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Title: Woman and Artist
Author: O'Rell, Max, 1848-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Woman and Artist" ***

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                            WOMAN AND ARTIST

                             BY MAX O'RELL

                               AUTHOR OF
             "JOHN BULL AND CO." "JOHN BULL AND HIS ISLAND"
                   "JONATHAN AND HIS CONTINENT" ETC.

    [Illustration]

    LONDON
    FREDERICK WARNE & CO.
    AND NEW YORK

    [_All Rights Reserved_]


    I DEDICATE THIS VOLUME
    TO MY WIFE



CONTENTS

                                                               PAGE

        I. FRENCH AND ENGLISH HOMES                               9

       II. THE HOUSE IN ELM AVENUE                               13

      III. THE PORTRAIT                                          19

       IV. DORA                                                  38

        V. THE DRAMATIC AUTHOR AND THE PATRON OF ARTS            60

       VI. THE INVENTOR                                          83

      VII. THE NEW HOUSE                                         94

     VIII. THE HOUSE-WARMING                                    104

       IX. THE CONFESSION                                       109

        X. BELGRAVIA                                            125

       XI. GENERAL SABAROFF                                     145

      XII. THE HUSBAND, THE WIFE, AND THE OTHER                 164

     XIII. A CRUEL ORDEAL                                       177

      XIV. EVA                                                  209

       XV. THE SEPARATION                                       217

      XVI. PHILIP RETURNS TO THE FOLD                           235

     XVII. DORA'S STUDIO                                        246

    XVIII. LORIMER'S PLOT                                       270



WOMAN AND ARTIST



I

FRENCH AND ENGLISH HOMES


The English, whose knowledge of France consists in a fair acquaintance
of that part of Paris lying between the Madeleine and the Faubourg
Montmartre, affirm that family life is unknown on our side of the
Channel, putting forward as proof the fact that the French language
cannot boast of possessing the word _home_, that appeals so strongly to
the British heart. Their conclusion is sublime: Since the French have no
such word, they say, it is very evident that they have not the thing. As
to the word itself, I am inclined to think they may be right; we have
not, or rather we have no longer, a perfect equivalent for the English
expression, as our pretty word _foyer_ is only used in pretentious or
poetical language. In ordinary conversation the Frenchman does not refer
to his _foyer_. _Il rentre à la maison, chez lui._ M. Perrichon, alone,
returns to his _foyer_. Our old French possessed an equivalent for the
English word _home_. It was a substantive that is still with us, but we
have it to-day in the form of a preposition--I mean the word _chez_,
which is no other than the word case. The Frenchman of olden times said:
"_Je rentre en chez moi._"

But enough of philology.

I own that an apartment on the fifth floor, _au dessus de l'entresol_,
would not suggest to the heart what the _home_ does to every English
mind. But the piquancy and humour of this malevolent criticism, founded,
like all international prejudices, on the most crass ignorance and the
narrowest patriotism, consists in the fact, that in all parts of London,
at the present time, enormous barracks of eight and ten storeys, called
flats, are being raised, where the English, tired of the tyranny of
domestics, seek refuge, at the terrible risk of likening to Chicago, not
only that part of the city devoted to business, but all the pretty,
peaceful neighbourhoods, that made London, in summer, the most charming
city in the world. They offend the eye, even in St. John's Wood and
Hampstead, etc.

True, we have quite near Paris, Ville-d'Avray, Fontenay-sous-Bois,
Enghien, Meudon, Bellevue, and I do not know how many more delightful
places; but they are suburbs, and not _rus in urbe_, like Chelsea, St.
John's Wood, Hampstead, and many others practically in the heart of
London.

France, completely absorbed by Paris in all that is written about her in
foreign countries, is as unknown of the English people as the forbidden
land of Thibet. Provincial France (where all enjoy the possession of
homes, English fashion, _plus_ gaiety), the laborious and thrifty
population of our villages (who are the fortune and salvation of
France), our family life (narrow, exclusive, nay almost mean, I own it,
but made up of love and devotion)--all these are a sealed letter to our
neighbours over the Channel, of which a goodly number still hallow the
venerable joke, that the French live on frogs and snails. For that
matter, there are also in France a great many people perfectly convinced
that an Englishman, tired of his wife, may with impunity go and sell her
at Smithfield Market. We are quits. As we travel far less than the
English, it is not surprising that we should know them still less than
they know us. We cannot throw stones at them. In the utter ignorance of
what exists and takes place in foreign countries, there are few nations
to which France cannot give points.



II

THE HOUSE IN ELM AVENUE


Of all the rustic neighbourhoods bordering on London city, there is none
prettier, fresher, and more verdant than St. John's Wood. It is the
refuge of workers in search of light, air, and tranquillity. Painters,
sculptors, writers, journalists, actors, and musicians--in fact, the
majority of the highest intellectual Bohemia--inhabit these semi-rural
acres, lying between Regent's Park and Hampstead Heath. Among the leafy
haunts of St. John's Wood, numberless masterpieces have been produced by
writers and artists whose fame has rung through the world. It is there,
in short, that chiefly congregates the artistic intelligence of London.
If you doubt my testimony on this point, apply direct for further
particulars to the inhabitants of this favoured district.

No. 50 Elm Avenue, St. John's Wood, did not attract the gaze of the
passer-by. Walled around and almost hidden by large trees, the house,
which could be seen through the iron gates, was a modest, unpretentious,
two-storeyed structure. On the ground floor it was traversed by a long
vestibule. Those who had been privileged to enter it knew that there was
a long drawing-room and boudoir on one side, and on the other a spacious
dining-room, and a library with a French window and steps leading down
to a beautiful garden, surrounded by spreading elms and chestnut trees.
On the outside, glossy ivy with gnarled stems mantled the lower part of
the house, and in autumn bold virginia creepers hung wreaths of scarlet
around the chamber windows. At the side of the house, with the door
opening on the adjacent street, stood a building with high north window,
which indicated that the house was the abode of an artist. In this
spacious, well-lit studio, worked Philip Grantham, A.R.A.

The house was furnished with great taste; everything spoke of that
comfort which the English value before luxury. A thousand and one little
details told of an artistic woman's hand reigning supreme in the little
domain, and one left the house feeling, "these people are happy and
evidently well-off; there may be artists who vegetate, but Philip
Grantham is not one of them." The garden was admirably kept, the lawn
smooth and soft as a Turkey carpet to the foot; and when the sun
filtered through the trees to the grass, you could imagine yourself in
the depths of the country, instead of near the centre of a great city.

The studio was a favourite room of the Granthams. Loving care had been
expended upon it, and the result was a worker's paradise that invited to
lofty labours and cosy conversation. Dora Grantham was her husband's
comrade in art, and all the leisure that was hers, after seeing well to
her household, was spent at Philip's side. The studio was more than
comfortable--it was even luxurious, with its beautiful Renaissance
mantelpiece of carved oak, its rich oriental rugs and curtains and
hanging eastern lamps. All these gave an atmosphere of restful, dreamy
ease to the place; and the fresh flowers that in all seasons filled the
rare porcelain vases struck a note of gaiety among the sombreness of the
old oak furniture. A thousand curios from all the ends of the earth had
been accumulated in this beloved apartment, and here, too, stood Dora's
Pleyel piano and Philip's bookcase of precious volumes on art, all
richly bound. A huge screen, gay with eastern embroideries, hid the door
that opened into the road; and in this veritable nest, nothing reminded
of a hustling and bustling world outside. In summer, through the open
door that led into the garden, one got a delicious vista of green
foliage and turf.

In the centre of the studio stood two easels of almost equal size, and
when I have told you that at these two easels, placed side by side,
quite near each other, worked Philip and Dora, you will rightly
understand that this studio had not been so fitted up to serve as a mere
workshop, but that all its details had been suggested by the love of two
kindred artistic spirits, who adored each other and passed most of their
time there in loving rivalry and mutual encouragement.

Dora had such respect for the studio that she never entered it except
when dressed in some colour that harmonised with the carpets and
hangings and the rest of the furniture. To speak truly, this was not a
difficult matter. Tall, dark, superb in figure and in face, her lips
perhaps a trifle haughty in repose, but instantly softened by the
lightness of her frank, gay smiles, which disclosed her little even
white teeth; with dark hazel eyes through which you seemed to look into
her soul as through two open doors; with a smooth, fresh, and clear
complexion--almost all colours became her. Philip admired his wife in
every separate colour of the rainbow, but he had his preferences as a
painter. He loved best for her certain crimsons and deep tones of orange
and of Gobelin blue; and, as one must never run counter to the fads of
an artist, it was generally in one of these tints that Dora dressed,
when she wanted Philip to surpass himself at his painting.

At the time when this story begins, which is but one of yesterday,
Philip was thirty-six and Dora twenty-seven. They had been six years
married, and possessed a lovely little girl of five, so full of dainty
grace and childish fascination, that when Philip was showing a new
picture to a friend, and watching out of the corner of his eye to see if
his work was being admired, as often as not the friend would say, "Ah,
yes! that is a fine creation, a beautiful picture; but there,"
indicating the lovely child, "is your _chef-d'oeuvre_--nothing can
match her." And as in Philip's nature the parent outweighed the painter,
he would proudly smile and reply, "You are right."

Philip and Dora had begun their married life in the most modest
fashion, but fortune had smiled on them. Each year the painter had
become better known and valued, and his pictures more sought after.
To-day he was not only well known, but almost celebrated. Every
succeeding year had deepened the sincere and strong love of these two
lovers and friends, who led a calm, sweet existence, and trod, side by
side, a flowered path, under a cloudless sky, with hope, glad labour,
honour, and security as companions on the road.

I think I have said enough to convince the reader, that if there existed
a happy little corner of the world, it was No. 50 Elm Avenue, St. John's
Wood.



III

THE PORTRAIT


On the 10th of May 1897, that is to say on the sixth anniversary of
Philip's marriage with Dora, he had promised to present her with a
portrait of herself. The picture was all but finished. Only a painter
would have noticed that it wanted a few more touches to complete it.

Hobbs, a faithful servant, who had been Dora's nurse in her old home,
and had followed her to St. John's Wood when she had married, was
dusting the studio and gazing with admiring eyes at the portrait of
Dora, which seemed to smile at her from her master's easel.

"Only a few flowers to put in," said the good woman, "and the picture
will be finished. I have watched it for weeks. How wonderful it is! Just
her beautiful face and kind smile. And to think that there are people
who pay hundreds of pounds to have their portrait painted! How lucky a
lady is to be the wife of a painter--she can get hers for nothing!"

She was interrupted in her reflections by a ring and a double knock at
the studio door. Hobbs ran to answer the postman, and returned
immediately, bearing in her hand a box from which some magnificent
pansies were escaping. She had great difficulty in extracting the
flowers from the badly crushed box.

"Pansies," said she, "for the portrait, no doubt--models for copying. If
I were the wife of a painter, that is the only kind of model I would
allow my husband to paint from--nature. Fancy women coming to a studio
and undressing before a man!--the hussies! I am glad there are no such
creatures wanted here."

It is necessary to be an artist, or at any rate of an artistic nature,
to understand that it is possible to regard a perfectly nude model with
as much _sang-froid_ and respect as one would a statue; but the English
middle class have not the artistic nature; and, in the eyes of a good
ordinary woman, a female model is a lost creature, and the artist who
studies and draws her an abandoned man. England produces something very
humorous: this is the prudish model, who comes to an artist's studio,
refuses at first, hesitates long, and finally offers to pose in tights.
Better still. A French painter in New York was doing the portrait of a
beautiful American woman in evening dress. When the head and shoulders
were finished, the pretty American declared that she was too busy to
pose any longer, and suggested that the picture might be completed from
a model of her own height and figure, who could wear her gown. The
painter agreed, but had the greatest difficulty in finding a model who
would consent to exhibit her charms, as the society lady of the United
States had done freely and imperturbably.

Hobbs did not let her indignation get the better of her, and, consoling
herself with the thought that "the creatures" were not wanted here,
finished dusting the studio, and then, gathering up the pansies, took
them to her mistress.

It was ten o'clock. Philip had not yet come to the studio. He usually
began working at nine o'clock, and went on steadily until one, so as to
profit fully by the best of the light that London puts at the
disposition of an artist. Hobbs was astonished that her master was not
yet at work, especially as she knew he had promised Dora to finish her
portrait by the 10th of May. She herself had told her so. She began
making conjectures, when a loud ringing at the studio door aroused her
from her reverie.

She returned in a few moments, followed by a young man about
twenty-five, tall and distinguished-looking, with a pleasant face, whom
she had often seen in the house.

"This way, please, sir," said she, showing him into the studio; "master
hasn't come down yet, but I am sure he won't be long. I will go and tell
him you are here."

Hobbs knew that M. de Lussac was a friend, and not one of those
inconvenient people who bore artists by going to their studios and
talking inanities to them about their work. Besides, she had a list of
the people whom Philip received at any time. And she went immediately to
inform her master of M. de Lussac's arrival.

Georges de Lussac was an attaché at the French Embassy in London. The
manly beauty of his face and figure, his good spirits, elegant manners
and easy wit, added to the lustre of his name, made him one of the
favourites of London society. No ball, dinner, or house-party was quite
complete without him, the most sought-after man in the most aristocratic
circles. He was a favourite with artists, whose works he well knew how
to appreciate, and welcomed in literary society owing to his brilliant
conversational powers. These also gained for him the admiration of
society women, who were fascinated by his soft, insinuating voice. There
are legions of women who admire first in a man--a well-cut coat, an
intelligent and handsome face, with a slightly cynical smile which seems
so little in earnest that they say to themselves, "He is not serious;
with him one can have a good time without fear of being compromised; and
then, he is a diplomatist, and as discreet as a tomb." By reason of this
reputation for discreetness, the diplomatist is beyond competition in
the race for women's favour, without even excepting the brilliant
cavalry officer who appeals chiefly to women in love with glitter and
who are ready to catch Cupid as he flies. I have not mentioned the
tenor, who only makes his chief conquests amongst romantic and flighty
women. In high society in France, England, and probably everywhere, the
distribution of prizes is somewhat in this order: First prize, the
diplomatist; second prize, the officer of hussars; third prize, the
tenor. _Accesserunt_, the remainder who have not much to share between
them. In the remainder may be classed husbands.

De Lussac drew a gold cigarette case from his pocket, took a cigarette,
and seating himself on a divan began to smoke.

"I know of nothing pleasanter," said he, "than a chat and smoke in the
morning with a painter in his sanctum. If I had to live all my time in
one apartment, I would choose first a studio, secondly, a library; in
all other rooms, one eats, drinks, sleeps, or bores oneself."

He gazed complacently around the studio and his eyes fell on Dora's
portrait. He rose, chose a good angle, and inspected the picture
carefully.

"Beautiful likeness!" said he, "full of poetry--modelling perfect. It is
simply quivering with life--and what lovely flesh colour! There is not a
man in England that can paint flesh like Grantham--no, not one that
comes up to his ankle. Yet, with the most brilliant future before him,
with the foremost place among the painters of the day close at hand, and
certain to be a Royal Academician before he is forty--here is a man to
whom artistic fame does not suffice."

Without noticing it he had approached the door leading to the garden. He
opened it. The lilacs and hawthorns were in bloom, and whiffs of
delicious scents were wafted into the studio.

"Who would imagine," thought he, "that in this peaceful retreat, where
the rustling of the trees is the only sound to be heard, a man was to be
found who had invented a projectile likely to revolutionise modern
warfare!"

Philip entered hurriedly.

"Ah, my dear de Lussac--no news yet?"

"No! the Commission is to-day sitting in Paris at the War Office. There
is every hope of a favourable decision, I believe."

"Not so loud," said Philip, "not so loud; Dora might hear you. She knows
nothing about it. Ah, my dear fellow, I have worked day and night to
perfect that shell. The mechanism is so simple and yet so precise, that,
by winding up the little spring, the shell will burst without
necessarily striking any object on the ground or in the air, at any
portion of its course, exactly so many seconds as is wished after it has
been fired. The usefulness of the shell in the open field or against
fortified positions is obvious."

"That is so! in every case the experiment has proved entirely
successful; and we wonder how it is the invention was not immediately
bought by the English Government."

"Do you think the Commission will soon arrive at a decision?"

"To-day, probably," replied de Lussac, "very likely in a few hours. We
are expecting every minute a telegram from Paris."

"If they should buy it!" said Philip dreamily.

"Well, then, you will be a wealthy man!"

"Shall I?" exclaimed Philip, his eyes shining with joy--"shall I be
rich? My dear de Lussac, I am quite satisfied with my lot. I earn more
than I want. But my wife, my Dora--I want to be rich for her sake. She
was brought up surrounded with every luxury. Six years ago, she left the
house of a wealthy and generous father to share the life of a struggling
artist. She never once complained, but has been happy and has made me
the happiest of men. She has sat constantly by my easel, inspiring my
brush by her sweet presence, and encouraging me by her constant and
discriminating praise. To better appreciate my work, she has set to work
herself, and has had two pictures hung at the Royal Academy, which have
been splendidly noticed. How she has helped me! Sometimes she would come
and put her arms on my shoulders and say, 'Go on, Philip, you are on the
road to fame.' What a wife! Yes," said he, with earnestness and warmth,
"I want wealth, but God is my witness that it is for her that I aspire
to riches."

"Still in love, I see, _cher ami, hein_? It is possible then to be in
love with one's wife after six years, six long years, of marriage."

"Still in love! Why, I am only now beginning to love her as she
deserves. Oh, that wealth may enable me to make her still happier!"

"Amen," said de Lussac, and he turned again to the picture.

"I think this portrait is delightful," said he; "you can never have done
a better piece of work than this!"

"Yes! I am fairly satisfied with it," said Philip; "it is like her, is
it not? My wife with a bunch of pansies in her hand."

"I don't see the pansies," remarked de Lussac.

"No! I shall put them in presently. I shall finish the picture this
afternoon."

"I see," said de Lussac, "that Madame Grantham will have the bunch of
pansies in her hand, and that she will look lovingly at them."

"Yes, it is her favourite flower," replied Philip, "and mine too. There
was a bed of pansies growing just under her window in that beautiful
country house where I met her for the first time and where I courted
her. She tended them herself, and called them 'her family.' Before
entering the house, I would always pluck one and place it in my
buttonhole. When it was faded, I gave it to her. It is utter nonsense,
I know; but, after all, happiness is made up of little foolish trifles
of that sort."

"The Anglo-Saxons!" said de Lussac--"a practical and yet sentimental
race."

Philip went to a bureau and, opening a drawer, took out a little packet
carefully tied up.

"Here they are," said he, "her family."

And he replaced the packet with great care.

"This is charming, quite romantic," cried de Lussac, "perfectly idyllic!
You know, you are a curious mixture, _mon cher ami_. Fancy your
inventive genius turning to an instrument of war that will make widows
of wives who perhaps once had such a 'family.'"

"Oh, if I thought that!" exclaimed Philip.

"You would beg the Commission to kindly return you your shell,"
suggested de Lussac, with a wink.

"Hardly," said Philip, smiling; "I am too near the goal to do that."

"I think I had better be off now," said de Lussac, looking at his watch.
"I am preventing you from working."

"Not at all, my dear fellow. I have, it is true, to finish this portrait
to-day; but I have plenty of time. I will go and put on my
working-jacket. Dora will be down in a minute ... only, dear boy, do
not mention the shell, will you? Not a word about it!"

De Lussac, left alone, could not control his curiosity. The drawer in
which the pansies had been placed was only half shut. He took the packet
in his hand and gave way to hearty laughter at the expense of Philip and
Dora.

"Well! I'll be hanged," said he, "if ever a woman makes me save some
withered old flowers tied in pink ribbon, like a box of chocolates."

If he had only looked round at the garden door, while indulging in these
reflections, he would have seen Dora come into the studio.

Dora was radiant, in a pretty simple morning gown, which accentuated her
severe and classical beauty. Her large hazel eyes, encircled with long
lashes, had an expression of exquisite sweetness; but they were also
capable of making any man, who would dare look into them with any other
sentiment than that of profound respect, sink into the ground. Her
haughty mouth, with its short upper lip, almost Austrian, betrayed a
proud, susceptible, and ardent nature. She had the consciousness of her
beauty and intellectual worth. The smallest underhand act filled her
with repugnance. On seeing de Lussac with the packet of flowers in his
hand and the drawer still open, she hardly knew whether to laugh or
treat him with contempt. The corner of her mouth turned slightly up and,
with a little mocking smile which completely disconcerted the young
diplomatist, she said--

"Well, Monsieur de Lussac, and how are you?"

"How are you, _chère madame_," answered he in an embarrassed manner.

"Very well, thank you. I thought I heard Philip."

"He is in there, changing his coat." And, remarking that Dora had
brought in a handful of pansies, he added--

"More pansies?"

"Why more? Ah! that is true, you have some also, I see."

De Lussac reddened to the tips of his ears.

"Yes! A minute ago Philip was telling me the history of your 'little
family,' and when he went out I could not resist the temptation of
taking another peep at the little packet that he had left in my hand,
and which contains the prologue of your love affairs."

Seeing himself caught in the act he did not hesitate to tell this little
fib, so as to reinstate himself in Dora's good graces. She was taken in
by it.

"Give the packet to me; you are a very wicked man--these are not for the
profane; and Philip is still more wicked than you are to show them to
you."

She put the packet back again. She was vexed, almost humiliated. Why had
Philip mentioned the story of the pansies to Monsieur de Lussac? It
could interest no one, except the two lovers, who had thus repeated
their vows. Why had Philip shown him the packet? In her eyes, it was an
almost ungentlemanly act. She passed a hand across her forehead, as if
to brush away the ideas that came to her mind, and smiled
good-humouredly once more.

"I believe you are jealous," said she gaily.

"Not a bit--I am disgusted. Two people supposed to be sensible, billing
and cooing over a package of old flowers, after being married, let me
see--how long?"

"Six years to-day."

"And after six years of marriage you are still in the region of romance?
Will you allow a bachelor, an intimate friend of your husband's, to
congratulate you with all his heart? I declare I almost envy your
happiness."

"Well, get married yourself!" exclaimed Dora; "it is very easy."

"Not for the world," said he, in a bantering tone. "I am too fond of
woman in the plural to ever love one in the singular. Besides, I could
never marry a woman unless I could respect her."

"Naturally."

"Well!" exclaimed de Lussac, laughing heartily, "I don't believe I could
respect a woman who would be willing to marry me."

"Oh! come, you are like most Frenchmen," said Dora, "not so bad as you
would make people believe. You will succumb to the temptation all in
good time. You will marry, you will love your wife, and, what is more,
you will make the most docile of husbands. It is the most recalcitrant
of you that generally become the model husbands in the end."

"Heaven forbid! I will succumb to every temptation you like to name
except that one; if I ever find myself married I shall have been
chloroformed before the ceremony. For fear of giving way to this
temptation I will stick to all the others, in case they should forsake
me--you see, I am a vagabond pure and simple."

"Women love vagabonds--many do at any rate. You will find a hundred for
one that will have you."

"A hundred perhaps--one never," said de Lussac.

"And when you are old, who will occupy the other side of the chimney
corner? A chimney has two corners."

"I know it," said de Lussac; "but there is also the middle, where I
shall be very happy and comfortable--that is better still. No, no, long
live Liberty!"

"Pure selfishness--and besides, conjugal life is the most comfortable."

"Undeceive yourself, madame; one lives as well at the club. One dines
better at a restaurant, where for a small tip one may grumble and blow
up the waiter to one's heart's content."

"You can do as much in your own house, and blow up your wife without its
costing you a farthing."

The light-hearted gaiety of the young man amused Dora. A woman, although
she does not countenance that love of independence in her husband,
admires it in other men. I feel inclined to believe that women have a
mingled feeling of admiration and respect for the man who has not been
caught in the matrimonial toils.

Dora was playing with the pansies that she had scattered on the table.

"You see these flowers," she said suddenly to de Lussac, "well, there is
an impenetrable mystery connected with them."

"You don't say so," said he, noticing the comically majestic air she had
assumed.

"Yes! a real live mystery. On our wedding-day there arrived a bunch
similar to this one. Who sent it? That is the mystery. On every
anniversary of our marriage, we get another. Are the flowers for Philip
or for me? More mystery. Philip says they are from some old admirer of
mine; from some old sweetheart of his, I say. Still they come, and are
always welcome."

"I am not versed in the language of flowers," said de Lussac, "but I
fancy I remember a little verse, beginning something after this
fashion--

    Pansies for thought--
    Love lies bleeding.

I cannot recollect the words exactly, but perhaps there is a bleeding
heart somewhere. Oh, this is terrible of me," exclaimed de Lussac, again
looking at his watch; "it is eleven o'clock, and I am still here
chattering. I ought to be at the Embassy; I must really go. Will you be
kind enough to tell your husband that I will send him a wire as soon as
I know something definite?--no, no, I will come myself."

"About what?" said Dora.

"Oh! about something--which concerns me."

He shook hands with Dora and went out hurriedly.

Dora, left alone, began to arrange the flowers. The pansy was a flower
which fascinated her, and suggested to her mind all kinds of fantastic
faces. She seemed to see sad and solemn ones, some smiling and gay,
others saucy; they represented to her a perfect gallery of weird faces.
She chose some of the best, made them into a little bouquet for Philip
to paint in her picture. Taking away one or two that did not harmonise
with her dress, she placed the bunch on her husband's easel.

"Oh, what pretty flowers!" shouted Eva, who had just come into the
studio, followed by Hobbs. She was dressed to go out for her daily
morning walk.

"Mama, aren't you coming out for a walk with us?"

"No, my sweet," replied Dora; "I cannot this morning. You know that
daddy is going to finish my picture this morning, so I must stay with
him; he will want me."

"You are always with daddy," said Eva, pouting. "You never come for a
walk with me."

"How can you say such things? You know I go out very often with you--but
I can't to-day. To-morrow, yes! to-morrow. Come, be a good little girl."

"A good little girl," said Eva, sighing, "that's what you always say to
me."

"When I was a little girl," said Dora, trying to look serious, "I, too,
had to be good, you know."

"Oh, mama! aren't you glad you're not a little girl any longer?" said
Eva.

"Oh, what shall we do with her, Hobbs, if she is so naughty?" said Dora,
taking the child up in her arms and covering her with kisses.

And yet, she knew that the reproaches were well-merited.

"Is it true that mama was a little girl first?"

"Of course, dear, certainly."

"Quite a little girl, and then as tall as that--and that--and that?"

"Yes!--and then like this," said Dora, touching the top of her head.

"Well, then, you had a mama, too, that's grandma, isn't it? Was she
pretty, like you?"

"Much prettier."

"Did she scold you?"

"Certainly, when I was naughty."

"Isn't it funny though?--Where is daddy?"

"He is coming in a minute, dearie. Come, it is time you went for a walk,
Hobbs," said Dora to the good woman, who was laughing at the child's
questions; "do not stay out very long; it is chilly, and Miss Eva might
catch cold."

"Very well, ma'am," replied Hobbs.

Dora, ascertaining that the child was warmly enough clad, gave her
bonnet strings an extra touch, then looked at her and kissed her again
and again.

Eva and her nurse went out at the studio door. The latter, finding a
letter in the box, came back with it and gave it to Dora, returning
again to the child.

Dora, remembering Eva's reproaches, felt the tears come into her eyes.
With many women the mother kills the wife, but Dora was so much absorbed
in her husband that she often reproached herself with not taking enough
notice of the child. She was wife first, mother next. Yet, God knew how
she adored her child.



IV

DORA


It was past noon, and Philip had not yet set to work.

For some time past Dora had noticed that Philip had no longer the same
lively interest in his painting, but she had been very careful not to
speak to him about it. Dora was the ideal artist's wife, not only
because she understood her husband's art, but also because she was
keenly alive to the conditions under which works of art are produced. If
she had been the wife of Bernard de Palissy, she herself would have
broken up the furniture of her home to keep alive the furnace fire.
Blessed with a calm, even temperament herself, she knew that the
artistic nature is sensitive, susceptible, irritable even, and that a
veritable diplomacy has to be exercised daily and hourly, if one would
so live with an artist as to cheer him in his moments of discouragement,
to stimulate him, to give him constantly the discreet and intelligent
praise he needs, when it seems to him that his imagination and his
powers are forsaking him, and that he is no longer doing his best work.
An artist is a piece of machinery that must be wound up every day. There
is scarce an artist worthy of the name who does not think he is used up
each time that he terminates a new work, and there is not a painter who,
when he shows a new picture for the first time, does not watch the
scrutinising gaze of the critic, much as a mother watches with anxious
eye the expression of the doctor who is going to pronounce himself upon
the subject of her sick child. An artist is a child, who must be
constantly petted and applauded.

Dora knew all that, and, on this subject, she had nothing to reproach
herself with; on the contrary, it was to her that her husband owed his
growing celebrity--she had made him what he was. She did not take any
credit for this, she had never reminded him of it, never a hint on the
subject had passed her lips. A woman like Dora leaves a husband to
recognise these things for himself, but never speaks of them.

Dora had not the courage to ask Philip why he painted with less ardour,
but she longed to say to him, "You promised me that you would finish
the portrait to-day; you tell me that it is only a matter of two or
three hours' work; but I am sure that it will take seven or eight hours
to finish it ... why don't you set about it?" And her imagination fell
to inventing all sorts of explanations, each more fantastic and
improbable than the other.

The last words of Monsieur de Lussac came back to her memory, "_Pansies
for thought--Love lies bleeding._" What connection would there be
between a pansy and a crushed love? No one had ever loved her well
enough to break his heart about her, except Philip, and he had married
her. But he? Had there been a romance in his life, before she had known
him? He had never spoken of anything of the kind. "After all," she said
to herself, "the best of men have some experience of that kind in their
early life, which they do not talk about. Ah, well! what matters it?
Philip has filled my life with happiness."

Her glance wandered again to the picture. "Not yet finished," she
murmured. "Has he forgotten his promise? For some time past he has been
quite strange; he seems preoccupied, distraught, anxious even--at times
his mind seems to be far away." And a thousand ideas flitted through
her mind, only to be dismissed as all equally absurd.

Suddenly she uttered a little cry of surprise, to find the vigorous arms
of her husband clasped around her waist.

"What is my little wife thinking of so deeply that she does not notice
the sound of her husband's footsteps?" said Philip.

"Of you," said Dora, laughing, "and of these flowers."

"They have come again, eh?" said Philip, taking up his palette and
brushes.

"Yes; who sends them?"

"That is what I should like to know. As I told you before, an old
admirer of yours, I daresay."

"Nonsense, you know better. As I said before, some old sweetheart of
yours--far more likely," replied Dora.

Then looking her husband straight in the eyes, she added--

"Confess."

"Look here," said Philip, "I have come to work; if you tease me in this
way, I shall never do anything."

He tried his brushes and began mixing his colours.

Dora took the little bunch of pansies which she had arranged, and placed
them near the portrait.

"The colours harmonise exquisitely with the yellow of the dress. How
sweet they are, these pansies! Look, do look, at this dear little yellow
one--what a saucy face! Put it in the picture. By-the-bye, there is a
letter for you."

She went to the table, where Hobbs had laid the letter, took it up and
read the envelope aloud, "Philip Grantham, Esq., A.R.A. Associate of the
Royal Academy! There are lots of people who live in hopes of adding
letters to their name, but you, my Philip, will soon drop one: instead
of A.R.A., just Royal Academician, R.A."

"Who knows?" said Philip. "Perhaps--thanks to your encouragement and
loving praise. There! open the letter for me, will you?"

"It is Sir Benjamin Pond, who announces that he is coming to see you
to-day: he wants to choose one or two pictures."

"I hope he will come late, then," said Philip. "I want to finish your
portrait before dinner. It ought to be easy enough--two or three hours
of steady work, and the thing is done."

