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Title: The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett
Author: MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SYLVIA SCARLETT

BOOKS BY COMPTON MACKENZIE

SYLVIA SCARLETT PLASHERS MEAD

HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK [ESTABLISHED 1817]



THE EARLY LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

SYLVIA SCARLETT

By COMPTON MACKENZIE

Author of "PLASHERS MEAD" "SINISTER STREET" "CARNIVAL" ETC.

[Illustration: colophon]

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON



SYLVIA SCARLETT

Copyright, 1918,
by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America



PRELUDE



=_Prelude_=


At six o'clock on the morning of Ash Wednesday in the year 1847, the
Honorable Charles Cunningham sat sipping his coffee in the restaurant of
the Vendanges de Bourgogne. He was somewhat fatigued by the exertions
that as "lion" of the moment he had felt bound to make, exertions that
had included a display of English eccentricity and had culminated in a
cotillion at a noble house in the Faubourg St.-Germain, the daughter of
which had been assigned to him by Parisian gossip as his future wife.
Marriage, however, did not present itself to his contemplation as an
urgent duty; and he sipped his coffee, reassured by the example of his
brother Saxby, who, with the responsibility of a family succession,
remained a bachelor. In any case, the notion of marrying a French girl
was preposterous; he was not to be flattered into an unsuitable alliance
by compliments upon his French. Certainly he spoke French uncommonly
well, devilishly well for an Englishman, he told himself; and he stroked
his whiskers in complacent meditation.

Charles Cunningham had arrived at the Vendanges de Bourgogne to watch
that rowdy climax of Carnival, the _descente de la Courtille_. And now
through the raw air they were coming down from Belleville, all sorts of
revelers in masks and motley and rags. The noise of tin trumpets and toy
drums, of catcalls and cocoricots, of laughter and cheers and whistling,
came nearer. Presently the road outside was thronged for the aristocrats
of the Faubourg St.-Germain to alight from their carriages and mix with
the mob. This was the traditional climax of Carnival for Parisian
society: every year they drove here on Ash Wednesday morning to get
themselves banged on the head by bladders, to be spurted with cheap
scent and pelted with sugar-plums, and to retaliate by flinging down
hot louis for the painful enrichment of the masses. The noise was for a
time deafening; but gradually the cold light of morning and the
melancholy Lenten bells cast a gloom upon the crowd, which passed on
toward the boulevards, diminishing in sound and size at every street
corner.

The tall, fair Englishman let himself be carried along by the exodus,
thinking idly what excitable folk foreigners were, but conscious,
nevertheless, of a warmth of intimacy that was not at all disagreeable,
the kind of intimacy that is bestowed on a man by taking a pack of
friendly dogs for a country walk. Suddenly he was aware of a small hand
upon his sleeve, a small hand that lay there like a white butterfly;
and, looking down, he saw a poke-bonnet garlanded with yellow rosebuds.
The poke-bonnet was all he could see, for the wearer kept her gaze
steadily on the road, while with little feet she mimicked his long
strides. The ineffable lightness of the arm laid on his own, the joyous
mockery of her footsteps, the sense of an exquisite smile beneath the
poke-bonnet, and the airy tremor of invitation that fluttered from the
golden shawl of Siamese crêpe about her shoulders tempted him to
withdraw from the crowd at the first opportunity. Soon they were in a
by-street, whence the clamor of Carnival slowly died away, leaving no
sound upon the morning air but their footfalls and the faint whisper of
her petticoats where she tripped along beside him.

Presently the poke-bonnet was raised; Charles Cunningham beheld his
companion's face, a perfect oval, set with eyes of deepest brown,
demurely passionate, eyes that in this empty street were all for him. He
had never considered himself a romantic young man; when this encounter
had faded to a mere flush upon the dreamy sky of the past, he was always
a little scornful of his first remark, and apt to wonder how the deuce
he ever came to make it.

"By Jove! _vous savez, vous êtes tout à fait comme un oiseau!_"

"_Eh, alors?_" she murmured, in a tone that was neither defiance nor
archness nor indifference nor invitation, but something that was
compounded of all four and expressed exactly herself. "_Eh, alors?_"

"_Votre nid est loin d'ici?"_ he asked.

Nor did he blush for the guise of his speech at the time: afterward it
struck him as most indecorously poetic.

"_Viens donc,"_ she whispered.

"_Comment appelez-vous?"_

"_Moi, je suis Adèle._"

"_Adèle quoi?_" he pressed.

"_Mais Adèle alors, tout simplement ça._"

"_C'est un peu--vous savez--un peu._" He made a sweep with his
unoccupied arm to indicate the vagueness of it all.

"I love you," she trilled; deep down in her ivory throat emotion caught
the trill and made of it a melody that set his heart beating.

"_Vraiment?_" he asked, very solemnly; then laying syllable upon
syllable in a kind of amazed deliberation, as a child builds a tower of
bricks, he began to talk to her in French.

"_Mais, comme tu parles bien,_" she told him.

"_Tu m'inspires,_" he murmured, hoarsely.

Afterward, when he looked back at the adventure, he awarded this remark
the prize for folly.

The adventure did not have a long life; a week later Charles Cunningham
was called back to England by the news of his brother's illness. Before
Lent was out he had become the Earl of Saxby, who really had to think
seriously of marriage and treat it with more respect than the Parisian
gossip over which Charles Cunningham had idly mused at six o'clock of
Ash Wednesday morning in the year 1847. As for Adèle, she met in May the
owner of a traveling-booth, a widower called Bassompierre with a small
son, who had enough of the gipsy to attract the irresponsible Adèle and
enough of the bourgeois to induce her to marry him for the sake of a
secure and solid future. She need not have troubled about her future,
the deep-voiced Adèle; for just when November darkens to December she
died in giving birth to Juliette. The gipsy in Albert Bassompierre
accepted as his own daughter Juliette; the bourgeois in him erected a
cross in the cemetery and put a wreath of immortelles in a glass case to
lie on Adèle's tomb. Then he locked away the few pieces of jewelry that
life had brought her, hung another daguerreotype beside the one of his
first wife, and wrapped Juliette in a golden shawl of Siamese crêpe.
Lightly the two daguerreotypes swung to and fro; and lightly rocked the
cradle where the baby Juliette lay sleeping, while the caravan jolted
southward along the straight French roads where the poplars seemed to be
commenting to one another in the wind.

For eighteen years the caravan jolted along these roads, until young
Edouard Bassompierre was old enough to play leading man throughout the
repertory and thereby most abruptly plunge his predecessor into old age.
At the same time Juliette was allowed to act the soubrettes; her father
was too much afraid of the leading lady to play any tricks of suddenly
imposed senility with her. It was, on the whole, a jolly life, this
vagrancy from fair to fair of all the towns of France. It was jolly,
when the performance was done, to gather in the tent behind the stage
and eat chipped potatoes and drink red wine with all the queer people
whose voices were hoarse with crying their wares all the day long.

Then came, one springtime, the fair at Compiègne. Business was splendid,
for the Emperor was there to hunt the wild boar in the forest. Never had
old Albert Bassompierre beaten his big drum so confidently at the
entrance of his booth; never had Edouard captured so many young women's
hearts; both of them were too much occupied with their own triumphs to
notice the young officer who came every night to the play. The Emperor
left Compiègne in April; when he departed, the young officer departed
also, accompanied by Juliette.

"_Ah, la vache,_" cried old Bassompierre; "it's perhaps as well her
mother didn't live, for she might have done the same."

"You should have let her play the lead," said Edouard.

"She can play lead in real life," replied old Bassompierre. "If she
can," he added, fiercely.

But when Juliette wrote to him from Paris and told him how happy she was
with her lover, the gipsy in Bassompierre drove out the bourgeois, and
he sent his daughter her mother's jewelry and the golden shawl; but he
kept the daguerreotype, for, after all, Juliette was not really his
daughter and Adèle had really been his wife.

Three years passed. Juliette lived in a little house at Belleville with
two baby girls called Elène and Henriette. When in after years she
looked back to this time it seemed to her smothered in roses, the roses
of an operatic scene. Everything, indeed, in retrospect was like
that--the arrival of her lover in his gay uniform, the embowered kisses,
the lights of Paris far below, the suppers on the veranda, the warm
Sunday mornings, the two babies asleep on the lawn and their father
watching them, herself before a glass and her lover's face seen over her
shoulder, the sudden sharp embrace; all were heavy with the intolerable
sense of a curtain that must fall. Then came the war; there was a
hurried move down to stuffy apartments in Paris; ready money hastily got
together by the young officer, who spoke confidently of the large sum it
was, since, after all, the war would be over in a month and the
Prussians have had their lesson; and at last a breathless kiss. The
crowds surged cheering through the streets, the two babies screamed
disapproval of their new surroundings, and

Juliette's lover was killed in the first battle; he had only time to
scribble a few trembling lines:

     _Mon adorée, je t'ai flanqué un mauvais coup. Pardonnez-moi. Mes
     dernières pensées sont pour toi. Adieu. Deux gros bécots aux bébés.
     J'ai parlé pour toi à mon père. Cherche argent--je t'embrasse
     follement follem---- _

Yet when she received this letter, some impulse kept her from going to
her lover's father. She could not bear the possibility of being made to
realize that those debonair years of love were regarded by him as an
intrigue to be solved by money. If André's mother had been alive, she
might have felt differently; now she would not trouble a stricken family
that might regard her tears as false; she would not even try to return
to her own father. No doubt he would welcome her; but pride, all the
strange and terrible pride that was henceforth to haunt Juliette's soul,
forbade her.

It was impossible, however, to remain in Paris; and without any reason
for her choice she took her babies to Lyon and settled down in rooms
overlooking the Rhône, to await the end of the war. When she had paid
the cost of the journey and bought herself the necessary mourning, she
found she had nearly eleven thousand francs left; with care this could
surely be made to last three years at least; in three years much might
happen. As a matter of fact, much happened almost at once; for the
beauty of Juliette, a lustrous and imperial beauty, caught the fancy of
Gustave Lataille, who was conductor of the orchestra at one of the
smaller theaters in Lyon. To snare his fancy might not have been enough;
but when with her dowry she captured also his imagination, he married
her. Juliette did not consider it wrong to marry this somber, withered,
and uncommunicative man of forty, for whom she had neither passion nor
affection. He struck her as essentially like most of the husbands she
had observed hitherto; and she esteemed herself lucky not to have met
such a one before she had been granted the boon of love. She must have
inherited from that unknown father her domestic qualities; she certainly
acquired none from Adèle. From him, too, may have come that pride which,
however it may have found its chief expression in ideals of bourgeois
respectability, was nevertheless a fine fiery virtue and supported her
spirit to the very last.

Juliette and Lataille lived together without anything to color a drab
existence. Notwithstanding his connection with the theater, Lataille had
no bohemian tastes; once when his wife suggested, after a visit from her
father, that there seemed no reason why she should not apply for an
engagement to act, he unhesitatingly refused his permission; when she
attempted to argue, he reminded her that he had given his name to Elène
and Henriette, and she was silent. Henceforth she devoted herself to
sewing, and brought into the world four girls in successive
years--Françoise, Marie, Marguerite, and Valentine. The last was born in
1875, soon after the Latailles had moved to Lille, where Gustave had
secured the post of conductor at the principal theater. Juliette
welcomed the change, for it gave her the small house of her own which
she had long wanted; moreover, nobody in Lille knew at first hand of the
circumstances in which Gustave had married her, so that Elène and
Henrietta could go to school without being teased about their mother's
early lapse from the standards of conduct which she fervently desired
they would adopt.

Unfortunately, the conductor had only enjoyed his advancement a year
when he was struck down by a paralytic stroke. With six small children
and a palsied husband upon her hands, Juliette had to find work. Partly
from compassion for her ill-fortune, but chiefly because by now she was
a most capable seamstress, the management of the theater engaged her as
wardrobe mistress; and for five years Juliette sustained her husband,
her children, and her house. They were years that would have rubbed the
bloom from most women; but Juliette's beauty seemed to grow rather than
diminish. Her personality became proverbial in the town of Lille, and
though as wardroom mistress she was denied the public triumph of the
footlights, she had nevertheless a fame of her own that was considered
unique in the history of her profession. Her pride flourished on the
deference that was shown her even by the management; between her beauty
and her sharp tongue she achieved an authority that reached its height
in the way she brought up her children. Their snowy pinafores, their
trim stockings, their manners, and their looks were the admiration of
the _quartier_; and when in the year 1881 Gustave Lataille died, the
neatness of their new black dresses surprised even the most confirmed
admirers of Madame Lataille's industry and taste. At no time could
Juliette have seemed so beautiful as when, after the funeral, she raised
her widow's veil and showed the attendant sympathizers a countenance
unmarked by one tear of respectable emotion. She was far too proud to
weep for a husband whom she had never loved and whose death was a
relief; when the neighbors expressed astonishment at the absence of any
outward sorrow, she flung out a challenge to fate:

"I have not reached the age of thirty-four, and brought up six children,
and never once been late with so much as a ribbon, to cry for any man
now. He'll be a wonderful man that will ever make me cry. Henriette,
don't tug at your garter."

And as she stood there, with great brown eyes burning beneath a weight
of lustrous black hair, she seemed of marble without and within.

Nevertheless, before six months had passed, Madame Lataille fell
impetuously in love with a young English clerk of twenty-one, called
Henry Snow; what is more, she married him. Nobody in Lille was able to
offer a credible explanation of her behavior. People were willing to
admit that his conduct was comprehensible, notwithstanding the fourteen
years of her seniority; and it says much for the way Juliette had
impressed her personality upon a dull provincial world that Henry Snow's
action should have been so immediately understood. Before the problem of
her conduct, however, the world remained in perplexity. Financial
considerations could not have supplied a motive; from all accounts the
Englishman was unlikely to help; indeed, gossip said that even in his
obscure position he had already had opportunities of showing that, such
as it was, the position was better than he deserved and unlikely to be
bettered in the future. Nor could his good looks have attracted her, for
he was insignificant; and since Englishmen in the experience of Lille
were, whatever their faults, never insignificant, the insignificance of
Henry Snow acquired an active quality which contradicted its
characterization and made him seem not merely unattractive, but
positively displeasing. Nor could she have required some one to help in
managing her six children; altogether the affair was a mystery, which
gathered volume when the world began to realize the depth of the feeling
that Henry Snow had roused in Juliette. All the world loves a lover, but
only when it is allowed to obtrude itself upon the love. Juliette,
absorbed by her emotion and the eternal jealousy of the woman who
marries a man much younger than herself, refused to admit any spectators
to marvel at the development of the mystery. She carried on her work as
usual; but instead of maintaining her position as a figure she became an
object of curiosity, and presently, because that curiosity was never
gratified, an object of suspicion. The lover-loving world began to shake
its head and calumny whispered everywhere its commentary; she could
never have been a _femme propre_; this marriage must have been forced
upon the young Englishman as the price of a five-year-old intrigue.
When some defender of Juliette pointed out that the clerk had only been
in Lille three years, that his name had never been connected with hers,
and that in any case he was only twenty-one now, calumny retorted with a
long line of Henry Snows; presently the story of Juliette's life with
André Duchesnil was dragged to light, and by an infinite multiplication
of whispers her career from earliest youth was established as
licentious, mercenary, and cruel.

For a while Juliette was so much wrapped up in her own joy that she did
not observe the steady withdrawal of popular esteem. Having made it
clear to everybody that she wished to be left alone with her husband,
she supposed she had been successful and congratulated herself
accordingly, until one day a persistent friend, proof against Juliette's
icy discouragement, drove into her that the _quartier_ was pitying Henry
Snow, that things were being said against her, and that the only way to
put a stop to unkind gossip was to move about among the neighbors in
more friendly fashion.

Gradually it dawned upon Juliette that her friend was the emissary of a
universally accepted calumny, the voice of the _quartier_, the first to
brave her, and only now rash enough to do so because she had public
opinion at her back. This did not prevent Juliette from showing her
counselor the door to the street, nor from slamming it so abruptly that
a meter of stuff was torn from her skirt; yet when she went back to her
room and picked up her needlework there came upon her with a shock the
realization of what effect all this might have on Henry. If the world
were pitying him now, it would presently be laughing; if he were laughed
at, he would grow to hate her. Hitherto she had been so happy in her
love that she had never stopped to consider anything or anybody. She
remembered now Henry's amazement when, in the first tumultuous wave of
passion dammed for so many years, she had refused to let herself be
swept away; she recalled his faint hesitation when first she spoke of
marriage and gave him to understand that without marriage she would not
be his. Even then he must have foreseen the possibility of ridicule, and
he had only married her because she had been able to seem so desirable.
And she was still desirable; he was still enthralled; he was still vain
of her love; yet how was the flattery of one woman to mitigate for a man
the contempt of the crowd? Mercifully, he was an Englishman in a French
town, therefore it would take longer for the popular feeling to touch
him; but soon or late it would strike home to his vanity. Something must
be devised to transfix him with the dignity of marriage. They must have
a child; no father could do anything but resent and despise laughter
that would be directed against his fatherhood. Juliette's wish was
granted very shortly afterward; and when she told her husband of their
expectation she held him close and looked deep into his eyes for the
triumph she sought. Perhaps the fire in her own was reflected in his,
for she released him from her embrace with a sigh of content.

Through the months of waiting Juliette longed for a boy. It seemed to
her somehow essential for the retention of Henry's love that she should
give him a boy; she could scarcely bear another girl, she who had
brought into the world six girls. Much of Juliette's pride during those
months was softened by her longing; she began once more to frequent the
company of her neighbors in her zest for the least scrap of information
that would help the fulfilment of it. There was no fantastic concoction
she would not drink, nor any omen she would not propitiate. Half the
saints in the calendar were introduced to her by ladies that knew them
and vouched for the interest they would take in her pregnancy. Juliette
never confided to anybody her reason for wanting a boy; and nobody
suspected it, since half a dozen girls were enough to explain any
woman's desire for a change. One adviser discovered in a tattered volume
of obstetrical theory that when the woman was older than the man the
odds were on a male child. Juliette's researches to gather confirmation
of this remark led her into discussions about unequal marriages; and as
the time of her confinement drew near she became gentler and almost
anxious to discuss her love for Henry Snow, so much gentler and less
reserved that those who had formerly whispered loudest and most falsely
to one another now whispered sympathetically to her.

On the day before Juliette's confinement her husband came in from work
very irritable.

"Here, when's this baby going to be born? I'm getting a bit annoyed. The
men at the office are betting on its being a boy. It makes me look a
fool, you know, that sort of thing."

She clutched his arm. "Which do you want, Henri? Tell me, _mon amour,
mon homme_."

"I don't care which it is, as long as you're quick about it and this
betting stops."

That night she was delivered of a girl, and because it was his she
choked down the wild disappointment and loved Sylvia the best of all her
seven girls.



SYLVIA SCARLETT



=Sylvia Scarlett=



CHAPTER I


The first complete memory of her father that Sylvia possessed was of
following her mother out into the street on a clear moonlight night
after rain and of seeing him seated in a puddle outside the house,
singing an unintelligible song which he conducted with his umbrella. She
remembered her mother's calling to him sharply, and how at last after
numerous shakings and many reproaches he had walked into the house on
all fours, carrying the umbrella in his mouth like a dog. She remembered
that the umbrella was somehow wrong at the end, different from any other
umbrella she had ever seen, so that when it was put into the hall-stand
it looked like a fat old market woman instead of the trim young lady it
should have resembled. She remembered how she had called her mother's
attention to the loss of its feet and how her mother, having apparently
realized for the first time her presence at the scene, had promptly
hustled her up-stairs to bed with so much roughness that she had cried.

When Sylvia was older and had become in a way her mother's confidante,
sitting opposite to her in the window to sew until it was no longer
possible to save oil for the lamp, she ventured to recall this scene.
Her mother had laughed at the remembrance of it and had begun to hum the
song her father had sung:

    La donna è mobile
    La da-di la-di-da.

"Shall I ever forget him?" Madame Snow had cried. "It was the day your
sister Elène was married, and he had been down to the railway-station
to see them off to Bruxelles."

Sylvia had asked what the words of the song meant, and had been told
that they meant women were always running around.

"Where?" she had pressed.

"Some of them after men and others running away from them," her mother
had replied.

"Shall I do that when I'm big?" Sylvia had continued. "Which shall I
do?"

But it had been time to fetch the lamp and the question had remained
unanswered.

Sylvia was five when her sister Elène was married; soon afterward
Henriette married, too. She remembered that very well, because Marie
went to join Françoise in the other bedroom, and with only Marguerite
and Valentine left, they no longer slept three in a bed. This
association had often been very uncomfortable because Marguerite would
eat biscuits, the crumbs of which used to scratch her legs; and worse
than the crumbs was the invariable quarrel between Marguerite and
Valentine that always ended in their pinching each other across Sylvia,
so that she often got pinched by mistake.

For several years Sylvia suffered from being the youngest of many
sisters, and her mother's favorite. When she went to school, she asked
other girls if it were not nicer to have brothers, but the stories she
heard about the behavior of boys made her glad there were only girls in
her house. She had practical experience of the ways of boys when at the
age of eight she first took part in the annual _féerie_ at the Lille
theater. On her first appearance she played a monster; though all the
masks were very ugly, she, being the smallest performer, always got the
ugliest, and with the progress of the season the one that was most
knocked about. In after years these performances seemed like a nightmare
of hot cardboard-scented breath, of being hustled down the stone stairs
from the dressing-room, of noisy rough boys shouting and scrambling for
the best masks, of her legs being pinched, while she was waiting in the
wings, by invisible boys, and once of somebody's twisting her mask
right round as they made the famous entrance of the monsters, so that,
being able to see nothing, she fell down and made all the audience
laugh. Such were boys!

In contrast with scenes of discomfort and misery like these were the
hours when she sat sewing with her mother in the quiet house. There
would be long silences only broken by the sound of her mother's hand
searching for new thread or needle in the work-basket, of clocks, of
kettle on the hob, or of distant street cries. Then her mother would
suddenly laugh to herself and begin a tale so interesting that Sylvia's
own needlework would lie idly on her knee, until she was reproved for
laziness, and silence again inclosed the room. Sometimes the sunset
would glow through the window-panes upon her mother's work, and Sylvia
would stare entranced at the great silken roses that slowly opened their
petals for those swift fingers. Sometimes it would be a piece of lace
that lay on her mother's lap, lace that in the falling dusk became light
and mysterious as a cloud. Yet even these tranquil hours had storms, as
on the occasion when her mother had been working all day at a lace cap
which had been promised without fail to somebody at the theater who
required it that night. At six o'clock she had risen with a sigh and
given the cap to Sylvia to hold while she put on her things to take it
down to the theater. Sylvia had stood by the fire, dreaming over the
beauty of the lace; and then without any warning the cap had fallen into
the fire and in a moment was ashes. Sylvia wished she could have
followed the cap when she saw her mother's face of despair on realizing
what had happened. It was then that for the first time she learned how
much depended upon her mother's work; for during all that week, whenever
she was sent out on an errand, she was told to buy only the half of
everything, half the usual butter, half the usual sugar, and what was
stranger still to go to shops outside the _quartier_ at which Madame
Snow never dealt. When she inquired the reason of this her mother asked
her if she wanted all the _quartier_ to know that they were poor and
could only afford to buy half the usual amount that week.

Sylvia, when the first shame of her carelessness had died away, rather
enjoyed these excursions to streets more remote, where amusing
adventures were always possible. One Saturday afternoon in April Sylvia
set out with a more than usually keen sense of the discoveries and
adventures that might befall her. The first discovery was a boy on a
step-ladder, polishing a shop window; and the second discovery was that
she could stand on the curbstone and never once fail to spit home upon
the newly polished glass. She did this about a dozen times, watching the
saliva dribble down the pane and speculating with herself which driblet
would make the longest journey. Regretfully she saw that the boy was
preparing to descend and admire his handiwork, because two driblets were
still progressing slowly downward, one of which had been her original
fancy for the prize of endurance. As she turned to flee, she saw on the
pavement at her feet a golden ten-franc piece; she picked it up and
grasping it tightly in her hot little hand ran off, not forgetting, even
in the excitement of her sudden wealth, to turn round at a safe distance
and put out her tongue at the boy to mark her contempt for him, for the
rest of his class, and for all their handiwork, especially that newly
polished window-pane. Then she examined the gold piece and marveled at
it, thinking how it obliterated the memory of that mother-o'-pearl
button which only the other day she had found on the dust-heap and lost
a few hours afterward.

It was a wonderful afternoon, an afternoon of unbridled acquisition,
which began with six very rich cakes and ended with a case of needles
for her mother that used up her last sou. Coming out of the needle-shop,
her arms full of packages, she met a regiment of soldiers marching and
singing. The soldiers expressed her triumphant mood, and Sylvia marched
with them, joining in their songs. She had a few cakes left and, being
grateful to the soldiers, she handed them round among them, which earned
her much applause from passers-by. When the regiment had arrived at the
barracks and her particular friends had all kissed her farewell and
there were no more bystanders to smile their approbation, Sylvia thought
it would be wise to do the shopping for her mother. She had marched
farther than she realized with the soldiers; it was nearly dusk when
she reached the grocer's where she was to buy the small quantity of
sugar that was all that could be afforded this week. She made her
purchase, and put her hand into the pocket of her pinafore for the
money: the pocket was empty. Everything in the grocer's shop seemed to
be tumbling about her in a great and universal catastrophe. She searched
feverishly again; there was a small hole; of course her mother had given
her a ten-franc piece, telling her to be very careful indeed of the
change, which was wanted badly for the rent. She could not explain to
the man what had happened and, leaving the packet on the counter, she
rushed from the shop into the cruel twilight, choked by tearless sobs
and tremors of apprehension. At first she thought of trying to find the
shops where she had made her own purchases that she might recover such
of the money as had not been eaten; but her nervous fears refused to let
her mind work properly, and everything that had happened on this
luckless afternoon seemed to have happened in a dream. It was already
dark; all she could do was to run home, clutching the miserable toys to
her heart and wondering if the needle-case could possibly allay a
little, a very little, of her mother's anger.

Madame Snow began as soon as Sylvia entered the house by demanding what
she had been doing to be so late in coming home. Sylvia stammered and
was silent; stammered again and let fall all her parcels; then she burst
into a flood of tears that voiced a despair more profound than she had
ever known. When her mother at last extracted from Sylvia what had
happened she, too, wept; and the pair of them sat filling the room with
their sobs, until Henry Snow appeared upon the scene and asked if they
had both gone mad.

His wife and daughter sobbed a violent negative. Henry stared at the
floor littered with Sylvia's numerous purchases, but found there no
answer to the riddle. He moved across to Juliette and shook her, urging
her not to become hysterical.

"The last bit of money I had and the rent due on Monday!" she wailed.

"Don't you worry about money," said Henry, importantly. "I've had a bit
of luck at cards," and he offered his wife a note. Moreover, when he
heard the reason for all this commotion of grief, he laughed, said it
might have happened to any one, congratulated Sylvia upon her choice of
goods, declared it was time she began to study English seriously and
vowed that he was the one to be her teacher, yes, by gad, he was, and
that to-morrow morning being Sunday they would make a start. Then he
began to fondle his wife, which embarrassed Sylvia, but nevertheless
because these caresses so plainly delighted her mother, they consoled
her for the disaster. So she withdrew to a darker corner of the room and
played with the doll she had bought, listening to the conversation
between her parents.

"Do you love me, Henri?"

"Of course I love you."

"You know that I would sacrifice the world for you? I've given you
everything. If you love me still, then you must love me for
myself--myself alone, _mon homme_."

"Of course I do."

"But I'm growing old," protested Juliette. "There are others younger
than I. _Ah, Henri, amour de ma vie_, I'm jealous even of the girls. I
want them all out of the house. I hate them now, except ours--ours, _ma
poupée_."

Sylvia regarding her own doll could not help feeling that this was a
most inappropriate name for her father; she wondered why her mother
called him that and decided finally that it must be because he was
shorter than she was. The evening begun so disastrously ended most
cheerfully; when Françoise and Marie arrived back at midnight, they
escaped even the mildest rebuke from their mother.

Sylvia's father kept his promise about teaching her English, and she was
granted the great pleasure of being admitted to his room every evening
when he returned from work. This room until now had always been a
Bluebeard's chamber, not merely for Sylvia, but for every one else in
the house. To be sure Sylvia had sometimes, when supper was growing
cold, peeped in to warn her father of fleeting time, but it had always
been impressed upon her that in no circumstances was she to enter the
room; though she had never seen in these quick glimpses anything more
exciting than her father sitting in his shirt-sleeves and reading in a
tumble-down arm-chair, there had always been the sense of a secret. Now
that she was made free of this apartment she perceived nothing behind
the door but a bookcase fairly full of books, nothing indeed anywhere
that seemed to merit concealment, unless it were some pictures of
undressed ladies looking at themselves in a glass. Once she had an
opportunity of opening one of the books and she was astonished, when her
father came in and caught her, that he said nothing, for she felt sure
that her mother would have been very angry if she had seen her reading
such a book. She had blushed when her father found her; when he had said
nothing and even laughed in a queer unpleasant sort of a way, she had
blushed still more deeply. Yet whenever she had a chance she read these
books afterward and henceforth regarded her father with an affectionate
contempt which was often expressed too frankly to please her mother, who
finally became so much irritated by it that she sent her away to
Bruxelles to stay with Elène, her eldest married sister. Sylvia did not
enjoy this visit very much, because her brother-in-law was always making
remarks about her personal appearance, comparing it most unfavorably
with his wife's. It seemed that Elène had recently won a prize for
beauty at the Exposition, and though Sylvia would have been suitably
proud of this family achievement in ordinary circumstances, this
continual harping upon it to her own disadvantage made her wish that
Elène had been ignobly defeated.

"Strange her face should be so round and yours such a perfect oval,"
Elène's husband would say. "And her lips are so thin and her eyes so
much lighter than yours. She's short, too, for her age. I don't think
she'll ever be as tall as you. But of course every one can't be
beautiful."

"Of course they can't," Sylvia snapped. "If they could, Elène might not
have won the prize so easily."

"She's not a great beauty, but she has a tongue. And she's smart," her
brother-in-law concluded.

Sylvia used to wonder why every one alluded to her tongue. Her mother
had told her just before she was sent to Bruxelles that the priest had
put too much salt on it when she was christened. She resolved to be
silent in future; but this resolve reacted upon her nerves to such an
extent that she wrote home to Lille and begged to be allowed to come
back. There had been diplomacy in the way she had written to her father
in English rather than to her mother in French. Such a step led her
mother to suppose that she repented of criticizing her father; it also
prevented her sister Elène from understanding the letter and perhaps
writing home to suggest keeping her in Bruxelles. Sylvia was overjoyed
at receiving an early reply from her mother bidding her come home, and
sending stamps for her to buy a picture post-card album, which would be
much cheaper in Belgium; she was enjoined to buy one picture post-card
and put it in the album, so that the customs officials should not charge
duty.

Sylvia had heard a great deal of smuggling and was thrilled by the
illegal transaction, which seemed to her the most exciting enterprise of
her life. She said good-by to Bruxelles without regret; clasping her
album close, she waited anxiously for the train to start, thinking to
herself that Elène only kept on putting her head into the carriage
window to make stupid remarks because the compartment was crowded and
she hoped some one would recognize her as the winner of the beauty
competition at the Bruxelles Exposition.

At last the train started, and Sylvia settled down to the prospect of
crossing the frontier with contraband. She looked at all the people in
the carriage, thinking to herself what dangers she would presently
encounter. It was almost impossible not to tell them, as they sat there
in the stuffy compartment scattering crumbs everywhere with their
lunches. Soon a pleasant woman in black engaged Sylvia in conversation
by offering her an orange from a string-bag. It was very difficult to
eat the orange and keep a tight hold of the album; in the end it fell on
the floor, whereupon a fat old gentleman sitting opposite stooped over
and picked it up for her. He had grunted so in making the effort that
Sylvia felt she must reward him with more than thanks; she decided to
divulge her secret and explain to him and the pleasant woman with the
string-bag the history of the album. Sylvia was glad when all her other
fellow-travelers paid attention to the tale, and she could point out
that an album like this cost two francs fifty centimes in Lille, whereas
in Bruxelles she had been able to buy it for two francs. Then, because
everybody smiled so encouragingly, she unwrapped the album and showed
the single picture post-card, discoursing upon the ruse. Everybody
congratulated her, and everybody told one another anecdotes about
smuggling, until finally a tired and anxious-looking woman informed the
company that she was at that very moment smuggling lace to the value of
more than two thousand francs. Everybody warned her to be very careful,
so strict were the customs officials; but the anxious-looking woman
explained that it was wrapped round her and that in any case she must
take the risk, so much depended upon her ability to sell this lace at a
handsome profit in France.

When the frontier was reached Sylvia alighted with the rest of the
travelers to pass through the customs, and with quickening heart she
presented herself at the barrier, her album clutched tightly to her
side. No, she had nothing to declare, and with a sigh of relief at
escape from danger she saw her little valise safely chalked. When she
passed through to take her seat in the train again, she saw a man whom
she recognized as a traveler from her own compartment that had told
several anecdotes about contraband. He was talking earnestly now to one
of the officials at the barrier and pointing out the anxious woman, who
was still waiting to pass through.

"I tell you she had two thousand francs' worth of lace wrapped round
her. She admitted it in the train."

Sylvia felt her legs give way beneath her when she heard this piece of
treachery. She longed to cry out to the woman with the lace that she had
been betrayed, but already she had turned deathly pale at the approach
of the officials. They were beckoning her to follow them to a kind of
cabin, and she was moving toward it hopelessly. It was dreadful to see a
poor woman so treated, and Sylvia looked round to find the man who had
been the cause of it, but he had vanished.

Half an hour afterward the woman of the lace wearily climbed into the
compartment and took her seat with the rest; her eyes were red and she
was still weeping bitterly. The others asked what had happened.

"They found it on me," she moaned. "And now what shall I do? It was all
we had in the world to pay the mortgage on our house. My poor husband is
ill, very ill, and it was the only way to save him. I should have sold
that lace for four thousand francs, and now they have confiscated it and
we shall be fined one thousand francs. We haven't any money. It was
everything--everything. We shall lose our house and our furniture, and
my husband will die. Oh, _mon Dieu! mon Dieu!_"

She rocked backward and forward in her grief; nothing that any one could
say comforted her. Sylvia told how she had been betrayed; everybody
execrated the spy and said how careful one should be to whom one spoke
when traveling; but that did not help the poor woman, who sobbed more
and more despairingly.

At last the train came to its first stop in France, and the man that had
denounced the poor woman suddenly jumped in, as they were starting
again, and took his old seat. The fat gentleman next to Sylvia swelled
with indignation; his veins stood out, and he shouted angrily at the man
what a rascal he was. Everybody in the carriage joined in abusing him;
and the poor woman herself wailed out her sad story and reproached him
for the ruin he had brought upon her. As for Sylvia, she could not
contain herself, but jumped up and with all her might kicked him on the
shins, an action which made the fat gentleman shout: "_Bravo! Vas-y!
Encore, la gosse! Bravo! Bis! Bis!"_

When the noise had subsided the man began to speak.

"I regret infinitely, madame, the inconvenience to which I was
unfortunately compelled to put you, but the fact is that I myself was
carrying diamonds upon me to the value of more than two hundred thousand
francs."

He suddenly took out a wallet from his pocket and emptied the stones
into his hand, where they lay sparkling in the dusty sunshine of the
compartment. Everybody was silent with surprise for a moment; when they
began to abuse him again, he trickled the diamonds back into the wallet
and begged for attention.

"How much have you lost, madame?" he inquired, very politely.

The woman of the lace poured forth her woes for the twentieth time.

"Permit me to offer you these notes to the value of six thousand
francs," he said. "I hope the extra thousand will recompense you for the
temporary inconvenience to which I was unfortunately compelled to put
you. Pray accept my deepest apologies, but at the same time let me
suggest greater discretion in future. Yet we are all human, are we not,
monsieur?" he added, turning to the fat gentleman next to Sylvia. "Will
you be very much surprised when I tell you that I have never traveled
from Amsterdam but I have found some indiscreet fellow-traveler that has
been of permanent service to me at temporary inconvenience to himself.
This time I thought I was going to be unlucky, for this was the last
compartment left; fortunately that young lady set a bad example."

He smiled at Sylvia.

This story, when she told it at home, seemed to make a great impression
upon her father, who maintained that the stranger was a fool ever to
return to the carriage.

"Some people seem to think money's made to throw into the gutter," he
grumbled.

Sylvia was sorry about his point of view, but when she argued with him
he told her to shut up; later on that same evening he had a dispute with
his wife about going out.

"I want to win it back," he protested. "I've had a run of bad luck
lately. I feel to-night it's going to change. Did I tell you I saw the
new moon over my right shoulder, as I came in?"

"So did I," said his wife. "But I don't rush off and gamble away other
people's money for the sake of the moon."

"You saw it, too, did you?" said Henry, eagerly. "Well, there you are!"

The funny thing was that Henry was right; he did have a run of good
luck, and the house became more cheerful again. Sylvia went on with her
English studies; but nowadays even during lessons her father never
stopped playing cards. She asked him once if he were telling his
fortune, and he replied that he was trying to make it. "See if you can
pick out the queen," he would say. And Sylvia never could, which made
her father chuckle to himself with pleasure. About this time, too, he
developed a habit of playing with a ten-centime piece. Whenever he or
any one else was talking, he used to fidget with this coin; in the
middle of something important or interesting it used to jingle down on
the floor, and everybody had to go on hands and knees to search for it.
This habit became so much the intrinsic Henry Snow that Sylvia could
never think of him without that ten-centime piece sliding over his long
mobile hands, in and out of his prehensile fingers: and though with the
progress of time he ceased to drop the coin very often, the restless
motion always irritated her. When Sylvia was eleven her uncle Edouard
came to Lille with his caravan and brought the news of the death of her
grandfather. She was not much impressed by this, but the caravan and the
booth delighted her; and when her uncle asked if he might not take her
away with him on a long tour through the south of France, she begged to
be allowed to go. Her mother had so often held her spellbound by tales
of her own wandering life that, when she seemed inclined to withhold her
permission, Sylvia blamed her as the real origin of this longing to
taste the joys of vagrancy, pleading so earnestly that at last her
mother gave way and let her go.

Uncle Edouard and Aunt Elise, who sat in the box outside the booth and
took the money, were both very kind to Sylvia, and since they had no
children of their own, she was much spoilt. Indeed, there was not a dull
moment throughout the tour; for even when she went to bed, which was
always delightfully late, bed was really a pleasure in a caravan.

In old Albert Bassompierre's days the players had confined themselves to
the legitimate drama; Edouard had found it more profitable to tour a
variety show interspersed with one-act farces and melodrama. Sylvia's
favorites in the company were Madame Perron, the wife of the _chanteur
grivois_, and Blanche, a tall, fair, noisy girl who called herself a
_diseuse_, but who usually sang indecent ballads in a powerful
contralto. Madame Perron was Sylvia's first attraction, because she had
a large collection of dolls with which she really enjoyed playing. She
was a _femme très-propre_, and never went farther with any of her
admirers in the audience than to exact from him the gift of a doll.

"_Voilà ses amours manqués_," her husband used to say with a laugh.

In the end Sylvia found her rather dull, and preferred to go tearing
about the country with Blanche, who, though she had been a scullery-maid
in a Boulogne hotel only a year ago, had managed during her short career
on the stage to collect more lovers than Madame Perron had collected
dolls. She had a passion for driving. Sylvia could always be sure that
on the morning after their opening performance in any town a wagonette
or dog-cart would be waiting to take them to some neighboring village,
where a jolly party would make a tremendous noise, scandalize the
inhabitants, and depart, leaving a legacy of unpopularity in the
district for whichever of Blanche's lovers had paid for the
entertainment with his purse and his reputation. Once they arrived at a
village where a charity bazaar was being held under the direction of the
_curé_. Blanche was presented to him as a distinguished actress from
Paris who was seeking peace and recreation in the depths of the country.
The _curé_ asked if it would be presuming too far on her good nature to
give them a taste of her art in the cause of holy charity, a speech
perhaps from Corneill or Racine. Blanche assented immediately and
recited a piece stuffed so full of spicy argot that the rustic gentility
understood very little of it, though enough to make them blush--all
except the priest, that is, who was very deaf and asked Blanche, when
she had finished, if it were not a speech from Phèdre she had declaimed,
thanking her very earnestly for the pleasure she had given his simple
parish folk, a pleasure, alas, which he regretted he had not been able
to enjoy as much as he should have enjoyed it before he became deaf.

On another occasion they drove to see the ruins of an ancient castle in
Brittany, and afterward went down into the village to drink wine in the
garden of the inn, where an English family was sitting at afternoon tea.
Sylvia stared curiously at the two little girls who obeyed their
governess so promptly and ate their cakes so mincingly. They were the
first English girls she had ever seen, and she would very much have
liked to tell them that her father was English, for they seemed to want
cheering up, so solemn were their light-blue eyes and so high their
boots. Sylvia whispered to Blanche that they were English, who replied
that so much was very obvious, and urged Sylvia to address them in their
native tongue; it would give them much pleasure, she thought. Sylvia,
however, was too shy, so Blanche in her loudest voice suddenly shouted:

"Oh yes! T'ank you! I love you! All right! You sleep with me?
Goddambleudi!"

The English family looked very much shocked, but the governess came to
their rescue by asking in a thin throaty voice for the "attition," and
presently they all walked out of the garden. Blanche judged the English
to be a dull race, and, mounting on a table, began a rowdy dance. It
happened that, just when the table cracked, the English governess came
back for an umbrella she had left behind, and that Blanche, leaping
wildly to save herself from falling, leaped on the governess and brought
her to the ground in a general ruin of chairs and tables. Blanche picked
up the victim and said that it was all very _rigolo_, which left miss as
wise as she was before, her French not extending beyond the tea-table
and the chaster portions of a bedroom. Blanche told Sylvia to explain to
miss that she had displayed nothing more in her fall than had given much
pleasure to all the world. Sylvia, who really felt the poor governess
required such practical consolation, translated accordingly, whereat
miss became very red and, snatching her umbrella, walked away muttering,
"Impertinent little gipsy." When Blanche was told the substance of her
last remark, she exclaimed, indignantly:

_"Elles sont des vrais types, vous savez, ces gonzesses. Mince, alors!
Pourquoi s'emballer comme ça? Elle portait un pantalon fermé! Quelle
race infecte, ces Anglais! Moi, je ne peux pas les suffrir."_

Sylvia, listening to Blanche's tirade, wondered if all the English were
like that. She thought of her father's books, and decided that life in
France must have changed him somehow. Then she called to mind with a
shiver the solemn light-blue eyes of the little girls. England must be a
cold sort of a place where nobody ever laughed; perhaps that was why
her father had come away. Sylvia decided to remain in France, always in
a caravan if possible, where no English miss could poke about with bony
fingers in one's bread and butter.

Sylvia acquired a good deal of worldly wisdom from being so continuously
in the society of Blanche, and for a child of eleven she was growing up
somewhat rapidly. Yet it would have been hard to say that the influence
of her noisy friend was hurtful, for it never roused in Sylvia a single
morbid thought. Life in those days presented itself to her mostly as an
amusing game, a game that sometimes caused tears, but tears that were
easily dried, because, after all, it was only a game. Such was the
situation created on one occasion by the unexpected arrival of Blanche's
_fiancé_ from his regiment, the 717th of the line.

The company was playing at St.-Nazaire at the time, and Louis Moreau
telegraphed from Nantes that he had been granted a _congé_ of
forty-eight hours.

"_Mince, alors!_" cried Blanche to Sylvia. "And, you know, I don't want
to give him up, because he has thirty thousand francs and he loves me _à
la folie_. We are only waiting till he has finished his military service
to get married. But I don't want him here. First of all, I have a very
_chic_ lover, who has a _poignon fou_ and doesn't care how much he
spends, and then the lover of my heart is here."

Sylvia protested that she had heard the last claim too often.

"No, but this is something much greater than a _béguin_. It is real
love. _Il est très trr-ès-beau garçon, tu sais._ And, _chose
très-drôle_, he also is doing his military service here. _Tout ça ne se
dessine pas du tout bien, tu sais, mais pas du tout, tu comprends! Moi,
je ne suis pas veineuse. Ah, non, alors, c'est le comble!_"

Blanche had been sufficiently agile to extract the usual wagonette and
pair of horses from the chic lover to whom she had introduced her real
lover, a tall cuirassier with fierce mustaches, as her brother; but the
imminent arrival of Louis was going to spoil all this, because Louis
knew well that she did not possess a relative in the world, in fact, as
Blanche emphasized, her solitary position had been one of her charms.

"You'll have to get rid of Monsieur Beaujour." This was the rich lover.

"And lose my horses? _Ah, non, alors!_"

"Well, then you'll have to tell Marcel he mustn't come near you until
Louis has gone."

"And see him go off with that Jeanne at the Clair de la Lune Concert!"

"Couldn't Louis pay for the horses?" suggested Sylvia.

"I'm not going to let him waste his money like that; besides, he'll only
be here two nights. _C'est assommant, tu sais_," Blanche sighed.

In the middle of the discussion Louis arrived, a very short little
_sous-officier_ with kind watery eyes and a mustache that could only be
seen properly out of doors. Louis had not had more than five minutes
with his _fiancée_ before M. Beaujour drove up with the wagonette and
pair. He was the son of a rich shipping agent in St.-Nazaire, with a
stiff manner that he mistook for evidence of aristocratic descent, and
bad teeth that prevented him from smiling more than he could help.

"I shall tell him you're my brother," said Blanche, quickly. Louis began
to protest.

"_Pas de boniment_," Blanche went on. "I must be pleasant to strangers
in front. Madame Bassompierre insists on that, and you know I've never
given you any cause to be really jealous."

M. Beaujour looked very much surprised when Blanche presented Louis to
him as her brother; Sylvia, remembering the tall cuirassier with the
fierce mustaches that had also been introduced as Blanche's brother,
appreciated his sensations. However, he accepted the relationship and
invited Louis to accompany them on the drive, putting him with Sylvia
and seating himself next Blanche on the box; Louis, who found Sylvia
sympathetic, talked all the time about the wonderful qualities of
Blanche, continually turning round to adore her shapely back.

M. Beaujour invited Louis to a supper he was giving that evening in
honor of Blanche, and supposed, perhaps a little maliciously, that
Monsieur would be glad to meet his brother again, who was also to be of
the party. Louis looked at Blanche in perplexity; she frowned at him and
said nothing.

That supper, to which M. and Mme. Perron with several other members of
the company were invited, was a very restless meal. First, Blanche would
go out with the host while Marcel and Louis glared alternately at each
other and the door; then she would withdraw with Louis, while M.
Beaujour and Marcel glared and fidgeted; finally she would disappear
with Marcel, once for such a long time that Sylvia grew nervous and went
outside to find her. Blanche was in tears; Marcel was stalking up and
down the passage, twisting his fierce mustaches and muttering his
annoyance. Sylvia was involved in a bitter discussion about the various
degrees of Blanche's love, and in the end Blanche cried that her whole
life had been shattered, and rushed back to the supper-room. Sylvia took
this opportunity of representing Blanche's point of view to Marcel, and
so successful was she with her tale of the emotional stress caused by
the conflict of love with prudence that finally Marcel burst into tears,
called down benedictions upon Sylvia's youthful head, and rejoined the
supper-party, where he drank a great quantity of red wine and squeezed
Blanche's hand under the table for the rest of the evening.

Sylvia, having been successful once, now invited Louis to accompany her
outside. To him she explained that Marcel loved Blanche madly, that she,
the owner, as Louis knew, of a melting heart, had been much upset by her
inability to return his love, and that Louis must not be jealous,
because Blanche loved only him. Louis's eyes became more watery than
ever, and he took his seat at table again, a happy man until he drank
too much wine and had to retire permanently from the feast. Finally
Sylvia tackled M. Beaujour, and, recognizing that he was probably tired
of lies, told him the truth of the situation, leaving it to him as an
_homme supérieur_ to realize that he could only be an episode in
Blanche's life and begging him not to force his position that night. M.
Beaujour could not help being flattered by this child's perception of
his superiority, and for the rest of the entertainment played the host
in a manner that was, as Madame Perron said, _très très-correcte_.

However, amusing evenings like this came to an end for Sylvia when once
more the caravan returned to Lille. Her uncle and aunt had so much
enjoyed her company that they proposed to Madame Snow to adopt Sylvia as
their own daughter. Sylvia, much as she loved her mother, would have
been very glad to leave the house at Lille, for it seemed, when she saw
it again, poverty-stricken and pinched. There was only Valentine now
left of her sisters, and her mother looked very care-worn. Her father,
however, declined most positively to listen to the Bassompierres'
proposal, and was indeed almost insulting about it. Madame Snow wearily
bade Sylvia say no more, and the caravan went on its way again. Sylvia
wondered whether life in Lille had always been as dull in reality as
this, or if it were dull merely in contrast with the gay life of
vagrancy. Everybody in Lille seemed to be quarreling. Her mother was
always reproaching Valentine for being late, and her father for losing
money, and herself for idleness in the house. She tried to make friends
with her sister, but Valentine was suspicious of her former intimacy
with their mother, and repelled her advances. The months dragged on,
months of eternal sewing, eternal saving, eternal nagging, eternal
sameness. Then one evening, when her mother was standing in the kitchen,
giving a last glance at everything before she went down to the theater,
she suddenly threw up her arms, cried in a choking voice, "Henri!" and
collapsed upon the floor. There was nobody in the house except Sylvia,
who, though she felt very much frightened, tried for a long time,
without success, to restore her mother to consciousness. At last her
father came in and bent over his wife.

"Good God, she's dead!" he exclaimed, and Sylvia broke into a sweat of
horror to think that she had been alone in the twilight with something
dead. Her father struggled to lift the body on the sofa, calling to
Sylvia to come and help him. She began to whimper, and he swore at her
for cowardice. A clock struck and Sylvia shrieked. Her father began to
drag the body toward the sofa; playing-cards fell from his sleeves on
the dead woman's face.

"Didn't she say anything before she died?" he asked. Sylvia shook her
head.

"She was only forty-six, you know," he said; in and out of his fingers,
round and round his hand, slipped the ten-centime piece.

For some time after his wife's death Henry Snow was inconsolable, and
his loudly expressed grief had the effect of making Sylvia seem hard,
for she grew impatient with him, especially when every week he used to
sell some cherished piece of furniture. She never attempted to explain
her sentiments when he accused her of caring more for furniture than for
her dead mother; she felt it would be useless to explain them to him,
and suffered in silence. What Sylvia found most inexplicable was the way
in which her father throve on sorrow and every day seemed to grow
younger. This fact struck her so sharply that one day she penetrated the
hostility that had been gathering daily between her and Valentine and
asked her sister if she had observed this queer change. Valentine got
very angry; demanded what Sylvia meant; flung out some cruel sneers; and
involved her in a scene with her father, who charged her with malice and
underhanded behavior. Sylvia was completely puzzled by the effect of her
harmless observation, and supposed that Valentine, who had always been
jealous of her, had seized the opportunity to make further mischief. She
could never understand why Valentine was jealous of her, because
Valentine was really beautiful, and very much like her mother, enviable
from any point of view, and even now obviously dearer to her stepfather
than his own daughter. She would have liked to know where the caravan
was now; she was sure that her father would no longer wish to forbid her
adoption by Uncle Edouard and Aunt Elise.

The house grew emptier and emptier of furniture; Sylvia found it so hard
to obtain any money from her father for current expenses that she was
often hungry. She did not like to write to any of her older sisters,
because she was afraid that Valentine would make it appear that she was
in the wrong and trying to stir up trouble. Summer passed into autumn,
and with the lengthening darkness the house became unbearably still;
neither her father nor her sister was ever at home; even the clocks had
now all disappeared. Sylvia could not bear to remain indoors; for in her
nervous, hungry state old childish terrors were revived, and the great
empty loft at the top of the house was once again inhabited by that
one-legged man with whose clutches her mother used to frighten her when
naughty long ago. There recurred, too, a story told by her mother on
just such a gusty evening as these, of how, when she first came to
Lille, she had found an armed burglar under her bed, and of how the man
had been caught and imprisoned. Even her mother, who was not a nervous
woman, had been frightened by his threats of revenge when he should be
free again, and once when she and her mother were sewing together close
to the dusky window her mother had fancied she had seen him pass the
house, a large pale man in a dark suit. Supposing he should come back
now for his revenge? And above all these other terrors was the dread of
her mother's ghost.

Sylvia took to going out alone every evening, whether it rained or blew,
to seek in the streets relief from the silence of the desolate house.
Loneliness came to seem to her the worst suffering imaginable, and the
fear of it which was bred during these months haunted her for years to
come.

In November, about half past eight of a windy night, Sylvia came back
from one of her solitary walks and found her father sitting with a
bottle of brandy in the kitchen. His face was haggard; his collar was
loose; from time to time he mopped his forehead with a big blue
handkerchief and stared at himself in a small cracked shaving-glass that
he must have brought down from his bedroom. She asked if he were ill,
and he told her not to worry him, but to go out and borrow a railway
time-table.

When Sylvia returned she heard Valentine's angry voice in the kitchen,
and waited in the passage to know the cause of the dispute.

"No, I won't come with you," Valentine was saying. "You must be mad! If
you're in danger of going to prison, so much the worse for you. I've got
plenty of people who'll look after me."

"But I'm your stepfather."

Valentine's laugh made Sylvia turn pale.

"Stepfather! Fine stepfather! Why, I hate you! Do you hear? I hate you!
My man is waiting for me now, and he'll laugh when he hears that a
convict wants his step-daughter to go away with him. My mother may have
loved you, but I'd like her to see you now. _L'amour de sa vie. Son
homme! Sa poupée, sa poupée! Ah, mais non alors! Sa poupée!"_

Sylvia could not bear any longer this mockery of her mother's love, and,
bursting into the kitchen, she began to abuse Valentine with all the
vulgar words she had learned from Blanche.

Valentine caught her sister by the shoulders and shook her violently:

_"Tu seras bien avec ton père, sale gosse!"_

Then she smacked her cheek several times and left the house.

Sylvia flung her arms round her father.

"Take me with you," she cried. "You hate her, don't you? Take me,
father."

Henry rose and, in rising, upset the bottle of brandy.

"Thank God," he said, fervently. "My own daughter still loves me."

Sylvia perceived nothing ludicrous in the tone of her father's speech,
and happy tears rose to her eyes.

"See! here is the time-table. Must we go to-night? Sha'n't we go
to-night?"

She helped her father to pack; at midnight they were in the train going
north.



CHAPTER II


THE amount of brandy that Henry Snow had drunk to support what he called
his misfortune made him loquacious for the first part of the journey.
While he and Sylvia waited during the night at a railway junction, he
held forth at length not merely upon the event that was driving him out
of France, but generally upon the whole course of his life. Sylvia was
glad that her father treated her as if she were grown up, because having
conceived for him a kind of maternal solicitude, not so much from pity
or affection as from the inspiration to quit Lille forever which she
gratefully owed to his lapse, she had no intention of letting him
re-establish any authority over herself. His life's history, poured
forth while they paced the dark platform or huddled before the stove in
the dim waiting-room, confirmed her resolve.

"Of course, when I first got that job in Lille it seemed just what I was
looking for. I'd had a very scrappy education, because my father, who
was cashier in a bank, died, and my mother, who you're a bit like--I
used to have a photograph of her, but I suppose it's lost, like
everything else--my mother got run over and killed coming back from the
funeral. There's something funny about that, you know. I remember your
mother laughed very much when I told her about it once. But I didn't
laugh at the time, I can tell you, because it meant two aunts playing
battledore and shuttlecock. Don't interrupt, there's a good girl. It's a
sort of game. I can't remember what it is in French. I dare say it
doesn't exist in France. You'll have to stick to English now. Good old
England, it's not a bad place. Well, these two aunts of mine grudged
every penny they spent on me, but one of them got married to a man who
knew the firm I worked for in Lille. That's how I came to France. Where
are my aunts now? Dead, I hope. Don't you fret, Sylvia, we sha'n't
trouble any of our relations for a long time to come. Then after I'd
been in France about four years I married your mother. If you ask me
why, I can't tell you. I loved her; but the thing was wrong somehow. It
put me in a false position. Well, look at me! I'm only thirty-four now.
Who'd think you were my daughter?

"And while we're talking on serious subjects, let me give you a bit of
advice. Keep off jealousy. Jealousy is hell; and your mother was
jealous. Well--Frenchwomen are more jealous than Englishwomen. You can't
get over that fact. The scenes I've had with her. It was no good my
pointing out that she was fourteen years older than me. Not a bit of
good. It made her worse. That's why I took to reading. I had to get away
from her sometimes and shut myself up. That's why I took to cards. And
that's where your mother was wrong. She'd rather I gambled away her
money, because it's no use to pretend that it wasn't her money, than go
and sit at a café and perhaps observe--mind you, simply observe--another
woman. I used to drink a bit too much when we were first married, but it
caused such rows that I gave that up. I remember I broke an umbrella
once, and you'd really have thought there wasn't another umbrella in the
whole world. Why, that little drop of brandy I drank to-night has made
me feel quite funny. I'm not used to it. But there was some excuse for
drinking to-night. I've had runs of bad luck before, but anything like
these last two months I've never had in my life. The consequence was I
borrowed some of my salary in advance without consulting anybody. That's
where the manager had me this afternoon. He couldn't see that it was
merely borrowing. As a matter of fact, the sum wasn't worth an argument;
but he wasn't content with that; he actually told me he was going to
examine--well--you wouldn't understand if I tried to explain to you. It
would take a commercial training to understand what I've been doing.
Anyway, I made up my mind to make a bolt for it. Now don't run away with
the notion that the police will be after me, because I very much hope
they won't. In fact, I don't think they'll do anything. But the whole
affair gave me a shock and Valentine's behavior upset me. You see, when
your mother was alive if I'd had a bad week she used to help me out; but
Valentine actually asked me for money. She accused me of all sorts of
things which, luckily, you're too young to understand; and I really
didn't like to refuse her when I'd got the money.

"Well, it's been a lesson to me and I tell you I've missed your mother
these last months. She was jealous; she was close; she had a tongue; but
a finer woman never lived, and I'm proud of her. She used to wish you
were a boy. Well, I don't blame her. After all, she'd had six girls, and
what use are they to anybody? None at all. They might as well not exist.
Women go off and get married and take somebody else's name, and it's
finished. There's not one of your sisters that's really stayed in the
family. A selfish crowd, and the worst of the lot was Valentine. Yes,
you ought to have been a boy. I'll tell you what, it wouldn't be a bad
idea if you _were_ a boy for a bit. You see, in case the French police
make inquiries, it would be just as well to throw them off the scent;
and, another thing, it would be much easier for me till I find my feet
again in London. Would you like to be a boy, Sylvia? There's no reason
against it that I can see, and plenty of reasons for it. Of course it
means cutting off your hair, but they say that's a very good thing for
the hair once in a way. You'll be more free, too, as a boy, and less of
a responsibility. There's no doubt a girl would be a big responsibility
in London."

"But could I be a boy?" Sylvia asked. "I'd like to be a boy if I could.
And what should I be called?"

"Of course you could be a boy," her father affirmed, enthusiastically.
"You were always a bit of a _garçon_ _manqué_, as the French say. I'll
buy you a Norfolk suit."

Sylvia was not yet sufficiently unsexed not to want to know more about
her proposed costume. Her father pledged his word that it would please
her; his description of it recalled the dress that people in Lille put
on to go shooting sparrows on Sunday.

"_Un sporting?_" Sylvia queried.

"That's about it," her father agreed. "If you had any scissors with you,
I'd start right in now and cut your hair."

Sylvia said she had scissors in her bag; and presently she and her
father retired to the outer gloom of the junction, where, undisturbed by
a single curious glance, Sylvia's curls were swept away by the wind.

"I've not done it quite so neatly as I might," said her father,
examining the effect under a wavering gas-jet. "I'll have you properly
cropped to-morrow at a hairdresser's."

Sylvia felt cold and bare round the neck, but she welcomed the sensation
as one of freedom. How remote Lille seemed already--utterly, gloriously
far away! Now arose the problem of her name.

"The only boy's name I can think of that's anything like Sylvia is
Silas, and that's more Si than Sil. Wait a bit. What about Silvius? I've
seen that name somewhere. Only, we'll call you Sil for short."

"Why was I ever called Sylvia?" she asked.

"It was a fancy of your mother's. It comes in a song called '_Plaisir
d'amour_.' And your mother liked the English way of saying it. I've got
it. Sylvester! Sylvester Snow! What do you want better than that?"

When the train approached Boulogne, Henry Snow gave up talking and began
to juggle with the ten-centime piece; while they were walking along to
the boat he looked about him furtively. Nobody stopped them, however;
and with the kind of relief she had felt when she had brought her album
safely over the frontier Sylvia saw the coast of France recede. There
were many English people on the boat, and Sylvia watched them with such
concentration that several elderly ladies at whom she stared in turn
thought she was waiting for them to be sick, and irritably waved her
away. The main impression of her fellow-travelers was their resemblance
to the blind beggars that one saw sitting outside churches. She was
tempted to drop a sou in one of the basins, but forbore, not feeling
quite sure how such humor would appeal to the English. Presently she
managed to engage in conversation an English girl of her own age, but
she had not got far with the many questions she wanted to ask when her
companion was whisked away and she heard a voice reproving her for
talking to strange little girls. Sylvia decided that the strangeness of
her appearance must be due to her short hair, and she longed for the
complete transformation. Soon it began to rain; the shores of that
mysterious land to which she actually belonged swam toward her. Her
father came up from below, where, as he explained, he had been trying to
sleep off the effects of a bad night. Indeed, he did not recover his
usual jauntiness until they were in the train, traveling through country
that seemed to Sylvia not very different from the country of France.
Would London, after all, prove to be very different from Lille? Then
slowly the compartment grew dark, and from time to time the train
stopped.

"A fog," said her father, and he explained to her the meaning of a
London fog.

It grew darker and darker, with a yellowish-brown darkness that was
unlike any obscurity she had ever known.

"Bit of luck," said her father. "We sha'n't be noticed in this. Phew! It
is thick. We'd better go to some hotel close by for to-night. No good
setting out to look for rooms in this."

In the kitchen at Lille there had been a picture called "The Impenitent
Sinner," in which demons were seen dragging a dead man from his bed into
flames and darkness; Sylvia pointed out its likeness to the present
scene at Charing Cross. Outside the station it was even worse. There was
a thunderous din; horses came suddenly out of the darkness; everybody
seemed to be shouting; boys were running along with torches; it was
impossible to breathe.

"Why did they build a city here?" she inquired.

At last they came to a house in a quieter street, where they walked up
high, narrow stairs to their bedrooms.

The next morning her father took Sylvia's measurements and told her not
to get up before he came back. When she walked out beside him in a
Norfolk suit nobody seemed to stare at her; when her hair had been
properly cut by a barber and she could look at herself in a long glass,
she plunged her hands into her trousers pockets and felt securely a boy.

While they were walking to a mysterious place called the Underground,
her father asked if she had caught bronchitis, and he would scarcely
accept her word that she was trying to practise whistling.

"Well, don't do it when I'm inquiring about rooms or the people in the
house may think it's something infectious," he advised. "And don't
forget your name's Sylvester. Which reminds me it wouldn't be a bad
notion if I was to change my own name. There's no sense in running one's
head into a noose, and if inquiries _were_ made by the police it would
be foolish to ram my name right down their throats. Henry Snow. What
about Henry White? Better keep to the same initials. I've got it. Henry
Scarlett. You couldn't find anything more opposite to Snow than that."

Thus Sylvia Snow became Sylvester Scarlett.

After a long search they took rooms with Mrs. Threadgould, a widow who
with her two boys, Willie and Ernie, lived at 45 Pomona Terrace,
Shepherd's Bush. There were no other lodgers, for the house was small;
and Henry Scarlett decided it was just the place in which to stay
quietly for a while until the small sum of money he had brought with him
from Lille was finished, when it would be necessary to look for work.
Meanwhile he announced that he should study very carefully the
advertisements in the daily papers, leaving everybody with the
impression that reading advertisements was a most erudite business, a
kind of scientific training that when the moment arrived would produce
practical results.

Sylvia meanwhile was enjoined to amuse herself in the company of Mrs.
Threadgould's two boys, who were about her own age. It happened that at
this time Willie Threadgould, the elder, was obsessed by secret
societies, to which his brother Ernie and many other boys in the
neighborhood had recently been initiated. Sylvia was regarded with
suspicion by Willie until she was able to thrill him with the story of
various criminal associations in France and so became his lieutenant in
all enterprises. Most of the secret societies that had been rapidly
formed by Willie and as rapidly dissolved had possessed a merely
academic value; now with Sylvia's advent they were given a practical
intention. Secrecy for secrecy's sake went out of fashion. Muffling the
face in dusters, giving the sign and countersign, lurking at the corner
of the road to meet another conspirator, were excellent decorations, but
Sylvia pointed out that they led nowhere and produced nothing; to
illustrate her theory she proposed a secret society for ringing other
people's bells. She put this forward as a kind of elementary exercise;
but she urged that, when the neighborhood had realized the bell-ringing
as something to which they were more continuously exposed than other
neighborhoods, the moment would be ripe to form another secret society
that should inflict a more serious nuisance. From the secret society
that existed to be a nuisance would grow another secret society that
existed to be a threat; and finally there seemed no reason why Willie
Threadgould (Sylvia was still feminine enough to let Willie think it was
Willie) should control Shepherd's Bush and emulate the most remarkable
brigands of history. In the end Sylvia's imagination banished her from
the ultimate power at which she aimed. The Secret Society for Ringing
Other People's Bells did its work so well that extra policemen were put
on duty to cope with the nuisance and an inspector made a house-to-house
visitation, which gave her father such a shock that he left Pomona
Terrace the next day and took a room in Lillie Road, Fulham.

"We have been betrayed," Sylvia assured Willie. "Do not forget to avenge
my capture."

Willie vowed he would let nothing interfere with his vengeance, not even
if the traitor turned out to be his own brother Ernie.

Sylvia asked if he would kill him, and reminded Willie that it was a
serious thing to betray a secret society when that society was doing
something more than dressing up. Willie doubted if it would be possible
to kill the culprit, but swore that he should prefer death to what
should happen to him.

Sylvia was so much gratified by Willie's severity that she led him into
a corner, where, having exacted his silence with the most solemn oaths,
she betrayed herself and the secret of her sex; then they embraced. When
they parted forever next day, Sylvia felt that she had left behind her
in Willie's heart a romantic memory that would never fade.

Mrs. Meares, who kept the house in Lillie Road, was an Irishwoman whose
husband had grown tired of her gentility and left her. She did not
herself sum up her past so tersely as this, but Sylvia was sure that Mr.
Meares had left her because he could no longer endure the stories about
her royal descent. Perhaps he might have been able to endure his wife's
royal descent, because, after all, he had married into the family and
might have extracted some pride out of that fact; but all her friends
apparently came from kings and queens, too. Ireland, if Mrs. Meares was
to be believed, consisted of one large poverty-stricken royal family,
which must have cheapened the alliance for Mr. Meares. It was lucky that
he was still alive, for otherwise Sylvia was sure that her father would
have married their new landlady, such admiration did he always express
for the manner in which she struggled against misfortune without losing
her dignity. This, from what Sylvia could see, consisted of wearing silk
skirts that trailed in the dust of her ill-kept house and of her fanning
herself in an arm-chair however cold the weather. The only thing that
stirred her to action was the necessity of averting an ill-omen. Thus,
she would turn back on a flight of stairs rather than pass anybody
descending; although ordinarily when she went up-stairs she used to sigh
and hold her heart at every step. Sylvia remembered her mother's
scrupulous care of her house, even in the poorest days; she could not
help contrasting her dignity with this Irish dignity that was content to
see indefinite fried eggs on her table, cockroaches in the bedrooms, and
her own placket always agape. Mrs. Meares used to say that she would
never let any of her rooms to ladies, because ladies always fussed.

"Gentlemen are so much more considerate," said Mrs. Meares.

Their willingness to be imposed upon made Sylvia contemptuous of the sex
she had adopted, and she tried to spur her father to protest when his
bed was still unmade at four o'clock in the afternoon.

"Why don't you make it?" he suggested. "I don't like to worry poor Mrs.
Meares."

Sylvia, however contemptuous of manhood, had no intention of
relinquishing its privileges; she firmly declined to have anything to do
with the making of beds.

The breakfast-room was placed below the level of the street. Here, in an
atmosphere of cat-haunted upholstery and broken springs, of overcooked
vegetables and dingy fires, yet withal of a kind of frowsy comfort,
Sylvia sometimes met the other lodgers. One of them was Baron von
Statten, a queer German, whom Sylvia could not make out at all, for he
spoke English as if he had been taught by a maid-of-all-work with a bad
cold, powdered his pink face, and wore three rings, yet was so poor that
sometimes he stayed in bed for a week at a stretch, pending negotiations
with his laundress. The last piece of information Sylvia obtained from
Clara, the servant, who professed a great contempt for the baron. Mrs.
Meares, on the other hand, derived much pride from his position in her
house, which she pointed out was really that of an honored guest, since
he owed now nearly seven weeks' rent; she never failed to refer to him
by his title with warm affection. Another lodger was a Welsh pianist
called Morgan, who played the piano all day long and billiards for as
much of the night as he could. He was a bad-tempered young man with long
black hair and a great antipathy to the baron, whom he was always trying
to insult; indeed, once at breakfast he actually poured a cup of coffee
over him.

"Mr. Morgan!" Mrs. Meares had cried. "No Irishman would have done that."

"No Irishman would ever do anything," the pianist snapped, "if he could
get somebody else to do it for him."

Sylvia welcomed the assault, because the scalding coffee drove the baron
to unbutton his waistcoat in a frenzy of discomfort and thereby
confirmed Clara's legend about the scarcity of his linen.

The third lodger was Mr. James Monkley, about whom Sylvia was undecided;
sometimes she liked him very much, at other times she disliked him
equally. He had curly red hair, finely cut red lips, a clear complexion,
and an authoritative, determined manner, but his eyes, instead of being
the pleasant blue they ought to have been in such a face, were of a
shade of muddy green and never changed their expression. Sylvia once
mentioned about Mr. Monkley's eyes to Clara, who said they were like a
fish.

"But Monkley's not like a fish," Sylvia argued.

"I don't know what he's like, I'm sure," said Clara. "All I know is he
gives any one the creeps something shocking whenever he stares, which
he's forever doing. Well, fine feathers don't make a summer and he looks
best who looks last, as they say."

One reason for disliking Mr. Monkley was his intimacy with her father.
Sylvia would not have objected to this if it had not meant long
confabulations during which she was banished from the room and, what was
worse, thrown into the society of Mrs. Meares, who always seemed to
catch her when she was trying to make her way down-stairs to Clara.

"Come in and talk to me," Mrs. Meares would say. "I'm just tidying up my
bedroom. Ah, Sil, if God had not willed otherwise I should have had a
boy just your age now. Poor little innocent!"

Sylvia knew too well this counterpart of hers and hated him as much in
his baby's grave as she might have done were he still her competitor in
life.

"Ah, it's a terrible thing to be left as I've been left, to be married
and not married, to have been a mother and to have lost my child. And I
was never intended for this life. My father kept horses. We had a
carriage. But they say, 'trust an Irishwoman to turn her hand to
anything.' And it's true. There's many people would wonder how I do it
with only one maid. How's your dear father? He seems comfortable. Ah,
it's a privilege to look after a gentleman like him. He seems to have
led a most adventurous life. Most of his time spent abroad, he tells me.
Well, travel gives an air to a man. Ah, now if one of the cats hasn't
been naughty just when I'd got my room really tidy! Will you tell Clara,
if you are going down-stairs, to bring up a dustpan? I don't mind asking
you, for at your age I think you would be glad to wait on the ladies
like a little gentleman. Sure, as your father said the other day, it's a
very good thing you're in a lady's house. That's why the dear baron's so
content; and the poor man has much to try him, for his relations in
Berlin have treated him abominably."

Such speeches inflicted upon her because Monkley wanted to talk secrets
with her father made her disapprove of Monkley. Nevertheless, she
admired him in a way; he was the only person in the house who was not
limp, except Mr. Morgan, the pianist; but he used to glare at her, when
they occasionally met, and seemed to regard her as an unpleasant result
of being late for breakfast, like a spot on the table-cloth made by a
predecessor's egg.

Monkley used to ask Sylvia sometimes about what she was going to do.
Naturally he treated her future as a boy's future, which took most of
the interest out of the conversation; for Sylvia did not suppose that
she would be able to remain a boy very much longer. The mortifying fact,
too, was that she was not getting anything out of her transformation:
for all the fun she was having, she might as well have stayed a girl.
There had been a brief vista of liberty at Pomona Terrace; here, beyond
going out to buy a paper or tobacco for her father, she spent most of
her time in gossiping with Clara, which she could probably have done
more profitably in petticoats.

Winter drew out to spring; to the confabulations between Jimmy Monkley
and Henry Scarlett were now added absences from the house that lasted
for a day or two at a time. These expeditions always began with the
friends' dressing up in pearl-buttoned overcoats very much cut in at the
waist. Sylvia felt that such careful attention to externals augured the
great secrecy and importance of the enterprise; remembering the effect
of Willie Threadgould's duster-shrouded countenance upon his
fellow-conspirators, she postulated to herself that with the human race,
particularly the male portion, dress was always the prelude to action.
One morning after breakfast, when Monkley and her father had hurried off
to catch a train, the baron said in his mincing voice:

"Off ra-c-cing again! They do enjoy themselves-s-s."

She asked what racing meant, and the baron replied:

"Hors-s-se-ra-c-cing, of cour-se."

Sylvia, being determined to arrive at the truth of this business, put
the baron through a long interrogation, from which she managed to learn
that the jockeys wore colored silk jackets and that in his prosperous
days the baron had found the sport too exciting for his heart. After
breakfast Sylvia took the subject with her into the kitchen, and tried
to obtain fuller information from Clara, who, with the prospect of a
long morning's work, was disinclined to be communicative.

"What a boy you are for asking questions! Why don't you ask your dad
when he comes home, or that Monkley? As if I'd got time to talk about
racing. I've got enough racing of my own to think about; but if it goes
on much longer I shall race off out of it one of these days, and that's
a fact. You may take a pitcher to the well, but you can't make it drink,
as they say."

Sylvia withdrew for a while, but later in the afternoon she approached
Clara again.

"God bless the boy! He's got racing on the brain," the maid exclaimed.
"I had a young man like that once, but I soon gave him the go-by. He was
that stuffed up with halfpenny papers he couldn't cuddle any one without
crackling like an egg-shell. 'Don't carry on so, Clara,' he said to me.
'I had a winner to-day in the three-thirty.' 'Did you?' I answered, very
cool. 'Well, you've got a loser now,' and with that I walked off very
dignified and left him. It's the last straw, they say, that gives the
camel the hump. And he properly gave me the hump. But I reckon, I do,
that it's mugs like him as keeps your dad and that Monkley so
smart-looking. I reckon most of the racing they do is racing to see
which can get some silly josser to give them his money first."

Sylvia informed Clara that her father used to play cards for money in
France.

"There you are. What did I tell you?" Clara went on. "Nap, they call it,
but I reckon that there Monkley keeps wide enough awake. Oh, he's an
artful one, he is! Birds and feathers keep together, they say, and I
reckon your dad's cleverer than what he makes out to be."

Sylvia produced in support of this idea her father's habit of juggling
with a penny.

"What did I tell you?" Clara exclaimed, triumphantly. "Take it from me,
Sil, the two of them has a rare old time with this racing. I've got a
friend, Maudie Tilt, who's in service, and her brother started off to be
a jockey, only he never got very far, because he got kicked on the head
by a horse when he was sweeping out the stable, which was very
aggravating for his relations, because he had a sister who died in a
galloping consumption the same week. I reckon horses was very unlucky
for them, I do."

"My grandmother got run over coming back from my grandfather's funeral,"
Sylvia proclaimed.

"By the hearse?" Clara asked, awestruck.

Sylvia felt it would be well to make the most of her story, and replied
without hesitation in the affirmative.

"Well, they say to meet an empty hearse means a pleasant surprise," said
Clara. "But I reckon your grandma didn't think so. Here, I'll tell you
what, my next afternoon off I'll take you round to see Maudie Tilt. She
lives not far from where the Cedars 'bus stops."

About a week after this conversation Clara, wearing balloon sleeves of
last year's fashion and with her hair banked up to support a monstrous
hat, descended into the basement, whence she and Sylvia emerged into a
fine April afternoon and hailed an omnibus.

"Mind you don't get blown off the top, miss," said the conductor, with a
glance at Clara's sleeves.

"No fear of that. I've grown a bit heavier since I saw your face," Clara
replied, climbing serenely to the top of the omnibus. "Two, as far as
you go," she said, handing twopence to the conductor when he came up for
the fares.

"I could go a long way with you, miss," he said, punching the tickets
with a satisfied twinkle. "What a lovely hat!"

"Is it? Well, don't start in trying to eat it because you've been used
to green food all your life."

"Your sister answers very sharp, doesn't she, Tommy?" said the conductor
to Sylvia.

After this display of raillery Sylvia felt it would be weak merely to
point out that Clara was not a sister, so she remained silent.

The top of the omnibus was empty except for Clara and Sylvia; the
conductor, whistling a cheerful tune, descended again.

"Saucy things," Clara commented. "But there, you can't blame them. It
makes any one feel cheerful to be out in the open air like this."

Maudie's house in Castleford Road was soon reached after they left the
omnibus. When they rang the area bell, Maudie herself opened the door.

"Oh, you did give me a turn!" she exclaimed. "I thought it was early for
the milkman. You couldn't have come at a better time, because they've
both gone away. She's been ill, and they'll be away for a month. Cook's
gone for a holiday, and I'm all alone."

Sylvia was presented formally to the hostess; and when, at Clara's
prompting, she had told the story of her grandmother's death,
conversation became easy. Maudie Tilt took them all over the house, and,
though Clara said she should die of nervousness, insisted upon their
having tea in the drawing-room.

"Supposing they come back," Clara whispered. "Oh, lor'! Whatever's
that?"

Maudie told her not to be silly, and went on to boast that she did not
care if they did come back, because she had made up her mind to give up
domestic service and go on the stage.

"Fancy!" said Clara. "Whoever put that idea into your head?"

"Well, I started learning some of the songs they sing in the halls, and
some friends of mine gave a party last January and I made quite a hit.
I'll sing you a song now, if you like."

And Maudie, sitting down at the piano, accompanied herself with much
effect in one of Miss Vesta Victoria's songs.

"For goodness' sake keep quiet, Maudie," Clara begged. "You'll have the
neighbors coming 'round to see whatever's the matter. You have got a
cheek."

Sylvia thoroughly enjoyed Maudie's performance and thought she would
have a great success. She liked Maudie's smallness and neatness and
glittering, dark eyes. Altogether it was a delightful afternoon, and she
was sorry to go away.

"Come again," cried Maudie, "before they come back, and we'll have some
more."

"Oh, I did feel frightened!" Clara said, when she and Sylvia were
hurrying to catch the omnibus back to Lillie Road. "I couldn't enjoy
it, not a bit. I felt as if I was in the bath and the door not bolted,
though they do say stolen fruit is the sweetest."

When she got home, Sylvia found that her father had returned also, and
she held forth on the joys of Maudie Tilt's house.

"Wants to go on the stage, does she?" said Monkley, who was in the room.
"Well, you'd better introduce us and we'll see what we can do. Eh,
Harry?"

Sylvia approved of this suggestion and eagerly vouched for Maudie's
willingness.

"We'll have a little supper-party," said Monkley. "Sil can go round and
tell her we're coming."

Sylvia blessed the persistency with which she had worried Clara on the
subject of racing; otherwise, bisexual and solitary, she might have been
moping in Lillie Road. She hoped that Maudie Tilt would not offer any
objections to the proposed party, and determined to point out most
persuasively the benefit of Monkley's patronage, if she really meant to
go on the stage. However, Maudie was not at all difficult to convince
and showed herself as eager for the party as Sylvia herself. She was
greatly impressed by her visitor's experience of the stage, but reckoned
that no boys should have pinched her legs or given her the broken masks.

"You ought to have punched into them," she said. "Still, I dare say it
wasn't so easy for you, not being a girl. Boys are very nasty to one
another, when they'd be as nice as anything to a girl."

Sylvia was conscious of a faint feeling of contempt for Maudie's
judgment, and she wondered from what her illusions were derived.

Clara, when she heard of the proposed party, was dubious. She had no
confidence in Monkley, and said so frankly.

"No one wants to go chasing after a servant-girl for nothing," she
declared. "Every cloud's got a silver lining."

"But what could he want to do wrong?" Sylvia asked.

"Ah, now you're asking. But if I was Maudie Tilt I'd keep myself to
myself."

Clara snapped out the last remark and would say nothing more on the
subject.

A few days later, under Sylvia's guidance, James Monkley and Henry
Scarlett sought Castleford Road. Maudie had put on a black silk dress,
and with her hair done in what she called the French fashion she
achieved a kind of Japanese piquancy.

"_N'est-ce pas qu'elle a un chic?"_ Sylvia whispered to her father.

They had supper in the dining-room and made a good deal of noise over
it, for Monkley had brought two bottles of champagne, and Maudie could
not resist producing a bottle of cognac from her master's cellar. When
Monkley asked if everything were not kept under lock and key, Maudie
told him that if they couldn't trust her they could lump it; she could
jolly soon find another place; and, any way, she intended to get on the
stage somehow. After supper they went up-stairs to the drawing-room; and
Maudie was going to sit down at the piano, when Monkley told her that he
would accompany her, because he wanted to see how she danced. Maudie
gave a most spirited performance, kicking up her legs and stamping until
the ornaments on the mantelpiece rattled. Then Monkley showed Maudie
where she could make improvements in her renderings, which surprised
Sylvia very much, because she had never connected Monkley with anything
like this.

"Quite an artist is Jimmy," Henry Scarlett declared. Then he added in an
undertone to Sylvia: "He's a wonderful chap, you know. I've taken a rare
fancy to him. Do anything. Sharp as a needle. I may as well say right
out that he's made all the difference to my life in London."

Presently Monkley suggested that Maudie should show them over the house,
and they went farther up-stairs to the principal bedroom, where the two
men soused their heads with the various hair-washes left behind by the
master of the house. Henry expressed a desire to have a bath, and
retired with an enormous sponge and a box of bath-salts. Monkley began
to flirt with Maudie; Sylvia, feeling that the evening was becoming
rather dull, went down-stairs again to the drawing-room and tried to
pass the time away with a stereoscope.

After that evening Monkley and Scarlett went often to see Maudie, but,
much to Sylvia's resentment, they never took her with them. When she
grumbled about this to Clara, Clara told her that she was well out of
it.

"Too many cooks drink up the soup, which means you're one too many, my
lad, and a rolling stone doesn't let the grass grow under its feet,
which means as that Monkley's got some game on."

Sylvia did not agree with Clara's point of view; she still felt
aggrieved by being left out of everything. Luckily, when life in Lillie
Road was becoming utterly dull again, a baboon escaped from Earl's Court
Exhibition, climbed up the drain-pipe outside the house, and walked into
Mrs. Meares's bedroom; so that for some time after this she had
palpitations whenever a bell rang. Mr. Morgan was very unkind about her
adventure, for he declared that the baboon looked so much like an
Irishman that she must have thought it was her husband come back; Mr.
Morgan had been practising the Waldstein Sonata at the time, and had
been irritated by the interruption of a wandering ape.

A fortnight after this there was a scene in the house that touched
Sylvia more sharply, for Maudie Tilt arrived one morning and begged to
speak with Mr. Monkley, who, being in the Scarletts' room at the moment,
looked suddenly at Sylvia's father with a question in his eyes.

"I told you not to take them all," Henry said.

"I'll soon calm her down," Monkley promised. "If you hadn't insisted on
taking those bottles of hair-wash she'd never have thought of looking to
see if the other things were still there."

Henry indicated his daughter with a gesture.

"Rot! The kid's got to stand in on this," Monkley said, with a laugh.
"After all, it was he who introduced us. I'll bring her up here to talk
it out," he added.

Presently he returned with Maudie, who had very red eyes and a
frightened expression.

"Oh, Jimmy!" she burst out. "Whatever did you want to take that jewelry
for? I only found out last night, and they'll be home to-morrow.
Whatever am I going to say?"

"Jewelry?" repeated Monkley, in a puzzled voice. "Harry took some
hair-wash, if that's what you mean."

"Jewelry?" Henry murmured, taking the cue from his friend. "Was there
any jewelry?"

"Oh, don't pretend you don't know nothing about it," Maudie cried,
dissolving into tears. "For the love of God give it to me, so as I can
put it back. If you're hard up, Jimmy, you can take what I saved for the
stage; but give us back that jewelry."

"If you act like that you'll make your fortune as a professional,"
Monkley sneered.

Maudie turned to Sylvia in desperation. "Sil," she cried, "make them
give it back. It'll be the ruin of me. Why, it's burglary! Oh, whatever
shall I do?"

Maudie flung herself down on the bed and wept convulsively. Sylvia felt
her heart beating fast, but she strung herself up to the encounter and
faced Monkley.

"What's the good of saying you haven't got the jewelry," she cried,
"when you know you have? Give it to her or I'll--I'll go out into the
middle of the road and shout at the top of my voice that there's a snake
in the house, and people will have to come in and look for it, because
when they didn't believe about the baboon in Mrs. Meares's room the
baboon was there all the time."

She stopped and challenged Monkley with flashing eyes, head thrown back,
and agitated breast.

"You oughtn't to talk to a grown-up person like that, you know," said
her father.

Something unspeakably soft in his attitude infuriated Sylvia, and
spinning round she flashed out at him:

"If you don't make Monkley give back the things you stole I'll tell
everybody about _you_. I mean it. I'll tell everybody." She stamped her
feet.

"That's a daughter," said Henry. "That's the way they're bringing them
up nowadays--to turn round on their fathers."

"A daughter?" Monkley echoed, with an odd look at his friend.

"I mean son," said Henry, weakly. "Anyway, it's all the same."

Monkley seemed to pay no more attention to the slip, but went over to
Maudie and began to coax her.

"Come on, Maudie, don't turn away from a good pal. What if we did take
a few things? They shouldn't have left them behind. People deserve to
lose things if they're so careless."

"That's quite true," Henry agreed, virtuously. "It'll be a lesson to
them."

"Go back and pack up your things, my dear, and get out of the house.
I'll see you through. You shall take another name and go on the stage
right away. What's the good of crying over a few rings and bangles?"

But Maudie refused to be comforted. "Give them back to me. Give them
back to me," she moaned.

"Oh, all right," Monkley said, suddenly. "But you're no sport, Maudie.
You've got the chance of your life and you're turning it down. Well,
don't blame me if you find yourself still a slavey five years hence."

Monkley went down-stairs and came back again in a minute or two with a
parcel wrapped up in tissue-paper.

"You haven't kept anything back?" Maudie asked, anxiously.

"My dear girl, you ought to know how many there were. Count them."

"Would you like me to give you back the hair-wash?" Henry asked,
indignantly.

Maudie rose to go away.

"You're not angry with me, Jim?" she asked, pleadingly.

"Oh, get out!" he snapped.

Maudie turned pale and rushed from the room.

"Silly b----h," Monkley said. "Well, it's been a very instructive
morning," he added, fixing Sylvia with his green eyes and making her
feel uncomfortable.

"Some people make a fuss about the least little thing," Henry said.
"There was just the same trouble when I pawned my wife's jewelry. Coming
round the corner to have one?" he inquired, looking at Monkley, who said
he would join him presently and followed him out of the room.

When she was alone, Sylvia tried to put her emotions in order, without
success. She had wished for excitement, but, now that it had arrived,
she wished it had kept away from her. She was not so much shocked by the
revelation of what her father and Monkley had done (though she resented
their cowardly treatment of Maudie), as frightened by what might
ultimately happen to her in their company. They might at any moment find
themselves in prison, and if she were to be let out before the others,
what would she do? She would be utterly alone and would starve; or, what
seemed more likely, they would be arrested and she would remain in
Lillie Road, waiting for news and perhaps compelled to earn her living
by working for Mrs. Meares. At all costs she must be kept informed of
what was going on. If her father tried to shut her out of his
confidence, she would appeal to Monkley. Her meditation was interrupted
by Monkley himself.

"So you're a little girl," he said, suddenly. "Fancy that."

"What if I am?" challenged Sylvia, who saw no hope of successfully
denying the accusation.

"Oh, I don't know," Monkley murmured. "It's more fun, that's all. But,
look here, girl or boy, don't let me ever have any more heroics from
you. D'ye hear? Or, by God! I'll--"

Sylvia felt that the only way of dealing with Monkley was to stand up to
him from the first.

"Oh, shut up!" she broke in. "You can't frighten me. Next time, perhaps
you'll tell me beforehand what you're going to do, and then I'll see if
I'll let you do it."

He began to laugh. "You've got some pluck."

"Why?"

"Why, to cheek me like that."

"I'm not Maudie, you see," Sylvia pointed out.

Presently a spasm of self-consciousness made her long to be once more in
petticoats, and, grabbing wildly at her flying boyhood, she said how
much she wanted to have adventures. Monkley promised she should have as
many as she liked, and bade her farewell, saying that he was going to
join her father in a saloon bar round the corner. Sylvia volunteered to
accompany him, and after a momentary hesitation he agreed to take her.
On the stairs they overtook the baron, very much dressed up, who, in
answer to an inquiry from Monkley, informed them that he was going to
lunch with the Emperor of Byzantium.

"Give my love to the Empress," Monkley laughed.

"It's-s nothing to laugh at," the baron said, severely. "He lives in
West Kensington."

"Next door to the Pope, I suppose," Monkley went on.

"You never will be serious, but I'll take you there one afternoon, if
you don't believe me."

The baron continued on his way down-stairs with a kind of mincing
dignity, and Mrs. Meares came out of her bedroom.

"Isn't it nice for the dear baron?" she purred. "He's received some of
his money from Berlin, and at last he can go and look up his old
friends. He's lunching with the Emperor to-day."

"I hope he won't drop his crown in the soup," Monkley said.

"Ah, give over laughing, Mr. Monkley, for I like to think of the poor
baron in the society to which he belongs. And he doesn't forget his old
friends. But there, after all, why would he, for, though I'm living in
Lillie Road, I've got the real spirit of the past in my blood, and the
idea of meeting the Emperor doesn't elate me at all. It seems somehow as
if I were used to meeting emperors."

On the way to the public house Monkley held forth to Sylvia on the
prevalence of human folly, and vowed that he would hold the baron to his
promise and visit the Emperor himself.

"And take me with you?" Sylvia asked.

"You seem very keen on the new partnership," he observed.

"I don't want to be left out of things," she explained. "Not out of
anything. It makes me look stupid. Father treats me like a little girl;
but it's he who's stupid, really."

They had reached the public house, and Henry was taken aback by Sylvia's
arrival. She, for her part, was rather disappointed in the saloon bar.
The words had conjured something much more sumptuous than this place
that reminded her of a chemist's shop.

"I don't want the boy to start learning to drink," Henry protested.

Monkley told him to give up the fiction of Sylvia's boyhood with him,
to which Henry replied that, though, as far as he knew, he had only been
sitting here ten minutes, Jimmy and Sylvia seemed to have settled the
whole world between them in that time.

"What's more, if she's going to remain a boy any longer, she's got to
have some new clothes," Monkley announced.

Sylvia flushed with pleasure, recognizing that cooperative action of
which preliminary dressing-up was the pledge.

"You see, I've promised to take her round with me to the Emperor of
Byzantium."

"I don't know that pub," said Henry. "Is it Walham Green way?"

Monkley told him about meeting the baron, and put forward his theory
that people who were willing to be duped by the Emperor of Byzantium
would be equally willing to be duped by other people, with much profit
to the other people.

"Meaning you and me?" said Henry.

"Well, in this case I propose to leave you out of the first act,"
Monkley said. "I'm going to have a look at the scene myself. There's no
one like you with the cards, Harry, but when it comes to the patter I
think you'll give me first."

Presently, Sylvia was wearing Etons, at Monkley's suggestion, and
waiting in a dream of anticipation; the baron proclaimed that the
Emperor would hold a reception on the first Thursday in June. When
Monkley said he wanted young Sylvester to go with them, the baron looked
doubtful; but Monkley remarked that he had seen the baron coming out of
a certain house in Earl's Court Road the other day, which seemed to
agitate him and make him anxious for Sylvia to attend the reception.

Outside the very commonplace house in Stanmore Crescent, where the
Emperor of Byzantium lived, Monkley told the baron that he did not wish
anything said about Sylvester's father. Did the baron understand? He
wished a certain mystery to surround Sylvester. The baron after his
adventure in Earl's Court Road would appreciate the importance of
secrecy.

"You are a regular devil, Monkley," said von Statten, in his most
mincing voice. Remembering the saloon bar, Sylvia had made up her mind
not to be disappointed if the Emperor's reception failed to be very
exciting; yet on the whole she was rather impressed. To be sure, the
entrance hall of 14 Stanmore Crescent was not very imperial; but a
footman took their silk hats, and, though Monkley whispered that he was
carrying them like flower-pots and was evidently the jobbing gardener
from round the corner, Sylvia was agreeably awed, especially when they
were invited to proceed to the antechamber.

"In other words, the dining-room," said Monkley to the baron.

"Hush! Don't you see the throne-room beyond?" the baron whispered.

Sure enough, opening out of the antechamber was a smaller room in which
was a dais covered with purple cloth. On a high Venetian chair sat the
Emperor, a young man with dark, bristling hair, in evening dress. Sylvia
stood on tiptoe to get a better look at him; but there was such a crush
in the entrance to the throne-room that she had to be content for the
present with staring at the numerous courtiers and listening to
Monkley's whispered jokes, which the baron tried in vain to stop.

"I suppose where the young man with a head like a door-mat and a face
like a scraper is sitting is where the Imperial family congregates after
dinner. I'd like to see what's under that purple cloth. Packing-cases,
I'll bet a quid."

"Hush! hush! not so loud," the baron implored. "Here's Captain Grayrigg,
the Emperor's father."

He pointed to a very small man with pouched eyes and a close-cropped
pointed beard.

"Do you mean to tell me the Emperor hasn't made his father a
field-marshal? He ought to be ashamed of himself."

"My dear man, Captain Grayrigg married the late Empress. He is nothing
himself."

"I suppose he has to knock the packing-cases together and pay for the
ices."

But the baron had pressed forward to meet Captain Grayrigg and did not
answer. Presently he came back very officiously and beckoned to
Monkley, whom he introduced.

"From New York City, Colonel," said Monkley, with a quick glance at the
baron.

Sylvia nearly laughed, because Jimmy was talking through his nose in the
most extraordinary way.

"Ah! an American," said Captain Grayrigg. "Then I expect this sort of
thing strikes you as quite ridiculous."

"Why, no, Colonel. Between ourselves I may as well tell you I'm over
here myself on a job not unconnected with royalty."

Monkley indicated Sylvia with a significant look.

"This little French boy who is called Master Sylvestre at present may be
heard of later."

Jimmy had accentuated her nationality. Sylvia, quick enough to see what
he wanted her to do, replied in French.

A tall young man with an olive complexion and priestly gestures,
standing close by, pricked up his ears at Monkley's remark. When Captain
Grayrigg had retired he came forward and introduced himself as the
Prince de Condé.

Monkley seemed to be sizing up the prince; then abruptly with an air of
great cordiality he took his arm.

"Say, Prince, let's go and find an ice. I guess you're the man I've been
looking for ever since I landed in England."

They moved off together to find refreshment. Sylvia was left in the
antechamber, which was filled with a most extraordinary crowd of people.
There were young men with very pink cheeks who all wore white roses or
white carnations in their buttonholes; there was a battered-looking
woman with a wreath of laurel in her hair who suddenly began to declaim
in a wailful voice. Everybody said, "Hush," and tried to avoid catching
his neighbor's eye. At first, Sylvia decided that the lady must be a
lunatic whom people had to humor, because her remarks had nothing to do
with the reception and were not even intelligible; then she decided that
she was a ventriloquist who was imitating a cat. An old gentleman in
kilts was standing near her, and Sylvia remembered that once in France
she had seen somebody dressed like that, who had danced in a tent; this
lent color to the theory of their both being entertainers. The old
gentleman asked the baron if he had the Gaelic, and the baron said he
had not; whereupon the old gentleman sniffed very loudly, which made
Sylvia feel rather uncomfortable, because, though she had not eaten
garlic, she had eaten onions for lunch. Presently the old gentleman
moved away and she asked the baron when he was going to begin his dance;
the baron told her that he was the chief of a great Scottish clan and
that he always dressed like that. A clergyman with two black-and-white
dogs under his arms was walking about and protesting in a high voice
that he couldn't shake hands; and a lady in a Grecian tunic, standing
near Sylvia, tried to explain to her in French that the dogs were
descended from King Charles I. Sylvia wanted to tell her she spoke
English, because she was sure something had gone wrong with the
explanation, owing to the lady's French; but she did not like to do so
after Jimmy's deliberate insistence upon her nationality.

Presently a very fussy woman with a long, stringy neck, bulging eyes,
and arched fingers came into the antechamber and wanted to know who had
not yet been presented to the Emperor. Sylvia looked round for Jimmy,
but he was nowhere to be seen, and, being determined not to go away
without entering the throne-room, she said loudly:

_"Moi, je n'ai pas encore vu l'empereur."_

"Oh, the little darling!" trilled the fussy woman. _"Venez avec moi, je
vous présenterai moi-même."_

"How beautifully Miss Widgett speaks French!" somebody murmured, when
Sylvia was being led into the throne-room. "It's such a gift."

