
descending at eight "clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful," and
wearing Pat's rope of three hundred and sixty-five pearls.  The only
colour about her was her radiant hair, but hiding under her heart a
little pink god soiled and sparkled in secret.

She looked _ravissante_.  No wonder every man in the hotel found a good
and proper reason for being in the hall while Quelch put on her wraps
and conducted her to the car.  Many a glance of admiration came her way,
mingled with undisguised envy of her companion.  Afterward, some grinned
with joy at the prospect of the indomitable Quelch riding to a fall;
some derided the absent husband, and some pitied the woman.  But the two
in the car recked nothing.  Quelch's philosophy was that if you are
strong enough, will pay high enough, and play a waiting game skilfully
enough, you can get most things for yourself, even unto your heart's
desire.  Loree's experience of waiting games and players who compute the
value of every gambit was absolutely nil, and her philosophy, such as it
was, took no account of the disintegrating influences of climate,
flattery, sparkling things, and the pits that vanity digs for the feet.
She was entirely occupied with being beautiful and desirable and admired
of all men, especially the one at her side.  It seemed as if the earth
was for her and the fulness thereof.  It is a delusion many women have
while walking on the edge of the ravine where the fire-flowers blow.

If Quelch's methods had been less fine, she might have been safer.
Because he was so very quiet and gentle, refraining even from touching
her hand, she inclined to believe herself very wise and secure.  Yet, in
the closed and silent car, there was a certain breathlessness.  Once she
had a sensation of drowning in the scent of roses.  Arrival at the
theatre was almost like a rescue.

Surrounded by people and lights and noise, she became very brilliant and
gay.  Her remarks sparkled like the jewels on the white shoulders of the
women in the audience.  All eyes were turned to the lovely red-haired
girl alone in a box with Quelch.  She got more attention than Pinero's
play.  But on the return drive she was less sure of herself.  Quelch's
eyes, as he had watched and listened to her all the evening, made her
afraid, and the intimate silence of the car was a fresh plunge into the
sea of roses that had power to suffocate.  Her gaiety became a little
forced.  She sat apart in her corner as if attempting to isolate
herself.  In her companion, there was no departure from the gentleness
he always used; but half-way home, in his tender, velvety voice, he
asked a question:

"Do you remember saying there were other women like you in the world?"

"Of course."  She essayed to laugh lightly, but the silence that
followed had nothing reassuring in it.  The car drew up at the hotel
entrance before he spoke again.

"If I thought there was another, I would seek her day and night, and
never rest until she was in my arms--_mine_!"

The chauffeur opened the door.  Quelch helped her to descend, and they
entered the dim hall.  Without meeting his glance, she bade him good
night and passed swiftly upstairs, well aware that he remained standing
there, following her with his eyes.  Breathlessly she closed and locked
the door upon herself.  But she could not shut out the agitation of her
veins or the wild beating of her heart.  Fright had come into the room
with her.  The thing had gone too far--grown too big for the
manipulation of the little hands she had thought so clever.  She sat
staring at them, and at the white reflection of herself in the glass.
Flirtation had overswept the neat confines laid down by her, and come
washing over in a big wave that had nearly overwhelmed her.  This would
never do.  She must get back to where she was before, on the safe and
unassailable rock where she had always dwelt as Pat Temple's wife.  It
was incomprehensible that she had ever lost her footing from that rock,
and she could not quite remember how or when it had occurred.  Somehow,
the little pink idol was mysteriously connected with the event.  It
occurred to her now to calm her troubled musings by a sight of it.
Gazing into its deep-pink fire-lit heart, her agitation passed; at last
she rose and began to take off her gown.  But in the middle of
undressing, her movements and her glance became fixed.  On a small
writing-table at the foot of her bed something was glittering with the
emerald eyes of a hundred serpents.  For a moment she stood rigid, then
flew to it, as a foolish bird flies to the snare.  All the stars in
heaven seemed to have come down to lie there linked together by a
silvery thread.

It was a chain of diamonds, flexible and long as her chain of pearls and
of a loveliness and brilliancy indescribable.  Tenderly, adoringly, she
gathered it up.  It ran like fire and water through her fingers,
flashing laughing, winking.  When she held it altogether in her two
palms, it was as though the sun had set in a pool of crystal dew.  When
it slipped down over her red-brown hair to her throat and shoulders and
the shadow of her bosom, her beauty seemed enhanced to unearthliness.
She gave a long sigh, and something went fluttering out of her.  It
might have been the little pale-faced conscience.  Perhaps it was her
soul taking wing.  Whatever it was, she neither recked nor reasoned.
The work begun by the rose-red idol had been accomplished by the chain
of stars.  She was lost.

CHAPTER TWO.

  The sea hath its pearls,
  But none more rare
  Than the soul of a woman
  Sweet and fair.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I found that in a book, darling mine, and it made me think of you.  All
pearls make me think of you, with their lovely inner light shining and
glowing through the faint pink bodies of them.

It is your birthday to-day, and I cannot be with you or get you anything
here that you would care for.  So I am sending you a fifty-pound note.
Buy yourself a pearl.  Or anything you like.  There should be some good
jewellers in Kimberley.  And send me a pound of Hankey's, like an angel.
Can't get any here, and haven't had a decent smoke for a week--

Thus Pat Temple, writing to his wife from some far spot on the borders
of the Congo.  She lay reading the letter among her pillows, and
drinking her morning tea.  Quotations and tag-ends of verses were not
unusual in Pat's letters.  He may not have been what is called a deeply
read man.  His favourite books were _The Tower of London_, _Marcus
Aurelius_, Buffon, _Pickwick Papers_, Grimm's _Fairy Tales_, and _The
Cloister and the Hearth_.  Life kept him too busy to make many new
friends in the book line, but his mind had a way of seizing on to
phrases and verses, and he never forgot anything he had once read that
dealt with woman's purity or men's chivalry.  Not that he quoted to the
world.  It was only in letters to his wife that these things sometimes
slipped out from the deeps of his heart and mingled themselves with
demands for his favourite brands of tobacco.

But his little verse this morning did not please Loree.  A frown curled
her brows.  She knew she was not like a pearl.  Neither did she want
one.  She was sick of pearls.  They said nothing to her.  Only the
radiant fire of diamonds could charm her heart and ravish her
imagination.  She drew her treasures from beneath the pillow and kissed
them.  For two days and three nights she had owned them now, worn them
hidden under her gowns, felt their soft scrape and rustle of them
against her skin, drowned her senses in the secret joy of their
possession.  She was like a creature living under a spell that grew more
and more potent every hour.  The doors of her heart were closed against
every other feeling and emotion.  Her mind refused to remember anything
she did not want to remember, and her conscience gave her no further
trouble.  It was either dead or fled.

She never asked herself where the diamonds had come from.  It was the
last thing she wished to know.  Enough that they were hers by nine
points of the law, and that no living soul had given sign or signal of
knowing of their existence.  The only fear she felt was that some one
might steal them from her, ravish them from her grasp as suddenly and
mysteriously as they had come.  The peril of Quelch and his burning
glances paled before that awful prospect.  Besides, she had regained
confidence in her power to keep him in hand.  Having so far contrived to
avoid being alone with him since the night of the theatre, she meant to
continue to do so.

The morning after she had found the necklace, she feigned illness and
stayed in bed all day.  Before one o'clock, Quelch had heard of her
indisposition and roses began to arrive.  The room was almost filled
with them--bales of colour, dew, and perfume.  Mrs Cork, who walked in
on the heels of a maid with a tray, said that they scented the whole
hotel and made it smell like the rose garden of Persia.

  Morning a thousand roses brings, you say?
  Yes; but where blows the rose of yesterday?

she misquoted drily, standing by the bedside.  Loree mentally and
uncharitably applied the last phrase to her visitor, though in her own
roselike beauty, as yet untouched by time, she could have afforded to be
generous.  But she was cross with Mrs Cork, and wanted her to go away.
She knew of more alluring occupations than listening to that lady's arid
remarks.  But Valeria had after all something interesting to propound.

"You know the Duke of Carrington is out here, don't you, with the
Duchess and their daughter Princess Evelyn?"

"Yes.  They're up in Rhodesia now.  My husband met them at a reception
in Buluwayo."

"Well, they're passing through Kimberley in three days' time, and as
they are anxious to see the diamonds and the diamond magnates and their
wives are anxious to see _them_, a ball is to be given in the Royal
honour.  So every one will be pleased, let us hope."

"But how exciting!" cried Loree ignoring the irony that tinged all Mrs
Cork's remarks.  "When is it to be, and where?"

"In three nights' time, here at the Belgrove.  The Club will be too
small to hold the crush.  The invitations are being rushed out, as of
course it's rather sudden and impromptu.  I can get you one if you care
to come."

"I'd simply love it.  I've always wanted to see Princess Evelyn.  They
say she's perfectly lovely."

"All right.  I'll arrange about it then."

A short silence ensued.  Loree's mind was busily engaged in turning over
her evening gowns, putting them on and discarding them one after the
other, all except one she had never yet worn--delicious thing, pale and
sweet as primroses growing in a field that the Lord had blessed.  She
gave a sigh of pleasure at the thought of wearing it.  Valeria in the
meantime gazed wearily around the room as though she hated everything in
it, and in the world.  Suddenly her gaze fell upon Pat Temple's
photograph.

"Ah!  So that's the husband!" said she, and took it up to scrutinise
closely.  "One of those big, sanguine men, born under Jupiter."

"What does that imply?" asked Loree.

"Luck in most things, especially in his own disposition."

"Yes; Pat has a lovely disposition," agreed his wife carelessly.  "He is
so awfully good-tempered.  I have never known him cross with any one."

"They're the worst when roused," commented Mrs Cork.

Loree was already bored with the subject.  She put up a hand and passed
it delicately over her eyes, sighing as if in pain.  Valeria Cork
recognised a hint when it was handed to her--even on a silver salver.
The moment she had gone, Loree hopped out of bed and locked the door.
Then she closed the balcony shutters and set both electric fans going.

It was one of those torrid days when clothes seem an outrage.  She did
not feel inclined to dress.  Instead, she took from a trunk a roll of
filmy powder-blue ninon bought for making blouses.  In the dim room
filled with fragrance and the rustling breezes of the fans, she swathed
herself as with some soft blue mist, and her body glimmered through it
like a living statue.  Delicious hours she spent then, alone with her
roses and diamonds, and the reflection of herself in the mirror, silent
and lovely, less like a woman than some figure from the Elgin marbles
come to life.  But when the maid brought dinner, she was back in bed,
white and languid and very still beneath her quilt.

The second day, she had ventured downstairs, but only for lunch, and
leaning upon the arm of Mrs Cork, whom she had first gone to seek.
Quelch was kept at bay by her frail air of languor.  His eyes consumed
her, but she would not meet them, and to his urgent declaration that a
drive in the cool of the day would do her good and blow all her ills
away, she only smiled mournfully and kept tight hold of Mrs Cork's arm.
She did not intend to have her ills blown away.

And now, on the third morning, with a frown between her brows, she
pondered the continuation of her programme.  It was certain that she
could not be indisposed for ever and stay shut up in her room.  For one
thing, she was a healthy creature, and liked air and light and sunshine.
But the fear of Quelch and the fires she knew she had set blazing in
him worried her.  Why could he not behave himself, she thought
resentfully.  Life would be so pleasant and delicious but for him.  She
no longer required the thrill of his passionate admiration.  The
diamonds gave her thrill enough.

