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Title: Waterfoot - (The Dream Ship)
Author: Stockley, Cynthia, 1883-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Waterfoot - (The Dream Ship)" ***

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[Illustration: Cover]

[Illustration: Cynthia Stockley]


                            (THE DREAM SHIP)


                            CYNTHIA STOCKLEY

                   AUTHOR OF "POPPY," "THE CLAW," ETC

                        TORONTO: WILLIAM BRIGGS
                     NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

                            COPYRIGHT, 1913
                            CYNTHIA STOCKLEY

       "_Wanderfoot_" is published in England under the title of
                           "_The Dream Ship_"

                   The Knickerbocker Press, New York

                              MY DAUGHTER

"O Beauty, I have wandered far;
  Peace, I have suffered seeking thee:
Life, I have sought to see thy star,
  That other men might see.

And after wandering nights and days,
  A gleam in a beloved soul
Shows how life’s elemental blaze
  Goes wandering through the whole."


                                 PART I



      I. Secret Palaces
     II. Grey and Gold
    III. Fate’s Winding Paths
     IV. A Skeleton and a Shrine
      V. Squirrel in a Trap
     VI. Kisses and Crosses
    VII. More Winding Paths
   VIII. Wounds in the Rain

                                PART II


     IX. New Roads to Fortune
      X. Worry-Bells
     XI. A Ship on the Rocks
    XII. Children of Ishmael

                                PART III


   XIII. The Ways of a Lover
    XIV. The Ways of Literature
     XV. Ways Sacred and Secular
    XVI. The Ways of Girls
   XVII. The Ways of Boys
  XVIII. The Way of The Sea
    XIX. The Way of Nemesis
     XX. The Ways of Life and Death
    XXI. Lonely Ways
   XXII. The Way of Love

                                 Part I


                               CHAPTER I

                             SECRET PALACES

"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion."

The _Bavaric_ had been four fine September days at sea, and it was time
for the vague pain and melancholy that always haunted Westenra after
leaving Ireland to pass; yet it stayed with him as never before it had
stayed.  The voice of the Atlantic sang a dirge in his ears, and looking
at the long grey rollers he thought of his mother’s hair which he would
never see again, of the mists that enveloped _Inishaan_ as Ireland
passed from sight, of the ghosts of Raths, and all grey things; and life
looked grey before him and dull.  It was as though the mists and shadows
of his land lay upon his spirit and would not be lifted.  More than ever
he was lonely, more than ever an exile, for now there was none but the
dead left to him in the land of his birth; the last root had gone, the
last frond been cut away.  His mother had died on the day he sailed from
New York to pay her his annual visit, and long before he reached
Queenstown she had been laid away to rest by his father’s side in the
fair valley of Glendalough.

For awhile he had roamed about Ireland with something of the aimlessness
of a wounded creature, choosing wild solitary places where the sorrowful
beauty of lake and forest and mountain, so unique, so different in its
wistful allurement to any other scenery in the world, had seemed to
brood with him in his grief and lay with mysterious hands some healing
spikenard in his heart.  But the shadow of loneliness had not been
lifted from him.

He had never spent more than a few weeks of his yearly holiday with his
mother, and the rest of the two months in different parts of Europe, but
always he had felt her in his life; sitting by her fireside in her
beautiful little Carlow home she had constituted his bit of Ireland, his
share of the world. Now he was a lonely man without home or kin. The
ache of emptiness was in his heart as he stared at the few pale early
stars that had ventured forth into the evening sky.

Nothing was left in his life now except a child and a woman; but the
child was not even his own, and the woman was only a vision.  For years
she had come to him in his dreams, so many years that he could not
remember the first time, but usually she appeared when he was in Ireland
or coming away from it, never in America; and because he was fresh from
Ireland, and the supernatural element that is in the Celtic nature had
been recently renewed so that supernatural things still seemed to him
the real things of life, he thought of her now as if she were a real
woman, and wondered why it was so long since he had seen her flickering
through the night in her pale grey gown with fine lace at the throat and
a chain of luminous beads swinging before her neck.  He tried to recall
the strangely Oriental face, but, as always it eluded him, and he could
only remember the wistful lurking sadness that divined in her something
of the Irishry, the knowledge of sorrow and longing for far places in
her eyes; the subtle suggestion of mourning for some lost land, like an
echo of Goethe’s song:

    "Kennst Du das Land wo die Citronen blühn?
    Im dunkeln Laub die Goldorangen glühn,
    Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht
    Die Myrte, still und hoch der Lorbeer steht."

There were other things that troubled him too: dark shadows hovering
about her, flecks of mud and blood upon her bare feet, and the weary
look of one who has come a long way upon a bad road. But what was sweet
to his lonely heart was that she seemed so unquestionably to belong to
him, so wholly and inevitably his.

The Irish boy who never loved has never lived, and Westenra cherished
with characteristic ardour the remembrance of one or two youthful
romances, but apart from these and his great love for his mother there
had been no woman’s influence in his life.  He had been too busy to let
women in.

Though he was only thirty-three, America had heard of him as a surgeon,
and that is no slight triumph in a land of many clever surgeons.  What
was dearer to him was the fact that in Medical Science the "other
fellows" knew of him--the big, silent men beating their way by inches
along the hampered road of Progress--they recognised him as one of
themselves, a worker not for money nor personal glory, but for humanity.

Skill with the knife, being at its best no more than a fine
collaboration of hand and eye, never yet sufficed a brilliant intellect,
and it had not sufficed Westenra.  His keen mind, not content to follow
on the lines laid down by other men, craved for higher work in the
discovery and formulation of new principles of treatment in diseases
that defied the surgeon’s knife; and it was in the laboratory that he
had won the triumphs he most valued.  In spite of a heavy hospital and
private practice, he had found time to do some unique experimental work
in connection with the intestinal canals, while on the subject of
locomotor ataxia he was already considered something more than an
expert.  But the diseases that lured him most were those in which
surgery failed to give the relief hoped for, and one such he had
specially starred out for laborious investigation.  He knew when he
determined to devote himself to the subject of the metabolic disorders
underlying diabetes, that years, perhaps a lifetime, of experiment and
ardent unpaid labour lay before him, but he faced the prospect boldly,
for he doubted not that in the end he would have as great a gift to
bestow upon the world as even Lister, Metchnikoff, or Pasteur.

Not much time in such a life of planned hours, tasks, and duties to
think of women.  And, indeed, except as cases, he had not definitely
thought of them.  But, like all Celts, he had an inner world of his own
in which he walked sometimes, and did not walk alone.  A mystical subtle
knowledge was his that somewhere in the universe a woman was waiting for
him--the woman with the pale Oriental face and the grey gown.  And in
his heart he listened for the delicate approach of footsteps from out
the distance and the Future.

    "Dear, were your footsteps fast or slow?
    One look or none did you bestow
    When carelessly, as strangers go,
      You passed my door?"

He understood the listener in those lines with the imagination of one
who in a city office or hospital can hear the sounds of birds and
insects, and feel the wind of the moors on his face and see the gloom of
trees.  The dark waves of the Atlantic had often seemed to him symbolic
of the Irish nature; dark and sad to the outward view, but when the wind
ruffles the surface showing light and beauty beneath, secret inner
palaces of green crystal.

But to-night his loneliness oppressed him as never before.  It seemed to
him he had waited too long in a land of dreams and shadows.  He left the
sea and stars at last and went to his cabin.

At dinner for the first time since the boat sailed the seat next his own
was occupied, though he scarcely noticed the fact until he found himself
sitting beside a woman.  A young woman he saw at once by her hands, all
that he could see of her very well, for however curious a man may be it
is difficult for him to take the bearings of a person with whom he is
seated cheek by jowl.  Westenra was not at all curious, but even when he
was the dreamiest of Irishmen he was also a trained observer, and to
take notes on the people with whom he came in contact whilst apparently
absorbed in his own affairs was as natural to him as breathing.  He
could almost make a diagnosis from a hand, and the next deductions he
drew from the slim ones of his neighbour were not all so pleasing as the
first. For one thing he saw that she was an intensely nervous woman,
even though she spent so much time out of doors, ungloved, that her
hands were burnt to a pale brown tint.  They were more like a boy’s
hands than a woman’s, except that they were so nervously febrile and
covered with rings. The rings called for attention.  They were odd and
barbaric, and of far greater beauty than value, for most of the stones
were semi-precious, and their charm lay in their quaint settings and
brilliant colouring.  There were miniatures surrounded by amethysts,
marquise rings of blue and green enamel with devices in rose-diamonds,
olivines and sardonyx set with seed-pearls and an Angelica Kauffman
under a crystal.  On the thumb of her right hand she wore a very fine
black scarab heavily set in platinum, and on the index finger of the
same hand a silver ring of rough workmanship made in the shape of a V
with a stone like an uncut ruby imbedded in the point of the letter.
Nothing so commonplace as a wedding ring was to be observed amongst this
eccentric collection.  The forefingers of her left hand were faintly
tinted with the amber of nicotine.

"Smokes too much," thought Westenra, and might have supposed her
left-handed but for a worn, hard little mark on her right middle finger.
"Writes, and smokes while she ’s writing," he deducted, and thought none
the better of her for that. When she ordered a brandy-and-soda to drink
with the sardine she was dissecting he liked her still less.

"She won’t be in the game long at that rate," he estimated grimly.
"With _her_ nerves I ’ll give her another two years at most."  He hated
to see women drink.  Experience had taught him that few of them can do
it long without going to pieces morally.  And here was one who would
certainly go to pieces physically as well.  On this conclusion he felt
no further inclination for observations.  But that did not prevent him
from hearing what she had to say.  She had struck up a little
conversation with the man on the other side of her, speaking in a
nervous contralto voice that, without being throaty, contained a curious
husky tremor giving almost the suggestion that she wore a veil over it.
Without the assistance of his previous deductions Westenra would have
known it at once for the voice of a temperamental woman, as well as that
of a woman of the world; and was the more astonished therefore, at her
free _bon camarade_ manner with her neighbour, a French Jew with a mean
expression on a clever face--a financier or dealer in jewels Westenra
judged, and a none too scrupulous one at that.  They talked about the
ice on the table and where it had come from.  The Jew was not sure
whether it was Norwegian ice or manufactured on the boat, but was full
of information about the New York supply and the great frozen lakes from
which it was cut in enormous blocks.

"I must go and see them!" said the woman eagerly, "and the far solitary
tracts of ice and snow in Alaska!  I _must_ see them."

She talked like a woman who had fever in her veins.

"You like cold places?" asked the Jew curiously.

"No!  No!  I hate cold, but I like wide, solitary, empty lands and
countries I have never been to. I would love to wake up every morning of
my life in afresh place."

Westenra admired reserve in a woman, and was thoroughly astounded at
such a lack of it.  There was worse to come.  Her friendly candour
revived the French heart of the Jew to a corresponding friendliness
which by some persons might have been considered impertinent, but did
not seem in the least to offend this one.

"Excuse me, mad’moiselle, but I never saw such original bracelets.
Might one ask what they are made of?"

"Ivory," she answered pleasantly.  "I got them in Central Africa.  They
were cut green from an elephant’s trunk."

"Elephant’s trunk!" murmured the Jew, and even Westenra had to smile.

"Oh! tusk I mean, of course.  And the red things imbedded in them are
garnets from De Beers’s Mine in Kimberley.  I think they are ever so
much nicer than diamonds, don’t you?"

The Jew tried to look as if he did, and succeeded fairly well.

"Here is another in my silver ring.  A Zulu made this ring for me in
Natal, out of a half-crown.  I gave him the garnet to put in, and
another half-crown for making it."

If the Jew were outraged at the idea of any lady wearing such cheap
jewellery, he concealed his feelings under a silky smile.

"Then you know Africa, mad’moiselle?"

"I know every country except America," she said.  "But I think Africa is
the only one in the world that I could stay in always without getting

"Ah!  Is it Johannesburg you like?"

"Oh, no--Rhodesia--Zululand--the Drakenberg Mountains--the open veldt."

The Jew stared.

"For a lady you have been to very unusual places," he commented, and if
the words were ambiguous the tone was not lacking in courtesy.

"I love to travel," she said, "and it is my business to see things and
places.  I am a journalist."

"Indeed!" said the Jew, and stared again, for she was quite unlike any
journalist he had ever met or heard of.  But she gave him no time for
any further astonished questions.

"I must go," she said abruptly.  "This saloon is too hot."  Smiling
pleasantly at him she drank up her brandy-and-soda and departed, the Jew
rising up also and bowing her out of her seat in a way that Westenra
considered officious, yet could not but notice that with a courteous
smile on him the fellow was not so mean-looking after all.  The Irishman
gave a glance after the figure of his late neighbour.  She was tall and
slight with a firm light walk, but as she went down the aisle made by
two long dining-tables the ship rolled gently, and she put out her pale
brown hands here and there touching a chair back.

Proceeding with his dinner, which had as yet only reached the second
course, Westenra reflected that it would be difficult for any woman,
even with a bet to win, to give herself and her affairs away more
thoroughly in a short space of time than his late neighbour had done.

"With both hands she did it--and her tongue," he mused cynically.  "In
no longer a time than it took to dine off a brandy-and-soda and the
outline of a sardine!"

After sitting next to her for a matter of twenty minutes he knew all
there was to be known of her tastes, her profession, her temperament,
her habits.  She had travelled, she wrote for the
newspapers,--sensational stuff probably, her head was too small for a
thinker’s head,--she was entirely modern, cursed with nerves,
restlessness, and dissatisfaction; she was unreserved, unreposeful,
uncontrolled, undisciplined; she drank, she smoked. He really could not
think of anything about her, except her charming voice, which of course
she could not help, that was not in violent opposition to his every idea
of what a woman should be, and the fact filled him with resentment born
of a kind of chivalrous discontent that any woman should be so far from
the ideal standard.  He entirely withdrew his earlier supposition that
she was a woman of the world, in spite of the evidence of travel and

"A woman of her type could never contend with any kind of social life.
The way she let that Jew draw her was childish."

At that moment something happened that thrilled through his nerves and
veins like an electric shock, and left him mentally stunned.

The woman of whom he had been thinking was coming back down the long
saloon, her delicate hands put out to the chair backs in the same little
frond-like movement as before.  For the first time he saw her face clear
and full; and he did not have to look twice to recognise it.  Though it
had always eluded his memory in waking hours he knew it now that he saw
it as well as his own. _It was the face of the woman he had dreamed of
for years_.  He knew her hair, her eyes, her mouth, the grey gown she
had on, the deep collar of fine lace ivoried by age that turned away
from the base of a long throat that had fine ivory tints of its own. He
even knew the necklace of luminous grey-green beads that swung to her
waist.  The wistfulness of the Irishry that he remembered so well lurked
elusively about her eyes and mouth, and the touch of Orientalism was
there too, though it was hard to tell of what it came, for if her hair
was black and her skin Arab-pale, her sad eyes were not dark but of a
curious smoky blue.  As she came nearer she looked straight at him, her
glance for a moment seeming to rest in his, and he saw that like the
eyes of many clever people hers possessed a slight defect; they were
different in shape and expression; one seemed to be long and sleepy and
almost cynical looking, the other, rounder, held an eager inquiring
glance that suggested great vitality and ardour.  This was Westenra’s
fleeting impression, there was no time for more, and he was almost too
aghast for clear thought; but a glance of his eye went a good deal
further than most people’s, and in this instance his vision was
sharpened by the strange circumstances of his dream.

It appeared that she had come back to her seat to fetch a little silk
bag of the kind that women were then using to carry about their
handkerchiefs and purses.  She spoke to no one, only leaned over the
back of her seat, took her bag and went away, and it was all over in two
or three seconds. But in those few seconds a man’s life had been
changed.  The world would never look the same again to Garrett Westenra.
Obliged to add to all his scornful opinions of the woman who had sat
next to him outraging his ideals, the astounding knowledge that she was
the woman of his dreams, the living presentment of the vision that had
for years so mystically haunted his life, he was shaken to the Celtic
roots of him.  He felt as a man feels who has lost something precious
and irreplaceable. Something was broken and gone from his life. The
beautiful spun-glass globe of illusion he had carried so secretly was
shattered in the dust.  In that moment of bitter realisation he was not
a surgeon and scientist from New York, but a primitive man from Ireland
keening in silence for a nameless sorrow.  The desert grief of his race
welled up from the depths of him, and the taste of his waters was as the
taste of the waters of Marah.


There were few people on deck.  The wind was chill, and the stars burned
with the brilliant sapphire pallor of electric light.  There was a
special spot where Westenra always stood to smoke, because it gave him a
leaning place against the rail where he could command the length of the
deck, and yet get an uninterrupted view of the grey waves with their
pale sea palaces.  Close beside him in a canvas-sheltered corner stood
his deck chair.  He lit a cigar, but he might have been smoking seaweed
for all the aroma there was in it for him.  Abstractedly he stared at
the phosphorescent waves, but his attention was on the door of the
companion-way, and presently, as he had felt sure she would, the woman
in grey came through it with her swaying movements and her hands put out
a little.  She had wrapped herself in a long silky cloak that gleamed in
the starlight, and as she strayed up and down the deck like a grey
ghost, the wind took hold of it and flicked it about her making it crack
like a silken sail.  It took fronds of her hair too and made them into
lashes that beat her face and blew above her head. She laughed a little
to herself as she was blown this way and that, and for the first time
that night she pleased Westenra, for he loved the wind, and it seemed to
him that she loved it too.  He stood very still listening to the
tap-tapping of her heels, thinking of--

    "Dear, were your footsteps fast or slow...?"

and of how long he had listened in office and hospital for the sound of
a woman’s feet coming towards him.  He remembered the bare broken feet
of the woman in his dream, though he had always dimly recognised that
the mud and blood were symbolical of the rough paths she had walked.
These that tapped the deck near him were daintily shod in grey _suède_,
but from her own telling they had strayed in far places of the earth and
echoed in lonely spots before they came his way, as they were coming
now.  Would they halt when they reached him?  Resentful, antagonistic,
and disillusioned as he was, something in his fatalistic Irish nature
responded, some bird sang in a pale green palace when she stood still
beside him, and spoke:

"Do you think I might sit in this nice sheltered corner?"  She looked at
the chair and then at him, with a boyish _bon camarade_ smile that
banished all the sadness and shadows from her face.

"I ’m sure you might--please do."

He moved forward swiftly and arranged the chair for her.  She sat down,
and as he did not move away began to talk to him in the same friendly
easy way as she had used to the Jew, and he found himself, like the Jew,
answering her if not eagerly at least with interest.  However they
touched only on generalities.  She did not tell him nearly so much as
she had told the Jew and he found in that too something to resent.
Possibly she missed the French receptivity, or with the quicksilver
sensitiveness of some women divined antagonism, for something like a
little note of appeal came presently into her voice: it was as though
she were trying to soften his heart towards her.  In answer to some
observation of his with regard to travelling she said rather wearily:

"Yes; one discovers these things when one has knocked about the world
long enough."

"Knocking about the world" was not a process that usually enhanced a
woman’s charm, in his eyes at least; but he soon became aware that all
charm was far from being knocked out of this one. Charm came out of her
like a perfume, and stole towards him.  But he steeled his heart against
it and against her, so that a glint of the steel presently came into his
eyes and seemed to ring in his voice.  Certainly something in him
chilled the little tendrils of good fellowship and friendliness that she
seemed inclined to extend.  At last shivering slightly and drawing her
cloak about her, she stirred in her chair, preparing to go.  But he
stayed her with an odd and unexpected question.

"Do you always wear grey?"

She laughed and turned to look at him curiously.

"Now I wonder what makes you ask such a strange question?"

Enraged with himself, resentful of her, he was far from any intention of
telling her his real reason.

"It hardly seems to be your colour."  He spoke abruptly and realised
immediately that he was being rude.  But she was not offended at the wry
compliment.  Whatever her faults might be she seemed at least to be
untroubled by that one paramount in most women--vanity.

"Are you an artist?"  She leaned forward and looked at him with the free
curiosity of a child.


She waited an instant as though expecting to hear him supplement his
curt answer, but her frank impulsive methods waked no answering echoes,
and she sank back with a little sigh.  He felt ashamed of his
churlishness.  Never before had he been so unresponsive to friendly
advances; but apart from his instinct not to allow this woman to probe
him, it had always been a principle with him never to disclose his
profession to fellow-travellers.  When he came abroad it was to rest,
and he had found that the best way of doing so was to keep his identity
dark from the world at large.  However, his taciturnity if it chilled
her could not make her change her manners and customs.

"You are quite right," she said at last, speaking as though there had
been no awkward interlude. "Grey is not my colour.  I always wear blues
and reds and oranges--anything bright and Oriental: not only because I
am pale but because I love vivid colours.  If when I am unhappy I put on
something crimson it seems to warm and cheer my heart like a fire.
Don’t you think the robin is happier for his red breast?"

Westenra said nothing.  She had switched his mind off oddly to the
things he loved in his boyhood--birds hopping in the garden, the robin’s
note--a rabbit flashing past through the dewy grass.

"If ever you are in deep despair and can see a field of poppies all glad
and aflare under the blaze of the sun----"

She appeared to have forgotten him and to be talking to herself.  He too
was away amongst the dews and tender sunshine of Ireland.  He knew no
blazing fields of poppies, but remembered them gay amongst the corn in
the long fields.

"Or sunlight on fields of glowing corn," she said softly, "green land
growing right down to the blue sea--trees turning to red and gold in the
autumn--a bank of purple irises--gilded aloes spiking against the sky."

There was a strange little dreaming silence.

"I never had a grey gown in my life until now," she said suddenly.

Westenra looked pale in the starlight; there seemed almost to be in his
skin a tinge of the colour she mentioned.  Her words switched him back
too suddenly from Ireland to a remembrance of her unwarranted likeness
to his dream woman.  She had even gone so far as to talk in the way that
woman might have done!  To pretend that she cared for the things that
woman would care for!

"What made you get one now?"  He knew not what fatalistic curiosity
prompted the question.

"I got several," she said quietly.  Her manner was still friendly, but
there had come into it a certain graveness that he thought might be
intended by way of rebuke, until he heard the end of her sentence.  "You
will never see me in any other colour on this ship.  I am wearing grey
as a sort of mourning for my husband."

"I beg your pardon," he said slowly, startled, astounded, and puzzled.
A widow!  Oh!  She _could n’t_ be the woman he had dreamed--the whole
thing was ridiculous!  Grey for mourning?  That was new to him.  But
perhaps the fellow had been dead a long time, and she was just going out
of mourning?  As if in answer to his thoughts she made another of her
curious statements.

"We had been such bitter enemies that I felt it would be hypocritical to
go into real mourning for him.  But he died a fine death, and in honour
of that I thought I might at least absent me awhile from the felicity of
bright colour."

She rose to say good-night, and as she stood there looking at him for a
moment with her elusive Irish smile and her Oriental air, he saw that,
tell himself what he might, widow or no widow, hers was indeed the face
he knew so well.  The long shadows thrown by the lights behind her fell
about her feet recalling the vulture shadows of his dream. Her cloak
flickered round her like a silken sail, and the beads about her neck
swung and softly clicked as dice might click in the hands of Fate.

                               CHAPTER II

                             GREY AND GOLD

    "Two shall be born the whole wide world apart,
    And speak in different tongues, and have no thought
    Each of the other’s being, and no heed;
    And these, o’er unknown seas to unknown lands
    Shall cross, escaping wreck, defying death;
    And all unconsciously shape every act
    And bend each wandering step to this one end--
    That one day, out of darkness they shall meet,
    And read life’s meaning in each other’s eyes."

There are few men who in thinking ahead, however vaguely, to the time
when they will share life with a woman do not expect to find their
ultimate kingdom in the heart of some girl with a face like the morning
and a nature fresh and unspoiled as an opening rose.  With the freshness
faded from his own heart and the "songs of the morning" long forgotten,
this modest instinct to allot to himself the beautiful and the ideal
remains deeply rooted in the best and worst of men.  Of Irishmen it
should be said in extenuation that they are usually greater idealists
than the generality of men, and possess the instinct of worship more
strongly.  They do not always make fortunes nor gain fame; but they make
shrines.  And deep in the nature of every one of them sits fast the
belief that the finest woman in the world is surely for him because he
has the finest shrine ready for her.  If she does not fit, it is not the
fault of the shrine, which is composed of the very best materials--that
stuff of which dreams are made.

Garrett Westenra had all the bigoted simplicity of the man who has never
loved and been deceived. There is nothing like a wrecked shrine or two
for getting rid of unworkable notions about the uses of women as idols;
but no woman had ever deceived him, so he had kept all his faith and
bigotry and generous beliefs to bestow upon the one woman--a golden
apple with a bitter core perhaps, for it is not always fair to the woman
to have too much in this line to bestow.  Being a citizen of the world
he did not of course suppose that fine qualities and a beautiful nature
are only to be found in the opening-rose type of woman, but certainly he
had unconsciously or otherwise assigned to the woman of his dreams all
the traditional virtues and graces of character and bearing. He had come
of fine simple people: one of the old Irish families who through poverty
and misfortune had lived for generations with the simplicity and
austerity of peasants, but whose men had never lost their breeding and
bearing, and whose women were strong and fearless without breaking the
laws of their religion.

One of his ancestresses had eloped with a Westenra, and pursued by her
disapproving brothers, the pair had swum a river abreast; later, when
having fought one brother after the other the bridegroom, wounded in the
legs, was unable to walk, his wife carried him on her back for miles to
a place of safety--not that he was small and weak (no Westenra was ever
that), but that she was big and strong and fine; her wedding ring, a
thin thread of gold, had come down through generations to Garrett
Westenra and fitted his third finger easily.  His great-grandmother,
daughter too of an old but impoverished family, had not disdained to
rebuild with her own hands the house in which she afterwards lived and
died.  These were the single-hearted, simple, faithful women,

    "Strong and quiet like the hills,"

from whom Westenra had sprung.  Tradition dies hard when it is rooted in
such firm ground.  Small wonder that dismay blotted out delight when he
recognised at last the romantic face of the woman he had waited for,
only to find it allied to the strange, rootless, roving, almost vagrant
personality of Valentine Valdana.

Even if every one on the ship except himself had not appeared to know
that she was Mrs. Valdana _the_ journalist, he could not long have
remained in ignorance of her name for "Val Valdana" in writing so
illegible as to invoke curiosity was written on everything she
possessed, and she left her possessions everywhere.  She was the most
careless woman in the world.  She lost and mislaid books, cushions,
papers, and rugs; her shoes were frequently undone, and her hair almost
always on the point of coming down.  Yet she never looked untidy because
her feet were pretty and her hair was of the feathery kind; and in the
matter of her lost possessions she preserved entire calmness, for some
one was always obliging enough to find them for her and bring them back.
Once she left on deck a book full of audacious sketches and notes about
the passengers, and the wind ruffling the leaves of it dispersed scraps
of paper in every direction.  One of these displayed a pair of
love-birds sitting beak to beak on a branch, but the birds possessed the
life-like features of two cranky old maid passengers who were
continually squabbling in public; beneath was the scribbled legend: "_If
we comfort not each other, Who shall comfort us in the dark days to
come?_" ... Another entitled "_La planche_" was the portrait of an
enormously fat lady passenger grown extraordinarily slim and pretty.  A
little pink hard-shelled woman with a habit of making up to people only
to say something extremely unpleasant to them was cartooned as a crab
reaching out and nipping everything within reach.  A moony-looking
individual with a wry neck, peering eyes, and a loud brown check suit
had lent his individuality to the sketch of a tortoise pottering
curiously about the deck.  A newly-married couple who were always
sipping egg-nog together had been pilloried as the Siamese twins joined
by a large egg.

Yet when the cartoonist came on deck the victims of her pencil were all
ready to smile at her, and return her property without resentment.  It
was so patent somehow that malice was the one thing absent from the
mental make-up of Mrs. Valdana.

Another day soon after their first meeting, Westenra found her in her
deck chair with one slim foot twisted round to inspect what is sometimes
known as a "potato" in the heel of her stocking.

"Isn’t it amazing how holes in one’s stockings arrive?" she remarked to
him pleasantly.  "I would n’t mind only I ’ve got such tender heels."

Impossible for a thoughtful man who has known poverty and carried
memories of his mother’s fingers worn with darning to imagine such a
woman as a wife and mother.  Plainly the shrine Westenra had built for
the woman of his dreams could never be occupied by this one.  No shrine
could keep for long so restless a heart, nor fireside and cradle detain
such wandering feet!  As the days went by the likeness in fact that he
had seen in her to his vision became blurred and faded.  It was not
difficult at last to persuade himself that his recognition of her had
been a fantasy of his brain. Once the thought dismissed of any mystical
bond between them, he could not help liking the incompetent, careless
creature and finding pleasure in her society.  She was a good companion:
not gay herself so much as the cause of gaiety in others. She rarely
said witty things, but it was surprising how witty others became in her
company.  Her art was of the kind that seems to underlie rather than
break through the surface of conversation, leaving the best points for
others to make.  But sometimes when things were at their dullest she
would suddenly send up a little sparkling rocket that lit the mental
horizon and thrilled the surroundings with colour.

Westenra, whose native wit and eloquence needed little sharpening, was
at his best with her, and he became his pleasant and extremely engaging
self while enjoying to the full that charm in her that from the first he
had not denied.  Her ardent feeling for the ideal and the original was a
spur to his intellect, and not only re-awoke his natural gaiety, but set
stirring all his altruistic dreams. For there was greatness smouldering
in Westenra, that needed only the right woman’s hand to fan it into

No one observing Mrs. Valdana listening, almost thirsting for all he had
to say, would have guessed that as far as actual experience of life
went, hers had been far wider and greater than his, for the usual
results of experience--callous indifference or a calm philosophic
outlook--were amazingly absent from her.  She was vividly interested in
life, and the more she saw of it, the less _blasée_ she became; and
because ideas interested her even more than experience she was deeply
interested in Westenra.

If the latter had ever lived in England he would infallibly have
recognised the name of Valentine Valdana as being that of one of the
foremost women journalists in the world.  Even had he been in the habit
of reading those American Sunday journals whose overseas cables in a
surprisingly small space manage to mention the doings of everyone of
importance, he would have realised that so far from being the
"small-headed, yellow journalist" he supposed, she occupied a unique and
enviable position in the newspaper world.  But he had never concerned
himself with the doings of European journalists.  America is a big
country, with big enough personalities and interests of its own to
absorb such attention as a man wrapped up in his work and the great
scientific facts of life has to give to public affairs.  Thus it came to
pass that he did not know there was one thing Mrs. Valdana, with her odd
eccentric gowns and ornaments, a hole in the heel of her stocking, and
her black hair endlessly coming down, was not careless about, and that
one thing was her work--and that because of her work she was famous.

Certainly she was not the person to tell him, being as reticent about
the astonishing things she had done as she was childishly frank about
her picturesque tastes and fancies.  She would show her ivory bracelets
cut green from the tusks of an elephant in Central Africa, or howl in
the moonlight like a jackal, or dance like a Somali warrior (as she did
at the concert got up for the sailors’ benefit), or describe the orchids
that hang like glowing lamps from the trees in the deep steaming forests
of the Congo; but she would say nothing of her articles on sleeping
sickness and Congo atrocities, or how she had nearly lost a foot on a
terrible march in Somaliland, but turned out an amazing Odyssey on the
manners and customs of a little known people.  She always forgot to
mention that it was she who had shot the elephant from whose tusks the
bracelets came, and that her knowledge of jackal music was acquired in a
lion-infested part of Bechuanaland, where she had got lost from her
party and spent a sinister night up a tree.

Next to Africa she loved India best in the world, and could discourse
alluringly on the subject of _phul-karries_, and silk embroideries from
Delhi, of sunsets seen across the plains when the buffaloes and the
goats are being herded home in a mist of golden dust; of paddy-birds
standing in shallow grey pools, and the grace of the swathed women
coming from the wells.  Chanting through her nose a thin monotonous
wail, while with three fingers and her thumb she made a measured
thrumming tattoo on the table, she could conjure up the very heart-throb
of the Indian Bazaar until the never-ending rhythmic torment of the East
dragged at the heart of those who listened.  She could tell too every
kind of amusing story and scandal about Anglo-Indian society; but she
would never mention that she had been sent out in ’97 to get for her
paper the truth about the Tochi rising--and had got it; that she was at
Simla when the English were waiting breathlessly for news from their men
at the front, knowing that any serious reverse in the Tirah might
possibly mean an attempt at a general rising and massacre in the plains
and hill stations of the Punjab, and that she was one of those women who
had gone out as usual to balls, and laughed and jested with sickening
fear in their hearts, under the keen eyes of the native servants--and
afterwards had sat in her room hour after hour sorting and classifying
her facts, embodying them in the strong vivid articles that a few weeks
later made England "sit up" for awhile and realise that all was not
peace and fair contentment in the Indian Empire.

There were lots of other interesting things Mrs. Valdana never told.
She had been in Russia on a mission for Mr. Stead, and in Turkey to
probe out the affair of a secret concession for turquoise searching
granted by the Sultan to an English Member of Parliament.  She had
interviewed De Witte, the Red Sultan, and Paul Kruger, and stayed at
Groot Schuur as Cecil Rhodes’s guest. But all these things were part of
her work, and of her work (except to other journalists) she never spoke.
It spoke for itself.