Sylvia was very much impressed by a large orange flag nailed to the wall
above the Emperor's throne.

_"Le drapeau impériale de Byzance," Miss Widgett said. "Voyez-vous
l'aigle avec deux têtes. Il était fait pour sa majesté impériale par le
Société du roi Charles I de West London."_

"King Charles again," Sylvia thought.

"_Il faut baiser la main_," Miss Widgett prompted. Sylvia followed out
the suggestion; and the Emperor, to whom Miss Widgett had whispered a
few words, said:

"_Ah, vous êtes français,_" and to Miss Widgett, "Who did you say he
was?"

"I really don't know. He came with Baron von Statten. _Comment vous
appelez-vous?_" Miss Widgett asked, turning to Sylvia.

Sylvia answered that she was called Monsieur Sylvestre, and just then a
most unusual squealing was heard in the antechamber.

"_Mon dieu! qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?_" Sylvia cried.

"_C'est le--comment dit-on_ bagpipes _en Français? C'est le 'baagpeep'
vous savez_," which left Sylvia as wise as she was before. However, as
there was no general panic, she ceased to be frightened. Soon she saw
Jimmy beckoning to her from the antechamber, and shortly afterward they
left the reception, which had interested Sylvia very much, though she
regretted that nobody had offered her an ice.

Monkley congratulated Sylvia upon her quickness in grasping that he had
wanted her to pretend she was French, and by his praise roused in her
the sense of ambition, which, though at present it was nothing more than
a desire to please him personally, marked, nevertheless, a step forward
in the development of her character; certainly from this moment the old
fear of having no one to look after her began to diminish, and though
she still viewed with pleasure the prospect of being alone, she began to
have a faint conception of making herself indispensable, perceiving
dimly the independence that would naturally follow. Meanwhile, however
gratifying Monkley's compliment, it could not compensate her for the ice
she had not been given, and Sylvia made this so plain to him that he
invited her into a confectioner's shop on the way home and gave her a
larger ice than any she had seen at the Emperor's.

Ever since Sylvia had made friends with Jimmy Monkley, her father had
adopted the attitude of being left out in the cold, which made him the
worst kind of audience for an enthusiastic account of the reception.
Mrs. Meares, though obviously condescending, was a more satisfactory
listener, and she was able to explain to Sylvia some of the things that
had puzzled her, among others the old gentleman's remark about Gaelic.

"This keeping up of old customs and ceremonies in our degenerate days is
most commendable," said Mrs. Meares. "I wish I could be doing more in
that line here, but Lillie Road does not lend itself to the antique and
picturesque; Mr. Morgan, too, gets so impatient even if Clara only hums
at her work that I don't like to ask that Scotchman to come and play his
bagpipes here, though I dare say he should be only too glad to do so for
a shilling. No, my dear boy, I don't mean the gentleman you met at the
Emperor's. There is a poor man who plays in the street round here from
time to time and dances a sword dance. But the English have no idea of
beauty or freedom. I remember last time I saw him the poor man was being
moved on for obstructing the traffic."

Clara put forward a theory that the reception had been a church treat.
There had been a similar affair in her own parish once, in which the
leading scholars of the Sunday-school classes had portrayed the kings
and queens of England. She herself had been one of the little princes
who were smothered in the Tower, and had worn a pair of her mother's
stockings. There had been trouble, she remembered, because the other
little prince had been laced up so tightly that he was sick over the
pillow that was wanted to stuff out the boy who was representing Henry
VIII and could not be used at the last moment.

Sylvia assured her that nothing like this had taken place at the
Emperor's, but Clara remained unconvinced.

A week or two passed. The reception was almost forgotten, when one day
Sylvia found the dark-complexioned young man with whom Monkley had made
friends talking earnestly to him and her father.

"You understand," he was saying. "I wouldn't do this if I didn't require
money for my work. You must not look upon me as a pretender. I really am
the only surviving descendant in the direct line of the famous Prince de
Condé."

"Of course," Monkley answered. "I know you're genuine enough. All you've
got to do is to back--Well, here he is," he added, turning round and
pointing to Sylvia.

"I don't think Sil looks much like a king," Henry said, pensively.
"Though I'm bound to say the only one I ever saw in real life was
Leopold of Belgium."

Sylvia began to think that Clara had been right, after all.

"What about the present King of Spain, then?" Monkley asked. "He isn't
much more than nine years old, if he's as much. You don't suppose he
looks like a king, do you? On the Spanish stamps he looks more like an
advertisement for Mellin's food than anything else."

"Naturally the _de jure_ King of Spain, who until the present has been
considered to be Don Carlos, is also the _de jure_ King of France," said
the Prince de Condé.

"Don't you start any of your games with kings of France," Henry advised.
"I know the French well and they won't stand it. What does he want to be
king of two places for? I should have thought Spain was enough for
anybody."

"The divine right of monarchs is something greater than mere geography,"
the Prince answered, scornfully.

"All right. Have it your own way. You're the authority here on kings.
But don't overdo it. That's all I advise," Henry said, finally. "I know
everybody thinks I'm wrong nowadays," he added, with a glance at Monkley
and Sylvia. "But what about Condy's Fluid?"

"What about it?" Monkley asked. "What do you want Condy's for?"

"I don't want it," said Henry. "I simply passed the remark. Our friend
here is the Prince de Condé. Well, I merely remark 'What about Condy's
Fluid?' I don't want to start an argument, because, as I said, I'm
always wrong nowadays, but I think if he wanted to be a prince he ought
to have chosen a more _recherché_ title, not gone routing about among
patent medicines."

The Prince de Condé looked inquiringly at Monkley.

"Don't you bother about him, old chap. He's gone off at the deep end."

"I knew it," Henry said. "I knew I should be wrong. That's right, laugh
away," he added, bitterly, to Sylvia.

There followed a long explanation by the prince of Sylvia's royal
descent, which she could not understand at all. Monkley, however, seemed
to be understanding it very well, so well that her father gave up being
offended and loudly expressed his admiration for Jimmy's grip of the
subject.

"Now," said Monkley, "the question is who are we going to touch?"

The prince asked if he had noticed at the reception a young man, a
rather good-looking, fair young man with a white rose in his buttonhole.
Monkley said that most of the young men he had seen in Stanmore Crescent
would answer to that description, and the prince gave up trying to
describe him except as the only son of a wealthy and distinguished
painter--Sir Francis Hurndale. It seemed that young Godfrey Hurndale
could always command the paternal purse; and the prince suggested that a
letter should be sent to his father from the secretary of the _de jure_
King of Spain and France, offering him the post of court painter on his
accession. Monkley objected that a man who had made money out of
painting would not be taken in by so transparent a fraud as that; and
the prince explained that Sir Francis would only be amused, but that he
would certainly pass the letter on to his son, who was an enthusiastic
Legitimist; that the son would consult him, the Prince de Condé; and
that afterward it lay with Monkley to make the most of the situation,
bearing in mind that he, the prince, required a fair share of the
profits in order to advance his great propaganda for a universal
Platonic system of government.

"At present," the prince proclaimed, becoming more and more sacerdotal
as he spoke of his scheme--"at present I am a lay member of the Society
of Jesus, which represents the Platonic tendency in modern thought. I am
vowed to exterminate republicanism, anarchy, socialism, and to maintain
the conservative instincts of humanity against--"

"Well, nobody's going to quarrel with you about spending your own
money," Monkley interrupted.

"He can give it to the Salvation Army if he likes," Henry agreed.

The discussion of the more practical aspects of the plan went on for
several days. Ultimately it was decided to leave Lillie Road as a first
step and take a small house in a suburb; to Sylvia's great delight, for
she was tired of the mustiness of Lillie Road, they moved to Rosemary
Avenue, Streatham. It was a newly built house and it was all their own,
with the Common at one end of the road, and, better still, a back
garden. Sylvia had never lived where she had been able to walk out of
her own door to her own patch of green; moreover she thoroughly enjoyed
the game of being an exiled king that might be kidnapped by his foes at
any moment. To be sure, there were disadvantages; for instance, she was
not allowed to cultivate an acquaintanceship with the two freckled girls
next door on their right, nor with the boy who had an air-gun on their
left; but generally the game was amusing, especially when her father
became the faithful old French servant, who had guarded her all these
years, until Mr. James Monkley, the enthusiastic American amateur of
genealogy, had discovered the little king hidden away in the old
servant's cottage. Henry objected to being ordered about by his own
daughter, but his objections were overruled by Jimmy, and Sylvia gave
him no rest.

"That damned Condé says he's a lay Jesuit," Henry grumbled. "But what am
I? A lay figure. I suppose you wouldn't like me to sleep in a kennel in
the back yard?" he asked. "Another thing I can't understand is why on
earth you had to be an American, Jimmy."

Monkley told Henry of his sudden impulse to be an American at the
Emperor's reception.

"Never give way to impulse," Henry said. "You're not a bit like an
American. You'll get a nasty growth in your nose or strain it or
something. Americans may talk through the nose a bit; but you make a
noise like a cat that's had its tail shut in a door. It's like living in
a Punch and Judy show. It may not damage your nose, but it's very bad
for my ears, old man. It's all very fine for me to be a French servant.
I can speak French; though I don't look like the servant part of it. But
you can't speak American, and if you go on trying much harder you very
soon won't be able to speak any language at all. I noticed to-day, when
you started talking to the furniture fellow, he looked very uneasy. I
think he thought he was sitting on a concertina."

"Anyway, he cleared off without getting this month's instalment,"
Monkley said.

"Oh, it's a very good voice to have when there are duns kicking
around," Henry said. "Or in a crowded railway carriage. But as a voice
to live with, it's rotten. However, don't listen to me. My advice
doesn't count nowadays. Only," and Henry paused impressively, "when
people advise you to try linseed oil for your boots as soon as you start
talking to them, then don't say I didn't warn you."

Notwithstanding Henry's pessimism, Monkley continued to practise his
American; day by day the task of imposing Sylvia on the world as the
King of Spain and France was being carefully prepared, too carefully, it
seemed to Sylvia, for so much talk beforehand was becoming tiresome. The
long delay was chiefly due to Henry's inability to keep in his head the
numerous genealogical facts that were crammed down his throat by the
Prince de Condé.

"I never was any good at history even when I was a boy," Henry
protested. "Never. And I was never good at working out cousins and
aunts. I know I had two aunts, and hated them both."

At last Henry's facts were considered firmly enough implanted to justify
a move; and in September the prince and Monkley sat down to compose
their preliminary letter to Sir Francis Hurndale. Sylvia by now was so
much accustomed to the behavior of her companions that she never thought
seriously about the fantastic side of the affair. Her own masquerade as
a boy had been passed off so successfully even upon such an acute
observer as Jimmy, until her father had let out the secret by a slip of
the tongue, that she had no qualms about being accepted as a king. She
realized that money was to be made out of it; but the absence of money
had already come to seem a temporary discomfort, to relieve which people
in a position like her own and her father's had no reason to be
scrupulous. Not that she really ever bothered her head with the morality
of financial ways and means. When she spent the ten-franc piece that she
thought she had found, the wrong had lain in unwittingly depriving her
mother whom she loved; if she had not loved her mother she might have
still had scruples about stealing from her; but stealing from people who
had plenty of money and with whom there was no binding link of
affection would have been quite incomprehensible to her. Therefore the
sight of Jimmy Monkley and her father and the Prince de Condé sitting
round a spindle-legged tea-table in this new house that smelled
pleasantly of varnish was merely something in a day's work of the life
they were leading, like a game of cards. It was a much jollier life than
any she had yet known; her alliance with Jimmy had been a very good
move; her father was treated as he ought to be treated by being kept
under; she was shortly going to have some more clothes.

Sylvia sat watching the trio, thinking how much more vividly present
Jimmy seemed to be than either of the other two--the prince with his
greenish complexion never really well shaved, and his turn-down collars
that made his black suit more melancholy, or her father with his light,
plaintive eyes and big ears. She was glad that she was not going to
resemble her father except perhaps in being short and in the shape of
her wide nose; yet she was not really very short; it was only that her
mother had been so tall; perhaps, too, when her hair grew long again her
nose would not seem so wide.

The letter was finished and Jimmy was reading it aloud:

     SIR,--I have the honor to ask if, in the probable event of a great
     dynastic change taking place in one of the chief countries of
     Europe, you would welcome the post of court painter, naturally at a
     suitable remuneration. If you read the daily papers, as no doubt
     you do, you will certainly have come to the conclusion that neither
     the present ruling house nor what is known as the Carlist party had
     any real hold upon the affections of the Spanish people. Verb. sap.
     Interesting changes may be foreshadowed, of which I am not yet at
     liberty to write more fully. Should you entertain the proposal I
     shall be happy to wait upon you with further particulars.

     I have the honor to be, sir, Your obedient servant,

     JOSEPHE-ERNESTE,

     PRINCE DE CONDÉ.

"Do you know what it sounds like?" said Henry. "Mind I'm not saying this
because I didn't write the letter myself. It sounds to me like a cross
between a prophecy in Old Moore's Almanack and somebody trying to sell a
patent knife-cleaner."

"There's a good deal in what you say," Monkley agreed, in rather a
dissatisfied tone.

Henry was so much flattered by the reception of his criticism that he
became compassionate to the faults of the letter and tried hard to point
out some of its merits.

"After all," said Jimmy, "the great thing is that the prince has signed
it. If his name doesn't draw Master Godfrey, no letters are going to.
We'll send it off as it is."

So the letter was sent. Two days afterward the prince arrived with the
news that Godfrey Hurndale had called upon him and that he had been
inexpressibly happy at the prospect of meeting the _de jure_ King of
France and Spain.

"Bring him round to-morrow afternoon about tea-time," said Monkley. "You
haven't forgotten the family history, Henry?"

Henry said that he had not forgotten a single relation, and that he
damned them severally each morning in all their titles while he was
dressing.

The next afternoon Sylvia sat in an arm-chair in the presence-room,
which Henry supposed was so called because none of the furniture had
been paid for, and waited for Godfrey Hurndale's coming. Her father put
on the rusty black evening-dress of the family retainer, and Jimmy wore
a most conspicuous check suit and talked so loudly and nasally that
Henry was driven to a final protest:

"Look here, Jimmy, I've dressed up to help this show in a suit that's as
old as one of those infernal ancestors of Sil's, but if you don't get
less American it'll fall to pieces. Every time you guess I can hear a
seam give."

"Remember to talk nothing but French," Monkley warned Sylvia, when the
bell rang. "Go on, Harry. You've got to open the door. And don't forget
that _you_ can only speak French."

Monkley followed him out of the room, and his voice could be heard
clanking about the hall as he invited young Hurndale into the
dining-room first. Henry came back and took up his position behind
Sylvia's chair; she felt very solemn and excited, and asked her father
rather irritably why he was muttering. The reason, however, remained a
mystery, for the dining-room door opened again and, heralded by
Monkley's twanging invitation, Mr. Hurndale stood shyly in the entrance
to the presence-room.

"Go right in, Mr. Hurndale," Monkley said. "I guess his Majesty's just
about ready to meet you."

Sylvia, when she saw the young man bowing before her, really felt a kind
of royal exaltation and held out her hand to be kissed.

Hurndale reverently bent over it and touched it with his lips; so did
the prince, an action for which Sylvia was unprepared and which she
rather resented, thinking to herself that he really did not shave and
that it had not only been his grubby appearance. Then Hurndale offered
her a large bunch of white carnations and she became kingly again.

"_François_," she commanded her father, "_mets ces oeillets dans ma
chambre._"

And when her father passed out with a bow Sylvia was indeed a king. The
audience did not last long. There were practical matters to discuss, for
which his Majesty was begged to excuse their withdrawal. Sylvia would
have liked a longer ceremony. When the visitor had gone they all sat
down to a big tea in the presence-room, and she was told that the young
man had been so completely conquered by her gracious reception of him
that he had promised to raise five hundred pounds for her cause. His
reward in addition to royal favors was to be a high class of the Order
of Isabella the Catholic. Everybody, even Henry, was in high good humor.
The prince did not come to Streatham again; but a week later Monkley got
a letter from him with the Paris postmark.

     DEAR MR. MONKLEY,--Our young friend handed me a check for £200 the
     day before yesterday. As he seemed uncertain about the remainder of
     the sum promised, I took the liberty of drawing my share at once.
     My great work requires immediate assistance, and I am now busily
     occupied in Paris. My next address will be a castle in Spain, where
     perhaps we shall meet when you are looking for your next site.

     Most truly yours,

     JOSEPHE-ERNESTE,

     PRINCE DE CONDÉ.

Jimmy and Henry stared at each other.

"I knew it," said Henry. "I'm always wrong; but I knew it. Still, if I
could catch him, it would take more than Condy's Fluid to disinfect that
pea-green welsher after I'd done with him."

Monkley sat biting his lips in silence; and Sylvia, recognizing the
expression in his eyes that she dreaded formerly, notwithstanding that
he was now her best friend, felt sharply her old repugnance for him.
Henry was still abusing the defaulter when Monkley cut him short.

"Shut up. I rather admire him."

"Admire him?" Henry gasped. "I suppose you'd admire the hangman and
shake hands with him on the scaffold. It's all very fine for you. You
didn't have to learn how Ferdinand the Fifty-eighth married Isabella the
Innocent, daughter of Alphonso the Eighth, commonly called Alphonso the
Anxious. Condy's Fluid! I swallowed enough of it, I can tell you."

Monkley told him gruffly to keep quiet; then he sat down and began to
write, still with that expression in his eyes. Presently he tore up the
letter and paced the room.

"Damn that swine," he suddenly shouted, kicking the spindle-legged table
into the fireplace. "We wanted the money, you know. We wanted the money
badly."

Shortly before dawn the three of them abandoned the new house in
Streatham and occupied rooms in the Kennington Park Road. Monkley and
Sylvia's father resumed the racing that had temporarily been interrupted
by ambition. Sylvia wandered about the streets in a suit of Etons that
was rapidly showing signs of wear.

One day early in the new year Sylvia was leaning over the parapet of
Waterloo Bridge and munching hot chestnuts. The warmth of them in her
pockets was grateful. Her pastime of dropping the shells into the river
did not lack interest; she was vaguely conscious in the frosty sunshine
of life's bounty, and she offered to the future a welcome from the
depths of her being; meanwhile there still remained forty chestnuts to
be eaten.

Her meditation was interrupted by a voice from a passerby who had
detached himself from the stream of traffic that she had been
disregarding in her pensive greed; she looked up and met the glance of a
pleasant middle-aged gentleman in a dark-gray coat with collar and cuffs
of chinchilla, who was evidently anxious to begin a conversation.

"You're out of school early," he observed.

Sylvia replied that she did not go to school.

"Private tutor?" he asked; and, partly to save further questions about
her education, partly because she was not quite sure what a private
tutor was, she answered in the affirmative.

The stranger looked along the parapet inquisitively.

"I'm out alone this afternoon," Sylvia said, quickly.

The stranger asked her what amused her most, museums or theaters or
listening to bands, and whether she preferred games or country walks.
Sylvia would have liked to tell him that she preferred eating chestnuts
to anything else on earth at that moment; but, being unwilling to create
an impression of trying to snub such a benevolent person, she replied
vaguely that she did not know what she liked best. Then because such an
answer seemed to imply a lack of intelligence that she did not wish to
impute to herself, she informed him that she liked looking at people,
which was strictly true, for if she had not been eating chestnuts she
would certainly have still been contemplating the traffic across the
bridge.

"I'll show you some interesting people, if you care to come with me,"
the stranger proposed. "Have you anything to do this afternoon?"

Sylvia admitted that her time was unoccupied.

"Come along, then," said the middle-aged gentleman, a little fussily,
she thought, and forthwith he hailed a passing hansom. Sylvia had for a
long time been ambitious to travel in a hansom. She had already eaten
thirty-five chestnuts, only seven of which had been bad; she decided to
accept the stranger's invitation. He asked her where she lived and
promised to send her home by cab when the entertainment was over.

Sylvia asked if it was a reception to which he was taking her. The
middle-aged gentleman laughed, squeezed her hand, and said that it might
be called a reception, adding, with a chuckle, "a very warm reception,
in fact." Sylvia did not understand the joke, but laughed out of
politeness.

There followed an exchange of names, and Sylvia learnt that her new
acquaintance was called Corydon.

"You'll excuse me from offering you one of my cards," he said. "I
haven't one with me this afternoon."

They drove along for some time, during which the conversation of Mr.
Corydon always pursued the subject of her likes and dislikes. They drew
clear of the press of traffic and bowled westward toward Sloane Street;
Sylvia, recognizing one of the blue West Kensington omnibuses, began to
wonder if the cab would take her past Lillie Road where Jimmy had
specially forbidden her to go, because both he and her father owed
several weeks' rent to Mrs. Meares and he did not want to remind her of
their existence. When they drew nearer and nearer to Sylvia's former
lodging she began to feel rather uneasy and wish that the cab would turn
down a side-street. The landmarks were becoming more and more familiar,
and Sylvia was asking herself if Mrs. Meares had employed the stranger
to kidnap her as a hostage for the unpaid rent, when the cab turned off
into Redcliffe Gardens and soon afterward pulled up at a house.

"Here we are," said Mr. Corydon. "You'll enjoy yourself most
tremendously, Sylvester."

The door was opened by a servant, who was apparently dressed as a
brigand, which puzzled Sylvia so much that she asked the reason in a
whisper. Mr. Corydon laughed.

"He's a Venetian. That's the costume of a gondolier, my dear boy. My
friend who is giving the reception dresses all his servants like
gondoliers. So much more picturesque than a horrible housemaid."

Sylvia regarded this exotic Clara with considerable interest; the only
other Venetian product of which she had hitherto been aware was blinds.

The house, which smelt strongly of incense and watered flowers, awed
Sylvia with its luxury, and she began to regret having put foot in a
place where it was so difficult to know on what she was intended to
tread. However, since Mr. Corydon seemed to walk everywhere without
regard for the softness of the carpets, Sylvia made up her mind to
brave the silent criticism of the gondolier and follow up-stairs in his
footsteps. Mr. Corydon took her arm and introduced her to a large room
where a fume of cigarette smoke and incense blurred the outlines of the
numerous guests that sat about in listening groups, while some one
played the grand piano. There were many low divans round the room, to
one of which Mr. Corydon guided Sylvia, and while the music continued
she had an opportunity of studying her fellow-guests. They were mostly
young men of about eighteen, rather like the young men at the Emperor's
reception; but there were also several middle-aged men of the same type
as Mr. Corydon, one of whom came across and shook hands with them both
when the music stopped.

"So glad you've come to see me," he said in a voice that sounded as if
each word were being delicately fried upon his tongue. "Aren't you going
to smoke a cigarette? These are Russian. Aren't they beautiful to look
at?"

He proffered a green cigarette-case. Sylvia, who felt that she must take
advantage of this opportunity to learn something about a sphere of life
which was new to her, asked him what it was made of.

"Jade, my dear. I brought such heaps of beautiful jade back with me from
China. I've even got a jade toilet-set. My dear, it was dreadfully
expensive."

He giggled. Sylvia, blowing clouds of smoke from her cigarette, thought
dreamily what funny things her father would have said about him.

"Raymond's going to dance for us," he said, turning to Corydon. "Isn't
it too sweet of him?"

At that moment somebody leaped into the middle of the room with a wild
scream and began to throw himself into all sorts of extraordinary
attitudes.

"Oh, Raymond, you're too wonderful!" the host ejaculated. "You make me
feel quite Bacchic."

Sylvia was not surprised that anybody should feel "backache" (she had
thus understood her host) in the presence of such contortions. The
screaming Raymond was followed into the arena by another lightly clad
and equally shrill youth called Sydney, and both of them flung
themselves into a choric frenzy, chasing each other round and round,
sawing the air with their legs, and tearing roses from their hair to
fling at the guests, who flung them back at the dancers. Suddenly
Raymond collapsed upon the carpet and began to moan.

"What's the matter, my dear?" cried the host, rushing forward and
kneeling to support the apparently agonized youth in his arms.

"Oh, my foot!" Raymond wailed. "I've trodden on something."

"He's trodden on a thorn. He's trodden on a thorn," everybody said at
once.

Raymond was borne tenderly to a divan, and was so much petted that
Sydney became jealous and began to dance again, this time on the top of
the piano. Presently everybody else began to dance, and Mr. Corydon
would have liked to dance with Sylvia; but she declined. Gondoliers
entered with trays of liqueurs, and Sylvia, tasting crème de menthe for
the first time, found it so good that she drank four glasses, which made
her feel rather drowsy. New guests were continually arriving, to whom
she did not pay much attention until suddenly she recognized the baron
with Godfrey Hurndale, who at the same moment recognized her. The baron
rushed forward and seized Sylvia's arm. She thought he was going to drag
her back by force to Mrs. Meares to answer for the missing rent, but he
began to arch his unoccupied arm like an excited swan, and call out in
his high, mincing voice:

"Blackmailers-s-s! blackmailers-s-s!"

"They blackmailed me out of four hundred pounds," said Hurndale.

"Who brought him here?" the baron cried. "It's-s-s true. Godfrey has
been persecuted by these horrid people. Blackmailers-s-s!"

All the other guests gathered round Sylvia and behaved like angry women
trying to mount an omnibus. Mr. Corydon had turned very pale and was
counting his visiting-cards. Sylvia could not understand the reason for
all this noise; but vaguely through a green mist of crème de menthe she
understood that she was being attacked on all sides and began to get
annoyed. Somebody pinched her arm, and without waiting to see who it
was she hit the nearest person within reach, who happened to be Mr.
Corydon. His visiting-cards fell on the floor, and he groveled on the
carpet trying to sweep them together. Sylvia followed her attack on Mr.
Corydon by treading hard on Sydney's bare toes, who thereupon slapped
her face; presently everybody was pushing her and pinching her and
hustling her, until she got in such a rage and kicked so furiously that
her enemies retired.

"Who brought him here?" Godfrey Hurndale was demanding. "I tell you he
belongs to a gang of blackmailers."

"Most dreadful people," the baron echoed.

"Antonio! Domenico!" the host cried.

Two gondoliers entered the room, and at a word from their master they
seized Sylvia and pushed her out into the street, flinging her coat and
cap after her. By this time she was in a blind fury, and, snatching the
bag of chestnuts from her pocket, she flung it with all her force at the
nearest window and knew the divine relief of starring the pane.

An old lady that was passing stopped and held up her hands.

"You wicked young rascal, I shall tell the policeman of you," she
gasped, and began to belabor Sylvia with her umbrella.

Such unwarrantable interference was not to be tolerated; Sylvia pushed
the old lady so hard that she sat down heavily in the gutter. Nobody
else was in sight, and she ran as fast as she could until she found an
omnibus, in which she traveled to Waterloo Bridge. There she bought
fifty more chestnuts and walked slowly back to Kennington Park Road,
vainly trying to find an explanation of the afternoon's adventure.

Her father and Monkley were not back when Sylvia reached home, and she
sat by the fire in the twilight, munching her chestnuts and pondering
the whole extraordinary business. When the others came in she told her
story, and Jimmy looked meaningly at her father.

"Shows how careful you ought to be," he said. Then turning to Sylvia,
he asked her what on earth she thought she was doing when she broke the
window.

"Suppose you'd been collared by the police, you little fool. We should
have got into a nice mess, thanks to you. Look here, in future you're
not to speak to people in the street. Do you hear?"

Sylvia had no chestnuts left to throw at Jimmy, so in her rage she took
an ornament from the mantelpiece and smashed it on the fender.

"You've got the breaking mania," said Henry. "You'd better spend the
next money you've got on cocoanuts instead of chestnuts."

"_Oh, ta gueule!_ I'm not going to be a boy any longer."



CHAPTER III


While her hair was growing long again Sylvia developed a taste for
reading. She had nothing else to do, for it was not to be supposed that
with her head cropped close she could show herself to the world in
petticoats. Her refusal any longer to wear male attire gave Monkley and
her father an excuse to make one of their hurried moves from Kennington
Park Road, where by this time they owed enough money to justify the
trouble of evading payment. Henry had for some time expressed a desire
to be more central; and a partially furnished top floor was found in
Fitzroy Street, or, as the landlord preferred to call it, a
self-contained and well-appointed flat. The top floor had certainly been
separated from the rest of the house by a wooden partition and a door of
its own, which possibly justified the first half of the description, but
the good appointments were limited to a bath that looked like an old
palette, and a geyser that was not always safe according to Mrs.
Bullwinkle, a decrepit charwoman, left behind by the last tenants,
together with some under-linen and two jars containing a morbid growth
that may formerly have been pickles.

"How d'ye mean, not safe?" Henry asked. "Is it liable to blow up?"

"It went off with a big bang last April and hasn't been lit since," the
charwoman said. "But perhaps it 'll be all right now. The worst of it is
I never can remember which tap you put the match to."

"You leave it alone, old lady," Henry advised. "Nobody's likely to do
much bathing in here; from what I can see of it that bath gives more
than it gets. What did the last people use it for--growing watercress or
keeping chickens?"

"It was a very nice bath once," the charwoman said.

"Do you mean to say you've ever tried it? Go on! You're mixing it up
with the font in which you were baptized. There's never been any water
in this bath since the flood."

Nevertheless, however inadequately appointed, the new abode had one
great advantage over any other they had known, which was a large
raftered garret with windows at either end that ran the whole depth of
the house. The windows at the back opened on a limitless expanse of
roofs and chimneys, those in front looked across to a dancing-academy on
the top floor but one of the house opposite, a view that gave perpetual
pleasure to Sylvia during the long period of her seclusion.

Now that Sylvia had become herself again, her father and Monkley
insisted upon her doing the housework, which, as Henry reminded her, she
was perfectly able to do on account of the excellent training she had
received in that respect from her mother. Sylvia perceived the logic of
this and made no attempt to contest it; though she stipulated that Mrs.
Bullwinkle should not be considered to be helping her.

"We don't want her," Henry protested, indignantly.

"Well, tell her not to come any more," Sylvia said.

"I've shoved her away once or twice," said Henry. "But I expect the
people here before us used to give her a saucer of milk sometimes. The
best way would be to go out one afternoon and tell her to light the
geyser. Then perhaps when we came back she'd be gone for good."

Nevertheless, Mrs. Bullwinkle was of some service to Sylvia, for one
day, when she was sadly washing down the main staircase of the house,
she looked up from her handiwork and asked Sylvia, who was passing at
the moment, if she would like some books to read, inviting her
down-stairs to take her choice.

"Mr. Bullwinkle used to be a big reader," the charwoman said. "A very
big reader. A very big reader indeed he used to be, did Mr. Bullwinkle.
In those days he was caretaker at a Congregational chapel in Gospel Oak,
and he used to say that reading took his mind off of religion a bit.
Otherwise he'd have gone mad before he did, which was shortly after he
left the chapel through an argument he had with Pastor Phillips, who
wrote his name in the dust on the reading-desk, which upset my old man,
because he thought it wasn't all a straightforward way of telling him
that his services wasn't considered satisfactory. Yes," said Mrs.
Bullwinkle, with a stertorous sniff, "he died in Bedlam, did my old man.
He had a very queer mania; he thought he was inside out, and it preyed
on his mind. He wouldn't never have been shut up at all if he hadn't of
always been undressing himself in the street and putting on his trousers
inside out to suit his complaint. They had to feed him with a chube in
the end, because he would have it his mouth couldn't be got at through
him being inside out. Queer fancies some people has, don't they? Oh,
well, if we was all the same, it would be a dull world I suppose."

Sylvia sat up in the big garret and read through one after another of
the late Mr. Bullwinkle's tattered and heterogeneous collection. She did
not understand all she read; but there were few books that did not give
her on one page a vivid impression, which she used to elaborate with her
imagination into something that was really a more substantial experience
than the book itself. The days grew longer and more sunny, and Sylvia
dreamed them away, reading and thinking and watching from her window the
little girls pirouette in the shadowy room opposite. Her hair was quite
long now, a warm brown with many glinting strands.

In the summer Jimmy and Henry made a good deal of money by selling a
number of tickets for a non-existent stand in one of the best positions
on the route of the Diamond Jubilee procession; indeed they felt
prosperous enough to buy for themselves and Sylvia seats in a genuine
stand. Sylvia enjoyed the pageant, which seemed more like something out
of a book than anything in real life. She took advantage of the
temporary prosperity to ask for money to buy herself new clothes.

"Can't you see other people dressed up without wanting to go and do the
same yourself?" Henry asked. "What's the matter with the frock you've
got on?"

However, she talked to Monkley about it and had her own way. When she
had new clothes, she used to walk about the streets again, but, though
she was often accosted, she would never talk to anybody. Yet it was a
dull life, really, and once she brought up the subject of getting work.

"Work!" her father exclaimed, in horror. "Good heavens! what will you
think of next? First it's clothes. Now it's work. Ah, my dear girl, you
ought to have had to slave for your living as I had; you wouldn't talk
about work."

"Well, can I have a piano and learn to play?" Sylvia asked.

"Perhaps you'd like the band of the Grenadier Guards to come and
serenade you in your bedroom while you're dressing?" Henry suggested.

"Why shouldn't she have a piano?" Monkley asked. "I'll teach her to
play. Besides, I'd like a piano myself."

So the piano was obtained. Sylvia learned to play, and even to sing a
little with her deep voice; and another regular caller for money was
added to the already long list.

In the autumn Sylvia's father fell in love, and brought a woman to live
in what was henceforth always called the flat, even by Henry, who had
hitherto generally referred to it as The Hammam.

In Sylvia's opinion the advent of Mabel Bannerman had a most vitiating
effect upon life in Fitzroy Street. Her father began to deteriorate
immediately. His return to England and the unsurveyed life he had been
leading for nearly two years had produced an expansion of his
personality in every direction. He had lost the shiftless insignificance
that had been his chief characteristic in France, and though he was
still weak and lacking in any kind of initiative, he had acquired a
quaintness of outlook and faculty for expressing it which disguised his
radical futility under a veil of humor. He was always dominated by
Monkley in practical matters where subordination was reasonable and
beneficial, but he had been allowed to preserve his own point of view,
that with the progress of time had even come to be regarded as
important. When Sylvia was much younger she had always criticized her
father's behavior; but, like everybody else, she had accepted her
mother's leadership of the house and family as natural and inevitable,
and had regarded her father as a kind of spoiled elder brother whose
character was fundamentally worthless and whose relation to her mother
was the only one imaginable. Now that Sylvia was older, she did not
merely despise her father's weakness; she resented the shameful position
which he occupied in relation to this intruder. Mabel Bannerman belonged
to that full-blown intensely feminine type that by sheer excess of
femininity imposes itself upon a weak man, smothering him, as it were,
with her emotions and her lace, and destroying by sensuality every trait
of manhood that does not directly contribute to the justification of
herself. Within a week or two Henry stood for no more in the Fitzroy
Street house than a dog that is alternately patted and scolded, that
licks the hand of its mistress more abjectly for each new brutality, and
that asks as its supreme reward permission to fawn upon her lap. Sylvia
hated Mabel Bannerman; she hated her peroxide hair, she hated her full,
moist lips, she hated her rounded back and her shining finger-nails
spotted with white, she hated with a hatred so deep as to be forever
incommunicable each blowsy charm that went to make up what was called "a
fine woman"; she hated her inability ever to speak the truth; she hated
the way she looked at Monkley, who should have been nothing to her; she
hated the sight of her drinking tea in the morning; she hated the smell
of her wardrobe and the pink ribbons which she tied to every projection
in her bedroom; she hated her affectation of babyishness; she hated the
way she would make Henry give money to beggars for the gratification of
an impulsive and merely sensual generosity of her own; she hated her
embedded garters and smooth legs.

"O God," Sylvia cried aloud to herself once, when she was leaning out of
the window and looking down into Fitzroy Street, "O God, if I could only
throw her into the street and see her eaten by dogs."

Monkley hated her too; that was some consolation. Now often, when he was
ready for an expedition, Henry would be unable to accompany him, because
Mabel was rather seedy that morning; or because Mabel wanted him to go
out with her; or because Mabel complained of being left alone so much.
Monkley used to look at him with a savage contempt; and Sylvia used to
pray sometimes that he would get angry enough to rush into Mabel's room
and pound her, where she lay so softly in her soft bed.

Mabel used to bring her friends to the flat to cheer her up, as she used
to say, and when she had filled the room she had chosen as her
sitting-room (the garret was not cozy enough for Mabel) with a scented
mob of chattering women, she would fix upon one of them as the object of
her jealousy, accusing Henry of having looked at her all the evening.
There would sometimes be a scene at the moment when half the mob would
cluster around Mabel to console her outraged feelings and the rest of it
would hover about her rival to assure her she was guiltless. Sylvia,
standing sullenly apart, would ponder the result of throwing a lighted
lamp into the middle of the sickly sobbing pandemonium. The quarrel was
not so bad as the inevitable reconciliation afterward, with its profuse
kissing and interminable explanations that seemed like an orchestra from
which Mabel emerged with a plaintive solo that was the signal for the
whole scene to be lived over again in maddeningly reiterated accounts
from all the women talking at once. Worse even than such evenings were
those when Mabel restrained, or rather luxuriously hoarded up, her
jealousy until the last visitor had departed; for then through half the
night Sylvia must listen to her pouring over Henry a stream of
reproaches which he would weakly try to divert by arguments or more
weakly try to dam with caresses. Such methods of treatment usually ended
in Mabel's dressing herself and rushing from the bedroom to leave the
flat forever. Unfortunately she never carried out her threat.

"Why don't you go?" Sylvia once asked, when Mabel was standing by the
door, fully dressed, with heaving breast, making no effort to turn the
handle.

"These shoes hurt me," said Mabel. "He knows I can't go out in these
shoes. The heartless brute!"

"If you knew those shoes hurt, why did you put them on?" Sylvia asked,
scornfully.

"I was too much upset by Harry's treatment of me. Oh, whatever shall I
do? I'm so miserable."

Whereupon Mabel collapsed upon the mat and wept black tears, until Henry
came and tried to lift her up, begging her not to stay where she might
catch cold.

"You know when a jelly won't set?" Sylvia said, when she was recounting
the scene to Monkley afterward. "Well, she was just like a jelly and
father simply couldn't make her stand up on the plate."

Jimmy laughed sardonically.

These continued altercations between Mabel and Henry led to altercations
with their neighbors underneath, who complained of being kept awake at
night. The landlord, a fiery little Jew, told them that what between the
arrears of rent and the nuisance they were causing to his other tenants
he would have to give them notice. Sylvia could never get any money for
the purposes of housekeeping except from Jimmy, and when she wanted
clothes it was always Jimmy whom she must ask.

"Let's go away," she said to him one day. "Let's leave them here
together."

Monkley looked at her in surprise.

"Do you mean that?"

"Of course I mean it."

"But if we left Harry with her he'd starve and she'd leave him in a
week."

"Let him starve," Sylvia cried. "He deserves to starve."

"You hard-hearted little devil," Monkley said. "After all, he is your
father."

"That's what makes me hate him," Sylvia declared. "He's no right to be
my father. He's no right to make me think like that of him. He must be
wrong to make me feel as I do about him."

Monkley came close and took her hand. "Do you mean what you said about
leaving them and going away with me?"

Sylvia looked at him, and, meeting his eyes, she shook her head. "No, of
course I don't really mean it, but why can't you think of some way to
stop all this? Why should we put up with it any longer? Make him turn
her out into the street."

Monkley laughed. "You _are_ very young, aren't you? Though I've thought
once or twice lately that you seemed to be growing up."

Again Sylvia caught his eyes and felt a little afraid, not really
afraid, she said to herself, but uneasy, as if somebody she could not
see had suddenly opened a door behind her.

"Don't let's talk about me, anyway," she said. "Think of something to
change things here."

"I'd thought of a concert-party this summer. Pierrots, you know. How
d'ye think your father would do as a pierrot? He might be very funny if
she'd let him be funny."

Sylvia clapped her hands. "Oh, Jimmy, it would be such fun!"

"You wouldn't mind if she came too?"

"I'd rather she didn't," Sylvia said. "But it would be different,
somehow. We shouldn't be shut up with her as we are here. I'll be able
to sing, won't I?"

"That was my idea."

Before Henry met Mabel he would have had a great deal to say about this
concert-party; now he accepted Monkley's announcement with a dull
equanimity that settled Sylvia. He received the news that he would
become a pierrot just as he had received the news that, his nightgown
not having been sent back that week by the laundress, he would have to
continue with the one he was wearing.

Early summer passed away quickly enough in constant rehearsals. Sylvia
was pleased to find that she had been right in supposing that the state
of domestic affairs would be improved by Jimmy's plan. Mabel turned out
to be a good singer for the kind of performance they were going to give,
and the amount of emotion she put into her songs left her with less to
work off on Henry, who recovered some of his old self and was often
really funny, especially in his duologues with Monkley. Sylvia picked
out for herself and learned a few songs, most of which were condemned as
unsuitable by Jimmy. The one that she liked best and in her own opinion
sang best was the "Raggle Taggle Gipsies," though the others all
prophesied for it certain failure. Monkley himself played all the
accompaniments and by his personality kept the whole show together; he
also sang a few songs, which, although he had practically no voice,
were given with such point that Sylvia felt convinced that his share in
the performance would be the most popular of the lot. Shortly before
they were to start on tour, which was fixed for the beginning of July,
Monkley decided that they wanted another man who could really sing, and
a young tenor known as Claude Raglan was invited to join the party. He
was a good-looking youth, much in earnest, and with a tendency toward
consumption, of which he was very proud.

"Though what there is to be proud of in losing one of your lungs I don't
know. I might as well be proud because I lost a glove the other day."

Henry was severe upon Claude Raglan from the beginning. Perhaps he
suspected him of admiring Mabel. There was often much tension at
rehearsals on account of Henry's attitude; once, for instance, when
Claude Raglan had sung "Little Dolly Daydreams" with his usual romantic
fervor, Henry took a new song from his pocket and, having planted it
down with a defiant snap on the music-stand, proceeded to sing:

            "I'll give him Dolly Daydreams
            Down where the poppies grow;
            I'll give him Dolly Daydreams,
              The pride of Idaho.
            And if I catch him kissing her
            There's sure to be some strife,
    Because if he's got anything he wants to give away,
            Let him come and give it to his wife."

The tenor declared that Henry's song, which was in the nature of a
derogatory comment upon his own, could only have the effect of spoiling
the more serious contribution.

"What of it?" Henry asked, truculently.

"It seems to me perfectly obvious," Claude said, with an effort to
restrain his annoyance.

"I consider that it won't hurt your song at all," Henry declared. "In
fact, I think it will improve it. In my opinion it will have a much
greater success than yours. In fact, I may as well say straight out that
if it weren't for my song I don't believe the audience would let you
sing yours more than once. ''Cos no one's gwine ter kiss dat gal but
me!'" he went on, mimicking the indignant Claude. "No wonder you've got
consumption coming on! And the audience will notice there's something
wrong with you, and start clearing out to avoid infection. That's where
my song will come in. My song will be a tonic. Now don't start breathing
at me, or you'll puncture the other lung. Let's try that last verse over
again, Jimmy."

In the end, after a long discussion, during which Mabel introduced the
most irrelevant arguments, Monkley decided that both songs should be
sung, but with a long enough interval between them to secure Claude
against the least impression that he was being laughed at.

At last the company, which called itself The Pink Pierrots, was ready to
start for the South Coast. It took Monkley all his ingenuity to get out
of London without paying for the dresses or the properties, but it was
managed somehow; and at the beginning of July they pitched a small tent
on the beach at Hastings. There were many rival companies, some of which
possessed the most elaborate equipment, almost a small theater with
railed-off seats and a large piano; but Sylvia envied none of these its
grandeur. She thought that none was so tastefully dressed as themselves,
that there was no leader so sure of keeping the attention of an audience
as Jimmy was, that no tenor could bring tears to the eyes of the young
women on the Marina as Claude could, that no voice could be heard
farther off than Mabel's, and that no comedian could so quickly gain the
sympathy of that large but unprofitable portion of an audience--the
small boys--as her father could.

Sylvia enjoyed every moment of the day from the time they left their
lodgings, pushing before them the portable piano in the morning
sunshine, to the journey home after the last performance, which was
given in a circle of rosy lantern-light within sound of the sea. They
worked so hard that there was no time for quarreling except with
competitors upon whose preserves they had trespassed. Mabel was so bent
upon fascinating the various patrons, and Henry was so obviously a
success only with the unsentimental small boys, that she never once
accused him of making eyes even at a nursemaid. Sylvia was given a duet
with Claude Raglan, and, whether it was that she was conscious of being
envied by many of the girls in the audience or whether the sentimental
tune influenced her imagination, she was certainly aware of a faint
thrill of pleasure--a hardly perceptible quickening of the heart--every
time that Claude took her in his arms to sing the last verse. After they
had sung together for a week, Jimmy said the number was a failure and
abolished it, which Sylvia thought was very unfair, because it had
always been well applauded.

She grumbled to Claude about their deprivation, while they were toiling
home to dinner (they were at Bournemouth now, and the weather was
extremely hot), and he declared in a tragical voice that people were
always jealous of him.

"It's the curse of being an artist," he announced. "Everywhere I go I
meet with nothing but jealousy. I can't help having a good voice. I'm
not conceited about it. I can't help the girls sending me chocolates and
asking me to sign the post-cards of me which they buy. I'm not conceited
about that, either. There's something about my personality that appeals
to women. Perhaps it's my delicate look. I don't suppose I shall live
very long, and I think that makes women sorry for me. They're quicker to
see these things than men. I know Harry thinks I'm as healthy as a
beefsteak. I'm positive I coughed up some blood this morning, and when I
told Harry he asked me with a sneer if I'd cleaned my teeth. You're not
a bit like your dad, Sylvia. There's something awfully sympathetic about
you, little girl. I'm sorry Jimmy's cut out our number. He's a jolly
good manager and all that, but he does not like anybody else to make a
hit. Have you noticed that lately he's taken to gagging during my songs?
Luckily I'm not at all easy to dry up."

Sylvia wondered why anybody like Jimmy should bother to be jealous of
Claude. He was pleasant enough, of course, and he had a pretty, girlish
mouth and looked very slim and attractive in his pierrot's dress; but
nobody could take him seriously except the stupid girls who bought his
photograph and sighed over it, when they brushed their hair in the
morning.

The weather grew hotter and the hard work made them all irritable; when
they got home for dinner at midday it was impossible to eat, and they
used to loll about in the stuffy sitting-room, which the five of them
shared in common, while the flies buzzed everywhere. It was never worth
while to remove the make-up; so all their faces used to get mottled with
pale streaks of perspiration, the rouge on their lips would cake, and
their ruffles hung limp and wet, stained round the neck with dirty
carmine. Sylvia lost all enjoyment in the tour, and used to lie on the
horsehair sofa that pricked her cheeks, watching distastefully the cold
mutton, the dull knives, and the spotted cloth, and the stewed fruit
over which lay a faint silvery film of staleness. Round the room her
fellow-mountebanks were still seated on the chairs into which they had
first collapsed when they reached the lodgings, motionless, like great
painted dolls.

The weather grew hotter. The men, particularly Henry, took to drinking
brandy at every opportunity; toward the end of their stay in Bournemouth
the quarrels between him and Mabel broke out again, but with a
difference, because now it was Henry who was the aggressor. He had never
objected to Mabel's admirers hitherto, had, indeed, been rather proud of
their existence in a fatuous way and derived from their numbers a
showman's satisfaction. When it was her turn to take round the hat, he
used to smirk over the quantity of post-cards she sold of herself and
call everybody's attention to her capricious autography that was so
successful with the callow following. Then suddenly one day he made an
angry protest against the admiration which an older man began to accord
her, a pretentious sort of man with a diamond ring and yellow
cummerbund, who used to stand with his straw hat atilt and wink at
Mabel, tugging at his big drooping mustache and jingling the money in
his pockets.

Everybody told Henry not to be foolish; he only sulked and began to
drink more brandy than ever. The day after Henry's outbreak, the Pink
Pierrots moved to Swanage, where their only rivals were a troupe of
niggers, upon whom Henry was able to loose some of his spleen in a
dispute that took place over the new-comers' right to plant their pink
tent where they did.

"This isn't Africa, you know," Henry said. "This is Swanage. It's no
good your waving your banjo at me. I know it's a banjo, all right,
though I may forget, next time I hear you play it."

"We've been here every year for the last ten years," the chief nigger
shouted.

"I thought so by your songs," Henry retorted. "If you told me you got
wrecked here with Christopher Columbus I shouldn't have contradicted
you."

"This part of the beach belongs to us," the niggers proclaimed.

"I suppose you bought it off Noah, didn't you, when he let you out of
the ark?" said Henry.

In the end, however, the two companies adjusted their differences and
removed themselves out of each other's hearing. Mabel's voice defeated
even the tambourines and bones of the niggers. Swanage seemed likely to
be an improvement upon Bournemouth, until one day Mabel's prosperous
admirer appeared on the promenade and Henry's jealousy rose to fury.

"Don't you tell me you didn't tell him to follow you here," he said,
"because I don't believe you. I saw you smile at him."

Monkley remonstrated with Mabel, when Henry had gone off in a fever of
rage to his room, but she seemed to be getting a certain amount of
pleasure from the situation.

"You must cut it out," Monkley said. "I don't want the party broken up
on account of you and Henry. I tell you he really is upset. What the
deuce do you want to drag in all this confounded love business now for?
Leave that to Claude. It'll burst up the show, and it's making Harry
drink, which his head can't stand."

Mabel looked at herself in the glass over the fireplace and patted her
hair complacently. "I'm rather glad to see Harry can get jealous. After
all, it's always a pleasure to think some one's really fond of you."

Sylvia watched Mabel very carefully and perceived that she actually was
carrying on a flirtation with the man who had followed her from
Bournemouth. She hoped that it would continue and that her father would
get angry enough with Mabel to get rid of her when the tour came to an
end.

One Saturday afternoon, when Mabel was collecting, Sylvia distinctly saw
her admirer drop a note into the hat, which she took with her into the
tent to read and tore up; during her next song Sylvia noticed that the
man with the yellow cummerbund was watching her with raised eyebrows,
and that, when Mabel smiled and nodded, he gently clapped his hands and
went away.

Sylvia debated with herself the advisability of telling her father at
once what she had seen, thus bringing things to an immediate climax and
getting rid of Mabel forever, even if by doing so the show were spoilt.
But when she saw his glazed eyes and realized how drunk he was, she
thought she would wait. The next afternoon, when Henry was taking his
Sunday rest, Mabel dressed herself and went out. Sylvia followed her
and, after ascertaining that she had taken the path toward the cliffs to
the east of the town, came back to the lodgings and again debated with
herself a course of action. She decided in the end to wait a little
longer before she denounced Mabel. Later on, when her father had wakened
and was demanding Mabel's company for a stroll in the moonlight, a
letter was brought to the lodgings by a railway porter from Mabel
herself to say that she had left the company and had gone away with her
new friend by train. Sylvia thought how near she had been to spoiling
the elopement and hugged herself with pleasure; but she could not resist
telling her father now that she had seen the intrigue in progress and of
her following Mabel that afternoon and seeing her take the path toward
the cliffs. Henry seemed quite shattered by his loss, and could do
nothing but drink brandy, while Monkley swore at Mabel for wrecking a
good show and wondered where he was going to find another girl, even
going so far as to suggest telegraphing on the off chance to Maudie
Tilt.

It was very hot on Monday, and after the morning performance Henry
announced that he did not intend to walk all the way back to the
lodgings for dinner. He should go to the hotel and have a snack. What
did it matter about his being in his pierrot's rig? Swanage was a small
place, and if the people were not used to his costume by now, they
never would be. It was no good any one arguing; he intended to stay
behind this morning. The others left him talking in his usual style of
melancholy humor to the small boy who for the sum of twopence kept an
eye on the portable piano and the book of songs during the hot midday
hours. When they looked round he was juggling with one of the pennies,
to the admiration of the owner. They never saw him alive again. He was
brought back dead that evening on a stretcher, his pink costume splashed
with blood. The odd thing was that the hotel carving-knife was in his
pocket, though it was proved conclusively at the inquest that death was
due to falling over the cliffs on the east side of the town.

Sylvia wondered if she ought to blame herself for her father's death,
and she confided in Jimmy what she had told him about Mabel's behavior.
Jimmy asked her why she could not have let things alone, and made her
very miserable by his strictures upon her youthful tactlessness; so
miserable, indeed, that he was fain to console her and assure her that
it had all been an accident due to Henry's fondness for brandy--that and
the sun must have turned his head.

"You don't think he took the knife to kill himself?" she asked.

"More likely he took it with some idea of killing them, and, being
drunk, fell over the cliff. Poor old Harry! I shall miss him, and now
you're all alone in the world."

That was true, and the sudden realization of this fact drove out of
Sylvia's mind the remorse for her father's death by confronting her with
the instancy of the great problem that had for so long haunted her mind.
She turned to Jimmy almost fearfully.

"I shall have you to look after me?"

Jimmy took her hand and gazed into her eyes.

"You want to stay with me, then?" he asked, earnestly.

"Of course I do. Who else could I stay with?"

"You wouldn't prefer to be with Claude, for example?" he went on.

"Claude?" she repeated, in a puzzled voice. And then she grasped in all
its force the great new truth that for the rest of her life the choice
of her companions lay with herself alone. She had become at this moment
grown up and was free, like Mabel, to choose even a man with a yellow
cummerbund.



CHAPTER IV


Sylvia begged Monkley not to go back and live in Fitzroy Street. She
felt the flat would be haunted by memories of her father and Mabel. It
was as well that she did not want to return there, for Jimmy assured her
that nothing would induce him to go near Fitzroy Street. A great deal of
money was owing, and he wished the landlord luck in his dispute with the
furnishing people when he tried to seize the furniture for arrears of
rent. It would be necessary to choose for their next abode a quarter of
London to which he was a stranger, because he disliked having to make
détours to avoid streets where he owed money. Finsbury Park was
melancholy; Highgate was inaccessible; Hampstead was expensive and
almost equally inaccessible; but they must go somewhere in the North of
London, for there did not remain a suburb in the West or South the
tradesmen and house-owners of which he had not swindled at one time or
another. On second thoughts, there was a part of Hampstead that was
neither so expensive nor so inaccessible, which was reached from
Haverstock Hill; they would look for rooms there. They settled down
finally in one of a row of old houses facing the southerly extremity of
the Heath, the rural aspect of which was heightened by long gardens in
front that now in late summer were filled with sunflowers and
hollyhocks. The old-fashioned house, which resembled a large cottage
both without and within, belonged to a decayed florist and nursery
gardener called Samuel Gustard, whose trade was now confined to the sale
of penny packets of seeds, though a weather-beaten sign-board facing the
road maintained a legend of greater glories. Mr. Gustard himself made no
effort to live up to his sign-board; indeed, he would not even stir
himself to produce a packet of seeds, for if his wife were about he
would indicate to her with the stem of his pipe which packet was
wanted, and if she were not about, he would tell the customer that the
variety was no longer in stock. A greenhouse kept from collapse by the
sturdy vine it was supposed to protect ran along the fence on one side
of the garden; the rest was a jungle of coarse herbaceous flowers,
presumably the survivors of Mr. Gustard's last horticultural effort,
about ten years ago.

The money made by the tour of the Pink Pierrots did not last very long,
and Jimmy was soon forced back to industry. Sylvia nowadays heard more
about his successes and failures than when her father was alive, and she
begged very hard to be allowed to help on some of his expeditions.

"You're no good to me yet," Monkley told her. "You're too old to be
really innocent and not old enough to pretend to be. Besides, people
don't take school-girls to race meetings. Later on, when you've learned
a bit more about life, we'll start a gambling club in the West End and
work on a swell scale what I do now in a small way in
railway-carriages."

This scheme of Jimmy's became a favorite topic; and Sylvia began to
regard a flash gambling-hell as the crown of human ambition. Jimmy's
imagination used to run riot amid the splendor of it all, as he
discoursed of the footmen with plush breeches; of the shaded lamps; of
the sideboard loaded with hams and jellies and fruit at which the guests
would always be able to refresh themselves, for it would never do to let
them go away because they were hungry, and people were always hungry at
three in the morning; of the smart page-boy in the entrance of the flats
who would know how to reckon up a visitor and give the tip up-stairs by
ringing a bell; and of the rigid exclusion of all women except Sylvia
herself.

"I can see it all before me," Jimmy used to sigh. "I can smell the
cigars and whisky. I'm flinging back the curtains when every one has
gone and feeling the morning air. And here we are stuck in this old
cucumber-frame at Hampstead! But we'll get it, we'll get it. I shall
have a scoop one of these days and be able to start saving, and when
I've saved a couple of hundred I'll bluff the rest."

In October Jimmy came home from Newmarket and told Sylvia he had run
against an old friend, who had proposed a money-making scheme which
would take him away from London for a couple of months. He could not
explain the details to Sylvia, but he might say that it was a confidence
trick on the grand scale and that it meant his residing in a northern
city. He had told his friend he would give him an answer to-morrow, and
wanted to know what Sylvia thought about it.

She was surprised by Jimmy's consulting her in this way. She had always
taken it for granted that from time to time she would be left alone.
Jimmy's action made her realize more clearly than ever that to a great
extent she already possessed that liberty of choice the prospect of
which had dawned upon her at Swanage.

She assured Jimmy of her readiness to be left alone in Hampstead. When
he expatiated on his consideration for her welfare she was bored and
longed for him to be gone; his solicitude gave her a feeling of
restraint; she became impatient of his continually wanting to know if
she should miss him and of his commendation of her to the care of Mr.
and Mrs. Gustard, from whom she desired no interference, being quite
content with the prospect of sitting in her window with a book and a
green view.

The next morning Monkley left Hampstead; and Sylvia inhaled freedom with
the autumn air. She had been given what seemed a very large sum of money
to sustain herself until Jimmy's return. She had bought a new hat; a
black kitten had adopted her; it was pearly October weather. Sylvia
surveyed life with a sense of pleasure that was nevertheless most
unreasonably marred by a faint breath of restlessness, an almost
imperceptible discontent. Life had always offered itself to her
contemplation, whether of the past or of the future, as a set of vivid
impressions that formed a crudely colored panorama of action without any
emotional light and shade, the intervals between which, like the
intervals of a theatrical performance, were only tolerable with plenty
of chocolates to eat. At the present moment she had plenty of chocolates
to eat, more, in fact, than she had ever had before, but the interval
was seeming most exasperatingly long.

"You ought to take a walk on the Heath," Mr. Gustard advised. "It isn't
good to sit about all day doing nothing."

"You don't take walks," Sylvia pointed out. "And you sit about all day
doing nothing. I do read a book, anyway."

"I'm different," Mr. Gustard pronounced, very solemnly. "I've lived my
life. If I was to take a walk round Hampstead I couldn't hardly peep
into a garden without seeing a tree as I'd planted myself. And when I'm
gone, the trees 'll still be there. That's something to _think_ about,
that is. There was a clergyman came nosing round here the other day to
ask me why I didn't go to church. I told him I'd done without church as
a lad, and I couldn't see why I shouldn't do without it now. 'But you're
growing old, Mr. Gustard,' he says to me. 'That's just it,' I says to
him. 'I'm getting very near the time when, if all they say is true, I
shall be in the heavenly choir for ever and ever, amen, and the less
singing I hear for the rest of my time on earth the better.' 'That's a
very blasphemous remark,' he says to me. 'Is it?' says I to him. 'Well,
here's another. Perhaps all this talk by parsons,' I says, 'about this
life on earth being just a choir practice for heaven won't bear looking
into. Perhaps we shall all die and go to sleep and never wake up and
never dream and never do nothing at all, never. And if that's true,' I
says, 'I reckon I shall bust my coffin with laughing when I think of my
trees growing and growing and growing and you preaching to a lot of old
women and children about something you don't know nothing about and they
don't know nothing about and nobody don't know nothing about.' With that
I offered him a pear, and he walked off very offended with his head in
the air. You get out and about, my dear. Bustle around and enjoy
yourself. That's my motto for the young."

Sylvia felt that there was much to be said for Mr. Gustard's attitude,
and she took his advice so far as to go for a long walk on the Heath
that very afternoon. Yet there was something lacking. When she got home
again she found that the book of adventure which she had been reading
was no longer capable of keeping her thoughts fixed. The stupid part of
it was that her thoughts wandered nowhere in particular and without
attaching themselves to a definite object. She would try to concentrate
them upon Jimmy and speculate what he was doing, but Jimmy would turn
into Claude Raglan; and when she began to speculate what Claude was
doing, Claude would turn back again into Jimmy. Her own innermost
restlessness made her so fidgety that she went to the window and stared
at the road along the dusky Heath. The garden gate of next door swung to
with a click, and Sylvia saw a young man coming toward the house. She
was usually without the least interest in young men, but on this
afternoon of indefinable and errant thoughts she welcomed the least
excuse for bringing herself back to a material object; and this young
man, though it was twilight and his face was not clearly visible,
managed to interest her somehow, so that at tea she found herself asking
Mr. Gustard who he might be and most unaccountably blushing at the
question.

"That 'ud be young Artie, wouldn't it?" he suggested to his wife. She
nodded over the squat teapot that she so much resembled:

"That must be him come back from his uncle's. Mrs. Madden was only
saying to me this morning, when we was waiting for the grocer's man,
that she was expecting him this evening. She spoils him something
shocking. If you please, his highness has been down into Hampshire to
see if he would like to be a gentleman farmer. Whoever heard, I should
like to know? Why he can't be long turned seventeen. It's a pity his
father isn't alive to keep him from idling his time away."

"There's no harm in giving a bit of liberty to the young," Mr. Gustard
answered, preparing to be as eloquent as the large piece of bread and
butter in his mouth would let him. "I'm not in favor of pushing a young
man too far."

"No, you was never in favor of pushing anything, neither yourself nor
your business," said Mrs. Gustard, sharply. "But I think it's a sin to
let a boy like that moon away all his time with a book. Books were only
intended for the gentry and people as have grown too old for anything
else, and even then they're bad for their eyes."

Sylvia wondered whether Mrs. Gustard intended to criticize unfavorably
her own manner of life, but she left the defense of books to Mr.
Gustard, who was so impatient to begin that he nearly choked:

"Because I don't read," he said, "that's no reason for me to try and
stop others from reading. What I say is 'liberty for all.' If young
Artie Madden wants to read, let him read. If Sylvia here wants to read,
let her read. Books give employment to a lot of people--binders,
printers, paper-makers, booksellers. It's a regular trade. If people
didn't like to smell flowers and sit about under trees, there wouldn't
be no gardeners, would there? Very well, then; and if there wasn't
people who wanted to read, there wouldn't be no printers."

"What about the people who write all the rubbish?" Mrs. Gustard
demanded, fiercely. "Nice, idle lot of good-for-nothings they are, I'm
sure."

"That's because the only writing fellow we ever knew got that
servant-girl of ours into trouble."

"Samuel," Mrs. Gustard interrupted, "that'll do!"

"I don't suppose every writing fellow's like him," Mr. Gustard went on.
"And, anyway, the girl was a saucy hussy."

"Samuel! That will do, I said."

"Well, so she was," Mr. Gustard continued, defiantly. "Didn't she used
to powder her face with your Borwick's?"

"I'll trouble you not to spit crumbs all over my clean cloth," said Mrs.
Gustard, "making the whole place look like a bird-cage!"

Mr. Gustard winked at Sylvia and was silent. She for her part had
already begun to weave round Arthur Madden a veil of romance, when the
practical side of her suddenly roused itself to a sense of what was
going on and admonished her to leave off dreaming and attend to her cat.

Up-stairs in her bedroom, she opened her window and looked out at the
faint drizzle of rain which was just enough to mellow the leafy autumnal
scents and diffuse the golden beams of the lamps along the Heath. There
was the sound of another window's being opened on a line with hers;
presently a head and shoulders scarcely definable in the darkness leaned
out, whistling an old French air that was familiar to her from earliest
childhood, the words of which had long ago been forgotten. She could not
help whistling the air in unison; and after a moment's silence a voice
from the head and shoulders asked who it was.

"A girl," Sylvia said.

"Anybody could tell that," the voice commented, a little scornfully.
"Because the noise is all woolly."

"It's not," Sylvia contradicted, indignantly. "Perhaps you'll say I'm
out of tune? I know quite well who you are. You're Arthur Madden, the
boy next door."

"But who are you?"

"I'm Sylvia Scarlett."

"Are you a niece of Mrs. Gustard?" the voice inquired.

"Of course not," Sylvia scoffed. "I'm just staying here."

"Who with?"

"By myself."

"By yourself?" the voice echoed, incredulously.

"Why not? I'm nearly sixteen."

This was too much for Arthur Madden, who struck a match to illuminate
the features of the strange unknown. Although he did not succeed in
discerning Sylvia, he lit up his own face, which she liked well enough
to suggest they should go for a walk, making the proposal a kind of test
for herself of Arthur Madden's character, and deciding that if he showed
the least hesitation in accepting she would never speak to him again.
The boy, however, was immediately willing; the two pairs of shoulders
vanished; Sylvia put on her coat and went down-stairs.

"Going out for a blow?" Mr. Gustard asked.

Sylvia nodded. "With the boy next door," she answered.

"You haven't been long," said Mr. Gustard, approvingly. "That's the way
I like to see it. When I courted Mrs. Gustard, which was forty years ago
come next November, it was in the time of toolip-planting, and I hove a
toolip bulb at her and caught her in the chignon. 'Whatever are you
doing of?' she says to me. 'It's a proposal of marriage,' I says, and
when she started giggling I was that pleased I planted half the toolips
upside down. But that's forty years ago, that is. Mrs. Gustard's grown
more particular since, and so as she's washing up the tea-things in the
scullery, I should just slip out, and I'll tell her you've gone out to
get a paper to see if it's true what somebody said about Buckingham
Palace being burned to a cinder."

Sylvia was not at all sure that she ought to recognize Mrs. Gustard's
opinion even so far as by slipping out and thereby giving her an idea
that she did not possess perfect liberty of action. However, she decided
that the point was too trifling to worry about, and, with a wave of her
hand, she left her landlord to tell what story he chose to his wife.

Arthur Madden was waiting for her by his gate when she reached the end
of the garden; while they wandered along by the Heath, indifferent to
the drizzle, Sylvia felt an extraordinary release from the faint
discontent of these past days, an extraordinary delight in finding
herself with a companion who was young like herself and who, like
herself, seemed full of speculation upon the world which he was setting
out to explore, regarding it as an adventure and ready to exchange hopes
and fears and fancies with her in a way that no one had ever done
hitherto; moreover, he was ready to be most flatteringly impressed by
her experiences, even if he still maintained she could not whistle
properly. The friendship between Sylvia and Arthur begun upon that night
grew daily closer. Mrs. Gustard used to say that they wasted each
other's time, but she was in the minority; she used to say also that
Arthur was being more spoiled than ever by his mother; but it was this
very capacity for being spoiled that endeared him to Sylvia, who had
spent a completely free existence for so long now that unless Arthur had
been allowed his freedom she would soon have tired of the friendship.
She liked Mrs. Madden, a beautiful and unpractical woman, who
unceasingly played long sonatas on a cracked piano; at least she would
have played them unceasingly had she not continually been jumping up to
wait on Arthur, hovering round him like a dark and iridescent butterfly.

In the course of many talks together Arthur told Sylvia the family
history. It seemed that his mother had been the daughter of a gentleman,
not an ordinary kind of top-hatted gentleman, but a squire with horses
and hounds and a park; his father had been a groom and she had eloped
with him, but Sylvia was not to suppose that his father had been an
ordinary kind of groom; he too came from good stock, though he had been
rather wild. His father's father had been a farmer in Sussex, and he had
just come back from staying at the farm, where his uncle had offered to
give him a start in life, but he had found he did not care much for
farm-work. His mother's family would have nothing to do with her beyond
allowing her enough to live upon without disturbing them.

"What are you going to do?" Sylvia asked.

Arthur replied that he did not know, but that he had thoughts of being a
soldier.

"A soldier?" said Sylvia, doubtfully. Her experience of soldiers was
confined to Blanche's lovers, and the universal connotation in France of
soldiery with a vile servitude that could hardly be avoided.

"But of course the worst of it is," Arthur explained, "there aren't any
wars nowadays."

They were walking over the Heath on a fine November day about Martinmas;
presently, when they sat down under some pines and looked at London
spread beneath them in a sparkling haze, Arthur took Sylvia's hand and
told her that he loved her.

She nearly snatched her hand away and would have told him not to be
silly, but suddenly the beauty of the tranquil city below and the wind
through the pines conquered her spirit; she sat closer to him, letting
her head droop upon his shoulder; when his clasp tightened round her
unresisting hand she burst into tears, unable to tell him that her
sorrow was nothing but joy, that he had nothing to do with it nor with
her, and yet that he had everything to do with it, because with no one
else could she have borne this incommunicable display of life. Then she
dried her tears and told Arthur she thought he had better become a
highwayman.

"Highwaymen don't exist any longer," Arthur objected. "All the jolly
things have disappeared from the world--war and highwaymen and pirates
and troubadours and crusaders and maypoles and the Inquisition.
Everything."

Gradually Sylvia learned from Arthur how much of what she had been
reading was mere invention, and in the first bitterness of
disillusionment she wished to renounce books forever; but Arthur
dissuaded her from doing that, and they used to read simultaneously the
same books so as to be able to discuss them during their long walks.
They became two romantics born out of due season, two romantics that
should have lived a century ago and that now bewailed the inability of
the modern world to supply what their adventurous souls demanded.

Arthur was inclined to think that Sylvia had much less cause to repine
than he; the more tales she told him of her life, the more tributes of
envy he paid to her good fortune. He pointed out that Monkley scarcely
differed from the highwayman of romance; nor did he doubt but that if
all his enterprises could be known he would rival Dick Turpin himself.
Sylvia agreed with all he said, but she urged the inequality of her own
share in the achievement. What she wanted was something more than to sit
at home and enjoy fruits in the stealing of which she had played no
part. She wanted none of Arthur's love unless he were prepared to face
the problem of living life at its fullest in company with her. She would
let him kiss her sometimes, because, unhappily, it seemed that even very
young men were infected with this malady, and that if deprived of this
odious habit they were liable to lose determination and sink into
incomprehensible despondency. At the same time Sylvia made Arthur
clearly understand that she was yielding to his weakness, not to her
own, and that, if he wished to retain her compassion, he must prove that
the devotion of which he boasted was vital to his being.

"You mustn't just kiss me," Sylvia warned him, "because it's easy. It's
very difficult, really, because it's very difficult for me to let you do
it. I have to wind myself up beforehand just as if I were going to pull
out a loose tooth."

Arthur gazed at her with wide-open, liquid eyes; his mouth trembled.
"You say such cruel things," he murmured.

Sylvia punched him as hard as she could. "I won't be stared at like
that. You look like a cow when you stare at me like that. Buck up and
think what we're going to do."

"I'm ready to do anything," Arthur declared, "as long as you're decent
to me. But you're such an extraordinary girl. One moment you burst into
tears and put your head on my shoulder, and the next moment you're
punching me."

"And I shall punch you again," Sylvia said, fiercely, "if you dare to
remind me that I ever cried in front of you. You weren't there when I
cried."

"But I was," he protested.

"No, you weren't. You were only there like a tree or a cloud."

"Or a cow," said Arthur, gloomily.

"I think that if we did go away together," Sylvia said, meditatively, "I
should leave you almost at once, because you will keep returning to
things I said. My father used to be like that."

"But if we go away," Arthur asked, "how are we going to live? I
shouldn't be any use on racecourses. I'm the sort of person that gets
taken in by the three-card trick."

"You make me so angry when you talk like that," Sylvia said. "Of course
if you think you'll always be a fool, you always will be a fool. Being
in love with me must make you think that you're not a fool. Perhaps we
never shall go away together; but if we do, you'll have to begin by
stealing bicycles. Jimmy Monkley and my father did that for a time. You
hire a bicycle and sell it or pawn it a long way off from the shop it
came from. It's quite easy. Only, of course, it's best to disguise
yourself. Father used to paint out his teeth, wear blue glasses, and
powder his mustache gray. But once he made himself so old in a place
called Lewisham that the man in the bicycle-shop thought he was too old
to ride and wouldn't let him have a machine."

Sylvia was strengthened in her resolve to launch Arthur upon the stormy
seas of an independent existence by the placid harbor in which his
mother loved to see him safely at anchor. Sylvia could not understand
how a woman like Mrs. Madden, who had once been willing to elope with a
groom, could bear to let her son spend his time so ineffectively. Not
that she wished Mrs. Madden to exert her authority by driving him into a
clerkship, or indeed into any profession for which he had no
inclination, but she deplored the soft slavery which a fond woman can
impose, the slavery of being waited upon that is more deadening than the
slavery of waiting upon other people. She used to make a point of
impressing upon Mrs. Madden the extent to which she and Arthur went
shares in everything, lest she might suppose that Sylvia imitated her
complaisance, and when Mrs. Madden used to smile in her tired way and
make some remark about boy and girl lovers, Sylvia used to get angry and
try to demonstrate the unimportance of that side of life.

"You funny child," Mrs. Madden said. "When you're older, how you'll
laugh at what you think now. Of course, you don't know anything about
love yet, mercifully for you. I wish I were richer; I should so like to
adopt you."

"Oh, but I wouldn't be adopted," Sylvia quickly interposed. "I can't
tell you how glad I am that I belong to nobody. And please don't think
I'm so innocent, because I'm not. I've seen a great deal of love, you
must remember, and I've thought a lot about it, and made up my mind that
I'll never be a slave to that sort of thing. Arthur may be stupidly in
love with me, but I'm very strict with him and it doesn't do him any
harm."

"Come and sing your favorite song," Mrs. Madden laughed. "I'll play your
accompaniment."

All the discussions between them ended in music; Sylvia would sing that
she was off with the raggle-taggle gipsies--or, stamping with her foot
upon the floor of the old house until it shook and crossing her arms
with such resolution that Arthur's eyes would grow larger than ever, as
if he half expected to see her act upon the words and fling herself out
into the December night, regardless of all but a mad demonstration of
liberty.

Sylvia would sometimes sing about the gipsies to herself while she was
undressing, which generally called forth a protest from Mrs. Gustard,
who likened the effect to that of a young volcano let loose.

Another person that was pained by Sylvia's exuberance was Maria, her
black cat, so called on account of his color before he was definitely
established as a gentleman. He had no ear for music and he disapproved
of dancing; nor did he have the least sympathy with the aspirations of
the lawless song she sang. Mrs. Gustard considered that he was more
artful than what any one would think, but she repudiated as "heathenish"
Sylvia's contention that she outwardly resembled Maria.

"Still I do think I'm like a cat," Sylvia argued. "Perhaps not very like
a black cat, more like a tabby. One day you'll come up to my room and
find me purring on the bed."

Mrs. Gustard exclaimed against such an unnatural event.

Sylvia received one or two letters from Jimmy Monkley during the winter,
in which he wrote with considerable optimism of the success of his
venture and thought he might be back in Hampstead by February. He came
back unexpectedly, however, in the middle of January, and Sylvia was
only rather glad to see him; she had grown fond of her life alone and
dreaded Jimmy's habit of arranging matters over her head. He was not so
amiable as formerly, because the scheme had only been partially
successful and he had failed to make enough money to bring the flash
gambling-hell perceptibly nearer. Sylvia had almost forgotten that
project; it seemed to her now a dull project, neither worthy of herself
nor of him. She did not attempt, on Jimmy's return, to change her own
way of spending the time, and she persisted in taking the long walks
with Arthur as usual.

"What the devil you see to admire in that long-legged, saucer-eyed,
curly-headed mother's pet I don't know," Jimmy grumbled.

"I don't admire him," Sylvia said. "I don't admire anybody except Joan
of Arc. But I like him."

Jimmy scowled; and later on that day Mr. Gustard warned Sylvia that her
uncle (as such was Jimmy known in the lodgings) had carried on
alarmingly about her friendship with young Artie.

"It's nothing to do with him," Sylvia affirmed, with out-thrust chin.

"Nothing whatever," Mr. Gustard agreed. "But if I was you I wouldn't
throw young Artie in his face. I've never had a niece myself, but from
what I can make out an uncle feels something like a father; and a father
gets very worried about his rights."

"But you've never had any children, and so you can't know any more about
the feelings of a father," Sylvia objected.

"Ah, but I've got my own father to look back upon," Mr. Gustard said.
"He mostly took a spade to me, I remember, though he wasn't against
jabbing me in the ribs with a trowel if there wasn't a spade handy. I
reckon it was him as first put the notion of liberty for all into my
head. I never set much store by uncles, though. The only uncle I ever
had died of croup when he was two years old."

"My father didn't like his aunts," Sylvia added to the condemnation. "He
was brought up by two aunts."

"Aunts in general is sour bodies, 'specially when they're in charge and
get all the fuss of having children with none of the fun."

"Mr. Monkley isn't really my uncle," Sylvia abruptly proclaimed.

"Go on! you don't mean it?" said Mr. Gustard. "I suppose he's your
guardian?"

"He's nothing at all," Sylvia answered.

"He must be something."

"He's absolutely nothing," she insisted. "He used to live with my
father, and when my father died he just went on living with me. If I
don't want to live with him I needn't."

"But you must live with somebody," said Mr. Gustard. "There's a law
about having visible means of support. You couldn't have a lot of kids
living on their own."

"Why not?" Sylvia asked, in contemptuous amazement.

"Why not?" Mr. Gustard repeated. "Why because every one would get
pestered to death. It's the same with stray dogs. Stray dogs have got to
have a home. If they haven't a home of their own, they're taken to the
Dogs' Home at Battersea and cremated, which is a painless and mercenary
death."

"I don't call that much of a home," Sylvia scoffed. "A place where
you're killed."

"That's because we're speaking of dogs. Of course, if the police started
in cremating children, there'd be a regular outcry. So the law insists
on children having homes."

Sylvia tried hard to convince Mr. Gustard that she was different from
other children, and in any case no longer a child; but though the
discussion lasted a long time he would not admit the logic of Sylvia's
arguments; in the end she decided he did not know what he was talking
about.

Monkley so much disliked Sylvia's intimacy with Arthur that he began to
talk of moving from Hampstead, whereupon she warned him that if he tried
to go away without paying the rent she would make a point of letting Mr.
Gustard know where they had gone.

"It strikes me," Monkley said, and when he spoke, Sylvia was reminded of
the tone he used when she had protested against his treatment of Maudie
Tilt--"it strikes me that since I've been away you've taken things a bit
too much into your own hands. That's a trick you'd better drop with me,
or we shall quarrel."

Sylvia braced herself to withstand him as she had withstood him before;
but she could not help feeling a little apprehensive, so cold were his
green eyes, so thin his mouth.

"I don't care if we quarrel or not," she declared. "Because if we
quarreled it would mean that I couldn't bear you near me any longer and
that I was glad to quarrel. If you make me hate you, Jimmy, you may be
sorry, but I shall never be sorry. If you make me hate you, Jimmy, you
can't think how dreadfully much I shall hate you."

"Don't try to come the little actress over me," Monkley said. "I've
known too many women in my life to be bounced by a kid like you. But
that's enough. I can't think why I pay so much attention to you."

"No," Sylvia said. "All the women you've known don't seem to have been
able to teach you how to manage a little girl like me. What a pity!"

She laughed and left him alone.

There was a halcyon week that February, and Sylvia spent every day and
all day on the Heath with Arthur. People used to turn and stare after
them as they walked arm-in-arm over the vivid green grass.

"I think it's you they stare at," Sylvia said. "You look interesting
with your high color and dark curly hair. You look rather foreign.
Perhaps people think you're a poet. I read the other day about a poet
called Keats who lived in Hampstead and loved a girl called Fanny
Brawne. I wish I knew what she looked like. It's not a very pretty name.
Now I've got rather a pretty name, I think; though I'm not pretty
myself."

"You're not exactly pretty," Arthur agreed. "But I think if I saw you I
should turn round to look at you. You're like a person in a picture. You
seem to stand out and to be the most important figure. In paintings
that's because the chief figure is usually so much larger than the
others. Well, that's the impression you give me."

Speculation upon Sylvia's personality ceased when they got home; Monkley
threatened Arthur in a very abusive way, even going as far as to pick up
a stone and fling it through one of the few panes of glass left in the
tumble-down greenhouse in order to illustrate the violent methods he
proposed to adopt.

The next day, when Sylvia went to fetch Arthur for their usual walk, he
made some excuse and was obviously frightened to accompany her.

"What can he do to you?" Sylvia demanded, in scornful displeasure. "The
worst he can do is to kill you, and then you'd have died because you
wouldn't surrender. Haven't you read about martyrs?"

"Of course I've read about martyrs," said Arthur, rather querulously.
"But reading about martyrs is very different from being a martyr
yourself. You seem to think everybody can be anything you happen to read
about. You wouldn't care to be a martyr, Sylvia."

"That's just where you're wrong," she loftily declared. "I'd much sooner
be a martyr than a coward."

Arthur winced at her plain speaking. "You don't care what you say," was
his reproach.

"No, and I don't care what I do," Sylvia agreed. "Are you coming out
with me? Because if you're not, you shall never be my friend again."

Arthur pulled himself together and braved Monkley's threats. On a quiet
green summit he demanded her impatient kisses for a recompense; she,
conscious of his weakness and against her will made fonder of him by
this very weakness, kissed him less impatiently than was her wont, so
that Arthur, under the inspiration of that rare caress, vowed he cared
for nobody and for nothing, if she would but always treat him thus
kindly.

Sylvia, who was determined to make Jimmy pay for his bad behavior,
invited herself to tea with Mrs. Madden; afterward, though it was cloudy
and ominous, Arthur and she walked out on the Heath once more, until it
rained so hard that they were driven home. It was about seven o'clock
when Sylvia reached her room, her hair all tangled with moisture, her
eyes and cheeks on fire with the exhilaration of that scurry through the
rain. She had not stood a moment to regard herself in the glass when
Monkley, following close upon her heels, shut the door behind him and
turned the key in the lock. Sylvia looked round in astonishment; by a
trick of candle-light his eyes gleamed for an instant, so that she felt
a tremor of fear.

"You've come back at last, have you?" he began in a slow voice, so
deliberate and gentle in its utterance that Sylvia might not have
grasped the extent of his agitation, had not one of his legs, affected
by a nervous twitch, drummed upon the floor a sinister accompaniment.
"You shameless little b----h, I thought I forbade you to go out with
him again. You've been careering over the Heath. You've been encouraging
him to make love to you. Look at your hair--it's in a regular tangle!
and your cheeks--they're like fire. Well, if you can let that nancified
milksop mess you about, you can put up with me. I've wanted to long
enough, God knows; and this is the reward I get for leaving you alone.
You give yourself to the first b----y boy that comes along."

Before Sylvia had time to reply, Monkley had leaped across the room and
crushed her to him.

"Kiss me, damn you, kiss me! Put your arms round me."

Sylvia would not scream, because she could not have endured that anybody
should behold her in such an ignominious plight. Therefore she only
kicked and fought, and whispered all the while, with savage intensity!
"You frog! you frog! You look like a frog! Leave me alone!"

Monkley held her more closely and forced her mouth against his own, but
Sylvia bit through his under lip till her teeth met. The pain caused
him to start back and tread on Maria, who, searching in a panic for
better cover than the bed afforded, had run between his legs. The cat,
uttering one of those unimaginable wails with which only cats have power
so horribly to surprise, retired to a corner, where he hissed and
growled. In another corner Sylvia spat forth the unclean blood and wiped
from her lips the soilure of the kisses.

Monkley had had enough for the present. The pain and sudden noise had
shaken his nerves. When the blood ran down his chin, bedabbling his tie,
he unlocked the door and retired, crying out almost in a whimper for
something to stop a bad razor cut. Mrs. Gustard went to the wood-shed
for cobwebs; but Monkley soon shouted down that he had found some cotton
wool, and Sylvia heard a cork being drawn. She made up her mind to kill
him that night, but she was perplexed by the absence of a suitable
weapon, and gradually it was borne in upon her mind that if she killed
Monkley she would have to pay the penalty, which did not seem to her a
satisfactory kind of revenge. She gave up the notion of killing him and
decided to run away with Arthur instead.

For a long time Sylvia sat in her bedroom, thinking over her plan; then
she went next door and asked Arthur to come out and talk to her about
something important. They stood whispering in the wet garden, while she
bewitched him into offering to share her future. He was dazed by the
rapidity with which she disposed of every objection he brought forward.
She knew how to get enough money for them to start with. She knew how to
escape from the house, and because the creeper beneath Arthur's window
was not strong enough to bear his weight, he must tie his sheets
together. He must not bring much luggage; she would only bring a small
valise, and Maria could travel in her work-basket.

"Maria?" echoed Arthur, in dismay.

"Of course! it was Maria who saved me," said Sylvia. "I shall wait till
Monkley is asleep. I expect he'll be asleep early, because he's drinking
brandy hard now; then I shall whistle the last line of the raggle-taggle
gipsies and slither down from my window by the ivy."

She stuffed Arthur's reeling brain with further details, and, catching
him to her heart, she kissed him with as much enthusiasm as might have
been mistaken for passion. In the end, between coaxing and frightening
him, threatening and inspiring him, Sylvia made Arthur agree to
everything, and danced back indoors.

"Anybody would think you were glad because your guardian angel's gone
and sliced a rasher off of his mouth," Mr. Gustard observed.

By ten o'clock all was quiet in the house. Sylvia chose with the
greatest care her equipment for the adventure. She had recently bought a
tartan frock, which, not having yet been worn, she felt would
excellently become the occasion; this she put on, and plaited her
tangled hair in a long pigtail. The result was unsatisfactory, for it
made her look too prim for a heroine; she therefore undid the pigtail
and tied her hair loosely back with a nut-brown bow. It was still
impossibly early for an escape, so Sylvia sat down on the edge of her
bed and composed herself to read the escape of Fabrizio from the Sforza
tower in Parma. The book in which she read this was not one that she had
been able to read through without a great deal of skipping; but this
escape which she had only come across a day or two before seemed a
divine omen to approve her decision. Sylvia regretted the absence of the
armed men at the foot of the tower, but said to herself that, after all,
she was escaping with her lover, whereas Fabrizio had been compelled to
leave Clelia Conti behind. The night wore away; at half past eleven
Sylvia dropped her valise from the window and whistled that she was off
with the raggle-taggle gipsies--oh. Then she waited until a ghostly
snake was uncoiled from Arthur's window.

"My dearest boy, you're an angel," she trilled, in an ecstasy, when she
saw him slide safely down into the garden.

"Catch Maria," she whispered. "I'm coming myself in a moment."

Arthur caught her work-basket, and a faint protesting mew floated away
on the darkness. Sylvia wrapped herself up, and then very cautiously,
candle in hand, walked across to the door of Monkley's room and
listened. He was snoring loudly. She pushed open the door and beheld
him fast asleep, a red-and-white beard of cotton wool upon his chin.
Then risking all in an impulse to be quick, though she was almost
stifled by fear, she hurried across the room to his trunk. He kept all
his money in a tin box. How she hoped there was enough to make him rue
her flight. Monkley never stirred; the box was safe in her muff. She
stole back to her room, blew out the candle, flung the muff down to
Arthur, held her breath when the coins rattled, put one leg over the
sill, and scrambled down by the ivy.

"I wish it had been higher," she whispered, when Arthur clasped her with
affectionate solicitude where she stood in the sodden vegetation.

"I'm jolly glad it wasn't," he said. "Now what are we going to do?"

"Why, find a 'bus, of course!" Sylvia said. "And get as far from
Hampstead as possible."

"But it's after twelve o'clock," Arthur objected. "There won't be any
'buses now. I don't know what we're going to do. We can't look for rooms
at this time of night."

"We must just walk as far as we can away from Hampstead," said Sylvia,
cheerfully.

"And carry our luggage? Supposing a policeman asks us where we're
going?"

"Oh, bother policemen! Come along. You don't seem to be enjoying
yourself nearly as much as I am. I care for nobody. I'm off with the
raggle-taggle gipsies--oh," she lightly sang.

Maria mewed at the sound of his mistress's voice.

"You're as bad as Maria," she went on, reproachfully. "Look how nice the
lamp-posts look. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, I can see.
Let's bet how many lamp-posts we pass before we're safe in our own
house."

They set out for London by the road along the Heath. At first trees
overhung the path, and they passed pool after pool of checkered
lamplight that quivered in the wet road. Followed a space of open
country where they heard the last whispers of a slight and desultory
wind. Soon they were inclosed by mute and unillumined houses on either
side, until they found themselves on the top of Haverstock Hill, faced
by the tawny glow of the London sky, and stretching before them a double
row of lamp-posts innumerable and pale that converged to a dim point in
the heart of the city below.

"I think I'm rather frightened," Sylvia said. "Or perhaps I'm a little
tired."

"Shall we go back?" Arthur suggested.

"No, no. We'll just rest a moment or two, and I'll be all right." They
sat down on their bags, and she stroked Maria pensively.

Sylvia was relieved when the silence was interrupted by a policeman. She
felt the need of opposition to drive away the doubts that took advantage
of that first fatigue to shake her purpose.

"Now then, what are you doing?" he demanded, gruffly.

"We're sitting down," Sylvia informed him.

"Loitering isn't allowed here," the policeman said.

"Where is it allowed, please?" she asked, sweetly.

"Loitering isn't allowed nowhere," the policeman declared.

"Well, why did you say it wasn't allowed here?" she continued. "I
thought you were going to tell us of a place where it was allowed."

Arthur jogged Sylvia's elbow and whispered to her not to annoy the
policeman.

"Come along, now, move on," the policeman commanded. In order to
emphasize his authority he flashed his bull's-eye in Sylvia's face.
"Where do you live?" he asked, after the scrutiny.

"Lillie Road, Fulham. We missed the last train from Hampstead, and we're
walking home. I never heard of any rule against sitting on one's own
luggage in the middle of the night. I think you'd better take us to the
police station. We must rest somewhere."

The policeman looked puzzled.

"What did you want to miss your train for?" he asked.

"We didn't want to miss it," Sylvia gently explained. "We were very
angry when we missed it. Come on, Arthur, I don't feel tired any
longer."

She got up and started off down Haverstock Hill, followed by Arthur.

"I'm sorry you can't recommend any proper loitering-places on the road,"
said Sylvia, turning round, "because we shall probably have to loiter
about thirty-six times before we get to Lillie Road. Good night. If we
meet any burglars we'll give them your love and say there's a nice
policeman living on Haverstock Hill who'd like a chat."

"Suppose he had run us in?" Arthur said, when they had left the
policeman behind them.

"I wanted him to at first," Sylvia replied. "But afterward I thought it
might be awkward on account of Monkley's cash-box. I wish we could open
it now and see how much there is inside, but perhaps it would look funny
at this time of night."

They had nearly reached the bottom of Haverstock Hill, and there were
signs of life in the squalid streets they were approaching.

"I don't think we ought to hang about here," Arthur said. "These are
slums. We ought to be careful; I think we ought to have waited till the
morning."

"You wouldn't have come, if we'd waited," Sylvia maintained. "You'd have
been too worried about leaving your mother."

"I'm still worried about that," said Arthur, gloomily.

"Why? You can send a post-card to say that you're all right. Knowing
where you are won't make up for your being away. In any case, you'd have
had to go away soon. You couldn't have spent your whole life in that
house at Hampstead."

"Well, I think this running away will bring us bad luck."

Sylvia made a dramatic pause and dropped her valise on the pavement.

"Go home, then. Go home and leave me alone. If you can't enjoy yourself,
I'd rather you went home. I can't bear to be with somebody who is not
enjoying himself as much as I am."

"You can't be enjoying this waking about all night with two bags and a
cat," Arthur insisted. "But I'm not going home without you. If you want
to go on, I shall go on, too. I'm feeling rather tired. I expect I shall
enjoy myself more to-morrow."

Sylvia picked up her valise again. "I hope you will, I'm sure," she
said. "You're spoiling the fun by grumbling all the time like this. What
is there to grumble at? Just a small bag which makes your arm ache. You
ought to be glad you haven't got mine to carry as well as your own."

After another quarter of an hour among the ill-favored streets Sylvia
called a rest; this time they withdrew from the pavement into the area
of an unoccupied house, where they leaned against the damp brick wall,
quite exhausted, and heard without interest the footsteps of the people
who went past above. Maria began to mew and Sylvia let her out of the
basket. A lean and amorous tom-cat in pursuit of love considered that
Maria had prejudiced his chance of success, and their recriminations
ended in a noisy scuffle during which the lid of a dust-bin in the next
area was upset with a loud clatter; somebody, throwing open a window,
emptied a utensil partly over Arthur.

"Don't make such a noise. It was only a jug," Sylvia whispered. "You'll
wake up all the houses."

"It's your damned cat making the noise," Arthur said. "Come here, you
brute."

Maria was at last secured and replaced in his basket, and Arthur asked
Sylvia if she was sure it was only a jug.

"It's simply beastly in this area," he added. "Anything's better than
sitting here."

After making sure that nobody was in sight, they went on their way,
though by now their legs were so weary that from time to time the bags
scraped along the pavement.

"The worst of it is," Sylvia sighed, "we've come so far now that it
would be just as tiring to go back to Hampstead as to go on."

"Oh, _you're_ thinking now of going back!" Arthur jeered. "It's a pity
you didn't think of that when we were on Haverstock Hill."

"I'm not thinking at all of going back," Sylvia snapped. "I'm not
tired."

"Oh no," said Arthur, sarcastically. "And I'm not at all wet, really."

They got more and more irritable with each other. The bow in Sylvia's
hair dropped off, and with all the fretful obstinacy of fatigue she
would go wandering back on their tracks to see if she could find it; but
the bow was lost. At last they saw a hansom coming toward them at a
walking pace, and Sylvia announced that they would ride.

"But where shall we drive to?" Arthur asked. "We can't just get in and
drive anywhere."

"We'll tell him to go to Waterloo," said Sylvia. "Stations are always
open; we can wait there till the morning and then look for a house."

She hailed the cab; with sighs of relief they sank back upon the seat,
exhausted. Presently an odd noise like a fishmonger's smacking a cod
could be heard beside the cab, and, leaning out over the apron to see
what was the cause of it, Arthur was spattered with mud by a piece of
the tire which was flogging the road with each revolution of the wheel.
The driver pulled up and descended from the box to restrain it.

"I've been tying it up all day, but it will do it," he complained.
"There's nothing to worry over, but it fidgets one, don't it, flapping
like that? I've tied it up with string and I've tied it up with wire,
and last time I used my handkerchief. Now I suppose it's got to be my
bootlace. Well, here goes," he said, and with many grunts he stooped
over to undo his lace.

Neither Sylvia nor Arthur could ever say what occurred to irritate a
horse that with equanimity had tolerated the flapping all day, but
suddenly it leaped forward at a canter, while the loose piece of tire
slapped the road with increasing rapidity and noise. The reins slipped
down; and Sylvia, who had often been allowed to drive with Blanche,
managed to gather them up and keep the horse more or less in the middle
of the road. After the cab had traveled about a mile the tire that all
day had been seeking freedom achieved its purpose and, lancing itself
before the vehicle in a swift parabola, looped itself round the ancient
ragman who was shuffling along the gutter in pursuit of wealth. The
horse chose that moment to stop abruptly and an unpleasant encounter
with the ragman seemed inevitable. Already he was approaching the cab,
waving in angry fashion his spiked stick and swearing in a bronchial
voice; he stopped his abuse, however, on perceiving the absence of the
driver, and muttering to himself: "A lucky night, so help me! A lovely
long strip of india-rubber! Gor! what a find!" he turned round and
walked away as fast as he could, stuffing the tire into his basket as he
went.

"I wonder whether I could drive the cab properly if I climbed up on the
box," said Sylvia, thoughtfully.

"Oh no! For goodness' sake, don't do anything of the kind!" Arthur
begged. "Let's get down while the beast is quiet. Come along. We shall
never be able to explain why we're in this cab. It's like a dream."

Sylvia gave way so far as not to mount the box, but she declined to
alight, and insisted they ought to stay where they were and rest as long
as they could; there were still a number of dark hours before them.

"But my dear girl, this beast of a horse may start off again," Arthur
protested.

"Well, what if it does?" Sylvia said. "We can't be any more lost than we
are now. I don't know in the least what part of London we've got to."

"I'm sure there's something the matter with this cab," Arthur woefully
exclaimed.

"There is," she agreed. "You've just set fire to it with that match."

"I'm so nervous," said Arthur. "I don't know what I'm doing. Phew! what
a stink of burnt hair. Do let's get out."

He stamped on the smoldering mat.

"Shut up," Sylvia commanded. "I'm going to try and have a sleep. Wake me
up if the horse tries to walk into a shop or anything."

But this was more than Arthur could stand, and he shook her in
desperation. "You sha'n't go to sleep. You don't seem to mind what
happens to us."

"Not a bit," Sylvia agreed. Then suddenly she sang at the top of her
voice, "for I'm off with the raggle-taggle gipsies--oh!"

The horse at once trotted forward, and Arthur was in despair.

"Oh, damn!" he moaned. "Now you've started that horrible brute off
again. Whatever made me come away with you?"

"You can go home whenever you like," said Sylvia, coldly.

"What's the good of telling me that when we're tearing along in a cab
without a driver?" Arthur bewailed.

"We're not tearing along," Sylvia contradicted. "And I'm driving. I
expect the horse will go back to its stable if we don't interfere with
him too much."

