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Title: Diana Tempest, Volume III (of 3)
Author: Cholmondeley, Mary, 1859-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DIANA TEMPEST.

by

MARY CHOLMONDELEY,

Author of
"The Danvers Jewels,"
"Sir Charles Danvers," etc.

In Three Volumes.

VOL. III.



London:
Richard Bentley & Son,
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
1893.
(All rights reserved.)



DIANA TEMPEST.



CHAPTER I.

     "Time and chance are but a tide."

     BURNS.


Between aspiration and achievement there is no great gulf fixed. God
does not mock His children by putting a lying spirit in the mouth of
their prophetic instincts. Only the faith of concentrated endeavour,
only the stern years which must hold fast the burden of a great hope,
only the patience strong and meek which is content to bow beneath "the
fatigue of a long and distant purpose;" only these stepping-stones, and
no gulf impassable by human feet, divide aspiration from achievement.

To aspire is to listen to the word of command. To achieve is to obey,
and to continue to obey, that voice. It is given to all to aspire. Few
allow themselves to achieve. John had begun to see that.

If he meant to achieve anything, it was time he put his hand to the
plough. He had listened and learned long enough.

"My time has come," he said to himself, as he sat alone in the library
at Overleigh on the first day of the new year. "I am twenty-eight. I
have been 'promising' long enough. The time of promise is past. I must
perform, or the time of performance will pass me by."

He knit his heavy brows.

"I must act," he said to himself, "and I cannot act. I must work, and I
cannot work."

John was conscious of having had--he still had--high ambitions, deep
enthusiasms. Yet lo! all his life seemed to hinge on the question
whether Di would become his wife. Who has not experienced, almost with a
sense of traitorship to his own nature, how the noblest influences at
work upon it may be caught up into the loom of an all-absorbing personal
passion, adding a new beauty and dignity to the fabric, but nevertheless
changing for the time the pattern of the life?

John's whole heart was set on one object. There is a Rubicon in the
feelings to pass which is to cut off retreat. John had long passed it.

"I cannot do two things at the same time," he said. "I will ask Mrs.
Courtenay and Di here for the hunt ball, and settle matters one way or
the other with Di. After that, whether I succeed or fail, I will throw
myself heart and soul into the career Lord ---- prophesies for me. The
general election comes on in the spring. I will stand then."

John wrote a letter to the minister who had such a high opinion of
him--or perhaps of his position--preserved a copy, pigeon-holed it, and
put it from his mind. His thoughts reverted to Di as a matter of course.
He had seen her several times since the fancy ball. Each particular of
those meetings was noted down in the unwritten diary which contains all
that is of interest in our lives, which no friend need be entreated to
burn at our departure.

He was aware that a subtle change had come about between him and Di;
that they had touched new ground. If he had been in love before--which,
of course, he ought to have been--he would have understood what that
change meant. As it was, he did not. No doubt he would be wiser next
time.

Yet even John, creeping mole-like through self-made labyrinths of
conjecture one inch below the surface, asked himself whether it was
credible that Di was actually beginning to care for him. When he knew
for certain she did not, there seemed no reason that she should not; now
that he was insane enough to imagine she might, he was aware of a
thousand deficiencies in himself which made it impossible. And yet----

So he wrote another letter, this time to Mrs. Courtenay, inviting her
and Di to the hunt ball in his neighbourhood, at the end of January.

And his invitation was accepted. And one if not two persons, perhaps
even a third old enough to know better, began the unprofitable task of
counting days.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an iron winter. It affected Fritz's health deleteriously. His
short legs raised him but little above the surface of the earth, and he
was subject to chills and cramps owing to the constant contact of the
under portion of his long ginger person with the snow. Not that there
was much snow. One steel and iron frost succeeded another. Lindo, on the
contrary, found the cold slight compared with the two winters which he
had passed in Russia with John. His wool had been allowed to grow, to
the great relief of Mitty, who could not "abide" the "bare-backed state"
which the exigencies of fashion required of him during the summer.

It was a winter not to be forgotten, a winter such as the oldest people
at Overleigh could hardly recall. As the days in the new year
lengthened, the frost strengthened, as the saying goes. The village beck
at Overleigh froze. By-and-by the great rivers froze. Carts went over
the Thames. Some one, fonder of driving than of horses, drove a
four-in-hand on the ice at Oxford. The long lake below Overleigh Castle,
which had formerly supplied the moat, was frozen feet thick. The little
islands and the boathouse were lapped in ice. It became barely possible,
as the days went on, to keep one end open for the swans and ducks. The
herons came to divide the open space with them. The great frost of
18-- was not one that would be quickly forgotten.

John kept open house, for the ice at Overleigh was the best in the
neighbourhood, and all the neighbours within distance thronged to it.
Mothers drove over with their daughters; for skating is a healthy
pursuit, and those that can't skate can learn.

The most inaccessible hunting men, rendered desperate like the herons by
the frost, turned up regularly at Overleigh to play hockey, or emulate
John's figure-skating, which by reason of long practice in Russia was
"bad to beat."

John was a conspicuous figure on the ice, in his furred Russian coat
lined with sable paws, in which he had skated at the ice carnivals at
St. Petersburg.

Mitty, with bright winter-apple cheeks and a splendid new beaver muff,
would come down to watch her darling wheel and sweep.

"If the frost holds I will have an ice carnival when Di is here," John
said to himself; and after that he watched the glass carefully.

The day of Di's arrival drew near, came, and actually Di with it. She
was positively in the house. Archie came the same day, but not with her.
Archie had invariably shown such a marked propensity for travelling by
any train except that previously agreed upon, when he was depended on to
escort his sister, that after a long course of irritation Mrs. Courtenay
had ceased to allow him to chaperon Di, to the disgust of that
gentleman, who was very proud of his ornamental sister when she was not
in the way, and who complained bitterly at not being considered good
enough to take her out. So Mrs. Courtenay, who had accepted for the sake
of appearances, but who had never had the faintest intention of leaving
her own fireside in such inhuman weather, discovered a tendency to
bronchitis, and failed at the last moment, confiding Di to the charge of
Miss Fane, who good-naturedly came down from London to assist John in
entertaining his guests.

And still the following day the frost held. The hunt ball had dwindled
to nothing in comparison with the ice carnival at Overleigh the night
following the ball. The whole neighbourhood was ringing with it. Such a
thing had never taken place within the memory of man at Overleigh. The
neighbours, the tenantry, cottagers and all, were invited. The
hockey-players rejoiced in the rumour that there would be hockey by
torchlight, with goals lit up by flambeaux and a phosphorescent bung.
Would the frost hold? That was the burning topic of the day.

There was a large house-party at Overleigh, a throng of people who in
Di's imagination existed only during certain hours of the day, and
melted into the walls at other times. They came and went, and skated and
laughed, and wore beautiful furs, especially Lady Alice Fane, but they
had no independent existence of their own. The only real people among
the crowd of dancing skating shadows were herself and John, with whom
all that first day she had hardly exchanged a word--to her relief, was
it, or her disappointment?

After tea she went up with Miss Fane to the low entresol room which had
been set apart for that lady's use, to help her to rearrange the men's
button-holes, which John had pronounced to be too large. As soon as Di
took them in hand, Miss Fane of course discovered, as was the case, that
she was doing them far better than she could herself, and presently
trotted off on the pretext of seeing to some older lady who did not want
seeing to, and did not return.

Di was not sorry. She rearranged the bunches of lilies of the valley at
leisure, glad of the quiet interval after a long and unprofitable day.

Presently the person of whom she happened to be thinking happened to
come in. He would have been an idiot if he had not, though I regret to
be obliged to chronicle that he had had doubts on the subject.

"I thought I should find Aunt Loo here," he said, rather guiltily, for
falsehood sat ungracefully upon him. And he looked round the apartment
as if she might be concealed in a corner.

"She was here a moment ago," said Di, and she began to sort the flowers
all over again.

"The frost shows no signs of giving."

"I am glad."

After the frost John found nothing further of equal originality to say,
and presently he sat down, neither near to her nor very far away, with
his chin in his hands, watching her wire her flowers. The shaded light
dealt gently with the folds of Di's amber tea-gown, and touched the
lowest ripple of her yellow hair. She dropped a single lily, and he
picked it up for her, and laid it on her knee. It was a day of little
things; the little things Love glorifies. He did not know that his
attitude was that of a lover--did not realize the inference he would
assuredly have drawn if he had seen another man sit as he was sitting
then. He had forgotten all about that. He thought of nothing; neither
thought of anything in the blind unspeakable happiness and comfort of
being near each other, and at peace with each other.

Afterwards, long afterwards, John remembered that hour with the feeling
as of a Paradise lost, that had been only half realized at the time. He
wondered how he had borne such happiness so easily; why no voice from
heaven had warned him to speak then, or hereafter for ever hold his
peace. And yet at the time it had seemed only the dawning of a coming
day, the herald of a more sure and perfect joy to be. The prophetic
conviction had been at the moment too deep for doubt that there would be
many times like that.

"Many times," each thought, lying awake through the short winter night
after the ball.

John had discovered that to be alternately absolutely certain of two
opposite conclusions, without being able to remain in either, is to be
in a state of doubt. He found he could bear that blister as ill as most
men.

"I will speak to her the morning after the carnival," he said, "when all
this tribe of people have gone. What is the day going to be like?"

He got up and unbarred his shutter, and looked out. The late grey
morning was shivering up the sky. The stars were white with cold. The
frost had wrought an ice fairyland on the lattice. While that fragile
web held against the pane, the frost that wrapped the whole country
would hold also.



CHAPTER II.

     "A funeral morn is lit in heaven's hollow,
     And pale the star-lights follow."

     CHRISTINA ROSSETTI.


Towards nine o'clock in the evening carriage after carriage began to
drive up to Overleigh in the moonlight. When Di came down, the white
stone hall and the music-room were already crowded with guests, among
whom she recognized Lord Hemsworth, Mr. Lumley, and Miss Crupps, who had
been staying at houses in the neighbourhood for the hunt ball the night
before, and had come on with their respective parties, to the not
unmixed gratification of John.

"Here we are again," said Mr. Lumley, flying up to her. "No favouritism,
I beg, Miss Tempest. Tempest shall carry one skate, and I will take the
other. Hemsworth must make himself happy with the button-hook. Great
heavens! Tempest, whose funeral have you been ordering?"

For at that moment the alarm-bell of the Castle began to toll.

"It is unnecessary to hide in the curtains," said John. "That bell is
only rung in case of fire. It is the signal for lighting up."

And, headed by a band of torches, the whole party went streaming out of
the wide archway, a gay crowd of laughing expectant people, into the
gardens, where vari-coloured lines of lights gleamed terrace below
terrace along the stone balustrades, and Neptune reined in his dolphins
in the midst of his fountain, in a shower of golden spray.

The path down to the lake through the wood was lit by strings of Chinese
lanterns in the branches. The little bridge over the frozen brook was
outlined with miniature rose-coloured lights, in which the miracles
wrought by the hoar-frost on each transfigured reed and twig glowed
flame-colour to their inmost tracery against the darkness of the
overhanging trees.

Di walked with John in fairyland.

"Beauty and the beast," said some one, probably Mr. Lumley. But only the
"beast" heard, and he did not care.

There was a chorus of exclamations as they all emerged from the wood
into the open.

The moon was shining in a clear sky, but its light was lost in the glare
of the bonfires, leaping red and blue and intensest green on the further
bank of the lake, round which a vast crowd was already assembled. The
islands shone, complete circles of coloured light like jewels in a
silver shield. The whole lake of glass blazed. The bonfires flung great
staggering shadows across the hanging woods.

John and Di looked back.

High overhead Overleigh hung in mid air in a thin veil of mist, a castle
built in light. Every window and archer's loophole, from battlement to
basement, the long lines of mullioned lattice of the picture-gallery and
the garret gallery above, throbbed with light. The dining-hall gleamed
through its double glass. The rose window of the chapel was a rose of
fire.

"They have forgotten my window," said John; and Di saw that the lowest
portion of the western tower was dark. Her own oriel window, and
Archie's next it, shone bravely.

Mitty was watching from the nursery window. In the fierce wavering
light she could see John, conspicuous in his Russian coat and peaked
Russian cap, advance across the ice, escorted by torches, to the
ever-increasing multitude upon the further bank. The enthusiastic
cheering of the crowd when it caught sight of him came up to her, as she
sat with a cheek pressed against the lattice, and she wept for joy.

Di's heart quickened as she heard it. Her pride, which had at first
steeled her against John, had deserted to his side. It centred in him
now. She was proud of him. Lord Hemsworth, on his knees before her,
fastening her skates, asked her some question relating to a strap, and,
looking up as she did not answer, marvelled at the splendid colour in
her cheek, and the flash in the eyes looking beyond him over his head.
At a signal from John the band began to play, and some few among the
crowd to dance on the sanded portion of the ice set apart for them; but
far the greater number gathered in dense masses to watch the "musical
ride" on skates which the house-party at Overleigh had been practising
the previous day, which John led with Lady Alice, circling in and out
round groups of torches, and ending with a grand chain, in which Mr.
Lumley and Miss Crupps collapsed together, to the delight of the
spectators and of Mr. Lumley himself, who said he should tell his mamma.

And still the crowd increased.

As John was watching the hockey-players contorted like prawns, wheeling
fast and furious between their flaming goals, which dripped liquid fire
on to the ice, the local policeman came up to him.

"There's over two thousand people here to-night, sir," he said.

"The more the better," said John.

"Yes, sir, and I've been about among 'em, me and Jones, and there's a
sight of people here, sir, as are no tenants of yours, and roughish
characters some of 'em."

"Sure to be," said John. "If there is any horseplay, treat it short and
sharp. I'll back you up. I've a dozen men down here from the house to
help to keep order. But there will be no need. Trust Yorkshiremen to
keep amused and in a good temper."

And, in truth, the great concourse of John's guests was enjoying itself
to the utmost, dancing, sliding, clutching, falling one on the top of
the other, with perfect good humour, shouting with laughter, men, women,
and children all together.

As the night advanced an ox was roasted whole on the ice, and a cauldron
of beer was boiled. There was a tent on the bank in which a colossal
supper had been prepared for all. Behind it great brick fire-places had
been built, round which the people sat in hundreds, drinking, singing,
heating beer and soup. They were tactful, these rough Yorkshiremen; not
one came across to the further bank set apart for "t' quality," where
another supper, not half so decorously conducted, was in full swing by
the boathouse. John skated down there after presiding at the tent.

Perhaps negus and mutton-broth were never handed about under such
dangerous circumstances. The best _Consommé à la Royale_ watered the
earth. The men tottered on their skates over the frozen ground, bearing
soup to the coveys of girls sitting on the bank in nests of fur rugs.

Mr. Lumley and Miss Crupps had supper together in one of the boats, Mr.
Lumley continually vociferating, "Not at home," when called upon, and
retaliating with Genoese pastry, until he was dislodged with oars, when
he emerged wielding the drumstick of a chicken, and a free fight ensued
between him and little Mr. Dawnay, armed with a soup-ladle, which ended
in Mr. Lumley's being forced on to his knees among the mince-pies, and
disarmed.

John looked round for Di, but she was the centre of a group of girls,
and he felt aggrieved that she had not kept a vacant seat for him beside
her, which of course she could easily have done. Presently, when the
fireworks began, every one made a move towards the lower part of the
lake in twos and threes, and then his opportunity came.

He held out his hand to help her to her feet, and they skated down the
ice together. Every one was skating hand in hand, but surely no two
hands trembled one in the other as theirs did.

The evening was growing late. A low mist was creeping vague and billowy
across the land, making the tops of the trees look like islands in a
ghostly sea. The bonfires, burning down red and redder into throbbing
hearts of fire, gleamed blurred and weird. The rockets rushed into the
air and dropped in coloured flame, flushing the haze. The moon peered in
and out.

And to John and Di it seemed as if they two were sweeping on winged feet
among a thousand phantasmagoria, in the midst of which they were the
only realities. In other words, they were in love.

"Come down to the other end of the lake, and let us look at the
fireworks from there," said John; and they wheeled away from the crowd
and the music and the noise, past all the people and the lighted islands
and the boathouse, and the swinging lamps along the banks, away to the
deserted end of the lake. A great stillness seemed to have retreated
there under shadow of the overhanging trees. The little island left in
darkness for the waterfowl, with its laurels bending frozen into the
ice, had no part or lot in the distant jargon of sound, and the medley
of rising, falling, skimming lights. There was no sound save the ringing
of their skates, and a little crackling of the ice among the grass at
the edge.

They skated round the island, and then slackened and stood still to look
at the scene in the distance.

One of the bonfires just replenished leapt one instant lurid high, only
to fall the next in a whirlwind of sparks, and cover the lake with a
rush of smoke. Figures dashed in and out, one moment in the full glare
of light, the next flying like shadows through the smoke.

"It is like a dream," said Di. "If it is one, I hope I shan't wake up
just yet."

To John it was not so wild and incredible a dream as that her hand was
still in his. She had not withdrawn it. No, his senses did not deceive
him. He looked at it, gloved in his bare one. He held it still. He could
not wait another moment. He must have it to keep always. Surely, surely
fate had not thrown them together for nothing, beneath this veiled moon,
among the silver trees!

"Di," he said below his breath.

"There is some one on the bank watching us," said Di, suddenly.

John turned, and in the uncertain light saw a man's figure come
deliberately out of the shadow of the trees to the bank above the ice.

John gave a sharp exclamation.

"What has he got in his hand?" said Di.

He did not answer. He dropped her hand and moved suddenly away from
her. The figure slowly raised one arm. There was a click and a snap.

"Missed fire," said John, making a rush for the edge. But he turned
immediately. He remembered his skates. Di screamed piercingly. In the
distance came the crackling of fireworks, and the murmur of the
delighted crowd. Would no one hear?

The figure on the bank did not stir; only a little steel edge of light
rose slowly again.

There was a sharp report, a momentary puff of light in smoke, and John
staggered, and began scratching and scraping the ice with his skates. Di
raised shrieks that shook the stars, and rushed towards him.

And the cruel moon came creeping out, making all things visible.

"Go back," he gasped hoarsely. "Keep away from me. He will fire again."

And he did so; for as she rushed up to John, and in spite of the
strength with which he pushed her from him, caught him in her arms and
held him tightly to her, there was a second report, and the muff hopped
and ripped in her hand.

She screamed again. Surely some one would come! She could hear the
ringing of skates and voices. Torches were wheeling towards her.
Lanterns were running along the edge. Good God! how slow they were!

"Go back--go back!" gasped John, and his head fell forward on her
breast. He seemed slipping out of her arms, but she upheld him clasped
convulsively to her with the strength of despair.

"Where?" shouted voices, half-way up the lake.

She tried to shriek again, but only a harsh guttural sound escaped her
lips.

The man had not gone away. She had her back to him, but she heard him
run a few steps along the frost-bitten bank, and she knew it was to
make his work sure.

John became a dead weight upon her. She struggled fiercely with him, but
he dragged her heavily to her knees, and fell from her grasp, exposing
himself to full view. There was a click.

With a wild cry she flung herself down upon his body, covering him with
her own, her face pressed against his.

"We will die together! We will die together!" she gasped.

She heard a low curse from the bank. And suddenly there was a turmoil of
voices, and a rushing and flaring of lights all round her, and then a
sharp cry like the fire-engines clearing the London streets.

"I must get him to the side," she said to herself, and she beat her
hands feebly on the ice.

Away in the distance, in some other world, the band struck up, "He's a
fine old English gentleman."

Her hands touched something wet and warm.

"The thaw has come at last," she thought, and consciousness and feeling
ebbed away together.



CHAPTER III.

     "And dawn, sore trembling still and grey with fear,
     Looked hardly forth, a face of heavier cheer
     Than one which grief or dread yet half enshrouds."

     SWINBURNE.


When Di came to herself, it was to find that she was sitting on the bank
supported by Miss Crupps' trembling arm, with her head on Miss Crupps'
shoulder. Some one, bending over her--could it be Lord Hemsworth with
that blanched face and bare head?--was wiping her face with the
gentleness of a woman.

"Have I had a fall?" she asked dizzily. "I don't remember. I thought it
was--Miss Crupps who fell."

"Yes, you have had a fall," said Lord Hemsworth, hurriedly; "but you
will be all right directly. Don't be all night with that brandy,
Lumley."

Di suddenly perceived Mr. Lumley close at hand, trying to jerk something
out of a little silver lamp into a tumbler. She had seen that lamp
before. It had been handed round with lighted brandy in it with the
mince-pies. No one drank it by itself. Evidently there was something
wrong.

"I don't understand," she said, beginning to look about her. A confused
gleam of remembrance was dawning in her eyes which terrified Lord
Hemsworth.

"Drink this," he said quickly, pressing the tumbler against her lip.

Her teeth chattered against the rim. Miss Crupps was weeping silently.
Di pushed away the glass and stared wildly about her.

What was this great crowd of eyes kept back by a chain of men? What was
that man in a red uniform with a trumpet, craning forward to see? There
was a sound of women crying. How dark it was! Where was the moon gone
to?

"What is it?" she whispered hoarsely, stretching out her hands to Lord
Hemsworth, and looking at him with an agony of appeal. "What has
happened?"

But he only took her hands and held them hard in his. If he could have
died to spare her that next moment he would have done it.

"When I say three," said a distinct voice near at hand. "Gently, men.
One, two, _three_. That's it."