Though she had done special work for many of the big London papers she
was a free lance and under bonds to no journal.  No inducement that
could be held out to her was strong enough to lure her from her ways,
which were the ways of a literary vagabond who came and went at no man’s
bidding, but achieved her best work by wandering only where she listed,
and writing only what her heart urged.  This might have been fatal to
financial success, but that it was allied to an instinct that amounted
to genius for the big vivid things that take hold of the public
imagination. Every good journalist has a nose for news; Valentine
Valdana had the added gift of an "eye for colour"; she saw it across
continents, recognised it overseas, followed it as her star; and what
she wrote concerning it editors were pleased to scramble for.  If one
disapproved of her "stuff" another was only too glad to embrace it.  She
revised and blue-pencilled for no man.  Her creed was Byron’s when he
wrote to Murray: "Cut me up in the _Quarterly_, rend me in the Reviews,
do unto me as did the Levite unto his concubine, but do not ask me to
revise, for I cannot and I will not."  She would not either, and she did
not have to. Enough that her stuff was signed with her well-known
nom-de-plume "Wanderfoot" for it to sell like hot cakes.  In fact, in
her own line Valentine Valdana was famous; and Garrett Westenra did not
know it.

Nor would he have been greatly impressed if he had known.  He was
entirely opposed to that kind of fame for a woman.

All Irishmen, whatever their rank or situation, are at bottom profound
lovers of nature, virtue, and simplicity; and from this great quality of
the heart springs the singular charm that makes them the most attractive
people in the world; but it has a defect in its almost peasant
standardising of women.  Lack of money in Ireland has created in the
Irish an eternal oversense of the value of riches; but though there has
never been any lack of women in Ireland they are not undervalued on this
account (in fact, as has been shown, they are given shrines to occupy).
Still there is a secret and peculiar hatred in the Irishman’s nature for
any change in the status of women, moral or intellectual, since the time
of Mother Eve or the beloved Madonna.  The wife-and-mother is the ideal,
and very rightly so, but she is a meek and submissive and gentle
wife-and-mother, and she sits eternally by the fireside with a child on
her knee.  Yes, though in his heart he will crown her with a golden
crown and burn incense before her, that is where an Irishman always sees
the ideal woman--by the fireside, with a child on her knee. No true
Irishman will ever be a suffragist.

Considering these things it was surely unwise of Garrett Westenra, very
much an Irishman, to linger day after day by the deck chair of a
vagabond woman, who, from all accounts and appearances, had never
possessed a fireside of her own, nor was ever likely to appreciate one.
Yet linger he did, and day by day her charm wrought upon him and wound
itself round him and penetrated him until it seemed to become part of
him.  By no effort of hers was the thing done.  She grew strangely
silent as the voyage drew towards an end, sitting in her chair with
still eyes and hands, like a woman in a dream drifting down a dream
river.  Once more she began to resemble the woman Westenra knew so
well--the mystery woman with whom he had walked for many years in his
secret garden.  And when he came on deck and did not find her in her
place, the deck and the ship and the world seemed to become suddenly
empty--with an appalling emptiness.

But always when alone in his cabin he made the same observation to

"This thing has got to stop.  It is rank foolishness.  What do I know of
her?  God knows what her life has been.  She is not the woman I have
dreamed of.  She is not within a hundred miles of the kind of woman I
could spend my life with....  A reckless, careless vagabond!
Good-hearted, yes, full of fine impulses ... full of charm!  But when
the glamour has gone ... what then?"

He had that gift and curse of his race of seeing too far--the
worthlessness of the prize at the end of the race, the rotten core
inside the rosy apple. Perhaps why Irishmen achieve so little, is that
nothing which can be got seems to them worth while getting!

So he said to himself firmly:

"This thing has got to stop."

He said it and meant it right up to the last night of the voyage--a
night when they stayed late in their deck chairs under a glorious moon
that transformed the sea into a golden harvest of promise.  Many other
couples sat along the deck laughing and jesting, announcing their
intention to stay up until the Statue of Liberty hove in sight, but well
aware that the purser would be prowling along the deck at about
half-past ten with hinting scowls for all loiterers.  Long before the
purser came, however, the keen air had driven most people below, and
there was no one left except Westenra and Mrs. Valdana, and a far couple
in the shadow of the bridge.

A silence had fallen upon Westenra and his companion, one of those
silences that have lips to speak and hands to caress.  A little wind
blew past them carrying a snatch of her hair across his lips.  He had
never before felt a woman’s hair on his lips! Her pale hand nervous and
lonely lay outside the rug in which she was wrapped.

"That hand looks cold lying there," he said, and taking it drew it under
a fold of his own rug, and held it fast.  It lay in his without response
like a little stone hand, but through his palm he could feel her pulse
beating wild and uncertain, and that stirred him strangely, yet awoke
the doctor in him too.  He remembered the brandy-and-soda she had drunk
the first evening, and every evening since. He remembered too his own
cynical thought, and repeated it now, though his voice held little

"I ’ll give you two years longer to live if you keep on at this rate."

"What rate?" she asked in surprise.

"Drinking, smoking, taking drugs.  What drug is it you take?"

"You seem to know all my vices," she said laughing a little tremulously.
She was leaning back in her chair looking very pale.  "I have to take
veronal sometimes to make me sleep."

"You would sleep naturally if you gave up smoking and drinking, and
lived a quiet natural life."

"But then I could n’t write."

"Well, you must give up writing."

"But then I could n’t live," she said laughing. "You don’t seem to know
that I write for my living--it is my work."

"Your work is a curse to you if it makes you do these things."

"It is all I have," was her strange answer.

He turned in his chair and looked at her.  In her face was none of the
bitter humiliation of the woman whose weaknesses are suddenly exposed
and condemned.  She was smiling a little, a smile with a twist to it,
like the smile of a child who is determined not to weep.  And her
smoke-coloured eyes, bright and sad with tears, and exile, and lost
joys, and all the sorrow of the Irishry, were the eyes of the woman who
had been given him in a dream.  While he looked at her she closed them
and sat very still.  At last he knew that there was no question of
fleeing from Fate. He leaned forward and laid his lips on her sad
smiling mouth, and found there the answer to many a question.

Yet when he spoke it was to ask another.

"Now will you leave writing?"

"Yes, Garrett," she said simply.  "I will leave everything for you; I
think it was written so in the beginning of things."

                              CHAPTER III

                          FATE’S WINDING PATHS

    "Does the road wind uphill all the way?
      Yes, to the weary end."

With Westenra’s kiss still warm on her lips Valentine Valdana knelt in
her cabin, elbows plunged in the low plush-covered lounge, eyes closed,
lips slightly parted, her upturned face resting in the palms of her
hands as still and rapt as the face of a visionnaire, and indeed it was
in visionary scenes that her mind wandered: scenes of the past peopled
with the absent and the dead. Sometimes her lips moved and she spoke a
name--her mother’s, her father’s, a child’s, an old woman’s, that of a
man who lay by her mother’s side in the Durban cemetery--one whom the
world had known as a brilliant but drunken journalist, but whom she
remembered only as a great heart and loved friend.  For she had a great
capacity for loving, this woman; she did not know how to merely like
people; when she cared at all she loved and gave her best.  She loved
all the people with whom she was dreaming now, and she loved them still
with a love that reached over seas and past the grave; in her radiant
new-found happiness her thoughts flew to them wishing that they too
might be glad with her.

"Dear Dick ... I am so happy," she said, visualising the drunken
journalist, not as others had seen him, a short red-faced man with
bright, haggard eyes and a sardonic mouth, but as the big-hearted man of
letters who had generously taught a young uneducated girl all he knew of
his craft.

In memory she sat again in the stuffy Johannesburg newspaper office with
the maps on the wall, tables hidden under a jumble of papers, chairs
covered with tobacco ash, books, whiskey bottles, and heard the voice of
Dick Rowan pounding "style" into her while the mine batteries drummed
outside, and the windows reddened and rattled under the assault of a
blinding Rand dust storm. Her thoughts passed to another man who had
worked with them, and who lay now in the little cemetery behind the
Primrose Deep; to another sniped in the streets of Mafeking who had
written to her by the last post that came from the beleaguered town; to
another dead in the shadow of the Himalayas of whom she could not think
without remembering the paddy-birds in the rice fields near Benares;
another sleeping on the shores of Lake Chad.

For like all women thrown early on the world to make a living she had
found her best friends among men, and the very adventurousness of her
own life had brought her into contact with adventurous men of the kind
whose lives are full and vivid and of sudden ending.  Of the men who
"did things, and died in far places" she had known a-many, and been
proud of their friendship, and with all the ardour of an ardent nature
she had loved them every one in her boyish, good-comrade way. And they
had all passed on or passed away! But she wanted them to be with her in
this hour. She called on every one she had loved, or been loved by, to
rejoice with her now.  She even laid in thought a flower of amnesty upon
the memory of Horace Valdana, but with him she did not linger, for in
the memory of her husband was neither beauty nor joy, and in that hour
she wished only to remember things that gave no hurt.

For she too believed that the fate which through the open and winding
passages of life had been seeking after her had found her at last; that
of all the men she had been loved by, and she had been greatly loved,
here at last was the one whom her heart and mind had awaited--a real man
with something of the lion in the hold of his head and in the quality of
his sure glance and careless smile, who "did before the sun and moon
whatsoever his heart appointed," and was no man’s man but his own.  She
saw that Westenra was big in mind and spirit, self-trusting,
self-reliant; and every woman’s heart responds to those iron strings.
Every woman hopes to find in the man she loves something big and vast
and eternal in which she can become absorbed, and lose herself.  For
every woman has the secret fear that by herself she is nothing, can be
nothing, and has no eternal life except in and through love.

She had loved Westenra from the first with all the wise and foolish
reasons a woman will find for putting her hands under the feet of the
beloved, for his boyish laugh, and the way his hair grew, his witty
tongue, the simplicity of his heart, and the subtlety of his mind; for
his big head and broad shoulders, for the grace and strength of him, for
his curious personal shyness and his wide, impersonal outlook; for the
twist his race had given to his speech, and for his handsome face which
was not handsome at all, but the face of a thinker who has been up
against the hardest problem in the world--ignorance.

These were the things she knew that she loved him for, but she was aware
without going too deeply into the matter that the other and more
important ones that she had long sought were there too.  Dimly she knew
that the maternal woman in her, the subconscious mother who seeks for
greatness in the father of her children, was satisfied with Westenra and
that promise of eternity in his eyes.  And because of this she was
willing to renounce all that her life had been and might be, to change
all in herself that he did not like, to become of him and for him.  She
had always known that a time like this would come, when she would throw
all she had worked for and earned to the winds, for the sake of a man
who wanted her not because she was a famous journalist, but because she
was a woman and the woman for him. But the condition was that he must be
the man for her too.  She had waited long for that condition to be
fulfilled, passing over many a fine heart because her own refused or was
unable to give the countersign to his challenge.

And at last the hour had come, as it always does come to those who know
how to wait.  From the moment she first spoke to Westenra and looked him
in the eyes she had felt that mystic stirring of flesh and spirit that
comes only once and is so unmistakable. She had realised then that to
have this man always in her life would be to touch the highest peaks of
the far blue mountains of romance.  And the moment she realised it she
felt hopeless.  For never in her life had she got anything that she
ardently desired.  Happiness had evaded her and joy had passed her by.
To know now at last that Westenra loved her, that the greatest desire in
her life was to be fulfilled, seemed too wonderful to be true.  The
gratitude that filled her was curious in so clever a woman, and one who
had had many men at her feet; but a childlike humility concerning
herself was one of her sweetest qualities.

In the presence of those she loved she never remembered that she was
famous, gifted, travelled, and honoured, and withal young and
attractive. It always amazed her that any one should find her clever and
charming.  And that Westenra, who did not even know or care what she had
done as a journalist, should find her desirable just because she was
Valentine Valdana and a woman was the most amazing and beautiful thing
in the world. It opened life out upon a boundless horizon, and flooded
the future with a love great enough to cast out all devils of the past.

She knelt long by her bed, half-praying, half-pondering on sad things
gone by and glad things to come.  Out of it all came a resolve that the
next day she would tell Westenra the whole story of her life of strange
adventure and misery.

There were many things that to speak of would cause her wretchedness,
but it was not the shameful wretchedness of those who, resisting no
temptation, have taken all they wished from life, leaving nothing for
the future but regrets.  Her sorrows were sweet and untainted.  There
were many things of which perhaps people of hedged-in lives might think
she should be ashamed, but which seemed to her to be natural and simple
and nothing.  She had gone up and down the world and seen so much in the
way of suffering, known so many complications of love and life, that
nothing astonished or even shocked her any more.  She had been through
the mill and "seen life," as the phrase goes; and whether or not that is
a good thing for a woman, and whether or not the spiritual vision gets a
little dimmed in the process, and the senses a little dulled, is a
matter of opinion.  The fact remains that at the age of twenty-six
Valentine Valdana still retained such freshness of heart that she could
kneel for an hour or two at her bedside in a state of contemplative
prayer, unembittered by the past and full of hope for the future.

A witty but unhappy writer whose life proved the truth of his epigram
wrote that "good resolutions are cheques which we draw on a bank where
we have no account."  But at twenty-six Valentine Valdana could still,
with serene confidence in her power to honour them, draw cheques upon
this bank of the soul: so perhaps after all life had not done so ill by
her as might have been supposed.

Her life-story was a curiously unusual one. The touch of Orientalism in
her eyes and hair was a legacy from her grandmother, a beautiful
Egyptian girl born in a harem and stolen therefrom by an adventurer who
was deep in the counsels and intrigues of its lord and owner, her
father.  The two fled from Egypt to Zanzibar, where, under the
protection of the Sultan, they married and lived, the Irishman making
himself as useful and necessary to the negro Sultan as he had to the
Egyptian chief.  The beautiful little harem-born wife from association
with her husband and the few Europeans in the place learned to speak
English, and her only child, a girl who resembled one of the wonderful
tropical flowers she lived among, was brought up in European fashion by
an Irish nurse sent for from Ireland.  In time the Egyptian mother died,
and the Irishman, fallen on evil days through Court intrigues and an
affliction of the eyes, was obliged to flee from Zanzibar and make for
the only country where he and his child could keep warm and live
cheaply--Italy.  There, the girl, Iolita, learned to perfect a gift of
dancing she had always delighted in, and when later her father became
totally blind and penniless, it was she who bravely maintained the
affair of living for both of them by dancing at the theatres and the
opera until she danced her way into fame.

Child of a passionate love-marriage it was only natural that Iolita too
should follow her heart. In London, at the very zenith of her success
and just when Fate was unrolling before her a vista of luxurious years,
she proved the heritage of her blood by eloping to Africa with the
youngest son of an English peer, a being as romantic and irresponsible
as herself.

Gay Haviland had tried his hand at most things, from Shakespearean
acting in London to horse-breaking in Mexico, before he found his true
_métier_ as a transport-rider on the South African veldt.  The home to
which he took his eager-hearted bride was an ox-waggon drawn by a span
of twenty magnificent red bullocks, which earned their living and his by
carrying loads of wool and grain from the Free State and the Transvaal
to the Cape.  It was on a St. Valentine’s Day from the tent of that
waggon as it lay under the shadow of the Catberg Range, that little Val
first saw the light, and the same tent was the only home she knew,
except for occasional sojourns in Dutch towns, for the first nine years
of her life.  From a child’s point of view it was an ideal existence,
full of beauty and variety as far at least as scenery was concerned,
adventures with big game, long days of camping on the banks of wild
rivers or in the shade of purple mountains, and an absolute absence of
the tasks and training common to children brought up in the ordinary
way.  It is true that at camping times the dancer amused herself by
teaching little Val to read and write in Italian, while the
transport-rider successfully imparted to the child, together with his
poetical if vagabond views of life, a very real love and knowledge of
Literature.  For if ever scholar turned gipsy it was Gay Haviland, and
though the book he loved best was Nature, and his library the Open Road,
his waggon-boxes were always well stocked with works of classical and
modern writers.

Val imbibed his tastes and vagabond creeds as a flower imbibes dew, but
for the rest she was as free and idle as a little wild buck prancing
across the veldt in the wake of its mother, and as unthinkingly happy.

With Haviland’s tragic death from snake-bite, however, the veldt life
came to a sudden end and passed for ever into the realms of memory,
seeming to Val in the hard years that followed to have been a wonderful
dream, yet remaining always the most poignant and cherished part of her

Poverty showed its jagged teeth to the beautiful dancer, frightening her
back to Europe, where she essayed to gain her living once more with
flying seductive feet.  But her dancing was not what it had been.  Ten
years of idle and ideal love on the veldt had spoiled her art, or
perhaps the wife and mother had absorbed it.  At any rate she was unable
to step back into the vacancy created when as Iolita Fitzpatrick she had
left the stage for love of Gay Haviland.  Other stars had arisen, and
the public had forgotten her.  Engagements were difficult to find, and
when found were at best of the second-rate order.  Neither help nor
sympathy was forthcoming from the proud English family who, having
always detested poor Gay Haviland’s _mésalliance_, absolutely repudiated
any connection with the dancer or her child.

Years of arduous struggle followed during which the two trailed from one
great continental city to another, often miserably poor and in desperate
straits, sometimes perilously near starvation, but thanks to the
generous Freemasonry of Art, and grace to their own happy charm in good
and evil times, never quite without friends, or some last resource.  It
may truly be said that Val’s education was received in the school of
Life, for she never attended any other; but the love of books inculcated
by her father stayed with her, and because book lovers will always,
whatever their straits, get books, Val was able to educate herself as
many another has done, and done well, by reading. Then, too, with the
open mind of the untaught she received and retained all the beauty and
colour and picturesque event of their wandering Bohemian life, finding
even in their grimmest adventure food for thought and amusement.

When she was fourteen, and Iolita still astonishingly beautiful in spite
of poverty and defeat, an engagement took them to the Argentine
Republic, but ending up disastrously left them stranded and almost
penniless at Buenos Aires.  Things were at their darkest when good luck
dawned once more in the shape of Dick Rowan, an old friend of
Haviland’s, and who together with the latter had adored the dancer in
the days when she was a star. Rowan was a brilliant but eccentric man of
letters, afflicted by the wanderlust.  His adventurous temperament,
irked by life in cities, had driven him forth as a journalist to far
lands, where he had become as famous for his war and political
correspondence as for his dissipated ways and generous heart.  He was an
expert on the political situation of various Colonies and smaller
Powers, and whenever little wars were on the carpet there also was
Rowan.  In times when wars were not, he occupied himself with the
internal wranglings of Colonial governments.  Wherever he could force
his way in he made himself felt.  It was not for nothing he was known as
"Gadfly" Rowan.  At the period of his re-meeting with Iolita he was
interesting himself in the Transvaal with the affairs of Paul Kruger and
the Uitlander, up to his eyes in political intrigue, and editing a
Johannesburg journal with Imperialistic leanings.  His presence in the
Argentine on some business of his own was the veriest accident, but a
happy one for Iolita, for, faithful to his early passion, he was
overjoyed to find her again, and asked nothing better than to take her
burdens upon his shoulders and be a father to Gay Haviland’s daughter.
Iolita, on her part, had always felt a great affection for the
journalist.  It seemed a pleasant end of weariness to consign her fate
into his eager if improvident hands.  So they were married, and the
family of three sailed for Africa, where for the next two years they
spent a busy, happy, and erratic existence together, surrounded by
journalists, politicians, and all the quick wits of the Rand.  From the
first Val showed a keen liking which Rowan was swift to foster for
newspaper writing.  He took her as his secretary, and taught her on
broad lines all that is most useful for a journalist to know. None knew
better than Dick Rowan how to direct a natural talent for journalism,
and in Val he recognised splendid material, a born vocabulary, a keen
sense of observation, love of phrase, and a knowledge of books and
places.  Above all, she was full of ardour for the work.  Nothing lacked
but training to apply her genius, and this Rowan, erratic and
irresponsible in all things but his profession, was the best person in
the world to give her.

From being his amanuensis she soon became his assistant.  A great
devotion sprang up between the stepfather and daughter.  Later, when
Iolita, visiting Durban, died and was buried in that beautiful seaside
town, the two drew closer in their loneliness and sorrow.  Val was
eighteen then, and Rowan ageing rapidly, for he always lived every
moment of his life, and always he "poured spirits down to keep his
spirits up."  Because of this his energy and brain were both beginning
to fail; and here the value of the hand and head he had trained was
proved.  Work was offered to him that he would never have been able to
accept but for Val.  It was she who urged him on, worked with him and
for him, repaying her own and her mother’s debt by unwearying devotion.
A commission to proceed to Somaliland, a splendid opportunity for glory,
came from a great London Daily, but Rowan’s initiative would never have
been equal to it without Val.  She not only made him go, but went with
him, and when he fell ill there, and the newspaper correspondence
devolved upon her, as well as the nursing of her stepfather, so well did
she accomplish both, that Rowan got well and she reaped recognition.
For Rowan, rigid as all good writers about the identity of work,
insisted on the authorship of the letters being known. Shyly she
appended "Wanderfoot," the nom-de-plume she had chosen, to her first
unaided work. It looked like a special effort on the part of the god of
irony that before the end of the expedition she nearly lost her feet
through inflammation caused by overwalking.

After Somaliland, commissions came to her singly, but from a sense of
loyalty she would do nothing except in connection with Rowan; so they
worked and travelled together going to different parts of Africa from
the Cape to Egypt, until one day landing in Durban to make a flying
visit to the Transvaal, Rowan paid with dramatic suddenness the penalty
for burning up his brain and liver for years with whiskey and the best

Val found herself alone in the world, though not helpless, for her own
and Rowan’s efforts had given her a weapon with which to fight for and
hold her place among the journalists of the day. But she was only
twenty, and as hopelessly impractical as the conditions of her life and
Rowan’s happy-go-lucky methods could make her.  He was one of those who
knew no use for money except to make it fly faster than it came, living
gaily ahead of his income to the tune of the old saw:

    Penny loaf for twopence,
    Got no shoes go without."

Val’s journalistic intelligence had been developed at the expense of her
practicability for everyday purposes.  She could already make money, but
she had no sense of the value of it.  A number of things she had
gathered hi the course of her vivid life could not be tabulated, for
they were intangible, nor valued, for they were priceless; but of common
or garden prudence and horse-sense she possessed no single jot or iota.

What she did possess and wear for all the world to recognise was a
disquietingly attractive appearance, and the fascination that hangs
about the personality of one who is able to _do_ something, and that
something well.  To this was now added the wistful charm that sorrow
stamps upon her elect.  All those whom Val had loved had left her one by
one.  She began to believe herself doomed to loneliness--that she had
but to love to suffer the bitterness of loss.  The cerebral hemorrhage
with which Rowan had been smitten had left him a few merciful clear
hours before death, and during that time he had impressed upon her the
wisdom of going straight to England and making the most of his literary
connections there.  But, in spite of this injunction, she had lingered
on from day to day in the expensive Durban hotel where he died.  She
could not drag herself away from the two graves that lay in the heart of
the town, sheltered by palms and feathery trees, with the naked feet of
Zulus pattering past up and down the Berea hill, and ricksha bells
echoing between the marble crosses and headstones of the dead.  She
shrank and faltered from turning her face towards a new life empty of

That was a propitious moment for Horace Valdana to step upon the scene.

Handsome, with the marks of race on him, and no outward sign of his dark
heart, he was of the exact type to attract a romantic girl’s interest.
Val, lonely, impulsive, but lacking in judgment, fell in love with the
man she believed him to be, and without hesitation placed her fate in
his hands. There was no one to warn her (and if there had been it is
doubtful whether she would have believed that he was a thorough-paced
blackguard, whose family, sure by bitter experience that he would some
day openly disgrace an old and honoured name, and deciding that it were
better for him to do it in the Colonies than at their door, had financed
him to go abroad and stay there.  Africa is full of such--"remittance
boys," ne’er-do-wells, men who have left their country for their
country’s good.  Most of them, when they arrive at least, have good
manners, often the stamp of a public school on them.  Nearly all possess
the charm and guile that are special attributes of the professional
black sheep.

Valdana was a perfect example of this professional black sheep--whom
novelists and playwrights have encouraged into existence--the man who
talks rather sadly about his family never having seen any good in him,
but who, by "carving out a career" for himself means to show them some
day that he is "not such a waster after all!"  Any woman of the world
would have seen through him in a very short time; but poor Val was no
woman of the world, only a gifted, romantic girl, with all the worldly
stupidity and shortsightedness of her kind.  It should, perhaps, be
counted to Valdana’s credit that he married her instead of playing some
trick upon the innocence of which her varied life had not yet robbed
her.  But trickery would have meant plotting, and Horace Valdana was too
lazy to plot.  Besides, he was well informed enough to know that Val had
value as a wife who could make money.  So Val got a real marriage
certificate, and became a real wife, and in a very short time knew the
meaning of real misery.  Until then the hard luck and misfortunes which
Fate had dealt her had at least been shared by loyal hearts and faced
with courage and gaiety; but now it was her lot to discover how bitter
sordid poverty can be when shared with a mean and vicious nature that
exacts all and gives less than nothing in the great give-and-take game
of marriage.  Valdana darkened life for her and blotted out the stars.
He walked on her illusions and hopes, and threw down her idols.  She
sometimes felt as if he had wiped his boots on her soul. Wretchedness
and a child were the outcome of the ill-starred marriage.  Still soft
and pliable with youth, she might have forgiven the first for the sake
of the last, but her husband, utterly bored by her innocence and
uselessness, very soon decamped leaving her to shift for herself and the
child as best she might.

It was quite true as has been told that she was utterly useless in the
ordinary way.  She had received absolutely no training in the practical
things of life, except of the most rough-and-ready kind.  She could
light a camp-fire with any one, and shoot something to cook on it
afterwards, but she was far from knowing as much about domestic life as
even an ordinary Boer girl, and quite unfit to be a poor man’s wife in
Africa or anywhere else. The one thing she could do well was to write up
big picturesque events for the newspapers; but such things have to be
sought first and written of afterwards, and now she had a baby to bind
her hands and stay her wandering feet.

There came another dreary era of struggle. Freed of the cankering taint
of Valdana’s presence, the young mother plucked up enough courage and
money to get back to England, where she judged her best chance lay of
making a living.  But the connections and introductions she had counted
on using there were in the end of very little use to her, for the reason
that she could not now continue her special line of work.  There were
still things happening in out-of-the-way parts of the world, but Val
could not leave her young child to go and write about them, and after
one or two offers had been made to her and declined she got no others.
As for the conditions of English life and journalism she knew nothing of
them.  Besides, a place in the London journalistic world has to be
worked and waited for on the spot; outsiders are not encouraged, and
have a bad time while trying to push in.  When at last she realised that
all she could hope for was an ignominious place in the queue among the
hack writers, the girl proudly buried the name made memorable by
collaboration with Dick Rowan, and disguised under that of Valdana, took
what she could get to keep the wolf from the door.  For herself,
travelling on a dark road where all the stars had gone out, she would
have cared little if at this time starvation and an end had come; but
the tiger maternity was awake in her and cried out for the preservation
of little Carmen.

From the first the child had doubled her anxieties by being delicate,
and in England its health did not improve.  Many a time in the weary
London months the mother tripped up the journalist just as the path
looked a little clearer or was smoothening out to a surer footing.  Many
a promising opportunity of regular work had to be passed by because of
some baby illness that needed all the careful nursing Val could give.
But youth and courage were still on her side; and in her heart the
secret conviction which thrills every mother--that her child is an
important link in the chain of generations, that a woman’s career and
ambitions are as nothing compared to the keeping alight of the little
flame which may some day become a beacon to humanity.  What mother’s
heart has not trembled to this illusion?  How many babies would ever
reach maturity if this secret religion did not hold sway in women’s
hearts, urging them to sacrifice, pain, drudgery, and self-abnegation?

And after all the struggle was in vain.  The baby died, and Val, more
lonely and alone than ever before, wished that she too might die, for it
seemed that life was never to hold anything for her but work.  And oh!
the weariness of work that has not love for its compelling force!  Oh!
the longitude and lassitude of life without loved ones in it!

Fortunately, something occurred at this time which not only took her
away from the scene of her loss, but occupied her every thought for a
considerable period.  The Jameson Raid in the Transvaal shook England to
the heart with various emotions, and called for a great deal of
information that could only be acquired at the scene of operations.  The
Editor of the Imperialistic Daily, which had employed Dick Rowan, found
himself keenly regretting the "Gadfly" and his deep knowledge of the
internal workings of the Transvaal Government, then remembered
"Wanderfoot" and her application of a year or so back.  A search was
instituted, and within a week Val was sailing for Africa full of
instructions that gave her little time in which to remember the
emptiness of her heart and the dull ache of loss, or anything but the
affair she was sent upon--to get speech of both President Kruger and the
members of the Reform Committee who lay in Pretoria Gaol.

The series of brilliant articles sent by her from Johannesburg dealing
with the reign of terror at that time exercised by Transvaal Boers over
the betrayed and despairing English population; the history, written in
terse, mordant, heart-wringing phrases of that famous trial, when four
of the Reform Committee were sentenced to death, and the rest to "two
years’ rotting" in a foul prison; these constituted the first steps in
the ladder by which Valentine mounted alone and unaided, rung by rung,
to journalistic fame.  After that no more need to seek work; it sought
her.  There were commissions to India, Turkey, Russia, and Mexico, and
with each new adventure were fresh laurels, for her work improved as the
work of a writer can only improve when she gives it her heart and soul
and serves no other god.

Thus, after struggling and climbing practically from the age of fourteen
up the craggy hillside of Fame, she had in her twenty-sixth year reached
a point nearer the top than do most women.  True, it was not universal
fame, but the fact remains, that to any one who read with understanding
the British newspapers, her name stood for work both brilliant and
sound, a fine temperament and a great future.

When success first began to come her way, Valdana cropped up again,
smiling and ready to step back into her life.  But sorrow had taught Val
a few things and opened her eyes to the real worthlessness of her
husband’s character.  She recognised coldly and clearly at last just
what he was--a lazy, unscrupulous scoundrel.  Even more unforgivable was
the fact that he had not cared a rap whether his child lived or died of
starvation: that she could never forget.  Therefore, though she gave him
money, even unto the half of her income, she refused to return to him or
allow him to come back into her life.  He became so troublesome,
however, that she was on the point of seeking legal protection from him,
when the Boer war broke out, and in the urgent interests of her
newspaper she was obliged to put private affairs aside, and start
immediately for Africa.  After a year there of unceasing work and
travel, she succumbed to a bad illness, resulting from overtaxed energy,
and it was while she lay ill in Cape Town that Valdana made a fresh move
in the game.

It must be mentioned that before his people, realising his lack of all
moral sense, and fearful of future dishonour, had decided to despatch
him to Africa, he was intended for the army, and had been educated and
trained to that end.  His parents’ decision was a bitter blow to him,
for the picturesque side of army life appealed to him greatly, and he
chose to believe and to frequently air the modest opinion that in him a
very gallant soldier had been lost to England.  Now, when in England’s
dark hour she called for men to volunteer their services in Africa, came
his chance, and with a promptness he only exhibited in his own
interests, he applied for a commission in one of the corps raised in
London.  His application was at first refused, because there were plenty
of good men of tried experience to fill such posts; but a clever use of
his wife’s name and work got him into the limelight.  He did not even
disdain to make use of her illness, and the fact that she had been
brought almost to death’s door in the service of the public. So finally
he got his commission and sailed for the front in a glow of publicity.

Then, for a blackleg and a ne’er-do-well whom no one wanted, he did an
extraordinary and unheard of thing--he died!  And not content to merely
die, he did the thing well; nobly and heroically he did it, in company
with a dozen or so men of his troop.  They were isolated in a farmhouse,
surrounded by a large number of Boers, and refusing to surrender were
cut up to a last man, and the house set afire over their wounded bodies.
Some grudging curmudgeon had invented a tale to the effect that one of
the band had slunk out, and, deserting his wounded comrades, escaped.
But no one had ever been able to prove the lie, and even the Boers
themselves gave evidence of the splendid courage of the little band, and
especially of their leader, the last to die with a laugh upon his lips.
All England rang with Horace Valdana’s name.  Val, already bright in the
public eye, had the added lustre of her gallant husband’s glory shed
upon her.  Shoals of sympathetic letters and telegrams reached her in
Cape Town, and, on the occasion of her return to England, having been
rigidly forbidden by the doctors to continue her war correspondence, she
was met by crowds and cheered to the echo.  But both sympathy and cheers
were wasted upon her.  She received them coldly and silently, without
tears and without a widow’s desolate mien.  When it was presently
observed that she also dispensed with the habiliments of wo, and went
about in London as if nothing had happened, she was severely criticised,
and people began to dislike her.  Moreover, a mangled history of the
unhappy marriage got out; it was soon known that there had been great
faults on one side or the other.  Tales with a tang to them of
Valentine’s friendships abroad with well-known men were told in the
clubs, and as the men concerned had mostly died or disappeared, there
was no one on the spot interested or well informed enough to dispute the
truth of them.  What was worse, an entirely cruel and untrue version of
her relation to Dick Rowan during their travels and exploits together
was bruited about, though always so carefully that the victim of the
scandal only caught dim echoes of it, and was never able to seize and
nail the lie to the mast.  In the end, needless to say, the woman paid.
"Gallant Horace Valdana" got more than the benefit of the doubt as far
as the unhappy marriage was concerned, and his widow was sent to social

Little she cared.  The world meant nothing to her.  She had wrestled too
bitterly with life to set any undue value on the approval of society,
even had she not possessed a congenital carelessness amounting to
indifference to the opinions of any except those she loved.  As long as
those few knew the truth--as they could not help doing, knowing her--and
their love loyally remained unaffected, she gave little heed to calumny;
it was enough for her to realise that she was free at last of Valdana.
She tried not to rejoice too much at that, but rather to weed out from
her heart the last blade of bitterness and scorn of the dead man, so
that the rest of life might be lived unpoisoned by hateful memories.