"Who wants to interfere with the brute? Oh, listen to that wheel. I'm
sure it's coming off."

"Here's a cab shelter," Sylvia said, encouragingly. "I'm going to try
and pull up."

Luckily the horse was ready enough to stop, and both of them got out.
Sylvia walked without hesitation into the shelter, followed by Arthur
with the bags. There were three or four cabmen inside, eating
voluptuously in an atmosphere of tobacco smoke, steam, and burnt grease.
She explained to them about the cab's running away, was much gratified
by the attention her story secured, and learned that it was three
o'clock and that she was in Somers Town.

"Where are you going, missie?" one of the cabmen asked.

"We were going to Waterloo, but we don't mind staying here," Sylvia
said. "My brother is rather tired and my cat would like some milk."

"What did the driver look like, missie?" one of the men asked.

Sylvia described him vaguely as rather fat, a description which would
have equally suited any of the present company, with the exception of
the attendant tout, who was exceptionally lean.

"I wonder if it 'ud be Bill?" said one of the cabmen.

"I shouldn't be surprised."

"Wasn't Bill grumbling about his tire this morning?"

"I don't know if it was his tire; he was grumbling about something."

"I reckon it's Bill. Did you notice if the gentleman as drove you had a
swelling behind his ear?" asked the man who had first propounded the
theory of the missing driver's being Bill.

"I didn't notice," said Sylvia.

"About the size of a largish potato?" the theorist pressed,
encouragingly.

"I'm afraid I didn't notice," said Sylvia.

"It must be Bill," the theorist decided. "Any one wouldn't notice that
swelling in the dark, 'specially if Bill had his collar turned up."

"He did have his collar turned up," Arthur put in.

"There you are," said the theorist. "What did I tell you? Of course it's
Bill. No one wouldn't see his swelling with his coat turned up. Poor old
Bill, he won't half swear when he has to walk home to-night. Here, Joe,"
he went on, addressing the attending tout. "Give Bill's horse a bit of a
feed."

Sylvia and Arthur were given large slices of bread and butter and large
cups of coffee; Maria had a saucer of milk. Life was looking much more
cheerful. Presently a burly cabman appeared in the entrance of the
shelter and was greeted with shouts of merriment.

"What ho, Bill, old cock! Lost your ruddy cab, old sporty? Lor! we
haven't half laughed to think of you having to use your bacon and eggs
to get here. I reckon you didn't half swear."

"Who are you getting at, you blinking set of mugs? Who's lost his ruddy
cab?" demanded Bill.

"That's not the driver," Sylvia said.

"I thought it couldn't be Bill," said the theorist quickly. "As soon as
I heard she never noticed that lump behind his ear, I thought it wasn't
Bill."

"Here, less of it, you and your lumps behind the ear," said Bill,
aggressively. "You'll have a blurry lump behin' your own blurry ear,
Fred Organ, before you knows where you are."

Sylvia could not refrain from observing the famous lump with a good deal
of curiosity, and she wondered how any one could ever have supposed it
might be unnoticed. She would have described it as more like a beet root
than a potato, she thought.

A long discussion about the future of the driverless cab ensued; finally
it was decided that Joe the tout should lead it to the police station if
it were not claimed by daylight. The company then turned to the
discussion of the future of the abandoned fares. Sylvia had by this
time evolved an elaborate tale of running away from a stepfather whose
conduct to Arthur, herself, and Maria had been extremely brutal.

"Knocked the cat about, did he?" said the theorist, whose name was Fred
Organ. "I never could abide people as ill-treated dumb animals."

Sylvia went on to explain that they had intended to throw themselves on
the mercy of an aunt who lived at Dover, and with that intention had
been bound for Waterloo when they lost their driver. When she was told
that they were going to the wrong station for Dover, she began to
express fears of the reception her aunt might accord them. Did any one
present know where they could find lodgings, for which, of course, they
would pay, because their mother had provided them with the necessary
money.

"That's a mother all over," said Fred Organ, with enthusiastic
sentiment. "Ain't it, boys? Ah, I wish I hadn't lost my poor old
mother."

Various suggestions about rooms were made, but finally Fred Organ was so
much moved by the emotional details with which Sylvia continually
supplemented her tale that he offered to give them lodgings in his own
house near Finsbury Park. Sylvia would have preferred a suburb that was
barred to Monkley, but she accepted the offer because, with Arthur
turning out so inept at adventure, it seemed foolish to take any more
risks that night.

Fred Organ had succeeded to the paternal house and hansom about two
years before. He was now twenty-six, but his corpulence made him appear
older; for the chubby smoothness of youth had vanished with continual
exposure to the weather, leaving behind many folds and furrows in his
large face. Mr. Organ, senior, had bought No. 53 Colonial Terrace by
instalments, the punctual payment of which had worried him so much as
probably to shorten his life, the last one having been paid just before
his death. He had only a week or two for the enjoyment of possession,
which was as well; for the house that had cost its owner so much effort
to obtain was nearly as ripe for dissolution as himself, and the
maintenance of it in repair seemed likely to cause Fred Organ as much
financial stress in the future as the original purchase had caused his
father in the past.

So much of his history did Fred Organ give them while he was stabling
his horse, before he could introduce them to his inheritance. It was
five o'clock of a chill February morning, and the relief of finding
herself safely under a roof after such a tiring and insecure night
compensated Sylvia for the impression of unutterable dreariness that
Colonial Terrace first made upon her mind, a dreariness quite out of
accord with the romantic beginning to the life of independence of which
she had dreamed. They could not go to bed when they reached the house,
because Fred Organ, master though he was, doubted if it would be wise to
wake up his sister to accommodate the guests.

"Not that she'd have any call to make a fuss," he observed, "because if
I says a thing in No. 53, no one hasn't got the right to object. Still,
I'd rather you got a nice first impression of my sister Edith. Well,
make yourselves at home. I'll rout round and get the kitchen fire
going."

Fred routed round with such effect that he woke his sister, who began to
scream from the landing above:

"Hube! Get up, you great coward! There's somebody breaking in at the
back. Get up, Hube, and fetch a policeman before we're both murdered."

"It's only me, Ede," Fred called out. "Keep your hair on."

When Sylvia saw Edith Organ's curl-papers she thought the last
injunction was rather funny. Explanations were soon given and Edith was
so happy to find her alarm unnecessary that she was as pleasant as
possible and even invited Sylvia to come and share her bed and sleep
late into the morning; whereupon Fred Organ invited Arthur to share his
bed, which Arthur firmly declined to do, notwithstanding Sylvia's frown.

"Well, you can't go to bed with the girls," said Fred.

"Oh, Fred, you are a.... Oh, he is a.... Oh, isn't he? Oh, I never.
Fancy! What a thing to say! There! Well! Who ever did? I'm sure. What a
remark to pass!" Edith exclaimed, quite incoherent from embarrassment,
pleasure, and sleep.

"Where's Hube?" Fred asked.

"Oh, Hube!" snapped Edith. "He's well underneath the bedclothes. Trust
Hube for that. Nothing'd get him out of bed except an earthquake."

"Wouldn't it, then?" said a sleek voice, and Hube himself, an extremely
fat young man in a trailing nightgown, appeared in the doorway.

"You wouldn't think he was only nineteen, would you?" said Fred,
proudly.

"Nice noise to kick up in the middle of the night," Hubert grumbled. "I
dreamt the house was falling down on top of me."

"And it will, too," Fred prophesied, "if I can't soon scrape together
some money for repairs. There's a crack as wide as the strand down the
back."

Sylvia wondered how so rickety a house was able to withstand the wear
and tear of such a fat family when they all, with the exception of
Arthur, who lay down on the kitchen table, went creaking up-stairs to
bed.

The examination of Monkley's cash-box produced £35; Sylvia felt
ineffably rich, so rich that she offered to lend Fred Organ the money he
wanted to repair his property. He accepted the offer in the spirit in
which it was made, as he said, and Sylvia, whom contact with Monkley had
left curiously uncynical, felt that she had endeared herself to Fred
Organ for a long time to come. She was given a room of her own at No.
53, for which she was glad, because sleeping with Edith had been rather
like eating scented cornflour pudding, a combination of the flabby with
the stuffy that had never appeared to her taste. Arthur was given the
choice of sleeping with Hubert or in the bath, and he chose the latter
without a moment's hesitation.

Relations between Arthur and Hubert had been strained ever since. Hubert
offered Arthur a bite from an apple he was munching, which was refused
with a too obvious disgust.

"Go on, what do you take me for? Eve?" asked Hubert, indignantly. "It
won't poison you."

The strain was not relaxed by Hubert's obvious fondness for Sylvia.

"I thought when I came away with you," Arthur said, "that we were going
to live by ourselves and earn our own living; instead of which you let
that fat brute hang around you all day."

"I can't be always rude to him," Sylvia explained. "He's very
good-natured."

"Do you call it good-natured to turn the tap on me when I'm lying in
bed?" Arthur demanded.

"I expect he only did it for fun."

"Fun!" said Arthur, darkly. "I shall hit him one of these days."

Arthur did hit him; but Hubert, with all his fat, hit harder than he,
and Arthur never tried again. Sylvia found herself growing very tired of
him; the universal censure upon his namby-pambyness was beginning to
react upon her. The poetical youth of Hampstead Heath seemed no longer
so poetical in Colonial Terrace. Yet she did not want to quarrel with
him finally, for in a curious way he represented to her a link with what
she still paradoxically spoke of as home. Sylvia had really had a great
affection for Monkley, which made her hate him more for what he had
tried to do. Yet, though she hated him and though the notion of being
with him again made her shudder, she could not forget that he had known
her father, who was bound up with the memory of her mother and of all
the past that, being so irreparably over, was now strangely cherished.
Sylvia felt that, were Arthur to go, she would indeed find herself
alone, in that state which first she had dreaded, then desired, and now
once again dreaded, notwithstanding her bold conceptions of independence
and belief in her own ability to determine the manner of life she
wished. There were times when she felt what almost amounted to a
passionate hatred of Colonial Terrace, which had brought her freedom,
indeed, but the freedom of a world too gray to make freedom worth
possessing. She was fond of Fred Organ, and she fancied that he would
have liked formally to adopt her; yet the idea of being adopted by him
somehow repelled her. She was fond of Edith Organ too, but no fonder
than she had been of Clara; Edith seemed to have less to tell her about
life than Clara, perhaps because she was older now and had read so many
books. As for Hubert, who claimed to be in love with her, he existed
about the house like a large over-fed dog; that was all, that and his
capacity for teasing Arthur, which amused her.

Everything about this escapade was so different from what she had
planned. Always in her dreams there had been a room with a green view
over trees or a silver view over water, and herself encouraging some one
(she supposed it must have been Arthur, though she could hardly believe
this when she looked at him now) to perform the kind of fantastic deeds
that people performed in books. Surely some books were true. Looking
back on her old fancies, Sylvia came to the conclusion that she had
always pictured herself married to Arthur; yet how ridiculous such an
idea now seemed. He had always talked with regret of the adventures that
were no longer possible in dull modern days; but when the very small
adventure of being in a runaway cab had happened, how miserably Arthur
had failed to rise to the occasion, and now here he was loafing in
Colonial Terrace. Hubert had secured a position in a bookshop near
Finsbury Park railway station, which he had forfeited very soon
afterward, but only because he had made a habit of borrowing for
Sylvia's perusal the books which customers had bought, and of sending
them on to their owners two or three days later. To be sure, they had
nearly all been very dull books of a religious bent, but in such a
district as Finsbury Park what else could be expected? At least Hubert
had sacrificed something for her. Arthur had done nothing; even when
Fred Organ, to please Sylvia, had offered to teach him to drive a
hansom, he had refused to learn.

One day Edith Organ announced that there was to be a supper-party at a
public house in Harringay where one of the barmaids was a friend of
hers. It seemed that Mrs. Hartle, the proprietress, had recently had
cause to rejoice over a victory, but whether it was domestic, political,
or professional Edith was unable to remember; at any rate, a jolly
evening could be counted upon.

"You must wear that new white dress, Syl; it suits you a treat," Edith
advised. "I was told only to bring one gentleman, and I think it's
Artie's turn."

"Why?" Hubert demanded, fiercely.

"Oh, Hube, you know you don't like parties. You always want to go home
early, and I'm out to enjoy myself and I don't care who knows it."

Sylvia suspected that Edith's real reason for wishing Arthur to be the
guest was his greater presentableness; she had often heard her praise
Arthur's appearance while deprecating his namby-pamby manner; however,
for a party like this, of which Edith was proclaiming the extreme
selectness, that might be considered an advantage. Mrs. Hartle was
reputed to be a woman to whom the least vulgarity was disgusting.

"She's highly particular, they tell me, not to say stand-offish. You
know, doesn't like to make herself cheap. Well, I don't blame her. She's
thought a lot of round here. She had some trouble with her husband--her
second husband that is--and everybody speaks very highly of the
dignified way in which she made him sling his hook out of it."

"I don't think so much of her," Hubert grunted. "I went into the
saloon-bar once, and she said, 'Here, my man, the public bar is the
hother side.' 'Oh, his it?' I said. 'Well, I can't round the corner for
the crowd,' I said, 'listening to your old man singing "At Trinity
Church I met my doom" on the pavement outside.' She didn't half color
up, I can tell you. So he was singing, too, fit to give any one the
earache to listen to him. I don't want to go to her supper-party."

"Well, if you're not going, you needn't be so nasty about it, Hube. I'd
take you if I could."

"I wouldn't come," Hubert declared. "Not if Mrs. Hartle was to go down
on her knees and ask me to come. So shut your mouth."

The chief event of the party for Sylvia was her meeting with Danny
Lewis, who paid her a good deal of attention at supper and danced with
her all the time afterward. Sylvia was grateful to him for his patience
with her bad dancing at first, and she learned so quickly under his
direction that when it was time to go she really danced rather well.
Sylvia's new friend saw them back to Colonial Terrace and invited
himself to tea the following afternoon. Edith, who could never bear the
suggestion of impoliteness, assured him that he would be most welcome,
though she confided in Sylvia, as they went up to bed, that she could
not feel quite sure about him. Sylvia insisted he was everything he
should be, and praised his manners so highly that Edith humbly promised
to believe in his perfection. Arthur went up-stairs and slammed his door
without saying good night.

The next morning, a morning of east wind, Arthur attacked Sylvia on the
subject of her behavior the night before.

"Look here," he opened, very grandly, "if you prefer to spend the
evenings waltzing with dirty little Jews, I won't stand it."

Sylvia regarded him disdainfully.

"Do you hear?" repeated Arthur. "I won't stand it. It's bad enough with
that great hulking lout here, but when it comes to a greasy Jew I've had
enough."

"So have I," Sylvia said. "You'd better go back to Hampstead."

"I'm going to-day," Arthur declared, and waited pathetically for Sylvia
to protest. She was silent. Then he tried to be affectionate, and vowed
he had not meant a word he said, but she brushed away his tentative
caress and meek apology.

"I don't want to talk to you any more," she said. "There are lots of
things I could tell you; but you'll always be unhappy anyway, because
you're soft and silly, so I won't. You'll be home for dinner," she
added.

When Arthur was ready to start he looked so forlorn that Sylvia was
sorry for him.

"Here, take Maria," she said, impulsively. "He'll remind you of me."

"I don't want anything to remind me of you," said Arthur in a hollow
voice, "but I'll take Maria."

That afternoon Danny Lewis, wearing a bright orange tie and a flashing
ring, came to visit Sylvia. She had already told him a good deal about
herself the night before, and when now she told him how she had
dismissed Arthur he suggested that Monkley would probably find out where
she was and come to take her back. Sylvia turned pale; the possibility
of Arthur's betrayal of her address had never struck her. She cried in
a panic that she must leave Finsbury Park at once. Danny offered to find
her a room.

"I've got no money. I spent all I had left on new frocks," she bewailed.

"That's all right, kid; bring the frocks along with you. I've got plenty
of money."

Sylvia packed in a frenzy of haste, expecting every moment to hear the
bell ring and see Monkley waiting grimly outside; his cold eyes, when
her imagination recalled them, made her shiver with fear. When they got
down-stairs Hubert, who was in the passage, asked where she was going,
and she told him that she was going away.

"Not with that--" said Hubert, barring the way to the front door.

Danny did not hesitate; his arm shot out, and Hubert went over, bringing
down the hat-stand with a crash.

"Quick, quick!" cried Sylvia, in exultation at being with some one who
could act. "Edie's gone round to the baker's to fetch some crumpets for
tea. Let's go before she gets back."

They hurried out. The wind had fallen. Colonial Terrace looked very
gray, very quiet, very long in the bitter March air. Danny Lewis with
his orange tie promised a richer, warmer life beyond these ridiculous
little houses that imitated one another.



CHAPTER V


Danny Lewis took Sylvia to an eating-house in Euston Road kept by a
married couple called Gonner. Here everything--the meat, the pies, the
butter, the streaky slabs of marble, the fly-blown face of the weary
clock, the sawdust sprinkled on the floor, the cane-seated
chairs--combined to create an effect of greasy pallor that extended even
to Mr. and Mrs. Gonner themselves, who seemed to have acquired the
nature of their environment. Sylvia shrank from their whitish arms bare
to the elbow and glistering with fats, and from their faces, which
seemed to her like bladders of lard, especially Mrs. Gonner's, who wore
on the top of her head a knob of dank etiolated hair. In such an
atmosphere Danny Lewis with his brilliant tie and green beaver hat
acquired a richness of personality that quite overpowered Sylvia's
judgment and preserved the condition of abnormal excitement set up by
the rapidity and completeness with which this time she had abandoned
herself to independence.

There was a brief conversation between Danny and the Gonners, after
which Mr. Gonner returned to his task of cutting some very fat bacon
into rashers and Mrs. Gonner held up the flap of the counter for Sylvia
and Danny to pass up-stairs through the back of the shop. For one moment
Sylvia hesitated when the flap dropped back into its place, for it
seemed to make dangerously irrevocable her admittance to the unknown
house above; Danny saw her hesitation and with a word or two of
encouragement checked her impulse to go no farther. Mrs. Gonner led the
way up-stairs and showed them into a bedroom prematurely darkened by
coarse lace curtains that shut out the fading daylight. Sylvia had a
vague impression of too much furniture, which was confirmed when Mrs.
Gonner lit a gas-jet over the mantelpiece; she looked round
distastefully at the double-bed pushed against the wall, at the crimson
vases painted with butterflies, at the faded oleograph of two children
on the edge of a precipice with a guardian angel behind them, whose face
had at some time been eaten away by mice. There was a short silence,
only broken by Mrs. Gonner's whispering breath.

"We shall be all right here, kid, eh?" exclaimed Danny, in a tone that
was at once suave and boisterous.

"What's your room like?" Sylvia asked.

He looked at her a moment, seemed about to speak, thought better of it,
and turned to Mrs. Gonner, who told Danny that he could have the front
room as well if he wanted it; they moved along the passage to inspect
this room, which was much larger and better lighted than the other and
was pleasantly filled with the noise of traffic. Sylvia immediately
declared that she preferred to be here.

"So I'm to have the rabbit-hutch," said Danny, laughing easily. "Trust a
woman to have her own way! That's right, isn't it, Mrs. Gonner?"

Mrs. Gonner stared at Sylvia a moment, and murmured that she had long
ago forgotten what she wanted, but that, anyway, for her one thing was
the same as another, which Sylvia was very ready to believe.

When Mrs. Gonner had left the room, Danny told Sylvia that he must go
and get a few things together from his flat in Shaftsbury Avenue, and
asked if she would wait till he came back.

"Of course I'll wait," she told him. "Do you think I want to run away
twice in one day?"

Danny still hesitated, and she wondered why he should expect her, who
was so much used to being left alone, to mind waiting for him an hour or
two.

"We might go to the Mo to-night," he suggested.

She looked blank.

"The Middlesex," he explained. "It's a music-hall. Be a good girl while
I'm out. I'll bring you back some chocolates."

He seemed anxious to retain her with the hint of pleasures that were in
his power to confer; it made Sylvia impatient that he should rely on
them rather than upon her capacity for knowing her own mind.

"I may be young," she said, "but I do know what I want. I'm not like
that woman down-stairs."

"And you know how to make other people want, eh?" Danny muttered. He
took a step forward, and Sylvia hoped he was not going to try to kiss
her--she felt disinclined at this moment for a long explanation--but he
went off, whistling.

For a long time Sylvia stood by the window, looking down at the traffic
and the lights coming out one by one in the windows opposite. She hoped
that Danny would not end like Monkley, and she determined to be prompt
in checking the first signs of his doing so. Standing here in this room,
that was now dark except for the faint transitory shadows upon the walls
and ceiling of lighted vehicles below, Sylvia's thoughts went back to
the time she had spent with Blanche. It seemed to her that then she had
been wiser than she was now, for all the books she had read since; or
was it that she was growing up and becoming an actress in scenes that
formerly she had regarded with the secure aloofness of a child?

"I'm not innocent," she said to herself. "I know everything that can be
known. But yet when Monkley tried to do that I was horrified. I felt
sick and frightened and angry, oh, dreadfully angry! Yet when Blanche
behaved as she did I did not mind at all; I used to encourage her. Oh,
why am I not a boy? If I were a boy, I would show people that making
love isn't really a bit necessary. Yet sometimes I liked Arthur to make
love to me. I can't make myself out. I think I must be what people call
an exceptional person. I hope Danny won't make love to me. But I feel he
will; and if he does I shall kill myself; I can't go on living like this
with everybody making love to me. I'm not like Blanche or Mabel; I don't
like it. How I used to hate Mabel! Shall I ever get like her? Oh, I
wish, I wish, I wish I were a boy. I don't believe Danny will be any
better than Jimmy was. Yet he doesn't frighten me so much. He doesn't
seem so much there as Jimmy was. But if he does make love to me, it will
be more dangerous. How shall I ever escape from here? I'm sure Mrs.
Gonner will never lift the flap."

Sylvia began to be obsessed by that flap, and the notion of it wrought
upon her fancy to such an extent that she was impelled to go down-stairs
and see if the way out was open or shut, excusing her abrupt appearance
by asking for a box of matches. There were two or three people eating at
the white tables, who eyed her curiously; she wondered what they would
have done if she had suddenly begged their help. She was vexed with
herself for giving way to her nerves like this, and she went up-stairs
again with a grand resolve to be very brave. She even challenged her
terrors by going into that bedroom behind and contending with its
oppressiveness. So successful was she in calming her overwrought nerves
that, when Danny suddenly came back and found her in his bedroom, she
was no longer afraid; she looked at him there in the doorway, wearing
now a large tie of pale-blue silk, as she would have looked at any
brigand in an opera. When he presented her with a large box of
chocolates she laughed. He wondered why; she said it was she who ought
to give him chocolates, which left him blank. She tried to explain her
impression of him as a brigand, and he asked her if she meant that he
looked like an actor.

"Yes, that's what I mean," she said, impatiently, though she meant
nothing of the kind.

Danny seemed gratified as by a compliment and said that he was often
mistaken for an actor; he supposed it was his hair.

They dined at a restaurant in Soho, where Sylvia was conscious of
arousing a good deal of attention; afterward they went to the Middlesex
music-hall, but she felt very tired, and did not enjoy it so much as she
expected. Moreover, Danny irritated her by sucking his teeth with an air
of importance all through the evening.

For a fortnight Danny treated Sylvia with what was almost a luxurious
consideration. She was never really taken in by it, but she submitted so
willingly to being spoiled that, as she told herself, she could hardly
blame Danny for thinking he was fast making himself indispensable to her
happiness. He was very anxious for her to lead a lazy existence,
encouraged her to lie in bed the whole morning, fed her with chocolates,
and tried to cultivate in her a habit of supposing that it was
impossible to go anywhere without driving in a hansom; he also used to
buy her brightly colored blouses and scarves, which she used to wear out
of politeness, for they gave her very little pleasure. He flattered her
consistently, praising her cleverness and comparing her sense of humor
with that of other women always to their disadvantage. He told stories
very well, particularly those against his own race; and though Sylvia
was a little scornful of this truckling self-mockery, she could not help
laughing at the stories. Sylvia realized by the contempt with which
Danny referred to women that his victories had usually been gained very
easily, and she was much on her guard. Encouraged, however, by the way
in which Sylvia seemed to enjoy the superficial pleasures he provided
for her, Danny soon attempted to bestow his favors as he bestowed his
chocolates. Sylvia, who never feared Danny personally as she had feared
Monkley, repulsed him, yet not so firmly as she would have done had not
her first impression of the house still affected her imagination. Danny,
who divined her malaise, but mistook it for the terror he was used to
inspiring, began to play the bully. It was twilight, one of those
sapphire twilights of early spring; the gas had not been lighted and the
fire had died away to a glow. Sylvia had thrown off his caressing arm
three times, when Danny suddenly jumped up, pulled out a clasp-knife,
and, standing over Sylvia, threatened her with death if she would not
immediately consent to be his. Sylvia's heart beat a little faster at
such a threat delivered with all the additional force vile language
could give to it, but she saw two things quite clearly: first, that, if
Danny were really to kill her, death would be far preferable to
surrender; secondly, that the surest way of avoiding either would be by
assuming he would turn out a coward in the face of the unexpected. She
rose from the arm-chair; Danny rushed to the door, flourishing his knife
and forbidding her to think of escape.

"Who wants to escape?" she asked, in so cool a tone that Danny, who had
naturally anticipated a more feminine reception of his violence, failed
to sustain his part by letting her see that he was puzzled. She strolled
across the room to the wash-stand; then she strolled up to the brigand.

"Put that knife away," she said. "I want to tell you something, darling
Danny."

In the gloom she could see that he threw a suspicious glance at her for
the endearing epithet, but he put away the knife.

"What do you want to say?" he growled.

"Only this." She brought her arm swiftly round and emptied the
water-bottle over him. "Though I ought to smash it on your greasy head.
I read in a book once that the Jews were a subject race. You'd better
light the gas."

He spluttered that he was all wet, and she turned away from him,
horribly scared that in a moment his fingers would be tightening round
her neck; but he had taken off his coat and was shaking it.

Sylvia poked the fire and sat down again in the arm-chair. "Listen," she
began.

He came across the room in his shirt-sleeves, his tie hanging in a
cascade of amber silk over his waistcoat.

"No, don't pull down the blinds," she added. "I want to be quite sure
you really have cooled down and aren't going to play with that knife
again. Listen. It's no good your trying to make love to me. I don't want
to be made love to by anybody, least of all by you."

Danny looked more cheerful when she assured him of her indifference to
other men.

"It's no use your killing me, because you'll only be hanged. It's no use
your stabbing me, because you'll go to prison. If you hit me, I shall
hit you back. You thought I was afraid of you. I wasn't. I'm more afraid
of a bug than I am of you. I saw a bug to-day; so I'm going to leave
this house. The weather's getting warmer. You and the bugs have come out
together. Come along, Danny, dry your coat and tell me a story that will
make me laugh. Tell me the story of the Jew who died of grief because he
bought his wife a new hat and found his best friend had bought her one
that day and he might have saved his money. Do make me laugh, Danny."

They went to the Middlesex music-hall that evening, and Danny did not
suck his teeth once. The next morning he told Sylvia that he had been to
visit a friend who wished very much to meet her, and that he proposed to
introduce him that afternoon, if she agreed. He was a fellow in a good
way of business, the son of a bootmaker in Drury Lane, quite a superior
sort of fellow and one by whom she could not fail to be impressed; his
name was Jay Cohen. The friend arrived toward four o'clock, and Danny on
some excuse left him with Sylvia. He had big teeth and round, prominent
eyes; his boots were very glossy and sharply pointed at the toes, with
uppers of what looked like leopard-skin. Observing Sylvia's glances
directed to his boots, he asked with a smile if she admired the latest
thing. She confessed they were rather too late for her taste, and Mr.
Cohen excused them as a pair sent back to his father by a well-known
music-hall comedian, who complained of their pinching him. Sylvia said
it was lucky they only pinched him; she should not have been astonished
if they had bitten him.

"You're a Miss Smartie, aren't you?" said Jay Cohen.

The conversation languished for a while, but presently he asked Sylvia
why she was so unkind to his friend Danny.

"What do you mean, 'unkind'?" she repeated. "Unkind what about?"

Mr. Cohen smiled in a deprecating way. "He's a good boy, is Danny. Real
good. He is, really. All the girls are mad about Danny. You know, smart
girls, girls that get around. He's very free, too. Money's nothing to
Danny when he's out to spend. His father's got a tobacconist's shop in
the Caledonian Road. A good business--a very good business. Danny told
me what the turn-over was once, and I was surprised. I remember I
thought what a rare good business it was. Well, Danny's feeling a bit
upset to-day, and he came round to see me early this morning. He must
have been very upset, because it was very early, and he said to me that
he was mad over a girl and would I speak for him? He reckoned he'd made
a big mistake and he wanted to put it right, but he was afraid of being
laughed at, because the young lady in question was a bit high-handed. He
wants to marry you. There it is right out. He'd like to marry you at
once, but he's afraid of his father, and he thought...."

Mr. Cohen broke off suddenly in his proposal and listened: "What's
that?"

"It sounds like some one shouting down-stairs," Sylvia said. "But you
often hear rows going on down there. There was a row yesterday because a
woman bit on a stone in a pie and broke her tooth."

"That's Jubie's voice," said Mr. Cohen, blinking his eyes and running
his hands nervously through his sleek hair.

"Who's Jubie?"

Before he could explain there was a sound of impassioned footsteps on
the stairs. In a moment the door was flung open, and a handsome Jewess
with flashing eyes and ear-rings slammed it behind her.

"Where's Danny?" she demanded.

"Is that you, Jubie?" said Mr. Cohen. "Danny's gone over to see his dad.
He won't be here to-day."

"You liar, he's here this moment. I followed him into the shop and he
ran up-stairs. So you're the kid he's been trailing around with him,"
she said, eying Sylvia. "The dirty rotter!"

Sylvia resented the notion of being trailed by such a one as Danny
Lewis, but, feeling undecided how to appease this tropical creature, she
took the insult without reply.

"He thinks to double cross Jubie Myers! Wait till my brother Sam knows
where he is."

Mr. Cohen had retired to the window and was studying the traffic of
Euston Road; one of his large ears was twitching nervously toward the
threats of the outraged Miss Myers, who after much breathless abuse of
Sylvia at last retired to fetch her brother Sam. When she was gone, Mr.
Cohen said he thought he would go too, because he did not feel inclined
to meet Sam Myers, who was a pugilist with many victories to his credit
at Wonderland; just as he reached the door, Danny entered and with a
snarl accused him of trying to round on him.

"You know you fetched Jubie here on purpose, so as you could do me in
with the kid," said Danny. "I know you, Jay Cohen."

They wrangled for some time over this, until suddenly Danny landed his
friend a blow between the eyes. Sylvia, recognizing the Danny who had so
neatly knocked out Hubert Organ in Colonial Terrace, became pleasantly
enthusiastic on his behalf, and cried "Bravo!"

The encouragement put a fine spirit into Danny's blows; he hammered the
unfortunate Cohen round and round the room, upsetting tables and chairs
and wash-stand until with a stinging blow he knocked him backward into
the slop-pail, in which he sat so heavily that when he tried to rise the
slop-pail stuck and gave him the appearance of a large baboon crawling
with elevated rump on all-fours. Danny kicked off the slop-pail, and
invited Cohen to stand up to him; but when he did get on his feet he ran
to the door and reached the stairs just as Mrs. Gonner was wearily
ascending to find out what was happening. He tried to stop himself by
clutching the knob of the baluster, which broke; the result was that he
dragged Mrs. Gonner with him in a glissade which ended behind the
counter. The confusion in the shop became general: Mr. Gonner cut his
thumb, and the sight of the blood caused a woman who was eating a
sausage to choke; another customer took advantage of the row to snatch a
side of bacon and try to escape, but another customer with a finer moral
sense prevented him; a dog, who was sniffing in the entrance, saw the
bacon on the floor and tried to seize it, but, getting his tail trodden
upon by somebody, it took fright and bit a small boy who was waiting to
change a shilling into coppers. Meanwhile Sylvia, who expected every
moment that Jubie and her pugilistic brother would return and increase
the confusion with possibly unpleasant consequences for herself, took
advantage of Danny's being occupied in an argument with Cohen and the
two Gonners to put on her hat and coat and escape from the shop. She
jumped on the first omnibus and congratulated herself when she looked
round and saw a policeman entering the eating-house.

Presently the conductor came up for her fare; she found she had
fivepence in the world. She asked him where the omnibus went, and was
told to the Cedars Hotel, West Kensington.

"Past Lillie Road?"

He nodded, and she paid away her last penny. After all, even if Monkley
and her father did owe Mrs. Meares a good deal of money, Sylvia did not
believe she would have her arrested. She would surely be too much
interested to find that she was a girl and not a boy. Sylvia laughed
when she thought of Jay Cohen in the slop-pail, for she remembered the
baboon in Lillie Road, and she wondered if Clara was still there. What a
lot she would have to tell Mrs. Meares, and if the baron had not left
she would ask him why he had attacked her in that extraordinary way when
she went to the party in Redcliffe Gardens. That was more than two years
ago now. Sylvia wished she had gone to Lillie Road with Arthur Madden
when she had some money and could have paid Mrs. Meares what was owing
to her. Now she had not a penny in the world; she had not even any
clothes. The omnibus jogged on, and Sylvia's thoughts jogged with it.

"I wonder if I shall always have adventures," she said to herself, "but
I wish I could sometimes have adventures that have nothing to do with
love. It's such a nuisance to be always running away for the same
reason. It's such a stupid reason. But it's rather jolly to run away.
It's more fun than being like that girl in front." She contemplated a
girl of about her own age, to whom an elderly woman was pointing out the
St. James's Hall with a kind of suppressed excitement, a fever of
unsatisfied pleasure.

"You've never been to the Moore and Burgess minstrels, have you, dear?"
she was saying. "We _must_ get your father to take us some afternoon.
Look at the people coming out."

The girl looked dutifully, but Sylvia thought it was more amusing to
look at the people struggling to mount omnibuses already full. She
wondered what that girl would have done with somebody like Danny Lewis,
and she felt sorry for the prim and dutiful young creature who could
never see Jay Cohen sitting in a slop-pail. Sylvia burst into a loud
laugh, and a stout woman who was occupying three-quarters of her seat
edged away from her a little.

"We shall be late for tea," said the elderly woman in an ecstasy of
dissipation, when she saw the clock at Hyde Park Corner. "We sha'n't be
home till after six. We ought to have had tea at King's Cross."

The elderly woman was still talking about tea when they stopped at
Sloane Street, and Sylvia's counterpart was still returning polite
answers to her speculation; when they got down at South Kensington
Station the last thing Sylvia heard was a suggestion that perhaps it
might be possible to arrange for dinner to be a quarter of an hour
earlier.

It was dark when Sylvia reached the house in Lillie Road and she hoped
very much that Clara would open the door; but another servant came, and
when she asked for Mrs. Meares a sudden alarm caught her that Mrs.
Meares might no longer be here and that she would be left alone in the
night without a penny in the world. But Mrs. Meares was in.

"Have you come about the place?" whispered the new servant. "Because if
you have you'll take my advice and have nothing to do with it."

Sylvia asked why.

"Why, it's nothing but a common lodging-house in my opinion. The woman
who keeps it--lady _she_ calls herself--tries to kid you as they're all
paying guests. And the cats! You may like cats. I don't. Besides I've
been used to company where I've been in service, and the only company
you get here is beetles. If any one goes down into the kitchen at night
it's like walking on nutshells, they're so thick."

"I haven't come about the place," Sylvia explained. "I want to see Mrs.
Meares herself."

"Oh, a friend of hers. I'm sorry, I'm shaw," said the servant, "but I
haven't said nothing but what is gospel truth, and I told her the same.
You'd better come up to the droring-room--well, droring-room! You'll
have to excuse the laundry, which is all over the chairs because we had
the sweep in this morning. A nice hullabaloo there was yesterday!
Fire-engines and all. Mrs. Meares was very upset. She's up in her
bedroom, I expect."

The servant lit the gas in the drawing-room and, leaving Sylvia among
the outspread linen, went up-stairs to fetch Mrs. Meares, who shortly
afterward descended in a condition of dignified bewilderment and entered
the room with one arm arched like a note of interrogation in cautious
welcome.

"Miss Scarlett? The name is familiar, but--?"

Sylvia poured out her story, and at the end of it Mrs. Meares dreamily
smoothed her brow.

"I don't quite understand. Were you a girl dressed as a boy then or are
you a boy dressed as a girl now?"

Sylvia explained, and while she was giving the explanation she became
aware of a profound change in Mrs. Meares's attitude toward her, an
alteration of standpoint much more radical than could have been caused
by any resentment at the behavior of Monkley and her father. Suddenly
Sylvia regarded Mrs. Meares with the eyes of Clara, or of that new
servant who had whispered to her in the hall. She was no longer the
bland and futile Irishwoman of regal blood; the good-natured and
feckless creature with open placket and draperies trailing in the dust
of her ill-swept house; the soft-voiced, soft-hearted Hibernian with a
gentle smile for man's failings and foibles, and a tear ever welling
from that moist gray eye in memory of her husband's defection and the
death of her infant son. Sylvia felt that now she was being sized up by
some one who would never be indulgent again, who would exact from her
the uttermost her girlhood could give, who would never forget the
advantage she had gained in learning how desperate was the state of
Sylvia Scarlett, and who would profit by it accordingly.

"It seems so peculiar to resort to me," Mrs. Meares was saying, "after
the way your father treated me, but I'm not the woman to bear a grudge.
Thank God, I can meet the blows of fortune with nobility and forgive an
injury with any one in the world. It's lucky indeed that I can show my
true character and offer you assistance. The servant is leaving
to-morrow, and though I will not take advantage of your position to ask
you to do anything in the nature of menial labor, though to be sure it's
myself knows too well the word--to put it shortly, I can offer you board
and lodging in return for any little help you may give me until I will
get a new servant. And it's not easy to get servants these days. Such
grand ideas have they."

Sylvia felt that she ought to accept this offer; she was destitute and
she wished to avoid charity, having grasped that, though it was a great
thing to make oneself indispensable, it was equally important not to put
oneself under an obligation; finally it would be a satisfaction to pay
back what her father owed. Not that she fancied his ghost would be
disturbed by the recollection of any earthly debts; it would be purely a
personal satisfaction, and she told Mrs. Meares that she was willing to
help under the proposed terms.

Somewhere about nine o'clock Sylvia sat down with Mrs. Meares in the
breakfast-room to supper, which was served by Amelia as if she had been
unwillingly dragged into a game of cards and was showing her displeasure
in the way she dealt the hand. The incandescent gas jigged up and down,
and Mrs. Meares swept her plate every time she languorously flung
morsels to the numerous cats, some of which they did not like and left
to be trodden into the threadbare carpet by Amelia. Sylvia made
inquiries about Mr. Morgan and the baron, but they had both left; the
guests at present were a young actor who hoped to walk on in the new
production at the St. James's, a Nonconformist minister who had been
persecuted by his congregation into resigning, and an elderly clerk
threatened with locomotor ataxia, who had a theory, contrary to the
advice of his doctor, that it was beneficial to walk to the city every
morning. His symptoms were described with many details, but, owing to
Mrs. Meares's diving under the table to show the cats where a morsel of
meat had escaped their notice, it was difficult to distinguish between
the symptoms of the disease, the topography of the meat, and the names
of the cats.

Next day Sylvia watched Amelia put on the plumage of departure and leave
with her yellow tin trunk; then she set to work to help Mrs. Meares make
the beds of Mr. Leslie Warburton, the actor; Mr. Croasdale, the
minister; and Mr. Witherwick, the clerk. Her companion's share was
entirely verbal and she disliked the task immensely. When the beds were
finished, she made an attempt with Mrs. Meares to put away the clean
linen, but Mrs. Meares went off in the middle to find the words of a
poem she could not remember, leaving behind her towels to mark her
passage as boys in paper-chases strew paper on Hampstead Heath. She did
not find the words of the poem, or, if she did, she had forgotten them
when Sylvia discovered her; but she had decided to alter the arrangement
of the drawing-room curtains, so that to the unassorted unburied linen
were added long strips of faded green silk which hung about the house
for some days. Mrs. Meares asked Sylvia if she would like to try her
hand at an omelette; the result was a failure, whether on account of the
butter or the eggs was not quite certain; the cat to which it was given
was sick.

The three lodgers made no impression on Sylvia. Each of them in turn
tried to kiss her when she first went into his room; each of them
afterward complained bitterly of the way the eggs were poached at
breakfast and asked Mrs. Meares why she had got rid of Amelia. Gradually
Sylvia found that she was working as hard as Clara used to work, that
slowly and gently she was being smothered by Mrs. Meares, and that the
process was regarded by Mrs. Meares as an act of holy charity, to which
she frequently alluded in a very superior way.

Early one afternoon at the end of April Sylvia went out shopping for
Mrs. Meares, which was not such a simple matter, because a good deal of
persuasiveness had to be used nowadays with the tradesmen on account of
unpaid books. As she passed the entrance to the Earl's Court Exhibition
she saw Mabel Bannerman coming out; though she had hated Mabel and had
always blamed her for her father's death, past enmity fled away in the
pleasure of seeing somebody who belonged to a life that only a month of
Mrs. Meares had wonderfully enchanted. She called after her; Mabel, only
slightly more flaccid nowadays, welcomed her without hesitation.

"Why, if it isn't Sylvia! Well, I declare! You are a stranger."

They talked for a while on the pavement, until Mabel, who disliked such
publicity except in a love-affair, and who was frankly eager for a full
account of what had happened after she left Swanage, invited Sylvia to
"have one" at the public house to which her father in the old days used
to invite Jimmy, and where once he had been surprised by Sylvia's
arrival with his friend.

Mabel was shocked to think that Henry had perhaps died on her account,
but she assured Sylvia that for any wrong she had done him she had paid
ten times over in the life she had led with the other man.

"Oh, he was a brute. Your dad was an angel beside him, dear. Oh, I was a
stupid girl! But there, it's no good crying over spilt milk. What's done
can't be undone, and I've paid. My voice is quite gone. I can't sing a
note. What do you think I'm doing now? Working at the Exhibition. It
opens next week, you know."

"Acting?" Sylvia asked.

"Acting? No! I'm in Open Sesame, the Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels.
Well, I suppose it is acting in a way, because I'm supposed to be a
Turkish woman. You know, sequins and trousers and a what d'ye call
it--round my face. You know. Oh dear, whatever is it called? A hookah!"

"But a hookah's a pipe," Sylvia objected. "You mean a yashmak."

"That's it. Well, I sell Turkish Delight, but some of the girls sell
coffee, and for an extra threepence you can see the Sultan's harem. It
ought to go well. There's a couple of real Turks and a black eunuch who
gives me the creeps. The manager's very hopeful. Which reminds me. He's
looking out for some more girls. Why don't you apply? It isn't like you,
Sylvia, to be doing what's nothing better than a servant's job. I'm so
afraid I shall get a varicose vein through standing about so much, and
an elastic stocking makes one look so old. Oh dear, don't let's talk
about age. Drink up and have another."

Sylvia explained to Mabel about her lack of money and clothes, and it
was curious to discover how pleasant and sympathetic Mabel was
now--another instance of the degrading effect of love, for Sylvia could
hardly believe that this was the hysterical creature who used to keep
her awake in Fitzroy Street.

"I'd lend you the money," said Mabel, "but really, dear, until we open I
haven't got very much. In fact," she added, looking at the empty
glasses, "when I've paid for these two I shall be quite stony. Still, I
live quite close. Finborough Road. Why don't you come and stay with me?
I'll take you round to the manager to-morrow morning. He's sure to
engage you. Of course, the salary is small. I don't suppose he'll offer
more than fifteen shillings. Still, there's tips, and anything would be
better than slaving for that woman. I live at three hundred and twenty.
I've got a nice room with a view over Brompton Cemetery. One might be in
the country. It's beautifully quiet except for the cats, and you hardly
notice the trains."

Sylvia promised that she would think it over and let her know that
evening.

"That's right, dear. The landlady's name is Gowndry."

They parted with much cordiality and good wishes, and Sylvia went back
to Lillie Road. Mrs. Meares was deeply injured when she was informed
that her lady-help proposed to desert her.

"But surely you shall wait till I've got a servant," she said. "And what
will poor Mr. Witherwick do? He's so fond of you, Sylvia. I'm sure your
poor father would be most distressed to think of you at Earl's Court.
Such temptations for a young girl. I look upon myself as your guardian,
you know. I would feel a big responsibility if anything came to you."

Sylvia, however, declined to stay.

"And I wanted to give you a little kitten. Mavourneen will be having
kittens next month, and May cats are so lucky. When you told me about
your black cat, Maria, I said to myself that I would be giving you one.
And dear Parnell is the father, and if it's not Parnell, it's my darling
Brian Boru. You beauty! Was you the father of some sweet little kitties?
Clever man!"

When Mrs. Meares turned away to congratulate Brian Boru upon his
imminent if ambiguous paternity, Sylvia went up-stairs to get her only
possession--a coat with a fur-trimmed collar and cuffs, which she had
worn alternately with underclothing for a month; this week the
underclothing was, luckily, not at the wash. Sylvia shook off Mrs.
Meares's last remonstrances and departed into the balmy April afternoon.
The weather was so fine that she pawned her overcoat and bought a hat;
then she pawned her fur cap, bought a pair of stockings (the pair in the
wash belonged to Mrs. Meares), and went to Finborough Road.

Mrs. Gowndry asked if she was the young lady who was going to share Miss
Bannerman's room; when Sylvia said she was, Mrs. Gowndry argued that
the bed would not hold two and that she had not bargained for the sofa's
being used for anything but sitting on.

"That sofa's never been slept on in its life," she protested. "And if I
start in letting people sleep anywhere, I might as well turn my house
into a public convenience and have done with it; but, there, it's no
good grumbling. Such is life. It's the back room. Second floor up. The
last lodger burnt his name on the door with a poker, so you can't make
no mistake."

Mrs. Gowndry dived abruptly into the basement and left Sylvia to find
her way up to Mabel's room alone. Her hostess was in a kimono, Oriental
even away from the Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels; she had tied pink
bows to every projection and there was a strong smell of cheap scent.
Sylvia welcomed the prettiness and sweetness after Lillie Road; her
former dislike of Mabel's domestic habits existed no longer; she told
her of the meeting with Mrs. Gowndry and was afraid that the plan of
living here might not be allowed.

"Oh, she's always like that," Mabel explained. "She's a silly old crow,
but she's very nice, really. Her husband's a lavatory attendant, and,
being shut up all day underground, he grumbles a lot when he comes home,
and of course his wife has to suffer for it. Where's your luggage?"

"I told you I hadn't got any."

"You really are a caution, Sylvia. Fancy! Never mind. I expect I'll be
able to fit you out."

"I sha'n't want much," Sylvia said, "with the warm weather coming."

"But you'll have to change when you go to the Exhibition, and you don't
want the other girls to stare."

They spent the evening in cutting down some of Mabel's underclothes, and
Sylvia wondered more than ever how she could have once found her so
objectionable. In an excess of affection she hugged Mabel and thanked
her warmly for her kindness.

"Go on," said Mabel. "There's nothing to thank me for. You'd do the same
for me."

"But I used to be so beastly to you."

"Oh, well, you were only a kid. You didn't understand about love.
Besides, I was very nervous in those days. I expect there were faults on
both sides. I spoke to the manager about you, and I'm sure it'll be all
right."

The following morning Sylvia accompanied Mabel to the Exhibition and,
after being presented to Mr. Woolfe, the manager, she was engaged to
sell cigarettes and serve coffee in the Hall of a Thousand and One
Marvels from eleven in the morning till eleven at night on a salary of
fourteen shillings a week, all extras to be shared with seven other
young ladies similarly engaged.

"You'll be Amethyst," said Mr. Woolfe. "You'd better go and try on your
dress. The idea is that there are eight beautiful odalisques dressed
like precious stones. Pretty fancy, isn't it? Now don't grumble and say
you'd rather be Diamond or Turquoys, because all the other jools are
taken."

Sylvia passed through an arched doorway hung with a heavy curtain into
the dressing-room of the eight odalisques, which lacked in Eastern
splendor, and was very draughty. Seven girls, mostly older than herself,
were wrestling with veils and brocades.

"He said we was to cover up our faces with this. It is chiffong or tool,
dear?"

"Oh, Daisy, you are silly to let him make you Rewby. Why don't you ask
him to let you be Saffer? You don't mind, do you, kiddie? You're dark.
You take Daisy's Rewby, and let her be Saffer."

"Aren't we going to wear anything over these drawers? Oh, girls, I shall
feel shy."

Sylvia did not think that any of them would feel half as shy as she felt
at the present moment in being plunged into the company of girls of
whose thoughts and habits and sensations and manners she was utterly
ignorant. She felt more at ease when she had put on her mauve dress and
had veiled her face. When they were all ready, they paraded before Mr.
Woolfe.

"Very good. Very good," he said. "Quite a lot of atmosphere. Here you,
my dear, Emruld, put your yashmak up a bit higher. You look as if you'd
got mumps like that. Now then, here's the henna to paint your
finger-nails, and the kohl for your eyes."

"Coal for our eyes," echoed all the girls. "Why can't we use liquid
black the same as we always do? Coal! What a liberty! Whatever next?"

"That shows you don't know anything about the East. K-O-H-L, not
C-O-A-L, you silly girls. And don't you get hennering your hair. It's
only to be used for the nails."

When the Exhibition opened on the 1st of May the Hall of a Thousand and
One Marvels was the only sideshow that was in full working order. The
negro eunuch stood outside and somewhat inappropriately bellowed his
invitation to the passing crowds to visit Sesame, where all the glamour
of the East was to be had for sixpence, including a cup of delicious
Turkish coffee specially made by the Sultan's own coffee-maker. Once
inside, visitors could for a further sum of threepence view an exact
reproduction of a Turkish harem, where real Turkish ladies in all the
abandonment of languorous poses offered a spectacle of luxury that could
only be surpassed by paying another threepence to see a faithless wife
tied up in a sack and flung into the Bosphorus once every hour. Other
threepennies secured admission to Aladdin's Cave, where the Genie of the
Lamp told fortunes, or to the Cave of the Forty Thieves, where a lucky
ticket entitled the owner to draw a souvenir from Ali Baba's sack of
treasure, and see Morgiana dance a voluptuous _pas seul_ once every
hour. Visitors to the Hall could also buy attar of roses, cigarettes,
seraglio pastilles, and Turkish Delight. It was very Oriental--even Mr.
Woolfe wore a fez.

Either because Sylvia moved in a way that seemed to Mr. Woolfe more
Oriental than the others or because she got on very well with him
personally, she was soon promoted to a small inner room more richly
draped and lighted by a jeweled lamp hanging from the ceiling of gilded
arabesques. Here Mr. Woolfe as a mark of his esteem introduced regular
customers who could appreciate the softer carpet and deeper divans. At
one end was a lattice, beyond which might be seen two favorites of the
harem, who, slowly fanning themselves, reclined eternally amid perfumed
airs--that is, except during the intervals for dinner and tea, which
lasted half an hour and exposed them to the unrest of European
civilization. One of these favorites was Mabel, whom Mr. Woolfe had been
heard to describe as his beau ideel of a sultana, and whom he had taken
from the sale of Turkish Delight to illustrate his conception. Mabel was
paid a higher salary in consequence, because, inclosed in the harem, she
was no longer able to profit by the male admirers who had bought Turkish
Delight at her plump hands. The life was well suited to her natural
laziness; though she dreaded getting fat, she was glad to be relieved of
the menace from her varicose vein. Sylvia was the only odalisque that
waited in this inner room, but her salary was not raised, since she now
had the sole right to all the extras; she certainly preferred this
darkened chamber to the other, and when there were no intruders from the
world outside she could gossip through the lattice with the two
favorites.

Mrs. Gowndry had let Sylvia a small room at the very top of the house;
notwithstanding Mabel's good nature, she might have grown tired of being
always at close quarters with her. Sylvia's imagination was captured by
the life she led at Earl's Court; she made up her mind that one day she
would somehow visit the real East. When Mr. Woolfe found out her deep
interest in the part she was playing and her fondness for reading, he
lent her various books that had inspired his creation at Earl's Court;
she had long ago read the _Arabian Nights_, but there were several
volumes of travels which fed her ambition to leave this dull Western
world. On Sunday mornings she used to lean out of her window and fancy
the innumerable tombs of Brompton Cemetery were the minarets of an
Eastern town; and later on, when June made every hour in the open air
desirable after being shut up so long at Earl's Court, Sylvia used to
spend her Sunday afternoons in wandering about the cemetery, in reading
upon the tombs the exalted claims they put forward for poor mortality,
and in puzzling over the broken columns, the urns and anchors and
weeping angels that commemorated the wealthy dead. Every one buried here
had lived on earth a life of perfect virtue, it seemed; every one buried
here had been confident of another life after the grave. Long ago at
Lille she had been taught something about the future these dead people
seemed to have counted upon; but there had been so much to do on Sunday
mornings, and she could not remember that she had ever gone to church
after she was nine. Perhaps she had made a mistake in abandoning so
early the chance of finding out more about religion; it was difficult
not to be impressed by the universal testimony of these countless tombs.
Religion had evidently a great influence upon humanity, though in her
reading she had never been struck by the importance of it. People in
books attended church just as they wore fine clothes, or fought duels,
or went to dinner-parties; the habit belonged to the observances of
polite society and if she ever found herself in such society she would
doubtless behave like her peers. She had not belonged to a society with
leisure for church-going. Yet in none of the books that she had read had
religion seemed anything like so important as love or money. She herself
thought that the pleasures of both these were much exaggerated, though
in her own actual experience their power of seriously disturbing some
people was undeniable. But who was ever disturbed by religion? Probably
all these tombs were a luxury of the rich, rather like visiting-cards,
which, as every one knew, must be properly inscribed and follow a
certain pattern. She remembered that old Mr. Gustard, who was not rich,
had been very doubtful of another life, and she was consoled by this
reflection, for she had been rendered faintly anxious by the pious
repetitions of faith in a future life, practical comfort in which could
apparently only be secured by the strictest behavior on earth. She had
the fancy to invent her own epitaph: "Here lies Sylvia Scarlett, who was
always running away. If she has to live all over again and be the same
girl, she accepts no responsibility for anything that may occur." She
printed this on a piece of paper, fastened it to a twig, and stuck it
into the earth to judge the effect. Sylvia was so deeply engrossed in
her task that she did not see that somebody was watching her until she
had stepped back to admire her handiwork.

"You extraordinary girl!" said a pleasant voice.

Looking round, Sylvia saw a thin clean-shaven man of about thirty, who
was leaning on a cane with an ivory crook and looking at her epitaph
through gold-rimmed glasses. She blushed, to her annoyance, and snatched
up the twig.

"What are you always running away from?" the stranger asked. "Or is that
an indiscreet question?"

Sylvia could have shaken herself for not giving a ready answer, but this
new-comer seemed entitled to something better than rudeness, and her
ready answers were usually rude.

"Now don't go away," the stranger begged. "It's so refreshing to meet
something alive in this wilderness of death. I've been inspecting a
grave for a friend who is abroad, and I'm feeling thoroughly depressed.
One can't avoid reading epitaphs in a cemetery, can one? Or writing
them?" he added, with a pleasant laugh. "I like yours much the best of
any I've read so far. What a charming name. Sylvia Scarlett. Balzac said
the best epitaphs were single names. If I saw Sylvia Scarlett on a tomb
with nothing else, my appetite for romance would be perfectly
satisfied."

"Have you read many books of Balzac?" Sylvia asked.

The stranger's conversation had detained her; she could ask the question
quite simply.

"I've read most of them, I think."

"I've read some," Sylvia said. "But he's not my favorite writer. I like
Scott better. But now I only read books about the Orient."

She was rather proud of the last word and hoped the stranger would
notice it.

"What part attracts you most?"

"I think Japan," Sylvia said. "But I like Turkey rather. Only I wouldn't
ever let myself be shut up in a harem."

"I suppose you'd run away?" said the stranger, with a smile. "Which
reminds me that you haven't answered my first question. Please do, if
it's not impertinent."

They wandered along the paths shaded by yews and willows, and Sylvia
told him many things about her life; he was the easiest person to talk
to that she had ever met.

"And so this passion for the East has been inspired by the Hall of a
Thousand and One Marvels. Dear me, what an unexpected consequence. And
this Hall of a Thousand and One Marbles," he indicated the cemetery with
a sweep of his cane, "this inspires you to write an epitaph? Well, my
dear, such an early essay in mortuary literature may end in a famous
elegy. You evidently possess the poetic temperament."

"I don't like poetry," Sylvia interrupted. "I don't believe it ever.
Nobody really talks like that when they're in love."

"Quite true," said the stranger. "Poets have often ere this been charged
with exaggeration. Perhaps I wrong you in attributing to you the poetic
temperament. Yes, on second thoughts, I'm sure I do. You are an
eminently practical young lady. I won't say prosaic, because the word
has been debased. I suspect by the poets who are always uttering base
currency of thoughts and words and emotions. Dear me, this is a most
delightful adventure."

"Adventure?" repeated Sylvia.

"Our meeting," the stranger explained.

"Do you call that an adventure?" said Sylvia, contemptuously. "Why, I've
had adventures much more exciting than this."

"I told you that your temperament was anti-poetic," said the stranger.
"How severe you are with my poor gossamers. You are like the Red Queen.
You've seen adventures compared with which this is really an ordinary
afternoon walk."

"I don't understand half you're saying," said Sylvia. "Who's the Red
Queen? Why was she red?"

"Why was Sylvia Scarlett?" the stranger laughed.

"I don't think that's a very good joke," said Sylvia, solemnly.

"It wasn't, and to make my penitence, if you'll let me, I'll visit you
at Earl's Court and present you with copies of _Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland and through The Looking-glass_."

"Books," said Sylvia, in a satisfied tone. "All right. When will you
come? To-morrow?"

The stranger nodded.

"What are you?" Sylvia asked, abruptly.

"My name is Iredale--Philip Iredale. No profession."

"Are you what's called a gentleman?" Sylvia went on.

"I hope most people would so describe me," said Mr. Iredale.

"I asked you that," Sylvia said, "because I never met a gentleman
before. I don't think Jimmy Monkley was a gentleman, and Arthur Madden
was too young. Perhaps the Emperor of Byzantium was a gentleman."

"I hope so indeed," said Mr. Iredale. "The Palaeologos family is an old
one. Did you meet the Emperor in the course of your Oriental studies?
Shall I meet him in the Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels?"

Sylvia told him the story of the Emperor's reception, which seemed to
amuse him very much.

"Where do you live?" Sylvia asked.

"Well, I live in Hampshire generally, but I have rooms in the Temple."

"The Temple of who?" Sylvia asked, grandly.

"Mammon is probably the dedication, but by a legal fiction the titular
god is suppressed."

"Do you believe in God?" Sylvia asked.

"My dear Miss Scarlett, I protest that such a question so abruptly put
in a cemetery is most unfair."

"Don't call me Miss Scarlett. It makes me feel like a girl in a shop.
Call me Sylvia. That's my name."

"Dear me, how very refreshing you are," said Mr. Iredale. "Do you know
I'm positively longing for to-morrow. But meanwhile, dear child, dear
girl, we have to-day. What shall we do with the rest of it? Let's get on
top of a 'bus and ride to Kensington Gardens. Hallowed as this spot is
both by the mighty dead and the dear living, I'm tired of tombs."

"I can't go on the top of a 'bus," Sylvia said. "Because I've not got
any petticoats underneath my frock. I haven't saved up enough money to
buy petticoats yet. I had to begin with chemises."

"Then we must find a hansom," said Mr. Iredale, gravely.

They drove to Kensington Gardens and walked under the trees to Hyde Park
Corner; there they took another hansom and drove to a restaurant with
very comfortable chairs and delicious things to eat. Mr. Iredale and
Sylvia talked hard all the time; after dinner he drove her back to
Finborough Road and lifted his hat when she waved good-by to him from
the steps.

Mabel was furiously interested by Sylvia's account of her day, and gave
her much advice.

"Now don't let everything be too easy," she said. "Remember he's rich
and can afford to spend a little money. Don't encourage him to make love
to you at the very commencement, or he'll get tired and then you'll be
sorry."

"Oh, who's thinking about making love?" Sylvia exclaimed. "That's just
why I've enjoyed myself to-day. There wasn't a sign of love-making. He
told me I was the most interesting person he'd ever met."

"There you are," Mabel said. "There's only one way a girl can interest a
man, is there?"

Sylvia burst into tears and stamped her foot on the floor.

"I won't believe you," she cried. "I don't want to believe you."

"Well, there's no need to cry about it," Mabel said. "Only he'd be a
funny sort of man if he didn't want to make love to you."

"Well, he is a funny sort of man," Sylvia declared. "And I hope he's
going on being funny. He's coming to the Exhibition to-morrow and you'll
see for yourself how funny he is."

Mabel was so deeply stirred by the prospect of Mr. Iredale's visit that
she practised a more than usually voluptuous pose, which was frustrated
by her fellow-favorite, who accused her of pushing her great legs all
over the place and invited her to keep to her own cushions. Mabel got
very angry and managed to drop a burning pastille on her companion's
trousers, which caused a scene in the harem and necessitated the
intervention of Mr. Woolfe.

"She did it for the purpose, the spiteful thing," the outraged favorite
declared. "Behaves more like a performing seal than a Turkish lady, and
then burns my costume. No, it's no good trying to 'my dear' me. I've
stood it long enough and I'm not going to stand it no longer."

Mabel expressed an opinion that the rival favorite was a vulgar person;
luckily, before Mr. Iredale arrived the quarrel had been adjusted, and
when he sat down on the divan and received a cup of coffee from Sylvia,
whose brown eyes twinkled merry recognition above her yashmak, the two
favorites were languorously fanning the perfumed airs of their
seclusion, once again in drowsy accord.

Mr. Iredale came often to the Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels; he
never failed to bring with him books for Sylvia and he was always eager
to discuss with her what she had last read. On Sundays he used to take
her out to Richmond or Kew, but he never invited her to visit him at his
rooms.

"He's awfully gone on you," said Mabel. "Well, I wish you the best of
luck, I'm sure, for he's a very nice fellow."

Mr. Iredale was not quite so enthusiastic over Mabel; he often
questioned Sylvia about her friend's conduct and seemed much disturbed
by the materialism and looseness of her attitude toward life.

"It seems dreadful," he used to say to her, "that you can't find a
worthier friend than that blond enormity. I hope she never introduces
you to any of her men."

Sylvia assured him that Mabel was much too jealous to do anything of the
sort.

"Jealous!" he ejaculated. "How monstrous that a child like you should
already be established in competition with that. Ugh!"

June passed away to July. Mr. Iredale told Sylvia that he ought to be in
the country by now and that he could not understand himself. One day he
asked her if she would like to live in the country, and became lost in
meditation when she said she might. Sylvia delighted in his company and
had a deep affection for this man who had so wonderfully entered into
her life without once shocking her sensibility or her pride. She
understood, however, that it was easy for him to behave himself, because
he had all he wanted; nevertheless the companionship of a man of leisure
had for herself such charm that she did not feel attracted to any deeper
reflection upon moral causes; he was lucky to be what he was, but she
was equally lucky to have found him for a friend.

Sometimes when he inveighed against her past associates and what he
called her unhappy bringing up, she felt impelled to defend them.

"You see, you have all you want, Philip."

Sylvia had learned with considerable difficulty to call him Philip; she
could never get rid of the idea that he was much older than herself and
that people who heard her call him by his Christian name would laugh.
Even now she could only call him Philip when the importance of the
remark was enough to hide what still seemed an unpardonable kind of
pertness.

"You think I have all I want, do you?" he answered, a little bitterly.
"My dear child, I'm in the most humiliating position in which a man can
find himself. There is only one thing I want, but I'm afraid to make the
effort to secure it: I'm afraid of being laughed at. Sylvia dear, you
were wiser than you knew when you objected to calling me Philip for that
very reason. I wish I could spread my canvas to a soldier's wind like
you and sail into life, but I can't. I've been taught to tack, and I've
never learned how to reach harbor. I suppose some people, in spite of
our system of education, succeed in learning," he sighed.

"I don't understand a bit what you're talking about," she said.

"Don't you? It doesn't matter. I was really talking to myself, which is
very rude. Impose a penalty."

"Admit you have everything you want," Sylvia insisted. "And don't be
always running down poor Jimmy and my father and every one I've ever
known."

"From their point of view I confess I have everything I want," he
agreed.

On another occasion Sylvia asked him if he did not think she ought to
consider religion more than she had done. Being so much in Philip's
company was giving her a desire to experiment with the habits of
well-regulated people, and she was perplexed to find that he paid no
attention to church-going.

"Ah, there you can congratulate yourself," he said, emphatically.
"Whatever was deplorable in your bringing up, at least you escaped that
damnable imposition, that fraudulent attempt to flatter man beyond his
deserts."

"Oh, don't use so many long words all at once," Sylvia begged. "I like
a long word now and then, because I'm collecting long words, but I can't
collect them and understand what you're talking about at the same time.
Do you think I ought to go to church?"

"No, no, a thousand times no," Philip replied. "You've luckily escaped
from religion as a social observance. Do you feel the need for it? Have
you ineffable longings?"

"I know that word," Sylvia said. "It means something that can't be said
in words, doesn't it? Well, I've often had longings like that,
especially in Hampstead, but no longings that had anything to do with
going to church. How could they have, if they were ineffable?"

"Quite true," Philip agreed. "And therefore be grateful that you're a
pagan. If ever a confounded priest gets hold of you and tries to bewitch
you with his mumbo-jumbo, send for me and I'll settle him. No, no, going
to church of one's own free will is either a drug (sometimes a
stimulant, sometimes a narcotic) or it's mere snobbery. In either case
it is a futile waste of time, because there are so many problems in this
world--you're one of the most urgent--that it's criminal to avoid their
solution by speculating upon the problem of the next world, which is
insoluble."

"But is there another world?" she asked.

"I don't think so."

"And all those announcements in the cemetery meant nothing?"

"Nothing but human vanity--the vanity of the dead and the vanity of the
living."

"Thanks," Sylvia said. "I thought that was probably the explanation."

Mabel, who had long ago admitted that Philip was just as funny as Sylvia
had described him, often used to ask her what they found to talk about.

"He can't be interested in Earl's Court, and you're such a kid. I can't
understand it."

"Well, we talked about religion to-day," Sylvia told her.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" Mabel said, very knowingly. "He's one of those
fellows who ought to have been a clergyman, is he? I knew he reminded me
of some one. He's the walking image of the clergyman where we used to
live in Clapham. But you be careful, Sylvia. It's an old trick, that."

"You're quite wrong. He hates clergymen."

"Oh," Mabel exclaimed, taken aback for a moment, but quickly recovering
herself. "Oh, well, people always pretend to hate what they can't get.
And I dare say he wanted to be a clergyman. But don't let him try to
convert you. It's an old trick to get something for nothing. And I know,
my dear."

July passed away into August, and Sylvia, buried for so many hours in
the airless Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels, was flagging visibly.
Philip used to spend nearly every afternoon and evening in the inner
room where she worked--so many, indeed, that Mr. Woolfe protested and
told her he would really have to put her back into the outer hall,
because good customers were being annoyed by her admirer's glaring at
them through his glasses.

Philip was very much worried by Sylvia's wan looks, and urged her more
insistently to leave her job, and let him provide for her. But having
vowed to herself that never again would she put herself under an
obligation to anybody, she would not hear of leaving the Exhibition.

One Sunday in the middle of August Philip took Sylvia to Oxford, of
which he had often talked to her. She enjoyed the day very much and
delighted him by the interest she took in all the colleges they visited;
but he was very much worried, so he said, by the approach of age.

"You aren't so very old," Sylvia reassured him. "Old, but not very old."

"Fifteen years older than you," he sighed.

"Still, you're not old enough to be my father," she added,
encouragingly.

In the afternoon they went to St. Mary's Walks and sat upon a bench by
the Cherwell. Close at hand a Sabbath bell chimed a golden monotone;
Philip took Sylvia's hand and looked right into her face, as he always
did when he was not wearing his glasses:

"Little delightful thing, if you won't let me take you away from that
inferno of Earl's Court, will you marry me? Not at once, because it
wouldn't be fair to you and it wouldn't be fair to myself. I'm going to
make a suggestion that will make you laugh, but it is quite a serious
suggestion. I want you to go to school."

Sylvia drew back and stared at him over her shoulder.

"To school?" she echoed. "But I'm sixteen."

"Lots of girls--most girls in the position I want you to take--are still
at school then. Only a year, dear child, and then if you will have me,
we'll get married. I don't think you'd be bored down in Hampshire. I
have thousands of books and you shall read them all. Don't get into your
head that I'm asking you to marry me because I'm sorry for you--"

"There's nothing to be sorry for," Sylvia interrupted, sharply.

"I know there's not, and I want you terribly. You fascinate me to an
extent I never could have thought possible for any woman. I really
haven't cared much about women; they always seemed in the way. I do
believe you would be happy with me. We'll travel to the East together.
You shall visit Japan and Turkey. I love you so much, Sylvia. Tell me,
don't you love me a little?"

"I like you very much indeed," she answered, gently. "Oh, very, very,
very much. Perhaps I love you. I don't think I love you, because if I
loved you I think my heart would beat much faster when you asked me to
marry you, and it isn't beating at all. Feel."

She put his hand upon her heart.

"It certainly doesn't seem to be unusually rapid," he agreed.

Sylvia looked at him in perplexity. His thin face was flushed, and the
golden light of the afternoon gave it a warmer glow; his very blue eyes
without their glasses had such a wide-open pleading expression; she was
touched by his kindness.

"If you think I ought to go to school," she offered, "I will go to
school."

He looked at her with a question in his eyes. She saw that he wanted to
kiss her, and she pretended she thought he was dissatisfied with her
answer about school.

"I won't promise to marry you," she said. "Because I like to keep
promises and I can't say now what I shall be like in a year, can I? I'm
changing all the time. Only I do like you very, very, very much. Don't
forget that."

He took her hand and kissed it with the courtesy that for her was almost
his greatest charm; manners seemed to Sylvia the chief difference
between Philip and all the other people she had known. Once he had told
her she had very bad manners, and she had lain awake half the night in
her chagrin. She divined that the real reason of his wanting her to go
to school was his wish to correct her manners. How little she knew about
him, and yet she had been asked to marry him. His father and mother were
dead, but he had a sister whom she would have to meet.

"Have you told your sister about me?" Sylvia asked.

"Not yet," he confessed. "I think I won't tell anybody about you except
the lady to whose care I am going to intrust you."

Sylvia asked him how long he had made up his mind to ask her to marry
him, and he told her he had been thinking about it for a long time, but
that he had always been afraid at the last moment.

"Afraid I should disgrace you, I suppose?" Sylvia said.

He put on his glasses and coughed, a sure sign he was embarrassed. She
laughed.

"And of course there's no doubt that I _should_ disgrace you. I probably
shall now as a matter of fact. Mabel will be rather sorry," she went on,
pensively. "She likes me to be there at night in case she gets
frightened. She told me once that the only reason she ever went wrong
was because she was frightened to sleep alone. She was married to a
commercial traveler, who, of course, was just the worst person she could
have married, because he was always leaving her alone. Poor Mabel!"

Philip took her hand again and said in a tone of voice which she
resented as adumbrating already, however faintly, a hint of ownership:

"Sylvia dear, you won't talk so freely as that in the school, will you?
Promise me you won't."

"But it used to amuse you when I talked like that," she said. "You
mustn't think now that you've got the right to lecture me."

"My dear child, it doesn't matter what you say to me; I understand. But
some people might not."

"Well, don't say I didn't warn you," she almost sighed.



CHAPTER VI


Miss Ashley's school for young ladies, situated in its own grounds on
Campden Hill, was considered one of the best in England; a day or two
after they got back from Oxford, Philip announced to Sylvia that he was
glad to say Miss Ashley would take her as a pupil. She was a friend of
his family; but he had sworn her to secrecy, and it had been decided
between them that Sylvia should be supposed to be an orphan educated
until now in France.

"Mayn't I tell the other girls that I've been an odalisque?" Sylvia
asked.

"Good heavens! no!" said Philip, earnestly.

"But I was looking forward to telling them," she explained. "Because I'm
sure it would amuse them."

Philip smiled indulgently and thought she would find lots of other ways
of amusing them. He had told Miss Ashley, who, by the way, was an
enthusiastic rationalist, that he did not want her to attend the outward
shows of religion, and Miss Ashley had assented, though as a
schoolmistress she was bound to see that her other pupils went to church
at least once every Sunday. He had reassured her about the bad example
Sylvia would set by promising to come himself and take her out every
Sunday in his capacity as guardian.

"You'll be glad of that, won't you?" he asked, anxiously.

"I expect so," Sylvia said. "But of course I may find being at school
such fun that I sha'n't want to leave it."

Again Philip smiled indulgently and hoped she would. Of course, it was
now holiday-time, but Miss Ashley had quite agreed with him in the
desirableness of Sylvia's going to Hornton House before the term began.
She would be able to help her to equip herself with all the things a
school-girl required. He knew, for instance, that she was short of
various articles of clothing. Sylvia could take Miss Ashley completely
into her confidence, but even with her he advised a certain reticence
with regard to some of her adventures. She was of course a woman of
infinite experience and extremely broad-minded, but many years as a
schoolmistress might have made her consider some things were better left
unsaid; there were some people, particularly English people, who were
much upset by details. Perhaps Sylvia would spare her the details?

"You see, my dear child, you've had an extraordinary number of odd
adventures for your age, and they've made you what you are, you dear.
But now is the chance of setting them in their right relation to your
future life. You know, I'm tremendously keen about this one year's
formal education. You're just the material that can be perfected by
academic methods, which with ordinary material end in mere barren
decoration."

"I don't understand. I don't understand," Sylvia interrupted.

"Sorry! My hobby-horse has bolted with me and left you behind. But I
won't try to explain or even to advise. I leave everything to you. After
all, you are you; and I'm the last person to wish you to be any one
else."

Philip was humming excitedly when they drove up to Hornton House, and
Sylvia was certainly much impressed by its Palladian grandeur and the
garden that seemed to spread illimitably behind it. She felt rather shy
of Miss Ashley herself, who was apparently still in her dressing-gown, a
green-linen dressing-gown worked in front with what Sylvia considered
were very bad reproductions of flowers in brownish silk. She was
astonished at seeing a woman of Miss Ashley's dignity still in her
dressing-gown at three o'clock in the afternoon, but she was still more
astonished to see her in a rather battered straw hat, apparently ready
to go shopping in Kensington High Street without changing her attire.
She looked at Philip, who, however, seemed unaware of anything unusual.
A carriage was waiting for them when they went out, and Philip left her
with Miss Ashley, promising to dine at Hornton House that night.

The afternoon passed away rapidly in making all sorts of purchases,
even of trunks; it seemed to Sylvia that thousands of pounds must have
been spent upon her outfit, and she felt a thrill of pride. Everybody
behind the various counters treated Miss Ashley with great deference;
Sylvia was bound to admit that, however careless she might be of her own
appearance, she was splendidly able to help other people to choose jolly
things. They drove back to Hornton House in a carriage that seemed full
of parcels, though they only took with them what Miss Ashley considered
immediately important. Tea was waiting in the garden under a great
cedar-tree; and by the time tea was finished Sylvia was sure that she
should like Miss Ashley and that she should not run away that night,
which she had made up her mind to do unless she was absolutely contented
with the prospect of her new existence. She liked her bedroom very much,
and the noise that the sparrows made in the creeper outside her window.
The starched maid-servant who came to help her dress for dinner rather
frightened her, but she decided to be very French in order to take away
the least excuse for ridicule.

Sylvia thought at dinner that the prospect of marriage had made Philip
seem even older, or perhaps it was his assumption of guardianship which
gave him this added seriousness.

"Of course, French she already knows," he was saying, "though it might
be as well to revise her grammar a little. History she has a queer,
disjointed knowledge of--it would be as well to fill in the gaps. I
should like her to learn a little Latin. Then there are mathematics and
what is called science. Of course, one would like her to have a general
acquaintance with both, but I don't want to waste time with too much
elementary stuff. It would be almost better for her to be completely
ignorant of either."

"I think you will have to leave the decision to me, Philip," said Miss
Ashley, in that almost too deliberately tranquil voice, which Sylvia
felt might so easily become in certain circumstances exasperating. "I
think you may rely on my judgment where girls are concerned."

Philip hastened to assure Miss Ashley that he was not presuming to
dictate to her greater experience of education; he only wished to lay
stress on the subjects that he considered would be most valuable for
the life Sylvia was likely to lead.

"I have a class," said Miss Ashley, "which is composed of older girls
and of which the routine is sufficiently elastic to fit any individual
case. I take that class myself."

Sylvia half expected that Miss Ashley would suggest including Philip in
it, if he went on talking any longer. Perhaps Philip himself suspected
as much, for he said no more about Sylvia's education and talked instead
about the gravity of the situation in South Africa.

Sylvia was vividly aware of the comfort of her bedroom and of the
extraordinary freshness of it in comparison with all the other rooms she
had so far inhabited. Miss Ashley faintly reminded her of her mother,
not that there was the least outward resemblance except in height, for
Miss Ashley's hair was gray, whereas her mother's until the day of her
death had kept all its lustrous darkness. Yet both wore their hair in
similar fashion, combed up high from the forehead so as to give them a
majestic appearance. Her mother's eyes had been of a deep and glowing
brown set in that pale face; Miss Ashley's eyes were small and gray, and
her complexion had the hard rosiness of an apple. The likeness between
the two women lay rather in the possession of a natural authority which
warned one that disobedience would be an undertaking and defiance an
impossibility. Sylvia rejoiced in the idea of being under control; it
was invigorating, like the delicious torment of a cold bath. Of course
she had no intention of being controlled in big things, but she was
determined to submit over little things for the sheer pleasure of
submitting to Miss Ashley, who was, moreover, likely to be always right.
In the morning, when she came down in one of her new frocks, her hair
tied back with a big brown bow, and found Miss Ashley sitting in the
sunny green window of the dining-room, reading the _Morning Post_, she
congratulated herself upon the positive pleasure that such a getting up
was able to give her and upon this new sense of spaciousness that such a
beginning of the day was able to provide.

"You're looking at my dress," said Miss Ashley, pleasantly. "When you're
my age you'll abandon fashion and adopt what is comfortable and
becoming."

"I thought it was a dressing-gown yesterday," Sylvia admitted.

"Rather an elaborate dressing-gown." Miss Ashley laughed. "I'm not so
vain as all that."

Sylvia wondered what she would have said to some of Mabel's
dressing-gowns. Now that she was growing used to Miss Ashley's attire,
she began to think she rather liked it. This gown of peacock-blue linen
was certainly attractive, and the flowers embroidered upon its front
were clearly recognizable as daisies.

During the fortnight before school reopened Sylvia gave Miss Ashley a
good deal of her confidence, and found her much less shocked by her
experiences than Philip had been. She told her that she felt rather
ungrateful in so abruptly cutting herself off from Mabel, who had been
very kind to her; but on this point Miss Ashley was firm in her
agreement with Philip, and would not hear of Sylvia's making any attempt
to see Mabel again.

"You are lucky, my dear, in having only one person whose friendship you
are forced to give up, as it seems to you, a little harshly. Great
changes are rarely made with so slight an effort of separation. I am not
in favor personally of violent uprootings and replantings, and it was
only because you were in such a solitary position that I consented to do
what Philip asked. Your friend Mabel was, I am sure, exceedingly kind to
you; but you are much too young to repay her kindness. It is the
privilege of the very young to be heartless. From what you have told me,
you have often been heartless about other people, so I don't think you
need worry about Mabel. Besides, let me assure you that Mabel herself
would be far from enjoying any association with you that included
Hornton House."

Sylvia had no arguments to bring forward against Miss Ashley;
nevertheless, she felt guilty of treating Mabel shabbily, and wished
that she could have explained to her that it was not really her fault.

Miss Ashley took her once or twice to the play, which Sylvia enjoyed
more than music-halls. In the library at Hornton House she found plenty
of books to read, and Miss Ashley was willing to talk about them in a
very interesting way. Philip came often to see her and told her how
much Miss Ashley liked her and how pleased they both were to see her
settling down so easily and quickly.

The night before term began the four assistant mistresses arrived; their
names were Miss Pinck, Miss Primer, Miss Hossack, and Miss Lee. Sylvia
was by this time sufficiently at home in Hornton House to survive the
ordeal of introduction without undue embarrassment, though, to Miss
Ashley's amusement, she strengthened her French accent. Miss Pinck, the
senior assistant mistress, was a very small woman with a sharp chin and
knotted fingers, two features which contrasted noticeably with her
general plumpness. She taught History and English Literature and had an
odd habit, when she was speaking, of suddenly putting her hands behind
her back, shooting her chin forward, and screwing up her eyes so
fiercely that the person addressed involuntarily drew back in alarm.
Sylvia, to whom this gesture became very familiar, used to wonder if in
the days of her vanity Miss Pinck had cultivated it to avoid displaying
her fingers, so that from long practice her chin had learned to replace
the forefinger in impressing a fact.

The date was 1689, Miss Pinck would say, and one almost expected to see
a pencil screwed into her chin which would actually write the figures
upon somebody's notebook.

Miss Primer was a thin, melancholy, and sandy-haired woman, who must
have been very pretty before her face was netted with innumerable small
lines that made her look as if birds had been scratching on it when she
was asleep. Miss Primer took an extremely gloomy view of everything, and
with the prospect of war in South Africa she arrived in a condition of
exalted, almost ecstatic depression; she taught Art, which at Hornton
House was no cure for pessimism. Miss Hossack, the Mathematical and
Scientific mistress, did not have much to do with Sylvia; she was a
robust woman with a loud voice who liked to be asked questions. Finally
there was Miss Lee, who taught music and was the particular adoration of
every girl in the school, including Sylvia. She was usually described as
"ethereal," "angelic," or "divine." One girl with a taste for painting
discovered that she was her ideal conception of St. Cecilia; this
naturally roused the jealousy of rival adorers that would not be
"copy-cats," until one of them discovered that Miss Lee, whose first
name was Mary, had Annabel for a second name, the very mixture of the
poetic and the intimate that was required. Sylvia belonged neither to
the Cecilias nor to the Annabels, but she loved dear Miss Lee none the
less deeply and passed exquisite moments in trying to play the Clementi
her mistress wanted her to learn.

"What a strange girl you are, Sylvia!" Miss Lee used to say. "Anybody
would think you had been taught music by an accompanist. You don't seem
to have any notion of a piece, but you really play accompaniments
wonderfully. It's not mere vamping."

Sylvia wondered what Miss Lee would have thought of Jimmy Monkley and
the Pink Pierrots.

The afternoon that the girls arrived at Hornton House Sylvia was sure
that nothing could keep her from running away that night; the prospect
of facing the chattering, giggling mob that thronged the hitherto quiet
hall was overwhelming. From the landing above she leaned over to watch
them, unable to imagine what she would talk about to them or what they
would talk about to her. It was Miss Lee who saved the situation by
inviting Sylvia to meet four of the girls at tea in her room and
cleverly choosing, as Sylvia realized afterward, the four leaders of the
four chief sets. Who would not adore Miss Lee?

"Oh, Miss Lee, _did_ you notice Gladys and Enid Worstley?" Muriel
ejaculated, accentuating some of her words like the notes of an unevenly
blown harmonium, and explaining to Sylvia in a sustained tremolo that
these twins, whose real name was Worsley, were always called Worstley
because it was impossible to decide which was more wicked. "Oh, Miss
Lee, they've got the most _lovely_ dresses," she went on, releasing
every stop in a diapason of envy. "Simply _gorgeously_ beautiful. I do
think it's a shame to dress them up like that. I do, _really_."

Sylvia made a mental note to cultivate this pair not for their dresses,
but for their behavior. Muriel was all very well, but those eyebrows
eternally arched and those eyes eternally staring out of her head would
sooner or later have most irresistibly to be given real cause for
amazement.

"Their mother likes them to be prettily dressed," said Miss Lee.

"Of course she does," Gwendyr put in, primly. "She was an actress."

To hell with Gwendyr, thought Sylvia. Why shouldn't their mother have
been an actress?

"Oh, but they're so conceited!" said Dorothy. "Enid Worsley _never_ can
pass a glass, and their frocks are most frightfully short. _Don't_ you
remember when they danced at last breaking-up?"

"This is getting unbearable," Sylvia thought.

"I think they're rather dears," Phyllis drawled. "They're jolly pretty,
anyway."

Sylvia looked at Phyllis and decided that she was jolly pretty, too,
with her golden hair and smocked linen frock of old rose; she would like
to be friends with Phyllis. The moment had come, however, when she must
venture all her future on a single throw. She must either shock Miss Lee
and the four girls irretrievably or she must be henceforth accepted at
Hornton House as herself; there must be none of these critical sessions
about Sylvia Scarlett. She pondered for a minute or two the various
episodes of her past. Then suddenly she told them how she had run away
from school in France, arrived in England without a penny, and earned
her living as an odalisque at the Exhibition. Which would she be, she
asked, when she saw the girls staring at her open-mouthed now with real
amazement, villain or heroine? She became a heroine, especially to
Gladys and Enid, with whom she made friends that night, and who showed
her in strictest secrecy two powder-puffs and a tin of Turkish
cigarettes.

There were moments when Sylvia was sad, especially when war broke out
and so many of the girls had photographs of brothers and cousins and
friends in uniform, not to mention various generals whose ability was as
yet unquestioned. She did not consider the photograph of Philip a worthy
competitor of these and begged him to enlist, which hurt his feelings.
Nevertheless, her adventures as an odalisque were proof in the eyes of
the girls against martial relations; their only regret was that the
Exhibition closed before they had time to devise a plot to visit the
Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels and be introduced by Sylvia to the
favorites of the harem.

Miss Ashley was rather cross with Sylvia for her revelations and urged
her as a personal favor to herself not to make any more. Sylvia
explained the circumstances quite frankly and promised that she would
not offend again; but she pointed out that the girls were all very
inquisitive about Philip and asked how she was to account for his taking
her out every Sunday.

"He's your guardian, my dear. What could be more natural?"

"Then you must tell him not to blush and drop his glasses when the girls
tell him I'm nearly ready. They _all_ think he's in love with me."

"Well, it doesn't matter," said Miss Ashley, impatiently.

"But it does matter," Sylvia contradicted. "Because even if he is going
to marry me he's not the sort of lover one wants to put in a frame, now
is he? That's why I bought that photograph of George Alexander which
Miss Pinck made such a fuss about. I _must_ have a secret sorrow. All
the girls have secret sorrows this term."

Miss Ashley shook her head gravely, but Sylvia was sure she was laughing
like herself.

Sylvia's chief friend was Phyllis Markham--the twins were only
fourteen--and the two of them headed a society for toleration, which was
designed to contend with stupid and ill-natured criticism. The society
became so influential and so tolerant that the tone of the school was
considered in danger, especially by Miss Primer, who lamented it much,
together with the reverses in South Africa; and when after the Christmas
holidays (which Sylvia spent with Miss Ashley at Bournemouth) a grave
defeat coincided with the discovery that the Worsleys were signaling
from their window to some boys in a house opposite, Miss Primer in a
transport of woe took up the matter with the head-mistress. Miss Ashley
called a conference of the most influential girls, at which Sylvia was
present, and with the support of Phyllis maintained that the behavior of
the twins had been much exaggerated.

"But in their nightgowns," Miss Primer wailed. "The policeman at the
corner must have seen them. At such a time, too, with these deadful
Boers winning everywhere. And their hair streaming over their
shoulders."

"It always is," said Sylvia.

Miss Ashley rebuked her rather sharply for interrupting.

"A bull's-eye lantern. The room reeked of hot metal. I could not read
the code. I took it upon myself to punish them with an extra hour's
freehand to-day. But the punishment is most inadequate. I detect a
disturbing influence right through the school."

Miss Ashley made a short speech in which she pointed out the
responsibilities of the older girls in such matters and emphasized the
vulgarity of the twins' conduct. No one wished to impute nasty motives
to them, but it must be clearly understood that the girls of Hornton
House could not and should not be allowed to behave like servants. She
relied upon Muriel Battersby, Dorothy Hearne, Gwendyr Jones, Phyllis
Markham, Georgina Roe, Helen Macdonald, and Sylvia Scarlett to prevent
in future such unfortunate incidents as this that had been brought to
her notice by Miss Primer, she was sure much against Miss Primer's will.

Miss Primer at these words threw up her eyes to indicate the misery she
had suffered before she had been able to bring herself to the point of
reporting the twins. Phyllis whispered to Sylvia that Miss Primer looked
like a dying duck in a thunder-storm, a phrase which she now heard for
the first time and at which she laughed aloud.

Miss Ashley paused in her discourse and fixed Sylvia with her gray eyes
in pained interrogation; Miss Pinck's chin shot out; Miss Lee bit her
under lip and tenderly shook her head; the other girls stared at their
laps and tried to look at one another without moving their heads.
Phyllis quickly explained that it was she who had made Sylvia laugh.

"I'm awfully sorry, Miss Ashley," she drawled.

"I'm glad to hear that you are _very_ sorry," said Miss Ashley, "but
Sylvia must realize when it is permissible and when it is not
permissible to laugh. I'm afraid I must ask her to leave the room."

"I ought to go, too," Phyllis declared. "I made her laugh."

"I'm sure, Phyllis, that to yourself your wit seems irresistible. Pray
let us have an opportunity of judging."

"Well, I said that Miss Primer looked like a dying duck in a
thunder-storm."

The horrified amazement of everybody in the room expressed itself in a
gasp that sounded like a ghostly, an infinitely attenuated scream of
dismay. Sylvia, partly from nervousness, partly because the simile even
on repetition appealed to her sense of the ridiculous, laughed aloud for
a second time--laughed, indeed, with a kind of guffaw the sacrilegious
echoes of which were stifled in an appalled silence.

"Sylvia Scarlett and Phyllis Markham will both leave the room
immediately," said Miss Ashley. "I will speak to them later."

Outside the study of the head-mistress, Sylvia and Phyllis looked at
each other like people who have jointly managed to break a mirror.

"What will she do?"

"Sylvia, I simply couldn't help it. I simply couldn't bear them all any
longer."

"My dear, I know. Oh, I think it was wonderful of you."

Sylvia laughed heartily for the third time, and just at this moment the
twins, who were the original cause of all the commotion, came sidling up
to know what everybody had said.

"You little beasts with your bull's-eye lamps and your naughtiness,"
Phyllis cried. "I expect we shall all be expelled. What fun! I shall get
some hunting. Oh, three cheers, I say!"

"Of course you know why Miss Primer was really in such a wax?" Gladys
asked, with the eyes of an angel and the laugh of a fairy.

"No, let me tell, Gladys," Enid burst in. "You know I won the toss. We
tossed up which should tell and I won. You _are_ a chiseler. You see,
when Miss Primer came tearing up into our room we turned the lamps onto
her, and she was simply furious because she thought everybody in the
street could see her in that blue-flannel wrapper."

"Which, of course, they could," Sylvia observed.

"Of course!" the twins shrieked together. "And the boys opposite
clapped, and she heard them and tried to pull down the blind, and her
wrapper came open and she was wearing a chest-protector!"

The interview with Miss Ashley was rather distressing, because she took
from the start the altogether unexpected line of blaming Phyllis and
Sylvia not for the breach of discipline, but for the wound they had
inflicted upon Miss Primer. All that had seemed fine and honest and
brave and noble collapsed immediately; it was impossible after Miss
Ashley's words not to feel ashamed, and both the girls offered to beg
Miss Primer's pardon. Miss Ashley said no more about the incident after
this, though she took rather an unfair advantage of their chastened
spirits by exacting a promise that they would in common with the rest of
the school leaders set their faces against the encouragement of such
behavior as that of the twins last night.

The news from South Africa was so bad that Miss Primer's luxury of grief
could scarcely have been heightened by Phyllis's and Sylvia's rudeness;
however, she wept a few tears, patted their hands, and forgave them. A
few days afterward she was granted the boon of another woe, which she
shared with the whole school, in the news of Miss Lee's approaching
marriage. Any wedding would have upset Miss Primer, but in this case the
sorrow was rendered three times as poignant by the fact that Miss Lee
was going to marry a soldier under orders for the front. This romantic
accessory could not fail to thrill the girls, though it was not enough
to compensate for the loss of their beloved Miss Lee. Rivalries between
the Cecilias and Annabels were forever finished; several girls had been
learning Beethoven's Pathetic Sonata and the amount of expression put
into it would, they hoped, show Miss Lee the depth of their emotion when
for the last time these frail fingers so lightly corrected their touch,
when for the last time that delicate pencil inscribed her directions
upon their music.

"Of course the school will _never_ be the same without her," said
Muriel.

"I shall write home and ask if I can't take up Italian instead of
music," said Dorothy.

"Fancy playing duets with any one but Miss Lee," said Gwendyr. "The very
idea makes me shudder."

"Perhaps we shall have a music-master now," said Gladys.

Whereupon everybody told her she was a heartless thing. Poor Gladys, who
really loved Miss Lee as much as anybody, retired to her room and cried
for the rest of the evening, until she was consoled by Enid, who pointed
out that now she _must_ use her powder-puff.

For Sylvia the idea of Miss Lee's departure and marriage was desolating;
it was an abrupt rending of half the ties that bound her to Hornton
House. Phyllis, Miss Ashley, and the twins were all that really
remained, and Phyllis was always threatening to persuade her people to
take her away when the weather was tolerably warm, so deeply did she
resent the loss of hunting. It was curious how much more Phyllis meant
to her than Philip, so much, indeed, that she had never confided in her
that she was going to marry Philip. How absurd that two names so nearly
alike could be in the one case so beautiful, in the other so ugly. Yet
she was still very fond of Philip and she still enjoyed going out with
him on Sundays, even though it meant being deprived of pleasant times
with Phyllis. She had warned Philip that she might get too fond of
school, and he had smiled in that superior way of his. Ought she to
marry him at all? He had been so kind to her that if she refused to
marry him she would have to run away, for she could not continue under
an obligation. Why did people want to marry? Why must she marry? Worst
of all, why must Miss Lee marry? But these were questions that not even
Miss Hossack would be able to answer. Ah, if it had only been Miss
Hossack who had been going to marry. Sylvia began to make up a rhyme
about Miss Hossack marrying a Cossack and going for her honeymoon to the
Trossachs, where Helen Macdonald lived.

All the girls had subscribed to buy Miss Lee a dressing-case, which they
presented to her one evening after tea with a kind of dismal
beneficence, as if they were laying a wreath upon her tomb. Next morning
she went away by an early train to the north of England, and after
lunch every girl retired with the secret sorrow that now had more than
fashion to commend it. Sylvia's sorrow was an aching regret that she had
not told Miss Lee more about herself and her life and Philip; now it was
too late. She met the twins wandering disconsolately enlaced along the
corridor outside her room.

"Oh, Sylvia, dearest Sylvia!" they moaned. "We've lost our duet with
Miss Lee's fingering."

"I'll help you to look for it."

"Oh, but we lost it on purpose, because we didn't like it, and the next
day Miss Lee said she was going to be married."

Sylvia asked where they lost it.

"Oh, we put it in an envelope and posted it to the Bishop of London."

Sylvia suggested they should write to the Bishop and explain the
circumstances in which the duet was sent to him; he would no doubt
return it.

"Oh no," said the twins, mournfully. "We never put a stamp on and we
wrote inside, 'A token of esteem and regard from two sinners who you
confirmed.' How can we ask for it back?"

Sylvia embraced the twins, and the three of them wandered in the sad and
wintry garden until it was time for afternoon school.

The next day happened to be Sunday, and Philip came as usual to take
Sylvia out. He had sent her the evening before an overcoat trimmed with
gray squirrel, which, if it had not arrived after Miss Lee's departure,
would have been so much more joyfully welcomed. Philip asked her why she
was so sad and if the coat did not please her. She told him about its
coming after Miss Lee had gone, and, as usual, he had a lot to say:

"You strange child, how quickly you have adopted the outlook and manners
of the English school-girl. One would say that you had never been
anything else. How absurd I was to be afraid that you were a wild bird
whom I had caught too late. I'm quite positive now that you'll be happy
with me down in Hampshire. I'm sorry you've lost Miss Lee. A charming
woman, I thought, and very cultivated. Miss Ashley will miss her
greatly, but she herself will be glad to get away from music-teaching.
It must be an atrocious existence."

Here was a new point of view altogether. Could it really be possible
that those delicious hours with Miss Lee were a penance to the mistress?
Sylvia looked at Philip angrily, for she found it unforgivable in him to
destroy her illusions like this. He did not observe her expression and
continued his monologue:

"Really atrocious. Exercises! Scales! Other people's chilblains! A
creaking piano-stool! What a purgatory! And all to teach a number of
young women to inflict an objectionable noise upon their friends and
relations."

"Thanks," Sylvia broke in. "You won't catch me playing again."

"I'm not talking about you," Philip said. "You have temperament. You're
different from the ordinary school-girl." He took her arm
affectionately. "You're you, dear Sylvia."

"And yours," she added, sullenly. "I thought you said just now that I
was just like any other English school-girl and that you were so happy
about it."

"I said you'd wonderfully adopted the outlook," Philip corrected. "Not
quite the same thing."

"Oh, well, take your horrible coat, because I don't want it," Sylvia
exclaimed, and, rapidly unbuttoning her new overcoat, she flung it on
the pavement at his feet.