Valeria Cork, too, she felt, could not always be relied upon to stand
by, lending the protection of her presence.  That lady had interests and
affairs of her own, and sometimes there was that in her manner which
signified, very politely, that she did not care to be made use of.  She
was a card-woman, too, and would sit for hours playing with permanent
guests at the hotel.  Loree did not care for cards, and she could find
no refuge in bridge.  However she cared very much for dancing and was
looking forward with immense pleasure to the ball that evening.  She and
Valeria were going together, and the latter had been so far
accommodating as to promise to introduce plenty of dancing partners.  In
this way Loree hoped to evade the too close society of Quelch.  In the
meantime it was rather tiresome that the only place of real security
seemed to be her own room.  Because of this she lingered there all
morning and had her lunch brought up.  But it was a lovely day, and she
longed for a walk.  Rain in the night had cooled the air, and it was a
shame to remain indoors.  At about four o'clock, therefore, she ventured
down.  There was no one about except two stout ladies with dominant
noses playing picquet.  So she had tea in the drawing-room, and looked
at the papers, and set out in search of a tobacconist's.

The main street was a good way off, but she reached it at last and
bought and dispatched Pat's tobacco.  Then she looked into the window of
the shop next door, a fascinating window full of old silver, unusual
jewellery, and snuff-boxes.  Now, she collected little boxes and there
was one that particularly caught her fancy--a lovely little Louis Seize
in pale blue enamel with Cupids and forget-me-nots festooning the tender
legend:

  _Pour toute ma vie
  J'aime ma mie_.

She determined to buy it for herself as a birthday present, though the
price would not make much of a hole in Pat's fifty-pound note.  In fact,
it was marked at such a low figure that its genuineness seemed doubtful.
But a suave person in the dim and dingy interior reassured her.

"These are all pledged goods, _madame_, so we can afford to sell them
cheaply."

"Pledged?  What is that?"

"Well--pawned, _madame_."

"Do you mean that this is a pawnshop?"

"Yes, _madame_.  We advance money on jewellery and valuables of all
kinds."  With an eloquent hand he indicated a door marked "Private" in
the shadow at the back of the shop.  "Transactions are conducted with
privacy and dispatch."

Loree was horrified, pawnshops being vaguely connected in her mind with
crime and police-court notices in the Sunday papers.  She had sat down
before the counter, but she now rose hurriedly.

"I don't think I will bother about the box to-day."

As she gathered up her gloves and sunshade, the door marked "Private"
opened, and Valeria Cork emerged.  She was so busily occupied stuffing a
bundle of banknotes into her bag that she walked past and left the shop
without observing Loree.  The latter, flushed and embarrassed by what
seemed to her a dreadful _contretemps_, lingered in the shop, buying the
snuff box as a means of delaying herself from catching up with Mrs Cork
in the street.

Of course it was no affair of hers, but she could not help wondering
what business had been transacted behind the "Private" door that had
resulted in Valeria Cork's acquiring a bundle of banknotes.  Was she
dreadfully in need of money and obliged to pawn something?  Perhaps she
could not even pay her hotel-bill!  These were awful ideas to Loree, who
had never known need of money in her life.  She felt sorry as well as
curious, for she liked Valeria Cork in spite of her dry tongue and
uncertain temper.  Besides, Loree Temple, when uncorrupted by diamonds,
was of an exceedingly kind and generous disposition, with an instinct
always to help people in trouble.  For a time now she even forgot the
diamonds, so absorbed was she by the thought of Mrs Cork's
embarrassments.  But only for a time.  The ball was to take place that
night, and planning her toilette required undivided attention.  Early in
the day she had put everything ready.  The gown she was to wear lay like
a drift of primroses over a chair, the electric fan fluttering it
softly, and driving away every tiny crease acquired in travel.  Long
yellow silk stockings and little yellow satin slippers with sparkling
buckles lay on another chair, and on the bed all sorts of soft and
slight and slinky garments to go on underneath.  She sat down and
commenced to do her hair.  That took an hour or so, for like all hair it
was obstinate and behaved badly when it was wanted to look its best.
She almost wished she had gone to a hairdresser.  After pulling it down
at least forty times and at last getting very nervous, she vowed that
the forty-first time would have to do.  It was the kind of hair that did
not really need doing at all, being perfectly charming when just pushed
up carelessly into little clusters of spraying waves and curls.  She
stuck her usual red rose into it from a great bunch that had been
delivered that afternoon with the compliments of Heseltine Quelch.  It
was dinner-time long before she had finished so she rang for something
on a tray and ate it sitting at her dressing-table studying herself in
the mirror.  In her vain little heart she decided that it was the better
plan not to go downstairs where numbers of people were giving smart
dinner parties.  She did not want to be examined by scores of eyes
before the hour when they would all file past Royalty.  She wanted to
dawn in all her glory upon the ball.  To step like a fairy princess into
the centre of the stage.  Secretly she had an idea of outrivalling the
renowned beauty of Princess Evelyn.  However she was not very sure of
herself in this ambition, being aware that Royalty has an air of its
own, and that when said air is allied to beauty it becomes almost
irresistible.  Also, the Princess was older than she, had acquired the
sophistication of Courts, and travelled in many lands.  These things
count, and Loree knew it.  Still, she was not too discontented with the
results of her subtle toiling and weaving when she stood at last ready
to go downstairs.  The only fault she could find was that she looked
_too innocent_.  That, she felt sure was a grave defect in a woman of
the world.  _Be_ innocent, yes, thought Loraine Loree, but don't look
it, or people will think you are just out of the schoolroom.  An
abominable thing for a married woman of one year to have thought about
her.

She wondered what on earth she could do to give herself the right note
of sophistication and _awareness_ that there was wickedness in the
world?  She was wearing Pat's pearls; on her fingers, in her ears, round
her throat: and they made her look more innocent than ever.  For once
she had locked the diamond necklace, precious and adored, up in her
jewel box, for worn with a gown like this it could not possibly have
been concealed.  But suddenly a mad and daring idea darted into her
mind.  Suppose she should wear it?  Would anything in the world give
such a _note_?  In the twinkling of an eye the pearls were off and
replaced by the chain of glimmering gems.  Just to see!

Yes.  They gave the note.  She looked like an angel who had been down to
hell on an errand, and got back safely.  For it was on an errand only,
be it understood.  She had not lingered to talk to the Devil.  Only
given a glance beyond the bars to see what was going on there among the
bright flames.  Then fled.  But the adventure had left its mark.  Or so
the diamonds seemed to relate in their brilliant language and the
haunting echoes they gave to the eyes.

But dared she do this thing?  Dared she go down into the crowd wearing
the marvellous chain of stones that had come so mysteriously into her
possession?  She dallied long with the temptation, turning over the pros
and cons in her mind.  And after all what were the cons?  Whoever it was
that had been so kind and delightful as to present her with this jewel
had surely meant her to wear it?  Not keep it forever hidden?  She did
not linger too long over that phase of the story, however, because she
did not wish to think too intently of the giver.  Certainly she had no
idea who it was, but she liked to think vaguely that the gods had
something to do with it.  Not any mere human being.  The rose-pink idol
rustling in its silken nest was a different thing altogether.
Unfortunately she knew that belonged to De Beers, and she dared not
openly wear it.  But surely this chain...

Well! if you dally with temptation long enough, temptation always wins,
especially when aided and abetted by a thousand little lovely,
glittering, dancing, scintillating spirits of light and colour.

Needless to say Loree went downstairs with the chain round her neck: and
though her heart was trembling with its own audacity she walked like a
queen.

It was nearly nine o'clock, the hour set for the reception to begin.
The lounge was crowded and carriages were every moment setting down
fresh parties of people at the door.  All the wealth of Ind as well as
Afric seemed to be arriving.  The place absolutely glittered with
jewels.  Even at that Loraine Loree created something of a sensation as
she came down the broad stairway.  At first men thought she was some
lissom sprite of spring arriving, decorated with the dewdrops of dawn.
Then it was seen as she came among them that they had made a mistake.
This was a beautiful woman of the world, wearing a Paris gown and
diamonds so sumptuous that they put every one else's into the shade.

Valeria Cork was one of the few people who appeared undisturbed by the
glory of Mrs Temple, though she, like every one else, saw the vision
and made a signal to it, to indicate her whereabouts: and Loree, a
little nervous in all that crowd of staring strangers, yet moving
proudly, with elation in her veins found her way to her friend's side.
Valeria introduced two men with whom she was talking.  Loree was much
relieved to see no sign of Quelch.  One of the first things she noticed
was that Mrs Cork had not got on her Brazilian diamond.  This might be
accidental of course, but it was strange upon an occasion when every one
else was bedecked.  Valeria on her part gave only a passing glance at
Loree's diamonds.

"How beautiful your jewels are!" she said carelessly, "and your gown
too.  You are creating quite a stir."  Then she went on talking to one
of the men, leaving the other to entertain Loree, which he certainly
did, being a young South African who knew everybody and reverenced
nobody... especially Kimberley Nobodies.  He himself was Kimberley born,
but Harrow and Cambridge had bred in him a fine intolerance for the men
who were merely millionaires.  As for the millionaires' wives--

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Isn't it amazing," he said looking at Loree with frankly admiring eyes,
"that one hardly ever sees the right women with jewels?  Why should a
little blue-faced monkey of a woman go about with a thousand pounds
glittering in each ear and a few more thousand pounds' worth drawing
attention to her accordion-pleated throat?  I tell you it makes me lose
my reverence for age."

Loree doubted whether he had ever possessed any, but she laughed,
because she was young and so was he; in fact he was still at Cambridge
undergrad, being only out on a visit to his people during the long Vac.

"As for a fat woman wearing diamonds--" continued this hopeful youth,
"I'd rather see a beautiful medallion stuck in a porker's back."

These wise and witty reflections were interrupted by a stir in the crowd
and a general movement in the direction of the two great doors which
were now flung open.  The Royal party had arrived by a private way and
taken up their position in the ballroom.  The file through, to be
announced and presented, now began, and Loree and Mrs Cork detached
themselves from their friends with a promise to meet them later when the
dancing commenced.

A rather magnificent arrangement of scarlet and gold--half platform,
half dais--had been set up at one end of the ballroom.  But the Duke and
Duchess were standing well away from it and chatting and shaking hands
with their guests and behaving exactly like ordinary mortals.  They did
not interest Loree very much--just an elderly well-bred looking English
gentleman and his pleasant-faced wife--but she looked eagerly as she
drew near, at the Princess Evelyn.  Yes, she was certainly lovely.  A
fine clear English skin and delicately curved patrician features.  She
wore a wonderful gown of faint mauve draperies, and her eyes which had a
singularly pure expression appeared to be of the same haunting colour.
People said she might have been a queen if she had chosen, and that more
than one monarch had begged for her hand.  But she had simple ideals,
this royal girl--simple yet very high.  She would only marry where she
loved.  And the world was amazed, and speculated a good deal as to what
would happen if she fell in love with a mere commoner.  In the meantime
there seemed to be a little sadness in the sweet mauve eyes.  Loree
Temple thought so at least as she made her curtsey and passed on.

There was still no sign of Quelch, and Loree felt alternately relieved
and elated by the fact.  She knew she was looking her best and it seemed
a pity he should miss a sight that would give him so much pleasure.  On
the other hand it was undeniably safer, not to say cooler, without him
hovering like a hawk over her every movement.  Mrs Cork had introduced
several pleasant people and she did not find time hanging on her hands
at all.  Only one thing worried her a little.  A very striking-looking
woman was paying her a good deal of attention and seemed to be
constantly striving to approach her.  As the room was crowded this was
rather difficult, and Loree made it even more so for she had a feminine
reason for not wishing the lady to approach too closely.