Dora smiled a little smile of incredulity.

"Seven or eight," said she, "at least."

Philip had stuck the bunch of pansies on the easel, his palette was
ready, he was just going to begin.

"Come here," said he to Dora, "here, quite close--that's it. I can work
so much better, darling, when you are near me. Look, the brush works
already more easily, my hand is surer--there, that is good--splendid--I
shall go ahead now."

Philip was in working mood, and Dora was beaming. She could have hugged
him, and would not have been able to resist the temptation, but for the
fear of hindering his progress. After a few minutes' silence, she burst
out--

"Philip!"

"Yes, dearest," replied Philip, without withdrawing his eyes from his
work.

"Don't you think ours is a very romantic life?"

"Very romantic? How do you mean?"

"Oh, I mean that we are so happy."

"Yes, but that is hardly what people call romance. A romantic life is an
eventful life, and happy people have no events in their lives. I don't
believe that cousin Gerald Lorimer, with all his imagination, could get
a one-act play out of our lives. There is no plot to be found in them.
To make a novel or a play, there must be intrigue, troubles,
misunderstandings, moral storms. There are people who love storms. Some
people only love the sea when it is in a fury. Are you fond of storms
yourself?"

"Oh no," replied Dora; "I have no sea-legs. I love the life that I lead
with you--and my enthusiasm for your art deepens my love for you every
day."

"My darling," said Philip, drawing Dora still nearer to him, and
caressing the graceful head that was resting against his knee, "do you
know that one of these days I shall be jealous of you, you are making
such progress with your painting."

"What nonsense! I am learning, so that I may understand you better. To
appreciate you thoroughly, my ambition soars no higher than that."

Philip looked at his watch, turned towards the door that led to the
street, and made a little gesture of impatience, that did not escape
Dora.

"Philip," said she, "what are you thinking of?"

"Why, of you, dear, always you."

"No, you were not thinking about me just now. You cannot deceive me,"
said she coaxingly. "Do you know that, of late, I have observed a
little change in you--oh! just a little change."

"A change? What a little goose you are!"

"Oh, I am not so silly as all that; the fact is you seem absent-minded
lately, anxious, irritable even; and, worse than all that, this morning
you had forgotten it was the anniversary of our wedding. Now, had you
not?"

Philip started.

"Oh, but I am quite sure of what I am saying. I am certain you had
forgotten."

"What nonsense! it is all in your imagination, my dear child."

"No, it is not," said Dora, with great emphasis; "a woman's intuition is
often a safer guide than her eyes."

"Your intuition, then, for once is wrong."

"Come, come," said Dora tenderly, "tell me, have you any troubles, any
little worry?"

"No, dear, none," said Philip, frowning a little. "Let me get on with my
work, and don't ask silly questions."

"Oh, very well," said Dora, pouting.

She rose, and went away from the easel a few steps; but noticing that
Philip was looking at her, as if to ask her forgiveness for having been
a trifle abrupt, she turned her steps towards him, and, laying her head
on his shoulder, burst into tears; then looking him in the face, with
eyes that were smiling through the tears, she cried, "Oh, do tell me
what ails you."

"What a child you are, dearest! I assure you, there is nothing the
matter."

"I know better."

"You will have to believe me," said Philip, in a not very convincing
tone, but doing his best to comfort her with his look, "when I tell you,
that there is absolutely nothing wrong, although"--

"Although? Ah!" cried Dora, "you see that I was right after all. Well?"

And she eagerly waited to hear the explanation that should put an end to
all her conjectures.

"Well, then, yes," said Philip resolutely, "there is something.
Sometimes I feel I should like to do so much more for you than I have
been able."

"What an idea! There is not a woman in the world with whom I should like
to change places. How could I be happier than I am?"

"What is your definition of happiness?" said Philip, continuing to
paint.

"For a woman," replied Dora, with warmth, "happiness consists in being
loved by the man whom she loves and can be proud of; in being rich
enough to afford all the necessary comforts of life, and poor enough to
make pulling together a necessity; an existence hand in hand, side by
side. And what is yours?"

"Well, I confess, I should like to be a little richer than that," said
Philip, with a little amused smile.

"Ah! I see," exclaimed Dora sadly; "you are beginning to grow tired of
this quiet life of ours. Take care, Philip, noise frightens happiness
away. Happy the house that is hidden in the trees, as the nest in the
thick of the hedges."

"My dear child, we have to live for the world a little."

"Excuse me if I do not understand you," said Dora; "I am only a woman. I
can live for you, and for you alone. I know that love is not sufficient
even for the most devoted and affectionate of husbands. A woman can live
on love and die of it. That's the difference. Now, what is your
definition of happiness?"

"To be blessed with a dear, adorable wife; to have money enough to
enable me to surround her with every luxury. Yes, I long to be really
rich, if only to make my father repent of his treatment of me. In his
eyes a man is successful according to his proven ability to pile up
money. Ah, that letter of his, how it rankles in my mind still and
always will!"

"What letter is that?" said Dora; "you never spoke to me of it before.
Why, what a tomb of dark secrets you are!"

Philip rose, went to a drawer, took out a letter, and returned with it
in his hand.

"Here it is," he said; "listen."

     "MY SON,--When I opened to you the doors of the banking house which
     I have founded, and bade you join me as a clerk who would
     eventually be master of it, I did not doubt that you had sufficient
     good sense and filial docility to make you joyfully accept such an
     opening. It appears that you have neither of these qualities. Twice
     I have made the offer, twice you have declined it. From this day
     please to consider yourself free to follow art or any other road to
     starvation. I relinquish all right to direct your career, but I
     also require you to relinquish all right to call yourself the son
     of

                                             "THOMAS GRANTHAM."

Philip folded the letter and replaced it in the drawer.

"Yes," said Dora, "it was a cruel letter, for, after all, your only
crime had been to wish to become an artist. And yet, a father knows that
out of a hundred men who take up painting as a profession, one or two
perhaps get to the top of the tree. Where is the father who would advise
his son to work at art, music, or literature for a livelihood? In the
case of a real vocation, he may bow gracefully to the inevitable, but,
as a rule, a parent does not bring up his sons with a view to making
artists of them. On the contrary, he does what he can to dissuade them
from choosing that course. In the case of your father, my dear Philip, I
think one might allow extenuating circumstances. Where is the head of
the family who would not dread for his sons these often illiberal
professions? Professions, which ninety-nine times out of a hundred bring
in little besides disappointments, disillusions, a miserable pittance,
and often despair? Try and forget this grievance, darling. In any case
you have had your revenge already. You are celebrated, and we are no
longer poor."

"Ah, but we have been, and it has sometimes brought tears of rage to my
eyes, and to-day we are a long, a very long way, from being rich."

"Ah, but think what an enviable lot yours is!" said Dora proudly.
"Yours is the most honourable of callings. You have no poor wretches
sweating for you. Your income is the fruit of your personal handiwork.
You are your own master. You help to make life beautiful. You have a
fame increasing every day. You enjoy the respect of everybody, the
admiration of the public, the appreciation of the best critics, the
company and the friendship of all the intelligence of London. A king
might well envy the life of a great artist!"

Dora was excited, and Philip looked at her with eyes that thanked her
for all she thought of him.

"You are quite right," he resumed, "and I am far from complaining of my
fate. I have also full confidence in the future. But you, my darling; it
is of you I am thinking."

"Of me?" exclaimed Dora. "But do I not share all your honours? What more
can I wish for? Why, my dear boy," she added, laughing, "before ten
years have passed you will be knighted, and I run the risk of being one
day Lady Grantham. Just fancy?" And she drew herself up most comically.

They both burst out laughing. Philip was in a confessing mood, and he
went on.

"I should like," he said, "to see you the mistress of such a house as
you were brought up in!"

"Good heavens! It is all I can do to keep this dear little one properly!
Besides, where is it now, that beautiful house where I was brought up?
After my mother's death, my father took to speculating, and he died
penniless. Everything had to be sold to pay his debts. Much better begin
as we do than finish as he did."

"I should like," continued Philip, in the same strain, "to see you drive
in a handsome carriage of your own."

"A hansom cab," replied Dora, laughing, "is much more convenient, goes
faster, costs less, and gives you much less trouble."

"I should like to see _rivières_ of diamonds on your lovely neck,
precious stones on your fingers."

Dora looked serious, almost sad.

"I wish no better collar for my neck than your true, manly arms--my
Philip! On my fingers? Do you see this little ring?"

"A five-pound ring!" said Philip, with an air of contempt. "I am almost
ashamed to see it on your finger."

"A five-pound ring!" exclaimed Dora,--"a priceless ring! Do you
remember--ah, I do!--how for many weeks you put away ten shillings a
week so as to be able to buy it for me on my birthday? A five-pound
ring, indeed! Not for the Koh-i-nûr would I exchange it," she added, as
she kissed the little ring passionately. "To me the real value of a
jewel is the love it represents in the giver, and no rich gems could be
richer in that sense than this dear little ring."

Philip felt deeply moved and almost humiliated. He tenderly kissed Dora,
and resumed painting. Dora thought she was gaining her cause, and went
on pleading--

"Ah, Philip," she said, "the rich don't know the pleasures they miss,
the sweetest pleasures of poverty. Their gifts cost them no sacrifice.
They don't possess their wealth, it is their wealth that possesses them.
They have not the satisfaction of knowing that they are loved for their
own sake. I would not give one year of my life for ten years of a
millionaire's life. Why, they don't even have the proof that they are
honest. They have no temptations. I would shudder at the idea that I
might be rich one day."

"Well," said Philip sarcastically, "I think I could bear it with
fortitude. My darling, the philosophers of all ages have taught that
money does not make happiness; but sensible men of all times have come
to the conclusion that it considerably helps to make it. I want money
for no sordid reason. Money is round, it was meant to roll, and I mean
to enjoy it."

"No, dear," replied Dora reproachfully and pathetically, "money is flat,
it was meant to stop and be piled up a little. And, by the way, do you
know that you have made over a thousand pounds this year, and that we
have kept very nearly half of it? You see I am of some use after all.
The financial position is good, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer
has only spent half his budget. We are rich, since we don't want all we
have."

"Yes, you are a dear, lovely little housewife," said Philip rather
coldly and without raising his eyes from the canvas.

Dora was susceptible. She felt a little wounded.

"Am I?" she said. "Perhaps you will say I am a good little _bourgeoise_.
Possibly! But I will tell you this: happy as I am now, I am not sure
that I was not happier still when we were quite poor, pulling,
struggling together, hand in hand. I have never dreaded poverty; on the
contrary, I have enjoyed it, loved it by your side. To poverty I owe the
happiest days of my life. Do you remember, for instance, how we enjoyed
the play when, once a month, obscure, unknown to everybody, we went to
the upper circle? Wasn't it lovely? And how we often yawn now, once a
week, in the stalls!"

"Yes," said Philip, "and how we made the dinner shorter, so as to be
able to afford the price of two seats in that upper circle?"

"Right, and that's why we enjoyed the play so much. We were not overfed
in those days."

"We were not," seconded Philip.

"You cannot enjoy, even appreciate anything intellectual after a dinner
of six or eight courses: you are only fit for a pantomime or a
music-hall. And that's why those pathetic forms of entertainment are so
successful now. Why, look at the people in the boxes--indifferent, half
sulky, lifting their eyebrows and staring their eyes out--like
that--awful!"

"Yes," said Philip, "all the response, all the appreciation, all the
warmth comes from the pit and gallery."

"And do you also remember when, two years after we were married, our
_general_ suddenly gave notice, and left us alone to manage
housekeeping as best we could while Hobbs was temporarily absent? And
how I cooked all the meals, and how you never enjoyed them better? Now,
say it's true."

"Perfectly true. And I peeled the potatoes."

"The less you speak of that, the better. You wasted half of them. But
what fun! The house was gay, happy, ringing with our laughter all day
long; so much so that, in a month, baby put on six pounds of flesh."

"And how I cleaned the knives!" said Philip, who was enjoying the
reminiscences.

"Which helped your appetite for breakfast."

"And the boots--now, I did not like cleaning the boots."

"Yes, you did, and they never shone so beautifully."

"Well, I flatter myself I was able to make myself useful."

"Those were and will always be the dear old days of my life."

"And how pretty you looked," said Philip, "with a white apron on, and
your sleeves tucked up, showing your lovely arms."

"Ah!" said Dora, "and do you also remember how you were once turned out
of the kitchen for kissing the cook? You were sorry when I got a new
servant."

"Upon my word, I believe I was."

"Ah!" exclaimed Dora, "you will never picnic like that again, you will
never have such lovely times. My dear Philip, the very rich people must
lead very dull lives. We look for happiness far ahead of us, when often
we have it close at hand. The poet is right: 'Paradise is cheap enough,
it's only the hells we make for ourselves that are expensive.' We are as
rich now as we should ever wish to be. And, let me tell you that, if
ever we get really rich (that will be through your fault), I shall find
my consolation in the constant recollection of all the pleasures I
enjoyed when I was poor--as the ear remains for ever under the charm of
some sweet old melody that once struck it. I could go on for ever on
this theme. Now, do you know the holiday of my life that I shall never
forget?"

"Our trip to Paris with ten pounds in our pockets," replied Philip.

"That's not fair; you guess too quickly. Well, didn't we do it after
all? We saw everything--the museums, the theatres, the gardens, and when
we arrived home"--

"We had to borrow one-and-six from the servant to pay the cab fare from
Charing Cross."

"Lovely!" cried Dora, clapping her hands with joy. "What fun we
had--real, good, wholesome fun! Now, look at our little girl. She will
hardly look at the beautiful dolls she has. She always goes back to the
old stuffed stocking, with a face painted on the ball of cotton that
does duty for a head. Now, why? Tell me why she prefers it to all the
others."

"Oh, probably because she can ill-use it to her heart's content."

"Not a bit of it; because it reminds her of the happiest, the jolliest
days of her life. The pleasures of poverty again, my dear Philip, the
sweetest, the never-to-be-forgotten ones--alas, never to be enjoyed
again, perhaps!"

"I will see that they are not," said Philip.

"Oh, Philip, tell me that you are happy now, that the ambition of your
life will be your work, your art, not money."

"Certainly, darling. But, let me tell you also, honestly, that the
greatest pleasure in connection with my days of poverty" ...

"Well?"

"Is that I am poor no longer."

"You incorrigible cynic."

Dora looked at Philip for some moments.

"Oh, Philip," she cried, "say that you are only teasing me, that you
don't mean a word of it."

"Yes, dear, I am only teasing you," said Philip indifferently. "Now,
little wife, you must be quiet and let me work, or this portrait will
never be finished to-day."

Philip looked at the clock, then at his watch. It was half-past one. A
ring was heard at the studio door. He shivered with excitement. "It is
perhaps de Lussac," he said to himself.

"I hope it is not that bothering Sir Benjamin coming to disturb me," he
said to Dora.

Gerald Lorimer, for whom there was always a cover laid at Philip's
table, entered the studio.

"Why, it's Lorimer," exclaimed Philip, rising, and going to shake hands
with his friend. "I am as hungry as a hound; I'll go and wash my hands,
and we'll have lunch at once."

"Well, and how goes the portrait?" said Lorimer.

"My dear fellow," replied Philip, "I shall have to take a studio a mile
or two off, so that my wife will not be able to come and chatter and
hinder me from working. Look at it: here have I been for the past two
hours in front of this easel, and done half an hour's painting at
most."

Philip ran upstairs to wash and change his coat, and quickly rejoined
Dora and Lorimer in the dining-room.



V

THE DRAMATIC AUTHOR AND THE PATRON OF ARTS


Gerald Lorimer, although still quite young, was already a dramatist of
some note. He was gaiety and _insouciance_ personified. A genial
philosopher, witty, sometimes a cynic, but always a kindly one,
indulgent to the shortcomings of humanity, he looked at life as a
comedy, which he witnessed from the most comfortable of orchestra
stalls. The world amused him and supplied him with types for study. He
enjoyed robust health, the joy of living was written all over his face,
and, wherever he went, he brought an atmosphere of contagious
irresistible gaiety. He was a handsome man, distinguished-looking, and
fairly well off. When asked why he did not marry, he answered, "Thanks,
I prefer to study from afar; one observes better at a distance."

He had a little house in Philip's neighbourhood, that was the envy of
all who were privileged to enter its doors. Women thought it impudence
of a man to dare to install himself thus, and so prove _urbi et orbi_
that it is not absolutely necessary to have a woman under one's roof to
enjoy the most perfect comfort. And yet, when asked why Lorimer did not
marry, all that women had to say, was, "No inclination, I suppose."

Women adore parties given by bachelors. They went in crowds, when
Lorimer asked them to an "At home" or a garden-party. They took free
advantage of the permission he gave them to wander over the house, and
examined all its corners. Every bachelor's house interests women and
arouses their curiosity. They pried into every nook and cranny, in the
hope of bringing to light a mystery, perchance some woman's
portrait--Heaven knows what, perhaps a hairpin on the carpet. Wherever
they looked, everything was ease, comfort, and liberty; and they arrived
at the conclusion, that one may be a bachelor and yet live happily, but
consoled themselves with the thought that nobody has found the way to
live a bachelor and die happily. Lorimer's house was arranged with
taste, in the oriental style. The drawing-room, dining-room, library,
and smoking-room formed a delightful suite of rooms.

"You see," said some woman, "nothing but men-servants--a French cook, a
German valet: our host must be a woman-hater."

"I do not see that that follows, dear," said another one: "men are more
discreet and less gossiping than women, and I warrant that this house
has been the scene of many an interesting little tête-à-tête."

Each one had her own opinion; none of them really knew anything about
it. Lorimer had never given anyone occasion to gossip about him; he was
English and a gentleman, therefore discreet. The French boast often of
things they have never done; the English never boast of what they do.
The latter are right. Besides, a bachelor, in giving his house a
reputation of perfect respectability, can thus invite to it not only his
friends, but their wives and daughters.

Lorimer knew all London: the club world, the aristocratic world, the
artistic world of Chelsea and St. John's Wood; and at his parties
duchesses, actresses, cabinet ministers, painters, writers, actors, and
journalists jostled one another.

A friend of men, because of his good-fellowship, frankness, and loyalty;
and of women, by reason of his wit, his discretion, and his charming
manners, Lorimer was received everywhere with open arms. He could have
dined and lunched out every day, if this had been the programme of his
existence. On the contrary, he worked hard, went out little, knew
everybody, but was the intimate acquaintance of but few, and amongst
these were numbered Philip and Dora, whom he liked exceedingly and who
interested him intensely.

They sat down in merry mood and did honour to the simple and appetising
lunch.

"What a pity you did not turn up a few moments earlier, my dear fellow!"
said Philip to Lorimer. "You would have been edified, and have heard
Dora holding forth against wealth. The contempt my wife has for money is
sublime. She is of the opinion that art, like virtue, should be its own
reward."

"I'm sorry to say it's often the only one art gets," said Lorimer.
"Well, what's your news?"

"Haven't any," said Philip. "Oh yes, though," added he, "Sir Benjamin
Pond threatens to pay us a visit to-day ... deuce take him."

"You're in luck; he spends a mint of money in pictures."

"They say he buys them by the dozen."

"Hum," said Lorimer, "by the square yard. He's an awful ass, but his
money is as good as that of the cleverest. When I said just now,
'What's your news?' I meant from the workshop."

"My wife's portrait will be finished in an hour's time; you shall see it
after lunch."

"And what will you call it?"

"Oh, simply, 'Portrait of Mrs. Grantham,' or perhaps, 'A Bunch of
Pansies.'"

"'A Bunch of Pansies,' that's charming," said Lorimer; "I should like to
have a title like that for my new play, as simple" ...

"Oh, by-the-bye, how about your play, is it getting on?"

"It's finished, my dear fellow. I have the manuscript with me. I have to
read it to the company at the Queen's Theatre to-day at four o'clock."

"Are you pleased with it?"

"My dear friend, when a man has the artistic temperament, his work never
realises his ideal--but, thank goodness, when I have finished a play, I
think of nothing but--the next one."

"You are right--but, still, with your experience--you have been writing
plays for years."

"I wrote my first play when I was seventeen," said Lorimer, drawing
himself up in a comic manner.

"When you were seventeen?" exclaimed Dora.

"Yes! a melodrama, and what a melodrama it was!--blood-curdling, weird,
terrible, human, fiendish. I portrayed crime, perfidy and lying
triumphing for a while, but overtaken in the long-run by fatal
chastisement."

"And was the piece produced?" interrupted Dora.

"It was read," answered Lorimer. "I received a very encouraging letter
from the manager of the theatre. My play, it appeared, showed a
deplorable ignorance of stagecraft, but was well written and full of
fine and well-conceived situations. However, horrors followed one
another so closely that it was to be feared that the audience would
scarcely have time to draw breath and dry their tears. Finally, the
letter terminated with a piece of good advice. This was, in the future,
not to kill all my _dramatis personæ_, so that, at the fall of the
curtain, there might be someone left alive, to announce the name of the
author, and bring him forward!"

"It was most encouraging," said Dora, in fits of laughter.

"That is not all," added Lorimer; "I received, a month later, an
invitation to a dinner given by the Society of Dramatic Authors, and
found myself amongst the leading authors and actors of the day."

"You must have been proud," said Dora.

"Proud, my dear madam," said Lorimer; "if you would form an idea of what
I felt, try to imagine a little shepherd of Boeotia asked to dine with
Jupiter, to meet all the gods of Olympus."

"Now, come, tell us about your new play," said Philip.

"Oh, well, you know, I hope it will be a success, but you never know
what will please the great B.P. The dialogue is good, the characters are
interesting, the situations are strong without being vulgar, the idea is
new ... yes, I must say, I am sanguine."

"Bravo!" said Philip, "the theme is original."

"Perfectly original," said Lorimer. "I don't adapt Parisian plays for
the _Pharisian_ stage."

"It must be enchanting," cried Dora, "to see one's own creations in
flesh and blood ... alive!"

"Yes, for one month, two months, perhaps six months. The creations of
painters last for centuries."

"That is true," said Dora, looking at Philip.

"Shakespeare and Molière are still being played with success," said
Philip.

"Yes, I grant you these two. Human nature is still and always will be
what it was in their time. There are no new passions, follies, to
portray since their time; but against those two names which you cite ...
real demi-gods ... I could give you two hundred painters and sculptors
dating from antiquity down to the present day."

Dora was delighted with the turn the conversation had taken. It seemed
to her that Philip no longer enthused over his art, and she tried her
utmost to rekindle the sacred fire that threatened to go out. So,
encouraging Lorimer to continue in the same strain, she said--

"Yes, you are right. It is painting that expresses all that is beautiful
in the world."

"Especially Philip's art," said Lorimer, seeming to grasp Dora's meaning
from the warmth with which she spoke. "You paint nature, my dear friend,
flowers, portraits ... you do not inflict the nude upon us, as do so
many of your brothers in art, who show themselves but poor imitators of
the French school, _servum pecus_."

"But nature is surely always beautiful, wherever she is found," said
Dora.

"The ideal, yes," said Lorimer; "but it is the realistic method of
treatment, in most pictures, that displeases me. Perhaps I am a little
puritanical; but what can you expect? I'm English!"

"But there is no ideal nature, there is only true nature," said Dora.
"Call it realism, if you wish: what is real is true, and what is true
is beautiful."

"My dear Lorimer," exclaimed Philip, "if you are going to argue out that
subject with Dora, you are lost, I warn you. You will get the worst of
it."

"Well, you will admit this much, I suppose," said Dora, "that the models
chosen are generally beautiful. English models are even more than
beautiful, they are mostly pure in form."

"Quite so, but no artist has a right to expose a woman's nude figure to
the public gaze. In sculpture it may be permissible,--the cold purity of
the marble saves everything,--but never in painting."

"Shake up the Englishman," said Dora, laughing, "and the Puritan rises
to the surface. I thought you were artistic, my dear friend. One may
forgive a Puritan, but a _pruritan_, excuse the word. Oh!... I have met
people who only saw in the _Venus de Milo_ a woman with no clothes on.
Poor Venus! I wish she could grow a pair of arms and hands to box the
ears of such Philistines. Of course, I must say, these people were not
of our society."

"Well, call me prejudiced if you will; but I hate to see woman robbed of
her modesty ... and of her clothes, for the edification of a profane
public, especially a public as inartistic as our English one. Your
remark about the _Venus de Milo_ proves that I am right. In France it is
another matter. The public understands. It knows that such and such a
picture is beautiful, and why it is beautiful. Even the workmen over
there have been visitors of picture galleries from generation to
generation, and I have heard some, at the Louvre and the Luxembourg,
making criticisms of pictures that they looked at, criticisms which
proved to me that they had more true appreciation of painting than the
fashionable crowd that goes to the Royal Academy on private view day.
No, I say, the nude in France, if you will; but in England, Heaven
preserve us from it!"

"And yet," said Dora, in a calmer tone of voice, "the novelists and
dramatists of to-day, for the most part, do exactly the same thing."

"What do you mean to say? Novelists and dramatists describe the
emotions, the passions of the soul. To uncover the heart and uncover the
body are two vastly different things. Add to that, in England on the
stage, if not in the novel, that virtue triumphs invariably."

"Yes, but at what cost? Firstly, often at the expense of insulting one's
common-sense; but that is the fault of a public that insists on being
sent home, perfectly convinced that the hero and heroine still
henceforth live happily ever after. That is not the worst of it. Before
seeing the triumph of virtue, often an impossible kind of virtue, one
must assist at the heartrending dissection of a woman's soul. All the
deformities of her heart are laid bare. I suppose you call that realism
too, I call it clinical surgery--that is to say, my dear friend, that
modern fiction exhales a strong odour of carbolic acid. Ah, I must say I
prefer a picture in which a woman is presented in all her beauty of form
and colour, to a novel or a play, in which we see woman represented as
impure, corrupted" ...

"I told you that you would be beaten, Lorimer. Own yourself vanquished."

"My dear madam," said Lorimer, "you preach to a convert. But I must
remind you that converting the British public is not my rôle. I serve up
to that worthy public, which has always been kind to me, the dish of its
predilection. We cannot always put on the stage Pauls and Virginias,
who, moreover, are getting rarer every day, as you will admit."

"Virginias, especially," said Philip, in parenthesis.

"Oh, that's another thing," exclaimed Dora almost indignantly; "you
work, you turn out dramatic literature, for what it brings you in; own
it at once--to make money! That is modern art, the art of making ten
thousand a year. Some are writers, some are green-grocers; you put them
all in the same category. Under these conditions, I do not see why
Philip should not accept offers to paint advertisements for
manufacturers of soaps and hair restorers."

"But, my dear friend," said Lorimer, "some of our greatest academicians
have accepted such commissions with the most satisfactory results."

"Oh, hold your tongue, you are incorrigible!" said Dora, laughing.

Philip saw that it was time to put a stop to the conversation that
threatened to get too heated, and proposed a smoke in the studio. Dora
did not go with them; she made a solemn bow to Lorimer; and all three
burst out laughing and separated the best of friends.

Philip and Lorimer lit their cigars, the latter without taking his eyes
off the portrait of Dora, which he thought a splendid likeness and
perfect in colouring and modelling.

"Ah, my dear friend, what a wife you have! What a companion for an
artist! Upon my word, if I were married to such a woman, I believe I
could write masterpieces."

Philip hardly heeded him. He paced up and down the studio, looking at
the clock, then at the door, and starting at every sound he heard in the
street.

"I should like to gain the world, to lay it at the feet of this woman,"
said he, standing before the portrait a moment. Philip felt more and
more agitated. Lorimer looked at him fixedly.

"Why, old fellow, what on earth is the matter with you?"

"My dear Lorimer," answered Philip, who could conceal his feelings no
longer, "you see me to-day in an indescribable state of excitement. In a
few moments, I may hear that I am a rich man."

"You don't say so," said Lorimer, amazed; "an old uncle about to depart
this life?"

"No," said Philip; "my work, my very own work is perhaps on the point of
making me wealthy. For months past, night and day so to speak, I have
been working" ...

"At a great picture," interrupted Lorimer.

"At an invention."

"Nonsense! take care. You will die in the workhouse."

"Not at all, old fellow," said Philip; "there are two kinds of
inventors, those who seek and those who discover. I have discovered."

"What have you discovered, dear friend?" said Lorimer, more and more
surprised.

"A shell that may revolutionise the art of warfare. A Special Commission
is now sitting at the War Office in Paris, to discuss its merits. I am
awaiting their decision. I shall get a telegram to-day, perhaps in a few
moments. I offered my shell to the English Government, but they declined
it."

"Are you speaking seriously?"

"Do I look as if I were joking? Can't you see, man, I'm in such a fever
of impatience, that I can't hold a brush, my hand is trembling so? I
have neither the courage nor the strength to finish this portrait, which
only requires about an hour's work. But not a word to Dora on the
subject; she knows nothing about it yet, and never will, if the affair
falls through."

A violent ringing was heard at the studio bell.

"There," said Philip, "that is it perhaps ... the telegram at last." And
he ran to open the door himself.

He returned accompanied by a big man, pompous and shiny, who entered the
studio with a majestic step. Bald, chubby-faced, with a huge nose that
divided his face in two, as the Apennines divide Italy, and two large
round eyes set lobster-fashion, he was, with his huge white waistcoat, a
fair example of a certain type of city merchant, in all his glory. This
pretentious personage cast a look into every corner of the studio.

"Plague take the bore," said Philip to Lorimer.

"I'll be off," said Lorimer.

"Oh no, please stay. Sir Benjamin Pond's visit won't last long."

"Ah, ah," said the big City alderman; "you received my note, in which I
announced my visit?"

Philip made a sign in the affirmative. Sir Benjamin placed his hat on a
table and, rubbing his hands, threw a condescending glance at Philip,
which seemed to say, "You ought to be proud to have a visit from me." He
took stock of the furniture in detail.

"Very cosy here; very comfortable quarters indeed. You are evidently
doing well. One is constantly hearing of artists who live on buns in
garrets ... upon my word, I don't know any such inviting and attractive
houses as those inhabited by artists, and I flatter myself I know them
all."

"Painters surround themselves with a certain artistic luxury, as a means
of inspiration," said Philip; "and then, Sir Benjamin," added he,
laughing, "I don't see why all the good things of this life should be
for the fools. Pray, take a seat."

"Thanks," said the patron of arts ... "I came" ...

"To arrange for a portrait?"

"No, no, not a portrait. Now I hope I shan't offend you by saying so,
but I really don't care for portraits in oil. You may say what you like,
but, to have a perfect likeness, give me a good coloured photograph.
That's my tackle. For fancy portraits, very good, but otherwise" ...

"It sounds promising," thought Lorimer, who took up his position near
the window, to enjoy the fun.

"The moment a process is discovered for photographing colour as well as
lines and shade," continued Sir Benjamin, "nobody will want a painted
portrait. For a portrait, you don't want imagination, you want truth,
sir, real truth, an exact reproduction of the original."

"Some people prefer Madame Tussaud's Exhibition to the Louvre or the
British Museum," said Lorimer.

The City alderman turned round and looked at him, and Philip introduced
them to each other.

"Sir Benjamin Pond--Mr. Gerald Lorimer, our well-known playwright; no
doubt you know him by reputation."

"Delighted to make your acquaintance," said Pond, shaking hands with
Lorimer. "I see by the papers that you are going to give us a new play.
When I was a young man I wrote several plays myself, but I thought
better of it, and, like a good Briton, I preferred to be useful to my
country and go into business. No offence, I hope," added he, bursting
into loud guffaws.

"How long is this ass going to stay here boring us, I wonder?" murmured
Philip.