Nobody was in sight at the moment, so Philip did not get angry.

"Now don't tell me it's illogical to throw away only the coat and not
undress myself completely. I know quite well that everything I've got on
is yours."

"Oh no, it's not," Philip said, gently. "It's yours."

"But you paid for everything."

"No, you paid yourself," he insisted.

"How?"

"By being Sylvia. Come along, don't trample on your poor coat. There's a
most detestable wind blowing."

He picked up the offending overcoat and helped her into it again with so
much sympathy half humorous, half grave in his demeanor that she could
not help being sorry for her outburst.

Nevertheless, the fact of her complete dependence upon Philip for
everything, even before marriage, was always an oppression to Sylvia's
mind, which was increased by the continual reminders of her loneliness
that intercourse with other girls forced upon her. They, when they
should marry, should be married from a background; the lovers, when they
came for them, would have to fight for their love by breaking down the
barriers of old associations, old friendships, and old affections; in a
word, they would have to win the brides. What was her own background?
Nothing but a panorama of streets which offered no opposition to
Philip's choice except in so far as it was an ugly background for a
possession of his own and therefore fit to be destroyed. It was all very
well for Philip to tell her that she was herself and that he loved her
accordingly. If that were true, why was he taking so much trouble to
turn her into something different? Other girls at Hornton House, when
they married, would not begin with ugly backgrounds to be obliterated;
their pasts would merge beautifully with the pasts of their husbands;
they were not being transformed by Miss Pinck and Miss Primer; they were
merely being supplied by them with value for their parents' money. It
was a visit to Phyllis Markham's home in Leicestershire during the
Easter holidays that had branded with the iron of jealousy these facts
upon her meditation. Phyllis used to lament that she had no brothers;
and Sylvia used to wonder what she would have said if she had been like
herself, without mother, without father, without brothers, without
sisters, without relations, without friends, without letters, without
photographs, with nothing in the whole world between herself and the
shifting panorama from which she had been snatched but the love of a
timid man inspired by an unusual encounter in Brompton Cemetery. This
visit to Phyllis Markham was the doom upon their friendship; however
sweet, however sympathetic, however loyal Phyllis might be, she must
ultimately despise her friend's past; every word Sylvia listened to
during those Easter holidays seemed to cry out the certain fulfilment of
this conjecture.

"I expect I'm too sensitive," Sylvia said to herself. "I expect I really
am common, because apparently common people are always looking out for
slights. I don't look out for them now, but if I were to tell Phyllis
all about myself, I'm sure I should begin to look out for them. No, I'll
just be friends with her up to a point, for so long as I stay at Hornton
House; then we'll separate forever. I'm really an absolute fraud. I'm
just as much of a fraud now as when I was dressed up as a boy. I'm not
real in this life. I haven't been real since I came down to breakfast
with Miss Ashley that first morning. I'm simply a very good impostor. I
must inherit the talent from father. Another reason against telling
Phyllis about myself is that, if I do, I shall become her property. Miss
Ashley knows all about me, but I'm not her property, because it's part
of her profession to be told secrets. Phyllis would love me more than
ever, so long as she was the only person that owned the secret, but if
anybody else ever knew, even if it were only Philip, she would be
jealous and she would have to make a secret of it with some one else.
Then she would be ashamed of herself and would begin to hate and despise
me in self-defense. No, I must never tell any of the girls."

Apart from these morbid fits, which were not very frequent, Sylvia
enjoyed her stay at Markham Grange. In a way it encouraged the idea of
marrying Philip; for the country life appealed to her not as to a
cockney by the strangeness of its inhabitants and the mere quantity of
grass in sight, but more deeply with those old ineffable longings of
Hampstead.

At the end of the summer term the twins invited Sylvia to stay with them
in Hertfordshire. She refused at first, because she felt that she could
not bear the idea of being jealously disturbed by a second home. The
twins were inconsolable at her refusal and sent a telegram to their
mother, who had already written one charming letter of invitation, and
who now wrote another in which she told Sylvia of her children's bitter
disappointment and begged her to come. Miss Ashley, also, was anxious
that Sylvia should go, and told her frankly that it seemed an excellent
chance to think over seriously her marriage with Philip in the autumn.
Philip, now that the date of her final decision was drawing near,
wished her to remain with Miss Ashley in London. His opposition was
enough to make Sylvia insist upon going; so, when at the end of July the
school was swept by a tornado of relations and friends, Sylvia was swept
away with the twins to Hertfordshire, and Philip was left to wait till
the end of September to know whether she would marry him or not in
October.

The Worsleys' home at Arbour End made an altogether different impression
upon Sylvia from Markham Grange. She divined in some way that the
background here was not immemorial, but that the Worsleys had created it
themselves. And a perfect background it was--a very comfortable red
brick house with a garden full of flowers, an orchard loaded with fruit,
fields promenaded by neat cows, pigsties inhabited by clean pigs, a
shining dog-cart and a shining horse, all put together with the
satisfying completeness of a picture-puzzle. Mr. Worsley was a handsome
man, tall and fair with a boyish face and a quantity of clothes; Mrs.
Worsley was slim and fair, with a rose-leaf complexion and as many
clothes as her husband. The twins were even naughtier and more charming
than they were at Hornton House; there was a small brother called
Hercules, aged six, who was as charming as his sisters and surpassed
them in wickedness. The maids were trim and tolerant; the gardener was
never grumpy; Hercules's governess disapproved of holiday tasks; the
dogs wagged their tails at the least sound.

"I love these people," Sylvia said to herself, when she was undressing
on the first night of her stay. "I love them, I love them. I feel at
home--at home--at home!" She leaped into bed and hugged the pillow in a
triumph of good-fellowship.

At Arbour End Sylvia banished the future and gave herself to the
present. One seemed to have nothing to do but to amuse oneself then, and
it was so easy to amuse oneself that one never grew tired of doing so.
As the twins pointed out, their father was so much nicer than any other
father, because whatever was suggested he always enjoyed. If it was a
question of learning golf, Mr. Worsley took the keenest interest in
teaching it. When Gladys drove a ball through the drawing-room window,
no one was more delighted than Mr. Worsley himself; he infected
everybody with his pleasure, so that the gardener beamed at the notion
of going to fetch the glazier from the village, and the glazier beamed
when he mended the window, and the maids beamed while they watched him
at work, and the dogs sat down in a loose semicircle, thumping the lawn
with appreciative tails. The next day, when Hercules, who, standing
solemnly apart from the rest, had observed all that happened, threw a
large stone through the mended window, there was the same scene of
pleasure slightly intensified.

Mrs. Worsley flitted through the house, making every room she entered
more beautiful and more gay for her presence. She had only one regret,
which was that the twins were getting so big, and this not as with other
mothers because it made her feel old, but because she would no more see
their black legs and their tumbled hair. Sylvia once asked her how she
could bear to let them go to school, and Mrs. Worsley's eyes filled with
tears.

"I had to send them to school," she whispered, sadly. "Because they
_would_ fall in love with the village boys and they were getting
Hertfordshire accents. Perhaps you've noticed that I myself speak with a
slight cockney accent. Do you understand, dear?"

The August days fled past and in the last week came a letter from Miss
Ashley.

     MURREN, _August 26, 1900._

     MY DEAR SYLVIA,--I shall be back from Switzerland by September 3d,
     and I shall be delighted to see you at Hornton House again. Philip
     nearly followed me here in order to talk about you, but I declined
     his company. I want you to think very seriously about your future,
     as no doubt you have been doing all this month. If you have the
     least hesitation about marrying Philip, let me advise you not to do
     it. I shall be glad to offer you a place at Hornton House, not as a
     schoolmistress, but as a kind of director of the girls' leisure
     time. I have grown very fond of you during this year and have
     admired the way in which you settled down here more than I can
     express. We will talk this over more fully when we meet, but I want
     you to know that, if you feel you ought not to marry, you have a
     certain amount of security for the future while you are deciding
     what you will ultimately do. Give my love to the twins. I shall be
     glad to see you again.

     Your affectionate

     CAROLINE ASHLEY.

The effect of Miss Ashley's letter was the exact contrary of what she
had probably intended; it made Sylvia feel that she was not bound to
marry Philip, and, from the moment she was not bound, that she was
willing, even anxious, to marry him. The aspects of his character which
she had criticized to herself vanished and left only the first
impression of him, when she was absolutely free and was finding his
company such a relief from the Exhibition. Another result of the letter
was that by removing the shame of dependence and by providing an
alternative it opened a way to discussion, for which Sylvia fixed upon
Mrs. Worsley, divining that she certainly would look at her case
unprejudiced by anything but her own experience.

Sylvia never pretended to herself that she would be at all influenced by
advice. Listening to advice from Mrs. Worsley would be like looking into
a shop-window with money in one's pocket, but with no intention of
entering the shop to make a purchase; listening to her advice before
Miss Ashley's offer would have been like looking at a shop-window
without a penny in the world, a luxury of fancy to which Sylvia had
never given way. So at the first opportunity Sylvia talked to Mrs.
Worsley about Philip, going back for her opinion of him and feeling
toward him to those first days together, and thereby giving her listener
an impression that she liked him a very great deal, which was true, as
Sylvia assured herself, yet not without some misgivings about her
presentation of the state of affairs.

"He sounds most fascinating," said Mrs. Worsley. "Of course Lennie was
never at all clever. I don't think he ever read a book in his life. When
I met him first I was acting in burlesque, and I had to make up my mind
between him and my profession; I'm so glad I chose him. But at first I
was rather miserable. His parents were still alive, and though they were
very kind to me, I was always an intruder, and of course Lennie was
dependent on them, for he was much too stupid an old darling to earn his
own living. He really has nothing but his niceness. Then his parents
died and, being an only son, Lennie had all the money. We lived for a
time in his father's house, but it became impossible. We had my poor old
mother down to stay with us, and the neighbors called, as if she were a
curiosity. When she didn't appear at tea, you could feel they were
staying on, hoping against hope to get a glimpse of her. I expect I was
sensitive and rather silly, but I was miserable. And then Lennie, who is
not clever, but so nice that it always leads him to do exactly the right
thing, went away suddenly and bought this house, where life has been one
long dream of happiness. You've seen how utterly self-contained we are.
Nobody comes to visit us very much, because when we first came here we
used to hide when people called. And then the twins have always been
such a joy--oh, dear, I wish they would never grow up; but there's still
Hercules, and you never know, there might be another baby. Oh, my dear
Sylvia, I'm sure you ought to get married. And you say his parents are
dead?"

"But he has a sister."

"Oh, a sister doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter his being clever and
fond of books, because you're fond of books yourself. The twins tell me
you've read everything in the world and that there's nothing you don't
know. I'm sure you'd soon get tired of Hornton House--oh, yes, I
strongly advise you to get married."

When Sylvia got back to London the memory of Arbour End rested in her
thoughts like a pleasant dream of the night that one ponders in a summer
dawn. She assured Miss Ashley that she was longing to marry Philip; and
when she seemed to express in her reception of the announcement a kind
of puzzled approval, Sylvia spoke with real enthusiasm of her marriage.
Miss Ashley never knew that the real inspiration of such enthusiasm was
Arbour End and not at all Philip himself. As for Sylvia, because she
would by no means admit even to herself that she had taken Mrs.
Worsley's advice, she passed over the advice and remarked only the signs
of happiness at Arbour End.

Sylvia and Philip were married at a registry-office early in October.
The honeymoon was spent in the Italian lakes, where Philip denounced the
theatrical scenery, but crowned Sylvia with vine-leaves and wrote Latin
poetry to her, which he translated aloud in the evenings as well as the
mosquitoes would let him.



CHAPTER VII


Green Lanes lay midway between the market town of Galton and the large
village of Newton Candover. It is a small, tumble-down hamlet remote
from any highroad, the confluence of four deserted by-ways leading to
other hamlets upon the wooded downland of which Green Lanes was the
highest point. Hare Hall, the family mansion of the Iredales, was quite
two miles away in the direction of Newton Candover and was let for a
long term of years to a rich stockbroker. Philip himself lived at The
Old Farm, an Elizabethan farm-house which he had filled with books. The
only other "gentleman" in Green Lanes was the vicar, Mr. Dorward, with
whom Philip had quarreled. The squire as lay rector drew a yearly
revenue of £300, but he refused to allow the living more than £90 until
the vicar gave up his ritualistic fads, to which, though he never went
inside the church, he strongly objected.

Sylvia's first quarrel with Philip was over the vicar, whom she met
through her puppy's wandering into his cottage while he was at tea and
refusing to come out. She might never have visited him again if Philip
had not objected, for he was very shy and eccentric; but after two more
visits to annoy Philip, she began to like Mr. Dorward, and her
friendship with him became a standing source of irritation to her
husband and a pleasure to herself which she declined to give up. Her
second quarrel with Philip was over his sister Gertrude, who came down
for a visit soon after they got back from Como. Gertrude, having until
her brother's marriage always lived at The Old Farm, could not refrain
from making Sylvia very much aware of this; her conversation was one
long, supercilious narrative of what she used to do at Green Lanes, with
which were mingled fears for what might be done there in the future.
Philip was quite ready to admit that his sister could be very
irritating, but he thought Sylvia's demand for her complete exclusion
from The Old Farm for at least a year was unreasonable.

"Well, if she comes, I shall go," Sylvia said, sullenly.

"My dear child, do remember that you're married and that you can't go
and come as you like," Philip answered. "However, I quite see your point
of view about poor Gertrude and I quite agree with you that for a time
it will be wiser to keep ourselves rather strictly to ourselves."

Why could he not have said that at first, Sylvia thought. She would have
been so quickly generous if he had, but the preface about her being
married had spoiled his concession. He was a curious creature, this
husband of hers. When they were alone he would encourage her to be as
she used to be; he would laugh with her, show the keenest interest in
what she was reading, search for a morning to find some book that would
please her, listen with delight to her stories of Jimmy Monkley or of
her father or of Blanche, and be always, in fact, the sympathetic
friend, never obtruding himself, as lover or monitor, two aspects of him
equally repugnant to Sylvia. Yet when there was the least likelihood not
alone of a third person's presence, but even of a third person's hearing
any roundabout gossip of her real self, Philip would shrivel her up with
interminable corrections, and what was far worse, try to sweeten the
process by what she considered fatuous demonstrations of affection. For
a time there was no great tension between them, because Sylvia's
adventurous spirit was occupied by her passion for knowledge; she felt
vaguely that at any time the moment might arrive when mere knowledge
without experience would not be enough; at present the freedom of
Philip's library was adventure enough. He was most eager to assist her
progress, and almost reckless in the way he spurred her into every
liberty of thought, maintaining the stupidity of all conventional
beliefs--moral, religious, or political. He warned her that the
expression of such opinions, or, still worse, action under the influence
of them, would be for her or for any one else in the present state of
society quite impossible; Sylvia used to think at the time that it was
only herself as his wife whom he wished to keep in check, and resented
his reasons accordingly; afterward looking back to this period she came
to the conclusion that Philip was literally a theorist, and that his
fierce denunciations of all conventional opinions could never in any
circumstances have gone further than quarreling with the vicar and
getting married in a registry-office. Once when she attacked him for his
cowardice he retorted by citing his marriage with her, and immediately
afterward apologized for what he characterized as "caddishness."

"If you had married me and been content to let me remain myself," Sylvia
said, "you might have used that argument. But you showed you were
frightened of what you'd done when you sent me to Hornton House."

"My dear child, I wanted you to go there for your own comfort, not for
mine. After all, it was only like reading a book; it gave you a certain
amount of academic theory that you could prove or disprove by
experience."

"A devil of a lot of experience I get here," Sylvia exclaimed.

"You're still only seventeen," Philip answered. "The time will come."

"It will come," Sylvia murmured, darkly.

"You're not threatening to run away from me already?" Philip asked, with
a smile.

"I might do anything," she owned. "I might poison you."

Philip laughed heartily at this; just then Mr. Dorward passed over the
village green, which gave him an opportunity to rail at his cassock.

"It's ridiculous for a man to go about dressed up like that. Of course,
nobody attends his church. I can't think why my father gave him the
living. He's a ritualist, and his manners are abominable."

"But he looks like a Roman Emperor," said Sylvia.

Philip spluttered with indignation. "Oh, he's Roman enough, my dear
child; but an Emperor! Which Emperor?"

"I'm not sure which it is, but I think it's Nero."

"Yes, I see what you mean," Philip assented, after a pause. "You're
amazingly observant. Yes, there is that kind of mixture of sensual
strength and fineness about his face. But it's not surprising. The line
between degeneracy and the 'twopence colored' type of religion is not
very clearly drawn."

It was after this conversation that, in searching for a picture of
Nero's head to compare with Mr. Dorward's, Sylvia came across the
Satyricon of Petronius in a French translation. She read it through
without skipping a word, applied it to the test of recognition, and
decided that she found more satisfactorily than in any book she had yet
read a distorting mirror of her life from the time she left France until
she met Philip, a mirror, however, that never distorted so wildly as to
preclude recognition. Having made this discovery, she announced it to
him, who applauded her sense of humor and of literature, but begged her
to keep it to herself; people might get a wrong idea of her; he knew
what she meant and appreciated the reflection, but it was a book that,
generally speaking, no woman would read, still less talk about, and
least of all claim kinship with. It was of course an immortal work of
art, humorous, witty, fantastic.

"And true," Sylvia added.

"And no doubt true to its period and its place, which was southern Italy
in the time of Nero."

"And true to southern England in the time of Victoria," Sylvia insisted.
"I don't mean that it's exactly the same," she went on, striving almost
painfully to express her thoughts. "The same, though. I _feel_ it's
true. I don't _know_ it's true. Oh, can't you understand?"

"I fancy you're trying to voice your esthetic consciousness of great art
that, however time may change its accessories, remains inherently
changeless. Realism in fact as opposed to what is wrongly called
realism. Lots of critics, Sylvia, have tried to define what is worrying
you, and lots of long words have been enlisted on their behalf. A better
and more ancient word for realism was 'poetry'; but the word has been
debased by the versifiers who call themselves poets just as painters
call themselves artists--both are titles that only posterity can award.
Great art is something that is made and that lives in itself; like that
stuff, radium, which was discovered the year before last, it eternally
gives out energy without consuming itself. Radium, however, does not
solve the riddle of life, and until we solve that, great art will remain
undefinable. Which reminds me of a mistake that so-called believers
make. I've often heard Christians maintain the truth of Christianity,
because it is still alive. What nonsense! The words of Christ are still
alive, because Christ Himself was a great poet, and therefore expressed
humanity as perhaps no one else ever expressed humanity before. But the
lying romantic, the bad poet, in fact, who tickles the vain and
credulous mob with miracles and theogonies, expresses nothing. It is a
proof of nothing but the vitality of great art that the words of Christ
can exist and can continue to affect humanity notwithstanding the
mountebank behavior attributed to Him, out of which priests have
manufactured a religion. It is equally surprising that Cervantes could
hold his own against the romances of chivalry he tried to kill. He may
have killed one mode of expression, but he did not prevent _East Lynne_
from being written; he yet endures because Don Quixote, whom he made,
has life. By the way, you never got on with Don Quixote, did you?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"I think it's a failure on your part, dear Sylvia."

"He is so stupid," she said.

"But he realized how stupid he was before he died."

She shrugged her shoulders. "I can't help my bad taste, as you call it.
He annoys me."

"You think the Yanguseian carriers dealt with him in the proper way?"

"I don't remember them."

"They beat him."

"I think I could beat a person who annoyed me very much," Sylvia said.
"I don't mean with sticks, of course, but with my behavior."

"Is that another warning?" Philip asked.

"Perhaps."

"Anyway, you think Petronius is good?"

She nodded her head emphatically.

"Come, you shall give a judgment on Aristophanes. I commend him to you
in the same series of French translations."

"I think Lysistrata is simply splendid," Sylvia said, a week or so
later. "And I like the Thesmos-something and the Eck-something."

"I thought you might," Philip laughed. "But don't quote from them when
my millionaire tenant comes to tea."

"Don't be always harping upon the dangers of my conversation," she
exhorted.

"Mayn't I even tease you?" Philip asked, in mock humility.

"I don't mind being teased, but it isn't teasing. It's serious."

"Your sense of humor plays you tricks sometimes," he said.

"Oh, don't talk about my sense of humor like that. My sense of humor
isn't a watch that you can take out and tap and regulate and wind up and
shake your head over. I hate people who talk about a sense of humor as
you do. Are you so sure you have one yourself?"

"Perhaps I haven't," Philip agreed, but by the way in which he spoke
Sylvia knew that he would maintain he had a sense of humor, and that the
rest of humanity had none if it combined to contradict him. "I always
distrust people who are too confidently the possessors of one," he
added.

"You don't understand in the least what I mean," Sylvia cried out, in
exasperation. "You couldn't distrust anybody else's sense of humor if
you had one yourself."

"That's what I said," Philip pointed out, in an aggrieved voice.

"Don't go on; you'll make me scream," she adjured him. "I won't talk
about a sense of humor, because if there is such a thing it obviously
can't be talked about."

Lest Philip should pursue the argument, she left him and went for a long
muddy walk by herself half-way to Galton. She had never before walked
beyond the village of Medworth, but she was still in such a state of
nervous exasperation that she continued down the hill beyond it without
noticing how far it was taking her. The country on either side of the
road ascended in uncultivated fields toward dense oak woods. In many of
these fields were habitations with grandiose names, mostly built of
corrugated iron. Sylvia thought at first that she was approaching the
outskirts of Galton and pressed on to explore the town, the name of
which was familiar from the rickety tradesmen's carts that jogged
through Green Lanes. There was no sign of a town, however, and after
walking about two miles through a landscape that recalled the pictures
she had seen of primitive settlements in the Far West, she began to feel
tired and turned round upon her tracks, wishing she had not come quite
so far. Suddenly a rustic gate that was almost buried in the unclipped
hazel hedge on one side of the road was flung open, and an elderly lady
with a hooked nose and fierce bright eyes, dressed in what looked at a
first glance like a pair of soiled lace window-curtains, asked Sylvia
with some abruptness if she had met a turkey going in her direction.
Sylvia shook her head, and the elderly lady (Sylvia would have called
her an old lady from her wrinkled countenance, had she not been so
astonishingly vivacious in her movements) called in a high harsh voice:

"Emmie! There's a girl here coming from Galton way, and _she_ hasn't
seen Major Kettlewell."

In the distance a female voice answered, shrilly, "Perhaps he's crossed
over to the Pluepotts'!"

Sylvia explained that she had misunderstood the first inquiry, but that
nobody had passed her since she turned back five minutes ago.

"We call the turkey Major Kettlewell because he looks like Major
Kettlewell, but Major Kettlewell himself lives over there."

The elderly lady indicated the other side of the road with a vague
gesture, and went on:

"Where can that dratted bird have got to? Major! Major! Major!
Chuch--chick--chilly--chilly--chuck--chuck," she called.

Sylvia hoped that the real major lived far enough away to be out of
hearing.

"Never keep a turkey," the elderly lady went on, addressing Sylvia. "We
didn't kill it for Christmas, because we'd grown fond of it, even
though he is like that old ruffian of a major. And ever since he's gone
on the wander. It's the springtime coming, I suppose."

The elderly lady's companion had by this time reached the gate, and
Sylvia saw that she was considerably younger, but with the same
hall-mark of old-maidishness.

"Don't worry any more about the bird, Adelaide," said the new-comer.
"It's tea-time. Depend upon it, he's crossed over to the Pluepotts'.
This time I really will wring his neck."

Sylvia prepared to move along, but the first lady asked her where she
was going, and, when she heard Green Lanes, exclaimed:

"Gemini! That's beyond Medworth, isn't it? You'd better come in and have
a cup of tea with us. I'm Miss Horne, and my friend here is Miss
Hobart."

Sunny Bank, as this particular tin house was named, not altogether
inappropriately, although it happened to be on the less sunny side of
the road, was built half-way up a steepish slope of very rough ground
from which enough flints had been extracted to pave a zigzag of
ascending paths, and to vary the contour of the slope with a miniature
mountain range of unused material without apparently smoothing the areas
of proposed cultivation.

"These paths are something dreadful, Emmie," said Miss Horne, as the
three of them scrambled up through the garden. "Never mind, we'll get
the roller out of the hedge when Mr. Pluepott comes in on Wednesday.
Miss Hobart nearly got carried away by the roller yesterday," she
explained to Sylvia.

A trellised porch outside the bungalow--such apparently was the correct
name for these habitations--afforded a view of the opposite slope, which
was sprinkled with bungalows surrounded like Sunny Bank by heaps of
stones; there were also one or two more pretentious buildings of red
brick and one or two stony gardens without a dwelling-place as yet.

"I suppose you're wondering why the name over the door isn't the same as
the one on the gate? Mr. Pluepott is always going to take it out, but he
never remembers to bring the paint. It's the name the man from whom we
bought it gave the bungalow," said Miss Hobart, crossly. Sylvia read in
gothic characters over the door Floral Nook, and agreed with the two
ladies that Sunny Bank was much more suitable.

"For whatever else it may be, it certainly isn't damp," Miss Horne
declared. "But, dear me, talking of names, you haven't told us yours."

Sylvia felt shy. It was actually the first time she had been called upon
to announce herself since she was married. The two ladies exclaimed on
hearing she was Mrs. Iredale, and Sylvia felt that there was a kind of
impropriety in her being married, when Miss Horne and Miss Hobart, who
were so very much older than she, were still spinsters.

The four small rooms of which the bungalow consisted were lined with
varnished match-boarding; everything was tied up with brightly colored
bows of silk, and most of the pictures were draped with small curtains;
the bungalow was full of knickknacks and shivery furniture, but not full
enough to satisfy the owners' passion for prettiness, so that wherever
there was a little space on the walls silk bows had been nailed about
like political favors. Sylvia thought it would have been simpler to tie
a wide sash of pink silk round the house and call it The Chocolate Box.
Tea, though even the spoons were tied up with silk, was a varied and
satisfying meal. The conversation of the two ladies was remarkably
entertaining when it touched upon their neighbors, and when twilight
warned Sylvia that she must hurry away she was sorry to leave them.
While she was making her farewells there was a loud tap at the door,
followed immediately by the entrance of a small bullet-headed man with
quick black eyes.

"I've brought back your turkey, Miss Horne."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Pluepott. There you are, Emmie. You were right."

At this moment the bird began to flap its wings as violently as its
position head downward would allow; nor, not being a horse, did it pay
any attention to Mr. Pluepott's repeated shouts of "Woa! Woa back, will
you!"

"I think you'd better let him flap outside, Mr. Pluepott," Miss Hobart
advised.

Sylvia thought so too when she looked at the floor.

"Shall I wring its neck now or would you rather I waited till I come in
on Wednesday?"

"Oh, I think we'll wait, thank you, Mr. Pluepott," Miss Horne said.
"Perhaps you wouldn't mind shutting him up in the coop. He does wander
so. Are you going into Galton?"

Mr. Pluepott replied, as he confined Major Kettlewell to his barracks,
that, on the contrary, he was driving up to Medworth to see about some
beehives for sale there, whereupon Miss Horne and Miss Hobart asked if
he would mind taking Mrs. Iredale that far upon her way.

A few minutes later Sylvia, on a very splintery seat, was jolting along
beside Mr. Pluepott toward Medworth.

"Rum lot of people hereabouts," he said, by way of opening the
conversation, "Some of the rummest people it's ever been my luck to
meet. I came here because my wife had to leave the Midlands. Chest was
bad. I used to be a cobbler at Bedford. Since I've been here I've become
everything--carpenter, painter, decorator, gardener, mason, bee expert,
poultry-keeper, blacksmith, livery-stables, furniture-remover, house
agent, common carrier, bricklayer, dairyman, horse-breaker. The only
thing I don't do now is make boots. Funny thing, and you won't believe
it, but last week I had to buy myself the first pair of boots I ever
bought since I was a lad of fifteen. Oh, well, I like the latest better
than the last, as I jokingly told my missus the other night. It made her
laugh," said Mr. Pluepott, looking at Sylvia rather anxiously; she
managed to laugh too, and he seemed relieved.

"I often make jokes for my missus. She's apt to get very melancholy with
her chest. But, as I was saying, the folk round here they beat the band.
It just shows what advertisement will do."

Sylvia asked why.

"Well, when I first came here, and I was one of the three first, I came
because I read an advertisement in the paper: 'Land for the Million in
lots from a quarter of an acre.' Some fellow had bought an old farm that
was no use to nobody and had the idea of splitting it up into lots.
Originally this was the Oak Farm Estate and belonged to St. Mary's
College, Oxford. Now we call it Oaktown--the residents, that is--but
when we applied the other day to the Galton Rural District Council, so
as we could have the name properly recognized, went in we did with the
major, half a dozen of us, as smart as a funeral, one of the wise men of
Gotham, which is what I jokingly calls Galton nowadays, said he thought
Tintown would be a better name. The major got rare and angry, but his
teeth slipped just as he was giving it 'em hot and strong, which is a
trick they have. He nearly swallowed 'em last November, when he was
taking the chair at a Conservative meeting, in an argument with a
Radical about the war. They had to lead him outside and pat his back.
It's a pity the old ladies can't get on with him. They fell out over
blackberrying in his copse last Michaelmas. Well, the fact is the
major's a bit close, and I think he meant to sell the blackberries. He's
put up a notice now 'Beware of Dangerous Explosives,' though there's
nothing more dangerous than a broken air-gun in the whole house. Miss
Horne was very bitter about it; oh, very bitter she was. Said she always
knew the major was a guy, and he only wanted to stuff himself with
gunpowder to give the boys a rare set out on the Fifth."

"How did Miss Horne and Miss Hobart come here?" Sylvia asked.

"Advertisement. They lived somewhere near London, I believe; came into a
bit of money, I've heard, and thought they'd settle in the country. I
give them a morning a week on Wednesdays. The man they bought it off had
been a tax-collector somewhere in the West Indies. He swindled them
properly, but they were sorry for him because he had a floating
kidney--floating in alcohol, I should think, by the amount he drank. But
they won't hear a word against him even now. He's living in Galton and
they send him cabbages every week, which he gives to his rabbits when
he's sober and throws at his housekeeper when he's drunk. Sunny Bank!
I'm glad it's not my Bank. As I jokingly said to my missus, I should
soon be stony-broke. Ah, well, there's all sorts here and that's a
fact," Mr. Pluepott continued, with a pensive flick at his pony. "That
man over there, for instance." He pointed with his whip through the
gathering darkness to a particularly small tin cottage. "He used to play
the trombone in a theater till he played his inside out; now he thinks
he's going to make a fortune growing early tomatoes for Covent Garden
market. You get him with a pencil in his hand of an evening and you'd
think about borrowing money from him next year; but when you see him
next morning trying to cover a five-by-four packing-case with a broken
sash-light, you'd be more afraid of his trying to borrow from you."

With such conversation did Mr. Pluepott beguile the way to Medworth; and
when he heard that Sylvia intended to walk in the dusk to Green Lanes he
insisted on driving her the extra two miles.

"The hives won't fly away," he said, cheerfully, "and I like to make a
good job of a thing. Well, now you've found your way to Oaktown, I hope
you'll visit us again. Mrs. Pluepott will be very glad to see you drop
in for a cup of tea any day, and if you've got any comical
reading-matter, she'd be glad to borrow from you; for her chest does
make her very melancholy, and, being accustomed to having me always
about the house when I was cobbling, she doesn't seem to get used to
being alone. Only the other day she said if she'd known I was going to
turn into a Buffalo Bill she'd rather have stayed in Bedford. 'Land for
the Millions!' she said, 'I reckon you'd call it Land for the Million,
if you had to sweep the house clean of the mud you bring into it.' Well,
good night to you. Very glad I was able to oblige, I'm sure."

Philip was relieved when Sylvia got back. She had never been out for so
long before, and she teased him about the running away, that he had
evidently imagined. She felt in a good humor after her expedition, and
was glad to be back in this dignified and ancient house with its books
and lamplight and not a silken bow anywhere to be seen.

"So you've been down to that abomination of tin houses? It's an absolute
blot on the countryside. I don't recommend too close an
acquaintanceship. I'm told it's inhabited by an appalling set of
rascals. Poor Melville, who owns the land all 'round, says he can't keep
a hare."

Sylvia said the people seemed rather amusing, and was not at all
inclined to accept Philip's condemnation of them; he surely did not
suggest that Miss Horne and Miss Hobart, for instance, were poachers?

"My dear child, people who come and live in a place like the Oak Farm
Estate--Oaktown, as they have the impudence to call it--are there for no
good. They've either done something discreditable in town or they hope
to do something discreditable in the country. Oh yes, I've heard all
about our neighbors. There's a ridiculous fellow who calls himself a
major--I believe he used to be in the volunteers--and can't understand
why he's not made a magistrate. I'm told he's the little tin god of
Tintown. No, no, I prefer even your friendship with our vicar. Don't be
cross with me, Sylvia, for laughing at your new friends, but you mustn't
take them too seriously. I shall have finished the text I'm writing this
month, and we'll go up to London for a bit. Shall we? I'm afraid you're
getting dull down here."

The spring wore away, but the text showed no signs of being finished.
Sylvia suggested that she should invite Gladys and Enid Worsley to stay
with her, but Philip begged her to postpone the invitation while he was
working, and thought in any case it would be better to have them down in
summer. Sylvia went to Oaktown once or twice, but said nothing about it
to Philip, because from a sort of charitableness she did not want him to
diminish himself further in her eyes by airing his prejudices with the
complacency that seemed to increase all the time they stayed in the
country.

One day at the end of April Miss Horne and Miss Hobart announced they
had bought a governess-car and a pony, built a stable, and intended to
celebrate their first drive by calling on Sylvia at Green Lanes. Mr.
Pluepott had promised, even if it should not be on a Wednesday, to
superintend the first expedition and gave his opinion of the boy whom it
was proposed to employ as coachman. The boy in question, whom Mr.
Pluepott called Jehuselah, whether from an attempt to combine a
satirical expression of his driving and his age, or too slight
acquaintance with Biblical personalities, was uncertain, was known as
Ernie to Miss Horne and Miss Hobart when he was quick and good, but as
Ernest when he was slow and bad; his real name all the time was Herbert.

"Good heavens!" Philip ejaculated, when he beheld the governess-car from
his window. "Who on earth is this?"

"Friends of mine," said Sylvia. "Miss Horne and Miss Hobart. I told you
about them."

"But they're getting out," Philip gasped, in horror. "They're coming
here."

"I know," Sylvia said. "I hope there's plenty for tea. They always give
me the most enormous teas." And without waiting for any more of Philip's
protests she hurried down-stairs and out into the road to welcome the
two ladies. They were both of them dressed in pigeon's-throat silk under
more lace even than usual, and arrived in a state of enthusiasm over
Ernie's driving and thankfulness for the company of Mr. Pluepott, who
was also extremely pleased with the whole turn-out.

"A baby in arms couldn't have handled that pony more carefully," he
declared, looking at Ernie with as much pride as if he had begotten him.

"We're so looking forward to meeting Mr. Iredale," said Miss Horne.

"We hear he's a great scholar," said Miss Hobart.

Sylvia took them into the dining-room, where she was glad to see that a
gigantic tea had been prepared--a match even for the most profuse of
Sunny Bank's.

Then she went up-stairs to fetch Philip, who flatly refused to come
down.

"You must come," Sylvia urged. "I'll never forgive you if you don't."

"My dearest Sylvia, I really cannot entertain the eccentricities of
Tintown here. You invited them. You must look after them. I'm busy."

"Are you coming?" Sylvia asked, biting her lips.

"No, I really can't. It's absurd. I don't want this kind of people here.
Besides, I must work."

"You sha'n't work," Sylvia cried, in a fury, and she swept all his books
and papers on the floor.

"I certainly sha'n't come now," he said, in the prim voice that was so
maddening.

"Did you mean to come before I upset your books?"

"Yes, I probably should have come," he answered.

"All right. I'm so sorry. I'll pick everything up," and she plunged down
on the floor. "There you are," she said when everything was put back in
its place. "Now will you come?"

"No, my dear. I told you I wouldn't after you upset my things."

"Philip," she cried, her eyes bright with rage, "you're making me begin
to hate you sometimes."

Then she left him and went back to her guests, to whom she explained
that her husband had a headache and was lying down. The ladies were
disappointed, but consoled themselves by recommending a number of
remedies which Miss Horne insisted that Sylvia should write down. When
tea was finished, Miss Hobart said that their first visit to Green Lanes
had been most enjoyable and that there was only one thing they would
like to do before going home, which would be to visit the church. Sylvia
jumped at an excuse for not showing them over the house, and they set
out immediately through the garden to walk to the little church that
stood in a graveyard grass-grown like the green lanes of the hamlet
whose dead were buried there. The sun was westering, and in the golden
air they lowered their voices for a thrush that was singing his vespers
upon a moldering wooden cross.

"Nobody ever comes here," Sylvia said. "Hardly anybody comes to church
ever. The people don't like Mr. Dorward's services. They say he can't be
heard."

Suddenly the vicar himself appeared, and seemed greatly pleased to see
Sylvia and her visitors; she felt a little guilty, because, though she
was great friends with Mr. Dorward, she had never been inside the
church, nor had he ever hinted he would like her to come. It would seem
so unkind for her to come like this for the first time with strangers,
as if the church which she knew he deeply loved was nothing but a
tea-time entertainment. There was no trace of reproachfulness in his
manner, as he showed Miss Horne and Miss Hobart the vestments and a
little image of the Virgin in peach-blow glaze that he moved caressingly
into the sunlight, as a child might fondle reverently a favorite doll.
He spoke of his plans for restoration and unrolled the design of a
famous architect, adding with a smile for Sylvia that the lay rector
disapproved of it thoroughly. They left him arranging the candlesticks
on the altar, a half-pathetic, half-humorous figure that seemed to be
playing a solitary game.

"And you say nobody goes to his church!" Miss Horne exclaimed. "But he's
most polite and charming."

"Scarcely anybody goes," Sylvia said.

"Emmie," said Miss Horne, standing upright and flashing forth an eagle's
glance. "_We_ will attend his service."

"That is a very good idea of yours, Adelaide," Miss Hobart replied.

Then they got into the governess-car with much determination, and with
friendly waves of the hand to Sylvia set out back to Oaktown.

When Miss Horne and Miss Hobart had left, Sylvia went up-stairs to have
it out with Philip. At this rate there would very soon be a crisis in
their married life. She was a little disconcerted by his getting up the
moment she entered his room and coming to meet her with an apology.

"Dearest Sylvia, you can call me what you will; I shall deserve the
worst. I can't understand my behavior this afternoon. I think I must
have been working so hard that my nerves are hopelessly jangled. I very
nearly followed you into the churchyard to make myself most humbly
pleasant, but I saw Dorward go 'round almost immediately afterward, and
I could not have met him in the mood I was in without being unpardonably
rude."

He waited for her with an arm stretched out in reconciliation, but
Sylvia hesitated.

"It's all very well to hurt my feelings like that because you happened
to be feeling in a bad temper," she said, "and then think you've only
got to make a pleasant little speech to put everything right again.
Besides, it isn't only to-day; it's day after day since we've been
married. I feel like Gulliver when he was being tied up by the
Lilliputians. I can't find any one big rope that's destroying my
freedom, but somehow or other my freedom is being destroyed. Did you
marry me casually, as people buy birds, to put me in a cage?"

"My dear, I married you because I loved you. You know I fought against
the idea of marrying you for a long time, but I loved you too much."

"Are you afraid of my loyalty?" she demanded. "Do you think I go to
Oaktown to be made love to?"

"Sylvia!" he protested.

"I go there because I'm bored, bored, endlessly, hopelessly,
paralyzingly bored. It's my own fault. I never ought to have married
you. I can't think why I did, but at least it wasn't for any mercenary
reason. You're not to believe that. Philip, I do like you, but why will
you always upset me?"

He thought for a moment and asked her presently what greater freedom she
wanted, what kind of freedom.

"That's it," she went on. "I told you I couldn't find any one big rope
that bound me. There isn't a single thread I can't snap with perfect
ease, but it's the multitude of insignificant little threads that almost
choke me."

"You told me you thought you would like to live in the country," he
reminded her.

"I do, but, Philip, do remember that I really am still a child. I've got
a deep voice and I can talk like a professor, but I'm still a hopeless
kid. I oughtn't to have to tell you this. You ought to see it for
yourself if you love me."

"Dearest Sylvia, I'm always telling you how young you are, and there's
nothing that annoys you more," he said.

"Oh, Philip, Philip, you really are pathetic! When did you ever meet a
young person who liked to have her youth called attention to? You're so
remote from beginning to understand how to manage me, and I'm still
manageable. Very soon I sha'n't be, though; and there'll be such a
dismal smash-up."

"If you'd only explain exactly," he began; but she interrupted him at
once.

"My dear man, if I explain and you take notes and consult them for your
future behavior to me, do you think that's going to please me? It can
all be said in two words. I'm human. For the love of God be human
yourself."

"Look here, let's go away for a spell," said Philip, brightly.

"The cat's miaowing. Let's open the door. No, seriously, I think I
should like to go away from here for a while."

"By yourself?" he asked, in a frightened voice.

"Oh no, not by myself. I'm perfectly content with you. Only don't
suggest the Italian lakes and try to revive the early sweets of our
eight months of married life. Don't let's have a sentimental rebuilding.
It will be so much more practical to build up something quite new."

Philip really seemed to have been shaken by this conversation. Sylvia
knew he had not finished his text, but he put everything aside in order
not to keep her waiting; and before May was half-way through they had
reached the island of Sirene. Here they stayed two months in a crumbling
pension upon the cliff's edge until Sylvia was sun-dried without and
within; she was enthralled by the evidences of imperial Rome, and her
only regret was that she did not meet an eccentric Englishman who was
reputed to have found, when digging a cistern, at least one of the lost
books of Elephantis, which he read in olive-groves by the light of the
moon. However, she met several other eccentrics of different
nationalities and was pleased to find that Philip's humanism was, with
Sirene as a background, strong enough to lend him an appearance of
humanity. They planned, like all other visitors to Sirene, to build a
big villa there; they listened like all other visitors to the Italian
and foreign inhabitants' depreciation of every villa but the one in
which they lived, either because they liked it or because they wanted to
let it or because they wished new-comers to fall into snares laid for
themselves when they were new-comers.

At last they tore themselves from Sirenean dreams and schemes, chiefly
because Sylvia had accepted an invitation to stay at Arbour End. They
lingered for a while at Naples on the way home, where Sylvia looked
about her with Petronian eyes, so much so, indeed, that a guide mistook
what was merely academic curiosity for something more practical. It cost
Philip fifty liras and nearly all the Italian he knew to get rid of the
pertinacious and ingenious fellow.

Arbour End had not changed at all in a year. Sylvia, when she thought
of Green Lanes, laughed a little bitterly at herself (but not so
bitterly as she would have laughed before the benevolent sunshine of
Sirene) for ever supposing that she and Philip could create anything
like it. Gladys and Enid, though they were now fifteen, had not yet
lengthened their frocks; their mother could not yet bring herself to
contemplate the disappearance of those slim black legs.

"But we shall have to next term," Gladys said, "because Miss Ashley's
written home about them."

"And that stuck-up thing Gwendyr Jones said they were positively
disgusting," Enid went on.

"Yes," added Gladys, "and I told her they weren't half as disgusting as
her ankles. And they aren't, are they, Sylvia?"

"Some of the girls call her marrow-bones," said Enid.

Sylvia would have preferred to avoid any intimate talks with Mrs.
Worsley, but it was scarcely to be expected that she would succeed, and
one night, looking ridiculously young with her fair hair hanging down
her back, she came to Sylvia's bedroom, and sitting down at the end of
her bed, began:

"Well, are you glad you got married?"

At any rate, Sylvia thought, she had the tact not to ask if she was glad
she had taken her advice.

"I'm not so sorry as I was," Sylvia told her.

"Ah, didn't I warn you against the first year? You'll see that I was
right."

"But I was not sorry in the way you prophesied. I've never had any
bothers with the country. Philip's sister was rather a bore, always
wondering about his clothes for the year after next; but we made a
treaty, and she's been excluded from The Old Farm--wait a bit, only till
next October. By Jove! I say, the treaty'll have to be renewed. I don't
believe even memories of Sirene would enable me to deal with Gertrude
this winter. No, what worries me most in marriage is not other people,
but our two selves. I hate writing Sylvia Iredale instead of Sylvia
Scarlett. Quite unreasonable of me, but most worries are unreasonable. I
don't want to be owned. I'm a book to Philip; he bought me for my
binding and never intended to read me, even if he could. I don't mean
to say I was beautiful, but I was what an American girl at Hornton House
used to call cunning; the pattern was unusual, and he couldn't resist
it. But now that he's bought me, he expects me to stay quite happily on
a shelf in a glass case; one day he may perhaps try to read me, but at
present, so long as I'm taken out and dusted--our holiday at Sirene was
a dusting--he thinks that's enough. But the worm that flies in the heart
of the storm has got in, Victoria, and is making a much more unusual
pattern across my inside--I say, I think it's about time to drop this
metaphor, don't you?"

"I don't think I quite understand all you're saying," said Victoria
Worsley.

Sylvia brought her hand from beneath the bedclothes and took her
friend's.

"Does it matter?"

"Oh, but I like to understand what people are saying," Mrs. Worsley
insisted. "That's why we never go abroad for our holidays. But, Sylvia,
about being owned, which is where I stopped understanding. Lennie
doesn't own me."

"No, you own _him_, but I don't own Philip."

"I expect you will, my dear, after you've been married a little longer."

"You think I shall acquire him in monthly instalments. I should find at
the end the cost too much in repairs, like Fred Organ."

"Who's he?"

"Hube's brother, the cabman. Don't you remember?"

"Oh, of course, how silly of me! I thought it might be an Italian you
met at Sirene. You've made me feel quite sad, Sylvia. I always want
everybody to be happy," she sighed. "I am happy--perfectly happy--in
spite of being married."

"Nobody's happy because of being married," Sylvia enunciated, rather
sententiously.

"What nonsense you talk, and you're only just eighteen!"

"That's why I talk nonsense," Sylvia said, "but all the same it's very
true nonsense. You and Lennie couldn't have ever been anything but
happy."

"Darling Lennie, I think it must be because he's so stupid. I wonder if
he's smoking in bed. He always does if I leave him to go and talk to
anybody. Good night, dear."

Sylvia returned to her book, wondering more than ever how she could have
supposed a year ago that she could follow Victoria Worsley along the
pathway of her simple and happy life.

The whole family from Arbour End came to London for the ten days before
term began, and Sylvia stayed with them at a hotel. Gladys and Enid had
to get their new frocks, and certain gaps in Hercules's education had to
be filled up, such as visiting the Zoo and the Tower of London and the
Great Wheel at Earl's Court. Sylvia and the twins searched in vain for
the Hall of a Thousand and One Marvels, but they found Mabel selling
Turkish Delight by herself at a small stall in another part of the
Exhibition. Sylvia thought the best way of showing her penitence for the
heartless way she had treated her was to buy as much Turkish Delight as
could possibly be carried away, since she probably received a percentage
on the takings. Mabel seemed to bear no resentment, but she was rather
shy, because she mistook the twins for Sylvia's sisters-in-law and
therefore avoided the only topic upon which she could talk freely, which
was men. They left the florid and accommodating creature with a callow
youth who was leaning familiarly across the counter and smacking with a
cane his banana-colored boots; then they ate as much Turkish Delight as
they could and divided the rest among some ducks and the Kaffirs in the
kraal.

Sylvia also visited Hornton House and explained to Miss Ashley why she
had demanded the banishment of Gertrude from Green Lanes.

"Poor Gertrude, she was very much upset," Miss Ashley said.

Sylvia, softened by the memories of a so happy year that her old school
evoked, made up her mind not to carry on the war against Gertrude. She
felt, too, a greater charity toward Philip, who, after all, had been the
cause of her being given that so happy year, and she went back to
Hampshire with the firm intention of encouraging this new mood that the
last four months had created in her. Philip was waiting on the platform
and was so glad to see her again that he drove even more absent-mindedly
than usual, until she took the reins from him and whipped up the horse
with a quite positive anticipation of home.

Sylvia learned from Philip that the visit of Miss Horne and Miss Hobart
had influenced other lives than their own, for it seemed that Miss
Horne's announcement of their attendance in future at Mr. Dorward's
empty church had been fully carried out. Not a Sunday passed but that
they drove up in the governess-car to Mass, so Philip said with a wry
face for the word; what was more, they stayed to lunch with the vicar,
presided at the Sunday-school, and attended the evening service, which
had been put forward half an hour to suit their supper.

"They absolutely rule Green Lanes ecclesiastically," Philip said. "And
some of the mercenary bumpkins and boobies 'round here have taken to
going to church for what they can get out of the two old ladies. I'm
glad to say, however, that the farmers and their families haven't come
'round yet."

Sylvia said she was glad for Mr. Dorward's sake, and she wondered why
Philip made such a fuss about the form of a service in the reality of
which, whatever way it was presented, he had no belief.

"I suppose you're right," he agreed. "Perhaps what I'm really afraid of
is that our fanatical vicar will really convert the parish to his
childish religion. Upon my soul, I believe Miss Horne has her eye upon
me. I know she's been holding forth upon my iniquitous position as lay
rector, and these confounded Radicals will snatch hold of anything to
create prejudice against landowners."

"Why don't you make friends with Mr. Dorward?" Sylvia suggested. "You
could surely put aside your religious differences and talk about the
classics."

"I dare say I'm bigoted in my own way," Philip answered. "But I can't
stand a priest, just as some people can't stand cats or snakes. It's a
positively physical repulsion that I can't get over. No, I'm afraid I
must leave Dorward to you, Sylvia. I don't think there's much danger of
your falling a victim to man-millinery. It'll take all your strength of
mind, however, to resist the malice of these two old witches, and I
wager you'll be excommunicated from the society of Tintown in next to no
time."

Sylvia found that Philip had by no means magnified the activities of
Miss Horne and Miss Hobart, and for the first time on a Sunday morning
at Green Lanes a thin black stream of worshipers flowed past the windows
of The Old Farm after service. It was more than curiosity could bear;
without saying a word to anybody Sylvia attended the evening service
herself. The church was very small, and her entrance would have
attracted much more attention than it did if Ernie, who was holding the
thurible for Mr. Dorward to put in the incense, had not given at that
moment a mighty sneeze, scattering incense and charcoal upon the altar
steps and frightening the woman at the harmonium into a violent discord,
from which the choir was rescued by Miss Horne's unmoved and harsh
soprano that positively twisted back the craning necks of the
congregation into their accustomed apathy. Sylvia wondered whether fear,
conversion, or extra wages had induced Ernie to put on that romantic
costume which gave him the appearance of a rustic table covered with a
tea-cloth, as he waited while the priest tried to evoke a few threads of
smoke from the ruin caused by his sneeze. Sylvia was so much occupied in
watching Ernie that she did not notice the rest of the congregation had
sat down. Mr. Dorward must have seen her, for he had thrown off the
heavy vestment he was wearing and was advancing apparently to say how
d'ye do. No, he seemed to think better of it, and had turned aside to
read from a large book, but what he read neither Sylvia nor the
congregation had any idea. She decided that all this standing up and
kneeling and sitting down again was too confusing for a novice, and
during the rest of the service she remained seated, which was at once
the most comfortable and the least conspicuous attitude. Sylvia had
intended to slip out before the service was over, as she did not want
Miss Horne and Miss Hobart to exult over her imaginary conversion, but
the finale came sooner than she expected in a fierce hymnal outburst
during which Mr. Dorward hurriedly divested himself and reached the
vestianel. Miss Horne had scarcely thumped the last beat on the
choir-boy's head in front of her, the echoes of the last amen had
scarcely died away, before the female sexton, an old woman called
Cassandra Batt, was turning out the oil-lamps and the little
congregation had gathered 'round the vicar in the west door to hear Miss
Horne's estimate of its behavior. There was no chance for Sylvia to
escape.

"Ernest," said Miss Horne, "what did you sneeze for during the
Magnificat? Father Dorward never got through with censing the altar, you
bad boy."

"The stoff got all up me nose," said Ernie. "Oi couldn't help meself."

"Next time you want to sneeze," said Miss Hobart, kindly, "press your
top lip below the nose, and you'll keep it back."

"I got too much to do," Ernie muttered, "and too much to think on."

"Jane Frost," said Miss Horne, quickly turning the direction of her
attack, "you must practise all this week. Suppose Father Dorward gets a
new organ? You wouldn't like not to be allowed to play on it. Some of
your notes to-night weren't like a musical instrument at all. The Nunc
Dimittis was more like water running out of a bath. 'Lord, now lettest
thou thy servant depart in peace,' are the words, not in pieces, which
was what it sounded like the way you played it."

Miss Jane Frost, a daughter of the woman who kept the Green Lanes shop,
blushed as deeply as her anemia would let her, and promised she would do
better next week.

"That's right, Jane," said Miss Hobart, whose part seemed to be the
consolation of Miss Horne's victims. "I dare say the pedal is a bit
obstinate."

"Oh, it's turble obstinate," said Cassandra, the sexton, who, having
extinguished all the lamps, now elbowed her way through the clustered
congregation, a lighted taper in her hand. "I jumped on un once or twice
this morning to make um a bit easier like, but a groaned at me like a
wicked old toad. It's ile that a wants."

The congregation, on which a good deal of grease was being scattered by
Cassandra's taper in her excitement, hastened to support her diagnosis.

"Oh yass, yass, 'tis ile that a wants."

"I will bring a bottle of oil up during the week," Miss Horne
proclaimed. "Good night, everybody, and remember to be punctual next
Sunday."

The congregation murmured its good night, and Sylvia, to whom it
probably owed such a speedy dismissal, was warmly greeted by Miss Horne.

"So glad you've come, Mrs. Iredale, though I wish you'd brought the lay
rector. Lay rector, indeed! Sakes alive, what will they invent next?"

"Yes, we're so glad you've come, dear," Miss Hobart added. Mr. Dorward
came up in his funny quick way. When they were all walking across the
churchyard, he whispered to Sylvia, in his funny quick voice:

"Church fowls, church fowls, you know! Mustn't discourage them. Pious
fowls! Godly fowls! An example for the parish. Better attendance
lately."

Then he caught up the two ladies and helped them into the vehicle,
wishing them a pleasant drive and promising a nearly full moon shortly,
after Medworth, very much as if the moon was really made of cheese and
would be eaten for supper by Miss Horne and Miss Hobart.

When Sylvia got back to The Old Farm she amused Philip so much with her
account of the service that he forgot to be angry with her for doing
what at first he maintained put him in a false position.

All that autumn and winter Miss Horne and Miss Hobart wrestled with
Satan for the souls of the hamlet; incidentally they wrestled with him
for Sylvia's soul, but she scratched the event by ceasing to appear at
all in church, and intercourse between them became less frequent; the
friends of Miss Horne and Miss Hobart had to be all or nothing, and not
the least divergence of belief or opinion, manners or policy, was
tolerated by these two bigoted old ladies. The congregation,
notwithstanding their efforts, remained stationary, much to Philip's
satisfaction.

"The truth is," he said, "that the measure of their power is the pocket.
Every scamp in the parish who thinks it will pay him to go to church is
going to church. The others don't go at all or walk over to Medworth."

Her contemplation of the progress of religion in Green Lanes, which,
however much she affected to laugh at it, could not help interesting
Sylvia on account of her eccentric friend the vicar, was temporarily
interrupted by a visit from Gertrude Iredale. Remembering what Miss
Ashley had told her, Sylvia had insisted upon Philip's asking his sister
to stay, and he had obviously been touched by her suggestion. Gertrude
perhaps had also taken some advice from Miss Ashley, for she was
certainly less inclined to wonder what her brother would do about his
clothes the year after next. She could not, however, altogether keep to
herself her criticism of the housewifery at The Old Farm, a simple
business in Sylvia's eyes, which consisted of letting the cook do
exactly as she liked, with what she decided were very satisfactory
results.

"But it's so extravagant," Gertrude objected.

"Well, Philip doesn't grumble. We can afford to pay a little extra every
week to have the house comfortably run."

"But the principle is so bad," Gertrude insisted.

"Oh, principle," said Sylvia in an airy way, which must have been
galling to her sister-in-law. "I don't believe in principles. Principles
are only excuses for what we want to think or what we want to do."

"Don't you believe in abstract morality?" Gertrude asked, taking off her
glasses and gazing with weak and earnest eyes at Sylvia.

"I don't believe in anything abstract," Sylvia replied.

"How strange!" the other murmured. "Goodness me! if I didn't believe in
abstract morality I don't know where I should be--or what I should do."

Sylvia regarded the potential sinner with amused curiosity.

"Do tell me what you might do," she begged. "Would you live with a man
without marrying him?"

"Please don't be coarse," said Gertrude. "I don't like it."

"I could put it much more coarsely," Sylvia said, with a laugh. "Would
you--"

"Sylvia!" Gertrude whistled through her teeth in an agony of
apprehensive modesty. "I entreat you not to continue."

"There you are," said Sylvia. "That shows what rubbish all your scruples
are. You're shocked at what you thought I was going to say. Therefore
you ought to be shocked at yourself. As a matter of fact, I was going to
ask if you would marry a man without loving him."

"If I were to marry," Gertrude said, primly, "I should certainly want to
love my husband."

"Yes, but what do you understand by love? Do you mean by love the
emotion that makes people go mad to possess--"

Gertrude rose from her chair. "Sylvia, the whole conversation is
becoming extremely unpleasant. I must ask you either to stop or let me
go out of the room."

"You needn't be afraid of any personal revelations," Sylvia assured her.
"I've never been in love that way. I only wanted to find out if you had
been and ask you about it."

"Never," said Gertrude, decidedly. "I've certainly never been in love
like that, and I hope I never shall."

"I think you're quite safe. And I'm beginning to think I'm quite safe,
too," Sylvia added. "However, if you won't discuss abstract morality in
an abstract way, you mustn't expect me to do so, and the problem of
housekeeping returns to the domain of practical morality, where
principles don't count."

Sylvia decided after this conversation to accept Gertrude as a joke, and
she ceased to be irritated by her any longer, though her sister-in-law
stayed from Christmas till the end of February. In one way her presence
was of positive utility, because Philip, who was very much on the
lookout for criticism of his married life, was careful not to find fault
with Sylvia while she remained at Green Lanes; it also acted as a
stimulus to Sylvia herself, who used her like a grindstone on which to
sharpen her wits. Another advantage from Gertrude's visit was that
Philip was able to finish his text, thanks to her industrious docketing
and indexing and generally fussing about in his study. Therefore, when
Sylvia proposed that the twins should spend their Easter holidays at The
Old Farm, he had no objection to offer.

The prospect of the twins' visit kept Sylvia at the peak of pleasurable
expectation throughout the month of March, and when at last, on a
budding morn in early April, she drove through sky-enchanted puddles to
meet them, she sang for the first time in months the raggle-taggle
gipsies, and reached the railway station fully half an hour before the
train was due. Nobody got out but the twins; yet they laughed and talked
so much, the three of them, in the first triumph of meeting, that
several passengers thought the wayside station must be more important
than it was, and asked anxiously if this was Galton.

Gladys and Enid had grown a good deal in six months, and now with their
lengthened frocks and tied-back hair they looked perhaps older than
sixteen. Their faces, however, had not grown longer with their frocks;
they were as full of spirits as ever, and Sylvia found that while they
still charmed her as of old with that quality of demanding to be loved
for the sheer grace of their youth, they were now capable of giving her
the intimate friendship she so greatly desired.

"You darlings," she cried. "You're like champagne-cup in two beautiful
crystal glasses with rose-leaves floating about on top."

The twins, who with all that zest in their own beauty which is the
prerogative of a youth unhampered by parental jealousy, frankly loved to
be admired; Sylvia's admiration never made them self-conscious, because
it seemed a natural expression of affection. Their attitude toward
Philip was entirely free from any conventional respect; as Sylvia's
husband he was candidate for all the love they had for her, but when
they found that Philip treated them as Sylvia's toys they withheld the
honor of election and began to criticize him. When he seemed shocked at
their criticism they began to tease him, explaining to Sylvia that he
had obviously never been teased in his life. Philip, for his part, found
them precocious and vain, which annoyed Sylvia and led to her seeking
diversions and entertainment for the twins' holidays outside The Old
Farm. As a matter of fact, she had no need to search far, because they
both took a great fancy to Mr. Dorward, who turned out to have an
altogether unusual gift for drawing nonsensical pictures, which were
almost as funny as his own behavior, that behavior which irritated so
many more people than it amused.

The twins teased Mr. Dorward a good deal about his love-affair with Miss
Horne and Miss Hobart, and though this teasing may only have coincided
with Mr. Dorward's previous conviction that the two ladies were managing
him and his parish rather too much for his dignity and certainly too
much for his independence, there was no doubt that the quarrel between
them was prepared during the time that Gladys and Enid were staying at
Green Lanes; indeed, Sylvia thought she could name the actual afternoon.

Sylvia's intercourse with Miss Horne and Miss Hobart was still friendly
enough to necessitate an early visit to Sunny Bank to present the twins.
The two ladies were very fond of what they called "young people," and at
first they were enraptured by Gladys and Enid, particularly when they
played some absurd school-girl's trick upon Major Kettlewell. Sylvia,
too, had by her tales of the island of Sirene inspired them with a
longing to go there; they liked nothing better than to make her describe
the various houses and villas that were for sale or to let, in every one
of which in turn Miss Horne and Miss Hobart saw themselves installed.

On the particular afternoon from which Sylvia dated the preparation of
the quarrel, they were all at tea with Mr. Dorward in his cottage. The
conversation came round to Sirene, and Sylvia told how she had always
thought that the vicar resembled a Roman Emperor. Was it Nero? He was
perhaps flattered by the comparison, notwithstanding the ladies' loud
exclamations of dissent, and was anxious to test the likeness from a
volume of engraved heads which he produced. With Gladys sitting on one
arm of his chair and Enid on the other, the pages were turned over
slowly to allow time for a careful examination of each head, which
involved a good deal of attention to Mr. Dorward's own. In the end Nero
was ruled out and a more obscure Emperor was hailed as his prototype,
after which the twins rushed out into the garden and gathered strands of
ivy to encircle his imperial brow; Miss Horne and Miss Hobart, who had
taken no part in the discussion, left immediately after the coronation,
and though it was a perfectly fine evening, they announced, as they got
into their vehicle, that it looked very much like rain.

Next Sunday the ladies came to church as usual, but Mr. Dorward kept
them waiting half an hour for lunch while he showed the twins his
ornaments and vestments, which they looked at solemnly as a penance for
having spent most of the service with their handkerchiefs in their
mouths. What Miss Horne and Miss Hobart said at lunch Sylvia never found
out, but they drove away before Sunday-school and never came back to
Green Lanes, either on that Sunday or on any Sunday afterward.

All that Mr. Dorward would say about the incident was:

"Church fowls! Chaste fowls! Chaste and holy, but tiresome. The vicar
mustn't be managed. Doesn't like it. Gets frightened. Felt remote at
lunch. That was all. Would keep on talking. Got bored and more remote.
Vicar got so remote that he had to finish his lunch under the table."

"Oh no, you didn't really?" cried the twins, in an ecstasy of pleasure.
"You didn't really get under the table, Mr. Dorward?"

"Of course, of course, of course. Vicar always speaks the truth.
Delicious lunch."

Sylvia had to tell Philip about this absurd incident, but he would only
say that the man was evidently a buffoon in private as well as in
public.

"But, Philip, don't you think it's a glorious picture? We laughed till
we were tired."

"Gladys and Enid laugh very easily," he answered. "Personally I see
nothing funny in a man, especially a clergyman, behaving like a clown."

"Oh, Philip, you're impossible!" Sylvia cried.

"Thanks," he said, dryly. "I've noticed that ever since the arrival of
our young guests you've found more to complain of in my personality even
than formerly."

"Young guests!" Sylvia echoed, scornfully. "Who would think, to hear you
talk now, that you married a child? Really you're incomprehensible."

"Impossible! Incomprehensible! In fact thoroughly negative," Philip
said.

Sylvia shrugged her shoulders and left him.

The twins went back to school at the beginning of May, and Sylvia, who
missed them very much, had to fall back on Mr. Dorward to remind her of
their jolly company. Their intercourse, which the twins had established
upon a certain plane, continued now upon the same plane. Life had to be
regarded as Alice saw it in Wonderland or through the looking-glass.
Sylvia remembered with irony that it was Philip who first introduced her
to those two books; she decided he had only liked them because it was
correct to like them. Mr. Dorward, however, actually was somebody in
that fantastic world, not like anybody Alice met there, but another
inhabitant whom she just happened to miss.

To whom else but Mr. Dorward could have occurred that ludicrous
adventure when he was staying with a brother priest in a remote part of
Devonshire?

"I always heard he was a little odd. However, we had dinner together in
the kitchen. He only dined in the drawing-room on Thursdays."

"When did he dine in the dining-room?" Sylvia asked.

"Never. There wasn't a dining-room. There were a lot of rooms that were
going to be the dining-room, but it was never decided which. And that
cast a gloom over the whole house. My host behaved in the most
evangelical way at dinner and only once threw the salad at the cook.
After dinner we sat comfortably before the kitchen fire and discussed
the Mozarabic rite and why yellow was no longer a liturgical color for
confessors. At half past eleven my host suggested it was time to go to
bed. He showed me up-stairs to a very nice bedroom and said good night,
advising me to lock the door. I locked the door, undressed, said my
prayers, and got into bed. I was just dozing off when I heard a loud tap
at the door. I felt rather frightened. Rather frightened I felt. But I
went to the door and opened it. Outside in the passage was my host in
his nightgown with a candlestick.

"'Past twelve o'clock,' he shouted. 'Time to change beds!' and before I
knew where I was he had rushed past me and shut me out into the
passage."

"Did you change beds?"

"There wasn't another bed in the house. I had to sleep in one of the
rooms that might one day be a dining-room, and the next morning a rural
dean arrived, which drove me away."

Gradually from underneath what Philip called "a mass of affectation,"
but what Sylvia divined as an armor assumed against the unsympathetic
majority by a shy, sensitive, and lovable spirit, there emerged for her
the reality of Mr. Dorward. She began to comprehend his faith, which was
as simple as a little child's; she began to realize also that he was
impelled to guard what he held to be most holy against the jeers of
unbelievers by diverting toward his own eccentricity the world's
mockery. He was a man of the deepest humility who considered himself
incapable of proselytizing. Sylvia used to put before him sometimes the
point of view of the outside world and try to show how he could avoid
criticism and gain adherents. He used always to reply that if God had
intended him to be a missionary he would not have been placed in this
lowly parish, that here he was unable to do much harm, and that any who
found faith in his church must find it through the grace of God, since
it was impossible to suppose they would ever find it through his own
ministrations. He insisted that people who stayed away from church
because he read the service badly or burned too many candles or wore
vestments were only ostentatious worshipers who looked upon the church
as wax-works must regard Madame Tussaud's. He explained that he had been
driven to discourage the work of Miss Horne and Miss Hobart because he
had detected in himself a tendency toward spiritual pride in the growth
of a congregation that did not belong either to him or to God; if he had
tolerated Miss Horne's methods for a time it was because he feared to
oppose the Divine intention. However, as soon as he found that he was
thinking complacently of a congregation of twenty-four, nearly every one
of which was a pensioner of Miss Horne, he realized that they were
instruments of the devil, particularly when at lunch they began to
suggest....

"What?" Sylvia asked, when he paused.

"The only thing to do was to finish my lunch under the table," he
snapped; nor would he be persuaded to discuss the quarrel further.

Sylvia, who felt that the poor ladies had, after all, been treated in
rather a cavalier fashion and was reproaching herself for having
deserted them, went down to Oaktown shortly after this to call at Sunny
Bank. They received her with freezing coldness, particularly Miss
Hobart, whose eyes under lowering eyelids were sullen with hate. She
said much less than Miss Horne, who walked in and out of the shivery
furniture, fanning herself in her agitation and declaiming against Mr.
Dorward at the top of her voice.

"And your little friends?" Miss Hobart put in with a smile that was not
a smile. "We thought them just a little badly brought up."

"You liked them very much at first," Sylvia said.

"Yes, one often likes people at first."

And as Sylvia looked at her she realized that Miss Hobart was not nearly
so old as she had thought her, perhaps not yet fifty. Still, at fifty
one had no right to be jealous.

"In fact," said Sylvia, brutally, "you liked them very much till you
thought Mr. Dorward liked them too."

Miss Hobart's eyelids almost closed over her eyes and her thin lips
disappeared. Miss Horne stopped in her restless parade and, pointing
with her fan to the door, bade Sylvia be gone and never come to Sunny
Bank again.

"The old witch," thought Sylvia, when she was toiling up the hill to
Medworth in the midsummer heat. "I believe he's right and that she is
the devil."

She did not tell Philip about her quarrel, because she knew that he
would have reminded her one by one of every occasion he had taken to
warn Sylvia against being friendly with any inhabitant of Tintown. A
week or two later, Philip announced with an air of satisfaction that a
van of Treacherites had arrived in Newton Candover and might be expected
at Green Lanes next Sunday.

Sylvia asked what on earth Treacherites were, and he explained that they
were the followers of a certain Mr. John Treacher, who regarded himself
as chosen by God to purify the Church of England of popish abuses.

"A dreadful little cad, I believe," he added. "But it will be fun to see
what they make of Dorward. It's a pity the old ladies have been kept
away by the heat, or we might have a free fight."

Sylvia warned Mr. Dorward of the Treacherites' advent, and he seemed
rather worried by the news; she had a notion he was afraid of them,
which made her impatient, as she frankly told him.

"Not many of us. Not many of us," said Mr. Dorward. "Hope they won't try
to break up the church."

The Treacherites arrived on Saturday evening and addressed a meeting by
The Old Farm, which fetched Philip out into the road with threats of
having them put in jail for creating a disturbance.

"If you want to annoy people, go to church to-morrow and annoy the
vicar," he said, grimly.

Sylvia, who had heard Philip's last remark, turned on him in a rage:
"What a mean and cowardly thing to say when you know Mr. Dorward can't
defend himself as you can. Let them come to church to-morrow and annoy
the vicar. You see what they'll get."

"Come, come, Sylvia," Philip said, with an attempt at pacification and
evidently ashamed of himself. "Let these Christians fight it out among
themselves. It's nothing to do with us, as long as they don't...."

"Thank you, it's everything to do with me," she said. He looked at her
in surprise.

Next morning Sylvia took up her position in the front of the church and
threatened with her eye the larger congregation that had gathered in the
hope of a row as fiercely as Miss Horne and Miss Hobart might have done.
The Treacherites were two young men with pimply faces who swaggered into
church and talked to one another loudly before the service began,
commenting upon the ornaments with cockney facetiousness. Cassandra Batt
came over to Sylvia and whispered hoarsely in her ear that she was
afraid there would be trouble, because some of the village lads had
looked in for a bit of fun. The service was carried through with
constant interruptions, and Sylvia felt her heart beating faster and
faster with suppressed rage. When it was over, the congregation
dispersed into the churchyard, where the yokels hung about waiting for
the vicar to come out. As he appeared in the west door a loud booing was
set up, and one of the Treacherites shouted:

"Follow me, loyal members of the Protestant Established Church, and
destroy the idols of the Pope." Whereupon the iconoclast tried to push
past Mr. Dorward, who was fumbling in his vague way with the lock of the
door. He turned white with rage and, seizing the Treacherite by the
scruff of his neck, he flung him head over heels across two mounds. At
this the yokels began to boo more vehemently, but Mr. Dorward managed to
shut the door and lock it, after which he walked across to the
discomfited Treacherite and, holding out his hand, apologized for his
violence. The yokels, who mistook generosity for weakness, began to
throw stones at the vicar, one of which cut his face. Sylvia, who had
been standing motionless in a trance of fury, was roused by the blood to
action. With a bound she sprang at the first Treacherite and pushed him
into a half-dug grave; then turning swiftly, she advanced against his
companion with upraised stick.

The youth just had time to gasp a notification to the surrounding
witnesses that Sylvia assaulted him first, before he ran; but the
yokels, seeing that the squire's wife was on the side of the parson, and
fearing for the renewal of their leases and the repairs to their
cottages, turned round upon the Treacherites and dragged them off toward
the village pond.

"Come on, Cassandra," Sylvia cried. "Let's go and break up the van."

Cassandra seized her pickax and followed Sylvia, who with hair streaming
over her shoulders and elation in her aspect charged past The Old Farm
just when Philip was coming out of the gate.

"Come on, Philip!" she cried. "Come on and help me break up their damned
van."

By this time the attack had brought most of the village out of doors.
Dogs were barking; geese and ducks were flapping in all directions;
Sylvia kept turning round to urge the sexton, whose progress was
hampered by a petticoat's slipping down, not to bother about her
clothes, but to come on. A grandnephew of the old woman picked up the
crimson garment and, as he pursued his grandaunt to restore it to her,
waved it in the air like a standard. The yokels, who saw the squire
watching from his gate, assumed his complete approval of what was
passing (as a matter of fact he was petrified with dismay), and paid no
attention to the vicar's efforts to rescue the Treacherites from their
doom in the fast-nearing pond. The van of the iconoclasts was named
Ridley: "By God's grace we have to-day lit such a candle as will never
be put out" was printed on one side. On the other was inscribed, "John
Treacher's Poor Preachers. Supported by Voluntary Contributions." By the
time Sylvia, Cassandra, and the rest had finished with the van it was
neither legible without nor habitable within.

Naturally there was a violent quarrel between Sylvia and Philip over her
behavior, a quarrel that was not mended by her being summoned later on
by the outraged Treacherites, together with Mr. Dorward and several
yokels.

"You've made a fool of me from one end of the county to the other,"
Philip told her. "Understand once and for all that I don't intend to put
up with this sort of thing."

"It was your fault," she replied. "You began it by egging on these
brutes to attack Mr. Dorward. You could easily have averted any trouble
if you'd wanted to. It serves you jolly well right."

"There's no excuse for your conduct," Philip insisted. "A stranger
passing through the village would have thought a lunatic asylum had
broken loose."

"Oh, well, it's a jolly good thing to break loose sometimes--even for
lunatics," Sylvia retorted. "If you could break loose yourself sometimes
you'd be much easier to live with."

"The next time you feel repressed," he said, "all I ask is that you'll
choose a place where we're not quite so well known in which to give vent
to your feelings."

The argument went on endlessly, for neither Sylvia nor Philip would
yield an inch; it became, indeed, one of the eternal disputes that
reassert themselves at the least excuse. If Philip's egg were not cooked
long enough, the cause would finally be referred back to that Sunday
morning; if Sylvia were late for lunch, her unpunctuality would
ultimately be dated from the arrival of the Treacherites.

Luckily the vicar, with whom the events of that Sunday had grown into a
comic myth that was continually being added to, was able to give Sylvia
relief from Philip's exaggerated disapproval. Moreover, the Treacherites
had done him a service by advertising his church and bringing a certain
number of strangers there every Sunday out of curiosity; these pilgrims
inflated the natives of Green Lanes with a sense of their own
importance, and they now filled the church, taking pride and pleasure in
the ownership of an attraction and boasting to the natives of the
villages round about the size of the offertory. Mr. Dorward's popery and
ritualism were admired now as commercial smartness, and if he had chosen
to ride into church on Palm Sunday or any other Sunday on a donkey (a
legendary ceremony invariably attributed to High Church vicars), there
was not a man, woman, or child in the parish of Green Lanes that would
not have given a prod of encouragement to the sacred animal.

One hot September afternoon Sylvia was walking back from Medworth when
she was overtaken by Mr. Pluepott in his cart. They stopped to exchange
the usual country greetings, at which by now Sylvia was an adept. When
presently Mr. Pluepott invited her to take advantage of a lift home she
climbed up beside him. For a while they jogged along in silence;
suddenly Mr. Pluepott delivered himself of what was evidently much upon
his mind:

"Mrs. Iredale," he began, "you and me has known each other the best part
of two years, and your coming and having a cup of tea with Mrs. Pluepott
once or twice and Mrs. Pluepott having a big opinion of you makes me so
bold."

He paused and reined in his pony to a walk that would suit the gravity
of his communication.

"I'd like to give you a bit of a warning as from a friend and, with all
due respect, an admirer. Being a married man myself and you a young
lady, you won't go for to mistake my meaning when I says to you right
out that women is worse than the devil. Miss Horne! As I jokingly said
to Mrs. Pluepott, though, being a sacred subject, she wouldn't laugh,
'Miss Horne!' I said. 'Miss Horns! That's what she ought to be called.'
Mrs. Iredale," he went on, pulling up the pony to a dead, stop and
turning round with a very serious countenance to Sylvia--"Mrs. Iredale,
you've got a wicked, bad enemy in that old woman."

"I know," she agreed. "We quarreled over something."

"If you quarreled, and whether it was your fault or whether it was hers,
isn't nothing to do with me, but the lies she's spreading around about
you and the Reverend Dorward beat the band. I'm not speaking gossip. I'm
not going by hearsay. I've heard her myself, and Miss Hobart's as bad,
if not worse. There, now I've told you and I hope you'll pardon the
liberty, but I couldn't help it."

With which Mr. Pluepott whipped up his pony to a frantic gallop, and
very soon they reached the outskirts of Green Lanes, where Sylvia got
down.

"Thanks," she said, offering her hand. "I don't think I need bother
about Miss Horne, but it was very kind of you to tell me. Thanks very
much," and with a wave of her stick Sylvia walked pensively along into
the village. As she passed Mr. Dorward's cottage she rattled her stick
on his gate till he looked out from a window in the thatch, like a bird
disturbed on its nest.

"Hullo, old owl!" Sylvia cried. "Come down a minute. I want to say
something to you."

The vicar presently came blinking out into the sunlight of the garden.

"Look here," she said, "do you know that those two old villains in
Oaktown are spreading it about that you and I are having a love-affair?
Haven't you got a prescription for that sort of thing in your church
business? Can't you curse them with bell, book, and candle, or
something? I'll supply the bell, if you'll supply the rest of the
paraphernalia."

Dorward shook his head. "Can't be done. Cursing is the prerogative of
bishops. Not on the best terms with my bishop, I'm afraid. Last time he
sent for me I had to spend the night and I left a rosary under my
pillow. He was much pained, my spies at the Palace tell me."

"Well, if _you_ don't mind, I don't mind," she said. "All right. So
long."

Three days later, an anonymous post-card was sent to Sylvia, a vulgar
Temptation of St. Anthony; and a week afterward Philip suddenly flung a
letter down before her which he told her to read. It was an ill-spelled
ungrammatical screed, which purported to warn Philip of his wife's
behavior, enumerated the hours she had spent alone with Dorward either
in his cottage or in the church, and wound up with the old proverb of
there being none so blind as those who won't see. Sylvia blushed while
she read it, not for what it said about herself, but for the vile
impulse that launched this smudged and scrabbled impurity.

"That's a jolly thing to get at breakfast," Philip said.

"Beastly," she agreed. "And your showing it to me puts you on a level
with the sender."

"I thought it would be a good lesson for you," he said.

"A lesson?" she repeated.

"Yes, a lesson that one can't behave exactly as one likes, particularly
in the country among a lot of uneducated peasants."

"But I don't understand," Sylvia went on. "Did you show me this filthy
piece of paper with the idea of asking me to change my manner of life?"

"I showed it to you in order to impress upon you that people talk, and
that you owe it to me to keep their tongues quiet."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Something perfectly simple," Philip said. "I want you to give up
visiting Dorward in his cottage and, as you have no religious
inclinations, I should like you to avoid his church."

"And that's why you showed me this anonymous letter?"

He nodded.

"In fact you're going to give it your serious attention?" she continued.

"Not at all," he contradicted. "For a long time I've objected to your
friendship with Dorward, but, knowing you were too headstrong to listen
to my advice, I said nothing. This letter makes it impossible to keep
silent any longer about my wishes."

"But you don't really believe that Dorward and I are having an affair?"
she gasped.

Philip made an impatient gesture.

"What a foolish question! Do you suppose that if I had for one moment
thought such a thing I shouldn't have spoken before? No, no, my dear,
it's all very unpleasant, but you must see that as soon as I am made
aware, however crude the method of bringing it to my knowledge, that
people are talking about you and my vicar, I have no alternative but to
forbid you to do anything that will make these tongues go on wagging."

"To forbid me?" she repeated.

Philip bowed ironically, Sylvia thought; the gesture, infinitely slight
and unimportant as it was, cut the last knot.

"I shall have to tell Mr. Dorward about this letter and explain to him,"
she said.

Philip hesitated for a moment. "Yes, I think that would be the best
thing to do," he agreed.

Sylvia regarded him curiously.

"You don't mind his knowing that you showed it to me?" she asked.

"Not at all," said Philip.

She laughed, and he took alarm at the tone.

"I thought you were going to be sensible," he began, but she cut him
short.

"Oh, I am, my dear man. Don't worry."

Now that the unpleasant scene was over, he seemed anxious for her
sympathy.

"I'm sorry this miserable business has occurred, but you understand,
don't you, that it's been just as bad for me as for you?"

"Do you want me to apologize?" Sylvia demanded, in her brutal way.

"No, of course not. Only I thought perhaps you might have shown a little
more appreciation of my feelings."

"Ah, Philip, if you want that, you'll have to let me really go wrong
with Dorward."

"Personally I consider that last remark of yours in very bad taste; but
I know we have different standards of humor."

Sylvia found Dorward in the church, engaged in an argument with
Cassandra about the arrangement of the chrysanthemums for Michaelmas.

"I will not have them like this," he was saying.

"But we always putts them fan-shaped like that."

"Take them away," he shouted, and, since Cassandra still hesitated, he
flung the flowers all over the church.

The short conversation that followed always remained associated in
Sylvia's mind with Cassandra's grunts and her large base elevated above
the pews, while she browsed hither and thither, bending over to pick up
the scattered chrysanthemums.

"Mr. Dorward, I want to ask you something very serious."

He looked at her sharply, almost suspiciously.

"Does it make you very much happier to have faith?"

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," he said, brushing petals from his cassock.

"But would it make me?"

"I expect so--I expect so," he said, still brushing and trying with that
shy curtness to avoid the contact of reality.

"Well, how can I get faith?"

"You must pray, dear lady, you must pray."

"You'll have to pray for me," Sylvia said.

"Always do. Always pray for you. Never less than three prayers every
day. Mass once a week."

Sylvia felt a lump in her throat; it seemed to her that this friend,
accounted mad by the world, had paid her the tenderest and most
exquisite courtesy she had ever known.

"Come along now, Cassandra," cried the vicar, clapping his hands
impatiently to cover his embarrassment. "Where are the flowers? Where
are the flowers, you miserable old woman?"

Cassandra came up to him, breathing heavily with exertion. "You know,
Mr. Dorward, you're enough to try the patience of an angel on a tomb;
you are indeed."

Sylvia left them arguing all over again about the chrysanthemums. That
afternoon she went away from Green Lanes to London.

Three months later, she obtained an engagement in a musical comedy
company on tour and sent back to Philip the last shred of clothing that
she had had through him, with a letter and ten pounds in bank-notes:

     You _must_ divorce me now. I've not been able to earn enough to pay
     you back more than this for your bad bargain. I don't think I've
     given any more pleasure to the men who have paid less for me than
     you did, if that's any consolation.

     SYLVIA SCARLETT.



CHAPTER VIII


Sylvia stood before the looking-glass in the Birmingham lodgings and
made a speech to herself:

"Humph! You look older, my dear. You look more than nineteen and a half.
You're rather glad, though, aren't you, to have finished with the last
three months? You feel degraded, don't you? What's that you say? You
don't feel degraded any more by what you've done now than by what you
did when you were married? You consider the net result of the last three
months has simply been to prove what you'd suspected for a long
time--the wrong you did yourself in marrying Philip Iredale? Wait a
minute; don't go so fast; there's something wrong with your moral sense.
You know perfectly well your contention is impossible; or do you accuse
every woman who marries to have a position and a home of being a
prostitute? Ah, but you didn't marry Philip for either of those reasons,
you say? Yes, you did--you married him to make something like Arbour
End."

Tears welled up in Sylvia's eyes. She thought she had driven Arbour End
from her mind forever.

"Come, come, we don't want any tears. What are you crying for? You knew
when you left Green Lanes that everything which had come into your life
through Philip Iredale must be given up. You were rather proud of your
ruthlessness. Don't spoil it now. That's right, no more tears. You're
feeling a bit _abrutie_, aren't you? My advice to you is to obliterate
the last three months from your imagination. I quite understand that you
suffered a good deal, but novices must be prepared to suffer. In my
opinion you can congratulate yourself on having come through so easily.
Here you are, a jolly little _cabetine_ with a complete contempt for
men. You're not yet twenty; you're not likely to fall in love, for you
must admit that after those three months the word sounds more than
usually idiotic. From what I've seen of you I should say that for the
future you'll be very well able to look after yourself; you might even
become a famous actress. Ah, that makes you smile, eh?"

Sylvia dabbed her face with the powder-puff and went down-stairs to
dinner. Her two companions had not yet begun; for this was the first
meal at which they would all sit down together, and an atmosphere of
politeness hung over life at present. Lily Haden and Dorothy Lonsdale
had joined the "Miss Elsie of Chelsea" company at the same time as
Sylvia, and were making their first appearance on any stage, having
known each other in the dullness of West Kensington. For a fortnight
they had clung together, but, having been given an address for rooms in
Birmingham that required a third person's contribution, they had invited
Sylvia to join them. Lily was a tall, slim girl with very fair, golden
hair, who had an air of romantic mystery that was due to indolence of
mind and body. Dorothy also was fair, with a mass of light-brown hair, a
perfect complexion, profile, and figure, and, what finally gave her a
really distinguished beauty in such a setting, brown eyes instead of
blue. Lily's languorous grace of manner and body was so remarkable that
in a room it was difficult to choose between her and Dorothy, but behind
the footlights there was no comparison; there Dorothy had everybody's
glances, and Lily's less definite features went for nothing.

Each girl was prompt to take Sylvia into her confidence about the other.
Thus from Lily she learned that Dorothy's real name was Norah Caffyn;
that she was the eldest of a very large family; that Lily had known her
at school; that she had been engaged to a journalist who was disapproved
of by her family; that she had offered to break with Wilfred Curlew, if
she were allowed to go on the stage; and that she had taken the name of
Lonsdale from the road where she lived, and Dorothy from the sister next
to her.

"I suppose in the same way as she used to take her dolls?" Sylvia
suggested.

Lily looked embarrassed. She was evidently not sure whether a joke was
intended, and when Sylvia encouraged her to suppose it was, she laughed
a little timidly, being rather doubtful if it were not a pun.

"Her sister was awfully annoyed about it, because she hasn't got a
second name. She's the only one in the family who hasn't."

Lily also told Sylvia something about herself, how her mother had lately
died and how she could not get on with her sister, who had married an
actor and was called Doris. Her mother had been a reciter, and there had
always been lots of theatrical people at their house, so it had been
easy for her to get an introduction to Mr. Walter Keal, who had the
touring rights of all John Richards's great Vanity Theater productions.

From Dorothy Sylvia learned that she had known Lily at school, but not
for long, as Mrs. Haden never paid her daughters' fees; that Mr. Haden
had always been supposed to live in Burmah, but that people who knew
Mrs. Haden declared he had never existed; and finally that Lily had been
"awfully nice" to herself and helped her to get an introduction to Mr.
Walter Keal.

The association of Sylvia with the two girls begun at Birmingham was not
interrupted until the end of the tour. Lily and Dorothy depended upon
it, Lily because Sylvia saved her the trouble of thinking for herself,
Dorothy because she found in Sylvia some one who could deflect all the
difficulties of life on tour and leave her free to occupy herself with
her own prosperity and her own comforts. Dorothy possessed a selfishness
that almost attained to the dignity of ambition, though never quite, as
her conceit would not allow her to state an object in her career, for
fear of failure; her method was invariably to seize the best of any
situation that came along, whether it was a bed, a chair, a potato, or a
man; this method with ordinary good luck would insure success through
life. Lily was too lazy to minister to Dorothy's selfishness; moreover,
she often managed in taking the nearest and easiest to rob Dorothy of
the best.

Sylvia was perfectly aware of their respective characters, but she was
always willing to give herself any amount of trouble to preserve beauty
around her; Lily and Dorothy were not really more troublesome than two
cats would have been; in fact, rather less, because at any rate they
could carry themselves, if not their bags.

Life on tour went its course with the world divided into three
categories--the members of the company, the public expressing its
personality in different audiences, and for the actors saloon-bars and
the drinks they were stood, for the actresses admirers and the presents
they were worth. Sometimes when the saloon-bars and the admirers were
alike unprofitable, the members of the company mixed among themselves
whether in a walk round a new town or at tea in rooms where a landlady
possessed hospitable virtues. Sylvia had a special gift for getting the
best out of landladies, and the men of the company came more often to
tea with herself and her friends than with the other ladies. They came,
indeed, too often to please Dorothy, who disapproved of Lily's
easy-going acceptance of the sort of love that is made because at the
moment there is nothing else to do. She spoke to Sylvia about this, who
agreed with her, but thought that with Lily it was inevitable.

"But not with boys in the company," Dorothy urged, disdainfully. "It
makes us all so cheap. I don't want to put on side, but, after all, we
are a little different from the other girls."

Sylvia found this belief universal in the chorus. She could not think of
any girl who had not at one time or another taken her aside and claimed
for herself, and by the politeness owed to present company for Sylvia,
this "little difference."

"Personally," Sylvia said, "I think we're all much the same. Some of us
drop our aitches, others our p's and q's; some of us sing flat, the rest
sing sharp; and we all look just alike when we're waiting for the train
on Sunday morning."

Nevertheless, with all her prevision of a fate upon Lily's conduct,
Sylvia did speak to her about the way in which she tolerated the
familiarity of the men in the company.

"I suppose you're thinking of Tom," Lily said.

"Tom, Dick, and Harry," Sylvia put in.

"Well. I don't like to seem stuck up," Lily explained. "Tom's always
very nice about carrying my bag and getting me tea when we're
traveling."

"If I promise to look after the bag," Sylvia asked, "will you promise to
discourage Tom?"

"But, my dear, why should you carry my bag when I can get Tom to do it?"

"It bores me to see you and him together," Sylvia explained. "These boys
in the company are all very well, but they aren't really men at all."

"I know," Lily said, eagerly. "That's what I feel. They don't seem real
to me. Of course, I shouldn't let anybody make love to me seriously."

"What do you call serious love-making?"

"Oh, Sylvia, how you do go on asking questions. You know perfectly well
what I mean. You only ask questions to make me feel uncomfortable."

"Just as I might disarrange the cushions of your chair?"

"I know quite well who's been at you to worry me," Lily went on. "I know
it's Dorothy. She's always been used to being the eldest and finding
fault with everybody else. She doesn't really mind Tom's kissing
me--she's perfectly ready to make use of him herself--but she's always
thinking about other people and she's so afraid that some of the men she
goes out with will laugh at his waistcoat. I'm used to actors; she
isn't. I never bother about her. I don't complain about her practising
her singing or talking for hours and hours about whether I think she
looks better with a teardrop or without. Why can't she let me alone?
Nobody ever lets me alone. It's all I've ever asked all my life."

The feeling between Lily and Dorothy was reaching the point of tension.
Sylvia commented on it one evening to Fay Onslow, the oldest member of
the chorus, a fat woman, wise and genial, universally known as Onzie
except by her best boy of the moment, who had to call her Fay. However,
she cost him very little else, and was generally considered to throw
herself away, though, of course, as her friends never failed to add, she
was getting on and could no longer afford to be too particular.

"Well, between you and I, Sylvia, I've often wondered you've kept your
little family together for so long. I've been on the stage now for
twenty-five years. I'm not far off forty, dear. I used to be in
burlesque at the old Frivolity."

"Do you remember Victoria Deane?" Sylvia asked.

"Of course I do. She made a big hit and then got married and left the
stage. A sweetly pretty little thing, she was. But, as I was saying,
dear, in all my experience I never knew two fair girls get through a
tour together without falling out, two girls naturally fair, that is,
and you mark my words, Lily Haden and Dolly Lonsdale will have a row."

Sylvia was anxious to avert this, because she would have found it hard
to choose between their rival claims upon her. She was fonder of Lily,
but she was very fond of Dorothy, and she believed that Dorothy might
attain real success in her profession. It seemed more worth while to
take trouble over Dorothy; yet something warned her that an expense of
devotion in that direction would ultimately be, from a selfish point of
view, wasted. Dorothy would never consider affection where advancement
was concerned; yet was it not just this quality in her that she admired?
There would certainly be an unusual exhilaration in standing behind
Dorothy and helping her to rise and rise, whereas with Lily the best
that could be expected was to prevent her falling infinitely low.

"How I've changed since I left Philip," she said to herself. "I seem to
have lost myself somehow and to have transferred all my interest in life
to other people. I suppose it won't last. God forbid I should become a
problem to myself like a woman in a damned novel. Down with
introspection, though, Heaven knows, observation in 'Miss Elsie of
Chelsea' is not a profitable pastime."

Sylvia bought an eye-glass next day, and though all agreed with one
another in private that it was an affectation, everybody assured her
that she was a girl who could wear an eye-glass with advantage. Lily
thought the cord must be rather a bore.

"It's symbolic," Sylvia declared to the dressing-room.

"I think I'll have my eyes looked at in Sheffield," said Onzie. "There's
a doctor there who's very good to pros. I often feel my eyes are
getting a bit funny. It may be the same as Sylvia's got."

The tour was coming to an end; the last three nights would be played at
Oxford, to which everybody looked forward. All the girls who had been to
Oxford before told wonderful tales of the pleasures that might be
anticipated. Even some of the men were heard to speculate if such or
such a friend were still there, which annoyed those who could not even
boast of having had a friend there two years ago. The jealous ones
revenged themselves by criticizing the theatrical manners of the
undergraduate, especially upon the last night of a musical comedy. One
heard a great deal of talk, they said, about a college career, but
personally and without offense to anybody present who had friends at
college, they considered that a college career in nine cases out of ten
meant rowdiness and a habit of thinking oneself better than other
people.

Sylvia, Lily, and Dorothy had rooms in Eden Square, which was the
recognized domain of theatrical companies playing in Oxford. Numerous
invitations to lunch and tea were received, and Sylvia, who had formed a
preconceived idea of Oxford based upon Philip, was astonished how little
the undergraduates she met resembled him. Dorothy managed with her usual
instinct for the best to secure as an admirer Lord Clarehaven, or, as
the other girls preferred to call him with a nicer formality, the Earl
of Clarehaven. He invited her with a friend to lunch at Christ Church on
the last day. Dorothy naturally chose Sylvia, and, as Lily was already
engaged elsewhere, Sylvia accepted. Later in the afternoon Dorothy
proposed that the young men should come back and have tea in Eden
Square, and Sylvia divined Dorothy's intention of proving to these young
men that the actress in her own home would be as capable of maintaining
propriety as she had been at lunch.

"We'll buy the cakes on the way," said Dorothy, which was another
example of her infallible instinct for the best and the most economical.

Loaded with éclairs, meringues, and chocolates, Dorothy, Sylvia, and
their four guests reached Eden Square.

"You'll have to excuse the general untidiness," Dorothy said, with an
affected little laugh, flinging open the door of the sitting-room. She
would probably have chosen another word for the picture of Lily sitting
on Tom's knee in the worn leather-backed arm-chair if she had entered
first: unfortunately, Lord Clarehaven was accorded that privilege, and
the damage was done. Sylvia quickly introduced everybody, and nobody
could have complained of the way in which the undergraduates sailed over
an awkward situation, nor could much have been urged against Tom, for he
left immediately. As for Lily, she was a great success with the young
men and seemed quite undisturbed by the turn of events.

As soon as the three girls were alone together, Dorothy broke out:

"I hope you don't think I'll ever live with you again after that
disgusting exhibition. I suppose you think just because you gave me an
introduction that you can do what you like. I don't know what Sylvia
thinks of you, but I can tell you what I think. You make me feel
absolutely sick. That beastly chorus-boy! The idea of letting anybody
like that even look at you. Thank Heaven, the tour's over. I'm going
down to the theater. I can't stay in this room. It makes me blush to
think of it. I'll take jolly good care who I live with in future."

Then suddenly, to Sylvia's immense astonishment, Dorothy slapped Lily's
face. What torments of mortification must be raging in that small soul
to provoke such an unlady-like outburst!

"I should hit her back if I were you, my lass," Sylvia advised, putting
up her eye-glass for the fray; but Lily began to cry and Dorothy
flounced out of the room.

Sylvia bent over her in consolation, though her sense of justice made
her partly excuse Dorothy's rage.

"How did I know she would bring her beastly men back to tea? She only
did it to brag about having a lord to our digs. After all, they're just
as much mine as hers. I was sorry for Tom. He doesn't know anybody in
Oxford, and he felt out of it with all the other boys going out. He
asked me if I was going to turn him down because I'd got such fine
friends. I was sorry for him, Sylvia, and so I asked him to tea. I don't
see why Dorothy should turn round and say nasty things to me. I've
always been decent to her. Oh, Sylvia, you don't know how lonely I feel
sometimes."

This appeal was too much for Sylvia, who clasped Lily to her and let her
sob forth her griefs upon her shoulder.

"Sylvia, I've got nobody. I hate my sister Doris. Mother's dead.
Everybody ran her down, but she had a terrible life. Father used to take
drugs, and then he stole and was put in prison. People used to say
mother wasn't married, but she was. Only the truth was so terrible, she
could never explain. You don't know how she worked. She brought up Doris
and me entirely. She used to recite, and she used to be always hard up.
She died of heart failure, and that comes from worry. Nobody understands
me. I don't know what will become of me."