At this period of vague mental unrest and retrospection, the offer to
her from a famous newspaper to visit America on its behalf came
pleasantly _à propos_.  Sick of London and the arid memories it
contained for her, she was thankful to shake its dust from her feet for
a time at least and turn her face to a new and unknown horizon.

And now, during the process of getting into her soul once more the dew
of forgiveness and loving-kindness, Westenra had come marching into her
life, and her heart cried out as the heart of Iole cried out when they
asked her how she knew that Hercules was a god:

"Because I was content when my eyes fell upon him."

                               CHAPTER IV

                        A SKELETON AND A SHRINE

               "The heart of a pure man is a deep vase."

And while Valentine stayed on her knees thanking God for the happiness
that had come to her, Garrett Westenra was pacing the darkened decks
with misgiving in his heart.  The misgiving was not regret.  When you
are of those who stand by your given word you do not waste time in
anything so idle as regret.  Besides, what had come to pass between
Valentine Valdana and himself seemed a thing so predestined and
inevitable, so unsought by either of them, that it would have been as
vain to regret it afterwards as to have fought against it at the time.

Some one once said of the Irish that they appear to be impulsive, but
are really the most deliberate people in the world.  They know long
beforehand what they are going to do, though they perform it at a given
moment with all the appearance of impulse.  This was true in a way of
what had happened between Westenra and Valentine.  He had known from the
first what was going to happen even when he said in his cabin, "this has
got to stop."  He had really put up a hard struggle with Fate, for while
he was certain that Val was the woman originally intended for him, it
seemed that something had gone wrong with the plan.  Somehow she had got
lost on her way to him, and life had changed her until she was no longer
the woman he wanted and had dreamed of, though she still resembled her.
He felt as if there was a hole in his nature, in his life, that only she
could fill, that must go unfilled for ever unless he let her in, yet he
wished to keep her out!  So he had fought against the thing, but as a
man fights who knows he must be overwhelmed in the end by superior
force.  It was that force, something outside himself and far bigger and
stronger, that had been at work when he turned so deliberately and
kissed Valentine’s lips.  The moment had possessed an extraordinary
enchantment.  Never had he known such a magic, glowing sweetness as
surged through his being when she surrendered her lips to his.  And a
little later she had strangely said:

"I think this was written from the beginning of things!"

It was indeed so written.  None knew better than he who for years had
been haunted by her face.  He told her so, or the something that was
outside himself and greater than he told her so.

"I have known you all my life, Valentine.  For years I have seen your
face in my dreams.  I recognised it the moment I saw you.  I always knew
you were somewhere in the world, coming towards me, for me."

And yet he could not feel sure that he loved her! Every word they said
bound them closer.  He was as much hers as she was his.  Never again
could they be nothing to one another.  And yet ... and yet ... was this
love?  No answer among the stars nor in the phosphorescent water
flashing past.  And if his heart knew the answer it would not speak, but
lay strangely still and sad in his breast.  With a mental jerk he forced
his mind to another matter, and one that urgently called for
consideration.  In those few magic moments of sweetness drawn from a
woman’s lips, the whole current of his life for the next few years had
been changed.  The plans he had built up were thrown down and broken.
The big thing starred out for his own special contribution to medical
science had been pushed far back into the future where he could only
reach it after years--instead of going right straight to it now, as he
had meant when he started on this voyage!

Vaguely he had known it must be so if he let Valentine into that empty
place which no woman had ever occupied.  The knowledge that he must
sacrifice that ideal of his, must leave following the star to which he
had hitched his car for something else--something of which he did not
know the value, or if it had any value at all--was one of the reasons
that had urged and compelled him in his cabin to fight against that
force which was stronger than himself.

Well!  It was over now.  The die was cast. All that remained to do was
to rearrange certain circumstances in his life in accordance with this
new plan.  The circumstances resolved themselves into the bitter
ungarnished fact that he was not rich enough to marry and still carry on
his fight for science.  As a bachelor living with a simplicity that
amounted to austerity, his income, the savings of unceasing labour for
ten years, sufficed.  It was not enormous, but it served to relieve him
from the wear and tear of general practice, and allowed him many hours
of leisure in his laboratory.  The only hospital appointment he had
retained, on giving up his practice, was one where facilities were
afforded for studying the disease in which he was specially interested.
Thus the main part of his life was spent between the hospital and his
laboratory.  He scarcely practised medicine at all in the ordinary way,
except as a consultant on the diseases in which he had specialised.  But
now he must return to the old routine of visits and office hours.
Marriage demanded an income, so the laboratory must be pushed into the
background, and a scheme for money-making take the boards!

However, he had realised from the first that marriage entailed this
sacrifice, and with the sweetness of Val’s lips, he accepted the
condition.  It was too late now to look back to his waiting laboratory,
and unflinchingly he shut down on the thought.  That phase of life was
finished with--for some years.  He had no right to ask a woman to accept
life in a bachelor’s quarters on a bachelor’s income just because his
laboratory held for him a dream that might some day crystallise into
Fame. He told himself with gloomy stoicism that women want nearer and
dearer things than fame glimmering at the end of a long vista of years.
He must return to the arena of money-making, beat up his old practice,
get back into the harness he had thrown off little more than a year ago.
It would be difficult at first, but he was not afraid of difficulties.
He flung back his head a little at the thought.  Then his mind fell
suddenly busy on a plan that had been suggested to him just before
leaving New York by a clever young physician named Godfrey, a
fellow-student at Columbia. Godfrey had a scheme for a nursing home, and
wanted Westenra to stand in with him on it.  The idea was to take a
large house near Central Park, equip and furnish it as a private
hospital with plenty of bedrooms and a good operating-room. There
Westenra could perform all his operations and hand over his patients
afterwards to Godfrey’s care, while Godfrey could in like manner hand
over his surgical cases to Westenra.  Thus the two would work into each
other’s hands in a perfectly legitimate manner, and double their
incomes.  It is a favourite method of money-making with New York medical
men, but it had no appeal for Westenra, and he had smilingly told
Godfrey that he was not the man for the business.

"But you are," urged the physician.  "You are ’It.’  There is no other
fellow in New York to whom I would hand over my cases so fearlessly. And
then, there are very few who could return me such a _quid pro quo_ as
you can."

Which was perfectly true.  Westenra’s practice when he renounced it had
been very large.  Few surgeons had one like it.  Certainly it lay among
the working classes.  But it is the people of the working classes in New
York who pay their doctors’ bills more conscientiously than any other.
Godfrey’s practice, on the other hand, lay among the leisured class and
was of a more precarious nature, bringing in large sums at one time and
at another very little. Combining the two practices would undoubtedly
regularise and increase the incomes of both men. Many medical men far
less successful and well-known than Godfrey and Westenra were making
fortunes by this method.  However, Westenra, with ambitions very
different to Godfrey’s taking shape in his mind, had not thought twice
about rejecting the offer.  Now he wondered if it were still open, and
determined to go and see Godfrey instantly on his return.

It was after midnight when he finished his deck-pacing and pulled up at
the smoke-room with the idea of getting a light for a final smoke before
turning in.  Being the last night of the voyage many of the men
passengers had stayed up later than usual making merry.  However, all
had retired now except a party of four lingering over drinks at a table.
One still shuffled a pack of cards though the game was plainly at an
end; two others smoked idly; all were listening to the gossip of the
fourth, a certain Reeder--a narrow-nosed, cynical fellow who had
something to do with the publishing world, and whose specialty was
retailing scandal about the private lives of writers.  He was pleasantly
occupied with his favourite topic when Westenra quietly entered.

"Clever woman, yes.  I should say she had cracked or broken most of the
commandments except the eleventh in the course of her career.... I ’ll
swear no woman could live with Dick Rowan without chipping the
seventh--even if she did call herself his stepdaughter.  Certainly
Valdana was a rotten scamp ... but no doubt he had his little cross to
bear while she was gadding the earth with half a dozen other fellows....
Journalists are gay dogs! ... I remember hearing of her----"

He glanced up to find Westenra staring at him with ice-cold eyes, and
for a moment he faltered, changing colour.  The other men’s facial
expressions varied from apprehension to a certain degree of jeering
amusement.  They were all aware of Westenra’s constant companionship
with the most attractive woman on the boat.  For days the matter had
been a topic for speculation among the first-class passengers.  However,
Reeder was not without a dash of cur-dog pluck, and with an effort
regained his composure and essayed to continue his story, though now he
was wise enough to employ a certain amount of discretion.

"I remember hearing of the lady of whom we were speaking----"

"Be good enough to leave that lady out of your vile smoke-room
scandals," said Westenra quietly--so quietly that a pistol shot could
not have been more effective.

Reeder moistened his lips.

"Indeed!  And why?"

"Because otherwise I shall be obliged to knock your lies back down your


"Yes, lies!"  Westenra came close and bulked over him, ready to eat him
up if he said another word.  He would have liked to beat the fellow’s
brains out on the spot.  But Reeder like a wise man climbed down
hastily, ate up his scandal, apologised with profusion, and slunk away.
In a few moments Westenra had the smoking-room to himself.  But he could
not breathe in it--even when he returned to the deck and his pacing,
with all the winds of the Atlantic at his disposal, there did not seem
sufficient air for him to breathe with ease.  His tongue was dry and the
taste of life was bitter in his mouth.

Now he knew why his heart lay still in his breast and gave no answer
when he had asked if this were love!  The empty place in his nature, in
his life, in his heart, was a shrine--and Valentine Valdana could never
fill a shrine.  She was charming and delightful, she called for pity and
for chivalry, she might be a bright comrade on a weary way, there was a
magic sweetness in her lips ... but she would never fill a man’s shrine!


A few hours later the big ship slid peacefully into home waters, the
pale gold sunlight of a September morning flickering delicately on the
waves, piercing the lavender-tinted land mists and gilding the torch in
Liberty’s upraised hand.

Westenra, somewhat haggard-eyed, paced the deck once more, but he was
not alone.  Mrs. Valdana, fresh as the morning itself, looking rather
like a wild violet in a swathed purple cloak and velvet hat of the same
colour crushed down on her hair, took the deck with long gliding steps
beside him.

With the exception of an old lady sitting huddled in rugs by the
companion-way, and a stony-eyed New Yorker gazing fixedly over the
taffrail at the approaching shores of "God’s own country," they were
alone.  Every one else seemed to be hustling luggage or busy downstairs
with the port officers.

In her hand Mrs. Valdana swung her rope of luminous beads.  They were
queer pale green things almost as large as the ordinary "white alley"
marble; too delicate and light to be of stone, there was yet something
so natural about them it was impossible to suppose them a composition.
They reminded Westenra a little of his pale sea-palaces, seeming to be
lighted from within by some pearly luminous light, soft yet strong. Each
bead had on it a perfect little picture painted with the minute and
exquisite art of the Chinese. On one a flight of tiny blue birds, on
another a delicate spray of mimosa, a branch of peach blossom, a
snow-peaked mountain, a scarlet-legged flamingo, a still blue lake, a
volcano, a tree bursting into bud, a line of sapphire hills.  One could
spend a day examining them, for there were a hundred and fifty, each
more wonderful than the others. Westenra, who had never seen her without
them round her neck, asked her now why she was not wearing them.

"I hope never to wear them again," she said. "They are my comfort beads,
and only to be worn in time of unhappiness.  An old exiled Russian gave
them to my mother in Spain saying, ’If ever you or your children are in
great misery these beads will help you.’  And it was quite true. She
always wore them when she was in deep trouble and they gave her comfort.
Mr. Bernstein, that nice French Jew who sits the other side of me at
table asked me the other day to let him know if I ever want to sell
them.  But I shall never want to--they are so beautiful, aren’t they?"
She drew them rippling through her fingers.  She said "aren’t" like the
people of his country, an inheritance from her Irish grandfather
perhaps, together with the superstition that assigns to inanimate things
the power to do good or ill!

"I should n’t be too certain of not wearing them again," said Westenra,
smiling a little grimly, for vaguely he knew that the woman who married
him might very well at times have need for comfort.

"I know," she said gravely.  "It is only when one loves that one
realises how one may fall upon misery at any moment.  The world seems
suddenly to turn into a place of pits and precipices. Oh, Garrett! oh,
Garrett!  If ever I were to lose you now I have got you--!"  She turned
burning eyes to him and in them a glance that held little of the
conventional and much of some primeval element.  It warmed Westenra
through to his heart and loosened the grip of an icy hand that had held
him all night.  After all there was something of greatness in this
woman’s love!

Suddenly the brightness slipped out of her face. She touched his hand a
little tremulously, and her eyes took on the vague far-seeing look of
the Celt. She hated to open up those sad graves of the past on this
sunny morning--the happiest of her life. But she must carry out her
resolution made the night before.  Afterwards the bright breeze would
blow her words away and drown them far behind in the deep Atlantic,
where they would be forgotten for ever.


He put his hand on hers.

"You must call me Joe.  It was always my home name."

Curiously enough, it was a name very dear to her.  One of the few women
she had loved, Lily Hill, had been by her nicknamed "Joe" and always so

"I am so glad.  I love that name.  And you must call me Val, Joe."

"Val," he said gently.

"I want to speak to you, Joe--to tell you things about myself.  You know
so little of me--it is good of you to take me on trust like this--but I
must tell you all about my wandering, vagabond life, my wretched

His arm stiffened under her hand.  They had reached the stern-end of the
deck, and instead of turning again he drew her to the taffrail; they
stood facing the vast waste of heaving violet waters that lay in their

"Leave it all behind you, as we are leaving that troubled sea," he said
quietly.  He seemed to have grown paler, and his mouth looked hard for
all his gentle words.

"If you wish it?" she faltered.

"I do wish it."

"Oh, how glad I should be!  There has been much in my life that I loved,
Joe--my work has been dear to me and my wanderings.  But there have been
bitter things--and my sorrows--they hurt, they hurt--it makes me sick to
drag them up from their graves, like sad little corpses into the
sunlight of our happiness."

It made him sick too.  It was bitterer to him than death that in the
life of this woman of his dreams there should be such graves that feared
the light.  He too feared the miserable process of exhumation.  God knew
what ghastly unforgettable bones might be turned up!  He did not realise
that through this very cowardly fear he was building up a skeleton to
stand between them, clanking its bones in their dearest moments.

"Leave them all, Val," he spoke violently. "God knows I want to know
nothing--only to make the condition with you that you forget all your
life until we met--that you pull up every old root--burn every boat?"

"Yes, yes, I will, Joe--and leave the ruins of them behind us in that
troubled sea, while you and I sail on in this ship with our love and our
dreams bound for the Islands of the Blest."

Her eyes full of hope glimmered up into his.

"You must never give a backward glance," he said harshly.  "Never want
to return to journalism or meet again the people who have been in your
old life.  That is my condition.  _You must leave all for me_.  Is it
too much to ask?"

"No!  No!"

Perhaps he forgot Who it was that first made that command to men and
women alike, and Who with eternity to offer found few to accept.

The "all" life has meant to a woman of twenty-six is not so easy to
leave behind, however much she may wish to desert and forget it.  You
cannot leave experience behind nor fill the holes it has made in your
heart.  You cannot desert the scars life has given you, nor divest
yourself of her compensating gifts.  Moreover, Valentine was a woman who
had triumphs to brandish as well as sorrows; laurels and hard-wrung
victories to flag over the graves of defeat.  Yet none more ready than
she to believe that it could be done, that love could wipe out suffering
and scars and make the face of life to shine anew like the face of a
little child.  For love she was ready to forswear Art, her profession,
her friends, her past, and forget that she ever had a career.  Westenra
could not ask too much of her.  Gladly she turned her back upon the
past, and her face to the future, and gladly she embraced the conditions
Westenra attached.  As she walked the decks of her dream ship America
seemed to her to beckon with the fair alluring hand of the unknown.  The
grim, undecorative buildings on the Hudson’s banks were faintly veiled
in a delicate haze composed of lilac smoke and autumn sunshine, and for
the moment New York’s lack of resemblance to an Island of the Blest was
not too pronouncedly marked.


Westenra’s plan was that she should marry him at once.  He would not
even discuss the idea of her going back to London to arrange her affairs
and collect her possessions.  She must have no affairs from thenceforth
but his, no possessions except those he bestowed.  He was afraid of any
trace or shadow of that past life of hers on their future
together--afraid (though he hardly acknowledged it in thought) of the
mud from the old paths, the vulture-like shadows that had hovered about
the woman of his dream.  In the magic discovery of their mutual
attraction he had forgotten these things for a while, but too long had
he lived with them for them not to recur and haunt his memory. Already
the skeleton, whose sketchy outline had appeared to him in the
smoke-room of the _Bavaric_, and been filled in later on the decks of
the same ship, was beginning to clank its bones!  But Val had no
suspicion of its existence.  She only thought Westenra jealous with the
natural jealousy of a man for the life he has not shared with the
beloved.  She could love with fierce jealousy herself, and so
understood.  Entering into the spirit of the thing, she cast from her
with all the ardour of the unpractical every possession of the past,
every memory sweet or bitter he had not shared.  She made, by letter,
all arrangements for the letting of her London flat, until such time as
her lease would have run out and her property could be sold.  But apart
from some good curios and beautiful things she had picked up in her
travels, she owned very little.  As always, she was living up to every
penny of her income, and her assets were practically nil.  Her name was
her chief asset, and she could never use that more.

She was obliged to wring from Westenra permission to write to Branker
Preston, her agent through whom she conducted all business affairs and
signed her contracts.  Consent was only gained by the fact that if
Preston were not communicated with in order that he might propitiate the
London Daily, in whose interests she had come to America, something very
unpleasant and public might happen in the way of a lawsuit for a broken
contract.  As such an affair would have been highly obnoxious to
Westenra, he gave in, but his dogged and bitter opposition revealed to
Val how deeply he felt on the subject of her past life, and stayed her
from making a further request that was very urgent in her heart.

She had a woman friend, Harriott Kesteven, who was very dear and near to
her, and she felt a great longing to let Harriott know of her changed
life. She possessed a keen appreciation of the claims and rights of
friendship, and it hurt her deeply to think how Harriott would suffer
over her mysterious disappearance from the known paths of her old life.
It was very feminine, too, that longing to share the secret of her
happiness with another woman, though it was only with Harriott that she
wished to do it.  To let any one else into the wonder and beauty of it
all would have meant to spoil what was only for Westenra and herself.
However, she resisted the longing to communicate to Harriott even
indirectly what had happened. After all, that Westenra wished for
secrecy was reason enough to pit against a whole world of anxious and
loving friends!

And so they were married in a passionate hurry, and went away to spend a
few days together before starting the affair of house-hunting. Westenra,
whose vacation was already over, could not afford the time for a
honeymoon in the Adirondacks which he would have loved Val to see in all
the glory of autumn.  They went no farther afield than a little house on
the edge of Bronx Park, whence, favoured by mild and lovely weather,
they adventured forth daily into the beautiful natural woods that skirt
this northern point of New York.

To Val at least those were flawless days.  For once in her life she had
got what she wanted, and the gift had not turned to dust and ashes in
her hand.  Happiness and gaiety radiated from her, and Westenra, caught
in the rays, reflected them back, so that no one would have guessed that
he was not so happy as she.  Though, indeed, for a man who has the
perilous gift of seeing through life’s red and golden apples to the
little spot of decay at the core, he was extraordinarily content. And at
last now that she was his wife he took her into his confidence about his
life and profession. Only to a certain extent, however, for he was a
deeply reserved man, and constitutionally unable to lay his heart and
inner thoughts bare (allowing that such a thing were desirable) to even
the best beloved of eyes.  That he hid this intense reserve behind frank
manners and a witty tongue was a characteristic of his race.  The Irish
are the jesters of the world, but their laughter is a screen for their
hopeless hearts and the deep melancholy of their souls.

Marriage is full of surprises, and not always happy ones.  This barrier
of reserve that she soon divined in her husband was one of the things
that amazed Val.  Her own heart was a book ready to open at the touch of
love.  True, some of its pages were scrawled and scribbled, blotted too
in places and stained with tears; but there it was, ready to fly open to
a trusted hand.  It was not her fault that Westenra had refused to turn
up those pages, but rather at his wish that they had been sealed and
locked away.  Well! that was the book of yesterday.  She had begun
another since they met, and there, at least, he might turn the pages
when he listed and read without misgiving.

But she longed and wished that he would trust her wholly too.  Would let
her, if not into the secret chambers of his heart, then at least past
its outer portals.  Spite of his frank, gay ways with her she knew well
by the subtle and winding paths in which the minds of women travel, that
behind his deep grey-green eyes there was another Garrett Westenra whom
she had not yet reached.  The knowledge amazed her but did not daunt
her. Neither did it spoil her honeymoon.  Her faith in love was of the
quality that moves mountains. In the meantime life was passing dear and

But it was characteristic of each of them that until the first days in
New York Val did not even know that Westenra was a surgeon.  It sounds
absurd and improbable and everything that is unpractical; but Val was
all of these things, and the fact is she had never given the matter five
minutes’ thought.  She knew he could do something and do it well: that
was written all over the man, and that was the only thing of importance.

Once or twice, struck by his logic and extraordinary faculty for stating
cases briefly and clearly, she had vaguely wondered if he were a lawyer.
It might perhaps be supposed that after her unhappy experience with
Valdana she would have exercised a certain caution in the choice of a
second husband. Not so--Valentine’s was a nature that could never learn
caution.  What she had learned, however, was a better judgment of men,
and she could not have been imposed upon twice by a man of Valdana’s
stamp.  Years of intimate friendship with men who "did and dared" had
taught her to know unerringly a "good" man when she met him, meaning by
"good," a man who worked with his brain and heart at some business, or
even game, in which his principles and honour were involved. In Westenra
she recognised the type instantly. This was no man shirking the battle
of life and seeking a woman to support him!

Therefore, if Westenra had announced his profession as that of a
travelling tinker, she would have been quite undismayed.  Indeed, life
as the wife of a travelling tinker whom she happened to love would have
suited her very pleasantly.

As for Westenra, it has been stated that one of his principles was never
to give to fellow-travellers information about himself that did not
concern them; and on the ship, right up to the last night, he had
essayed to look upon Val as nothing more than a fellow-traveller;
therefore, his profession was no concern of hers.  Afterwards, when it
was so swiftly settled that she was to become his wife, the information
did concern her, he made her free of it.  She accepted it as she
accepted all things concerning him, with ardour and pride.  It seemed to
her that she could not have chosen any more desirable profession in the
world for her man. She had known several doctors abroad, clever and
delightful men, but none of them had happened to be married, so she had
no idea as to what the special functions and duties of a doctor’s wife
might be.  Whatever they were she was quite ready to tackle them with a
stout heart for the sake of Garrett Westenra.

He had taken her to see his bachelor quarters in the deeps of the city
where for years he had lived and worked.  They were simple almost to
bareness, but Val liked them well.  They reminded her of her own
quarters in London, and she foresaw that with one good maid she would be
able to run her little home without the risk of Westenra’s ever finding
out what a bad housekeeper he had married.  It came as a shock to hear
that he was considering the matter of leaving these rooms to take a
house somewhere else, near Central Park for choice, where he could have
a fine operating-room and good accommodation for cases after operation.
It must of necessity be a very large house, with an efficient staff of
servants and nurses attached. The idea of collaboration with Godfrey had
been rejected.  He had decided to stand or fall on his own merits.

"Would you mind very much, dearest?" he asked, somewhat diffidently.  "I
know it is too bad to ask you to make your home in a sort of hospital,
but it is for both our sakes.  The only way surgeons can really make
good on the money side is by having their own place for operations."

Something in her dismayed glance made him add slowly:

"But if you dislike the thought, we can have a home apart from it...."

"No, no," she said quickly.  "Of course I don’t dislike it.  I want to
be right in your life, Joe, whatever you undertake."

Nevertheless her heart sank into her boots.  Not for lack of courage,
but from a thorough knowledge of her own inefficiency for so responsible
a position as she might presently find herself occupying.

It was their last day in the woods.  The late afternoon sunlight
flickered on them through the half-stripped trees, and leaves fluttered
and rustled all about the open glade where they sat.  Val, with her
camping instinct, had lighted a little fire of twigs, just for the
pleasure of the sweet pungent odour of green burning and the sight of
smoke curling blue against the silver sky.  This sudden news of
Westenra’s sounded in her ears like the knell of all camp-fires, and
sunshine in woods and wild places.  Panic seized her vagabond soul.

"Does the money side matter so much, Joe?" she faltered.

He smiled a little grimly.  It had never mattered much to him, but she
could not know that.

"It has to matter in New York.  The man who does n’t rustle for the
dollars, and rustle successfully, gets left."

She looked at him wistfully.  It seemed to her that she did not know
this rustler for dollars very well.  It must be part of his hidden self
that he would not let her reach.

"I am not a rich man, Val.  I told you that from the first, did n’t I?"
He spoke coldly.  "I cannot afford to disdain the opportunity that my
reputation affords for money-making,"--he had almost added "now," but
bit back the word in time.  He was far from intending her to realise
what a change his marriage involved, what a sacrifice of plans and
principles it meant for him to be emerging once more from the laboratory
to take part in the scramble for dollars.

                               CHAPTER V

                           SQUIRREL IN A TRAP

"Do not thou make answer to an angry master."

"O speak that which is soft while he is uttering that which
       is of wrath."
              _Maxims of Art_.

The first thing, then, after leaving their honeymoon woods, was to find
a suitable house for the new venture.  In the press of work that greeted
him on his return, Westenra found it impossible to give much time to
house-hunting, so this business practically devolved upon Val. Behold
her, then, utterly inexperienced in the conditions of American life, and
without a glimmering of intuition as to the requirements of an
up-to-date nursing home--whose ideal was a life in the wilds, sharing
the sunshine or the shade of a tree with her beloved, whose domestic
requirements vaguely included a pot and a blanket, who would have been
more at home on the veldt tracking a buck for dinner--rushing from one
end to the other of the most neoteric city in the world, inspecting
houses with "every modern improvement," weighing the advantages of
furnace-heating as compared to steam-heating, examining "open-work
plumbing" and "bathroom extensions," peering into kitchen ranges and
domestic offices, interesting herself in the things from which all her
life instinct had bade her fly, and from which she had fled!

But love was hers and a whole-hearted devotion to Westenra’s interests
that even he could not quench, though he did his best.  Nowhere could
she discover a house that pleased him.  Every time she found something
she thought ideal, he would emerge for a few hours from his office and
completely demolish her hopes.  Picking her find to pieces point by
point, he would thereafter retire and leave her to commence the search

Few things are more wearing to body and soul than a prolonged course of
house-hunting in a large city.  There is nothing in the process to feed
the soul and everything to tire the body.  At the end of a month Val’s
spirits were several degrees below zero, and though her smile was
undaunted, there were signs of physical fatigue on her that did not
escape her husband’s practised eye.  He rarely saw her now except in the
evenings, for always with the resolution to shut down firmly on his old
life and its (for the moment) vain aspirations, he decided against going
back, even temporarily, to his bachelor quarters and letting her share
them, and had instead taken quiet rooms uptown, near the locality in
which he hoped to find a house. Here he sought her whenever he could
escape from the practice which he was now nursing with assiduity, but it
was nearly always late at night, and at such times she was nearly half
dead with fatigue, although she tried to disguise the fact under a gay
air.  Westenra’s heart was sore for her, but he could not quite
understand the position. He had realised that, in spite of her nerves,
she was anything but a delicate woman, and it puzzled and vaguely
disappointed him that she should knock under so soon.  He knew nothing
of the wandering dryad in her nature with whom she struggled in the
house-hunt, trying to school it to the prospect of life in a nursing
home; how the clang and clamour of New York’s street cars, railways, and
fire-bells dazzled and wearied her; how the actual effort to bear with
these things and keep her trouble to herself wore her down.  In a very
few weeks more, however, a reason that sufficed him for her fatigue was
made clear.  She told him one night as they drove home from the
Metropolitan Opera House.  They had locked up the house-hunting problem
for a few hours and forgotten it in the enchantment of a Beethoven
concert.  With the glamour of the 17th Sonata still on them, making
stormy echoes in their hearts, she leaned her face to his in the
darkness, and gave him the dear and wonderful news.

"Since when?" he asked, thrilling into tenderness and some other
poignant sense he had never known in all his life.

"Since the first moment, I think," she whispered laughingly--"an
impetuous Irishman anxious to get into the thick of the fight!"

"How can you be sure it is n’t an Irish girl?"

"Oh, I know--I know.  God will give me a son, Joe."

After that, however important the matter of his private hospital, it was
far more important that the arduous house-hunt should come to an end.
Besides, they were both sick to death of the whole thing.  So, in a kind
of despair at last they decided on a house which, though it had a very
charming exterior, was inferior in many ways and less suitable to their
purpose than some of those rejected earlier in the search.  A five-story
residence, it stood towards the Broadway end of 68th Street, and had a
beautiful flight of marble steps leading up to its front door--which was
something to the good; but there was a great deal in the way of
alteration to be done before it was suitable for a hospital, and the
cost of this had to come from Westenra’s private purse.  However, Val
seemed to be drawn to it for some vague, mystic reason.  Fortunately,
Westenra could not look into her mind, or he would have discovered that
she was congratulating herself on the bird songs they would hear in the
early mornings from Central Park close by.  That might have irritated
Westenra, for, though he loved birds as much as any one, he did not
allow them to sway his destiny.

Of course, being two thoroughly unpractical and inexperienced people,
they were entirely at the mercy of that most astute person in the world,
the American Real Estate Agent, and got the worst possible terms.  The
arrangement about reparations was unsatisfactory, the lease too long,
the rent higher than any one else would have paid.  Dimly they knew
this, and dimly they knew it would always be so, and that it was a pity
that one or other of them was not practical and clever in a worldly
sense.  Brilliant people often feel this helpless sense of foolishness,
and it irritates them so much that they long to stab somebody for it
(and they usually stab the person they love best, with the cruel little
knives lovers keep specially for each other!).  Val remembered that
Westenra in the early days on the ship had told her that the happiest
marriages he had known of in America were between Irish and Germans, the
Teuton common sense and equability acting as ballast to Celtic
flightiness.  And the remembrance vexed her.  She saw that as ballast
she was of no more use than a red robin.  She wondered if Westenra
realised it, and one day when the painful affair of furnishing was going
forward she could not help saying:

"Oh, Joe; if I were only a nice, stolid, lumpy German, I should know by
instinct what to buy for the dining-room and kitchen."

Joe froze slightly.  Prescribing wives for your compatriots is one
thing; taking the same prescription is another, and as it happened he
was antipathetic to Germans.  Nevertheless, since Val had put the idea
in his head, he did think that a little _hausfrau_ knowledge of what was
fitting furniture for a doctor’s dining-room and kitchen would not have
been out of place in a doctor’s wife, and he said somewhat dryly:

"Could n’t we try and strike a note somewhere between stolid and

He was thinking of the furniture, but Val received the impression that
her taste was being indicted.  She took the little dagger to her breast
with a quivering smile, and it hurt her deeply because she knew that her
ideas on furnishing were indeed fantastic, though beautiful.
Unfortunately they were all she had, and she was obliged to use them,
for Westenra had none at all.  He only knew there was something wrong
with the furnishing of the living rooms in his private sanatorium. Had
he ever lived in the Bohemia of big cities he might have recognised that
his drawing, dining, and reception rooms looked like a series of
charmingly arranged _ateliers_.  But, fortunately, he did not know it.
He only saw that the bills were amazing, and that was bad enough, for
the fact that nothing but the most modern and expensive appliances and
fittings would satisfy him for his operating-room had already accounted
for a large outlay of money.  The house needed a good deal of renovating
before it could be used, and by the time they were settled in their new
home there was a hole in his capital large enough to sail a ship
through, and several rents and tears in the magic veil of comradeship
with which the two had hoped to wrap themselves from the world.

Then began a weary search through guilds and registries and bureaus, for
a staff of capable servants.  This, of course, was Val’s exclusive
affair. Westenra neither could nor would be beguiled into it, so alone
she wrestled with the problem, and made acquaintance with false
references and all the guile and tricks of the servant class.  For the
American domestic, who is not American at all, but of every other
nationality under the sun, is truly the worst in the world.  When she is
honest she is a fool; when she is competent she is a knave. The mistress
takes not her choice but her chance of one or the other; and in either
case she pays.

After a long series of "weekly trials" which usually ended in a day or
two with a demand for unearned wages, impudence, and vulgar insults from
the "weighed and found wanting," a _ménage_ was eventually established,
comprising a red-haired cook, who, under a bland and benevolent
exterior, was a calculating robber of the most cold-blooded description,
and who, while despising her mistress for a "soft fool of a greenhorn,"
congratulated herself on the circumstance and resolved to take full
advantage of it; a couple of housemaids one of whom was raw from minding
goats on the Kerry hills, and the other recommended herself by a modest
demand to be allowed to go to confession every Friday night.  (The last
had subsequently to be dismissed in spite of her holiness because,
according to her story, she had been "ordered by her dochtor" to take an
egg in brandy for her breakfast every morning and several times during
the day, and faithfully followed the prescription except that she
omitted the egg.)  There was also a furnace and general utility man who
fought with both cook and maids, and in the end stole Westenra’s bicycle
from the cellar; and a laundry woman who by arrangement "took two
dollars a day," and appeared to spend most of her time seated at the
kitchen table taking heavy meals as well.