Di turned sharply in the direction of the voice. There was a knot of
people on the ice at a little distance. One was kneeling down. Another
knelt too, holding a lantern ringed with mist. As she looked, the
others raised something between them in a fur rug, something heavy, and
began to move slowly to the bank.

Her face took a rigid look. She remembered. She rose suddenly to her
feet with a voiceless cry, and would have fallen forward on her face had
not Lord Hemsworth caught her in his arms. He held her closely to him,
and put his shaking blood-stained hand over her eyes. Miss Crupps sobbed
aloud. Mr. Lumley sat down by her, telling her not to cry, and assuring
her that it would all be all right; but when he was not comic he was not
up to much.

There was no need to keep the crowd off any longer. Their whole interest
centred in John, and they broke away in murmuring masses along the bank,
and down the ice, in the wake of the little band with the lantern.

Now that the lantern had gone, the place was wrapped in a white
darkness. The other lights had apparently gone out, except the red end
of a torch on the bank. The mist was covering the valley.

"Is he dead? Is he dead?" gasped Di, clinging convulsively to the friend
who had loved her so long and so faithfully.

"No, Di, no," said Lord Hemsworth, speaking as if to a child; "not dead,
only hurt. And the doctor is there. He was on the ice when it happened.
He was with you both almost as soon as I was. I am going to take off
your skates. Can you walk a little with my help? Yes? It will be better
to be going gently home. Put your hands in your muff. Here it is. You
must put in the other hand as well. The bank is steep here. Lean on me."
And Lord Hemsworth helped her up the bank, and guided her stumbling feet
towards the dwindling constellation of lights at the further end of the
lake.

A party of men passed them in the drifting mist. One of them turned
back. It was Archie, his face streaming with perspiration.

"Did you get him?" asked Lord Hemsworth.

"Get him? Not a chance," said Archie. "He stood on the bank till Dawnay
and I were within ten yards of him, and then laughed and ran quietly
away. He knew we could not follow on our skates, though we made a rush
for him, and by the time we had got them off he was out of sight, of
course. I expect he has doubled back, and is watching among the crowd
now."

"Would you know him again?"

"No; he was masked. He would never have let me come so close to him if
he had not been. I say, how is John?"

Lord Hemsworth glared at Archie, but the latter was of the species that
never takes a hint, like his father before him, who was always deeply
affronted if people resented his want of tact. He called it "touchiness"
on their part. The "touchiness" of the world in general affords tactless
persons a perennial source of offended astonishment.

"What are you frowning at me about?" said Archie, in an injured voice.
"What has become of John? Hullo! what's that? Why, it's the omnibus.
They have been uncommonly quick about getting it down. My word, the
horses are giving trouble! They can't get them past the bonfires."

"Go on and say Miss Tempest and Miss Crupps are coming," said Lord
Hemsworth, "and keep places for them."

He knew the omnibus had not been sent for for them, but he did not want
Di to realize for whom it was required. Archie hurried on. Miss Crupps
and Mr. Lumley passed at a little distance.

"You are deceiving me," gasped Di. "You mean it kindly, but you are
deceiving me. He is dead. Did not Archie say he was dead? It is no good
keeping it from me."

Lord Hemsworth tried to soothe her in vain.

"The man on the bank shot twice," she went on incoherently. "I tried to
get between, but it was no good; and I screamed, but you were all so
long in coming. I never knew people so slow. You were too late, too
late, too late!"

Lord Hemsworth was experiencing that unbearable wrench at the heart
which goes by the easy name of emotion. He was reading his death-warrant
in every random word Di said. It appeared to him that he had always
known that John loved Di; and yet until this evening he had never
thought of it, and certainly never dreamed for a moment that she cared
for him. He had not imagined that Di could care for any one. The ease
with which any man can marry any woman nowadays, the readiness of women
to give their affection to any one, irrespective of age, character, and
antecedents, has awakened in men's minds a profound and too well
grounded disbelief in women's love. The average woman of the present day
is, as men are well aware, in love with marriage, and in order to attain
to that state a preference for one person rather than another is quickly
seen to be prejudicial; for though love conduces to happy marriages,
love conduces also to the catastrophe of single life, and is but a blind
leader of the blind at best.

Lord Hemsworth loved Di, but that was different. The fact that she,
being human, might be equally attached to himself or to some other man
had never struck him. It struck him now, and for a few minutes he was
speechless.

It was only a very great compassion and tenderness that was able to
wrestle with and vanquish the intolerable pain of the moment.

"See, Di," he said gently, through his white lips. "Look at that great
tear and hole through your muff. I saw it directly I picked it up. A
bullet did that; do you understand?--a bullet that perhaps would have
hit Tempest but for you. But you saved him from it. Perhaps he is better
now, and afraid _you_ are hurt. There is the carriage coming to us; let
us go on to meet it."

And in truth the great Overleigh omnibus, with men at the horses' heads,
was lurching across the uneven turf to meet them.

"Where is John?" asked Di of Archie, peering at the empty carriage.

"The doctor would not have him lifted in, after all," said Archie.
"They went on on foot. We may as well go up in it;" and he helped in
Lady Alice Fane and Miss Crupps, who came up at the moment. Lord
Hemsworth followed Di and sat down by her. He was determined she should
be spared all questioning. Mr. Lumley and Mr. Dawnay got in too, and sat
silently staring straight in front of them. No one spoke. Archie stood
on the step; and the long lumbering vehicle turned and got slowly under
way--the same in which such a merry party had driven to the ball the
night before.

As they reached the courtyard a confused mass of people became visible
within it--the guests of the evening; the girls standing about in silent
groups, muffled to the eyes, for the cold had become intense; the men
hurrying to and fro, getting out their own horses and helping the
coachmen to harness them. Through the darkness came the uplifted voices
of Lindo and Fritz in hysterics at being debarred from taking part in
the festivities. Carriages were beginning to drive off. There was no
leave-taking.

"There is our omnibus," said Mr. Lumley to Miss Crupps. "That is Montagu
lighting the lamps. They will be looking for us." And they got out and
rejoined their party, nodding silently to the others, who drove on to
the hall door, Lord Hemsworth with them: he seemed quite oblivious of
the fact that he was not staying at Overleigh.

The hall was brilliantly lighted. Every carved lion and griffin on the
grand staircase held its lamp. The house-party was standing about in the
hall. They looked at the remainder as they came in, but no one spoke.
Miss Fane was blinking in their midst. The other elder ladies who had
stayed up at the Castle whispered with their daughters. A blaze of light
and silver came through the opened folding doors of the dining-hall,
where supper for a large number had been prepared.

"Any news?" asked Lord Hemsworth, as he guided Di to an armchair.

Miss Fane shook her head.

"They won't let me in," she said. "They have taken him to his room, and
they won't let any one in."

"Who is with him?" said Di, in a loud hoarse voice that made every one
look at her.

She did not see what every one else did, namely, that the neck and
breast of her grey coat was drenched with blood--not hers.

"The doctor and his sister are with him. They were both on the ice at
the time. I think Lord Elver is there too, and his valet."

Lord Hemsworth went into the dining-hall and came back with a glass of
champagne and a roll.

"Bring things out to the people," he said to the bewildered servants;
"they won't come in here for them." And they followed with trays of wine
and soup.

Without making her conspicuous, he was thus able to force Di to drink
and eat. She remembered afterwards his wearying pertinacity till she had
finished what he brought her.

The men, most of whom were exhausted by the pursuit of the assassin, or
by carrying John up the steep ascent, drank large quantities of spirits.
Archie, quite worn out, fell heavily asleep in an oak chair. The women
were beginning to disappear in two and threes. Every one was dead beat.

It was Lord Hemsworth who took the onus of giving directions, who told
the servants to put out the lights from all the windows. Miss Fane was
of no more use than a sheep waked at midnight for an opinion on New
Zealand lamb would have been. She stood about and ate sandwiches because
they were handed to her, although she and the other chaperons had just
partaken of roast turkey; went at intervals into the picture-gallery, at
the end of which John's room was, and came back shaking her head.

It was Lord Hemsworth who helped Di to her room, while Miss Fane
accompanied them upstairs. Di's room was still brilliantly lighted. Lord
Hemsworth lingered on the threshold.

"You will promise me to take off that damp gown at once," he said.

Somehow there seemed nothing peculiar in the authoritative attitude
which he had assumed towards Di. She and Miss Fane took it as a matter
of course.

"Yes, change all her things," said Miss Fane. "Quite right--quite
right."

"Where is your maid? Can you get her?" asked Lord Hemsworth, uneasily.

"I have no maid," said Di, trying and failing to unfasten her grey
furred coat.

He winced as he saw her touch it, and then, an idea seeming to strike
him, closed the door and went downstairs again.

The servants had put out the lamps in the windows of the
picture-gallery, leaving, with unusual forethought, one or two burning
in the long expanse in case of need.

In the shadow at the further end, near John's room, a bent figure was
sitting, silently rocking itself to and fro. It had been there whenever
he had ventured into the gallery. It was there still.

It was Mitty--Mitty in her best violet silk that would stand of itself,
and her black satin apron, and her gold brooch with the mosaic of the
Coliseum that John had brought her from Rome. She raised her wet face
out of her apron as the young man touched her gently on the shoulder.

"They won't let me in to him, sir," said Mitty, the round tears running
down her cheeks, and hopping on to her violet silk. "Me that nursed him
since he was a baby. He was put into my arms, sir, when he was born. I
took him from the month, and they won't let me in."

"They will presently," said Lord Hemsworth. "He will be asking for you,
you'll see; and then how vexed he will be if he sees you have been
crying!"

"And the warming-pan, sir," gasped Mitty, shaken with silent sobs,
pointing to that article laid on the settee. "I got it ready myself. I
was as quick as quick. And a bit of brown sugar in it to keep off the
pain. And they said they did not want it--as if I didn't know what he'd
like! He'll want his old Mitty, and he won't know they are keeping me
away from him."

"Some one wants you very much," said Lord Hemsworth. "Poor Miss Tempest.
And she has no maid with her. She is not fit to be left to herself.
Won't you go and see to her, Mitty?"

But Mitty shook her head.

"He may ask for me," she said.

"I will stay here and come for you the first minute he asks," said Lord
Hemsworth, moving the rejected warming-pan, and sitting down beside her
on the hot settee. "Poor Miss Tempest! And she tried so hard to save
him. Won't you go to her? She has only Miss Fane with her."

"Miss Fane!" said Mitty, evidently with the recollection of a
long-standing feud. "Much good she'd do a body; doesn't know chalk from
cheese. She didn't even know when Master John had got the measles,
though the spots was out all over him. 'It's only nettle-rash, nurse,'
she says to me. And the same when he had them little ulsters in his
throat. Miss Fane indeed!"

And after a little more persuasion Mitty consented to go if he promised
to come for her if John asked for her.

Lord Hemsworth gave a sigh of relief as Mitty went reluctantly away. He
was in mortal anxiety about Di. He had a nervous misgiving, increased by
his feeling of masculine helplessness to do anything further for her,
lest she should fall ill or faint alone in that gaily lighted room; for,
of course, Miss Fane would not have remained. As, indeed, was the case.
She was yawning herself out of the room when Mitty appeared.

"That's it--that's it," she said, evidently relieved. "Get to bed, Di.
No use sitting up. We shall hear in the morning;" and she departed to
her own room.

Di turned her white exhausted face slowly towards the old woman, and
vainly tried to frame a question. Mitty's maternal instinct was aroused
by the sight of her lamb's "Miss Dinah" sitting in her mist-damped
clothes, which steamed where the warmth of the fire reached them. She
had made no effort to take off her walking things, but she was passive
under Mitty's hands, as the latter unfastened them and wrapped her in
her warm dressing-gown.

"I can't go to bed, Mitty," said Di, hoarsely, holding her gown. "Don't
make me. Let me come and sit in the nursery with you. We shall be nearer
there, and then I shall hear. There is no one to come and tell me
here."

The girl clung convulsively to the old woman, and the two went together
to the nursery, and Mitty, after putting her guest into the
rocking-chair by the fire, went down once more to ask for news. But
there was no news. John was still unconscious, and the doctor would say
nothing. Presently Mitty came tearfully back, and sat down on the other
side of the fire. Lord Hemsworth, who was sitting up with Archie, had
promised to come to the nursery the moment there was any change.

The nursery still bore traces of the little party that had broken up so
disastrously, for Mitty had invited the _élite_ of the village ladies to
view the carnival from the nursery windows. The "rock" buns for which
Mitty was celebrated, and one of Mrs. Alcock's best cakes, were still on
the table, and Mitty's fluted silver teapot with a little nest of clean
cups round it. Presently she got up, and, opening the corner cupboard,
began to put them away; but the impulse of tidying was forgotten as she
caught sight of John's robin mug on the top shelf. She took it down, and
stood holding it in her old withered hands.

"I give it him myself," she said, "on his birthday when he was five
years old; twenty-four years ago come June. I thought some of his
mother's family would have remembered his birthday if his father didn't.
I thought something would have come by post. But there wasn't so much as
a letter. And Mrs. Alcock give him the tin plate with the soldier on it,
but I never let him eat off it. And we had Barker's little nephew to tea
as he was learning to shoemaykle, but nobody took no notice of his
birthday except me and Mrs. Alcock. And when he went to school I kep'
his mug and his toys. He never had a many toys, but what there was I
have 'em. And his clothes, my dear, everything since he was born, from
his little cambric shirts, I have 'em all, put away; with a bit of
camphor to his velvet suit as I took him to York to be measured for, on
purpose to make him look pretty to his papa when he come home from
abroad. But he never took a bit of notice of him--never." Mitty sat down
by the fire, still holding the mug. "And a lace collar he had with
it--real lace, the best as money could buy. I might spend what I liked
on him; but no one ever took no notice of him, not even in his first
sailor's; and he with his pretty ways and his grave talk! Mrs. Alcock
and me has often cried over the things he'd say. There's his crib still
in the night-nursery by my bed. I could not sleep without it was there;
and the little blankets and sheets and piller-slips as belong, all put
away, and not a iron mould upon 'em. Eh, dear miss, many's the time
I've got 'em out and aired 'em, thinking maybe the day 'ud come when he
would have a babby of his own, and I should hold it in my old arms
before I died. And even if I was gone they'd be all ready, and the
bassinet only wanting muslin to it. And now--oh, my lamb, my lamb! And
they won't let his old Mitty go to him." And Mitty's grief broke into a
paroxysm of sobbing.

Di looked at the old woman rocking herself backwards and forwards, and,
rising unsteadily, she went and knelt down by her, putting her arms
round her in silence. She had no comfort to give in words. It seemed as
if her strong young heart were breaking; but she realized that Mitty's
anguish for a love knit up into so many faithful years was greater than
hers.

As she knelt, a step came along the creaking garret gallery with its
uneven flooring.

It was Lord Hemsworth.

He stood in the doorway with the wan light of the morning behind him.
His face looked pinched and aged.

"He is better," he said. "He has recovered consciousness, and has
spoken. The other doctor has arrived, and they think all will go well."

And the two women who loved John clung and sobbed together.

Lord Hemsworth looked fixedly at Di and went out.



CHAPTER IV.

     "Toute passion nuisible attire, comme le gouffre, par le
     vertige. La faiblesse de volonté amène la faiblesse de tête, et
     l'abîme, malgré son horreur, fascine alors comme un
     asile."--AMIEL.


People said that John had a charmed life. The divergence of an eighth of
an inch, of a hundredth part of an inch, of a hair's-breadth and the
little bead that passed right through his neck would have pierced the
jugular artery, and John would have added one more to the long list of
names in Overleigh Church. As it was, when once the direction of the
bullet had been ascertained, he was pronounced to be in little danger.
He rallied steadily, and without relapse.

People said that he bore a charmed life, and they began to say something
more, namely, that it was an object to somebody that it should be wiped
out. Men are not shot at for nothing. John was not an Irish landlord.
Some one evidently bore him a grudge. Society instantly formed several
more or less descreditable reasons to account for John's being the
object of some one's revenge. Half-forgotten rumours of Archie's doings
were revived with John's name affixed to them. Decidedly there had been
some "entanglement," and John had brought his fate upon himself. Colonel
Tempest, just returned from foreign travel, heard the matter discussed
at his club. His opinion was asked as to the truth of the reports, but
he only shrugged his shoulders, and it was supposed that he could not
deny them. Di's, Lady Alice Fane's, and Miss Crupps' names were all
equally associated with John's in the different versions of the
accident.

Colonel Tempest did not go to see his daughter. She had been telegraphed
for the morning after the ice carnival by Mrs. Courtenay, who had
actually developed with the thaw the bronchitis which she had dreaded
throughout the frost. Di and Archie, whose leave was up, returned to
town together for once.

Archie had experienced a distinct though shamed pang of disappointment
when John's state was pronounced to be favourable.

All night long, as he had sat waking and dozing beside the gallery fire
opposite Lord Hemsworth's motionless, wakeful figure, visions of wealth
passed in spite of himself before his mind; visions of four-in-hands,
and screaming champagne suppers, and smashing things he could afford to
pay for, and running his own horses on the turf. He did not want John
to die. He had been dreadfully shocked when he had first caught sight of
the stony upturned face almost beneath his feet, and had strained every
nerve in his body to overtake the murderer. He did not want John to go
where he, Archie, would have been terrified to go himself. But--he
wanted the things John had, which his father had often told him should
by rights have been his, and they could not both have them at one and
the same time.

He could not understand his father's fervent "Thank God!" when he
assured him that John was out of danger.

"A miss is as good as a mile," said Archie, with his smallest grin. He
was desperately short of money again by this time, and he had no one to
apply to. He knew enough of John to be aware that nothing was to be
expected from that quarter. Twenty-four hours ago he had thought--how
could he help it?--that perhaps there would be no further trouble on
that irksome, wearisome subject; for lack of money, and the annoyance
entailed by procuring it, was the thorn in Archie's flesh. But now the
annoyance was still there, beginning as it were all over again, owing
to--John. Madeleine would lend him money, he knew, but he would be a cad
to take it. He could not think of such a thing, he said to himself, as
he turned it over in his mind.

The ice carnival and John's escape were a nine days' wonder. In ten days
it was forgotten for a _cause célèbre_ by every one except Colonel
Tempest.

Colonel Tempest had had a fairly pleasant time abroad. While his small
stock of ready money lasted, the remainder of the five hundred
subtracted from the sum he had returned to John after his interview
with Larkin, he had really almost enjoyed himself. He had picked up a
few old companions of the hanger-on species at Baden and Homburg, and
had given them dinners--he was always open-handed. He had the natural
predilection for the society of his social inferiors which generally
accompanies a predilection for being deferred to, and regarded as a
person of importance. He was under the impression that he was the most
liberal-minded of men in the choice of his companions, and without the
social prejudices of his class. He had won a little at "baccarat." His
health also had improved. On his return in December to the lodgings
which he had left in such a panic in July, he told himself that he had
been in a morbid state of health, that he had taken things too much to
heart, that he had been over-sensitive; that there was no need to be
afraid. Five months had elapsed. It would be all right.

And it had been all right for about a month, and then----

If the distressing theory that virtue is its own reward has any truth,
surely sin is its own punishment.

The old monotonous pains took Colonel Tempest.

It is a popular axiom among persons in robust health that others
labouring long under a painful disease become accustomed to it. It is
perhaps as true as all axioms, however freely laid down by persons in
one state respecting the feelings of others in a state of which they are
ignorant, can be.

The continual dropping of water wears away the stone. The stone ought,
of course, to put up an umbrella--any one can see that--or shift its
position. But it seldom does so.

There was a continual dropping of a slowly diluted torture on the
crumbling sandstone of Colonel Tempest's heart. The few months of
intermission only rendered more acute the agony of the inevitable
recommencement.

As he felt in July after the fire in John's lodgings, so he felt now;
just the same again, all over again, only worse. The porous sandstone
was wearing down.

He wandered like a ghost in the snowy places in the Park--for snow had
followed the thaw--or paced for hours by the Serpentine, staring at the
water. Once in a path across the Park he suddenly caught sight of John
walking slowly in the direction of Kensington. The young man passed
within a couple of yards of him without seeing him, his head bent, and
his eyes upon the ground.

"It is his ghost," said Colonel Tempest to himself, clutching the
railing, and looking back at the receding figure with an access of
shuddering horror.

Another figure passed, a heavy man in an ulster.

"He is being followed," thought Colonel Tempest. "It is Swayne, and he
is following him."

He rushed panting after the second figure, and overtook it at a meeting
of the ways.

"Swayne!" he gasped; "for mercy's sake, Swayne, don't----"

A benevolent elderly face turned and peered at him in the twilight, and
Colonel Tempest remembered that Swayne was dead.

"My name is Smith," said the man, and after waiting a moment passed on.

In a flash of memory Colonel Tempest saw Swayne's huddled figure
crouching in the disordered bed, and the check trousers over a chair,
and the candle on the window-sill bent double by the heat. That had
been the manner of Swayne's departure. How had he come to forget he was
dead, and that John was laid up at Overleigh?

"I am going mad," he said to himself. "That will be the end. I shall go
mad and tell everything."