The latter was a large woman, very handsome, with bold bright eyes, and
a genial and courageous look to her, that was attractive.  With such a
face she might have been a Jezebel, or a Roman matron above suspicion.
There perhaps was a little of both in her composition.  Her gown of
cloth of gold shone like a blaze of daffodils.  Diamonds shone all over
her too; in the buckles of her shoes, on her large able hands, on her
plump but not shapeless arms.  Youth had gone, and fat had come, but
beauty had not entirely deserted her.  She had one of those corsetted
figures that make men wonder at the endurance of women, but her
sufferings did not dim the brilliance of her smile nor the resonance of
her hearty laughter which occasionally rang through the room.  She was
evidently a personality.  She smiled at every one and every one smiled
back and seemed to know her.  It was only at Mrs Temple that she stared
continually without smiling, seeming determined to edge nearer.  But
Mrs Temple was just as determined that she should do nothing of the
sort, the reason being that beside that gown of blazing yellow Loree
knew her own delicate primrose gown would be absolutely killed.
Naturally she did not care to have her lustre dimmed and her subtle
draperies made to look like faded nothings by the neighbourhood of this
bird of brilliant plumage.  Therefore very gently but cleverly she kept
slipping a little further away.

"Who is that lady in bright yellow?" she asked the Kimberley boy who was
once at her side begging for a dance.  The Royal party was leaving and
dancing would very shortly begin.

"Oh, you mean the famous Mrs Solano."

"Is she famous?  What has she done?"

"Ah! what hasn't she done?" said young Dalkeith smiling.  "There are
many strange tales about her.  Would you like to meet her?"

"No, indeed," answered Loree.  "I don't want her to come near me.  Her
gown simply kills mine."

Just then she looked up to discover that the lady in question having
made a _detour_ was close upon her.  Only a few people intervened.  The
two women's eyes met and there was such searching astonishment in those
bold black orbs, and such determination, that Loree became suddenly
frightened.  It occurred to her with a sudden shock that the look had
something to do with her chain, of diamonds.  The thought sent a thrill
of alarm through her.  Her treasure was in danger!

"Please take me out to some cool dark place," she said quickly to her
companion.  "I want air."

Nothing could please young Dalkeith better.  He thought her the
prettiest woman he had ever seen, and was only too delighted to lose
himself with her in the deepest depths of the faintly-lit conservatory.
But to his disappointment she wished to continue talking about Mrs
Solano.

"Do tell me about her.  Why do you say she is famous?"

"Well, when I say famous, I mean she is a sort of historical character
in these parts.  Her husband was one of the great diamond kings here in
the old days and she was very much queen, I can tell you.  They say she
was extremely beautiful."

"She is still," said Loree slowly, "in a way."

"Oh no, quite _passee_," said he, with the calm and cruelty of youth.
"Everything's in the past tense with her, poor old thing.  Over and done
with before you were born I expect.  But she had a good run for her
money, and so did old Micky Solano."

"Isn't he a diamond king still?"

"Well, I believe he _thinks_ he is, but as a matter of fact he's in a
lunatic asylum somewhere down in the Colony.  He lost nearly all his
money in speculations, and it sent him off his head."

"How sad! and how strange that she should still go out!"

"Oh, it was all a long time ago and she's had an exciting life and can't
let go.  Did you notice that big golden diamond on her forehead?"

"Yes, I did," said Loree.  "And I don't think she can be very poor for
she is covered with diamonds."

"Well, comparatively poor, you know.  They used to eat off gold plates
and build palaces wherever they went, that sort of thing.  Now she lives
in a small house with a couple of servants, and I believe all her most
important jewels have been sold one by one to pay the bills at Micky's
asylum.  For _he_ still lives sumptuously.  She's sport enough for
that."

"I could tell she had big qualities," said Loree.  "I felt she could
either be a great saint or a great sinner."

"Well, I should say sport rather than saint," laughed the boy.  "She
certainly was a bit of a sinner from all accounts--not morally, you
know, but against the law."

"I don't understand--"

"The Diamond Law, I mean.  In the days when old Micky Solano made his
money diamonds could be found lying about the streets here in Kimberley,
or bought at every street corner from the niggers who stole them."

"But how could the niggers steal them?"

"Well, you see, nowadays, De Beers have the system of watching and
searching brought to a fine art; boys who are working in the mines are
absolutely isolated from the rest of the world in Compounds for six
months or so at a time; at the end of their contracts and before leaving
they are watched day and night and gone over internally as well as
externally, so that they haven't a hope of getting away with anything as
big as a pin's head.  But in those early days there were no Compounds.
They worked out in the open with nothing round them but wire fences, and
opportunities for stealing were endless.  There were watching overseers,
but John nigger is a wily fellow and soon discovered means of hiding
some of his finds.  At the end of a day's work among the blue ground he
would hand over a dozen diamonds and probably have three or four fine
ones concealed upon his person.  The next step was to get into touch
with illicit diamond buyers who would give him perhaps two pounds for a
stone worth a hundred.  This of course paid the nigger who had got the
stone for nothing, while the man who made the purchase soon developed
into a millionaire.  A severe law was made to combat this traffic but
people still did it, in spite of the risk of being sent to jail for ten
or twenty years.  The Breakwater at Cape Town was almost entirely built
by men sentenced for I.D.B.  People never talked of being sent to jail,
but to the Breakwater.  Nevertheless illicit buying of diamonds
continued, and many well known men founded their fortunes in that way.
Micky Solano was one of them.  Not only Micky.  His wife was in it too.
She did it for love of the game, people say.  Others say that diamonds
had cast a glamour over her soul, and she couldn't help herself.  Anyway
it was quite well known that Micky who kept a sort of wayside hotel got
hold of the stones by hook or by crook, and she ran them across the
border into the Orange Free State.  Once you were in Dutch territory the
Diamond Law could not touch you, and from there you could easily smuggle
the stones down to the Cape and away by mail boat to the big buyers in
Holland.  You can imagine that heaps of people were constantly backwards
and forwards to the border pretending to be travellers and traders.
Scores of them were trapped at it and sent to the Breakwater.  But Micky
and his wife were never trapped.  She was too clever.  No one ever found
the diamonds she hid though she was often searched.  The detectives knew
that she got away with thousands of pounds' worth every month, but they
were never able to catch her out.  Then, one journey she had her baby
with her.  It was the only child they ever had, and for the first time
she took it with her on the rough coach journey.  There were no trains
then, you know.  People either had their own wagons and trekked across
the veld, rode horses, or drove a four-in-hand.  Mrs Solano used all
these modes of getting about but upon this occasion she was travelling
by the ordinary mail cart.  As usual they were all searched by
detectives and nothing found, but just after they got across the border
and were free of the police a fellow passenger called her attention to
the stillness of the child which usually was a very lively little thing.
The mother looked, and found it dead.  It was black in the face and had
apparently died of strangulation.  Mrs Solano nearly went mad.  Some
one took charge of her while the child was examined by a doctor who
found a magnificent rough diamond stuck in its throat.  It had been
sucking one of those sugar bag arrangements that mothers sometimes make
for their children.  Apparently the stone had been placed inside the
sugar bag for concealment and I wonder it never occurred to the mother
that the baby might suck a hole in the bag and swallow the stone.
Pretty awful Nemesis to descend upon her, wasn't it?"

"Terrible!" murmured Loree.

"That was the last I.D.B. adventure she undertook anyhow.  They were
pretty rich by then and she must just have been doing it for the love of
the risk.  But she never did it again.  Micky invested the beans--and
they became fabulously rich.  But isn't it a curious idea of hers to
wear the stone that choked the baby?"

"Wear it?"

"Well, they say that's the one--the big golden stone she always wears on
her forehead.  They say she hates diamonds now and wears them as a sort
of punishment and reparation, especially that one.  I don't know how
much truth there is in it.  People say anything in Africa.  Awful
country!  Hullo! there's the band.  Do let's go in and have this dance."

Loree felt very uneasy, but the music was irresistible and she let
herself be beguiled.  As soon as she got back into the ballroom she saw
that Quelch had arrived.  He was on the other side of the room staring
about everywhere, but to her relief he passed out of a door without
having caught sight of her.  In a few seconds she had forgotten him and
everything else in the joyous response of her whole being to the rhythm
of the music.  Young Dalkeith in common with most Colonials was an
accomplished dancer and it was like being wrenched brutally out of a
dream when the music stopped.  They strolled in silence to one of the
doors leading to the verandahs.  As they reached the darkness Loree
realised that she had run right into that which she had tried to avoid.
A resonant and determined voice was saying:

"It is mine, I tell you.  I left it with Freddy Huffe.  I am quite
certain.  I should know it anywhere."

She found herself facing Mrs Solano and another woman.  They had been
standing just outside the door, apparently watching the dancing.  Loree
saw at once that the _rencontre_ could no longer be avoided.  Mrs
Solano addressed herself directly to young Dalkeith.

"Will you introduce me to this lady, George," she said pleasantly.
Dalkeith, rather taken aback and annoyed, could hardly do otherwise than
her bidding, but he performed the ceremony without wasting much grace.

"Mrs Temple, this is Mrs Solano," he said, adding crisply--"of whom I
have been telling you."

"Oh, _have_ you, George?" remarked Mrs Solano with a good-natured
laugh.  "That's very kind of you, I'm sure.  Well, you can run away now
and play."

George walked off, very cross, and Loree felt desperately alone and
frightened, for Mrs Solano's friend remained, and she felt somehow that
they were two to one.  Whatever she felt within, however, she managed to
show no outward trace of discomposure.  There was a tinge of haughtiness
in the glance of enquiry she levelled at Mrs Solano.

"I hope you won't be offended with me, Mrs Temple," said that lady
courteously enough.  "But I've been all the evening admiring the
necklace you are wearing.  Would you mind telling me how it came into
your possession?"

Loree's heart was ice, but so in terrified self-defence was her manner.

"It is a little curious of you to ask me such a question," she said
coldly.  "Perhaps you will explain--"

"Ah!  I see you _are_ offended," answered the other with the utmost good
nature, but behind her pleasant manner was still that strong
determination Loree had recognised from the first.  "Really you mustn't
be.  It is only that the necklace reminds me very much of one I once
possessed."  Suddenly she darted out a question: "Was it a gift?"  Loree
stepped away slightly and got her back to the wall in body as well as in
spirit.  People were dancing again.  The verandah was deserted except
for the little group of three and another woman, approaching in the
distance.

"Most jewels are gifts," said Mrs Temple with the utmost composure, but
wondering whether she was going to die or only faint.  The other woman
looked at her now with open hostility in her eyes.  And then, to her
relief, Loree recognised that the approaching woman was Valeria Cork.
She came up to them swiftly.

"Is anything the matter?" she asked in surprise, staring at the silent
group of three.  "How do you do, Mrs Solano?"

Perhaps it was by accident that she ranged herself at Loree's side,
facing the other two women.  In the darkness she felt Loree's hand
clutch her arm as if in fear, but Loree's voice said very calmly:

"This lady is under sane delusion about the necklace I am wearing."

"No, I am not under any delusion," said Mrs Solano and her voice, no
longer pleasantly resonant, clanged like iron.  "If you will take off
that necklace I will prove to you that it is mine."

Loree's breath shortened.  Mrs Cork laughed.

"But how fantastic, Mrs Solano!  You must really realise that this is
rather a wild statement to make."

"It may sound so," said Mrs Solano doggedly, "but, as I say, I am ready
to prove it.  _My_ necklace has a blue diamond on each side of the
clasp, and one of these diamonds has three dots or defects in it, that
held in a certain light, give the impression of a tiny Death's head
grinning at you."