Fortunately event and sequence rarely occur together, so that Val was
not flooded out all at once by these disquieting things; they fell upon
her from day to day like the gentle drips of water that wear away the
stone.  But life began to press and gibber in a strangely nightmare
fashion round the vagabond journalist, and sometimes there would creep
into the smoke-coloured eyes that loved so much to look upon colour and
wide spaces, and "watch the silences," an expression slightly
reminiscent of a wild thing caught in a trap--a trap full of pots and
pans and daily menus, and weekly bills, and fighting cooks and shirking
housemaids, and domestic problems,--such a trap as almost every woman
finds herself caught in when she engages upon the career of wife to a
professional man, and one in which few find success unless specially
endowed with an ability for management, economy, and order.  Poor Val’s
endowments were not of this kind.  Well she knew it, but would not admit
the fact even to herself.

She had dreamed of a little space of time between the date of their
settling in with their servants about them and the opening of the
hospital--a little space like the clearing in the midst of a tangled
forest, where she could pitch a tent and rest for awhile with the
thought of her wonderful happiness that Westenra’s child was to be hers.
She meant to recapture into their lives the magic air of that happy week
in the Bronx woods.  Once more they would adjust and gather about them
the fabric of comradeship and love that was to be the veil between
themselves and the world, and that somehow in the last few weeks of
rushing turmoil had been mishandled and torn.

But the dream was vain.  No sooner did the domestic mechanism of the
house begin to work, creaking and straining like an old ship with an
amateur hand at the wheel, when cases for operation were hurried in, the
place was filled with nurses, other doctors and students bustled up and
down the stairs, and there were endless comings and goings of patients’
friends.  The strangely disquieting scent of ether came stealing down
like a living presence from the upper floor into the atmosphere of home
Val was trying to establish in the rooms she and her husband occupied in
the big house.  It seemed to her, too, that other shadows came in and
lingered around; that when operations were in progress pain-troubled
spirits wandered through the house, hiding in corners, waiting
fearfully. In the fight against these illusions, as well as with the
complicated problems of housekeeping and management, life began to
resolve itself into something very like Swinburne’s "Ballad of Burdens."

The burden of fifty-dollar-a-week nurses, rude and arrogant and of a
self-reverence amazing, who fought like cannibals with the servants, and
made turmoil all round them except in the splendid silence of the sick
room.  The burden of telephone bells that sounded from morning till
night with the injurious sayings of waiting patients.  The burden of
bitter cold, as the winter came on, and Val suffered as only a tropical
bird or flower can suffer in a bleak climate--the grim December dawns
when the quiet of three feet of snow lay on the city, unbroken save by
the jingle of the bells on the milkman’s sleigh, or the shriek of the
first car upon the frozen metals!  The burden of the elevated railway in
the avenue close by; the hideous rush of it through the night, like some
monstrous winged beast on a ceaseless quest for its prey--the ferocity
of its approach, the sinister melancholy of its receding cry!  The
burden of "bathroom extensions" where the water-pipes burst every night,
dislocating the business of the house for hours--of frozen cisterns, and
New York plumbers!  Of a cellar furnace that would not heat the house,
or, acting on some æsthetic principle of its own turned the bathrooms
into ovens, while the patients were in cold-storage and in the
operating-room the sponges froze to the tables! The burden of snow on
the sidewalk, and policemen knocking at the front door to say it must be
cleared, or that some one had fallen down and broken something, and
compensation would have to be paid later by the householder!

The burden of a beloved man who, when things went wrong in office or
operating-room, came roaring like a tiger in pain to his mate.  For
alas! Garrett Westenra was no Angel in the House! That was one of the
strangest of all burdens to be borne, for Val always wanted to laugh at
it, and yet she knew it was no laughing matter.  Westenra at work and
Westenra at play were two very different persons.

Val had been aware from the moment of their return to New York of a
great nervous change in her husband’s mentality.  It seemed to her that
as soon as they got into their new home he became all nerves and
torment, and difficult and exigeant as a child.  It had not taken her
long to find that he possessed all the easily roused devils of the
easy-going Irishman.  At first she was amazed by this discovery, then
confused, but in the end she loved him the better for it.  Only it
always seemed to her madly funny that a man with such width and height
of mind should be no better than a cross-grained baby about some of the
ordinary vexing trifles of everyday life.  It was hard to believe that a
medical scientist of the first water could fall into a state of fury
over a wrongly entered telephone message, a mislaid stethoscope, or
because a careless housemaid had misplaced something in his office; that
a man who had nothing small or mean about him should swear vividly over
the fact that some one had put a used tampon into his waste-paper basket
instead of burning it or thrown a burnt-out match into his fireplace.

There was a dumb-waiter that travelled on a rope up and down between
Val’s sitting-room on the first floor and a little surgery at the back
of Westenra’s consulting-room, and never a day passed but that rope was
rattled violently for Val to come to her little opening and receive some
furious complaint concerning a negligent maid or a stupid nurse.  Many a
time and oft Westenra’s special swear--a peculiar combination of his
own--rang up the shaft.

"Hell’s blood and blazes!  What has that girl from the Kerry hills done
with my stethoscope? How dare she touch it?  She must have touched
it--it’s not on my desk.--Where are those No. 1 bandages?--Who has moved
my note-book?--Will you find out from Nurse Soames why there are no
tampons made?--Hell’s bells!--Is this a doctor’s house?--What kind of a
doctor’s house?"

The dumb-waiter travelled no farther than Val’s room, and she issued
orders that no one was to answer the rattle of the rope but herself.
She realised that it was Westenra’s safety-valve in moments of intense
irritation.  It gave her a spasm of painful merriment, even in the midst
of her greatest weariness and worries, to hear her signal to come to the
shaft and receive the storm. Later, when the stress of the day was over,
she might laugh at him, and he, first furious, then ashamed, would
finally laugh himself and beg her pardon like a generous and
hot-tempered boy. But at the time she always gravely listened, and
without comment put the trouble right as swiftly as she could.  She
realised only too clearly that the hospital was on his nerves as well as
her own, and that his irritation came from a multiplicity of cares
pressing on him, rather than from the one small incident that caused the
explosion.  Indeed, life was pressing hard on Westenra.  He was working
like a dog, and the dollars were rustling in, but the sound of their
rustling gave him no great joy.  His heart was elsewhere, in other work
which must stand still, or perhaps, which was worse, be done by some one
else.  The hospital hemmed him in it too.  He, quite as much as Val,
felt caged.  His work, his private life, all his interests for the
moment seemed narrowly centralised into one street, one house, an affair
of grubbing within four walls.  Something in him rebelled at that, and
not less because he himself had so arranged it.  It irked him terribly
to be mixed up with the machinery of this hospital, and his reserved
nature chafed under the lack of privacy in the place that should have
been his home.  There were nurses everywhere.  Val and he were never
together for five minutes without being intruded upon by some one
wanting something.  Val had no control over the nurses; they did and
said what they chose, having fear of no one but the doctor.  He knew she
had trouble with them every day, but he would not go into the matter.
It was not his province to wrangle with women; he had told her so from
the first when she came to him for advice.  She must manage that part of
the scheme by herself, he said; he had his own share of trouble and
could not undertake hers as well.  She had recoiled wonderingly before
his unsympathetic attitude, but never again worried him about anything
in the house.  But he was aware that she was having a stiff time, and
from his heart he pitied her.  But what was to be done?  They were in it
now for loss or gain.  His fortune was pledged to this thing and they
had got to do or die by it.  And he did not mean it to be die!  Westenra
was no quitter.  It hurt Val to see the way he worked.  She had never
realised before what a dog’s life is a doctor’s.  Her husband was at
every one’s beck and call but her own, and never could be sure of a
peaceful hour to himself.

In her own way she worked even harder than he, and it was a
heart-breaking thought that with it all she was not making a success of
the place. Though money was coming in fast, it flowed out still faster
through her incompetent fingers.  The problem of how to make things pay
was a black beast which she fought by day and wrestled with in nightly
dreams, and the more she fought and wrestled the more it grinned and dug
its malignant claws into her heart.  Even courage and ardour cannot
overcome inexperience and triumph over disability.  Despair came often
to sit with her and whispered that this was not her place, and _here_
would never be laurels for her. But she did not want laurels for
herself--only for Westenra; and the more despair filled her the more she
loved her big difficult Irishman, whose nerves and torment and prevision
for the rottenness of life’s rewards nearly drove her crazy.

Bills were another burden heavy in the bearing. Like all good men,
Westenra was "tight with money."  He never said a word when Val with
heaving heart produced her weekly pile, large as a roll of drugget, but
what he left unsaid during the short interval between sighting the sum
total and producing his cheque-book would have filled a library.

They were always double what they should have been, those bills, and
triple what they would have been with an experienced woman at the head
of things: he knew it and she knew it; and they thought of the stolid,
lumpy German, and sometimes they spoke of her and of red robins that
were no good as ballast!  And she felt as if she were drawing his
heart’s blood, and so did he.  Not that he was mean--far from it; only
he realised that his was not the money-making head, and he suffered from
the fear all brain-workers know--that their money-making capacity may
give out at any time.

"Simple people like you and me can never make fortunes, Val," he would
say sadly, "the only thing for us is to hang on tight to what we have
come by so hardly."  But when he adjured her earnestly to "try and
economise," her face became as haggard as if he had thrust a dagger into
her, so that he made haste to add:

"I know you do, darling.  It is only that I ’ve got into the habit of
saying it--forgive me!"

She forgave him gladly, and lay awake more than ever thinking out
impractical plans for economising.  She hated to take the dollars that
he had sweated for as only doctors and treadmill prisoners can sweat, to
bestow them on insolent cooks who stole, housemaids who drank and
shirked their duties, tradesmen who took advantage of her "English
accent" to charge her twice as much as they would charge other people.

When she found that almost every good American housekeeper defeats the
dishonesty of servants by doing her own marketing, she shouldered the
business too, and made acquaintance with Baumgarten’s Market, a huge
place where everything save groceries could be obtained for household
consumption.  Some of the darkest hours of her life were spent at
Baumgarten’s.  It was there, sitting upon a high chair before the meat
and poultry counter awaiting her turn to be served, that she most keenly
realised her defeat.  All around her, good American wives were examining
the grain of beef and the breasts of chickens. Poor Val could never
understand how they extracted information from the process.  She herself
always got the toughest meat and the oldest birds for the highest
prices.  She knew nothing of the breasts of chickens and never would
know anything.  She, who could write a mile long passage from the
classics and never forget a poet’s inspired word, found it impossible to
remember from day to day the price of sugar, and how much she ought to
pay for butter.  Information like that simply passed through her head
like an express train through a tunnel.  She never got the bargains
other women got.  She was the victim of every sharper, and was "done" on
every side.  On a desert island she would have been a treasure.  In a
civilised city, battling with extraordinary conditions on a professional
man’s income, she was a failure, and the knowledge deepened day by day
and was bitter as gall.  She fought on with the courage of the desperate
and the doomed, but despair was in her heart and her eyes, and sometimes
Westenra saw it there, and thought she hated this life to which he had
brought her.  He saw that she was a round peg in a square hole, and the
last woman in the world for the practical life she pursued with the
ardour of a doomed squirrel.  The knowledge never interfered with his
affection for her, but it sometimes interfered with his nerves.  It was
a bad dream from which they only woke up at night, for then together for
a few hours a natural reaction from the strain of the day took place,
and they would laugh like two children over the cares and problems of
the day. The night nurses, passing up- and down-stairs, often wondered
what it was the doctor and his wife found so amusing when they were shut
up in their rooms together.  The fact was that in the practical affairs
of life they were no more than children, either of them, for all their
brains and experience.  It is often so with gifted people.  Of course,
Westenra knew his business as a doctor--none better, but the business of
being a practical and responsible husband and head of a household was a
sealed book to him, just as the problem of how to become the successful
manageress of a private nursing home was one that Val would never solve.
But if she could not defeat the cares that the day brought, she could at
least be extremely humorous over her mistakes and failures, and the
valiant spirit of her that was ready to get up from one day’s knock-out
blows and face the same round next morning, could not but appeal to the
chivalry in Westenra, as well as awaken his own sense of humour.

                               CHAPTER VI

                           KISSES AND CROSSES

    "For ’Im and ’E and ’It
    (An’ Two an’ One makes Three)."

Acquaintance with a further element in her husband’s life to which she
had so far been a stranger was reserved for Val when at Easter his
adopted child, Haidee Halston, came home to 68th Street.  Westenra, it
is true, had told her all the circumstances, and no one was better
qualified than Val to appreciate that sense of responsibility towards
the helpless and unprotected which had prompted him to take upon himself
the entire support and education of a friend’s child.  Westenra and Pat
Halston had been friends from boyhood.  The same county in Ireland had
been their birthplace, they were at Carlow College together, and,
sailing for America within a year of each other, met again in New York,
and graduated together from Columbia University, where they obtained
their medical degree.  Later, launched upon the same profession but
inspired by very different ambitions, the paths of the two friends had
diverged somewhat.  Halston, greatly gifted and of a magnetic
personality, aimed for a fashionable practice that would bring him
social success as well as a fortune with which to pursue further
aims--in fact, like many another he meant medicine to serve him only as
a step to the more lucrative and exciting profession of politics,
wherefore he followed it only when it led him into the highways of the
rich and influential. Westenra, on the other hand, inspired by a racial
thirst for knowledge, as well as for eminence in his profession, did not
disdain the by-ways, even when they led him into the lowest slums of New
York. It was natural, in the circumstances, that the two men should see
little of each other, but the bond of boyhood held good, and when "Death
and Dismay" all too swiftly and unforeseen came to Halston, it was to
Westenra that he turned at the last.  Poor Halston had, unfortunately,
put a spoke into his own wheel of ambition by marrying a lovely, but
very flighty English girl, who came to America as a governess in the
family of one of his fashionable patients.  Halston adored his pretty
wife, but she made ducks and drakes with his money and brought him to
the verge of bankruptcy through her extravagance.  When death by septic
poisoning swooped suddenly down on him, she was within a short period of
giving birth to their only child, and the thought of this darkened the
dying man’s vision until Westenra, with a firm hand on his friend’s,
gave his promise that the welfare of Mrs. Halston and her child would be
his most sacred task.  Within a few weeks Mrs. Halston joined her
husband in the great beyond, and Westenra found himself the sole
guardian of the little baby girl fancifully called by its dying
mother--Haidee.  That was ten years before, and now Haidee was a
beautiful, arrogant slip of a girl with deep dark eyes, a deep dark cave
or two in her soul, and the manners of a cowboy.  The school at which
she had been educated for several years, to the extreme detriment of
Westenra’s banking account, was one of those highly modern institutions
where at the most expensive rates girls are encouraged to "develop their
individuality," and Haidee, a hoyden by nature, had developed hers along
the cowboy-brigand line.  Her idea of argument with servants or other
children was to push them down-stairs or administer a hack on the shins
with one of her extremely useful-looking feet.

These unsatisfactory reports had for a long time troubled the peace of
Westenra, whose sense of responsibility to Pat Halston’s child was
perhaps a slightly exaggerated one.  A vague idea had occurred to him of
sending her to a convent to see what the gentle influence of nuns could
do for her, but Haidee jibbed like a mule at the mention of nuns, and
declared darkly that if he sent her to a convent _he would see_.

When he spoke to Val of his worries on the subject she said, ready at
once to embrace any project or protégé of his without thought of the
fresh tasks entailed:

"Oh, why not have her here for awhile, Joe? A little home life will tame
her down, I expect. Look how it has tamed even such a wild ass of the
desert as I," she added, with a gay smile in which there was more than a
touch of wistfulness.  But Westenra said a trifle abruptly that he did
not fancy somehow it would be a good plan.

"You have enough worries already," he added, but not quite quickly
enough to prevent Val from perceiving that there was some other reason,
though she was far from guessing what that reason might be.

In the end, however, by the gift of circumstance, Haidee came to 68th
Street after all.  For at the expiration of the Easter term the school
authorities wrote a brief but eloquent letter to the effect that they
wished to be relieved of the care of Westenra’s ward.  If it did not
exactly amount to an expulsion, it certainly could not be looked upon as
a certificate of good conduct for presentation at her next school, and
for the moment all thought of the convent had to be dismissed.  So
Haidee came home from New Jersey, bag and baggage, and utterly unashamed
of her peccadilloes.  Val, with a heart open for anything or any one
loved by Westenra, was eager to mother the motherless creature of whom
she had heard so much.  But Haidee was apparently not in search of a
mother, and received her advances coldly and in a keep-off-the-grass
manner that only an American-bred child would have the _sang-froid_ to
use.  More than a hint of hostility, too, was to be found in the
deep-set eyes, when they watched Val and Westenra together.  The fact
was that to find her guardian installed in a house with "a strange
woman" had given the girl a great shock. Westenra, following his usual
habit of reserve, had prepared her for nothing of the kind when he said,
on his return journey from New Jersey:

"I am married now, Haidee."

She never dreamed that such a thing would make any difference to her
absolute monopoly of her beloved guardian, and indeed, because Val was
generous and he was kind, it would have made but little, if she had not
instantly determined to be as obnoxious and tiresome as she could be, in
the hope that Val would get tired of her and go away.

From the first she nobly contributed her share towards the business of
making life at No. 700 more unlivable than it was already.  She fought
with the servants, got into the way of the nurses, and disturbed the
patients with her noise.  A day-school was found for her near at hand,
and that kept her energies employed for a certain number of hours, but
her new teachers were soon on the war-path after her, and she arrived
home daily, flustered with combat, and bringing long accounts of their
tyranny and brutality!  When it was time for her to go to school in the
mornings the house had to be hunted for her from top to bottom by Val or
a housemaid.  She hated to go to bed, and there was a scene every night
before she could be induced to do so; then, on being left alone, she
would invariably hop out again, turn up the lights, and amuse herself in
some illicit fashion, such as hanging out of the window and dropping
things on the heads of patients coming up the front-door steps.  Yet in
the mornings it almost needed a charge of dynamite to dislocate her from
her blankets.  She had a rooted aversion to taking baths, and would
never brush her teeth unless some one stood over her and saw it done. In
fact, she had all the faults and naughtinesses of an ordinary child
strongly accentuated, and a sense of perversity extraordinarily
developed.  Withal she was as clever as paint, and grew prettier every
day.  What vexed Val most was that everlastingly she broke in upon
Westenra, claiming his attention for her troubles, her lessons, her
amusements, unless Val were on the alert to prevent it.  She would wait
outside his office door and slip in "between patients" to relate some
woe, and Westenra would listen patiently and in the end the trouble
evaporated into smiles and laughter.  But this wasted his time and told
upon his temper in some later affair of the day, or brought him up to
bed a little more tired than usual.

Presently, too, Haidee’s jealousy of Val’s place in Westenra’s life
began to take a more active form, and if it had not been for her
disarming innocence of mind where worldly matters were concerned, Val
would have almost come to dislike her. Instead of which she felt pity
for the child who, in her adoration for Westenra, resented being ousted
from the central position in his life.  Haidee could not or would not
understand why a mere wife should have first claim.  She considered that
she herself possessed it, because she had been first in Westenra’s life.

One night Val, going to her husband’s room to see that everything was
prepared for him to go straight to rest as soon as he got in from a late
consultation, found Haidee in her nightgown, curled up and scowling, on
Westenra’s bed.

"Haidee!  What on earth--?  I thought you were in bed and asleep long

"Well, I ’m not, you see," was the surly response.

"But, dear chicken, what are you doing here?"

"I ’m waiting for Garry."

"Oh, Haidee, how silly!  When Garry comes home he ’ll be dead tired and
not want to be bothered.  You really must have a little consideration
for him, dear--besides, you ought to be in bed and asleep by now."

The child suddenly burst out at her like a tornado:

"Why aren’t _you_ in bed and asleep, I ’d like to know ... why can _you_
wait up for him and not me? ... I know ... you think he belongs to you
... and that you can have him all the time.  You are a greedy guts.  You
have him every night ... why should n’t I have him sometimes?  You are
trying to take him right away from me.  Who asked you to come from your
rotten old England and take my Garry away from me?  Before you came he
was all mine ... when I was little he used to let me sleep with my arms
round his neck.  But now, whenever I ask if I can come and sleep in his
bed he laughs and says I have grown too big and active with my hoofs.
But your hoofs are not too big, I suppose!  Oh, no! ... and he ’s not
too tired, however late he comes in for _you_ to come to his room and
talk to him....  Mean pig that you are ... greedy guts!  I hate you ...
and I _will_ sleep with Garry ... I will, I will!"

She burst into a torrent of tears, and Val stood staring at her in
amazement that swiftly softened to pity.  The trouble with Val was that
she could always feel sympathy for another person’s point of view, and
that frame of mind is very disarming to anger.  Immediately she threw
her arms round the sobbing creature and began to comfort her.

"Dear old thing, you mustn’t feel like that about me.  I don’t want to
take him away from you.  I know he is all you have.  I only want you to
help me as much as you can to make things easier for him.  Think how he
works ... for both of us--you and me!  And how tired he is at nights....
As for my coming to his room ... dear chick, don’t you understand that I
am his wife?  When you are grown up you ’ll marry some nice man ... and
you ’ll want to be greedy over him too a little bit."

"I ’ll never marry anybody.  I always meant to marry Garry ... and now
_you_--" Vindictiveness came into her voice again, and Val’s heart gave
a little weary sigh, for she was dead beat, and this was her legitimate
time of rest, hard wrung from the day.  To have to face this exhausting
scene late at night seemed very much like the last straw that was one
too many for the camel.

However, it was urgent to get it over and done with before Westenra came
in, so she stayed on talking to the unhappy child, trying to beguile her
from her misery and once and for all place their relationship on a
footing of sympathy and affection.  It seemed almost a hopeless task,
but in the end the effective thing was that she told Haidee of what so
far she had spoken to no one but Westenra--her deep, sweet, secret joy
in the thought of the child that was coming.  It was Haidee’s first
glimpse into the workings of nature, and she sat wide-eyed and dumb,
searching Val from top to toe for circumstantial evidence, while Val,
with a faint flush in her pale face, but serene-eyed and in simple
words, following on Carpenter’s advice in _Love’s Coming of Age_, made
all clear to the child.  She even, with a touch of guile, let Haidee
into the secret of suffering to be endured before the baby could come
into the world, believing that to touch the heart of the child to a
little sympathy might not be an unwise thing.  And she was right: from
sympathy to compassion is a natural step, and Haidee went to bed in a
glow of good resolution to be as helpful and considerate as possible in
the days to come.  Indeed, without turning into an angel, or even a
moderately good child, she did improve greatly in behaviour during the
next few months, while waiting with burning impatience for what was to
come when the bleak spring days were over.

June came at last, and brought its gift to Valentine and Westenra--a
son.  Like an impetuous Irishman, as Val had declared, anxious to get
into the thick of the fight, he had practically started their married
life with them, and arrived as soon as compatibility with schedule
permitted.  That was a great day in the Westenra household when the
golden head of a baby lit up like a star the gloom of dark and difficult
ways.  Instead of one baby, indeed, there were three.  Two of them
haggard and thin, but content and care-free as the third in that glad
hour of love made incarnate. Even Haidee softened and turned into a real
child as she hung with perpetual curiosity over the cot of the

"It’s got blue eyes, just like the lion cubs in the Zoo....  Oh, look at
it clutching on to me!  You are lucky, Val....  I wish I could get one,
too.  Oh, _could n’t_ I have it to sleep with me?"

She sulked bitterly when she was not permitted to take charge of it to
play with like a doll, and thereafter constantly complained to Westenra
of Val’s greediness.

"You ’d think it was all hers--and how can it be if it is half yours?
And if it is yours it belongs to me too," was the burden of her

When Val got up and resumed life again, the question of a name for the
baby arose.  Val was all for Patrick.

"Patrick seems to stand for Ireland, and he is our link with Ireland,

"It is an unlucky name with us," Westenra objected.  "My father was
crazy for sons, but three he called Patrick died one after the other.
When I came they took no more risks, and gave me an old family name.
Choose another, Val."

"Well," she said shyly, after a little thought, "would you mind

"Richard?" he mused.

Val had long yearned to talk to Westenra of Dick Rowan, only the ban he
had placed on all past things had so far prevented her.  But that the
day must come when no subject would be taboo between them, she felt

"We could call him Dick," she said.  "I once cared very much----"

Westenra turned on her like a flash, white to the lips.

"Is that the way you burn your boats?" he said, in a low, hard voice,
and looked at her with furious eyes she did not know.  While she stared
at him in pain and amazement he rose abruptly and left the room.  Slowly
her eyes filled with tears. She made no further reference to the matter.
She did not know what to say.  It seemed she could not refer to that
time and tell him who Dick was, and how good he had been to her without
giving pain.  Therefore it was better to be silent.  On the day of the
christening itself he said:

"We ’ll call him Bran if you like, Val--one of Ireland’s old savage
kings.  I think that son of yours will be some one fine some day," he
added with a boyish, lovable smile, that had something of pride in it,
and something of humility too, and for those words Val forgave him and
was happy again.  And the baby was baptised into the Holy Catholic
Church under the pagan and kingly name of Bran.

                              CHAPTER VII

                           MORE WINDING PATHS

    "There is a crack in everything God has made."

There is a saying that during the hot weather every one in New York,
except doctors and cats, leave the city.  Westenra, with his yearly
habit of pulling stakes and heading for Europe at the first hint of
heat, had always been an exception to this rule, and he invariably
advised other men that his was the only possible way to keep fit after
nine months’ hard work.  But now, though the brazen heat beat down on to
the city and burnt up through the pavements as if Pluto had lighted a
special furnace under New York, Westenra laughed at his own advice and
made no move to get away. Val knew why, and the knowledge etched new
shadows under her salient cheek-bones.  In spite of his working like a
bee from morning till night, the Sanatorium being constantly full, and
operations always in progress, Westenra was harassed for money.  The
venture did not pay.  An experienced woman at the head of things could
have made it pay.  The stolid, lumpy German with a good hospital
training grafted on to a knowledge of household affairs would have made
a roaring success of it, and coined money for all concerned. Even an
ordinarily good manager with free hands and no nerves might have
achieved a margin of profit.  The vagabond journalist not only could not
make it pay, she was turning it into a dead loss.  Every day good money
went cantering after bad.

What Westenra should have done, even at that eleventh hour, was to
engage a capable, working matron to manage the place, while Val devoted
her loving fervour to the baby and himself.  But he felt doubtful as to
the success of such an arrangement, first because Val would probably not
like to live elsewhere; secondly, because he had managed hospitals
before, and knew all about trouble with matrons.  Experience had taught
him that in America women rarely work well except in the interests of
some one with whom they are in love. This rule applies very pertinently
to American nurses, who are usually middle-aged Germans intent on
marrying a doctor; but it may very well be applied to women all the
world over, though Westenra was not aware of the fact.  What he did know
was that a managing matron would probably work for her own hand and not
for his. Even if she made a roaring success of the place, later there
would surely come the subtle introduction of other methods and other
interests than his, into his own hospital.  Worst of all would be the
fact of strangers within his gates spying out the secrets of his
reserved nature, bearing witness to his moods and nerves, all the irk of
daily contact with people who were making a business out of his brains.
This idea of outsiders being "let in on him," of alien eyes coming close
enough to look over the wall behind which he kept his conflicting
tempers and emotions from the world, was peculiarly irritating to him.
Only Val, privileged by love, must have the gift of a share in his
torment, the right to hear his swears.  With all others he smiled and
smiled and hid his heart, and put distance between himself and them.
And Val, because she was a true lover, understood and faithfully gave of
her body and soul to pad the bumps of life for him.  Whatever else she
failed in, she failed not in playing the buffer between him and the
strangers who went to and fro in his house. He little knew what it cost
her in peace of mind and serenity of spirit, this jarring with natures
so unlike her own, and jangling with those who were making a business of
life.  He only knew that in spite of her impracticability and
extravagance there was no one like her, and that the place in her
incompetent hands was dearer by far than it could ever be in surer hands
that were strange.  It was beginning to dawn in his heart, with the
exquisite promise of the skies, all that she was to him, this woman who
walked by his side never faltering, smiling gallantly in defeat.  It was
beginning to whisper through his senses like the haunting echo of bells
whose cadence he had known all his life that defeat after all did not
matter so much since he shared it with her--that it might in fact become
a form of victory.  In any case he meant to struggle on with things as
they were, hoping and working for the best.

Unfortunately, his nerves after the year of extraordinary strain were in
rags.  He really needed the rest and change that was due to him. His
body and brain clamoured for it, and his fine athlete’s skin took into
itself a putty tint that was neither healthy nor becoming.  In vain did
Val implore him to take ship for his native land. He laughed and refused
to go unless she and the children went too.  But she knew what the cost
of such an exodus would mean, and sat tight as an eagle in her eyrie;
and her little brood pecked at her heart as though determined to get at
her life-blood.  Haidee grew wickeder every hour, and Bran was the
naughtiest baby in the world, sleeping all day and howling all night,
withal drinking away his mother’s strength and blooming on it like a
pink rose.

Valentine grew pale as a wraith and Westenra’s old, haunting fear that
his brain would give out ate him by night and day; but neither of them
was a quitter.  Both possessed that stupid and over-estimated kind of
courage that does not know when it is beaten.  At last Fate, like an
overtried mother who is sick of giving gentle hints to unheeding
children, brought down her hand heavily upon them.  First she smote the
man. In the blasting heat of late August, Westenra went down as only the
big and the strong can go down--like a felled oak.  The brilliant
colleague whom Val hastily and fearfully summoned to her husband’s
bedside expressed his diagnosis in the argot of the day.

"His nerves have run out and his stomach has gone back on him.  If he
does n’t slip up on us it will be a near thing, Mrs. Westenra."

And it was a near thing.  If it had not been for Val, Westenra would
have found eternity sooner than he expected.  But it was a bad time for
her. In addition to nursing her husband, she had to manage the
rampageous Bran, a domestic crisis brought about by a servant strike,
and an ice famine.  Fortunately, there were no patients but one in the
house at the time, and the nurse in attendance happened to be an
exceptionally good one, who did all she could to relieve the strain. She
was an English woman, a Miss Holland, with an able brain behind a
pretty, calm face.  She would willingly have undertaken the nursing of
Westenra besides her own patient, but he was so frequently delirious
that Val was afraid to let any one share in the nursing of him.  She
knew how he would hate any stranger to hear his tormented ramblings, but
she did not realise for a long time that it would perhaps have been
better at any cost that another than she should have heard them. For all
that he had hidden from her came out now in broken snatches and groans,
half dream, half delirium.  She learned of his longing for his
laboratory, of the sacrifice it had cost him to abandon it, of his
despair about the Sanatorium, money worries, all the irk domestic life
held for him. What was more terrible, she gleaned in broken fragments,
halting and disjointed, as though even in his delirium he had an
instinct to hide it, something of the way he had struggled with himself
to evade her coming into his life, of his mental resistance until the
last, of the pity which rather than love had moved him to ask her to
marry him, of his dread of her past, and fear for their future. Oh!
bitter and bleak were the things that came to her ears in scraps and
broken whispers and heavy sighs, and that pieced together by her weary
yet quickened brain made a clear writing on the wall.  All was plain to
her at last: all that he had succeeded in keeping dark from her, the
secret of his torment and his pain in the struggle.  To her the
upholding joy in the darkest hour had always been that the man was worth
it, she loved him and considered him worthy of every sacrifice she could
make.  She saw now that he had had no such thought to uphold him.
Though he had been too loyal to acknowledge the fact even to himself,
the bitter drop in his cup must have been his belief that the woman was
not worth the sacrifices marriage had entailed!

Sighs and dark mutterings told her why he had shrunk at first from
Haidee’s coming to 68th Street--some duty he had to Halston, to keep his
child only among those whose lives had been pure and unspotted by the
world.  The meaning of his fury at Val’s suggestion for his son’s naming
came whispering forth from fever-broken lips.

"Dick! ... How _could_ she?  A dissipated brute .... no woman safe from
... and she ... my woman, alone with him for months ... wild places ...
lonely places."

She could not know where he had heard that scandalous tale.  She could
only bow her head and take the sword to her heart.

When she heard him muttering to his mother, explaining that she was his
dream woman, that it had to be....  ’She is not like you, mother, but
she came to me in dreams ... _it had to be_ ...  and now she is Bran’s
mother ... you must love my Bran’s mother," she thought her heart would
break for bitter aching.  It seemed to her in that dark hour that
nothing could ever hurt her any more.  She defied Fate to do her any
worse hurt.  An unwise thing to do.  Fate was in fact sitting in wait
with a worse clout in her hand.

There came an afternoon when Westenra was so much better that he could
talk a little, softly, if a trifle vaguely to Haidee who had crept in to
hold his hand.  His eyes, seeming to have grown lighter in his thin,
strongly-featured face, travelled incessantly round the room, resting
here and there as though they recognised landmarks in some country he
had not visited for years.  They rested on Val writing at a table near
by, and noted the wraithlike face, pale as a bone, the weary lean of her
against her own supporting arm, the droop of her lips and her shoulders.
When she came over with the medicine, he said quietly:

"You should go out for a little while, dearest. Haidee will take care of

She had indeed a longing that was almost active pain for air and the
sight of sky and green things, and needed little persuasion, seeing that
he was really better.  She did not even stop to change her frock, which
was old and unfashionable, and in her haste caught up an ancient
school-hat of Haidee’s, trimmed with a shabby bow of silk ribbon, and
more than slightly bent out of shape about the brim.  She felt it
mattered little how she looked, so long as she could escape into the
outer air. Her head ached violently.