The new idea haunted him. He could not shake it off. There was nothing
in the wide world to turn to for a change of thought. If he fell asleep
at night he was waked by the sound of his own voice, to find himself
sitting up in bed talking loudly of he knew not what. Once he heard
himself call Swayne's and John's names aloud into the listening
darkness, and broke into a cold sweat at the thought that he might have
been heard in the next room. Perhaps the other lodger, the young man
with the red hair, cramming for the army, knew everything by this time.
Perhaps the lodging-house people had been listening at the door, and
would give him in charge in the morning. Did he not at that very moment
hear furtive steps and whispering on the landing? He rushed out to see
the thin tabby cat, the walking funeral of the beetles and mice of the
establishment, slip noiselessly downstairs, and he returned to his room
shivering from head to foot, to toss and shudder until the morning, and
then furtively eye the landlady and her daughter in curl-papers.

More days passed. Colonel Tempest had had doubts at first, but gradually
he became convinced that the people in the house knew. He was sure of it
by the look in their faces if he passed them on the stairs. It was
merely a question of time. They were waiting to make certain before they
informed against him. Perhaps they had written to John. There was no
news of John, except a rumour in the _World_ that he was to stand at the
coming general election.

Colonel Tempest became the prey of an _idée fixe_. When John came
forward on the hustings he would be shot at and killed. He became as
certain of it as if it had already happened. At times he believed it
_had_ happened--that he had been present and had seen him fall forward;
and it was he, Colonel Tempest, who had shot him, and had been taken
red-handed with one of his old regimental pistols smoking in his hand.

Colonel Tempest had those pistols somewhere. One day he got them out and
looked at them, and spent a long time rubbing them up. They used to hang
crosswise under a photograph of himself in uniform in his wife's little
drawing-room. He recollected, with the bitterness that accompanies the
remembrance of the waste of lavished affections, how he had sat with his
wife and child a whole wet afternoon polishing up those pistols, while
another man in his place would have gone off to his club. (Colonel
Tempest always knew what that other man would have done.) And Di had
been gentle and affectionate, and had had a colour for once, and had
played with her creeping child like a cat with its kitten. And they had
had tea together afterwards, sitting on the sofa with the child asleep
between them. Ah! if she had only been always like that, he thought, as
he remembered the cloud that, owing to her uncertain temper, had
gradually settled on his home-life.

An intense bitterness was springing afresh in Colonel Tempest's mind
against his dead wife, against his dead brother, against Swayne, against
his children who never came near him (Di was nursing Mrs. Courtenay in
bronchitis, but that was of no account), against the world in general
which did not care what became of him. No one cared.

"They will be sorry some day," he said to himself.

And still the waking nightmare remained of seeing John fall, and of
finding he had shot him himself.

More days passed.

And gradually, among the tottering _débris_ of a life undermined from
its youth, one other thought began, mole-like, to delve and creep in the
darkness.

Truly the way of transgressors is hard.

No one cared what he suffered, what he went through. This was the
constant refrain of these latter days. He had paroxysms of angry tears
of self-pity with his head in his hands, his heart rent to think of
himself sitting bowed with anguish by his solitary fireside. Love holds
the casting vote in the destinies of most of us. There is only one love
which wrings the heart beyond human endurance--the love of self.

And yet more days. The sun gave no light by day, neither the moon by
night.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the severe cold of January a mild February had succeeded. March was
close at hand. The hope and yearning of the spring was in the air
already. Already in Kensington Gardens the silly birds had begun to
sing, and the snowdrops and the little regiments of crocuses had come up
in double file to listen.

On this particular afternoon a pale London sun was shining like a new
shilling in the sky, striking as many sparks as he could out of the
Round Pond. There was quite a regatta at that Cowes of nursery shipping.
The mild wind was just strong enough to take sailing-vessels across. The
big man-of-war belonging to the big melancholy man who seemed open to an
offer, the yachts and the little fishing-smacks, everything with a
sail, got over sooner or later. The tiny hollow boats with seats were
being towed along the edge in leading-reins. A wooden doll with joints
took advantage of its absence of costume to drop out of the boat in
which it was being conveyed, and take a swim in the open. But it was
recovered. An old gentleman with spectacles hooked it out with the end
of his umbrella in a moment, quite pleased to be of use. The little boys
shouted, the little girls tossed their manes, and careered round the
pool on slender black legs. Solemn babies looked on from perambulators.

The big man started the big man-of-war again, and the whole fleet came
behind in its wake.

Colonel Tempest was sitting on a seat near the landing-place, where the
ship-owners had run to clutch their property a moment ago. His hand was
clenched on something he held under his overcoat.

"When the big ship touches the edge," he said to himself.

They came slowly across the pool in a flock. Every little boy shrieked
to every other little boy of his acquaintance to observe how his
particular craft was going. The big man alone was perfectly apathetic,
though his priceless possession was the first, of course. He began
walking slowly round. Half the children were at the landing before him,
calling to their boats, and stretching out their hands towards them.

The big one touched land.

"Not this time," said Colonel Tempest to himself; "next time."

How often he had said that already! How often his hand had failed him
when the moment which he and that other self had agreed upon had
arrived! How often he had gone guiltily back to the rooms to which he
had not intended to return, and had lain down once more in the bed
which had become an accomplice to the torture of every hour of darkness!

Between the horror of returning once again, and the horror of the step
into another darkness, his soul oscillated with the feeble violence of
despair.

He remembered the going back of yesterday.

"I will not go back again," he said to himself, with the passion of a
spoilt child. "I will not--I will not."

"It is time to go home, Master Georgie," said a nursery-maid.

"Just once more, Bessie," pleaded the boy. "Just one _single_ once
more."

"Well, then, it must be the last time, mind," said the good-natured
arbiter of fate, turning the perambulator, and pushing it along the
edge, while the occupant of the same added to the hilarity of the
occasion by beating a much-chewed musical rattle against the wheel.

"_The last time._" The chance words seized upon Colonel Tempest's
shuddering panic-stricken mind, and held it as in a vice.

"Next time," he said over and over again to himself. "Next time shall
really be the last time--really the last, the very last."

The boats were coming across again, straggling wide of each other; how
quick, yet what an eternity in coming! The top-heavy boat with the red
sail would be the first. It had been started long before the others. The
wind caught it near the edge. It would turn over. No, it righted itself.
It neared, it bobbed in the ripple at the brink; it touched.

Colonel Tempest's mind had become quite numb. He only knew that for some
imperative reason which he had forgotten he must pull the trigger. He
half pulled it; then again more decidedly.

There was a report. It stunned him back to a kind of consciousness of
what he had done, but he felt nothing.

There was a great silence, and then a shrieking of terrified children,
and a glimpse of agitated people close at hand, and others running
towards him.

The man with the big boat under his arm said, "By gum!"

Colonel Tempest looked at him. He felt nothing. Had he failed?

The smoke came curling out at his collar, and something dropped from his
nerveless hand and lay gleaming on the grass. There was a sound of many
waters in his ears.

"He might have spared the children," said a man's voice, tremulous with
indignation.

"That is always the way. No one thinks of _me_," thought Colonel
Tempest. And the Round Pond and the growing crowd, and the child nearest
him with its convulsed face, all turned slowly before his eyes, slid up,
and disappeared.



CHAPTER V.

     "Vous avez bien froid, la belle;
     Comment vous appelez-vous?
     Les amours et les yeux doux
     De nos cercueils sont les clous.
     Je suis la morte, dit-elle.
     Cueillez la branche de houx."
                    VICTOR HUGO.


As John lay impatiently patient upon his bed in the round oak-panelled
room at Overleigh during the weeks that followed his accident, his
thoughts by day, and by night, varied no more than the notes of a
chaffinch in the trees outside.

     "Oh, let the solid earth
       Not fail beneath my feet,
     Before I too have found
       What some have found so sweet!"

That was the one constant refrain. The solid earth had nearly failed
beneath his feet, nearly--nearly. If the world might but cohere together
and not fly off into space; if body and soul might but hold together
till he had seen Di once more, till he knew for certain from her own
lips that she loved him! Unloved by any woman until now, wistfully
ignorant of woman's tenderness, even of its first alphabet learned at a
mother's knee, unread in all its later language,--in these days of
convalescence a passionate craving was upon him to drink deep of that
untasted cup which "some have found so sweet."

He had Mitty, and Mitty at least was radiantly happy during these weeks,
with John fast in bed, and in a condition to dispense with other nursing
than hers. She sat with him by the hour together, mending his socks and
shirts, for she would not suffer any one to touch his clothes except
herself, and discoursing to him about Di--a subject which she soon
perceived never failed to interest him.

"Miss Dinah," Mitty would say for the twentieth time, but without
wearying her audience--"now, there's a fine upstanding lady for my
lamb."

"Lady Alice Fane is very pretty, too," John would remark, with the happy
knack of self-concealment peculiar to the ostrich and the sterner sex.

"Hoots!" Mitty replied. "She's nothing beside Miss Dinah. If you have
Lady Fane with her silly ways, and so snappy to her maid, you'll repent
every hair of your head. You take Miss Dinah, my dear, as is only
waiting to be asked. She wants you, my precious," Mitty never failed to
add. "I tell you it's as plain as the nose on your face" (a simile the
force of which could not fail to strike him). "It's not that Lord
Hemstitch, for all his pretty looks. It's _you_."

And John told himself he was a fool, and then secretly felt under the
pillow for a certain pencilled note which Di had left with the doctor on
her hurried departure to London the morning after the ice carnival. It
had been given to him when he was able to read letters. It was a short
note. There was very little in it, and a great deal left out. It did not
even go over the page. But nevertheless John was so very foolish as to
keep it under his pillow, and when he was promoted to his clothes it
followed into his pocket. Even the envelope had a certain value in his
eyes. Had not her hand touched it, and written his name upon it?

Lindo and Fritz, who had been consumed with ennui during John's illness,
were almost as excited as their master when he hobbled, on Mitty's arm,
into the morning-room for luncheon. Lindo was aweary of sediments of
beef-tea and sticks of toast. Fritz, who had had a plethora of whites of
poached eggs, sniffed anxiously at the luncheon-tray with its roast
pheasant.

There were tricks and Albert biscuits after luncheon, succeeded by heavy
snoring on the hearthrug.

John was almost as delighted as they were to leave his sick-room. It was
the first step towards going to London. When should he wring permission
from his doctor to go up on "urgent business"? Five days, seven days?
Surely in a week at latest he would see Di again. He made a little
journey round the room to show himself how robust he was becoming, and
wound up the old watches lying in the _blue du roi_ Sèvres tray, making
them repeat one after the other, because Di had once done so. Would Di
make this her sitting-room? It was warm and sunny. Perhaps she would
like the outlook across the bowling-green and low ivy-coloured
balustrade away to the moors. It had been his mother's sitting-room. His
poor mother. He looked up at the pretty vacant face that hung over the
fireplace. He had looked at it so often that it had ceased to make any
definite impression on him.

He wondered vaguely whether the happy or the unhappy hours had
preponderated in this room in which she was wont to sit, the very
furniture of which remained the same as in her quickly finished day. And
then he wondered whether, if she had lived, Di would have liked her; for
it was still early in the afternoon, and he had positively nothing to
do.

He tried to write a few necessary letters in the absence of Mitty, who
was busy washing his handkerchiefs, but he soon gave up the attempt. The
exertion made his head ache, as he had been warned it would, so he
propelled himself across the room to his low chair by the window.

What should he do till teatime? If only he had asked Mitty for a bit of
wash-leather he might have polished up the brass slave-collar in the
Satsuma dish. He took it up and turned it in his hands. It was a heavy
collar enough, with the owner's name engraved thereon. "Roger Tempest,
1698."

"It must have galled him," said John to himself; and he took up the gag
next, and put it into his mouth, and then had considerable difficulty in
getting it out again. What on earth should he do with himself till
teatime?

One of the bits of Venetian glass standing in the central niche of the
lac cabinet at his elbow had lost its handle. He got up to examine it,
and, thinking the handle might have been put aside within, pushed back
the glass in the centre of the niche, which, as in so many of its
species, shut off a small enclosed space between the tiers of drawers.
The glass door and its little pillars opened inwards, but not without
difficulty. It was clogged with dust. The handle of the Venetian glass
was not inside. There was nothing inside but a little old, old, very
old, glue-bottle, standing on an envelope, and a broken china cup beside
it, with the broken bits in it. The hand that had put them away so
carefully to mend, on a day that never came, was dust. They remained.
John took out the cup. It matched one that stood in the picture-gallery.
The pieces seemed to be all there. He began to fit them together with
the pleased interest of a child. He had really found something to do at
last. At the bottom of the cup was a key. It was a very small key, with
a large head, matching the twisted handles of the drawers.

This was becoming interesting. John put down the cup, and fitted the key
into the lock of one of the drawers. Yes, it was the right one. He
became quite excited. Half the cabinets in the house were locked, and
would not open; of some he had found the keys by diligent search, but
the keys of others had never turned up. Here was evidently one.

The key turned with difficulty, but still it did turn, and the drawer
opened. The dust had crept over everything--over all the faded silks and
bobbins and feminine gear, of which it was half full. John disturbed it,
and then sneezed till he thought he should kill himself. But he survived
to find among the tangle of work a tiny white garment half made, with
the rusted needle still in it. He took it out. What was it? Dolls'
clothing? And then he realized that it was a little shirt, and that his
mother had probably been making it for him and had not had time to
finish it. John held the baby's shirt that he ought to have worn in a
very reverent hand, and looked back at the picture. That bit of
unfinished work, begun for him, seemed to bring her nearer to him than
she had ever been before. Yes, it was hers. There was her ivory workbox,
with her initials in silver and turquoise on it, and her small gold
thimble had rolled into a corner of the drawer. John put back the little
remnant of a love that had never reached him into the drawer with a
clumsy gentleness, and locked it up. "I will show it Di some day," he
said.

The other drawers bore record. There were small relics of girlhood--ball
cards, cotillon ribbons, a mug with "Marion Fane" inscribed in gold on
it, a slim book on confirmation. "One of darling Spot's curls" was
wrapped in tissue-paper. John did not even know who Spot was, except
that from the appearance of the lock he had probably been a black
retriever. Her childish little possessions touched John's heart. He
looked at each one, and put it tenderly back.

Some of the drawers were empty. In some were smart note-paper with faded
networks of silver and blue initials on them. In another was an
ornamental purse with money in it and a few unpaid bills. John wondered
what his mother would have been like now if she had lived. Her sister,
Miss Fane, had a weakness for gorgeous note-paper and smart work-baskets
which he had often regarded with astonishment. It had never struck him
that his mother might have had the same tastes.

He opened another drawer. More fancy-work, a ball of silk half wound on
a card, a roll of vari-coloured embroidery, and, thrust in among them, a
half-opened packet of letters. The torn cover which still surrounded
them was addressed to Mrs. Tempest, Overleigh Castle, Yorkshire.

Inside the cover was a loose sheet which fell apart from the packet,
tied up separately. On it was written, in a large cramped hand that John
knew well--

"I dare say you are wise in your generation to prefer to break with me.
'Tout lasse,' and then naturally 'on se range.' I return your letters as
you wish it, and as you have been kind enough to burn mine already, I
will ask you to commit this last effusion to the flames."

The paper was without date or signature.

John opened the packet, which contained many letters, all in one
handwriting, which he recognized as his mother's. He read them one by
one, and, as he read, the pity in his face gave place to a white
indignation. Poor foolish, foolish letters, to be read after a lapse of
eight and twenty years. John realized how very silly his poor mother had
been; how worldly wise and selfish some one else had been.

"We ought to have been married, darling," said one of the later letters,
dated from Overleigh, evidently after her marriage with Mr. Tempest. "I
see now we ought. You said you were too poor, and you could not bear to
see me poor; but I would not have minded that one bit--did not I tell
you so a hundred times? I would have learnt to cook and mend clothes and
everything if only I might have been with you. It is much worse now,
feeling my heart is breaking and yours too, and Fate keeping us apart.
And you must not write to me any more now I am married, or me to you. It
is not right. Mother would be vexed if she knew; I am quite sure she
would. So this is the very last to my dearest darling Freddie, from poor
Marion."

Alas! there were many, many more from "poor Marion" after the very last;
little vacillating, feeble, gilt-edged notes, with every other word
under-dashed; some short and hurried, some long and reproachful; sad
landmarks of each step of a blindfold wandering on the brink of the
abyss, clinging to the hand that was pushing her over.

The last letter was a very long one.

"You have no heart," wrote the pointed, slanting handwriting. "You do
not care what I suffer. I do not believe now you ever cared. You say it
would be an act of folly to tell my husband, but you know I was always
silly. But it is not necessary. I am sure he knows. I feel it. He says
nothing, but I know he knows. Oh, if I were only dead and in my grave,
and if only the baby might die too, as I hope it will, as I pray to God
it will! If I die and it lives, I don't know what will happen to it.
Remember, if he casts it off, it is your child. Oh, Freddie, surely it
can't be all quite a mistake. You were fond of me once, before you made
me wicked, and when I am dead you won't feel so angry and impatient with
me as you do now. And if the child lives and has no friend, you will
remember it is yours, won't you? I am so miserable that I think God will
surely let me die. And the child may come any day now. Last night I felt
so ill that I dared not put off any longer, and this morning I burned
all your letters to me, every one, even the first about the white
violets. Do you remember that letter? It is so long ago now; no, you
have forgotten. It is only I who remember, because it was only I who
cared. And I burned the locket you gave me with your hair in it. It felt
like dying to burn it. Everything is all quite gone. But I can't rest
until you have sent me back my letters. I can't trust you to burn them.
I know what trusting to you means. Send them all back to me, and I will
burn them myself. Only be quick, be quick; there is so little time. If
they come when I am ill, some one else may read them. I hope if I live I
shall never see your face again; and if I die, I hope God will keep you
away from me. Oh! I don't mean it, Freddie, I don't mean it; only I am
so miserable that I don't know what I write. God forgive you. I would
too if I thought you cared whether I did or not. God forgive us
both.--M."

       *       *       *       *       *

John looked back at the cover of the packet. The Overleigh postmark was
blurred but legible. June the 8th, and the year----. _It was his
birthday._

Her lover had sent back her letters, then, with those few harsh lines
telling her she was wise in her generation. Even the last he had
returned. And they had reached her on the morning of the day her child
was born. Had it been a sunny day, with no fire on the hearth before
which Lindo and Fritz now lay stretched, into which she could have
dropped that packet? Had she not had time even to burn them? She had
glanced at them, evidently. Had she been interrupted, and had she thrust
them for the moment with her work into that drawer?

Futile inquiry. He should never know. And she had had her wish. She had
been allowed to die, to hide herself away in the grave. John's heart
swelled with sorrowing pity as at the sight of a child's suffering. She
had been very little more. She should have her other wish, too.

He gathered up the letters, and, stepping over the dogs, dropped them
into the heart of the fire. They were in the safe keeping of the flames
at last. They reached their destination at last, but, a little
late--twenty-eight years too late.

And suddenly, as he watched them burn, like a thunderbolt falling and
tearing up the ground on which he stood, came the thought, "Then I am
illegitimate."

       *       *       *       *       *

The minute-hand of the clock on the mantelpiece had made a complete
circuit since John had dropped the letters into the fire, yet he had not
stirred from the armchair into which he had staggered the moment
afterwards.

His fixed eyes looked straight in front of him. His lips moved at
intervals.

"I am illegitimate," he said to himself, over and over again.

But no, it was a nightmare, an hallucination of illness. How many
delusions he had had during the last few weeks! He should wake up
presently and find he had been torturing himself for nothing. If only
Mitty would come back! He should laugh at himself presently.

In the mean while, and as it were in spite of himself, certain facts
were taking a new significance, were arranging themselves into an
unexpected, horrible sequence. Link joined itself to link, and
lengthened to a chain.

He remembered his father's evident dislike of him; he remembered how
Colonel Tempest had contested the succession when he died. As he had
lost the case, John had supposed, when he came to an age to suppose
anything, that the slander was without foundation, especially as Mr.
Tempest had recognized him as his son. He had known of its existence, of
course, but, like the rest of the world, had half forgotten it. That
Lord Frederick Fane (evidently the Freddie of the letters) was even his
supposed father, had never crossed his mind. If he was like the Fanes,
why should he not be so? He might as naturally resemble his mother's as
his father's family. He recalled Colonel Tempest's inveterate dislike of
him, Archie's thankless reception of anything and everything he did for
him.

"I believe," said John, in astonished recollection of divers passages
between himself and them--"I believe they think I know all the time, and
am deliberately keeping them out."

That, then, was the reason why Mr. Tempest had not discarded him. To
recognize him as his son was his surest means of striking at the hated
brother who came next in the entail.

"I was made use of," said John, grinding his teeth.

It was no use fighting against it. This hideous, profane incredibility
was the truth. Even without the letters to read over again he knew it
was true.

"Remember, if he casts it out, it is your child." The long-dead lips
still spoke. His mother had pronounced his doom herself.

"I am illegitimate," said John to himself. And he remembered Di and hid
his face in his hands, while his mother simpered at him from the wall.
The solid earth had failed beneath his feet.

Let us beware how we sin, inasmuch as by God's decree we do not pay. We
could almost conceive a right to do as we will, if we could keep the
penalty to ourselves, and pay to the uttermost farthing. But not from
us is the inevitable payment required. The young, the innocent, the
unborn, smart for us, are made bankrupt for us; from them is exacted the
deficit which we have left behind. The sins of the fathers are visited
on the children heavily--heavily.



CHAPTER VI.