"My dear," Sylvia said, "you know I'm your pal."

"Oh, Sylvia, you're a darling! I'd do anything for you."

"Even carry your own bag at the station to-morrow?"

"No, don't tease me," Lily begged. "If you won't tease me, I'll do
anything."

That evening Mr. Keal, with the mighty Mr. Richards himself, came up
from London to see the show. The members of the chorus were much
agitated. It could only mean that girls were to be chosen for the Vanity
production in the autumn. Every one of them put on rather more make-up
than usual, acted hard all the time she was on the stage, and tried to
study Mr. Richards's face from the wings.

"You and I are one of the 'also rans,'" Sylvia told Lily. "The great man
eyed me with positive dislike."

In the end it was Dorothy Lonsdale who was engaged for the Vanity: she
was so much elated that she was reconciled with Lily and told everybody
in the dressing-room that she had met a cousin at Oxford, Arthur
Lonsdale, Lord Cleveden's son.

"Which side of the road are you related to him?" Sylvia asked. Dorothy
blushed, but she pretended not to understand what Sylvia meant, and said
quite calmly that it was on her mother's side. She parted with Sylvia
and Lily very cordially at Paddington, but she did not invite either of
them to come and see her at Lonsdale Road.

Sylvia and Lily stayed together at Mrs. Gowndry's in Finborough Road,
for it happened that the final negotiations for Sylvia's divorce from
Philip were being concluded and she took pleasure in addressing her
communications from the house where she had been living when he first
met her. Philip was very anxious to make her an allowance, but she
declined it; her case was undefended. Lily and she managed to get an
engagement in another touring company, which opened in August somewhere
on the south coast. About this time Sylvia read in a paper that Jimmy
Monkley had been sentenced to three years' penal servitude for fraud,
and by an odd coincidence in the same paper she read of the decree nisi
made absolute that set Philip and herself free. Old associations seemed
to be getting wound up. Unfortunately, the new ones were not promising;
no duller collection of people had surely ever been gathered together
than the company in which she was working at present. Not only was the
company tiresome, but Sylvia and Lily failed to meet anywhere on the
tour one amusing person. To be sure, Lily thought that Sylvia was too
critical, and therefore so alarming that several "nice boys" were
discouraged too early in their acquaintanceship for a final judgment to
be passed upon them.

"The trouble is," said Sylvia, "that at this rate we shall never make
our fortunes. I stipulate that, if we adopt a gay life, it really will
be a gay life. I don't want to have soul-spasms and internal wrestles
merely for the sake of being bored."

Sylvia tried to produce Lily as a dancer; for a week or two they worked
hard at imitations of the classical school, but very soon they both grew
tired of it.

"The nearest we shall ever get to jingling our money at this game,"
Sylvia said, "is jingling our landlady's ornaments on the mantelpiece.
Lily, I think we're not meant for the stage. And yet, if I could only
find my line, I believe.... I believe.... Oh, well, I can't, and so
there's an end of it. But look here, winter's coming on. We've got
nothing to wear. We haven't saved a penny. Ruin stares us in the face.
Say something, Lily; do say something, or I shall scream."

"I don't think we ought to have eaten those plums at dinner. They
weren't really ripe," Lily said.

"Well, anyhow, that solves the problem of the moment. Put your things
on. You'd better come out and walk them off."

They were playing in Eastbourne that week, where a sudden hot spell had
prolonged the season farther into September than usual; a new company of
entertainers known as "The Highwaymen" was attracting audiences almost
as large as in the prime of summer. Sylvia and Lily paused to watch them
from the tamarisks below the Marina.

Suddenly Sylvia gave an exclamation.

"I do believe that's Claude Raglan who's singing now. Do you remember,
Lily, I told you about the Pink Pierrots? I'm sure it is."

Presently the singer came round with the bag and a packet of his picture
post-cards. Sylvia asked if he had a photograph of Claude Raglan. When
he produced one she dug him in the ribs, and cried:

"Claudie, you consumptive ass, don't you recognize me? Sylvia."

He was delighted to see her again, and willingly accepted an invitation
to supper after the show, if he might bring a friend with him.

"Jack Airdale--an awfully decent fellow. Quite a good voice, too, though
I think from the point of view of the show it's a mistake to have a high
barytone when they've already got a tenor. However, he does a good deal
of accompanying. In fact, he's a much better accompanist than he is
singer."

"I suppose you've got more girls than ever in love with you, now you
wear a mask?" said Sylvia.

Claude seemed doubtful whether to take this remark as a compliment to
his voice or as an insult to his face. Finally he took it as a joke and
laughed.

"Just the same, I see," he said. "Always chaffing a fellow."

Claude Raglan and Jack Airdale came to supper in due course. Sylvia
liked Jack; he was a round-faced young man in the early twenties, with
longish light hair that flopped all over his face when he became
excited. Sylvia and he were good friends immediately and made a great
deal of noise over supper, while Claude and Lily looked at each other.

"How's the consumption, Claudie?" Sylvia asked.

Claude sighed with a soulful glance at Lily's delicate form.

"Don't imagine she's sympathizing with you," Sylvia cried. "She's only
thinking about plums."

"He's grown out of it," Airdale said. "Look at the length of his neck."

"I have to wear these high collars. My throat...." Claude began.

"Oh, shut up with your ailments," Sylvia interrupted.

"Hear, hear," Airdale shouted. "Down with ailments," and he threw a
cushion at Claude.

"I wish you wouldn't behave like a clown," said Claude, smoothing his
ruffled hair and looking to see if Lily was joining in the laugh against
him.

Presently the conversation turned upon the prospects of the two girls
for next winter, about which Sylvia was very pessimistic.

"Why don't we join together and run a street show--Pierrot, Pierrette,
Harlequin, and Columbine?" Airdale suggested. "I'll swear there's money
in it."

"About enough to pay for our coffins," said Claude. "Sing out of doors
in the winter? My dear Jack, you're mad."

Sylvia thought the idea was splendid, and had sketched out Lily's
Columbine dress before Lily herself had realized that the conversation
had taken a twist.

"Light-blue crêpe de Chine with bunches of cornflowers for Columbine.
Pierrette in dark blue with bunches of forget-me-nots, Pierrot in light
blue. Silver and dark-blue lozenges for Harlequin."

"Paregoric lozenges would suit Claude better," said Airdale. "O
Pagliacci! Can't you hear him? No, joking apart, I think it would be a
great effort. We sha'n't have to sing much outside. We shall get invited
into people's houses."

"Shall we?" Claude muttered.

"And if the show goes," Airdale went on, "we might vary our costumes.
For instance, we might be Bacchanals in pink fleshings and vine leaves."

"Vine leaves," Claude ejaculated. "Vine Street more likely."

"Don't laugh, old boy, with that lung of yours," said Airdale,
earnestly.

In the end, before the company left Eastbourne, it was decided,
notwithstanding Claude's lugubrious prophecies, to launch the
enterprise; when the tour broke up in December Sylvia had made dresses
both for Lily and for herself as she had first planned them with an eye
only for what became Lily. Claude's hypochondria was appeased by letting
him wear a big patchwork cloak over his harlequin's dress in which white
lozenges had been substituted for silver ones, owing to lack of money.
They hired a small piano very much like the one that belonged to the
Pink Pierrots, and on Christmas Eve they set out from Finborough Road,
where Claude and Jack had rooms near Mrs. Gowndry's. They came into
collision with a party of carol-singers who seemed to resent their
profane competition, and, much to Jack Airdale's disappointment, they
were not invited into a single house; the money taken after three hours
of wandering music was one shilling and fivepence in coppers.

"Never mind," said Jack. "We aren't known yet. It's a pity we didn't
start singing last Christmas Eve. We should have had more engagements
than we should have known what to do with this year."

"We must build up the show for next year," Sylvia agreed,
enthusiastically.

"I shall sing the 'Lost Chord' next year," Claude answered. "They may
let me in, if I worry them outside heaven's gates, to hear that last
Amen."

Jack and Sylvia were justified in their optimism, for gradually the
Carnival Quartet, as they called themselves, became known in South
Kensington, and they began to get engagements to appear in other parts
of London. Jack taught Sylvia to vamp well enough on the guitar to
accompany herself in duets with him; Claude looked handsome in his
harlequin's dress, which prosperity had at last endowed with silver
lozenges; Lily danced actively enough for the drawing-rooms in which
they performed; Sylvia, inspired by the romantic exterior of herself and
her companions, invented a mime to the music of Schumann's "Carnival"
which Jack Airdale played, or, as Claude said, maltreated.

The Quartet showed signs of increasing vitality with the approach of
spring, and there was no need to think any more of touring in musical
comedy, which was a relief to Sylvia. When summer came, they agreed to
keep together and work the South Coast.

However, all these plans came suddenly to nothing, because one misty
night early in March Harlequin and Columbine lost Pierrot and Pierrette
on the way home from a party in Chelsea; a brief note from Harlequin to
Pierrot, which he found when he got home, indicated that the loss should
be considered permanent.

This treachery was a shock to Sylvia, and she was horrified at herself
for feeling it so deeply. Ever since that day in Oxford when Lily had
sobbed out her griefs, Sylvia had concentrated upon her all the capacity
for affection which had begun to blossom during the time she was with
Philip and which had been cut off ruthlessly with everything else that
belonged to life with him. She knew that she should have foreseen the
possibility, nay the probability, of this happening, but she had charmed
herself with the romantic setting of their musical adventure and let all
else go.

"I'm awfully sorry, Sylvia," said Jack; "I ought to have kept a better
lookout on Claude."

"It's not your fault, old son. But, O God! why can't four people stay
friends without muddling everything up with this accursed love?"

Jack was sympathetic, but it was useless to confide in him her feeling
for Lily; he would never understand. She would seem to him so little
worth while; for him the behavior of such a one meant less than the
breaking of a porcelain figure.

"It did seem worth while," Sylvia said to herself, that night, "to keep
that frail and lovely thing from this. It was my fault, of course, for I
knew both Lily and Claude through and through. Yet what does it matter?
What a fool I am. It was absurd of me to imagine we could go on forever
as we were. I don't really mind about Lily; I'm angry because my conceit
has been wounded. It serves me right. But that dirty little actor won't
appreciate her. He's probably sick of her easiness already. Oh, why the
hell am I not a man?"

Presently, however, Sylvia's mood of indignation burned itself out; she
began to attribute the elopement of Claude and Lily to the characters
they had assumed of Harlequin and Columbine, and to regard the whole
affair as a scene from a play which must not be taken more deeply to
heart than with the pensive melancholy that succeeds the fall of the
curtain on mimic emotions. After all, what had Lily been to her more
than a puppet whose actions she had always controlled for her pleasure
until she was stolen from her? Without Lily she was once more at a loose
end; there was the whole history of her sorrow.

"I can't think what they wanted to run away for," said Jack. Sylvia
fancied the flight was the compliment both Harlequin and Columbine had
paid to her authority.

"I don't find you so alarming," he said.

"No, old son, because you and I have always regarded the Quartet from a
strictly professional point of view, and consequently each other.
Meanwhile the poor old Quartet is done in. We two can't sustain a
program alone."

Airdale gloomily assented, but thought it would be well to continue for
a week or so, in case Claude and Lily came back.

"I notice you take it for granted that I'll be willing to continue
busking with them," Sylvia said.

That evening Airdale and she went out as usual; but the loss of the
other two seemed somehow to have robbed the entertainment of its
romantic distinction, and Sylvia was dismayed to find with what a
shameful timidity she now took herself and her guitar into saloon-bars;
she felt like a beggar and was humiliated by Jack's apologetic manner,
and still more by her own instinctive support of such cringing to the
benevolence of potmen and barmaids.

One evening, after about a week of these distasteful peregrinations, the
two mountebanks came out of a public house in Fulham Road where they
had been forced to endure a more than usually intolerable patronage.
Sylvia vowed she would not perform again under such conditions, and they
turned up Tinderbox Lane to wander home. This thoroughfare, only used by
pedestrians, was very still, and trees planted down the middle of the
pavement gave to the mild March evening an effluence of spring. Sylvia
began to strum upon her guitar the tune that Arthur Madden and she sang
together from the windows at Hampstead on the night she met him first;
her companion soon caught hold of the air, and they strolled slowly
along, dreaming, she looking downward of the past, he of the future with
his eyes fixed on the chimneys of the high flats that encircled the
little houses and long gardens of Tinderbox Lane. They were passing a
wall on their right in which numbered doors were set at intervals. From
one of these a tall figure emerged and stopped a moment to say good-by
to somebody standing in the entrance. The two musicians with a
simultaneous instinct for an audience that might appreciate them stopped
and addressed their song to the parting pair, a tall old gentleman with
drooping gray whiskers, very much muffled up, and an exceedingly stout
woman of ripe middle age.

"Bravo!" said the old gentleman, in a tremulous voice, as he tapped his
cane on the pavement. "Polly, this is devilish appropriate. By gad! it
makes me feel inclined to dance again, Polly," and the old gentleman
forthwith postured with his thin legs like a cardboard antic at the end
of a string. The fat woman standing in the doorway came out into the
lamplight, and clasping her hands in alarm, begged him not to take cold,
but the old gentleman would not stop until Polly had made a pretense of
dancing a few steps with him, after which he again piped, "Bravo," vowed
he must have a whisky, and invited Sylvia and Jack to come inside and
join them.

"Dashwood is my name, Major-General Dashwood, and this is Mrs.
Gainsborough."

"Come along," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "The captain--"

"She will call me Captain," said the general, with a chuckle. "Obstinate
gal! Knew me first when I was a captain, thirty-six years ago, and has
never called me anything since. What a woman, though!"

"He's very gay to-night. We've been celebrating our anniversary," Mrs.
Gainsborough explained, while the four of them walked along a gravel
path toward a small square creeper-covered house at the end of a very
long garden.

"We met first at the Argyll Rooms in March, 1867, and in September,
1869, Mulberry Cottage was finished. I planted those mulberry-trees
myself, and they'll outlive us both," said the general.

"Now don't let's have any more dismals," Mrs. Gainsborough begged.
"We've had quite enough to-night, talking over old times."

Mulberry Cottage was very comfortable inside, full of mid-Victorian
furniture and ornaments that suited its owner, who, Sylvia now perceived
by the orange lamplight, was even fatter than she had seemed at first.
Her hair, worn in a chignon, was black, her face was rosy and large,
almost monumental, with a plinth of chins.

The general so much enjoyed having a fresh audience for his tales, and
sat so long over the whisky, that Mrs. Gainsborough became worried.

"Bob, you ought to go. You know I don't like to argue before strangers,
but your sister will be getting anxious. Miss Dashwood's quite alone,"
she explained to her guests. "I wonder if you'd mind walking back with
him?" she whispered to Sylvia. "He lives in Redcliffe Gardens. That's
close to you, isn't it?"

"If we can have music all the way, by gad! of course," said the general,
standing up so straight that Sylvia was afraid he would bump his head on
the ceiling.

"Now, Bob dear, don't get too excited and do keep your muffler well
wrapped round your throat."

The general insisted on having one more glass for the sake of old times,
and there was a short delay in the garden, because he stuck his cane
fast in the ground to show the size of the mulberry-trees when he
planted them, but ultimately they said good night to Mrs. Gainsborough,
upon whom Sylvia promised to call next day, and set out for Redcliffe
Gardens to the sound of guitars.

General Dashwood turned round from time to time to shake his cane at
passers-by that presumed to stare at the unusual sight of an old
gentleman, respectable in his dress and demeanor, escorted down Fulham
Road by two musicians.

"Do you see anything so damned odd in our appearance?" he asked Sylvia.

"Nothing at all," she assured him.

"Sensible gal! I've a very good mind to knock down the next scoundrel
who stares at us."

Presently the general, on whom the fresh air was having an effect, took
Sylvia's arm and grew confidential.

"Go on playing," he commanded Jack Airdale. "I'm only talking business.
The fact is," he said to Sylvia, "I'm worried about Polly. Hope I shall
live another twenty years, but fact is, my dear, I've never really got
over that wound of mine at Balaclava. Damme! I've never been the same
man since."

Sylvia wondered what he could have been before.

"Naturally she's well provided for. Bob Dashwood always knew how to
treat a woman. No wife, no children, you understand me? But it's the
loneliness. She ought to have somebody with her. She's a wonderful
woman, and she was a handsome gal. Damme! she's still handsome--what?
Fifty-five you know. By gad, yes. And I'm seventy. But it's the
loneliness. Ah, dear, if the gods had been kind; but then she'd have
probably been married by now."

The general blew his nose, sighed, and shook his head. Sylvia asked
tenderly how long the daughter had lived.

"Never lived at all," said the general, stopping dead and opening his
eyes very wide, as he looked at Sylvia. "Never was born. Never was going
to be born. Hale and hearty, but too late now, damme! I've taken a fancy
to you. Sensible gal! Damned sensible. Why don't you go and live with
Polly?"

In order to give Sylvia time to reflect upon her answer, the general
skipped along for a moment to the tune that Jack was playing.

"Nothing between you and him?" he asked, presently, indicating Jack with
his cane.

Sylvia shook her head.

"Thought not. Very well, then, why don't you go and live with Polly?
Give you time to look round a bit. Understand what you feel about
playing for your bread and butter like this. Finest thing in the world
music, if you haven't got to do it. Go and see Polly to-morrow. I spoke
to her about it to-night. She'll be delighted. So shall I. Here we are
in Redcliffe Gardens. Damned big house and only myself and my sister to
live in it. Live there like two needles in a haystack. Won't ask you in.
Damned inhospitable, but no good because I shall have to go to bed at
once. Perhaps you wouldn't mind pressing the bell? Left my latch-key in
me sister's work-basket."

The door opened, and the general, after bidding Sylvia and Jack a
courteous good night, marched up his front-door steps with as much
martial rigidity as he could command.

On the way back to Finborough Road, Sylvia, who had been attracted to
the general's suggestion, postponed raising the question with Jack by
telling him about her adventure in Redcliffe Gardens when she threw the
bag of chestnuts through the window. She did not think it fair, however,
to make any other arrangement without letting him know, and before she
went to see Mrs. Gainsborough the next day she announced her idea and
asked him if he would be much hurt by her backing out of the busking.

"My dear girl, of course not," said Jack. "As a matter of fact, I've had
rather a decent offer to tour in a show through the East. I should
rather like to see India and all that. I didn't say anything about it,
because I didn't want to let you down. However, if you're all right, I'm
all right."

Mrs. Gainsborough by daylight appealed to Sylvia as much as ever. She
told her what the general had said, and Mrs. Gainsborough begged her to
come that very afternoon.

"The only thing is," Sylvia objected, "I've got a friend, a girl, who's
away at present, and she might want to go on living with me."

"Let her come too," Mrs. Gainsborough cried. "The more the merrier. Good
Land! What a set-out we shall have. The captain won't know himself. He's
very fond of me, you know. But it would be more jolly for him to have
some youngsters about. He's that young. Upon my word, you'd think he was
a boy. And he's always the same. Oh, dearie me! the times we've had,
you'd hardly believe. Life with him was a regular circus."

So it was arranged that Sylvia should come at once to live with Mrs.
Gainsborough in Tinderbox Lane, and Jack went off to the East.

The general used to visit them nearly every afternoon, but never in the
evening.

"Depend upon it, Sylvia," Mrs. Gainsborough said, "he got into rare hot
water with his sister the other night. Of course it was an exception,
being our anniversary, and I dare say next March, if we're all spared,
he'll be allowed another evening. It's a great pity, though, that we
didn't meet first in June. So much more seasonable for jollifications.
But there, he was young and never looked forward to being old."

The general was not spared for another anniversary. Scarcely a month
after Sylvia had gone to live with Mrs. Gainsborough, he died very
quietly in the night. His sister came herself to break the news, a frail
old lady who seemed very near to joining her brother upon the longest
journey.

"She'll never be able to keep away from him," Mrs. Gainsborough sobbed.
"She'll worry and fret herself for fear he might catch cold in his
coffin. And look at me! As healthy and rosy as a great radish!"

The etiquette of the funeral caused Mrs. Gainsborough considerable
perplexity.

"Now tell me, Sylvia, ought I or ought I not to wear a widow's veil?
Miss Dashwood inviting me in that friendly way, I do want to show that I
appreciate her kindness. I know that strictly we weren't married. I dare
say nowadays it would be different, but people was much more
old-fashioned about marrying ballet-girls when I was young. Still, it
doesn't seem hardly decent for me to go gallivanting to his funeral in
me black watered silk, the same as if I were going to the upper boxes of
a theater with Mrs. Marsham or Mrs. Beardmore."

Sylvia told Mrs. Gainsborough that in her opinion a widow's cap at the
general's funeral would be like the dash of mauve at the wedding in the
story. She suggested the proper thing to do would be to buy a new black
dress unprofaned by visits to the upper boxes.

"If I can get such an out size in the time," Mrs. Gainsborough sighed,
"which is highly doubtful."

However, the new dress was obtained, and Mrs. Gainsborough went off to
the funeral at Brompton.

"On, it was a beautiful ceremony," she sobbed, when she got home. "And
really Miss Dashwood, well, she couldn't have been nicer. Oh, my poor
dear captain, if only all the clergyman said was true. And yet I should
feel more comfortable somehow if it wasn't. Though I suppose if it was
true there'd be no objection to our meeting in heaven as friends only.
Dear me, it all sounded so real when I heard the clergyman talking about
it. Just as if he was going up in a lift, as you might say. So natural
it sounded. 'A gallant soldier,' he said, 'a veteran of the Crimea.' So
he was gallant, the dear captain. You should have seen him lay out two
roughs who tried to snatch me watch and chain once at the Epsom Derby.
He was a gentleman, too. I'm sure nobody ever treated any woman kinder
than he treated me. Seventy years old he was. Captain Bob Dashwood of
the Seventeenth Hussars. I can see him now as he used to be. He liked to
come stamping up the garden. Oh, he was a stamper, and 'Polly,' he
hollered out, 'get on your frills. Here's Dick Avon--the Markiss of Avon
_that_ was' (oh, he was a wild thing) 'and Jenny Ward' (you know, she
threw herself off Westminster Bridge and caused such a stir in Jubilee
year). People talked a lot about it at the time. I remember we drove to
the Star and Garter at Richmond that day--a lovely June day it was--and
caused quite a sensation, because we all looked so smart. Oh, my Bob, my
Bob, it only seems yesterday."

Sylvia consoled Mrs. Gainsborough and rejoiced in her assurance that she
did not know what she should have done.

"Fancy him thinking about me being so lonely and wanting you to come and
live with me. Depend upon it he knew he was going to die all of a
sudden," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Oh, there's no doubt he was clever
enough to have been a doctor. Only of course with his family he had to
be a soldier."

Sylvia mostly spent these spring days in the garden with Mrs.
Gainsborough, listening to her tales about the past and helping her to
overlook the labors of the jobbing gardener who came in twice a week.
Her landlady or hostess (for the exact relation was not yet determined)
was very strict in this regard, because her father had been a nursery
gardener and she insisted upon a peculiar knowledge of the various ways
in which horticultural obligations could be avoided. When Sylvia raised
the question of her status at Mulberry Cottage, Mrs. Gainsborough always
begged her not to be in a hurry to settle anything; later on, when
Sylvia was able to earn some money, she should pay for her board, but
payment for her lodging, so long as Mrs. Gainsborough was alive and the
house was not burned to the ground, was never to be mentioned. That was
certainly the captain's intention and it must be respected.

Sylvia often went to see Mrs. Gowndry in Finborough Road in case there
should be news of Lily. Her old landlady was always good enough to say
that she missed her, and in her broken-up existence the affection even
of Mrs. Gowndry was very grateful.

"I've told me old man to keep a good lookout for her," said Mrs.
Gowndry.

"He's hardly likely to meet her at his work," Sylvia said.

"Certainly not. No. But he often goes up to get a breath of
air--well--it isn't to be expected that he wouldn't. I often say to him
when he comes home a bit grumblified that his profession is as bad as a
miner's, and _they_ only does eight hours, whereas in his lavatory they
does twelve. Too long, too long, and it must be fidgety work, with
people bobbing in and out all the time and always in a hurry, as you
might say. Of course now and again you get a lodger who makes himself
unpleasant, but, year in year out, looking after lodgers is a more
peaceful sort of a life than looking after a lavatory. Don't you be
afraid, Miss Scarlett. If ever a letter comes for you our Tommy shall
bring it straight round, and he's a boy as can be trusted not to lose
anything he's given. You wouldn't lose the pretty lady's letter, would
you, Tommy? You never lose nothing, do you?"

"I lost a acid-drop once."

"There, fancy him remembering. That's a hit for his ma, that is. He'd
only half sucked this here acid-drop and laid it aside to finish sucking
it when he went up to bed, and I must have swept it up, not thinking
what it was. Fancy him remembering. He don't talk much, but he's a
artful one."

Tommy had a bagful of acid-drops soon after this, for he brought a
letter to Sylvia from Lily:

     DEAR SYLVIA,--I suppose you're awfully angry with me, but Claude
     went on tour a month ago, and I hate being alone. I wonder if this
     will find you. I'm staying in rotten rooms in Camden Town. 14
     Winchester Terrace. Send me a card if you're in London.

     Loving, LILY.

Sylvia immediately went over to Camden Town and brought Lily away from
the rooms, which were indeed "rotten." When she had installed her at
Mulberry Cottage she worked herself up to having a clear understanding
with Lily, but when it came to the point she felt it was useless to
scold her except in fun, as a child scolds her doll. She did, however,
treat her henceforth in what Mrs. Gainsborough called a "highly
dictatorial way." Sylvia thought she could give Lily the appearance of
moral or immoral energy, however impossible it might be to give her the
reality. With this end in view she made Lily's will entirely subordinate
to her own, which was not difficult. The affection that Sylvia now had
for her was not so much tender as careful, the affection one might feel
for a bicycle rather than for a horse. She was always brutally frank
with herself about their relation to each other, and because she never
congratulated herself upon her kindness she was able to sustain her
affection.

"There is nothing so fickle as a virtuous impulse," Sylvia declared to
herself. "It's a kind of moral usury which is always looking for a
return on the investment. The moment the object fails to pay an
exorbitant interest in gratitude, the impulse to speculate withers up.
The lowest circle in hell should be reserved for people who try to help
others and cannot understand why their kindness is not appreciated.
Really that was Philip's trouble. He never got over being hurt that I
didn't perpetually remind him of his splendid behavior toward me. I
suppose I'm damned inhuman. Well, well, I couldn't have stood those
three months after I left him if I hadn't been."

The affair between Lily and Claude Raglan was not much discussed. He
had, it seemed, only left her because his career was at stake; he had
received a good offer and she had not wished to detain him.

"But is it over between you?" Sylvia demanded.

"Yes, of course, it's over--at any rate, for a long time to come," Lily
answered. "He cried when he left me. He really was a nice boy. If he
lives, he thinks he will be a success--a real success. He introduced me
to a lot of nice boys."

"That was rash of him," Sylvia laughed. "Were they as nice as the
lodgings he introduced you to?"

"No, don't laugh at him. He couldn't afford anything else."

"But why in Heaven's name, if you wanted to play around together, had
you got to leave Finborough Road?"

Lily blushed faintly. "You won't be angry if I tell you?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"Claude said he couldn't bear the idea that you were looking at us. He
said it spoiled everything."

"What did he think I was going to do?" Sylvia snapped. "Put pepper on
the hymeneal pillow?"

"You said you wouldn't be angry."

"I'm not."

"Well, don't use long words, because it makes me think you are."

Soon after Lily came to Tinderbox Lane, Sylvia met Dorothy Lonsdale with
a very lovely dark girl called Olive Fanshawe, a fellow-member of the
Vanity chorus. Dorothy was glad to see her, principally, Sylvia thought,
because she was able to talk about lunch at Romano's and supper at the
Savoy.

"Look here," Sylvia said. "A little less of the Queen of Sheba, if you
don't mind. Don't forget I'm one of the blokes as is glad to smell the
gratings outside a baker's."

Miss Fanshawe laughed, and Sylvia looked at her quickly, wondering if
she were worth while.

Dorothy was concerned to hear she was still with Lily. "That dreadful
girl," she simpered.

"Oh, go to hell," said Sylvia, sharply, and walked off.

Next day a note came from Dorothy to invite her and Lily to tea at the
flat she shared with Olive.

"Wonderful how attractive rudeness is," Sylvia commented.

"Oh, do let's go. Look, she lives in Half Moon Street," Lily said.

"And a damned good address for the demi-monde," Sylvia added.

However, the tea-party was definitely a success, and for the rest of the
summer Sylvia and Lily spent a lot of time on the river with what Sylvia
called the semicircle of intimate friends they had brought away from
Half Moon Street. She grew very fond of Olive Fanshawe and warned her
against her romantic adoration of Dorothy.

"But you're just as romantic over Lily," Olive argued.

"Not a single illusion left, my dear," Sylvia assured her. "Besides, I
should never compare Lily with Dorothy. Dorothy is more beautiful, more
ambitious, more mercenary. She'll probably marry a lord. She's acquired
the art of getting a lot for nothing to a perfection that could only be
matched by a politician or a girl with the same brown eyes in the same
glory of light-brown hair. And when it suits her she'll go back on her
word just as gracefully, and sell her best friend as readily as a
politician will sell his country."

"You're very down on politicians. I think there's something so romantic
about them," Olive declared. "Young politicians, of course."

"My dear, you'd think a Bradshaw romantic."

"It is sometimes," said Olive.

"Well, I know two young politicians," Sylvia continued. "A Liberal and a
Conservative. They both spend their whole time in hoping I sha'n't
suggest walking down Bond Street with them, the Liberal because I may
see a frock and the Conservative because he may meet a friend. They
both make love to me as if they were addressing their future
constituents, with a mixture of flattery, condescension, and best
clothes; but they reserve all their affection for the constituency. As I
tell them, if they'd fondle the constituency and nurse me, I should
endure their company more easily. Unhappily, they both think I'm
intelligent, and a man who admires a woman's intelligence is like a
woman who admires her friend's looking-glass--each one is granting an
audience to himself."

"At any rate," said Olive, "you've managed to make yourself quite a
mystery. All the men we know are puzzled by you."

"Tell them, my dear, I'm quite simple. I represent the original
conception of the Hetæra, a companion. I don't want to be made love to,
and every man who makes love to me I dislike. If I ever do fall in love,
I'll be a man's slave. Of that I'm sure. So don't utter dark warnings,
for I've warned myself already. I do want a certain number of
things--nice dresses, because I owe them to myself, good books,
and--well, really, I think that's all. In return for the dresses and the
books--I suppose one ought to add an occasional fiver just to show
there's no ill feeling about preferring to sleep in my own room--in
return for very little. I'm ready to talk, walk, laugh, sing, dance,
tell incomparably bawdy stories, and, what is after all the most
valuable return of all, I'm ready to sit perfectly still and let myself
be bored to death while giving him an idea that I'm listening
intelligently. Of course, sometimes I do listen intelligently without
being bored. In that case I let him off with books only."

"You really are an extraordinary girl," said Olive.

"You, on the other hand, my dear," Sylvia went on, "always give every
man the hope that if he's wise and tender, and of course
lavish--ultimately all men believe in the pocket--he will be able to cry
Open Sesame to the mysterious treasure of romantic love that he discerns
in your dark eyes, in your caressing voice, and in your fervid
aspirations. In the end you'll give it all to a curly-headed actor and
live happily ever afterward at Ravenscourt Park. Farewell to Coriolanus
in his smart waistcoat; farewell to Julius Cæsar and his amber
cigarette-holder; farewell to every nincompoop with a top-hat as bright
as a halo; farewell incidentally to Dolly Lonsdale, who'll discover that
Ravenscourt Park is too difficult for the chauffeur to find."

"Oh, Sylvia, shut up!" Olive said. "I believe you drank too much
champagne at lunch."

"I'm glad you reminded me," Sylvia cried. "By Jove! I'd forgotten the
fizz. That's where we all meet on common ground--or rather, I should say
in common liquid. It sounds like mixed bathing. It is a kind of mixed
bathing, after all. You're quite right, Olive, whatever our different
tastes in men, clothes, and behavior, we all must have champagne.
Champagne is a bloody sight thicker than water, as the prodigal said
when his father uncorked a magnum to wash down the fatted calf."

Gradually Sylvia did succeed in sorting out from the various men a few
who were content to accept the terms of friendship she offered. She had
to admit that most of them fell soon or late, and with each new man she
gave less and took more. As regards Lily, she tried to keep her as
unapproachable as herself, but it was not always possible. Sometimes
with a shrug of the shoulders she let Lily go her own way, though she
was always hard as steel with the fortunate suitor. Once a rich young
financier called Hausberg, who had found Lily somewhat expensive,
started a theory that Sylvia was living on her friend; she heard of the
slander and dealt with it very directly. The young man in question was
anxious to set Lily up in a flat of her own. Sylvia let Lily appear to
view the plan with favor. The flat was taken and furnished; a date was
fixed for Lily's entrance; the young man was given the latch-key and
told to come at midnight. When he arrived, there was nobody in the flat
but a chimpanzee that Sylvia had bought at Jamrack's. She and Lily were
at Brighton with Arthur Lonsdale and Tony Clarehaven, whom they had
recently met again at a Covent Garden ball.

They were both just down from Oxford, and Lonsdale had taken a great
fancy to Lily. He was a jolly youth, whose father, Lord Cleveden, had
consented after a struggle to let him go into partnership with a
distinguished professional motorist. It was with him that Dorothy
Lonsdale claimed distant kinship. Clarehaven's admiration for Dorothy
had not diminished; somebody had told him that the best way to get hold
of her would be to make her jealous. This was his object in inviting
Sylvia to Brighton. Sylvia agreed to go, partly to tease Dorothy, partly
to disappoint Clarehaven. Lonsdale had helped her to get the chimpanzee
into the flat, and all the way down to Brighton they laughed.

"My word, you know!" Lonsdale chuckled, "the jolly old chimpanzee will
probably eat the wall-paper. What do you think Hausberg will say when he
opens the door?"

"I expect he'll say, 'Are you there, Lily?'" Sylvia suggested.

"What do you think the jolly old chimpanzee will do? Probably bite his
ear off--what? Topping. Good engine this. We're doing fifty-nine or an
unripe sixty. Why does a chicken cross the road? No answer, thank you,
this time. Must slow down a bit. There's a trap somewhere here. I say,
you know, I've got a sister called Sylvia. Hullo! hullo! Mind your hoop,
Tommy! Too late. Funeral on Friday. Colonial papers please copy. I
wonder how they'll get the chimpanzee out again. I told the hall porter,
when he cast a cold and glassy eye on the crate, it was a marble Venus
that Mr. Hausberg was going to use as a hat-stand. My word! I expect the
jolly old flat looks like the last days of Pompeii by now. When I undid
the door of the crate the brute was making a noise like a discontented
cistern. I rapidly scattered Brazil nuts and bananas on the floor to
occupy his mind and melted away like a strawberry ice on a grill. Hullo!
We're getting into Brighton."

Clarehaven did not enjoy his week-end, for it consisted entirely of a
lecture by Sylvia on his behavior. This caused him to drink many more
whisky-and-sodas than usual, and he came back to London on Monday with a
bad headache, which he attributed to Sylvia's talking.

"My dear man, _I_ haven't got a mouth. You have," she said.

This week-end caused a quarrel between Sylvia and Dorothy, for which she
was not sorry. She had recently met a young painter, Ronald Walker, who
wanted Lily to sit for him; he had taken them once or twice to the Café
Royal, which Sylvia had found a pleasant change from the society of Half
Moon Street. Soon after this Lonsdale began a liaison with Queenie
Molyneux, of the Frivolity Theater. The only member of the Half Moon
Street set with whom Sylvia kept up a friendship was Olive Fanshawe.



CHAPTER IX


During her second year at Mulberry Cottage Sylvia achieved an existence
that, save for the absence of any one great motive like art or love, was
complete. She had also one real friend in Jack Airdale, who had returned
from his tour. Apart from the pleasant security of knowing that he would
always be content with good-fellowship only, he encouraged her to
suppose that somewhere, could she but find the first step, a career lay
before her. Sylvia did not in her heart believe in this career, but in
moments of depression Jack's confidence was of the greatest comfort, and
she was always ready to play with the notion, particularly as it seemed
to provide a background for her present existence and to cover the
futility of its perfection. Jack was anxious that she should try to get
on the proper stage, but Sylvia feared to destroy by premature failure a
part of the illusion of ultimate success she continued to allow herself
by finally ruling out the theater as one of the possible channels to
that career. In the summer Lily became friendly with one or two men whom
Sylvia could not endure, but a lassitude had descended upon her and she
lacked any energy to stop the association. As a matter of fact she was
sickening for diphtheria at the time, and while she was in the hospital
Lily took to frequenting the Orient promenade with these new friends. As
soon as Sylvia came out they were banished; but each time that she
intervened on Lily's behalf it seemed to her a little less worth while.
Nevertheless, finding that Lily was bored by her own habit of staying in
at night, she used much against her will to accompany her very often to
various places of amusement without a definite invitation from a man to
escort them.

One day at the end of December Mrs. Gainsborough came home from
shopping with two tickets for a fancy-dress dance at the Redcliffe Hall
in Fulham Road. When the evening arrived Sylvia did not want to go, for
the weather was raw and foggy; but Mrs. Gainsborough was so much
disappointed at her tickets not being used that to please her Sylvia
agreed to go. It seemed unlikely to be an amusing affair, so she and
Lily went in the most ordinary of their fancy dresses as masked
Pierrettes. The company, as they had anticipated, was quite
exceptionally dull.

"My dear, it's like a skating-rink on Saturday afternoon," Sylvia said.
"We'll have one more dance together and then go home."

They were standing at the far end of the hall near the orchestra, and
Sylvia was making disdainful comments upon the various couples that were
passing out to refresh themselves or flirt in the draughty corridors.

Suddenly Sylvia saw a man in evening dress pushing his way in their
direction, regardless of what ribbons he tore or toes he outraged in his
transit. He was a young man of about twenty-three or twenty-four, with a
countenance in which eagerness was curiously mixed with impassivity.
Sylvia saw him as one sees a picture on first entering a gallery, which
one postpones visiting with a scarcely conscious and yet perfectly
deliberate anticipation of pleasure later on. She continued talking to
Lily, who had her back to the new-comer; while she talked she was aware
that all her own attention was fixed upon this new-comer and that she
was asking herself the cause of the contradictions in his face and
deciding that it was due to the finely carved immobile mouth beneath
such eager eyes. Were they brown or blue? The young man had reached
them, and from that immobile mouth came in accents that were almost like
despair a salutation to Lily. Sylvia felt for a moment as if she had
been wounded; she saw that Lily was looking at her with that expression
she always put on when she thought Sylvia was angry with her; then after
what seemed an age turned round slowly to the young man and, lifting her
mask, engaged in conversation with him. Sylvia felt that she was
trespassing upon the borders of great emotion and withdrew out of
hearing, until Lily beckoned her forward to introduce the young man as
Mr. Michael Fane. Sylvia did not raise her mask, and after nodding to
him again retired from the conversation.

"But this is absurd," she said to herself, after a while; and abruptly
raising her mask she broke in upon the duologue. The music had begun. He
was asking Lily to dance, and she, waiting for Sylvia's leave in a way
that made Sylvia want to slap her, was hesitating.

"What rot, Lily!" she exclaimed, impatiently. "Of course you may dance."

The young man turned toward Sylvia and smiled. A moment later he and
Lily had waltzed away.

"Good God!" said Sylvia to herself. "Am I going mad? A youth smiles at
me and I feel inclined to cry. What is this waltz they're playing?"

She looked at one of the sheets of music, but the name was nowhere
legible, and she nearly snatched it away from the player in
exasperation. Nothing seemed to matter in the world except that she
should know the name of this waltz. Without thinking what she was doing
she thumped the clarinet-player on the shoulder, who stopped indignantly
and asked if she was trying to knock his teeth out.

"What waltz are you playing? What waltz are you playing?"

"'Waltz Amarousse.' Perhaps you'll punch one of the strings next time,
miss?"

"Happy New-Year," Sylvia laughed, and the clarinet-player with a
disgusted glance turned round to his music again.

By the time the dance was over and the other two had rejoined her,
Sylvia was laughing at herself; but they thought she was laughing at
them. Fane and Lily danced several more dances together, and gradually
Sylvia made up her mind that she disapproved of this new intimacy, this
sudden invasion of Lily's life from the past from which she should have
cut herself off as completely as Sylvia had done from her own. What
right had Lily to complicate their existence in this fashion? How
unutterably dull this masquerade was! She whispered to Lily in the next
interval that she was tired and wanted to go home.

The fog outside was very dense. Fane took their arms to cross the road,
and Sylvia, though he caught her arm close to him, felt drearily how
mechanical its gesture was toward her, how vital toward Lily. Neither of
her companions spoke to each other, and she asked them questions about
their former friendship, which Lily did not answer because she was
evidently afraid of her annoyance, and which he did not answer because
he did not hear. Sylvia had made up her mind that Fane should not enter
Mulberry Cottage, when Lily whispered to her that she should ask him,
but at the last moment she remembered his smile and invited him to
supper. A strange shyness took possession of her, which she tried to
cover by exaggeration, almost, she thought, hysterical fooling with Mrs.
Gainsborough that lasted until two o'clock in the morning of New-Year's
day, when Michael Fane went home after exacting a promise from the two
girls to lunch with him at Kettner's that afternoon. Lily was so sleepy
that she did not rise to see him out. Sylvia was glad of the
indifference.

Next morning Sylvia found out that Michael was a "nice boy" whom Lily
had known in West Kensington when she was seventeen. He had been awfully
in love with her, and her mother had been annoyed because he wanted to
marry her. He had only been seventeen himself, and like many other
school-boy loves of those days this one had just ended somehow, but
exactly how Lily could not recall. She wished that Sylvia would not go
on asking so many questions; she really could not remember anything more
about it. They had gone once for a long drive in a cab, and there had
been a row about that at home.

"Are you in love with him now?" Sylvia demanded.

"No, of course not. How could I be?"

Sylvia was determined that she never should be, either: there should be
no more Claude Raglans to interfere with their well-devised existence.

During the next fortnight Sylvia took care that Lily and Michael should
never be alone together, and she tried very often, after she discovered
that Michael was sensitive, to shock him by references to their life,
and with an odd perverseness to try particularly to shock him about
herself by making brutally coarse remarks in front of Lily, taking
pleasure in his embarrassment. Yet there was in the end little pleasure
in shocking him, for he had no conventional niceness; yet there was a
pleasure in hurting him, a fierce pleasure.

"Though why on earth I bother about his feelings, I can't imagine,"
Sylvia said to herself. "All I know is that he's an awful bore and makes
us break all sorts of engagements with other people. You liar! You know
he's not a bore, and you know that you don't care a damn how many
engagements you break. Don't pose to yourself. You're jealous of him
because you think that Lily may get really fond of him. You don't want
her to get fond of him, because you don't think she's good enough for
him. You don't want him to get fond of _her_."

The boldness of this thought, the way in which it had attacked the
secret recesses of her being, startled Sylvia. It was almost a sensation
of turning pale at herself, of fearing to understand herself, that made
her positively stifle the mood and flee from these thoughts, which might
violate her personality.

Down-stairs, there was a telegram from Olive Fanshawe at Brighton,
begging Sylvia to come at once; she was terribly unhappy; Sylvia could
scarcely tear herself away from Mulberry Cottage at such a moment even
for Olive, but, knowing that if she did not go she would be sorry, she
went.

Sylvia found Olive in a state of collapse. Dorothy Lonsdale and she had
been staying in Brighton for a week's holiday, and yesterday Dorothy had
married Clarehaven. Sylvia laughed.

"Oh, Sylvia, don't laugh!" Olive begged. "It was perfectly dreadful. Of
course it was a great shock to me, but I did not show it. I told her she
could count on me as a pal to help her in every way. And what do you
think she said? Sylvia, you'll never guess. It was too cruel. She said
to me in a voice of ice, dear--really, a voice of ice--she said the best
way I could help her was by not seeing her any more. She did not intend
to go near the stage door of a theater again. She did not want to know
any of her stage friends any more. She didn't even say she was sorry;
she was quite calm. She was like ice, Sylvia dear. Clarehaven came in
and she asked if he'd telegraphed to his mother, and when he said he
had she got up as if she'd been calling on me quite formally and shook
hands, and said: 'Good-by, Olive. We're going down to Clare Court
to-morrow, and I don't expect we shall see each other again for a long
time.' Clarehaven said what rot and that I must come down to Devonshire
and stay with them, and Dolly froze him, my dear; she froze him with a
look. I never slept all night, and the book I was reading began to
repeat itself, and I thought I was going mad; but this morning I found
the printers had made some mistake and put sixteen pages twice over. But
I really thought I was going mad, so I wired for you. Oh, Sylvia,
Sylvia, say something to console me! She was like ice, dear, really like
a block of ice."

"If she'd only waited till you had found the curly-headed actor it
wouldn't have mattered so much," Sylvia said.

Poor Olive really was on the verge of a nervous collapse, and Sylvia
stayed with her three days, though it was agony to leave Lily in London
with Michael Fane. Nor could she talk of her own case to Olive. It would
seem like a competitive sorrow, a vulgar bit of egotistic assumption to
suit the occasion.

When Sylvia got back to Mulberry Cottage she found an invitation from
Jack Airdale to dine at Richmond and go to a dance with him afterward.
Conscious from something in Michael's watchful demeanor of a development
in the situation, she was pleased to be able to disquiet him by
insisting that Lily should go with her.

On the way, Sylvia extracted from Lily that Michael had asked her to
marry him. It took all Jack Airdale's good nature not to be angry with
Sylvia that night--as she tore the world to shreds. At the moment when
Lily had told her she had felt with a despair that was not communicable,
as Olive's despair had been, how urgent it was to stop Michael from
marrying Lily. She was not good enough for him. The knowledge rang in
her brain like a discordant clangor of bells, and Sylvia knew in that
moment that the real reason of her thinking this was jealousy of Lily.
The admission tortured her pride, and after a terrible night in which
the memory of Olive's grief interminably dwelt upon and absorbed helped
her to substitute the pretense, so passionately invoked that it almost
ceased to be a pretense, that she was opposing the marriage partly
because Michael would never keep Lily faithful, partly because she could
not bear the idea of losing her friend.

When, the next day, Sylvia faced Michael for the discussion of the
marriage, she was quite sure not merely that he had never attracted her,
but even that she hated him and, what was more deadly, despised him. She
taunted him with wishing to marry Lily for purely sentimental reasons,
for the gratification of a morbid desire to save her. She remembered
Philip, and all the hatred she had felt for Philip's superiority was
transferred to Michael. She called him a prig and made him wince by
speaking of Lily and herself as "tarts," exacting from the word the
uttermost tribute of its vulgarity. She dwelt on Lily's character and
evolved a theory of woman's ownership by man that drove her into such
illogical arguments and exaggerated pretensions that Michael had some
excuse for calling her hysterical. The dispute left Lily on one side for
a time and became personal to herself and him. He told her she was
jealous. In an access of outraged pride she forgot that he was referring
to her jealousy about Lily, and to any one less obsessed by an idea than
he was she would have revealed her secret. Suddenly he seemed to give
way. When he was going he told her that she hated him because he loved
Lily and hated him twice as much because his love was returned.

Sylvia felt she would go mad when Michael said that he loved Lily; but
he was thinking it was because Lily loved him that she was biting her
nails and glaring at him. Then he asked her what college at Oxford her
husband had been at. She had spoken of Philip during their quarrel. This
abrupt linking of himself with Philip restored her balance, and coolly
she began to arrange in her mind for Lily's withdrawal from London for a
while. Of passion and fury there was nothing left except a calm
determination to disappoint Master Michael. She remembered Olive
Fanshawe's, "Like ice, dear, she was like a block of ice." She, too, was
like a block of ice as she watched him walking away down the long
garden.

When Michael had gone Sylvia told Lily that marriage with him was
impossible.

"Why do you want to be married?" she demanded. "Was your mother so happy
in her marriage? I tell you, child, that marriage is almost
inconceivably dull. What have you got in common with him? Nothing,
absolutely nothing."

"I'm not a bit anxious to be married," Lily protested. "But when
somebody goes on and on asking, it's so difficult to refuse. I liked
Claude better than I like Michael. But Claude had to think about his
future."

"And what about your future?" Sylvia exclaimed.

"Oh, I expect it'll be all right. Michael has money."

"I say you shall not marry him," Sylvia almost shouted.

"Oh, don't keep on so," Lily fretfully implored. "It gives me a
headache. I won't marry him if it's going to upset you so much. But you
mustn't leave me alone with him again, because he worries me just as
much as you do."

"We'll go away to-morrow," Sylvia announced, abruptly. It flashed upon
her that she would like to go to Sirene with Lily, but, alas! there was
not enough money for such a long journey, and Bournemouth or Brighton
must be the colorless substitute.

Lily cheered up at the idea of going away, and Sylvia was half resentful
that she could accept parting from Michael so easily. Lily's frocks were
not ready the next day, and in the morning Michael's ring was heard.

"Oh, now I suppose we shall have more scenes," Lily complained.

Sylvia ran after Mrs. Gainsborough, who was waddling down the garden
path to open the door.

"Come back, come back at once!" she cried. "You're not to open the
door."

"Well, there's a nice thing. But it may be the butcher."

"We don't want any meat. It's not the butcher. It's Fane. You're not to
open the door. We've all gone away."

"Well, don't snap my head off," said Mrs. Gainsborough, turning back
unwillingly to the house.

All day long at intervals the bell rang.

"The neighbors 'll think the house is on fire," Mrs. Gainsborough
bewailed.

"Nobody hears it except ourselves, you silly old thing," Sylvia said.

"And what 'll the passers-by think?" Mrs. Gainsborough asked. "It looks
so funny to see any one standing outside a door, ringing all day long
like a chimney-sweep who's come on Monday instead of Tuesday. Let me go
out and tell him you've gone away. I'll hold the door on the jar, the
same as if I was arguing with a hawker. Now be sensible, Sylvia. I'll
just pop out, pop my head round the door, and pop back in again."

"You're not to go. Sit down."

"You do order any one about so. I might be a serviette, the way you
crumple me up. Sylvia, don't keep prodding into me. I may be fat, but I
have got some feelings left. You're a regular young spiteful. A porter
wouldn't treat luggage so rough. Give over, Sylvia."

"What a fuss you make about nothing!" Sylvia said.

"Well, that ping-ping-pinging gets on my nerves. I feel as if I were
coming out in black spots like a domino. Why don't the young fellow give
over? It's a wonder his fingers aren't worn out."

The ringing continued until nearly midnight in bursts of half an hour at
a stretch. Next morning Sylvia received a note from Fane in which he
invited her to be sporting and let him see Lily.

"How I hate that kind of gentlemanly attitude!" she scoffed to herself.

Sylvia wrote as unpleasant a letter as she could invent, which she left
with Mrs. Gainsborough to be given to Michael when he should call in
answer to an invitation she had posted for the following day at twelve
o'clock. Then Lily and she left for Brighton. All the way down in the
train she kept wondering why she had ended her letter to Michael by
calling him "my little Vandyck." Suddenly she flew into a rage with
herself, because she knew that she was making such speculation an excuse
to conjure his image to her mind.

Toward the end of February Sylvia and Lily came back to Mulberry
Cottage. Sylvia had awakened one morning with the conviction that it
was beneath her dignity to interfere further between Lily and Michael.
She determined to leave everything to fate. She would go and stay with
Olive for a while, and if Lily went away with Michael, so much the
better. To hell with both of them. This resolution once taken, Sylvia,
who had been rather charming to Lily all the time at Brighton, began now
to treat her with a contempt that was really an expression of the
contempt she felt for Michael. A week after their return to London she
spent the whole of one day in ridiculing him so cruelly that even Mrs.
Gainsborough protested. Then she was seized with an access of penitence,
and, clasping Lily to her, she almost entreated her to vow that she
loved her better than any one else in the world. Lily, however, was by
this time thoroughly sulky and would have nothing to do with Sylvia's
tardy sweetness. The petulant way in which she shook herself free from
the embrace at last brought Sylvia up to the point of leaving Lily to
herself. She should go and stay with Olive Fanshawe, and if, when she
came back, Lily were still at Mulberry Cottage, she would atone for the
way she had treated her lately; if she were gone, it would be only one
more person ruthlessly cut out of her life. It was curious to think of
everybody--Monkley, Philip, the Organs, Mabel, the twins, Miss Ashley,
Dorward, all going on with their lives at this moment regardless of her.

"I might just as well be dead," she told herself. "What a fuss people
make about death!"

Sylvia was shocked to find how much Olive had suffered from Dorothy's
treatment of her. For the first time in her life she was unable to
dispose of emotion as mere romantic or sentimental rubbish; there was
indeed something deeper than the luxury of grief that could thus ennoble
even a Vanity girl.

"I do try, Sylvia, not to mope all the time. I keep on telling myself
that, if I really loved Dorothy, I should be glad for her to be Countess
of Clarehaven, with everything that she wants. She was always a good
girl. I lived with her more than two years and she was _frightfully_
strict about men. She deserved to be a countess. And I'm sure she's
quite right in wanting to cut herself off altogether from the theater.
I think, you know, she may have meant to be kind in telling me at once
like that, instead of gradually dropping me, which would have been
worse, wouldn't it? Only I do miss her so. She was such a lovely thing
to look at."

"So are you," Sylvia said.

"Ah, but I'm dark, dear, and a dark girl never has that almost unearthly
beauty that Dolly had."

"Dark girls have often something better than unearthly and seraphic
beauty," Sylvia said. "They often have a gloriously earthly and human
faithfulness."

"Ah, you need to tease me about being romantic, but I think it's you
that's being romantic now. You were quite right, dear; I used to be
stupidly romantic over foolish little things without any importance, and
now it all seems such a waste of time. That's really what I feel most of
all, now that I've lost my friend. It seems to me that every time I
patted a dog I was wasting time."

Sylvia had a fleeting thought that perhaps Gladys and Enid Worsley might
have felt like that about her, but in a moment she quenched the fire it
kindled in her heart. She was not going to bask in the warmth of
self-pity like a spoiled little girl that hopes she may die to punish
her brother for teasing her.

"I think, you know," Olive went on, "that girls like us aren't prepared
to stand sorrow. We've absolutely nothing to fall back upon. I've been
thinking all these days what an utterly unsatisfactory thing lunch at
Romano's really is. The only thing in my life that I can look back to
for comfort is summer at the convent in Belgium. Of course we giggled
all the time; but all the noise of talking has died away, and I can only
see a most extraordinary peacefulness. I wonder if the nuns would have
me as a boarder for a little while this summer. I feel I absolutely must
go there. It isn't being sentimental, because I never knew Dorothy in
those days."

Perhaps Olive's regret for her lost friend affected Sylvia. When she
went back to Mulberry Cottage and found that Lily had gone away,
notwithstanding her own deliberate provocation of the elopement, she was
dismayed. There was nothing left of Lily but two old frocks in the
wardrobe, two old frocks the color of dead leaves; and this poignant
reminder of a physical loss drove out all the other emotions. She told
herself that it was ridiculous to be moved like this and she jeered at
herself for imitating Olive's grief. But it was no use; those two frocks
affrighted her courage with their deadness. No kind of communion after
marriage would compensate for the loss of Lily's presence; it was like
the fading of a flower in the completeness of its death. Even if she had
been able to achieve the selflessness of Olive and take delight in
Lily's good fortune, how impossible it was to believe in the triumph of
this marriage. Lily would either be bored or she would become actively
miserable--Sylvia snorted at the adverb--and run away or rather slowly
melt to damnation. It would not even be necessary for her to be
miserable; any unscrupulous friend of her husband's would have his way
with her. For an instant Sylvia had a tremor of compassion for Michael,
but it died in the thought of how such a disillusion would serve him
right. He had built up this passion out of sentimentality; he was like
Don Quixote; he was stupid. No doubt he had managed by now to fall in
love with Lily, but it had never been an inevitable passion, and no pity
should be shown to lovers that did not love wildly at first sight. They
alone could plead fate's decrees.

Jack Airdale came to see Sylvia, and he took advantage of her despair to
press his desire for her to go upon the stage. He was positive that she
had in her the makings of a great actress. He did not want to talk about
himself, but he must tell Sylvia that there was a wonderful joy in
getting on. He would never, of course, do anything very great, but he
was understudy to some one or other at some theater or other, and there
was always a chance of really showing what he could do one night or at
any rate one afternoon. Even Claude was getting on; he had met him the
other day in a tail coat and a top-hat. Since there had been such an
outcry against tubercular infection, he had been definitely cured of his
tendency toward consumption; he had nothing but neurasthenia to contend
with now.

But Sylvia would not let Jack "speak about her" to the managers he knew.
She had no intention of continuing as she was at present, but she should
wait till she was twenty-three before she took any step that would
involve anything more energetic than turning over the pages of a book;
she intended to dream away the three months that were left to
twenty-two. Jack Airdale went away discouraged.

Sylvia met Ronald Walker, who had painted Lily. From him she learned
that Fane had taken a house for her somewhere near Regent's Park. By a
curious coincidence, a great friend of his who was also a friend of
Fane's had helped to acquire the house. Ronald understood that there was
considerable feeling against the marriage among Fane's friends. What was
Fane like? He knew several men who knew him, and he seemed to be one of
those people about whose affairs everybody talked.

"Thank Heaven, nobody bothers about me," said Ronald. "This man Fane
seems to have money to throw about. I wish he'd buy my picture of Lily.
You're looking rather down, Sylvia. I suppose you miss her? By Jove!
what an amazing sitter! She wasn't really beautiful, you know--I mean to
say with the kind of beauty that lives outside its setting. I don't
quite mean that, but in my picture of her, which most people consider
the best thing I've done, she never gave me what I ought to have had
from such a model. I felt cheated, somehow, as if I'd cut a bough from a
tree and in doing so destroyed all its grace. It was her gracefulness
really; and dancing's the only art for that. I can't think why I didn't
paint you."

"You're not going to begin now," Sylvia assured him.

"Well, of course, now you challenge me," he laughed. "The fact is,
Sylvia, I've never really seen you in repose till this moment. You were
always tearing around and talking. Look here, I do want to paint you. I
say, let me paint you in this room with Mrs. Gainsborough. By Jove! I
see exactly what I want."

"It sounds as if you wanted an illustration for the Old and New Year,"
Sylvia said.

In the end, however, she gave way; and really, it passed the time,
sitting for Ronald Walker with Mrs. Gainsborough in that room where
nothing of Lily remained.

"Well," Mrs. Gainsborough declared, when the painter had finished. "I
knew I was fat, but really it's enough to make any one get out of breath
just to look at any one so fat as you've made me. He hasn't been stingy
with his paint, I'll say that. But really, you know, it looks like a
picture of the fat woman in a fair. Now Sylvia's very good. Just the way
she looks at you with her chin stuck out like a step-ladder. Your eyes
are very good, too. He's just got that nasty glitter you get into them
sometimes."

One day in early June, without any warning, Michael Fane revisited
Mulberry Cottage. Sylvia had often declaimed against him to Mrs.
Gainsborough, and now while they walked up the garden she could see that
Mrs. Gainsborough was nervous, and by the way that Michael walked either
that he was nervous or that something had happened. Sylvia came down the
steps from the balcony to meet them, and, reading in his countenance
that he had come to ask her help, she was aware of an immense relief,
which she hid under an attitude of cold hostility. They sat on the
garden seat under the budding mulberry-tree, and without any
preliminaries of conversation Michael told her that he and Lily had
parted. Sylvia resented an implication in his tone that she would
somehow be awed by this announcement; she felt bitterly anxious to
disappoint and humiliate him by her indifference, hoping that he would
beg her to get Lily back for him. Instead of this he spoke of putting
her out of his life, and Sylvia perceived that it was not at all to get
Lily back that he had come to her. She was angry at missing her
opportunity and she jeered at the stately way in which he confessed his
failure and his loss; nor would he wince when she mocked his romantic
manner of speech. At last she was almost driven into the brutality of
picturing in unforgivable words the details of Lily's infidelity, but
from this he flinched, stopping her with a gesture. He went on to give
Sylvia full credit for her victory, to grant that she had been right
from the first, and gradually by dwelling on the one aspect of Lily that
was common to both of them, her beauty, he asked her very gently to take
Lily back to live with her again. Sylvia could not refrain from sneers,
and he was stung into another allusion to her jealousy, which Sylvia set
out to disprove almost mathematically, though all the time she was
afraid of what clear perception he might not have attained through
sorrow. But he was still obsessed by the salvation of Lily; and Sylvia,
because she could forgive him for his indifference to her own future
except so far as it might help Lily, began to mock at herself, to accuse
herself for those three months after she left Philip, to rake up that
corpse from its burial-place so that this youth who troubled her very
soul might turn his face from her in irremediable disgust and set her
free from the spell he was unaware of casting.

When she had worn herself out with the force of her denunciation both of
herself and of mankind, he came back to his original request; Sylvia,
incapable of struggling further, yielded to his perseverance, but with a
final flicker of self-assertion she begged him not to suppose that she
was agreeing to take Lily back for any other reason than because she
wanted to please herself.

Michael began to ask her about Lily's relation to certain men with whom
he had heard her name linked--with Ronald Walker, and with Lonsdale,
whom he had known at Oxford. Sylvia told him the facts quite simply; and
then because she could not bear this kind of self-torture he was
inflicting on himself, she tried to put out of its agony his last
sentimental regret for Lily by denying to her and by implication to
herself also the justification even of a free choice.

"Money is necessary sometimes, you know," she said.

Sylvia expected he would recoil from this, but he accepted it as the
statement of a natural fact, agreed with its truth, and begged that in
the future if ever money should be necessary he should be given the
privilege of helping. So long as it was apparently only Lily whom he
desired to help thus, Michael had put forward his claims easily enough.
Then in a flash Sylvia felt that now he was transferring half his
interest in Lily to her. He was stumbling hopelessly over that; he was
speaking in a shy way of sending her books that she would enjoy; then
abruptly he had turned from her and the garden door had slammed behind
him. It was with a positive exultation that Sylvia realized that he had
forgotten to give her Lily's address and that it was the dread of
seeming to intrude upon her which had driven him away like that. She ran
after him and called him back. He gave her a visiting-card on which his
name was printed above the address; it was like a little tombstone of
his dead love. He was talking now about selling the furniture and
sending the money to Lily. Sylvia all the time was wondering why the
first man that had ever appealed to her in the least should be like the
famous hero of literature that had always bored her. With an impulse to
avenge Michael she asked the name of the man for whom Lily had betrayed
him. But he had never known; he had only seen his hat.

Sylvia pulled Michael to her and kissed him with the first kiss she had
given to any man that was not contemptuous either of him or of herself.

"How many women have kissed you suddenly like that?" she asked.

"One--well, perhaps two!" he answered.

Even this kiss of hers was not hers alone, but because she might never
see him again Sylvia broke the barrier of jealousy and in a sudden
longing to be prodigal of herself for once she gave him all she could,
her pride, by letting him know that she for her part had never kissed
any man like that before.

Sylvia went back to the seat under the mulberry-tree and made up her
mind that the time was ripe for activity again. She had allowed herself
to become the prey of emotion by leading this indeterminate life in
which sensation was cultivated at the expense of incident. It was a pity
that Michael had intrusted her with Lily, for at this moment she would
have liked to be away out of it at once; any adventure embarked upon
with Lily would always be bounded by her ability to pack in time. Sylvia
could imagine how those two dresses she had left behind must have been
the most insuperable difficulty of the elopement. Another objection to
Lily's company now was the way in which it would repeatedly remind her
of Michael.

"Of course it won't remind me sentimentally," Sylvia assured herself.
"I'm not such a fool as to suppose that I'm going to suffer from a sense
of personal loss. On the other hand, I sha'n't ever be able to forget
what an exaggerated impression I gave him. It's really perfectly
damnable to divine one's sympathy with a person, to know that one could
laugh together through life, and by circumstances to have been placed
in an utterly abnormal relation to him. It really is damnable. He'll
think of me, if he ever thinks of me at all, as one of the great
multitude of wronged women. I shall think of him--though as a matter of
fact I shall avoid thinking of him--either as what might have been, a
false concept, for of course what might have been is fundamentally
inconceivable, or as what he was, a sentimental fool. However, the mere
fact that I'm sitting here bothering my head about what either of us
thinks shows that I need a change of air."

That afternoon a parcel of books arrived for Sylvia from Michael Fane;
among them was Skelton's Don Quixote and Adlington's _Apuleius_, on the
fly-leaf of which he had written:

    I've eaten rose leaves and I am no longer a golden ass.

"No, damn his eyes!" said Sylvia, "I'm the ass now. And how odd that he
should send me _Don Quixote_."

At twilight Sylvia went to see Lily at Ararat House. She found her in a
strange rococo room that opened on a garden bordered by the Regent's
Canal; here amid candles and mirrors she was sitting in conversation
with her housekeeper. Each of them existed from every point of view and
infinitely reduplicated in the mirrors, which was not favorable to
toleration of the housekeeper's figure, that was like an hour-glass.
Sylvia waited coldly for her withdrawal before she acknowledged Lily's
greeting. At last the objectionable creature rose and, accompanied by a
crowd of reflections, left the room.

"Don't lecture me," Lily begged. "I had the most awful time yesterday."

"But Michael said he had not seen you."

"Oh, not with Michael," Lily exclaimed. "With Claude."

"With Claude?" Sylvia echoed.

"Yes, he came to see me and left his hat in the hall and Michael took it
away with him in his rage. It was the only top-hat he'd got, and he had
an engagement for an 'at home,' and he couldn't go out in the sun, and,
oh dear, you never heard such a fuss, and when Mabel--"

"Mabel?"

"--Miss Harper, my housekeeper, offered to go out and buy him another,
he was livid with fury. He asked if I thought he was made of money and
could buy top-hats like matches. I'm glad you've come. Michael has
broken off the engagement, and I expected you rather. A friend of
his--rather a nice boy called Maurice Avery--is coming round this
evening to arrange about selling everything. I shall have quite a lot of
money. Let's go away and be quiet after all this bother and fuss."

"Look here," Sylvia said. "Before we go any further I want to know one
thing. Is Claude going to drop in and out of your life at critical
moments for the rest of time?"

"Oh no! We've quarreled now. He'll never forgive me over the hat.
Besides, he puts some stuff on his hair now that I don't like. Sylvia,
do come and look at my frocks. I've got some really lovely frocks."

Maurice Avery, to whom Sylvia took an instant dislike, came in
presently. He seemed to attribute the ruin of his friend's hopes
entirely to a failure to take his advice:

"Of course this was the wrong house to start with. I advised him to take
one at Hampstead, but he wouldn't listen to me. The fact is Michael
doesn't understand women."

"Do you?" Sylvia snapped.

Avery looked at her a moment, and said he understood them better than
Michael.

"Of course nobody can ever really understand a woman," he added, with an
instinct of self-protection. "But I advised him not to leave Lily alone.
I told him it wasn't fair to her or to himself."

"Did you give him any advice about disposing of the furniture?" Sylvia
asked.

"Well, I'm arranging about that now."

"Sorry," said Sylvia. "I thought you were paving Michael's past with
your own good intentions."

"You mustn't take any notice of her," Lily told Avery, who was looking
rather mortified. "She's rude to everybody."

"Well, shall I tell you my scheme for clearing up here?" he asked.

"If it will bring us any nearer to business," Sylvia answered, "we'll
manage to support the preliminary speech."

A week or two later Avery handed Lily £270, which she immediately
transferred to Sylvia's keeping.

"I kept the Venetian mirror for myself," Avery said. "You know the one
with the jolly little cupids in pink and blue glass. I shall always
think of you and Ararat House when I look at myself in it."

"I suppose all your friends wear their hearts on your sleeve," Sylvia
said. "That must add a spice to vanity."

Mrs. Gainsborough was very much upset at the prospect of the girls'
going away.

"That comes of having me picture painted. I felt it was unlucky when he
was doing it. Oh, dearie me! whatever shall I do?"

"Come with us," Sylvia suggested. "We're going to France. Lock up your
house, give the key to the copper on the beat, put on your gingham gown,
and come with us, you old sea-elephant."

"Come with you?" Mrs. Gainsborough gasped. "But there, why shouldn't I?"

"No reason at all."

"Why, then I will. I believe the captain would have liked me to get a
bit of a blow."

"Anything to declare?" the customs official asked at Boulogne.

"I declare I'm enjoying myself," said Mrs. Gainsborough, looking round
her and beaming at France.



CHAPTER X


When she once more landed on French soil, Sylvia, actuated by a classic
piety, desired to visit her mother's grave. She would have preferred to
go to Lille by herself, for she lacked the showman's instinct; but her
companions were so horrified at the notion of being left to themselves
in Paris until she rejoined them, that in the end she had to take them
with her.

The sight of the old house and the faces of some of the older women in
the _quartier_ conjured up the past so vividly for Sylvia that she could
not bring herself to make any inquiries about the rest of her family. It
seemed as if she must once more look at Lille from her mother's point of
view and maintain the sanctity of private life against the curiosity or
criticism of neighbors. She did not wish to hear the details of her
father's misdoing or perhaps be condoled with over Valentine. The
simplest procedure would have been to lay a wreath upon the grave and
depart again. This she might have done if Mrs. Gainsborough's genial
inquisitiveness about her relatives had not roused in herself a wish to
learn something about them. She decided to visit her eldest sister in
Brussels, leaving it to chance if she still lived where Sylvia had
visited her twelve years ago.

"Brussels," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Well, that sounds familiar, anyway.
Though I suppose the sprout-gardens are all built over nowadays. Ah
dear!"

The building over of her father's nursery-garden and of many other green
spots she had known in London always drew a tear from Mrs. Gainsborough,
who was inclined to attribute most of human sorrow to the utilitarian
schemes of builders.

"Yes, they found the Belgian hares ate up all the sprouts," Sylvia said.
"And talking of hair," she went on, "what's the matter with yours?"

"Ah, well, there! Now I meant to say nothing about it. But I've left me
mahogany wash at home. There's a calamity!"

"You'd better come out with me and buy another bottle," Sylvia advised.

"You'll never get one here," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "This is a wash,
not a dye, you must remember. It doesn't tint the hair; it just brings
up the color and gives it a nice gloss."

"If that's all it does, I'll lend you my shoe-polish. Go along, you
wicked old fraud, and don't talk to me about washes. I can see the white
hairs coming out like stars."

Sylvia found Elène in Brussels, and was amazed to see how much she
resembled her mother nowadays. M. Durand, her husband, had prospered and
he now owned a large confectioner's shop in the heart of the city, above
which Madame Durand had started a pension for economical tourists. Mrs.
Gainsborough could not get over the fact that her hostess did not speak
English; it struck her as unnatural that Sylvia should have a sister who
could only speak French. The little Durands were a more difficult
problem. She did not so much mind feeling awkward with grown-up people
through having to sit dumb, but children stared at her so, if she said
nothing; and if she talked, they stared at her still more; she kept
feeling that she ought to stroke them or pat them, which might offend
their mother. She found ultimately that they were best amused by her
taking out two false teeth she had, one of which once was lost, because
the eldest boy would play dice with them.

Elène gave Sylvia news of the rest of the family, though, since all the
four married sisters were in different towns in France and she had seen
none of them for ten years, it was not very fresh news. Valentine, in
whose career Sylvia was most interested, was being very well
_entretenue_ by a _marseillais_ who had bought her an apartment that
included a porcelain-tiled bath-room; she might be considered lucky, for
the man with whom she had left Lille had been a rascal. It happened that
her news of Valentine was fresh and authentic, because a _lilleoise_ who
lived in Bruxelles had recently been obliged to go to Marseilles over
some legal dispute and, meeting Valentine, had been invited to see her
apartment. It was a pity that she was not married, but her position was
the next best thing to marriage. Of the Bassompierres Elène had heard
nothing for years, but what would interest Sylvia were some family
papers and photographs that Sylvia's father had sent to her as the
eldest daughter when their mother died, together with an old-fashioned
photograph of their grandmother. From these papers it seemed that an
English _milord_ and not Bassompierre had really been their grandfather.
Sylvia being half English already, it might not interest her so much,
but for herself to know she had English blood _l'avait beaucoup
impressioné_, so many English tourists came to her pension.

Sylvia looked at the daguerreotype of her grandmother, a glass faintly
bloomed, the likeness of a ghost indeed. She then had loved an
Englishman; her mother, too; herself.... Sylvia packed the daguerreotype
out of sight and turned to look at a golden shawl of a material rather
like crêpe de Chine, which had been used to wrap up their mother when
she was a baby. Would Sylvia like it? It was no use to Elène, too old
and frail and faded. Sylvia stayed in Brussels for a week and left with
many promises to return soon. She was glad she had paid the visit; for
it had given back to her the sense of continuity which in the shifting
panorama of her life she had lost, so that she had come to regard
herself as an unreal person, an exception in humanity, an emotional
freak; this separation from the rest of the world had been irksome to
Sylvia since she had discovered the possibility of her falling in love,
because it was seeming the cause of her not being loved. Henceforth she
would meet man otherwise than with defiance or accusation in her eyes;
she, too, perhaps would meet a lover thus.

Sylvia folded up the golden shawl to put it at the bottom of her trunk;
figuratively, she wrapped up in it her memories, tender, gay, sorrowful,
vile all together.

"Soon be in Paris, shall we?" said Mrs. Gainsborough, when the train
reached the eastern suburbs. "It makes one feel quite naughty, doesn't
it? The captain was always going to take me, but we never went,
somehow. What's that? There's the Eiffel Tower? So it is, upon my word,
and just what it looks like in pictures. Not a bit different. I hope it
won't fall down while we're still in Paris. Nice set-out that would be.
I've always been afraid of sky accidents since a friend of mine, a Mrs.
Ewings, got stuck in the Great Wheel at Earl's Court with a man who
started undressing himself. It was all right, as it happened, because he
only wanted to wave his shirt to his wife, who was waiting for him down
below, so as she shouldn't get anxious, but it gave Mrs. Ewings a nasty
turn. Two hours she was stuck with nothing in her bag but a box of
little liver pills, which made her mouth water, she said, she was that
hungry. She _thinks_ she'd have eaten them if she'd have been alone; but
the man, who was an undertaker from Wandsworth, told her a lot of
interesting stories about corpses, and that kept her mind occupied till
the wheel started going round again, and the Exhibition gave her soup
and ten shillings compensation, which made a lot of people go up in it
on the chance of being stuck."

It was strange, Sylvia thought, that she should be as ignorant of Paris
as Mrs. Gainsborough, but somehow the three of them would manage to
enjoy themselves. Lily was more nearly vivacious than she had ever known
her.

"Quite saucy," Mrs. Gainsborough vowed. "But there, we're all young, and
you soon get used to the funny people you see in France. After all,
they're foreigners. We ought to feel sorry for them."

"I say steady, Mrs. Gainsborough," Lily murmured, with a frown. "Some of
these people in the carriage may speak English."

"Speak English?" Mrs. Gainsborough repeated. "You don't mean to tell me
they'd go on jabbering to one another in French if they could speak
English! What an idea!"

A young man who had got into the compartment at Chantilly had been
casting glances of admiration at Lily ever since, and it was on account
of him that she had warned Mrs. Gainsborough. He was a slim, dark young
man dressed by an English tailor, very diffident for a Frenchman, but
when Sylvia began to speculate upon the choice of a hotel he could no
longer keep silence and asked in English if he could be of any help.
When Sylvia replied to him in French, he was much surprised:

_"Mais vous êtes française!"_

_"Je suis du pays de la lune,"_ Sylvia said.

"Now don't encourage the young fellow to gabble in French," Mrs.
Gainsborough protested. "It gives me the pins and needles to hear you.
You ought to encourage people to speak English, if they want to, I'm
sure."

The young Frenchman smiled at this and offered his card to Sylvia, whom
he evidently accepted as the head of the party. She read, "Hector
Ozanne," and smiled for the heroic first name; somehow he did not look
like Hector and because he was so modest she presented him to Lily to
make him happy.

"I am enchanted to meet a type of English beauty," he said. "You must
forgive my sincerity, which arises only from admiration. Madame," he
went on, turning to Mrs. Gainsborough, "I am honored to meet you."

Mrs. Gainsborough, who was not quite sure how to deal with such
politeness, became flustered and dropped her bag. Ozanne and she both
plunged for it simultaneously and bumped their heads; upon this painful
salute a general friendliness was established.

"I am a bachelor," said Ozanne. "I have nothing to occupy myself, and if
I might be permitted to assist you in a research for an apartment I
shall be very elated."

Sylvia decided in favor of rooms on the _rive gauche_. She felt it was a
conventional taste, but held to her opinion against Ozanne's objections.

"But I have an apartment in the Rue Montpensier, with a view of the
Palais Royal. I do not live there now myself. I beseech you to make me
the pleasure to occupy it. It is so very good, the view of the garden.
And if you like an ancient house, it is very ancient. Do you concur?"

"And where will you go?" Sylvia asked.

"I live always in my club. For me it would be a big advantage, I assure
you."

"We should have to pay rent," said Sylvia, quickly.

"The rent will be one thousand a year."

"God have mercy upon us!" Mrs. Gainsborough gasped. "A thousand a year?
Why, the man must think that we're the royal family broken out from
Windsor Castle on the randan."

"Shut up, you silly old thing," said Sylvia. "He's asking nothing at
all. Francs, not pounds. _Vous êtes trop gentil pour nous, Monsieur."_

_"Alors, c'est entendu?"_

_"Mais oui."_

_"Bon! Nous y irons ensemble tout de suite, n'est-ce pas?"_

The apartment was really charming. From the windows one could see the
priests with their breviaries muttering up and down the old garden of
the Palais Royal; and, as in all gardens in the heart of a great city,
many sorts of men and women were resting there in the sunlight. Ozanne
invited them to dine with him that night and left them to unpack.

"Well, I'm bound to say we seem to have fallen on our feet right off,"
Mrs. Gainsborough said. "I shall quite enjoy myself here; I can see that
already."

The acquaintance with Hector Ozanne ripened into friendship, and from
friendship his passion for Lily became obvious, not that really it had
ever been anything else, Sylvia thought; the question was whether it
should be allowed to continue. Sylvia asked Ozanne his intentions. He
declared his desperate affection, exclaimed against the iniquity of not
being able to marry on account of a mother from whom he derived his
entire income, stammered, and was silent.

"I suppose you'd like me and Mrs. Gainsborough to clear out of this?"
Sylvia suggested.

No, he would like nothing of the kind; he greatly preferred that they
should all stay where they were as they were, save only that of course
they must pay no rent in future and that he must be allowed to maintain
entirely the upkeep of the apartment. He wished it to be essentially
their own and he had no intention of intruding there except as a guest.
From time to time no doubt Lily would like to see something of the
French countryside and of the _plages_, and no doubt equally Sylvia
would not be lonely in Paris with Mrs. Gainsborough. He believed that
Lily loved him. She was, of course, like all English girls, cold, but
for his part he admired such coldness, in fact he admired everything
English. He knew that his happiness depended upon Sylvia, and he begged
her to be kind.

Hector Ozanne was the only son of a rich manufacturer who had died about
five years ago. The business had for some time been a limited company of
which Madame Ozanne held the greater number of shares. Hector himself
was now twenty-five and would within a year be found a wife by his
mother; until then he would be allowed to choose a mistress by himself.
He was kind-hearted, simple, and immensely devoted to Lily. She liked
lunching and dining with him, and would like still better dressing
herself at his expense; she certainly cared for him as much now as his
future wife would care for him on the wedding-day. There seemed no
reason to oppose the intimacy. If it should happen that Hector should
fail to treat Lily properly, Sylvia would know how to deal with him, or
rather with his mother. Amen.

July was burning fiercely and Hector was unwilling to lose delightful
days with Lily; they drove away together one morning in a big motor-car,
which Mrs. Gainsborough blessed with as much fervor as she would have
blessed a hired brougham at a suburban wedding. She and Sylvia were left
together either to visit some _plage_ or amuse themselves in Paris.

"Paris I think, you uncommendable mammoth, you phosphor-eyed
hippopotamus, Paris I _think_."

"Well, I should like to see a bit of life, I must say. We've led a very
quiet existence so far. I don't want to go back to England and tell my
friend Mrs. Marsham that I've seen nothing. She's a most enterprising
woman herself. I don't think you ever saw her, did you? Before she was
going to have her youngest she had a regular passion to ride on a camel.
She used to dream of camels all night long, and at last, being as I said
a very enterprising woman and being afraid when her youngest was born he
might be a humpback through her dreaming of camels all the time, she
couldn't stand it no longer and one Monday morning, which is a sixpenny
day, she went off to the Zoo by herself, being seven months gone at the
time, and took six rides on the camel right off the reel, as they say."

"That must have been the last straw," Sylvia said.

"Have I told you this story before, then?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"Well, that's a queer thing. I was just about to say that when she'd
finished her rides she went to look at the giraffes, and one of them got
hold of her straw hat in his mouth and nearly tore it off her head. She
hollered out, and the keeper asked her if she couldn't read the notice
that visitors was requested not to feed these animals. This annoyed Mrs.
Marsham very much, and she told the keeper he wasn't fit to manage
performing fleas, let alone giraffes, which annoyed _him_ very much.
It's a pity you never met her. I sent her a post-card the other day, as
vulgar a one as I could find, but you can buy them just as vulgar in
London."

Sylvia did so far gratify Mrs. Gainsborough's desire to impress Mrs.
Marsham as to take her to one or two Montmartre ballrooms; but she
declared they did not come up to her expectations, and decided that she
should have to fall back on her own imagination to thrill Mrs. Marsham.

"As most travelers do," Sylvia added.

They also went together to several plays, at which Sylvia laughed very
heartily, much to Mrs. Gainsborough's chagrin.

"I'm bothered if I know what you're laughing at," she said, finally. "I
can't understand a word of what they're saying."

"Just as well you can't," Sylvia told her.

"Now there's a tantalizing hussy for you. But I can guess, you great
tomboy."

Whereupon Mrs. Gainsborough laughed as heartily as anybody in the
audience at her own particular thoughts. She attracted a good deal of
attention by this, because she often laughed at them without reference
to what was happening on the stage. When Sylvia dug her in the ribs to
make her keep quiet, she protested that, if she could only tell the
audience what she was thinking, they would not bother any more about the
stage.

"A penny for your thoughts, they say. I reckon mine are worth the price
of a seat in the circle, anyway."

It was after this performance that Sylvia and Mrs. Gainsborough went to
the Café de la Chouette, which was frequented mostly by the performers,
poets, and composers of the music-hall world. The place was crowded, and
they were forced to sit at a table already occupied by one of those
figures that only in Paris seem to have the right to live on an equality
with the rest of mankind, merely on account of their eccentric
appearance. He was probably not more than forty years old, but his
gauntness made him look older. He wore blue-and-white checked trousers,
a tail coat from which he or somebody else had clipped off the tails, a
red velvet waistcoat, and a yachting-cap. His eyes were cavernous, his
cheeks were rouged rather than flushed with fever. He carried a leather
bag slung round his middle filled with waste paper, from which he
occasionally took out a piece and wrote upon it a few words. He was
drinking an unrecognizable liqueur.

Mrs. Gainsborough was rather nervous of sitting down beside so strange a
creature, but Sylvia insisted. The man made no gesture at their
approach, but turned his eyes upon them with the impassivity of a cat.

"Look here, Sylvia, in two twos he's going to give me an attack of the
horrors," Mrs. Gainsborough whispered. "He's staring at me and twitching
his nose like a hungry child at a jam roll. It's no good you telling me
to give over. I can't help it. Look at his eyes. More like coal-cellars
than eyes. I've never been able to abide being stared at since I sat
down beside a wax-work at Louis Tussaud's and asked it where the ladies'
cloak-room was."

"He amuses me," Sylvia said. "What are you going to have?"

"Well, I _was_ going to have a grenadier, but really if that skelington
opposite is going to look at me all night, I think I'll take something
stronger."

"Try a cuirassier," Sylvia suggested.

"Whatever's that?"

"It's the same relation to a curaçao that a grenadier is to a
grenadine."

"What I should really like is a nice little drop of whisky with a little
tiddley bit of lemon; but there, I've noticed if you ask for whisky in
Paris it causes a regular commotion. The waiter holds the bottle as if
it was going to bite him, and the proprietor winks at him he's pouring
out too much, and I can't abide those blue siphons. Sells they call
them, and sells they are."

"I shall order you a bock in a moment," Sylvia threatened.

"Now don't be unkind just because I made a slight complaint about being
stared at. Perhaps they won't make such a bother if I _do_ have a little
whisky. But there, I can't resist it. It's got a regular taste of
London, whisky has."

The man at the table leaned over suddenly and asked, in a tense voice:

"Scotch or Irish?"

"Oh, good land! what a turn you gave me! I couldn't have jumped more,"
Mrs. Gainsborough exclaimed, "not if one of the lions in Trafalgar
Square had said pip-ip as I passed!"

"You didn't think I was English, did you?" said the stranger. "I forget
it myself sometimes. I'm a terrible warning to the world. I'm a pose
that's become a reality."

"Pose?" Mrs. Gainsborough echoed. "Oh, I didn't understand you for the
moment. You mean you're an artist's model?"

The stranger turned his eyes upon Sylvia, and, whether from sympathy or
curiosity, she made friends with him, so that when they were ready to go
home the eccentric Englishman, whom every one called Milord and who did
not offer any alternative name to his new friends, said he would walk
with them a bit of the way, much to Mrs. Gainsborough's embarrassment.

"I'm the first of the English decadents," he proclaimed to Sylvia.
"Twenty years ago I came to Paris to study art. I hadn't a penny to
spend on drugs. I hadn't enough money to lead a life of sin. There's a
tragedy! For five years I starved myself instead. I thought I should
make myself interesting. I did. I became a figure. I learned the
raptures of hunger. Nothing surpasses them--opium, morphine, ether,
cocaine, hemp. What are they beside hunger? Have you got any coco with
you? Just a little pinch? No? Never mind. I don't really like it. Not
really. Some people like it, though. Who's the old woman with you? A
procuress? Last night I had a dream in which I proved the non-existence
of God by the least common multiple. I can't exactly remember how I did
it now. That's why I was so worried this evening; I can't remember if
the figures were two, four, sixteen, and thirty-eight. I worked it out
last night in my dream. I obtained a view of the universe as a
geometrical abstraction. It's perfectly simple, but I cannot get it
right now. There's a crack in my ceiling which indicates the way. Unless
I can walk along that crack I can't reach the center of the universe,
and of course it's hopeless to try to obtain a view of the universe as a
geometrical abstraction if one can't reach the center. I take it you
agree with me on that point. That point! Wait a minute. I'm almost
there. That point. Don't let me forget. That point. That is the point.
Ah!"

The abstraction eluded him and he groaned aloud.

"The more I listen to him," said Mrs. Gainsborough, "the more certain
sure I am he ought to see a doctor."

"I must say good night," the stranger murmured, sadly. "I see that I
must start again at the beginning of that crack in my ceiling. I was
lucky to find the room that had such a crack, though in a way it's
rather a nuisance. It branches off so, and I very often lose the
direction. There's one particular branch that always leads away from the
point. I'm afraid to do anything about it in the morning. Of course, I
might put up a notice to say, _this is the wrong way_; but supposing it
were really the right way? It's a great responsibility to own such a
crack. Sometimes I almost go mad with the burden of responsibility. Why,
by playing about with that ceiling when my brain isn't perfectly clear I
might upset the whole universe! We'll meet again one night at the
Chouette. I think I'll cross the boulevard now. There's no traffic, and
I have to take a certain course not to confuse my line of thought."

The eccentric stranger left them and, crossing the road in a series of
diagonal tacks, disappeared.

"Coco," said Sylvia.

"Cocoa?" echoed Mrs. Gainsborough. "Brandy, more like."

"Or hashish."

"Ashes? Well, I had a fox-terrier once that died in convulsions from
eating coke, so perhaps it is ashes."

"We must meet him again," said Sylvia. "These queer people outside
ordinary life interest me."

"Well, it's interesting to visit a hospital," Mrs. Gainsborough agreed.
"But that doesn't say you want to go twice. Once is enough for that
fellow, to my thinking. He's interesting, but uncomfortable, like the
top of a 'bus."

Sylvia, however, was determined to pursue her acquaintance with the
outcast Englishman. She soon discovered that for years he had been
taking drugs and that nothing but drugs had brought him to his present
state of abject buffoonery. Shortly before he became friends with Sylvia
he had been taken up as a week's amusement by some young men who were
under the impression that they were seeing Parisian life in his company.
They had been generous to him, and latterly he had been able to drug
himself as much as he wanted. The result had been to hasten his supreme
collapse. Even in his last illness he would not talk to Sylvia about his
youth before he came to Paris, and in the end she was inclined to accept
him at his own estimate, a pose that was become a reality.

One evening he seemed more haggard than usual and talked much less; by
the twitching of his nostrils, he had been dosing himself hard with
cocaine. Suddenly, he stretched his thin hand across the marble table
and seized hers feverishly:

"Tell me," he asked. "Are you sorry for me?"

"I think it's an impertinence to be sorry for anybody," she answered.
"But if you mean do I wish you well, why, yes, old son, I wish you very
well."

"What I told you once about my coming to Paris to work at art was all
lies. I came here because I had to leave nothing else behind, not even a
name. You said, one evening when we were arguing about ambition, that if
you could only find your line you might do something on the stage. Why
don't you recite my poems? Read them through. One or two are in English,
but most of them are in French. They are really more sighs than poems.
They require no acting. They want just a voice."

He undid the leather strap that supported his satchel and handed it to
Sylvia.

"To-morrow," he said, "if I'm still alive, I'll come here and find out
what you think of them. But you've no idea how threatening that 'if' is.
It gets longer and longer. I can't see the end if it anywhere. It was
very long last night. The dot of the 'i' was already out of sight. It's
the longest 'if' that was ever imagined."

He rose hurriedly and left the café; Sylvia never saw him again.

The poems of this strange and unhappy creature formed a record of many
years' slow debasement. Many of them seemed to her too personal and too
poignant to be repeated aloud, almost even to be read to oneself. There
was nothing, indeed, to do but burn them, that no one else might
comprehend a man's degradation. Some of the poems, however, were
objective, and in their complete absence of any effort to impress or
rend or horrify they seemed not so much poems as actual glimpses into
human hearts. Nor was that a satisfactory definition, for there was no
attempt to explain any of the people described in these poems; they were
ordinary people of the streets that lived in a few lines. This could
only be said of the poems written in French; those in English seemed to
her not very remarkable. She wondered if perhaps the less familiar
tongue had exacted from him an achievement that was largely fortuitous.

"I've got an idea for a show," Sylvia said to Mrs. Gainsborough. "One or
two old folk-songs, and then one of these poems half sung, half recited
to an improvised accompaniment. Not more than one each evening."

Sylvia was convinced of her ability to make a success, and spent a
couple of weeks in searching for the folk-songs she required.

Lily and Hector came back in the middle of this new idea, and Hector was
sure that Sylvia would be successful. She felt that he was too well
pleased with himself at the moment not to be uncritically content with
the rest of the world, but he was useful to Sylvia in securing an
_audition_ for her. The agent was convinced of the inevitable failure of
Sylvia's performance with the public, and said he thought it was a pity
to waste such real talent on antique rubbish like the songs she had
chosen. As for the poems, they were no doubt all very well in their way;
he was not going to say he had not been able to listen to them, but the
public did not expect that kind of thing. He did not wish to discourage
a friend of M. Ozanne; he had by him the rights for what would be three
of the most popular songs in Europe, if they were well sung. Sylvia read
them through and then sang them. The agent was delighted. She knew he
was really pleased because he gave up referring to her as a friend of M.
Ozanne and addressed her directly. Hector advised her to begin with the
ordinary stuff, and when she was well known enough to experiment upon
the public with her own ideas. Sylvia, who was feeling the need to do
something at once, decided to risk an audition at one of the outlying
music-halls. She herself declared that the songs were so good in their
own way that she could not help making a hit, but the others insisted
that the triumph belonged to her.

_"Vous avez vraiment de l'espièglerie,"_ said Hector.

"You really were awfully jolly," said Lily.

"I didn't understand a word, of course," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "But
you looked that wicked--well, really--I thoroughly enjoyed myself."

During the autumn Sylvia had secured engagements in music-halls of the
_quartier_, but the agent advised her to take a tour before she ventured
to attack the real Paris. It seemed to her a good way of passing the
winter. Lily and Hector were very much together, and though Hector was
always anxious for Sylvia to make a third, she found that the kind of
amusement that appealed to him was much the same as that which had
appealed to the young men who frequented Half Moon Street. It was a life
of going to races, at which Hector would pass ladies without saluting or
being saluted, who, he informed Sylvia and Lily afterward, were his
aunts or his cousins, and actually on one occasion his mother. Sylvia
began to feel the strain of being in the demi-monde but not of it; it
was an existence that suited Lily perfectly, who could not understand
why Sylvia should rail at their seclusion from the world. Mrs.
Gainsborough began to grow restless for the peace of Mulberry Cottage
and the safety of her furniture.

"You never know what will happen. I had a friend once--a Mrs. Beardmore.
She was housekeeper to two maiden ladies in Portman Square--well,
housekeeper, she was more of a companion because one of them was stone
deaf. One summer they went away to Scarborough, and when they came back
some burglars had brought a furniture-van three days running and emptied
the whole house, all but the bell-pulls. Drove back, they did, from
King's Cross in a four-wheeler, and the first thing they saw was a large
board up--TO BE LET OR SOLD. A fine how-de-do there was in Portman
Square, I can tell you; and the sister that was deaf had left her
ear-trumpet in the train and nobody couldn't explain to her what had
happened."

So Mrs. Gainsborough, whose fears had been heightened by the repetition
of this tale, went back to London with what she described as a
collection of vulgarities for Mrs. Marsham. Sylvia went away on tour.

Sylvia found the life of a music-hall singer on tour very solitary. Her
fellow-vagabonds were so much more essentially mountebanks than in
England, and so far away from normal existence, that even when she
traveled in company because her next town coincided with the next town
of other players, she was never able to identify herself with them, as
in England she had managed to identify herself with the other members of
the chorus. She found that it paid her best to be English, and to affect
in her songs an almost excessive English accent. She rather resented the
exploitation of her nationality, because it seemed to her the same kind
of appeal that would have been made by a double-headed woman or a
performing seal. Nobody wanted her songs to be well rendered so much as
unusually rendered; everybody wanted to be surprised by her ability to
sing at all in French. But if the audiences wished her to be English,
she found that being English off the stage was a disadvantage among
these continental mountebanks. Sylvia discovered the existence of a
universal prejudice against English actresses, partly on account of
their alleged personal uncleanliness, partly on account of their
alleged insincerity. On several occasions astonishment was expressed at
the trouble she took with her hair and at her capacity for being a good
_copaine_; when, later on, it would transpire that she was half French,
everybody would find almost with relief an explanation of her apparent
unconformity to rule.

Sylvia grew very weary of the monotonous life in which everybody's
interest was bounded by the psychology of an audience. Interest in the
individual never extended beyond the question of whether she would or
would not, if she were a woman; of whether he desired or did not desire,
if he were a man. When either of these questions was answered the
interest reverted to the audience. It seemed maddeningly unimportant to
Sylvia that the audience on Monday night should have failed to
appreciate a point which the audience of Tuesday night would probably
hail with enthusiasm; yet often she had to admit to herself that it was
just her own inability or unwillingness to treat an audience as an
individual that prevented her from gaining real success. She decided
that every interpretative artist must pander his emotion, his humor, his
wit, his movements nightly, and that somehow he must charm each audience
into the complacency with which a sophisticated libertine seeks an
admission of enduring love from the woman he has paid to satisfy a
momentary desire. Assuredly the most successful performers in the grand
style were those who could conceal even from the most intelligent
audiences their professional relation to them. A performer of
acknowledged reputation would not play to the gallery with battered
wiles and manifest allurements, but it was unquestionable that the
foundation of success was playing to the gallery, and that the
third-rate performer who flattered these provincial audiences with the
personal relation could gain louder applause than Sylvia, who wanted no
audience but herself. It was significant how a word of _argot_ that
meant a fraud of apparent brilliancy executed by an artist upon the
public had extended itself into daily use. Everything was _chic_. It was
_chic_ to wear a hat of the latest fashion; it was _chic_ to impress
one's lover by a jealous outburst; it was _chic_ to refuse a man one's
favors. Everything was chic: it was impossible to think or act or speak
in this world of vagabonds without _chic_.

The individualistic life that Sylvia had always led both in private and
in public seemed to her, notwithstanding the various disasters of her
career, infinitely worthier than this dependency upon the herd that
found its most obvious expression in the theater. It was revolting to
witness human nature's lust for the unexceptionable or its cruel
pleasure in the exception. Yet now, looking back at her past, she could
see that it had always been her unwillingness to conform that had kept
her apart from so much human enjoyment and human gain, though equally
she might claim apart from human sorrow and human loss.

"The struggle, of course, would be terrible for a long while," Sylvia
said to herself, "if everybody renounced entirely any kind of
co-operation or interference with or imitation of or help from anybody
else, but out of that struggle might arise the true immortals. A cat
with a complete personality is surely higher than a man with an
incomplete personality. Anyway, it's quite certain that this
_cabotinage_ is for me impossible. I believe that if I pricked a vein
sawdust would trickle out of me now."