As she hurried down the front-door steps, a man walking up the street
looked at her curiously, and something in her peculiar walk brought a
flash of amazement to his eyes and quickened his steps. He was tall and
well-dressed, with traces of breeding, and a certain dashing
handsomeness about him, but there was a green tint in his ravaged
cheeks, and the straight figure under the well-cut coat was gaunt and
shrunk.  His eyes lacked lustre, and one of them jerked and winked
mechanically at irregular intervals.  The man was a nervous and physical
wreck.  As he passed the house from which Val had come, he looked up and
noticed its number and the name on the door-plate. A moment later he
caught up with the slight, hurrying figure, gave a swift glance at her
profile and the shabby hat above it, then, in the quiet drawling tones
of the man about town, he said politely:

"How do, Val?"

She swung round with the wild jerk of a lassoed creature and faced him.
Then he was not so sure after all that it was Val.  The grey-faced
woman, with all the life gone out of her eyes, sunken cheeks and
blanched lips, was certainly not the Valentine Valdana of other days.
The figure, the walk was hers; but the face was the face of some strange
woman--some woman in trouble, too, and that was a bore.  He was a man
who always avoided women in trouble.  On the point of lifting his hat,
with a slight apology and walking away, her words detained him.

"_You!_"  Her voice was the voice of Valentine Valdana with all the
music gone from it: harsh and grinding as stone on stone.

"Yea, verily," said he, and stared sardonically into her fearful eyes.
They stood so for a moment staring at each other.  Then the man laughed;
but it was not a pleasant laugh.

"You don’t seem as pleased to see me as you ought to be!"

"You!" she stammered again.  It seemed all she was able to say.

"Yes, _me_, my very dear Val," he repeated with something like a snarl.
"Time appears to have dimmed your excellent eyesight, as well as robbed
you of your gift of repartee!"

She answered strangely, speaking vaguely like a woman in a nightmare,
but her words struck home like little, sharp knives, and the blood
mounted high in his dark cheeks.

"So _you_ were the slinker in the bush!--the skulker!--the deserter of
comrades and men!--_I might have known_!"

Rage flashed out of his bloodshot eyes, and for a moment he looked as if
he could strike her. Then he laughed again the jeering sardonic laugh of
the cynic, whose bones hard words have no power to break, the coward who
fears nothing but death.

"Be damned to you!" he said pleasantly.  "I had as much right to save my
skin as any one else."

"_No one else saved his skin_."

"That was their lookout," he remarked with grim facetiousness, but her
silent, terrible stare, so full of indictment, disconcerted him
horribly. He essayed to change the unpleasant subject.

"So you are in New York!  No one could make out where the deuce you had
got to."

That detached her from the sinister question of his conduct on the South
African veldt.  But still she stared deep into him as if seeking in his
soul the key to some problem she could not solve; and he was
embarrassed, for he wished no one to search in his dark soul--there were
things hidden there that even he was afraid to look upon.  As for the
situation, surely it was clear enough.  He that should have been dead
was alive, and that was all there was to it.  He had been looking for
her to let her know, and that he had found her by accident was so much
to the good.  It had a better appearance than if he had hunted her down
(as he would have done if he had possessed any clue to work on). After
all, he argued to himself, he had a right to her sympathy.  Also he
needed help in the shape of money pretty badly.  He was sick of hiding
in America, and longed to get away to the cheap comfort of Europe.
Unfortunately, she did not look as if she could help his financial
situation very much.  He had, in fact, never seen her look so shabby
since she ceased to occupy the proud position of wife and slave to
Horace Valdana, Esq.  The thought that he might not be able to levy a
loan from her after all moved him to venom.

"I fear you have come down in the world, my poor Val!  If I did not know
what a brilliant woman of letters you are, I might almost think you had
turned into a housemaid.  What were you doing at Number 700?"

Then she realised he had seen her come out of the house.  That was the
key she had sought. Now she knew just where she stood, and what she must

"Yes," she said slowly, "you are quite right, I have come down in the
world, and I am a housemaid--at that house I have just come from."

He burst out laughing.  It seemed to be the funniest news he had heard
for a long time.

"Indeed!  Perhaps you will invite me to call and have some supper with
you and the cook some evening?"

"We are not allowed to have callers.  I don’t get on with the cook.  I
am under notice to quit."  She made her statements quite gravely.

"But this is great!"  He began to laugh again uproariously.  "So you
have got the sack!  And now you will have to go back to the career of
famous journalist.  But why have left it, my dear girl? Is it a joke, or
some new craze for getting copy?"

Steadily, calmly, with pale lips and toneless voice, she lied on--for
Bran’s sake, for Garrett’s sake, for the sake of all she held dear.
What better reason can a woman have for lying her soul away!

"No, no joke, no craze: stern necessity.  I can’t write any more, that
is all.  I had brain fever, and when it was all over I found that I
could n’t put another sentence together.  I am done for as a writer.  So
I just dropped out of the old life and disappeared.  The only thing I
can do now is work with my hands."

"But"--he stammered.  "But it will come back--all you want is time,

"Never," she said firmly.  "Never.  It is finished.  My brain is gone.
I am Alice Brook now--Alice Brook, housemaid.  I shall never be anything

"Good God!"  He gazed at her aghast.  There was no glimmering of doubt
in his mind as to the truth of her story.  It seemed almost too
extraordinary to be true, but he had never known Val to lie.  He was
aware, in fact, from painful experience that she despised liars, and
held a creed that nothing worth a lie was to be found in the world.  It
was not for him to know that she had at last found something she
considered worth lying for.  Besides, she so thoroughly looked the part.
Thin, hollow-eyed, and badly dressed, with the hopeless lines
unhappiness had sketched about her lips, she was the picture of an
overworked slave who worked too much by day, and got too little rest at

"Good God!" he repeated blankly.  "And I was going to touch you for my
fare home."

It was her turn to laugh now, and she did it silently, rocking from side
to side, holding one hand over her heart as if afraid it might burst
from her body in its wild mirth.  Valdana considered her with shrewd,
savage eyes.  He had never known her guilty of such a thing as a fit of
hysterics, but it looked uncommonly as if she meant to indulge in one
now, and he was not anxious to assist in anything of the kind.

"Don’t be a fool, Val," he said sharply.  "Pull yourself together.  Come
along into the Park and we ’ll discuss things."

Val’s laughter was over except for a strange little sobbing sound that
escaped from her lips from time to time, as she walked slowly by his
side towards the Park.  Sometimes she swayed a little and put out her
hands as if to keep herself from falling--as though the earth were
rocking under her feet.


There is a story told in Africa of a Dutch woman, who, during one of the
early Kaffir wars, escaped from an attacked township, and with her
family of six little children hid in the bush.  They concealed
themselves in a deep swamp overhung with bushes and seething with
poisonous gnats; and there, while all round them human beasts beat the
bush seeking for prey, the little band crouched low, nothing but their
heads protruding from the filthy ooze, fearful almost to breathe lest
they should be heard and dragged forth to torture and death.
Unfortunately, the baby, sick and too young to understand the terrible
situation, whimpered endlessly at the bites of the insects, and all its
mother’s fearful hushing could not quiet it. With the howls of
blood-drunken Kaffirs in her ears, and before her eyes the five tragic,
terror-stricken faces of her other children, the distracted mother found
no other thing to do than clasp her hands about the little loved,
whimpering throat that would betray them all, and still its cries for

Long after Valdana had left her Val sat on in the Park, trying not to
think, trying to get control over herself.  Her overwrought brain felt
like a struggling, tortured thing, determined to burst from her head and
run brandishing its frenzy and pain to the world; while some other part
of her strove for calm, hushing and pacifying the tortured thing as the
Dutch mother had hushed the child that would betray them all; and she
felt that if she could not still its frenzied cries she must kill it.
Better that she should die than that Westenra and little Bran should
suffer.  But she did not want to die; she knew she could not be spared
at that time.  The mother of a little child can never be spared.
Westenra, lying weak and ill, seemed to her no more than a little child
too, and one that she must care for and protect from trouble.  Dazed and
shocked as she was, with her world in pieces about her, the mother sense
alert in her warned her to get control of her nerves; that it would be
fatal to fall ill now; that everything depended upon her deliberate
action.  She had seen with Westenra what happened when the brain was
sick, and she knew she could never hope to keep the truth from him if
such an illness overtook her.  She was resolute to keep it from him.  He
had suffered enough.  He was sick and broken with suffering, and all
through her.  But his pride and joy in Bran was still left him; and of
that, if she could help it, he should not be robbed.  His son!  Heir to
an old and honoured name if to no great fortune.  What would befall if
he found that his son was nameless--heir to nothing but shame and
sorrow.  Ah! some day he might have to hear the truth and bear it--but
not now, not now.  She must take herself in hand strongly, force herself
to calmness, plan how to outwit Valdana, and save her loved ones.

She looked at the card Valdana had given her with an address written on


_Shrapp’s Hotel,_
       _West 19th Street,_
              _New York._

He was there under an assumed name, skulking, as he had skulked in the
bush.  His mother, the only person whom he had enlightened as to his
being alive, was secretly sending him money.  She dared not let his
father, an old man dying of an incurable disease, know, for fear it
would hasten his end, and she was ashamed to tell her other sons and
daughters; they were all honourable, upright people whose heads would be
lowered to the dust under the blow.  With a mother’s unselfish love she
wished to spare them the truth--that the man whose gallant death all
England had mourned was alive and skulking in hiding, a coward who had
deserted his comrades!  But for Val she had no such feeling, and it was
she who had given him the news of Val’s sailing for America and paid his
fare to do the same, counselling him to find her out and get her help.
She said it was Val’s duty to stand by him, and he, pleased with such
comfortable counsel, had been in New York six months hoping to come
across his wife.  At the last moment he had chanced upon her by

He had left her in the Park; it was with the understanding that she was
to meet him in two days’ time at Shrapp’s Hotel.  But she had no
intention of keeping the appointment.  First of all it would be
extremely difficult for her to get away from home without lying, and
then there was a possibility of Westenra finding out where she had gone,
and suspecting something strange. She meant to take no risks where
Westenra was concerned.  Secondly, she hated to meet Valdana. Quite
apart from the horrible turmoil his reappearance caused in her life, she
was shakingly revolted by his presence.  The sight of him alive when he
should have been where the world believed him--among the heroic
dead--made her physically sick.

"_As much right to save his skin..._" she repeated blankly, and the
blood seemed to turn to water in her veins.  "Oh, I might have known ...
I might have known!  Mean souls do not suddenly become heroic!  _To save
his skin!_"

And it was the name of such a man that she bore by law!  For such a one
her little Bran must be branded illegitimate.  She ground her teeth in
rage and despair, and gave out a little moan.

Around the black morass that surrounded her there showed only one small
glimmer of light--it was the remembrance of that faint gleam that kept
her from going mad.  He had offered it as a sort of propitiation for the
fact of his being still alive, and she shuddered at her own heartless
catching at it.  She might not have believed but for the bleak tint of
his skin.

"It won’t be for long, anyway.  I ’m booked, Val.  I have the same
trouble as my father--cancer of the liver.  Nothing can save me.  It’s
only a matter of a few months ... a year at the outside."  She had
looked into his face keenly at that and recognised the possibility of
his words being true.  That strange hue in his cheeks might easily be
the hue of death foreshadowing the atrocious malady from which his
father suffered.

He had gone on to tell her that all he asked was to be allowed to live
in peace, out of the world’s sight, until his hour came.  The truth must
never be known, he said.  Even he was not so dead to decency that he
could not recognise that.  He owed something to his family after all--to
say nothing of his country!  These had a right to expect silence from
one who should have been dead.  And he was willing enough to be silent.
The gnawing at his vitals had killed in him, he said, all taste for
gaming and dissipation.  He only wanted peace in some quiet country
place, anywhere but America, which he hated with the fierce hatred of
the waster surrounded by active energetic men.  He had, it appeared,
sought Val in the pretty certain belief that she could and would assist
him to the quiet life he longed for, and when he found she could not he
was more inclined to curse than to sympathise because her brain had
"given out."  She smiled a tortured smile at that. Her brain had indeed
given out.  That part at least of the story was true; and that she would
never be able to write again as in the old days she knew was true too.
There is nothing like a year’s tussling with domestic problems for
dulling the wits. She felt that to earn a sure million she could not
have produced the energy or material for one of her old gay vivid
articles salted with wit and scented with the breeze.  The power had
gone from her. Wifehood had absorbed it.  Maternity had eaten and drunk
it up!  Like Alice Brook, she could only work with her hands now; and,
like Alice Brook, she was sadly incompetent even with these. For there
really was a housemaid called Alice Brook at No. 700; an inefficient
English girl who could not get on with the cook, and was without the
faintest notion of her duties.  As Val had no time to train her she was
obliged to give her notice, and the girl was in fact leaving the house
that night.  This was why Val had felt so safe in her story.

When Valdana found out that she did not mean to meet him again, he would
probably, as discreetly as he dared, make inquiries at No. 700 for Alice
Brook.  But Val would be prepared for him.

She sat still on that bench in Central Park until she had formed her
plan.  She would write to him within the next two days saying that
nothing was to be gained by their meeting; that she had left 68th
Street, and that if he did not worry her and try to find her, she would
help him all she could with money, and from time to time send him,
through his mother, such sums as she could earn. There was no question,
of course, of her earning at present, but she possessed jewellery upon
which she could raise certain sums.  She would pawn some at once and
send him fifty pounds for his passage to England, thus ridding herself
of his vicinity at least, and gaining untainted breathing space in which
to decide upon the next move. There must, she knew, be a terrible
reconstruction of her life with Westenra, but as yet she was too weary
and shocked to see far ahead.  She only knew that she must go warily,

    "Ate Dea, treading so soft----"

Full of schemes that it revolted her to formulate, feeling a conspirator
and traitor to all she loved, she at last retraced her steps homeward.

                              CHAPTER VIII

                           WOUNDS IN THE RAIN

    "What will you do, love?
    When I am going
    With white sail flowing,
      The seas beyond?
    What will you do, love?
    When waves divide us
    And friends may chide us,
    For being fond?"

Recuperation set in at last with Westenra, and he began to return to
health almost as swiftly as he had departed from it, and with health
came a full tide of love and gratitude to the woman who had so devotedly
nursed him back to life. But in the wraith at his bedside he hardly
recognised Val.  She had strangely changed, yet poignantly recalled to
him that grey lady of long ago, whom in the past months of pain and
fevered rush he had almost forgotten.  Shadows seem to hang about her as
in his dream.  Almost it seemed as if she, instead of he, were returning
from the Valley of the Shadow.  He was struck to the heart by her worn
and weary look.  But when he put out hands of gratitude and compassion
to her, she seemed like the dream woman to elude them without moving.  A
long, long distance came between them.  The old sad ache of lost lands
was in her eyes and lingered about her lips.  Consciousness came upon
him suddenly that he loved this woman deeply, that she was the very
heart of his heart ... then why should he have that sense of fear that
she was escaping from him?

She smiled at him with exile in her eyes when he took her hand, and
kissing it, thanked her for all her goodness to him.

"Bless you, dearest and best ... I am ashamed of myself for getting sick
like this ... to have had you half-killing yourself nursing me ... what
should I have done without you? What would I ever do without you ...
Brannie’s mother?"

Was it his fancy that her hand seemed to grow a little rigid in his?
That a shadow passed over her face?  He had called her the sweetest
thing he could think of, one that meant so much to him, the symbol of
their love, the treasure saved from the rocks that had broken and
wrecked them--the treasure with which they would build a new ship in
which to sail the stormy seas.  He could not know that ever since the
days of delirium she had been yearning for some little word of
_personal_ love, some little name that was all for her as lover, not
mother only.  Once more the sense of distance between them came to him.
She seemed suddenly to be a long way off.  In effect, he had loosed her
hand and she had moved away to the window. He did not see the heavy
tears that scorched her eyes, but he noticed the droop of her shoulders
and reproached himself.

"I ’m killing her," he thought sombrely, "and she is sick of it!  Sick
of nursing me, and of her life here!  How can one blame her!  I only
wonder it did n’t come sooner.  How could I ever have hoped to keep a
woman like her ... to make a slave of ... in a doctor’s commonplace

He closed his eyes again and the swift despondency of the invalid welled
up in him.  When she came back to his sofa the old moody shadow was on
his face, the look of strain back about his brows. Timidly, and with her
face turned from the light, so that he might not see the trace of her
tears, she said:

"Is there anything you would like, Joe?"

"No, thank you, dear ... I have you!"  He spoke gently, and put out his
hand to her without opening his eyes.  A moment later his sombre thought
escaped from him almost involuntarily.

"I have you--though God knows for how long!"  Then he waited for the
touch of her lips on his, the rush of tender reproach for his unfaith.
He did not indeed know how passionately hungry he was for those
words--until they did not come!  Nor how his lips ached for the touch of
hers--until that long, still moment of waiting!  Nothing happened;
nothing came.  No kiss, no word of protest. He could scarcely believe it
at first.  If he had not still been holding her hand, he might have
supposed that she had risen and gone away.  For he had not opened his
eyes, but lay waiting as sometimes one waits with eyes closed for the
coming of a beautiful thing.  The knowledge flashed upon him suddenly
that it was a long while since Val had kissed him.  So long, that he
could scarcely remember when.  Was it before his illness?  No: looking
back down the vista of burning days of fever and discomfort, he could
remember that before unconsciousness came upon him her fresh mouth was
often laid like a rose upon his dry one and at the memory he longed
again for its fragrance as a thirsty man in the desert longs for a cup
of cold water.  He was aware that when at last she did bend over him he
would bind his arms round her, and holding her fast to his heart devour
and consume her, and never let her go from him again. But in the same
moment he was seized with the torment all true lovers know, the
agonising knowledge that however much the lips may devour and the arms
bind, and the heart strain to hold there is a limit to the reach of
human love, a door to which the key will never be found, a barrier
beyond which the aloof and lonely soul of the beloved sits stern and
contemplative, for ever lonely in its secret place.  This is the torment
of all earthly love.  No true lovers but have sought in each other’s
eyes the key of that implacable door, striven to drag the secret from
each other’s lips, known the darkness and desolation of that outer
place!  Lying there, waiting for his wife’s kiss, Garrett Westenra
suffered this torment for the first time.

It was characteristic of him that when at last he understood that she
meant to make no response either by word or deed to the cry of his heart
so thinly veiled beneath the sadness of his words, he did not question
or upbraid her.  He only lay very still, turning over and over in his
mind the cruel fact that she was weary of him and of their life
together.  Between his half-closed lids he observed her, silent and
white, looking down at the hand which, tightly held by his, lay on her
knee. He realised then how fierce his grip had been, and relaxing it
gently drew away his hand.  What good to grip the casket so close when
the jewel it had held for him was gone!

"What do you think we had better do, Val?" he said at last, speaking out
of his pain, and meaning "with the rest of life."  He did not expect so
quick and definite a response as she made.

"I think that as soon as you feel well enough to travel you should go
out West, and stay until you are quite strong again."

"You and the children too?"

"Oh! no, no!" she cried hastily--too hastily with so keen a listener
intent on her.  She saw her mistake and tried to cover it with calm
reasoning words.  "What change would it be for you with us everlastingly
at your heels?  Bran rampaging, Haidee worrying--and I--oh, of course,
it would not do at all.  You must see that."  Her arguments might have
sounded silly but for their urgency to convince, and her pleading eyes.
He stared straight before him, but missed no single shade of her face or

"We will stay at home and mind things," she continued, "and be quite all
right, until----"


"Until you come back...."

"And then?"

She knew she ought not to let him draw her on, that it would be better
to wait until he returned, but she was an honest creature by nature, and
though circumstances were plunging her deep in duplicity, she had not
yet learned to conceal and wait.  Besides, she wanted to get the pain
over, the thing settled and done with, past recanting.  If he were cold
and angry so much the better for her.  It would be easier to bear than
if he tried to detain her with kind words.

"Then," she stammered, "Garrett, I think, we--the children and I--ought
to go away for awhile ... to England, or France perhaps--some place
where living is more reasonable than here, and I can get strong again,
and be of some use to you...."

No word from him.  He did not even raise his eyes.  So she stumbled on
hopelessly, embittered by his silence and misunderstanding, longing to
have him see how much she cared, how it broke her heart to make such a
suggestion, yet fearing that he would combat it.

"You know, Garrett, that I am no good in this place ... never have been.
Later perhaps when I am strong again I may be of some use ... when Bran
is older....  You must see for yourself ... I cannot manage the house at
present--(I have always mismanaged it)--with Bran wanting so much
attention.  It would be best to get one of your good nurses to take
charge ... anybody could do it better than I...."

So she had it all planned out!  She had arranged for "the rest of life"
without consulting him! All the time he lay sick she had been plotting
to escape.  Small wonder he felt the return of her old elusiveness, had
become aware of distance between them.

Separation!  That was to be the end of the voyage in the dream ship--of
his life with the dream woman.  Had it all been a dream perhaps? ... a
dream full of dark places, with thorns for the flesh and pits for the
feet ... but always--that was good to remember in this dark hour--always
stars overhead.  The stars had never before failed though they were
dying out now. So she was a quitter after all!  A deserter! Unfaithful
to the post she had chosen.  Somehow he could never have believed it
except from her lips.  It was hard to believe, looking at that face
softly hollowed by weariness and worry, the faithful deep eyes, the
tender lips, the hands grown diaphanous in his service.  Nothing had
been too hard or base in his household for those hands to strive with,
he knew that.  And how she had nursed him!  That he owed his life to her
was certain.  And now, so soon, so soon, she nullified all, her
tenderness and devotion, the precious unhappiness, the sacred
sacrifices--the wonderful bonds that trouble shared can make, everything
was broken and rendered void by this act of desertion!

It must be remembered that he came of a race of women who had, so to
speak, habitually lived heroic lives.  The men of his family, never able
to offer ease to their women folk, expected heroism and self-sacrifice
of them, and no Westenra woman had ever failed the expectation--_until
now_!  Yes, that was a thought that hurt.  That ate like acid in an open
wound.  Val was not one of _them_! His wife, the woman on whom he had
staked his honour and belief, was not of the stuff of which Westenra
wives were made!  Until that hour, spite of failure, trouble, and
disappointment, he could have sworn away his soul on her loyalty--what
did the mere failure of plans, or lack of money matter, when they had
each other, were content to tread the same road together, the same
ideals in their hearts, their eyes fixed on the same stars! And by God
he could have sworn ... but what was the use!  She had proved his
judgment wrong, that was all.  She was just the ordinary woman, sick of
her job, anxious to get away from it. "Lots of women like her in
America," he reflected sardonically.  No one who knew the circumstance
could blame her.  He least of all would blame her. Only--his soul was
sick within him!  But, as always, he hid his wound from her.  Not a sign
of what he felt when at last he spoke, quietly, reflectively, almost it
sounded to her, approvingly.

"No doubt it would be a very wise arrangement."

She had been twisting her hands in nervous agitation, her beautiful,
strange eyes full of the ardour that had always been like wine to him,
though he had never told her so.  Now a rush of words came from her
lips, she was almost incoherent in her gratitude.

"Oh, Joe! ... if you think so ... if you won’t mind ... it will not be
for long ... only six months or so--a year perhaps."

He stared at her in bitter astonishment.  (Only a year perhaps!  Why not
ten years--twenty years--the rest of life?)

"I will take such care of your Brannie for you.... I ’ll never let him
forget you for a moment ... and I ’ll come back so different ... ready
to tackle any problem ... you ’ll see what a clever housewife I will

(He did n’t want a clever housewife.  He had believed he did, but now he
knew that all he wanted was Val.  He had arrived at desiring nothing
better than her fantastic housekeeping and gipsy camping-out methods.
She had spoilt him for comfort and set rule.)

"We must get some one to take charge of the place ...  Miss Holland is a
splendid woman.... I know she will make a success of it ... and before I
go I will find you a good housekeeper who will look after you well."

(Before she went!  Oh! damn it, why should she look at him like that, as
though it were for his happiness she was arranging instead of her own?
As though planning loyalty instead of desertion--treachery! How could
she smile--gladly, gratefully, when she was taking herself out of his
life, robbing him of the light of his son’s golden head!)

"And if you will let me have Haidee? ..." she spoke more diffidently
now.  "I fear she will be a care to you.  I would do my best for

"No!" he interrupted sharply, "if you take Bran I must console myself
with Haidee.  I should think you could spare me her, at least!"

She turned white as death.  Haidee to take Bran’s place with him!  Their
son--her love-baby--to be exiled from his father’s heart as well as from
his home!  Of what use then all her plotting, her secret grief and
suffering endured, that father and son might be spared.

"Oh, Joe!  Oh, Joe!" was all she could say.

He stared at her incredulously.  He had no idea she was so fond of
Haidee.  It seemed indeed as if she could be fond of any one but
himself!  He was thankful that Haidee herself made an end to the
miserable discussion by bounding in at the moment and embracing him

"And can I bring Bran in?" she cried, as soon as she had finished
hugging him.  "He ’s just on the stairs.  Nurse has brought him home
from his walk ... he looks such a duck in his new pink pelisse."

"Yes, bring him in," said Westenra, heavily, but a moment later, when
his son was sprawling on the bed thrusting fat fists into his father’s
eyes, exploring his father’s nose and ears, moodiness departed from that
father, and he began to laugh like a boy.

"Just feel that leg, Haidee ... muscle--sheer muscle.  I tell you this
fellow is a hot number. He ’s going to make the athletes sit up and take
notice; are n’t you, old man?  Hi! that’s my nose!"

"He smells like a nice ripe peach!  Oh, would n’t I love to eat him!"
shrieked Haidee, and hugged him until Val had to call out a warning not
to crack his ribs.  She stood watching them, unshed tears scorching her
eyes.  They were so dear, so very dear, that man and child; and Haidee
too was dear for loving them so well.  It was pain even to look at them.
Their dearness burnt like flame.  She felt that if she stayed in the
room a moment longer she must fling herself down by them, cry out the
truth to Westenra, tell him she could never leave him, nor rob him of
his son. But that way madness lay.  Sorrow and shame, worse things than
separation for a time, must come of that.  No, she must bear it alone.
Her hand was to the plough and she must not turn weakly back.  Even now
there was that to do that was part of the plot, and she must leave the
dear ones to go and do it.

"I think they can spare me for a little while," she thought, not without
a certain tender irony, for the crowd on the bed were so very wrapped up
in their own performances.  Unnoticed, she slipped from the room, and
went to Westenra’s office to typewrite a letter.

When she did not keep the appointment at Shrapp’s Hotel with Valdana, he
had, as she foresaw, called at No. 700 in search of Alice Brook. On
hearing that she had left, he asked for an interview with Mrs. Westenra.
Fortunately, Val had not been with Garrett, but in her room resting with
a bad headache, when the new maid, a Wicklow girl of good type, who had
developed a great devotion for her mistress, brought in the card.  By an
effort Val had managed to control herself and look with calmness upon
the inscribed name.

"Mr. John Seymour!  Who is he?  What does he want, Mary?"

"I don’t know, ma’am, he did not say, but sure it’s a sick man he is by
the colour av him."

"Go down and find out.  If he is a patient, tell him the doctor is very
ill and will not be able to see patients for a month or two at least.
If he is in a hurry he had better go to Dr. Dillon, who is seeing all
Dr. Westenra’s patients at present."

This gave her time, and would she thought allay Valdana’s suspicion, if
he had one, of any connection between herself and Alice Brook.  But she
was sick with apprehension and lay white on her pillow when the maid
reappeared; the answer was as expected: the gentleman’s business was not
with the doctor, but with the mistress of the house.

"Sure, it’s the character of the last housemaid he wants, ma’am.  He ’s
afther engaging her," Mary announced and Val’s heart gave a great jump
of fright.  The next moment she realised that this was most likely a
ruse, a mere excuse for finding out what he wanted to know of her

"The character of Alice Brook?" she said mechanically.

"Yes, ma’am.  And I took the liberty of telling him, ma’am, that you
could not be plagued with such affairs now, and you destroyed nursing
the doctor and all, and he ’d better be afther writing for what he

Val could have embraced the kindly creature, but she gave no sign, only
said quietly:

"You did quite right, Mary.  But to save time you may tell this
gentleman, Mr.--," she looked at the card--"Mr. Seymour, that as far as
character goes Alice Brook was quite a good girl--honest, sober, an
early riser, diligent (she could not forbear a wry smile to think that
in the last three points at least the formula applied equally to
herself); her chief defect was that she was quite ignorant as to the
duties of a housemaid, and I had no time to train her.  I cannot think
of anything further that it is necessary for him to know, but if there
should be he can write."

As the maid was leaving the room, she added thoughtfully:

"Don’t let him linger asking questions, Mary. It seems a curious thing
for a gentleman to be occupying himself with a housemaid’s references.
He may not be what he professes at all, but some scamp----"

She knew that upon that hint Mary would polish him off without ceremony,
and she felt no compunction in giving it.  Could any one indeed be a
worse scamp?  What was he there for but to spy out and blackmail, and
cause ruin and dismay to her and her loved ones?  She trembled with rage
and terror when she thought of him being in the same house with Garrett
and Bran.  But for an accident she might have been seen by him, or his
card brought up to her at Westenra’s bedside! There was no reason for
him to have come to the house at all.  True, she had not kept the
appointment, but she had kept faith with him in the matter of money, had
sold a greater part of her jewels, and sent him the proceeds by
registered post.  At the same time she had written him a letter telling
him firmly that there was nothing to be gained by their meeting.  She
reminded him that all question of their being anything to each other was
over many years past, and that certainly the circumstances of his
reappearance did not incline her to renew any kind of intimacy with him.
In consideration of his health she promised she would do her best for
him, and spare him any money she could.

"But it is no use hounding me," she wrote, full of the cold fury of a
mother robbing her loved ones to give to a wolf, for the money gained on
her jewels would have paid many a bill hanging over the household at the
moment.  "You must not forget that I too need to live.  And you are not
to torment me.  If ever I make money again I will let you have all I
can, but I do not hold out any great hope.  In the meantime take this,
and leave America with it.  If I have anything to send you I will do so
through your mother.  But leave me alone--surely you have caused me
enough sorrow! All I ask is to be left alone."

Thus she had written in her agony and desperation, and sent with the
letter the sum of one hundred and ten pounds.  Yet a week later he was
on the doorstep intent on tracking her down! Well, she had cut the
ground from under his feet by her message through Mary.  With the
information he had asked for concerning Alice Brook he had no further
pretext for calling at the house, or even writing.  Not that she relied
on that. Horace Valdana had failed in all honourable things, but never
in lies, pretexts, and inventions.  She could hardly suppose he would do
so now.  As the event proved, she was right.  For two weeks there was
silence.  Almost she had begun to hope when there came a letter, polite
but formal, asking if Mrs. Westenra would have the kindness to oblige
the writer with the home address of her late housemaid, Alice Brook.

"She had been in my service for ten days or so" (ran the letter), "but
went out one day and never returned.  I am much troubled, and should
like to communicate with her friends.  I feel sure that you will give me
such assistance as you can in the matter.  If you do not know her home
address, perhaps you can tell me from what agency you originally engaged
her?  I may in that way be able to trace her.

"With apologies for troubling you,
       "Believe me,
              "Very truly yours,
                     "JANE SEYMOUR."

"_Jane Seymour!_"  She could imagine with what a cynical smile he
produced that tag of history from the rag-bag of his memory, and made it
serve his purpose as a nom-de-plume.  For though the name of good King
Hal’s third queen might or might not have been borne by one of America’s
fair daughters, the writing was the writing of Horace Valdana!  It was
one more attempt to get on to the trail of his victim.

The address at the top of the letter was Number 439 West 19th
Street--the same number in fact as Shrapp’s Hotel; but of course Mrs.
Westenra would not know this.  She was to suppose it the number of the
private house occupied by Mrs. Jane Seymour!  No doubt Mr. John Seymour
would be on the lookout for Mrs. Jane’s correspondence!

This was the letter to which she now typed the following answer on her
husband’s typewriter:

"MADAME,--I beg to state that I can give you no information concerning
the whereabouts of my late housemaid, Alice Brook.  When I have once
supplied a discharged servant with a formal reference, I feel that my
responsibility to her is at an end.  I must, therefore, request you to
relieve me of all further inquiries upon a subject in which I have
neither the time nor inclination to interest myself."

This missive, designedly as rude and arrogant as she knew how to make
it, she signed with a hieroglyphic signature in which might be
discovered after careful study some resemblance to "Anne Westenra" (her
second name was Anne), but that was quite unlike any signature ever put
on paper by Valentine Valdana.

In the end she almost spoiled all by one of those absent-minded mistakes
that sometimes betray the best laid plots and plans.  She addressed the
envelope in her natural handwriting.  She had stamped and closed it and
risen to ring for Mary to take it to the letter-box at the end of the
street (for since her _rencontre_ with Valdana she had not dared go
out), when, with her hand on the electric button, some bell in her brain
rang a warning that something was wrong.  She stared at the letter in
her hand for a full minute before she recognised her _bêtise_, then the
shock sent her back to her seat half fainting, pale as a witch.

"What an escape!  What an escape!" she muttered with dry lips.  "I must
be going mad! My brain is giving way!  Oh, if I had posted it!"