"But to return to the object of my visit," said Sir Benjamin. "A few
days ago my daughter got married, and, among other presents, I gave her
the choice of two pictures in my gallery. It has left two empty spaces
on my wall, one eighteen by twenty-four, another thirty-six by fifty.
Now, what have you got that would fill them?"

"Framed or unframed?" said Philip, who by this time was beginning to
thoroughly enjoy the situation.

"Bless me, framed, of course," said Sir Benjamin.

"I asked the question merely to form an idea of the size of the canvas."

"Do you think you have what I want? Some pictures that you have finished
lately? If they are a trifle smaller, it won't matter much. I like wide
frames, they show their value better; and no picture ever suffered from
a good-sized frame. I have all my frames made at Denis's ... only the
French know how to frame pictures and bind books."

"A sensible remark," said Lorimer to himself.

"I am afraid I have nothing to suit you," said Philip, in the tone of a
bootmaker, who has not the right-sized shoes for his customer.

The alderman took a rule out of his pocket, and measured several
canvases that Philip placed on Dora's easel, after having removed the
copy that she was doing of her own portrait.

"Too small ... too small again ... oh, much too small. By George, what a
pity!"

"Perhaps you could put two of those in the larger space, Sir Benjamin,"
suggested Lorimer, with a wink at Philip, and without losing that
British calm, which is the strong point of the Englishman in critical
situations.

"Two! oh dear no, that would look patchy. I am very proud of my gallery,
sir.... Come and see it some day. There is hardly a good modern painter
that isn't represented there. My philanthropy consists in patronising
the arts, and especially modern artists. In buying old pictures you put
money in the pockets of collectors and dealers, whereas, in buying
pictures from living painters, you put money in the pockets of the
artists. Now, don't you think I'm right?"

Philip and Lorimer recognised that this was indeed the best manner of
appreciating modern art.

"And so you have nothing?" continued Sir Benjamin. "One eighteen by
twenty-four, and one thirty-six by fifty," he repeated.

"My work is either too small or too large, I fear. I could, within a
month or six weeks, fill your eighteen by twenty-four."

"No, no, I can't wait. Those open spaces, staring me in the face, are
too awful."

"I am extremely sorry," said Philip.

"So am I," replied Sir Benjamin. "I wanted a picture of yours; I like
variety in my gallery."

"And no doubt he has it," thought Lorimer.

"Mr. Grantham," continued the City man, "you have a great career before
you. Everybody says so. You'll be an academician before five years are
over; you are one of our future great painters."

He gazed around the studio once more, and suddenly noticing the portrait
of Dora, he said, "Holloa! what's this?" and proceeded to measure the
picture.

"Why, this is the very thing. I'll take this ... I don't know the
original, but she's a deuced pretty woman, and if it's a fancy
portrait" ...

"It is not quite finished yet."

"Yes, that's true," said Sir Benjamin; "I see the face and hands want a
little" ...

"No, the flowers," interrupted Philip; "but it will be finished to-day."

"Good, send it to me to-morrow."

"Sir Benjamin, this picture was painted under exceptional circumstances.
I mean" ...

"That's all right, my dear sir; your price is mine. That is my way of
doing business. When I have taken a fancy to a picture, I never bargain
with the artist."

"You misunderstand me, Sir Benjamin," returned Philip; "I simply meant
to say, that this picture is not for sale. It is a portrait of my wife,
and belongs to her."

"Oh, that's another matter. In that case, I'll say nothing more."

"I hope to be more fortunate some other time."

"So do I. Well, good-day, good-day," said Sir Benjamin, as Philip
handed him his hat. "Very pleased to have made your acquaintance. I will
let you know, as soon as another" ...

"Vacancy occurs," suggested Lorimer.

"That's it, that's it. Good-bye."

Philip would have liked to give him a kick as well as his hat. He
accompanied the alderman to the door and, returning to the studio, found
Lorimer holding his sides with laughter.

"Those people are the drawbacks of my profession, old man. They are
enough to disgust you with it all. Great heavens, what a fool!"

"I don't know about that; they buy pictures and pay cash down. One may
safely say that but for the good inartistic British middle class, the
fine arts would have to put up their shutters. Our upper classes have
only praise and money for foreign works. Have we not musicians by the
score, who have had to resort to Italian _noms de guerre_, to get a
hearing in this country? Yes! I must say, I admire our middle classes.
If it were not for our aldermen and county councillors, who have
sufficient patriotism to get their portraits done in their own country,
our English portraitists would end their careers in the workhouse. And,
come, you must own that he was vastly amusing, the dear man; that the
imposing big-wig of the City was simply killing." And the humour of the
situation striking him afresh, Lorimer rolled on the sofa with laughter,
and Dora, entering the studio at that moment, discovered him in a far
from dignified position, his legs cutting figures in the air.

"Oh, you've just come too late," said he, rising quickly; "he is gone."

"Who is gone?" said Dora.

"Why, the patron of the arts, Alderman Sir Benjamin Pond." And in a few
words, Lorimer described the humorous little scene that had just taken
place. Then, suddenly remembering his appointment, he looked at the
clock.

"By Jove! it's four o'clock! That is the time I had promised to be at
the theatre.... I must fly!"

"Are you off?" said Philip; "I'll go with you. I want some fresh air; I
feel stifling, staying all day in this confounded studio. Don't worry,
darling," said he to Dora, on seeing her look at the picture that he had
begun almost to take a dislike to. "I will finish the picture when I
come back. As I said, there is only an hour's work to do to it."

"Where in the name of fortune have I put my manuscript?" exclaimed
Lorimer.

"Here it is on the table," said Dora. "Is there a woman with a past in
it?"

"A past?" said Lorimer. "Four pasts, and fine ones too. Quite enough to
make up for all possible defects in the play. My dear Mrs. Grantham, I
shall not put in appearance here again until I have written a play with
an angel in it."

"Never mind the angel," said Dora. "Have a real, true woman--that's good
enough for anybody."

"Oh, well, never mind; with all her pasts, you know, this woman has a
great future."

"I hope so, for your sake. Good luck."

Philip and Lorimer got into a cab and went off waving their hands to
Dora.



VI

THE INVENTOR


Philip's state of feverish agitation had not escaped Dora's notice. She
had never seen him thus preoccupied and restless, until to-day. It was
very evident that he was hiding something from her, and that it must be
something most important. What could it possibly be? Philip, hitherto
always so open and confiding, had failed for the first time to unbosom
himself to her. She was no longer the confidante of his worries and the
dispeller of his clouds of depression. There must be something very
extraordinary going on, something quite exceptional and hitherto
unknown, since she had been kept in the dark concerning it. Uncertainty
is the cruellest trial for the heart of a woman to endure, when that
woman is resolute and brave, and feels ready to face any danger
courageously. Dora knew herself to be strong and valiant enough to
brave any ordinary danger, but what was the use of that while there was
nothing tangible to deal with and defy? This incertitude was devouring
her. "I am stifling in this wretched studio," Philip had said to her,
before going out with Lorimer. Never had she heard him speak thus of the
dear retreat where they had passed so many exquisite hours together.

A kind of presentiment came over Dora, that their artistic existence was
about to be broken up. Their past life had been an unbroken chain of
happy days; what did the future hold in store? For the first time, Dora
could see only a mist of uncertainty in front of her. Up to to-day, the
road had seemed clear and sunny to her happy vision, and easy to tread,
but now doubt clouded her sky; she could not see ahead. The road was
perhaps going to branch. Would they take right or left?

"This wretched studio," had dealt her a blow, straight at the breast. A
man may be irritable, sulky, wanting in common politeness even; he may
forget himself so far as to lose his temper and use violent language, if
you will; but there are hallowed things that he respects in all times
and seasons, in temper and out of temper, and to Dora the studio was
one of these things--a temple dedicated to all that she most cherished.

"This wretched studio," signified for her much more than Philip had put
into the words, for, in her brain, things began to take magnified
proportions. In cursing the studio, Philip had cursed his art, and for
this he had chosen a day like the present, the anniversary of their
wedding, and just when he was to have finished the portrait, whose
growth she had watched as a child watches, with bated breath, the growth
of a house of cards, which one false touch will destroy.

For the first time in her life Dora was miserable. Her pride revolted at
the thought that something mysterious was passing under their roof, and
that her husband had not thought fit to take her into his confidence. It
did not occur to her that a man often avoids taking his wife into his
confidence rather than expose her to the risk of a disappointment, by
talking to her of hopes which may not be realised. Besides, there are
important secrets which a man has to know how to keep to himself. A
secret disclosed proves to be an indiscretion in the confiding one as
often as a show of faith in the confidante. But Dora felt so sure of
herself, so strong in her power of devotion, that it would never have
entered her head that Philip could not repose entire confidence in her.

When little Eva returned from a walk, about half-past four, accompanied
by Hobbs, she found her mother in tears, half lying on the sofa, her
face hidden in her hands.

Eva had never seen her mother weep before. The effect upon the child was
terrible.

"Mama, what is the matter?" cried Eva. And she burst into violent tears.

Quickly Dora pressed her handkerchief over her eyes to dry them, and
smiled at the child.

"It is nothing at all, darling; nothing, nothing." And she took her up
and pressed the poor little heaving breast to her own, but the more she
sought to console her, the more the child sobbed and cried. It was
impossible to calm her grief, it was heartrending.

"Mama, mama, are we not going to be happy any more?"

Dora rocked her beloved Eva in her arms and said, with a gay laugh--

"What a little goose it is! Was there ever such a goosikins?"

Eva had hidden her face on her mother's shoulder, and dared not look up
for fear of seeing the awful mysterious something that had caused the
state of distress in which she had discovered her mother. Her sobs
finally died down into hiccoughs, and Dora began to sing to her some
songs that the child loved. Eva gazed at her mother, whose face had
regained its look of serenity, and then, growing bolder, glanced around
into every corner of the room. Smiling once more, after her cautious
survey of her surroundings, she ensconced herself more comfortably upon
Dora's knees and said--

"Weren't we stupid, mama? There is nothing here, is there? But where can
daddy be? How lazy he is to-day!"

"Yes, isn't he? Naughty father, he ought to be at work."

"When I marry," said Eva, "I shall never have a painter."

"Why?" asked Dora, whom the child's chatter always amused.

"Oh, because--I don't know--a painter is too busy always--he doesn't
play with little girls. When I have a little girl, I shall play with her
all day long."

Dora felt the reproach stab straight to her heart. She was on the verge
of tears once more, and felt a choking lump in her throat, but she
mastered the emotion.

"Then what kind of man shall you marry?" said she, with an effort at her
gayest tones.

"None at all--I shall stay and live with you always; or else I shall be
a nurse, like Aunt Gabrielle."

"To nurse sick people and take care of the poor who are suffering?"

"Yes," replied Eva, "and to wear a dress just like auntie's."

"Oh, that is your reason, eh? a very good one!"

Gabrielle looked her best perhaps in the nurse's costume which had so
taken Eva's fancy. Of the purely English type, with rosy complexion,
delicate features, sweet soft eyes and fair hair, and with that mixture
of modesty and assurance in her bearing which is so characteristic of
the best of her countrywomen, she lent a fresh charm to the always
pleasing semi-nun-like attire worn by hospital nurses. Something of that
joy of living, which angels seem to stamp upon the faces of women who
devote themselves to the well-being and happiness of others and to the
assuaging of pain and suffering, had fascinated her little niece. Eva
felt the charm, without being able to analyse it. She knew that Aunt
Gabrielle would look beautiful in any dress, but thought that she was
lovely in her nurse's garb.

The child had forgotten all her tears and went on with her prattle. It
was nearly five o'clock when Philip came in, evidently in a poor humour,
and muttering words that did not reach Dora's ear.

"Eva," said he, "you must go and get dressed now, there's a good child;
we are going to dine a little earlier to-night, so that you may sit up
to dinner with us. You know, it is a holiday to-day; it is the
anniversary of the day daddy and mama were married on--I'll warrant
there will be a special pudding for the occasion."

Eva ran off, singing in her delight, and went to find Hobbs. A moment
later, her little silvery voice was heard at the top of the stairs,
announcing to her nurse that she was to stay up to dinner with mama and
daddy.

Presently the sound of the delightful babble ceased with the closing of
the nursery door.

"You have scarcely had time to go down to the theatre," said Dora.

"No," replied Philip. "Lorimer began upon his endless theories
again--what a bore he is when he talks like that! I could not stand him
to-day; and, besides, I thought I had better get back and go on with the
portrait until dinner."

He looked at the clock and took off his coat.

"It is going to be done to-day, after all then, that wretched portrait,"
said Dora, laughing and laying a stress on the word "wretched."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I see you are tired of it."

"To tell you the truth, I am dying to get it done."

He put on his velvet jacket, sat at the easel, took his palette and his
brushes.

"Now then, to work!" said he.

"It is only five o'clock," said Dora; "you have a good deal of time yet
before dinner."

He mixed his colours and was soon apparently engrossed in the pansies.
He worked three-quarters of an hour without stopping. Dora had taken a
book, and sat reading a few paces from the easel.

On the stroke of six, a violent ring at the bell, impatiently repeated,
was heard at the door. Philip, who had heard a cab draw up outside the
studio, trembled with excitement at the sound of the bell and let fall
his palette and brush.

"It is he," he cried; "it is de Lussac! no one else would ring
violently like that. He has good news, he must have--yes," he shouted,
wild with joy, "it is his step, I hear him."

And he ran to meet the young attaché, whose voice he recognised.

Dora had thrown her book down on the sofa, and had risen from her chair.

De Lussac came briskly into the studio, with a telegram in his hand,
which he waved about his head.

"Good news! Victory!" he cried. "Hip, hip, hurrah! as you say in
England--adopted unanimously, my dear fellow. The Government offers you
a million francs for the shell--here is the wire!"

Philip was half beside himself with joy. He seized the telegram from the
hands of the attaché, read it, re-read it, and handed it back.

Dora, mute, immobile, was standing a couple of paces off.

"Oh, Dora dear, my dream is realised at last! For months I have worked
in secret. I was so afraid of failing that I have never dared mention a
word to you about this thing, but I have succeeded. I am rewarded for
all my labour and agony of anxiety about my invention. This shell is
bought by the French Government. I am rich--rich!" he cried. "Do you
hear, darling? Oh, my Dora!"

And he folded her lovingly in his arms.

Eva had come, running in at the sound of her father's shouts, which had
reached her ears.

"Daddy, daddy, what is the matter?"

Philip seized the child and lifted her in the air.

"Why, the matter is that your papa is a rich man. Are you glad?"

"Oh yes, of course I am very glad," said the child, seeing her father's
beaming face. "Then we are going to be happier than ever?"

"Why, to be sure we are," said Philip, executing another swing of the
child into the air.

Dora seemed to be stunned. She did not realise the situation, which, for
that matter, could only be fully explained by Philip later on. All that
the poor woman clearly understood for the moment was, that in the
present state of excitement in which Philip appeared to be, he would
certainly not finish the portrait that day.

Philip begged de Lussac to stay and dine, and also sent a telegram to
Lorimer, to tell him the great news and ask him to try and join them. He
needed friends to help him bear his joy. To bear hers, Dora would have
chosen to be alone with Philip.

In moments of greatest joy a woman prefers solitude with the man she
loves, and Dora was vexed that Philip should invite de Lussac and
Lorimer to pass this evening with him.

The two sexes will probably never understand each other.

It may possibly be that each one judges the other by its own.



VII

THE NEW HOUSE


To Dora the vow that she had taken on her wedding-day was a sacred
thing. As he knelt at her side in church, Philip had murmured low in her
ear: "Before God and man I love you." This had sufficed her, and,
following on it, even the words of the Church service pronounced by the
priest had seemed almost superfluous. The phrase uttered in that solemn
moment had sealed her fate and ordained her line of conduct. Her life
belonged to this man. Besides, had she not in firm clear tones given her
promise to love, honour, and obey him? To her this was no empty
formula--it was an oath; and she had sworn that, come what would, how
fatal soever to her personal happiness, she would be loyal to her vow.

She prepared to play her new rôle with the ardour which she had always
shown in seconding her husband, even in the most trifling affairs of
life, quietly effacing herself, satisfied and happy if Philip seemed to
appreciate the efforts that she made to please him.

Philip left his house in Elm Avenue without even trying to sublet it. He
took a house in Belgravia and installed himself there among the
aristocracy and plutocracy of London. Mayfair is, perhaps, still more
aristocratic and select; but it is sombre, its streets are narrow, and
Philip had been too long accustomed to plenty of light to care to bury
himself alive in the midst of its dark, depressing-looking streets.
Mayfair is to Belgravia what the Rue St. Dominique is to the Avenue des
Champs Elysées in Paris.

The rent of his house was a thousand a year. When he added what he would
have to pay in parish taxes, Queen's taxes, and all those little
blessings which endear Great Britain to every true-born Englishman,
Philip had to come to the conclusion that his new house would cost him
about fifteen hundred pounds a year.

He spent some five thousand pounds upon his installation. The furniture
was chosen by Dora, who was consulted upon every point. Most of the
things from the St. John's Wood house were distributed throughout the
new one, but Dora took it upon her to arrange, on the ground floor,
behind the dining-room, the library, exactly as it had been arranged in
Elm Avenue; not a book, nor a picture, not a photograph, nor a
knick-knack was forgotten. Dora had the bump of remembrance.

This library would be her favourite room, she said to herself, and she
would pass an hour or two every day here among the souvenirs of the
happy days lived in the artists' quarter. Near the drawing-room, Philip
arranged a room which might have passed for a studio in the eyes of
people who see likenesses everywhere. To speak truly, there was no
longer a studio.

As for painting, there was no more question of that; Philip had other
ideas in his head. He would go into society and would entertain. He
could do it now that he had a suitable house. He would make useful
acquaintances, and the celebrity that his invention of the famous shell
had brought him would lead to his being sought after. He had no doubts,
no misgivings. The future was safe enough.

Occasionally, however, he fell into reflection. He had spent something
like five thousand pounds over his installation; there remained
therefore in hand not more than thirty-two or three thousand pounds. At
five per cent. interest, that would bring him an income of some fifteen
hundred pounds, just about the amount of his rent and taxes. Now, he had
started his new existence on a scale which entailed an expenditure of at
least ten thousand a year. He would therefore need to earn the rest,
about eight thousand pounds, or else his capital would last him only
four years. There it was--a judgment without appeal, arrived at by the
inflexible rule of three.

It is not money that ensures a man's being rich, it is the excess of his
receipts over his expenditure. Such is the declaration made by that
great philosopher who was called Monsieur de la Palice. Such is also,
however, the principle which even very intelligent people fail to
understand.

Philip reflected. "Pooh!" said he to himself, "there is no need to
bother myself yet; fortune has smiled on me once, she will again."

Dora consented to everything without a murmur. With the exception of a
general sadness, which she could not entirely dissimulate, she gave no
outward sign of dissent, and approved before Philip many things which
she tacitly condemned. She did not encourage her husband in his new
ideas, but she did not feel the strength of will to discourage him. She
would not earn reproaches. She had taken a resolution to let events
follow their course and to remain firm at her post of observation, so as
to be ready to save Philip before the coming of the downfall which to
her seemed inevitable. She almost found a happiness in this new part. "I
will prevent his going under," she said to herself.

Gaiety had vanished, there was no more laughter, the chief subject of
talk was speculations. In the mornings Philip read the financial papers.

"By Jove!" he would exclaim, "here is a South African mine which was
worth one pound a share. These shares are now worth twelve pounds."
Philip was probably seeking to solve this problem: How can I make eight
thousand pounds a year with a capital of hardly forty thousand pounds?
And the devil answered him: By placing your money where you can get
twenty-five per cent. interest for it.

Philip was anxious; Dora was depressed; life was monotonous, and they
were both bored to death. Dora would fain have said to the French
Government, much as good old La Fontaine's cobbler said to the
financier, "Give me back my songs and take again your lucre."

The artists, writers, and all the friends who had frequented the old
house dropped away one after another, till Lorimer was almost the only
one they continued to see anything of. He had always felt a sincere
friendship for Philip and Dora, and now they were playing a little
comedy before him which interested him keenly. He watched closely and
awaited the dénouement. He came in his old intimate way, without waiting
to be asked. His frequent visits delighted Dora, for he was the only
friend to whom she opened her heart or from whom she could hope for
sound advice. "Be patient," he would say; "Philip will grow tired of
this kind of life; one of these days he will set to work and will return
to his studio never to leave it."

To speak truly, Dora scarcely had time to brood on the past. The
management of her house, which was kept with scrupulous order, six
servants to superintend, her child to be watched over, visits to pay and
receive--all these things filled up her time. But, full of occupation as
her days might be, the life that they composed appeared to her empty and
aimless, compared to the one she had led hitherto.

Once a week she received, and her rooms were crowded. By her sweetness
and tact, the simplicity of her manner and rare beauty of her face and
figure, it had been easy to her to make the conquest of the fashionable
world as, years before, she had made the conquest of the artistic one.
The men were loud and untiring in their praises of her. The women, who,
with the best will in the world to do so, could find no flaw in her,
declared that she was "very nice." Some of them went so far as to
pronounce her charming, and one or two to say that she was fit to be a
duchess.

"What do you think of my new acquaintances?" asked Dora of Lorimer,
after he had helped her to entertain a number of them one Thursday
afternoon.

"Lady A. is pretty," he replied; "Lady B. is not bad in her own style."

"No, no; I ask you for a general opinion."

"In the lump? Well, I would give the whole batch for a new umbrella."

"You are like me," said Dora. "I would give all the trees of Hyde Park
and Kensington Gardens for the few chestnuts and limes in my garden in
Elm Avenue. And how stupidly they kill time, all these people! In spite
of their rank and their fortune, they are bored to death. I can see it
in their wrinkled foreheads and quenched, weary-looking eyes. The
theatre makes them yawn, they prefer the vulgar inanities of the
music-halls; they do not read; Art is nothing to them; their parties are
mass meetings where one is hours on one's feet without being able to
move or talk comfortably, and to get a sandwich or a glass of champagne
costs the poor victims of this strange hospitality frantic struggles.
When they speak of their pleasures it is with a sigh as if they were so
many irksome tasks, and, the season over, they go to Homburg or
elsewhere to drink the waters and get set up and patched up in readiness
for the shooting and house-parties of the autumn."

"You exaggerate slightly," said Lorimer; "there are in that set plenty
of very clever people with literary and artistic tastes, but I grant you
that the majority lead a pitiful existence."

Dora had taken a violent dislike to society, so when Lorimer came she
often revenged herself for the smiles she was obliged to dispense to her
new acquaintances by running them down to her heart's content.

Philip had lately been several times to Paris without taking Dora, as he
had always done formerly. He had not confided to her the object of these
journeys, but had contented himself with telling her that he was going
on business. He was always back again on the second or third day.

Without entering into details, he had mentioned some visits to the
Russian Embassy. He had even confided to her that, in consequence of a
rather lengthy correspondence between the Russian ambassador in Paris
and General Ivan Sabaroff, War Minister in St. Petersburg, it was not
impossible that the Czar might make overtures to him for the purchase of
the shell he had invented. The French Government, he said, would not be
opposed to his accepting such overtures from an ally of France.

There would be nothing very extraordinary in such a proceeding, of
course. The young Czar of all the Russias and the worthy President of
the Republic had given each other the kiss of brotherhood in public;
Monsieur Felix Faure had returned the visit which the young Sovereign
had paid him; and there had been signed at St. Petersburg that gigantic
joke, that Titanic hoax which is called the Franco-Russian alliance, an
alliance between the Phrygian cap and the Cossack cap, between the sons
of the great Revolution and the scourgers of women, an alliance by the
terms of which the blind Gallic cook undertook to pull the chestnuts
out of the fire for the wily bear of the Caucasians, and gave to the
rest of Europe a grotesque and amusing spectacle. The French _badaud_
rarely misses an opportunity of making France the laughing-stock of the
whole world. It is much to be regretted that the French do not read the
two or three columns that are devoted to them every day by the
newspapers of London, New York, and Berlin. Their follies supply these
great dailies with more material for comment than they can hope to get
out of all that goes on in their respective countries, and that, I say
it to their credit and to be just, without bitterness, without
prejudice, for France counts among her sincerest friends and admirers,
in England and America, all that is most intelligent and enlightened in
these two countries of light and leading. It is a cosmopolitan
traveller, French-born and still French at heart, who ventures to speak
thus in parenthesis. Alexis de Tocqueville might have written in the
year of grace 1899 the following lines, which were penned by him in
1849: "France, the most brilliant and most dangerous nation of Europe,
is destined ever to be, in turn, an object of admiration, of hatred, of
terror and of pity, but of indifference, never."



VIII

THE HOUSE-WARMING


Philip decided to give a house-warming party in the month of November,
and to ask to a large _soirée musicale_ all the society notabilities, in
fact all London and his wife. Cards of invitation were sent to
ambassadors, cabinet ministers, aristocracy, and City princes. He
invited a few literary friends, but not many artists, being afraid of
passing for a man who was trying to dazzle his less fortunate brothers
in art by his wealth. Perhaps he also rather feared meeting them--the
studio world has not a very developed bump of admiration for painters
who make a rapid fortune and settle in Belgravia. Those who believed
that he still painted had nicknamed him _le Grantham des Salons_, a not
very brilliant pun upon his name which sounded rather like the two
French words _grand homme_. Between four and five hundred people
accepted invitations. The artists for the most part refused, "having a
previous engagement which prevented them from accepting Mrs. Philip
Grantham's kind invitation." Poor Dora seemed to see the artistic world
slipping away from her, since Art itself had deserted the house. Lorimer
had accepted. Thank Heaven, she would at least have one real friend at
her reception. She set about doing her best to ensure the success of her
party. She had a long list of the people who were coming, all well-known
names. She gave _carte blanche_ to the best impresario of London, who
was entrusted with the arrangement of the musical programme. She ordered
her supper from Benoist, and flowers and palms in profusion for the
decoration of the house, and went to the best dressmaker in London for a
gown which, when it came home, Philip pronounced simply beyond
competition. Dora was a born _grande dame_. True, she preferred the
simple intellectual life that she had led hitherto, but she was fitted
to shine in the gay world. If she had been the wife of the President of
the French Republic, all the Faubourg St. Germain would willingly have
rendered her homage at the Elysée, and would probably have said, on
returning home, "A _Républicaine_ can be as beautiful, witty, and
distinguished-looking as the most high-born _Marquise_, were she as
noble as Charlemagne or Louis XIV."

Dora felt sure of herself, certain of doing honour to Philip, and,
notwithstanding the profound sadness that reigned in her heart, she was
still woman enough to rejoice in advance over the success which she
anticipated. She accordingly made all her preparations to that end, and
took pains to put her beauty and intelligence at her husband's service.
Philip, for that matter, did things in lordly style; he had given Dora
an unlimited credit, _carte blanche_, that is to say a blank cheque.
Philip wished to have a great social success.

Without saying anything to his wife, he had sent invitations to all the
principal papers, thinking that if the editors did not come they would
not fail to send reporters who would write accounts of the party, the
publication of which would make them known, he and Dora, in the society
in which he had taken a firm resolution to shine.

The concert alone caused Dora some anxiety. She almost regretted having
had _music_ printed on her cards. Her artistic temperament had often
caused her to pity from the bottom of her heart those pianists and
singers, whom nobody listens to at parties, and whose first notes
invariably give the signal for general conversation. She thought this
unmannerly, even offensive, not only to the hosts, but to the artistes.
The shopkeeper demands only the price of the goods that he sells you,
and it is a matter of indifference to him whether you have your hat in
your hand or on your head in his shop. The artiste is more difficult to
please. He asks for the appreciation of those who pay him, and more than
one celebrated star has consented to sing in drawing-rooms for hundreds
of pounds, but only on the formal condition that silence would be
enforced. It must be said that at these gatherings many people, who are
too busy to pay one another frequent calls, are pleased to have the
opportunity of meeting, the men to talk of politics and business, the
women of dress, theatres, gossip, or scandals. They can so well dispense
with music that many Englishwomen have the words _no music_ printed on
their invitation cards. I know one who, in order to persuade me to
accept her invitation, put a postscript thus: "I shall have a Hungarian
orchestra, but you won't hear it."

Dora was reassured, however, as the impresario, who was to arrange the
music, knew his public. He had guaranteed her "complete satisfaction."

She thought no more about it, and awaited the day with all the serenity
of a society stager who had done nothing else all her life.



IX

THE CONFESSION


Like the great Condé, on the eve of the battle of Rocroy, Dora slept
peacefully and profoundly on the eve of the day that was to see her play
the rôle of hostess for the first time in her new house in Belgravia.

She was careful not to tire herself during the day, in order to feel
fresh and alert at half-past nine, the hour at which the guests would
begin to arrive.

For a mistress of a house, for a novice especially, a reception of this
kind is a severe trial. She stands four mortal hours at the entrance of
the drawing-room, all the while on the _qui-vive_. She would like to
possess a hundred pairs of eyes instead of one, to assure herself that
everything is going as smoothly as she could wish, for the least little
_contretemps_ will spoil the party. Out of four hundred people who
accept an invitation, two hundred come to criticise--some the music,
others the supper, others the wines, others the dresses. If there is the
slightest hitch in the proceedings, there are whispered comments on it.
If the music is bad, people drown it with their voices; if the supper is
of doubtful quality, they go early; if the servants do not number the
hats carefully, the men, on leaving, choose the best that come to their
notice; if the hostess is embarrassed, they smile. If the women meet
people whom they have ceased to know, they look bored. The most
thankless task in the world is giving a large "At home." I know many
women who, after giving such parties, have to go to bed for a couple of
days.

Dora dined lightly at seven o'clock, and, after giving her last
instructions, went to dress. At nine o'clock she was ready. Her white
dress of exquisite material, trimmed with old lace and silver
embroidery, suited her to perfection, and set off every line of her
supple figure. She seemed to be moulded in it. She wore a _rivière_ of
diamonds and emeralds, and three magnificent diamond stars were fastened
on her bodice. Philip had given her these diamonds, to console her for
the portrait that he had not had the courage to finish. She would have
infinitely preferred the portrait, but she accepted the jewels
willingly, and, thanking her husband prettily, she said to herself,
"When the shell bursts, its pieces will be useful. I shall at any rate
have a couple of thousand pounds with which to face the situation." She
wore no ornament in her hair, which seemed to be proud of being
entrusted alone with the task of showing off her beautiful pure
Madonna-like face. Never had a lovelier head, framed in luxuriant
tresses, been placed more proudly on classical shoulders. Her beauty was
dazzling.

She went into the drawing-room to give a last glance at the decorations.
Everything looked perfect.

Notwithstanding the air of calm and simple dignity that she wore, like
all who have the knowledge of their own worth and who know their triumph
is assured, those who had examined Dora's expression attentively would
have discovered a new anxiety depicted on her countenance, perhaps
nothing very important, but nevertheless an annoyance at the least.

General Ivan Sabaroff, Russian War Minister, was in London. Philip had
invited him to Dora's party, and he had accepted. Philip told his wife
this at dinner.

Dora sat down in the drawing-room with a cloud on her brow.

"Sabaroff!" she said to herself, "General Sabaroff! What if it be the
Colonel Sabaroff that I met eight years ago at Monte Carlo? He was
already much talked about. To-day he is the Russian Minister of War--it
is quite possible, even probable; but then? See the man again! Oh no,
never! And yet, I shall be obliged to receive him--I shall warn Philip
that he had a detestable reputation with women, and if that does not
suffice, well--I will tell Philip everything. And why shouldn't I? The
confession will not be very painful, and I have often been on the point
of making it. I have made up my mind--I will not, and I cannot meet this
man. I will be polite to him to-night, but very distant; of course, I
know what is expected of me as hostess. After that I hope there will be
an end of it."