     "What name doth Joy most borrow
     When life is fair?
                     'To-morrow.'"
                        GEORGE ELIOT.


On her hurried return to London the morning after the ice carnival, Di
found Mrs. Courtenay in that condition of illness, not necessarily
dangerous, in which the linseed poultice and the steam-kettle and the
complexion of the beef-tea are the objects of an all-absorbing interest,
to the exclusion of every other subject.

Di was glad not to be questioned upon the one subject that was never
absent from her thoughts. As Mrs. Courtenay became convalescent she was
able to leave her for an hour or two, and pace in the quieter parts of
Kensington Gardens. Happiness, like sorrow, is easier to bear
out-of-doors, and Di had a lurking feeling that would hardly bear being
put into words, but was none the worse company for that, that the
crocuses and the first bird-note in the trees and the pale sky knew her
secret and rejoiced with her.

John would come to her. He was getting well, and the first day he could
he would come to her, and tell her once more that he loved her. And she?
Impossible, incredible as it seemed, she should tell him that she loved
him too. Imagination stopped short there. Everything after that was a
complete blank. They would be engaged? They would be married? Other
people who loved did so. Words, mere words, applicable to "other
people," but not to her and John. Could such impossible happiness ever
come about? Never, never. She must be mad to think of such a thing. It
could not be. Yet it was so; it was coming, it was sure, this new,
incomprehensible, dreaded happiness, of which, now that it was almost
within her trembling hand, she hardly dared to think.

"Di," said Mrs. Courtenay one afternoon, as she came in from her walk,
"there is a paragraph in the paper about John. He is going to contest
---- at the general election, in opposition to the present Radical
member. Did he say anything about it while you were at Overleigh? It
must have been arranged some time ago."

"No, granny, he did not mention it."

"I am glad he is taking part in politics at last. It is time. I may not
live to see it, but he will make his mark."

"I am sure he will," said Di.

Mrs. Courtenay looked in some perplexity at her granddaughter. It seemed
to her, from Di's account, that she had taken John's accident very
placidly. She had not forgotten the girl's apparent callousness when his
life had been endangered in the mine. It was very provoking to Mrs.
Courtenay that this beautiful creature, whom she had taken out for
nearly four years, seemed to have too much heart to be willing to marry
without love, and too little to fall genuinely in love.

Mrs. Courtenay had gone to considerable expense in providing her with a
new and becoming morning-gown for that visit, and Di had managed to lose
one of the lace handkerchiefs she had lent her, and had come back
unengaged after all. Mrs. Courtenay, who had taken care to accept the
invitation for her without consulting her, and had ordered the gown in
spite of Di's remonstrances, felt keenly that if Di had refused John,
she had gone to that social gathering under false pretences.

"Di," she said, "I seldom ask questions, but I have been wondering
during the last few days whether you have anything to tell me or not."

Considering that this was not a question, it was certainly couched in a
form conducive to eliciting information.

"I have, and I have not," said Di. "Of course I know what you expected,
but it did not happen."

"You mean John did not propose to you?"

"No, granny."

Mrs. Courtenay was silent. She was prepared to be seriously annoyed with
Di, and it seemed John was in fault after all. There is no relaxation
for a natural irritability in being angry with a person a hundred miles
off.

"I think he meant to," said Di, turning pink.

Mrs. Courtenay saw the change of colour with surprise.

"My dear," she said, "do you care for him?"

"Yes," said Di, looking straight at her grandmother.

"I am very thankful," said Mrs. Courtenay. "I have nothing left to wish
for."

"I believe I have sometimes done you an injustice," she said
tremulously, after wiping her spectacles. "I thought you valued your own
freedom and independence too much to marry. It is difficult to advise
the young to give their love if they don't want to. Yet, as one grows
old, one sees that the very best things we women have lose all their
virtue if we keep them to ourselves. Our love if we withhold it, our
freedom if we retain it,--what are they later on in life but dead seed
in our hands? Our best is ours only to give. Our part is to give it to
some one who is worthy of it. I think John is worthy. I wish he had
managed to speak, and that it were all settled."

"It is really settled," said Di. "Now and then I feel frightened, and
think I may have made a mistake, but I know all the time that is
foolish. I am certain he cares for me, and I am quite sure he knows I
care for him. Granny"--blushing furiously--"I often wish now that I had
not said quite so many idiotic things about love and marriage before I
knew anything about them. Do you remember how I used to favour you with
my views about them?"

"I don't think they were exactly idiotic. Only the elect hesitate to
pronounce opinions on subjects of which they are ignorant. I have heard
extremely intelligent men say things quite as silly about housekeeping,
and the rearing of infants. You, like them, spoke according to your
lights, which were small. I don't know about charming men. There are not
any nowadays. But it is always

           '... a pity when charming women
     Talk of things that they don't understand.'"

"We should not have many subjects of conversation if we did not," said
Di.

And the old woman and the young one embraced each other with tears in
their eyes.



CHAPTER VII.

     "Oh, well for him whose will is strong!"
                            TENNYSON.


There come times in our lives when the mind lies broken on the revolving
wheel of our thought. "I am illegitimate." That was the one thought
which made John's bed for him at night, which followed him throughout
the spectral day until it brought him back to the spectral night again.

It was a quiver in which were many poisoned arrows. Because the first
that struck him was well-nigh unbearable, the others did not fail to
reach their mark.

If he were nameless and penniless, he could not marry Di. That was the
first arrow. Such marriages are possible only in books and in that
sacred profession which, in spite of numerous instances to the contrary,
believes that "the Lord will provide." Di would not be allowed to marry
him, even if she were willing to do so. And after a time--a long time,
perhaps--she would marry some one else, possibly Lord Hemsworth.

John writhed. He had set his heart on this woman. He had bent her strong
will to love him as a proud woman only can. She had been hard to win,
but she was his as much as if they were already married; his by right,
as the living Galatea was by right the sculptor's, who gave her marble
heart the throbbing life and love of his own.

"She is mine--I cannot give her up," he said aloud.

There was no voice, nor any that answered.

Strange how the ploughshare turns up little tags and ends of forgotten
rubbish buried by the mould of a few years' dust.

One utterance of Archie's, absolutely forgotten till now, was
continually recurring to John's mind. Its barbed point rankled.

"There must be a mint of money in an old barrack stuffed full of
gimcracks like this. If ever I wanted a hundred or two, I would trot out
one of those little silver Johnnies in no time if they were mine."

And he would. If the thought of what Colonel Tempest and Archie would
achieve after his own death had stung John as Archie said that, how
should he bear to stand by and _see_ them do it? The books, the
pictures, the family manuscripts which he was even then arranging, the
jewels, the renowned diamond necklace that the Spanish government had
offered to buy from his grandfather, which he had hoped one day to
clasp on Di's neck--all the possessions of the past but almost regal
state of a great name, which he had kept with such a reverent hand--he
should live to see them cast right and left, lost, sold, squandered,
stolen. Archie would give the diamonds to the first actress who asked
for them. Colonel Tempest would be equally "open-handed."

As the days went on, John shut his eyes to the pictures in the gallery
as he passed through it. A mute suspense and reproach seemed to hang
about the whole place. The Velasquez and the Titian peered at him.
Tempest of the Red Hand clutched his sword-hilt uneasily. Mieris' old
Dutch-woman seemed to have lost her interest in selling her marvellous
string of onions to the little boy. Ribalta's Spanish Jesuit fingered
the red cross of Santiago embroidered on his breast, and looked askance
at John.

John turned back many times from the library door. The new books which
he had had bound in exact reproduction of a beautiful old missal of the
Tempest collection, and for the arrival of which he had been eagerly
waiting, remained untouched in their packing-cases. He could not look at
them.

Once he went into the dining-hall, unused when he was alone, and opened
one of the ponderous shutters. The rich light pierced the solemn gloom,
catching the silver sconces on the wall and the silver figures standing
in the carved niches above the fireplace.

"You will not give us up," they seemed to say; and the little cavalier
turned to his lady with a shake of his head.

As John closed the shutter his eyes fell on the Tempest motto on the
pane, "Je le feray durant ma vie;" and it stabbed him like a knife.

He went out into the open air like one pursued, and paced in the dead
forest waiting for the spring. All he had held so sacred meant nothing
then--nothing, nothing, nothing. The Tempest motto, round which he had
bound his life, round which his most solemn convictions and aspirations
had grown up, had nothing to do with him. He had been mocked. He, a
nameless bastard, the offspring of a mere common intrigue, had been
fooled into believing that he was John Tempest, the head of one of the
greatest families in England; that Overleigh belonged to him and he to
it as entirely as--nay, more than--his own hands and feet and eyes.

It was as if he had been acting a serious part to the best of his
ability on a stage with many others, and suddenly they had all dropped
their masks and were grinning at him with satyr faces in grotesque
attitudes, and he found that he alone had mistaken a screaming farce, of
which he was the butt, for a drama of which he had imagined himself one
of the principal figures.

John laughed a harsh wild laugh under the solemn overarching trees.
Everything, himself included, had undergone a hideous distortion. His
whole life was dislocated. His faith in God and man wavered. The
key-stone of his existence was gone from the arch, and the stones struck
him as they fell round him. The confusion was so great that for the
first few days he was incapable of action, incapable of reflection,
incapable of anything.

_Mitty!_ That thought came next. That stung. He had nothing in the wide
world which he could call his own; no roof for Mitty, no fire to warm
her by. He was absolutely without means. His mother's small fortune he
had sunk in an annuity for Mr. Goodwin. What would become of Mitty? How
would she survive being uprooted from her little nest in the garret
gallery? How would she bear to see her lamb turned adrift upon the
world? Mitty was growing old, and her faithful love for him would make
the last years sorrowful which were so happy now. Oh, if he could only
wait till Mitty died!

John had not wept a tear for himself, but he hid his face against the
trunk of one of the trees that were not his, and sobbed aloud at the
thought of Mitty.

And next day came a letter from Archie, saying that Colonel Tempest was
at death's door in one of the London hospitals, owing to having
accidentally shot himself with a revolver. John sent money, much more
than was actually necessary, and drew breath. Nothing could be done
until Colonel Tempest was either convalescent or dead. He was reprieved
from telling Mitty anything for the moment.

And as the spring was just beginning to whisper to the sleeping earth,
and the buds of the horse-chestnut to grow white and woolly beneath the
nursery windows, as John had seen them many and many a time--how or why
I know not, but with the waking of the year Mitty began to fail.

She had never been ill in John's recollection. She had had "a bone in
her leg" occasionally, but excepting that mysterious ailment and a touch
of rheumatism in later years, Mitty had always been quite well. She was
not actually ill now, but----

It was useless to tell her not to "do" her nurseries herself, and to
positively forbid her to wash his socks and handkerchiefs. Mitty worked
exactly the same; and John with an ache at his heart came indoors every
day in time for nursery tea, and Mitty made him buttered toast, and was
happy beyond words; but I think her eyesight must have begun to fail
her, or she would have seen how grey and haggard the face of her "lamb"
became as the days went by.

       *       *       *       *       *

Who shall say when a thought begins? Long before we see it, it was
there, but our eyes were holden. "L'amour commence par l'ombre." So do
many things besides love.

_The letters were destroyed._ When did John think of that first, or
rather, when did he first hear it whispered? Why was his mind always
going back to that?

He would not have burned them if he had taken time to consider, but the
first impulse to do with them as their writer had herself intended, had
been acted upon before he had even thought of their bearing upon himself
and others.

At any rate they were gone--quite gone--sprinkled to the four winds of
heaven.

_There was no other proof._

And his--no, not his father--Mr. Tempest, who knew all about him, had
intended him to be his heir. He had left him his name and his place,
with a solemn charge to do his duty by them.

"I have done it," said John to himself, "as those two would never have
done. Shall I let all go to rack and ruin now? If I was not born a
Tempest I have become one. I _am_ one, and if I marry one my children
will be Tempests, and those two fools will not be suffered to pull
Overleigh stone from stone, and drag a great name into the dust; as they
would, as they assuredly would."

Had not Mr. Tempest foreseen this when he exacted that solemn promise
from John on his death-bed to uphold the honour of the family? Could he
break that promise? And through the vain sophistries, upsetting them
all, a mad cry rang, "Di loves me! She loves me at last! I cannot give
her up!"

The challenge was thrown out into the darkness. No one took it up.

A fierce restlessness laid hold on John. He rushed up to London several
times to hear how Colonel Tempest was going on. Each time he told
himself that he was going to see Di. But although the first time he went
to Colonel Tempest's lodgings the servant informed him that Di was with
her father, he did not ask to see her. Each time he came back without
having dared to go to the little house in Kensington. He could not meet
those grave clear eyes with the new gentleness in them that went to his
head like wine. He knew they would make him forget everything,
everything except that he loved her, and would sell his very soul for
her.

Time stopped. In all this enormous interval the buds of the
horse-chestnut had not yet burst to green. It was ages since he had seen
the first primrose, and yet to-day, as he walked in the woods on the day
after his return from another futile journey to London, they were all
out in the forest still.

And something stirred within him that had not deigned to take notice of
all his feverish asseverations and wanderings, that had not rebuked him,
that had not even listened when he had said repeatedly that he could not
give up Di.

By an invisible hand the challenge was taken up, and John knew the time
of conflict was at hand.

He walked on and on, not knowing where he went, past the forest and the
meadowland, and away over the rolling moors, with only Lindo for his
companion.

At last his newly returned strength failing him, he threw himself down
in the dry windswept heather. He had not outstripped his thoughts. This
was the appointed place. He knew it even as he flung himself down. His
hour was come.

It was an April afternoon, pale and bleak. The late frost had come back,
and had silenced the birds. One only deeply in love, somewhere near at
hand, but invisible, repeated plaintively over and over again a small
bird-name in the silence of the shrinking spring.

And John's heart said over and over again one little word--

"Di, Di, Di!"

There are some sacrifices which partake of the nature of
self-mutilation. That is why principle often falls before the onslaught
of a deep human passion, which is nothing but the rebellion of human
nature brought to bay, against the execution upon itself of that dread
command of the spiritual nature, "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it
off."

To give up certain affections is with some natures to give up all
possibility of the quickening into life of that latent maturer self that
craves for existence in each one of us. It is to take, for better for
worse, a more meagre form of life, destitute, not of happiness perhaps,
but of those common joys and sorrows which most of all bind us in
sympathy with our fellow-men. What marriage in itself is to the
majority, the love of one fellow-creature, and one only, is to the few.
To a few, happily a very few, there is only one hand that can minister
among the pressure of the crowd. There was none other woman in the world
for John, save only Di. Sayings common to vulgarity, profaned by every
breach of promise case, can yet be true sometimes.

"Di, Di, Di!" said John.

He tried to recall her face, but he could not. When they were together
he had not seen her; he had only felt her presence, only trembled at
each slight movement of her hands. He always watched them when he was
talking to her. He knew every movement of those strong, slender hands by
heart. She had a little way of opening and shutting her left hand as she
talked. He smiled even now as he thought of it. And she had a certain
wave in her hair just above the ear, that was not the same over the
other ear. But her face--no, he could not see her face.

He tried again. They were sitting once again, he and she, not very near,
nor very far apart, in the low entresol room at Overleigh. He could see
her now. She was arranging the lilies of the valley, and he was saying
to himself, as he watched her with his chin in his hands, "This is only
the beginning. There will be many times like this, only dearer and
sweeter than this."

Many times! That deep conviction had proved as false as all the rest--as
false as everything else which he had trusted.

And all in a moment as he looked, as he remembered, was it endurance,
was it principle, that seemed to snap?

He set his teeth and ground his heel into the earth. Agony had come upon
him. Passion, writhing in torment, rose gigantic without warning and
seized him in a Titan grip. It was a duel to the death.

       *       *       *       *       *

John sat motionless in the solitude of the heather. The bird was silent.
On either hand the level moors met the level sky. Lindo walked in and
out in semi and total eclipse near at hand, now emerging life-size upon
a hillock, now visible only as an erect travelling tail amid the
heather. The sun came faintly out. There was a little speech of bees, a
little quivering among the poised spears of the tall bleached grasses
against the sky.

Time passed.

John's was not the easy faith which believes that in another world what
has been given up in this will be restored a thousandfold. The hope of
future reward had no more power to move him than the fear of future
punishment. The heaven of rewards of which those speak who have
authority, would be no heaven at all to many; a place from which the
noblest would turn away. Love worthy of the name, even down here, gives
all, asking nothing back.

John did not try to define even to himself the faith by which he had
lived so far; but as the veiled sun stooped near and nearer to the west,
he began to see, as clearly as he saw the sword-grass shaking against
the sky, that he was about to remain true to it, or be false to it for
ever.

Perhaps that faith was more than anything else a stern allegiance to the
Giver of that law within the heart which independent natures ever
recognize as the only true authority; which John had early elected to
obey, which he had obeyed with ease, till now. He had been condemned by
many as a freethinker; for to be obedient to the divine prompting has
ever been stigmatized as lawlessness by those who are obedient to a
written code. John had no code.

Yet God, who made (if the tourists who cheaply move in flocks on beaten
highways could only believe it) those solitary, isolated natures, knew
what He was about. And to those to whom little human guidance is
vouchsafed He adds courage, and that self-reliance which comes only of a
deep-rooted faith in a God who will not keep silence, who will not
leave the traveller journeying towards Him unpiloted upon a lonely
shore, or ultimately suffer His least holy one to see corruption.

John looked wildly round him. Even nature seemed to have turned against
him. It spoke of peace when there was no peace. For nature has no power
to mitigate the bitterness of that cup of self-surrender which even
Christ Himself, beneath the kindred stars of still Gethsemane, prayed
might pass from Him.

John hid his convulsed face in his hands.

The crises of life have their hour of loneliness and prostration, their
agony and bloody sweat. That cup which may not pass, how ennobling it is
to read of in the lives of others, how interesting to theorize upon in
our own; how appalling in actual experience, when it is in our hands to
drink or to refuse; refusing for ever with it, if we accept it not, the
hand of Him who offers it!

       *       *       *       *       *

The solemn world of grey earth and sky waited. The light in the west
waited. How much longer were they to wait? How much longer would this
bowed figure sway itself to and fro?

"I will do it!" said John suddenly, and with a harsh inarticulate cry he
flung himself down on his face among the heather, clutching the soft
earth; for the Hand of the God whom he would not deny was heavy on him.



CHAPTER VIII.

     "The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
     Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still.
     They have forged our chains of being for good or ill."
                                    MATHILDE BLIND.


John was late. Mitty looked out several times to see if he were coming,
and then put down the tea-cake to the fire.

At last his step came slowly along the garret gallery, and Lindo, who
approved of nursery tea, walked in first, his dignity somewhat impaired
by a brier hanging from his back flounce.

John saw the firelight through the open door, and the figure in the low
chair waiting for him. She had heard him coming, and was getting
stiffly up to make the tea.

"Mitty, you should not wait for me," he said, sitting down in his own
place by the fire.

Would they let her keep the brass kettle and her silver teapot? Yes, no
doubt they would; but somebody would have to ask. He supposed he should
be that somebody. Everything she possessed had been bought by himself
with other people's money.

He let the tea last as long as possible. If Lindo had more than his
share of tea-cake, no one was the wiser. At last Mitty cleared away, and
sat down in the rocking-chair.

"Don't light the candles, Mitty."

"Why not, my dear? I can't be settin' with my hands before me, and holes
in your socks a shame to be seen."

John came and sat down on the floor beside her, and leaned his head
against her.

"Never mind the socks just now. There is something I want to talk to you
about."

He looked at the fire through the bars of the high nursery fender, and
something in its glimmer, seen from so near the floor through the
remembered pattern of the wires which he had lost sight of for twenty
years, suddenly recalled the times when he had sat on the hearthrug, as
he was sitting now, with his head against Mitty's knee, confiding to her
what he would do when he was a man.

"Do you remember, Mitty," he said, "how I used to tell you that when I
grew up you should ride in a carriage, and have a gold brooch, and a
clock that played a tune?"

"I remember, my darling; and how, next time Charles went into York, you
give him all you had, and half a crown it was, to buy me a brooch, and
the silly staring fool went and spent it, and brought back that great
thing with the mock stones in. And you was as pleased as pleased. Eh! I
was angry with Charles for taking your bits of money, and all he said
was, 'Well, Mrs. Emson, I went to a many shops, and I give five
shillin's for it so as to get a big un.'"

"I remember it," said John. "It was about the size of a small poultice.
And so Charles paid half. Good old Charles! I seem to have been much
deceived in my youth."

His deep-set eyes watched the fire, watched the semblance of a little
castle in the heart of the glow. Mitty was quite happy with her
darling's head against her knee.

"When the castle falls in I will tell her," said John to himself.

But the fire had settled itself. The castle held. At last Mitty put out
her hand, and gave it a poke; not with the brass poker, of course, but
with a little black slave which did that polished aristocrat's work for
it.

"Mitty," said John, "I am not so rich now as when I was in pinafores;
and even then, you see, the brooch was not bought with my own money.
Charles gave half. I have never given you anything that was paid for
with my own money. I have been spending other people's all my life."

"Why, bless your dear heart!" said Mitty; "and who gave me my silver
teapot, I should like to know, and the ivory workbox, and that very
kettle a-staring you in the face, and the Wedgwood tea-things, and--and
everything, if it was not you?"

John did not answer. His face twitched.