In such a mood of cheated hope did Sylvia return to Paris in the early
spring; she was about to comment on Lily's usual state of molluscry, by
yielding to which in abandoning the will she had lost the power to
develop, when Lily herself proceeded to surprise her.

The affection between Hector and Lily had apparently made a steady
growth and had floated in an undisturbed and equable depth of water for
so long that Lily, like an ambitious water-lily, began to be ambitious
of becoming a terrestrial plant. While for nearly a year she had been
blossoming apparently without regard for anything but the beauty of the
moment, she had all the time been sending out long roots beneath the
water, long roots that were growing more and more deeply into the warm
and respectable mud.

"You mean you'd like to marry Hector?" Sylvia asked.

"Why, yes, I think I should, rather. I'm getting tired of never being
settled."

"But does he want to marry you?"

"We've talked about it often. He hates the idea of not marrying me."

"He'd like to go away with you and live on the top of a mountain remote
from mankind, or upon a coral island in the Pacific with nothing but the
sound of the surf and the cocoanuts dropping idly one by one, wouldn't
he?"

"Well, he did say he wished we could go away somewhere all alone. How
did you guess? How clever you are, Sylvia!" Lily exclaimed, opening wide
her deep-blue eyes.

"My dear girl, when a man knows that it's impossible to be married
either because he's married already or for any other reason, he always
hymns a solitude for two. You never heard any man with serious
intentions propose to live with his bride-elect in an Alpine hut or
under a lonely palm. The man with serious intentions tries to reconcile
his purse, not his person, with poetic aspirations. He's in a quandary
between Hampstead and Kensington, not between mountain-tops and lagoons.
I suppose he has also talked of a dream-child--a fairy miniature of his
Lily?" Sylvia went on.

"We have talked about a baby," Lily admitted.

"The man with serious intentions talks about the aspect of the nursery
and makes reluctant plans to yield, if compelled to, the room he had
chosen for his study."

"You make fun of everything," Lily murmured, rather sulkily.

"But, my dear," Sylvia argued, "for me to be able to reproduce Hector's
dream so accurately proves that I'm building to the type. I'll speculate
further. I'm sure he has regretted the irregular union and vowed that,
had he but known at first what an angel of purity you were, he would
have died rather than propose it."

Lily sat silent, frowning. Presently she jumped up, and the sudden
activity of movement brought home to Sylvia more than anything else the
change in her.

"If you promise not to laugh, here are his letters," Lily said, flinging
into Sylvia's lap a bundle tied up with ribbon.

"Letters!" Sylvia snapped. "Who cares about letters? The love-letters of
a successful lover have no value. When he has something to write that he
cannot say to your face, then I'll read his letter. All public
blandishments shock me."

Hector was called away from Paris to go and stay with his mother at
Aix-les-Bains; for a fortnight two letters arrived every day.

"The snow in Savoy will melt early this year," Sylvia mocked. "It's
lucky he's not staying at St.-Moritz. Winter sports could never survive
such a furnace."

Then followed a week's silence.

"The Alpine Club must have protested," Sylvia mocked. "Avalanches are
not expected in March."

"He's probably motoring with his mother," Lily explained.

The next day a letter arrived from Hector.

     HOTEL SUPERBE, AIX-LES-BAINS.

     MY DEAR LILY,--I do not know how to express myself. You have known
     always the great difficulties of my position opposite to my mother.
     She has found that I owe to marry myself, and I have demanded the
     hand of Mademoiselle Arpenteur-Legage. I dare not ask your pardon,
     but I have written to make an arrangement for you, and from now
     please use the apartment which has for me memories the most sacred.
     It is useless to fight against circumstances.

     HECTOR.

"I think he might have used mourning paper," Sylvia said. "They always
have plenty at health resorts."

"Don't be so unkind, Sylvia," Lily cried. "How can you be so unkind,
when you see that my heart is broken?" She burst into tears.

In a moment Sylvia was on her knees beside her.

"Lily, my dearest Lily, you did not really love him? Oh no, my dear, not
really. If you really loved him, I'll go now to Aix myself and arrange
matters over the head of his stuffy old mother. But you didn't really
love him. You're simply upset at the breaking of a habit. Oh, my dear,
you couldn't really have loved him!"

"He sha'n't marry this girl," Lily declared, standing up in a rage.
"I'll go to Aix-les-Bains myself and I'll see this Mademoiselle." She
snatched the letter from the floor to read the odious name of her rival.
"I'll send her all his letters. You mightn't want to read them, but
she'll want to read them. She'll read every word. She'll read how, when
he was thinking of proposing to her, he was calling me his angel, his
life, his soul, how he was--Oh, she'll read every word, and I'll send
them to her by registered post, and then I'll know she gets them. How
dare a Frenchman treat an English girl like that? How dare he? How dare
he? French people think English girls have no passion. They think we're
cold. Are we cold? We may not like being kissed all the time like French
girls, but we're not cold. Oh, I feel I could kill him!"

Sylvia interrupted her rage.

"My dear, if all this fire and fury is because you're disappointed at
not being married, twist him for fifty thousand francs, buy a silver
casket, put his letters inside, and send them to him for a
wedding-present with your good wishes. But if you love him, darling
Lily, let me go and tell him the truth; if I think he's not worth it,
then come away with me and be lonely with me somewhere. My beautiful
thing, I can't promise you a coral island, but you shall have all my
heart if you will."

"Love him?" echoed Lily. "I hate him. I despise him after this, but why
should he marry her?"

"If you feel like that about him, I should have thought the best way to
punish him would be to let the marriage proceed; to punish him further
you've only to refuse yourself to him when he's married, for I'm quite
sure that within six months he'll be writing to say what a mistake he
made, how cold his wife is, and how much he longs to come back to you,
_la jolie maîtresse de sa jeunesse, le souvenir du bon temps jadis_, and
so on with the sentimental eternities of reconstructed passion."

"Live with him after he's married?" Lily exclaimed. "Why, I've never
even kissed a married man! I should never forgive myself."

"You don't love him at all, do you?" Sylvia asked, pressing her hands
down on Lily's shoulders and forcing her to look straight at her.
"Laugh, my dear, laugh! Hurrah! you can't pretend you care a bit about
him. Fifty thousand francs and freedom! And just when I was getting
bored with Paris."

"It's all very well for you, Sylvia," Lily said, resentfully, as she
tried to shake off Sylvia's exuberance. "You don't want to be married. I
do. I really looked forward to marrying Michael."

Sylvia's face hardened.

"Oh, I know you blame me entirely for that," she continued. "But it
wasn't my fault, really. It was bad luck. It's no good pretending I
wasn't fond of Claude. I was, and when I met him--"

"Look here, don't let's live that episode over again in discussion,"
Sylvia said. "It belongs to the past, and I've always had a great
objection to body-snatching."

"What I was going to explain," Lily went on, "was that Michael put the
idea of marriage into my head. Then being always with Hector, I got used
to being with somebody. I was always treated like a married woman when
we went to the seaside or on motoring tours. You always think that
because I sit still and say nothing my mind's an absolute blank, but it
isn't. I've been thinking for a long time about marriage. After all,
there must be something in marriage, or so many people wouldn't get
married. You married the wrong man, but I don't believe you'll ever find
the right man. You're much, much, much too critical. I _will_ get
married."

"And now," Sylvia said, with a laugh, "to all the other riddles that
torment my poor brain I must add you."

Hector Ozanne tried to stanch Lily's wounded ideals with a generous
compress of notes; he succeeded.

"After all," she admitted, twanging the elastic round the bundle. "I'm
not so badly off."

"We must buy that silver casket for the letters," Sylvia said. "His
wedding-day draws near. I think I shall dress up like the Ancient
Mariner and give them to him myself."

"How much will a silver casket cost?" Lily asked.

Sylvia roughly estimated.

"It seems a good deal," said Lily, thoughtfully. "I think I shall just
send them to him in a cardboard box. I finished those chocolates after
dinner. Yes, that will do quite well. After all, he treated me very
badly and to get his letters back safely will be quite a good-enough
present. What could he do with a silver casket? He'd probably use it for
visiting-cards."

That evening Sylvia, greatly content to have Lily to herself, again took
her to the Café de la Chouette.

Her agent, who was drinking in a corner, came across to speak to her.

"Brazil?" she repeated, doubtfully.

"Thirty francs for three songs and you can go home at twelve. It isn't
as if you had to sit drinking champagne and dancing all night."

Sylvia looked at Lily.

"Would you like a voyage?"

"We might as well go."

The contract was arranged.



CHAPTER XI


One of the habits that Sylvia had acquired on tour in France was
card-playing; perhaps she inherited her skill from Henry, for she was a
very good player. The game on the voyage was poker. Before they were
through the Straits of Gibraltar Sylvia had lost five hundred francs;
she borrowed five hundred francs from Lily and set herself to win them
back. The sea became very rough in the Atlantic; all the passengers were
seasick. The other four poker-players, who were theatrical folk, wanted
to stop, but Sylvia would not hear of it; she was much too anxious about
her five hundred francs to feel seasick. She lost Lily's first five
hundred francs and borrowed five hundred more. Lily began to feel less
seasick now, and she watched the struggle with a personal interest. The
other players, with the hope that Sylvia's bad luck would hold, were so
deeply concentrated upon maintaining their advantage that they too
forgot to be seasick. The ship rolled, but the poker-players only left
the card-room for meals in the deserted saloon. Sylvia began to win
again. Blue skies and calmer weather appeared; the other poker-players
had no excuse for not continuing, especially now that it was possible to
play on deck. Sylvia had won back all she had lost and two hundred
francs besides when the ship entered the harbor of Rio de Janeiro.

"I think I should like gambling," Lily said, "if only one didn't have to
shuffle and cut all the time."

The place where Sylvia was engaged to sing was one of those centers of
aggregated amusement that exist all over the world without any
particular characteristic to distinguish one from another, like the
dinners in what are known as first-class hotels on the Continent.
Everything here was more expensive than in Europe; even the
roulette-boards had zero and double zero to help the bank. The tradition
of Brazil for supplying gold and diamonds to the world had bred a
familiarity with the external signs of wealth that expressed itself in
overjeweled men and women, whose display one forgave more easily on
account of the natural splendor of the scene with which they had to
compete.

Lily, with the unerring bad taste that nearly always is to be found in
sensuous and indolent women, to whom the obvious makes the quickest and
easiest appeal, admired the flashing stones and stars and fireflies with
an energy that astonished Sylvia, notwithstanding the novel glimpse she
had been given of Lily's character in the affair with Hector Ozanne. The
climate was hot, but a sea breeze freshened the city after sunset; the
enforced day-long inactivity, with the luxurious cool baths and
competent negresses who attended upon her lightest movement, satisfied
Lily's conception of existence, and when they drove along the margin of
the bay before dinner her only complaint was that she could not
coruscate like other women in the carriages they passed.

With the money they had in hand Sylvia felt justified in avoiding a
_pension d'artistes_, and they had taken a flat together. This meant
that when Sylvia went to work at the cabaret, Lily, unless she came with
her, was left alone, which did not at all suit her. Sylvia therefore
suggested that she should accept an engagement to dance at midnight,
with the stipulation that she should not be compelled to stay until 3
A.M. unless she wanted to, and that by foregoing any salary she should
not be expected to drink gooseberry wine at 8,000 reis a bottle, on
which she would receive a commission of 1,000 reis. The management knew
what a charm the tall, fair English girl would exercise over the swart
Brazilians, and was glad enough to engage her at her own terms. Sylvia
had not counted upon Lily's enjoying the cabaret life so much. The heat
was affecting her much more than Lily, and she began to complain of the
long hours of what for her was a so false gaiety. Nothing, however,
would persuade Lily to go home before three o'clock at the earliest, and
Sylvia, on whom a great lassitude and indifference had settled, used to
wait for her, sitting alone while Lily danced the _machiche_.

One night, when Sylvia had sung two of her songs with such a sense of
hopeless depression weighing her down that the applause which followed
each of them seemed to her a mockery, she had a sudden vertigo from
which she pulled herself together with a conviction that nothing would
induce her to sing the third song. She went on the scene, seated herself
at the piano, and to the astonishment and discomfort of the audience and
her fellow-players, half chanted, half recited one of the eccentric
Englishman's poems about a body in the morgue. Such a performance in
such a place created consternation, but in the silence that followed
Sylvia fainted. When she came to herself she was back in her own
bedroom, with a Brazilian doctor jabbering and mouthing over her
symptoms. Presently she was taken to a clinic and, when she was well
enough to know what had happened, she learned that she had yellow fever,
but that the crisis had passed. At first Lily came to see her every day,
but when convalescence was further advanced she gave up coming, which
worried Sylvia intensely and hampered her progress. She insisted that
something terrible had happened to Lily and worked herself up into such
a state that the doctor feared a relapse. She was too weak to walk;
realizing at last that the only way of escaping from the clinic would be
to get well, she fought against her apprehensions for Lily's safety and
after a fortnight of repressed torments was allowed out. When Sylvia
reached the flat she was met by the grinning negresses, who told her
that Lily had gone to live elsewhere and let her understand that it was
with a man.

Sylvia was not nearly well enough to reappear at the cabaret, but she
went down that evening and was told by the other girls that Lily was at
the tables. They were duly shocked at Sylvia's altered appearance,
congratulated her upon having been lucky enough to escape the necessity
of shaving her head, and expressed their regrets at not knowing in which
clinic she had been staying so that they might have brought her the news
of their world. Sylvia lacked the energy to resent their hypocrisy and
went to look for Lily, whom she found blazing with jewels at one of the
roulette-tables.

There was something so fantastic in Lily's appearance, thus bedecked,
that Sylvia thought for a moment it was a feverish vision such as had
haunted her brain at the beginning of the illness. Lily wore suspended
from a fine chain round her neck a large diamond, one of those so-called
blue diamonds of Brazil that in the moonlight seem like sapphires; her
fingers flashed fire; a large brooch of rubies in the likeness of a
butterfly winked somberly from her black corsage.

Sylvia made her way through the press of gamblers and touched Lily's
arm. So intent was she upon the tables that she brushed away the hand as
if it had been a mosquito.

"Lily! Lily!" Sylvia called, sharply. "Where have you been? Where have
you gone?"

At that moment the wheel stopped, and the croupier cried the number and
the color in all their combinations. Sylvia was sure that he exchanged
glances with Lily and that the gold piece upon the 33 on which he was
paying had not been there before the wheel had stopped.

"Lily! Lily! Where have you been?" Sylvia called, again. Lily gathered
in her winnings and turned round. It was curious how changed her eyes
were; they seemed now merely like two more rich jewels that she was
wearing.

"I'm sorry I've not been to see you," she said. "My dear, I've won
nearly four thousand pounds."

"You have, have you?" Sylvia said. "Then the sooner you leave Brazil the
better."

Lily threw a swift glance of alarm toward the croupier, a man of almost
unnatural thinness, who, while he intoned the invitation to place the
stakes, fixed his eyes upon her.

"I can't leave Brazil," she said, in a whisper. "I'm living with him."

"Living with a croupier?" Sylvia gasped.

"Hush! He belongs to quite a good family. He ruined himself. His name is
Manuel Camacho. Don't talk to me any more, Sylvia. Go away. He's madly
jealous. He wants to marry me."

"Like Hector, I suppose," Sylvia scoffed.

"Not a bit like Hector. He brings a priest every morning and says he'll
kill me and himself and the priest, too, if I don't marry him. But I
want to make more money, and then I will marry him. I must. I'm afraid
of what he'll do if I refuse. Go away from me, Sylvia, go away. There'll
be a fearful scene to-night if you will go on talking to me. Last night
a man threw a flower into our carriage when we were driving home, and
Manuel jumped out and beat him insensible with his cane. Go away."

Sylvia demanded where she was living, but Lily would not tell her,
because she was afraid of what her lover might do.

"He doesn't even let me look out of the window. If I look out of the
window he tears his clothes with rage and digs his finger-nails into the
palms of his hands. He's very violent. Sometimes he shoots at the
chandelier."

Sylvia began to laugh. There was something ridiculous in the notion of
Lily's leading this kind of lion-tamer's existence. Suddenly the
croupier with an angry movement swept a pile of money from the table.

"Go away, Sylvia, go away. I know he'll break out in a moment. That was
meant for a warning."

Sylvia understood that it was hopeless to persist for the moment, and
she made her way back to the cabaret. The girls were eager to know what
she thought of Lily's protector.

_"Elle a de la veine, tu sais, la petite Lili. Elle l'a pris comme ça,
et il l'aime à la folie. Et elle gagne! mon Dieu, comme elle gagne! Tout
va pour elle. Tu sais, elle a des brillants merveilleux. Ça fait riche,
tu sais. Y'a pas de chic, mais il est jaloux! Il se porte comme un fou.
Ça me raserait, tu sais, être collée avec un homme pareil. Pourtant,
elle est busineuse, la petite Lili! Elle ne lui donne pas un rond. Y'a
pas de dos vert. Ah, non, elle est la vraie anglaise sans blague. Et le
mec, dis, n'est-ce pas qu'il est maigre comme tout? On dirait un
squelette."_

With all their depreciation of the croupier, it seemed to Sylvia that
most of the girls would have been well pleased to change places with
Lily. But how was she herself to regard the affair? During those long
days of illness, when she had lain hour after hour with her thoughts,
to what a failure her life had seemed to be turning, and what a
haphazard, harborless course hers had seemed to be. Now she must perhaps
jettison the little cargo she carried, or would it be fairer to say that
she must decide whether she should disembark it? It was absurd to
pretend that Michael would have viewed with anything but dismay the
surrender of Lily to such a one as that croupier, and if she made that
surrender, she would be violating his trust that counted for so much in
her aimless career. Yet was she not attributing to Michael the sentiment
he felt before Lily's betrayal of him? He had only demanded of Sylvia
that she should prevent Lily from drifting downward along the dull road
of undistinguished ruin. If this fantastic Brazilian wished to marry
her, why should he not do so? Then she herself should be alone indeed
and, unless a miracle happened, should be lost in the eternal whirl of
vagabonds to and fro across the face of the earth.

"They say one must expect to be depressed after yellow fever," Sylvia
reassured herself. "Perhaps this mood won't last, but, oh, the
endlessness of it all! How even one's brush and comb seem weighed down
by an interminable melancholy. As I look round me I can see nothing that
doesn't strike me as hopelessly, drearily, appallingly superfluous. The
very soap in its china dish looks wistful. How pathetic the life of a
piece of soap is, when one stops to contemplate it. A slow and steady
diminution. Oh, I must do something to shake off this intolerable
heaviness!"

The simplest and most direct path to energy and action seemed to be an
attempt to interview Camacho, and the following evening Sylvia tried to
make Lily divulge her address; but she begged not to be disturbed, and
Sylvia, seeing that she was utterly absorbed by the play, had to leave
her.

"Either I am getting flaccid beyond belief," she said to herself, "or
Lily has acquired an equally incredible determination. I think it's the
latter. It just shows what passion will do even for a Lily. All her life
she has remained unmoved, until roulette reveals itself to her and she
finds out what she was intended for. Of course I must leave her to her
fierce skeleton; he represents the corollary to the passion. Queer
thing, the way she always wins. I'm sure they're cheating, somehow, the
two of them. There's the final link. They'll go away presently to
Europe, and Lily will enjoy the sweetest respectability that exists--the
one that is founded on early indiscretion and dishonesty--a paradise
preceded by the fall."

Sylvia waited by the entrance to the roulette-room on the next night
until play was finished, watched Lily come out with Camacho, and saw
them get into a carriage and drive away immediately. None of the
attendants or the other croupiers knew where Camacho lived, or, if they
knew, they refused to tell Sylvia. On the fourth evening, therefore, she
waited in a carriage by the entrance and ordered her driver to follow
the one in which Lily was. She found that Camacho's apartments were not
so far from her own; the next morning she waited at the corner of the
street until she saw him come out; then she rang the bell. The negress
who opened the door shook her head at the notion of letting Sylvia
enter, but the waiting in the sun had irritated her and she pushed past
and ran up-stairs. The negress had left the upper door open, and Sylvia
was able to enter the flat. Lily was in bed, playing with her jewels as
if they were toys.

"Sylvia!" she cried, in alarm. "He'll kill you if he finds you here.
He's gone to fetch the priest. They'll be back in a moment. Go away."

Sylvia said she insisted on speaking to Camacho; she had some good
advice to give him.

"But he's particularly jealous of you. The first evening you spoke to me
... look!" Lily pointed to the ceiling, which was marked like a die with
five holes. "He did that when he came home to show what he would do to
you."

"Rubbish!" said Sylvia. "He'll be like a lamb when we meet. If he hadn't
fired at the ceiling I should have felt much more alarmed for the safety
of my head."

"But, Sylvia," Lily entreated. "You don't know what he's like. Once,
when he thought a man nudged me, he came home and tore all the towels to
pieces with his teeth. The servant nearly cried when she saw the room in
the morning. It was simply covered with bits of towel, and he swallowed
one piece and nearly choked. You don't know what he's like. I can manage
him, but nobody else could."

Here was a new Lily indeed, who dared to claim that she could manage
somebody of whom Sylvia must be afraid. She challenged Lily to say when
she had ever known her to flinch from an encounter with a man.

"But, my dear, Manuel isn't English. When he's in one of those rages
he's not like a human being at all. You can't soothe him by arguing with
him. You have to calm him without talking."

"What do you use? A red-hot poker?"

Lily became agitated at Sylvia's obstinacy, and, regardless of her
jewels, which tinkled down into a heap on the floor, she jumped out of
bed and implored her not to stay.

"I want to know one or two things before I go," Sylvia said, and was
conscious of taking advantage of Lily's alarm to make her speak the
truth, owing to the lack of time for the invention of lies.

"Do you love this man?"

"Yes, in a way I do."

"You could be happy married to him?"

"Yes, when I've won five thousand pounds."

"He cheats for you?"

Lily hesitated.

"Never mind," Sylvia went on. "I know he does."

"Oh, my dear," Lily murmured, biting her lip. "Then other people might
notice. Never mind. I ought to finish to-night. The boat sails the day
after to-morrow."

"And what about me?" Sylvia asked.

Lily looked shamefaced for a moment, but the natural optimism of the
gambler quickly reasserted itself.

"I thought you wouldn't like to break your contract."

"My contract," Sylvia repeated, bitterly. "What about---- Oh, but how
foolish I am. You dear unimaginative creature!"

"I'm not at all unimaginative," Lily interposed, quickly. "One of the
reasons why I want to leave Brazil is because the black people here make
me nervous. That's why I left our flat. I didn't know what to do. I was
so frightened. I think I'm very imaginative. You got ill. What was I to
do?"

She asked this like an accusation, and Sylvia knew that it would be
impossible to make her see any other point of view.

"Besides, it was your fault I started to gamble. I watched you on the
boat."

"But you were going away without a word to me?" Sylvia could not refrain
from tormenting herself with this question.

"Oh no, I was coming to say good-by, but you don't understand how
closely he watches me."

The thought of Camacho's jealous antics recurred to Lily with the
imminence of his return; she begged Sylvia, now that all her questions
were answered, to escape. It was too late; there was a sound of
footsteps upon the stairs and the noise of angry voices above deep
gobbles of protested innocence from the black servant.

The entrance reminded Sylvia of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," for when
Camacho came leaping into the room, as thin and active as a grasshopper,
the priest was holding his coattails with one hand and with the other
making the most operatic gestures of despair, like Don Basilio. In the
doorway the black servant continued to gobble at everybody in turn,
including the Almighty, to witness the clarity of her conscience.

"What language do you speak?" Sylvia asked, sharply, while Camacho was
struggling to free himself from the restraint of the priest.

"I speak English! Gaddam! Hell! Five hundred hells!" the croupier
shouted. "And I have sweared a swore that you will not interrupt between
me myself and my Lili."

Camacho raised his arm to shake his fist, and the priest caught hold of
it, which made Camacho turn round and open on him with Portuguese
expletives.

"When you've quite done cracking Brazil nuts with your teeth, perhaps
you'll listen to me," Sylvia began.

"No, you hear me, no, no, no, no, no, no!" Camacho shouted. "And I will
not hear you. I have heard you enough. You shall not take her away.
_Putain!_"

"If you want to be polite in French," Sylvia said. "Come along!

    _"Ce marloupatte pâle et mince_
    _Se nommait simplement Navet,_
    _Mais il vivait ainsi qu'un prince,_
    _Il aimait les femmes qu'on rince._

_Tu comprends? Mais moi, je ne suis pas une femme qu'on rince."_

It was certainly improbable, Sylvia thought, that the croupier had
understood much of Richepin's verse, but the effect of the little
recitation was excellent because it made him choke. Lily now intervened,
and when Sylvia beheld her soothing the inarticulate Camacho by stroking
his head, she abandoned the last faint inclination to break off this
match and called upon the priest to marry them at once. No doubt the
priest would have been willing to begin the ceremony if he had been able
to understand a word of what Sylvia said, but he evidently thought she
was appealing to him against Camacho's violence, and with a view to
affording the ultimate assistance of which he was capable he crossed
himself and turned up his eyes to heaven.

"What an awful noise there is!" Sylvia cried, and, looking round her
with a sudden realization of its volume, she perceived that the negress
in the doorway had been reinforced by what was presumably the
cook--another negress who was joining in her fellow-servant's
protestations. At the same time the priest was talking incessantly in
rapid Portuguese; Camacho was probably swearing in the same language;
and Lily was making a noise that was exactly half-way between a dove
cooing and an ostler grooming a horse.

"Look here, Mr. Camacho," Sylvia began.

"Oh, don't speak to him, Sylvia," Lily implored. "He can't be spoken to
when he's like this. It's a kind of illness, really."

Sylvia paid no attention to her, but continued to address the croupier.

"If you'll listen to me, Mr. Camacho, instead of behaving like an
exasperated toy terrier, you'll find that we both want the same thing."

"You shall not have her," the croupier chattered. "I will shoot
everybody before you shall have her."

"I don't want her," Sylvia screamed. "I've come here to be a bridesmaid
or a godmother or any other human accessory to a wedding you like to
mention. Take her, my dear man, she's yours."

At last Sylvia was able to persuade him that she was not to be regarded
as an enemy of his matrimonial intentions, and after a final burst of
rage directed against the negresses, whom he ejected from the room, as a
housemaid turns a mattress, he made a speech:

"I am to marry Lily. We go to Portugal, where I am not to be a croupier,
but a gentleman. I excuse my furage. You grant excusals, yes? It is a
decomprehence."

"He's apologizing," Lily explained in the kind of way one might call
attention to the tricks of an intelligent puppy.

"She's actually proud of him," Sylvia thought. "But, of course, to her
he represents gold and diamonds."

The priest, who had grasped that the strain was being relaxed, began to
exude smiles and to rub his hands; he sniffed the prospect of a fee so
richly that one seemed to hear the notes crackle like pork. Camacho
produced the wedding-ring that was even more outshone than wedding-rings
usually are by the diamonds of betrothal.

"But I can't be married in my dressing-gown," Lily protested.

Sylvia felt inclined to say it was the most suitable garment, except a
nightgown, that she could have chosen, but in the end, after another
discussion, it was decided that the ecclesiastical ceremony should be
performed to-morrow in church and that to-day should be devoted to the
civil rite. Sylvia promised not to say a word about the departure to
Europe.

Three days later Sylvia went on board the steamer to make her farewells.
She gave Lily a delicate little pistol for a wedding-present; from Lily,
in memory of her marriage, she received a box of chocolates.

It was impossible not to feel lonely, when Lily had gone: in three and
a half years they had been much together. For a while Sylvia tried to
content herself with the company of the girls in the _pension
d'artistes_, to which she had been forced to go because the flat was too
expensive for her to live in now. Her illness had swallowed up any money
she had saved, and the manager took advantage of it to lower her salary.
When she protested the manager told her he would be willing to pay the
original salary, if she would go to São Paulo. Though Sylvia understood
that the management was trying to get the best of a bargain, she was too
listless to care much and she agreed to go. The voyage there was like a
nightmare. The boat was full of gaudy negroes who sang endlessly their
mysterious songs; the smell was vile; the food was worse; cockroaches
swarmed. São Paulo was a squalid reproduction of Rio de Janeiro, and the
women who sang in the cabaret were all seamed with ten years' longer
vagabondage than those at Rio. The men of São Paulo treated them with
the insolence of the half-breeds they all seemed. On the third night a
big man with teeth like an ancient fence and a diamond in his
shirt-front like a crystal stopper leaned over from a box and shouted to
Sylvia to come up and join him when she had finished her songs; he said
other things that made her shake with anger. When she left the scene,
the grand pimp, who was politely known as the manager, congratulated
Sylvia upon her luck: she had caught the fancy of the richest patron.

"You don't suppose I'm going to see that _goujat_ in his box?" she
growled.

The grand pimp was in despair. Did she wish to drive away their richest
patron? He would probably open a dozen bottles of champagne. He might
... the grand pimp waved his arms to express mental inability to express
all the splendors within her grasp. Presently the impatient suitor came
behind the scene to know the reason of Sylvia's delay. He grasped her by
the wrist and tried to drag her up to his box. She seized the only
weapon in reach--a hand-glass--and smashed it against his face. The
suitor roared; the grand pimp squealed; Sylvia escaped to the stage,
which was almost flush with the main dancing-hall. She forced her way
through the orchestra, kicking the instruments right and left, and fell
into the arms of a man more resplendent than the rest, but a
_rastaquouère_ of more Parisian cut, who in a dago-American accent
promised to plug the first guy that tried to touch her.

Sylvia felt like Carmen on the arm of the Toreador when she and her
protector walked out of the cabaret. He was a youngish man, wearing a
blue serge suit and high-heeled shoes half buckskin, half
patent-leather, tied with white silk laces, so excessively American in
shape that one looked twice to be sure he was not wearing them on the
wrong feet. His trousers, after exhausting the ordinary number of
buttons in front, prolonged themselves into a kind of corselet that drew
attention to the slimness of his waist. He wore a frilled white shirt
sown with blue hearts and a white silk tie with a large diamond pin. The
back of his neck was shaved, which gave his curly black hair the look of
a wig. He was the Latin dandy after being operated upon in an American
barber shop, and his name was Carlos Morera.

Sylvia noted his appearance in such detail, because the appearance of
anybody after that monster in the box would have come as a relief and a
diversion. Morera had led her to a bar that opened out of the cabaret,
and after placing two automatic pistols on the counter he ordered
champagne cocktails for them both.

"He won't come after you in here. Dat stiff don't feel he would like to
meet Carlos Morera. Say, do you know why? Why, because Carlos Morera's
ready to plug any stiff dat don't happen to suit his fancy right away.
Dat's me, Carlos Morera. I'm pretty rich, I am. I'm a gentleman, I am.
But dat ain't going to stop me using those"; he indicated the pistols.
"Drink up and let's have another. Don't you want to drink? See here,
then." He poured Sylvia's cocktail on the floor. "Nothing won't stop
Carlos Morera if he wants to call another round of drinks. Two more
champagne cocktails!"

"Is this going to be my Manuel?" Sylvia asked herself. She felt at the
moment inclined to let him be anything rather than go back to the
concert and face that man in the box.

"You're looking some white," Morera commented. "I believe he scared you.
I believe I ought to have shot him. Say, you sit here and drink up. I
t'ink I'll go back and shoot him now. I sha'n't be gone long."

"Sit still, you fire-eater," cried Sylvia, catching hold of his arm.

"Say, dat's good. Fire-eater! Yes, I believe I'd eat fire if it came to
it. I believe you could make me laugh. I'm going to Buenos Aires
to-morrow. Why don't you come along of me? This São Paulo is a bum
Brazilian town. You want to see the Argentine. I'll show you lots of
life."

"Look here," said Sylvia. "I don't mind coming with you to make you
laugh and to laugh myself, but that's all. Understand?"

"Dat's all right," Carlos agreed. "I'm a funny kind of a fellow, I am.
As soon as I found I could buy any girl I wanted, I didn't seem to want
them no more. 'Sides, I've got seven already. You come along of me. I'm
good company, I am. Everybody dat goes along of me laughs and has good
fun. Hear that?"

He jingled the money in his pocket with a joyful reverence, as if he
were ringing a sanctus-bell. "Now, you come back with me into the
cabaret."

Sylvia hesitated.

"Don't you worry. Nobody won't dare to look at you when you're with me."

Morera put her arm in his, and back they walked into the cabaret again,
more than ever like Carmen with her Toreador. The grand pimp, seeing
that Sylvia was safely protected, came forward with obeisances and
apologies.

"See here. Bring two bottles of champagne," Morera commanded.

The grand pimp beckoned authoritatively to a waiter, but Morera stood up
in a fury.

"I didn't tell you to bring a waiter. I told you to bring two bottles of
champagne. Bring them yourself."

The grand pimp returned very meekly with the bottles.

"Dat's more like. Draw the cork of one."

The grand pimp asked if he should put the other on ice.

"Don't you worry about the other," said Morera. "The other's only there
so I can break it on your damned head in case I get tired of looking at
you. See what I mean?"

The grand pimp professed the most perfect comprehension.

"Well, this is a bum place," Morera declared, after they had sat for a
while. "I believe we sha'n't get no fun here. Let's quit."

He drove her back to the pension, and the next day they took ship to La
Plata for Buenos Aires.

Morera insisted on Sylvia's staying at an expensive hotel and was very
anxious for her to buy plenty of new evening frocks.

"I've got a fancy," he explained, "to show you a bit of life. You hadn't
seen life before you came to Argentina."

The change of air had made Sylvia feel much better, and when she had
fitted herself out with new clothes, to which Morera added a variety of
expensive and gaudy jewels, she felt quite ready to examine life under
his guidance.

He took her to one or two theaters, to the opera, and to the casinos;
then one evening he decided upon a special entertainment of which he
made a secret.

"I want you to dress yourself up fine to-night," he said. "We're going
to some smart ball. Put on all your jewelry. I'm going to dress up
smart, too."

Sylvia had found that overdressing was the best way of returning his
hospitality; this evening she determined to surpass all previous
efforts.

"Heavens!" she ejaculated, when she made the final survey of herself in
the looking-glass. "Do I look more like a Christmas tree or a chemist's
shop?"

When she joined Morera in the lounge, she saw that he was in evening
dress, with diamonds wherever it was possible to put them.

"You're fine," he said, contentedly. "Dat's the way I like to see a goil
look. I guess we're going to have lots of fun to-night."

They drank a good deal of champagne at dinner, and about eleven o'clock
went out to their carriage. When the coachman was given the address of
the ballroom, he looked round in surprise and was sworn at for his
insolence, so with a shrug of the shoulders he drove off. They left the
ordinary centers of amusement behind them and entered a meaner quarter
where half-breeds and negroes predominated; at last after a very long
drive they pulled up before what looked like a third-rate saloon. Sylvia
hesitated before she got out; it did not seem at all a suitable
environment for their conspicuous attire.

"We shall have lots of fun," Morera promised. "This is the toughest
dancing-saloon in Buenos Aires."

"It looks it," Sylvia agreed.

They entered a vestibule that smelt of sawdust, niggers, and raw
spirits, and went up-stairs to a crowded hall that was thick with
tobacco smoke and dust. A negro band was playing ragtime in a corner;
all along one side of the hall ran a bar. The dancers were a queer
medley. The men were mostly of the Parisian apache type, though
naturally more swarthy; the women were mostly in black dresses, with
shawls of brilliantly colored silk and tawdry combs in their black hair.
There were one or two women dancing in coat and skirt and hat, whose
lifted petticoats and pale, dissolute faces shocked even Sylvia's
masculine tolerance; there was something positively evil in their
commonplace attire and abandoned motion; they were like anemic
shop-girls possessed with unclean spirits.

"I believe we shall make these folks mad," said Morera, with a happy
chuckle. Before Sylvia could refuse he had taken her in his arms and was
dancing round the room at double time. The cracked mirrors caught their
reflections as they swept round, and Sylvia realized with a shock the
amount of diamonds they were wearing between them and the effect they
must be having in this thieves' kitchen.

"Some of these guys are looking mad already," Morera proclaimed,
enthusiastically.

The dance came to an end, and they leaned back against the wall
exhausted. Several men walked provocatively past, looking Sylvia and her
partner slowly up and down.

"Come along of me," Morera said. "We'll promenade right around the
hall."

He put her arm in his and swaggered up and down. The other dancers were
gathering in knots and eyeing them menacingly. At last an enormous
American slouched across the empty floor and stood in their path.

"Say, who the hell are you, anyway?" he asked.

"Say, what the hell's dat to you?" demanded Morera.

"Quit!" bellowed the American.

Morera fired without taking his hand from his pocket, and the American
dropped.

"Hands up! _Manos arriba!_" cried Morera, pulling out his two pistols
and covering the dancers while he backed with Sylvia toward the
entrance. When they were up-stairs in the vestibule he told her to look
if the carriage were at the door; when he heard that it was not he gave
a loud whoop of exultation.

"I said I believed we was going to have lots of fun. We got to run now
and see if any of those guys can catch us."

He seized Sylvia's arm, and they darted down the steps and out into the
street. Morera looked rapidly right and left along the narrow
thoroughfare. They could hear the noise of angry voices gathering in the
vestibule of the saloon.

"This way and round the turning," he cried, pulling Sylvia to the left.
There was only one window alight in the narrow alley up which they had
turned, a dim orange stain in the darkness. Morera hammered on the door
as their pursuers came running round the corner. Two or three shots were
fired, but before they were within easy range the door had opened and
they were inside. The old hag who had opened it protested when she saw
Sylvia, but Morera commanded her in Spanish to bolt it, and she seemed
afraid to disobey. Somewhere in a distant part of the house there was a
sound of women's crooning; outside they could hear the shuffling of
their pursuers' feet.

"Say, this is fun," Morera chuckled. "We've arrived into a _burdel_."

It was impossible for Sylvia to be angry with him, so frank was he in
his enjoyment of the situation. The old woman, however, was very angry
indeed, for the pursuers were banging upon her door and she feared a
visit from the police. Her clamor was silenced with a handful of notes.

"Champagne for the girls," Morera cried.

For Sylvia the evening had already taken on the nature of a dream, and
she accepted the immediate experience as only one of an inconsequent
procession of events. Having attained this state of mind, she saw
nothing unusual in sitting down with half a dozen women who clung to
their sofas as sea-anemones to the rocks of an aquarium. She had a
fleeting astonishment that they should have names, that beings so
utterly indistinguishable should be called Juanilla or Belita or Tula or
Lola or Maruca, but the faint shock of realizing a common humanity
passed off almost at once, and she found herself enjoying a conversation
with Belita, who spoke a few words of broken French. With the
circulation of the champagne the women achieved a kind of liveliness and
examined Sylvia's jewels with murmurs of admiration. The ancient bawd
who owned them proposed a dance, to which Morera loudly agreed. The
women whispered and giggled among themselves, looking bashfully over
their shoulders at Sylvia in a way that made the crone thump her stick
on the floor with rage. She explained in Spanish the cause of their
hesitation.

"They don't want to take off their clothes in front of you," Morera
translated to Sylvia, with apologies for such modesty from women who no
longer had the right to possess even their own emotions; nevertheless,
he suggested that they might be excused to avoid spoiling a jolly
evening.

"Good heavens! I should think so!" Sylvia agreed.

Morera gave a magnanimous wave of his arm, in which he seemed to confer
upon the women the right to keep on their clothes. They clapped their
hands and laughed like children. Soon to the sound of castanets they
wriggled their bodies in a way that was not so much suggestive of
dancing as of flea-bites. A lamp with a tin reflector jarred fretfully
upon a shelf, and the floor creaked.

Suddenly Morera held up his hand for silence. The knocking on the street
door was getting louder. He asked the old woman if there was any way of
getting out at the back.

"Dat's all right, kid," he told Sylvia. "We can crawl over the dooryards
at the back. Dat door in front ain't going to hold not more than five
minutes."

He tore the elastic from a bundle of notes and scattered them in the
air like leaves; the women pounced upon the largesse and were fighting
with one another on the floor when Sylvia and Morera followed the old
woman to the back door and out into a squalid yard.

How they ever surmounted the various walls and crossed the various yards
they encountered Sylvia could never understand. All she remembered was
being lifted on packing-cases and dust-bins, of slipping once and
crashing into a hen-coop, of tearing her dress on some broken glass, of
riding astride walls and pricking her face against plants, and of
repeating to herself all the time, "When lilacs last in the dooryard
bloomed." When at last they extricated themselves from the maze of
dooryards they wandered for a long time through a maze of narrow
streets. Sylvia had managed to stuff all her jewelry out of sight into
her corsage, where it scratched her most uncomfortably, but any
discomfort was preferable to the covetous eyes of the half-breeds that
watched her from the shadows.

"I guess you enjoyed yourself," said Morera, in a satisfied voice, when
at last they found a carriage and leaned back to breathe the gentle
night air.

"I enjoyed myself thoroughly," said Sylvia.

"Dat's the way to see a bit of life," he declared. "What's the good of
sitting in a bum theater all the night? Dat don't amuse me any. I
plugged him in the leg," he added, in a tone of almost tender
reminiscence.

Sylvia expressed surprise at his knowing where he had hit him, and
Morera was very indignant at the idea of her supposing that he should
shoot a man without knowing exactly at what part of him he was aiming
and where he should hit him.

"Why, I might have killed him dead," he added. "I didn't want to kill a
man dead just for a bit of fun. I started them guys off, see. They
thought they'd got a slob. Dat's where I was laughing. I guess I'll
sleep good to-night."

Sylvia spent a month seeing life with Carlos Morera; though she never
had another experience so exciting as the first, she passed a good deal
of her time upon the verge of melodramatic adventure. She grew fond of
this child-like creature with his spendthrift ostentation and bravado.
He never showed the least sign of wanting to make love to her, and
demanded nothing from Sylvia but overdressing and admiration of his
exploits. At the end of the month he told Sylvia that business called
him to New York and invited her to come with him. He let her understand,
however, that now he wanted her as his mistress. Even if she could have
tolerated the idea, Sylvia was sure that from the moment she accepted
such a position he would begin to despise her. She had heard too many of
his contemptuous references to the women he had bought. She refused to
accompany him, on the plea of wanting to go back to Europe. Morera
looked sullen, and she had a feeling that he was regretting the amount
he had spent upon her. Her pride found such a sensation insupportable
and she made haste to return him all his jewels.

"Say, what sort of a guy do you think I am?" He threw the jewels at her
feet and left her like a spoiled child.

An hour or two later he came back with a necklace that must have cost
five thousand dollars.

"Dat's the sort of guy I am," he said, and would take no refusal from
her to accept it.

"You can't go on spending money for nothing like this," Sylvia
protested.

"I got plenty, ha'n't I?" he asked.

She nodded.

"And I believe it's my money, ain't it?" he continued.

She nodded again.

"Well, dat finishes dat argument right away. Now I got another
proposition. You listening? I got a proposition dat we get married. I
believe I 'ain't met no girl like you. I know you've been a cabaret
girl. Dat don't matter a cent to me. You're British. Well, I've always
had a kind of notion I'd like to marry a British girl. Don't you tink
I'm always the daffy guy you've bummed around with in Buenos Aires. You
saw me in dat dancing-saloon? Well, I guess you know what I can do.
Dat's what I am in business. Say, Sylvia, will you marry me?"

She shook her head.

"My dear old son, it wouldn't work for you or for me."

"I don't see how you figure dat out."

"I've figured it out to seventy times seven. It wouldn't do. Not for
another mad month even. Come, let's say good-by. I want to go to Europe.
I'm going to have a good time. It'll be you that's going to give it to
me. My dear old Carlos, you may have spent your money badly from your
point of view, but you haven't really. You never spent any money better
in all your life."

Morera did not bother her any more. With all his exterior foolishness he
had a very deep perception of individual humanity. There was a boat
sailing for Marseilles in a day or two, and he bought a ticket for
Sylvia.

"It's a return ticket," he told her. "It's good for a year."

She assured him that even if she came back it could never be to marry
him, but he insisted upon her keeping it, and to please him she yielded.

Sylvia left the Argentine worth nearly as much as Lily when she went
away from Brazil, and as if her luck was bent upon an even longer run,
she gained heavily at poker all the way back across the Atlantic.

When she reached Marseilles, Sylvia conceived a longing to meet
Valentine again, and she telegraphed to Elène at Brussels for her
address. It was with a quite exceptional anticipation that Sylvia asked
the _concierge_ if Madame Lataille was in. While she walked up-stairs to
her sister's apartment she remembered how she had yearned to be friends
with Valentine nearly thirteen years ago, forgetting all about the
disappointment of her hope in a sudden desire to fill up a small corner
of her present loneliness.

Valentine had always lingered in Sylvia's imagination as a rather wild
figure, headstrong to such a pitch where passion was concerned that she
herself had always felt colorless and insignificant in comparison. There
was something splendidly tropical about Valentine as she appeared to
Sylvia's fancy; in all the years after she quitted France she had
cherished a memory of Valentine's fiery anger on the night of her
departure as something nobly independent.

Like other childish memories, Sylvia found Valentine much less
impressive when she met her again--much less impressive, for instance,
than Elène, who, though she had married a shopkeeper and had settled
down to a most uncompromising and ordinary respectability, retained a
ripening outward beauty that made up for any pinching of the spirit.
Here was Valentine, scarcely even pretty, who achieved by neatness any
effect of personality that she did. She had fine eyes--it seemed
impossible for any of her mother's children to avoid them, however dull
and inexpressive might have been the father's. Sylvia was thinking of
Henry's eyes, but what she had heard of M. Lataille in childhood had
never led her to picture him as more remarkable outwardly than her own
father.

"Twelve years since we met," Valentine was murmuring, and Sylvia was
agreeing and thinking to herself all the time how very much compressed
Valentine was, not uncomfortably or displeasingly, but like a new dress
before it has blossomed to the individuality of the wearer. There
recurred to Sylvia out of the past a likeness between Valentine and
Maudie Tilt when Maudie had dressed up for the supper-party with Jimmy
Monkley.

When the first reckonings of lapsed years were over there did not seem
much to talk about, but presently Sylvia described with much detail the
voyage from La Plata to Marseilles, just as, when one takes up a
long-interrupted correspondence, great attention is often devoted to the
weather at the moment.

"_Alors, vous êtes chanteuse?_" Valentine asked.

"_Oui, je suis chanteuse_," Sylvia replied.

Neither of the sisters used the second person singular: the
conversation, which was desultory, like the conversation of travelers in
a railway carriage, ended abruptly as if the train had entered a tunnel.

"_Vous êtes très-bien ici_," said Sylvia, looking round. The train had
emerged and was running through a dull cutting.

"_Oui, je suis très-bien ici_," Valentine replied.

There was no hostility between the sisters; there was merely a blank, a
sundering stretch of twelve years, that dismayed both of them with its
tracklessness. Presently Sylvia noticed a photograph upon the wall so
conspicuously framed as to justify a supposition that it represented the
man who was responsible for Valentine's well-being.

"_Oui, c'est mon amant_," said Valentine, in reply to the unspoken
question.

Sylvia was faced by the problem of commenting satisfactorily upon a
photograph. To begin with, it was one of those photographs that preserve
the individual hairs of the mustache but eradicate every line from the
face. It was impossible to comment on it, and it would have been equally
impossible to comment on the original in person. The only fact emerging
from the photograph was that in addition to a mustache the subject of it
owned a pearl tie-pin; but even of the genuineness of the pearl it was
unable to give any assurance.

"Photographs tell one nothing, do they?" Sylvia said, at last. "They're
like somebody else's dreams."

Valentine knitted her brows in perplexity.

"Or somebody else's baby," Sylvia went on, desperately.

"I don't like babies," said Valentine.

"_Vraiment on est très-bien ici_," said Sylvia.

She felt that by flinging an accentuated compliment to the room
Valentine might feel her lover was included in the approbation.

"And it's mine," said Valentine, complacently. "He bought it for me.
_C'est pour la vie_."

Passion might be quenched in the slough of habitude; love's pinions
might molt like any farm-yard hen's. What was that, when the apartment
was hers for life?

"How many rooms have you?" Sylvia asked.

"Besides this one I have a bedroom, a dining-room, a kitchen, and a
bath-room. Would you like to see the bath-room?"

When Valentine asked the last question she was transformed; a latent
exultation flamed out from her immobility.

"I should love to see the bath-room," said Sylvia. "I think bath-rooms
are often the most interesting part of a house."

"But this is an exceptional bath-room. It cost two thousand francs to
install."

Valentine led the way to the admired chamber, to which a complicated
arrangement of shining pipes gave an orchestral appearance. Valentine
flitted from tap to tap. Aretino himself could scarcely have imagined
more methods of sprinkling water upon the human body.

"And these pipes are for warming the towels," she explained. It was a
relief to find pipes that led a comparatively passive existence amid
such a convolution of fountainous activity.

"I thought while I was about it that I would have the tiles laid right
up to the ceiling," Valentine went on, pensively. "And you see, the
ceiling is made of looking-glass. When the water is very hot, _ça fait
drôle, tu sais, on ne se voit plus_."

It was the first time she had used the second person singular; the
bath-room had created in Valentine something that almost resembled
humanity.

"Yes," Sylvia agreed. "I suppose that is the best way of making the
ceiling useful."

"_C'est pour la vie_," Valentine contentedly sighed.

"But if he were to marry?" Sylvia ventured.

"It would make no difference," Valentine answered. "I have saved money
and with a bath-room like this one can always get a good rent.
Everything in the apartment is mine, and the apartment is mine, too."

"_Alors, tu es contente?_" said Sylvia.

"_Oui, je suis contente_," said Valentine.

"_Elle est jolie, ta salle de bain_."

"_Oui, elle est jolie comme un amour_," Valentine assented, with a sweet
maternal smile.

They talked of the bath-room for a while when they came back to the
boudoir; Sylvia was conscious of displaying the politeness with which
one descends from the nursery at an afternoon call.

"_Enfin_," said Sylvia, "_Je file_."

"_Tu pars tout de suite de Marseilles?_"

"_Oui, je pars ce soir_."

She had not really intended to leave Marseilles that evening, but there
seemed no reason to stay.

"_C'est dommage que tu n'as pas vu Louis_."

"_Il s'appelle Louis?_"

"_Oui, il s'appelle Louis. Il est à Lyon pour ses affaires_."

"_Alors, au revoir, Valentine_."

"_Au revoir, Sylvie_."

They hesitated, both of them, to see which would offer her cheek first;
in the end they managed to be simultaneous.

"Even the farewell was a stalemate," Sylvia said to herself on the way
down-stairs.

She wondered, while she was walking back to her hotel, what was going to
be the passion of her own life. One always started out with a dim
conception of perfect love, however one might scoff at it openly in
self-protection, but evidently it by no means followed that love for a
man, let alone perfect love, would ever arrive. Lily had succeeded in
inspiring at least one man with love for her, but she had found her own
passion in roulette with Camacho tacked to it, inherited like a
husband's servant, familiar with any caprice, but jealous and irritable.
Valentine had found her grand passion in a bath-room that satisfied even
her profoundest maternal instincts. Dorothy had loved a coronet with
such fervor that she had been able to abandon everything that could
smirch it. Sylvia's own mother had certainly found at thirty-four her
grand passion, but Sylvia felt that it would be preferable to fall in
love with a bath-room now than wait ten years for a Henry.

Sylvia reached the hotel, packed up her things, and set out to Paris
without any definite plans in her head for the future, and just because
she had no definite plans and nothing to keep her from sleeping, she
could not sleep and tossed about on the _wagon-lit_ half the night.

"It's not as if I hadn't got money. I'm amazingly lucky. It's really
fantastic luck to find somebody like poor old Carlos to set me up for
five years of luxurious independence. I suppose if I were wise I should
buy a house in London--and yet I don't want to go back to London. The
trouble with me is that, though I like to be independent, I don't like
to be alone. Yet with Michael.... But what's the use of thinking about
him? Do I actually miss him? No, certainly not. He's nothing more to me
than something I might have had, but failed to secure. I'm regretting a
missed experience. If one loses somebody like that, it leaves a sense of
incompletion. How often does one feel a quite poignant regret because
one has forgotten to finish a cup of coffee; but the regret is always
for the incomplete moment; it doesn't endure. Michael in a year will
have changed; I've changed, also. There is nothing to suggest that if we
met again now, we should meet in the same relation, with the same
possibility in the background of our intercourse. Then why won't I go
back to Mulberry Cottage? Obviously because I have out-lived Mulberry
Cottage. I don't want to stop my course by running into a backwater
that's already been explored. I want to go on and on until ... yes,
until what? I can travel now, if I want to. Well, why shouldn't I
travel? If I visit my agent in Paris--and I certainly shall visit him in
order to tell him what I think of the management of that damned Casino
at Rio--he'll offer me another contract to sing in some outlandish
corner of the globe, and if I weren't temporarily independent, I should
have to accept it with all its humiliations. Merely to travel would be a
mistake I think. I've got myself into the swirl of mountebanks, and
somehow I must continue with them. It's a poor little loyalty, but even
that is better than nothing. Really, if one isn't tied down by poverty,
one can have a very good time, traveling the world as a singer. Or I
could live in Paris for a while. I should soon meet amusing people. Oh,
I don't know what I want. I should rather like to get hold of Olive
again. She may be married by now. She probably is married. She's bound
to be married. A superfluity of romantic affection was rapidly
accumulating that must have been deposited somewhere by now. I might get
Gainsborough out from England to come with me. Come with me, where? It
seems a shame to uproot the poor old thing again. She's nearly sixty.
But I must have somebody."

When Sylvia reached Paris she visited two trunks that were in a
repository. Among other things she took out the volume of Adlington's
_Apuleius_.

"Yes, there's no doubt I'm still an ass," she said. "And since the
Argentine really a golden ass; but oh, when, when, when shall I eat the
rose-leaves and turn into Sylvia again? One might make a joke about
that, as the White Knight said, something about Golden and Silver and
Argentine."

Thinking of jokes reminded Sylvia of Mr. Pluepott, and thinking of
Alice through the looking-glass brought back the Vicar. What a long way
off they seemed.

"I can't let go of everybody," she cried. So she telegraphed and wrote
urgently to Mrs. Gainsborough, begging her to join her in Paris. While
she was waiting for a reply, she discussed projects for the future with
her agent, who, when he found that she had some money, was anxious for
her to invest a certain amount in the necessary _réclame_ and appear at
the Folies Bergères.

"But I don't want to make a success by singing French songs with an
English accent," Sylvia protested. "I'd as soon make a success by
singing without a roof to my mouth. You discouraged me from doing
something I really wanted to do. All I want now is an excuse for
roaming."

"What about a tour in Spain?" the agent suggested. "I can't get you more
than ten francs a night, though, if you only want to sing. Still,
Spain's much cheaper than America."

"_Mon cher ami, j'ai besoin du travail pour me distraire_. Ten francs is
the wage of a slave, but pocket-money, if one is not a slave."

"_Vous avez de la veine, vous_."

"_Vraiment?_"

"_Mais oui_."

"_Peut-être quelqu'un m'a plaqué_."

He tried to look grave and sympathetic.

"_Salaud_," she mocked. "_Crois-tu que je t'en dirais. Bigre! je
creverais plutôt_."

She had dropped into familiarity of speech with him, but he, still
hopeful of persuading her to intrust a profitable _réclame_ to him,
continued to treat her formally. Sylvia realized the _arrière pensée_
and laughed at him.

"_Je ne suis pas encore en grande vedette, tu sais_."

He assured her that such a triumph would ultimately come to her, and she
scoffed.

"_Mon vieux, si je n'avais pas de la galette, je pourrais crever de faim
devant ta porte. Ce que tu me dis, c'est du chic_."

"Well, will you go to Spain?"

The contract was signed.

A day or two later, when she was beginning to give up hope of getting
an answer from Mrs. Gainsborough, the old lady herself turned up at the
hotel, looking not a minute older.

"You darling and daring old plesiosaurus," cried Sylvia, seizing her by
the hand and twirling her round the vestibule.

"Yes, I am pleased to see you and no mistake," said Mrs. Gainsborough.
"But what a tyrant! Well, really, I was in me bed when your telegram
came and that boy he knocked like a tiger. Knock--knock! all the time I
was trying to slip on me petticoat, which through me being in a regular
fluster I put on wrong way up and got me feet all wound up with the
strings. Knock--knock! 'Whatever do you think you're doing?' I said when
at last I was fairly decent and went to open the door. 'Telegram,' he
says, as saucy as brass. 'Telegram?' I said. 'I thought by the row you
was making that you was building St. Paul's Cathedral.' 'Wait for the
answer?' he said. 'Answer?' I said. 'Certainly not.' Well, there was I
with your telegram in one hand and me petticoat slipping down in the
other. Then on the top of that came your letter, and I couldn't resist a
sight of you, my dearie. Fancy that Lily waltzing off like that. And
with a Portuguese. She'll get Portuguese before he's finished with her.
Portuguese is what she'll be. And the journey! Well, really, I don't
know how I managed. I kept on saying, 'France,' the same as if I was
asking a policeman the way to Oxford Circus, and they bundled me about
like ... well, really, everybody was most kind. Still when I got to
France, it wasn't much use going on shouting 'France' to everybody.
However, I met a nice young fellow in the train, and he very
thoughtfully assisted me into a cab and ... well, I am glad to see you."

"Now you're coming with me to Spain," Sylvia announced.

"Good land alive! Where?"

"Spain."

"Are you going chasing after Lily again?"

"No, we're going off on our own."

"Well, I may have started on the gad late in life, but I've certainly
started now," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Spain? That's where the Spanish
flies come from, isn't it? Well, they ought to be lively enough, so I
suppose we shall enjoy ourselves. And how do we get there?"

"By train!"

"Dear land! it's wonderful what they can do nowadays. What relation then
is Spain to Portugal exactly? You must excuse my ignorance, Sylvia, but
really I'm still all of a fluster. Fancy being bounced out of me bed
into Spain. You really are a demon. Fancy you getting yellow fever. You
haven't changed color much. Spain! Upon my word I never heard anything
like it. We'd better take plenty with us to eat. I knew it reminded me
of something. The Spanish Armada! I once heard a clergyman recite the
Spanish Armada, though what it was all about I've completely forgotten.
There was some fighting in it though. I went with the captain. Well, if
he could see me now. You may be sure he's laughing, wherever he is. The
idea of me going to Spain."

The idea materialized; that night they drove to the Gare d'Orléans.



CHAPTER XII


The journey to Madrid was for Mrs. Gainsborough a long revelation of
human eccentricity.

"Not even Mrs. Ewings would believe it," she assured Sylvia. "It's got
to be seen to be believed. I opened my mouth a bit wide when I first
came to France, but France is Peckham Rye if you put it alongside of
Spain. When that guard or whatever he calls himself opened our door and
bobbed in out of the runnel with the train going full speed and asked
for our tickets, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Showing
off, that's what I call it. And carrying wine inside of goats!
Disgusting I should say. Nice set-out there'd be in England if the
brewers started sending round beer inside of sheep. Why, it would cause
a regular outcry; but these Spanish seem to put up with everything. I'm
not surprised they come round selling water at every station. The cheek
of it though, when you come to think about it. Putting wine inside of
goats so as to make people buy water. If I'd have been an enterprising
woman like Mrs. Marsham, I should have got out at the last station and
complained to the police about it. But really the stations aren't fit
for a decent person to walk about in. I'm not considered very
particular, but when a station consists of nothing but a signal-box and
a lavatory and no platform, I don't call it a station. And what a
childish way of starting a train--blowing a toy horn like that. More
like a school treat than a railway journey. And the turkeys! Now I ask
you, Sylvia, would you believe it? Four turkeys under the seat and three
on the rack over me head. A regular Harlequinade! And every time anybody
takes out a cigarette or a bit of bread they offer it all around the
compartment. Fortunately I don't look hungry, or they might have been
offended. No wonder England's full of aliens. I shall explain the
reason of it when I get home."

The place of entertainment where Sylvia worked was called the Teatro
Japonés, for what reason it would have been difficult to say. The girls
were, as usual, mostly French, but there were one or two Spanish dancers
that, as Mrs. Gainsborough put it, kept one "rum-tum-tumming in one's
seat all the time it was going on." Sylvia found Madrid a dull city
entirely without romance of aspect, nor did the pictures in the Prado
make up for the bull-ring's wintry desolation. Mrs. Gainsborough
considered the most remarkable evidence of Spanish eccentricity was the
way in which flocks of turkeys, after traveling in passenger-trains,
actually wandered about the chief thoroughfares.

"Suppose if I was to go shooing across Piccadilly with a herd of
chickens, let alone turkeys, well, it _would_ be a circus, and that's a
fact."

When they first arrived they stayed at a large hotel in the Puerta del
Sol, but Mrs. Gainsborough got into trouble with the baths, partly
because they cost five pesetas each and partly because she said it went
to her heart to see a perfectly clean sheet floating about in the water.
After that they tried a smaller hotel, where they were fairly
comfortable, though Mrs. Gainsborough took a long time to get used to
being brought chocolate in the morning.

"I miss my morning tea, Sylvia, and it's no use me pretending I don't. I
don't feel like chocolate in the morning. I'd just as lieve have a slice
of plum-pudding in a cup. Why, if you try to put a lump of sugar in, it
won't sink; it keeps bobbing up like a kitten. And another thing I can't
seem to get used to is having the fish after the meat. Every time it
comes in like that it seems a kind of carelessness. What fish it is,
too, when it does come. Well, they say a donkey can eat thistles, but it
would take him all his time to get through one of those fish. No wonder
they serve them after the meat. I should think they were afraid of the
amount of meat any one might eat, trying to get the bones out of one's
throat. I've felt like a pincushion ever since I got to Madrid, and how
you can sing beats me. Your throat must be like a zither by now."

It really did not seem worth while to remain any longer in Madrid, and
Sylvia asked to be released from her contract. The manager, who had been
wondering to all the other girls why Sylvia had ever been sent to him,
discovered that she was his chief attraction when she wanted to break
the contract. However, a hundred pesetas in his own pocket removed all
objections, and she was free to leave Spain.

"Well, do you want to go home?" she asked Mrs. Gainsborough. "Or would
you come to Seville?"

"Now we've come so far, we may as well go on a bit farther," Mrs.
Gainsborough thought.

Seville was very different from Madrid.

"Really, when you see oranges growing in the streets," Mrs. Gainsborough
said, "you begin to understand why people ever goes abroad. Why, the
flowers are really grand, Sylvia. Carnations as common as daisies. Well,
I declare, I wrote home a post-card to Mrs. Beardmore and told her
Seville was like being in a conservatory. She's living near Kew now, so
she'll understand my meaning."

They both much enjoyed the dancing in the cafés, when solemn men hurled
their sombreros on the dancers' platform to mark their appreciation of
the superb creatures who flaunted themselves there so gracefully.

"But they're bold hussies with it all, aren't they?" Mrs. Gainsborough
observed. "Upon me word, I wouldn't care to climb up there and swing my
hips about like that."

From Seville, after an idle month of exquisite weather, often so warm
that Sylvia could sit in the garden of the Alcazar and read in the shade
of the lemon-trees, they went to Granada.

"So they've got an Alhambra here, have they?" said Mrs. Gainsborough.
"But from what I've seen of the performances in Spain it won't come up
to good old Leicester Square."

On Sylvia the Alhambra cast an enchantment more powerful than any famous
edifice she had yet seen. Her admiration of cathedrals had always been
tempered by a sense of missing most of what they stood for. They were
still exercising their functions in a modern world and thereby
overshadowed her personal emotions in a way that she found most
discouraging to the imagination. The Alhambra, which once belonged to
kings, now belonged to individual dreams. Those shaded courts where even
at midday the ice lay thick upon the fountains; that sudden escape from
a frozen chastity of brown stone out on the terraces rich with sunlight;
that vision of the Sierra Nevada leaping against the blue sky with all
its snowy peaks; this incredible meeting of East and South and North--to
know all these was to stand in the center of the universe, oneself a
king.

"What's it remind you of, Sylvia?" Mrs. Gainsborough asked.

"Everything," Sylvia cried. She felt that it would take but the least
effort of will to light in one swoop upon the Sierra Nevada and from
those bastions storm ... what?

"It reminds me just a tiddly-bit of Earl's Court," said Mrs.
Gainsborough, putting her head on one side like a meditative hen. "If
you shut one eye against those mountains, you'll see what I mean."

Sylvia came often by herself to the Alhambra; she had no scruples in
leaving Mrs. Gainsborough, who had made friends at the pension with a
lonely American widower.

"He knows everything," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "I've learned more in a
fortnight with him than I ever learned in my whole life. What that man
doesn't know! Well, I'm sure it's not worth knowing. He's been in trade
and never been able to travel till now, but he's got the world off by
heart, as you might say. I sent a p. c. to Mrs. Ewings to say I'd found
a masher at last. The only thing against him is the noises he makes with
his throat. I gave him some lozenges at first, but he made more noise
than ever sucking them, and I had to desist."

Soon after Mrs. Gainsborough met her American, Sylvia made the
acquaintance of a youthful guide of thirteen or fourteen years, who for
a very small wage adopted her and gave her much entertainment. Somehow
or other Rodrigo had managed to pick up a good deal of English and
French, which, as he pointed out, enabled him to compete with the older
guides who resented his intrusion. Rodrigo did not consider that the
career of a guide was worthy of real ambition. For the future he
hesitated between being a gentleman's servant and a tobacconist in
Gibraltar. He was a slim child with the perfect grace of the young South
in movements and in manners alike.

Rodrigo was rather distressed at the beginning by Sylvia's want of
appetite for mere sight-seeing; he reproved her indeed very gravely for
wasting valuable time in repeating her visits to favorite spots while so
many others remained unvisited. He was obsessed by the rapidity with
which most tourists passed through Granada, but when he discovered that
Sylvia had no intention of hurrying or being hurried, his native
indolence blossomed to her sympathy and he adapted himself to her
pleasure in sitting idle and dreaming in the sun.

Warmer weather came in February, and Rodrigo suggested that the Alhambra
should be visited by moonlight. He did not make this suggestion because
it was the custom of other English people to desire this experience; he
realized that the Señorita was not influenced by what other people did;
at the same time the Alhambra by moonlight could scarcely fail to please
the Señorita's passion for beauty. He himself had a passion for beauty,
and he pledged his word she would not regret following his advice;
moreover, he would bring his guitar.

On a February night, when the moon was still high, Sylvia and Rodrigo
walked up the avenue that led to the Alhambra. There was nobody on the
summit but themselves. Far down lights flitted in the gipsy quarter, and
there came up a faint noise of singing and music.

It was Carnival, Rodrigo explained, and the Señorita would have enjoyed
it; but, alas! there were many rascals about on such nights, and though
he was armed, he did not recommend a visit. He brought out his guitar;
from beneath her Spanish cloak Sylvia also brought out a guitar.

"The Señorita plays? _Maravilloso!_" Rodrigo exclaimed. "But why the
Señorita did not inform me to carry her guitar? The hill was long. The
Señorita will be tired."

Sylvia opened with one of her old French songs, after which Rodrigo,
who had paid her a courteous and critical attention, declared that she
had a musician's soul like himself, and forthwith, in a treble that was
limpid as the moon, light, unpassionate as the snow, remote as the
mountains, he too sang.

"Exquisite," Sylvia sighed.

The Señorita was too kind, and as if to disclaim the compliment he went
off into a mad gipsy tune. Suddenly he broke off.

"Hark! Does the Señorita hear a noise of weeping?"

There was indeed a sound of some one's crying, a sound that came nearer
every moment.

"It is most unusual to hear a sound of weeping in the Alhambra _au clair
de la lune_," said Rodrigo. "If the Señorita will permit me, I shall
find out the cause."

Soon he came back with a girl whose cheeks glistened with tears.

"She is a dancer," Rodrigo explained. "She says she is Italian, but--"
With a shrug of the shoulders he gave Sylvia to understand that he
accepted no responsibility for her statement. It was Carnival.

Sylvia asked the new-comer in French what was the matter, but for some
time she could only sob without saying a word. Rodrigo, who was
regarding her with a mixture of disapproval and compassion, considered
that she had reached the stage--he spoke with all possible respect for
the Señorita, who must not suppose herself included in his
generalization--the stage of incoherence that is so much more frequent
with women than with men whose feelings have been upset. If he might
suggest a remedy to the Señorita, it would be to leave her alone for a
few minutes and continue the interrupted music. They had come here to
enjoy the Alhambra by moonlight; it seemed a pity to allow the grief of
an unknown dancer to spoil the beauty of the scene, grief that probably
had nothing to do with the Alhambra, but was an echo of the world below.
It might be a lovers' quarrel due to the discovery of a masked
flirtation, a thing of no importance compared with the Alhambra by
moonlight.

"I'm not such a philosopher as you, Rodrigo. I am a poor, inquisitive
woman."

Certainly inquisitiveness might be laid to the charge of the feminine
sex, he agreed, but not to all. There must be exceptions, and with a
gesture expressive of tolerance for the weaknesses of womankind he
managed to convey his intention of excepting Sylvia from Eve's heritage.
Human nature was not all woven to the same pattern. Many of his friends,
for instance, would fail to appreciate the Alhambra on such a night, and
would prefer to blow horns in the streets.

By this time the grief of the stranger was less noisy, and Sylvia again
asked her who she was and why she was weeping. She spoke in English this
time; the fair, slim child, for when one looked at her she was scarcely
more than fifteen, brightened.

"I don't know where I was," she said.

Rodrigo clicked his tongue and shook his head; he was shocked by this
avowal much more deeply than in his sense of locality. Sylvia was
puzzled by her accent. The 'w's' were nearly 'v's,' but the intonation
was Italian.

"And you're a dancer?" she asked.

"Yes, I was dancing at the Estrella."

Rodrigo explained that this was a cabaret, the kind of place with which
the Señorita would not be familiar.

"And you're Italian?"

The girl nodded, and Sylvia, seeing that it would be impossible to
extract anything about her story in her present overwrought state,
decided to take her back to the pension.

"And I will carry the Señorita's guitar," said Rodrigo. "To-morrow
morning at eleven o'clock?" he asked by the gate of Sylvia's pension.
"Or would the Señorita prefer that I waited to conduct the _señorita
extraviada?_"

Sylvia bade him come in the morning; with a deep bow to her and to the
stranger he departed, twanging his guitar. Mrs. Gainsborough, who by
this time had reached the point of thinking that her American widower
existed only to be oracular, wished to ask his advice about the
stranger, and was quite offended with Sylvia for telling her rather
sharply that she did not want all the inmates of the pension buzzing
round the frightened child.

"Chocolate would be more useful than advice," Sylvia said.

"I know you're very down on poor Mr. Linthicum, but he's a mass of
information. Only this morning he was explaining how you can keep eggs
fresh for a year by putting them in a glass of water. Now I like a bit
of advice. I'm not like you, you great harum-scarum thing."

Mrs. Gainsborough was unable to remain very long in a state of injured
dignity; she soon came up to Sylvia's bedroom with cups of chocolate.

"And though you laugh at poor Mr. Linthicum," she said, "it's thanks to
him you've got this chocolate so quick, for he talked to the servant
himself."

With this Mrs. Gainsborough left the room in high good humor at the
successful rehabilitation of the informative widower.

The girl, whose name was Concetta, had long ceased to lament, but she
was still very shy, and Sylvia found it extremely difficult at first to
reach any clear comprehension of her present trouble. Gradually,
however, by letting her talk in her own breathless way, and in an odd
mixture of English, French, German, and Italian, she was able to put
together the facts into a kind of consecutiveness.

Her father had been an Italian, who for some reason that was not at all
clear had lived at Aix-la-Chapelle. Her mother, to whom he had
apparently never been married, had been a Fleming. This mother had died
when Concetta was about four, and her father had married a German woman
who had beaten her, particularly after her father had either died or
abandoned his child to the stepmother--it was not clear which. At this
point an elder brother appeared in the tale, who at the age of eleven
had managed to steal some money and run away. Of this brother Concetta
had made an ideal hero. She dreamed of him even now and never came to
any town but that she expected to meet him there. Sylvia had asked her
how she expected to recognize somebody who had disappeared from her life
when she was only six years old, but Concetta insisted that she should
know him again. When she said this, she looked round her with an
expression of fear and asked if anybody could overhear them. Sylvia
assured her that they were quite alone, and Concetta said in a whisper:

"Once in Milano I saw Francesco. Hush! he passed in the street, and I
said, 'Francesco,' and he said, 'Concettina,' but we could not speak
together more longer."

Sylvia would not contest this assertion, though she made up her mind
that it must have been a dream.

"It was a pity you could not speak," she said.

"Yes, nothing but Francesco and Concettina before he was gone. _Peccato!
Peccato!_"

Francesco's example had illuminated his sister's life with the hope of
escaping from the stepmother, and she had hoarded pennies month after
month for three years. She would not speak in detail of the cruelty of
her stepmother; the memory of it even at this distance of time was too
much charged with horror. It was evident to Sylvia that she had suffered
exceptional things and that this was no case of ordinary unkindness.
There was still in Concetta's eyes the look of an animal in a trap, and
Sylvia felt a rage at human cruelty hammering upon her brain. One read
of these things with an idle shudder, but, oh, to behold before one a
child whose very soul was scarred. There was more for the imagination to
feed upon, because Concetta said that not only was her stepmother cruel,
but also her school-teachers and schoolmates.

"Everybody was liking to beat me. I don't know why, but they was liking
to beat me; no, really, they was liking it."

At last, and here Concetta was very vague, as if she were seeking to
recapture the outlines of a dream that fades in the light of morning,
somehow or other she ran away and arrived at a big place with trees in a
large city.

"Where, at Aix-la-Chapelle?"

"No, I got into a train and came somewhere to a big place with trees in
the middle of a city."

"Was it a park in Brussels?"

She shrugged her shoulders and came back to her tale. In this park she
had met some little girls who had played with her; they had played a
game of joining hands and dancing round in a circle until they all fell
down in the grass. A gentleman had laughed to see them amusing
themselves so much, and the little girls had asked her to come with them
and the gentleman; they had danced round him and pulled his coat to make
him take Concetta. He had asked her whence she came and whither she was
going; he was a schoolmaster and he was going far away with all these
other little girls. Concetta had cried when they were leaving her, and
the gentleman, when he found that she was really alone in this big city,
had finally been persuaded to take her with him. They went far away in
the train to Dantzic, where he had a school to learn dancing. She had
been happy there; the master was very kind. When she was thirteen she
had gone with the other girls from the school to dance in the ballet at
La Scala in Milan, but before that she had danced at Dresden and Munich.
Then about six months ago a juggler called Zozo had wanted her and
another girl to join his act. He was a young man; she had liked him and
she had left Milan with him. They had performed in Rome and Naples and
Bari and Palermo. At Palermo the other girl had gone back to her home in
Italy, and Concetta had traveled to Spain with Zozo through Tunis and
Algiers and Oran. Zozo had treated her kindly until they came here to
the Estrella Concert; but here he had changed and, when she did not like
him to make love to her, he had beaten her. To-night before they went to
the cabaret he had told her that unless she would let him love her he
would throw the daggers at her heart. In their act she was tied up and
he threw daggers all round her. She had been frightened, and when he
went to dress she had run away; but the streets were full of people in
masks, and she had lost herself.

Sylvia looked at this child with her fair hair, who but for the agony
and fear in her blue eyes would have been like one of those rapturous
angels in old Flemish pictures. Here she sat, as ten years ago Sylvia
had sat in the cab-shelter talking to Fred Organ. Her story and
Concetta's met at this point in man's vileness.

"My poor little thing, you must come and live with me," cried Sylvia,
clasping Concetta in her arms. "I too am all alone, and I should love to
feel that somebody was dependent on me. You shall come with me to
England. You're just what I've been looking for. Now I'm going to put
you to bed, for you're worn out."

"But he'll come to find me," Concetta gasped, in sudden affright. "He
was so clever. On the program you can read. ZOZO: _el mejor
prestigitador del mundo_. He knows everything."

"We must introduce him to Mrs. Gainsborough. She likes encyclopedias
with pockets."

"Please?"

"I was talking to myself. My dear, you'll be perfectly safe here with me
from the greatest magician in the world."

In the end she was able to calm Concetta's fears; in sleep, when those
frightened eyes were closed, she seemed younger than ever, and Sylvia
brooded over her by candle-light as if she were indeed her child.

Mrs. Gainsborough, on being told next morning Concetta's story and
Sylvia's resolve to adopt her, gave her blessing to the plan.

"Mulberry Cottage'll be nice for her to play about in. She'll be able to
dig in the garden. We'll buy a bucket and spade. Fancy, what wicked
people there are in this world. But I blame her stepmother more than I
do this Shoushou."

Mrs. Gainsborough persisted in treating Concetta as if she were about
nine years old and was continually thinking of toys that might amuse
her. When at last she was brought to realize that she was fifteen, she
was greatly disappointed on behalf of Mr. Linthicum, to whom she had
presented Concetta as an infant prodigy.

"He commented so much on the languages she could speak, and he told her
of a quick way to practise elemental American, which I always thought
was the same as English, but apparently it's not. It's a much older
language, really, and came over with Christopher Columbus in the
_Mayflower_."

Rodrigo was informed by Sylvia that henceforth the Señorita Concetta
would live with her. He expressed no surprise and accepted with a
charming courtliness the new situation at the birth of which he had
presided. Sylvia thought it might be prudent to take Rodrigo so far into
her confidence as to give him a hint about a possible attempt by the
juggler to get Concetta back into his power. Rodrigo looked very serious
at the notion, and advised the Señorita to leave Granada quickly. It was
against his interest to give this counsel, for he should lose his
Señorita, the possession of whom had exposed him to a good deal of envy
from the other guides. Besides, he had grown fond of the Señorita and he
should miss her. He had intended to practise much on his guitar this
spring, and he had looked forward to hearing the nightingales with her;
they would be singing next month in the lemon-groves. Many people were
deaf to the song of birds, but personally he could not listen to them
without ... a shrug of the shoulders expressed the incommunicable
emotion.

"You shall come with us, Rodrigo."

"To Gibraltar?" he asked, quickly, with flashing eyes.

"Why not?" said Sylvia.

He seized her hand and kissed it.

"_El destino_," he murmured. "I shall certainly see there the
tobacco-shop that one day I shall have."

For two or three days Rodrigo guarded the pension against the conjuror
and his spies. By this time between Concetta's apprehensions and Mrs.
Gainsborough's exaggeration of them, Zozo had acquired a demoniac
menace, lurking in the background of enjoyment like a child's fear.

The train for Algeciras would leave in the morning at four o'clock. It
was advisable, Rodrigo thought, to be at the railway station by two
o'clock at the latest; he should come with a carriage to meet them.
Would the Señorita excuse him this evening, because his mother--he gave
one of his inimitable shrugs to express the need of sometimes yielding
to maternal fondness--wished him to spend his last evening with her.

At two o'clock next morning Rodrigo had not arrived, but at three a
carriage drove up and the coachman handed Sylvia a note. It was in
Spanish to say that Rodrigo had met with an accident and that he was
very ill. He kissed the Señorita's hand. He believed that he was going
to die, which was his only consolation for not being able to go with her
to Gibraltar; it was _el destino_; he had brought the accident on
himself.

Sylvia drove with Mrs. Gainsborough and Concetta to the railway station.
When she arrived and found that the train would not leave till five, she
kept the coachman and, after seeing her companions safely into their
compartment, drove to where Rodrigo lived.

He was lying in a hovel in the poorest part of the city. His mother, a
ragged old woman, was lamenting in a corner; one or two neighbors were
trying to quiet her. On Sylvia's arrival they all broke out in a loud
wail of apology for the misfortune that had made Rodrigo break his
engagement. Sylvia paid no attention to them, but went quickly across to
the bed of the sick boy. He opened his eyes and with an effort put out a
slim brown arm and caught hold of her hand to kiss it. She leaned over
and kissed his pale lips. In a very faint voice, hiding his head in the
pillow for shame, he explained that he had brought the accident on
himself by his boasting. He had boasted so much about the tobacco-shop
and the favor of the Señorita that an older boy, another guide, a--he
tried to shrug his shoulders in contemptuous expression of this older
boy's inferior quality, but his body contracted in a spasm of pain and
he had to set criticism on one side. This older boy had hit him out of
jealousy, and, alas! Rodrigo had lost his temper and drawn a knife, but
the other boy had stabbed first. It was _el destino_ most unhappily
precipitated by his own vainglory.

Sylvia turned to the women to ask what could be done. Their weeping
redoubled. The doctor had declared it was only a matter of hours; the
priest had given unction. Suddenly Rodrigo with a violent effort
clutched at Sylvia's hand:

"Señorita, the train!"

He fell back dead.

Sylvia left money for the funeral; there was nothing more to be done. In
the morning twilight she went down the foul stairs and back to the
carriage that seemed now to smell of death.

When she arrived at the station a great commotion was taking place on
the platform, and Mrs. Gainsborough appeared, surrounded by a
gesticulating crowd of porters, officials, and passengers.

"Sylvia! Well, I'm glad you've got here at last. She's gone. He's
whisked her away. And can I explain what I want to these Spanish idiots?
No. I've shouted as hard as I could, and they _won't_ understand. They
_won't_ understand me. They don't want to understand, that's my
opinion."

With which Mrs. Gainsborough sailed off again along the platform,
followed by the crowd, which, in addition to arguing with her
occasionally, detached from itself small groups to argue furiously with
one another about her incomprehensible desire. Sylvia extricated their
luggage from the compartment, for the train to go to Algeciras without
them; then she extricated Mrs. Gainsborough from the general noise and
confusion that was now being added to by loud whistles from the
impatient train.

"I was sitting in one corner and Concertina was sitting in the other,"
Mrs. Gainsborough explained to Sylvia. "I'd just bobbed down to pick up
me glasses when I saw that Shoushou beckoning to her, though for the
moment I thought it was the porter. Concertina went as white as paper.
'Here,' I hollered, 'what are you doing?' and with that I got up from me
place and tripped over _your_ luggage and came down bump on the
foot-warmer. When I got up she was gone. Depend upon it, he'd been
watching out for her at the station. As soon as I could get out of the
carriage I started hollering, and every one in the station came running
round to see what was the matter. I tried to tell them about Shoushou,
and they pretended--for don't you tell me I can't make myself understood
if people want to understand--they pretended they thought I was asking
whether I was in the right train. When I hollered 'Shoushou,' they all
started to holler 'Shoushou' as well and nod their heads and point to
the train. I got that aggravated, I could have killed them. And then
what do you think they did? Insulting I call it. Why, they all began to
laugh and beckon to me, and I, thinking that at last they'd found out me
meaning, went and followed them like a silly juggins, and where do you
think they took me? To the moojeries! what _we_ call the ladies'
cloak-room. Well, that did make me annoyed, and I started in to tell
them what I thought of such behavior. 'I don't want the moojeries,' I
shouted. Then I tried to explain by illustrating my meaning. I took hold
of some young fellow and said 'Shoushou,' and then I caught hold of a
hussy that was laughing, intending to make her Concertina, but the silly
little bitch--really it's enough to make any one a bit unrefined--_she_
thought I was going to hit her and started in to scream the station-roof
down. After that you came along, but of course it was too late."

Sylvia was very much upset by the death of Rodrigo and the loss of
Concetta, but she could not help laughing over Mrs. Gainsborough's woes.

"It's all very well for you to sit there and laugh, you great tomboy,
but it's your own fault. If you'd have let me bring Mr. Linthicum, this
wouldn't have happened. What could I do? I felt like a missionary among
a lot of cannibals."

In the end Sylvia was glad to avail herself of the widower's help, but
after two days even he had to admit himself beaten.

"And if he says they can't be found," said Mrs. Gainsborough, "depend
upon it they can't be found--not by anybody. That man's as persistent as
a beggar. When he came up to me this morning and cleared his throat and
shook his head, well, then I knew we might as well give up hope."

Sylvia stayed on for a while in Granada because she did not like to
admit defeat, but the sadness of Rodrigo's death and the disappointment
over Concetta had spoiled the place for her. Here was another of these
incomplete achievements that made life so bitter. She had thought for a
brief space that the solitary and frightened child would provide the aim
that she had so ardently desired. Concetta had responded so sweetly to
her protection, had chattered with such delight of going to England and
of becoming English; now she had been dragged back. _El destino_!
Rodrigo's death did not affect her so much as the loss of that fair,
slim child. His short life had been complete; he was spared forever from
disillusionment, and by existing in her memory eternally young and
joyous and wise he had spared his Señorita also the pain of
disillusionment, just as when he was alive he had always assumed the
little bothers upon his shoulders, the little bothers of every-day
existence. His was a perfect episode, but Concetta disturbed her with
vain regrets and speculations. Yet in a way Concetta had helped her, for
she knew now that she held in her heart an inviolate treasure of love.
Never again could anything happen like those three months after she left
Philip; never again could she treat any one with the scorn she had
treated Michael; never again could she take such a cynical attitude
toward any one as that she had taken toward Lily. All these
disappointments added a little gold tried by fire to the treasure in her
heart, and firmly she must believe that it was being stored to some
purpose soon to be showered prodigally, ah, how prodigally, upon
somebody.

That evening Sylvia had made up her mind to return to England at once,
but after she had gone to bed she was awakened by Mrs. Gainsborough's
coming into her room and in a choked voice asking for help. When the
light was turned on, Sylvia saw that she was enmeshed in a mosquito-net
and looking in her nightgown like a large turbot.

"I knew it would happen," Mrs. Gainsborough panted. "Every night I've
said to myself, 'It's bound to happen,' and it has. I was dreaming how
that Shoushou was chasing me with a butterfly-net, and look at me! Don't
tell me dreams don't sometimes come true. Now don't stand there in fits
of laughter. I can't get out of it, you unfeeling thing. I've swallowed
about a pint of Keating's. I hope I sha'n't come out in spots. Come and
help me out. I daren't move a finger, or I shall start off sneezing
again. And every time I sneeze I get deeper in. It's something chronic."

"Didn't Linthicum ever inform you how to get out of a mosquito-net that
collapses in the middle of the night?" Sylvia asked, when she had
extricated the old lady.

"No, the conversation never happened to take a turn that way. But depend
upon it, I shall ask him to-morrow. I won't be caught twice."

Sylvia suddenly felt that it would be impossible to return to England
yet.

"We must go on," she told Mrs. Gainsborough. "You must have more
opportunities for practising what Linthicum has been preaching to you."

"What you'd like is for me to make a poppy-show of myself all over the
world and drag me round the Continent like a performing bear."

"We'll go to Morocco," Sylvia cried.

"Don't shout like that. You'll set me off on the sneeze again. You're
here, there, and everywhere like a demon king, I do declare. Morocco?
That's where the leather comes from, isn't it? Do they have
mosquito-nets there too?"

Sylvia nodded.

"Well, the first thing I shall do to-morrow is to ask Mr. Linthicum
what's the best way of fastening up a mosquito-net in Morocco. And now I
suppose I shall wake up in the morning with a nose like a tomato. Ah,
well, such is life."

Mrs. Gainsborough went back to bed, and Sylvia lay awake thinking of
Morocco.

Mr. Linthicum came to see them off on their second attempt to leave
Granada. He cleared his throat rather more loudly than usual to compete
with the noise of the railway, invited them to look him up if they ever
came to Schenectady, pressed a book called _Five Hundred Facts for the
Waistcoat Pocket_ into Mrs. Gainsborough's hands, and waved them out of
sight with a large bandana handkerchief.

"Well, I shall miss that man," said Mrs. Gainsborough, settling down to
the journey. "He must have been a regular education for his customers,
and I shall never forget his recipe for avoiding bunions when
mountaineering."

"How's that done?"

"Oh, I don't remember the details. I didn't pay any attention to them,
because it's not to be supposed that I'm going to career up Mont Blong
at my time of life. No, I was making a reference to the tone of his
voice. They may be descended from Indians, but I dare say Adam wasn't
much better than a red Indian, if it comes to that."

They traveled to Cadiz for the boat to Tangier. Mrs. Gainsborough got
very worried on the long spit of land over which the train passed, and
insisted on piling up all the luggage at one end of the compartment in
case they fell into the sea, though she was unable to explain her motive
for doing this. The result was that, when they stopped at a station
before Cadiz and the door of the compartment was opened suddenly, all
the luggage fell out on top of three priests that were preparing to
climb in, one of whom was knocked flat. Apart from the argument that
ensued the journey was uneventful.

The boat from Tangier left in the dark. At dawn Cadiz glimmered like a
rosy pearl upon the horizon.

"We're in Trafalgar Bay now," said Sylvia.

But Mrs. Gainsborough, who was feeling the effects of getting up so
early, said she wished it was Trafalgar Square and begged to be left in
peace. After an hour's doze in the sunlight she roused herself slightly:

"Where's this Trafalgar Bay you were making such a fuss about?"

"We've passed it now," Sylvia said.

"Oh, well, I dare say it wasn't anything to look at. I'm bound to say
the chocolate we had this morning does not seem to go with the sea air.
They're arguing the point inside me something dreadful. I suppose this
boat is safe? It seems to be jigging a good deal. Mr. Linthicum said it
was a good plan to put the head between the knees when you felt a
bit--well, I wouldn't say seasick--but you know.... I'm bound to say I
think he was wrong for once. I feel more like putting my knees up over
my head. Can't you speak to the captain and tell him to go a bit more
quietly? It's no good racing along like he's doing. Of course the boat
jigs. I shall get aggravated in two twos. It's to be hoped Morocco will
be worth it. I never got up so early to go anywhere. Was that sailor
laughing at me when he walked past? It's no good my getting up to tell
him what I think of him, because every time I try to get up the boat
gets up with me. It keeps butting into me behind like a great
billy-goat."

Presently Mrs. Gainsborough was unable even to protest against the
motion, and could only murmur faintly to Sylvia a request to remove her
veil.

"Here we are," cried Sylvia, three or four hours later. "And it's
glorious!"

Mrs. Gainsborough sat up and looked at the rowboats filled with Moors,
negroes, and Jews.

"But they're nearly all of them black," she gasped.

"Of course they are. What color did you expect them to be? Green like
yourself?"

"But do you mean to say you've brought me to a place inhabited by
blacks? Well, I never did. It's to be hoped we sha'n't be eaten alive.
Mrs. Marsham! Mrs. Ewings! Mrs. Beardmore! Well, I don't say they
haven't told me some good stories now and again, but--"

Mrs. Gainsborough shook her head to express the depths of insignificance
to which henceforth the best stories of her friends would have to sink
when she should tell about herself in Morocco.

"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," said Mrs. Gainsborough, when they
stood upon the quay. "I feel like the widow Twankay myself."

Sylvia remembered her ambition to visit the East, when she herself wore
a yashmak in Open Sesame: here it was fulfilling perfectly her most
daring hopes.

Mrs. Gainsborough was relieved to find a comparatively European hotel,
and next morning after a long sleep she was ready for any adventure.

"Sylvia!" she suddenly screamed when they were being jostled in the
crowded bazaar. "Look, there's a camel coming toward us! Did you ever
hear such a hollering and jabbering in all your life? I'm sure I never
did. Mrs. Marsham and her camel at the Zoo. Tut-tut-tut! Do you suppose
Mrs. Marsham ever saw a camel coming toward her in the street like a
cab-horse might? Certainly not. Why, after this there's nothing _in_ her
story. It's a mere anecdote."

They wandered up to the outskirts of the prison, and saw a fat Jewess
being pushed along under arrest for giving false weight. She made some
resistance in the narrow entrance, and the guard planted his foot in the
small of her back, so that she seemed suddenly to crumple up and fall
inside.

"Well, I've often said lightly 'what a heathen' or 'there's a young
heathen,' but that brings it home to one," said Mrs. Gainsborough,
gravely.

Sylvia paid no attention to her companion's outraged sympathy. She was
in the East where elderly obese Jewesses who gave false weight were well
treated thus. She was living with every moment of rapturous reality the
dreams of wonder that the _Arabian Nights_ had brought her in youth. Yet
Tangier was only a gateway to enchantments a hundredfold more powerful.
She turned suddenly to Mrs. Gainsborough and asked her if she could stay
here while she rode into the interior.

"Stay here alone?" Mrs. Gainsborough exclaimed. "Not if I know it."

This plan of Sylvia's to explore the interior of Morocco was narrowed
down ultimately into riding to Tetuan, which was apparently just
feasible for Mrs. Gainsborough, though likely to be rather fatiguing.

A dragoman was found, a certain Don Alfonso reported to be comparatively
honest. He was an undersized man rather like the stump of a tallow
candle into which the wick has been pressed down by the snuffer, for he
was bald and cream-colored, with a thin, uneven black mustache and two
nodules on his forehead. His clothes, too, were crinkled like a
candlestick. He spoke French well, but preferred to speak English, of
which he only knew two words, "all right"; this often made his advice
unduly optimistic. In addition to Don Alfonso they were accompanied by a
Moorish trooper and a native called Mohammed.

"A soldier, is he?" said Mrs. Gainsborough, regarding the grave bearded
man to whose care they were intrusted. "He looks more like the outside
of an ironmonger's shop. Swords, pistols, guns, spears. It's to be hoped
he won't get aggravated with us on the way. I should look very funny
lying in the road with a pistol through my heart."

They rode out of Tangier before a single star had paled in the east, and
when dawn broke they were in a wide valley fertile and bright with
flowers; green hills rose to right and left of them and faded far away
into blue mountains.

"I wish you'd tell that Mahomet not to irritate my poor mule by egging
it on all the time," Mrs. Gainsborough said to Don Alfonso, who,
realizing by her gestures that she wanted something done to her mount,
and supposing by her smile that the elation of adventure had seized her,
replied "All right," and said something in Moorish to Mohammed. He at
once caught the mule a terrific whack on the crupper, causing the animal
to leap forward and leave Mrs. Gainsborough and the saddle in the path.

"Now there's a nice game to play!" said Mrs. Gainsborough, indignantly.
"'All right,' he says, and 'boomph'! What's he think I'm made of? Well,
of course here we shall have to sit now until some one comes along with
a step-ladder. If you'd have let me ride on a camel," she added,
reproachfully, to Sylvia, "this wouldn't have occurred. I'm not sitting
on myself any more; I'm sitting on bumps like eggs. I feel like a hen.
It's all very fine for Mr. Alfonso to go on gabbling, 'All right,' but
it's all wrong, and if you'll have the goodness to tell him so in his
own unnatural language I'll be highly obliged."

The Moorish soldier sat regarding the scene from his horse with
immutable gravity.

"I reckon he'd like nothing better than to get a good jab at me now,"
said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Yes, I dare say I look very inviting sitting
here on the ground. Well, it's to be hoped they'll have the 'Forty
Thieves' or 'Aladdin' for the next pantomime at Drury Lane. I shall
certainly invite Mrs. Marsham and Mrs. Beardmore to come with me into
the upper boxes so as I can explain what it's all about. Mrs. Ewings
doesn't like panto, or I'd have taken her too. She likes a good cry when
she goes to the theater."

Mrs. Gainsborough was settling down to spend the rest of the morning in
amiable reminiscence and planning, but she was at last persuaded to get
up and mount her mule again after the strictest assurances had been
given to her of Mohammed's good behavior for the rest of the journey.

"He's not to bellow in the poor animal's ear," she stipulated.

Sylvia promised.

"And he's not to go screeching, '_Arrassy_,' or whatever it is, behind,
so as the poor animal thinks it's a lion galloping after him."

Mrs. Gainsborough was transferring all consideration for herself to the
mule.

"And he's to throw away that stick."

This clause was only accepted by the other side with a good deal of
protestation.

"And he's to keep his hands and feet to himself, and not to throw stones
or nothing at the poor beast, who's got quite enough to do to carry me."

"And Ali Baba's to ride in front." She indicated the trooper. "It gets
me on the blink when he's behind me, as if I was in a shooting-gallery.
If he's going to be any use to us, _which_ I doubt, he'll be more useful
in front than hiding behind me."

"All right," said Don Alfonso, who was anxious to get on, because they
had a long way to go.

"And that's enough of 'all right' from him," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "I
don't want to hear any more 'all rights.'"

At midday they reached a khan, where they ate lunch and rested for two
hours in the shade.

Soon after they had started again, they met a small caravan with veiled
women and mules loaded with oranges.

"Quite pleasant-looking people," Mrs. Gainsborough beamed. "I should
have waved my hand if I could have been sure of not falling off again.
Funny trick, wearing that stuff round their faces. I suppose they're
ashamed of being so black."

Mrs. Gainsborough's progress, which grew more and more leisurely as the
afternoon advanced, became a source of real anxiety to Don Alfonso; he
confided to Sylvia that he was afraid the gates of Tetuan would be shut.
When Mrs. Gainsborough was told of his alarm she was extremely scornful.

"He's having you on, Sylvia, so as to give Mohamet the chance of
sloshing my poor mule again. Whoever heard of a town having gates? He'll
tell us next that we've got to pay sixpence at the turnstile to pass
in."

They came to a high place where a white stone by the path recorded a
battle between Spaniards and Moors. Far below were the domes and
rose-dyed minarets of Tetuan and a shining river winding to the sea.
They heard the sound of a distant gun.

"Sunset," cried Don Alfonso, much perturbed. "In half an hour the gates
will be shut."

He told tales of brigands and of Riffs, of travelers found with their
throats cut outside the city walls, and suddenly, as if to give point to
his fears, a figure leaning on a long musket appeared in silhouette upon
the edge of the hill above them. It really seemed advisable to hurry,
and, notwithstanding Mrs. Gainsborough's expostulations, the speed of
the party was doubled down a rocky descent to a dried-up watercourse
with high banks. Twilight came on rapidly and the soldier prepared one
of his numerous weapons for immediate use in an emergency. Mrs.
Gainsborough was much too nervous about falling off to bother about
brigands, and at last without any mishap they reached the great
castellated gate of Tetuan. It was shut.