This resolution seemed to clear away the clouds from her face. She
smiled eagerly at her husband when he came gaily into the drawing-room.

"Everything is ready and admirably arranged," said Philip. "The
drawing-room is decorated with such taste! Ah, my dearest, it is easy to
see you have had a hand in the arrangements. I recognise your touch in
a thousand little details. Your party will be a huge success--the rooms
will look splendid, the music will be excellent, the supper first-rate,
and we shall have a regular crowd of celebrities and pretty women--it
will be a triumph! And you, darling--how beautiful you look to-night!
that gown suits you to perfection. I wish I was going to have you all to
myself."

"How absurd! nothing would have been easier, if you had only expressed
the wish," said she, a little piqued.

There are many men who are on the point of falling in love with their
wives when they see them near to making the conquest of a crowd of
outsiders.

"And those diamonds," continued he, "how splendid they look on you! You
were built to wear a diadem, that's your style. At last you are playing
your proper rôle, and I am proud to see you doing the honours of a house
that is worthy of you. When I come to think of it, fortune has been very
kind to me."

On seeing Dora quite unmoved, he added--

"Really, one would think, to look at you, that all this does not stir
you to the least enthusiasm: it's curious! sometimes I can't quite make
you out. I am nearly beside myself with delight. Now, listen a moment,"
said he, taking her hand. "I am negotiating with Russia. If they take my
invention, as I have every hope that they will, my ambition will be
satisfied, my wildest dreams realised. I shall be rich. You know we are
not really rich. It costs a perfect fortune to keep this house going.
Ah, but only let General Sabaroff approve of my shell, and, dearest,--we
are all right."

He rubbed his hands with joy.

"Philip," said Dora, "I want to speak to you about this General
Sabaroff."

"Yes, yes," said Philip, without heeding her; "I want you to charm him.
You must make a conquest of him. Bring all your diplomacy to bear. He
has an immense influence at the Russian Court, and is, I hear, the
favourite Minister of the Czar. Being Minister of War, he is the master,
the autocrat of his department. And, darling, I count on you to help me.
I repeat to you, everything depends on him."

"Money again, Philip, always money," replied Dora. "Are you not rich
enough yet? If we have not the income to keep a house like this, why do
we live in it? Why should we live beyond our means? I don't think it is
right, Philip. What has become of those happy days when we loved each
other so much, and when you thought only of your art? Ah, give me back
my dear studio."

"I am not rich enough yet," said Philip, "but I am perhaps on the road
that leads to fortune."

"You were rich before, and on the road to fame. I loved an artist and I
adored his art."

"Oh, deuce take art and artists," cried Philip, getting angry.

"Philip, how can you? If you only knew how it pains me to hear you speak
like that."

"Well, my dear Dora," said Philip, "there are times at which I can
scarcely keep my patience with you--you don't interest yourself in me as
you used to do."

"Is it really you who dare speak to me in that way?" exclaimed Dora
indignantly. "Is it you who accuse me of not being the same, you who
consecrated your life to art and to my happiness, and who to-day think
of nothing but making money, like the first City man in the street?
There are times when I long to go and earn my own living with my brush.
The only thing that holds me back is Eva--you too, perhaps, for I am
certain that one of these days you will cry 'Help!' and I shall have to
rescue you from drowning."

"You are ungrateful, Dora. It is for you that I work."

"For me? But can't you see I loathe the life I lead? For me? When the
thirst for wealth gets hold of a man, he has always the same excuse--it
is not for himself. It is even the eternal parrot-cry of the miser; if
he holds fast to his money, it is for the children; and under this
pretext he renders his wife, his children, and everyone around him as
miserable as he is himself."

"Night and day," said Philip, "I have worked, and God is my witness that
in working all my thoughts were for you. Now that I am almost at the
goal, you turn against me--you refuse to give a smile to the man who can
realise all my hopes."

"Ah, why do you choose that one?" said Dora, frowning.

"What a funny remark!" said Philip. "Just as if he was my choice."

Then, looking at Dora, who seemed agitated, he added--

"What do you mean?"

"I have been told that General Sabaroff is a libertine, a roué of the
worst type, and you know what a detestation I have of such men."

"Let him be what he likes; what on earth does it matter to me?"
exclaimed Philip. "Really, Dora, you can help me with a few smiles; ask
him to come and see you on one of your Thursdays, without compromising
yourself, and without your virtue running any danger. It ought to be
easy enough for a woman to protect her virtue against a man--in a
drawing-room," added Philip, with a slightly mocking air which intensely
displeased Dora.

"Yes, much easier than protecting one's reputation against women. I hope
you will not insist. I shall receive the General politely, that goes
without saying, but I shall certainly not ask him to come and see me on
the days I receive or the days on which I do not receive."

Philip and Dora looked at each other for a few seconds. They seemed both
very determined.

"And suppose I insist," said Philip, who was the first to break the
silence, "and, what is more, suppose I expect you to do what I wish?"

"In that case," said Dora, "since there is no other way of obtaining
your indulgence, stay a moment and listen to me."

Philip looked at the clock.

"There is plenty of time," continued Dora, "we have nearly half an hour
before anyone will come. My dear Philip, I have every reason to believe
that this General Sabaroff is no stranger to me. Perhaps I should have
told you this before, but when I have been on the point of doing so, I
always said to myself, 'What is the use?' and I really did not see the
need of it. This is the incident in two words. When I was nineteen, just
out of the schoolroom, my aunt took me to winter in the Riviera. Among
the many people we met there was a Colonel Sabaroff, a man of about
thirty-five. From the first he paid me marked attention, and at the end
of two months he made me an offer of marriage. He was handsome, clever,
say fascinating if you like, had the reputation of being a brilliant
officer, and was much sought after in society. I, a mere child, could
not but feel flattered at his choice of me. What my answer might have
been--I had asked for a week to consider it--I can scarcely tell,
although my heart, I can say in all sincerity, was not touched. A _bal
masqué_ was to be held that week and my aunt had subscribed to it, but
she disliked public balls, and it had been decided that we were not to
go, especially as she thought it hardly proper for two women alone to be
present at such a ball. You know, my aunt was then still young and
pretty. However, my uncle, arriving from England on the day of the ball,
persuaded her to let him take me, for he guessed at my eagerness to go,
and he assured her that if he came with me, the strictest British
propriety would be satisfied. When we reached the ball, it was already
late. After making a tour of the rooms, we sat down in a dimly lit
conservatory, and I was just going to tell him of the offer of marriage
I had received, when I started at hearing Colonel Sabaroff's voice in
low but fierce altercation with that of a woman. Both were masked, and
the language they spoke in was French, which was unintelligible to my
uncle. Signing to him to keep silence, I listened intently. My own
future was decided in those few minutes. But what need I tell you more
except that I, a girl ignorant of all the world's falseness and ugly
coarseness, sat dumfounded, petrified, as the history of a vulgar
liaison was unfolded to my young ears, and the man who had asked for my
hand and heart flung off a wretched woman who, to her own undoing, had
given herself to him a year before."

"What did you do?" asked Philip.

"I sat spellbound as long as their conversation lasted; but when they
rose and passed in front of us, I removed my mask, looked the man
straight in the face, and, in as steady a voice as I could command,
asked my uncle to take me home."

"Did you see any more of him after that?"

"No--the next day, at my request, we left Monte Carlo. During several
months I received letters from him, all of which I tore up without
reading, and soon, thank God, I ceased to know whether he existed or
not."

"Perhaps it is he who sends the pansies," said Philip.

"Don't talk nonsense," replied Dora.

"But General Sabaroff may not be the man at all."

"I feel sure he must be," said Dora. "The description I have been giving
of him corresponds perfectly. Philip, if it should be so, you won't
throw me into the society of this man, will you? You won't ask me to
make him welcome here?"

A servant came into the room to say that the decorations in the
dining-room were finished, and to ask whether Dora would go and give a
look to them before the florist left the house.

"Very well," said she to the servant, "I will go."

And, smiling at Philip, she said to him--

"It is understood, then,--you will not insist any more, Philip."

"Curious tricks Fate plays us all!" exclaimed Philip when Dora had gone.
"One would think the devil had a hand in it."

It was half-past nine; nobody was likely to come before ten o'clock. He
went downstairs to the library and asked for a glass of fine champagne
and seltzer water. He was pained to see Dora lose her gaiety. To give
him his due, his one hope was to soon see his ambitious dreams realised,
to consecrate anew his whole existence to his wife. He hated himself for
being unable to do so at once. But he had gone too far to retrace his
steps. He seemed to be carried along by an irresistible current. In his
heart of hearts he felt poignantly how much he was in the wrong, but he
could not bring himself to break off yet and give up his darling hopes.
His behaviour had assumed a disgraceful aspect to his eyes, although he
dared not own it to himself. Often and often he longed to go and throw
himself at Dora's feet. He had not the moral courage necessary to take a
decision on which the whole happiness of his wife depended. Every
feeling of delicacy and generosity in his composition revolted within
him, for he adored her. He fought hard, but each time he returned to the
attack he was vanquished.

Philip was unhappy, in spite of the gaiety he forced himself to assume;
within him was a mortal sadness.

He swallowed his drink, sat down, and began to think over what Dora had
said to him.

"Suppose," thought he, "that General Sabaroff should turn out to be
Dora's old admirer. Well, what then? He must have forgotten her long
ago--she never had any love for him--not even a school-girl's love.
Where is the danger? She has a painful recollection of him; but she is
no longer a child, she is a woman of the world. Why should she not
conquer her antipathy for him and make use of a little diplomacy to
render me a service? I must absolutely get General Sabaroff's approval.
Everything depends on that. But, what if he should not have forgotten
her, if he still loves her? He would not feel disposed to place a
fortune in my hands. Stay, though, perhaps he would, on the contrary, to
please Dora. Another reason why she should be amiable to him" ...

His evil genius urged him on.

"It's decided," said he; "whatever it may cost, I must have the man's
approbation of my shell--and I must have that money to be rich--really
rich. Yes, my dear father, I shall be wealthy, and I will prove to you
that it is possible to make a fortune without being your slave."

His spirits brightened considerably, and, rubbing his hands cheerfully,
he strode up and down the room exultantly, perfectly convinced that he
had formed a resolution which would turn out to his advantage.

"Suppose I should succeed! Well, of course I shall succeed. I must,
something tells me I shall, I will. Yes, this man Sabre-off or Sabre-on
must be made much of. As to Dora,--with some wives it might be a risky
experiment, but with her,--why, I should as soon think of doubting my
own existence as of doubting her! 'Oh, my darling!'" said he aloud,
taking up a photograph of Dora and kissing it, "'forgive me for having
had such a thought, and still more for having expressed it.' Yes, she
must receive this man smilingly whether he turns out to be a Sir Galahad
or not. I have gone too far to draw back now. It's annoying all the
same--pity there is so much sentimental nonsense in even the best of
women, and Dora is one out of ten thousand."

The final chords of a pianoforte solo reached his ears, followed by loud
applause.

"By Jove," said he, "I was nearly forgetting all about the party."

He hurriedly left the library and went upstairs to the drawing-room.



X

BELGRAVIA


Dora was receiving her guests at the top of the staircase, at the
entrance of the large drawing-room. Philip found about thirty people
already arrived, and he proceeded to shake hands and distribute words of
welcome. At half-past ten it had become difficult to circulate in the
rooms; the staircase and hall were crowded, but a stream of carriages
still flowed up.

At eleven o'clock the fête was at its height, veritably dazzling. The
lights, the flowers, made it a fairy scene. It was a phantasmagoria of
heads, bare shoulders, black coats, diamonds, shimmering satins, and
priceless lace; and, permeating the whole, a perfume as of hot-house
flowers.

All the types of society were to be recognised in the throng--the
diplomatists, with their eternal smile and irreproachably cut clothes;
the aristocracy, with its frigid bored look, occasionally smiling, as
if by mechanism; the City by its biblical noses; the Stock Exchange by
those cold, metallic, careworn men, aged before their time by the
wrinkles that money preoccupations plough on their foreheads; literature
by men bright and interested in everything around them, cheerily
provoking ripples of laughter among the women, and recounting their best
anecdotes among the men. The fine arts were represented by a few
noble-looking heads rising out of Shakespeare collars.

On all sides were exquisite toilettes, setting off forms of dazzling
fairness and admirable poise--a complete representative crowd of that
calm, proud, haughty British nation, full of dignity, robust health, and
self-confidence; a nation that holds in its hands the destinies of half
the earth.

Lorimer and de Lussac met in a corner of the drawing-room.

"What a reception!" said de Lussac. "All London is rubbing shoulders
here, in order to have a look at the man who has invented the famous
shell."

"And his wife," added Lorimer.

"And his wife," repeated de Lussac. "I never saw her looking so lovely.
Raphael might have drawn the oval of her face, Murillo her eyes, Titian
her hair, Rubens her shoulders."

"And a modern English painter the sadness of her brow," said Lorimer.
"Doesn't she look bored, poor woman?"

"That puts the finishing touch, and helps to make her superb--ideal. A
calm, cold, sad face is the one _mieux portée_ in England. It is almost
_de rigueur_. Nothing is such bad form as to appear to enjoy life. She
is quite _à la mode_."

"_A la mort_," said Lorimer. "My dear fellow, I'll tell you what it is,
such parties as this give me shivers down the back. Your countrywoman,
Madame Vigée-Lebrun, was right when she said, 'The English amuse
themselves as the French bore themselves.'"

"Then why do you come here, old fellow?"

"Oh, I! Why, I come as a doctor. I am deeply interested in a special
case. I am studying and following carefully the progress of a malady. I
am here diagnosing."

"And your patient is" ...

"Our worthy host," said Lorimer.

"How do you find him to-day?"

"The disease is taking its course; he will get over it; but the cure
will take time."

Lorimer fixed his eyeglass in his eye, and surveyed the crowd.

"Ah," he ejaculated, letting his glass drop again, "how I preferred the
good little Bohemian Sunday suppers, the pretty little house in St.
John's Wood! The servants were dismissed, and everybody helped everybody
else. There was a house where gaiety reigned supreme, _en autocrate_!
And what music we used to have! What glorious talks, what delicious
discussions on every topic under the sun! Artists, writers, journalists,
out-vied one another in brilliancy. Politics were put aside, and the
Bourse and all that makes modern life insufferable. We were never more
than twelve of us, so that the conversation could always be general,
and, for that matter, the house did not contain a room large enough to
hold comfortably more than a dozen people. How all the guests harmonised
together! Those were parties. Here they are funereal functions. In a
small room conversation is easy, people can talk easily. In a large room
one is swamped, and feels like a solution of oneself."

"I see," said de Lussac, "that in spite of all your successes, you have
remained a philosopher."

"More than ever. But look round you. Look at all these faces. These
people touch a spring to make themselves smile. Oh, if that is your
fashion of enjoying yourself, thanks, I prefer something else. Every
time I come among this set, I am taken with furious longings every
quarter of an hour to rush into the street and shout, to assure myself
that I am alive. Poor old Grantham! It was his dream to see his wife
shine in society. Poor devil! and such a good fellow, not to speak of
his great future as a painter. However, there is our hostess coming
towards us. Look at her! How happy she looks, this queen with her new
crown--a capital model for 'Mary Stuart going to the Scaffold.'"

De Lussac, recognising some people he knew, moved off to join their
group. Lorimer went towards Dora, who smiled with relief at seeing him
in the crowd. Everyone seemed to have arrived now, and there was no need
for her to remain at her post; but, in case of possible fresh comers,
she stayed near the entrance of the room. She looked pale, her face was
drawn with fatigue, and her eyes looked unnaturally large.

"Oh, what good it does one to see an old friend's familiar face in a
crowd like this," she said to Lorimer, drawing him back towards the
doorway of the large drawing-room. "My dear Gerald, I don't believe I
know by sight the half of my guests."

The idea struck her as so funny that she began to laugh heartily.

"Do you know half?" exclaimed Lorimer; "that is very good really. As for
the crowd, don't complain of that. An English hostess is a failure if
people do not stifle in her drawing-room; and if half a dozen women
faint, then the party is a social success that covers its giver with
glory. The society papers talk of her.--You seem tired."

"Yes," said Dora, "tired--at the end of my strength and my courage."

"Let me take you to the buffet."

They went down together. Lorimer got her a biscuit, an ice, and a glass
of champagne, and this light refreshment reanimated her.

On their way back to the drawing-room Lorimer took up the thread of the
conversation again.

"Come now, my dear Dora," said he, "your lot is very enviable after all,
you know. You are young, beautiful, rich, adored--one of the queens of
society. What more do you ask?"

"I ask nothing more," replied Dora; "I ask a great deal less. A queen in
society! I had rather be queen at home, as I used to be. We were left in
peace in those times. Now all the idlers pry into our life. And why?
Oh, it is too silly! Because Philip refused to sell Sir Benjamin Pond a
picture which he was painting for me. Yes, that is what is occupying
them to-night. They all go to have a look at the portrait, one after
another, and then they laugh. Can you conceive such a thing? There
exists, or rather there existed, a painter who loved his wife, and did
not mind showing it! Is it not droll? So vulgar, you know! It appears
that it creates high fun at the clubs. Ah, you may talk about women's
tongues, but to retail rubbish and circulate scandal, you must get a
dozen men together in a club smoking-room. They are beyond competition,
my dear Gerald. I would give all my guests for a couple of intimate
friends, for a couple of devoted relatives. Ah, you may say what you
like, blood is thicker than afternoon tea."

"You were too happy," said Lorimer, who had been amused at Dora's
tirade; "now you must share your happiness a little."

"Yes, and my husband with everybody. Where is my share? How I should
like to leave this room and go and sit in a quiet corner for a good
talk, such as we used to have in the good old times in the other house."

"Why move? Stay where you are, and instead of thinking yourself on
show, try and imagine that all this crowd is here for your amusement. I
know all your guests personally or by sight. I am your 'Who's who' for
to-night. Make use of me. I will show and explain the magic lantern."

"So you shall," said Dora, amused by the suggestion. "Now, then, who is
that horrible creature painted and dyed, with eyes half out of her head
and an eternal sickly smile on her face?"

"Lady Agatha Ashby, an old grump of the fashionable world. No one knows
her age. Some say it is seventy-two, others put it at a hundred and
seventy-two. She is enamelled, and the mouth, as you see it, is fixed in
that way with a smile that lasts three hours. They say she used to be
pretty and rather witty. Makes it her duty to know everybody worth
knowing. Will probably leave memoirs behind her--a diary at anyrate."

"And those?" said Dora, indicating two couples passing near her.

"The Earl of Gampton. Behind him the Countess, a young American woman,
who brought him three million dollars, with which he has been able to
get his coat-of-arms out of pawn. Our British aristocracy gets regilded
in Chicago and New York."

"How can a woman love or respect a man who allows himself to be
purchased for a title of nobility?"

"And," said Lorimer, "how can a man love or respect a woman who buys
him, and degrades him in his own eyes?"

"You are right," responded Dora. "I cannot see any possible element of
happiness in such marriages. She is ugly," she added, after taking a
second look at the Countess.

"Beauty fades," said Lorimer, in excuse for Lord Gampton.

"Yes, but ugliness remains," replied Dora.

"And the dollars, too, happily--it is a compensation--a fine indemnity."

"Not always; fortunes have been known to fade too."

"Ah," ejaculated Lorimer, as there passed by him a middle-aged man,
fairly good-looking, but wearing a forbidding, sulky expression, "there
is Sir George Hardy. He has not inflicted his wife on you."

"No, thank Heaven!--if what people say is true."

"True enough. People don't ask Lady Hardy, but Sir George is a
philosopher; he does not resent being asked out alone; and he has the
good sense never to try and introduce one to his wife. There are two
kinds of women--those you marry, and those you don't introduce to your
friends. Sir George has them both in one."

"What a dead-weight such a woman must be! To be proud of one's wife, to
be proud of one's husband--that is one of the great keys to happiness in
married life. Oh, Gerald, do look at that imposing-looking matron; who
is she?"

"The Dowager-Countess of Chausey, pretty well known for her serious
flirtations in 1850."

"How can a woman of her age go about so outrageously uncovered? So long
as English women do not show their feet, they think they are all right.
Her dress is perfectly indecent."

"Not the dress, but its contents," said Lorimer. "The Countess might, it
is true, draw a veil across the past and leave something to the
imagination of the beholder. But the fun of the thing is, that the
dowager is one of the vice-presidents of the society recently founded
for the suppression of the nude in our museums and picture galleries. O
the British matron!"

"What a proud carriage she has for a woman of her age," said Dora.

"One would think she was carrying the Holy Grail--two Holy Grails in a
Parsifal procession."

"Upon my word, I do believe," said Dora, "that women nowadays trust to
providence to keep their dresses on their backs! But what lovely frocks!
I do not understand how there can still be people who say that the
English woman does not know how to dress."

"Not now. A few years back one might have said with truth that the
German woman was covered, the English woman was clothed!"

"Not always," said Dora, laughing.

"The American was arrayed, but the French woman alone was dressed. In
the present day, the English woman of good society dresses as tastefully
as her French sisters, and this fact would be known in France, if
English women had not that bad habit of putting all their oldest
garments into requisition when they travel."

"French women have not much to teach us now."

"One or two things still. A little Parisian dressmaker, who would come
over and set up in England to teach English women to hold their dresses
up in the street, ought to make a fortune in no time. It is the most
graceful, artistic, and typical movement of the French woman."

"On the other hand, my dear Gerald," said Dora, "French women mince or
trot or proceed, English women walk. We are their superiors in many
things."

"We might make comparisons without end, and finally be sorely puzzled
where to award the prize."

Here the servant announced "Mrs. Van der Leyd Smith."

"Smythe--not Smith," said the new arrival, indignantly turning to the
domestic.

"That is the mother of Lady Gampton," whispered Lorimer to Dora.

Dora rose and went to shake hands with her.

"I am a little late," she said; "I have been to the Queen's Theatre to
see _Majella_. It is a play that will draw crowded houses till the end
of next season. You have seen it, of course."

"Yes," said Dora, "I was at the first night--allow me to introduce its
author--Mr. Gerald Lorimer."

"What a pleasure to meet you!" said she, as Lorimer came forward and
bowed. "I congratulate you sincerely; your play is a _chef-d'oeuvre_.
The house was packed to-night, and the enthusiasm boundless."

"I am happy the public appreciate the play," said Lorimer, bowing his
acknowledgments of her compliments.

"_Majella_ will place our old friend in the front rank of the dramatic
authors of the day."

"And fill his coffers to the brim," said the American lady, with a
knowing glance, which meant, "that is the main thing."

Lorimer and Dora exchanged comprehensive looks. The lady's wink had
explained in one flash the motto of New York. Not _who are you?_ nor
_what are you?_ nor yet _what have you done?_ but _how much do you
make?_

Loud and evidently sincere applause was heard coming from the smaller
drawing-room where the concert was being given. Presently there
appeared, making towards the staircase, a tall fair young man who
replied by smiles and repeated bows to the bravos which were accorded to
him by this _blasé_ audience of people, little accustomed to lavish
applause on anyone. It was Schowalski, a well-known pianist who came to
London every year to give a concert, and play in drawing-rooms during
the season. At a certain distance, Schowalski's head recalled that of
his celebrated compatriot and confrère Paderewski; however, he had not
the delicate, finely chiselled profile which gives the latter his
striking and unforgetable physiognomy. Taller, more vigorous, more
solidly and massively built, with long light hair, straight and thick,
and his enormous moustache falling in a semicircle around the mouth, he
might have sat for Brennus or Vercingetorix.

Dora held out her hand as he was about to go downstairs.

"Thanks a thousand times," said she; "you have played like an angel."

And she introduced him to the American lady still at her side.

"I had the honour of making madame's acquaintance in New York," said
Schowalski, bowing.

"Really," replied Mrs. W. G. van der Leyd Smythe, "when was that?"

"Why, two years ago in New York, in your drawing-room, where I had the
honour of playing."

"That's true--I think I remember--in January 1896; yes, yes--delighted
to meet you again, Mr. ... I never can remember names--what is his name
again?" asked she of Dora.

Schowalski heard no more. He bowed, shook hands with a few friends and
disappeared.

"Schowalski is one of the greatest pianists of the day," said Dora.

"I know, I know," said the lady with the string of names, "but what
impertinence to enter into conversation with your guests, as if he had
been invited. Upon my word, the effrontery of these musicians!"

She followed him with her eyes as she stared through a pair of
long-handled glasses, that are a weapon of offence in the fingers of
some women.

"Well, to be sure," she cried, "if he isn't shaking hands with Lady
Gampton now! My dear Mrs. Grantham, in New York we do not entertain
musicians, we engage them to entertain us--we pay them and we are
quits."

"My dear Mrs. Van der Leyd Smith"--

"Smythe," said the lady, correcting Dora.

"Excuse me, I never can remember names. In England, artists like
Schowalski are received by the aristocracy and even at Court. Perhaps
that makes them so bold as to think they may be fit to associate with
the aristocracy of New York."

"Take that," she said to herself.

The magnificent New Yorker fanned herself, smiled a little awry, and
went to join the group which held her daughter, the Countess of Gampton.

Lorimer had not lost a word of the conversation. He would fain have
cried "Bravo."

"For a _débutante_," said he, "you are going strong--that was
promising."

"My dear Gerald, I feel that I am getting spiteful--I shall bite soon."

Just at this moment, quite near the door, she perceived a lady taking
notes. She had already noticed her before--this person who drew up every
now and then near certain groups, carefully studied the dresses, and
looked up and down the people whom she did not seem to know.

"Do tell me," Dora said to Lorimer, "who is that woman who puzzles me
so? What is she doing? She seems to be taking notes; just now she was
making little sketches--she is an artist, no doubt."

"How innocent you are!" cried Lorimer, laughing loudly. "Yes, she is an
artist, if you will--who works for some fashion paper--or a lady
reporter taking notes for a society paper."

"But I do not know her," said Dora; "I am perfectly sure I never asked
her here."

"You, no; but perhaps someone else. For that matter reporters find
their way pretty nearly everywhere without invitation. It is their
calling. This one is taking notes, to publish in her paper an account of
your party."

"But it is an insult," cried Dora; "I wish they would leave me alone. I
don't want accounts in papers--my house is private."

"Wait a moment--why, yes," exclaimed Lorimer, who had just put up his
eyeglass to look at the lady in question; "yes, of course, I know her,
she writes for _The Social Wave_, a paper for people in the swim. Shall
I introduce her to you?"

"Oh, no thank you, please don't," replied Dora.

"Some time ago," continued Lorimer, "I used to meet her often at
parties. She is a rather clever little woman, and has the knack of
turning out readable paragraphs. She is tolerated everywhere for the
sake of what she writes--you know, there are plenty of people who like
publicity."

Lorimer had noticed that the lady reporter had let fall two leaves from
her notebook. He watched his opportunity, picked them up, and brought
them to Dora.

"Look, we are going to have some fun. I have samples. Listen, 'Lady
Mardon looked thrillingly lovely in electric blue ... her superb
shoulders'" ...

"Enough, enough," said Dora. "The idea of it."

"Wait a minute; here is something else. 'Lady Margaret Solby wore a
dream of sea-green and salmon, and was the admiration of everyone. Mrs.
Van der Leyd Smythe received congratulations on all sides on the subject
of her daughter's marriage with the young Earl of Gampton.'"

"And people read that!" said Dora.

"Certainly, and, more wonderful still, people buy it. Oh, listen to
this, here is something that concerns you personally. 'Mrs. Philip
Grantham wore a dress of white satin, trimmed with lace and silver
embroidery, and, blazing with diamonds and emeralds, received her guests
with a simplicity and a grace which will speedily make her one of the
most popular hostesses in London.' Now, that is what I call amiable; she
treats you with generosity." And seeing that Dora seemed very much
annoyed, he added, "That is the kind of literature that delights our
modest countrywomen."

"There are no more journalists," said Dora, with disgust, "there are
only _concierges_."

She took the pages and tore them in shreds. Then, with a little feeling
of shame at having been amusing herself at the expense of her guests,
she rose, made a little sign to Lorimer, and was soon swallowed up in
the crush, saying a few pleasant words here and there to her
acquaintances as she went.

Lorimer went down to the buffet, where he found Schowalski, who was
going in heavily for sandwiches, cakes and ices and champagne. The
appetite of musicians is proverbial!

"Ah, Monsieur Lorimer," said he, "I am so glad to see you, you will be
the very man to render me a little service. I have just finished," he
added in confidence, "a grand concerto in four parts for the piano. In
that concerto I have expressed all the great sorrows of life: First, an
adagio--sad, full of tears; then a grand allegro, full of despair. You
understand, don't you? Well, what I am trying to find is a title, a
telling title. As a playwright you know the importance of a good title.
Can you suggest something?"

"My dear sir," said Lorimer, "great sorrows are silent."

"What do you mean?" asked the pianist, for whom British humour was a
closed letter. "Are you joking with me? How can one be silent and make
music?"

The most thankless task in the world is explaining a joke to a person
who has not seen it. Lorimer did not try, and after suggesting _Les
peines du Coeur_, _Angoisses de l'âme_, _Le Mal de dents_, _Les
Désespoirs de l'Amour_, and a few other eye-tickling titles, he left the
puzzled composer and made his way upstairs. It was close upon midnight,
the hour at which supper was to be served.



XI

GENERAL SABAROFF


Philip was here, there, and everywhere, playing the host to the
admiration of all. Everyone voted him charming. The most exacting
society critics admired the ease with which he did the honours of his
house, and declared that Philip Grantham was a gentleman. The English
man of the world has no higher dignity to confer.

No one thought of going away, although the crowd began to be stifling,
but an English crowd is ready to endure anything in order to contemplate
at close quarters the celebrity of the moment. The lion that they were
expecting to roar for them this evening was General Sabaroff, the _pièce
de résistance_ of the evening.

Philip began to fear that the General had been detained by some
unforeseen business, and would not put in an appearance after all. He
had not sent out invitations "to meet General Sabaroff," but he had
told a great many of his guests beforehand that he expected him; one
person had told another; and it came to much the same thing.

He caught sight of de Lussac, who threw him an appealing little glance
which plainly said, "Come to my rescue." He found the young diplomat in
the toils of Mrs. Van der Leyd Smythe. He joined them and led off de
Lussac, after having passed the lady on to an old banker who happened to
be standing near, alone and negotiable.

"My dear fellow," said de Lussac, "I owe you a debt of gratitude for
having extracted me from the clutches of that American mamma. I have had
to listen to the history of the noble house of Gampton. Upon my word, a
lot of those worthy Americans are prouder of their aristocratic
alliances than of the brave pioneers who founded the United States. They
would sell all the shirt sleeves that felled the forests of America for
the coat-of-arms of some ancestor ennobled, a few centuries ago, for
something which to-day would perhaps be rewarded with a few years' penal
servitude."

"Snobbishness," said Philip, "is a disease that one meets with in all
Anglo-Saxons, but with terrible complications in certain Americans....
I almost expected the Minister for War. His lordship promised me he
would come."

"If I were you," replied de Lussac, "I would not count upon him. I know
he is very busy to-day. Special order to send to Woolwich Arsenal; a
message of congratulation to telegraph to the Sirdar on his victory at
Atbara; orders to send to various regiments to hold themselves in
readiness to set out for India--it appears there is rather disquieting
news in the North-West; a consultation with the Commander-in-Chief; a
Cabinet Council. Besides which, I fancy, he has promised to speak
to-night at a meeting of the Peace Association at the Queen's Hall: the
ubiquity of some of you Englishmen is simply prodigious."

"A fine programme," said Philip, "a well-filled day indeed--I should
have been pleased to receive his congratulations. Oh, he must be vexed
to have been, so to speak, the cause of the refusal I have met with in
my own country. Why did they refuse my shell? I should have been prouder
of my invention if I had been able to ensure the advantages of it to my
motherland."