The bars of the fender were blurred. The brass kettle, instead of
staring him in the face, melted quite away.

Mitty stroked his head and face.

"Cryin'!" she said--"my lamby cryin'!"

"Not for myself, Mitty."

"Who for, then? For that Miss Dinah?"

"No, Mitty, for you. This is no home for you and me." He took her hard
hand and rubbed his cheek against it. "It belongs to Colonel Tempest. I
am not my father's son, Mitty."

"Well, my precious," said Mitty, soothingly, in no wise discomposed by
what John feared would have quite overwhelmed her, "and if your poor
mammy did say as much to me when she was light-headed, when her pains
was on her, there's no call to fret about that, seeing it's a long time
ago, and her dead and all. Poor thing! I can see her now, with her
pretty eyes and her little hands, and she'd put her head against me and
say, 'Nursey' (Nursey I was to her), 'I'm not fit neither to live nor to
die.' Many and many's the night I've roared to think of her after she
was gone, when you was asleep in your crib. But there's no need for you
to fret, my deary."

John's heart contracted. Mitty knew also. Oh, if he might but have
started life knowing what even Mitty knew!

"They'd no business to marry her to Mr. Tempest," continued Mitty,
shaking her head, "and she, poor thing, idolizing that black Lord Fane,
as was her first cousin. It wasn't likely, after that, she'd settle to
Mr. Tempest, who was as light as tow. It was against nature. She never
took a bit of interest in him, nor him in her neither, that I could see.
A hard man he was, too--a hard man. She sent for him when she was dying.
She would not see him while there was any chance. 'Forgive me,' she
says; she says it over and over, me holding her up. 'I wouldn't ask it
if I was staying, but I'm doing the best I can by dying. It's not much
to make up, but it's the best I can. And,' she says, 'don't think, Jack,
as all women are bad like me. There's a many good ones as 'ull make you
happy yet when I'm gone.' I can see him now, standing by her, looking
past her out of the window with his face like a flint. 'I've known two
false ones,' he says; and he went away without another word. And she
says after a bit to me, 'I've always been frightened at the very thought
of dying, but it's living I'm frightened of now.' Eh! Master John, your
poor mammy! She did repent. And Mr. Tempest sent for me to the library
after the funeral, and he says, 'Promise me, nurse, that you'll never
repeat what your mistress said to me when she was not herself.' And he
looked hard at me, and I promised. And I've never breathed it to any
living soul, not to one I haven't, from that day to this."

"I found it out three weeks ago," said John. "And as I am not Mr.
Tempest's son, everything I have belongs by right to Colonel Tempest,
the next heir, not to me. Overleigh is not mine. It never was mine."

But Mitty could not be made to understand what his mother's frailty had
to do with John. When at last she grasped the idea that John would make
known the fact that he was not his father's son, she was simply
incredulous that her lamb could do such a thing--could bring shame upon
his own mother. No, whatever else he might do, he would never do that.
Why, Mrs. Alcock would know; and friends as she was with Mrs. Alcock,
and had been for years, such a word had never passed her lips. And the
people in the village, and the trades-people, and Jones and Evans from
York, who were putting up the new curtains,--everybody would know. Mitty
became quite agitated. Surely, surely, he'd never tell against his poor
mother in her grave.

"Mitty," said John, forcing himself to repeat what it had been
difficult enough to say once, "don't you see that I can't stay here and
keep what is not mine? Nothing is mine if I am not Mr. Tempest's son. I
ought never to have been called so. We must go away."

But Mitty was perplexed.

"Not to that great weary house in London," she said anxiously, "with
every spot of water to carry up from the bottom?"

"That is not mine either," said John in despair, rising to his feet and
standing before her. "Oh, Mitty, try and understand. Nothing is
mine--nothing, nothing, nothing; not even the clothes I have on. I am a
beggar."

Mitty looked at him in a dazed way. She could not understand, but she
could believe. Her chin began to tremble.

It was almost a relief to see at last the tears which he had dreaded
from the first. "My lamb a beggar," she said over and over again; and
she cried a little, but not much. Mitty was getting old, and she was not
able to realize a change--a change so incomprehensible as this.

"But we need not be unhappy," said John, kneeling down by her, and
putting his arms round her. "We shall be together still. Wherever I go
you will go with me. I don't know yet where it will be, but we shall
have a little home together somewhere, just you and I; and you'll do my
socks and handkerchiefs, won't you, Mitty? and"--John controlled his
voice, but he hid his face in her lap that she might not see it--"we'll
be so happy together." At the moment I think John would have given up
heaven itself to make that hour smooth to Mitty. "And your cakes,
Mitty," he went on hoarsely. "They are better than any one else's. You
shall have a little kitchen, and you will make the cakes yourself,
won't you? and the"--his voice stumbled heavily--"the rock buns."

"My precious," said Mitty, sobbing, "don't you fret yourself! I can make
a many things besides them; Albert puddings and moulds, and them little
cheese straws, and a sight of things. There's a deal of work in my old
hands yet. It's only the spring as has took the starch out of me. I
always feel a sinking in the spring. Lord, my darling, the times and
times again I've been settin' here just dithering with a mossel of
crotchet, or idling over a bit of reading, and wishing you was having a
set of nightshirts to make!"

Love had found out the way. John had appealed to the right instinct.
Mitty was already busying herself with a future in which she should
minister to her child's comfort, and John saw, with a relief that was
half a pang, that the calamity of his life held hardly any place in the
heart that loved him so much.

"I've a sight of things," continued Mitty, wiping her eyes. "Books and
pictures and cushions put away. My precious shall not go short. And
there's two pair of linen sheets as I bought with my own money, and
piller-slips to match, and six silver teaspoons and one dessert. My lamb
shall have things comfortable about him."

She fell to communing with herself. John did not speak.

"I'll leave my places tidy," said Mitty. "Tidy I didn't find 'em, but
tidy I'll leave 'em. I can't go till after the spring cleaning, Master
John. I'll never trust that Fanny to do the scrubbing unless I'm behind
her. I caught her washing round the mats instead of under only last
week."

John felt unable to enter into the question of the spring cleaning.
There was another silence.

At last Mitty said defiantly, "And I shall take your morroccy shoes, and
your little chair as I give you myself. I don't care what anybody says,
I shall take 'em. And the old horse and the Noey's ark."

"It will be all right," said John, getting slowly to his feet. "Nobody
will want to have them, or anything of mine;" and he kissed her, and
went out.

He went to the library and sat down by the fire.

The resolution and aspiration of a few hours ago--where were they now?
He felt broken in body and soul.

Lindo came in, nibbled John's elbow, and scrutinized the fire. John
scratched him absently on the top of his back between the tufts.

"Lindo," he said, "the world is a hard place to live in."

But Lindo, bulging with an unusual allowance of tea-cake, and winnowing
the air with an appreciative hind leg, did not think so.



CHAPTER IX.

     "Et souvent au moment où l'on croyait tenir
     Une espérance, on voit que c'est un souvenir."
                                 VICTOR HUGO.


When Colonel Tempest lay in a precarious condition owing to the
unexpected explosion of a revolver which he was taking to his gun-maker,
and which he believed to be unloaded--when this fatality occurred, Mrs.
Courtenay somewhat relaxed the stringency of her usual demeanour to him,
and allowed his daughter to be with him constantly in the hospital to
which he was first conveyed, and afterwards in his rooms in Brook Street
when he was sufficiently convalescent to be conveyed thither.

Colonel Tempest was a trying patient; in one sense he was not a patient
at all; melting into querulous tears when denied a sardine on toast for
which his soul thirsted, the application of which would infallibly have
separated his soul from his body; and bemoaning continually, when
consciousness was vouchsafed to him, the neglect of his children and the
callousness of his friends. Di bore it with equanimity. It is only true
accusations which one feels obliged to contradict. She did not love her
father, and his continual appeals to her pity and filial devotion
touched her but little. Colonel Tempest confided to his nurse in the
night-watches that he was the parent of heartless children, and when Di
took her place in the daytime, reviled the nurse's greed, who, whether
he was suffering or not, could eat a large meal in the middle of the
night.

"I hate nurses," he would say. "Your poor mother had such a horrid nurse
when Archie was born. I could not bear her, always making difficulties
and restrictions, and locking the door, and then complaining to the
doctor because I rattled the lock. I urged your mother to part with her
whenever she was not in the room. But she only cried, and said she could
not do without her, and that she was kind to her. That was your mother
all over. She always sided against me. I must say she knew the value of
tears, did your poor mother. She cried herself into hysterics when I
rang the front door bell at four in the morning because I had gone out
without a latch-key. I suppose she expected me to sit all night on the
step. And first the nurse and then the doctor spoke to me about
agitating her, and said it was doing her harm; so I just walked
straight out of the house, and never set foot in it again for a month
till they had both cleared out. They overreached themselves that time."

Archie, who looked in once a day for the space of ten seconds, came in
for the largest share of Colonel Tempest's reproaches.

"I don't like sick people," that young gentleman was wont to remark.
"Don't understand 'em. No use. Nursing not in my line. Better out of the
way."

So, with the consideration of his kind, he was so good as to keep out of
it, while Colonel Tempest wept salt tears into his already too salt
beef-tea (it was always too salt or not salt enough), and remarked with
bitterness that he could have fancied a sardine, and that other people's
sons nursed their parents when they were at death's door. Young
Grandcourt had never left _his_ father's bedside for three weeks when
he had pneumonia; but Archie, it seemed, was different.

"My children are not much comfort to me," he told the doctor as
regularly as he put out his tongue.

"John might have come," he said one day to Di. "He got out of it by
sending a cheque, but I think he might have taken the trouble just to
come and see whether I was alive or dead."

"John is ill himself," said Di.

"John is always ill," said Colonel Tempest, fretfully, with the
half-memory of convalescence--"always ailing and coddling himself; and
yet he has twice my physique. John grows coarse-looking--very coarse. I
fancy he is a large eater. I remember he was ill in the summer. I went
to see him. I was always sitting with him; and there did not seem to be
much the matter with him. I think he gives way."

"Perhaps it is a family failing," said Di, who was beginning to discover
what a continual bottling up and corking down of effervescent irritation
is comprised under the name of patience.

How many weeks was it after Di's return to London when a cloud no larger
than a man's hand arose on the clear horizon of that secret happiness
which no amount of querulousness on Colonel Tempest's part could
effectually dim? It was a very small cloud. It took the shape of a card
with John's name on it, who had come to Brook Street to inquire after
his uncle.

"He is in London. He will call this afternoon," said Di to herself; and
as Colonel Tempest happened to be too sleepy to wish to be read to, she
left him early in the afternoon, and hurried home. And she and Mrs.
Courtenay sat indoors all that afternoon, though they had been lent a
carriage, and they waited to make tea till after the time; and whenever
the door bell rang, Mrs. Courtenay's hands shook quite as much as Di's.
And aimless, foolish persons called, but John did not call.

"He is ill," said Mrs. Courtenay in the dusk, "or he has been prevented
coming. There is some reason. He will write."

"Yes," said Di, "he will come when he can." But nevertheless a little
shiver of doubt crept into her heart for the first time. "If I had been
in his place," she said to herself, "I should have come ill or well, and
I should _not_ have been prevented."

She put the thought aside instantly as unreasonable, but the shy dread
she had previously felt of meeting him changed to a restless longing
just to see him, just to be reassured.

To be loved by one we love is, after all, so incredible a revelation
that it is not wonderful that human nature seeks after a sign. Only a
great self-esteem finds love easy to believe in.

The days passed, and linked themselves to weeks. Was it fancy, or did
Mrs. Courtenay become graver day by day? and Di remembered with
misgiving a certain note which she had written to John the morning she
left Overleigh. The little cloud grew.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon Di came in rather later than usual, and after a glance
round the room, which had become habitual to her, sat down by her
grandmother, and poured out tea.

"Any callers, granny?"

"One--Archie."

Di sighed. Coming home had always the possibility in it of finding some
one sitting in the drawing-room, or a note on the hall table. Yet
neither possibility happened.

"Archie came to say that the doctor thinks your father does not gain
ground, and that he might be moved to the seaside with advantage. He
wanted to know whether you could go with him. He can't get leave himself
for more than a couple of days. I said I would allow you to do so, if he
took your father down himself, and got him settled. He can do that in
two days, and he ought to take his share. He has left everything to you
so far. He mentioned," continued Mrs. Courtenay with an effort, "that he
had met John at the Carlton yesterday, and that he was all right, and
able to go about again as usual. He went back to Overleigh to-day."

There was a long silence.

"What do you think, granny?" said Di at last.

"How long is it since you were at Overleigh?"

"Two months."

"When you were there did you allow John to see that you had changed your
mind, or were you friendly with him, as you used to be? Nothing
discourages men so much as that."

"No; I tried to be, but I could not. I don't know what I was, except
very uncomfortable."

"Had he any real opportunity of speaking to you without interruption?"

Di remembered the half-hour in the entresol sitting-room. It had never
occurred to her till that moment that certainly, if he had wished to do
so, he could have spoken to her then.

"Yes," she said, "he had; and," she added, "I am sure he knew I liked
him. If he did not know it then, I am quite sure he knows it now. I
wrote a note."

"What kind of note?"

"Oh, granny, that is just it. I don't know what kind it was. It seemed
natural at the time. I can't remember exactly what I said. I've tried
to, often. It was written in such a hurry, for you telegraphed for me,
and I had been up all night waiting to hear whether he was to live or
die, and it was so dreadful to have to go away without a word."

Mrs. Courtenay leaned back in her chair. She seemed tired.

"Tell me what you think," said Di again.

"I think," said Mrs. Courtenay, "that if John had been seriously
attached to you, he would either have come, or have answered your letter
by this time. I am afraid we have made a mistake."

Di did not answer. The world was crumbling down around her.

"I may be making one now," said Mrs. Courtenay; "but it appears to me he
has had every opportunity given him, and he has made no use of them.
Men worth their salt _make_ their opportunities, but if they don't even
take them when they are ready-made to their hand, they cannot be in
earnest. Women don't realize what a hateful position a man is in who is
deeply in love, and who has no knowledge of whether it is returned or
not. He won't remain in it any longer than he can help."

"John is not in that position," said Di, colouring painfully. "Granny,
why don't you reproach me for writing that letter?"

"Because, my dear, though I regret it more than I can say, I should have
done the same in your place."

"And--and what would you do _now_ in my place?"

"This," said Mrs. Courtenay. "You cannot dismiss the subject from your
mind, but whenever it comes into your thoughts, hold steadily before
you the one fact that he is certainly aware you are attached to him, and
he has not acted on that knowledge."

"They say men don't care for anything when once they know they can have
it," said Di hoarsely, pride wringing the words out of her. "Perhaps
John is like that. He knows I--am only waiting to be asked."

"Fools say many things," returned Mrs. Courtenay. "That is about as true
as that women don't care for their children when they get them. A few
unnatural ones don't; the others do. I have seen much trouble caused by
love affairs. After middle life most people decry them, especially those
who have had superficial ones themselves; for there is seldom any love
at all in the mutual attraction of two young people, and the elders know
very well that if it is judiciously checked it can also be judiciously
replaced by something else. But a real love which comes to nothing is
more like the death of an only child than anything else. It _is_ a
death. The great thing is to regard it so. I have known women go on year
after year waiting, as we have been doing during the last two months,
refusing to believe in its death; believing, instead, in some
misunderstanding; building up theories to account for alienation;
clinging to the idea that things might have turned out differently if
only So-and-so had been more tactful, if they had not refused a certain
invitation, if something they had said which might yet be explained had
not been misconstrued. And all the time there is no misunderstanding, no
need of explanation. The position is simple enough. No man is daunted by
such things except in women's imaginations. What men want they will try
to obtain, unless there is some positive bar, such as poverty. And if
they don't try, remember the inference is _sure_, that they don't
really want it."

Di did not answer. Her face had taken a set look, which for the first
time reminded Mrs. Courtenay of her mother. She had often seen the other
Diana look like that.

"My child," she said, stretching out her soft old hand, and laying it on
the cold clenched one, "a death even of what is dearest to us, and a
funeral and a headstone to mark the place, hard as it is, is as nothing
compared to the death in life of an existence which is always dragging
about a corpse. I have seen that not once nor twice. I want to save you
from that."

Di laid her face for a moment on the kind hand.

"I will bury my dead," she said.



CHAPTER X.

     "And now we believe in evil
       Where once we believed in good.
     The world, the flesh, and the devil
       Are easily understood."
                            GORDON.


It seems a pity that our human destinies are too often so constituted
that with our own hands we may annul in one hour--our hour of
weakness--the long, slow work of our strength; annul the self-conquest
and the renunciation of our best years. We ought to be thankful when the
gate of the irrevocable closes behind us, and the power to defeat
ourselves is at last taken from us. For he who has once solemnly and
with conviction renounced, and then, for no new cause, has taken to
himself again that which he renounced, has broken the mainspring of his
life.

John went early the following morning to London, for he had business
with three men, and he could not rest till he had seen them, and had
shut that gate upon himself for ever.

So early had he started that it was barely midday when he reached Lord
Frederick's chambers. The valet told him that his lordship was still in
bed, and could see no one; but John went up to his bedroom, and knocked
at the door.

"It is I--John Tempest," he said, and went in.

Lord Frederick was sitting up in bed, sallow and shrunk like a mummy, in
a blue watered-silk dressing-gown. His thin hair was brushed up into a
crest on the top of his head. The bed was littered with newspapers and
letters. There was a tray before him, and he was in the act of chipping
an egg as John came in.

He raised his eyebrows and looked first with surprised displeasure, and
then with attention, at his visitor.

"Good morning," he said; and he went on tapping his egg. "Ah," he said,
shaking his head, "hard-boiled again!"

John looked at him as a plague-stricken man might look at the carcase of
some obscene animal found rotting in his water-spring.

Lord Frederick's varied experiences had made him familiar with the
premonitory symptoms of those outbursts of anger and distress which he
designated under the all-embracing term of "scenes." He felt idly
curious to know what this man with his fierce white face had to say to
him.

"Oblige me by sitting down," he said; "you are in my light."

"I have been reading my mother's letters to you," said John, still
standing in the middle of the room, and stammering in his speech. He had
not reckoned for the blind paroxysm of rage which had sprung up at the
mere sight of Lord Frederick, and was spinning him like a leaf in a
whirlwind.

"Indeed!" said Lord Frederick, raising his eyebrows, and carefully
taking the shell off his egg. "I don't care about reading old letters
myself, especially the private correspondence of other people; but
tastes differ. You do, it seems. I had imagined the particular letters
you allude to had been burnt."

"My mother intended to burn them."

"It would certainly have been wiser to do so, but probably for that
reason they remained undestroyed. From time immemorial womankind has
shown a marked repugnance to the dictates of common sense."

"I have burnt them."

"Just so," said Lord Frederick, helping himself to salt. "I commend your
prudence. Had you burnt them unread, I should have been able to commend
your sense of honour also."

"What do you know about honour?" said John.

The two men looked hard at each other.

"That remark," said Lord Frederick, joining the ends of his fingers and
half shutting his eyes, "is a direct insult. To insult a man with whom
you are not in a position to quarrel is, in my opinion, John, an error
of judgment. We will consider it one, and as such I will let it pass.
The letters, I presume, contained nothing of which you were not already
aware?"

"Only the fact that I am your illegitimate son."

"I deplore your coarseness of expression. You certainly have not
inherited it from me. But, my dear Galahad, it is impossible that even
your youth and innocence should not have known of my _tendresse_ for
your mother."

"Is that the last new name for adultery?" said John huskily, advancing a
step nearer the bed. His face was livid. His eyes burned. He held his
hands clenched lest they should rush out and wrench away all semblance
of life and humanity from that figure in the watered-silk dressing-gown.

Lord Frederick lay back on his pillows, and looked at him steadily. He
was without fear, but it appeared to him that he was about to die. The
laws of his country, of conscience and of principle, all the protection
that envelops life, seemed to have receded from him, to have slipped
away into the next room, or downstairs with the valet. They would come
back, no doubt, in time, but they might be a little late, as far as he
was concerned.

"He has strong hands, like mine," he said to himself, his pale,
unflinching eyes fixed upon his son's; while a remembrance slid through
his mind of how once, years ago, he had choked the life out of a mastiff
which had turned on him, and how long the heavy brute had taken to die.

"Do not spill the coffee," he said quietly, after a moment.

John started violently, and wheeled away from him like a man regaining
consciousness on the brink of an abyss. Lord Frederick put out his lean
hand, and went on with his breakfast.

There was a long silence.

"John," said Lord Frederick at last, not without a certain dignity,
"the world is as it is. We did not make it, and we are not responsible
for it. If there is any one who set it going, it is his own look out.
Reproach _him_, if you can find him. All we have to do is to live in it.
And we can't live in it, I tell you we can't exist in it, with any
comfort until we realize that it is rotten to the core."

John was leaning against the window-sill shaking like a reed. It seemed
to him that for one awful moment he had been in hell.

"I do not pretend to be better than other men," continued Lord
Frederick. "Men and women are men and women; and if you persist in
thinking them angels, especially the latter, you will pay for your
mistake."

"I am paying," said John.

"Possibly. You seem to have sustained a shock. It is incredible to me
that you did not know beforehand what the letters told you.
Wedding-rings don't make a greater resemblance between father and son
than there is between you and me."