"Well, I never saw the like," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "It's true, then.
We must ring the bell, that's all."

The soldier, Mohammed, and Don Alfonso raised their voices in a loud
hail, but nobody paid any attention, and the twilight deepened. Mrs.
Gainsborough alighted from her mule and thumped at the iron-studded
door. Silence answered her.

"Do you mean to tell me seriously that they're going to keep us outside
here all night? Why, it's laughable!" Suddenly she lifted her voice and
cried, "Milk-ho!" Whether the unusual sound aroused the curiosity or the
alarm of the porter within was uncertain, but he leaned his head out of
a small window above the gate and shouted something at the belated party
below. Immediately the dispute for which Mohammed and Don Alfonso had
been waiting like terriers on a leash was begun; it lasted for ten
minutes without any of the three participants drawing breath.

In the end Don Alfonso announced that the porter declined to open for
less than two francs, although he had offered him as much as one franc
fifty. With a determination not to be beaten that was renewed by the
pause for breath, Don Alfonso flung himself into the argument again,
splendidly assisted by Mohammed, who seemed to be tearing out his hair
in baffled fury.

"I wish I knew what they were calling each other," said Sylvia.

"Something highly insulting, I should think," Mrs. Gainsborough
answered. "Wonderful the way they use their hands. He doesn't seem to be
worrying himself so very much. I suppose he'll start in shooting in the
end."

She pointed to the soldier, who was regarding the dispute with
contemptuous gravity. Another window in a tower on the other side of the
gate was opened, and the first porter was reinforced. Perspiration was
dripping from Don Alfonso's forehead; he looked more like a candle stump
than ever, when presently he stood aside from the argument to say that
he had been forced to offer one franc seventy-five to enter Tetuan.

"Tetuan," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Tetuarn't, I should say."

Sylvia asked Don Alfonso what he was calling the porter, and it
appeared, though he minimized the insult by a gesture, that he had just
invited forty-three dogs to devour the corpse of the porter's
grandmother. This, however, he hastened to add, had not annoyed him so
much as his withdrawal from one franc fifty to one franc twenty-five.

In the end the porter agreed to open the gate for one franc
seventy-five.

"Which is just as well," said Mrs. Gainsborough, "for I'm sure Mohamet
would have thrown a fit soon. He's got to banging his forehead with his
fists, and that's a very bad sign."

They rode through the darkness between double walls, disturbing every
now and then a beggar who whined for alms or cursed them if the mule
trod upon his outspread legs. They found an inn called the Hôtel
Splendide, a bug-ridden tumble-down place kept by Spanish Jews as
voracious as the bugs. Yet out on the roof, looking at the domes and
minarets glimmering under Venus setting in the west from a sky full of
stars, listening to the howling of distant dogs, breathing the perfume
of the East, Sylvia felt like a conqueror.

Next morning Mrs. Gainsborough, finding that the bugs had retreated with
the light, decided to spend the morning in sleeping off some of her
bruises. Sylvia wandered through the bazaars with Don Alfonso, and sat
for a while in the garden of a French convent, where a fountain
whispered in the shade of pomegranates. Suddenly, walking along the path
toward her she saw Maurice Avery.

Sylvia had disliked Avery very much when she met him in London nearly
two years ago; but the worst enemy, the most flagitious bore, is
transformed when encountered alone in a distant country, and now Sylvia
felt well disposed toward him and eager to share with any one who could
appreciate her pleasure the marvel of being in Tetuan. He too, by the
way his face lighted up, was glad to see her, and they shook hands with
a cordiality that was quite out of proportion to their earlier
acquaintance.

"I say, what a queer place to meet!" he exclaimed. "Are you alone,
then?"

"I've got Mrs. Gainsborough with me, that's all. I'm not married ... or
anything."

It was absurd how eager she felt to assure Avery of this; and then in a
moment the topic had been started.

"No, have you really got Mrs. Gainsborough?" he exclaimed. "Of course
I've heard about her from Michael. Poor old Michael!"

"Why, what's the matter?" Sylvia asked, sharply.

"Oh, he's perfectly all right, but he's lost to his friends. At least I
suppose he is--buried in a monastery. He's not actually a monk. I
believe he's what's called an oblate, pursuing the Fata Morgana of
faith--a sort of dream...."

"Yes, yes," Sylvia interrupted. "I understand the allusion. You needn't
talk down to me."

Avery blushed. The color in his cheeks made him seem very young.

"Sorry. I was thinking of somebody else for the moment. That sounds very
discourteous also. I must apologize again. What's happened to Lily
Haden?"

Sylvia told him briefly the circumstances of Lily's marriage at Rio.
"Does Michael ever talk about her?" she asked.

"Oh no, never!" said Avery. "He's engaged in saving his own soul now.
That sounds malicious, but seriously I don't think she was ever more to
him than an intellectual landmark. To understand Michael's point of view
in all that business you've got to know that he was illegitimate. His
father, Lord Saxby, had a romantic passion for the daughter of a country
parson--a queer, cross-grained old scholar. You remember Arthur
Lonsdale? Well, his father, Lord Cleveden, knew the whole history of the
affair. Lady Saxby wouldn't divorce him; so they were never married. I
suppose Michael brooded over this and magnified his early devotion to
Lily in some way or other up to a vow of reparation. I'm quite sure it
was a kind of indirect compliment to his own mother. Of course it was
all very youthful and foolish--and yet I don't know...." he broke off
with a sigh.

"You think one can't afford to bury the past?"

Avery looked at her quickly. "What made you ask me that?"

"I thought you seemed to admire Michael's youthful foolishness."

"I do really. I admire any one that's steadfast even to a mistaken idea.
It's strange to meet an Englishwoman here," he said, looking intently at
Sylvia. "One's guard drops. I'm longing to make a confidante of you, but
you might be bored. I'm rather frightened of you, really. I always was."

"I sha'n't exchange confidences," Sylvia said, "if that's what you're
afraid of."

"No, of course not," Avery said, quickly. "Last spring I was in love
with a girl...."

Sylvia raised her eyebrows.

"Oh yes, it's a very commonplace beginning and rather a commonplace end,
I'm afraid. She was a ballet-girl--the incarnation of May and London.
That sounds exaggerated, for I know that lots of other Jenny Pearls have
been the same to somebody, but I do believe most people agreed with me.
I wanted her to live with me. She wouldn't. She had sentimental, or what
I thought were sentimental, ideas about her mother and family. I was
called away to Spain. When my business was finished I begged her to come
out to me there. That was last April. She refused, and I was piqued, I
suppose, at first, and did not go back to England. Then, as one does, I
made up my mind to the easiest thing at the moment by letting myself be
enchanted by my surroundings into thinking that I was happier as it was.
For a while I was happier; in a way our love had been a great strain
upon us both. I came to Morocco, and gradually ever since I've been
realizing that I left something unfinished. It's become a kind of
obsession. Do you know what I mean?"

"Indeed I do, very well indeed," Sylvia said.

"Thanks," he said with a grateful look. "Now comes the problem. If I go
back to England this month, if I arrive in England on the first of May
exactly a year later, there's only one thing I can do to atone for my
behavior--I must ask her to marry me. You see that, don't you? This
little thing is proud, oh, but tremendously proud. I doubt very much if
she'll forgive me, even if I show the sincerity of my regret by asking
her to marry me now; but it's my only chance. And yet--oh, I expect this
will sound damnable to you, but it's the way we've all been molded in
England--she's common. Common! What an outrageous word to use. But then
it is used by everybody. She's the most frankly cockney thing you ever
saw. Can I stand her being snubbed and patronized? Can I stand my wife's
being snubbed and patronized? Can love survive the sort of ambushed
criticism that I shall perceive all round us? For I wouldn't try to
change her. No, no, no! She must be herself. I'll have no throaty 'aws'
masquerading as 'o's.' She must keep her own clear 'aou's.' There must
not be any 'naceness' or patched-up shop-walker's English. I love her
more at this moment than I ever loved her, but can I stand it? And I'm
not asking this egotistically: I'm asking it for both of us. That's why
you meet me in Tetuan, for I dare not go back to England lest the first
cockney voice I hear may kill my determination, and I really am longing
to marry her. Yet I wait here, staking what I know in my heart is all my
future happiness on chance, assuring myself that presently impulse and
reason will be reconciled and will send me back to her, but still I
wait."

He paused. The fountain whispered in the shade of the pomegranates. A
nun was gathering flowers for the chapel. Outside, the turmoil of the
East sounded like the distant chattering of innumerable monkeys.

"You've so nearly reached the point at which a man has the right to
approach a woman," Sylvia said, "that if you're asking my advice, I
advise you to wait until you do actually reach that point. Of course you
may lose her by waiting. She may marry somebody else."

"Oh, I know; I've thought of that. In a way that would be a solution."

"So long as you regard her marriage with somebody else as a solution,
you're still some way from the point. It's curious she should be a
ballet-girl, because Mrs. Gainsborough, you know, was a ballet-girl. In
1869, when she took her emotional plunge, she was able to exchange the
wings of Covent Garden for the wings of love easily enough. In 1869
ballet-girls never thought of marrying what were and are called
'gentlemen.' I think Mrs. Gainsborough would consider her life a
success; she was not too much married to spoil love, and the captain was
certainly more devoted to her than most husbands would have been. The
proof that her life was a success is that she has remained young. Yet if
I introduce you to her you'll see at once your own Jenny at sixty like
her--that won't be at all a hard feat of imagination. But you'll still
be seeing yourself at twenty-five or whatever you are; you'll never be
able to see yourself at sixty; therefore I sha'n't introduce you. I'm
too much of a woman not to hope with all my heart that you'll go home to
England, marry your Jenny, and live happily ever afterward, and I think
you'd better not meet Mrs. Gainsborough, in case she prejudices your
resolve. Thanks for giving me your confidence."

"Oh no! Thank _you_ for listening," said Avery.

"I'm glad you're not going to develop her. I once suffered from that
kind of vivisection myself, though I never had a cockney accent. Some
souls can't stand straight lacing, just as some bodies revolt from
stays. And so Michael is in a monastery? I suppose that means all his
soul spasms are finally allayed?"

"O Lord! No!" said Avery. "He's in the very middle of them."

"What I really meant to say was heart palpitations."

"I don't think, really," said Avery, "that Michael ever had them."

"What was Lily, then?"

"Oh, essentially a soul spasm," he declared.

"Yes, I suppose it was," Sylvia agreed, pensively.

"I think, you know, I must meet Mrs. Gainsborough," said Avery. "Fate
answers for you. Here she comes."

Don Alfonso, with the pain that every dog and dragoman feels in the
separation of his charges, had taken advantage of Sylvia's talk with
Avery to bring Mrs. Gainsborough triumphantly back to the fold.

"Here we are again," said Mrs. Gainsborough, limping down the path. "And
my behind looks like a magic lantern. Oh, I beg your pardon! I didn't
see you'd met a friend. So that's what Alfonso was trying to tell me.
He's been going like an alarm-clock all the way here. Pleased to meet
you, I'm sure. How do you like Morocco? We got shut out last night."

"This is a friend of Michael Fane's," said Sylvia.

"Did you know _him_? He _was_ a nice young fellow. Very nice he was. But
he wouldn't know me now. Very stay-at-home I was when he used to come to
Mulberry Cottage. Why, he tried to make me ride in a hansom once, and I
was actually too nervous. You know, I'd got into a regular rut. But now,
well, upon me word, I don't believe now I should say 'no' if any one was
to invite me to ride inside of a whale. It's her doing, the tartar."

Avery had learned a certain amount of Arabic during his stay in Morocco
and he made the bazaars of Tetuan much more interesting than Don Alfonso
could have done. He also had many tales to tell of the remote cities
like Fez and Mequinez and Marakeesh. Sylvia almost wished that she could
pack Mrs. Gainsborough off to England and accompany him into the real
interior. Some of her satisfaction in Tetuan had been rather spoiled
that morning by finding a visitor's book in the hotel with the names of
traveling clergymen and their daughters patronizingly inscribed therein.
However, Avery decided to ride away almost at once, and said that he
intended to banish the twentieth century for two or three months.

They stayed a few days at Tetuan, but the bugs were too many for Mrs.
Gainsborough, who began to sigh for a tranquil bed. Avery and Sylvia had
a short conversation together before they left. He thanked her for her
sympathy, held to his intention of spending the summer in Morocco, but
was nearly sure he should return to England in the autumn, with a mind
serenely fixed.

"I wish, if you go back to London, you'd look Jenny up," he said.

Sylvia shook her head very decidedly. "I can't imagine anything that
would annoy her more, if she's the girl I suppose her to be."

"But I'd like her to have a friend like you," he urged.

Sylvia looked at him severely. "Are you quite sure that you don't want
to change her?" she asked.

"Of course. Why?"

"Choosing friends for somebody else is not very wise; it sounds
uncommonly like a roundabout way of developing her. No, no, I won't meet
your Jenny."

"I see what you mean," Avery assented. "I'll write to Michael and tell
him I've met you. Shall I tell him about Lily? Where is she now?"

"I don't know. I've never had even a post-card. My fault, really. Yes,
you can tell Michael that she's probably quite happy and--no, I don't
think there's any other message. Oh yes, you might say I've eaten one or
two rose-leaves but not enough yet."

Avery looked puzzled.

"Apuleius," she added.

"Strange girl. I _wish_ you would go and see Jenny."

"Oh no! She's eaten all the rose-leaves she wants, and I'm sure she's
not the least interested in Apuleius."

Next day Sylvia and Mrs. Gainsborough set out on the return journey to
Tangier, which, apart from a disastrous attempt by Mrs. Gainsborough to
eat a prickly pear, lacked incident.

"Let sleeping pears lie," said Sylvia.

"Well, you don't expect a fruit to be so savage," retorted Mrs.
Gainsborough. "I thought I must have aggravated a wasp. Talk about
nettles. They're chammy leather beside them. Prickly pears! I suppose
the next thing I try to eat will be stabbing apples."

They went home by Gibraltar, where Mrs. Gainsborough was delighted to
see English soldiers.

"It's nice to know we've got our eyes open even in Spain. I reckon I'll
get a good cup of tea here."

They reached England at the end of April, and Sylvia decided to stay for
a while at Mulberry Cottage. Reading through _The Stage_, she found that
Jack Airdale was resting at Richmond in his old rooms, and went down to
see him. He was looking somewhat thin and worried.

"Had rather a rotten winter," he told her. "I got ill with a quinsey and
had to throw up a decent shop, and somehow or other I haven't managed to
get another one yet."

"Look here, old son," Sylvia said, "I don't want any damned pride from
you. I've got plenty of money at present. You've got to borrow fifty
pounds. You want feeding up and fitting out. Don't be a cad now, and
refuse a 'lidy.' Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You know me by this time.
Who's going to be more angry, you at being lent money or me at being
refused by one of the few, the very few, mark you, good pals I've got?
Don't be a beast, Jack. You've got to take it."

He surrendered, from habit. Sylvia gave him all her news, but the item
that interested him most was her having half taken up the stage.

"I knew you'd make a hit," he declared.

"But I didn't."

"My dear girl, you don't give yourself a chance. You can't play hide and
seek with the public, though, by Jove!" he added, ruefully, "I have been
lately."

"For the present I can afford to wait."

"Yes, you're damned lucky in one way, and yet I'm not sure that you
aren't really very unlucky. If you hadn't found some money you'd have
been forced to go on."

"My dear lad, lack of money wouldn't make me an artist."

"What would, then?"

"Oh, I don't know. Being fed up with everything. That's what drove me
into self-expression, as I should call it if I were a temperamental
miss with a light-boiled ego swimming in a saucepan of emotion for the
public to swallow or myself to crack. But conceive my disgust! There was
I yearning unattainable 'isms' from a soul nurtured on tragic
disillusionment, and I was applauded for singing French songs with an
English accent. No, seriously, I shall try again, old Jack, when I
receive another buffet. At present I'm just dimly uncomfortable. I shall
blossom late like a chrysanthemum. I ain't no daffodil, I ain't. Or
perhaps it would be truer to say that I was forced when young--don't
giggle, you ribald ass, not that way--and I've got to give myself a rest
before I bloom, _en plein air_."

"But you really have got plenty of money?" Airdale inquired, anxiously.

"Masses! Cataracts! And all come by perfectly honest. No, seriously,
I've got about four thousand pounds."

"Well, I really do think you're rather lucky, you know."

"Of course. But it's all written in the book of Fate. Listen. I've got a
mulberry mark on my arm; I live at Mulberry Cottage; and Morera, that's
the name of my fairy godfather, is Spanish for mulberry-tree. Can you
beat it?"

"I hope you've invested this money," said Airdale.

"It's in a bank."

He begged her to be careful of her riches, and she rallied him on his
inconsistency, because a moment back he had been telling her that their
possession was hindering her progress in art.

"My dear Sylvia, I haven't known you for five years not to have
discovered that I might as well advise a schoolmaster as you, but what
_are_ you going to do?"

"Plans for this summer? A little gentle reading. A little browsing among
the classics. A little theater-going. A little lunching at Verrey's with
Mr. John Airdale. Resting address, six Rosetree Terrace, Richmond,
Surrey. A little bumming around town, as Señor Morera would say. Plans
for the autumn? A visit to the island of Sirene, if I can find a nice
lady-like young woman to accompany me. Mrs. Gainsborough has decided
that she will travel no more. Her brain is bursting with unrelated
adventure."

"But you can't go on from month to month like that."

"Well, if you'll tell me how to skip over December, January, and August
I'll be grateful," Sylvia laughed.

"No, don't rag about. I mean for the future in general," he explained.
"Are you going to get married? You can't go on forever like this."

"Why not?"

"Well, you're young now. But what's more gloomy than a restless old
maid?"

"My dear man, don't you fret about my withering. I've got a little
crystal flask of the finest undiluted strychnine. I believe strychnine
quickens the action of the heart. Verdict. Death from attempted
galvanization of the cardiac muscles. No flowers by request. Boomph! as
Mrs. Gainsborough would say. Ring off. The last time I wrote myself an
epitaph it led me into matrimony. _Absit omen_."

Airdale was distressed by Sylvia's joking about her death, and begged
her to stop.

"Then don't ask me any more about the future in general. And now let's
go and be Epicurean at Verrey's."

After Jack Airdale the only other old friend that Sylvia took any
trouble to find was Olive Fanshawe. She was away on tour when Sylvia
returned to England, but she came back to London in June, was still
unmarried, and had been promised a small part in the Vanity production
that autumn. Sylvia found that Olive had recaptured her romantic ideals
and was delighted with her proposal that they should live together at
Mulberry Cottage. Olive took very seriously her small part at the
Vanity, of which the most distinguished line was: "Girls, have you seen
the Duke of Mayfair? He's awfully handsome." Sylvia was not very
encouraging to Olive's opportunities of being able to give an original
reading of such a line, but she listened patiently to her variations in
which each word was overaccentuated in turn. Luckily there was also a
melodious quintet consisting of the juvenile lead and four beauties of
whom Olive was to be one; this, it seemed, promised to be a hit, and
indeed it was.

The most interesting event for the Vanity world that autumn, apart from
the individual successes and failures in the new production, was the
return of Lord and Lady Clarehaven to London, and not merely their
return, but their re-entry into the Bohemian society from which Lady
Clarehaven had so completely severed herself.

"I know it's perfectly ridiculous of me," said Olive, "but, Sylvia, do
you know, I'm quite nervous at the idea of meeting her again."

A most cordial note had arrived from Dorothy inviting Olive to lunch
with her in Curzon Street.

"Write back and tell her you're living with me," Sylvia advised.
"That'll choke off some of the friendliness."

But to Sylvia's boundless surprise a messenger-boy arrived with an
urgent invitation for her to come too.

"Curiouser and curiouser," she murmured. "What does it mean? She surely
can't be tired of being a countess already. I'm completely stumped.
However, of course we'll put on our clean bibs and go. Don't look so
frightened. Olive, if conversation hangs fire at lunch, we'll tickle the
footmen."

"I really feel quite faint," said Olive. "My heart's going pitter-pat.
Isn't it silly of me?"

Lunch, to which Arthur Lonsdale had also been invited, did nothing to
enlighten Sylvia about the Clarehavens' change of attitude. Dorothy,
more beautiful than ever and pleasant enough superficially, seemed
withal faintly resentful; Clarehaven was in exuberant spirits and
evidently enjoying London tremendously. The only sign of tension, well
not exactly tension, but slight disaccord, and that was too strong a
word, was once when Clarehaven, having been exceptionally rowdy, glanced
at Dorothy a swift look of defiance for checking him.

"She's grown as prim as a parlor-maid," said Lonsdale to Sylvia when,
after lunch, they had a chance of talking together. "You ought to have
seen her on the ancestral acres. My mother, who presides over our place
like a Queen Turnip, is without importance beside Dolly, absolutely
without importance. It got on Tony's nerves, that's about the truth of
it. He never could stand the land. It has the same effect on him as the
sea has on some people. Black vomit, coma, and death--what?"

"Dorothy, of course, played the countess in real life as seriously as
she would have played her on the stage. She was the star," Sylvia said.

"Star! My dear girl, she was a comet. And the dowager loved her. They
used to drive round in a barouche and administer gruel to the village
without anesthetics."

"I suppose they kept them for Clarehaven," Sylvia laughed.

"That's it. Of course, I shouted when I saw the state of affairs, having
first of all been called in to recover old Lady Clarehaven's reason when
she heard that her only child was going to wed a Vanity girl. But they
loved her. Every frump in the county adored her. It's Tony who insisted
on this move to London. He stood it in Devonshire for two and a half
years, but the lights of the wicked city--soft music, please--called
him, and they've come back. Dolly's fed up to the wide about it. I say,
we are a pair of gossips. What's your news?"

"I met Maurice Avery, in Morocco."

"What, Mossy Avery! Not really? Disguised as a slipper, I suppose. Rum
bird. He got awfully keen on a little girl at the Orient and tootled her
all over town for a while, but I haven't seen him for months. I used to
know him rather well at the 'Varsity: he was one of the esthetic push. I
say, what's become of Lily?"

"Married to a croupier? Not, really. By Jove! what a time I had over her
with Michael Fane's people. His sister, an awfully good sort, put me
through a fearful catechism."

"His sister?" repeated Sylvia.

"You know what Michael's doing now? Greatest scream on earth. He's a
monk. Some special kind of a monk that sounds like omelette, but isn't.
Nothing to be done about it. I buzzed down to see him last year, and he
was awfully fed up. I asked him if he couldn't stop monking for a bit
and come out for a spin on my new forty-five Shooting Star. He wasn't in
uniform, so there's no reason why he shouldn't have come."

"He's in England, now, then?" Sylvia asked.

"No, he got fed up with everybody buzzing down to see what he looked
like as a monk, and he's gone off to Chartreuse or Benedictine or
somewhere--I know it's the name of a liqueur--somewhere abroad. I wanted
him to become a partner in our business, and promised we'd put a jolly
little runabout on the market called The Jovial Monk, but he wouldn't.
Look here, we'd better join the others. Dolly's got her eye on me. I
say," he chuckled, in a whisper, "I suppose you know she's a connection
of mine?"

"Yes, by carriage."

Lonsdale asked what she meant, and Sylvia told him the origin of
Dorothy's name.

"Oh, I say, that's topping. What's her real name?"

"No, no," Sylvia said. "I've been sufficiently spiteful."

"Probably Buggins, really. I say, Cousin Dorothy," he went on, in a
louder voice. "What about bridge to-morrow night after the Empire?"

Lady Clarehaven flashed a look at Sylvia, who could not resist shaking
her head and earning thereby another sharper flash. When Sylvia talked
over the Clarehavens with Olive, she found that Olive had been quite
oblivious of anything unusual in the sudden move to town.

"Of course, Dorothy and I can never be what we were to each other; but I
thought they seemed so happy together. I'm so glad it's been such a
success."

"Well, has it?" said Sylvia, doubtfully.

"Oh yes, my dear! How can you imagine anything else?"

With the deepening of winter Olive fell ill and the doctors prescribed
the Mediterranean for her. The malady was nothing to worry about; it was
nothing more than fatigue; and if she were to rest now and if possible
not work before the following autumn, there was every reason to expect
that she would be perfectly cured.

Sylvia jumped at an excuse to go abroad again and suggested a visit to
Sirene. The doctor, on being assured that Sirene was in the
Mediterranean, decided that it was exactly the place best suited to
Olive's state of health. Like most English doctors, he regarded the
Mediterranean as a little larger than the Serpentine, with a
characteristic climate throughout. Olive, however, was much opposed to
leaving London, and when Sylvia began to get annoyed with her obstinacy,
she confessed that the real reason for wishing to stay was Jack.

"Naturally, I wanted to tell you at once, my dear. But Jack wouldn't let
me, until he could see his way clear to our being married. He was quite
odd about you, for you know how fond he is of you--he thinks there's
nobody like you--but he particularly asked me not to tell you just yet."

"Of course I know the reason," Sylvia proclaimed, instantly. "The silly,
scrupulous, proud ass. I'll have it out with him to-morrow at lunch.
Dearest Olive, I'm so happy that I like your curly-headed actor."

"Oh, but, darling Sylvia, his hair's quite straight!"

"Yes, but it's very long and gets into his eyes. It's odd hair, anyway.
And when did the flaming arrow pin your two hearts together?"

"It was that evening you played baccarat at Curzon Street--about ten
days ago. You didn't think we'd known long, did you? Oh, my dear, I
couldn't have kept the secret any longer."

Next day Sylvia lunched with Jack Airdale and came to the point at once.

"Look here, you detestably true-to-type, impossibly sensitive ass,
because I to please me lent you fifty pounds, is that any excuse for you
to keep me out in the cold over you and Olive? Seriously, Jack, I do
think it was mean of you."

Jack was abashed and mumbled many excuses. He had been afraid Sylvia
would despise him for talking about marriage when he owed her money. He
felt, anyway, that he wasn't good enough for Olive. Before Olive had
known anything about it, he had been rather ashamed of himself for being
in love with her; he felt he was taking advantage of Sylvia's
friendship.

"All which excuses are utterly feeble," Sylvia pronounced. "Now listen.
Olive's ill. She ought to go abroad. I very selfishly want a companion.
You've got to insist on her going. The fifty pounds I lent you will pay
her expenses, so that debt's wiped out, and you're standing her a
holiday in the Mediterranean."

Jack thought for a moment with a puzzled air.

"Don't be absurd, Sylvia. Really for the moment you took me in with your
confounded arithmetic. Why, you're doubling the obligation."

"Obligation! Obligation! Don't you dare to talk about obligations to me.
I don't believe in obligations. Am I to understand that for the sake of
your unworthy--well, it can't be dignified with the word--pride, Olive
is to be kept in London throughout the spring?"

Jack protested he had been talking about the loan to himself. Olive's
obligation would be a different one.

"Jack, have you ever seen a respectable woman throw a sole Morny across
a restaurant? Because you will in one moment. Amen to the whole
discussion. Please! The only thing you've got to do is to insist on
Olive's coming with me. Then while she's away you must be a good little
actor and act away as hard as you know how, so that you can be married
next June as a present to me on my twenty-sixth birthday."

"You're the greatest dear," said Jack, fervently.

"Of course I am. But I'm waiting."

"What for?"

"Why, for an exhortation to matrimony. Haven't you noticed that people
who are going to get married always try to persuade everybody else to
come in with them? I'm sure human co-operation began with paleolithic
bathers."

So Olive and Sylvia left England for Sirene.

"I'd like to be coming with you," said Mrs. Gainsborough at Charing
Cross. "But I'm just beginning to feel a tiddley-bit stiff, and well,
there, after Morocco, I shouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a
cannibal island, and it's too late for me to start in being a Robinson
Crusoe, which reminds me that when I took Mrs. Beardmore to the Fulham
pantomime last night it was Dick Whittington. And upon my soul, if he
didn't go to Morocco with his cat. 'Well,' I said to Mrs. Beardmore,
'it's not a bit like it.' I told her that if Dick Whittington went there
now he wouldn't take his cat with him. He'd take a box of Keating's.
Somebody behind said, 'Hush.' And I said, 'Hush yourself. Perhaps
_you've_ been to Morocco?' Which made him look very silly, for I don't
suppose he's ever been further East than Aldgate in his life. We had no
more 'hushes' from him, I can tell you; and Mrs. Beardmore looked round
at him in a very lady-like way which she's got from being a housekeeper,
and said, 'My friend _has_ been to Morocco.' After that we la-la'd the
chorus in peace and quiet. Good-by, duckies, and don't gallivant about
too much."

Sylvia had brought a bagful of books about the Roman emperors, and Olive
had brought a number of anthologies that made up by the taste of the
binder for the lack of it in the compiler. They were mostly about love.
To satisfy Sylvia's historical passion a week was spent in Rome and
another week in Naples. She told Olive of her visit to Italy with Philip
over seven years ago, and, much to her annoyance, Olive poured out a
good deal of emotion over that hapless marriage.

"Don't you feel any kind of sentimental regret?" she asked while they
were watching from Posilipo the vapors of Vesuvius rose-plumed in the
wintry sunset. "Surely you feel softened toward it all now. Why, I think
I should regret anything that had once happened in this divinely
beautiful place."

"The thing I remember most distinctly is Philip's having read somewhere
that the best way to get rid of an importunate guide was to use the
local negative and throw the head back instead of shaking it. The result
was that Philip used to walk about as if he were gargling. To annoy him
I used to wink behind his back at the guides, and naturally with such
encouragement his local negative was absolutely useless."

"I think you must have been rather trying, Sylvia dear."

"Oh, I was--infernally trying, but one doesn't marry a child of
seventeen as a sedative."

"I think it's all awfully sad," Olive sighed.

Sylvia had rather a shock, a few days after they had reached Sirene,
when she saw Miss Horne and Miss Hobart drive past on the road up to
Anasirene, the green rival of Sirene among the clouds to the west of the
island. She made inquiries at the pension and was informed that two
sisters Miss Hobart-Horne, English millionaires many times over, had
lived at Sirene these five years. Sylvia decided that it would be quite
easy to avoid meeting them, and warned Olive against making friends with
any of the residents, on the plea that she did not wish to meet people
whom she had met here seven years ago with her husband. In the earlier
part of the spring they stayed at a pension, but Sylvia found that it
was difficult to escape from people there, and they moved up to
Anasirene, where they took a _villino_ that was cut off from all
dressed-up humanity by a sea of olives. Here it was possible to roam by
paths that were not frequented save by peasants whose personalities so
long attuned to earth had lost the power of detaching themselves from
the landscape and did not affect the onlooker more than the movement of
trees or the rustle of small beasts. Life was made up of these
essentially undisturbing personalities set in a few pictures that
escaped from the swift southern spring: anemones splashed out like wine
upon the green corn; some girl with slanting eyes that regarded coldly a
dead bird in her thin brown hand; red-beaded cherry-trees that threw
shadows on the tawny wheat below; wind over the olives and the sea, wind
that shook the tresses of the broom and ruffled the scarlet poppies;
then suddenly the first cicala and eternal noon.

It would have been hard to say how they spent these four months, Sylvia
thought.

"Can you bear to leave your beloved trees, your namesakes?" she asked.

"Jack is getting impatient," said Olive.

"Then we must fade out of Anasirene just as one by one the flowers have
all faded."

"I don't think I've faded much," Olive laughed. "I never felt so well in
my life, thanks to you."

Jack and Olive were married at the end of June. It was necessary to go
down to a small Warwickshire town and meet all sorts of country people
that reminded Sylvia of Green Lanes. Olive's father, who was a
solicitor, was very anxious for Sylvia to stay when the wedding was
over. He was cheating the gods out of half their pleasure in making him
a solicitor by writing a history of Warwickshire worthies. Sylvia had so
much impressed him as an intelligent observer that he would have liked
to retain her at his elbow for a while. She would not stay, however. The
particular song that the sirens had sung to her during her sojourn in
their territory was about writing a book. They called her back now and
flattered her with a promise of inspiration. Sylvia was not much more
ready to believe in sirens than in mortals, and she resisted the impulse
to return. Nevertheless, with half an idea of scoring off them by
writing the book somewhere else, she settled down in Mulberry Cottage to
try: the form should be essays, and she drew up a list of subjects:--

1. _Obligations.

Judiac like the rest of our moral system; post obits on human
gratitude_.

2. _Friendship.

A flowery thing. Objectionable habit of keeping pressed flowers_.

3. _Marriage.

Judiac. Include this with obligations; nothing wrong with the idea of
marriage. The marriage of convenience probably more honest than the
English marriage of so-called affection. Levi the same as Lewis_.

4. _Gambling.

A moral occupation that brings out the worst side of everybody_.

5. _Development.

Exploiting human personality. Judiac, of course_.

6. _Acting.

A low art form; oh yes, very low; being paid for what the rest of the
world does for nothing_.

7. _Prostitution.

Selling one's body to keep one's soul. This is the meaning of the sins
that were forgiven to the woman because she loved much. One might say of
most marriages that they were selling one's soul to keep one's body_.

Sylvia found that when she started to write on these and other subjects
she knew nothing about them; the consequence was that summer passed into
autumn and autumn into winter while she went on reading history and
philosophy. For pastime she played baccarat at Curzon Street and lost
six hundred pounds. In February she decided that, so much having been
written on the subjects she had chosen, it was useless to write any
more. She went to stay with Jack and Olive, who were now living in West
Kensington. Olive was expecting a baby in April.

"If it's a boy, we're going to call him Sylvius. But if it's a girl,
Jack says we can't call her Sylvia, because for us there can never be
more than one Sylvia."

"Call her Argentina."

"No, we're going to call her Sylvia Rose."

"Well, I hope it'll be a boy," said Sylvia. "Anyway, I hope it'll be a
boy, because there are too many girls."

Olive announced that she had taken a cottage in the country close to
where her people lived, and that Sylvius or Sylvia Rose was to be born
there; she thought it was right.

"I don't know why childbirth should be more moral in the country,"
Sylvia said.

"Oh, it's nothing to do with morals; it's on account of baby's health.
You will come and stay with me, won't you?"

In March, therefore, Sylvia went down to Warwickshire with Olive, much
to the gratification of Mr. Fanshawe. It was a close race whether he
would be a grandfather or an author first, but in the end Mr. Fanshawe
had the pleasure of placing a copy of his work on Warwickshire worthies
in the hands of the monthly nurse before she could place in his arms a
grandchild. Three days later Olive brought into the world a little girl
and a little boy. Jack was acting in Dundee. The problem of nomenclature
was most complicated. Olive had to think it all out over again from the
beginning. Jack had to be consulted by telegram about every change, and
on occasions where accuracy was all-important, the post-office clerks
were usually most careless. For instance, Mr. Fanshawe thought it would
be charming to celebrate the forest of Arden by calling the children
Orlando and Rosalind; Jack thereupon replied:

     Do not like Rosebud. What will boy be called. Suggest Palestine.
     First name arrived Ostend. If Oswald no.

"Palestine!" exclaimed Olive.

"Obviously Valentine," said Sylvia. "But look here, why not Sylvius for
the boy and Rose for the girl? 'Rose Airdale, all were thine!'"

When several more telegrams had been exchanged to enable Olive, in
Warwickshire, to be quite sure that Jack, by this time in Aberdeen, had
got the names right, Sylvius and Rose were decided upon, though Mr.
Fanshawe advocated Audrey for the girl with such pertinacity that he
even went as far as to argue with his daughter on the steps of the font.
Indeed, as Sylvia said afterward, if the clergyman had not been so deaf,
Rose would probably be Audrey at this moment.

On the afternoon of the christening Sylvia received a telegram.

"Too late," she said, with a laugh, as she tore it open. "He can't
change his mind now."

But the telegram was signed "Beardmore" and asked Sylvia to come at once
to London because Mrs. Gainsborough was very ill.

When she arrived at Mulberry Cottage, on a fine morning in early June,
Mrs. Beardmore, whom Sylvia had never seen, was gravely accompanying two
other elderly women to the garden door.

"She's not dead?" Sylvia cried.

The three friends shook their heads and sighed.

"Not yet, poor soul," said the thinnest, bursting into tears.

This must be Mrs. Ewings.

"I'm just going to send another doctor," said the most majestic, which
must be Mrs. Marsham.

Mrs. Beardmore said nothing, but she sniffed and led the way toward the
house. Mrs. Marsham and Mrs. Ewings went off together.

Inside the darkened room, but not so dark in the June sunshine as to
obscure entirely the picture of Captain Dashwood in whiskers that hung
upon the wall by her bed, Mrs. Gainsborough lay breathing heavily. The
nurse made a gesture of silence and came out tiptoe from the room.
Down-stairs in the parlor Sylvia listened to Mrs. Beardmore's story of
the illness.

"I heard nothing till three days ago, when the woman who comes in of a
morning ascertained from Mrs. Gainsborough the wish she had for me to
visit her. The Misses Hargreaves, with who I reside, was exceptionally
kind and insisted upon me taking the tram from Kew that very moment. I
communicated with Mrs. Marsham and Mrs. Ewings, but they, both having
lodgers, was unable to evacuate their business, and Mrs. Gainsborough
was excessively anxious as you should be communicated with on the
telegraph, which I did accordingly. We have two nurses night and day,
and the doctor is all that can be desired, all that can be desired,
notwithstanding whatever Mrs. Marsham may say to the contrary; Mrs.
Marsham, who I've known for some years, has that habit of contradicting
everybody else something outrageous. Mrs. Ewings and me was both
entirely satisfied with Doctor Barker. I'm very glad you've come, Miss
Scarlett, and Mrs. Gainsborough will be very glad you've come. If you'll
permit the liberty of the observation, Mrs. Gainsborough is very fond of
you. As soon as she wakes up I shall have to get back to Kew, not
wishing to trespass too much on the kindness of the two Misses
Hargreaves to who I act as housekeeper. It's her heart that's the
trouble. Double pneumonia through pottering in the garden. That's what
the doctor diag--yes, that's what the doctor says, and though Mrs.
Marsham contradicted him, taking the words out of his mouth and throwing
them back in his face, and saying it was nothing of the kind but going
to the King's funeral, I believe he's right."

Mrs. Beardmore went back to Kew. Mrs. Gainsborough, who had been in a
comatose state all the afternoon, began to wander in her mind about an
hour before sunset.

"It's very dark. High time the curtain went up. The house will be
getting impatient in a minute. It's not to be supposed they'll wait all
night. Certainly not."

Sylvia drew the curtains back, and the room was flooded with gold.

"That's better. Much better. The country smells beautiful, don't it,
this morning? The glory die-johns are a treat this year, but the captain
he always likes a camellia or a gardenia. Well, if they start in
building over your nursery, pa.... Certainly not, certainly not. They'll
build over everything. Now don't talk about dying, Bob. Don't let's be
dismal on our anniversary. Certainly not."

She suddenly recognized Sylvia and her mind cleared.

"Oh, I _am_ glad you've come. Really, you know, I hate to make a fuss,
but I'm not feeling at all meself. I'm just a tiddley-bit ill, it's my
belief. Sylvia, give me your hand. Sylvia, I'm joking. I really am
remarkably ill. Oh, there's no doubt I'm going to die. What a beautiful
evening! Yes, it's not to be supposed I'm going to live forever, and
there, after all, I'm not sorry. As soon as I began to get that
stiffness I thought it meant I was not meself. And what's the good of
hanging about if you're not yourself?"

The nurse came forward and begged her not to talk too much.

"You can't stop me talking. There was a clergyman came through Mrs.
Ewings's getting in a state about me, and he talked till I was sick and
tired of the sound of his voice. Talked away, he did, about the death of
Our Lord and being nailed to the cross. It made me very dismal. 'Here,
when did all this occur?' I asked. 'Nineteen hundred and ten years ago,'
he said. 'Oh well,' I said, 'it all occurred such a long time ago and
it's all so sad, let's hope it never occurred at all.'"

The nurse said firmly that if Mrs. Gainsborough would not stop talking
she should have to make Sylvia go out of the room.

"There's a tyrant," said Mrs. Gainsborough. "Well, just sit by me
quietly and hold my hand."

The sun set behind the housetops. Mrs. Gainsborough's hand was cold when
twilight came.

Sylvia felt that it was out of the question to stay longer at Mulberry
Cottage, though Miss Dashwood, to whom the little property reverted, was
very anxious for her to do so. After the funeral Sylvia joined Olive and
Jack in Warwickshire.

They realized that she was feeling very deeply the death of Mrs.
Gainsborough, and were anxious that she should arrange to live with them
in West Kensington.

Sylvia, however, said that she wished to remain friends with them, and
declined the proposal.

"Do you remember what I told you once," she said to Jack, "about going
back to the stage in some form or another when I was tired of things?"

Jack, who had not yet renounced his ambition for Sylvia's theatrical
career, jumped at the opportunity of finding her an engagement, and when
they all went back to London with the babies he rushed about the Strand
to see what was going. Sylvia moved all her things from Mulberry Cottage
to the Airdales' house, refusing once more Miss Dashwood's almost
tearful offer to make over the cottage to her. She was sorry to
withstand the old lady, who was very frail by now, but she knew that if
she accepted, it would mean more dreaming about writing books and
gambling at Curzon Street, and ultimately doing nothing until it was too
late.

"I'm reaching the boring idle thirties. I'm twenty-seven," she told Jack
and Olive. "I must sow a few more wild oats before my face is plowed
with wrinkles to receive the respectable seeds of a flourishing old age.
By the way, as demon-godmother I've placed one thousand pounds to the
credit of Rose and Sylvius."

The parents protested, but Sylvia would take no denial.

"I've kept lots for myself," she assured them. As a matter of fact, she
had nearly another £1,000 in the bank.

At the end of July Jack came in radiant to say that a piece with an
English company was being sent over to New York the following month.
There was a small part for which the author required somebody whose
personality seemed to recall Sylvia's. Would she read it? Sylvia said
she would.

"The author was pleased, eh?" Jack asked, enthusiastically, when Sylvia
came back from the trial.

"I don't really know. Whenever he tried to speak, the manager said, 'One
moment, please'; it was like a boxing-match. However, as the important
thing seemed to be that I should speak English with a French accent, I
was engaged."

Sylvia could not help being amused at herself when she found that her
first essay with legitimate drama was to be the exact converse of her
first essay with the variety stage, dependent, as before, upon a kind of
infirmity. Really, the only time she had been able to express herself
naturally in public had been when she sang "The Raggle-taggle Gipsies"
with the Pink Pierrots, and that had been a failure. However, a tour in
the States would give her a new glimpse of life, which at twenty-seven
was the important consideration; and perhaps New York, more generous
than other capitals, would give her life itself, or one of the only two
things in life that mattered, success and love.



CHAPTER XIII


The play in which Sylvia was to appear in New York was called "A
Honeymoon in Europe," and if it might be judged from the first few
rehearsals, at which the performers had read their parts like
half-witted board-school children, it was thin stuff. Still, it was not
fair to pass a final opinion without the two American stars who were
awaiting the English company in their native land.

The author, Mr. Marchmont Hearne, was a timid little man who between the
business manager and producer looked and behaved very much like the
Dormouse at the Mad Tea-party. The manager did not resemble the Hatter
except in the broad brim of his top-hat, which in mid-Atlantic he
reluctantly exchanged for a cloth cap. The company declared he was
famous for his tact; certainly he managed to suppress the Dormouse at
every point by shouting, "One minute, Mr. Stern, _please_," or, "Please,
Mr. Burns, one minute," and apologizing at once so effusively for not
calling him by his right name that the poor little Dormouse had no
courage to contest the real point at issue, which had nothing to do with
his name. When the manager had to exercise a finer tactfulness, as with
obdurate actresses, he was wont to soften his remarks by adding that
nothing "derogatory" had been intended; this seemed to mollify
everybody, probably, Sylvia thought, because it was such a long word.
The Hatter's name was Charles Fitzherbert. The producer, Mr. Wade
Fortescue, by the length of his ears, by the way in which his electrical
hair propelled itself into a peak on either side of his head, and by his
wild, artistic eye, was really rather like the March Hare outwardly; his
behavior was not less like. Mr. Fortescue's attitude toward "A Honeymoon
in Europe" was one that Beethoven might have taken up on being invited
to orchestrate "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay." The author did not go so far as
to resent this attitude, but on many occasions he was evidently pained
by it, notwithstanding Mr. Fitzherbert's assurances that Mr. Fortescue
had intended nothing "derogatory."

Sylvia's part was that of a French chambermaid. The author had drawn it
faithfully to his experience of Paris in the course of several
week-ends. As his conception coincided with that of the general public
in supposing a French chambermaid to be a cross between a street-walker
and a tight-rope walker, it seemed probable that the part would be a
success; although Mr. Fortescue wanted to mix the strain still further
by introducing the blood of a comic ventriloquist.

"You must roll your 'r's' more, Miss Scarlett," he assured her. "That
line will go for nothing as you said it."

"I said it as a French chambermaid would say it," Sylvia insisted.

"If I might venture--" the Dormouse began.

"One minute, please, Mr. Treherne," interrupted the Mad Hatter. "What
Mr. Fortescue wants, Miss Scarlett, is exaggeration--a leetle
exaggeration. I believe that is what you want, Mr. Fortescue?"

"I don't want a caricature," snapped the March Hare. "The play is
farcical enough as it is. What I want to impart is realism. I want Miss
Scarlett to say the line as a French girl would say it."

"Precisely," said the Hatter. "That's precisely what I was trying to
explain to Miss Scarlett. You're a bit hasty, old chap, you know, and I
think you frightened her a little. That's all right, Miss Scarlett,
there's nothing to be frightened about. Mr. Fortescue intended nothing
derogatory."

"I'm not in the least frightened," said Sylvia, indignantly.

"If I might make a suggestion, I think that--" the Dormouse began.

"One minute please, please, Mr. Burns, one minute--Ah, dear me, Mr.
Hearne, I was confusing you with the poet. Nothing derogatory in that,
eh?" he laughed jovially.

"May I ask a question?" said Sylvia, and asked it before Mr.
Fitzherbert could interrupt again. "Why do all English authors draw all
Frenchwomen as cocottes and all French authors draw all English women as
governesses? The answer's obvious."

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare were so much taken aback by this
attack from Alice that the Dormouse was able to emit an entire sentence.

"I should like to say that Miss Scarlett's rendering of the accent gives
me great satisfaction. I have no fault to find. I shall be much obliged,
Miss Scarlett, if you will correct my French whenever necessary. I am
fully sensible of its deficiencies."

Mr. Marchmont Hearne blinked after this challenge and breathed rather
heavily.

"I've had a good deal of experience," said Mr. Fortescue, grimly, "but I
never yet found that it improved a play to allow the performers of minor
rôles, essentially minor rôles, to write their parts in at rehearsal."

Mr. Fitzherbert was in a quandary for a moment whether he should smoothe
the rufflings of the author or of the actress or of the producer, but
deciding that the author could be more profitable to his career in the
end, he took him up-stage and tried to whisper away Mr. Fortescue's bad
temper. In the end Sylvia was allowed to roll her "r's" at her own pace.

"I'm glad you stood up to him, dear," said an elderly actress like a
pink cabbage rose fading at the tips of the petals, who had been sitting
throughout the rehearsal so nearly on the scene that she was continually
being addressed in mistake by people who really were "on." The author,
who had once or twice smiled at her pleasantly, was evidently under the
delusion that she was interested in his play.

"Yes, I was delighted with the way you stood up to them," continued Miss
Nancy Tremayne. "My part's wretched, dear. All feeding! Still, if I'm
allowed to slam the door when I go off in the third act, I may get a
hand. Have you ever been to New York before? I like it myself, and you
can live quite cheaply if you know the ropes. Of course, I'm drawing a
very good salary, because they wanted me. I said I couldn't come for a
penny under one hundred dollars, and I really didn't want to come at
all. However, he _would_ have me, and between you and me, I'm really
rather glad to have the chance of saving a little money. The managers
are getting very stingy in England. Don't tell anybody what I'm getting,
will you, dear? One doesn't like to create jealousy at the commencement
of a tour. It seems to be quite a nice crowd, though the girls look a
little old, don't you think? Amy Melhuish, who's playing the ingénue,
must be at least thirty. It's wonderful how some women have the nerve to
go on. I gave up playing ingénues as soon as I was over twenty-eight,
and that's four years ago now, or very nearly. Oh dear, how time flies!"

Sylvia thought that, if Miss Tremayne was only twenty-eight four years
ago, time must have crawled.

"They're sending us out in the _Minneworra_. The usual economy, but
really in a way it's nicer, because it's all one class. Yes, I'm glad
you stood up to them, dear. Fortescue's been impossible ever since he
produced one of those filthy Strindberg plays last summer for the
Unknown Plays Committee. I hate this continental muck. Degenerate, I say
it is. In my opinion Ibsen has spoiled the drama in England. What do you
think of Charlie Fitzherbert? He's such a nice man. Always ready to
smooth over any little difficulties. When Mr. Vernon said to me that
Charlie would be coming with us, I felt quite safe."

"Morally?" Sylvia asked.

"Oh, go on! You know what I mean. Comfortable, and not likely to be
stranded. Well, I'm always a little doubtful about American productions.
I suppose I'm conservative. I like old-fashioned ways."

Which was not surprising, Sylvia thought.

"Miss Tremayne, I can't hear myself speak. Are you on in this scene?"
demanded the producer.

"I really don't know. My next cue is--"

"I don't think Miss Tremayne comes on till Act Three," said the author.

"We sha'n't get there for another two hours," the producer growled.

Miss Tremayne moved her chair back three feet, and turned to finish her
conversation with Sylvia.

"What I was going to say when I was interrupted, dear, was that, if
you're a bad sailor, you ought to make a point of making friends with
the purser. Unfortunately I don't know the purser on the _Minneworra_,
but the purser on the _Minnetoota_ was quite a friend of mine, and gave
me a beautiful deck-cabin. The other girls were very jealous."

"Damn it, Miss Tremayne, didn't I ask you not to go on talking?" the
producer shouted.

"Nice gentlemanly way of asking anybody not to whisper a few words of
advice, isn't it?" said Miss Tremayne, with a scathing glance at Mr.
Fortescue as she moved her chair quite six feet farther away from the
scene.

"Now, of course, we're in a draught," she grumbled to Sylvia. "But I
always say that producers never have any consideration for anybody but
themselves."

By the time the S.S. _Minneworra_ reached New York Sylvia had come to
the conclusion that the representatives of the legitimate drama differed
only from the chorus of a musical comedy in taking their temperaments
and exits more seriously. Sylvia's earlier experience had led her to
suppose that the quantity of make-up and proximity to the footlights
were the most important things in art.

Whatever hopes of individual ability to shine the company might have
cherished before it reached New York were quickly dispelled by the two
American stars, up to whom and not with whom they were expected to
twinkle. Mr. Diomed Olver and Miss Marcia Neville regarded the rest of
the company as Jupiter and Venus might regard the Milky Way. Miss
Tremayne's exit upon a slammed door was forbidden the first time she
tried it, because it would distract the attention of the audience from
Miss Neville, who at that moment would be sustaining a dimple, which she
called holding a situation. This dimple, which was famous from Boston to
San Francisco, from Buffalo to New Orleans, had, when Miss Neville first
swam into the ken of a manager's telescope, been easy enough to sustain.
Of late years a slight tendency toward stoutness had made it necessary
to assist the dimple with the forefinger and internal suction; the
slamming of a door might disturb so nice an operation, and an appeal,
which came oddly from Miss Neville, was made to Miss Tremayne's sense
of natural acting.

Mr. Olver did not bother to conceal his intention of never moving from
the center of the stage, where he maintained himself with the noisy
skill of a gyroscope.

"See here," he explained to members of the company who tried to compete
with his stellar supremacy. "The public pays to see Diomed Olver and
Marcia Neville; they don't care a damned cent for anything else in
creation. Got me? That's good. Now we'll go along together fine."

Mr. Charles Fitzherbert assisted no more at rehearsals, but occupied
himself entirely with the box-office. Mr. Wade Fortescue was very fierce
about 2 A.M. in the bar of his hotel, but very mild at rehearsals. Mr.
Marchmont Hearne hibernated during this period, and when he appeared
very shyly at the opening performance in Brooklyn the company greeted
him with the surprised cordiality that is displayed to some one who has
broken his leg and emerges weeks later from hospital without a limp.

New York made a deep and instant impression on Sylvia. No city that she
had seen was so uncompromising; so sure of its flamboyant personality;
so completely an ingenious, spoiled, and precocious child; so lovable
for its extravagance and mischief. To her the impression was of some
Gargantuan boy in his nursery building up tall towers to knock them
down, running his clockwork-engines for fun through the streets of his
toy city, scattering in corners quantities of toy bricks in readiness
for a new fit of destructive construction, scooping up his tin
inhabitants at the end of a day's play to put them helter-skelter into
their box, eking out the most novel electrical toys of that Christmas
with the battered old trams of the Christmas before, cherishing old
houses with a child's queer conservatism, devoting a large stretch of
bright carpet to a park, and robbing his grandmother's mantelpiece of
her treasures to put inside his more permanent structures. After seeing
New York she sympathized very much with the remark she had heard made by
a young New-Yorker on board the _Minneworra_, which at the time she had
thought a mere callow piece of rudeness.

A grave doctor from Toledo, Ohio, almost as grave as if he were from the
original Toledo, had expressed a hope to Sylvia that she would not
accept New York as representative of the United States. She must travel
to the West. New York had no family life. If Miss Scarlett wished to see
family life, he should be glad to show it to her in Toledo. For
confirmation of his criticism he had appealed to a young man standing at
his elbow.

"Well," the young man had replied, "I've never been fifty miles west of
New York in my life, and I hope I never shall. When I want to travel I
cross over to Europe for a month."

The Toledo doctor had afterward spoken severely to Sylvia on the subject
of this young New-Yorker, citing him as a dangerous element in the
national welfare. Now, after seeing the Gargantuan boy's nursery, she
understood the spirit that wanted to enjoy his nursery and not be
bothered to go for polite walks with maiden aunts in the country;
equally, no doubt, in Toledo she should appreciate the point of view of
the doctor and recognize the need for the bone that would support the
vast bulk of the growing child.

Sylvia had noticed that as she grew older impressions became less vivid;
her later and wider experience of London was already dim beside those
first years with her father and Monkley. It had been the same during her
travels. Already even the Alhambra was no longer quite clearly imprinted
upon her mind, and each year it had been growing less and less easy to
be astonished. But this arrival in New York had been like an arrival in
childhood, as surprising, as exciting, as terrifying, as stimulating.
New York was like a rejuvenating potion in the magic influence of which
the memories of past years dissolved. Partly, no doubt, this effect
might be ascribed to the invigorating air, and partly, Sylvia thought,
to the anxiously receptive condition of herself now within sight of
thirty; but neither of these explanations was wide enough to include all
that New York gave of regenerative emotion, of willingness to be alive
and unwillingness to go to bed, and of zest in being amused. Sylvia had
supposed that she had long ago outgrown the pleasure of wandering about
streets for no other reason than to be wandering about streets, of
staring into shops, of staring after people, of staring at
advertisements, of staring in company with a crowd of starers as well
entertained as herself at a bat that was flying about in daylight
outside the Plaza Hotel; but here in New York all that old youthful
attitude of assuming that the world existed for one's diversion, mixed
with a sharp, though always essentially contemptuous, curiosity about
the method it was taking to amuse one, was hers again. Sylvia had always
regarded England as the frivolous nation that thought of nothing but
amusement, England that took its pleasure so earnestly and its business
so lightly. In New York there was no question of qualifying adverbs;
everything was a game. It was a game, and apparently, by the enthusiasm
with which it was played, a novel game, to control the traffic in Fifth
Avenue--a rather dangerous game like American football, in which at
first the casualties to the policemen who played it were considerable.
Street-mending was another game, rather an elementary game that
contained a large admixture of practical joking. Getting a carriage
after the theater was a game played with counters. Eating, even, could
be made into a game either mechanical like the automatic dime lunch, or
intellectual like the free lunch, or imaginative like the quick lunch.

Sylvia had already made acquaintance with the crude material of America
in Carlos Morera. New York was Carlos Morera much more refined and more
matured, sweetened by its own civilization, which, having severed itself
from other civilizations like the Anglo-Saxon or Latin, was already most
convincingly a civilization of its own, bearing the veritable stamp of
greatness. Sometimes Sylvia would be faced even in New York by a
childishness that scarcely differed from the childishness of Carlos
Morera. One evening, for instance, two of the men in the company who
knew her tastes invited her to come with them to Murden's all-night
saloon off Sixth Avenue. They had been told it was a sight worth seeing.
Sylvia, with visions of something like the dancing-saloon in Buenos
Aires, was anxious to make the experiment. It sounded exciting when she
heard that the place was kept going by "graft." After the performance
she and her companions went to Jack's for supper; thence they walked
along Sixth Avenue to Murden's. It was only about two o'clock when they
entered by a side door into a room exactly like the bar parlor of an
English public house, where they sat rather drearily drinking some
inferior beer, until one of Sylvia's companions suggested that they had
arrived too near the hours of legal closing. They left Murden's and
visited a Chinese restaurant in Broadway with a cabaret attached. The
prices, the entertainment, the food, and the company were in a
descending scale; the prices were much the highest. Two hours later they
went back to Murden's; the parlor was not less dreary; the beer was
still abominable. However, just as they had decided that this could not
be the right place, an enormous man slightly drunk entered under the
escort of two ladies of the town. Perceiving that Sylvia and her
companions had risen, the new-comer waved them back into their chairs
and called for drinks all round.

"British?" he asked.

They nodded.

"Yes, I thought you were Britishers. I'm Under-Sheriff McMorris." With
this he seated himself, hugging the two nymphs on either side of him
like a Dionysius in his chariot.

"Actor folk?" he asked.

They nodded.

"Yes, I thought you were actor folk. Ever read Shakespeare? Some boy,
eh? Gee! I used to be able to spout Parsha without taking breath."

Forthwith he delivered the speech about the quality of mercy.

"Wal?" he demanded at the end.

The English actors congratulated him and called for another round. Mr.
McMorris turned to one of the nymphs:

"Wal, honey?"

"Cut it out, you fat old slob; you're tanked!" said honey.

Mr. McMorris recited several other speeches, including the vision of the
dagger from "Macbeth." From Shakespeare he passed to Longfellow, and
from Longfellow to Byron. After an hour of recitations he was persuaded
by the bartender to give some of his reminiscences of criminals in New
York, which he did so vividly that Sylvia began to suppose that at one
time or another he really had been connected with the law. Finally about
six o'clock he became pathetic and wept away most of what he had drunk.

"I'm feeling bad this morning. I gart to go and arrest a man for whom I
have a considerable admiration. I gart to go down-town to Washington
Square and arrest a prominent citizen at eight o'clock sharp. I guess
they're waiting right now for me to come along and make that arrest.
Where's my black-jack?"

He fumbled in his pocket for a leather-covered life-preserver, which he
flourished truculently. Leaning upon the shoulders of the nymphs, he
waved a farewell and staggered out.

Sylvia asked the bartender what he really was.

"He's Under-Sheriff McMorris. At eight o'clock he's going to arrest a
prominent New York citizen for misappropriation of some fund."

That evening in the papers Sylvia read that Under-Sheriff McMorris had
burst into tears when ex-Governor Somebody or other had walked down the
steps of his house in Washington Square and offered himself to the
custody of the law.

"I don't like to have to do this, Mr. Governor," Under-Sheriff McMorris
had protested.

"You must do your duty, Mr. Under-Sheriff."

The crowd had thereupon cheered loudly, and the wife of the ex-Governor,
dissolved in tears, had waved the Stars and Stripes from an upper
window.

"Jug for the ex-Governor and a jag for the under-sheriff," said Sylvia.
"If only the same spirit could be applied to minor arrests. That may
come. It's wonderful, really, how in this mighty republic they manage to
preserve any vestige of personality, but they do."

The play ran through the autumn and went on tour in January. Sylvia did
not add much to her appreciation of America in the course of it,
because, as was inevitable in the short visits they paid to various
towns, she had to depend for intercourse upon the members of the
company. She reached New York again shortly before her twenty-eighth
birthday. When nearly all her fellow-players returned to England, she
decided to stay behind. The first impression she had received of
entering upon a new phase of life when she landed in New York had not
yet deserted her, and having received an offer from the owner of what
sounded, from his description, like a kind of hydropathic establishment
to entertain the visitors there during the late summer and fall, she
accepted. In August, therefore, she left New York and went to
Sulphurville, Indiana.

Sylvia had had glimpses of rural America in Vermont and New Hampshire
during the tour; in such a cursory view it had not seemed to differ much
from rural England. Now she was going to see rustic America, if a
distinction between the two adjectives might be made. At Indianapolis
she changed from the great express into a smaller train that deposited
her at a railway station consisting of a tumble-down shed. Nobody came
out to welcome the train, but the colored porter insisted that this was
the junction from which she would ultimately reach Sulphurville and
denied firmly Sylvia's suggestion that the engine-driver had stopped
here for breath. She was the only passenger who alighted, and she saw
the train continue on its way with something near despair. The sun was
blazing down. All around was a grasshopper-haunted wilderness of Indian
corn. It was the hottest, greenest, flattest, most God-forsaken spot she
had ever seen. The heat was so tremendous that she ventured inside the
hut for shade. The only sign of life was a bug proceeding slowly across
a greasy table. Sylvia went out and wandered round to the other side.
Here, fast asleep, was a man dressed in a pair of blue trousers, a
neckerchief, and an enormous straw hat. As the trousers reached to his
armpits, he was really fully dressed, and Sylvia was able to recognize
him as a human being from an illustrated edition she possessed of
_Huckleberry Finn_; at the same time, she thought it wiser to let him
sleep and returned to the front of the shed. To her surprise, for it
seemed scarcely possible that anybody could inhabit the second floor,
she perceived a woman with curl-papers, in a spotted green-and-yellow
bed-wrapper, looking out of what until now she had supposed to be a gap
in the roof caused by decay. Sylvia asked the woman if this was the
junction for Sulphurville. She nodded, but vanished from the window
before there was time to ask her when the train would arrive.

Sylvia waited for an hour in the heat, and had almost given up hope of
ever reaching Sulphurville when suddenly a train arrived, even smaller
than the one into which she had changed at Indianapolis, but still
considerably larger than any European train. The hot afternoon wore away
while this new train puffed slowly deeper and deeper into rustic America
until it reached Bagdad. Hitherto Sylvia had traveled in what was called
a parlor-car, but at Bagdad she had to enter a fourth train that did not
possess a parlor-car and that really resembled a local train in England,
with oil-lamps and semi-detached compartments. At every station between
Bagdad and Sulphurville crowds of country folk got in, all of whom were
wearing flags and flowers in their buttonholes and were in a state of
perspiring festivity. At the last station before Sulphurville the train
was invaded by the members of a local band, whose instruments fought for
a place as hard as their masters. Sylvia was nearly elbowed out of her
seat by an aggressive ophicleide, but an old gentleman opposite with a
saxhorn behind him and a euphonium on his knees told her by way of
encouragement that the soldiers didn't pass through Indiana every day.

"The last time I saw soldiers like that was during the war," he said,
"and I don't allow any of us here will ever see so many soldiers again."
He looked round the company defiantly, but nobody seemed inclined to
contradict him, and he grunted with disappointment. It seemed hard that
the old gentleman's day should end so tamely, but fortunately a young
man in the far corner proclaimed it not merely as his opinion, but
supported it from inside information, that the regiment was being
marched through Indiana like this in order to get it nearer to the
Mexican border.

"Shucks!" said the old gentleman, and blew his nose so violently that
every one looked involuntarily at one of the brass instruments.
"Shucks!" he repeated. Then he smiled at Sylvia, who, sympathizing with
the happy close of his day, smiled back just as the train entered the
station of Sulphurville.

The Plutonian Hotel, Sulphurville, had presumably been built to appease
the same kind of human credulity that created the pump-rooms at Bath or
Wiesbaden or Aix-les-Bains. Sylvia had observed that one of the great
elemental beliefs of the human race, a belief lost in primeval fog, was
that if water with an odd taste bubbled out of the earth, it must
necessarily possess curative qualities; if it bubbled forth without a
nasty enough taste to justify the foundation of a spa, it was analyzed
by prominent chemists, bottled, and sold as a panacea to the great
encouragement of lonely dyspeptics with nothing else to read at dinner.
In the Middle Ages, and possibly in the classic times of Æsculapius,
these natural springs had fortified the spiritual side of man; in late
days they served to dilute his spirits. The natural springs at
Sulphurville fully justified the erection of the Plutonian Hotel and the
lowest depths of mortal credulity, for they had a revolting smell, an
exceptionally unpleasant taste, and a high temperature. Everything that
balneal ingenuity could suggest had been done, and in case the internal
cure was not nasty enough as it was, the first glass of water was
prescribed for six o'clock in the morning. Though it was necessary to
test human faith by the most arduous and vexatious ordinances for human
conduct, lest it might grow contemptuous of the cure, it was equally
necessary to prevent boredom, if not of the devotees themselves, at any
rate of their families. Accordingly, there was an annex of the ascetic
hotel where everybody was driven to bed at eleven by the uncomfortable
behavior of the servants, and where breakfast was served not later than
seven; this annex possessed a concert-hall, a small theater, a
gaming-saloon with not merely roulette, but many apparently childish
games of chance that nevertheless richly rewarded the management. Sylvia
wondered if there was any moral intention on the part of the proprietors
in the way they encouraged gambling, if they wished to accentuate the
chances and changes of human life and thereby secure for their clients
a religious attitude toward their bodily safety. Certainly at the
Plutonian Hotel it was impossible to obtain anything except meals
without gambling. In order to buy a cigar or a box of chocolates it was
necessary to play dice with the young woman who sold them, with more or
less profit to the hotel, according to one's luck. Every morning some
new object was on view in the lobby to be raffled that evening. Thus on
the fourth night of her stay Sylvia became the owner of a large trunk,
the emptiness of which was continuous temptation.

The Plutonian was not merely a resort for gouty Easterners; it catered
equally for the uric acid of the West. Sylvia liked the families from
the West, particularly the girls with their flowing hair and big felt
hats who rode on Kentucky ponies to see smugglers' caves in the hills,
conforming invariably to the traditional aspect of the Western belle in
the cinema. The boys were not so picturesque; in fact, they scarcely
differed from European boys of the same age. The East supplied the
exotic note among the children; candy-fed, shrill, and precocious with a
queer gnomelike charm, they resembled expensive toys. These visitors to
Sulphurville were much more affable with one another than their fellows
in Europe would have been in similar circumstances. Sylvia had already
noticed that in America stomachic subjects could inspire the dullest
conversation; here at the Plutonian the stomach had taken the place of
the soul, and it was scarcely an exaggeration to say that in the lounges
people rose up to testify in public about their insides.

The morning after Sylvia's arrival the guests were much excited by the
visit of the soldiers, who were to camp for a week on the hotel grounds
and perform various maneuvers. Sylvia observed that everybody talked as
if a troupe of acrobats was going to visit the hotel; nobody seemed to
have any idea that the American army served any purpose but the
entertainment of the public with gymnastic displays. That afternoon the
regiment marched past the hotel to its camping-ground; the band played
the "Star-spangled Banner"; all the visitors grouped upon the steps in
front clapped their hands; the colonel took off his hat, waved it at the
audience, and bowed like a successful author. At first Sylvia
considered his behavior undignified and absurd; afterward she rather
approved of its friendliness, its absence of pomp and arrogance, its
essentially democratic inspiration--in a word, its familiarity.

The proprietor of the Plutonian, a leading political "boss," was so much
moved by the strains of the music, the martial bearing of the men, and
the opportunity of self-advertisement, that he invited the officers of
the regiment to mess free in the hotel during their visit. Everybody
praised Mr. O'Halloran's generosity and patriotism, the more warmly
because it gave everybody an occasion to commiserate with the officers
upon their absurdly small pay. Such commiseration gratified the
individual's sense of superiority and made it easy for him to brag about
his own success in life. Sylvia resented the business man's point of
view about his national army; it was almost as patronizing as an
Englishman's attitude to an artist or a German's to a woman or a
Frenchman's to anybody but a Frenchman. Snobbishness was only tolerable
about the past. Perhaps that was the reason why the Italians were the
only really democratic nation she had met so far. The Italians were
aristocrats trying to become tradesmen; the rest of mankind were
tradesmen striving to appear aristocrats.

Sylvia had sung her songs and was watching the roulette, when a young
lieutenant who had been playing with great seriousness turned to her and
asked if she was not British.

"We got to know some British officers out in China," he told her. "We
couldn't seem to understand them at first, but afterward we found out
they were good boys, really. Only the trouble was we were never properly
introduced at first, and that worried them some. Say, there's a
fellow-countryman of yours sick in Sulphurville. I kind of found out by
accident this morning, because I went into a drug-store and the
storekeeper was handing out some medicine to a colored girl who was
arguing with him whether she should pay for it. Seems this young
Britisher's expecting his remittance. That's a God-awful place to be
stranded, Sulphurville."

They chatted for a while together. Sylvia liked the simple
good-fellowship of the young American, his inquisitiveness about her
reasons for coming to sing at the Plutonian Hotel, and his frank
anticipation of any curiosity on her side by telling her all about
himself and his career since he left West Point. He was amused by her
account of the excitement over the passage of the troops through the
villages, and seized the occasion to moralize on the vastness of a
country through one state of which a regiment could march and surprise
half the inhabitants with their first view of an American soldier.

"Seems kind of queer," he said.

"But very Arcadian," Sylvia added.

When Sylvia went to bed her mind reverted to the young Englishman; at
the time she had scarcely taken in the significance of what the officer
had told her. Now suddenly the sense of his loneliness and suffering
overwhelmed her fancy. She thought of the desolation of that railway
junction where she had waited for the train to Sulphurville, of the heat
and the grasshoppers and the flat, endless greenery. Even that brief
experience of being alone in the heart of America had frightened her.
She had not taken heed of the vastness of it while she was traveling
with the company, and here at the hotel definitely placed as an
entertainer she had a certain security. But to be alone and penniless in
Sulphurville, to be ill, moreover, and dependent on the charity of
foreigners, so much the more foreign because, though they spoke the same
language, they spoke it with strange differences like the people in a
dream. The words were the same, but they expressed foreign ideas. Sylvia
began to speculate upon the causes that had led to this young
Englishman's being stranded in Sulphurville. There seemed no
explanation, unless he were perhaps an actor who had been abandoned
because he was too ill to travel with the company. At this idea she
almost got out of bed to walk through the warm frog-haunted night to his
rescue. She became sentimental about him in the dark. It seemed to her
that nothing in the world was so pitiable as a sick artist; always the
servant of the public's curiosity, he was now the helpless prey of it.
He would be treated with the contempt that is accorded to sick animals
whose utility is at an end. She visualized him in the care of a woman
like the one who had leaned out of that railway shed in a spotted
green-and-yellow wrapper. Yet, after all, he might not be a mountebank;
there was really no reason to suppose he was anything but poor and
lonely, though that was enough indeed.

"I must be getting very old," Sylvia said to herself. "Only approaching
senility could excuse this prodigal effusion of what is really almost
maternal lust. I've grown out of any inclination to ask myself why I
think things or why I do things. I've nothing now but an immense desire
to do--do--do. I was beginning to think this desperate determination to
be impressed, like a child whose father is hiding conspicuously behind
the door, was due to America. It's nothing to do with America; it's
myself. It's a kind of moral and mental drunkenness. I know what I'm
doing. I'm entirely responsible for my actions. That's the way a drunken
man argues. Nobody is so utterly convinced of his rightness and
reasonableness and judgment as a drunken man. I might argue with myself
till morning that it's ridiculous to excite myself over the prospect of
helping an Englishman stranded in Sulphurville, but when, worn out with
self-conviction, I fall asleep, I shall wake on tiptoe, as it were. I
shall be quite violently awake at once. The fact is I'm absolutely tired
of observing human nature. I just want to tumble right into the middle
of its confusion and forget how to criticize anybody or anything. What's
the good of meeting a drunken man with generalizations about human
conduct or direction or progression? He won't listen to generalizations,
because drunkenness is the apotheosis of the individual. That's why
drunken people are always so earnestly persuasive, so anxious to
convince the unintoxicated observer that it is better to walk on
all-fours than upright. Eccentricity becomes a moral passion; every
drunken man is a missionary of the peculiar. At the present moment I'm
in the mental state that, did I possess an honest taste for liquor,
would make me get up and uncork the brandy-bottle. It's a kind of
defiant self-expression. Oh, that poor young Englishman lying alone in
Sulphurville! To-morrow, to-morrow! Who knows? Perhaps I really shall
find that I am necessary to somebody. Even as a child I conceived the
notion of being indispensable. I want somebody to say to me: 'You! You!
What should I have done without you?' I suppose every woman feels that;
I suppose that is the maternal instinct. But I don't believe many women
can feel it so sharply as I do, because very few women have ever been
compelled by circumstances to develop their personalities so early and
so fully, and then find that nobody wants that personality. I could cry
just at the mere notion of being wanted, and surely this young
Englishman, whoever he is, will want me. Oh, Sylvia, Sylvia, you're
deliberately working yourself up to an adventure! And who has a better
right? Tell me that. That's exactly why I praised the drunkard; he knows
how to dodge self-consciousness. Why shouldn't you set out to have an
adventure? You shall, my dear. And if you're disappointed? You've been
disappointed before. Damn those tree-frogs! Like all croakers, they
disturb oblivion. I wonder if he'd like my new trunk. And I wonder how
old he is. I'm assuming that he's young, but he may be a matted old
tramp."

Sylvia woke next morning, as she had prefigured herself, on tiptoe; at
breakfast she was sorry for all the noisy people round her, so important
to her was life seeming. She set out immediately afterward to walk along
the hot, dusty road to the town, elated by the notion of leaving behind
her the restlessness and stark cleanliness of the big hotel. The main
street of Sulphurville smelled of straw and dry grain; and if it had not
been for the flies she would have found the air sweet enough after the
damp exhalations of brimstone that permeated the atmosphere of the
Plutonian and its surroundings. The flies, however, tainted everything;
not even the drug-store was free from them. Sylvia inquired for the
address of the Englishman, and the druggist looked at her sharply. She
wondered if he was hoping for the settlement of his account.

"Madden's the name, ain't it?" the druggist asked.

"Madden," she repeated, mechanically. A wave of emotion flooded her
mind, receded, and left it strewn with the jetsam of the past. The
druggist and the drug-store faded out of her consciousness; she was in
Colonial Terrace again, insisting upon Arthur's immediate departure.

"What a little beast I was!" she thought, and a desire came over her to
atone for former heartlessness by her present behavior. Then abruptly
she realized that the Madden of Sulphurville was not necessarily, or
even probably, the Arthur Madden of Hampstead. Yet behind this
half-disappointment lay the conviction that it was he. "Which accounts
for my unusual excitement," Sylvia murmured. She heard herself calmly
asking the storekeeper for his address.

"The Auburn Hotel," she repeated. "Thank you."

The storekeeper seemed inclined to question her further; no doubt he
wished to be able to count upon his bill's being paid; but Sylvia
hurried from the shop before he could speak.

The Auburn Hotel, Sulphurville, was perhaps not worse than a hotel of
the same class would have been in England, but the colored servant added
just enough to the prevailing squalor to make it seem worse. When Sylvia
asked to see Mr. Madden the colored servant stared at her, wiped her
mouth with her apron, and called:

"Mrs. Lebus!"

"Oh, Julie, is that you? What is it you want?" twanged a voice from
within that sounded like a cat caught in a guitar.

"You're wanted right now, Mrs. Lebus," the servant called back.

The duet was like a parody of a 'coon song, and Sylvia found herself
humming to ragtime:

    "Oh, Mrs. Lebus, you're wanted,
     Oh yes, you're wanted, sure you're wanted, Mrs. Lebus,
     You're wanted, you're wanted,
     You're wanted--right now."

Mrs. Lebus was one of those women whose tongues are always hunting, like
eager terriers. With evident reluctance she postponed the chase of an
artful morsel that had taken refuge in some difficult country at the
back of her mouth, and faced the problem of admitting Sylvia to the sick
man's room.

"You a relative?" she asked.

Sylvia shook her head.

"Perhaps you've come about his remittance. He told me he was expecting a
hundred dollars any time. You staying in Sulphurville?"

Sylvia understood that the apparent disinclination to admit her was only
due to unsatisfied curiosity and that there was not necessarily any
suspicion of her motives. At this moment something particularly
delicious ran across the path of Mrs. Lebus's tongue, and Sylvia took
advantage of the brief pause during which it was devoured, to penetrate
into the lobby, where a melancholy citizen in a frock-coat and a straw
hat was testing the point of a nib upon his thumb, whether with the
intention of offering it to Mrs. Lebus to pick her teeth or of writing a
letter was uncertain.

"Oh, Scipio!" said Mrs. Lebus. She pronounced it "Skipio."

"Wal?"

"She wants to see Mr. Madden."

"Sure."

The landlady turned to Sylvia.

"Mr. Lebus don't have no objections. Julie, take Miss--What did you say
your name was?"

Sylvia saw no reason against falling into what Mrs. Lebus evidently
considered was a skilfully laid trap, and told her.

"Scarlett," Mr. Lebus repeated. "We don't possess that name in
Sulphurville. Yes, ma'am, that name's noo to Sulphurville."

"Sakes alive, Scipio, are you going to keep Miss Scarlett hanging around
all day whiles you gossip about Sulphurville?" his wife asked. Aware of
her husband's enthusiasm for his native place, she may have foreseen a
dissertation upon its wonders unless she were ruthless.

"Julie'll take you up to his apartment. And don't you forget to knock
before you open the door, Julie."

On the way up-stairs in the wake of the servant, Sylvia wondered how she
should explain her intrusion to a stranger, even though he were an
Englishman. She had so firmly decided to herself it was Arthur that she
could not make any plans for meeting anybody else. Julie was quite ready
to open the door of the bedroom and let Sylvia enter unannounced; she
was surprised by being requested to go in first and ask the gentleman if
he could receive Miss Scarlett. However, she yielded to foreign
eccentricity, and a moment later ushered Sylvia in.

It was Arthur Madden; and Sylvia, from a mixture of penitence for the
way she treated him at Colonial Terrace, of self-congratulation for
being so sure beforehand that it was he, and from swift compassion for
his illness and loneliness, ran across the room and greeted him with a
kiss.

"How on earth did you get into this horrible hole?" Arthur asked.

"My dear, I knew it was you when I heard your name." Breathlessly she
poured out the story of how she had found him.

"But you'd made up your mind to play the Good Samaritan to whoever it
was--you never guessed for a moment at first that it was me."

She forgave him the faint petulance because he was ill, and also because
it brought back to her with a new vividness long bygone jealousies,
restoring a little more of herself as she once was, nearly thirteen
years ago. How little he had changed outwardly, and much of what change
there was might be put down to his illness.

"Arthur, do you remember Maria?" she asked.

He smiled. "He died only about two years ago. He lived with my mother
after I went on the stage."

Sylvia wondered to him why they had never met all these years. She had
known so many people on the stage, but then, of course, she had been a
good deal out of England. What had made Arthur go on the stage first? He
had never talked of it in the old days.

"I used always to be keen on music."

Sylvia whistled the melody that introduced them to each other, and he
smiled again.

"My mother still plays that sometimes, and I've often thought of you
when she does. She lives at Dulwich now."

They talked for a while of Hampstead and laughed over the escape.

"You were a most extraordinary kid," he told her. "Because, after all, I
was seventeen at the time--older than you. Good Lord! I'm thirty now,
and you must be twenty-eight!"

To Sylvia it was much more incredible that he should be thirty; he
seemed so much younger than she, lying here in this frowsy room, or was
it that she felt so much older than he?

"But how on earth _did_ you get stranded in this place?" she asked.

"I was touring with a concert party. The last few years I've practically
given up the stage proper. I don't know why, really, for I was doing
quite decently, but concert-work was more amusing, somehow. One wasn't
so much at the beck and call of managers."

Sylvia knew, by the careful way in which he was giving his reasons for
abandoning the stage, that he had not yet produced the real reason. It
might have been baffled ambition or it might have been a woman.

"Well, we came to Sulphurville," said Arthur. He hesitated for a moment.
Obviously there had been a woman. "We came to Sulphurville," he went on,
"and played at the hotel you're playing at now--a rotten hole," he
added, with retrospective bitterness. "I don't know how it was, but I
suppose I got keen on the gambling--anyway, I had a row with the other
people in the show, and when they left I refused to go with them. I
stayed behind and got keen on the gambling."

"It was after the row that you took to roulette?" Sylvia asked.

"Well, as a matter if fact, I had a row with a girl. She treated me
rather badly, and I stayed on. I lost a good deal of money. Well, it
wasn't a very large sum, as a matter of fact, but it was all I had, and
then I fell ill. I caught cold and I was worried over things. I cabled
to my mother for some money, but there's been no reply. I'm afraid she's
had difficulty in raising it. She quarreled with my father's people when
I went on the stage. Damned narrow-minded set of yokels. Furious because
I wouldn't take up farming. How I hate narrow-minded people!" And with
an invalid's fretful intolerance he went on grumbling at the
ineradicable characteristics of an English family four thousand miles
away.

"Of course something may have happened to my mother," he added. "You may
be sure that if anything had those beasts would never take the trouble
to write and tell me. It would be a pleasure to them if they could annoy
me in any way."

A swift criticism of Arthur's attitude toward the possibility of his
mother's death rose to Sylvia's mind, but she repressed it, pleading
with herself to excuse him because he was ill and overstrained. She was
positively determined to see henceforth nothing but good in people, and
in her anxiety to confirm herself in this resolve she was ready not
merely to exaggerate everything in Arthur's favor, but even to twist any
failure on his side into actual merit. Thus when she hastened to put her
own resources at his disposal, and found him quite ready to accept
without protest her help, she choked back the comparison with Jack
Airdale's attitude in similar circumstances, and was quite angry with
herself, saying how much more naturally Arthur had received her
good-will and how splendid it was to find such simplicity and sincerity.

"I'll nurse you till you're quite well, and then why shouldn't we take
an engagement together somewhere?"

Arthur became enthusiastic over this suggestion.

"You've not heard me sing yet. My throat's still too weak, but you'll be
surprised, Sylvia."

"I haven't got anything but a very deep voice," she told him. "But I can
usually make an impression."

"Can you? Of course, where I've always been held back is by lack of
money. I've never been able to afford to buy good songs."

Arthur began to sketch out for himself a most radiant future, and as he
talked Sylvia thought again how incredible it was that he should be
older than herself. Yet was not this youthful enthusiasm exactly what
she required? It was just the capacity of Arthur's for thinking he had a
future that was going to make life tremendously worth while for her,
tremendously interesting--oh, it was impossible not to believe in the
decrees of fate, when at the very moment of her greatest longing to be
needed by somebody she had met Arthur again. She could be everything to
him, tend him through his illness, provide him with money to rid
himself of the charity of Mrs. Lebus and the druggist, help him in his
career, and watch over his fidelity to his ambition. She remembered how,
years ago at Hampstead, his mother had watched over him; she could
recall every detail of the room and see Mrs. Madden interrupt one of her
long sonatas to be sure Arthur was not sitting in a draught. And it had
been she who had heedlessly lured him away from that tender mother.
There was poetic justice in this opportunity of reparation now accorded
to her. To be sure, it had been nothing but a childish
escapade--reparation was too strong a word; but there was something so
neat about this encounter years afterward in a place like Sulphurville.
How pale he was, which, nevertheless, made him more romantic to look at;
how thin and white his hands were! She took one of them in her own boy's
hands, as so many people had called them, and clasped it with the
affection that one gives to small helpless things, to children and
kittens, an affection that is half gratitude because one feels good-will
rising like a sweet fountain from the depth of one's being, the
freshness of which playing upon the spirit is so dear, that no words are
enough to bless the wand that made the stream gush forth.

"I shall come and see you all day," said Sylvia. "But I think I ought
not to break my contract at the Plutonian."

"Oh, you'll come and live here," Arthur begged. "You've no idea how
horrible it is. There was a cockroach in the soup last night, and of
course there are bugs. For goodness' sake, Sylvia, don't give me hope
and then dash it away from me. I tell you I've had a hell of a time in
this cursed hole. Listen to the bed; it sounds as if it would collapse
at any moment. And the bugs have got on my nerves to such a pitch that I
spend the whole time looking at spots on the ceiling and fancying
they've moved. It's so hot, too; everything's rotted with heat. You
mustn't desert me. You must come and stay here with me."

"Why shouldn't you move up to the Plutonian?" Sylvia suggested. "I'll
tell you what I'll do. I'll get one of the doctors to come and look at
you, and if he thinks it's possible you shall move up there at once.
Poor boy, it really is too ghastly here."

Arthur was nearly weeping with self-pity.

"But, my dear girl, it's much worse than you think. You know those
horrible birds' bath-tubs in which they bring your food at third-rate
American hotels, loathsome saucers with squash and bits of grit in
watery milk that they call cereals, and bony bits of chicken, well,
imagine being fed like that when you're ill; imagine your bed covered
with those infernal saucers. One of them always used to get left behind
when Julie cleared away, and it always used to fall with a crash on the
floor, and I used to wonder if the mess would tempt the cockroaches into
my room. And then Lebus used to come up and make noises in his throat
and brag about Sulphurville, and I used to know by his wandering eye
that he was looking for what he called the cuspidor, which I'd put out
of sight. And Mrs. Lebus used to come up and suck her teeth at me until
I felt inclined to strangle her."

"The sooner you're moved away the better," Sylvia said, decidedly.

"Oh yes, if you think it can be managed. But if not, Sylvia, for God's
sake don't leave me alone."

"Are you really glad to see me?" she asked.

"Oh, my dear, it was like heaven opening before one's eyes!"

"Tell me about the girl you were fond of," she said, abruptly.

"What do you want to talk about her for? There's nothing to tell you,
really. She had red hair."

Sylvia was glad that Arthur spoke of her with so little interest; it
certainly was definitely comforting to feel the utter dispossession of
that red-haired girl.

"Look here," said Sylvia. "I'm going to let these people suppose that
I'm your long-lost relative. I shall pay their bill and bring the doctor
down to see you. Arthur, I'm glad I've found you. Do you remember the
cab-horse? Oh, and do you remember the cats in the area and the jug of
water that splashed you? You were so unhappy, almost as unhappy as you
were when I found you here. Have you always been treated unkindly?"

"I have had a pretty hard time," Arthur said.

"Oh, but you mustn't be sorry for yourself," she laughed.

"No, seriously, Sylvia, I've always had a lot of people against me."

"Yes, but that's such fun. You simply must be amused by life when you're
with me. I'm not hard-hearted a bit, really, but you mustn't be offended
with me when I tell you that really there's something a tiny bit funny
in your being stranded in the Auburn Hotel, Sulphurville."

"I'm glad you think so," said Arthur, in rather a hurt tone of voice.

"Don't be cross, you foolish creature."

"I'm not a bit cross. Only I _would_ like you to understand that my
illness isn't a joke. You don't suppose I should let you pay my bills
and do all this for me unless it were really something serious."

Sylvia put her hand on his mouth. "I forgive you," she murmured,
"because you really are ill. Oh, Arthur, _do_ you remember Hube? What
fun everything is!"

Sylvia left him and went down-stairs to arrange matters with Mrs. Lebus.

"It was a relation, after all," she told her. "The Maddens have been
related to us for hundreds of years."

"My! My! Now ain't that real queer? Oh, Scipio!"

Mr. Lebus came into view cleaning his nails with the same pen, and was
duly impressed with the coincidence.

"Darned if I don't tell Pastor Gollick after next Sunday meeting. He's
got a kind of hankering after the ways of Providence. Gee! Why, it's a
sermonizing cinch."

There was general satisfaction in the Auburn Hotel over the payment of
Arthur's bill.

"Not that I wouldn't have trusted him for another month and more," Mrs.
Lebus affirmed. "But it's a satisfaction to be able to turn round and
say to the neighbors, 'What did I tell you?' Folks in Sulphurville was
quite sure I'd never be paid back a cent. This'll learn them!"

Mr. Lebus, in whose throat the doubts of the neighbors had gathered to
offend his faith, cleared them out forever in one sonorous rauque.

The druggist's account was settled, and though, when Sylvia first heard
him, he had been doubtful if his medicine was doing the patient any
good, he was now most anxious that he should continue with the
prescription. That afternoon one of the doctors in residence at the
Plutonian visited Arthur and at once advised his removal thither.

Arthur made rapid progress when he was once out of the hospitable
squalor of the Auburn Hotel, and the story of Sylvia's discovery of her
unfortunate cousin became a romantic episode for all the guests of the
Plutonian, a never-failing aid to conversation between wives waiting for
their husbands to emerge from their daily torture at the hands of the
masseurs, who lived like imps in the sulphurous glooms of the bath
below; maybe it even provided the victims themselves with a sufficiently
absorbing topic to mitigate the penalties of their cure.

Arthur himself expanded wonderfully as the subject of so much
discussion. It gave Sylvia the greatest pleasure to see the way in which
his complexion was recovering its old ruddiness and his steps their
former vigor; but she did not approve of the way in which the story kept
pace with Arthur's expansion. She confided to him how very personally
the news of the sick Englishman had affected her and how she had made up
her mind from the beginning that it was a stranded actor, and afterward,
when she heard in the drug-store the name Madden, that it actually was
Arthur himself. He, however, was unable to stay content with such an
incomplete telepathy; indulging human nature's preference for what is
not true, both in his own capacity as a liar and in his listeners' avid
and wanton credulity, he transferred a woman's intimate hopes into a
quack's tale.

"Then you didn't see your cousin's spirit go up in the elevator when you
were standing in the lobby? Now isn't that perfectly discouraging?"
complained a lady with an astral reputation in Illinois.

"I'm afraid the story's been added to a good deal," Sylvia said. "I'm
sorry to disappoint the faithful."

"She's shy about giving us her experiences," said another lady from
Iowa. "I know I was just thrilled when I heard it. It seemed to me the
most wonderful story I'd ever imagined. I guess you felt kind of queer
when you saw him lying on a bed in your room."

"He was in his own room," Sylvia corrected, "and I didn't feel at all
queer. It was he who felt queer."

"Isn't she secretive?" exclaimed the lady from Illinois. "Why, I was
going to ask you to write it up in our society's magazine, _The Flash_.
We don't print any stories that aren't established as true. Well, your
experience has given me real courage, Miss Scarlett. Thank you."

The astral enthusiast clasped Sylvia's hand and gazed at her as
earnestly as if she had noticed a smut on her nose.

"Yes, I'm sure we ought to be grateful," said the lady from Iowa. "My!
Our footsteps are treading in the unseen every day of our lives! You
certainly are privileged," she added, wrapping Sylvia in a damp mist of
benign fatuity.

"I wish you wouldn't elaborate everything so," Sylvia begged of Arthur
when she had escaped from the deification of the two psychical ladies.
"It makes me feel so dreadfully old to see myself assuming a legendary
shape before my own eyes. It's as painful as being stuffed
alive--stuffed alive with nonsense," she added, with a laugh.

Arthur's expansion, however, was not merely grafted on Sylvia's
presentiment of his discovery in Sulphurville; he blossomed upon his own
stock, a little exotically, perhaps, like the clumps of fiery cannas in
the grounds of the hotel, but with a quite conspicuous effectiveness.
Like the cannas, he required protection from frost, for there was a very
real sensitiveness beneath all that flamboyance, and it was the
knowledge of this that kept Sylvia from criticizing him at all severely.
Besides, even if he did bask a little too complacently in expressions of
interest and sympathy, it was a very natural reaction from his wretched
solitude at the Auburn Hotel, for which he could scarcely be held
culpable, least of all by herself. Moreover, was not this so visible
recovery the best tribute he could have paid to her care? If he appeared
to strut--for, indeed, there was a hint of strutting in his demeanor--he
only did so from a sense of well-being. Finally, if any further defense
was necessary, he was an Englishman among a crowd of Americans; the
conditions demanded a good deal of competitive self-assertion.

Meanwhile summer was gone; the trees glowed with every shade of crimson.
Sylvia could not help feeling that there was something characteristic in
the demonstrative richness of the American fall; though she was far from
wishing to underrate its beauty, the display was oppressive. She sighed
for the melancholy of the European autumn, a conventional emotion, no
doubt, but so closely bound up with old associations that she could not
wish to lose it. This cremation of summer, these leafy pyrotechnics,
this holocaust of color, seemed a too barbaric celebration of the year's
death. It was significant that autumn with its long-drawn-out suggestion
of decline should here have failed to displace fall; for there was
something essentially catastrophic in this ruthless bonfire of foliage.
It was not surprising that the aboriginal inhabitants should have been
redskins, nor that the gorgeousness of nature should have demanded from
the humanity it overwhelmed a readjustment of decorative values which
superficial observers were apt to mistake for gaudy ostentation. Sylvia
could readily imagine that if she had been accustomed from childhood to
these crimson woods, these beefy robins, and these saucer-eyed daisies,
she might have found her own more familiar landscapes merely tame and
pretty; but as it was she felt dazzled and ill at ease. It's a little
more and how much it is, she told herself, pondering the tantalizing
similarity that was really as profoundly different as an Amazonian
forest from Kensington Gardens.

Arthur's first flamboyance was much toned down by all that natural
splendor; in fact, it no longer existed, and Sylvia found a freshening
charm in his company amid these crimson trees and unfamiliar birds, and
in this staring white hotel with its sulphurous exhalations. His
complete restoration to health, moreover, was a pleasure and a pride
that nothing could mar, and she found herself planning his happiness and
prosperity as if she had already transferred to him all she herself
hoped from life.

At the end of September the long-expected remittance arrived from Mrs.
Madden, and Sylvia gathered from the letter that the poor lady had been
much puzzled to send the money.

"We must cable it back to her at once," Sylvia said.

"Oh, well, now it's come, is that wise?" Arthur objected. "She may have
had some difficulty in getting it, but that's over now."

"No, no. It must be cabled back to her. I've got plenty of money to
carry us on till we begin to work together."

"But I can't go on accepting charity like this," Arthur protested. "It's
undignified, really. I've never done such a thing before."

"You accepted it from your mother."

"Oh, but my mother's different."

"Only because she's less able to afford it than I am," Sylvia pointed
out. "Look, she's sent you fifty pounds. Think how jolly it would be for
her suddenly to receive fifty pounds for herself."

Arthur warmed to the idea; he could not resist the picture of his
mother's pleasure, nor the kind of inverted generosity with which it
seemed to endow himself. He talked away about the arrival of the money
in England till it almost seemed as if he were sending his mother the
accumulation of hard-earned savings to buy herself a new piano; that was
the final purpose to which, in Arthur's expanding fancy, the fifty
pounds was to be put. Sylvia found his attitude rather boyish and
charming, and they had an argument, on the way to cable the money back,
whether it would be better for Mrs. Madden to buy a Bechstein or a
Blüthner.

Sylvia's contract with the Plutonian expired with the first fortnight of
October, and they decided to see what likelihood there was of work in
New York before they thought of returning to Europe. They left
Sulphurville with everybody's good wishes, because everybody owed to
their romantic meeting an opportunity of telling a really good ghost
story at first hand, with the liberty of individual elaboration.

New York was very welcome after Sulphurville. They passed the wooded
heights of the Hudson at dusk in a glow of somber magnificence softened
by the vapors of the river. It seemed to Sylvia that scarcely ever had
she contemplated a landscape of such restrained splendor, and she
thought of that young New-Yorker who had preferred not to travel more
than fifty miles west of his native city, though the motive of his
loyalty had most improbably been the beauty of the Hudson. She wondered
if Arthur appreciated New York, but he responded to her enthusiasm with
the superficial complaints of the Englishman, complaints that when
tested resolved themselves into conventional formulas of disapproval.

"I suppose trite opinions are a comfortable possession," Sylvia said.
"But a good player does not like a piano that is too easy. You complain
of the morning papers' appearing shortly after midnight, but confess
that in your heart you prefer reading _them_ in bed to reading a London
evening paper, limp from being carried about in the pocket and with
whatever is important in it illegible."

"But the flaring head-lines," Arthur protested. "You surely don't like
them?"

"Oh, but I do!" she avowed. "They're as much more amusing than the
dreary column beneath as tinned tongue is nicer than the dry undulation
for which you pay twice as much. Head-lines are the poetry of
journalism, and, after all, what would the Parthenon be without its
frieze?"

"Of course you'd argue black was white," Arthur said.

"Well, that's a better standpoint than accepting everything as gray."

"Most things are gray."

"Oh no, they're not! Some things are. Old men's beards and dirty linen
and Tschaikowsky's music and oysters and Wesleyans."

"There you go," he jeered.

"Where do I go?"

"Right off the point," said Arthur, triumphantly. "No woman can argue."

"Oh, but I'm not a woman," Sylvia contradicted. "I'm a mythical female
monster, don't you know--one of those queer beasts with claws like
hay-rakes and breasts like peg-tops and a tail like a fish."

"Do you mean a Sphinx?" Arthur asked, in his literal way. He was always
rather hostile toward her extravagant fancies, because he thought it
dangerous to encourage a woman in much the same way as he would have
objected to encouraging a beggar.

"No, I really meant a grinx, which is rather like a Sphinx, but the
father was a griffin--the mother in both cases was a minx, of course."

"What was the father of the Sphinx?" he asked, rather ungraciously.

Sylvia clapped her hands.

"I knew you wouldn't be able to resist the question. A sphere--a woman's
sphere, of course, which is nearly as objectionable a beast as a lady's
man."