"My dear fellow, the English do not invent; they buy the inventions of
outsiders when they are successful. They looked upon the inventor of
the Suez Canal as a dangerous lunatic; to turn him from his project they
went so far as to rake up an old theory of Herodotus, that the Red Sea
and the Mediterranean were on different levels. At the present day, they
hold four millions-worth of stock in the concern, and would only like to
have the lot. The fact is, if ever England should meet with a great
reverse, if ever she comes to grief, she will have only her vanity and
self-confidence to thank."

"Our security is so great."

"I know that," said de Lussac, laughing--"your volunteers can insure
their lives without paying any extra premium. By-the-bye, General
Sabaroff is in London. He says he has come over to consult a certain
oculist. You may be sure, dear boy, that the eye he is concerned about
is the one he means to keep on you."

"I know he is in town--I expect him to-night."

"I heard that just now in the other room--you lose no time."

De Lussac drew Philip towards the landing, which was clear of people for
the moment.

"With the General, I don't see that you need make a secret of your
shell. Russia is our ally; it is to our advantage that she should
possess the best possible weapons; and I don't believe the French
Government would have any objection to Russia's profiting by your
invention."

"Really?" said Philip anxiously--"nor do I. I had already thought of it
in that light myself, I confess."

"Well, you are a gallant man, I must say, to leave me in the lurch like
that," cried Mrs. Van der Leyd Smythe, who now came up. "You went off
just as I was going to introduce you to three prominent American women
who are dying to make your acquaintance."

"Well then, by all means, let us go and save their lives," said de
Lussac.

"One of them," said his companion, as she led him towards the small
drawing-room, "is a well-known literary woman, another is a celebrated
public speaker, and the other" ...

"Oh, please," exclaimed de Lussac, "can't you introduce me to some
pretty woman who has never done anything at all?"

A servant, who had just come upstairs, announced in a loud voice, "His
Excellency General Sabaroff."

The name passed from mouth to mouth, and there was a general lull in the
conversation; the crowd surged towards the door, and with frantic
cranings of the neck endeavoured to get a glimpse of the new arrival.

Dora had recognised him at once. He had not changed. Sabaroff, on his
side, as soon as he caught sight of Dora at the top of the staircase,
had exclaimed inwardly, "It is she after all; I was told right--it is my
lovely English girl of Monte Carlo."

Not a look nor a movement of Sabaroff or of Dora had escaped Philip: "It
is the same man," he said to himself--"they recognise each other."

He moved towards the General.

"Your Excellency is very good to have come," he said.

And, leading him to where Dora was standing, he went through with an
introduction.

Sabaroff bowed, kissed Dora's hand respectfully, and addressed a few
commonplace words to her to excuse himself for coming so late.

General Ivan Sabaroff, Minister of War to his Majesty the Czar and
Autocrat of all the Russias, was forty-five years of age, but, thanks to
the military bearing which always rejuvenates a man's appearance by a
few years, he looked scarcely forty. The ladies declared at once that he
was a superb man, and indeed the General had a striking-looking
appearance.

In the streets of any town, people would have turned round to look at
him, the women saying, "What a fine man!" the men, "That is somebody!"

Six feet three in his stockings, broad of shoulder, admirably
proportioned, with an iron will written on his face, a herculean
strength and remarkable suppleness of body, the head dignified and
proudly set on a large neck, the face stern with keen scrutinising eyes,
straight prominent nose, a sensual mouth, with full red lips and a thick
black moustache twisted into two sharp points, the General looked like a
man who might be as redoubtable in a boudoir as on a battlefield. As a
matter of fact he had won many hearts in the former and many victories
in the latter. Not being married, he had risked his reputation in the
service of women, and his life in the service of his sovereign, with
more impunity and less hesitation than might otherwise have been the
case.

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, delighted," he said to Dora.

And in a lower tone he added, "To renew your acquaintance."

Dora, fearing that the General might give a disagreeable turn to the
conversation, hastened to make the first remark that passed through her
mind. Nothing betrayed the uneasiness she felt at seeing this man again.

"Has your Excellency been long in London?" she asked of Sabaroff, in her
calmest tones.

"A few days only. I have come to consult an oculist who has been
specially recommended to me; and, besides, I have wanted for some time
past to visit England and see some of my old friends here."

Sabaroff was a man of the world. He knew that it would be bad form to
monopolise his hostess, so he exchanged a few words more with her on
trivial topics, and then, accompanied by Philip, entered the
drawing-room. He recognised an acquaintance here and there, to whom he
bowed. Philip introduced a few people to him, and he was soon the centre
of an interested group.

"I hope," said Lord Bentham, "that your Excellency's impressions of the
English are favourable. We do our best to make ourselves agreeable to
distinguished strangers who visit us."

"And we love to know what they think of us," added Lady Margaret Solby,
who had drawn near the General and now placed herself in front of him,
that he might have an opportunity of noting at his ease all the good
points of a handsome Englishwoman.

"I have never," said Sabaroff to Lord Bentham, "met such kind and
hospitable people as your compatriots; abroad they are sometimes haughty
and, I may add" ...

"Extremely disagreeable," said his lordship, finishing the sentence.

"No, I do not say that. In any case, that could only be on the surface,
for at home they are a revelation, really the most charming hosts in the
world. To study a man, you must study him when he is at home. On foreign
soil he is playing a part that he only knows imperfectly. He is
hampered, and is scarcely a free agent. He is often misunderstood. He is
not in his proper setting, much less in his element. I am convinced that
when the Creator made man, He must have said to him, 'Thou shalt stay at
home.'"

"A commandment which we English have sadly neglected, then," remarked
Philip.

"And our English women, General?" questioned Lady Margaret, simpering
and attracting his attention by expert fan wavings to a figure which she
knew was above criticism, a figure such as English women can claim
almost a monopoly in.

"Oh, they are beautiful, they are glorious!" said Sabaroff, with the air
of a connoisseur; "they are dreams, angels of beauty. What flowing
lines, what graceful proportions, what lovely complexions, what fine
delicately carved features! They are vignettes! When an Englishwoman is
beautiful, madame, she is beyond competition."

"And when she is ugly?" said Lady Margaret.

"Oh, Heaven help her!" said Lorimer, who had just been introduced to
Sabaroff, and who, surrounded as he was by pretty women, did not fear to
risk a joke at the expense of the absent, who are always out of it.

"I am very proud, General, to hear your Excellency express yourself so
warmly on the subject of English women's beauty," exclaimed Lady
Margaret.

"And all those attributes of the beautiful woman," murmured Sabaroff in
her ear, "I find united near me."

And with a rapid and comprehensive glance he made an inventory of her
charms.

Sabaroff had as keen a scent for game as the huntsman's dog, and he
could recognise a coquette a mile off. He knew just how much he could
say to certain women without running the risk of offending them. Lady
Margaret flirted her fan as every woman should do in such a
circumstance, made a profound curtsey to the General, and from behind
her fan shot at him, out of the corners of her eyes, the invitation of
the flirt, which seems to promise so much, but which means so little. I
think it was Georges Sand who wittily said, "The flirt is a woman who
signs a bill with the firm intention of not honouring her signature."

In the centre of a neighbouring group, Sir Benjamin Pond was holding
forth on commerce, politics, the theatre, and fine arts--all subjects
were within the domain of this pompous personage with the white
waistcoat.

"Yes, the Ministry ought to be impeached for having allowed such an
acquisition to go out of the country. We are the richest and most
enterprising people in the world, but the most stupid, the most
obstinate, and the slowest to adopt new ideas"--he looked round him at
the rooms. "What a house he has, this lucky dog! Six months ago he was
living in a little shanty in St. John's Wood. What luxury! Shells pay
better than painting. Why, there is Mr. Lorimer; my congratulations;
your play is a masterpiece, you have taken London by storm! Oh, but for
taking the world by storm, give me the invention of our friend Grantham.
That's a _bon mot_, and not a bad one either."

"What a donkey!" thought Lorimer.

"His shell fell on us like a bomb, eh? Ah, ha, ha!" and as he laughed
his loud guffaw, his white waistcoat kept time.

Lorimer slipped away and returned to Dora's side. Pond rejoined him
almost immediately.

"Mrs. Grantham, Lady Pond has the greatest desire to see the famous
picture."

"What famous picture?" asked Dora.

"Why, the one that all London is talking of--the one I so much wanted to
buy six months ago."

"You remember," said Lorimer, "thirty-six by fifty" ...

"Oh, of course. You can see it in the adjoining room, at the end of the
small drawing-room."

"Thanks!"

And he set off in the direction indicated.

"Always that picture," said Dora to Lorimer; "my head is dazed; why do
we not go to supper and put an end to this? Holloa! What is that frantic
applause for?... Listen, they are going on with it, they are encoring
something. What can it be all about?"

Lorimer pressed through the crowd a little, and then came back to Dora.

"You may count upon something spicy," said he; "it is Mimi Latouche,
once the darling of Paris, now all the rage in London. Did you ask her
here to-night?"

"I asked her--that is to say, the impresario who has charge of my
programme sent her."

"Don't apologise; Mimi is all the go; it is who shall have her; and I
suppose you ought to consider yourself lucky to be able to serve her up
to your guests. You used to live in an artistic circle, that you could
charm with a Beethoven quartette. Now you move in a set where classical
music would clear your drawing-room as rapidly as a raid of police would
a gambling den."

Mimi Latouche had just finished her second song. There was a fresh sound
of applause, and cries of "Bravo" were heard as she left the small
drawing-room accompanied by de Lussac, and followed by half a dozen
young men. She passed in front of Dora, and brought up near the door by
de Lussac.

"_Hein!_ Georges, don't you think I knock 'em with my songs?"

"They are enchanted with you, you electrify them. Your songs are awfully
jolly, as they say here--light, crisp, and so daring; but these people
have not understood, and if they had, it would not matter; they will
applaud, when it is done in a foreign language, a thing that they would
not tolerate a moment in their own."

"Your English people, my boy, are hypocrites. When I am in the bill at
_Les ambassadeurs_, the place is always full of English--my songs are
_canaille_, aren't they? really _canaille_. The English like that kind
of thing. They give me ovations at the Pavilion every night, and I get
bouquets by the bushel. Why, old chappie, since I took up the _canaille_
line I have been making my four hundred pounds a week. I have an offer
of ten thousand pounds, to appear in New York for six weeks. Would you
believe it? I say, Georges, look what I found in my box at the Pav.
to-night"; and she showed de Lussac a lovely bouquet of white orchids.

"Superb!" exclaimed the young man.

"Yes, old boy, but look what there is inside it."

So saying, she drew out a handsome bracelet of rubies and diamonds.

"Exquisite!" said de Lussac; "is it the price of laxity hidden in the
emblem of chastity? It is a diplomatist who sent you that. Flowers have
often served as Cupid's letter-box."

"Hush! it is from Sabaroff. The bracelet is worth four hundred pounds,
at least."

"Sabaroff? Why, he is here."

"I know that very well," said Mimi; "look at him over there talking to
the lady in pearl grey."

"I see him; he is gazing her out of countenance," said de Lussac.

"Out of countenance? Out of corset, you mean. Sabaroff has a way of
staring at a woman; it makes her quite nervous to be near him if she has
on evening dress."

"My dear Mimi, I did not know you were so easily shocked."

"Oh! when I say a woman I don't mean myself--that sort of thing doesn't
affect me, you may imagine. I am quite at his disposition--and yours
too, yours especially--you are perfectly mashing to-night. After all
these Englishmen, dear boy, it is a treat to look at a Frenchman; to be
looked at by one--dessert after dinner."

Dora had heard it all. Her indignation was at boiling point.

"I am going to turn that creature out," she said to Lorimer.

"Oh, don't, I beg of you, Dora," replied Lorimer. "It might make a
scandal--that woman would not hesitate to insult you."

But Dora was determined to get rid of Mimi, and, addressing her, said,
"I will not trouble you to sing any more, mademoiselle; I will send you
your cheque to-morrow." So saying, she turned her back on Mimi.

"Much obliged," said the latter. And, turning to de Lussac, she added,
"Well, I never! She wants to dismiss me. Did you ever hear such cheek?
Much obliged, but I'm starving hungry. I'm off to the buffet--your arm,
Georges."

She went down with de Lussac.

Lorimer began to be seriously concerned about Dora. She was pale as
death, and seemed every now and then on the point of fainting. She had
been going through tortures, but the thing which had dealt her a
terrible blow was a scrap of conversation, which she had just heard as
she passed through the drawing-room.

"It happens every day, and in the best society," said a man whom she did
not recognise. "One constantly sees a man making use of his wife's
attractions to further his own ends. It is called diplomacy."

"In such cases the wife is often an innocent agent."

"That is true, but the husband is none the less reprehensible for that,"
added a third voice.

Of whom had they been speaking? There was a singing in her ears. Great
Heaven! was it of her? She closed her eyes and thought she was going to
lose consciousness.

Lorimer took it upon him to go to Philip and tell him that Dora was
tired and unwell, and that it would perhaps be unwise to expose her to
any more fatigue that evening.

"Thanks, dear old fellow," said Philip, "it will be all over in an hour
or less; we are going to supper in a moment."

Lorimer had found Philip engaged in describing his shell to Sabaroff.

Philip went at once to Dora; her pallor frightened him. Taking her hands
in his own, he said--

"Well, darling, how do you feel? You look tired; keep up your courage,
we are going to supper now. In an hour's time you will be free to
rest--you must not get up to-morrow; the next day you will feel nothing
more of it. Everything has gone beautifully, everybody is delighted with
the evening they have passed. The General is interested in my shell--I
am convinced that Russia will offer me a fortune for it; but why do you
look at me in that way?"

"I am tired to death; I don't feel well; I cannot go on any longer."

"Have courage, dear; it is nearly over. The hour has come when you can
do great things for me; a wife can be of such help to her husband--with
a little diplomacy."

Dora shuddered--it was the phrase which she had just heard. The room
seemed to swim round as she heard Philip repeat the words.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Why, nothing very difficult for you,--help me with a few smiles; invite
the General to come and see us sometimes. Why do you look at me in that
strange fashion?"

"You want me to ask that man to come and see me as a friend, after what
I have told you?"

"Why not?" said Philip. "Come, be a good girl; when I have sold my
invention, I will never think of anything but you and my painting. I
shall install myself in the most sumptuous studio that ever inspired an
artist. Forgive me my thirst for a little more wealth. I shall soon have
quenched it for ever. You will help me, won't you?"

"Once more, what is it you would have me to do?"

"We are going to supper--you will take General Sabaroff's arm."

"No, no, not that," said Dora, with an imploring look at Philip.

"Yes, yes, you cannot refuse. You are the hostess and he the principal
guest. I expect you to go down with him."

Sabaroff had drawn near to them; Dora could refuse no longer. She bent
her head and said to Philip--

"Very well."

"Will your Excellency offer your arm to my wife?"

Dora mastered her emotion, her weakness, and her indignation. Many eyes
were upon her; not a moment's hesitation was possible. She lifted her
head proudly, took the proffered arm, and went down to supper.



XII

THE HUSBAND, THE WIFE, AND THE OTHER


After going through the unaccustomed and fatiguing function, which we
have tried to describe in the two preceding chapters, Dora took a day or
two's rest in the house. During this time of repose, which her husband
had specially enjoined her to indulge in, she resolved to limit her
social relations, and consecrate most of her time to her child, who was
beginning to cause her some anxiety. Eva was not strong, and it became
more and more evident from her frequent complaints that a delicacy of
the throat was constitutional in the child. She, who up to this time
passed her days playing in the open air, had now to be content with a
sedate walk in the Park, which she could only take hatted, gloved, and
accompanied by a servant. Good-bye to the romps and scampers on the lawn
and the merry hours of delicious freedom she used to enjoy so much with
her little friends. Children are only happy and gay where there is no
atmosphere of restraint.

Dora continued to take an interest in household matters, kept her house
with scrupulous care and with economy, so as to avoid or, at any rate,
retard the financial wreck which she believed to be ahead. She put into
requisition all her house-wifely arts, learnt in the happy school of
their early married life, and all the ingenious tastefulness of the
artistic woman she was, in order that Philip should not discover that
she had conceived a complete distaste for the existence which she was
forced to lead, nor accuse her of trying to keep aloof from the life of
fashionable society.

The unhappy woman was wearied and worn by her secret struggles, and
almost crazy at the thought that her husband's heart had ceased to beat
for her. The more she thought of that which was going on, the wider the
chasm which separated her from Philip appeared to grow.

She had reached a point at which the question arose in her mind, whether
Philip, in his craving for the success of his new plans, did not seek
to push her into the arms of General Sabaroff.

That revolting thought filled her with such horror that she dared not
entertain it long. "No," she said to herself, "a man does not change so
suddenly as that; he does not take six years to reveal himself, and
then, at a day's notice, become transformed from an affectionate
husband, an honourable, upright, and devoted man, into a nameless
scoundrel." When she argued with herself, she arrived at the conclusion
that she must be mad to have allowed such an idea to enter her brain,
and yet, drive it away as she would, the horrible thought assailed her
more and more persistently.

Dora was above all things a woman of sound intelligence. After mature
reflection she traced for herself a line of conduct that seemed to her
the only wise one. First, she took a firm resolution never to address
any more reproaches to Philip. Things had gone too far for
recriminations to have any effect upon him. She was clear-sighted enough
to know that a husband's vagrant affection is not won back by reprimands
and reproaches, but only by sweetness, persuasion, and diplomacy. Her
greatest fear was that her temper might sour, and against this
possibility she set herself to watch most rigorously. She did her best
to be attractive, and cultivated a gaiety that should help her to break
down the cold barrier that seemed to have fixed itself between her and
this man who had so detached himself from her. She took more care than
ever of her appearance, and called all her taste into play to help her
set off her beauty to best advantage.

One evening, when she was dressing for dinner, she remembered that
Philip had said to her, before the arrival of their guests at their
memorable evening party, "How beautiful you are! How I should love to
have you all to myself this evening!" Women seldom forget a remark of
that sort. She put on the same dress that had charmed Philip so much,
and went downstairs looking her loveliest. After dinner they passed the
evening in Dora's boudoir, where she allowed her husband to smoke his
cigarette, and smoked one herself when the temptation took her. Philip
took no notice of his wife's attire; no remark, no compliment passed his
lips. Tired of the tête-à-tête, he took up a book and yawned over it for
a while, and about eleven o'clock went out for a breath of air. "It is
hopeless; I am done for," said Dora, when Philip had left her, and she
burst into tears.

What had come over this man who thus caused such suffering to a
wife--young, beautiful, dowered with all the gifts that nature can
lavish upon a woman, and for whom he would certainly have been ready to
lay down his life, if necessary?

Lorimer was right; it was a special case, and he, as a psychologist,
watched its development with interest. The specialist declares that a
man absorbed in speculations is, naturally, fatally indifferent to all
the other affairs of life. Philip had been attacked with what we will
call mental absorption, a sort of bewitchment from which nothing could
exorcise him, so to speak, but some great shock, powerful and
unforeseen.

All the ideas which Dora had taken into her head were false. Philip
adored his wife. He was blinded by a thick veil, which he had not the
courage to tear from his eyes. He was so sure of attaining his aim in a
few days that he said to himself, "I shall soon be able to repair all my
faults. A little while and everything will go smoothly again. I shall be
free, master of myself once more, and there will be half a century in
front of me, in which to compensate Dora for the anxiety I am causing
her now." He was honest, and had only feelings of profound love and
respect for his wife; but to a looker-on, to Dora above all, the fact
was difficult to believe in, it must be confessed.

In order to keep up close relations with Sabaroff, Philip had asked him
to sit for his portrait. The General had accepted, and came three or
four times a week to pose in the room which served Philip as a studio.
Dora resigned herself to this humiliation. "He has not yet finished my
portrait," she said to herself, "but that man's, he will finish fast
enough." Not once, however, did she make a remark to Philip on the
matter.

Every Thursday Sabaroff came to call on Dora, who received him politely,
but coldly. On several occasions he found himself alone with her, and
Philip never thought of joining them. He ended by believing himself
encouraged by Philip in the assiduity of his visits to Dora. This woman
so impressed him that he never once ventured on a glib gallantry,
scarcely even an ordinary compliment. He felt himself on new ground and
not thoroughly at home in the presence of this being, who seemed never
to have been soiled by even an impure glance. Before her he became
almost timid, he the daring Don Juan of courts, who made light of women
whose conquest he had so often found easy, and for whom he felt the
sentiment of the Oriental, a sentiment made up of condescension and
fierce and short-lived passion, followed by contempt. Not more than one
woman had ever been able to boast of having been his mistress longer
than a week. And yet he had loved once in his life, loved with a noble
passion a young girl with a face full of lofty beauty, eyes in whose
look were depths of loyalty and truth, and on whose brow purity sat
enthroned. And that woman, whom he had thus loved, whose image had never
become completely effaced from his memory--that woman was Dora! whom he
here found again lovelier still than in bygone years, and married to a
man who was evidently absorbed in his invention and his calculations.

Sabaroff watched Philip and Dora attentively. He could not discover in
their conduct towards each other any of the thousand and one little
familiarities which always exist between two people living happily side
by side under one roof. He also thought that Philip opened his house to
him with an insistence almost suspicious, and yet Dora not only gave him
no encouragement, but seemed to behave with a studied reserve when in
his society. He concluded that she either felt complete indifference for
him, or that she hid her sentiments under a very clever mask. The more
he tried to understand, the more he lost himself in conjecture. In his
estimation, Philip was either a fool who neglected his wife, or an
intriguing fellow who sought to make use of her to attain his own ends.
One thing at all events was clear in his mind, and that was that there
existed between Philip and Dora no sentiment of affection, much less of
love. He resolved to await a favourable occasion, and not to decide upon
a plan of action until he was surer of his ground.

Philip had finished his portrait, and everyone who saw it declared that
no modern portrait-painter, since the death of Frank Holl, had done such
a fine piece of work. Dora, mortified and stung by jealousy, could not
help admiring her husband's masterpiece, and said to him: "Since you
wish for wealth, here is the means of attaining it; with a talent such
as yours you could soon command a thousand pounds for a portrait, and
paint ten or twelve a year."

His portrait finished, Sabaroff had less excuse for constant calls at
the house. He had to content himself with his weekly visits on Dora's
day. However, one day when he knew Philip to be absent and Dora at home,
he presented himself at the house; but Dora sent word that she was not
well and regretted to be unable to receive him. On the evening of the
same day, he received an invitation to dine with Philip and Dora, and
accepted it by return of post. The dinner was for the 15th of December.

Sabaroff's report upon Philip's shell had long since been sent to St.
Petersburg, and as he had marked it "Urgent and specially recommended,"
he expected a reply at any moment.

The day after Philip had sent to ask the General to dinner, he received
from him the following note:--

     "DEAR MR. GRANTHAM,--I have just received a letter from St.
     Petersburg from which I learn that the Commission, charged by his
     Imperial Majesty, my august master, to examine my report and that
     of the Council of Artillery upon the experiments made with your
     shell, will sit on the 15th of December, and will send me a wire
     the same evening to acquaint me with their decision. Thus I may
     possibly, as you see, have a piece of good news to give you at
     dessert.

     "Pray, dear Sir, present my most respectful compliments to Mrs.
     Grantham, and accept for yourself the assurance of my devoted
     regards.

                                        "IVAN SABAROFF."

Philip, overcome with joy, ran to show Dora Sabaroff's letter.

"At last," he cried, "we are near the goal. Ten days more and I shall
know whether they take my shell or not. And then, from that day, Heaven
be thanked, no more invention on the brain, no more anxiety, no more
worry; I shall be rich, and I shall get at my work again, the work that
you love. Only, you know, I shall take things easily. I shall not work
now to pay the tradespeople; I shall paint seriously, I tell you."

Seeing a ray of joy pass over Dora's face, he added, "You see, I do not
intend to throw all overboard. Look here, we have been married six
years, and you don't know me yet. That's the fact of the matter."

His gaiety and enthusiasm of other days seemed to have come back again,
and Dora's heart leapt within her at the sight. She went so far as to
encourage him in his present hopes, but more especially applauded the
resolution that he appeared to have taken to return to his old work.
Philip took her in his arms and kissed her more tenderly than he had
done for six months past.

"After all," said Dora to herself, "my suspicions were perhaps absurd;
there was no foundation for them. I have had a bad dream, a horrible
nightmare--I must fling it off. It is all over--patience, patience. Just
a few days longer."

Next time Sabaroff called, Dora received him with less coldness and
reserve. She was cheerful, amiable, and appeared almost glad to see him.
This new attitude delighted him. There was no mistaking the looks he
gave her, his whole body betrayed the feelings of this man for Dora.

"After all," she thought, "in a few days he will be back in St.
Petersburg, and I shall have finished for ever with his Excellency the
War Minister of his Majesty the Czar of all the Russias."

On the 13th, Philip received a telegram calling him to Paris at once. He
was begged to spend a few hours at the arsenal of artillery with the
Ministre de la guerre.

He could not refuse. He wired immediately that he would comply without
delay.

Dora naturally proposed to send at once to General Sabaroff, asking him
to dine with them another evening instead of on the 15th.

"No, no," said Philip; "I shall leave Paris the day after to-morrow by
the nine o'clock train in the morning. It is the mail, and I shall
arrive in London at half-past four; even allowing for a couple of hours
of possible delay, I should still reach home in good time. Besides," he
said, glancing at a newspaper, "the barometer is rising, the sea is
good, there is no danger of bad weather and delays."

It was in vain for Dora to persist, Philip would not consent to any
change in the arrangement.

"My dear child, one cannot put off a Minister at a moment's notice, when
one has asked him to dinner. I would rather refuse to go to Paris, and
you know it would be impossible to do that. I really must respond to
this request, which is as natural as it is cordial. I owe some
consideration to those good Frenchmen for buying my shell of me, and, no
doubt, it is to ask my advice on some matter that they want me at the
arsenal in a hurry. And then, you know, I have another reason for
specially wanting to meet General Sabaroff here on the 15th--it is on
the 15th that I am to hear Russia's decision."

Dora saw that it was useless to argue the point any further.

Philip's preparations for departure were rapidly made; in a few minutes
he was ready to set out for Paris. He sprang into a cab and reached
Charing Cross ten minutes before the eleven o'clock mail train was ready
to start. At seven in the evening he was in Paris.



XIII

A CRUEL ORDEAL


On the 15th of December, at eight o'clock in the evening, Philip had not
arrived home.

General Sabaroff came at the hour appointed. Great was his surprise to
find only Dora and her sister in the drawing-room. He had been invited
to dine quite informally, but he expected to see at least two or three
other guests. Far from regretting their non-appearance, he congratulated
himself on his good luck, and thanked his hostess for showing him this
mark of friendly intimacy. It occurred to him that, perhaps, Dora's
sister would not stay long after dinner. When Dora, humiliated and
mortified, explained to him that Philip had not returned from Paris, she
was very naturally profuse in her apologies. Sabaroff concluded that a
tête-à-tête had been arranged. "At any rate," he thought to himself, "I
shall soon be clear on that point."

Dinner was announced, and Gabrielle went down to the dining-room,
followed by Dora, to whom Sabaroff had offered his arm.

The dinner proceeded, excellent and well served in itself, but a
wearisome function to all three partakers of it. Dora was too much a
prey to the most painful reflections to play the hostess with her usual
grace. Gabrielle, at no time a conversationalist of any brilliancy,
detached as she was from social pleasures by duty and inclination, sat
almost mute. Sabaroff himself suffered from the constraint which the
presence of this hospital nurse imposed upon him. He could never
dissociate her from her semi-religious habiliments, which inspired him
with an enforced respect. Dora, feeling stranded and forlorn, wrapped
herself in a reserve of manner that was unmistakable, and Gabrielle, as
the dinner proceeded, grew more and more a prey to vague alarms while
she watched the burning glances that Sabaroff threw at Dora. The dinner
was of the simplest and lasted at the utmost an hour, but to the poor
girl it seemed unending.

At last they were all three on their feet again, and she and Dora were
moving to the drawing-room, where she would be able to speak freely to
her sister, perhaps, and ease her mind.

"We will leave you to your cigar, General," said Dora, taking the lead
into the doorway.

The General bowed, and, when they had gone, he seated himself again, lit
a cigar, and fell into a reverie.

As soon as Dora reached the drawing-room, she threw herself into her
sister's arms. "I am so glad that you came this evening," she said. "Eva
is not at all well. The dear child seems to get less and less strong as
she grows older. I often feel quite concerned about her. She has been
feverish all day to-day, and you know that when she has the slightest
ailment, she always wants auntie to nurse her. The very sight of your
cap and apron is as potent as a soothing draught, I do believe. I have
just sent a servant to the hospital to know if I can keep you till
to-morrow morning--and I was glad to have you make a third at dinner
this evening, Philip being absent. It was an inspiration that brought
you to the house ... but you look quite depressed; your face, usually so
cheerful, so gay, is sad. You seemed strange all through dinner. Now,
what is the matter?"

Gabrielle looked at Dora strangely. For a long time she hesitated
before answering, then, seeing that Dora seemed to insist, she looked
her sister straight in the face, and said--

"Dora, dear, why is General Sabaroff dining here to-night when Philip is
away from home? There, since you insist, it is out."

Dora felt offended, but did not betray her feeling.

"Ah, you see," she said, smiling, "I knew there was something troubling
you. Well, you must know that, a few days ago, Philip invited General
Sabaroff to dine with us to-night quite _en famille_ and he accepted.
The day before yesterday, Philip received a letter calling him to Paris
immediately, on business connected with the shell--his invention, you
know. He set out by the morning train that very day, telling me to
expect him back about five o'clock to-day, and I cannot account for his
not having returned yet. I had a letter from him this morning in which
he said that the matter was settled yesterday, and that he would take
the nine o'clock train from Paris this morning. I had suggested putting
off General Sabaroff, but he would not hear of my doing that, as he was
sure of arriving home three hours before dinner. Now, don't look at me
any longer with that tragedy air or you'll upset my gravity, dear. One
would think you suspected me of arranging a tête-à-tête dinner with the
man. Haven't I already told you how glad I was that you came in time to
sit down with us? But how absurd all this is! One would really imagine I
was here on my defence. Enough of this nonsense! And now, before General
Sabaroff has finished his smoke, I will run up and see how my darling is
and tell her that you are here."

"Dora, one moment; I must speak to you, I feel I must. Do not be
offended with me, nor think me prying and foolish, will you, if I seem
to meddle in what you may say does not concern me; but, dear, I cannot
keep it to myself any longer. It makes me so miserable to see what is
going on in this house--tell me, what does it all mean? You do not
answer me, you dare not tell me the truth."

"My dear sister," said Dora, "I have nothing to hide from you." And she
added, with sudden resolution, looking Gabrielle straight in the face,
"Love has deserted the house--that is the truth, a truth which will soon
kill me, I hope."

"But whose fault is it?" rejoined Gabrielle. "This General Sabaroff, why
is he so often here? I cannot help noticing the frequency of his
visits, and I cannot help seeing Philip's sad look and your altered
manner towards him. Again, what does it all mean? He is suffering, I am
sure of it; your coldness towards him is distressing him deeply. All
your amiability seems to be reserved for this Russian, whom I heard you
call profligate, the last person in the world that I should have thought
you would hoard your smiles for. How can you turn a cold face to such a
husband as yours for such a man as this?"

"Really you are very observant, and your conclusions are most
charitable, my dear sister--of charity," said Dora, who was beginning to
stifle with misery and indignation.