"More fantastic still!" cried Valeria Cork still laughing.  Loree had
never known her so hilarious.  "Does _your_ necklace possess this
sinister distinction also, Mrs Temple?"

"I have never noticed it," was the stony answer.

"Of course you haven't."  Valeria became grave.  "And of course Mrs
Solano is making a mistake--"

"I am not making a mistake.  I am certain that the necklace is mine, and
I insist upon examining it."  Mrs Solano spoke with the firmness of a
woman who is accustomed to know what she means to do, and to do it.

Valeria, speaking very gravely, said:

"I think you are acting in a very strange manner, Mrs Solano, and later
you will probably regret it very much."  She was standing in the
doorway, and she now turned her head and looked into the ballroom.
Immediately she added: "But as you have gone so far, I, as a friend of
Mrs Temple's, must insist that the matter be put right.  Some
responsible person must be called in to see the necklace with you, and
relieve my poor little friend of any further unpleasantness.  Mr Quelch
is just the man to do this, and I see him over there in the ballroom.
Please all remain here while I fetch him."

She was only two or three seconds away, and during her absence the three
women stood still as though turned to stone.  Quelch and Mrs Cork made
their way across the ballroom, their heads bent in conversation.
Presently they emerged through the door by which the three awaited.

"I have explained everything to Mr Quelch," said Mrs Cork quietly.
"Mrs Temple, will you please hand him the necklace and he and Mrs
Solano can go and look at it quietly in his sitting-room."

"This is all very mysterious," said Quelch in his charming voice.  "But
I've no doubt we can clear it up immediately."

Valeria Cork had lifted the necklace quietly over Loree's head.

"It will be perfectly safe with Mr Quelch," she said in a low voice.  A
minute after she put her arm through Loree's.  "I hear the `cup' is
delicious and I am so thirsty," she said.  "Let's go and have some."

She drew Loree away in one direction and Quelch and Mrs Solano went in
another.  Mrs Solano's friend, who throughout the proceedings had never
spoken a word, remained standing like a pillar of salt, in the verandah.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Loree plunged once more into the gay pool of melody and movement.  With
a little champagne in her head, and her heels as light as air, she
managed to throw off the memory of the disagreeable incident that had
ruffled the pleasant surface of the evening... but at the back of her
mind fright was lurking still, and every now and then it would clutch at
her heart with an icy hand that almost stilled its beating.  Then,
shivering, she would wonder what was taking place in Quelch's
sitting-room and why he and Mrs Solano did not reappear.

Time went on.  It had been somewhere about half past midnight when they
went away, and at two o'clock there was still no sign of them.  Mrs
Temple was thankful for the distraction offered by the company of a
delightful man of about forty-five whom young Dalkeith had introduced.
He was a late-comer having arrived only in time for the ball, and at
once with unerring instinct made a bee line for the prettiest woman in
the room.  His tongue had a witty twist and his eye under a
black-ribboned eye-glass was blue and merry as a boy's.  He seemed not
to have a care in the world and kept Loree so amused that she almost
forgot all cares of her own.  Moreover his step suited hers to
perfection and while she was dancing with him she thought of nothing.
Her mind was a blank except for the delicious feeling of bliss in
rhythmical movement.

She was resting after a dance with this man whose name she did not know
when one of the hotel servants came up and addressed him in a low voice.

"Mr Quelch would like to speak to you, Sir, in his private
sitting-room."

A shade of annoyance crossed the face of Mrs Temple's companion.

"Very well," he answered brusquely, then turned to her, "I wish people
would not want to talk business out of business hours!" he remarked with
a tinge of impatience.  "However, I shall be back in ten minutes or so,
Mrs Temple.  You won't give the ninth waltz to any one else, will you?
And please don't forget that I am to have that `third extra,' if there
is one.  It's a promise, isn't it?"

"Very well, we'll look upon it as a promise," she smiled.  But when the
ninth waltz started he had not returned to claim it, and she did not
know with whom to be most vexed--Quelch, or her missing partner.
Beautiful Loree was not accustomed to bloom unsought in the _role_ of
wall-flower, and even though she was soon descried and besieged for the
remainder of the waltz her vanity was hurt by the incident.  She put a
small rod in pickle for the defaulting partner when he _should_ turn up,
and the promise of the `third extra' was promptly bestowed elsewhere.
But the dance went gaily on and the recalcitrant one did not return to
receive his punishment.  She thought it very strange of him.  Also her
vexation with Heseltine Quelch increased.  Surely if the latter had
finished his interview with Mrs Solano he ought at least to come back
to report and return the necklace, instead of sending for a business
acquaintance and launching into some other affair... incidentally
robbing her of the best dancing partner she had ever had!  It really was
too tiresome of him.  She resolved to treat him pretty coolly for his
sins.

But up to the last note of the last "extra" there was no sign of him,
and unease began, once more, to creep into her mind.  What had happened?
She was standing near the verandah door when the final bar of God Save
the King crashed out.  In the second of silence that followed a sharp
report was heard from the garden--a strange, unusual sound that made
women jump and men run hurriedly through the doors.  The garden was
dimly luminant with the promise of was that men discovered out there
among dawn, yet not light enough to show what it the roses.  One or two
women devoured by curiosity began to push forward, but returning men
barred the way.  There were murmurs of an accident.  People with good
eyesight imagined they saw a slow procession moving through the grounds.
Suddenly Quelch appearing from the gloom of trees and shrubs walked
into the brightly-lit verandah.  Loree forgot her grievances against him
and ran to meet him.

"What has happened?  Do tell me, Mr Quelch.  I feel so frightened."

"Nothing," he murmured reassuringly--"at least nothing you can help.  An
unfortunate accident.  A fellow fooling with a revolver, out there, has
wounded himself rather badly."

"Oh, poor fellow--"

"Who is it?--"

"What a strange thing to be playing with a revolver at this hour!"

"Where is he hurt?--"

The women were all speaking at once, in great excitement and curiosity,
but Quelch's calm manner began to reassure them.  Though not able to
tell them much, he disclosed the belief that the wound was not fatal,
and gently advised every one to go to bed.  Loree was one of the first
to follow his good counsel.  As she moved away he stepped beside her for
an instant.

"Oh!  Mrs Temple, it was quite all right about the necklace of course.
Mrs Solano is immensely sorry to have made such a mistake, and is
writing to you in the morning."

"Oh... thank you," stammered Loree, turning very pink.

"Mrs Cork has it, and will return it to you," added Quelch, then turned
back to the few still questioning women who lingered, and Loree hastened
to her room.

Valeria Cork was not awaiting her as she had hoped.  The last seen of
that lady--who did not dance--was at a bridge table in the lounge,
brooding (to judge by her looks) over a bad hand and a bad partner.
Well, no doubt she would arrive presently.  In the meantime Loree stood
waiting in a state of almost painful relief.  It had been a glorious
evening.  As a woman she had achieved _un succes fou_ by her beauty and
her clothes.  She had lit many little fires in the eyes of men--hungry
little fires of longing and desire and admiration such as most women
think it no shame to light and leave burning.  But through it all she
had felt a consuming fear about the diamonds.  That horrible incident
had shaken her through and through, and come near to spoiling her
pleasure in the rest of life.  And now since Quelch had spoken the words
that put an end to her suspense she allowed herself for a moment to
realise the terror of what might have been if Mrs Solano had been able
to make good her claim.  What a frightful scandal might have ensued! ...
a scandal that would surely have reached Pat's ears--her Pat so dear and
trusting!  He seemed to grow suddenly very dear as she sat there waiting
and wondering: dear as things departed for ever out of reach are dear:
dear as the dead!

A soft tap came on the door and a softer whisper.

"Are you asleep, Mrs Temple?"

She rushed to open it.  Mrs Cork stood there.

"I thought you were in bed and asleep!"

"No," stammered Loree.  "I was just going to undress."

"I only wanted to bring you this," said Mrs Cork lightly, and handed
something to her in a glittering heap.  "Of course it was all a mistake
of that silly Mrs Solano's.  Mr Quelch was very angry with her, but
she is extremely penitent, I believe, and going to write you a letter of
abject apology in the morning."

Loree took the necklace without a word.  Mrs Cork gave her a strange
look, then she said "Good-night" abruptly and went swiftly down the
corridor.

Loree locked the door and returned to her dressing-table.  Very slowly
she let the necklace ripple out of her hands through her slim fingers on
to the white cloth.  It lay a heap of glory, winking at her.  At first
she hated it.  It had given her some terrible moments.  She had a mind
to fling it through the windows into the garden below and let who would
find it and keep it.  But she looked at it too long, and once more it
wove its magic round her heart, round her mind, round her senses and her
conscience.  At last she took it up and kissed it.

"Oh, my darling!" she cried.  "If I had lost you!"

Suddenly it occurred to her to look at the clasp.

Then her face grew very pale, for strange to say there _were_ two blue
diamonds on either side of it... two stones of a livid brilliance
sending out piercing rays of azure light and seeming to guard that
little gate of platinum which held the chain together.  It seemed an
extraordinary coincidence!  What was it that Mrs Solano had said about
"defects" and a "Death's head"?  She raised the chain high to the light
and gazed intently into the heart of each.  And then her own heart gave
a beat and seemed to wait a little.  For in one of those blue diamonds
there were three tiny dots that gave back the curious illusion of a
squinting, grinning Death's head.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yet, in the morning, even as Valeria had predicted, on her tray lay the
letter of apology from Mrs Solano.  It was not abject, however.  That
high-spirited and adventurous Jewess knew not, it seemed, the paths of
humility.  But she was not without courtesy in her _amende honourable_.

  _Dear Mrs Temple_:

  I am sure that you received your necklace back safely from the trusted
  hands of our mutual friend, Mr Quelch.  I have to tell you how
  extremely sorry I am for the foolish mistake I made.  I am afraid that
  it caused you much pain and vexation and can only ask you very
  sincerely to forgive me and forget all about the unfortunate incident.

  Very faithfully yours,

  Rachel Solano.

Oh, yes, Mrs Temple forgave.  She was only too thankful to do so.  A
great weight seemed lifted off her shoulders.  But the shock she had
received from the "unfortunate mistake" together with the fatigue of
dancing and the excitement generally had left her very weary.  She
decided to rest for a great part of the day, and lay abed, gently
dreaming.  With her lunch came copies of the two daily papers.  Like all
local newspapers they were not very interesting to visitors.  But to-day
there was, naturally, a long account of the Royal reception and Ball of
the night before.  Loree glanced down the printed columns to find
herself famous as "the lovely Mrs Temple."  Far more room was given to
her in the news than to the famous Princess Evelyn.  Every item of her
toilette was described, every shade of her gown, every leaf almost in
the sheaf of roses she had carried.  The journalists dwelt upon her
glorious hair, its maze of bronze curls above her face of ivory and
roses, they spoke of the grace of her walk, her exquisite dancing.  It
was only natural she should glow a little, lying there reading those
panegyrics of praise.  She had never before seen herself in print.