Valdana would have been quick to recognise her writing and see through
the whole thing--_that she was Mrs. Westenra_.  All would have been

"But I would have torn down the letter-box--set fire to it--blown it
up--rather than he should have got the letter," she muttered fiercely.
In that moment she knew herself one of those who in the cause of love
are capable of crime; that there was not anything she would not do to
save her son from being branded illegitimate and Westenra from shame.
But she was shaken to the depths by her narrow escape, and the thought
that any moment her overtried brain might betray her.  It was clear that
she must depart as soon as possible from New York.  Her presence there
was a danger. The moment she reached England she could communicate with
Valdana’s mother, and once he found she had gone from America, he too
would make for Europe.

From that day forward a gulf yawned between Westenra and his wife--a
gulf into whose depths every sweet memory they had ever shared seemed to
have disappeared.  The only things that could have bridged it over were
confidence and love, but he no longer believed in her love, and she
could not give him her confidence.  Desperate and dismayed, she saw the
chasm widening day by day between them, but though her spirit held out
arms to him imploring his love and belief in her loyalty, and in her
eyes she could not quench the light of tenderness, she stayed firm to
her purpose.

And Westenra felt the spirit arms entwining him, and saw the beacon in
her eyes, and cursed her for a false trifler, a juggler with the arts
and tricks of women.  For when he approached her, lured by the beacon,
she retreated, subtly intervening between them that sense of distance.
And she was cold as death to his touch.  Her hand, if he took it, lay
like a stone in his, her lips eluded him.  They were to all intents and
purposes strangers to each other.  She had never kissed him since he
came back to the world of consciousness! What could he suppose but that
her love for him was worn out.

All her kisses were for Bran it seemed.  She would at times almost
violently snatch the child from his arms, and kiss it feverishly,
hungrily, just where he had kissed it, as if to drag the flavour of his
lips--or as Westenra bitterly thought, remove all trace of them--from
the little face.

He was a proud man, and his pride sustained him in this dark and
incomprehensible crisis of their life together.  With extraordinary
self-control, born of his pity for her, he refrained from reproach or
any violent sign of his inward rage and pain; but often a sort of
primitive savagery in him ached to smite the eyes that mocked him with
their false tenderness, and there were moments when he longed to take
her by the throat and kill her, while he kissed the lips she withheld
from him.

Life was in fact an active wearing misery to them both.

He was once more sound in health.  His plan was to go softly under the
stars for awhile and perform no serious operations, but he felt quite
equal to taking up the ordinary threads of his practice again.  His main
worry was Val.  Her resolution to go to Europe meant not only the
_bouleversement_ of home and hospital, but of their whole future life.
He was far from wishing to keep a woman who did not care for him tied to
his side.  But he retained a kind of ungrounded hope that after she
rested awhile from the heavy strain his illness had entailed, she would
gradually return to her old, ardent generous self and give up the
fantastic plan for leaving America.  He saw very well that she must go
somewhere.  Her physique was in rags.  She had grown so fragile that her
bones almost pierced her skin, and her face was the face of a ghost.
His heart was wrung with pity for her.  None more anxious than he that
she should go away and rest, and to use his last cent for the purpose if
need be.  What hurt was that she should want to go so far and for so
long; that she should have planned it all so eagerly while he lay sick,
and hold fast to it so resolutely now that he was well.  Once so pliant
to all his wishes she was firm as a rock in this, and he had no will to
oppose her.  His heart was always tender for the sick, and it was plain
to the dullest eye that she was a sick woman.  He schooled himself to
believe at last that her strange coldness was a result of this sickness.
He had half-killed her with overwork and worry, small wonder that she
hated him!  It was not treachery, not the quitting spirit, but the whim
of a sick and weary child.  The generous thing was to bear with her
unreproaching, and at whatever cost to himself, humour her wish.  It was
in this spirit that he told her to pack up, and he would, when she gave
the word, take steamer tickets for her and the children.  He arranged
for Mary, the Wicklow maid, to accompany her too. He would have offered
to go himself, though he knew the hospital needed him, but that he could
feel her projecting a very stone wall of opposition to such a purpose.
He had almost to insist on her taking Haidee at the last, for she seemed
now to hang back from the idea, looking at him with strange eyes when he
said that Haidee would be better in her care than any one else’s.  How
could he know that his delirium had betrayed to her old doubts of his,
which in sane moments he would himself have been ashamed of harbouring,
and which had long since been banished from his mind by her bright
gallantry.  He had come to believe, indeed, that Haidee was better with
Val than with any one.  Further, he did not in the least want Haidee
with him.  She would not for one moment comfort him for the loss of Bran
and his wife. He had only said the thing in that first bitterness of
heart.  Rather he looked upon Haidee’s going as a safeguard to his own
happiness, for if Val’s illness grew worse, the child would be able to
give him the news at once.  Mary was going only for the voyage, and on
arriving at Southampton would go straight on to Ireland where her mother
needed her.

When he found at last that Val’s reason for lingering in New York was
that she was not satisfied with the people she was leaving behind to
take charge of the house and his comfort, he summarily, even savagely,
turned on her and told her he was well able to take care of himself.
Indeed, he considered this anxiety for his welfare somewhat forced and
unnecessary.  Well she knew what he needed for his welfare--that it was
neither a good cook, nor a housekeeper, nor a matron for his
hospital--and, knowing it, she still went from him, betook herself out
of his life, put the ocean between them!

And so at the last, on one grey day late in the year, it was almost in
bitterness they parted, haggard and broken, hiding their hearts from
each other.

As the White Star liner steamed down the river he stood on the dock and
waved farewell to the little group that now made up his dear portion of
life; Haidee, all long tags of hair, yelling boisterously; Mary holding
up Bran pink and shining; Val, wraith-like in her long grey silk cloak,
seeming among her veils to be floating rather than leaning from the side
of the ship, her hands put out at the last in an involuntary gesture as
of entreaty--for what?  Forbearance, forgiveness, understanding?

"God knows what is in her strange heart!" thought Westenra.

A gleam of light struck on something bright she wore--he recognised the
beads of her weird necklace.  The comfort necklace!  He had never seen
her wear it since the day she had swung it in her hand as they walked
the deck of the _Bavaric_.

Poor Val! was she too in need of comfort then?

Was she thinking of the dream ship on which she had sailed so
confidently into this very port not two years gone?

He turned heavily away.

                                Part II


                               CHAPTER IX

                          NEW ROADS TO FORTUNE

"God delights to isolate us every day, and hide from us the past and the

Jersey, a small and smiling island set amidst the boisterous seas of the
English Channel, is reputed to enjoy more winter sunshine than any
seaside place in Great Britain.  Be that as it may, for the first few
months of Val’s residence there, it wrapped itself so perpetually in
soft warm shawls of mist, that she sometimes thought of writing to
Rudyard Kipling and calling his attention to a place where the sun never
so much as rose on the English flag.  However, it is one of the cheapest
spots in the world, and that is why Val chose it for her six months of
waiting before she could tell Westenra the truth.  The six months might
possibly resolve themselves into twelve, one never knew!  She was not
hard-hearted enough to wish that Valdana would hurry his departure from
the world, she only wished not to think about it at all.  Jersey seemed
to promise both peace and solitude in which to pull herself together
after the strain of the last few months in New York.

They had sailed there straight from Southampton, and after a week’s
hunt, found a little furnished house out in the country, pitched high
above St. Brelade’s Bay.  It was isolated and lonely, standing in the
midst of its own wide fields and garden.  The owners, army people who
had used it for a sort of pleasure farm or summer residence, were now in
India, and the property having remained unlet for some time was in a
neglected condition.  The house was scantily furnished, but against this
fact the low rent was an offset.

Jersey is considered extraordinarily picturesque, but Val, spoilt by the
wild scenery of Africa, majestic even in its barest, bleakest places,
found the scenery pigmy though pretty.  However, there was always the
grandeur of the sea, beating in fury against the rugged, red coast, and
the gracious misty emptiness of sky-line and horizon. She loved, too, to
stand in the garden, dreaming of the lost land that lies sleeping under
the water between Jersey and Brittany--that land of past centuries,
which, before the sea in some strange empyrean convulsion swept over it,
included forests in which were hordes of wolves, the "city of a hundred
churches," and that wonderful cathedral in which, according to an old
Breton manuscript the scarlet mantles of forty Lords of the Church could
be counted at Mass every Sunday.  At the great neap tides Jersey
fishermen, far out, looking down from their boats into the clear depths,
say they can still detect foliage that is not sea-weed swaying amid the
branches of mighty forest oaks; and from the Brittany side, on still
days keen eyes have detected, far down on the sea floor, the walls and
ruined towers of the city of St. Ys.

But there was little time for dreaming at Cliff Farm.  Val, with a
resolution to cost Westenra as little as possible, did nearly all the
work of the place herself, only employing a woman two or three times a
week to do rough cleaning.  But not content to economise only, she
thrilled with a scheme to augment their slight income.  A yearning to
found a successful poultry and rabbit farm seized her soul.  Haidee,
bitten by the same mania, fostered the ambition, and with heads together
over a poultry journal they read rapturously of fortunes to be made in
this direction.

The first and vital thing, however, was to regain health and get the
children well.  Travelling had not agreed with Bran the pagan.  On the
ship he had been dreadfully sick and lost all his plumpness and lovely
colouring, but in the mild mists of Jersey and Channel breezes, fresh
and unpolluted by the microbes of cities, he began to bloom again.
Haidee, too, pallid when they first arrived, changed under the spell of
the country.  Like all persons who had been held long in cities she felt
the joy of the open, of trees, and grass, and living things, and began
to blossom and smile into a different creature.  The old savage Haidee
was still there under the skin, ready to come forth if scratched; but
reasons for kicking physically and jibbing mentally were wonderfully
absent in the simple farm life.  Her only grievance was that she had to
go in daily to school at a convent in St. Helier, from whence she
invariably returned ornamented with scowls.  But these passed as soon as
she got back to the work of digging and delving in the garden.  It was
the out-of-door work that put Val right, too, painting a faint colour in
her thin cheeks, and laying dew on her jaded nerves. The kitchen garden,
practically a field, was heavily infested with couch grass, but by noble
efforts they cleared it and began in time to have their own vegetables
for the table.

Val had told Westenra that she did not know how much life would cost
her, and indeed with her vague ideas about money, she could not tell
until she had tried.  He had given her five hundred dollars, and the
arrangement was that she would make that last as long as she could, and
then write for more.  Alas! it did not last very long.  By the time
travelling expenses were cleared, the hotel bill paid for their week’s
stay in St. Helier while they were seeking a house, Haidee’s school fees
advanced, and the little farm stocked with necessaries, there was not
much of the five hundred dollars in sight.

Some of it, too, had been used in erecting houses and runs for the hens
and rabbits that were to bring in a fortune!  Val, with the amateur’s
delusion that after the initial expense all is profit, rushed into the
usual mistake of overstocking.

"Every fowl is an asset," she told herself, and bought fowls by the
dozen, regardless of age, pedigree, or laying qualifications, until
pulled up at the round turn by an article in the poultry journal on the
importance of good breeding stock.  Thereafter, she and Haidee decided
to keep all the early purchases for "laying purposes only," and buy a
special pen of thoroughbreds for breeding chickens.  Earnestly they
studied the advertisement columns of the poultry journal.  Prices for
breeding pens were high.

"We can’t afford to pay such sums, Haidee--but there is the exchange
column!  What about that?"

The exchange column was rich in proposals from philanthropists who
apparently desired nothing better than to stock the British Isles with
the best breeds of poultry at a dead loss to themselves. Pens of five,
seven, and nine fowls of the purest pedigree were proffered for things
patently not half the value of the poultry.  Nothing but the most
profound altruism, for instance, could have prompted the offer from an
English rectory of "A magnificent prize-pen of Black Langshans for
breeding purposes (four hens and a cock) in exchange for clothing,
provisions, or _anything useful_."  If a sinister significance lurked in
the last sentence the Cliff Farm enthusiasts possessed not the
ungenerosity of soul to suspect it. Portraits of Black Langshans in the
poultry book discovered them to be birds of a grace and elegance
astonishing and the text declared them splendid layers of lovely pink

The pink eggs decided the matter.  Val flew to make out a list of all
she would give in exchange. Provisions they had none, but she possessed
clothes to spare in so good a cause.

  (1) A Liberty ball gown of old-gold satin.

(2) A motor coat made by Paquin, with a great hood of orange velvet.

(3) A pair of bronze evening shoes, embroidered with emerald

  (4) A pair of old-paste buckles set in silver.

"It seems a shame to send them," said Haidee, stroking the orange velvet
hood, the dawn of femininity in her eye.  "They ’re so awfully nice. I
’m sure they ’re worth more than a pen of Langshans, Val."

"Yes, I know," said Val, gazing at the ball gown wistfully.  "But where
could I sell them, Haidee?  One can’t go hawking clothes for sale round
Jersey.  And we _must_ have the fowls and we _must n’t_ spend Garry’s
money on experiments. Besides it is better to get rid of things like
these, they only make one think of balls and motors and frivolous things
that don’t matter a bit."

Haidee looked at her curiously.

"Just fancy _you_ ever having gone to balls, Val--and ridden in motors!
I would never have believed it!  I can’t think of you in anything else
but your big grey overall aprons."

Val flushed painfully.  The grey overalls were a concomitant feature of
life in New York only, but Haidee was not to know that.

"At any rate we ’ll send the things.  Now let us see what we can dig out
in exchange for this pair of Belgian hares--they say they are the best
kind for increasing and marketing.  Oh, Haidee! perhaps we shall be able
to make quite a lot of money!"

If they did not it would not be the fault of either of them, for they
threw themselves heart and soul into the affairs of the farm.  Val fed
the fowls at early dawn, made hot mashes for them on cold mornings,
cleaned out nests perpetually, ground up old china to make grit, and set
broody hens on several dozen eggs, so as to have chickens ready for the
spring markets.  There was nothing she and Haidee disdained to do.

On cold winter nights when Bran was asleep they would sit curled over
the fire calculating the fortunes they were going to make out of their
chickens and computing the large sums that would presently come rolling
in when the breeding pen was in full swing, the spring chickens hatched,
and all the hens laying simultaneously.  To make money at poultry
farming seemed as easy as rolling off a log.

"It will be almost a shame to give it up," said Val, with brooding eyes.
"A paying concern like this!  When the time comes for us to go back to
America we shall have to instal some one to take charge.  We may even
some day be able to buy the farm out of our profits, Haidee!  If we do,
it shall be yours and Bran’s, because you work like a little brick at

"I shall then buy up Scone’s field and go in for Plymouth Rocks and
Faverolles only," announced Haidee.

(Scone was their nearest neighbour, a farmer whose land adjoined their

This was their method of calculation.

"We have fifty hens now: six broody hens are sitting on twelve eggs, and
when they hatch out we shall have seventy-two chickens; fifty of those
we will fatten and send to market at half-a-crown each (that will bring
us in six pounds).  The other twenty-two we will keep for laying
purposes next year; added to the fifty hens we now have that will make
seventy-two hens laying eggs, which we will sell for at least a shilling
per dozen."

It seemed a shame to take the people’s money!

The spell of hens was on them.  When at last a few chickens of
shamefully mongrel breed were hatched out, they might have been
offspring of the dodo from the way the family crooned and gloated over
them, warming them at the fireside, feeding them with wonderful
concoctions, sitting in the open yard for hours to watch their antics.
The ways of the elder hens also enchanted them, and each of the fifty
had a Christian name bestowed by reason of some peculiar charm or
quality.  There were: Grey Lady, Eagle, Crooktail, Favvy, Blind Eye,
Johannesburg Moll, Flirt, Long Tom, Felix, and The Lady with the Fan,

The rabbits too were spell-binders.  Two respective litters were
heartlessly gobbled and mutilated by does driven off their mental
reservation by the sight of human beings fondling their new-born
offspring.  After the occurrence of these horrible tragedies, a book on
rabbit-rearing was bought, and the knowledge acquired that rabbit babies
should not be touched or even looked at until they creep from the hutch
and show themselves.  As a result of this information later litters were
successful, and during the winter there were wonderful wet nights when
dozens of tiny rabbits were brought for the sake of warmth and dryness
into the kitchen, and the furry things with their bright wild ways
popped and gambolled to the sheer delight of every one--until the
morning came with the business of cleaning up after the circus!

The first disappointment came with the arrival of the prize-pen of Black
Langshans.  Their rectory home was in Hampshire, so the railway journey
had not been long, but the sea-voyage appeared to have affected their
health.  They staggered forth from the battered poultry basket--four old
black hags of hens, bulky and bleary as washerwomen, hoary of ear and
scaly of leg, followed by a tall slender cock more like a phantom
ostrich than a fancier’s bird.  He had a wild, red eye, and appeared to
be suffering from a mysterious affliction in the legs, which caused him
to fall fainting at every few steps he made.  Haidee cheerfully dosed
him with the peppercorns which were left over from the time when the
chickens had pip.  But nothing could rouse him from his Hamlet-like

The hens must have been at least five years old, but happily, neither
Val nor Haidee knew enough about the outward signs and symbols of fowl
age to realise the trick that had been played upon them.  Only, it
dawned upon them slowly in the long months to come that they need never
expect pink eggs from the grandmotherly old washer-women with good
appetites.  As for the young cock who was to have been the ancestor of
many wonderful chickens for market and prize-pen, for reasons of either
ill-health or chivalry, he was celibate from birth, and could never be
beguiled into taking any interest in his wives.  He spent most of his
life in having fainting fits, or fleeing on staggering legs from younger
and lustier birds. At other times he dreamed on one leg, his melancholy
head plunged into his bosom.


Haidee got on well at school.  Far from being troubled by lack of
intelligence she was an exceedingly clever girl; but she hated study,
and much preferred cleaning out rabbit-hutches or putting fresh straw in
the hens’ nests.  Her passion was for a pony.  There was a little
governess-car in the Stable-house, and permission with the tenants to
use it.  Only there was nothing to pull it.  But three months after
their arrival Haidee looked up from a letter from Westenra, and
announced the receipt of twenty pounds for the purchase of a pony.  Val

"You did n’t ask for it, did you, Haidee?"

"Oh, no; I just mentioned that there was a cart, and how nice it would
be if there was a horse, and how I would do all the looking after it
myself, and we need n’t have to pay a man at all," said Haidee airy and

Val did not reproach her, but she felt vexed that Westenra should be
asked to hand out money when she, though hard-pressed, abstained to ask
for anything but the price of everyday necessities. However, the pony
was a great joy to Haidee, and she had an excuse at last for the
stable-boy airs she loved to assume.  Nothing pleased her better than to
take off her skirts, and donning knickers and long boots, clean out the
stable.  She would swagger and swing her shovel and shout "Gittap!" and
"Hey thar!" as though she had been brought up in a farmyard.  Val’s
unconventional soul was hard to shock, but even she sometimes wondered
what Westenra, who admired Vere-de-Vere repose in a woman, would say if
he could hear his adopted child at her labour of love in Joy’s stable.
A compensating feature was that the girl was in superb health, and
fortunately, there were no prim people at hand to be shocked.  Indeed,
as far as society was concerned Cliff Farm might have been situated at
the Antipodes.  No one came to call, and not a soul in the island
suspected that the well-known writer, "Wanderfoot," was living
peacefully among them, feeding bran mashes to a pony and setting broody

The only people who interested themselves in the occupants of Cliff Farm
were the louts from the neighbouring farm, and their interest could very
well have been dispensed with.  When they looked over the hedge, and
found Haidee in long boots and knickers, whistling as she cleaned out
the stable, they stood sniggering; and when Val took pot shots with her
rook rifle at the crows that picked the buds from the fruit-trees, they
made it their business to find out if she had a gun licence.  The genus
lout is of much the same kidney all the world over.  In Jersey the
farmers have a great objection to "gentlemen farmers," and as Val seemed
to come under that heading, they disliked her accordingly.  Little she
recked as long as they did not openly interfere.  But she and Haidee
were sometimes nervous in their lonely house, and Val would often get up
in the night and fire a shot out the window, just to let stray loafers
know that they were not afraid.  Eventually they got a couple of dogs,
and were more at ease.

Their nearest neighbour, Scone, was a gross-looking man, with coarse
ears and little pig-eyes; yet apparently he had the best kind of heart
inside his ungainly body, for he was all good advice and helpful words
to the occupants of Cliff Farm. He advised Val to keep a pig to eat her
"waste," and incidentally volunteered to supply her with one from a
litter of his own.  Later he offered to take her chickens and eggs to
market on condition that she bought her butter and milk from him.

It was not until long afterwards that she discovered what mean advantage
had been taken of her trusting belief in the inherent decency of man.
These farming people disliked her.  She was not one of them, and that
was enough to call forth all their malice and ill-will.  Scone had
charged double what a pig would have cost at the market, and jested with
his cronies on the subject.  Also through his kind ministrations she was
paying a penny more per quart for milk than any one in the island and
receiving twopence less per dozen for her eggs.

However, this knowledge came later.  For the time Farmer Scone was all
unction and good advice, and Mrs. Scone came often to the house to give
Val the benefit of her knowledge of chickens. She was a common little
woman, with a mouth full of decayed teeth, and a purple nose, but Val
looked upon her as a type, and she never disdained to know types.
Besides, Mrs. Scone was an oracle on chickens, or so she professed.
Certainly most of her statements as to food, etc., were at variance with
the poultry journals, but she sounded very practical and convincing, and
Val had never had experience of people who from sheer malice give wrong
advice, and was far from suspecting the depths of meanness that can lie
in an ignorant mind.

It was Mrs. Scone who advised her to rear capons for the market.  Said

"_That’s_ the thing to do with your cockerels. I have no time to try it
myself, but you are so clever, Mrs. Westenra, and would be sure to make
it pay.  Turn your cockerels into capons.  It is the most profitable
business going."

"Capons?" said Val, vague-eyed.  "I always thought capons were fish, and
that monks ate them for Friday’s dinner."

"Oh, dear me, no, they are not fish, though monks will eat them fast
enough if they get the chance--any one will, they ’re delicious.  You
’ll get from seven shillings and sixpence to ten shillings for them any
day in the week," averred Mrs. Scone, and proceeded to explain to the
open-mouthed Val and Haidee the process of caponising.

"So simple.  Just cut a small slit above the wing of each bird with a
pair of special scissors which you buy; then you hook up and remove the
two little glands that lie along the backbone, and there you have your
capon!--instead of a young cockerel that is always tearing about the run
fighting and eating his head off without putting on any fat."

Val was deeply intrigued.  Cockerels had become one of her problems.
More than half the chickens upon which she had counted for spring eggs
had either succumbed to the pip, or never hatched out at all; of the
remainder the larger proportion had turned out to be of male sex.
Rose-coloured dreams of getting into touch with the Jesuit College on
the hill above St. Helier and doing a flourishing business with the
monks now floated through her mind.  But she shivered at the thought of
the caponising operation.  She was physically incapable of cutting
anything, even the head off a dead fish.

"Oh, I couldn’t," she said, "at least I don’t think I could."

"A pity!" said Mrs. Scone.  "There’s a fortune in it for them as will do
it--a mint of money."

This gave Val pause.  Had she, just because she was a coward about
cutting things, any right to reject a scheme that had a mint of money in
it? Was it fair to Westenra?  After profound consideration, and much
guileful persuasion by Haidee, always eager for experiments, she decided
to at least give the idea a fair trial.  So, on an afternoon, twelve of
the finest cockerels were enthusiastically chased and captured by
Haidee, aided by one of Farmer Scone’s farm boys kindly lent for the
occasion, and put under a rabbit-hutch to await their fate.  A packing
case constituted the operating table and the instruments of torture lay
beside it--Val had sent for a little case from London (price thirty
shillings).  Mrs. Scone and Haidee held the first bird on the table, and
Val under the direction of the former, with white face and trembling
lips, made the first slit.  The cockerel at the prick of the instrument
screamed like a banshee, and Val’s unnerved hand fell to her side.

"Oh! how brutal it seems!" she faltered.

On the urgent advice of the others she attempted to finish the operation
(with her eyes closed), but the cockerel objected strenuously, blood
flew in every direction and heart-rending shrieks tore the air.  White
as ashes the operator let the scissors fall and staggered to the door.
Mrs. Scone, purring solicitously, supported her into the open air.

"Dear me, dear me!  What a good heart you have, to be sure, Mrs.

Later, leaving Val sitting outside very sick, she returned to the
operating theatre, and she, and Haidee and the farm hand between them
performed on the rest of the cockerels with such vigour that three of
them died the same night, and two more a few days later; four, after a
long convalescence, recovered, but stayed languid and appetiteless for
the remainder of their existence; while the rest, after a week or two
recovering their usual sprightly temperament, fought, pursued each
other, and ate up all the food as gaily as before.

That was the end of the caponising business. The great scheme for
supplying fat capons to the Jesuit College (not for Friday’s dinner, of
course, but as an article of nourishment proper to monasteries) never


Westenra in the meantime was writing grimly, and not often.  From his
letters Val gathered something of the strain of life at No. 700 West 68.
The place was paying better now under Miss Holland’s management, but, as
she had foreseen, he hated to live in such close communion with people
who were nothing to him.  After the first few weeks he had gone into
bachelor quarters once more, not his old ones in the city, but rooms
near the sanatorium.  Operations were coming in well, but there were big
gaps in his banking account made by the fateful year of experiment.  A
note of weariness often crept into his letters--and when he wrote:

"So glad you are happy--_at last_--with your fowls and rabbits.  Do not
let them absorb you altogether," it sounded to her very like a reproach.
Often he said, "I envy you--with the children about you."  But for the
most part he rejoiced that the conditions of her life should be so ideal
for health and happiness.  Sometimes to Haidee he would cry out

"How I would like to be with you and Bran in the windy fields, running
after the rabbits."

Like every man whose boyhood has been spent in the country, he loved
fields, and rabbits, and birds--all wood and hedge creatures; could
describe the eggs and whistle the note of every bird in the British
Isles.  Haidee wrote him long accounts of the life at Cliff Farm, and
when she began to make a collection of eggs by very carefully taking
only one from a nest of four or five, if ever she had any doubt on the
subject of parentage Westenra was never too busy to clear up the matter
by return mail.

He was obliged to economise narrowly, and the consciousness of this
drove Val into a state of frenzy if obliged to spend an unexpected sou.
But never having been trained in economy she had not the faintest notion
of how to practise it, except by doing without personal things herself.
No gowns; no new hats; no clothes at all, for herself. Yet somehow that
did not make any difference to the bills.  There was always the awful
food problem, and the boot problem, and the problem of how to make hens
lay without paying large grain bills, and a dozen other incidental

Like a good many people, Val had supposed that fowls fed themselves.
Her brain had pictured them actively pursuing worms, and insects, and
wild seeds during the intervals of laying.  She found instead that they
were like children in the matter of meals, always there on time.  At
dawn and eve, to say nothing of mid-day, she would find them standing
dolorously at the back door with eyes cocked expectantly at whoever came
out. Only after a good meal did they go forth to promenade, and then it
was to lay their eggs in some distant hedge where nobody could find

When the grain bills began to come in she realised that in the poultry
business there was an output, as well as an intake, and that all her
small profits were eaten up by the fowls.

                               CHAPTER X


    "Tout homme digne de ce nom
    A dans le coeur un Serpent jaune
    Installé comme sur un trône,
    Qui, s’il dit: ’Je veux!’ répond: ’Non!’"

As the months went by and the first exhaustion of body and spirit in
which she had left New York passed, Val’s imagination once more woke up,
and began to torment her nights, undoing the good effect of days spent
in healthy occupation.  In the soft, kind climate of Jersey her body
must soon have regained all its old nervous strength if the spirit had
not begun once more to chafe and wear its scabbard.  Had she been a
woman merely separated for a while from the man she loved with the
certain hope of swift reunion, how happy she could have been in the
thought of his joy in finding Bran so lovely and sturdy, Haidee strong
and handsome, herself recovered!  If only all had been well!  But all
was not well, and the realisation of this fact began to push serenity
from her mind, waking up old aches and hungers she had believed long
since extinguished--the longing to pack a knapsack and depart for the
horizon, to bathe her soul in the Lethe of a distant sunset, and arise
renewed and free of the cares and conventions of life.  Her feet tingled
to travel.  The sky-line began to pull at, and "play" her as if it had a
hook in her very vitals.  With every ship that disappeared over the brim
of the world went some shade of her inmost being.  The song of the
rolling stone sang in her veins:

    "I have a love for other lands,
    Which thro’ my home life dogs my way.
    My very soul scarce understands
      The love I have for other lands."

She got into the way of sitting on a rabbit-hutch staring before her at
the empty sea until she saw it no longer, nor the sea-gulls that wheeled
in circles, but only the wide veldt empty of all but a line of kops and
a great berg to be passed on the morrow--changing pictures round an
out-spanned waggon--oxen with heads bent, moving gradually onwards, the
tinkling of a cattle-bell, evening fires lighted--Haidee and Bran
bounding about examining new flowers, strange insects, the spoor of wild
creatures--Westenra with a gun--problems gone out of his eye, the rustle
of dollars forgotten--just a simple, primitive vagabond like herself.
Ah!  Vain day dreams!  Even while she dreamed she could feel the
wretched truth stirring at the back of her mind, waiting like some
horrible yellow viper with head reared ready to strike.

Sleep became rare with her.  However hard the day’s work, she never had
more than an hour or two of the dead slumber of exhaustion.  Then,
regular as an alarm, a little worry-bell would ring in her brain, dimly
at first, then more and more insistent and clamorous.  At last she would
be as widely awake as if some one had taken her by the shoulders and
shaken her out of sleep to hear some terrible and significant news.

"Wake up, Val Valdana, you have slept long enough!  There is the little
affair of Garrett Westenra’s happiness to consider--and Garrett
Westenra’s son--and Horace Valdana’s lease of life!  There are several
other affairs also, which in the daytime you are apt to consider of
minor importance, but which you can see clearly in these small still
hours are very important and pressing indeed--the affair of that grain
bill for which you have not the ready money!--those new shoes Haidee
requires!--the young cockerels eating off their heads--and how are you
going to raise more money for Valdana?"

Ah! that yellow viper that sits in the human heart and haunts the human
brain, crying _yes_ when we cry _no_, and _pleasure_ when we cry _duty_,
and _duty_ when we cry _pleasure_, and _wake_ when we cry _sleep_--Val
lay with it through the hours of many a weary night!

Only once had definite news come to her of Valdana, and that was about
two months after she had settled in Jersey: a letter from his mother in
answer to one Val had written telling of the _rencontre_ in New York
came through the medium of Val’s agent in London.  Old Mrs. Valdana’s
letter was dismal in tone and matter.

"Yes, Horace is indeed with us still, but not for long.  Can you not be
kind to him, Val?" was the cry from her mother-heart; but the same
instinct in Val hardened her to the cry.  She, too, was a mother, and in
most women the mother-love comes before wife-love and friend-love, and
even lover-love.  Nature thus decrees it, that life may go unfalteringly
on.  So Val could not be kind to Valdana because it meant being hurtful
to her son.  Besides, what was the kindness asked? Of any affection for
her he was utterly devoid, he desired nothing but money, which she did
not possess.  Her jewels were exhausted save a few rings, beautiful in
colour and form, but of no great value, and her "comfort necklace,"
which she now wore continually under her dress.  The best she could do
was to write asking Branker Preston to take her furniture and
possessions out of storage and put them up to auction.  But she directed
him to first ask her great friend, Harriott Kesteven to go through all
trunks and drawers on a destructive expedition, burning all old letters,
photographs, etc.  Mrs. Kesteven complied with this request but not
literally.  Instead of burning them she had all papers and photographs,
together with many personal things, precious though not intrinsic,
packed up and sent to Val.  There were sketches of places she had
visited, a few ivories, books, draperies, curios, and some specially
charming Japanese chintzes.  When Val opened packages, her eyes darkened
with tears.  It seemed so long since she had lived with these things
about her, and a heart comparatively care-free.  A moment later she
caught Bran to her breast.

"You are worth it all.  You are my ivory, my roses, my fine gold, the
best article I ever wrote. I have made my travels and my troubles into a
vase of living porphyry."

Haidee took the things and arranged them about the farm sitting-room,
transforming it.  But Val could not rest until she had sat down and
written to Westenra, telling him how the thing had occurred.


When, as the summer crept on, Westenra in his letters began to make
tentative remarks about his coming vacation, Val’s yellow viper was
roused to high effort.

There are certain dark days on the calendar of every life; days when
everything goes wrong, when things are lost and broken, mistaken words
said, fatal promises made.  One such day dawned for Val.  She arose
haggard from a sleepless night to attend to her household duties.  It
was a servantless interval, and there was the fire to make and breakfast
to prepare.  After waking Haidee, she put on an old dressing-gown, more
notable for its warm lining than for its youth and beauty, and hurried
down-stairs to feed the fowls who, "carking" bitterly at the back-door,
were liable to wake Bran before his time.  It affronted her furiously to
open the door upon Farmer Scone and one of his labourers passing down
her yard. He knew that it annoyed her to have him make this short cut
across her grounds to reach one of his pasture fields, but he had done
it repeatedly since she discovered his dishonesty in the marketing of
her eggs, and discontinued dealing with him.  If there had been a man at
Cliff Farm he would never have dreamed of thus invading private
property. But Val being alone he felt safe, and his mean nature rejoiced
in taking advantage of a woman, whom he had discovered did not like to
be rude to any one.

On this particular morning, however, neighbourly courtesy could no
longer keep down just wrath.  What infuriated Val was that she should be
seen in her disreputable old gown.  It always seemed like an affront put
upon Garrett if she allowed any one to see her looking unkempt and
untidy.  A still greater offence was that these common oafs, who saw and
judged only surface things, should so discover her.