"Yes," continued Gabrielle, not listening to her sister, "a husband who
has given you a place in his heart which one only gives to God. Ah, do
not attempt to contradict me. Your love for Philip is dying, if not
already dead. Take care, Dora; Philip still loves you. He knows nothing
of what is going on. It is not too late. Forbid your door to this man
before harm comes of it. I beseech you, put a stop to General Sabaroff's
too evident attentions to you."

This was more than Dora could stand. This woman, whose pride would not
allow her to confide her sorrow to another soul, was roused to her very
depths, and, seizing her sister's arms, she said to her--

"My loving husband, who gives me a place in his heart which should be
reserved for God alone, is ready to sell my smiles for five hundred
thousand roubles--do you hear what I tell you? After having been false
to Art, that mistress of whom I should have been proud to be jealous, he
does not seek to be false to me--that would be nothing compared to the
crime he is about to commit. A husband! ah, faugh! There, I have
unloaded my heart, I feel better."

"Dora, what are you saying? You are mad."

"I tell you that he knows everything and that you know nothing. It is
Philip who forces me to receive this man in our intimate circle. It is
he who throws open to General Sabaroff my dining-room, my drawing-room,
and who, one of these days, will lend him the key of my bedroom. It was
he who invited him to dine here to-night, certainly not I."

"But," said Gabrielle, "why is Philip not here?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Dora, "well you may ask--that is just what I should like
to know."

Dora looked at Gabrielle, who stood dumfounded. "Never mind, don't
listen to me, I scarcely know what I am talking about," she added,
passing her hand over her forehead; "I am losing my head. No, no, my
suppositions are impossible. He must have met with an accident. There
can be no other explanation."

Dora succeeded in mastering her emotion, and fixing Gabrielle with a
strange, half-haggard gaze, she said--

"You must not believe a word of what I have said; you don't, do you? And
now, I must go to Eva. The dear child will be so delighted to know you
are here."

She threw herself into her sister's arms and kissed her tenderly several
times.

Gabrielle stood petrified. She had long guessed that there was no more
happiness in her sister's home, but she had not had the least idea that
things had gone so far as to lead Dora to despise Philip. Gabrielle had
always felt a mixture of love and admiring respect for her sister; in
her estimation, Dora was the ideal woman; so much superior to all the
other women she had known, that she could not believe that the pedestal
upon which she had placed her could possibly crumble to atoms.

Dora returned after a few minutes. She seemed uneasy, still more upset
than she had been when she left the drawing-room.

"Eva is asking for you," she said to Gabrielle; "she complains of sore
throat now, and appears to be feverish, but I hope it is nothing worse
than a cold coming. Go and sit with the dear child. If she should grow
worse during the evening, send for the doctor at once. I trust her to
your hands."

Kissing Gabrielle once more, she tried to smile, and added--

"Don't distress yourself about me. I shall be able to join you
presently. General Sabaroff has, I hope, enough tact to make him feel
the awkwardness of the situation. He will retire at once. There, go now,
dear."

Dora, as soon as Gabrielle had left the drawing-room, was seized with an
intangible terror. Doubt and uncertainty had undermined her spirits. She
no longer felt her usual dauntless courage. She was afraid of being
alone, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the man who, at any moment,
might enter the room; but, above all, was her thought for the child. "My
poor little treasure! going to be ill perhaps!" A horrible thought
flashed across her mind and wrung a cry from her lips. "Oh, no, no, my
God, not _that_! no, not if there is justice in heaven!" Calming herself
with an effort, she went on, "Ah, if it was not for the child, I would
leave this house to-day, I would go no matter where, take a few brushes,
and earn my bread with them. It would be hard if I could not turn my
work to some account and lead a life independent of everyone. Oh to live
anywhere, to live anyhow, dear Heaven, rather than go on with this
existence which revolts me and is crushing me! Oh, how lonely it is! how
silent the house is! The very air chokes me--where is Philip now? What
has happened that he is not here? What is he doing? Oh, my head burns
so! I will send up for Gabrielle--no, she must stay with Eva. What to
do? Send a telegram to Lorimer, and ask him to come quickly?--no, I
should have to give explanations. Beg the General to excuse me; tell him
I am not well and am obliged to retire."

She was interrupted in her reflections by the entrance of a servant who
brought a telegram. Feverishly she broke open the envelope and read:
"Missed nine o'clock train, started at noon, and will be with you at
eight o'clock."

She looked at the timepiece. It was ten o'clock, and Philip had not yet
arrived. The telegram was from Dover. What could have happened since?
"Then, Philip may perhaps not be here at all to-night," she said to
herself; "I shall be forced to pass the rest of the evening with General
Sabaroff. Is it an accident ... or a diabolical plot? No, no, the
thought is too horrible. I must, I will chase it out of my mind. And
yet--oh, there is only one thing to be done. Yes, yes, no more
hesitation; I will finish with the General, and to-night. No more shall
Philip accuse me of not helping him. I will get Sabaroff's signature, if
power of mine can do it. I will be extra amiable to him--repulsive task!
Philip shall have his beloved money, for which he has broken my heart,
and then--then I have done with him for ever."

When she lifted her eyes, Sabaroff stood before her. Immersed in her own
thoughts, she had not seen him come in. At once rising, she collected
her ideas rapidly and scarcely showed sign of embarrassment.

"I must apologise again to you for my husband, General," she said; "I
have just had a wire from him saying he missed the nine o'clock train in
Paris, but that he had left at noon and would be here at eight. I am
very alarmed. It is ten o'clock. I fear there must have been an
accident, for I can explain his absence in no other way. It is really
most unfortunate, and I don't know how to apologise enough. I feel
quite confused."

The smile which crossed Sabaroff's face at these words was particularly
offensive to Dora.

The General was not long coming to the point. When he had entered the
drawing-room and found Dora alone, he had instantly taken his
resolution. Here was his opportunity.

"As far as I am concerned," he said, "there is nothing unfortunate in
the situation--I should rather call it fortunate for me. So, please, do
not apologise. I can never get enough of your society. Every day on
which I do not see you is dull, weary, wasted. To be allowed to see you
is my sweetest privilege, to see you alone my dearest joy."

"Really, General, spare me, please," said Dora, striving to smile
naturally.

"Ah, do not stop me, do not turn away your face. Remember the time when
I first met you in the lovely South, and you gave me the happiness of
feeling that my society was not displeasing to you. These were golden
days! Your fresh young beauty, your clear young eyes and voice made the
world new again for me, a travel-worn soldier, already beginning to find
the world a tinsel-trimmed hearth with little warmth, and a great deal
of ashes. Weary of the nomadic life of a Russian soldier, I fell to
dreaming of another kind of existence, a sweet, peaceful life at your
side. I would have consecrated the rest of my days to the dear task of
making you happy. Ambition and glory, I would have said good-bye to all
that, for my noblest ambition would have been to reign supreme in your
heart. You judged me unworthy, and I have never ceased to mourn the
fading of my beloved dream--nay, I mourn it to-day more than ever. If
only I had found you happy," he added insinuatingly.

"You are unwise, General, to talk to me of that winter," rejoined Dora.
"Can I ever forget that, thanks to you, one single day, one single hour
of it turned me from a light-hearted, innocent, ignorant girl into a
woman?--innocent still, but no longer ignorant of the sad and degrading
side of existence. Ah, in those few moments, I had passed out for ever
from the sweet calm garden of girlhood into the dusty crowded highway of
the world, and there I saw one of the saddest sides of life--the
humiliation and despair of a woman dismissed, cast off by the man who
should have passed the rest of his days in shielding her."

"It was not my fault that you overheard my wretched secret; but a
foolish liaison, which seemed to a strictly nurtured girl so vile a
thing, can it, must it make me for ever odious to a sweet and gracious
woman who knows the world? How many men have succeeded in keeping on
virtue's path altogether? The members of the Young Men's Christian
Association are not recruited from among the ranks of our society."

"Does wrong become right by multiplication?" said Dora, who was not
sorry to see the turn that the conversation had taken, a turn which
would give her the opportunity of making a little sermon that should
cool down the ardour of the General. "I shall never be able to
understand why the men who belong to what is called Society should not
be expected to conduct themselves as honourably as those of the modest
middle classes. It is from above that example should come, and, believe
me, it will have to come from above, or society will disappear for want
of having fulfilled its mission."

"Well, well, you may be right," said Sabaroff; "but listen to my story.
For months, for years, I could not bear to think of all that I had lost
in losing you. Was it any wonder that I went half mad and ran into all
kind of excesses? The light of your pure eyes was turned away from me. I
tossed about like a rudderless ship, and only my ambition saved me from
wreckage of body and soul."

"Does it not seem to you a little cowardly," said Dora, glad to recover
the thread of her little sermon, "for a man to lay the blame for such a
life at a woman's door, because he would not exercise the self-control
that thousands of women have to exercise almost all their lives? Do you
think it is only men who feel? Ah, believe me, there are few women who
have not had, at some period of their lives, to suffer and be silent, to
hold a bursting heart, and go about the daily task, with its cruel,
half-mechanical routine, which leaves the mind free to dwell on all the
misery that stirring scenes might help it to forget. Those who give way
to their despair, society mocks at; those who abandon themselves to
their passions, society puts outside the pale."

Dora began to feel that she was putting too much heat into her reply.
With an attempt at a tone of indifference, she went on--

"But tell me more about that saving grace of ambition, General. It has
made you a great and powerful man."

"Great, no; powerful, yes," replied Sabaroff, and he laid an insinuating
stress on the word _yes_, which did not escape Dora's notice. "But, of
all the satisfaction which my present position of confidence with my
imperial master has brought me, nothing is so sweet as the power of
doing what I am going to do for you."

"I am so proud you approve of the shell--then you will have it taken up
by the Russian Government?

"Yes," said Sabaroff, "I have the paper here ready to sign, and am only
waiting for a telegram from St. Petersburg, which I have ordered to be
brought to me here if it should happen to arrive before ten o'clock" ...

"My husband will be so glad!"

"Ah, 'my husband will be glad,'" repeated Sabaroff, in a half-mocking
tone; "Mrs. Grantham, will _you_ be glad?--Dora," said he, warming as he
proceeded, "do you not realise that what I am going to do is for your
sake, and not for the man who has won the only woman I ever loved?"

On hearing herself called by her Christian name, Dora was indignant.

"General, once more I beg of you, I'm afraid you forget yourself."

At this moment a servant entered the room.

"A telegram for his Excellency," said he. Then he handed the telegram to
the General, and retired after receiving Dora's order to bring tea.

Sabaroff read the despatch to Dora: "Approved by Council of War. Final
decision left to you. If you yourself approve, offer five hundred
thousand roubles."

Dora was standing at the fireplace, with one foot on the fender.
Sabaroff, with the telegram in his hand, gave her a look which seemed to
say: "When I said _powerful_, you see I was right."

The servant brought the tea, which he placed on a table near Dora, and
retired.

Dora poured out two cups.

"No milk, I think--a little rum and some lemon, _à la Russe_?"

"Thank you," said Sabaroff.

He cut himself a slice of lemon, helped himself to rum, and began to sip
his tea.

There was an unbroken silence for a couple of minutes.

"You are not offended with me?" he resumed. "Ah, forgive me if I have
called you by your beautiful first name, your sweet name of Dora, it is
the only one I ever give you in my thoughts. Here is a pansy," he said,
opening his pocket-book, "a flower that you dropped at Monte Carlo.
There is no Mrs. Grantham for me; there is Dora, the name I cannot
forget."

"This man really loved me, then," said Dora to herself, "and loves me
still perhaps." The thought displeased her, but it was not insulting.
She thought of the pansies which had come regularly, year after year, on
the anniversary of her marriage. Then, if he loved her still, she had
everything to fear in this solitary tête-à-tête. She resolved to be more
than ever on her guard.

"But it is precisely my other name, General, that I would have you
remember always," she said, with a calm smile.

"If I thought of that one, I should not be here now; I should never come
to this house," said Sabaroff. "I should not be now preparing to sign
this paper, which is to enrich still further the man to whom you gave
yourself, the man who already possesses the only thing I ever really
craved. Shall I sign? Why should I?" said he, drawing from his pocket an
envelope containing a blank contract. "What will be my thanks? What is
to be my reward?"

"Oh, General," said Dora, nervous but still smiling, "you are too good a
patriot to need any incentive but the love of your country."

"No, Mrs. Grantham, that is not enough. I love my country, but I do not
love your husband. For you alone I sign. To you I turn for my reward.
Ah, let me hear from those lovely lips that you have only kind, pitying
thoughts for the man who still worships you and loves you as you are
worthy to be loved."

Sabaroff's eyes were lit with a strange fire, and threw burning glances
upon Dora. She began to tremble. This man frightened her.

"Of course, General, I am grateful, I" ... She felt incapable of
finishing the phrase. "Must I go through with this?" she thought. "Oh
that I could get rid of this man!"

Sabaroff did not take his eyes off her face. He was striving to read her
inmost thoughts.

"I have no resentment," she continued; "I have long ago forgotten what
passed between us, and if you will do the same, here is my hand."

Sabaroff unfolded the paper which he had taken from the envelope, placed
it on the table and signed it. Dora was still holding out her hand to
him. Sabaroff seized it and drew her close to him.

"Dora," he exclaimed, "my Dora!"

"You forget, once more you forget," she said, freeing herself. "If my
husband were here" ...

"If your husband were here!" cried Sabaroff, with a sneer. "Once for
all, is it possible that you do not see the rôle that your husband is
playing? Are you indeed so blind? Tell me, does a man encourage a former
lover of his wife about his house constantly, a lover who was on the
point of becoming her _fiancé_, and who perhaps loves her still? Does he
miss the train when he knows that his wife will be alone with that man
for a whole evening? No, my dear Mrs. Grantham, a man misses everything
you like to name, but he does not miss such a train as that. Ah, let us
have no more of these pretences. You know perfectly well what he is,
that husband of yours who missed his train. You know that you have no
love left for him, that you only feel the most profound contempt for
that man who, to put a fortune in his purse, does not hesitate to play
the _mari complaisant_."

"No, it's impossible, it is not true," cried Dora, suffocating with
indignation; "spare me your suppositions."

"You shall not make me believe that you do not despise him. I have
watched you both carefully from the first day that I have visited your
house. Do not deceive me, do not attempt to deceive yourself. You do not
love your husband. I have seen how your noble heart has shrunk from
contact with so sordid a nature, as his has proved to be in the past few
months. He may have loved you once in his cool, jellyfish fashion;
perhaps you have loved him yourself, but since his new craze for wealth
has ousted you from his consideration, except when you are useful to him
as a bait, you have hated him--ah, worse than that, you have despised
him. You know that he is not worthy of you, who have the soul as well as
the body of an angel. No, you are not blind; you are not a child, to sit
down tamely under his treatment of you. Be a woman, take a woman's
revenge. Only give me a tithe of the love he has held so lightly and I
will be your slave, your adoring slave to my dying day. Dora, I love
you," he cried as he advanced towards her.

"I can listen to no more of this. You have tried my patience too far
already. I thank you, in my husband's name, General, for having signed
this paper; but I don't feel well,--have pity on me. You have before you
a woman full of gratitude for what you have done; it would not be
generous to take advantage of it to press your company upon me in my
present state. Leave me now, please."

"Leave you! leave you! Ah, ah! And this is my reward? Now that you have
obtained all you want, you dismiss me. Dora, take care. You are too
intelligent, too much of a woman, not to see that my love for you has
come back to me redoubled, that it blinds me, makes me mad, and that
your resistance only adds fuel to the fire."

"Go, I beseech you, at once," exclaimed Dora, now thoroughly alarmed;
"go, I command you. Nothing will force me to listen to you any longer--I
tell you I am suffering tortures; you say that you love me, then, spare
me and go."

"So, then," said he reproachfully, "you let me see you, let me come here
almost day after day until I cannot live away from you, and then, when
you have done your despicable husband's work, you dismiss me with a
_many thanks, good-bye_. No, Dora," he added, raising his voice, "I will
not be dismissed so. Look at me well," he said, seizing her arm; "do I
look like a man who can be so lightly played with?"

"Let me go; you hurt me," cried Dora, distracted with indignation; "how
dare you treat me so?"

"How dare I?" said Sabaroff. "You wonder how I dare? Ah, wonder rather
that I kept silent so long with your beautiful face before me, your
voice and eyes bewitching me, your lips so near, all your loveliness
making mad riot in my pulses! What do you think I am made of? Does one
take a starving wretch to see a banquet spread, and, when he has just
begun to eat, then cast him out, because he dares to say he is hungry
still? Does one offer rich wine to a weary traveller, and, when he has
taken but one sip from the cup, dash it from his lips and bid him
begone? In your presence, Dora, I am craving for your love."

"Philip, where are you?" cried the poor woman wildly, and feeling more
dead than alive.

She made towards the door, but Sabaroff intercepted her passage.

"Dora," said he, "why keep up this farce any longer? Be honest. Unmask
yourself, for I am convinced you are wearing a mask. Why do you call
your husband? You know that he is not here, and you must know only too
well why he is not here. Your husband has kept away to-night, that you
may be alone with me. You cannot but despise him, a creature who, when
he had won it, knew not how to value the prize I crave in vain. And now
that I have found you suffering tortures at his callousness, you will
not let me tell you how I love you--passionately, madly! Ah, since it is
he who throws you into my arms, come and make your home there; you
shall never repent the step--I swear it!"

"Ah, enough, enough, spare me any more indignities," cried Dora, with
head proudly uplifted. "General Sabaroff! leave, leave this house
instantly."

So saying, she made a movement towards the bell.

"Dora!" cried Sabaroff, seizing her in his strong arms.

She struggled, and finished by freeing herself from his grasp.

"Go this moment, I tell you. You have treated me as you would not dare
treat a servant-girl in a low lodging-house, you have treated me as if
you took me for a Mimi Latouche--you are a coward!"

Dora was nearly at the end of her strength. She was wild, at bay,
without power to cry for help. A coquette would have known how to defend
herself. Knowing to what she exposes herself, the coquette always
prepares a line of retreat before engaging in the battle; but a woman as
pure as Dora is almost defenceless in the presence of a man who has
burned his ships and who intends to stop at nothing: she has no weapons
for such a contest. Dora was paralysed with fright and indignation. She
made a last and supreme effort to reach the bell; but Sabaroff stopped
her, and seizing her more firmly than he had done before, he cried--

"My reward! I claim my reward for so much patience!"

She was in his arms, panting, almost unconscious. He strained her to his
heart, and kissed her passionately on the eyes, on the lips again and
again. Exhausted by the struggle, Dora yet made a supreme effort, and
succeeded in once more freeing herself from Sabaroff's hold; but he
caught her by the arm, which he kissed devouringly. Dora sank fainting
on the sofa.

At this moment the door opened, and Gabrielle, with agony depicted on
her face, rushed into the room. She had come to fetch her sister, to
take her to Eva's bedside, for the child had grown rapidly worse. Seeing
Sabaroff on his knees gazing at Dora, she drew back, stifling a cry,
and, wringing her hands in despair, she disappeared.

Sabaroff heard the cry, but did not move. After a moment, turning round
and seeing no one, he rang the bell, hurriedly impressed a further kiss
on the forehead of the unconscious woman, and left without waiting for
the arrival of a servant.

When the servant entered, Dora had regained consciousness.

"Did you ring, ma'am?"

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

She looked around her, passing her hand over her eyes and forehead. She
realised that she was alone. Her eyes were haggard. She looked wild,
half mad.

"Where is he?" she said; "gone?"

Then she fixed her eyes on the servant, who seemed to have a message to
deliver.

"Well, what is it?" she repeated.

"Miss Gabrielle," replied the man, "told me to say that she had sent for
the doctor, and that he is now with Miss Eva. Will you, please, go up at
once, ma'am?"

Dora gazed fixedly at the man. She had not heard, or, rather, she had
not taken in a single word of the servant's message. She signed to him
to go, and he left.

Taking her head in both hands, she tried to remember what had been
happening.

"My body burns," she murmured; "I feel as if I had been bitten by a
reptile." Her eyes fell on her arm, where Sabaroff's kiss had left a
mark that was still red. A cry of disgust and horror escaped her. She
gazed again at her arm, leapt to her feet, and paced the room almost
foaming with rage. To wipe out that mark was her one thought. With her
handkerchief she rubbed the burning spot, and, with a movement of fury,
sucked it and spat as if she had been sucking poison from the bite of a
snake. She was unrecognisable, transformed into a tigress ready to
spring upon any who might come near. Suddenly an idea lit up her face,
as she passed the fireplace in her furious pacings. She seized the poker
and thrust it in among the live coals.

"Yes, yes, I will, I'll do it," she muttered.

Suddenly she heard a cab stop outside, and the street door open and
close noisily. Philip, for it was he, bounded upstairs and rushed into
the drawing-room. It was half-past eleven.

Dora had the poker in her hand. She put it back into the fire.

"Ah, my dear Dora," said Philip, quite out of breath, "I can't tell you
how sorry I am to have been delayed all these hours. I missed the nine
o'clock train, as I explained in my wire; but I must tell you all about
that by and by. It's a long story. I left Paris at noon, as you know,
but the train broke down between Canterbury and Chatham, and got in
three hours late. But for that, I should have been here at eight. The
General is gone, of course?" he added.

Dora stood motionless, speechless. She merely nodded her head
affirmatively.

"How shall I ever be able to excuse myself to him? I wish now that I had
followed your suggestion and put off this dinner, so as not to run such
a risk. When you travel, you start, but you don't know what may happen
before you reach home again."

He caught sight of the paper, which Sabaroff had signed, lying on the
table. He seized it eagerly and began to read.

"What is this?" he exclaimed, overcome with joy. "Why, it is the
purchase of my shell by the Russian Government! The General ought to
have stayed. You should have kept him ... I should have been so happy to
thank him myself ... but, I understand; the proprieties, I suppose; he
did not like to stay on during my absence.... Five hundred thousand
roubles! here it is, all set down and signed.... Ah, my Dora, my
darling!"

Dora did not move. She was pale as death. She looked at him with eyes
that appeared to see nothing.

Philip made as if he would seize her in his arms. She recoiled
affrighted.

"Don't touch me! Don't come near me!" she cried in a voice that gurgled.

"Dora, what has happened? Heavens, you frighten me. What is the matter?
Why, you are trembling, you can scarcely stand. Speak, speak, what is
it?"

"Where have you been and where have you come from?"

"But I have just told you what happened to me. I missed the nine o'clock
train and there was an accident ... but what is the use of trying to
explain anything to you in your present state? You evidently do not
understand. I ask you again. What has been happening here to put you in
such a state?"

"Ah, ah, he asks me what has happened!" she hissed, snatching the paper
from Philip's hands. "This has happened. Your ambition is satisfied now.
Here is the signature that gives you half a million of roubles, the gold
for which you did not hesitate to make me submit to the society of a
betrayer of women, a protector of Mimi Latouche, a man against whom my
whole womanhood revolted. Stung by your heartless indifference to my
pleadings, stung by your taunts that I no longer helped you, I have
goaded myself to endure his presence constantly. And now, I think my
task is ended; I have paid the price; so take the paper--it is yours. It
is signed. The gold will be handed to you."

"Dora, for God's sake, tell me, what does it mean? You never spoke to me
like this before," gasped Philip, in a voice choking with anger and
excitement.

"Hush!" continued Dora, "your ambition is realised. Your fortune is more
than doubled; but when you are counting it up, think of me, your wife,
in the arms of that man, every fibre of my powerless body revolting at
the kisses of his polluted lips. Yes, the lips of that libertine have
soiled mine; on my face, on my arms, he pressed his burning kisses.
Look, look at this arm. See for yourself the mark that will not go. I am
stained, contaminated. Oh! am I mad? No, I have drunk the bitter
draught, I have gone through the mire of degradation; and now, is the
nightmare ended? Are you satisfied, or shall I call him back to offer
him the rest?"

"I will kill him!" cried Philip.

"Ah, rather kill me; that would be more generous," exclaimed Dora. "Take
your money, and now let me go--unless," she added, with a sneer, "you
have some other War Minister that you wish to take your invention;
think, I am here to pay the price they may exact for their approval."

"Dora, this is madness--you are out of your mind."

"I soon should be if I stayed here."

Dora broke off suddenly. The coming of the servant flashed across her
mind. He had brought a message. What was it?

"Yes, yes, of course, I remember. Gabrielle sent for me a few moments
ago--she had called the doctor to Eva--Eva! Ah, let me go to my child,"
she cried, waving Philip aside as he was going to speak again.

But before she reached the door, Gabrielle had opened it.

"Are you coming?" said the poor girl, with tears in her voice.

"Eva?"

"Yes, she is worse; it is diphtheria."

Dora realised now the full import of the former message. With one
horror-struck look at the distressed white face before her, she rushed
from the room uttering a broken cry--

"Eva!"

Gabrielle followed after her, and Philip was left crushed, stunned,
incapable yet of understanding clearly the terrible scene which he had
just witnessed, or the new terror with which he was brought face to
face.



XIV

EVA


Philip dropped into an armchair. His forehead was bathed in
perspiration. He was seized with a convulsive trembling, caused by the
rage that he felt at not being able to avenge there and then the
outrageous conduct of General Sabaroff towards his wife. If he had known
at that moment where to find the Russian, he would have gone straightway
and had it out with him. He went through a torment of impotent fury and
disappointment at thinking that his arrival had been but a few moments
too late.

"Fool that I was!" he cried, "what have I done? Then Dora thinks"--he
dared not utter his thought--"and, if so, I am guilty in her mind of the
vilest, the most despicable act that a man can commit--it is a frightful
idea! And yet my indifference, my insistence that Dora should receive
that man, when she implored me not to oblige her to submit to his
company--Sabaroff loves her still then? Or does he, too, believe that he
was encouraged by me? Oh, but the thought is horrible! The idea of it is
maddening. Fool that I have been!"

For the first time he saw the enormity of his conduct. He called himself
coward and criminal. In that dreadful hour he awoke from his dream and
became himself again. The veil fell from his eyes, the transformation
was complete. To do him justice there was no more inventor, no more
blindly ambitious seeker after wealth, but the Philip of former days
with no thought but for Dora. He would have given, that night, his last
farthing for a smile from her!

Philip rose suddenly from his seat. He must take a resolution on the
spot. He was face to face with a vital crisis on which all his future
life depended. His first impulse was to go to Dora and throw himself at
her feet to implore her pardon. "No," he said to himself, "as long as
that contract exists, there is nothing to be done." He held it in his
hands, that paper which had cost Dora so much. It burned to the touch.
He looked at it twice, and he read it through. His mind was at once made
up--tear up the thing, and fling it in the face of Sabaroff!

During this time there was much movement, much sound of coming and going
on the staircase and in the hall. Suddenly Philip recognised the voice
of Dr. Templeton saying, "It is the only way to save her, at least the
only hope." Upon this a servant came rapidly downstairs, and Philip
stopped him in the hall to ask--

"Where are you going?"

"To St. George's Hospital," was the reply.

"For Miss Eva? Is she worse?"

"Yes, sir; it appears that they are going to perform tracheotomy," said
the man, who had heard the word and repeated it correctly.

Philip flew upstairs. When he reached the door of Eva's room, saw the
child half choking and unconscious, and saw Dora kneeling by the
bedside, he dared not enter, but stood in the doorway--heart-broken,
pale, and immobile as death. That which crowned his misery and despair
was the fact that Dora had not thought of sending down for him in such a
moment as this. With difficulty he repressed the sob that rose from his
heart. He realised then all the depth of the abyss that separated him
now from his wife and child, an abyss of his own digging. No, he,
adoring Eva as he did, dared not penetrate into the room where she lay.

Almost immediately a surgeon and two students arrived from the hospital.
Philip let them pass, and then took up his post of observation again;
but when he saw them open the case that contained the shining steel
instruments and little sponges, the needles and all the apparatus for
their operation; when he saw the surgeon sign to Dora to rise and, by a
touch firm and gentle, direct her to leave the bedroom, Philip could
bear up no longer, all his courage forsook him. He fled to the library,
and there let his choking tears have way. Wretched and forsaken, he
broke down utterly.

"O God!" he cried, "it is too much; I have not deserved such
punishment."

Gabrielle was a great help to the doctors, and prompt and reliable in
her movements--a nurse of the first order. She watched with a calm,
clear vision the work of the bistoury on the little throat, and knew
exactly when to hand the implements necessary, as the work proceeded,
and earned the compliment of the surgeon thereupon; but it was not
merely her nurse's intelligence that was at work, it was her love for
the child she ached to save.

The preparation being completed, the surgeon with a hand at once deft
and rapid, introduced the tube into the trachea. Eva opened her eyes
almost immediately. A flush of living colour returned to her face, and
she breathed freely again. The tube was then bandaged into place, and a
long silk hankerchief tied firmly round the throat. Soon the child's
face lost its aspect of deathly struggle, and put on a smiling look of
profound relief and happy peace. Her countenance lit up with a seraphic
light; it was as though the child's soul had just been wafted back to
its dwelling-place from a visit to paradise.

When all was done, Dora was fetched and shown the success of the
operation.

"Then she is saved!" she cried, clasping her hands and lifting to heaven
a glance of thanksgiving.

"Not yet," said the doctor; "there remains the morbid action to cure;
but there is hope, every hope. Only you must watch the child with
extreme attention; she must not be left for a moment. She must not be
allowed to move for some time. If the tube got displaced, or if the
heart, which is very feeble, should receive the least shock, everything
would be over in a moment. But," added he, "I confide your child to this
lady's care," indicating Gabrielle; "I have seldom met with a nurse so
gifted. Rely in all security upon her; I have given her my instructions,
and she knows to the full the importance of them."

The surgeon bowed to Dora, and departed.

Dora returned to the bedside on tiptoe, and, placing her finger on her
lips, made signs to Eva that she was to keep perfectly quiet; then,
throwing her a kiss and a smile of a guardian angel, she sat down beside
the child. Her face betrayed no sign of weakness, expressed neither
grief nor despair; it was scarcely sad. She had the look of a man who
throws himself into the sea, to try and save some beloved friend in
deadly peril of drowning.

Philip did not go to bed. He begged Gabrielle to come two or three times
during the night to tell him how the child fared, and he remained in the
library. Dora watched all night by Eva's bed. She was valiant, and
inspired others with her own brave spirit. She had thrown aside the
thought of all that had happened in the drawing-room a few hours
before; far, indeed, from her thoughts was the man who had insulted her,
and who no longer existed in her thoughts--the distracted mother had
swamped the indignant woman. It was with death that she had to fight
now, and she fought with a _sang-froid_ and a courage that were the
astonishment and admiration of all who surrounded her.

The morning and the afternoon passed without new disquieting symptoms
arising, and at night the doctor left his patient going on
satisfactorily.

The following morning, about seven o'clock, Dora, worn out with
excitement, had fallen into a dose.

Gabrielle went to tell Philip that Eva also was sleeping, and that such
sleep was a very good sign. Their hopes rose considerably. Philip could
not resist the longing he had to go and look upon his wife and child,
both sleeping calmly at last, unconscious of pain and anxiety. He crept
stealthily upstairs, opened very softly the door of the dear child's
room, and with loving eyes looked towards the bed. Unhappily, Eva had
just woke up. She saw in the doorway her father whom she loved, and had
not seen for several days; she raised herself eagerly and tried to
call, "Daddy." The little form fell back heavily upon the pillow.

When Gabrielle came into the room again, Dora was still sleeping. Eva
slept too, but it was the sleep from which none waken.



XV

THE SEPARATION


When Dora awoke, Gabrielle was standing at the bedside, motionless,
beautiful in her impassive grace, and looking like one of the angels
that painters represent at the bedside of children whose souls they have
come to bear to the abode of the seraphim.