She could not, however, help being struck by a fact which seemed very
curious.  Not a word had been written about her diamond chain.  What
made the omission conspicuous was that almost every other woman's jewels
were mentioned in detail, their diamonds counted, and catalogued.  There
were:

"Mrs Ikey Mosenthal's famous tiara--"

"Mrs Solly Moses' wreath of Jagersfontein roses--"

"Miss Rebecca Isaac's magnificent necklace and pendant of water-white
stones--"

"Lady von Guggenheim's priceless plaque of black diamonds--"

Only Mrs Temple's exquisite chain was unhonoured and unsung.  It was
passing strange and gave her furiously to think.  But at last she hit
upon what might be the correct solution of the mystery.  The journalists
had probably not been able to set about the business of examining and
describing clothes and jewels until after the Royal Party's departure.
As it was soon after that time that the Solano incident had occurred,
followed by the temporary departure of the diamond chain from Mrs
Temple's neck, she reasoned that the journalists had not described it
because they had not seen it.  Which was, after all, a great piece of
luck for her, for she could not help realising that the newspaper
accounts might easily come to her husband's eyes, and how very difficult
it would be for her to explain to him how she came to be wearing a
priceless necklace of which he had no knowledge.  As it was she could
cut out the paragraphs and send them to him.

She gave a deep sigh of relief, then read the description of herself all
over again, browing delicately upon the praise of her beauty.  Just as
she was laying down the papers a name caught her eye--a name she had
heard before though she could not remember where.  It was heavily leaded
at the top of a long column, and composed a startling phrase.

_Suicide of Mr Frederick Huffe_.

It was the story of sane unfortunate man--a Banker-solicitor--who had
betrayed his trusts and blown out his brains.  Loree glanced cursorily
at it, at first.  Her tastes were not morbid and it really gave her pain
to read of people in distress.  She was not one of those who, as
Masefield puts it, find intoxication in another's suffering, excitement
in another's hell.  But the words "in the garden of the Belgrove Hotel"
arrested her attention and she read on.  When she had finished she knew
that the revolver shot they had heard at the end of the ball was the
sharp crack of doom that had sent Frederick, Huffe out of the world.

"Many men rushed to the spot at once," ran the story, "but Frederick
Huffe, brilliant man of the world, past-master of every sport and
accomplishment to which he turned his hand, was also a sure and certain
gun-man, and had made no mistake.  Death must have been instantaneous."

So Quelch's reassuring words were untrue!  They were only spoken to get
the women away quietly!  It was comprehensible of course.  One could not
blame him for it, thought Loree.  In fact she rather admired him for it,
reflecting once more upon his worldly wisdom and capability.  How cool
and gentle and helpful he had shown himself in the matter of the
necklace.  He had been a real friend.  Perhaps if the unfortunate
Frederick Huffe had possessed such a friend he would never have come to
his desperate end!  What a strange thing, though, that he should choose
to do it out there in the Belgrove garden, after the ball where he had
been dancing and apparently enjoying life to the end!  However she would
not let her thoughts linger further on the tragedy.  Besides, the phrase
"Mr Huffe had financial worries" suddenly reminded her of something
else, something that in the press of events she had almost forgotten--
the financial worries of Mrs Cork.  As she dressed for dinner she
determined she would go into matters and try and find a way of helping
her friend.  Never, never would she forget how staunch Valeria had been
in the terrifying ordeal with the Solano woman, and she resolved that
_coute que coute_ she would repay that staunch friendship.

At dinner-time she went boldly to the other woman's table and asked if
she might dine there, as she was tired of her own table.  But Valeria
Cork had lost her friendly air of the evening before and relapsed into
her dry and cynical self.  As the table where she sat was invariably
laid for four persons she could not very well refuse, but she looked
bored by the request, and, if eyes can speak, hers said plainly that she
thought Loree a nuisance.  Loree, however, had reasons both selfish and
altruistic for being thick-skinned, and she meant to cleave closer than
a brother to Valeria.  She observed that again the Brazilian diamond was
again absent from the widow's throat, and she felt certain now, that
accident could no longer be accountable for this.  The conviction grew
in her that the diamond had been left in the horrible little pawnshop.
No wonder Mrs Cork's eyes were arid and her tongue bitter!  A few
minutes later Quelch came in.  Instantly his eyes found the two women,
and he came over.

"Why should I be left out in the cold?" he plaintively demanded.

Mrs Cork assumed an even more bored air.

"Oh, you can come.  If I have one, I may as well have half a dozen."

He took no notice of her disagreeables, sitting down and making himself
pleasant to them both, though both knew full well for whom were his
gentle words and bold, enfolding gaze.  Sometimes Loree had the
sensation that they were scorching through her gown and searing her very
flesh.  More than ever she resolved to cling to the society of Valeria
Cork.  The latter remained distrait and contemptuous, and when Quelch
asked them to go to the theatre after dinner, curtly replied that she
had a bridge engagement.  Loree also refused, but in more dulcet
fashion.  She said she feared the night air.  No one mentioned the
affair of the diamond necklace, nor was the subject of the suicide
referred to.  Loree was grateful for both of these things.

After coffee and idle gossip in the lounge, Mrs Cork rose to join the
two dominant-nosed ladies and a nosier man.  Loree also rose.  She had
suddenly developed a _migraine_.  This was indicated by the use of a
minute gold bottle of smelling-salts and a delicate gesture of her hand
across her forehead and hair, as if brushing away pain.  Quelch looked
on with troubled eyes, but it was vain for him to plead that five
minutes in the garden would do her all the good in the world.

"Not when I have a _migraine_ like this," she dolefully replied, and
repeated the lovely gesture, pushing pain back into her emotional hair,
which bronzed and winged above her brows like fine threads of metal.

"When I have a headache like this, nothing cures it but bed," she
averred, and cast her _priez-pour-moi_ look at him.  With a barricade of
protecting people about, she was enjoying herself immensely.  It was a
pity to go away from anything so rousing and exciting as his sultry
glances.  But it was safer than to stay.  You never knew what a lawless
man like that might do.  She offered her hand in good night, and he was
obliged to take it with the best grace he could muster.  But he held it
very closely, and did not release it until the red colour in her face
responded to his pressure.  Then, careless of what any one thought, he
stood perfectly still, watching her out of sight.  She tripped up the
stairs, not at all like a woman suffering from _migraine_.  Her
sprightly movements brought a cold, resolute look into his dark face.

Her mind was full of both business and pleasure.  First, and always,
there were the diamonds wherewith to console solitude.  Secondly, she
had come by an inspiration during dinner, and was anxious to carry it
into effect.  It was an inspiration to repay "whatever gods may be" for
the felicity of her diamonds by doing a good action which would also
bring pleasure to another.  She had determined to solace the financial
troubles of Valeria Cork by secretly presenting her with Pat's
fifty-pound note.  Such noble and pleasant intentions lend wings to the
feet.  She flew to her room and obtained the note.  But a black boy was
tidying out a bathroom next door to Mrs Cork's bedroom, and she could
not enter without being seen by him.  Trying the balcony, she found a
maid flirting there with some one's valet.

Obliged to possess her soul in patience till the coast was clear, she
returned to the contemplation of her diamonds.  It was nearly an hour
before absolute solitude prevailed and she was able to steal to Mrs
Cork's door--only to find it locked!  The door leading from the balcony
proved to be in like case.  This was a contingency that had not occurred
to her.  She constantly left her own door unlocked, and supposed that
other people did the same.  However, her mind was nimble, and never left
her long without an idea.  She went to her room and placed the banknote
flat, in a large white envelope.  For a moment, she toyed with the
temptation to write, "From a friend," upon the covering, but decided not
to.  Mrs Cork might know her writing, and that would never do.  She
wished the gift to be as anonymous as her own gift from the gods.
Returning to the locked door, she knelt down, and, with great
difficulty, worked the envelope underneath, computing that, as soon as
the door opened, there it would lie, obvious and inviting.  When, at
last, she rose from her knees flushed and hot, but rather pleased with
herself, it was to find Valeria Cork had come soft-footed down the
corridor and was leaning against the opposite wall watching the
proceedings.  She had an unlighted cigarette between her lips and
something very like a sneer in her sardonic eyes.

"If you've quite finished operations," she said, "I'll go in and make
the discovery."

Loree, caught red-handed at her good works, confused and _agacee_, stood
like a convicted thief.  For a moment, she thought of explaining.  It
seemed the only thing to do.  But the other woman's manner was so
extraordinarily hostile that she was both alarmed and resentful.  In
silence and with great dignity, she walked away.  But behind her own
closed door she stood palpitating with apprehension for what would
happen next.  She had not long to wait.  A sharp knock came on the door,
and, without waiting for it to be opened, Valeria Cork marched in,
holding the note and envelope as if they were something infectious.

"What is the meaning of this?  How dare you?"

Loree, scarlet, stood clinging to the brass, rail of her bed.  There did
not seem to be any words adequate to the occasion.  Impossible to inform
this coldly furious woman that she had appeared to an onlooker as a fit
recipient for charity.  There was a brief silence, Mrs Cork obviously
trying to control her temper.

"I should like an explanation of this--this _kindness_."  She bit off
the last word with the utmost irony.

"There is no explanation," said Loree lamely.

"But this is your banknote?"  Silence.

"I saw you pushing it under my door."  Silence.

"I insist upon an explanation."

Still Loree kept silence.  There was absolutely nothing to say.  "I can
only suppose," said Valeria Cork, at last, "that it is some kind of
conscience-money you were trying to foist off on me."

"No, no!" murmured Mrs Temple, her colour growing brighter.

"Then," said the other slowly, "you were trying to buy me.  For some
reason or other, you think I am to be bought."  For a moment, she looked
at Loree piercingly.  "That is my answer."  She flung the note in its
owner's face and swept from the room.

A sad ending to a noble deed!  Loree collapsed on to her bed and wept
miserably.  For a time, at least, even diamonds were powerless to
assuage her humiliation.

CHAPTER THREE.

Mrs Cork would not even look at her the next day.  She was thrown
abruptly upon her own society, for Quelch, too, without hail or
farewell, disappeared from the horizon.  This was a relief in a way,
though it could not be denied that she missed him as one misses the glow
of a fire from a Town.  But something had gone wrong with life
altogether, somehow, and the flavour of it was dry on her tongue.  She
began to weary of Kimberley and the monotonous existence in the
luxurious hotel.  More than ever she was obsessed by the diamonds.  Yet
the pink god often seemed to mock her when she took it from its shrine,
and she began to realise that though it is sweet to look upon the image
of yourself suitably decked with jewels, it is sweeter still to let the
world look upon you and admire.  In fact, there did not seem to be much
object in jewels that you had to wear hidden.  Something, too, was
missing from the diamonds--some quality or spirit that Pat's pearls
possessed, sad as they were compared with the stones.  She could not
think what it was, and did not try very hard to discover, for the pearls
had a reproach for her.  Time was when she could linger over them daily,
looking into their little lustrous faces, almost knowing each one of the
three hundred and sixty-five singly.  Now she locked them away, and with
them the beautiful pearl rings Pat had given her.  She longed to have
the rose-pink diamond set in a ring and to wear it blazing alone on her
hand.  But greatly daring as she was, she did not dare that, in this
hotel and town which belonged to De Beers, to whom the stone also
belonged, though they did not know it was in her possession.

At about eleven o'clock that morning she was in the lounge taking tea
after the pleasant and refreshing custom of the country.  Mrs Cork and
some gambling cronies were bridging as usual at another table, and there
were various people scattered about, reading and gossiping.  Only Loree
Temple was alone and a little lonely.  It was with pleasure that she saw
young Dalkeith walk in.  He had brought her a book they had been
discussing at the ball, but to her disappointment could not stay, as he
had a business engagement.  She poured him out a cup of tea and he
lingered a few moments, gossiping.  Then, for the first time since the
ball, she heard spoken reference to the tragedy of Frederick Huffe.

"I have just come from the inquest," said Dalkeith.  "Awful, wasn't it?"

"Terrible."  Loree closed her eyes and shivered a little.  She did not
like sad things.