Lord Frederick looked at the stooping figure of the young man, leaning
spent and motionless against the window, his arms hanging by his sides.
He held what he called his prudishness in contempt, but he respected an
element in him which he would have termed "grit."

"You are stronger built than I am, John," he said, with a touch of
pride, "and wider in the chest. Come, bygones are bygones. Shake hands."

"I can't," said John. "I don't know that I could on my account, but
anyhow not on _hers_."

"H'm! And so this was the information which you rushed in without leave
to spring upon me?"

"It was, together with the fact that of course I withdraw in favour of
Colonel Tempest, the heir at law. I am going on to him from here."

Lord Frederick reared himself slowly in his bed, his brown hands
clutching the bedclothes like eagles' talons.

"You are going to own your----"

"_My_ shame--yes; not yours. You need not be alarmed. Your name shall
not be brought in. If I take the name of Fane, it will only be because
it was my mother's."

"But you said you had burned the letters."

"I have. I don't see what difference that makes. The fact that they are
burnt does not alter the fact that I am--nobody, and he is the legal
heir."

"And you mean to tell him so?"

"I do."

"To commit suicide?"

"Social suicide--yes."

"Fool!" said Lord Frederick, in a voice which lost none of its force
because it was barely above a whisper.

John did not answer.

"Leave the room," said the outraged parent, turning his face to the
wall, the bedclothes and the tray trembling exceedingly. "I will have
nothing more to do with you. You need not come to me when you are
penniless. Do you hear? I disown you. Leave me. I will never speak to
you again."

"I hope to God you never will," said John; and he took up his hat and
went out.

He had settled his account with the first of the three people whom he
had come to London to see. From Lord Frederick's chambers he went
straight to Colonel Tempest's lodgings in Brook Street. But Colonel
Tempest had that morning departed with his son to Brighton, and John,
momentarily thrown off his line of action by that simple occurrence,
stared blankly at the landlady, and then went to his club and sat down
to write to him. There was no question of waiting. Like a man walking
across Niagara on a tight rope, it was no time to think, to hesitate, to
look round. John kept his eyes riveted to one point, and shut his ears
to the roar of the torrent below him, in which a moment's giddiness
would engulf him.

It was afternoon by this time. As he sat writing at a table in one of
the bay windows, a familiar voice spoke to him. It was Lord Hemsworth.
They had not met since the night of the ice carnival. Lord Hemsworth's
face had quite lost its boyish expression.

"I hope you are better, Tempest," he said, with obvious constraint,
looking narrowly at him. Could Di's accepted lover wear so grey and
stern a look as this?

John replied that he was well; and then, with sudden recollection of
Mitty's account of Lord Hemsworth's conduct during that memorable night,
began to thank him, and stopped short.

The room was empty.

"It was on _her_ account," said Lord Hemsworth.

John did not answer. It was that conviction which had pulled him up.

Lord Hemsworth waited some time for John to speak, and then he said--

"You know about me, Tempest, and why I was on the ice that night. Well,
I have kept out of the way for three months under the belief that--I
should hear any day that---- I am not such a fool as to pit myself
against you--I don't want to be a nuisance to---- But it's three months.
For God's sake tell me; are you on or are you not?"

"I am not," said John.

"Then I will try my luck," said the other.

He went out, and John knew that he had gone to try it there and then;
and sat motionless, with his hand across his mouth and his unfinished
letter before him, until the servant came to close the shutters.



CHAPTER XI.

     "We live together years and years,
       And leave unsounded still
     Each other's springs of hopes and fears,
       Each other's depths of will."
                             LORD HOUGHTON.


But still more bewildering is the way in which we live years and years
with ourselves in an entire ignorance of the powers that lie dormant
beneath the surface of character. The day comes when vital forces of
which we know nothing arise within us, and break like glass the even
tenor of our lives. The quiet hours, the regulated thoughts, the
peaceful aspiration after things but little set above us, where are
they? The angel with the sword drives us out of our Eden to shiver in
the wilderness of an entirely changed existence, unrecognizable by
ourselves, though perhaps lived in the same external groove, the same
divisions of time, among the same faces as before.

Day succeeded day in Di's life, each day adding one more stone to the
prison in which it seemed as if an inexorable hand were walling her up.

"I will not give in. I will turn my mind to other things," she said to
herself. And--there were no other things. All lesser lights were blown
out. The heart, when it is swept into the grasp of a great love, is
ruthlessly torn from the hundred minute ties and interests that
heretofore held it to life. The little fibres and tendrils of affections
which have gradually grown round certain objects are snapped off from
the roots. They cease to exist. The pang of love is that there is no
escape from it. It has the same tension as sleeplessness.

Di struggled and was not defeated; but some victories are as sad as
defeats. During the struggle she lost something--what was it--that had
been to many her greatest charm? Women were unanimous in deploring how
she had "gone off." There was a thinness in her cheek, and a blue line
under her deep eyes. Her beauty remained, but it was not the same
beauty. Mrs. Courtenay noticed with a pang that she was growing like her
mother.

Easter came, and with it the wedding of Miss Crupps and the Honourable
Augustus Lumley, youngest son of Lord Mortgage. Miss Crupps' young heart
had long inclined towards Mr. Lumley; but on the occasion of seeing him
blacked as a Christy Minstrel, she had finally succumbed into a state
of giggling admiration, which plainly showed the state of her
affections. So he cut the word "yes" out of a newspaper, and told her
that was what she was to say to him, and amid a series of delighted
cackles they were engaged. Di went to the wedding, looking so pale that
it was whispered that Mr. Lumley and his tambourine had won her heart as
well as that of his adoring bride.

On a sunny afternoon shortly afterwards, Di was sitting alone indoors,
her grandmother having gone out driving with a friend. She told herself
that she ought to go out, but she remained sitting with her hands in her
lap. Every duty, every tiny decision, every small household matter, had
become of late an intolerable burden. Even to put a handful of flowers
into water required an effort of will which it was irksome to make.

She had stayed in to make an alteration in the gown she was to wear
that night at the Speaker's. As she looked at the card to make sure it
was the right evening, she remembered that it was at the Speaker's she
had first met John, just a year ago. One year. How absurd! Five, ten,
fifteen! She tried to recollect what her life could have been like
before he had come into it; but it seemed to start from that point, and
to have had no significance before.

"I must go out," she said again; and at that moment the door bell rang,
and although Mrs. Courtenay was out, some one was admitted. The door
opened, and Lord Hemsworth was announced.

There is, but men are fortunately not in a position to be aware of it, a
lamentable uniformity in their manner of opening up certain subjects. Di
knew in a moment from previous experience what he had come for. He
wondered, as he stumbled through a labyrinth of platitudes about the
weather, how he could broach the subject without alarming her. He did
not know that he had done so by his manner of coming into the room, and
that he had been refused before he had finished shaking hands.

Di was horribly sorry for him while he talked about--whatever he did
talk about. Neither noticed what it was at the time, or remembered it
afterwards. She was grateful to him for not alluding even in the most
distant manner to their last meeting. She remembered that she had clung
to him, and that he had called her by her Christian name, but she was
too callous to be ashamed at the recollection. It was as nothing
compared to another humiliation which had come upon her a little later.

"It is no good beating about the bush," said Lord Hemsworth at last,
after he had beaten it till there was, so to speak, nothing left of it.
"I have come up to London for one thing, and I have come here for one
thing, which is--to ask you to marry me. Don't speak--don't say anything
just for a moment," he continued hurriedly, raising his hand as if to
ward off a rebuff. "For God's sake don't stop me. I've kept it in so
long I must say it, and you must hear me."

She let him say it. And he got it out with stumbling and difficulty and
long gaps between--got out in shaking commonplaces a tithe of the love
he had for her. And all the time Di thought if it might only have been
some one else who was uttering those halting words! (I wonder how many
men have proposed and been accepted while the woman has said to herself,
"If it had only been some one else!")

Despair at his inability to express himself, and at her silence, seized
him: as if it mattered a pin how he expressed himself if she had been
willing to listen.

"If you understood," he said over and over again, with the monotonous
reiteration of a piano-tuner, "you would not refuse me. I know you are
going to, but if only you understood you would not. You would not have
the heart. It's--it's just everything to me." And Lord Hemsworth--oh,
bathos of modern life!--looked into his hat.

"Lord Hemsworth," said Di, "have I ever given you any encouragement?"

"None," he replied. "People might think you had, but you never did. I
knew better. I never misunderstood you. I know you don't care a straw
about me; but--oh, Di, you have not your equal in the world. There's no
woman to compare with you. I don't see how you could care for any one
like me. Of course you don't. I would not expect it. But if--if you
would only marry me--I would be content with very little. I've looked
at it all round. I would be content with--very little."

There was a long silence.

What woman whose love has been slighted can easily reject a great
devotion?

"I think," said Di, after several false starts to speak, "that if I only
considered myself I would marry you; but there is the happiness of one
other person to think of--_yours_."

"I can't have any apart from you."

"You would have none with me. If it is miserable to care for any one who
is indifferent, it would be a thousand times more miserable to be
married to that person."

"Not if it were you."

"Yes, if it were I."

"I would take the risk," said Lord Hemsworth, who held, in common with
most men, the rooted conviction that a woman will become attached to
any husband, however little she cares for her lover. It is precisely
this conviction which makes the average marriages of the present day
such mediocre affairs; which serves to place worldly or facile women, or
those whose affections have never been called out, at the head of so
many homes; as the mothers of the new generation from which we hope so
much.

"I would take any risk," repeated Lord Hemsworth, doggedly. "I would
rather be unhappy with you than happy with any one else."

"You think so now," said Di; "but the time would come when you would see
that I had cut you off from the best thing in the world--from the love
of a woman who would care for you as much as you do for me."

"I don't want her. I want you."

"I cannot marry you."

Lord Hemsworth clutched blindly at the arms of the chair.

"I would wait any time."

Di shook her head.

"Any time," he stammered. "Go away for a year, and--come back."

"It would be no good."

Then he lost his head.

"So long as you don't care for any one else," he said incoherently. "I
thought at the carnival--that is why I have kept out of the way--but I
met Tempest to-day at the Carlton, and--I asked him straight out, and he
said there was nothing between you and him. I suppose you have refused
him, like the rest of us. Oh, my God, Di, they say you have no heart!
But it isn't true, is it? Don't refuse me. Don't make me live without
you. I've tried for three months"--and Lord Hemsworth's face
worked--"and if you knew what it was like, you wouldn't send me back to
it."

Every vestige of colour had faded from Di's face at the mention of John.

"I don't care enough for you to marry you," she said, pitiless in her
great pity. "I wish I did, but--I don't."

"Do you care for any one else?"

Di saw that nothing short of the truth would wrest his persistence from
its object.

"Yes, I do," she said passionately, trembling from head to foot. "For
some one who does not care for me. You and I are both in the same
position. Do you see now how useless it is to talk of this any longer?"

Both had risen to their feet. Lord Hemsworth looked at Di's white
convulsed face, and his own became as ashen. He saw at last that he had
no more chance of marrying her than if she were lying at his feet in
her coffin. Constancy, which can compass many things, avails nought
sometimes.

"I beg your pardon," he said, holding out his hand to go.

"I think I ought to beg yours," she said brokenly, while their hands
clasped tightly each in each. "I never meant to make you as--unhappy
as--as I am myself, but yet I have."

They looked at each other with tears in their eyes.

"It does not matter," said Lord Hemsworth, hoarsely. "I shall be all
right--it's you--I think of. Don't stand--mustn't stand--you're too
tired. Good-bye."

       *       *       *       *       *

Di flung herself down on her face on the sofa as the door closed. She
had forgotten Lord Hemsworth's existence the moment after he had left
the room. _John had told him that there was nothing between her and_
_himself._ John had told him that. John had said that. A cry escaped
her, and she strangled it in the cushion.

Hope does not always die when we imagine it does. It is subject to long
trances. The hope which she had thought dead was only giving up the
ghost now. "Chaque espérance est un oeuf d'où peut sortir un serpent au
lieu d'une colombe." Out of that frail shell of a cherished hope lying
broken before her the serpent had crept at last. It moved, it grew
before her eyes.

     "Slighted love is sair to bide."



CHAPTER XII.

     "We met, hand to hand,
       We clasped hands close and fast,
     As close as oak and ivy stand;
       But it is past."
                      CHRISTINA ROSSETTI.

     "Half false, half fair, all feeble."
                          SWINBURNE.


When John roused himself from the long stupor into which he had fallen
after Lord Hemsworth's departure, he put his finished letter to Colonel
Tempest into an envelope, and then remembered with annoyance that he did
not know how to address it. When the landlady in Brook Street had told
him that Colonel and Captain Tempest had gone to Brighton that morning,
he had been too much taken aback at the moment to think of asking for
their address. He was too much exhausted in mind and body to go back to
the lodgings for it immediately. He wrote a second letter, this time to
his lawyer, and then, conscious of the state of his body by the shaking
hand and clumsy, tardy brain which made of a short and explicit
statement so lengthy an affair, he mechanically changed his clothes,
dined, and sat watching the smoke of his cigar.

Presently, with food and rest, the apathy into which exhaustion had
plunged him lifted, and the restlessness of a tortured mind returned. He
had only as yet seen one of the three men whom he had come to London to
interview, namely, Lord Frederick. Colonel Tempest, the second, was out
of town; but probably the third, Lord ----, the minister, was not. It
was close on ten o'clock. He should probably find him in his private
room in the House.

John flung away his cigar, and was in a few minutes spinning towards the
Houses of Parliament in a hansom. He had not thought much about it till
now, but as he turned in at the gates the lines of the great buildings
suddenly brought back to him the remembrance of his own ambition, and of
the splendid career that had seemed to be opening before him when last
he had passed those gates; which had fallen at a single touch like a
house of cards--a house built with Fortune's cards.

There was a _queue_ of carriages at the Speaker's entrance. A party was
evidently going on there. John went to the House and inquired for
Lord ----. He was not there. Perhaps he was at the Speaker's reception.
John remembered, or thought he remembered, that he had a card for it,
and went on there. His mind was set on finding Lord ----.

       *       *       *       *       *

History repeats itself, and so does our little private history. Only
when the same thing happens it finds us changed, and we look back at
what we were last time, and remember our old young self with wonder. Was
that indeed I?

Possibly to some an evening party may appear a small event, but to Di,
as she stood in the same crowd as last year, in the same pictured rooms,
it seemed to her that her whole life had turned on the pivot of that one
evening a year ago.

The lights glared too much now. The babel dazed her. Noises had become
sharp swords of late. Every one talked too loud. She chatted and smiled,
and vaguely wondered that her friends recognized her. "I am not the same
person," she said to herself, "but no one seems to see any difference."

Presently she found herself near the same arched window where she had
stood with John last year. She moved for a moment to it and looked out.
There was a mist across the river. The lights struggled through blurred
and feeble. It had been clear last year. She turned and went on talking,
of she knew not what, to a very young man at her elbow, who was making
laborious efforts to get on with her.

Her eyes looked back from the recess across the sea of faces and
fringes, and bald and close-cropped heads. The men who were not John,
but yet had a momentary resemblance to him, were the only people she
distinctly saw. Tall fair men were beginning to complain of her
unrecognizing manner.

Yes, history repeats itself.

Among the crowd in the distance she suddenly saw him. John's rugged
profile and square head were easy to recognize. _He had said there was
nothing between them._ Their last meeting rushed back upon her with a
scathing recollection of how she had held him in her arms and pressed
her face to his. Shame scorched her inmost soul.

She turned towards her companion with fuller attention than what she had
previously accorded him.

       *       *       *       *       *

As John walked through the rooms scanning the crowd, the possibility of
meeting Di did not strike him. With a frightful clutch of the heart he
caught sight of her. A man who instantly aroused his animosity was
talking eagerly to her. Something in her appearance startled him. Was it
the colour of her gown that made her look so pale, the intense light
that gave her calm dignified face that peculiar worn expression? She
had a faint fixed smile as she talked that John did not recognize, and
that, why he knew not, cut him to the quick.

Was this Di? Could this be Di?

He knew she had seen him. He hesitated a moment and then went towards
her. She received him without any change of countenance. The fixed smile
was still on her lips as he spoke to her, but the lips had whitened.
Their eyes met for a moment. Oh! what had happened to Di's lovely eyes
that used to be so grave and gay?

He stammered something--said he was looking for some one--and passed on.
She turned to speak to some one else as he did so. He strangled the
nameless emotion which was choking him, and made his way into the next
room. He had a vague consciousness of being spoken to, and of making
herculean efforts to grind out answers, and then of pouncing on the
secretary of the man he was looking for, who told him his chief had
suddenly and unexpectedly started for Paris that afternoon on affairs of
importance.

John mechanically noted down his address in Paris and left the house.

The necessity of remembering where his feet were taking him recalled him
somewhat to himself. He pulled himself together, and slackened his pace.

"I will go to Paris by the night express," he said to himself, the
feverish longing for action increasing upon him as this new obstacle met
him. He dared not remain in London. He knew for a certainty that if he
did he should go and see Di. Neither could he write to Lord ---- all
that he must tell him, or put into black and white the favour he had to
ask of him--the first favour John had ever needed to ask, namely, to be
helped by means of Lord ----'s interest to some post in which he could
for the moment support himself and Mitty.

As he turned up St. James's Street, he remembered with irritation that
he had not yet procured Colonel Tempest's and Archie's address. While he
hesitated whether to go on, late as it was, to Brook Street for it, he
remembered that he could probably obtain it much nearer at hand, namely,
at Archie's rooms in Piccadilly. Archie, who was a person of much pink
and monogrammed correspondence, would probably have left his address
behind him, stuck in the glass of the mantelpiece, as his manner was.
The latch-key he had lent John in the autumn, when John had made use of
his rooms, was still on his chain. He had forgotten to return it. He let
himself in, went upstairs to the second floor, and opened the door of
the little sitting-room.

"Here you are at last," said a woman's voice.

He went in quickly and shut the door behind him.

A small woman in shimmering evening dress, with diamonds in her hair,
came towards him, and stopped short with a little scream.

It was Madeleine.

He looked at her in silence, standing with his back to the door. The
smouldering fire in his eyes seemed to burn her, for she shrank away to
the further end of the room. John observed that there was a fire and
lamps, and knit his brows.

Some persons are unable to perceive when explanations are useless.
Madeleine began one--something about Archie's difficulties, money, etc.;
but John cut her short.

"You are not accountable to me for your actions," he said. "Keep your
explanations for your husband."

He looked again with perplexity at the fire and the lamps. He knew
Archie had gone that morning on three days' leave to Brighton with his
father.

"Let me go," she said, whimpering. "I won't stay here to be thought ill
of, to have evil imputed to me."

"You will answer one question first," said John.

"You impute evil to me--I know you do," said Madeleine, beginning to
cry; "but it is your own coarse mind that sees wickedness in
everything."

"Possibly," said John. "When do you expect Archie?"

"Any moment. I wish he was here, that he might tell you----"

"Thank you, that will do. You can go now."

He opened the door. She drew a long cloak over her shoulders and passed
him without speaking, looking like what she was--one of that class whose
very existence she professed to ignore, but whose ranks she had
virtually joined when she announced her engagement to Sir Henry in the
_Morning Post_. Perhaps, inasmuch as that, untempted, she had sold
herself for diamonds and position, instead of, under strong temptation,
for the bare necessities of life like her poorer sisters, she was more
degraded than they; but fortunately for her, and many others in our
midst, society upheld her.

John looked after her and then followed her. There was not a soul on the
common staircase or in the hall. He passed out just behind her, and they
were in the street together.

"Take my arm," he said, and she took it mechanically.

He signalled a four-wheeler and helped her into it.

"Where do you wish to go?" he said.

"I don't know," she said feebly, apparently too much scared to remember
what her arrangements had been.

John considered a moment.

"Where is Sir Henry?"

"Dining at Woolwich."

"Can't you go home?"

"No, no. It is much too early. I'm dressed for--I said I was going
to ----, and I have left there already, and the carriage is waiting there
still."

"You must go back there," said John. "Get your carriage and go home in
it."

He gave the cabman the address and paid him. Then he returned to the cab
door.

"Lady Verelst," he said less sternly, "believe me--Archie is not worth
it."

"You don't understand," she tried to say, with an assumption of injured
dignity. "It was only that I----"

"He is not worth it," said John with emphasis; and he shut to the door
of the cab, and watched it drive away. Then he went back to Archie's
room, and sat down to consider. A faint odour of scent hung about the
room. He got up and flung open the window. Years afterwards, if a woman
used that particular scent, the same loathing disgust returned upon him.

"He took three days' leave to nurse his father at Brighton, with the
intention of coming back here to-night," John said to himself. "He will
be here directly." And he made up his mind what he would do.

And in truth a few minutes later a hansom rattled to the door, and
Archie came in, breathless with haste. He looked eagerly round the room,
and then, as he caught sight of the unexpected occupant, his face
crimsoned, and he grinned nervously.

"She is gone," said John, without moving.

"Gone? Who? I don't know what you mean."

"No, of course not. What made you so late?"

"Train broke down outside London."

"I came here to get your address at Brighton, because I have news for
you. You are there at this moment, aren't you, looking after your
father?"

Archie did not answer. He only grinned and showed his teeth. John was
aware that though he stood quietly enough by the table, turning over
some loose silver in his pocket, he was in a state of blind fury. He
also knew that if he waited a little it would pass. Something in John's
moral and physical strength had always the power to quell Archie's fits
of passion.