Dora looked at Gabrielle, then at the child. With heartrending cry she
threw herself on Eva's body. The struggle was over, and she had lost the
battle. Her strength forsook her, all her being seemed to be crushed.
She slipped inanimate on the floor. They bore her to her own room,
where, for more than a week, she lay benumbed by her grief, unconscious
of everything, hovering between life and death. None but Gabrielle and
Hobbs were allowed access to her chamber. Philip was excluded by the
doctor's command. In her delirium the name of her husband was often on
her lips. "Philip," she would cry, "murderer! you have killed my child."
He had been indeed her murderer! involuntarily it is true, but
nevertheless he had killed her. If he had resisted his desire to look
upon his child, she would probably have recovered, surrounded as she was
by the most assiduous care. Her death had been accidental. In moving,
and in trying to lift her poor little fragile body into a sitting
posture, she had caused the derangement of the tube, and the heart had
been suddenly stopped. Choking and syncope instantly did their dreadful
work, and all was over.

Neither Dora nor Gabrielle ever knew, however, that Philip had been the
involuntary cause of Eva's death. He himself never suspected the
terrible truth.

"In spite of my injunctions," said the doctor, "the child has been
allowed to move herself. She must have sat up in bed."

The last words that Eva had said to her mother came back constantly to
Dora's memory. "How sad it is here! Oh, mama, how I wish we were in our
other house; you know, the one where we lived when we were happy." Poor
little darling! "When we were happy." A phrase like that in the mouth of
a child of five, intended by nature for joy and brightness, had made
Dora's heart bleed. The last words of the child were the irrevocable
sentence of the father. Tears might have relieved Dora's desolate heart,
and her faithful watchers hoped day by day for the crisis which never
came. But she lay in numb paralysing grief, and never a tear fell. Her
life was not in danger, but her reason was. The delirium continued day
and night. Often she did not know her two devoted nurses, Gabrielle and
Hobbs. Her utterances were mostly incoherent sentences in which three
names occurred constantly--Philip, Eva, Sabaroff. "Is that man gone?"
and she would seek upon her arm for traces of the loathed kisses he had
placed there. "Where is Philip? Gone too, no doubt." Then she would
resume: "Eva? Yes, I am alone, all alone; everybody is gone." The scene
quite unnerved the two dear women who were enforced spectators of it.
They would take her hands and kiss them--Gabrielle with affectionate
warmth, and Hobbs with the most touching respect.

The days dragged on, but the doctor did not despair. Dora's constitution
was so strong, her will so powerful, her courage so lofty always, that
there might be a crisis at any moment, and a favourable change might
well ensue. He counted upon help in the carrying out of anything he
might plan for the patient's good. He was well aware of all that had
been passing latterly in the house. He was the friend and confidant of
both husband and wife. Nothing had been hidden from him, not even the
scene between Sabaroff and Dora. He advised Philip to leave the house.
"You must do it," said he; "only time can cure your wife. Have patience.
Go away for a few days. She is dazed; an explanation would but irritate
her more--she is not in a state to listen. I quite expect to see her
recover her mental faculties as suddenly as she lost them. The strength
of her character is prodigious, and that strength will probably show
itself in some sudden decision. Do not cross her in anything," added he
to Gabrielle, who had come to receive his directions. "Whatever decision
she may take when the crisis is over, be very careful to fall in with
it. I do not despair of anything, neither for her nor for you, my dear
fellow," said he, shaking hands with Philip, in whose eyes tears were
glistening.

Philip consented to obey. He left his house, went to Paris for two days,
and on his return to London remained a week at the Alexandra Hotel, a
few yards from his house, which he visited twice or thrice a day for
news of Dora. We shall see later how he employed his time during these
few days of banishment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eva had been dead ten days. One morning, when Dora awoke from an
excellent night of ten hours' sleep, Gabrielle and Hobbs were astonished
to see their patient calm, and not only in full possession of her
faculties, but apparently strong and courageous. The evening before she
had wept for the first time, but the crisis had ended there.

Dora asked for breakfast. When Gabrielle reminded her that she had some
medicine to take first, Dora reiterated her demand in an imperative
fashion. "I tell you I am hungry," said she, and she not only asked for
her breakfast, but she chose her own food. Her orders were obeyed. She
ate a small boiled sole, an egg, and two slices of toast, and drank a
cup of tea. Gabrielle and Hobbs were fairly amazed. They looked at Dora,
they looked at each other, they could not believe their eyes. It was a
resurrection.

"I am going to get up," said Dora, when the tray had been removed.

"You cannot think of such a thing," said Gabrielle.

"I tell you, I am going to get up," repeated Dora; "I am better, much
better."

Her eyes shot lightning glances. Her two nurses were dumfounded, and
knew not what to do. The doctor had not yet arrived on his morning
round.

"Do have patience, ma'am. Wait at least until the doctor comes," said
Hobbs, thoroughly alarmed. And she insisted upon it that her mistress
must not get up until Dr. Templeton came.

"I shall not wait for anything," said Dora. "I tell you that I am going
to get up."

She left her bed, swayed for a moment on her feet; but presently,
standing bravely up without support of any kind, she said, with a
laugh--

"You see quite well that I am better. I am cured. I shall dress and go
out."

"But you are crazy," said Gabrielle.

"You are joking, ma'am," added Hobbs.

It is true that the doctor had told them to do nothing which might cross
her, but the two good women said to themselves: "Yet, if she wanted to
throw herself out of the window, we should certainly not let her do it.
And to go out in her present state is probably about as dangerous." They
did not know what to do. The doctor did not come. Still less did they
know what to think. Was Dora completely mad, or was this some marvellous
and mysterious metamorphosis? No, she was not mad. Dora possessed
something which has saved thousands of much-tried human beings from
spiritual and moral shipwreck, and has reattached them to life again.
She possessed that internal god whom the Greeks called _enthusiasm_,
that divine transport which, lifting the soul above itself, excites to
great resolutions and lofty actions.

Eva was no more. Philip was gone, and little she cared to know where.
She was free, mistress of her actions. She had no longer husband or
child. Well! there was still left to her a third motive for living, Art.
The mother and the wife had ceased to exist, but the artist was still
alive.

Gabrielle tried once more to dissuade Dora from going out, but without
success; no argument could influence her. She consented, however, that
Gabrielle should accompany her. She dressed herself without help. The
mourning raiment which had been ordered she had not yet been able to
have fitted, but she found in her wardrobe a black dress which served. A
hat which Hobbs in a few minutes trimmed with crape completed her
toilette. She did not appear to be in the least excited. She was calm,
deliberate, sure of each of her words, sure of each of her movements.
Gabrielle, who was under the influence of this powerful will, obeyed her
sister's most trivial wishes, and appeared to be completely reassured
about her. She begged her, however, for her own satisfaction, to let her
feel her pulse and take her temperature. The pulse was normal, and the
temperature did not indicate the least trace of fever. The case appeared
to her to be a most exceptional one, almost phenomenal in fact, but she
was reassured and much comforted. She no longer felt any anxiety,
especially as the morning promised to be fine, and the open air could
certainly do Dora nothing but good.

"Well! where are we going?" said Gabrielle, whose curiosity was keenly
aroused.

"To St. John's Wood," replied Dora.

"To St. John's Wood?"

"Yes, I am going to take a studio there. I have something left to me
still. I can paint, and paint I will!"

Gabrielle was amazed. She gazed with affectionate eyes at Dora, and
kissed her. It was happiness to see her reviving interest in life.

"Send for a cab, darling," said Dora.

When the vehicle was at the door, Dora, with Gabrielle at her side,
descended the steps with a firm foot, seated herself in the cab, and
gave the driver an address in Finchley Road.

She was set down in front of the office of an estate agent, and told the
driver to wait. There she was given several addresses of apartments to
let. Two or three rooms, one of them large and possessing a good north
light, was what she wanted.

After a round of inspection, she fixed her choice upon a set of rooms a
few yards from Elm Avenue. The place suited her requirements in every
respect, and the price was reasonable, thirty pounds a year.

She was not asked for references, for her name was well known in these
regions. The people who let her the rooms thought that Philip had need
of a studio there for some special work, and that his wife had been sent
to choose a suitable one for him.

"When do you wish to take possession, madam?" asked the agent, who had
accompanied her.

"At once," replied Dora, "that is, to-morrow or the next day."

And the whole matter was arranged then and there.

When Dora got into her cab again, she began to talk almost gaily. She
looked happy once more. It was a glimpse of the old Dora that Gabrielle
had known all her life, but missed for a while, and now rejoiced to see
again.

At the end of a couple of hours they were at home again. Poor Hobbs had
been a prey to terrible fears, all the while conjuring up in her mind
visions of her beloved mistress being brought back on a litter in a
dying condition. She had spent the time watching at the window in mortal
anxiety.

Dora stepped briskly out of the cab, paid the driver, and threw her arms
round the poor woman, who looked more dead than alive.

"Ah, at last," gasped Hobbs. "Oh, ma'am how could you! how could you!"

So saying, she burst into tears, and then began to smile again on seeing
Dora standing so alert and on the point of making fun of her.

"But what do you mean, my dear Hobbs?" said Dora. "I feel quite
recovered. The fresh air has done me a lot of good and has given me a
ferocious appetite."

"Well, well! I declare!" exclaimed Hobbs, comforted a little by these
words and the sight of her patient. But she went on wondering whether
she was dreaming or whether Dora had gone clean mad.

"Hobbs," said Dora, "we must make haste about our preparations. We leave
the house to-morrow, and, God be praised, never to return," she added.

"To-morrow, ma'am!" rejoined Hobbs, with a look that seemed to express
the impossibility of further astonishment.

"Yes, to-morrow, we get to a new home and take leave of this one."

"She has already taken leave of something else," thought the distressed
servant.

"We go to St. John's Wood! But why do you stare so, Hobbs? You are not
going to remain here and let me go without you, surely?"

"How could I think of doing such a thing!" said poor Hobbs, really hurt
by the suggestion.

And she fell to laughing and crying softly to herself without knowing
why, thoroughly bewildered at the turn things had taken.

Dora passed the remainder of the day in choosing the things she intended
to take away with her; first, the furniture of her own bedroom and that
of Hobbs, then some studio belongings, the two easels, and her portrait
which Philip had not finished, the old clock that stood in the hall,
and a few other things that belonged to her personally; some table
silver, and many an odd piece of furniture that had been dear to her in
the old house, but which had been since relegated to the attics, as
being not worthy to figure in the new one. The next day she bought a
Japanese screen and a few things which, while costing little, would yet
help her in the execution of the project which she had set her mind
upon. These purchases made, there remained twenty pounds in her purse.

She summoned the servants to the dining-room and told them that their
master would return home shortly and would pay their wages.

On the morning of the second day after her sudden decision, a van was
brought to the door for her few effects, and at five o'clock she had
turned her back upon the house that she had grown to loathe. Two days
later she was thoroughly installed in her new one.

Here she had succeeded in fitting up a studio, which was an imitation, a
cheap and pathetic reproduction, exact in almost every detail, of the
one in which she had passed the happiest hours of her old life in Elm
Avenue.

Each item of furniture occupied precisely the same spot as in the St.
John's Wood studio, and the whole effect was tasteful, for the work had
been a labour of love to Dora. The two easels were placed side by side
in the centre of the room, and on Philip's stood the unfinished
portrait. On one side of the door she had placed an old oak chest that
she had picked up at a dealer's for a small sum, and which resembled
closely one that Philip owned and prized; on the other side of the door
stood the old clock, which she did not, however, set going. What did the
time of day matter to her now? Clocks go too slowly when one is tired of
life. Away in a corner she hung Philip's old working jacket, which she
had come across in the depths of a chest in one of the attics. It would
no longer be only in her dreams that she would see the St. John's Wood
studio, for it had sprung into existence again under her hands; and in
these surroundings she would be able to continue the life that had been
interrupted by the events already chronicled. She was going to try to
bring to life again one part of her past. She turned to work to help her
to forget the other.

She had come here with new hope in her heart, to call her talent to her
rescue, and to serve Art faithfully and ask of it her bread. At the
least, she felt that here she could, when her time came, die without a
malediction on her lips.

Dora gave orders to Hobbs to refuse her door generally. Lorimer and Dr.
Templeton were the only exceptions. She laid the greatest stress on
these directions, and Hobbs solemnly promised to obey to the letter.

Without delay she traced herself a programme which she resolved to
follow out faithfully. She would work at her easel three hours every
morning, would take outdoor exercise every afternoon to keep herself
refreshed and strong, and the evenings should be devoted to reading and
needlework.

She had brought with her several excellent photographs of Eva, and fully
intended to make a portrait of the child whom death had robbed her of.
Her brush would help her to see again that sweet flesh of her flesh.
"But not yet, not just yet," she said.

As she had to earn a livelihood, and painting was to be her means of
subsistence, she resolved to look about at once for a model. She chose a
little Italian boy who played a concertina under her windows almost
every day. The picturesque urchin was ready enough to pose for the
_signora_, and beamed with delight at the shilling Dora put into his
grubby little palm at the conclusion of each sitting.

Dora took her first walk in the neighbourhood, and Hobbs went with her.
They set out without any destination in view, but had not been walking
more than five minutes when they found themselves in Elm Avenue. No
trace of any emotion crossed Dora's face, and, instead of turning back
as Hobbs was for doing, Dora would insist on going as far as No. 50. The
house was to let. No one had lived in it since Philip left. Dora drew up
on the other side of the road in front of the house. Hobbs tried to draw
her away, for she feared that the sight of her old home might be too
painful for her mistress.

"No," said Dora, "I am going to show you how thoroughly cured and strong
I am ... I am going in."

Hobbs remembered Dr. Templeton's injunctions never to cross her whims,
and so did not persist further.

Dora rang the bell. A woman, evidently a caretaker, opened the door.

"Do you wish to see the house, ma'am?"

"Yes, if you please," replied Dora.

She was invited to "step in," and the woman prepared to show her over
the premises.

"The studio is a very fine one, and communicates with the garden. Your
husband is an artist, I suppose, ma'am?"

"Yes," said Dora.

"Then you would like to see the studio first, perhaps?"

As soon as they reached it, Dora asked the woman to leave her there
alone a little while, under pretence that she had measurements to take
and many details to think out.

For the first time since the sudden change had come over her, which had
so astonished her sister, Dora was seized with a fit of sadness. Her
lips trembled, her teeth chattered. Hobbs did not take her eyes off her
mistress, but she did not venture to speak. Dora opened the door that
led to the garden, and a sharp cry escaped her. A little girl of Eva's
age was romping about on the lawn. She stood rooted to the ground, and a
flood of tears gushed from her eyes.

"Let us go away," said Hobbs. "You ought never to have come in at all.
You think yourself much stronger than you are."

"Yes, let us go," said Dora.

They straightway went home.

Dora remained pensive all the evening. She scarcely opened her lips
again that day. The book she tried to read fell again and again from
her hands. When she noticed Hobbs look at her, she said, "I tell you it
is nothing. I was wrong to go into the house, and I shall not do it
again. But how was I to know that, when I opened the garden door, I
should see on the lawn" ...

She broke off, looked once more at Hobbs, and could no longer contain
herself. Tears choked her respiration; she was stifling. Sobbing like a
child, she hid her grief in the good woman's bosom.

"It shall never happen again, Hobbs; don't scold me, it is all over."

Next day she was calm again but weak; and Hobbs, without telling her,
sent a telegram to Gabrielle to beg her to come to her dear mistress,
that day if possible.

Gabrielle lost no time in responding to the call; but she could not
discover in Dora any symptoms that were at all disquieting. Dora from
that day avoided Elm Avenue in her walks.

She had set bravely to work at her painting; and as the weeks went on
she seemed to pick up the dropped thread of life, and gradually to
attach herself to it again. Her health did not suffer in the new
existence, and her courage remained firm. At the end of a month she had
done the picture of the little Italian boy, and sold it for twenty-five
guineas.

"Look, Hobbs," she cried, on returning home; "look what I have
earned--twenty-five guineas! Well-earned money that!"

And, in her delight, she kissed the bank notes. Then finding herself
quite naturally on her favourite topic, she poured into the ears of the
devoted Hobbs an eloquent harangue upon the wrong use of money and the
demoralisation of the rich. The discourse was edifying, and duly
impressed the only listener; but Philip, to whom it was really
addressed, was far off, and did not get the benefit of it.



XVI

PHILIP RETURNS TO THE FOLD


The day after General Sabaroff had dined at Philip's house, he left
London for Paris, and from that city he went to St. Petersburg. He made
no further effort to see Dora. "Perhaps I have been deceiving myself
after all," he said; "I shall forget her." The very evening of his
arrival in Paris, he occupied a box at the Théâtre des Variétés with
Mimi Latouche.

Philip, when the doctor had advised him to leave home for a little
while, started immediately for Paris. Next morning he presented himself
at the Hotel Meurice, and sent up his card to Sabaroff, for he had
learnt that the General was staying there. Philip was soon shown up to
the first floor, where the Russian had a sumptuous suite of rooms, and
was ushered into the salon. In a state of feverish agitation, easy to
understand, he awaited the General.

He had but two or three minutes to wait.

"Sir," said Philip, as soon as the two men were face to face, "I reached
home from Paris a few moments after the departure of your Excellency
from my house. I will not take up much of your time now. I have only a
few words to say. I am an Englishman, and in my country we do not fight
duels with men who insult our wives; we set the law on them, or we give
them a sound thrashing."

"Kindly explain yourself," said Sabaroff, in a tone at once mocking and
arrogant, and glancing about for a means of defence.

"I will explain in two or three words," said Philip.

He drew out of his pocket the envelope which contained the torn-up
contract that Sabaroff had signed in Dora's presence.

"Here is the paper you signed in my house," said he; "I return it." So
saying, he flung the torn pieces of paper in the Russian's face, and the
bits of paper fluttered in all directions.

"You will answer to me for this affront, sir," said Sabaroff.

"With the greatest pleasure," rejoined Philip. "I am not in England now;
I am in France; and you know what I mean by that. I am at your service.
Here is my address."

The same evening a duel with pistols was arranged by two of the
General's aides-de-camp and two artist friends of Philip.

Sabaroff hated Philip, and he promised himself to be revenged for Dora's
disdain.

"I will kill him," he said to himself.

The encounter took place next morning at eight o'clock in the Bois de
Vincennes.

Philip lodged a ball in the right shoulder of his adversary. Sabaroff
would have killed Philip with pleasure.

At eleven-fifty Philip took the train for London, and at half-past seven
he was back in his rooms at the Alexandra Hotel. The duel had been kept
secret; there was no mention of it in the newspapers.

A week after Philip's return to London, he was told of Dora's sudden
recovery and flight to St. John's Wood. Dr. Templeton kept him informed
of everything that was going on. It was arranged that Philip and Hobbs
should meet once a day, and these daily consultations were held without
the knowledge of Dora, until further orders.

Philip took Dr. Templeton's advice on every point.

He did not write to Dora. "No," he said to himself, "all the faults are
on my side; and it is for me to repair them, not by speeches and
promises but by deeds. I am not ready yet with a plan of action; but I
shall find one soon, and I will clear myself in Dora's eyes. I have lost
my child, but I will regain my wife. I will save her for her sake and my
own. If I fail, life is no longer of any use to me. Art could never
console me; Dora is more fortunate than I; she will find in painting a
forgetfulness of the past. For me, I must win back Dora, or everything
else is worthless, and I am done for. To work, then, cautiously!
Everything will depend on the way in which I set about it."

He began reviewing his position. The state of his finances was
satisfactory. He still had thirty-two thousand pounds, of which
twenty-eight thousand were invested in first-class securities.

"By Jove, I have only to clear out of that infernal house in order to be
rich; nearly fifteen hundred pounds a year and my brush! Why, of course
I am rich." And he hurled at himself a succession of all the abusive
epithets in his vocabulary. All his late follies arose and passed in
procession before his mind's eye, and he asked himself whether it could
really have been he who had committed them. At last his plan of action
was clearly traced, and he prepared to execute it in detail, and that
without delay.

The first thing to do was to interview his landlord, or rather the agent
of the noble duke who owned the district of London in which Philip's
house stood. He wanted permission to cancel his lease. He was prepared
for a decided refusal, or, at the least, for difficulties without end.
He was ready to compensate his Grace by paying him a good round sum. The
matter was concluded much more easily and rapidly than he had expected
or hoped. A rich American, whose daughter lived in the house next to
Philip's, and who had long been wishing to settle close to her, was
delighted to seize the opportunity, and finally took the house as it
was, and renewed the lease with the landlord. It was a stroke of luck
for Philip, and he said to himself, "Fortune is decidedly turning a
better face to me."

He knew that 50 Elm Avenue was still unlet, and he went next day to see
his former landlord. The house was not only to be let, it was for sale.
The price asked was three thousand pounds. Philip had nearly four
thousand in bank. He accepted without hesitation, and the bargain was
sealed on the spot. His lawyer attended to the details of the purchase.
Philip had the place painted and papered from top to bottom, he disposed
of some superfluous furniture, and in about a month from the time of his
decision he was reinstalled in his old home. The furnishing was exactly
the same as before, perhaps a trifle richer. He had been very careful to
introduce no change into the studio. The only addition visible was the
portrait of the little Italian boy that Dora had painted, and that he
had secured by the help of the dealer, who, following Philip's
instructions, offered her twenty-five guineas for it.

He engaged fresh servants; not one of the former staff was retained. If
ever he should be granted the happiness of seeing Dora return to the
nest, he wanted to have there no witnesses of the Belgravian scenes to
recall her painful memories.

He set to work ardently and full of hope. Every day Hobbs came, unknown
to Dora, to bring him news of her mistress.

Hobbs had told Dora that No. 50 was let, then that it was inhabited, but
by Dr. Templeton's orders she did not divulge the name of the occupant.
Dora was sad to hear the news, but she merely said, "I am surprised that
it has been empty so long; it is such a pretty house, so convenient, so
quiet, so" ... She could go no further, her emotion was too strong.
Presently, with an effort to regain command over herself, she added,
"May that house be an abode of happiness to those who inhabit it!" Hobbs
was sorry to have spoken, and yet she was burning to say to Dora, "Why,
it is your husband who lives there, and who holds out his arms to you;
go and throw yourself into them." But she had promised to keep the
secret, and she did not break her word.

Dora did not gain strength so fast as her friends had hoped she would.
Excitement, will-power, and courage had stood her in good stead at the
start, but she had started too rapidly, and she had not the physical
strength to carry her far at the same pace. She had unfortunately
counted a little without herself. In this new existence, monotonous and
almost without aim, there was not enough to satisfy her lofty character,
her bright and energetic nature, which cried out for movement and an
intellectual life. She still boasted of enjoying the pleasures of
poverty and of preferring them to the others, but she was, in these
days, chiefly brought in contact with the dulness and the bareness of
poverty. Discouragement invaded her heart, she began to feel that she
was vegetating and not living. Her courage was forsaking her. Later
might come despair and a desire to have done with the world.

Weak health, grief, and solitude were undermining her. Her temper,
always so equable formerly, so gay, was beginning to sour. The strangest
contradictions manifested themselves in her behaviour, and that is a
disquieting sign in a woman with a mind so well balanced as Dora's. She
had refused her door to everyone, and yet she complained that people had
forsaken her. She said she wanted to forget the past, and yet she
eagerly clung to everything that could remind her of it.

She had promised Hobbs never to go near 50 Elm Avenue, and for a long
time she kept her word. But one day she wanted to satisfy her curiosity,
to see what sort of an appearance the house had, now that it was
reoccupied. She came home in a state that distressed her faithful
companion.

"It seems, Hobbs, as if everything were conspiring to overwhelm me. I
have been to see the house."

"What! after your promise!"

"Yes, I know it is horrid of me, but I could not help it! Do you believe
me when I tell you that I felt as if I recognised some of our own
dining-room furniture through the window? And the curtains are exactly
the same!"

"Oh, ma'am, it is just your fancy," said poor Hobbs, who feared to hear
more. "At all events, you are cured of going there any more, I hope."

And there the matter ended. Lorimer had several times written to Dora,
but, not having received any answer to his letters, he had not yet
ventured to try and see her. He rather dreaded the first meeting.

"He too has forgotten me and given me up, you see, Hobbs," said Dora.

"Really, ma'am, you are not reasonable," replied Hobbs; "Mr. Lorimer has
written several times to you. Have you answered his letters?"

"No, it is true I have not, but what is there that I can say to him? No,
Hobbs, I have no friends left--only you, my good brave companion; but it
is very wrong of me to make you share my sad existence. It is selfish of
me. Hobbs, you shall not stay much longer. You must leave me ... not
just yet, but soon" ...

The good woman, melted to tears, asked what she had done to deserve to
be sent away. She vowed she was quite happy, and her tears fell in
great hot drops on Dora's hands, that she kissed with avidity.

"If Mr. Lorimer does not come to see you, why don't you write and ask
him to come? He would not wait to be asked twice, I know! He at least
has always been a real friend, and I am sure is devoted to you."

"That is true," said Dora.

"And then he is so merry; it does you good to look at him. He carries
gaiety wherever he goes. And he is so kind! Write to him, and I will
guarantee that he will rush out here as soon as he gets your letter."

"Yes, Hobbs, you are right, and I will do it to-day."

She immediately took pen and paper and wrote to Lorimer.

"Hobbs, you don't happen to know who the people are that are living in
our old house, I suppose?"

"No, ma'am," said Hobbs, rather scared at the question.

"Try to find it out."

"Oh, why, ma'am?"

"It would interest me to know, that is all."

"Some say it is a hermit, a bearish kind of gentleman who sees no one
and never goes out."

"Ah," said Dora. "Is he a painter?"

"I think so, ma'am, but I am not sure."

"He has had the house done up like new."

"I have heard that he is going to be married--that he has had the house
finely decorated for his future wife."

"Ah, and who told you all these details?"

"The tradespeople," replied Hobbs quickly.

Dora went on writing, and Hobbs, fearing she had said too much,
determined to turn a deaf ear to any questions Dora might put to her in
future on the subject of 50 Elm Avenue and its new master.



XVII

DORA'S STUDIO


We have every reason to suppose that if Lorimer had not called on Dora
in her new quarters, it was because he had not dared to do so. He saw
Philip often, and so had news of her nearly every day. He had feared to
be importunate, all the more so that Philip had told him how Dora had
closed her doors to everyone, and had shut herself up in complete
seclusion.

It was in the early part of the month of April 1898 that Lorimer
received from Dora a letter in which she said to him, "If you will come,
dear friend, I shall be so pleased to see you. I am in very poor
lodgings, but I am sure that will not make you pass me by on the other
side. Do come soon, I am longing to see a friendly face."

Lorimer lost no time in responding to her call. Hobbs opened the door to
him and beamed to see his cheerful face.

"Oh, sir! I am glad to see you, sir," said she.

"Well, my dear Hobbs, and how are things going by this time?" asked
Lorimer, in his cheeriest tones.

"You will do mistress such a lot of good, sir! She has not been at all
herself lately. She is very weak to-day and has passed a very bad
night--she is quite changed since the day she saw our old house was
occupied again, and yet she could not have thought that it would remain
unlet for ever."

"She does not know who it is that is living there, of course?"

"No, no, sir; but I should dearly love to tell her. I believe it would
put her into a better humour."

"Take care that you do not, Hobbs; she must not hear on any account. You
will know why later on. You may be sure that Mr. Grantham and I are not
idle. We have an idea in our heads, and you shall help us by and by to
put it into execution; so, for the present, not one word, you hear?"

"You can rely upon me, sir."

"Yes, I am sure of that. And now, can I have a little talk with Mrs.
Grantham?"

"Yes, sir, in a minute or two. She will be so glad to see you, you will
do her much good! The doctor is with her for the moment."

"What does he say about her?"

"Nothing--I can't get anything out of him. He shakes his head. It's
disheartening. And mistress will not listen to reason; she tears up all
the prescriptions, especially lately, for the last week or so--it is
very sad. I shall go and tell her you are here."

Lorimer, left alone in the studio, looked around him and took in all its
details.

"Why, it's freezing here!" he said to himself. "Heavens! it's no wonder,
there is positively no fire. Is she so poor as.... Oh no, it can't be so
bad as that. What pathos in this room--an exact reproduction of that
lovely one in the other house, where we used to have such merry times!
Ah, there is the old clock in its place--not going, I see. There is
Dora's portrait on Philip's easel, still lacking the finishing touches.
There is Philip's jacket, hanging just where it always hung--the two
easels and stools--everything in place, nothing wanting but Philip
himself. What treasures of tenderness are revealed in this poor
counterfeit presentment of the other studio! How happy her life must
have been there, that she should want to make an exact imitation of the
room, and so revive the past! There are people who break with their
happy bygone times, others who cling to them determinedly. A few pounds
have transformed this miserable studio into a living souvenir that will
kill her. And yet, why do I say _will kill her_, when it is just this
living souvenir that keeps her alive--that will keep her alive, perhaps?
Here were two beings who loved each other dearly, and between whom a
simple suspicion, a terrible misunderstanding, seems to have erected an
insurmountable barrier. Philip wanted to be rich, poor beggar! He has
not been long learning that there is but a step from Plutus to Pluto.
Most of the old proverbs want re-editing. I know one that ought to run:
'When wealth comes in at the door, love and happiness fly out at the
window.' But poor old Philip is cured, radically cured, once and for
ever. He talks nonsense still sometimes, but it is the other whom I am
most anxious about, and who vows that everything is over. Philip goes in
for philosophy, and that is a healthy sign. He has decided that his wife
is better off than he is, because she has found consolation in her
painting. He would give his whole house for Dora's garret. And the
fellow tells us these things in a tone of conviction, as if he were
uttering the wisdom of a Solomon or a Socrates. The panegyric of
poverty is all bosh; it is an affectation! When I see a book entitled
_How to Live comfortably on Two Hundred a Year_, I take it for granted
that the author is a millionaire."

Dr. Templeton came out of Dora's bedroom and surprised Lorimer in the
midst of his reflections. He was looking troubled and in a bad temper.

"That woman will exhaust my patience, I know she will. She is the most
obstinate, the most ... the most ... there, I can't find a word for
her."

"Don't try, doctor; you have explained yourself admirably."

"Yes, I am getting out of patience at last. I can do nothing with her.
She takes no notice of my advice or my prescriptions. If she is bent
upon dying--why, she must die, I suppose; she does not want a doctor for
that."

"That does not always go without saying," said Lorimer jokingly.

"If we cannot get her out of this place, she has not another month to
live. She must have change of air, and change of scene and company, or
she is done for. She has not a chance ... and that damned picture!" he
vociferated, shaking his fist at the easel, "that confounded portrait!
the sight of it is killing her by inches. Nothing will induce her to
part with it ... she was bent on bringing it here.... I tell you I have
a very good mind to fling it out of the window. Poor woman!" he added,
calming down, "it distresses me to see her. The wound is too deep, we
can do nothing to cauterise it."

"Listen to me, my dear doctor," said Lorimer, "between ourselves Dora is
carrying this thing much too far. I know the story from beginning to
end. It is absurdly ridiculous! Philip has, so to speak, nothing to ask
forgiveness about, unless it be for having neglected his wife for an
invention that absorbed all his thoughts."

"My dear fellow, when a woman of Mrs. Grantham's sort loves her husband,
she exaggerates everything. The slightest inattention becomes to her a
subject for deep grief, a look of indifference causes her horrible
suffering. Little things take on gigantic proportions. A man should
surround with the most constant care and affection a woman who loves him
as our friend here loved her husband."

"But, after all, a busy man can't pass all his time at the feet of his
wife. There is the morning paper, you know, and his correspondence, and
a thousand other everyday occupations. Give him a chance! Happy the wife
who only has an art or an invention to be jealous of! Isn't it enough
for a woman to know that she is loved, by the substantial proofs of
affection that are given her?"