"And I don't care what any one says," went on the boy.  "He was one of
the best.  Even if his finances _did_ go a bit astray in the stress of
life he was one of the best.  Didn't you think so, Mrs Temple?"

"I?" said Loree opening her eyes in surprise.  "I did not know him."

"No, of course you didn't know him _well_, but you were dancing with him
a lot after I introduced him to you, and I thought you seemed to like
him.  Everyone liked old Freddy and found him charming."

Loree, who had turned very white, sat staring at him, her lips slightly
apart.

"Was _that_ Frederick Huffe?" she whispered at last.  "That nice man who
went away and never came back for the dance I had promised him?"

"My God! didn't you know?" exclaimed Dalkeith.  "I _am_ sorry."

After he had gone she sat there a long time, very white and still.  She
was remembering acutely the lines of that pleasant, charming face, the
satirical yet boyish blue eye behind the eye-glass, his gay and witty
remarks, his zest for dancing.  Yet all the while he was weary of life!
Death was at his elbow!

While she sat there meditating on the strangeness of men, and on the
masks they year, concealing their true selves from the world, she saw an
attendant approach the table where Mrs Cork was playing cards and hand
her a telegram.

On reading it, Mrs Cork put down her cards and asked to be excused from
the game.  The words: "Bad News" were spoken in a calm voice, but as she
passed, Loree saw that her face was of a deadly pallor, haggard and
wintry, with sombre eyes.  No more was seen of her that day or the next.
The maids reported that her news seemed bad indeed and that she was
prostrate, but no details transpired.

Loree longed miserably to go and condole, but dared not intrude upon one
so bitterly offended with her.  The next best thing seemed to be to try
and explain and to ask for forgiveness.  She spent the whole of an
afternoon composing a penitent letter.

  _Dear Mrs Cork_:--

  I am so deeply sorry that you are offended with me.  Please do not be.
  It _was_ an impertinence on my part to put that note in your room,
  and I beg your pardon.  But I did not do it out of any feeling except
  of pure friendliness and liking for you.  Also, I had a reason for
  supposing that you were in need of money, and I thought it would be a
  nice way of spending the fifty pounds my husband had sent me for a
  birthday present by giving another woman a helping hand, just as I
  hope a woman would help me if ever I were in trouble.

  Yours sincerely, Loraine Loree Temple.

She gave it to the maid for delivery and went down to dinner, though
without the light heart a decent action should have ensured.

The fact that she had known the man who shot himself--danced, laughed,
talked with him within half an hour of his desperate exit from the world
obsessed her poignantly.  She longed for something or some one to
distract her from the sad memory, and with what relief did she find that
Heseltine Quelch had returned, reappearing from nowhere as suddenly as
he had gone.  As she came down the stairs he, too, faultlessly groomed
and debonair, crossed the hall.  He was taking a pile of letters and
telegrams from the hands of his man, but at sight of Loree he handed
them back with the brief comment: "Put them in my room.  I'll go through
them later," and came straight to her, as the bee to the honey-flower.
As for her, after two dull, lonely days, the fire was lit once more, and
the warmed herself and smiled in the glow of it.  A certain recklessness
entered into her, and she let his eyes enfold and caress her without the
rebuke a woman knows so well how to introduce into her manner.  After
all, she said to herself, if he was so determined to hurt himself, why
should she worry for him?  People who go looking for scalps must expect
scars.  If she felt herself in danger, she could draw back and escape,
as she had done that other night.  What could he do but acquiesce?  She
was not in his power in any way.  She had never given him encouragement
to make a fool of himself.  If he now mistook her very natural pleasure
at having boredom relieved for any warmer feeling on her part,
well--_tant pis_ for him!  His blood was on his own head, and hers not
the fault.

Thus she reasoned, justifying herself for once more plunging into the
fascinating game, walking on the wild precipice, fluttering near the
live wire on which _some_ women might meet disaster but to which she
intended to remain invulnerable.  The cruelty which so often comes with
consciousness of power stirred her.  She knew now that, though she felt
the charm of Quelch, it would give her pleasure to punish him through
his passion for her.  If she had seen that cold and resolute look on his
face two evenings before, when he watched her tripping upstairs, she
might not have been so sure of her power to punish.

They dined together.  A gay and light-hearted pair of friends, so far as
the world could see.  Only they knew what secret currents were flashing
and sparkling between them, fed by her alluring smiles and graces.
After coffee, he suggested the garden.  It was very lovely out there
amid the trees and wet roses.  Loree resisted a little, yet it seemed
safe enough within sound, almost within sight of the verandah, where
several people loitered, smoking and gossiping.

But she kept to the clear, open paths, and it seemed politic now to
infuse into her manner a tinge of coldness.  Instantly, that grim
resolute expression passed over his face, but he said nothing, only
bided his time, and when presently they came near a vine-laden pergola,
he thrust an arm through hers and, with a suddenness that took her
unawares, guided her into obscurity.  Haughtily she disengaged herself,
but, he remained facing her, standing between her and the hotel, and his
words were arresting.

"You must stop fooling me, Loree.  My love is too great to be blown hot
upon one minute and cold the next."

"I don't think I understand--"

"Oh, beloved, you do!  You know that I love you."  His voice was of a
tenderness indescribable.  It played across her taut nerves like the bow
on a violin.

"You must--be mad!" she faltered.

He smiled.

"Yes; a divine madness.  You are touched with it, too."

"No!  No!" she protested.  He gave a short laugh and caught her in his
arms, holding her close and kissing her rapidly and fiercely.  She
resisted, but he held her closer; she protested, but he drank the words
off her lips.  He swept her from her feet, holding her to his heart and
taking his fill of her mouth, her eyes, her throat, her hair.  It was as
though a great wave of the sea had broken over her.  She lost her voice,
almost her senses, in the madness of the moment, but her heart knew fear
and an agony of shame.  At last he released her, and she leaned, like a
flower broken in a storm, against the side of the pergola.

"How dare you!  How dare you!" she breathed, white with anger.

"How dare I?" he said gently.  "Oh, beloved one--lovely one--surely you
have given the right!"

"Never!  Never!" she denied passionately.

He made a gesture to her breast, where something sparkled and shone.  In
her struggle to loose herself from his arms, the chain of diamonds had
torn its way through the filmy tissue of her gown.

"Why, then, do you wear my jewels, Loree?"

There was a long silence after that.  He stood looking at her with
pleading eyes.  She was like something carved and riven out of pallid
marble.

"_Your_ jewels?" she whispered at last.  "_Your_ jewels?"

He shrugged a little.  His eyes did not lose their tenderness, but his
smile was a little disdainful of the flashing chain.

"They are unworthy of your beauty, but you have done me the great honour
to wear them."

Slowly her fingers felt for the stones and clasped them, her glance
still in his.

"They are yours?" she murmured, still dazed and bewildered under the
shock.

"No; yours, Loree, as all I have is yours.  Only an earnest of things to
come.  You shall wreathe yourself in diamonds, the most beautiful the
world has ever seen--as you yourself are and shall be the fairest jewel
the world has ever seen, and mine."

"Your words are madness!" she stammered.  "How can I be yours?  I am a
married woman."

"Oh, _that_!"--with a gesture and a scornful smile he brushed away
marriage and every obstacle that stood between them.

"You are insane!" she insisted.  "I never dreamed of such a thing.  And
how could I know that these were yours?"  With a spurt of anger she
added, "How dared you put them in my room?"

He only smiled tolerantly.

"You accepted them--and wore them."

"But--I did not know they were yours."

"Who then, loved one, did you think was showering almost priceless
stones upon you?" he inquired with gentle irony.

"I--I don't know.  I never thought about it at all.  I just found them
there--and though--" She broke down.  It was true, but it sounded too
puerile and childish.

"You thought that findings were keepings?"  He laughed.  "So they are,
darling, as far as you are concerned.  And for me, too, I have found
you, and,"--his voice changed from laughter and became strong and soft
and fierce--"by God, I mean to keep you!"  As suddenly as before, he
caught her to his breast.  "You are mine, Loree, and I will hold you
against the world.  You are something I have been looking for all my
life.  Your beauty makes me--your eyes--your hair--it is wound round my
heart.  Ah--you don't know--women don't know--"

He was incoherent in his fierce passion, and all the time he tore kisses
from her lips, her hair.  The fires she had played with and carelessly
fed were loosed indeed, and raging to consume.  Loraine Loree was
getting all the thrills she had asked from life--and more!  Powerless in
his strong arms, hypnotised by the force of one who had always had his
will of life, gone where he listed, taken what he wished, she knew now
she could never save herself.  There was no answering power in her to
resist his.  She was a frail branch in a whirlpool of strong currents,
and the strength to survive was not in herself.  She must be rescued.
But who would rescue her?  She was alone, alone--and lost!  At last, the
white, forlorn stillness of her quieted his fierce heart and he loosed
her gently.

"Forgive me, darling!  Forgive me!  Your loveliness, the sweetness of
you drives me beyond myself.  When will you come to me?"

"Come to you?"  She looked dazed and strange, clinging to the pergola,
staring at him.

"Come _with_ me.  We will go away from here at once--to Europe--all over
the world."

"But I--" she began.  He interrupted her gently.

"There is a mail for the Cape to-morrow night.  I cannot wait a moment
longer, Loree."

"I will not come!"  She drew herself up in a last effort at resistance.

"There must be no `will not.'"  His eyes grew colder, his jaw resolute.
He put out a light finger and touched the diamonds.  "Don't you
understand that, by this chain, you have bound yourself to me?  And do
you think I will ever let you go?  Never!  I will pull down the temple
of your reputation into the dust first, and perish myself in the ruins.
Oh, darling, do not force me to say such things!"

"You could not touch my reputation," she said, but her heart trembled.

"Would you wish it to be thought that you could be bought with diamonds,
Loree?  _I_ understand; but would the world understand the love of
beauty in you that made you take that rose diamond from the De Beers
office?"

She gave a wild cry.

"I did not!  I did not!  Oh, you know I did not!"

He shrugged carelessly.

"At any rate, you acquired it, and kept it, and the De Beers people--
well, they are not very understanding, either; but I have power--I
explained, defended you, paid for the diamond and for silence."

"My God!  You think I stole it?  _They think so_?"  She swayed as if she
had been struck, almost fainting from this worst blow of all.

"What does it matter what they think?" he said soothingly.  "They will
be silent because I will it.  As for me, I love you, and nothing you do
could make any difference."

The girl stared before her, distraught, frantic.

"And the necklace?" she stammered.

"The necklace was different.  That was my gift to you, and you have
graced it by wearing it.  I have traced its outline often round your
lovely shoulders--and longed for the day when I could kiss it there."

His eyes grew dark again with the great passion he felt for her.  He put
out his arms entreatingly.  But she drew back, shuddering.  Her lips
were dumb; her hair was in turmoil; her heart seemed turned to ice, but
her feet still knew their uses.  She dashed past him and ran.

Even in her room, with the door locked and barricaded, she did not feel
safe.  Panting, she threw herself down and sobbed--dry sobs of fear and
anger and despair.  What had she done?  Where would it end?

"Am I mad?" she whispered.  "Have I been walking in madness all these
days, believing myself happy with these accursed stones, betraying my
husband's love for me--his honour and upright name?"

She wept, she trembled; she cursed the day she had ever seen diamonds,
and cast them from her on the floor.  At last, she flung herself on her
knees with the broken and bitter cry of a contrite heart.

"O God, help me!"

To her door came a soft knock.  She raised her dreary, emotion-racked
face and listened, trembling, for a while before she dared respond with
an inquiry.

"Who is there?"

It was Valeria Cork's voice that answered.