"I had no intention of prying on you," said John, after an interval. "I
wanted your address at Brighton, and I could not wait till to-morrow for
it. I am going to Paris to-night on business, and--as it is yours as
much as mine--you will go with me."

Archie never indulged in those flowers of speech with which some adorn
their conversation. But there are exceptions to every rule, and he made
one now. He culled, so to speak, one large bouquet of the choicest
epithets and presented it to John.

"He knew not what to say, and so he swore." That is why men swear often,
and women seldom.

"I shall not leave you in London with that woman," said John, calmly.
"You will go to her if I do."

"I shall do as I think fit," stammered Archie, striking the table with
his slender white hand.

"There you err," said John. "You will start with me in half an hour for
Paris."



CHAPTER XIII.

                       "There's not a crime
     But takes its proper change out still in crime
     If once rung on the counter of this world."
                               E. B. BROWNING.


There is in Paris, just out of the Rue du Bac, a certain old-fashioned
hotel, the name of which I forget, with a little _cour_ in the middle of
the rambling old building, and a thin fountain perennially plashing
therein, adorned by a few pigeons and feathers on the brink. It had been
a very fashionable hotel in the days when Madame Mohl held her _salon_
near at hand. But the old order changes. It was superseded now. Why
John often went there I don't know. He probably did not know himself,
unless it was for the sake of quiet. Anyhow, he and Archie arrived there
together that morning; for it is needless to say that, having determined
to get Archie at any cost out of London, John had carried his point, as
he had done on previous occasions, to the disgust of the sulky young
man, who had proved anything but a pleasant travelling companion, and
who, late in the afternoon, was still invisible behind the white
curtains in one of the two little bedrooms that opened out of the
sitting-room in which John was walking up and down.

He had put several questions to Archie respecting the state of his
father's health, and that gentleman had assured him he was all right,
quite able to look after himself; no need for him to remain with him.

"Of course not," said John, "or you would not have left him. But is he
able to attend to business?"

"Rather," said Archie, with the emphasis of ignorance.

As long as Archie was in the next room, out of harm's way, John did not
want his company. He knew that when he did appear he had to tell him
that for eight and twenty years he had lived on Colonel Tempest's
substance; and then he must post the letter lying ready written on the
table to Colonel Tempest, only needing the address.

After that life was a blank. Archie would rush home, of course. John did
not know where he should go, except that it would not be with Archie.
Back to Overleigh? No. And with a sudden choking sensation he realized
that he should not see Overleigh again. He wondered what Mitty was doing
at that moment, and whether the horse-chestnut against the nursery
window would ever burst to leaf. Here in Paris they were out. He had
noticed them as he returned from an interview with Lord ----. That
gentleman had been much pressed for time, but had nevertheless accorded
him a quarter of an hour. He was genuinely perturbed by the disclosure
the young man made to him, deplored the event as it affected John, but
after the first moment was obviously more concerned about the seat, and
the loss of the Tempest support, than the wreck of John's career. After
a decorous interval, Lord ---- had put a few questions to him about
Colonel Tempest, his age, political views, etc. John perceived with what
intentions those questions were put, and they made it the harder for him
to ask the great man to help him to a livelihood.

As John spoke, and the elder man's eye sought his watch, John
experienced for the first time the truth of the saying that the highest
price that can be paid for anything is to have to ask for it. If it had
not been for Mitty he could not have forced himself to do it.

"But my dear--er--Tempest," said Lord ----, "surely we need not
anticipate that--er--your uncle--er--that Colonel Tempest will fail to
make a suitable provision for one--who--who----"

"He may offer to do so," replied John; "but if he did, I should not take
it. He is not the kind of man from whom it is possible to accept money."

"Still, under the circumstances, the extraordinary combination of
circumstances, I should advise you to--my time is so circumscribed--I
should certainly advise you to--you see, Tempest, with every feeling of
regard for yourself and your father--ahem--Mr. Tempest before you, it is
difficult for a person situated as I am at the present moment, to offer
you, on the eve of the general election, any position at all adequate
to your undeniably great abilities."

"We shall not hear much more of my great abilities now that I am
penniless," said John, with bitterness. "If I can get any kind of
employment by which I can support myself and an old servant, I shall be
thankful."

Lord ---- promised to do his best. He felt obliged to add that he could
do but little, but he would do what he could. John might rest assured of
that. In the meantime---- He looked anxiously at the watch on the table.
John understood, and took his leave. Lord ---- pressed him warmly by the
hand, commended his conduct, once more deplored the turn events had
taken, which he should consider as strictly private until they had been
publicly announced, and assured him he would keep him in his mind, and
communicate with him immediately should any vacancy occur that, etc.,
etc.

John retraced his steps wearily to the hotel. The loss of his career had
stung him yesterday. How to keep Mitty in comfort seemed of far greater
importance to-day--how to provide a home for her with a little kitchen
in it. John wondered whether he and Mitty could live on a hundred a
year. He knew a good deal about the ways and means of the working
classes, but of how the poor of his own class lived he knew nothing.

But even the thought of Mitty could not hold him long. His mind ever
went back to Di with an agony of despair and rapture. During these
three interminable months during which he had not seen her, he had
pictured her to himself as taking life as usual, wondering perhaps
sometimes--yes, certainly wondering--why he did not come; but it had
never struck him that she would be unhappy. When he saw her he had
suddenly realized that the same emotions which had rent his soul had
left their imprint on her face. Could women really love like men? Could
Di actually, after her own fashion, feel towards him one tithe of the
love he felt for her? John recognized with an exaltation, which for the
moment transfigured as by fire the empty desolation of his heart, that
the change which had been wrought in Di was his own work. Her cheek had
grown pale for him, her eyes had wept for him, her very beauty had
become dimmed for his sake.

"I shall go mad," said John, starting to his feet. "Why is that damned
letter still unposted?"

Purpose was melting within him. The irrevocable step even now had not
been taken. Lord ---- and his own lawyer would say nothing if at the
eleventh hour he drew back. He must act finally this instant, or he
would never act at all.

He went into the next room, where Archie was languidly shaving himself
in a pink silk _peignoir_, and obtained from him Colonel Tempest's
address. He addressed the letter, and took his hat and stick.

"I will post it myself this instant," he said to himself.

He went quickly downstairs and across the little court, scattering the
pigeons. His face looked worn and ravaged in the vivid sunshine.

He passed under the archway into the street, and as he did so two
well-dressed men came out of a _café_ on the opposite side. Before he
had gone many steps one of them crossed the road, and raised his hat,
holding out a card.

"Mr. Tempest of Overleigh, I think," he said respectfully.

John stopped and looked at the man. He did not know him. The decisive
moment had come even before posting the letter.

"Now or never," whispered conscience.

"My name is Fane," he said, and passed on.

The man fell back at once and rejoined his companion.

"I told you so," he said. "That man is a deal too old, and he said his
name was Fane. It's the other one in the tow wig, as I said from the
first. That ain't real hair. It's the wig as alters him."

John posted his letter, saw it slide past recall, and then walked back
to the hotel, found Archie in the sitting-room reading the playbills for
the evening, and told him.

Perhaps nothing is more characteristic of our fellow-creatures than the
manner in which they bear unexpected reverses of fortune. Archie had
some of the callousness of feeling for others which accompanies lack of
imagination. He had never put himself in the place of others. He was not
likely to begin now. He had no intention of hurting John by setting his
iron heel on his face. He had no idea people minded being trodden on.
And, indeed, as John stood by the window with his hands clasped behind
his back, he was as indifferent as he appeared to be to anything that
Archie, pacing up and down the room with flashing eyes, could say. He
had at last closed the iron gates of the irrevocable behind himself, and
he was at first too much stunned by the clang even to hear what the
excited young man was talking about. Perhaps it was just as well.

"By Jove!" Archie was saying, as John's attention came slowly back. "To
think of the old governor at Overleigh, poor old chap! He has missed it
all his best years, but I hope he'll live to enjoy it yet. I do indeed."
Archie felt he could afford to be generous. "And Di, John, dear old Di,
shall come and queen it at Overleigh. And she shall have a suitable
fortune. I'll make father do the right thing by Di. He won't want to do
more than he can help, because she has never been much of a daughter to
him; but he shall. And when it's known, she'll marry off quick enough;
and I'll see it gets about. And don't you be down-hearted, John. We'll
do the right thing by you. You know you never cared for the money when
you had it. You were always a bit of a screw, to yourself as well as to
others--I will say that for you; but--let me see--you allowed me three
hundred a year. Don't you wish now it had been four? for you shall have
the same, if the old guv. agrees. And I dare say I shall be a bit freer
with a ten-pound note now and then than ever you were to me."

"There will be no necessity for this reckless generosity," said John,
wondering why he did not writhe, as a man might who watches a knife cut
into his benumbed limb. It gave him no pain.

"And you shall have a hunter," continued Archie. "By Jove, what hunting
_I_ shall have! I shall get the governor to add another wing to the
stables; and I will keep Quicksilver for you, John. You mustn't turn
rusty because the luck has come to us at last. You know I knew all along
I ought to have been the heir, and I put up with your being there, and
never raised a dust."

"I think I can promise I shall not raise a dust," said John,
dispassionately, watching the knife turn in his flesh.

"And--and," continued Archie--"why, I need not marry money now. I can
take my pick." New vistas seemed to open at every turn. His weak mouth
fell ajar. "My word, John, times are changed. And--my debts; I can pay
them off."

"And run up more," said John. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody any
good."

"I don't call it much of an ill wind," said Archie, chuckling; "not much
of an ill wind."

In spite of himself, John laughed aloud at the _naïveté_ of Archie's
remark. That it was an ill wind to John had not even crossed his mind.

It would cross Di's, John thought. She would do him justice. But, alas!
from the few who will do us justice we always want so much more,
something infinitely greater than justice--at least, John did.

The early _table d'hôte_ dinner broke in on Archie's soliloquy, and,
much to John's relief, that favoured young gentleman discovered that a
lady of his acquaintance was dancing at one of the theatres that
evening, and he determined to go and see her. He could not persuade John
to accompany him, even though he offered, with the utmost generosity,
to introduce him to her.

"Well, if you won't, you won't," said Archie, seeing his persuasions did
nought avail, and much preferring to go by himself. "If you would rather
sit over the fire in the dumps, that's your affair, not mine. Ta-ta. I
expect you will have turned in before I'm back. By-the-by, can you lend
me five thick 'uns?"

John was on the point of refusing when he remembered that the actual
money he had with him was more Archie's than his.

"Thank'ee," said Archie. "You part easier than you used to do. I expect
it'll be the last time I shall borrow of you--eh, John? It will be the
other way about in future."

"Will it?" said John, as he put back his pocket-book.

Archie laughed and went out.

Oh! it is good to be young and handsome and admired. The dancers
pirouetted in the intense electric light, and the music played on every
chord of Archie's light pleasure-loving soul. And he clapped and
applauded with the rest, his pulse leaping high and higher. A sense of
triumph possessed him. His one thorn in the flesh was gone for ever. He
rode on the top of the wave. He had had all else before, and now the one
thing that was lacking to him had come. He was rich, rich, rich. There
was much goods laid up for many years of pleasure.

Archie touched the zenith.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was very late, or rather it was very early, when he walked home
through the deserted streets. A great mental exaltation was still upon
him, but his body was exhausted, and the cool night air and the
silence, after the babel of tongues, and the shrieking choruses, and the
flaring lights of the last few hours, were pleasant to his aching eyes
and head.

The dawn stretched like a drawn sword behind the city. The Seine lay, a
long line of winding mist under its many bridges. The ruins of the
scorched Tuileries pushed up against the sky. Archie leant a moment on
the parapet, and looked down to the Seine below whispering in its
shroud. He took off his hat and pushed back the light curling hair from
his forehead, laughing softly to himself.

An invisible boat, with a red blur coming down-stream, was making a low
continuous warning sound.

A hand came suddenly over his shoulder, and was pressed upon his mouth,
and at the same instant something exceeding sharp and swift, pointed
with death, pierced his back, once and again. Archie saw his hat drop
over the parapet into the mist.

He tried to struggle, but in vain. He was choking.

"It is a dream," he said. "I shall wake. I have dreamt it before."

He looked wildly round him.

The steadfast dawn was witness from afar. There was the boat still
passing down-stream. There was the city before him, with its spires
piercing the mist. _Was_ it a dream?

The hot blood rushed up into his mouth. The drenched hand released its
pressure.

"I shall wake," he said, and he fell forward on his face.



CHAPTER XIV.

     "The earth buildeth on the earth castles and towers;
     The earth sayeth to the earth, 'All shall be ours;'
     The earth walketh on the earth, glistering like gold;
     The earth goeth to the earth sooner than it wold."


John was late next morning. He had not slept for many nights, and the
heavy slumber of entire exhaustion fell on him towards dawn. It was
nearly midday when he re-entered the sitting-room where he had sat up so
late the night before.

He went to Archie's room to see whether he had come in; but it was
empty.

He was impatient to be gone, to get away from that marble-topped
side-table, and the horsehair chairs, and the gilt clock on the
mantelpiece. At least, he thought he wished to get away from these
things; but it was from himself that he really wanted to get away--from
this miserable tortured self that was all that was left of him in this
his hour of weakness and prostration; the hour which inevitably succeeds
all great exertions of strength. How could he drag this wretched
creature about with him? He abhorred himself; the thought of being with
himself was intolerable. It seems hard that the nobler side of human
nature, which can cheer and urge its weaker brother up such steep paths
of duty and self-sacrifice, should desert us when the summit is
achieved, leaving the weaker to wail unreproved over its bleeding feet
and rent garments till we madden at the sound.

An overwhelming sense of loneliness fell on John as he sat waiting for
Archie to come in. He had no strong, earnest, steadfast self to bear
him company. He felt deserted, lost.

Who has not experienced it, that fierce depression and loathing of all
life, which, though at the time we know it not, is only the writhing and
fainting of the starved human affections! The very ordinary sources from
which the sharpest suffering springs, shows us later on how narrow are
the limits within which our common human nature works, and from which
yet irradiate such diversities of pain.

Alphonse disturbed him at last to ask whether he and "Monsieur" would
dine at _table d'hôte_. "Monsieur," with a glance at Archie's door, had
not yet come in.

John said they would both dine; and then, roused somewhat by the
interruption, an idea struck him. Had Archie, in the excitement of the
moment, gone back to England without telling him?

He went to the room, but there were no evidences of departure. On the
bed the clothes were thrown which Archie had worn on the previous day.
The gold watch John had given him was on the dressing-table. He had
evidently left it there on purpose, not caring, perhaps, to risk taking
it with him. All the paraphernalia of a man who studies his appearance
were strewed on the table. There was his little moustache-brush, and
phial of _brilliantine_ to burnish it. John knew that he would never
have left _that_ behind. Archie had evidently intended to return.

In the mean while hour succeeded hour, but he did not come. That Archie
should have been out all night was not surprising, but that he should be
still out now in his evening clothes in the daytime, began to be
incomprehensible. After a few premonitory tremors of misgiving, which,
man-like, he laughed at himself for entertaining, John took alarm.

Evening fell, and still no Archie. And then a hideous night followed, in
which John forgot everything in heaven above or earth beneath except
Archie. The police were informed. The actress at whose house he had
supped after the play was interviewed, but could only vociferate between
her sobs that he had left her house with the remainder of her party in
the early hours of the morning, and she had not seen him since.

Directly the office opened, John telegraphed to his colonel to know if
he had returned to London. The answer came, "Absent without leave."

John remembered that he had only three days' leave, and that the third
day was up yesterday. Archie would not have forgotten that.

A nightmare of a day passed. John had been out during the greater part
of it, rushing back at intervals in the hope, that was no longer
anything but a masked despair, of finding Archie in his rooms on his
return.

In the dusk of the afternoon he came back once more, and peered for the
twentieth time into the littered bedroom, which the frightened servants
had left exactly as Archie had left it. He was standing in the doorway
looking into the empty room, where a certain horror was beginning to
gather round the familiar objects with which it was strewed, when a
voice spoke to him.

It was the superintendent of police to whom he had gone long ago--the
night before--when first the horror began. Alphonse, who had shown him
up, was watching through the doorway.

The man said something in French. John did not hear him, but it did not
matter much. He knew. They went downstairs together. Alphonse brought
him his hat and stick. The other waiters were gathered in a little knot
at the _table d'hôte_ door. A fiacre was waiting under the archway. John
and the superintendent got into it, and it drove off at once without
waiting for directions. They were lighting the lamps in the streets. The
dusk was falling, falling like the shadow of death. They drove deeper
and ever deeper into it.

Time ceased to be.

"Nous voiçi, Monsieur," said the man, gravely, as they pulled up before
a building, the long low outline of which was dimly visible.

John knew it was the Morgue.

He followed his guide down a white-washed passage into a long room.
There was a cluster of people at the further end, towards which the man
was leading him, and in the dusk there was a subdued whispering, and a
sound of trickling water.

As they reached the further end, some one turned on the electric light,
and it fell full on a man's figure on one of the slabs. A little crowd
of people were peering through the glass screen at the toy which the
Seine had tired of and cast aside.

"Ah! qu'il est beau," said a high woman's voice.

John shaded his eyes and looked.

The face was turned away, but John knew the hair, fair to whiteness in
that brilliant light, as he had often seen it in London ball-rooms.

They let him through the glass screen which kept off the crowd, and,
oblivious of the many eyes watching him, John bent over the slab and
touched the clenched marble hand with the signet-ring on it which he had
given him when they were at Oxford together.

Yes, it was Archie.

The dead face was set in the nervous grin with which he had been wont in
life to meet the inevitable and the distasteful.

The blue pencillings of dissolution had touched to inexorable
distinctness the thin lines of dissipation in the cheek and at the
corners of the mouth. The death of the body had overtaken the creeping
death of the soul. Their landmarks met.

The poor beautiful effeminate face, devoid of all that makes death
bearable, stared up at the electric light.

An impotent overwhelming compassion, as for some ephemeral irresponsible
being of another creation, who knows not how to guide itself in this
grim world of law, and has wandered blindfold within the sweep of a vast
machinery of which it knew nothing, wrung John's heart. He hid his face
in his hands.



CHAPTER XV.

     "For human bliss and woe in the frail thread
       Of human life are all so closely twined,
     That till the shears of fate the texture shred,
       The close succession cannot be disjoined,
       Nor dare we, from our hour, judge that which comes behind."
                                         SIR WALTER SCOTT.


Di had seen her father and Archie off on their journey to Brighton, and,
having arranged to replace her brother in three days' time, was
surprised when a hasty note, the morning after their departure, informed
her that Archie had been recalled to London _on business_, and that she
must go to her father at once.

Mrs. Courtenay was incensed. Archie had shirked before, and now he had
shirked again. But Colonel Tempest remained in far too precarious a
condition for her to refuse to allow her granddaughter to go, as she
would certainly otherwise have done. So Di went off the morning after
the Speaker's party.

She had told Mrs. Courtenay that she had met John there.

"In one way I am glad to have met him," she said firmly, her proud lip
quivering. "Any uncertainty I may have been weak enough to feel is at an
end, and it was time the end should come. For, in spite of all you said,
I had had a lingering idea that if we met----. And now we _have_
met--and he had evidently no wish to see me again."

Mrs. Courtenay looked fixedly at the beautiful pallid face, and wondered
that she had ever wished Di had a heart.

"This pain will pass," she said gently. "You have always believed me,
Di; believe me now. Take courage and wait. You have had an untroubled
life till now. That has passed. Trouble has come. It is part of life. It
will pass too; not the feeling, perhaps, but the suffering."

"Good-bye, my child," she said a little later, kissing the girl's cold
cheek with a tenderness which Di was powerless to return. "Take care of
yourself. Go out every day; the sea air will do you good. And tell your
father I cannot spare you more than a fortnight."

Di would have given anything to show her grandmother that she was
thankful--oh, how thankful in this grey world!--for her sympathy and
love, but she had no words. She kissed Mrs. Courtenay, and went down to
the cab.

Mrs. Courtenay remained motionless until she heard it drive away. Then
she let two tears run down from below her spectacles, and wiped them
away. No more followed them. The old cannot give way like the young.
Mrs. Courtenay had once said that nothing had power to touch her very
nearly; but she was still vulnerable on one point. Her old heart, worn
with so many troubles, ached for her granddaughter.

"Thank God," she said to herself, "that in the next world there will be
neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Perhaps God Almighty sees it's
a mistake."

Di found Colonel Tempest wrapped up in a _duvet_ in an armchair by the
window of his sitting-room, in a state of equal indignation against his
children for deserting him, and against the rain for blurring the
seaview from the window. With his nurse, it is hardly necessary to add,
he was not on speaking terms--a fact which seemed to cause that
patient, apathetic person very little annoyance, she being, as she told
Di, "accustomed to gentlemen."

Di soothed him as best she could, took his tray from the nurse at the
door, so that he might be spared as much as possible the sight of the
most hideous woman in the world, rang for lights, and drew a curtain
before the untactful rain, while he declaimed alternately on the
enormity of Archie's behaviour, and on the callousness of Mrs. Courtenay
in endeavouring to keep his daughter, his only daughter, away from him.
Colonel Tempest and Archie detested Mrs. Courtenay. However much the
father and son might disagree and bicker on most subjects, they could
always sing a little duet together in perfect harmony about her.