"You do talk rot sometimes," said Arthur.

"Don't you ever have fancies?" she demanded, mockingly.

"Yes, of course, but practical fancies."

"Practical fancies," Sylvia echoed. "Oh, my dear, it sounds like a fairy
in Jaeger combinations! You don't know what fun it is talking rot to
you, Arthur. It's like hoaxing a chicken with marbles. You walk away
from my conversation with just the same disgusted dignity."

"You haven't changed a bit," Arthur proclaimed. "You're just the same as
you were at fifteen."

Sylvia, who had been teasing him with a breath of malice, was penitent
at once; after all, he had once run away with her, and it would be
difficult for any woman of twenty-eight not to rejoice a little at the
implication of thirteen undestructive years.

"That last remark was like a cocoanut thrown by a monkey from the top of
the cocoanut-palm," she said. "You meant it to be crushing, but it was
crushed instead, and quite deliciously sweet inside."

All the time that Sylvia had been talking so lightly, while the train
was getting nearer and nearer to New York, there had lain at the back of
her mind the insistent problem of her relationship to Arthur. The
impossibility of their going on together as friends and nothing more had
been firmly fixed upon her consciousness for a long time now, and the
reason of this was to be sought for less in Arthur than in herself. So
far they had preserved all the outward semblances of friendship, but she
knew that one look from her eyes deep into his would transform him into
her lover. She gave Arthur credit for telling himself quite sincerely
that it would be "caddish" to make love to her while he remained under
what he would consider a grave obligation; and because with his
temperament it would be as much in the ordinary routine of the day to
make love to a woman as to dress himself in the morning. She praised his
decorum and was really half grateful to him for managing to keep his
balance on the very small pedestal that she had provided. She might
fairly presume, too, that if she let Arthur fall in love with her he
would wish to marry her. Why should she not marry him? It was impossible
to answer without accusing herself of a cynicism that she was far from
feeling, yet without which she could not explain even to herself her
quite definite repulsion from the idea of marrying him. The future,
really, now, the very immediate future, must be flung to chance; it was
hopeless to arrogate to her forethought the determination of it;
besides, here was New York already.

"We'd better go to my old hotel," Sylvia suggested. Was it the
reflection of her own perplexity, or did she detect in Arthur's accents
a note of relief, as if he too had been watching the Palisades of the
Hudson and speculating upon the far horizon they concealed?

They dined at Rector's, and after dinner they walked down Broadway into
Madison Square, where upon this mild October night the Metropolitan
Tower, that best of all the Gargantuan baby's toys, seemed to challenge
the indifferent moon. They wandered up Madison Avenue, which was dark
after the winking sky-signs of Broadway and with its not very tall
houses held a thought of London in the darkness. But when Sylvia turned
to look back it was no longer London, for she could see the great,
illuminated hands and numerals of the clock in the Metropolitan flashing
from white to red for the hour. This clock without a dial-plate was the
quietest of the Gargantuan baby's toys, for it did not strike; one was
conscious of the almost pathetic protest against all those other
damnably noisy toys: one felt he might become so enamoured of its pretty
silence that to provide himself with a new diversion he might take to
doubling the hours to keep pace with the rapidity of the life with which
he played.

"It's almost as if we were walking up Haverstock Hill again," said
Arthur.

"And we're grown up now," Sylvia murmured. "Oh, dreadfully grown up,
really!"

They walked on for a while in silence. It was impossible to keep back
the temptation to cheat time by leaping over the gulf of years and being
what they were when last they walked along together like this. Sylvia
kept looking over her shoulder at the bland clock hanging in the sky
behind them; at this distance the fabric of the tower had melted into
the night and was no longer visible, which gave to the clock a strange
significance and made it a simulacrum of time itself.

"You haven't changed a bit," she said.

"Do you remember when you told me I looked like a cow? It was after"--he
breathed perceptibly faster--"after I kissed you."

She would not ascribe his remembering what she had called him to an
imperfectly healed scar of vanity, but with kindlier thoughts turned it
to a memento of his affection for her. After all, she had loved him
then; it had been a girl's love, but did there ever come with age a
better love than that first flushed gathering of youth's opening
flowers?

"Sylvia, I've thought about you ever since. When you drove me away from
Colonial Terrace I felt like killing myself. Surely we haven't met again
for nothing."

"Is it nothing unless I love you?" she asked, fiercely, striving to turn
the words into weapons to pierce the recesses of his thoughts and blunt
themselves against a true heart.

"Ah no, I won't say that," he cried. "Besides, I haven't the right to
talk about love. You've been--Sylvia, I can't tell you what you've been
to me since I met you again."

"If I could only believe--oh, but believe with all of me that was and is
and ever will be--that I could have been so much."

"You have, you have."

"Don't take my love as a light thing," she warned him. "It's not that
I'm wanting so very much for myself, but I want to be so much to you."

"Sylvia, won't you marry me? I couldn't ever take your love lightly.
Indeed. Really."

"Ah, it's not asking me to marry you that means you're serious. I'm not
asking you what your intentions are. I'm asking if you want me."

"Sylvia, I want you dreadfully."

"Now, now?" she pressed.

"Now and always."

They had stopped without being aware of it. A trolley-car jangled by,
casting transitory lights that wavered across Arthur's face, and Sylvia
could see how his eyes were shining. She dreaded lest by adding a few
conventional words he should spoil what he had said so well, but he
waited for her, as in the old days he had always waited.

"You're not cultivating this love, like a convalescent patient does for
his nurse?" Sylvia demanded.

She stopped herself abruptly, conscious that every question she put to
him was ultimately being put to herself.

"Did I ever not love you?" he asked. "It was you that grew tired of me.
It was you that sent me away."

"Don't pretend that all these years you've been waiting for me to come
back," she scoffed.

"Of course not. What I'm trying to explain is that we can start now
where we left off; that is, if you will."

He held out his hand half timidly.

"And if I won't?"

The hand dropped again to his side, and there was so much wounded
sensitiveness in the slight gesture that Sylvia caught him to her as if
he were a child who had fallen and needed comforting.

"When I first put my head on your shoulder," she murmured. "Oh, how well
I can remember the day--such a sparkling day, with London spread out
like life at our feet. Now we're in the middle of New York, but it seems
just as far away from us two as London was that day--and life," she
added, with a sigh.



CHAPTER XIV


Circumstances seemed to applaud almost immediately the step that Sylvia
had taken. There was no long delay caused by looking for work in New
York, which might have destroyed romance by its interposition of fretful
hopes and disappointments. A variety company was going to leave in
November for a tour in eastern Canada. At least two months would be
spent in the French provinces, and Sylvia's bilingual accomplishment was
exactly what the manager wanted.

"I'm getting on," she laughed. "I began by singing French songs with an
English accent; I advanced from that to acting English words with a
French accent; now I'm going to be employed in doing both. But what does
it matter? The great thing is that we should be together."

That was where Arthur made the difference to her life; he was securing
her against the loneliness that at twenty-eight was beginning once more
to haunt her imagination. What did art matter? It had never been
anything but a refuge.

Arthur himself was engaged to sing, and though he had not such a good
voice as Claude Raglan, he sang with much better taste and was really
musical. Sylvia was annoyed to find herself making comparisons between
Claude and Arthur. It happened at the moment that Arthur was fussing
about his number on the program, and she could not help being reminded
of Claude's attitude toward his own artistic importance. She consoled
herself by thinking that it should always be one of her aims to prevent
the likeness growing any closer; then she laughed at herself for this
resolve, which savored of developing Arthur, that process she had always
so much condemned.

They opened at Toronto, and after playing a week Arthur caught a chill
and was out of the program for a fortnight; this gave Sylvia a fresh
opportunity of looking after him; and Toronto in wet, raw weather was so
dreary that, to come back to the invalid after the performance,
notwithstanding the ineffable discomfort of the hotel, was to come back
home. During this time Sylvia gave Arthur a history of the years that
had gone by since they parted, and it puzzled her that he should be so
jealous of the past. She wondered why she could not feel the same
jealousy about his past, and she found herself trying to regret that
red-haired girl and many others on account of the obvious pleasure such
regrets afforded Arthur. She used to wonder, too, why she always left
out certain incidents and obscured certain aspects of her own past,
whether, for instance, she did not tell him about Michael Fane on her
own account or because she was afraid that Arthur would perceive a
superficial resemblance between himself and Claude and a very real one
between herself and Lily, or because she would have resented from Arthur
the least expression, not so much of contempt as even of mild surprise,
at Michael's behavior. Another subject she could never discuss with
Arthur was her mother's love for her father, notwithstanding that his
own mother's elopement with a groom must have prevented the least
criticism on his side. Here again she wondered if her reserve was due to
loyalty or to a vague sense of temperamental repetition that was
condemning her to stand in the same relation to Arthur as her mother to
her father. She positively had to run away from the idea that Arthur had
his prototype; she was shutting him up in a box and scarcely even
looking at him, which was as good as losing him altogether, really. Even
when she did look at him she handled him with such exaggerated
carefulness, for fear of his getting broken, that all the pleasure of
possession was lost. Perhaps she should have had an equal anxiety to
preserve intact anybody else with whom she might have thrown in her lot;
but when she thought over this attitude it was dismaying enough and
seemed to imply an incapacity on her part to enjoy fully anything in
life.

"I've grown out of being destructive; at least I think I have. I wonder
if the normal process from Jacobinism to the intense conservatism of
age is due to wisdom, jealousy, or fear.

"Arthur, what are your politics?" she asked, aloud.

He looked up from the game of patience he was playing, a game in which
he was apt to attribute the pettiest personal motives to the court-cards
whenever he failed to get out.

"Politics?" he echoed, vaguely. "I don't think I ever had any. I suppose
I'm a Conservative. Oh yes, certainly I'm a Conservative. That infernal
knave of hearts is covered now!" he added, in an aggrieved voice.

"Well, I didn't cover it," said Sylvia.

"No, dear, of course you didn't. But it really is a most extraordinary
thing that I always get done by the knaves."

"You share your misfortune with the rest of humanity, if that's any
consolation."

The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Orlone. He was a
huge Neapolitan with the countenance of a gigantic and swarthy Punch,
who had been trying to get back to Naples for twenty years, but had been
prevented at first by his passion for gambling and afterward by an
unwilling wife and a numerous family. Orlone made even Toronto cheerful,
and before he had come two paces into a room Sylvia always began to
laugh. He never said anything deliberately funny except on the stage,
but laughter emanated from him infectiously, as yawning might. Though he
had spent twenty years in America, he still spoke the most imperfect
English; and when he and Sylvia had done laughing at each other they
used to laugh all over again, she at his English, he at her Italian.
When they had finished laughing at that Orlone used to swear marvelously
for Sylvia's benefit whenever she should again visit Sirene; and she
would teach him equally tremendous oaths in case he should ever come to
London. When they had finished laughing at this, Orlone would look over
Arthur's shoulder and, after making the most ridiculous gestures of
caution, would finally burst out into an absolute roar of laughter right
in Arthur's ear.

"_Pazienza_," Sylvia would say, pointing to the outspread cards.

"_Brava signora! Come parla bene!_"

And of course this was obviously so absurd a statement that it would set
them off laughing again.

"You are a pair of lunatics," Arthur would protest; he would have liked
to be annoyed at his game's being interrupted, but he was powerless to
repulse Orlone's good humor.

When they returned to New York in the spring and Sylvia looked back at
the tour, she divined how much of her pleasure in it had been owed to
Orlone's all-pervading mirth. He had really provided the robust and
full-blooded contrast to Arthur that had been necessary. It was not
exactly that without him their existence together would have been
insipid--oh no, there was nothing insipid about Arthur, but one
appreciated his delicacy after that rude and massive personality. When
they had traveled over leagues of snow-covered country, Orlone had
always lightened the journey with gay Neapolitan songs, and sometimes
with tender ones like "Torno di Surriento." It was then that, gazing out
over the white waste, she had been able to take Arthur's hand and sigh
to be sitting with him on some Sirenian cliff, to smell again the
rosemary and crumble with her fingers the sunburnt earth. But this
capacity of Orlone's for conjuring up the long Parthenopean shore was
nothing more than might have been achieved by any terra-cotta Silenus in
a provincial museum. After Silenus, what nymph would not turn to Hylas
somewhat gratefully? It had been the greatest fun in the world to drive
in tinkling sledges through Montreal, with Orlone to tease the driver
until he was as sore as the head of the bear that in his fur coat he
resembled; it had been fun to laugh with Orlone in Quebec and Ottawa and
everywhere else; but after so much laughter it had always been
particularly delightful to be alone again with Arthur, and to feel that
he too was particularly enjoying being alone with her.

"I really do think we get on well together," she said to him.

"Of course we do."

And was there in the way he agreed with her just the least suggestion
that he should have been surprised if she had not enjoyed his company,
an almost imperceptible hint of complacency, or was it condescension?

"I really must get out of this habit of poking my nose into other
people's motives," Sylvia told herself. "I'm like a horrid little boy
with a new penknife. Arthur could fairly say to me that I forced myself
upon him. I did really. I went steaming into the Auburn Hotel like a
salvage-tug. There's the infernal side of obligations--I can't really
quite free myself from the notion that Arthur ought to be grateful to
me. He's in a false position through no fault of his own, and he's
behaving beautifully. It's my own cheap cynicism that's to blame. I wish
I could discover some mental bitter aloes that would cure me of biting
my mind, as I cured myself of biting my nails."

Sylvia was very glad that Arthur succeeded in getting an engagement that
spring to act, and that she did not; she was really anxious to let him
feel that she should be dependent on him for a while. The result would
have been entirely satisfactory but for one flaw--the increase in
Arthur's sense of his own artistic importance. Sylvia would not have
minded this so much if he had possessed enough of it to make him
oblivious of the world's opinion, but it was always more of a vanity
than a pride, chiefly concerned with the personal impression he made. It
gave him much more real pleasure to be recognized by two shop-girls on
their afternoon out than to be praised by a leading critic. Sylvia would
have liked him to be equally contemptuous of either form of flattery,
but that he should revel in both, and actually esteem more valuable the
recognition accorded him by a shop-girl's backward glance and a nudge
from her companion seemed to be lamentable.

"I don't see why you should despise me for being pleased," Arthur said.
"I'm only pleased because it's a proof that I'm getting known."

"But they'd pay the same compliment to a man with a wen on his nose."

"No doubt, but also to any famous man," Arthur added.

Sylvia could have screamed with irritation at his lack of any sense of
proportion. Why could he not be like Jack Airdale, who had never
suffered from any illusion that what he was doing, so far as art was
concerned, was not essentially insignificant? Yet, after all, was she
not being unreasonable in paying so much attention to a childish piece
of vanity that was inseparable from the true histrionic temperament?

"I'm sorry, Arthur. I think I'm being unfair to you. I only criticize
you because I want you to be always the best of you. I see your point of
view, but I was irritated by the giggles."

"I wasn't paying the least attention to the girls."

"Oh, I wasn't jealous," she said, quickly. "Oh no, darling Arthur, even
with the great affection that I have for you, I shall never be able to
be jealous of your making eyes at shop-girls."

When Arthur's engagement seemed likely to come to an end in the summer,
they discussed plans and decided to take a holiday in the country,
somewhere in Maine or Vermont. Arthur, as usual, set the scene
beforehand, but as he set it quite in accord with Sylvia's taste she did
not mind. Indeed, their holiday in Vermont on the borders of Lake
Champlain was as near as she ever got to being perfectly happy with
Arthur--happy, that is, to the point of feeling like a chill the
prospect of separation. Sylvia was inclined to say that all Arthur's
faults were due to the theater, and that when one had him like this in
simple surroundings the best side of him was uppermost and visible, like
a spun coin that shows a simple head when it falls.

Sylvia found that she had brought with her by chance the manuscript of
the poems given to her by the outcast Englishman in Paris, and Arthur
was very anxious that she should come back to her idea of rendering
these. He had already composed a certain number of unimportant songs in
his career, but now the Muses smiled upon him (or perhaps it might be
truer to speak of her own smiles, Sylvia thought) with such favor that
he set a dozen poems to the very accompaniment they wanted, the kind of
music, moreover, that suited Sylvia's voice.

"We must get these done in New York," he said; but that week a letter
came from Olive Airdale, and Sylvia had a sudden longing for England.
She did not think she would make an effort to do anything in America.
The truth was that she had supplemented the Englishman's poems with an
idea of her own to give impressions gathered from her own life. It was
strange how abruptly the longing to express herself had arrived, but it
had arrived, with a force and fierceness that were undeniable. It had
come, too, with that authentic fever of secrecy that she divined a woman
must feel in the first moment of knowing that she has conceived. She
could not have imparted her sense of creation to any one else; such an
intimacy of revelation was too shocking to be contemplated. Somehow she
was sure that this strange shamefulness was right and that she was
entitled to hug within herself the conception that would soon enough be
turned to the travail of birth.

"By, Jove! Sylvia, this holiday _has_ done you good!" Arthur exclaimed.

She kissed him because, ignorant though he was of the true reason, she
owed him thanks for her looks.

"Sylvia, if we go back to England, do let's be married first."

"Why?"

"Why, because it's not fair on me."

"On you?"

"Yes, on me. People will always blame me, of course."

"What has it got to do with anybody else except me?"

"My mother--"

"My dear Arthur," Sylvia interrupted, sharply, "if your mother ran away
with a groom, she'll be the first person to sympathize with my point of
view."

"I suppose you're trying to be cruel," said Arthur.

"And succeeding, to judge by your dolorous mouth. No, my dear, let the
suggestion of marriage come from me. I sha'n't be hurt if you refuse."

"Well, are we to pretend we're married?" Arthur asked, hopelessly.

"Certainly not, if by that you mean that I'm to put 'Mrs. Arthur Madden'
on a visiting-card. Don't look so frightened. I'm not proposing to march
into drawing-rooms with a big drum to proclaim my emancipation from the
social decencies. Don't worry me, Arthur. It's all much too complicated
to explain, but I'll tell you one thing, I'm not going to marry you
merely to remove the world's censure of your conduct, and as long as you
feel about marrying me as you might feel about letting me carry a heavy
bag, I'll never marry you."

"I don't feel a bit like that about it," he protested. "If I could leave
you, I'd leave you now. But the very thought of losing you makes my
heart stop beating. It's like suddenly coming to the edge of a
precipice. I know perfectly well that you despise me at heart. You think
I'm a wretched actor with no feelings off the stage. You think I don't
know my own mind, if you even admit that I've got a mind at all. But I'm
thirty-one. I'm not a boy. I've had a good many women in love with me.
Now don't begin to laugh. I'm determined to say what I ought to have
said long ago, and should have said if I hadn't been afraid the whole
time of losing you. If I lose you now it can't be helped. I'd sooner
lose you than go on being treated like a child. What I want to say is
that, though I know you think it wasn't worth while being loved by the
women who've loved me, I do think it was. I'm not in the least ashamed
of them. Most of them, at any rate, were beautiful, though I admit that
all of them put together wouldn't have made up for missing you. You're a
thousand times cleverer than I. You've got much more personality. You've
every right to consider you've thrown yourself away on me. But the fact
remains that you've done it. We've been together now a year. That proves
that there _is_ something in me. I'm prouder of this year with you than
of all the rest of my life. You've developed me in the most
extraordinary way."

"I have?" Sylvia burst in.

"Of course you have. But I'm not going to be treated like a mantis."

"Like a what?"

"A mantis. You can read about it in that French book on insects. The
female eats the male. Well, I'm damned well not going to be eaten. I'm
not going back to England with you unless you marry me."

"Well, I'm not going to marry you," Sylvia declared.

"Very well, then I shall try to get an engagement on tour and we'll
separate."

"So much the better," she said. "I've got a good deal to occupy myself
at present."

"Of course you can have the music I wrote for those poems," said Arthur.

"Damn your music," she replied.

Sylvia was so much obsessed with the conviction of having at last found
a medium for expressing herself in art that, though she was vaguely
aware of having a higher regard for Arthur at this moment than she had
ever had, she could only behold him as a troublesome visitor that was
preventing her from sitting down to work.

Arthur went off on tour. Sylvia took an apartment in New York far away
up-town and settled down to test her inspiration. In six months she
lived her whole life over again, and of every personality that had
touched her own and left its mark she made a separate presentation. Her
great anxiety was to give to each sketch the air of an improvisation,
and in the course of it to make her people reveal their permanent
characters rather than their transient emotions. It was really based on
the art of the impersonator who comes on with a cocked hat, sticks out
his neck, puts his hands behind his back, and his legs apart, leans over
to the audience, and whispers Napoleon. Sylvia thought she could extend
the pleasures of recognition beyond the mere mimicry of externals to a
finer mimicry of essentials. She wanted an audience to clap not because
she could bark sufficiently like a real dog to avoid being mistaken for
a kangaroo, but because she could be sufficiently Mrs. Gainsborough not
to be recognized as Mrs. Beardmore--yet without relying upon their
respective sizes in corsets to mark the difference. She did not intend
to use even make-up; the entertainment was always to be an
improvisation. It was also to be undramatic; that is to say, it was not
to obtain its effect by working to a climax, so that, however well
hidden the mechanism might have been during the course of the
presentation, the machinery would reveal itself at the end. Sylvia
wanted to make each member of the audience feel that he had dreamed her
improvisation, or rather she hoped that he would gain from it that
elusive sensation of having lived it before, and that the effect upon
each person listening to her should be ultimately incommunicable, like
a dream. She was sure now that she could achieve this effect with the
poems, not, as she had originally supposed, through their objective
truthfulness, but through their subjective truth. That outcast
Englishman should be one of her improvisations, and of course the
original idea of letting the poems be accompanied by music would be
ruinous; one might as well illustrate them with a magic lantern. As to
her own inventions, she must avoid giving them a set form, because,
whatever actors might urge to the contrary, a play could never really be
performed twice by the same caste. She would have a scene painted like
those futurist Italian pictures; they were trying to do with color what
she was trying to do with acting; they were striving to escape from the
representation of mere externals, and often succeeding almost too well,
she added, with a smile. She would get hold of Ronald Walker in London,
who doubtless by now would be too prosperous to serve her purpose
himself, but who would probably know of some newly fledged painter
anxious to flap his wings.

At the end of six months Sylvia had evolved enough improvisations to
make a start. She went to bed tired out with the last night's work, and
woke up in the morning with a sense of blankness at the realization of
there being nothing to do that day. All the time she had been working
she had been content to be alone; she had even looked forward to amusing
herself in New York when her work was finished. Now the happy moment had
come and she could feel nothing but this empty boredom. She wondered
what Arthur was doing, and she reproached herself for the way in which
she had discarded him. She had been so thrilled by the notion that she
was necessary to somebody; it had seemed to her the consummation of so
many heedless years. Yet no sooner had she successfully imposed herself
upon Arthur than she was eager to think of nothing but herself without
caring a bit about his point of view. Now that she could do nothing more
with her work until the test of public performance was applied to it,
she was bored; in fact, she missed Arthur. The truth was that half the
pleasure of being necessary to somebody else had been that he should be
necessary to her. But marriage with Arthur? Marriage with a
curly-headed actor? Marriage with anybody? No, that must wait, at any
rate until she had given the fruit of these six months to the world. She
could not be hampered by belonging to anybody before that.

"I do think I'm justified in taking myself a little seriously for a
while," said Sylvia, "and in shutting my eyes to my own absurdity.
Self-mockery is dangerous beyond a certain point. I really will give
this idea of mine a fair chance. If I'm a failure, Arthur will love me
all the more through vanity, and if I'm a success--I suppose really
he'll be vain of that, too."

Sylvia telegraphed to Arthur, and heard that he expected to be back in
New York at the end of the month. He was in Buffalo this week. Nothing
could keep her a moment longer in New York alone, and she went up to
join him. She had a sudden fear when she arrived that she might find him
occupied with a girl; in fact, really, when she came to think of the
manner in which she had left him, it was most improbable that she should
not. She nearly turned round and went back to New York; but her real
anxiety to see Arthur and talk to him about her work made her decide to
take the risk of what might be the deepest humiliation of her life. It
was strange how much she wanted to talk about what she had done; the
desire to do so now was as overmastering an emotion as had been in the
first moment of conception the urgency of silence.

Sylvia was spared the shock of finding Arthur wrapped up in some one
else.

"Sylvia, how wonderful! What a relief to see you again!" he exclaimed.
"I've been longing for you to see me in the part I'm playing now. It's
certainly the most successful thing I've done. I'm so glad you kept me
from wasting myself any longer on that concert work. I really believe
I've made a big hit at last."

Sylvia was almost as much taken aback to find Arthur radiant with the
prospect of success as she would have been to find him head over ears in
love. She derived very little satisfaction from the way in which he
attributed his success to her; she was not at all in the mood for being
a godmother, now that she had a baby of her own.

"I'm so glad, old son. That's splendid. Now I want to talk about the
work I've been doing all these six months."

Forthwith she plunged into the details of the scheme, to which Arthur
listened attentively enough, though he only became really enthusiastic
when she could introduce analogies with his own successful performance.

"You will go in front to-night?" he begged. "I'm awfully keen to hear
what you think of my show. Half my pleasure in the hit has been spoiled
by your not having seen it. Besides, I think you'll be interested in
noticing that once or twice I try to get the same effect as you're
trying for in these impersonations."

"Damn your eyes, Arthur, they're not impersonations; they're
improvisations."

"Did I say impersonations? I'm sorry," said Arthur, looking rather
frightened.

"Yes, you'd better placate me," she threatened. "Or I'll spend my whole
time looking at Niagara and never go near your show."

However, Sylvia did go to see the play that night and found that Arthur
really was excellent in his part, which was that of the usual young man
in musical comedy who wanders about in a well-cut flannel suit, followed
by six young women with parasols ready to smother him with affection,
melody, and lace. But how, even in the intoxication of success, he had
managed to establish a single analogy with what she proposed to do was
beyond comprehension.

Arthur came out of the stage door, wreathed in questions.

"You were in such a hurry to get out," said Sylvia, "that you didn't
take off your make-up properly. You'll get arrested if you walk about
like that. I hear the sumptuary laws in Buffalo are very strict."

"No, don't rag. Did you like the hydrangea song? Do you remember the one
I mean?"

He hummed the tune.

"I warn you, Arthur, there's recently been a moral up-lift in Buffalo.
You will be sewn up in a barrel and flung into Niagara if you don't take
care. No, seriously. I think your show was capital. Which brings me to
the point. We sail for Europe at the end of April."

"Oh, but do you think it's wise for me to leave America now that I've
really got my foot in?"

"Do you still want to marry me?"

"More than ever," he assured her.

"Very well, then. Your only chance of marrying me is to leave New York
without a murmur. I've thought it all out. As soon as I get back I shall
spend my last shilling on fitting out my show. When I've produced it and
when I've found out that I've not been making a fool of myself for the
last six months, perhaps I'll marry you. Until then--as friends we met,
as anything more than friends we part. Got me, Steve?"

"But, Sylvia--"

"But me no buts, or you'll get my goat. Understand my meaning, Mr.
Stevenson?"

"Yes, only--"

"The discussion's closed."

"Are we engaged?"

"I don't know. We'll have to see our agents about that."

"Oh, don't rag. Marriage is not a joke. You are a most extraordinary
girl."

"Thanks for the discount. I shall be thirty in three months, don't
forget. Talking of the advantages of rouge, you might get rid of some of
yours before supper, if you don't mind."

"Are we engaged?" Arthur repeated, firmly.

"No, the engagement ring and the marriage-bells will be pealed
simultaneously. You're as free as Boccaccio, old son."

"You're in one of those moods when it's impossible to argue with you."

"So much the better. We shall enjoy our supper all the more. I'm so
excited at the idea of going back to England. After all, I shall have
been away nearly three years. I shall find godchildren who can talk.
Think of that. Arthur, don't you want to go back?"

"Yes, if I can get a shop. I think it's madness for me to leave New
York, but I daren't let you go alone."

The anticipation of being in England again and of putting to the test
her achievement could not charm away all Sylvia's regret at leaving
America, most of all New York. She owed to New York this new stability
that she discovered in her life. She owed to some action of New York
upon herself the delight of inspiration, the sweet purgatory of effort,
the hope of a successful end to her dreams. It was the only city of
which she had ever taken a formal farewell, such as she took from the
top of the Metropolitan Tower upon a lucid morning in April. The city
lay beneath, with no magic of smoke to lend a meretricious romance to
its checkered severity; a city encircled with silver waters and
pavilioned by huge skies, expressing modern humanity, as the great
monuments of ancient architecture express the mighty dead.

"We too can create our Parthenons," thought Sylvia, as she sank to earth
in the florid elevator.

They crossed the Atlantic on one of the smaller Cunard liners. The
voyage was uneventful. Nearly all the passengers in turn told Sylvia why
they were not traveling by one of the large ships, but nobody suggested
as a reason that the smaller ships were cheaper.

When they reached England Arthur went to stay with his mother at
Dulwich. Sylvia went to the Airdales; she wanted to set her scheme in
motion, but she promised to come and stay at Dulwich later on.

"At last you've come back," Olive said, on the verge of tears. "I've
missed you dreadfully."

"Great Scott! Look at Sylvius and Rose!" Sylvia exclaimed. "They're like
two pigs made of pink sugar. Pity we never thought of it at the time, or
they could have been christened Scarlet and Crimson."

"Darlings, isn't godmamma horrid to you?" said Olive.

"Here! Here! What are you teaching them to call me?"

"Dat's godmamma," said Sylvius, in a thick voice.

"Dat's godmamma," Rose echoed.

"Not on your life, cullies," their godmother announced, "unless you want
a thick ear each."

"Give me one," said Sylvius, stolidly.

"Give me one," Rose echoed.

"How can you tease the poor darlings so?" Olive exclaimed.

"Sylvius will have one," he announced, in the same thick monotone.

"Rose will have one," echoed his sister.

Sylvia handed her godson a large painted ball.

"Here's your thick ear, Pork."

Sylvius laughed fatly; the ball and the new name both pleased him.

"And here's yours," she said, offering another to Rose, who waited to
see what her brother did with his and then proceeded to do the same with
the same fat laugh. Suddenly, however, her lips puckered.

"What is it, darling?" her mother asked, anxiously.

"Rose wants to be said Pork."

"You didn't call her Pork," Olive translated, reproachfully, to Sylvia.

"Give me back the ball," said Sylvia. "Now then, here's your thick ear,
Porka."

Rose laughed ecstatically. After two ornaments had been broken Jack came
in, and the children retired with their nurse.

Sylvia found that family life had not spoiled Jack's interest in that
career of hers; indeed, he was so much excited by her news that he
suggested omitting for once the ceremony of seeing the twins being given
their bath in order not to lose any of the short time available before
he should have to go down to the theater. Sylvia, however, would not
hear of any change in the domestic order, and reminded Jack that she was
proposing to quarter herself on them for some time.

"I know, it's terrific," he said.

The excitement of the bath was always considerable, but this evening,
with Sylvia's assistance, it became acute. Sylvius hit his nurse in the
eye with the soap, and Rose, wrought up to a fever of emulation, managed
to hurl the sponge into the grate.

Jack was enthusiastic about Sylvia's scheme. She was not quite sure that
he understood exactly at what she was aiming, but he wished her so well
that in any case his criticism would have had slight value; he gave
instead his devoted attention, and that seemed a pledge of success.
Success! Success! it sounded like a cataract in her ears, drowning every
other sound. She wondered if the passion of her life was to be success.
On no thoughts urged so irresistibly had she ever sailed to sleep, nor
had she ever wakened in such a buoyancy, greeting the day as a swimmer
greets the sea.

"Now what about the backing?" Jack asked.

"Backing? I'll back myself. You'll be my manager. I've enough to hire
the Pierian Hall for a day and a night. I've enough to pay for one
scene. Which reminds me I must get hold of Ronald Walker. You'll sing,
Jack, two songs? Oh, and there's Arthur Madden. He'll sing, too."

"Who's he?" Olive asked.

"Oh, didn't I tell you about him?" said Sylvia, almost too nonchalantly,
she feared. "He's rather good. Quite good, really. I'll tell you about
him sometime. By the way, I've talked so much about myself and my plans
that I've never asked about other people. How's the countess?"

Olive looked grave. "We don't ever see them, but everybody says that
Clarehaven is going the pace tremendously."

"Have they retreated to Devonshire?"

"Oh no! Didn't you hear? I thought I'd told you in one of my letters. He
had to sell the family place. Do you remember a man called Leopold
Hausberg?"

"Do I not?" Sylvia exclaimed. "He took a flat once for a chimpanzee
instead of Lily."

"Well, he's become Lionel Houston this year, and he's talked about with
Dorothy a good deal. Of course he's very rich, but I do hope there's
nothing in what people say. Poor Dorothy!"

"She'll survive even the divorce court," Sylvia said. "I wish I knew
what had become of Lily. She might have danced in my show. I suppose
it's too late now, though. Poor Lily! I say, we're getting very
compassionate, you and I, Olive. Are you and Jack going to have any more
kids?"

"Sylvia darling," Olive exclaimed, with a blush.

Sylvia had intended to stay a week or two with the Airdales, and, after
having set in motion the preliminaries of her undertaking, to go down to
Dulwich and visit Mrs. Madden, but she thought she would get hold of
Ronnie Walker first, and with this object went to the Café Royal, where
she should be certain of finding either him or a friend who would know
where he was.

Sylvia had scarcely time to look round her in the swirl of gilt and
smoke and chatter before Ronald Walker himself, wearing now a long pale
beard, greeted her.

"My dear Ronald, what's the matter? Are you tired of women? You look
more like a grate than a great man," Sylvia exclaimed. "Cut it off and
give it to your landlady to stuff her fireplace this summer."

"What shall we drink?" he asked, imperturbably.

"I've been absinthe for so long that really--"

"It's a vermouth point," added Ronald.

"Ronnie, you devil, I can't go on, it's too whisky. Well, of course
after that we ought both to drink port and brandy. Don't you find it
difficult to clean your beard?"

"I'm not a messy feeder," said Ronnie.

"You don't paint with it, then?"

"Only Cubist pictures."

Sylvia launched out into an account of her work, and demanded his help
for the painting of the scene.

"I want the back-cloth to be a city, not to represent a city, mark you,
but to be a city."

She told him about New York as beheld from the Metropolitan Tower, and
exacted from the chosen painter the ability to make the audience think
that.

"I'm too old-fashioned for you, my dear," said Ronald.

"Oh, you, my dear man, of course. If I asked you for a city, you'd give
me a view from a Pierrot's window of a Harlequin who'd stolen the first
five numbers of the Yellow Book from a Pantaloon who kept a second-hand
bookshop in a street-scene by Steinlen, and whose daughter, Columbine,
having died of grief at being deserted by the New English Art Club, had
been turned into a book-plate. No, I want some fierce young genius of
to-day."

Over their drinks they discussed possible candidates; finally Ronald
said he would invite a certain number of the most representative and
least representational modern painters to his studio, from whom Sylvia
might make her choice. Accordingly, two or three days later Sylvia
visited Ronald in Grosvenor Road. For the moment, when she entered, she
thought that he had been playing a practical joke upon her, for it
seemed impossible that these extraordinary people could be real. The
northerly light of the studio, severe and virginal, was less kind than
the feverish exhalation of the Café Royal.

"They are real?" she whispered to her host.

"Oh yes, they're quite real, and in deadly earnest. Each of them
represents a school and each of them thinks I've been converted to his
point of view. I'll introduce Morphew."

He beckoned to a tall young man in black, who looked like a rolled-up
umbrella with a jade handle.

"Morphew, this is Miss Scarlett. She's nearly as advanced as you are.
Sylvia, this is Morphew, the Azurist."

Walker maliciously withdrew when he had made the introduction.

"Ought I to know what an Azurist is?" Sylvia asked. She felt that it was
an unhappy opening for the conversation, but she did not want to hurt
his religious feelings if Azurism was a religion, and if it was a trade
she might be excused for not knowing what it was, such a rare trade must
it be.

Mr. Morphew smiled in a superior way. "I think most people have heard
about me by now."

"Ah, but I've been abroad."

"Several of my affirmations have been translated and published in
France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, and Holland,"
said Mr. Morphew, in a tone that seemed to imply that if Sylvia had not
grasped who he was by now she never would, in which case it was scarcely
worth his while to go on talking to her.

"Oh dear! What a pity!" she exclaimed. "I was in Montenegro all last
year, so I must have missed them. I don't _think_ you're known in
Montenegro yet. It's such a small country, I should have been sure to
hear about anything like that.

"Like what?" thought Sylvia, turning up her mind's eyes to heaven.

Mr. Morphew was evidently not sure what sort of language was spoken in
Montenegro, and thought it wiser to instruct Sylvia than to expose his
own ignorance.

"What color is that?" he suddenly demanded, pointing to the orange
coverlet of a settee.

"Orange," said Sylvia. "Perhaps it's inclining to some shade of brown."

"Orange! Brown!" Mr. Morphew scoffed. "It's blue."

"Oh, but it's not!" she contradicted. "There's nothing blue about it."

"Blue," repeated Mr. Morphew. "All is blue. The Azurists deny that there
is anything but blue. Blue," he continued in a rapt voice. "Blue! I was
a Blanchist at first; but when we quarreled most of the Blanchists
followed me. I shall publish the nineteenth affirmation of the Azurists
next week. If you give me your address I'll send you a copy. We're going
to give the Ovists hell in a new magazine that we're bringing out. We
find that affirmations are not enough."

"Will it be an ordinary magazine?" Sylvia asked. "Will you have stories,
for instance?"

"We don't admit that stories exist. Life-rays exist. There will be
life-rays in our magazine."

"I suppose they'll be pretty blue," said Sylvia.

"All life-rays are blue."

"I suppose you don't mind wet weather?" she suggested. "Because it must
be rather difficult to know when it's going to clear up."

"There are degrees of blue," Mr. Morphew explained.

"I see. Life isn't just one vast, reckless blue. Well, thank you very
much for being so patient with my old-fashioned optical ideas. I do hope
you'll go to America and tell them that their leaves turn blue in
autumn. Anyway, you'll feel quite at home crossing the ocean, though
some people won't even admit that's blue."

Sylvia left the Azurist and rejoined Ronald.

"Well," he laughed. "You look quite frightened."

"My dear, I've just done a bolt from the blue. You are a beast to rag
my enthusiasms. Isn't there anybody here whose serious view of himself I
can indorse?"

"Well, there's Pattison, the Ovist. He maintains that everything
resolves itself into ovals."

"I think I should almost prefer Azurism," said Sylvia. "What about the
Blanchists?"

"Oh, you wouldn't like them! They maintain that there's no such thing as
color; their pictures depend on the angle at which they're hung."

"But if there's no such thing as color, how can they paint?"

"They don't. Their canvases are blank. Then there are the
Combinationists. They don't repudiate color, but they repudiate paint.
The most famous Combinationist picture exhibited so far consisted of
half a match-box, a piece of orange-peel, and some sealing-wax, all
stuck upon a slip of sugar-paper. The other Combinationists wanted to
commit suicide because they despaired of surpassing it. Roger Cadbury
wrote a superb introduction, pointing out that it must be either liked
or disliked, but that it was impossible to do both or neither. It was
that picture which inspired Hezekiah Penny to write what is considered
one of his finest poems. You know it, perhaps?

    "Why do I sing?
     There is no reason why I should continue:
     This image of the essential bin is better
     Than the irritated uvulas of modern poets.

That caused almost as great sensation as the picture, because some of
his fellow-poets maintained that he had no right to speak for anybody
but himself."

"Who is Hezekiah Penny?" Sylvia asked.

"Hezekiah Penny is a provincial poet who began by writing Provençal
verse."

"But this is madness," Sylvia exclaimed, looking round her at the
studio, where the representatives of modernity eyed one another with
surprise and distaste like unusual fish in the tank of an aquarium.
"Behind all this rubbish surely something truly progressive exists.
You've deliberately invited all the charlatans and impostors to meet me.
I tell you, Ronnie, I saw lots of pictures in New York that were
eccentric, but they were striving to rediscover life in painting. You're
prejudiced because you belong to the decade before all this, and you've
taken a delight in showing me all the extravagant side of it. You should
emulate Tithonus."

"Who was he?"

"Now don't pretend you can't follow a simple allusion. The gentleman who
fell in love with Aurora."

"Didn't he get rather tired of living forever?"

"Oh, well, that was because he grew a beard like you. Don't nail my
allusions to the counter; they're not lies."

"I'll take pity on you," said Ronnie. "There is quite a clever youth
whom I intended for you from the beginning. He's coming in later, when
the rest have gone."

When she and Ronnie were alone again and before Lucian Hope, the young
painter, arrived, Sylvia, looking through one of his sketch-books, came
across a series of studies of a girl in the practice-dress of dancing;
he told her it was Jenny Pearl.

"Maurice Avery's Jenny," she murmured. "What happened to her?"

"Didn't you hear about it? She was killed by her husband. It was a
horrible business. Maurice went down to see her where she lived in the
country, and this brute shot her. It was last summer. The papers were
full of it."

"And what happened to Maurice?"

"Oh, he nearly went off his head. He's wandering about in Morocco
probably."

"Where I met him," said Sylvia.

"But didn't he tell you?"

"Oh, it was before. More than three years ago. We talked about her."

Sylvia shuddered. One of her improvisations had been Maurice Avery; she
must burn it.

Lucian Hope arrived before Sylvia could ask any more questions about the
horrible event; she was glad to escape from the curiosity that would
have turned it into a tale of the police-court. The new-comer was not
more than twenty-two, perhaps less--too young, at any rate, to have
escaped from the unconventionality of artistic attire that stifles all
personality. But he had squirrel's eyes, and was not really like an
undertaker. He was shy, too, so shy that Sylvia wondered how he could
tolerate being stared at in the street on account of his odd appearance.
She would have liked to ask him what pleasure he derived from such
mimicry of a sterile and professional distinction, but she feared to
hurt his young vanity; moreover, she was disarmed by those squirrel's
eyes, so sharp and bright even in the falling dusk. The three of them
talked restlessly for a while, and Sylvia, seeing that Ronald was
preparing to broach the subject for which they were met, anticipated him
with a call for attention, and began one of her improvisations. It was
of Concetta lost in a greater city than Granada. By the silence that
followed she knew that her companions had cared for it, and she changed
to Mrs. Gainsborough. Then she finished up with three of the poems.

"Could you paint me a scene for that?" she asked, quickly, to avoid any
comment.

"Oh, rather!" replied the young man, very eagerly; though it was nearly
dark now, she could see his eyes flashing real assurance.

They all three dined together that evening, and Lucian Hope, ever since
Sylvia had let him know that she stood beside him to conquer the world,
lost his early shyness and talked volubly of what she wanted and what he
wanted to do. Ronald Walker presided in the background of the ardent
conversation, and as they came out of the restaurant he took Sylvia's
arm for a moment.

"All right?"

"Quite all right, thanks."

"So's your show going to be. Not so entirely modern as you gave me to
suppose. But that's not a great fault."

Sylvia and Lucian Hope spent a good deal of time together, so much was
there to talk about in connection with the great enterprise. She brought
him to the Airdales' that he might meet Jack, who was supposed to have
charge of the financial arrangements. The sight of the long-haired young
man made Sylvius cry, and, as a matter of course, Rose, also, which
embarrassed Lucian Hope a good deal, especially when he had to listen to
an explanation of himself by Olive for the children's consolation.

"He's a gollywog," Sylvius howled.

"He's a gollywog," Rose echoed.

"He's tum to gobble us," Sylvius bellowed.

"To gobble us, to gobble us," Rose wailed.

"He's not a gollywog, darlings," their mother declared. "He makes pretty
pictures, oh, such pretty pictures of--"

"He _is_ a gollywog," choked Sylvius, in an ecstasy of rage and fear.

"A gollywog, a gollywog," Rose insisted.

Their mother changed her tactics. "But he's a kind gollywog. Oh, such a
kind gollywog, the kindest, nicest gollywog that was ever thought of."

"He _is_--ent," both children proclaimed. "He's bad!"

"Don't you think I'd better go?" asked the painter. "I think it must be
my hair that's upsetting them."

He started toward the door, but, unfortunately, he was on the wrong side
of the children, who, seeing him make a move in their direction, set up
such an appalling yell that the poor young man drew back in despair. In
the middle of this the maid entered, announcing Mr. Arthur Madden, who
followed close upon her heels. Sylvius and Rose were by this time
obsessed with the idea of an invasion by an army of gollywogs, and
Arthur's pleasant face took on for them the dreaded lineaments of the
foe. Both children clung shrieking to their mother's skirts. Sylvia and
Jack were leaning back, incapable through laughter. Arthur and Lucian
Hope surveyed miserably the scene they had created. At last the nurse
arrived to rescue the twins, and they were carried away without being
persuaded to change their minds about the inhuman nature of the two
visitors.

Arthur apologized for worrying Sylvia, but his mother was so anxious to
know when she was coming down to Dulwich, and as he had been up in town
seeing about an engagement, he had not been able to resist coming to
visit her.

Sylvia felt penitent for having abandoned Arthur so completely since
they had arrived in England, and she told him she would go back with him
that very afternoon.

"Oh, but Miss Scarlett," protested Lucian, "don't you remember? We
arranged to explore Limehouse to-morrow."

Arthur looked at the painter very much as if he were indeed the gollywog
for which he had just been taken.

"I don't want to interfere with previous arrangements," he said, with
such a pathetic haughtiness that Sylvia had not the heart to wound his
dignity, and told Lucian Hope that the expedition to Limehouse must be
postponed. The young painter looked disconsolate and Arthur blossomed
from his fading. However, Lucian had the satisfaction of saying, in a
mysterious voice, to Sylvia before he went:

"Well, then, while you're away I'll get on with it."

It was not until they were half-way to Dulwich in the train that Arthur
asked Sylvia what he was going to get on with.

"My scene," she said.

"What scene?"

"Arthur, don't be stupid. The set for my show."

"You're not going to let a youth like that paint a set for you? You're
mad. What experience has he had?"

"None. That's exactly why I chose him. I'm providing the experience."

"Have you known him long?" Arthur demanded. "You can't have known him
very long. He must have been at school when you left England."

"Don't be jealous," said Sylvia.

"Jealous? Of him? Huh!"

Mrs. Madden had changed more than Sylvia expected. Arthur had seemed so
little altered that she was surprised to see his mother with white hair,
for she could scarcely be fifty-five yet. The drawing-room of the little
house in Dulwich recalled vividly the drawing-room of the house in
Hampstead; nor had Mrs. Madden bought herself a new piano with the fifty
pounds that was cabled back to her from Sulphurville. It suddenly
occurred to Sylvia that this was the first time she had seen her since
she ran away with Arthur, fifteen years ago, and she felt that she ought
to apologize for that behavior now; but, after all, Mrs. Madden had run
away herself once upon a time with her father's groom and could scarcely
have been greatly astonished at Arthur's elopement.

"You have forgiven me for carrying him off from Hampstead?" she asked,
with a smile.

Mrs. Madden laughed gently. "Yes, I was frightened at the time. But in
the end it did Arthur good, I think. It's been such a pleasure to me to
hear how successful he's been lately." She looked at Sylvia with an
expression of marked sympathy.

After supper Mrs. Madden came up to Sylvia's room and, taking her hand,
said, in her soft voice, "Arthur has told me all about you two."

Sylvia flushed and pulled her hand away. "He's no business to tell you
anything about me," she said, hotly.

"You mustn't be angry, Sylvia. He made it quite clear that you hadn't
quite made up your mind yet. Poor boy," she added, with a sigh.

Sylvia, when she understood that Arthur had not said anything about
their past, had a strong desire to tell Mrs. Madden that she had lived
with him for a year. She resented the way she had said "poor boy." She
checked the impulse and assured her that if Arthur had spoken of their
marriage he had had no right to do so. It really was most improbable
that she should marry him; oh, but most improbable.

"You always spoke very severely about love when you were a little girl.
Do you remember? You must forgive a mother, but I must tell you that I
believe Arthur's happiness depends upon your marrying him. He talks of
nothing else and makes such plans for the future."

"He makes too many plans," Sylvia said, severely.

"Ah, there soon comes a time when one ceases to make plans," Mrs. Madden
sighed. "One is reduced to expedients. But now that you're a woman, and
I can easily believe that you're the clever woman Arthur says you are,
for you gave every sign of it when you were young--now that you're a
woman, I do hope you'll be a merciful woman. It's such a temptation--you
must forgive my plain speaking--it's such a temptation to keep a man
like Arthur hanging on. You must have noticed how young he is still--to
all intents and purposes quite a boy; and believe me he has the same
romantic adoration for you and your wonderfulness as he had when he was
seventeen. Don't, I beg of you, treat such devotion too lightly."

Sylvia could not keep silent under this unjustified imputation of
heartlessness, and broke out:

"I'm sure you'll admit that Arthur has given quite a wrong idea of me
when I tell you that we lived together for a year; and you must remember
that I've been married already and know what it means. Arthur has no
right to complain of me."

"Oh, Sylvia, I'm sorry!" Mrs. Madden almost whispered. "Oh dear! how
could Arthur do such a thing?"

"Because I made him, of course. Now you must forgive _me_ if I say
something that hurts your feelings, but I must say it. When you ran away
with your husband, you must have made him do it. You _must_ have done."

"Good gracious me!" Mrs. Madden exclaimed. "I suppose I did. I never
looked at it in that light before. You've made me feel quite ashamed of
my behavior. Quite embarrassed. And I suppose everybody has always
blamed me entirely; but because my husband was one of my father's
servants I always used to be defending him. I never thought of defending
myself."

Sylvia was sorry for stirring up in Mrs. Madden's placid mind old
storms. It was painful to see this faded gentlewoman in the little
suburban bedroom, blushing nervously at the unlady-like behavior of long
ago. Presently Mrs. Madden pulled herself up and said, with a certain
decision:

"Yes, but I did marry him."

"Yes, but you hadn't been married already. You hadn't knocked round half
the globe for twenty-eight years. It's no good my pretending to be
shocked at myself. I don't care a bit what anybody thinks about me, and,
anyway, it's done now."

"Surely you'd be happier if you married Arthur after--after that," Mrs.
Madden suggested.

"But I'm not in the least unhappy. I can't say whether I shall marry
Arthur until I've given my performance. I can't say what effect either
success or failure will have on me. My whole mind is concentrated in the
Pierian Hall next October."

"I'm afraid I cant understand this modern way of looking at things."

"But there's nothing modern about my point of view, Mrs. Madden.
There's nothing modern about the egotism of an artist. Arthur is as free
as I am. He has his own career to think about. He does think about it a
great deal. He's radically much more interested in that than in marrying
me. The main point is that he's free at present. From the moment I
promise to marry him and he accepts that promise he won't be free. Nor
shall I. It wouldn't be fair on either of us to make that promise now,
because I must know what October is going to bring forth."

"Well, I call it very modern. When I was young we looked at marriage as
the most important event in a girl's life."

"But you didn't, dear Mrs. Madden. You, or rather your contemporaries,
regarded marriage as a path to freedom--social freedom, that is. Your
case was exceptional. You fell passionately in love with a man beneath
you, as the world counts it. You married him, and what was the result?
You were cut off by your relations as utterly as if you had become the
concubine of a Hottentot."

"Oh, Sylvia dear, what an uncomfortable comparison!"

"Marriage to your contemporaries was a social observance. I'm not
religious, but I regard marriage as so sacred that, because I've been
divorced and because, so far as I know, my husband is still alive, I
have something like religious qualms about marrying again. It takes a
cynic to be an idealist; the sentimentalist gets left at the first
fence. It's just because I'm fond of Arthur in a perfectly normal way
when I'm not immersed in my ambition that I even contemplate the
_notion_ of marrying him. I've got a perfectly normal wish to have
children and a funny little house of my own. So far as I know at
present, I should like Arthur to be the father of my children. But it's
got to be an equal business. Personally I think that the Turks are wiser
about women than we are; I think the majority of women are only fit for
the harem and I'm not sure that the majority wouldn't be much happier
under such conditions. The incurable vanity of man, however, has removed
us from our seclusion to admire his antics, and it's too late to start
shutting us up in a box now. Woman never thought of equality with man
until he put the notion into her head."

"I think perhaps supper may be ready," Mrs. Madden said. "It all sounds
very convincing as you speak, but I can't help feeling that you'd be
happier if you wouldn't take everything to pieces to look at the works.
Things hardly ever go so well again afterward. Oh dear, I wish you
hadn't lived together first."

"It breaks the ice of the wedding-cake, doesn't it?" said Sylvia.

"And I wish you wouldn't make such bitter remarks. You don't really mean
what you say. I'm sure supper must be ready."

"Oh, but I do," Sylvia insisted, as they passed out into the narrow
little passage and down the narrow stairs into the little dining-room.
Nevertheless, in Sylvia's mind there was a kindliness toward this little
house, almost a tenderness, and far away at the back of her imagination
was the vision of herself established in just such another little house.

"But even the Albert Memorial would look all right from the wrong end of
a telescope," she said to herself.

One thing was brought home very vividly during her stay in Dulwich,
which was the difference between what she had deceived herself into
thinking was that first maternal affection she had felt for Arthur and
the true maternal love of his mother. Whenever she had helped Arthur in
any way, she had always been aware of enjoying the sensation of her
indispensableness; it had been an emotion altogether different from this
natural selfishness of the mother; it was really one that had always
reflected a kind of self-conscious credit upon herself. Here in Dulwich,
with this aspect of her affection for Arthur completely overshadowed,
Sylvia was able to ask herself more directly if she loved him in the
immemorial way of love; and though she could not arrive at a finally
positive conclusion, she was strengthened in her resolve not to let him
go. Arthur himself was more in love with her than he had ever been, and
she thought that perhaps this was due to that sudden and disquieting
withdrawal of herself; in the midst of possession he had been
dispossessed, and until he could pierce her secret reasons he would
inevitably remain deeply in love, even to the point of being jealous of
a boy like Lucian Hope. Sylvia understood Arthur's having refused an
engagement to tour as juvenile lead in a successful musical piece and
his unwillingness to leave her alone in town; he was rewarded, too, for
his action, because shortly afterward he obtained a good engagement in
London to take the place of a singer who had retired from the cast of
the Frivolity Theater. At that rate he would soon find himself at the
Vanity Theater itself.

In June Sylvia went back to the Airdales', and soon afterward took rooms
near them in West Kensington. It was impossible to continue indefinitely
to pretend that Arthur and herself were mere theatrical acquaintances,
and one day Olive asked Sylvia if she intended to marry him.

"What do you advise?" Sylvia asked. "There's a triumph, dearest Olive.
Have I ever asked your advice before?"

"I like him; Jack likes him, too, and says that he ought to get on fast
now; but I don't know. Well, he's not the sort of man I expected you to
marry."

"You've had an ideal for me all the time," Sylvia exclaimed. "And you've
never told me."

"Oh no, I've never had anybody definite in my mind, but I think I should
be able to say at once if the man you had chosen was the right one.
Don't ask me to describe him, because I couldn't do it. You used to
tease me about marrying a curly-headed actor, but Arthur Madden seems to
me much more of a curly-headed actor than Jack is."

"In fact, you thoroughly disapprove of poor Arthur?" Sylvia pressed.

"Oh dear, no! Oh, not at all! Please don't think that. I'm only anxious
that you shouldn't throw yourself away."

"Remnants always go cheap," said Sylvia. "However, don't worry. I'll be
quite sure of myself before I marry anybody again."

The summer passed away quickly in a complexity of arrangements for the
opening performance at the Pierian Hall. Sylvia stayed three or four
times at Dulwich and grew very fond of Mrs. Madden, who never referred
again to the subject of marriage. She also went up to Warwickshire with
Olive and the children, much to the pleasure of Mr. Fanshawe, who was
now writing a supplementary volume called _More Warwickshire Worthies_.
In London she scarcely met any old friends; indeed, she went out of her
way to avoid people like the Clarehavens, because they would not have
been interested in what she was doing. By this time Sylvia had reached
the point of considering everybody either for the interest and belief he
evinced in her success or by the use he could be to her in securing it.
The first rapturous egoism of Arthur's own success in London had worn
off with time, and he was able to devote himself entirely to running
about for Sylvia, which gradually made her regard him more and more as a
fixture. As for Lucian Hope, he thought of nothing but the great
occasion, and would have fought anybody who had ventured to cast a
breath of doubt upon the triumph at hand. The set that he had painted
was exactly what Sylvia required, and though both Arthur and Jack
thought it would distract the audience's attention by puzzling them,
they neither of them on Sylvia's account criticized it at all harshly.

At last in mid-October the very morning of the day arrived, so long
anticipated with every kind of discussion that its superficial
resemblance to other mornings seemed heartless and unnatural. It was
absurd that a milkman's note should be the same as yesterday, that
servants should shake mats on front-door steps as usual, and that the
maid who knocked at Sylvia's door should not break down beneath the
weightiness of her summons. Nor, when Sylvia looked out of the window,
were Jack and Arthur and Ronald and Lucian pacing with agitated steps
the pavement below, an absence of enthusiasm, at any rate on the part of
Arthur and Lucian, that hurt her feelings, until she thought for a
moment how foolishly unreasonable she was being.

As soon as Sylvia was dressed she went round to the Airdales'; everybody
she met on the way inspired her with a longing to confide in him the
portentousness of the day, and she found herself speculating whether
several business men, who were hurrying to catch the nine-o'clock
train, had possibly an intention of visiting the Pierian Hall that
afternoon. She was extremely annoyed to find, when she reached the
Airdales' house, that neither Jack nor Olive was up.

"Do they know the time?" she demanded of the maid, in a scandalized
voice. "Their clock must have stopped."

"Oh no, miss, I don't think so. Breakfast is at ten, as usual. There's
Mr. Airdale's dressing-room bell going now, miss. That 'll be for his
shaving-water. Shall I say you're waiting to see him?"

What a ridiculous time to begin shaving, Sylvia thought.

"Yes, please," she added, aloud. "Or no, don't bother him; I'll come
back at ten o'clock."

Sylvia saw more of the streets of West Kensington in that hour than she
had ever seen of them before, and decided that the neighborhood was
impossible. Nothing so intolerably monotonous as these rows of stupid
and meaningless houses had ever been designed. One after another of them
blinked at her in the autumnal sunshine with a fatuous complacency that
made her long to ring all the bells in the street. Presently she found
herself by the play-fields of St. James's School, where the last boys
were hurrying across the grass like belated ants. She looked at the
golden clock in the school-buildings--half past nine. In five hours and
a half she would be waiting for the curtain to go up; in seven hours and
a half the audience would be wondering if it should have tea in Bond
Street or cross Piccadilly and walk down St. James's Street to
Rumpelmayer's. This problem of the audience began to worry Sylvia. She
examined the alternatives with a really anxious gravity. If it went to
Rumpelmayer's it would have to walk back to the Dover Street Tube, which
would mean recrossing Piccadilly; on the other hand, it would be on the
right side for the omnibuses. On the other hand, it would find
Rumpelmayer's full, because other audiences would have arrived before
it, invading the tea-shop from Pall Mall. Sylvia grew angry at the
thought of these other audiences robbing her audience of its tea--her
audience, some members of which would have read in the paper this
morning:

  PIERIAN HALL.

       This afternoon at 3 p. m.

          SYLVIA SCARLETT

               IN

         IMPROVISATIONS

and would actually have paid, some of them, as much as seven shillings
and sixpence to see Sylvia Scarlett. Seven hours and a half: seven
shillings and sixpence: 7-1/2 plus 7-1/2 made fifteen. When she was
fifteen she had met Arthur. Sylvia's mind rambled among the omens of
numbers, and left her audience still undecided between Bond Street and
Rumpelmayer's, left it upon the steps of the Pierian Hall, the sport of
passing traffic, hungry, thirsty, homesick. In seven and a half hours
she would know the answer to that breathless question asked a year ago
in Vermont. To think that the exact spot on which she had stood when she
asked was existing at this moment in Vermont! In seven and a half hours,
no, in seven hours and twenty-five minutes; the hands were moving on. It
was really terrible how little people regarded the flight of time; the
very world might come to an end in seven hours and twenty-five minutes.

"Have you seen Sylvia Scarlett yet?"

"No, we intended to go yesterday, but there were no seats left. They say
she's wonderful."

"Oh, my dear, she's perfectly amazing! Of course it's something quite
new. You really must go."

"Who is she like?"

"Oh, she's not like anybody else. I'm told she's half French."

"Oh, really! How interesting."

"Good morning! Have you used Pear's soap?"

"V-vi-vin-vino-vinol-vinoli-vinolia."

Sylvia pealed the Airdales' bell, and found Jack in the queer mixed
costume which a person wears on the morning of an afternoon that will be
celebrated by his best tail-coat.

"My dear girl, you really mustn't get so excited," he protested, when he
saw Sylvia's manner.

"Oh, Jack, do you think I shall be a success?"

"Of course you will. Now, do, for goodness' sake, drink a cup of coffee
or something."

Sylvia found that she was hungry enough to eat even an egg, which
created a domestic crisis, because Sylvius and Rose quarreled over which
of them was to have the top. Finally it was adjusted by awarding the top
to Sylvius, but by allowing Rose to turn the empty egg upside down for
the exquisite pleasure of watching Sylvia tap it with ostentatious
greed, only to find that there was nothing inside, after all, an
operation that Sylvius watched with critical jealousy and Rose saluted
with ecstatic joy. Sylvia's disappointment was so beautifully violent
that Sylvius regretted the material choice he had made, and wanted
Sylvia to eat another egg, of which Rose might eat the top and he offer
the empty shell; but it was too late, and Sylvius learned that often the
shadow is better than the substance.

It had been decided in the end that Jack should confine himself to the
cares of general management, and Arthur was left without a rival. Sylvia
had insisted that he should only sing old English folk-songs, a decision
which he had challenged at first on the ground that he required the
advertisement of more modern songs, and that Sylvia's choice was not
going to help him.

"You're not singing to help yourself," she had told him. "You're singing
to help me."

In addition to Arthur there was a girl whom Lucian Hope had discovered,
a delicate creature with red hair, whose chief claim to employment was
that she was starving, though incidentally she had a very sweet and pure
soprano voice. Finally there was an Irish pianist whose technique and
good humor were alike unassailable.

Before the curtain went up, Sylvia could think of nothing but the
improvisations that she ought to have invented instead of the ones that
she had. It was a strain upon her common sense to prevent her from
canceling the whole performance and returning its money to the audience.
The more she contemplated what she was going to do the more she viewed
the undertaking as a fraud upon the public. There had never been any
_chicane_ like the _chicane_ she was presently going to commit. What was
that noise? Who had given the signal to O'Hea? What in hell's name did
he think he was doing at the piano? The sound of the music was like
water running into one's bath while one was lying in bed--nothing could
stop it from overflowing presently. Nothing could stop the curtain from
rising. At what a pace he was playing that Debussy! He was showing off,
the fool! A ridiculous joke came into her mind that she kept on
repeating while the music flowed: "Many a minim makes a maxim. Many a
minim makes a maxim." How cold it was in the dressing-room, and the
music was getting quicker and quicker. There was a knock at the door. It
was Arthur. How nice he looked with that red carnation in his
buttonhole.

"How nice you look, Arthur, in that buttonhole."

The flower became tremendously important; it seemed to Sylvia that, if
she could go on flattering the flower, O'Hea would somehow be kept at
the piano.

"Well, don't pull it to pieces," said Arthur, ruthfully. But it was too
late; the petals were scattered on the floor like drops of blood.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Come along back to my dressing-room. I'll give you
another flower."

"No, no; there isn't time now. Wait till you come off after your first
set."

Now it was seeming the most urgent thing in the world to find another
flower for Arthur's buttonhole. At all cost the rise of that curtain
must be delayed. But Arthur had brought her on the stage and the notes
were racing toward the death of the piece. It was absurd of O'Hea to
have chosen Debussy; the atmosphere required a ballade of Chopin, or,
better still, Schumann's Noveletten. He could have played all the
Noveletten. Oh dear, what a pity she had not thought of making that
suggestion. The piano would have been scarcely half-way through by now.

Suddenly there was silence. Then there followed the languid applause of
an afternoon audience for an unimportant part of the program.

"He's stopped," Sylvia exclaimed, in horror. "What _has_ happened?"

She turned to Arthur in despair, but he had hurried off the stage.
Lucian Hope's painted city seemed to press forward and stifle her; she
moved down-stage to escape it. The curtain went up and she recoiled as
from a chasm at her feet. Why on earth was O'Hea sitting in that idiotic
attitude, as if he were going to listen to a sermon, looking down like
that, with his right arm supporting his left elbow and his left hand
propping up his chin? How hot the footlights were! She hoped nothing had
happened, and looked round in alarm; but the fireman was standing quite
calmly in the wings. Just as Sylvia was deciding that her voice could
not possibly escape from her throat, which had closed upon it like a
pair of pincers, the voice tore itself free and went traveling out
toward that darkness in front, that nebulous darkness scattered with
hands and faces and programs. Like Concetta in a great city, Sylvia was
lost in that darkness; she _was_ Concetta. It seemed to her that the
applause at the end was not so much approval of Concetta as a welcome to
Mrs. Gainsborough; when isolated laughs and volleys of laughter came out
of the darkness and were followed sometimes by the darkness itself
laughing everywhere, so that O'Hea looked up very personally and winked
at her, then Sylvia fell in love with her audience. The laughter
increased, and suddenly she recognized at the end of each volley that
Sylvius and Rose were supplementing its echoes with rapturous echoes of
their own. She could not see them, but their gurgles in the darkness
were like a song of nightingales to Sylvia. She ceased to be Mrs.
Gainsborough, and began to say three or four of the poems. Then the
curtain fell, and came up again, and fell, and came up again, and fell,
and came up again.

Jack was standing beside her and saying:

"Splendid, splendid, splendid, splendid!"

"Delighted, delighted, delighted, delighted!"

"Very good audience! Splendid audience! Delighted audience! Success!
Success! Success!"

Really, how wonderfully O'Hea was playing, Sylvia thought, and how good
that Debussy was!

The rest of the performance was as much of a success as the beginning.
Perhaps the audience liked best Mrs. Gowndry and the woman who smuggled
lace from Belgium into France. Sylvius and Rose laughed so much at the
audience's laughter at Mrs. Gowndry that Sylvius announced in the
ensuing lull that he wanted to go somewhere, a desire which was
naturally indorsed by Rose. The audience was much amused, because it
supposed that Sylvius's wish was a tribute to the profession of Mrs.
Gowndry's husband, and whatever faint doubts existed about the propriety
of alluding in the Pierian Hall to a lavatory-attendant were dispersed.

Sylvia forgot altogether about the audience's tea when the curtain fell
finally. It was difficult to think about anything with so many smiling
people pressing round her on the stage. Several old friends came and
reminded her of their existence, but there was no one who had quite such
a radiant smile as Arthur Lonsdale.

"Lonnie! How nice of you to come!"

"I say, topping, I mean. What? I say, that's a most extraordinary
back-cloth you've got. What on earth is it supposed to be? It reminds me
of what you feel like when you're driving a car through a strange town
after meeting a man you haven't seen for some time and who's just found
out a good brand of fizz at the hotel where he's staying. I was afraid
you'd get bitten in the back before you'd finished. I say, Mrs. Gowndry
was devilish good. Some of the other lads and lasses were a bit beyond
me."

"And how's business?"

"Oh, very good. We've just put the neatest little ninety h. p.
torpedo-body two-seater on the market. I'll tootle you down to Brighton
in it one Sunday morning. Upon my word, you'll scarcely have time to
wrap yourself up before you'll have to unwrap yourself to shake hands
with dear old Harry Burnly coming out to welcome you from the
Britannia."

"Not married yet, Lonnie?"

"No, not yet. Braced myself up to do it the other day, dived in, and was
seized with cramp at the deep end. She offered to be a sister to me and
I sank like a stone. My mother's making rather a nuisance of herself
about it. She keeps producing girls out of her muff like a conjurer,
whenever she comes to see me. And what girls! Heather mixture most of
them, like Guggenheim's Twelfth of August. I shall come to it at last, I
suppose. Mr. Arthur Lonsdale and his bride leaving St. Margaret's,
Westminster, under an arch of spanners formed by grateful chauffeurs
whom the brilliant and handsome young bride-groom has recommended to
many titled readers of this paper. Well, so long, Sylvia; there's a
delirious crowd of admirers waiting for you. Send me a line where you're
living and we'll have a little dinner somewhere--"

Sylvia's success was not quite so huge as in the first intoxication of
her friends' enthusiasm she had begun to fancy. However, it was
unmistakably a success, and she was able to give two recitals a week
through the autumn, with certainly the prospect of a good music-hall
engagement for the following spring, if she cared to accept it. Most of
the critics discovered that she was not as good as Yvette Guilbert. In
view of Yvette Guilbert's genius, of which they were much more firmly
convinced now than they would have been when Yvette Guilbert first
appeared, this struck them as a fairly safe comparison; moreover, it
gave their readers an impression that they understood French, which
enhanced the literary value of their criticism. To strengthen this
belief most of them were inclined to think that the French poems were
the best part of Miss Sylvia Scarlett's performance. One or two of the
latter definitely recalled some of Yvette Guilbert's early work, no
doubt by the number of words they had not understood, because somebody
had crackled a program or had shuffled his feet or had coughed. As for
the English character studies, or, as some of them carried away by
reminiscences of Yvette Guilbert into oblivion of their own language
preferred to call them, _études_, they had a certain distinction, and in
many cases betrayed signs of an almost meticulous observation, though at
the same time, like everybody else doing anything at the present moment
except in France, they did not have as much distinction or
meticulousness as the work of forerunners in England or contemporaries
abroad. Still, that was not to say that the work of Miss Sylvia Scarlett
was not highly promising and of the greatest possible interest. The
_timbre_ of her voice was specially worthy of notice and justified the
italics in which it was printed. Finally, two critics, who were probably
sitting next to each other, found a misprint in the program, no doubt in
searching for a translation of the poems.

If Sylvia fancied a lack of appreciation in the critics, all her friends
were positive that they were wonderful notices for a beginner.

"Why, I think that's a splendid notice in the _Telegraph_," said Olive.
"I found it almost at once. Why, one often has to read right through the
paper before one can find the notice."

"Do you mean to tell me that the most self-inebriated egotist on earth
ever read right through the _Daily Telegraph_? I don't believe it. He'd
have been drowned like Narcissus."

Arthur pressed for a decision about their marriage, now that Sylvia knew
what she had so long wanted to know; but she was wrapped up in ideas for
improving her performance and forbade Arthur to mention the subject
until she raised it herself; for the present she was on with a new love
twice a week. Indeed, they were fascinating to Sylvia, these audiences
each with a definite personality of its own. She remembered how she had
scoffed in old days at the slavish flattery of them by her fellow-actors
and actresses; equally in the old days she had scoffed at love. She
wished that she could feel toward Arthur as she felt now toward her
audiences, which were as absorbing as children with their little
clevernesses and precocities. The difference between what she was doing
now and what she had done formerly when she sang French songs with an
English accent was the difference between the realism of an old knotted
towel that is a baby and an expensive doll that may be a baby but never
ceases to be a doll. Formerly she had been a mechanical thing and had
never given herself because she had possessed neither art nor truth, but
merely craft and accuracy. She had thought that the personality was
degraded by depending on the favor of an audience. All that old
self-consciousness and false shame were gone. She and her audience
communed through art as spirits may commune after death. In the
absorption of studying the audience as a separate entity, Sylvia forgot
that it was made up of men and women. When she knew that any friends of
hers were in front, they always remained entirely separate in her mind
from the audience. Gradually, however, as the autumn advanced, several
people from long ago re-entered her life and she began to lose that
feeling of seclusion from the world and to realize the gradual setting
up of barriers to her complete liberty of action. The first of these
visitants was Miss Ashley, who in her peacock-blue gown looked much as
she had looked when Sylvia last saw her.

"I could not resist coming round to tell you how greatly I enjoyed your
performance," she said. "I've been so sorry that you never came to see
me all these years."

Sylvia felt embarrassed, because she dreaded presently an allusion to
her marriage with Philip, but Miss Ashley was too wise.

"How's Hornton House!" asked Sylvia, rather timidly. It was like
inquiring after the near relation of an old friend who might have died.

"Just the same. Miss Primer is still with me. Miss Hossack now has a
school of her own. Miss Pinck became very ill with gouty rheumatism and
had to retire. I won't ask you about yourself; you told me so much from
the stage. Now that we've been able to meet again, won't you come and
visit your old school sometime?"

Sylvia hesitated.

"Please," Miss Ashley insisted. "I'm not inviting you out of politeness.
It would really give me pleasure. I have never ceased to think about you
all these years. Well, I won't keep you, for I'm sure you must be tired.
Do come. Tell me, Sylvia. I should so like to bring the girls one
afternoon. What would be a good afternoon to come?"

"You mean, when will there be nothing in the program that--"

"We poor schoolmistresses," said Miss Ashley, with a whimsical look of
deprecation.

"Come on Saturday fortnight, and afterward I'll go back with you all to
Hornton House. I'd love that."

So it was arranged.

On Wednesday of the following week it happened that there was a
particularly appreciative audience, and Sylvia became so much enamoured
of the laughter that she excelled herself. It was an afternoon of
perfect accord, and she traced the source of it to a group somewhere in
the middle of the stalls, too far back for her to recognize its
composition. After the performance a pack of visiting-cards was brought
to the door of her dressing-room. She read: "Mrs. Ian Campbell, Mrs.
Ralph Dennison." Who on earth were they? "Mr. Leonard Worsley"--

Sylvia flung open the door, and there they all were, Mr. and Mrs.
Worsley, Gladys and Enid, two good-looking men in the background, two
children in the foreground.

"Gladys! Enid!"

"Sylvia!"

"Oh, Sylvia, you were priceless! Oh, we enjoyed ourselves no end! You
don't know my husband. Ian, come and bow nicely to the pretty lady,"
cried Gladys.

"Sylvia, it was simply ripping. We laughed and laughed. Ralph, come and
be introduced, and this is Stumpy, my boy," Enid cried, simultaneously.

"Fancy, he's a grandfather," the daughters exclaimed, dragging Mr.
Worsley forward. He looked younger than ever.

"Hercules is at Oxford, or of course he'd have come, too. This is
Proodles," said Gladys, pointing to the little girl.

"Sylvia, why did you desert us like that?" Mrs. Worsley reproachfully
asked. "When are you coming down to stay with us at Arbor End? Of course
the children are married...." She broke off with half a sigh.

"Oh, but we can all squash in," Gladys shouted.

"Oh, rather," Enid agreed. "The kids can sleep in the coal-scuttles. We
sha'n't notice any difference."

"Dears, it's so wonderful to see you," Sylvia gasped. "But do tell me
who you all are over again. I'm so muddled."

"I'm Mrs. Ian Campbell," Gladys explained. "And this is Ian. And this is
Proodles, and at home there's Groggles, who's too small for anything
except pantomimes. And that's Mrs. Ralph Dennison, and that's Ralph,
and that's Stumpy, and at home Enid's got a girlie called Barbara.
Mother hates being a grandmother four times over, so she's called Aunt
Victoria, and of course father's still one of the children. We've both
been married seven years."

Nothing had so much brought home to Sylvia the flight of time as this
meeting with Gladys and Enid, who when she last saw them were only
sixteen. It was incredible. And they had not forgotten her; in what
seemed now a century they had not forgotten her! Sylvia told them about
Miss Ashley's visit and suggested that they should come and join the
party of girls from Hornton House. It would be fun, would it not? Miss
Primer was still at the school.

Gladys and Enid were delighted with the plan, and on the day fixed about
twenty girls invaded Sylvia's dressing-room, shepherded by Miss Primer,
who was still melting with tears for Rodrigo's death in the scene. Miss
Ashley had brought the carriage to drive Sylvia back, but she insisted
upon going in a motor-'bus with the others and was well rewarded by Miss
Primer's ecstasies of apprehension. Sylvia wandered with Gladys and Enid
down well-remembered corridors, in and out of bedrooms and class-rooms;
she listened to resolutions to send Prudence and Barbara to Hornton
House in a few years. For Sylvia it was almost too poignant, the thought
of these families growing up all round her, while she, after so many
years, was still really as much alone as she had always been. The
company of all these girls with their slim black legs, their pigtails
and fluffy hair tied back with big bows, the absurdly exaggerated speech
and the enlaced loves of girlhood--the accumulation of it all was
scarcely to be borne.

When Sylvia visited Arbor End and talked once again to Mrs. Worsley,
sitting at the foot of her bed, about the wonderful lives of that so
closely self-contained family, the desolation of the future came visibly
nearer; it seemed imperative at whatever cost to drive it back.

Shortly before Christmas a card was brought round to Sylvia--"Mrs.
Prescott-Merivale, Hardingham Hall, Hunts."

"Who is it?" she asked her maid.

"It's a lady, miss."

"Well of course I didn't suppose a cassowary had sent up his card.
What's she like?"

The maid strove to think of some phrase that would describe the visitor,
but she fell back hopelessly upon her original statement.

"She's a lady, miss." Then, with a sudden radiancy lighting her eyes,
she added, "And there's a little boy with her."

"My entertainment seems to be turning into a children's treat," Sylvia
muttered to herself. "_Sic itur ad astra._"

"I beg your pardon, miss, did you say to show her in?"

Sylvia nodded.

Presently a tall young woman in the late twenties, with large and
brilliant gray eyes, rose-flushed and deep in furs, came in, accompanied
by an extraordinarily handsome boy of seven or eight.

"How awfully good of you to let me waste a few minutes of your time,"
she said, and as she spoke, Sylvia had a fleeting illusion that it was
herself who was speaking, a sensation infinitely rapid, but yet
sufficiently clear to make her ask herself the meaning of it, and to
find in the stranger's hair the exact replica of her own. The swift
illusion and the equally swift comparison were fled before she had
finished inviting her visitor to sit down.

"I must explain who I am. I've heard about you, oh, of course, publicly,
but also from my brother."

"Your brother?" repeated Sylvia.

"Yes, Michael Fane."

"He's not with you?"

"No. I wish he had been. Alas! he's gone off to look for a friend who,
by the way, I expect you know also. Maurice Avery? All sorts of horrid
rumors about what had happened to him in Morocco were being brought back
to us, so Michael went off last spring, and has been with him ever
since."

"But I thought he was a monk," Sylvia said.

Mrs. Merivale laughed with what seemed rather like relief. "No, he's
neither priest nor monk, thank goodness, though the prospect still hangs
over us."

"After all these years?" Sylvia asked, in astonishment.

"Oh, my dear Miss Scarlett, don't forget the narrow way is also long.
But I didn't come to talk to you about Michael. I simply most
shamelessly availed myself of his having met you a long time ago to give
myself an excuse for talking to you about your performance. Of course
it's absolutely great. How lucky you are!"

"Lucky?" Sylvia could not help glancing at the handsome boy beside her.

"He's rather a lamb, isn't he?" Mrs. Merivale agreed. "But you started
all sorts of old, forgotten, hidden-away, burned-out fancies of mine
this afternoon, and--you see, I intended to be a professional pianist
once, but I got married instead. Much better, really, because,
unless--Oh, I don't know. Yes, I _am_ jealous of you. You've picked me
up and put me down again where I was once. Now the conversation's backed
into me, and I really do want to talk about you. Your performance is the
kind about which one wonders why nobody ever did it before. That's the
greatest compliment one can pay an artist, I think. All great art is the
great expression of a great commonplace; that's why it always looks so
easy. I do hope you're having the practical success you deserve."

"Yes, I think I shall be all right," Sylvia said. "Only, I expect that
after the New-Year I shall have to cut my show considerably and take a
music-hall engagement. I'm not making a fortune at the Pierian."

"How horrid for you! How I should love to play with you! Oh dear! It's
heartrending to say it, but it's much too late. Well, I mustn't keep
you. You've given me such tremendous pleasure and just as much pain with
it as makes the pleasure all the sharper.... I'll write and tell Michael
about you."

"I expect he's forgotten my name by now," Sylvia said.

"Oh no, he never forgets anybody, even in the throes of theological
speculation. Good-by. I see that this is your last performance for the
present. I shall come and hear you again when you reopen. How odious
about music-halls. You ought to have called yourself Silvia Scarletti,
told your press agent that you were the direct descendant of the
composer, vowed that when you came to England six months ago you could
speak nothing but Polish, and you could have filled the Pierian night
and day for a year. We're queer people, we English. I think, you know,
it's a kind of shyness, the way we treat native artists. You get the
same thing in families. It's not really that the prophet has no honor,
etc.; it really is, I believe, a fear of boasting, which would be such
bad form, wouldn't it? Of course we've ruined ourselves as a nation by
our good manners and our sense of humor. Why, we've even insisted that
what native artists we do support shall be gentlemen first and artists
second. In what other country could an actor be knighted for his
trousers or an author for his wife's dowry? Good-by. I do wish you
great, great success."

"Anyway, I can't be knighted," Sylvia laughed.

"Oh, don't be too sure. A nation that has managed to turn its artists
into gentlemen will soon insist on turning its women into gentlemen,
too, or at any rate on securing their good manners in some way."

"Women will never really have good manners," Sylvia said.

"No, thank God. There you're right. Well, good-by. It's been so jolly to
talk to you, and again I've loved every moment of this afternoon.
Charles," she added to the handsome boy, "after bragging about your
country's good manners, let's see you make a decent bow."

He inclined his head with a grave courtesy, opened the door for his
mother, and followed her out.

The visit of Michael's sister, notwithstanding that she had envied
Sylvia's luck, left her with very little opinion of it herself. What was
her success, after all? A temporary elation dependent upon good health
and the public taste, financially uncertain, emotionally wearing,
radically unsatisfying and insecure, for, however good her performance
was, it was always mummery, really, as near as mummery could get to
creative work, perhaps, but mortal like its maker.

"Sad to think this is the last performance here," said her maid.

Sylvia agreed with her. It was a relief to find a peg on which to hang
the unreasonable depression that was weighing her down. She passed out
of her dressing-room. As the stage door swung to behind her a figure
stepped into the lamplight of the narrow court; it was Jimmy Monkley.
The spruceness had left him; all the color, too, had gone from his face,
which was now sickly white--an evil face with its sandy mustache
streaked with gray and its lusterless green eyes. Sylvia was afraid that
from the way she started back from him he would think that she scorned
him for having been in prison, and with an effort she tried to be
cordial.

"You've done damned well for yourself," he said, paying no attention to
what she was saying. She found this meeting overwhelmingly repulsive and
moved toward her taxi. It was seeming to her that Monkley had the power
to snatch her away and plunge her back into that life of theirs. She
would really rather have met Philip than him.

"Damned well for yourself," he repeated.

"I'm sorry I can't stay. I'm in a hurry. I'm in a hurry."

She reached the taxi and slammed the door in his face.

This unexpected meeting convinced Sylvia of the necessity of attaching
herself finally to a life that would make the resurrection of a Monkley
nothing more influential than a nightmare. She knew that she was giving
way to purely nervous fears in being thus affected by what, had she
stopped to think, was the natural result of her name's becoming known.
But the liability to nervous fears was in itself an argument that
something was wrong. When had she ever been a prey to such hysteria
before? When had she allowed herself to be haunted by a face, as now she
was being haunted by Monkley's face? Suppose he had seated himself
behind the taxi and that when she reached the Airdales' house he should
once more be standing on the pavement in the lamplight?

In Brompton Road Sylvia told the driver to stop. She wanted to do some
Christmas shopping. After an hour or more spent among toys she came out
with a porter loaded with packages, and looked round her quickly; but of
course he was not upon the pavement. How absurd she had been! In any
case, what could Monkley do? She would forget all about him. To-morrow
was Christmas Eve. There was going to be such a jolly party at the
Airdales'. The taxi hummed toward West Kensington. Sylvia leaned back,
huddled up with her thoughts, until they reached Lillie Road. She had
passed Mrs. Meares's house so many times without giving it a second
look. Now she found herself peering out into the thickening fog in case
Monkley should be standing upon the door-step. She was glad when she
reached the Airdales' house, warm and bright, festooned with holly and
mistletoe. There were pleasant little household noises everywhere,
comfortable little noises, and a rosy glow from the silken shades of the
lamps; the carpet was so quiet and the parlor-maid in a clean cap and
apron so efficient, so quick to get in all the parcels and shut out the
foggy night.

Olive was already in the drawing-room, and because this was to be a
specially unceremonious evening in preparation for the party to-morrow,
Olive was in a pink tea-gown that blended with the prettiness of her
cozy house and made her more essentially a part of it all. How bleak was
her own background in comparison with this, Sylvia thought. Jack was
dining out most unwillingly and had left a great many pleas to be
forgiven by Sylvia on the first night of her Christmas visit. After
dinner they sat in the drawing-room, and Sylvia told Olive about her
meeting with Monkley. She said nothing about Michael Fane's sister; that
meeting did not seem to have any bearing upon the subject she wanted to
discuss.

"Can you understand," Sylvia asked, "being almost frightened into
marriage?"

"Yes, I think so," Olive replied, as judicially as the comfort of her
surroundings would allow. It was impossible to preserve a critical
attitude in this room; in such a suave and genial atmosphere one
accepted anything.

"Well, do you still object to my marrying Arthur?" Sylvia demanded.

"But, my dear, I never objected to your marrying him. I may have
suggested, when I first saw him, that he seemed rather too much the type
of the ordinary actor for you, but that was only because you yourself
had always scoffed at actors so haughtily. Since I've known him I've
grown to like him. Please don't think I ever objected to your marrying
him. I never felt more sure about anybody's knowing her own mind than I
do about you."

"Well, I am going to marry him," Sylvia said.

"Darling Sylvia, why do you say it so defiantly? Everybody will be
delighted. Jack was talking only the other day about his perpetual dread
that you'd never give yourself a chance of establishing your position
finally, because you were so restless."

Sylvia contemplated an admission to Olive of having lived with Arthur
for a year in America, but in this room the fact had an ugly look and
seemed to belong rather to that evil face of the past that had
confronted her with such ill omen this evening, rather than to anything
so homely as marriage.

"Arthur may not be anything more than an actor," she went on. "But in my
profession what else do I want? He has loved me for a long time; I'm
very fond of him. It's essential that I should have a background so that
I shall never be shaken out of my self-possession by anything like this
evening's encounter. I've lived a life of feverish energy, and it's only
since the improvisations that I can begin to believe it wasn't all
wasted. I made a great mistake when I was seventeen, and when I was
nineteen I tried to repair it with a still greater mistake. Then came
Lily; she was a mistake. Oh, when I look back at it all, it's nothing
but mistake after mistake. I long for such funny ordinary little
pleasures. Olive darling, I've tried, I've tried to think I can do
without love, without children, without family, without friends. I
can't."

The tears were running swiftly, and all the time more swiftly, down
Sylvia's cheeks while she was speaking. Olive jumped up from her soft
and quilted chair and knelt beside her friend.

"My darling Sylvia, you have friends, you have, indeed you have."

"I know," Sylvia went on. "It's ungrateful of me. Why, if it hadn't been
for you and Jack I should have gone mad. But just because you're so
happy together, and because you have Sylvius and Rose, and because I
flit about on the outskirts of it all like a timid, friendly, solitary
ghost, I must have some one to love me. I've really treated Arthur very
badly. I've kept him waiting now for a year. I wasn't brave enough to
let him go, and I wasn't brave enough to marry him. I've never been
undecided in my life. It must be that the gipsy in me has gone forever,
I think. This success of mine has been leading all the time to settling
down properly. Most of the people who came back to me out of the past
were the nice people, like my old mistress and the grown-up twins, and I
want to be like them. Oh, Olive, I'm so tired of being different, of
people thinking that I'm hard and brutal and cynical. I'm not. Indeed
I'm not. I couldn't have felt that truly appalling horror of Monkley
this evening if I were really bad."

"Sylvia dear, you're working yourself up needlessly. How can you say
that you're bad? How can you say such things about yourself? You're not
religious, perhaps."

"Listen, Olive, if I marry Arthur I swear I'll make it a success. You
know that I have a strong will. I'm not going to criticize him. I'm
simply determined to make him and myself happy. It's very easy to love
him, really. He's like a boy--very weak, you know--but with all sorts of
charming qualities, and his mother would be so glad if it were all
settled. Olive, I meant to tell you a whole heap of things about myself,
about what I've done, but I won't. I'm going to forget it all and be
happy. I'm glad it's Christmas-time. I've bought such ripping things for
the kids. When I was buying them to-night there came into my head almost
my first adventure when I was a very little girl and thought I'd found a
ten-franc piece which was really the money I'd been given for the
marketing. I had just such an orgy of buying to-night. Did you know that
a giraffe could make a noise? Well, it can, or at any rate the giraffe I
bought for Sylvius can. You twist its neck and it protests like a
bronchial calf."

The party on Christmas Eve was a great success. Lucian Hope burnt a hole
in the table-cloth with what was called a drawing-room firework. Jack
split his coat trying to hide inside his bureau. Arthur, sitting on a
bottle with his legs crossed, lit a candle, twice running. The little
red-haired singer found the ring in the pudding. Sylvia found the
sixpence. Nobody found the button, so it must have been swallowed. It
was a splendid party. Sylvius and Rose did not begin to cry steadily
until after ten o'clock.

When the guests were getting ready to leave, about two o'clock on
Christmas morning, and while Lucian Hope was telling everybody in turn
that somebody must have swallowed the button inadvertently, to prove
that he was quite able to pronounce "inadvertently," Sylvia took Arthur
down the front-door steps and walked with him a little way along the
foggy street.

"Arthur, I'll marry you when you like," she said, laying a hand upon his
arm.

"Sylvia, what a wonderful Christmas present!"

"To us both," she whispered.

Then on an impulse she dragged him back to the house and proclaimed
their engagement, which meant the opening of new bottles of champagne
and the drinking of so many healths that it was three o'clock before the
party broke up. Nor was there any likelihood of anybody's being able to
say "inadvertently" by the time he had reached the corner of the street.

Arthur had begged Sylvia to come down to Dulwich on Christmas day, and
Mrs. Madden rejoiced over the decision they had reached at last. There
were one or two things to be considered, the most important of which was
the question of money. Sylvia had spent the last penny of what was left
of Morera's money in launching herself, and she owed nearly two hundred
pounds besides. Arthur had saved nothing. Both of them, however, had
been offered good engagements for the spring, Arthur to tour as lead in
one of the Vanity productions, which might mean an engagement at the
Vanity itself in the autumn; Sylvia to play a twenty minutes' turn at
all the music-halls of a big circuit. It seemed unsatisfactory to marry
and immediately afterward to separate, and they decided each to take the
work that had been offered, to save all the money possible, and to aim
at both playing in London next autumn, but in any case to be married in
early June when the tours would end. They should then have a couple of
months to themselves. Mrs. Madden wanted them to be married at once; but
the other way seemed more prudent, and Sylvia, having once made up her
mind, was determined to be practical and not to run the risk of spoiling
by financial worries the beginning of their real life together. Her
marriage in its orderliness and forethought and simplicity of intention
was to compensate for everything that had gone before. Mrs. Madden
thought they were both of them being too deliberate, but then she had
run away once with her father's groom and must have had a fundamentally
impulsive, even a reckless temperament.

The engagement was announced with an eye to the most advantageous
publicity that is the privilege of being servants of the public. One was
able to read everywhere of a theatrical romance or more coldly of a
forthcoming theatrical marriage; nearly all the illustrated weeklies had
two little oval photographs underneath which ran the legend:

                        INTERESTING ENGAGEMENT

     We learn that Miss Sylvia Scarlett, who recently registered such an
     emphatic success in her original entertainment at the Pierian Hall,
     will shortly wed Mr. Arthur Madden, whom many of our readers will
     remember for his rendering of "Somebody is sitting in the sunset"
     at the Frivolity Theater.

In one particularly intimate paper was a short interview headed:

                      ACTRESS'S DELIGHTFUL CANDOR

     "No," said Miss Scarlett to our representative who had called upon
     the clever and original young performer to ascertain when her
     marriage with Mr. Arthur Madden of "Somebody is sitting in the
     sunset" fame would take place. "No, Arthur and I have decided to
     wait till June. Frankly, we can't afford to be married yet...."

and so on, with what was described as a portrait of Miss Sylvia Scarlet
inset, but which without the avowal would probably have been taken for
the thumbprint of a paperboy.

"This is all terribly vulgar," Sylvia bewailed, but Jack, Arthur, and
Olive were all firm in the need for thorough advertisement, and she
acquiesced woefully. In January she and Arthur parted for their
respective tours. Jack, before she went away, begged Sylvia for the
fiftieth time to take back the money she had settled on her godchildren.
He argued with her until she got angry.

"Jack, if you mention that again I'll never come to your house any
more. One of the most exquisite joys in all my life was when I was able
to do that, and when you and Olive were sweet enough to let me, for you
really were sweet and simple in those days and not purse-proud
_bourgeois_, as you are now. Please, Jack!" She had tears in her eyes.
"Don't be unkind."

"But supposing you have children of your own?" he urged.

"Jack, don't go on. It really upsets me. I cannot bear the idea of that
money's belonging to anybody but the twins."

"Did you tell Arthur?"

"It's nothing to do with Arthur. It's only to do with me. It was my
present. It was made before Arthur came on the scene."

With great unwillingness Jack obeyed her command not to say anything
more on the subject.

Sylvia earned a good enough salary to pay off nearly all her debts by
May, when her tour brought her to the suburban music-halls and she was
able to amuse herself by house-hunting for herself and Arthur. All her
friends, and not the least old ones like Gladys and Enid, took a
profound interest in her approaching marriage. Wedding-presents even
began to arrive. The most remarkable omen of the gods' pleasure was a
communication she received in mid-May from Miss Dashwood's solicitors to
say that Miss Dashwood had died and had left to Sylvia in her will the
freehold of Mulberry Cottage with all it contained. Olive was enraptured
with her good fortune, and wanted to telegraph to Arthur, who was in
Leeds that week; but Sylvia said she would rather write:

     DEAREST ARTHUR,--You remember my telling you about Mulberry
     Cottage? Well, the most wonderful thing has happened. That old
     darling, Miss Dashwood, the sister of Mrs. Gainsborough's captain,
     has left it to me with everything in it. It has of course for me
     all sorts of memories, and I want to tell you very seriously that I
     regard it as a sign, yes, really a sign of my wanderings and
     restlessness being forever finished. It seems to me somehow to
     consecrate our marriage. Don't think I'm turning religious: I shall
     never do that. Oh no, never! But I can't help being moved by what
     to you may seem only a coincidence. Arthur, you must forgive me for
     the way in which I've often treated you. You mustn't think that
     because I've always bullied you in the past I'm always going to in
     the future. If you want me now, I'm yours _really_, much more than
     I ever was in America, much, much more. You _shall_ be happy with
     me. Oh, it's such a dear house with a big garden, for London a very
     big garden, and it held once two such true hearts. Do you see the
     foolish tears smudging the ink? They're my tears for so much. I'm
     going to-morrow morning to dust our house. Think of me when you get
     this letter as really at last

     Your

     SYLVIA.

The next morning arrived a letter from Leeds, which had crossed hers:

     MY DEAR SYLVIA,--I don't know how to tell you what I must tell. I
     was married this morning to Maimie Vernon. I don't know how I let
     myself fall in love with her. I never looked at her when she sang
     at the Pierian with you. But she got an engagement in this company
     and--well, you know the way things happen on tour. The only thing
     that makes me feel not an absolutely hopeless cad is that I've a
     feeling somehow that you were going to marry me more out of
     kindness and pity than out of love.

     Forgive me.

     ARTHUR.

"That funny little red-haired girl!" Sylvia gasped. Then like a surging
wave the affront to her pride overwhelmed her. With an effort she looked
at her other letters. One was from Michael Fane's sister:

     HARDINGHAM HALL, HUNTS, _May, 1914_.

     DEAR MISS SCARLETT,--My brother is back in England and so anxious
     to meet you again. I know you're playing near town at present.
     Couldn't you possibly come down next Sunday morning and stay till
     Monday? It would give us the greatest pleasure.

     Yours sincerely,

     STELLA PRESCOTT-MERIVALE.

"Never," Sylvia cried, tearing the letter into small pieces. "Ah no!
That, never, never!"

She left her rooms, and went to Mulberry Cottage. The caretaker
fluttered round her to show her sense of Sylvia's importance as her new
mistress. Was there nothing that she could do? Was there nothing that
she could get?

Sylvia sat on the seat under the mulberry-tree in the still morning
sunlight of May. It was impossible to think, impossible to plan,
impossible, impossible. The ideas in her brain went slowly round and
round. Nothing would stop them. Round and round they went, getting every
moment more mixed up with one another. But gradually from the confusion
one idea emerged, sharp, strong, insistent--she must leave England. The
moment this idea had stated itself, Sylvia could think of nothing but
the swiftness and secrecy of her departure. She felt that if one person
should ever fling a glance of sympathy or condolence or pity or even of
mild affection, she should kill herself to set free her outraged soul.
She made no plans for the future. She had no reproaches for Arthur. She
had nothing but the urgency of flight as from the Furies themselves.
Quickly she went back to her rooms and packed. All her big luggage she
took to Mulberry Cottage and placed with the caretaker. She sent a sum
of money to the solicitors and asked them to pay the woman until she
came back.

At the last moment, in searching through her trunks, she found the
yellow shawl that was wrapped round her few treasures of ancestry. She
was going to leave it behind, but on second thought she packed it in the
only trunk she took with her. She was going back perhaps to the life of
which these treasures were the only solid pledge.

"This time, yes, I'm off with the raggle-taggle gipsies in deadly
earnest. Charing Cross," she told the taxi-driver.

THE END





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