"May I come in for a moment?"

Loree's first impulse was to deny her.  All her inclinations were
opposed to being seen in such a state of misery and disarray.  Yet--had
she not called on God for help?  And was not here one stronger and abler
than herself?  Of instinct, she knew that Valeria Cork, for good or
evil, had more force of will than she herself possessed.  She opened the
door.

Mrs Cork, with her ravaged face and burnt-out eyes, came in, carrying
the note Loree had written that afternoon.  "Will you tell me," she
said, in a cold, far-off voice in which there was no life, "what your
reason was for supposing I stood in need of money?"

The whole thing seemed of small consequence to Loree now.  Graver issues
than another woman's displeasure faced her.

"I saw you in the pawnshop, and I noticed afterwards that your pendant
was gone," she answered drearily.  That was conclusive enough, and so
was the flush that stained the older woman's cheek.

"Oh!" she jerked out, and for a moment stood staring at the distraught
face of the girl.  "Then I have to thank you, Mrs Temple, and take back
my words.  I see now that it was not impertinence on your part, but a
rare generosity.  I am ashamed."

"It doesn't matter," said Loree.  "Nothing matters."

"What is wrong?" asked Valeria Cork dully, and sat down.  She seemed
unprepared for Loree's action in flinging her arms round her and
bursting into tears, but she remained stonily calm.

"Oh, I am in such trouble!" sobbed Loree.  "Such terrible trouble!"

"Tell me about it."

She did not comfortingly pat the girl in her arms, or kiss her, as most
women would have done, either sincerely or insincerely.  She simply sat
there, holding her quietly, staring before her.  On a table, the
photograph of Pat Temple stared back with his large, frank gaze.

Loree did not tell the full tale, but only what seemed essential to make
the other woman understand her distress and peril.  She recounted her
finding of the necklace and Quelch's threats and bold wooing in the
garden.  But she did not begin at the beginning of the trouble, which
was when the little pink god cast its spell over her.  There seemed no
sense in dragging forth that pagan idol from its grove wherein she had
so abandonedly worshipped.  In the end, she sat wiping her
tear-distorted face and gazing hopelessly at the other's grave eyes.
Said Valeria Cork, at last:

"He has us both in his power."

"You?  What can he do to hurt you?"

"Much.  I stole a rough diamond that day we went to the De Beers office.
It was only by grace of him that I was not arrested."

Loree shrank back, horrified.

"O God--how dreadful!"

"Dreadful, yes," agreed Valeria tonelessly.  "But you?  Did you not
steal, too?"

"I?"

Mrs Cork's speech assumed its usual biting flavour.

"Did you know that the rose diamond you found on your table was not
yours?  Or did you suppose that an angel had come down from heaven to
present you with it?"

"The rose diamond?" faltered Loree.

"Yes--your `pink topaz.'"

"How did you know?" whispered the girl, deeply shamed.

"I put it there, of course.  It was the price Quelch demanded for saving
me from arrest.  You remember the incident at Alexandersfontein when he
trod on your frock and you were obliged to go and mend it, leaving us
together?  That was the time he chose to blackmail me into being his
tool.  Both the rose diamond and the necklace were placed in your room
by me."

"Then it has all been a plan from the beginning!" cried Loree, in bitter
indignation.  "A plan to corrupt and ensnare me!"

"But you were so very willing to be corrupted and ensnared," retorted
Valeria Cork.  "If you had been honest and come to me that night, as was
evidently your first intention, we might have stood together and fought
him.  But you did not.  And in the morning, when I came round, still
wretchedly hoping for some way out for us both--you were there, happy
and smiling, making a silk bag for your _pink topaz_!"  The red blood of
shame rushed through Loree Temple's face, but the elder woman spared her
nothing.  "You lied to me and told me how old and ugly I looked.  I must
say your attitude did not invite sacrifice, and the burning of my own
hands.  I read you--empty, vain, faithless, utterly despicable."

Loree was now white as death, but the other woman's scorn brought a
blaze to her eyes.

"It does not come too well from you--that indictment," she retorted
bitterly.

"Perhaps not.  I am a thief, too.  But I stole for a keener need, and a
greater cause, if that can be any excuse for crime.  I wanted money, not
for myself but to ensure the continuation of my boy's education.  In a
moment of terrible temptation to steal a stone and realise a few hundred
pounds, I succumbed.  Within a few moments I repented and would have put
it back, but it was too late to do so without being observed, and my
next idea, to return it anonymously, was thwarted by the fact that
Quelch and the detectives had all seen.  You, on the other hand, had
time to think temptation over and reason with your own soul.  And what
was _your_ pressing need that made you ready and willing to barter away
the honour of a man like that,"--she pointed to the photograph on the
table--"for--diamonds?"

That blanched Loraine Loree, and withered and crushed her.

"Oh, no--no!" she moaned brokenly.  "Not Pat's honour!  Don't think
that!  I love my husband with all my heart and soul.  But I never gave a
thought to what I was doing.  From the moment I saw diamonds, they
seemed to put a spell on me, something that blotted out my mind and
conscience.  I can't explain to you--but _now_ I see what I have done--
destroyed his happiness, his pride in life--everything!  O God, what
shall I do?"

It was clear that at last she was at grips with something greater than
self love and vanity, had forgotten, in the suffering she must inflict
on her husband, the danger that menaced herself.  Even Valeria Cork's
tormented soul, wrung dry by its own sorrow, felt compassion for the
weeping, desolate girl, so young and so foolish.

"You must pick up the pieces and begin again," she said sombrely, "and
consider yourself lucky if you are able to.  A second chance does not
come to us all."

"What second chance am I likely to have?" said Loree tragically.  "None.
He has me in a trap that I cannot escape from without shame."

"I could help you if you were worth it," said Mrs Cork cryptically.

The girl could only look at her with agonised eyes.  She knew she had
proved herself unworthy of help on this woman's part, but she thought of
Pat, and her glance was entreating.

"No woman has ever helped me," stated Valeria Cork.  "A woman stole my
husband and destroyed my happiness.  In all my goings up and down, and
struggles to live uprightly, women have kicked me and wiped their boots
on me."  What gleam of hope she had felt left Loree's heart, but came
back at Valeria's next words: "That is no reason why I should be as base
as they.  And, at the last, you have shown me that a woman _can_ be kind
to another.  I will tell you truthfully that your action in bringing
that fifty pound note is the first disinterestedly generous thing a
woman has ever done for me."

Poor Loree's face drooped in shame.

"It was not altogether disinterested," she confessed.  "I--I did think,
as you divined, that it might also be a way of getting even with my
conscience for keeping the diamonds--"

"Ah!"

"Still, I _did_ want to give you a helping hand if you would let me.  I
liked you awfully, and was so dreadfully sorry--"

"_So_ you said in your letter."

"You can believe or not--I don't care.  What does anything matter if he
does what he swears--that rather than let me go, he will bring my
reputation to the dust?  That means publishing to the world that I--Pat
Temple's wife--took the De Beers diamond!"

"But you did not."

"Well, I kept it when I found it.  That is as bad--and worse--as you
have shown me."

"Only that it didn't happen to belong to De Beers," said Valeria Cork.
She picked it up from where it lay in its silk bag, discarded in company
with the now despised and rejected necklace.  "This diamond is an almost
exact facsimile of the rose diamond you so much admired at De Beers',
but it happens to have come, years ago, from the Tintara mine and to be
Heseltine Quelch's own property.  He took advantage of the likeness to
make you believe that it was the De Beers stone you had, when it was
simply his own that he wished you to keep."

"Then--then," cried Loree, "I am _not_ a public criminal?  De Beers
cannot arrest me?  No one but Heseltine Quelch can threaten me with
disgrace?"

"No," answered Valeria calmly; "it is rally I who can be arrested and
disgraced, and I don't suppose he will spare me when he finds you have
slipped his clutches."

Loree gave a long sigh.

"I cannot slip his clutches--at your expense," she said at last.

"You have your husband to think of."

The girl shook her head.

"You don't know Pat.  He would never let himself be saved anything at
the expense of another, especially a woman."

"He must never know that part of the story," said Valeria firmly.

"But, Mrs Cork, I cannot!  I feel it in my bones that Quelch will wreak
vengeance on some one, and I cannot let you be sacrificed.  You have got
to think of yourself.  Your boy, too--for whom--"

"For whom I stole," supplemented Valeria.  "Ah, my dear, _you_ tell me
to think of him!  For the last two days I have thought of nothing else.
He has lain in my arms, a little chubby baby once more, with his curly
head against my breast."

"He shall never be sacrificed!" cried Loree.

"He is sacrificed already," said Valeria Cork softly, "by a more just
fate than you or I control.  He was drowned two days ago while trying to
save the life of a friend."

"O dear God!" whispered Loree pitifully.  Now she knew the reason of the
other's sombre, tearless gaze.  Nothing could ever hurt more deeply or
comfort again that soul bereft.

"So you see," said Valeria, voicing her thought, "nothing matters."

She talked down Loree's protests.  She was bent on sacrifice as her just
punishment.  Almost it seemed as if she craved some other pain as
anodyne for that which already ate like a rat at her heart.  They talked
into the small hours of the morning, formulating plans by which to
defeat Quelch, who, they knew, would stick at nothing.

"He told me frankly," said Valeria, "that there were only two things in
the world he cared about--the future of his son and the possession of
you.  That was in the small hours after the ball when he had just paid
down 50,000 pounds to keep scandal from touching you."

"50,000 pounds!  What can you mean?"

"Ah yes, I had forgotten for the moment.  That was the price he paid
Mrs Solano for the necklace.  It was hers as she rightly claimed.  As
soon as she got it into her hands in Quelch's sitting-room she was able
to prove that to him."

"Hers?  But how then had he got it to give to me?"

"It is a complicated story, and full of dark by-ways.  God knows what
evil magic lies in diamonds that they can make people do such terrible
things!  It appears that Mrs Solano had given the chain into the care
of her banker.  She wanted him to sell it, but she set a very high price
on it and he had never been able to find a purchaser.  However, one day
recently when Quelch was with him at the bank he produced it, and
Quelch, with you in his mind, and recognising it as a most exquisite
collection of stones, offered twenty-five thousand pounds for it.  The
Banker closed at once without disclosing to Quelch the name of the
client for whom he was selling.  And in fact he never disclosed the
transaction to Mrs Solano herself.  His bank was in deep waters and he
used the money to tide over his own financial difficulties, no doubt
intending and hoping to repay the money before she should find out about
the sale of the chain.  Unfortunately you wore it that night.  She saw
it and the moment she and Quelch were alone and compared notes they
realised what had happened."

At the words "financial difficulties" a dreadful suspicion that had been
lurking in Loree Temple's brain, found words.

"What was the Banker's name?" she asked hoarsely, and even as she feared
the answer was:

"Frederick Huffe."

"O God!" with a moan the girl covered her eyes.  "I felt sure it was.  I
had a horrible feeling that there was some connection between the
diamonds and his death, for I remember that it was to speak to Mr
Quelch that he was called away from dancing with me."

"Yes, Quelch sent for him, and there in the sitting-room they questioned
him point blank, and he calmly admitted what he had done and that he had
used the money.  Nothing more was said.  Quelch had told me since that
neither he nor Mrs Solano would have dreamed of prosecuting.  They both
liked the man too much and appreciated that his difficulties had not
been his own but of the bank's making.  Probably Quelch would have
helped him out.  But poor Freddy Huffe's pride was broken.  He went
straight from them into the garden and shot himself with a revolver he
always carried."

Loree shuddered.

"It was my fault," she muttered.  "His blood is on my head!"