Colonel Tempest began a feeble solo on that theme to Di when he had
finished with Archie; but Di visibly froze, and somehow the subject,
often as it was started, always dropped. Di, as Colonel Tempest
frequently informed her, did not care to hear the truth about her
grandmother. If she knew all that _he_ did about her, and what her
behaviour had been to _him_, she would not be so fond of her as she
evidently was.

Earlier in his illness Di had been obliged to exercise patience with her
father, but she needed none now. That is the one small compensation for
deep trouble. It numbs the power of feeling small irritations. It is
when it begins to lift somewhat that the small irritations fit
themselves out with new stings. Di had not reached that stage yet. The
doctor who came daily to see her father looked narrowly at her, and
ordered her to go out-of-doors as much as possible, in wet weather or
fine.

"I sometimes take a little nap after luncheon," said Colonel Tempest
with dignity. "You might go out then, Di."

"Miss Tempest will in any case go out morning and afternoon," said the
doctor with decision.

Colonel Tempest had before had his doubts whether the doctor understood
his case, but now they were confirmed. He wished to change doctors, and
a painful scene ensued between him and Di, in the course of which a hole
was kicked in the _duvet_, and a cup of broth was upset. But it is an
ascertained fact that women are not amenable to reason. Di sewed up the
hole in the _duvet_, rubbed the carpet, and remained, as Colonel Tempest
hysterically informed her, "as obstinate as her mother before her."

On the second morning after her arrival at Brighton she was sitting with
Colonel Tempest, reading the papers to him, when the waiter brought in
the letters. There were none for her, two for her father. One was a
foreign letter with a blue French stamp. She took them to him where he
lay on the sofa.

Colonel Tempest looked at them.

"Nothing from Archie again," he said. "He does not care even to write
and ask whether I am alive or dead."

"Archie is not a good hand at writing," said Di, echoing, for the sake
of saying something, the time-honoured masculine plea for exemption from
the tedium of domestic correspondence.

"This is John's hand," said Colonel Tempest. "A Paris postmark. How
these rich men do rush about!"

Di had actually not known it was John's writing. She had never seen it,
to her knowledge, but nevertheless it appeared to her extraordinary that
she had not at once divined that it was his. She was not anxious to
hear her father's comments on John's letter, or the threadbare remark,
sacred to the poor relation, that when the rich one _was_ sitting down
to draw a cheque he might just as well have written it for double the
amount. He would never have known the difference. The poor relation
always knows exactly how much the rich one can afford to give. So Di
told her father she was going out, and left the room.

It stung her, as she laced her boots, to think that John had probably
sent another cheque to cover their expenses at the hotel, and that the
fried soles and semolina-pudding which she had ordered for luncheon
would be paid for by him. It exasperated her still more to know that
whatever John sent, Colonel Tempest would pronounce to be mean.

Before she had finished lacing her boots, however, the sitting-room door
was opened, and Di heard her father calling wildly to her.

Colonel Tempest was not allowed to move, except with great precaution,
owing to the slow healing of the obstinate internal injury caused by
that unlucky pistol-shot.

She rushed headlong downstairs.

"Father!" she cried, horrified to find him standing on the landing.
"Father, come back at once!" And she put her arms round him, and
supported him back to the sofa.

He was trembling from head to foot. She saw that something had happened,
but he was not in a state to be questioned. She administered what
restoratives she had at hand, and presently the constantly moving lips
got out the words, "Read it;" and Colonel Tempest pointed to a letter on
the floor.

"Read it," repeated Colonel Tempest, lying back on his cushions, and
recovering from his momentary collapse. "Read it."

Di picked up the letter and sat down by the window. She was suddenly too
tired to stand. Her father was talking wildly, but she did not hear him;
was calling to her to read it aloud, but she did not hear him. She saw
only John's strong, small handwriting.

It was a business letter, couched in the most matter-of-fact terms. John
stated his case--expressed a formal regret that the facts he mentioned
had not come to light at Mr. Tempest's death, mentioned that the
accumulation of income during his minority had fortunately remained
untouched, that he had desired his lawyer to communicate with Colonel
Tempest, and signed himself "John Fane." He had written the word
"Tempest," and had then struck it through.

Di pressed her forehead against the glass on which the rain was beating.

Was the emotion which was shattering her joy or sorrow, or both?

She knew it was joy. In a lightning-flash of comprehension she realized
that it was this awful calamity which had kept John silent, which had
held him back from coming to her, from asking her to marry him. He loved
her still! Love, dead and buried, had risen out of his grave. The
impossible had happened. John loved her still.

"I cannot bear it," she said; and for a moment the long yellow waves,
and her father's impatient voice, and even John's letter, were alike
blotted out, unheard.

Colonel Tempest considered Di's apathy, after she had read the letter,
unfeeling and unsympathetic in the extreme, and he did not hesitate to
tell her so. But when she presently turned her averted face towards him
he was already off on another tack, his excitement, which seemed to
increase rather than diminish, tossing him as a wave tosses a spar.

"Twenty years," he said tremulously. "Think of it, Di--not that you seem
to care! Twenty years have I toiled and moiled in poverty, twenty years
have I and my children been ground down while that nameless interloper
has spent our money right and left. Oh, my God! I've got it at last.
I've got my own at last. But who will give me back those twenty years?"
and Colonel Tempest's voice broke into a sob.

Other consequences of that letter began to dawn on Di's awakening
consciousness.

"Then John," she said, bewildered. "Oh, father, what will become of
John?"

"John," said Colonel Tempest, bitterly, "is now just where I was twenty
years ago--disinherited, penniless. He has kept me out all these years,
and now at last Providence gives me my own."

It is to be hoped that Providence is not really responsible for all the
shady transactions for which we offer up our best thanks.

"I dare say he has put by," continued Colonel Tempest. "He has had time
enough."

"You have not read the letter carefully," said Di. "He only discovered
all this less than three months ago, and you have been ill for more than
two."

Colonel Tempest did not hear her. He had ceased for the last twenty
years to hear anything he did not want to.

"Fifty thousand a year," he went on; "not a penny less. And the New
River shares have gone up since Jack's day. And there was a large sum
which rolled up during the minority. John is right there. There must be
over a hundred thousand. You shall have that, Di. Archie will kick, but
you shall have it. Eight thousand pounds John settled on you a year ago.
That was the amount of _his_ generosity to my poor girl. You shall not
have a penny less than a hundred thousand. Not during my lifetime, of
course; but when I die----" he added hastily.

Di could articulate nothing.

"I shall pay my own debts and Archie's in a moment," he continued, not
noticing whether she answered or not. "If you want a new gown, Di, you
may send the bill to me. I don't believe I owe a thousand, and Archie
not so much, poor lad, though John was always pulling a long face over
his debts. How deuced mean John was from first to last! Well, do as you
would be done by. I'll do for him alone what he thought enough for the
two of you. I'll never give him cause to say I'm close-fisted. He shall
have your eight thousand, and he shall have three hundred a year, the
same that he allowed Archie, as well."

"He won't take it."

"Won't take it!" said Colonel Tempest, contemptuously. "That's all you
know about the world, Di. I tell you he'll have to take it. I tell you
he has not a sixpence in the world at this moment, to say nothing of
owing me twenty years' income."

Colonel Tempest rambled on of how Archie should leave the army and live
at Overleigh, of how Di should live there too, and Mrs. Courtenay might
go to the devil. Presently he fell to wondering what state the shooting
was in, and how many pheasants John was breeding at that moment. Every
instant it became more unbearable, till at last Di sent for the nurse,
made an excuse of posting her letters, and slipped out of the room.

She went out to her old friends, the yellow waves, and, too exhausted to
walk, sat down under the lee of one of the high wooden rivets between
which the sea licks the pebbly shore into grooves.

Gradually the tension of her mind relaxed. Di sat and watched the waves
until they washed away the high invalid voice vibrating in some acute
recess of her brain; washed away the hideous thought that they were rich
because John was penniless and dishonoured; washed away everything
except the one fact that his silence was accounted for, and that he
loved her after all.

Di looked out across the rain-trodden sea. If it was raining, she did
not know it. What did anything in this wide world matter so long as John
loved her? Poverty was nothing. Marriage was nothing either. What did
it matter if they could not marry so long as they loved each other?

Once in a lifetime it is vouchsafed alike to the worldly and to the
pure, to the earnest and to the frivolous, to discern that vision--which
has been ever life's greatest reality or life's greatest illusion
according to the character of the beholder--that to love and to be loved
is enough.

A wet glint came across the sea, exquisite and evanescent as the gleam
across Di's heart.

"It is enough!" said Di; and her soul was flooded with a solemn joy a
thousand times deeper than when she had first discovered her love for
John, and his for her, and a brilliant future was before her.

Sorrow with his pick mines the heart. But he is a cunning workman. He
deepens the channels whereby happiness may enter, and hollows out new
chambers for joy to abide in, when he is gone.



CHAPTER XVI.

     "Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding
       small."
                                              LONGFELLOW.


The doctor was sitting with Colonel Tempest on Di's return to the hotel,
and Di perceived that her father, who was still in a very excited state,
had been telling him about his sudden change of fortune.

The doctor courteously offered his congratulations, and on leaving made
a pretext of inquiring after Di's health in order to see her alone.

"Colonel Tempest has been telling me of his unexpected access of
wealth," he said. "In his present condition of nervous prostration, and
tendency to cerebral excitement, the information should most certainly
have been withheld from him. His brain is not in a state to bear the
strain which such an event might have put upon it, has put upon it. Were
such a thing to occur again in his enfeebled condition, I cannot answer
for the consequences."

"It was absolutely unforeseen," said Di. "None of us had the remotest
suspicion. He has been in the habit of reading his letters for the past
month."

"They must be kept from him for the present," replied the doctor. "Let
them be brought to you in future, and use your own discretion about
showing them to him after you have read them yourself. Your father must
be guarded from all agitation."

This was more easily said than done. Nothing could turn Colonel
Tempest's shattered, restless mind from hopping like a grasshopper on
that one subject for the remainder of the day. The bit of cork in his
medicine, which at another time would have elicited a torrent of
indignation, excited only a momentary attention. He talked without
ceasing--hinted darkly at danger to John which that young man's
creditable though tardy action had averted, alluded to passages in his
own life which nothing would induce him to divulge, and then lighting on
a sentimental vein, discoursed of a happy old age (the old age of
fiction), in which he should see Archie's and Di's children playing in
the gallery at Overleigh. And the old name----

Di had not realized, until her parent descanted upon the subject in a
way that set her teeth on edge, how hideous, how vulgar, is the seamy
side of pride of birth. When Colonel Tempest began to dwell on "the
goodness and the grace that on his birth had smiled," shall we blame Di
if she put on the clock half an hour, and rang for the nurse?

Things were not much better next morning. Di gave strict orders that all
letters and telegrams should be brought to her room. Colonel Tempest
fidgeted because he had not heard from the lawyer in whose hands John
had placed the transfer of the property. The letter was in Di's pocket,
but she dared not give it to him, for though it contained nothing to
agitate him, she knew that the fact that she had opened it would raise a
whirlwind.

"And Archie," said Colonel Tempest, querulously--"I ought to have heard
from him too. If John told him the same day that he wrote to me, we
ought to have heard from Archie this morning. I should have imagined
that though Archie did not give his father a thought when he was poor,
he might have thought him worthy of a little consideration _now_."

"If that is the motive you would have given him if he had written, it is
just as well he has not," said Di; but she wondered at his silence
nevertheless.

But she did not wonder long.

She left her father busily writing to an imaginary lawyer, for he had
neither the name nor address of John's, and on the landing met a servant
bringing a telegram to her room. She took it upstairs, and though it was
addressed to her father, opened it. She had no apprehension of evil. The
old are afraid of telegrams, but the young have made them common, and
have worn out their prestige.

The telegram was from John, merely stating that Archie had been taken
seriously ill.

Di's heart gave a leap of thankfulness that her father had been spared
this further shock. But Archie. Seriously ill. She was indignant at
John's vague statement. What did seriously ill mean? Why could not he
say what was the matter? And how could she keep the fact of his illness
from her father? Ought she to go at once to Archie? Seriously ill. How
like a man to send a telegram of that kind! She would telegraph at once
to John for particulars, and go or stay according as the doctor thought
she could or could not safely leave her father. Di put on her walking
things, and ran out to the post-office round the corner, where she
despatched a peremptory telegram to John; and then, seeing there was no
one else to advise her, hurried to the doctor's house close at hand. For
a wonder he was in. For a greater still, his last patient walked out as
she walked in. The doctor, with the quickness of his kind, saw the
difficulty, and caught up his hat to come with her.

"You shall go to your brother if you can," was the only statement to
which he would commit himself during the two minutes' walk in the rain;
the two minutes which sealed Colonel Tempest's fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one knew exactly how it happened. Perhaps the hall porter had gone to
his dinner, and the little boy who took his place for half an hour
brought up the telegram to the person to whom it was addressed. No one
knew afterwards how it had happened. It did happen, that was all.

Colonel Tempest had the pink paper in his hand as the doctor and Di
entered the room. He was laughing softly to himself.

"Archie is dead," he said, chuckling. "That is what John would like me
to believe. But I know better. It is John that is dead. It is John who
had to be snuffed out. Swayne said so, and he knew. And John says it's
Archie, and he will write. Ha, ha! We know better, eh, doctor? eh, Di?
John's dead. Eight and twenty years old he was; but he's dead at last.
He won't write any more. He won't spend my money any more. He won't keep
me out any more."

Colonel Tempest dropped on his knees. The only prayer he knew rose to
his lips. "For what we are going to receive, the Lord make us truly
thankful."

       *       *       *       *       *

For an awful day and night the fierce flame of delirium leaped and fell,
and ever leaped again. With set face Di stood hour after hour in the
blast of the furnace, till doctor and nurse marvelled at her courage and
endurance.

On the evening of the second day John came. He had written to tell
Colonel Tempest of his coming, but the letter had not been opened.

The doctor, thinking he was Di's brother, brought him into the
sick-room, too crowded with fearful images for his presence to be
noticed by the sick man.

"John is dead," the high-pitched terrible voice was saying. "Blundering
fools. First there was the railway, but Goodwin saved him; damn his
officiousness. And then there was the fire. They nearly had him that
time. How grey he looked! Burnt to ashes. Bandaged up to the eyes. But
he got better. And then the carnival. They muffed it again. Oh, Lord,
how slow they were! But"--the voice sank to a frightful whisper--"they
got him in Paris. I don't know how they did it--it's a secret; but they
trapped him at last."

Suddenly the glassy eyes looked with horrified momentary recognition at
John.

"Risen from the dead," continued the voice. "I knew he would get up
again. I always said he would; and he has. You can't kill John. There's
no grave deep enough to hold him. Look at him with his head out now, and
the earth upon his hair. We ought to have put a monument over him to
keep him down. He's getting up. I tell you I did not do it. The grave's
not big enough. Swayne dug it for him when he was a little boy--a little
boy at school."

Di turned her colourless face to John, and smiled at him, as one on the
rack might smile at a friend to show that the anguish is not unbearable.
She felt no surprise at seeing him. She was past surprise. She had
forgotten that she had ever doubted his love.

In silence he took the hand she held out towards him, and kept it in a
strong gentle clasp that was more comfort than any words.

Hour after hour they watched and ministered together, and hour by hour
the lamp of life flared grimly low and lower. And after he had told
everything--everything, everything that he had concealed in life--after
John and Di had heard, in awed compassion and forgiveness, every word of
the guilty secret which he had kept under lock and key so many years, at
last the tide of remembrance ebbed away and life with it.

Did he know them in the quiet hours that followed? Did he recognize
them? They bent over him. They spoke to him gently, tenderly. Did he
understand? They never knew.

And so, in the grey of an April morning, poor Colonel Tempest,
unconscious of death, which had had so many terrors for him in life,
drifted tranquilly upon its tide from the human compassion that watched
by him here, to the Infinite Pity beyond.



CONCLUSION.

     "Where there are twa seeking there will be a finding."


After John had taken Di back to London he returned to Brighton, and from
thence to Overleigh, to arrange for the double funeral. He had not
remembered to mention that he was coming, and in the dusk of a wet
afternoon he walked up by the way of the wood, and let himself in at the
little postern in the wall. He had not thought he should return to
Overleigh again, yet here he was once more in the dim gallery, with its
faint scent of _pot-pourri_, his hand as he passed stirring it from
long habit. The pictures craned through the twilight to look at him. He
stole quietly upstairs and along the garret gallery. The nursery door
was open. A glow of light fell on Mitty's figure. What was she doing?

John stopped short and looked at her, and, with a sudden recollection as
of some previous existence, understood.

Mitty was packing. Two large white grocery boxes were already closed and
corded in one corner. John saw "Best Cubes" printed on them, and it
dawned upon his slow masculine consciousness that those boxes were part
of Mitty's luggage.

Mitty was standing in the middle of the room, holding at arm's length a
little red flannel dressing-gown, which knocked twenty years off John's
age as he looked.

"I shall take it," she said, half aloud. "It's wore as thin as thin
behind; that and the open socks as I've mended and better-be-mended;"
and she thrust them both hastily, as if for fear she should repent, into
a tin box, out of which the battered head of John's old horse protruded.

If there was one thing certain in this world, it was that the Noah's ark
would not go in unless the horse came out. Mitty tried many ways, and
was contemplating them with arms akimbo when John came in.

She showed no surprise at seeing him, and with astonishment John
realized that it was only six days since he had left Overleigh. It was
actually not yet a week since that far-distant afternoon, separated from
the present by such a chasm, when he had lain on his face in the
heather, and the deep passions of youth had rent him and let him go.
Here at Overleigh time stopped. He came back twenty years older, and the
almanac on his writing-table marked six days.

John made the necessary arrangements for the funeral to take place at
midnight, according to the Tempest custom, which he knew Colonel Tempest
would have been the last to waive. He wrote to tell Di what he had
settled, together with the hour and the date. He dared not advise her
not to be present, but he remembered the vast concourse of people who
had assembled at his father's funeral to see the torchlight procession,
and he hoped she would not come.

But Mrs. Courtenay wrote back that her granddaughter was fixed in her
determination to be present, that she had reluctantly consented to it,
and would accompany her herself. She added in a postscript that no doubt
John would arrange for them to stay the night at Overleigh, and they
should return to London the next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The night of the funeral was exceeding dark and still; so still that
many, watching from a distance on Moat-hill, heard the voice saying, "I
am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in
Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

And again--

"We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry
nothing out."

The night was so calm that the torches burned upright and unwavering,
casting a steadfast light on church and graveyard and tilted tombstones,
on the crowded darkness outside, and on the worn faces of a man and
woman who stood together between two open graves.

       *       *       *       *       *

John and Di exchanged no word as they drove home. There were lights and
a fire in the music-room, and she went in there, and began absently to
take off her hat and long crêpe veil. Mrs. Courtenay had gone to bed.

John followed Di with a candle in his hand. He offered it to her, but
she did not take it.

"It is good-bye as well as good night," he said, holding out his hand.
"I must leave here very early to-morrow."

Di took no notice of his outstretched hand. She was looking into the
fire.

"You must rest," he said gently, trying to recall her to herself.

A swift tremor passed over her face.

"You are right," she said, in a low voice. "I will rest--when I have had
five minutes' talk with you."

John shut the door, and came back to the fireside. He believed he knew
what was coming, and his face hardened. It was bitter to him that Di
thought it worth while to speak to him on the subject. She ought to
have known him better.

She faced him with difficulty, but without hesitation. They looked each
other in the eyes.

"You are going to London early to see your lawyer," she said, "on the
subject that you wrote to father about."

"I am."

"That is why I must speak to you to-night. I dare not wait." Her eyes
fell before the stern intentness of his. Her voice faltered a moment,
and then went on. "John, don't go. It is not necessary. Don't grieve me
by leaving Overleigh, or--changing your name."

A great bitterness welled up in John's heart against the woman he
loved--the bitterness which sooner or later few men escape, of realizing
how feeble is a woman's perception of what is honourable or
dishonourable in a man.

"Ah, Di," he said, "you are very generous. But do not let us speak of it
again. Such a thing could not be."

He took her hand, but she withdrew it instantly.

"John," she said with dignity, "you misunderstand me. It would be a poor
kind of generosity in me to offer what it is impossible for you to
accept. You wound me by thinking I could do such a thing. I only meant
to ask you to keep your present name and home for a little while,
until--they both will become yours again by right--the day when--you
marry me."

A beautiful colour had mounted to Di's face. John's became white as
death.

"Do you love me?" he said hoarsely, shaking from head to foot.

"Yes," she replied, trembling as much as he.

He held her in his arms. The steadfast heart that understood and loved
him beat against his own.

"Di!" he stammered--"Di!"

And they wept and clung together like two children.



POSTSCRIPT.


Mitty's packing was never finished--why, she did not understand. But
John, who helped her to rearrange her things, understood, and that was
enough for her. For many springs and spring cleanings the horse-chestnut
buds peered in at the nursery windows and found her still within. I
think the wishes of Mitty's heart all came to pass, and that she loved
"Miss Dinah;" but nevertheless I believe that, to the end of life, she
never quite ceased to regret the little kitchen that John had spoken of,
where she would have made "rock buns" for her lamb, and waited on him
"hand and foot."


PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED.
LONDON AND BECCLES.

_D. & Co._





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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.



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