"Good marning!" said Farmer Scone, affably familiar, but without raising
his hand to his cap. The dislike and contempt she had long felt for the
man rose in Val like a wave, and would no longer be contained.  She drew
herself up and, looking at him, as a queen might look at an insolent
groom, said cuttingly:

"Please understand, Scone, that I do not care to have my yard used as a
pathway.  You must in the future go round by the road."

Scone’s little pig-eyes regarded her with venom, then he laughed

"Great Galumps!"  Not quick-witted, he was obliged to grope in the
depths of his mind for a moment or two to see what he could produce to
hurt the pale, proud woman, who looked at him as if he were less than
dust.  The best he could drag up from those dim depths was a sneer at
her looks--she looked old that morning, poor Val, after her vigil with
the _serpent jaune_, and there are some mean natures that love to taunt
a woman with age.  He turned to his labourer.

"By Jarge, Tom!  The old woman got out of her bed wrong side this
marning," said he, and the two burst into senseless guffaws, and marched
on down the path.  A further delicate witticism connecting the "old
woman’s" temper with the absence of "an old man" added to a
grossly-expressed doubt as to whether she owned an "old man" at all,
came back across the field.  Val heard it and turned white.

"This is what I have come to!" she cried to herself in wrath and
unhappiness.  "A lonely, wretched woman whom pigs may insult! the victim
of every base-tongued wretch----!"

She turned back into the house, and sat down in utter dejection by the
kitchen table.

"They insult me because they see I have no husband to protect me," she
mused bitterly.  "I who have two!"

The sound of Bran crowing his little morning crow up-stairs helped her
to recover, and she made the fire and put the kettle on for breakfast.
A few moments later the postwoman knocked at the door, and handed in two
letters.  By the delicate irony of the god of black days the letters
were from her two husbands!  She sat down and began to laugh.

Far from being lonely and undesirable she was, it seemed, highly desired
by each.  Westenra’s letter was somewhat cold, it is true, but the
burden of it was quite clear: he intended sailing from New York within
six weeks, and wished her to make preparations to return with him.

Valdana, writing from Berlin, via his mother and Val’s agent, sent news
that was plainly meant to be inspiriting.  After a consultation held on
his case by German specialists he was able to announce that his
complaint was not cancer at all, but merely liver trouble induced by the
South African climate, and over-exertion (the last was his own invention
and took the place of the words "alcoholic excess" in the doctors’
diagnosis).  Moreover the specialists had given him every hope of a long
life if he would set out for a country with a bracing climate, and he
cheerfully handed on the hope to Val, as though it were some golden
gift.  The ultimate burden of his letter came to much the same thing as
Westenra’s.  He wanted her with him.  His mother was prepared to make a
special sacrifice of certain securities to give him a fresh start in
Canada.  Would Val give him a fresh start too, and come with him?

And this was the woman whom pigs insulted because she had no husband to
protect her!  She laughed convulsively, as one might laugh who felt the
first twinge of the rack, and when she had finished laughing she sat on
reading and dully re-reading, her hands pressed to her temples. Suddenly
a vibrating spasm of agony shot through her teeth and flew up like veins
of red-hot fluid into her cheeks and eyes.  Neuralgia, that torment of
the troubled, had for weeks been lurking behind its friend and ally the
yellow viper, and now chose this propitious moment to lay its scorpion
claws upon her.  All that day, and for many days after, she almost
forgot the terrible problem of her marriage in the agony of her nerves.


Val had never professed a religion or belonged to any faith.  She had
just been taught to say her prayers and put her trust in God; no forms;
no church.  She supposed she must have been baptised as a child, but
could not be sure.  Her mother was a Catholic who loved the smell of
incense, but never went to confession.

Thus she had grown up with an open mind for all faiths and no faith of
her own.  Yet, though she was not pious, religion had always attracted
her, and sometimes at rare moments she had seen the vision of a Light
beyond the world.  At other times all forms of religion she knew of
seemed a mere wearisome routine of duty and custom. But when in New York
she had come into touch with practised Catholicism she felt the strong
appeal of its Eternal beauty and the power of that wonderful faith to
direct and hold emotional impulsive natures like her own from casting
the soul after the heart.  And she recognised at once that it was the
only religion for her and for any child of hers who inherited her
nature.  So, at odd intervals in the rush and tear of the early days at
No. 700 she had been preparing herself for baptism by trying to get a
hold with her mind on the dogmas for which she cared nothing, but of
which a knowledge is essential to any one wishing to enter the Catholic

When her child was born there was an altar in her room with flowers on
it and a _veilleuse_ burning before the Sacred Heart, for it was the
month of June.  When Bran was baptised she desired greatly to enter the
church with him, but her instruction was not complete, and her reception
had been put off from day to day.  Then came Westenra’s sickness and
Valdana’s resurrection, putting an end to all thoughts of the kind.  She
had something to hide, and those who have such things to hide cannot
enter the Catholic Church.  Westenra supposed she had changed her mind,
and thought none the better of her for it.

As a matter of fact she had at that juncture felt more need than ever
for the help of religion in her life.  She longed for the advice of
grave good men.

And now again she felt that longing.  Her own _will_ to do right did not
seem enough; and indeed reflect and analyse as she would she could not
decide what was the right thing to do.  What was it?  Her sick brain put
the question over and over again.  Was it right to go back to Valdana?
If so, _why_ was it right when her heart and soul and every instinct in
her fought against such a verdict? It could not be right to return.
Valdana deserved nothing of her, had deserted her and her child, had
done without her for years, had exploited her for the money she made,
was a coward and a brute with whom association could only bring
degradation. To go back to him would be to desert her child, for she
could never let Bran come within his radius.

Ought she then to desert her child--her contribution to the world, her
link in the golden chain of generations, her one word in the great
eternal Sonnet?

Never!  Though Westenra might be a devoted father Bran would never,
without a mother, grow up to be the man she hoped.  No little child can
spare its mother,--though many, alas! by the hard decree of death, and
oftener the cruel decisions of life, have to do so.  There is something
a mother gives a child which no one else in the whole wide world can
give.  Val had a curious belief too that just as no woman possessed a
soul except through the man she loved and the child she passed on, so no
son ever came to the full possession of his soul except through the love
of a mother.  From what strange fields of mental and physical suffering
she had garnered those beliefs it would be difficult to determine, but
they sat fast in her heart and she lived and breathed by them.  Emerson
seemed to her to share something of the belief when he wrote: "In my
dealing with my child my Latin and Greek accomplishments and my money
stand me nothing; but as much as I have of soul avails."

Apart from that she was sure that no boy ever yet came to the physical
perfection his babyhood promised without a mother to brood and guard
over his growing years.  Who else but a mother will compute the effect
of an extra blanket on a little sweating body, or the lack of one in
winter? Will study the heart and mind and nerves and stomach of a child
all through that period when each year of full content and harmony and
health assures five years of strength and well-being later on?

Never, never could she leave Bran.  Ought she then to tell Westenra?
What a relief it would be to share the dreadful truth, have his support
to face it.  Half the terror of the situation was in the attitude she
was obliged to assume towards him. Yet a kind of mother-love for him
too--that crooning, protective mother-love that every woman feels for a
beloved man cried out against this solution.  She did not want him to
suffer.  She did not want to wound and shame him as he would be wounded
and shamed if he found himself not married to her, and his son
illegitimate.  She longed to save him from that pain.  But now she saw
plainly that if Valdana were recovering Westenra would have to know.  He
could not be kept for ever in the dark, suffering through her enigmatic
coldness.  Ah!  What misery was before them all; for Garrett wifeless
and childless; for Bran fatherless; for herself lonely and separated
from the man she loved.

For Valdana she felt no pity, for she knew that if he suffered it would
be only through his external senses, never through his heart.  There was
no susceptivity, in that callous heart for any but himself.

It came into her head once or twice that she would throw morality to the
winds, conceal the truth from Westenra for ever, or at least until she
was found out, and returning to America get all the joy she could out of
life with him and her son. How desirable _now_ looked the vision of life
at 700 West 68!---beautiful as some far coral island with waving palms
and blue lagoons to the eyes of a drowning sailor!  Yes, almost she
could make her mind up to do this thing; to accept the remote chance of
being found out, to embrace love and life with both arms; to "take the
Cash and let the Credit go."

But--_she could not_.  Morality sprang up where she denied it.  Not the
morality of family training nor church teaching, but of years of
instinctive choice between right and wrong, and attention to that still,
small voice whose judgment is so unfailingly sure.  It had nothing to do
with convention, this decision.  She had no sense at all of the power of
infallibility of social laws.  It was just the law of the soul that
forbade it.  Even had she not possessed this morality of the soul, there
was one other thing that would have held her back.  Ever since Bran came
to her she had hugged to her heart a little phrase that cut into her
while she pressed it there.

"No man can be truly great who had not a great mother."

And great mothers are made by great sacrifice. Not that she aspired to
be anything within a hundred miles of greatness.  How unlucky Bran had
been in his choice of a mother only she, conscious of her defects and
failings, could know. But from the first she had sworn to give him every
chance that sacrifice of herself could bestow. And here was the time for
her to make good the resolution.

                               CHAPTER XI

                          A SHIP ON THE ROCKS

"Love is not always two Souls picking flowers."--MASEFIELD.

These decisions did not prevent her from spending days and nights in an
agony of mental and physical pain.  Neuralgia racked her until she
thought she must go mad.  She became weak and haggard from want of
sleep.  A longing for veronal seized her.  Only, she was afraid of
veronal.  In the past it had got a hold on her that nothing but
Westenra’s influence could have broken, and vaguely she knew that one
cannot break twice from the same enemy.  Westenra’s power might not be
so overwhelming next time, the hold of the drug would be stronger.
Veronal, then, was forbidden; but she had no such feeling about alcohol.
She had given up drinking spirits and wine, not because it had any
temptation for her, but because Westenra hated women to drink. She was
not afraid of the power of brandy over her. And so one day, in a
delirium of pain and misery, she sent out the little servant for a
bottle of brandy.

Ah! what rapturous repose for a few hours! ... what glorious oblivion
from pain ... what a lifting of leaden clouds and rose-tinting of the
horizon with hope!  When she felt the effect of a strong dose of brandy
going off and the scorpion claws beginning to tear at her eyes and
temples once more she took another dose. As soon as one bottle of brandy
was finished she sent for another.  For weeks she forgot in this way
both mental and physical trouble, drowning her pain by day and sleeping
heavily by night. Then one morning in a blinding flash she realised what
she was doing.  Going into the pantry she saw four empty bottles
standing there.  She had seen them before, but now she _recognised_
them, and it was she who in one week had emptied them!

"I am taking to drink!" she cried, and the phrase heard so often in jest
amongst journalists took unto itself a new and awful significance that
made her recoil horror-stricken before the damning evidence.  Two full
bottles stood by the empty ones.  She had blindly ordered several
bottles at once in a panic of fear that pain might come upon her
sometime and find her unprepared. Even now the thirsty beast in her was
raising its head and crying out for what was at once tonic and narcotic.
And she was at one with the beast in its desire.  She wanted the brandy,
madly desired it for its own sake, longed to feel it warm in her body
sending up a glow of comfort and well-being, soothing her pains with
velvety hands, dimming her vision of the truth with rosy-pink veils of
hope, filling her heart with the careless philosophy of the
drinker--that everything turns out well in the end, and "all is for the
best in the best of all possible worlds."  Away with dull care and pain!
Her hand was already on the bottle, when in her mind, like a little
bright sword with which to fight an enemy, a thought beautifully clothed
in words presented itself:

"No man can be great who has not a great mother."

It is such phrases as these that help make the world’s history.  It is
thus that beautiful thoughts which have been treasured and loved reward
and befriend in times of stress.  Val killed her desire for drink with
the weapon a writer had forged for her many years before, and that she
herself had brightened ready for use.

In a moment she had gathered up all the bottles, empty and full, thrust
them into a bag, and was carrying them out of the house.  There was no
one about.  Haidee was at school; the little maid had carried Bran down
the fields.  She hurried with her burden to a deep dell that lay in the
farm grounds--a dell with trees growing round it, and grassy slopes full
of primroses and early violets. At the bottom grew a mass of nettles and
long rank grass, and into this she flung the bottles in a heap, and
hurried away from the sound of the liquid bubbling over the broken glass
and the strong spirity scent that rose amongst the weeds.

That was over; a leaf turned; a battle won!

Some terrible days came later.  No vice puts in its insidious roots more
deeply than the drink vice, or more strongly resents being torn from its
chosen place.  It clings and burns and aches, leaving scars, as ivy
leaves scars on the tree from which it is dragged away.  But it was no
old deep-seated vice with Val, and victory was to her, though when the
battle was over she looked less like victory than defeat.  In the end
she determined to see a doctor in St. Helier and get a tonic that would
pull her together before Westenra came home--an event that might occur
any time within the next six weeks.

One afternoon, then, on a day that Haidee had a holiday and could keep
an eye on Bran and the little maid, Val walked down to the station and
took a train for town.  The way was long, and she in no great trim for
walking.  Added to this unusual effort was a train journey and a weary
hunt for the house of the doctor whose address she had forgotten to
bring with her.  All these things were responsible for the exhaustion
which caused her, after the doctor had examined and prescribed for her,
to faint quietly in her chair. When she regained consciousness she was
lying down in a shaded room, with the burning taste of brandy in her
mouth and the odour of it all about her--they had spilt it on her gown
whilst forcing it between her lips.

"What is it?  Where am I?" she cried.

"All right; there’s nothing very wrong ... you are only a little run
down," the doctor soothed her, and the doctor’s wife, standing by with
sympathetic eyes, said gently: "You must rest a little while, and then
have a cab to go home.  You are thoroughly overtired."

They insisted on her taking a cab, but she dismissed it at the station,
and, after the railway journey, once more made the long walk across the
fields.  When she reached home at last, very faint and weary, the night
had fallen, but the little house lighted up, and as she came up the path
she could hear Haidee’s laugh ringing out, and Bran’s merry crow.  How
happy they were, bless them!

As she reached the door something new and unaccustomed came out to meet
her, some subtle difference in the atmosphere, the tone of the
children’s voices, and in a flash she knew the truth. Westenra had
arrived during her absence!

He was sitting in the big double easy-chair, with Haidee squeezed beside
him and Bran in his arms. The room was full of a kind of warm happiness.

"Oh, Joe!" she cried, and running forward, forgot Valdana, forgot
everything but her joy in seeing him again, threw herself upon the
little group and kissed them all alternately, wildly, like a mad

"Yes, here I am," said Westenra, laughing, and the moment she heard his
voice she knew there was something wrong.  She had no idea of the strong
odour of brandy she had brought into the little room with her, and she
did not know until later what had happened during the afternoon. She
only realised, with her quick and sure intuition, that Westenra was even
more estranged from her than when they had parted in New York.  There
was a distance in his manner for which his last letter had hardly
prepared her.

After the ice-cold misery of the first few moments she was dully
thankful for his attitude.  It was for the best.  If he had ceased to
care for her, so much the better for him: so much the less pain to be
suffered in separation.  She sat down and began to talk mechanically,
eliciting details of his journey.  It appeared he had arrived in the
Island that morning.  The steamer docked very late on account of fog.
He had just missed a train, and had been obliged to wait for an hour at
the station, and then it had taken him a considerable time to find the
farm.  He had lost his way and come round by an old unused route, which
accounted for the fact of his missing Val, for he had arrived only a few
moments after her departure. Haidee had shown him everything.  They had
been over the poultry houses, fed the rabbits, ridden the pony, and let
the dogs loose to hunt the rats----

At this juncture of the narrative Haidee turned red, and gave a swift
embarrassed glance at Westenra.  He, however, stared steadily before
him, a peculiar steely quality in his stare.  Val saw Haidee’s glance,
and his strange look, but knew the meaning of neither, and was too
unhappy to speculate on the subject.

"He ’s had a tub, and I ’ve fixed up his things in the spare room," said
Haidee presently.

"You seem to have got along very well without me," was all Val could
say, with a pale smile.  "I suppose I had better see about dinner now."

A strange evening was passed.  Westenra could not conceal his joy at
being with the children once more, but if he felt any at seeing Val he
concealed it well under a gay cold manner.  She on her side felt all her
happiness swallowed up in dismay. Love was frozen in her heart.

After supper Bran was bathed before the bedroom fire and put to bed.  He
had to be admired first, and parade naked across the hearth-rug to show
all his little muscles.  He was able to walk well now, and was as
perfect as only baby children can be before all their soft puppy-dog
roundness turns to length.  His parents devoured him with their eyes,
forgetting their miserable problems for awhile in the joy of so
beautiful a possession.

"I tell you this fellow is out to make new figures at the Olympics,"
said Westenra, who had all an Irishman’s madness for athletics.  "This
is a champion!"

At last the children were in bed, the house silent.  Garry and Val sat
alone by the sitting-room fire, constrained and far apart.

"They look blooming," he said.  "This place suits them better than New
York apparently."

(Ah! in his joy at seeing the children blooming he had not noticed her
haggard face!  Symptoms that in others would have aroused his
professional interest in her went unnoticed, or so it seemed. She
remembered that she had once heard a doctor’s wife quote rather

"Shoemakers’ children have broken boots; doctors’ wives never get

"Then you will not mind our going on living here, Joe--for awhile?" she
said a little wearily.

"Do you wish it?"  She did not answer at once. He looked at her gravely
with something pitiful in his glance.

"The children are in great trim ... but you?  I don’t think it is any
good to you to live like this."

(He _had_ noticed, then!  It had not escaped his keen eye that she was
grown old and lined! Should she tell him about her neuralgia and the
terrible time she had gone through with her nerves? But how sick he must
be of women with nerves.... New York was full of them .... he had just
come on holiday--better wait!)

"Oh, I am all right, Garrett," she said hastily. "A little neuralgic at


"But it is nothing ... nothing."

"I don’t think you should go on living here.  The idea was for you to
get strong ... instead you have--" he hesitated, and looked at her
gravely with indictment in his glance--"given way to nerves."

She glanced at him guiltily.  It almost seemed to her that he had been
going to say "given way to drink!"  That he knew something of her
struggle with the brandy--yet how could he?

"Oh, _nerves_!" she said, and laughed nervously.

"I think the only thing to be done," he continued steadily, "is for you
to come back with me to New York."

"Oh, Garrett! ... I don’t think....  I can’t do that," she stammered

"You mean you don’t want to?"

"It is not a matter of wanting."

He stood up then, stern-faced.

"Don’t beat about the bush.  This thing has got to be settled once and
for all.  Will or will you not?"

"I can’t, Joe."  She looked at him with haunted eyes.

"You can’t break loose?"

"Break loose?  What do you mean?"

"Never mind ... never mind ... poor Val!"  Sternness had gone from him.
"Well, that is settled, then--I go back without you."  He got up heavily
and turned away from the fire.

"I ’m dead-beat and must get rest, Val.  Haidee has fixed me up very
well in her nice little room; she told me you always meant me to have

He turned and looked at her, in his eyes a sudden bitterness and anger
born of his longing to take into his arms and crush to him this woman
who exiled him from her heart.

"Do you think it is quite fair, Val?  Do you think you are playing the

She looked at him with wistful, harried eyes.

"I am trying to, Joe--I----"

What could she say?  Was this the moment to stab him with the truth?
While she hesitated wretchedly, he turned away again, walking round the
room, looking fiercely at the pictures and chintzes he knew had belonged
to her past life.

"Haidee is growing into a nice girl," he said abruptly, switching his
mind from a subject that maddened him.

Val, by the fire struggling with her misery and half-formed resolution,
looked at him vaguely for a moment.  Ah! he was speaking of
Haidee--while she was torturing herself with the thought that he wanted
her as she wanted him!

"Good-night!" he said harshly, and went his way up-stairs, without
attempting to kiss her.  She crouched down by the dying fire, and
covered her face with her hands.  Her heart was in great pain: the great
pain of a little child.  Footsteps overhead told her that he went first
to her bedroom to take a last glimpse of Bran, and low murmurs betrayed
the fact that Haidee was not yet asleep.  At last his light, firm tread
crossed the floor once more, then came the sound of his closing door.

Another hour must have passed when Val, still sitting by the fire, was
startled to hear the patter of feet on the bare oak stairs, then to find
a slim night-gowned figure beside her.


"I wanted to tell you something, Val, and was afraid I ’d be asleep
before you came up."

"What is it?"

"Garry found all your empty brandy bottles in the dell; we were hunting
the rats there with Billy and King."  Her big brown eyes rested
commiseratingly on Val.  It was evident she felt guilty for having led
Westenra to the dell, her very look of guilt had in it something damning
to the poor pale culprit sitting there with a sick heart, no trace on
her of the victory she had achieved two weeks ago.  She had believed her
sin as secret as her victory over it.  Yet here it rose up against her
in Haidee’s eyes.  The child knew nothing of the victory--only of the
vice, though Val had never felt herself observed.  And now Garry knew!
That was the reason then of their embarrassed looks and averted eyes!

"Of course he didn’t say anything.  He pretended he did n’t notice even.
But you should have seen his face."  She gazed dismally at Val. It was
as though they had offended God.  "And you smelt awfully of brandy when
you came in--you do still."

"Go to bed, Haidee," said Val at last, sick with humiliation.  She had
meant to tell of the brandy episode some day, in some dear moment when
all was clear between them once more.  Now, through being accidentally
betrayed, the incident had assumed a horrible aspect.  She was afraid to
think of what his thoughts on the subject must be. She longed to tell
him all.  To run up-stairs and cry at his door: "I didn’t drink it all,
Garry; two of the bottles were full when I threw them away."  How silly
and puerile that would sound. He would, perhaps, see nothing in her
action but the terror of a confirmed drinker found out, might imagine
that he had married a secret drunkard! She sat twisting her hands in an
agony of misery. How could she tell him?  What was the good? How dared
she even kiss him as she had done when she came in?  Valdana was
alive--she was not even Joe’s wife--what to do--what to do? ... How
brutal life was!

Suddenly she fell to communing with her dead--those who had loved and
believed in her and knew that however much she had failed in the heavy
trials and afflictions of the last year, at least she had not been
actuated by meanness or mere self-indulgence.  _They_ knew her as she
used to be--fearless and sure of her actions--before love had laid bonds
on her spirit, and sorrow and failure crushed her down.  They
understood, and would not altogether condemn.  At last, curiously
strengthened, she rose and went up-stairs, the firm purpose in her heart
of going to Westenra to tell him everything.

She paused for a moment at his door--doubtless he was sleeping,
dead-beat as he said.  But that could not be helped.  It was more
important even than his sleep that all should be put right between them.
She owed it to herself as well as to him.  Softly she turned the handle
of the door, but it did not open to her touch.  Westenra had guarded
himself against invasion.  It was locked.


At breakfast the next morning he announced that he was due in London in
two days’ time to deliver some lectures at one of the hospitals. After
that he must make a visit to Ireland on a matter concerning some family
property.  He added vaguely that he should probably come back again to
Jersey before very long, but Val took that for what it was--a bone
thrown to Haidee, whose face had visibly lengthened and darkened on
hearing this horrible news.  Bran, smiling in his mother’s arms, looked
on affably--his father’s comings and goings meant little to him as yet,
so long as he had Val’s soft cheek to rub his own against.  She was very
pale, but extraordinarily composed, and made no comment on his plans.
She had withdrawn herself into some remote and distant land of her
own--a land where no birds sang, nor flowers grew!  After breakfast she
left the others, and went about her household duties. A conference in
the garden between Westenra and Haidee resulted in a resolution to walk
down to St. Aubin’s and hire bicycles for a day’s outing. Haidee was
strong as a Basuto pony, and Westenra loved nothing better than to be
out in the open air. The bicycling is hilly in Jersey, and the two came
home tired out in the evening.  Haidee announced that they had done
their side of the Island from Corbières to Plemmont Caves, and intended
next day to visit Bouley Bay, Archirondelle, and the famous breakwater
that cost half a million pounds and is of no more use than a load of
rotten hay.

After the usual bath parade, at which Bran presided, Val once more had
the fireside and her thoughts to herself.  Haidee and Westenra, tired
out, were glad to seek their beds.

The next day they started early.  While Val was cutting sandwiches for
them, Westenra half suggested that she should come too; but she smiled
quite naturally, and said that even if there were any one to stay with
Bran, it was so long since she had cycled she would only be a drag to
them. "But I hope you will not be so tired to-night, Garrett," she
finished quietly.  "I want to have a little talk with you after dinner."

"Very well," he answered, looking at her curiously.  He could not
pretend to begin to understand her, or what she meant or wanted.  He
only knew that he, too, had something to say before he left Jersey the
next day.  Though outwardly he was composed, and in the company of
Haidee even gay, affecting great interest in their excursions, his heart
was heavy as a stone in him, and he was brooding over his wrongs as only
an Irishman can. As it happened, rain began to fall heavily after lunch,
and somewhat early in the afternoon the two cyclists returned wet and
cross.  Westenra bathed, and immediately began to pack his things for
departure by the next morning’s boat.  The rest of the afternoon was
spent with the children.

The sky had cleared by evening, and when after dinner Val and Westenra
walked across the fields towards the cliff in the pale, clear, evening
light, they could see the tide furling and unfurling its filmy laces of
froth on St. Brelade’s beach.

Though she had come out with a set purpose she found it hard to begin
what she had to say.  For all her remote manner and outward calm, her
heart, throbbing full, bounded in her breast and beat in her throat
until she felt suffocating.  It was Westenra who spoke at last very
gently, but with something of a requiem note in his words.

"So you see our love was not strong enough after all to weather the
storms, Val!"

"Mine was ... mine is," her heart cried out, but she looked at him
dully.  She knew the futility of such words now.  It was his own dead
love he was keening, not hers.

"Our ship of dreams has gone to pieces."

"No," burst from her lips almost against her will.

"Yes, Val," his gentle tone became stern. "Face the facts."

They had seated themselves on some rocks near the edge of the cliff.
Nothing broke the peace of the evening but the swirr and swish of the
gentle tide on the beach below.

"You promised to burn your boats ... never to go back to old habits and
possessions ... I find you with your old possessions about you----"

"Those pictures and chintzes?  I wrote and told you how they came," she
interrupted.  "They can be burnt for all they are to me."

He moved his hand with a desperate gesture.

"That is nothing to the other.  Can you deny that you have returned to
one at least of your old habits?"

"Oh!" she cried, and sat up like one who has been struck.  But his heart
was full of fury, outraged hopes, and disappointment.  He could not
measure his words because she cried out.

"It was not your boats you burned, but my ship--my ship of dreams!"

He went further, he accused her of breaking his shrine, of succumbing to
a vice that he detested and despised with all his soul.  He said she had
betrayed his love, and destroyed that quality in it which is essential
and eternal.

"One _must_ look up," he said, and looked down on her as she sat there,
her face covered with her hands, very still under the torrent of fierce
and cruel words that burst from him in the bitterness of outraged love
and pride.  Like all reserved people when driven into breaking silence
he said too much.  Afterwards there was a long silence.  A curlew flying
inland wailed faintly like a dying thing.

"I don’t see what is before us," he muttered. "Everything is finished."

And at last she spoke--very quietly.

"Yes, everything is finished of our life together. But each of us is
free to begin again."

"Free!" he echoed ironically, thinking of the mystical fatalistic
threads that had bound and tangled them together from the first.  "You
and I will never be free of each other."

"Oh, yes--we are already.  Listen!  I want to tell you something that I
ought to have told you long ago, only I was afraid of ... Ah! never mind
of what I was afraid.  But now that it is as you have said all over and
finished, now that I see very well that not only do you not love me, but
that you never have loved me and want nothing so much as to be free of
me, I will tell it you--" and she added fiercely, "with pleasure."

"Tell ahead," he said drearily.

"I am not your wife, and never have been. Horace Valdana is alive--has
never been dead!"

In the solemn mute moments that followed the curlew wailed again.

"What are you saying?" muttered Westenra, hoarsely.  He had risen to his

Then Val began to laugh, not hysterically, but just soft light-hearted
laughter.  She really felt light-hearted at that moment.  It was as
though something very, very heavy had been lifted from her shoulders,
and she could stand up straight at last.

"It can’t be true!"  He was muttering like a man stunned.  "How long
have you known?"

"Oh, what does that matter!" she said.  "It is _true_--that is all that
concerns you."  She reflected a moment.  "But of course my mere word is
of no value to you ... I have proofs in the house ... letters from him
asking me to go to Canada with him."  She began to laugh again.

"Good God!" muttered Westenra still dazed. "And Bran?"

That sobered her, drying the strange laughter on her lips and in her

"Ah, Bran! ... Yes.  My Brannie!" she said softly, her voice in those
few low-spoken words expressing all that the woman voice can express of
pity, sorrow, and love.  It was Bran who would be the victim--Bran who
would go fatherless, homeless, nameless--a vagabond like his mother with
restless heart and wandering feet!

"He is mine," said Westenra suddenly.

"No, mine," she answered swiftly.  They stood staring at each other like
two duellists.  He lost sight of all she had been to him--of all that
she must have suffered.  Dazed and horror-struck he only felt that his
world was moving away from under his feet, and she was trying to rob him
of the last hold, the most dear thing he had ever possessed.

"He is mine too ... I believe by law I could get him."

"Law!  Have n’t you found out yet that I am lawless?"  She came close to
him, staring into his eyes, a mocking light in her own.  "You forget
that I am the woman with no soul, no morals, and no roots, the careless
vagabond whom you feared Haidee to come into contact with ... whom you
apologised to your dead mother for having married...."

"Val, you are mad!" he said amazed, white to the lips.  But she only
laughed a little clanking laugh, and her voice that had so often sounded
in his ears like the wild far music of his own land was hard now as iron
on iron.

"Go your ways, my dear Garrett Westenra. You are free of the woman who
burnt your ship!"

                              CHAPTER XII

                          CHILDREN OF ISHMAEL

    "Life tests a plough in meadows made of stones,
    Love takes a toll of spirit, mind, and bones."

Raging he went from English shores. Raging, broken-hearted, more lonely
than ever in his life before.  Looking backwards to that voyage on which
he and Val had first met, he realised that his loneliness then was peace
and contentment compared with what he now felt.  He had known what it
was to share life right down to the core with another human being, and
when that has once been, solitude redoubles its sting.  A fantastic
creature like Val, however uncomfortable she made life, could not be
lost out of it without leaving a big, aching gap.

Yet, there he was on his way back to America, while in far Jersey Val
sat on her rabbit-hutch staring at the sea with blind eyes, Bran playing
unheeded at her knees, in her ears the faint, melancholy cry of the

After their wretched parting on St. Brelade’s Cliffs, Westenra had paced
the beach all night. When he reached the farm dawn brightened the sky,
but none of the freshness of morning was in his drawn face.  Haidee and
Val were up, the fire made, breakfast ready.  They seemed to take it for
granted that he still meant to leave by that morning’s boat for England,
and indeed he had decided that it was the only thing to do.  It would
give him time to review the miserable situation and look for a way out
of it.  But before he went he encompassed a further interview with Val,
though he got little of it but pain.  She was in that subtle way of hers
_éloignée_ from him once more, had put immeasurable distance between

"I want you to tell me more of this," he said drearily.  "I must have
details to go on before I can do anything to right the matter."

"You cannot right it," she answered.  "It must be left as it is."

"What do you mean?"

"It must never come out that Horace Valdana is alive.  One cannot so
disgrace England."

Briefly she related the facts as far as she knew them, and he saw that
she was right.  Impossible to disgrace a country to right a private
affair--even if the country were one you hated.  But what a situation!
There seemed to him to be no way out of it.  Val, for a deep reason of
her own, withheld from him the fact of Valdana’s broken health. She
wished him to feel absolutely free of her.  She kept repeating that,
with sardonic inflexible eyes.

"You see, you are free!  What more do you ask?"

He asked much more, but with that mocking smile on her pale lips he
would not tell her so.

"I want my son," he said coldly.

"_My_ son," she answered, and that found them once more at the pitch at
which they had parted the night before, reason withdrawn, cold fury in
its place.  Only by a great effort had he controlled himself.

"I leave him with you, in trust."

"Because you must," she answered, eyes flickering with bitter triumph.
"But will you not take Haidee before ill comes to her?"

He was helpless before the smile that writhed upon her stiff lips.  What
did she mean by these gibes concerning Haidee and his dead mother, which
she flung at him like javelins?  How had she read those secrets of his
soul that he had never revealed to any one, scarcely acknowledged to
himself?  Had she with her queer almost clairvoyant instinct known all
along and mocked and disdained him in her heart from the first?  If he
thought of her tenderness to Bran and to himself when he lay ill, her
comradeship, her valiant gaiety, he could not believe it.  When he
looked at her mocking disdainful eyes he could believe anything.

"No; I leave Haidee in trust with you too," he said, then had been
obliged to kiss the children hurriedly, and go on his way, or lose the

In spite of his original intention to do so he did not return to Jersey
before sailing to America. After black nights of reflection he saw that
there was nothing to be gained by facing Val again in the mood that
possessed her.  The moment they looked into each other’s eyes cold
reason would once more withdraw from them and the fury of wounded love
take its place.  It was better to let Time do its work upon their
trouble.  So he sailed for America without seeing her or the children
again, though it hurt him deeply to do it.  And his days and nights upon
the ship were haunted by the face of the woman in grey.  Never since the
voyage on the _Bavaric_ had he dreamed that dream, but now never a night
came without it.  Towards the last part of the voyage, when calm had
come to him, he wrote her a letter in which he hid the love that still
ached in him, but tried to revive a little the old understanding
comradeship they had shared.