"That is a morbid thought," pronounced Valeria firmly, "and one you must
not allow to stay in your mind.  The fate of every man is bound about
his neck.  Frederick Huffe was fated to die by his own hand, and no
action of yours could have prevented it."

But Loree shook her head, and tears streamed down her face.

"How little I dreamed that it had anything to do with me when I read it
in the papers next day!--and how heartlessly I passed it over.  All that
moved me was thankfulness that no journalist had mentioned anything
about my diamonds.  I thought at the time that it was accident, but now
I suppose that too can be traced back to Heseltine Quelch's power?"

"Yes.  He has power in this place.  I think there can be no doubt that
he used it to prevent the journalists from saying anything about the
chain you were wearing."

"And what about Mrs Solano?  How did he account to her for giving me
the jewels?  Oh! what can _she_ think of me?"

"You need not worry about that.  Mrs Solano is under many obligations
to Heseltine Quelch, I believe, but he did not follow that line.  He
told her the whole story and threw himself on her mercy.  She is a
strange woman and in some ways a very fine one.  She understood both
Quelch's passion for you, and your passion for the gems, and she
consented to sell the chain to him and to keep her lips sealed forever.
He at once wrote her out a cheque for 50,000 pounds--double what she had
asked.  They can do big things these Jews, as well as small ones."

"But she makes another who knows!"

"I tell you Rachel Solano is a great woman, for all her sins.  You need
never fear her."

"I fear him," cried the desolate, shivering girl.  "I shall never be
able to escape him.  Every one in this hotel is his tool."

"They must be deceived as well as he.  Listen: start packing in the
morning, saying to the servants that you are leaving for England.  The
news will soon reach him."

"But he expects me to go with him to-morrow night."

"You must delay that.  Write him a note saying that you are ill and
can't be ready until the night after."

"And then."

"In reality, you will slip away to-morrow night by the mail-train for
Rhodesia."

"Rhodesia?" said Loree faintly.

"Yes--to your husband.  And never leave him again.  Women like you are
not safe away from their rightful owners.  Beauty is not such a boon as
plain women suppose."

There was pity as well as a certain amount of scorn in Valeria Cork's
voice, but Loree was in no mood to resent either.

"How can I ever explain to him--turning up suddenly like that?" she
murmured.

"That is your affair," said Valeria.  "Mine is to get you away.  So to
bed now, and rest as much as you can.  You will need all your wits and
nerves.  Good-night."

She rose, and they stood looking at each other for an instant.

"I don't suppose you would care to shake hands with a woman like me,"
said Mrs Cork slowly.  Her mournful eyes had something shamed and
beaten in their depths, something of the longing of a punished child for
a kind word.  Loree suddenly flung her arms about her and held her
close, and then, at last, the other woman's agonised heart found relief
in the tears that had been denied her since she received the news of her
loss.  Amidst her bitter weeping, broken incoherent phrases came gasping
from her lips.

"He was so beautiful, so gay!  I wanted only to be good for his dear
sake.  It was enough--just to be his mother.  But when I suddenly lost
all my little fortune in a mining smash, there seemed no way to get
money to keep him among the right people.  He was so brilliant--I
dreamed of his being one of the great men of England, some day.  I
thought, `What does _my_ poor soul matter so long as _he_ rises from the
ruins of it?'  I would have lied, stolen, murdered, done _anything_, so
that all might have been well with him--and see how the God of Equity
intervenes!  _He_ knew that no man could ever be great who had a
shameful mother--and He had pity on my son.  Oh, Loree, Loree--if ever
you have a son, starve with him in a garret, scratch with him in the
gutter, but never imperil for him your immortal soul.  `What you give of
gold and silver stands nothing; only as much as you have of soul
avails.'  Some great man said that, and it is true.  Only what you give
of the soul avails."

In the morning, to a wretched Loree, weary-eyed from haunted dreams,
came a letter from Quelch.  It was restrained and tender, almost gentle,
but it sounded the note of one who held the winning cards.  Below the
bold signature was appended the hour of the mail-train's departure, and
an added word like a cry:

"I have received a blow that only you can comfort me for, my beautiful
Loraine Loree."

She shivered, then burned.  The thought that she must carry the memory
of his illicit caresses all her life made her sick.  Frantically she
began to pack, then, remembering Valeria's instructions, went to bed
again.  It was a dreadful day of pretence and subterfuge and lying.  It
seemed to her that she could never again erase from her soul the black
marks of all the lies she told that day, that they would tarnish for
ever all her future life with Pat.  But then, had she not tarnished it
already by her own wicked folly?

Under the counsels of Valeria Cork, a subtly evasive answer was written
to Quelch's letter.  It told that she was too ill to leave her room that
day, and gave no bond to be at the station on the next; it sent no word
of love, and was a document that all the world might have read, yet a
premise, elusive and fragile as the scent of spring, haunted the simple
lines.  Valeria's lips were grim as she invented each delicate phrase.

"Skilled weapons against an unscrupulous fighter," she contended.  "When
you are safely gone, he shall know who composed the letter.  It is one
of his punishments for what he has done to you--and me."

She moved sombrely about the room, like one walking behind the bier of
her dead.  Nothing seemed alive in her except her smouldering eyes.  At
lunch-time, she went down stairs and sat before food she could not eat
for the sake of spying out the land of the enemy.  But he did not
appear.  There was nothing to report to Loree except that it was known
in the hotel that his going to the Cape had been postponed until the
following evening.  Afterwards, she wrote a note to him and left it at
the office.  The office-girl mentioned to her that Mr Quelch was
looking terribly ill, and she wondered what the bad news could be he had
mentioned to Loree; but she was not a woman to waste time on idle
curiosity.  Having gone through Loree Temple's trunks that morning, she
had selected therefrom a pair of tan-cloth riding-breeches, a long
habit-coat, and top-boots.  All the rest of the lovely Viola clothes
were stored away in the trunks labelled loudly for Cape Town--except one
simple frock and such feminine necessities as would fill a small
suitcase.  Now she sallied forth to do some shopping, taking the
suitcase with her.

"To get it mended," she told the hall porter, and placed it herself in
the taxi.  But its true destination was the station cloakroom.

Returning at tea-time, she brought with her a first-class ticket to
Mafeking, and another from Mafeking to Buluwayo, a strong rope, a
second-hand tweed ulster suitable for a slender youth of medium height,
and a slouch hat.  These last, with the breeches and top-boots, were to
constitute Loree's travelling-kit.

They "dressed the part" and gravely rehearsed it.  Mrs Temple's mirror,
that had once given back lovely visions in diaphanous draperies and
sparkling jewels, now reflected something uncommonly like a seedy youth
of the type that relations get rid of to South Africa and hope they'll
never see again.  What could be seen of the face beneath the slouch hat
was not prepossessing when Valeria had finished with it.  The complexion
was sallow and distinctly spotty, the eyes slightly inflamed.  A
darkness on the upper lip might have been the promise of a moustache or
merely dirt.  What the hand of Mrs Cork found to do, she did well.

Loree gazed with disgust at the odious person in the glass.  It seemed
impossible she could ever be herself again.  But Valeria coached her in
the art of getting rid of facial disguise in ten minutes.  That was the
secret contained in the two railway tickets.  The lightning change had
to occur in a lavatory dressing-room sometime in the early morning
before the train reached Mafeking.  During the short wait at the famous
little Bechuanaland town, no one was likely to note the disappearance of
a bleary-eyed youth or connect it with the advent of a veiled lady who
would continue the journey to Buluwayo as Mrs Temple.

Getting away from the hotel without being seen and reported to Quelch
was a more difficult matter, but Valeria had laid careful plans.  It
would be dusk--the hour when people were dressing for dinner.  No one
would be likely to be near the corner of the balcony opposite Valeria's
room or in the obscure fernery on the stoop below.  The corner had a
strong post to the ground, against which Loree could support herself
when being let down.  That was what the rope was for.

"And if you meet any one who wants to know your business, give them this
note for me, and then make tracks," said Valeria.  "You will easily get
a cab to the station."

She had thought of everything.  Her only regret was that she could not
be at the station, too.  But it had seemed wiser to make an appointment
with Quelch for that hour.  To that end, she had written the note at
midday, underlining the words: "particularly personal matter."  She
desired that he would realise the matter to be connected with Loree
Temple, and, even as she anticipated, a prompt reply came, and hoped she
would "honour him by an interview in his private sitting-room" at the
hour she mentioned, if such an arrangement suited her.  She grimaced at
the courteous words which seemed to her unnecessary irony, but the plan
indeed suited her--perfectly.

At the hour in which she knocked upon Heseltine Quelch's door the work
was done.  She had kissed Loraine Loree upon her darkened lips and bade
her Godspeed, had launched her from the balcony, and seen the boyish
silhouette disappear through the garden.  Even as she listened for an
answer from the room within, she heard the harsh scream and "chug-chug"
of a departing train, and knew that, if all was well, Mrs Temple was
passing out of Kimberley and out of _her_ life for ever.

Quelch was sitting at a table, holding his hands before him as though
clutching something.  But the moment she entered, he rose abruptly and
came towards her with a sort of violence.  She saw that his hands were
empty, and thought, by his strange face, that he meant to kill her.
Brave as she was, she recoiled from him.  That pulled him up sharp.  He
stood stammering, almost gibbering incoherent words at her.  She was
certain now that he knew.  There was something horribly moving in the
desolation of his eyes.  It was the expression of a fierce creature of
the wilds wounded to the death.  She noticed suddenly that he was no
longer young.  His shoulders stooped; there was silver in his hair.

"Did he care so much?" she thought amazed, and almost her heart felt
pity for him.  She knew what it was to love and be robbed.  In a moment,
he succeeded in getting control of himself and spoke clearly.  Then she
realised that though he was no longer incoherent, she did not understand
him.  What he said was:

"It is no wonder you recoil from me--hate me.  I can only say to you
that I grieve for you with all that is left of my heart--and--I thank
you."

She stared at him.  They stood looking at each other--two people scarred
and marred by the passionate lawlessness of their own natures--in her
eyes amazement, in his that devastating mournfulness.  What was he
speaking of?  He seemed to know of her sorrow, to share it.

"A son," he said softly, "to lose one's son!  The being one wound one's
dreams about--who was to be so infinitely greater than oneself--to
compensate with the shining splendour of his soul for all the darkness
of one's own."  Valeria gloomed at him with bitter eyes.  How did he
know so well wherewith to mock her, this strange Eastern man with his
gentle, un-English voice?  "You should not hate me.  It is unworthy of
the mother of a son who gave his life for a friend."

While she stood considering him--how un-English he was to have tears
running down his cheeks like that; that he _must_ be a Jew (as she had
often supposed) to be so emotional, so unreserved, so piercingly
sapient--the truth came to her like an arrow.  It was _his_ son that
hers had died to save and died for in vain!  They were both sonless!

Nothing but the bare news of her loss had come to her, no names but that
of her son.  Quelch with his wealth had commanded every detail of the
tragedy, and been receiving news down to that very hour.  The table was
littered with cablegrams.

She stood _very_ still and white and weary until he had finished telling
her all, thanking her for the nobleness of her son's effort, assuring
her that if in all the wide world there was anything that could
represent his gratitude, any act of his that would help to ease her
wound, she had only to speak.  Then from her pocket she produced a
little parcel of sparkling stones wrapped in a silken handkerchief and
laid it on the table.

"A little foolish girl returns you these," she said, and her voice, too,
had grown very gentle.  "She left to-night to join her husband.  This
you can do for me: Forget her, and let her forget you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pink Gods and Blue Demons" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home