"No," replied the doctor; "for us men it suffices to know that we are
loved, but with women the case is quite different. They love to have it
told them--some of them so much that they could hear it from morning to
night and night to morning, without ever growing weary of the tale!"

"Mistress is coming in a moment," said Hobbs to Lorimer.

"Look here, Hobbs," said the doctor, "how does Mrs. Grantham manage to
get a living here? How does she keep you and herself? It is perhaps an
indiscreet question, but it is important that we should know just how
matters stand."

"Don't you trouble about that, doctor," replied Hobbs. "We pay our way
and save money. Why! my mistress sold a picture yesterday."

"Really!--and for how much?"

"Well, sir, you are getting a little inquisitive. For twenty-five
pounds, if you must know."

"Twenty-five pounds!" said the doctor, winking at Lorimer. "Well, and
how much is your rent?"

"Thirty pounds a year. Don't be alarmed about us, we don't spend all the
money we make."

"We make! Oh, I see, you work too?"

"I should think I did, sir; I clean the rooms, I do the cooking" ...

"And what about your wages?"

"My wages--the affection and kindness of my dear mistress, and I shall
never ask or expect any increase. We are all right, doctor; don't make
your mind uneasy about us. If only I could see her grow strong,
everything else would be all right."

"Devoted woman!" said the doctor to Lorimer; "it does one good to feel
that there are hearts like that beating in the world! It isn't such a
bad place after all."

Then turning to Hobbs, and pretending to be very angry, he said, "By
Jove, I'll go and find the landlord, and get him to raise the rent, and
turn you both out, if you don't pay it. As for this portrait, I'll throw
it in the fire or pitch it out of the window, do you hear?"

He shook hands with Lorimer and went out.

"What did he say?" exclaimed the frightened Hobbs, when Dr. Templeton
was out of hearing.

"He says he will pitch that picture out of the window to begin with, and
I will help him do it too."

"No, no, he must not do that," cried Hobbs excitedly. "That picture is
the only thing she has got left now. See, she is copying it. I have
caught her kneeling before it and kissing it. Sometimes she will sit
here in front of it and smile so happily--then she will look at the
other stool beside her, and her eyes fill with tears. She believes
herself in Elm Avenue. Do you know what she did once? Oh, it's too
ridiculous, I ought not to tell you."

"Go on, Hobbs," said Lorimer, mastering his emotion, "tell me all about
it, you know how much I am interested in everything that concerns Mrs.
Grantham."

"Well, she made me sit on master's stool one day," said Hobbs, in a low
confidential voice. "Oh, no, I can't tell you, you will laugh at it--and
I could not have you laugh at anything she did," added she, with tears
in her eyes.

"Oh, please, Hobbs."

"Well, then," continued Hobbs, "after making me sit down on the stool
she threw the old velvet coat on my shoulders--there it is, hanging
over there--to make the illusion more complete. She put a palette in my
left hand and a brush in my right--then she burst out laughing, and the
next minute had thrown herself into my arms sobbing like a child. Throw
the picture out of the window," added Hobbs, shaking her fist at the
closed door; "throw it in the fire, indeed! let him come and try it! I
will obey all the orders he likes to give me, but don't let him dare to
come near that picture. Why, sir, it would kill her. Oh, you won't let
him do it, you won't, will you? Promise me he shall not touch it."

"No, Hobbs," said Lorimer, profoundly touched. "I promise you that
nothing shall happen to it; make your mind easy about that."

And he took the good woman's hands and pressed them with warmth.

"Thank you, sir, thank you," said Hobbs, wiping her eyes--"oh, I hear
mistress moving, I will go to her now."

"Dear devoted creature!" said Lorimer to himself when Hobbs had gone
out. "The doctor is right, the world is not so bad--I wonder what all
this means: the episode of the easel--what can that signify except that
Dora loves Philip still, and cannot forget him? Alas, perhaps it is
only the Philip of the old days that she tries to keep in her memory.
Anyhow, it is a good symptom--my little idea is growing."

Hearing steps in the adjoining room, he drew from his pocket a small
packet which Philip had confided to his care. It was the "little
family," of which the reader made the acquaintance at the beginning of
this story. Philip had said to him, "Carry this letter to Dora and plead
for me. If she refuses to listen to you and refuses to read my letter,
give her this little packet, it will intercede for me."

Dora came into the studio pale and evidently ill, but walking with a
tolerably firm step. She made a kindly gesture to Hobbs and closed the
door of the bedroom.

"Ah, my dear friend," she said to Lorimer, "how good of you to come! I
have not been very well lately, but I am better, much better ... well!
what now? Why do you look at me like that?"

"Why do I look at you?"

"Yes."

Lorimer had never seen Dora looking more beautiful than to-day. Her very
pallor added a new charm. Her black gown was moulded to the lovely lines
of her figure, and her hair was becomingly dressed. Lorimer had taken
both her hands in his and was looking at her with eyes that expressed a
mingling of sympathy, respect, and admiration.

"Why do I look at you?" he repeated, "well, then, because I should like
to give you a good kiss."

"Why then, why don't you?"

Lorimer kissed her on both cheeks, while still holding her hands.

"I should just like," he said, "to take you up in my arms, carry you off
and place you in Philip's."

Dora quickly disengaged herself from Lorimer's light hold and repressed
an angry gesture. She offered him a chair, and, taking one herself,
said, "My dear Gerald, never pronounce that name in my hearing, and we
shall be good friends still, as we always have been. Speak to me of
yourself. Have you a new piece on hand? I hear that _Majella_ is still
drawing crowded houses."

Lorimer saw that he had gone a little too fast at the start. He resolved
to be more cautious. A better opening might occur presently, perhaps.

"No," he said, "it is of you we will talk! You are not looking well.
Work, solitude, all that sort of thing is not good for you in your
present state. Come, Dora, I am an old friend of your childhood, let us
talk freely, you and I. You must leave London for the country, you want
fresh air. It is the opinion of Dr. Templeton, and it is mine too."

"I am very happy here, I have all that I want; don't be afraid ... I
have plenty of occupation.... I work.... I try to forget."

"Ah, yes; you try to forget by surrounding yourself with everything that
can help you to remember. It is a strange manner of setting about it. I
have come here to fetch you, to beg you to come to my sister's in the
country. I will take you there. Come and breathe the pure air in the
fields, come and see the apple trees in blossom--it will put new joy
into your heart."

"Oh, it would be quite impossible now ... later on, perhaps.... I do not
say no."

The conversation did not take the turn that Lorimer wished.

"Listen," said he, in the tone of a man who has taken a sudden
resolution, "I want to speak to you upon a rather delicate subject, but
you must not stop me. You have just forbidden me to mention the name of
your husband before you. Very well, I will not mention his name, but I
am going to make you acquainted with certain facts which you ought no
longer to be ignorant of. I do not come here to plead in his favour, and
yet, as even the blackest criminal is not executed without a chance of
defending himself, I really do not see what there would be outrageous,
even in that. Will you listen a few moments?"

"Very well! Go on," said Dora indifferently.

"I saw him yesterday--for that matter, I have seen him almost every day
since he came back to London."

"Where has he been?" asked Dora, with but a mild display of interest.

"To Paris."

"He often goes over--I mean he often used to go."

"The last time he went there, an incident happened which it seems to me
ought to interest you. He went to seek out General Sabaroff. He found
him, tore up before his eyes the paper that he had signed in your house,
and threw the pieces in his face."

"Heavens!" said Dora, startled, "and what happened then?"

"The next morning they fought with pistols--in the Bois de
Vincennes--your husband lodged a bullet in the General's right
shoulder."

Dora did not attempt to hide the feeling of joy and pride that
involuntarily rose within her.

"Philip was always a good shot--he himself was not hurt?"

"No--you will allow me now to pronounce your husband's name, since you
have used it yourself."

Dora frowned and bit her lips.

"At all events, the contract is torn up!" she cried. "God be praised! I
paid dearly enough for that vile piece of paper--I have a right to
rejoice that it no longer exists. Philip did well, he did well. And
after that?"

"Why, that is all--ah, no, I was forgetting. Philip begged me to hand
you this letter--and this packet."

Dora went pale; she put the packet aside, and was going to tear up the
letter when Lorimer interrupted--

"What are you going to do?" said he. "Tear up this letter? You will do
nothing of the kind: that letter is from Philip, from your husband."

"My dear Gerald, my husband no longer exists for me."

"Dora," rejoined Lorimer, "you are cruel. Your husband loves you, and is
overwhelmed with sorrow."

"My husband never loved me. I thought he loved his art and his wife, he
only loved his invention and his money."

"Philip has never ceased to love you. He may have lost his head for a
little while, when fortune visited him almost without knocking at the
door. The other day the faults were on his side, now they are more on
yours. You are unjust, cruel to him, cruel to yourself. Your obstinacy,
my dear Dora, bids fair to put an end to the pair of you. Yes, that is
the point things have come to; now, do you hear what I say? His despair
and repentance ought to touch you; what he did in Paris the other day
ought to satisfy you. He lives only in the hope of your forgiveness, in
the hope of your return."

"Philip did not hesitate to thrust me into the arms of a libertine. If I
had yielded to that man's hateful desires, Philip would probably never
have destroyed the contract."

"Hold your tongue, Dora!" cried Lorimer; "you are uttering blasphemies.
You have allowed a silly idea, an absurd suspicion to gain an entrance
into your head, and, like a grain of sand in the eye, it has carried on
its irritating work till it has blotted out your vision, and you can see
nothing except this molecule that seems to have turned into a mountain.
Take care, Dora, or your mountain will crush you as well as blind you.
Do you know that by obstinately refusing to listen to reason, a woman
cuts herself off from friendly sympathy? People cease to take an
interest in her woes. If you wish to alienate the sympathy of your most
devoted friends, you are going the right way to work."

"I do not need anyone's sympathy," replied Dora proudly; "and I do not
ask for it."

"Once more, Dora, listen to me. Philip may have neglected you, in order
to throw himself body and soul into that invention which absorbed him
night and day. But, remember, such a piece of work as that is a very
exacting, inexorable mistress. You felt his indifference keenly, and it
wounded you--the rest exists in your imagination alone. Now the mistress
is discarded, cast out completely. Let the artist return again to his
easel at your side."

"Never, oh, never!" cried Dora. "Ah, my dear Gerald, if you only knew
how I loved that man!"

"And how you still love him," ventured Lorimer.

Dora rose suddenly, the thrust had not miscarried.

"I am sorry if it hurts you, but it is the truth," added Lorimer, with a
significant smile.

"What do you mean?" demanded Dora, who thought Lorimer's remark somewhat
out of place, and a little over-familiar.

"Come now, sit down here in front of me, your friend. You know I am a
bit of a student of human nature, it is my stock-in-trade. My dear Dora,
do not attempt to throw dust in your own eyes--you love Philip still;
everything in this room testifies aloud to the feeling that you cannot
stifle. Oh, do not start, do not deny it. If I am not right, what is the
meaning of all this that I see around us?"

"In these surroundings I can evoke the Philip of the past, and that
helps me to forget the Philip of the present."

"He is one and the same. He was changed for a few months; but to-day he
is what he used to be, and what he will be always--the artist who loves
you and longs for you. Dora, what have you to say in reply?"

"My head burns so, dear friend, spare me now. We will talk again ... but
by and by."

A knock was heard at the door. "Oh, would you mind seeing who that
is?--I am not expecting anyone," said Dora.

Dora threw an anxious look towards the door.

Lorimer went and opened it.

The visitor was no other than our old friend, Sir Benjamin Pond, City
alderman and patron of arts in his spare moments.

He evidently expected to find himself in a hall or anteroom, instead of
straightway standing in a studio in the presence of Dora and Lorimer. He
was seized with a little fit of timidity, which he had difficulty in
mastering, and which made him awkward in the extreme.

He removed his hat and stood turning it in his hands. Regaining his
equilibrium, after a moment, he advanced respectfully towards Dora,
without venturing, however, to hold out his hand.

"My dear Mrs. Grantham--Mr. Lorimer, how do you do?"

Dora and Lorimer bowed distantly without speaking, and seemed to wait
for him to explain the object of his visit. The worthy man wished
himself under the floor.

"I came," he said, stammering, "I came--that is to say, it's just
this--I only heard yesterday of your removal here, quite by accident,
and I also heard that you had with you the picture that I so much wanted
to purchase last year. Ah, there it is, I see. You observe I have not
lost all hope of possessing it, that picture which" ...

Dora and Lorimer looked at Sir Benjamin without uttering a word, and the
poor man grew more and more embarrassed.

"Well," he went on, "I have come to beg you to sell it to me. That is
why I came early--to be sure to find you in. I do not, my dear madam,
wish to profit by the regrettable circumstances in which you find
yourself placed, to offer you a low price, or to bargain for the
picture, believe me. No, no, I have too much respect for you, too much
admiration for the painter. I wish to behave honourably over the matter,
and deal generously, as a gentleman should."

He would have given hundreds of pounds to be leagues away from this
studio that he had pushed his way into.

"I will willingly give you," added he, "five hundred pounds for the
picture. What do you say to the offer?"

Dora and Lorimer did not open their lips. Their eyes never quitted those
of the alderman. Lorimer moved back a little to a more retired post of
observation: the scene began to interest him keenly. To Dora five
hundred pounds was a small fortune. Would she sell the canvas? By
withdrawing a little, he placed her more at her ease, left her free to
decide according to the dictates of her heart, while, as I said before,
he himself obtained a better view of the little comedy that was being
enacted before him.

"Yes," said Sir Benjamin again, "five hundred pounds down. I am ready to
draw you a cheque this minute."

"This picture is not for sale, Sir Benjamin," said Dora frigidly,
"neither for five hundred nor for five thousand, nor for any other sum
that it may please you to offer."

Lorimer would have loved to cry _Bravo_! "She does love him, then,
still--we shall save her," he said to himself.

"You see, my dear Sir Benjamin," said he, "the offer is useless. I
suppose you still have the spare thirty-six by fifty to fill up, eh?"

"Ah, ah," laughed the alderman; "yes, that is to say, no; it is a new
vacancy on my walls. Everyone has his fads here on earth, has he not?
The Queen gives shawls to her friends when they marry, I give pictures
to mine. It gives me occasion to purchase new pictures. Well, madam," he
added, turning to Dora, "I admire you--I will beg you to excuse me. I
thought that, perhaps, you might have been very glad to ... I wanted
very much," he went on, retiring, nervous and awkward, towards the door,
"to have that picture, but I wished also to do you a good turn--to
render you a friendly service which could not hurt your
susceptibilities.... After all, artists try to sell their pictures,
don't they?... And I should have thought that such an offer at such a
time" ...

The unfortunate man floundered more and more.

"Well, excuse me," said he; "I will wish you good-morning."

His back was now against the door. The next second he was in the street
again. The poor fellow mopped the perspiration from his brow.

"The woman is mad--she is a prig!" he said to himself, as he hailed a
passing hansom and set out for the City, where he was more in his
element.

Dora was choking with anger. Lorimer rubbed his hands with joy.

"Not even a front door of my own to protect me against the importunities
of such a fool as that! Oh, the sympathy of such a man! The drop that
overbrims the vase! The kick of the jackass! And you can stand there and
laugh."

"Ah, my dear Dora, what good you have done me!" exclaimed Lorimer, who
could not contain his delight. "You were quite right--not for five
hundred, nor for five thousand, nor for a million. That picture is a
treasure no gold could pay for--never let it go--Philip will finish it.
Oh, how happy you have made me! You love him still! you know you do," he
cried.

"You know nothing about it," said Dora, and, taking the little packet
that Lorimer had brought her from her husband, she went towards her
bedroom.

"I am tiring you," said Lorimer. "I ought not to have stayed so long,
but it seemed to me I had so many things to say to you--and I have not
got through half of them. Look here, I have a little business in the
neighbourhood, my time is my own; may I come at four o'clock to ask you
for a cup of tea?"

"Why, of course," said Dora. "How nice of you! Oh, it is good to see a
friend who is always the same."

Lorimer took her outstretched hand and respectfully lifted her fingers
to his lips. Then he went out. He could have danced for very joy.

The scene he had just witnessed confirmed him in his belief that there
was yet hope for Philip.

He had a plan evolved out of his dramatic author's brain, a little _coup
de théâtre_, which he thought had every chance of turning out a success.
He had already talked of it to Philip and Dr. Templeton, and both of
them had pronounced it an excellent idea. Hobbs also was in the secret.
Lorimer judged the time ripe for the execution of this plan. On leaving
Dora he jumped into a cab, and went to warn the other conspirators to
hold themselves in readiness. The doctor was to make his appearance at
Dora's about five o'clock, to see how she was doing. Philip was to wait
in the street in readiness for a signal, which should bid him to the
scene of action in due time. When everything was decided, and the
details well arranged, Lorimer took Philip to his club, where they
passed an hour or two in talk before returning to St. John's Wood to
proceed to action.



XVIII

LORIMER'S PLOT


When Dora was alone, she took Philip's letter and put it by without
opening; then she softly began to untie the small packet. She could not
repress her emotion at the sight of these little flowers, that brought
back the memory of the happiest days of her life. It was like a breath
of Elm Avenue, stealing into her attic.

"Our little family," she said. "Poor little flowers, you were happy when
Philip plucked you, happy even as I in those days was happy! And to-day
you are faded, limp, and lifeless, even as my poor heart. Oh, cursed be
life, I cannot weep even at sight of you.... You at least have no memory
to torture you. What would I not give to obliterate my own!"

When Hobbs came in to set the table, she found Dora lying drowsily back
in her armchair, holding in her hands the flowers whose history the
good woman knew well. She did not like to disturb her mistress, and
retired discreetly into the bedroom to wait patiently until Dora should
wake. But Dora did not stir, and the beefsteak would certainly be
spoilt. Hobbs returned, and softly and deftly set about her
preparations.

Dora opened her eyes, and was annoyed to see Hobbs smiling at sight of
the flowers she still held in her hands. It seemed as if the servant had
surprised a dear secret, and was reading in her mistress's heart
something that she herself could scarcely decipher yet.

"The pansies come back!... Then it must be master who has sent them,"
said Hobbs.

"Yes," replied Dora, "yes, it is he; they no longer mean anything to
him, so he sent them to me. He gets rid of them."

"And shall I tell you what I think? I think that these flowers mean a
great deal to him still, and, if he has sent them here, it is that they
may say to you, 'In the name of the happy past that these flowers will
remind you of, come back to me. I love you and I wait for you.' That's
what I think."

Dora did not encourage Hobbs to continue. She rose and went to the
table; but she had no appetite, and scarcely touched the succulent food
that Hobbs had prepared for her.

"I expect Mr. Lorimer at four o'clock," said Dora; "he is coming to have
tea with me. Meanwhile, I am going to read. I want to be alone here, for
a while, Hobbs."

When the lunch had been taken away, Dora remained in the studio and
installed herself in an armchair with a book in her hand, but she did
not read. The thoughts chased one another through her brain. Doubt and
incertitude pursued her and disturbed her inmost soul, but although she
could not exactly explain to herself what was passing within her, she
felt that this doubt and incertitude were no longer of Philip's
innocence, but of his culpability. The fact is, she was waiting eagerly
for Lorimer's return, not only because his breezy company acted as a
tonic to her nerves, and seemed to bring forth fresh strength, but
because she was dying to learn more details about Philip's doings.

She did not say it to herself in so many words but something within her
cried out: "You are unjust, your obstinacy blinds you; lend an ear to
all that can throw light on this matter; do not refuse any longer to
learn the facts."

Lorimer was punctual to the minute. As the clock struck four, he walked
into the studio. He found Dora in the same dress which she had worn in
the morning, but he noticed that her hair was differently arranged, and
that her very simple mourning robes yet possessed an air of elegance. In
her whole appearance there was something which revealed a woman who had
retained a consciousness of her beauty.

Lorimer seemed in gayer mood than ever. Dora noticed it at once, and the
good spirits of her old friend insensibly roused a response in her.

Hobbs brought in the tea, and Dora poured out two cups.

Lorimer took a piece of cake, drank his cup of tea, and asked for a
second. He helped himself to another slice of cake, and drank his second
cup of tea with evident relish.

"Another cup?" said Dora.

"With pleasure; your tea is delicious, and tea to me is a life-saving
liquid, a sovereign remedy for numberless ills. No washerwoman sips her
bohea with greater gusto. It is tea that revives me after fatigue, tea
that stimulates me when I am at work, tea that cheers me in desponding
moments. Long live tea!"

"You must not overdo your devotion," said Dora.

"Oh, my dear friend," rejoined Lorimer, "you must not overdo anything,
if it comes to that--you allow a cigarette?"

"I allow two; have you a light?"

"Yes, thank you."

Lorimer lit a cigarette, inhaled the fragrant smoke, and sent it soaring
in blue spirals to the ceiling.

"We were speaking of abusing things just now ... well, as a matter of
fact, it is our most salient national trait. I pass most of my time in
preaching upon this text. The word _moderation_ scarcely exists for us.
The apostles of temperance, for instance, exhort to total abstinence,
instead of moderation. The word _temperance_ cannot by any stretch of
its meaning imply total abstinence, the essence of its significance is
moderation. When one speaks of a country as enjoying a temperate
climate, that does not mean that the country has no climate at all, it
means that it has a moderate climate, and is not very hot or very cold."

Dora began to wonder whether Lorimer was going to philosophise long, or
whether the conversation would soon turn upon Philip again.

"It is in the Anglo-Saxon blood," continued Lorimer. "We fling ourselves
heart and soul into our enterprises, even to the danger of our
well-being and our happiness; we do not know how to steer the middle
course. For instance, now, take Philip's case. It is just that. There
you have a striking example of my theory. A Frenchman who had invented
his shell, would probably have gone on painting pictures. The Frenchman
who has made a fortune, eases off steam, and takes things easily. The
Anglo-Saxon who has made a fortune, wants to straightway make another.
Philip is English, he can't help it.... I call that the complete
absorption of the individual; and, after all, this very defect in our
national character has been a source of glory, for it has helped us to
do great deeds and conquer half the earth."

"Granted," said Dora; "but it is not your theory upon what you are
pleased to call the complete absorption of a man, which will explain how
that man can forget all his obligations to his wife."

Lorimer smiled as he realised that Dora continued to think of Philip.

"Oh, but it does, at least up to a certain point. First of all, what do
you mean by all his obligations towards his wife? If to neglect her is
to fail in all his duty towards her, my theory explains the phenomenon
perfectly."

"Come, come, my dear friend, do you maintain, for instance, that a
husband who loves his wife, or even only respects her, forces her to
receive the visits of a man whom he knows to have been in love with her
before her marriage, and who has earned for himself a well-merited
reputation as a libertine? Is that kind of thing a natural consequence
of the complete absorption?"

"We are getting on now," thought Lorimer.

"Does he invite that man to his house to dine, and then miss a train, so
that they may be thrown together _en tête-à-tête_ for a whole evening?
Is that your absorption, too? Ah, don't talk to me, my dear Gerald;
there are circumstances which awake the most absorbed man on earth."

Lorimer remained dumb, and looked at Dora in the strangest manner, as if
seeking to know whether he had heard aright. He threw his cigarette on
the tray and drew nearer to her. He hardly knew whether to pity her or
to reproach her bitterly.

"What!" said he, "you do not know what happened to Philip at the moment
that he was about to leave the Paris hotel to return to London in time
to dine with Sabaroff? He never explained all that to you? Why, he told
me that he had written you a long explanation of it all."

"It is quite true that he has written to me several times since that
dreadful day, but I have torn up unread every letter he has sent me
since I left that hated house."

"Well," said Lorimer, with an air of mixed pity and amazement, "upon my
word, you can do clever things, when you set about it! If you had read
his letters, you would have learnt the whole truth."

"Tell me yourself, tell me everything," said Dora breathlessly.

"Listen, then, while I show you how unfounded was your crowning
suspicion of him. Philip's business in Paris being finished, he had
breakfasted early, and was descending the staircase on his way to his
cab, when, as he reached the first floor landing, a door opened, and a
gentleman came out. Judge of his feelings at finding himself face to
face with his father! One glance served to show Philip that a great
change had come over him. From a hale, haughty, self-reliant man of
sixty, he had turned into a pitiable invalid, and looked prematurely old
and feeble. A broken cry, 'My son!' arrested Philip's steps. Struck with
pity at the sight of the change in his father, he allowed himself to be
led through the still-open door, and there ensued a moving scene in
which the elder man humbled himself before the younger and implored his
forgiveness. The minutes fled by meanwhile, and when Philip, unnerved
and shaken, reached the station, it was only to find that the train had
left two minutes before. The rest you know."

"Oh, my poor brain is on fire," murmured Dora.

"Dora, you have misjudged Philip. He made you rich, thinking to add to
your happiness--that is the only harm he ever did you. Ah, say that you
forgive him, and will go back to him--he is waiting for you."

"No, no, never in that house."

"No," said Lorimer softly; "not in that house, but the old studio in Elm
Avenue."

"Where? what did you say?" exclaimed Dora.

"Philip has left the house you hate so, because of its cruel souvenirs.
He has gone back to St. John's Wood, where you spent the first six years
of your married life, and, in order never to be turned out of that
house, he has bought it."

"But the house is inhabited," said Dora.

"I know it."

"Why, then--it must be Philip" ...

"Who occupies it," said Lorimer; "he is only waiting for your presence,
dear Dora, before beginning to work again. He will devote the rest of
his life to painting in the old studio. It is his irrevocable
resolution."

A ray of ineffable joy spread over Dora's face; but the shock had been
too violent and too sudden. She was not strong enough to bear such
emotion as the news had caused her. Repeating over Lorimer's phrase, "It
is he who occupies the house! Oh, my dear old studio!" she fell fainting
into his arms, and he called Hobbs to come quickly to her mistress's
aid. After a few moments her eyes opened, she smiled at Lorimer, and he
took her hands and kissed them.

It was five o'clock. Dr. Templeton arrived, and had Dora led to her
bedroom, with a recommendation to rest quietly on the bed a while.

"It is only a little weakness," said he; "her pulse is almost normal.
This sort of thing is often caused by sudden emotion. It will soon be
over, but I will stay near her for the present."

"My plan is working well," said Lorimer; "I will give the signal to
Philip. Be careful that she does not enter this room until everything is
ready."

The doctor nodded assent, as he opened Dora's door and disappeared
inside.

Philip came upstairs, trembling like a culprit. When he looked around
and took in the details of the poor studio, which was such a faithful
copy of another dear to both, he could not restrain his emotion. All
that Dora had kept back from his knowledge, this pathetic room revealed
to him. He had difficulty in keeping back his tears.

"Dora is there," whispered Lorimer, pointing to the room.

"Ah, she is there!"

He stepped softly over on tiptoe. Through the door of this room, the
heart of Philip sent a message to Dora: "If a man's devotion can revive
a woman's long-lost smile, and redeem the wrong that he has
thoughtlessly inflicted, you shall live joyously once more, cherished
and adored. The remainder of my life shall be consecrated to your
happiness."

Dr. Templeton came into the studio, and announced that Dora was
sleeping.

"To tell you the truth," said he to Lorimer, "your plan frightened me
somewhat at first. I was afraid that the shock might be a little too
much for our fragile patient. She is far from strong, she has been
overtaxing her strength, and the emotions of this day, followed up by
such a scene as you have planned, would, I feared, be a heavy strain to
subject her to. However, I have just carefully sounded her heart, and,
thank Heaven, I feel relieved. It is beating regularly enough now, and I
think we can, in all security, try the little manoeuvre you suggest.
It is a trifle melodramatic perhaps, but an excellent idea for all
that."

"Well, then, to work at once," said Lorimer. "Let us proceed to make
this room a still more faithful copy of the St. John's Wood studio than
Dora has done, by adding to it the artist himself."

Philip, docile as a child in the hands of these two friends, lent
himself to the scheme, and did exactly as he was bid. He began by taking
off his coat and donning his working jacket, then, palette and brush in
hand, he seated himself on the stool in front of the easel that bore the
portrait of Dora.

"Perfect," said Lorimer, who surveyed every detail, as if he had been
superintending a rehearsal of one of his plays. "If I am successful
to-day, this scene will be my _chef-d'oeuvre_."

Dr. Templeton went to Dora's room and found her sleeping soundly.

"She sleeps still," he said, as he rejoined the others; "do not let us
disturb her. When she wakens, Hobbs is going to let me know, and I will
go in and fetch her."

They remained talking together in hushed tones for about twenty minutes.
Hobbs opened the door, and made a sign to signify that the patient was
awake.

Immediately Dr. Templeton rose and went to the bedroom, while Lorimer
lowered the blinds and darkened the studio, so that nothing could be
clearly distinguished. Philip again took up his position at the easel.

"As soon as ever the room gets lighter, work away at the picture, so as
to give the impression that you are finishing it, and take no notice of
anything else around you.... Hush, I think I hear her coming!"

Sounds were heard coming from Dora's room.

The door was opened slowly.

"Now then, attention!" whispered Lorimer, "and quite steady, please, as
the photographers say."

The doctor led in Dora, followed by Hobbs.

"How dark it is!" said Dora; "have I slept a long while? Mr. Lorimer is
gone, I suppose?"

Lorimer was watching from behind a screen the working out of his
stratagem.

"Dear Mrs. Grantham," said Dr. Templeton, "I am going to make a
particular request of you. I want to try an experiment. Just to please
me, would you mind taking this palette and these brushes, and seating
yourself in front of that easel?"

The reader remembers that Dora had placed, side by side, in her poor
room, the two easels that had so stood in Philip's studio.

"It is not exactly a favour I ask, it is a prescription that I have
great faith in for you, and that may have great results--I beg of you!"

"Why, of course, with pleasure," said Dora, allowing herself to be drawn
towards the second easel.

"Now, mix your colours and prepare to do some painting."

"But what shall I mix?" demanded Dora; "I am only too willing to obey."

"Oh, never mind what--I am making a little experiment with you--that is
all; I will tell you later on more about it--come, you can't refuse me.

"But, my dear doctor, the room is too dark; I cannot see; is it evening
already?"

"You are right. I will give you some more light."

Little by little, the doctor raised the blind. Philip did not stir.
Faithful to his instructions, as soon as the light was let in, he began
assiduously using his brush.

Dora, languid and ignoring all that was taking place around her, was
mechanically mixing her colours, while waiting for Dr. Templeton to tell
her that he had finished his experiment, and that she might rise from
her seat. The room was now quite light.

"Well, doctor," said she, "is it over?" She turned round, and saw Philip
at work on the portrait, and absorbed in his occupation, as he had been
in the dear old days gone by. Palette and pencils fell from her hands.
She gazed silent and breathless. She took her head in both hands, as if
to assure herself that she was awake and not dreaming.

Philip turned with an imploring look in his eyes. Then, laying down his
brush and palette, he rose slowly and stood with open arms.

Dora uttered one cry, "Philip!" and, sobbing with joy, she buried her
face in her husband's breast.

"Dora, my Dora!" repeated Philip, caressing the beautiful head that lay
once more in his embrace.

They remained for several minutes, oblivious of everything around,
united in a new-found exquisite bliss.

Hobbs ran to hide her own tears and emotions in the bedroom of her
beloved mistress.

"Well, my dear doctor," said Lorimer, "we have had an afternoon's work,
but it has been successful, eh?"

"Yes," replied Dr. Templeton, "she is saved."

"And now I am going to wind up the old clock and set it going once
more," said Lorimer.

This done, the two men softly stole out of the studio.

And the old clock, with its good, round, cheery face, seemed to smile at
Philip and Dora, while its tick-tack said, as plainly as could be, "Here
are the good days come again, and I will count their hours for you."



THE END


    PRINTED BY
    MORRISON AND GIBB LIMITED
    EDINBURGH



               _Frederick Warne & Co.'s Publications_


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