But there was too much of compassion in that letter, and Val was sick of
his compassion.  Women _can_ get sick of compassion when it leaves no
room for self-respect.


She stayed on in Jersey not because he asked her but because she must.
One would call it existing rather than living as far as she was
concerned. She felt as though her brain were dead and she had only her
body left, that body which, however glad she would be to lay it down,
she must conserve and take care of for the sake of Bran.  For Haidee,
too, she had a kind of responsible mother-feeling, though Haidee never
encouraged tenderness in any one.  But the case of Bran was different;
the child of two such nervous people could not be otherwise than
nervously organised, though of fine build and stamina, and Val knew that
under any care but hers he would probably grow up a weakling.  No, she
must not die!  But she tried to let her mind do so for a while, so that
she might suffer less. She essayed to turn herself into a kind of
vegetable; read nothing, talked to no one but the children, indulged in
no kind of mental occupation.  Only she worked out in the open as much
as possible, with her nervous incapable hands, and at least she got a
beautiful flower garden together.

She never saw or spoke to any one but the children.  When Haidee got
back from school they would all work together in the garden or clean out
the stable, or make bran mashes for the pony colic, or run the dogs, and
watch the chickens and rabbits in the open, though enthusiasm for this
last occupation was distinctly on the wane.  The only things any of them
cared for now were the bees and the flowers.  They did not make money
out of these, but then the fowls did not make money either, only
pretended to until the grain bill came in.

Bran was always to be found in the vicinity of the beehives, and at
first Val had been terrified, but later she came to believe him one of
the "band of little brothers" whom bees do not sting.  Haidee could take
no liberties with the strange, wise insects, and had a holy fear of
them, but they were Bran’s passionate loves.

As for eggs and chickens, and fat hens that would no longer lay, they
were all sick of them as articles of diet.  Haidee, who in New York days
was used to attack with relish three city eggs of assorted flavours
mixed in a tumbler, now turned away in weariness and disgust from the
brown-shelled ones fresh from the nest.

And the rabbits were a thorn in the flesh, and a weariness to the sole
of the foot!  Eternally they were killed by stoats, eaten by rats,
stolen, or else dug their way out from under the runs and fled for the
open.  If these modes of escape all failed, Bran, in his small way,
would do what he could for them.  When he came toddling indoors to
declare with an effulgent smile his love for Haidee she would start up

"Yes, I know what _that_ means.  You’ve let the rabbits out.  You always
have when you love me.  Have you, Bran?"

"Well, by aksdent, Haidee...."

"Oh, I know your aksdents...."

With blank faces she and Val would rush from the house and scoot after
the scurrying rabbits. The latter usually got the best of the game and
achieved liberty.

The truth had to be faced that there was no money to be made out of the
farm.  High hopes of a fortune had long since fallen to the dust.
Chickens and rabbits are very charming to watch at their antics in the
sunshine, but depending upon them for a living, unless you are an expert
poultry farmer, is waste of time.  Val realised it at last, and that
other ways and means for obtaining money must be reflected upon.  She
had no intention of accepting another rap of Westenra’s for either her
own or Bran’s support.  So one day she sat down and wrote to Branker
Preston, asking him if he could find an opening for some "Wanderfoot"

"I cannot travel," she wrote, "but I have a good store of unused
material in the cupboards of my mind, and I need money."  Preston
answered that he would not be long in finding a demand for anything she
could supply.  When, however, the demand came she found herself
curiously unable to cope with it.  The task of sitting down to write
newspaper articles after a lapse of more than two years into domesticity
was not an easy one.  As love and maternity had absorbed her mother’s
art, so in a smaller degree the same things had encroached upon Val’s
gift.  Added to which was a period of unbroken intercourse with chickens
and rabbits, enlivened only by digging in the garden or running the pony
up and down when he got colic. Such occupations are excellent for the
health, and may even induce a good working philosophy, but they do not
make the intellect to scintillate like the stars, nor bestow distinction
upon that elusive quality in writing which is known as style.  She found
that when she tried to think connectedly on abstract subjects things
slithered out of her mind and left a headache behind.  After a few days,
in which her brain seemed to act in delirium, and the written results
read to her like the ravings of a suddenly liberated lunatic, she threw
down her pen in despair.

"It is this brute of an island!  I can never write here," she cried
desperately.  She had suffered too much there, and her instinct was
always to flee from places where sorrow had smitten her, to save her
soul alive before it was injured beyond aid. Such places seemed to have
a power for evil over her.  Moreover her feet had long ached to be gone
from the small, cramped island.  It had served its purpose.  The
children were healthy and strong, her own body recuperated.  Now that
she must take up her pen once more, plainly it was time to pull stakes.
There was no inspiration for her in Jersey.

For another thing, she began to be afraid that if she remained much
longer she might become a serious criminal; that is to say, one upon
whom the law would lay hands.  It was Farmer Scone who helped her to
this conclusion and her final decision to go.

For months he had been making himself unpleasant--a long series of petty
vexations and systemised annoyance--stoning her fowls, complaining to
the police that her dogs worried his cows, letting his cattle break down
her hedges, and encouraging his labourers to annoy Haidee by sniggering
over the hedge when she was busy with the pony.  Added to these things
he had once more started walking through her grounds by the old disputed
"right of way" past the back door.

One morning she and Haidee, just going out to fire at some crows in the
fruit garden, ran into him and his grinning labourer carrying their
scythes to a far hayfield.  Val called him back, and speaking very
self-controlledly told him that it must be understood, once and for all,
that she would not permit this trespassing.

"Great Galumps!" he responded as usual, "and what will you do to me?  Is
it your husband from America, who only comes to see you for one day a
year, that ’ll be punching my head?"

"No," said Val, white to the lips, and raising her rook-rifle.  "It is I
that will be putting a hole through your large and very unsightly

"Yes, do, Val, _do_.  Take a pot-shot at him--give him one in the
tummy!" urged Haidee ecstatically.  "Shall I get my revolver too?"

She hopped up-stairs, and Farmer Scone moved on at the double-quick,
rather alarmed, for he did not at all like the look in Val’s eyes, and
to be sure no one knew what such creatures might do!  He half determined
to go down to the court-house at once and, complaining of menaces, "have
the law on them," but reflected in time that as he was not "Jersey-born"
he might not get his case, while running a possible risk of being fined
for trespassing.  He decided that his system of petty annoyance was the

In the meantime Val, too, was deciding something.  On going into the
house she met Haidee coming out, gaily priming her revolver.

"Put it away, Haidee," she said wearily. "Don’t you understand I only
said that in my rage with the insolent brute.  You must never shoot at
people.  Awful trouble might come of it."

Haidee’s face darkened sulkily.

"One can’t do anything in this rotten island," she complained.

"We can get out of it," said Val, and Haidee brightened.

"Where would we go?"

"Oh, I don’t know ... anywhere ... anywhere where we ’ll never see a
rabbit or a fowl again.  I think I shall go mad if I stay among them
another day."

"Me too--I’m sick of the beasts.  Look at that cock-eyed eagle staring
at us.  Sh--sh, you brutes!"

"I wish I ’d never seen a hen in my life," said Val savagely.

"Let’s get an axe and slay them all before we go," suggested Haidee.
Suddenly her face grew long.  "But where are we going to get the money

The financial situation was such that even the children understood its
simplicity; though if it had been more complicated Val would never have
dreamed of not sharing it with them.  Bran was able to tell to a penny
how much the family purse contained, while Haidee as a matter of fact
possessed a far finer appreciation of money values than either Westenra
or Val.

"We ’ve got the rent," said the latter thoughtfully, and Haidee looked
up quickly.  With the lawlessness of youth she immediately jumped to the
conclusion that Val meant to skip with the sum that was due to the
landlord on September quarter-day, now close at hand.  It was only a
fourth of thirty-six pounds, but still, when times are hard and a sea
voyage in contemplation, nine pounds are not to be despised.  Val
quickly dispelled this bright notion.

"I ’m not going to rob the landlord.  All he will have to do is sell the
farm-stock and my pretty London things, which of course we ’ll leave.
They will more than pay the rent for the rest of the lease, and enough
left over to pay the bills we owe.  We won’t take anything but our
clothes and a few books."

"What about Joy?  Let’s sell him.  You know that old Farmer Le Seur
offered fifteen pounds for him.  I ’ll go and tell him this morning,
shall I?"

Val reflected a moment, and came to the conclusion that it would be
juster to Westenra to sell the pony at that price than leave him to be
sold for the small sum they owed, so she gave Haidee the desired

"Oh, hurray! ... Oh, Val, what a lark!"  Haidee pranced and capered like
a Bashi-bazouk. "Let’s go and pack."

They flew up-stairs and woke Bran to the news.

"We ’re going away, Brannie Bran ... in a ship!"

Bran, sitting up in bed like a squdgy Japanese idol, took hold of his
toes as though they were a bunch of rosebuds.

"Are we going to daddy?" he asked solemnly, and Val hid her face in his
flannel nightgown.

"No, my Wing."  She added on the spur of the moment, "We ’re going to

He reflected awhile.

"Oh, dear buck!" he sighed at last (only he said jeer for dear).  It was
one of his expressions signifying disappointment, and Val felt a pang.
But she would not be saddened, and soon had the children as wild as
herself, dashing about the house and packing up, so glad was she to be
setting out from the place where she had been a vegetable so long, and
yet known such keen unhappiness.

Having got together all their trunks, the band of Ishmaelites boarded a
cab for St. Helier.  No one would have dreamed for a moment that they
were setting out for another land.  They drove down and spent the night
opposite the quay, and sailed the next morning for Granville.  Just at
the last Val thought of sending Haidee to see if there were any letters
at the post-office.  As it happened, one had been forwarded by Branker
Preston, but she did not read it till they were on board ship.

It was from Valdana, to say that, as she would not come, he was setting
forth alone in excellent health to start life anew in Canada.

                                Part III


                              CHAPTER XIII

                          THE WAYS OF A LOVER

"For life is not the thing we thought, and not the thing we

March was in like a lamb, and on a fair morning all the windows of Villa
Duval stood open, letting in floods of sunlight, gusts of warm
sea-scented wind, and the sound of waves crushing and swinging up and
down the sandy beaches of Normandy.  Perhaps it was because _père_ Duval
who built it was an old sailor and lighthouse-keeper that the rooms of
the Villa were curiously like ship-cabins with their wooden walls and
bare deck-like floors.  Looking out through the porthole windows at the
view of blue waves rippling from the bay up the river it would not have
seemed unnatural to find the Villa gently rocking with the incoming
tide.  Down in the garden _père_ Duval hoeing weeds fostered the
illusion by croaking the ghost of an old sea song that he had lilted
bravely enough forty years before from his fishing boat or when he kept
the lighthouse at Les Sept Isles.  He had built the Villa with his own
hands after the sea and he had done with each other; but not for his own
habitation.  With its pink and blue tables and chairs made and lovingly
painted by himself, beds from the Paris Bon Marché, stout bed-linen that
had been part of _mère_ Duval’s marriage portion, marvellous mirrors and
decorated crockery bought with trading coupons that represented many
pounds of coffee from the Café Debray Company, it was considered far too
wonderful and shining to be the habitation of a mere Normandy peasant.
So the old man and his granddaughter Hortense lived in a couple of rooms
beneath the wonder house, which was perched high and reached only by a
flight of steps to the front door.  The Villa lay nearer to the beach
than any other in Mascaret, and for this reason was always one of the
first to be taken by summer visitors. But at the end of the previous
summer _père_ Duval had achieved an extraordinary piece of luck in
letting it for the whole autumn and winter to some mad Americans, who
were now fixtures for the coming summer also.

The mad Americans had received this title by reason of their eccentric
habits and customs, to say nothing of their clothes.  They never wore
anything, week-day or Sunday, but red woollen sweaters and short skirts,
and the girl most shamelessly showed her legs bare to the knee.  Also
the whole band of three bathed in the sea on the coldest of winter days.
Evidently their mental condition was known elsewhere than in Mascaret,
for more than once when they were staying at Les Fusains, the villa they
had first taken, letters came from America addressed to Les Insains, and
the occupants of Les Fusains had received these bland and unblinking
from the hands of Jean Baptiste the postman.  The postmaster, who
understood a little English, had explained the jest to his village
cronies, adding that the writing of the eldest mad one so much resembled
the writing of a hen, that it was small wonder that mistakes were made
over her address.  That they were Americans was certain, for every three
months American Express money orders came for them, and the eldest
Insain promptly changed these for French money _mandats_ and forwarded
them to the Credit Lyonnais in Paris.  These _fantastiques_ doings
deeply impressed the villagers, and had provided them with many an
interesting hour of gossip over their black coffee and cider.

And the "Insane ones" never knew a thing about it.  On this mild March
morning they were variously engaged in simple and peaceful occupations
not unsuitable to those of feeble mind. Upstairs, one of them, a girl of
sixteen with bare feet and hair swinging in long brown braids, was
swishing the sheets from the beds and flicking all stray garments into
corners.  She considered that she was being certainly very noble and
useful.  Her face bore the expression of complacent beneficence assumed
by those who are aware that they are doing the work of another person,
and doing it ten times better than that other person.  She wore a
bathing dress that was slightly small for her, made combination-fashion,
of twill whose pristine scarlet had long since been bleached by sea salt
to a faint shell-pink.  It was embroidered by black and white darns of a
primitive, not to say aboriginal description.  Her bare arms were
decorated with some beaten copper bracelets of the New Art school, but
her slim legs, brown and very long from the knee down, were innocent of
stockings.  She was tanned all over with the faint, transparent,
sherry-coloured tan of a woodland nymph, and her delicately curved cheek
wore the tint of woodland berries, wine-brown eyes full of sunshine and
shadows, long, flickering, silky hair, a red, sulky mouth.

Haidee had grown into a beauty.

She swished the sheets of heavy linen from the beds and cast them in
rumpled heaps upon the floor, taking many a glance out at the sea,
whistling a tune at one moment, in another echoing with her high-pitched
rather husky treble the lay of _père_ Duval.

    "Le bon Jesu marchait sur l’eau
    Va sans peur mon petit bateau."

In the room below, listening to Haidee’s rustling feet and the song of
the sea, was Val Valdana. Two sheets of the _Paris Daily Mail_ were
spread upon the table to protect the cloth, while in wistful and
desultory fashion she prepared the vegetables for lunch.  Her thin brown
fingers decked in their strange stones and old enamels were stained with
potato juice, and a number of small new potatoes lay dimpling pink at
the bottom of an earthenware bowl glazed brown without and pale yellow
within. But Val’s thoughts were not with the potatoes. She often let her
hands fall among the curly peel scrapings on the table, and gazed
sombrely, almost sightlessly before her.  Shipwreck was in her eyes, and
exile, and all the bitterness of bright hopes broken, and talent lying
fallow and useless.  Her lips looked as if the laughter had been bitten
out of them in an attempt to keep within the desperate cry of her heart.

It was as well perhaps that overhead Haidee suddenly decided that
helping to get lunch would be more amusing than making beds.  Hasty and
conclusive sounds denoted that she was "finishing up," directing by
means of a few masterly flicks with a bath towel, all scraps of paper,
stockings, stray shoes, letters, etc., into a proper and decent
seclusion under the beds.  Then her feet rustled on the stairs and
through the kitchen, stayed for a moment at the front door from whence
she threw a laugh and a call to Bran playing in the old boat across the
road.  A moment later the shell-pink bathing costume became part of the
dining-room decoration, and its wearer, seated before the _Daily Mail_,
attacked the potatoes with the same nobility of purpose she had used for
the bedrooms.  Val, leaning back in her chair, her hands listlessly on
the table before her, her face full of a moody weariness, had plainly
struck work.  A silence prevailed broken only by the scratch of Haidee’s
knife on the potatoes.  When she sometimes needed the handle of her
knife to delicately scratch the tip of her nose she ceased work for an
instant, while she glanced at Valentine, or through the open window at
Bran’s head bobbing up and down in the old _Jules Duval_.  When her eyes
strayed to the blue moving surface beyond she gave a sigh.

"What a day for a sail, Val!"

Val waked from her sombre dream, and looking for the first time with
some shade of recognition at her, became aware of the bathing costume.

"I think you want to die of pneumonia, Haidee!"

"Oh, I ’m not cold, and it’s so jolly and loose. It makes me feel as
though summer is here already.  Don’t I wish it were June instead of
rotten old March!"

She plumped a potato into the bowl and dexterously used the handle of
the knife to flick a long streak of hair over her left shoulder.

"I do believe it’s warm enough for a second swim to-day, Val ... let’s
hurry up and go down to the beach, shall we? ... Yes, do, let’s."

"Who will get _dèjeuner_?" inquired Val, laconically.

"I could kick that rotten Hortense!" responded Haidee savagely, and all
her cowboy instincts came out and sat upon her face.  "Do you believe
she is really sick?" she asked, in the manner of one propounding a
problem in Algebra.

"Of course not....  She’s sick of doing housework, that’s all....  Any
one would be."

Haidee considered this awhile scowling, but her thoughts passed to
pleasanter subjects, and her face presently regained its harmony.  From
the kitchen came a sound like the purring of a man-eater of Tsavo
enjoying a full meal, but it was only the boiler, which always purred
when the stove was red-hot.  Haidee made haste to finish the potatoes
though her eyes considered many things. She regarded a brown print of
Carlyle on the wall above Val’s head, and wondered as often before if he
had really gone about London with a hat of that shape!  And had he
really heaved half bricks at the people he did not like? ... that
tickled her cowboy humour and she smiled broadly. How beautifully Mr.
Whistler had draped that nice gendarme’s cloak over the thin legs of the
Sage of Craigenputtock!

Her glance wandered again to the expanse of blue water sparkling in the
sun--the Barleville Bay and the river were both full now, and blue,
blue!  She wished she could collect all that blueness and put it into a
jewel to hang round Val’s neck.  Val looked lovely with bits of blue on
her--like an Arab Madonna, though she could also look like Mary
Madgalene.  Sometimes when she had Bran on her lap she looked happy and
contented, but with far-away hills in her eyes--just like St. Anne in da
Vinci’s picture where Mary is sitting on her mother’s knees while Jesus
plays on the floor.

At other times, when she twisted a grey scarf around her hair and ran in
the wind Val could look like a Spanish dancing girl, or a mad Malay.
Again an artist in the Latin Quarter had done a water-colour of her in
which, with her head a little on one side and a wistful inquiring look
in her smoke-blue eyes, she reminded Haidee of a baby lion cub once seen
in the Bronx Park Zoo.  But to-day Val looked old and sad; her yellow
serpent was eating at her heart, and Haidee knew why. The American mail
had reached Cherbourg the day before, but no letter had come to Villa
Duval. Hardly any letters came from Westenra now, except an occasional
one to Haidee and the regular money draft every three months which Val
as regularly sent away to a Paris bank and never touched except for
paying Haidee’s school fees.

"Never mind, Val," said Haidee, half in response to her own thoughts,
half in continuation of their brief conversation.  "As soon as your play
is finished we ’ll kick Hortense out" (Haidee’s mind still dealt in
kicks) "and get a proper _bonne_. We may be able to afford old M’am
Legallais, don’t you think?  They say she can make lovely onion soup."

"The play will never be finished," said Val darkly.  "Pots and pans
won’t let me finish it--they spoil the scenery.  I _think_ potatoes and
cabbages!  You can smell garlic and stewed veal in the love scenes.  Oh!
How can one go on living?  If it were n’t for you and Bran I would cut
my head off."

"Cockerels!" said Haidee, in the same way as a rude boy might say
"rats!"  "Cut your hair off instead," she counselled unfeelingly, "it is
getting awfully thin."

Val sprang up and ran like lightning into the next room, where there was
a mirror on the wall. Her hair lay in feathery clouds about her face and
forehead, and there seemed to be heaps of it, but it was true that when
she came to do it up one small comb at the back held all in place.  Yet
she remembered the time not long ago when it had fallen to her waist as
long and thick as Haidee’s own.

"It is this confounded writing plays--and stewing veal!" she murmured,
and stared at herself desperately.  She had the eyes of the exile who
never for one moment forgets his exile; only, it was not one country she
mourned but many. Poor Val! she was too, that rare unhappy thing, a born
lover.  Never for one moment was the man she loved out of her mind;
always, always he was there, haunting the rooms of her memory and the
_chapelle ardente_ of her heart, perfuming every thought, influencing
every action.  Because of him she cried aloud now:

"I _will_ have it cut off, Haidee.  Go and tell the barber to come this
afternoon.  I ’ll have it cut close--shaved--so that it _must_ grow
thick again. I won’t be an old woman without hair!  Oh, Haidee--an old
bald hag whom no one loves!"  Desolation crept into her voice, it had
long dwelt in her eyes.

"Don’t be a silly, Val," said matter-of-fact Haidee.  "I love you and
Bran loves you and Garry loves you."

"No, no--Garry hates me--he never writes!"  She flung herself into a
chair, and two of the salt bitter tears that were always lurking in the
background, but which she seldom shed, oozed out of her eyes as if they
had come from a long distance and gave her great pain.  Haidee made no
attempt to comfort her, but presently went out of the house to where
Bran was just casting off anchor from the _Jules_ in view of a voyage to
New York.

"Val ’s crying," she said briefly.

"What for?" asked Bran, but immediately letting go anchor and beginning
to climb in a business-like way over the side of the boat.  The eye that
he cocked at Haidee was of the same smoke-blue as his mother’s, and held
the same wistful lion-cub glance.

"Just the old yellow snake," said Haidee, already on her way back to put
on the potatoes, for well she knew that if she did not there would be
none for lunch that day.

Bran found Val swiftly, and climbing upon her knees began to kiss her
wet eyes.  She kissed him back passionately, holding him with such
convulsive tightness that he was at last obliged to give a small howl.

"O--h!  you’re hurting me, Mammie--just a _little_ bit."

She kissed him again then, comforting him, reproaching herself, and
drying away her tears in his bright hair.

"You know I would n’t hurt my little cubby-cub for a million pounds."

"Would you for a million millions?"


"For a ship as big as the _Tu-te-onic_?"  Bran adored ships, and could
imagine most crimes being committed to acquire one.

"Never, never, _jamais_!"

"Not if some one came and asked you to give me just a _teeny weeny_

"If some one came to me and said, ’I ’ll give you the whole sea full of
ships with all the beautiful things in the world in them, if you just
crush your little Bran’s finger till he howls,’ I would say, ’You get
out of here, Beel, or I keel you.’"

Bran gave a joyful prance at the familiar quotation from Stephen Crane’s
story of Mexico Bill, long since transformed by Val into an exciting
game, in which he performed the rô1e of Bill, and she and Haidee were
two Mexican braves in sombreros and draped blankets.  He was just about
to propose a full-dress rehearsal of this drama when Val, reading the
inspiration in his eye and feeling quite unfit for any such diversion,
headed his mind off in another direction.

"If any one came and offered _you_ a million pounds to hurt your mammie,
would you do it?"

"No," said Bran, adding darkly, "_but I’d ask him where he lived._"

"And then?"  Val smiled into his hair.  There was a pause; at last in a
soft whisper spoke Bran the brigand:

"I ’d take a sword and go and pierce him in the night and get his
million pounds for you."  He embraced her ardently.  It was
characteristic of her that she did not rebuke him for the lawlessness of
his plan.  She thoroughly understood the spirit that could rob, pillage,
and even do murder for the sake of a loved one.

They began to laugh and play.  Val suddenly fell in love with her plan
to have her hair cut off. She arranged a red handkerchief on her head,
turban-fashion, to see how she would look.  Eventually she decided to
wear a fez and return to her habit of cigarette smoking to match her new
appearance. Haidee declared that she too would love a fez, so Val sat
down and wrote to the Army and Navy Stores for two, on the condition
that Haidee went to the village at once to tell the barber to come
immediately after lunch.  Now that she had decided to have her hair cut
the thing could not be done soon enough to please her.

Regretfully Haidee changed her bathing-dress for her navy-blue skirt and
scarlet sweater, also a floppy hat of brown _suède_ for which Val had
paid a pound in Jersey at a time when they were very hard up indeed,
just because it suited Haidee’s peculiar style of cowboy beauty.
Looking like a handsome conspirator, she sallied forth down the road
that led to the village, for Villa Duval lay a good half-mile from
Mascaret, with nothing between but the blacksmith’s shop, a hotel, and a
couple of fishermen’s cottages.

The blacksmith’s wife’s brother, known to all the world, including
Haidee and Bran, as "_mon oncle_" was whitewashing the outside of the
blacksmith’s cottage against the day when the rose-tree trained over the
door would burst into leaf and large pink roses.  A little farther on,
in front of the hotel, two men were scattering red brick dust over the
long flower beds on the sloping lawns, preparatory to planting out the
letters "Grand Hotel de la Mer" in blue and white lobelias, thus
combining patriotism with an excellent advertisement of the hotel.  When
the May excursion boat moored alongside the _digue_, the first thing to
greet the eyes of the passengers would be the blue and white lettering
on the brick-red beds.

These signs and symbols of approaching summer cheered the heart of
Haidee, and she hummed a little song to herself, as she went light-foot
along the curving picturesque terrace that led to the village.

Already she seemed to smell upon the air the luscious heavy scent of
travellers’ joy that would presently hang in waxen bunches from the high
walls of La Terrasse and Villa Albert.  These were the only two villas
on the Terrace, and they pertained variously to a Paris specialist in
madness, and the controller-general of a great French bank.  Between the
two villas lay a large and valuable plot of ground, overgrown and
tangled up with creepers, brambles, cabbage stalks, rose bushes, and
seeding onions, set in the midst of which was a dilapidated one-room
hut.  The hut was the fly in the ointment of the specialist in lunacy
and the controller-general.  They could do nothing to remove this
picturesque slum from their gates, for old _veuve_ Michel, who lived
there and drank two bottles of cognac a day and sang gay ribald songs by
night, owned the land by right of some old French statute, and no one
could turn her out for as long as she lived.  Haidee and Bran considered
_veuve_ Michel a very charming person indeed.  She was fat and merry and
gentle, called them her nice little hens and gave them apples and pears
(for she also owned an orchard up the cliff) all through the winter when
there was no fruit to be got any nearer than Cherbourg.  Naturally they
liked and appreciated the old woman.  Haidee had a good mind to go in
and pay her a visit, but she decided it was better not, as old _veuve_
would just be sleeping off her morning bottle of cognac preparatory to
starting on the afternoon one; also Haidee remembered that she was
hungry, and had better hurry back and help get lunch.  Still she could
not help stopping once or twice to examine for signs of little pink tips
the lower branches of the tamarisk-trees which grew on one side of the
Terrace--on the other side was the grey stone river wall with the tide
lapping blue against it.

Haidee loved tamarisks with a joy that she was sure was unholy because
they looked so wicked and painted somehow when they were all dressed out
in their pink feathers.  She fancied that Jezebel must have had a bunch
of them stuck like an aigrette in her beautifully _coiffée_ hair, and
the same pink tint on her cheeks when she looked out of the window for
the last time.  Anyway why were tamarisks the only trees to be found
growing in the ruins of Babylon?  And why had she read somewhere, that
in the days of ancient Rome tamarisks were bound around the heads of
criminals? It was a nuisance to have to forsake these interesting
meditations to enter the little soap-scented shop of the village barber,
but she stayed no longer than to bid him come to the Villa at three
o’clock to cut off Madame’s hair.  Next she called at Lemonier’s to
command a sack of coal, and noted that Lemonier had evidently been drunk
again, for Madame had a black eye.  It was funny to think that such a
jolly big red man should be so cruel!  Haidee meditated on this subject
on the return journey, also on the horrible price of coal--sixty-five
francs a ton and it disappeared like lightning.  No one seemed to know
why "Carr-_diff_," as they called it, should be so dear.  Hortense,
closely questioned on the subject by Val anxious for information, said
that it must be because the people in England hated the French and were
still angry that Normandy did not belong to them.

"Well, have n’t you got any coal mines in your own blessed country?"
asked Haidee.

"_Certainement!_" Hortense had replied indignantly. "We have


The barber arrived at three o’clock, and Val sat trembling before her
dressing-table.  She had arranged two mirrors so that she could view the
whole proceeding, but as soon as the barber commenced she closed her
eyes tight.  Bran and Haidee stationed themselves at either side of the
table to see fair play.

The barber was frankly amazed at the decision of Madame to cut off her
feathery hair.  Even at the last moment he asked--holding it up in his
hands and shaking it out in sprays:

"Does Madame realise what a change it will make in her appearance?
Would it not be better if Madame had it merely cut short, leaving about
two inches all round _à la Jeanne d’Arc_, so--?"  He stuck his little
pudgy fingers out below her ears to show the desirable length.

"No, no, no!" cried Val, without opening her eyes.  "Does he think I
want to look like a pony with my mane hogged!  Cut it off close, it
_must_ grow long and thick as it used to do.  Tell him, Haidee."

Haidee told him as much as it was good for him to know--no mention of

"_Bon!_" said Monsieur le Barbier agreeably, but he looked doubtful,
thinking to himself that hair seldom grew much after the age of thirty,
and the lady looked well that.  When one side was gone Val opened her
eyes and gave a deep cry. If it could have been replaced then, she would
have abandoned her idea and made the best of what she had.  As it was
she closed her eyes again, but during the rest of the operation great
tears rolled down her face upon her tightly clasped hands.  And when all
was over the children were swept from the room and she locked herself in
with her heart’s bitterness.  Even Bran was not permitted to comfort

It is true that nothing makes a greater difference to the appearance of
a woman than to cut off her hair.  The tale of every sin she has
committed and every sorrow she has suffered seems to be written bare and
unsheltered upon her face for all the world to read.  What subtle
alleviation there is in a frame of hair round the face of a sinner it is
hard to say: but it is a problem whether Mary Magdalene, with all her
shining story of repentance would have appealed to the love and chivalry
of the world in quite the same way if she had been handed down through
the ages without her wondrous hair.

When Valentine Valdana looked in the glass at her pale, oval face with
no darkness above it to soften the fine lines of her temples, faintly
hollowed cheeks, and sombre eyes whose defect appeared to have become
suddenly accentuated, she longed in shame and dismay for a mask.  It
seemed to her that she had indecently exposed her sorrows to the world;
that exile, misery, and all the failures of her life were plainly
written for even the most unintelligent eye to read.  A curious sense
too of having done something disloyal to others in revealing her
unhappiness crept into her mind for an instant, but she made haste to
dismiss it, and would not even specify the vague "others" to herself.
None knew better than she the power of a beloved hand to strike deepest,
to hollow out cheeks, sharpen temples, and put shadows into eyes: but
she would never have admitted it.  Hers was no accusing heart.  She
blamed nobody but herself for her failures--not even the Fate that had
bestowed on her that double nature of artist and lover which rarely if
ever makes for happiness. She only felt the despair of the convict and
almost wished herself one, so that she might hide in a cell. At length
she sought her gay scarf of asphodel-blue and arranged it over her head
like a nun’s veil. It was thus that she presented herself to the
children in the kindly dusk.  Supper already stood upon the table.
Haidee displayed unusual tact, but Bran was full of curiosity.

"Are you always going to wear that wale tied on you?" he inquired.

"Until my hair grows long again," said poor Val, biting her lip

"Sleep in it too?"  Val nodded, and Haidee made haste to help Bran to
_pommes frites_ which he loved.

Next morning, Bran waking up and throwing out an arm for his matutinal
hug, encountered something strange to his touch: something round, bumpy,
and slightly scrubby, very different to the soft nest he was used to
dabble his hand in as soon as he woke.  The blue scarf had slipped down
while Val slept and her shorn head lay cruelly outlined upon the pillow.
Bran knelt up and considered her in consternation mingled with pity,
then finding himself in the attitude of prayer, mechanically crossed
himself and murmured his morning orison, his eyes still fixed on his
mother’s head:

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart, take it please, and
preserve it from sin."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my soul and my life.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, help me in my last agony.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, grant that I live and die in thy holy company.

Immediately afterwards humour, that Irish vice, overcame all gentler
feelings; like a certain famous Bishop of Down, Bran would lose a friend
for a joke.  He woke Val with a cruel jest:

"_Bon jour, Monsieur le Curé!_"

The curé of Mascaret was a Breton as rugged as his country, with haggard
spiritual eyes and an upper lip you could built a fort on, as the saying
is; he intensified his uncomeliness by wearing his hair so close-shaved
that it was impossible to say where his _tonsure_ began or ended.  To be
told by her loving but candid son that she resembled this good man was a
cruel thrust to Val, and the memory of it darkened life for many days to
come. She wrapped herself in gloom and the blue veil, and nothing more
was heard of the fez cap and cigarettes except that in good time the
Stores forwarded them and the French Customs taxed them.  After once
trying on the fez and finding herself the image of a sallow and
melancholy Turk, she had cast it from her.  Her one instinct was to hide
her ugliness from every one.  Even at the sight of John the Baptist she
would fly and hide, and she never left the house except after dark, when
for exercise she would sometimes race Haidee up and down the _digue_, or
run along the beach at midnight, her scarf floating behind her in the
wind, and her head bare to give her "roots" a chance.

These proceedings gravely annoyed the Customs officers distributed in
the little straw-littered watch-huts that line the Normandy coast.
Instead of tucking themselves in their blankets for a peaceful night,
they were obliged to keep awake for fear the mad American woman meant
either to commit suicide or meet a boat full of brandy and cigars from

                              CHAPTER XIV

                         THE WAYS OF LITERATURE

"The voyage of even the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks."

From Jersey Val had made a bee-line for Paris which she knew well, and
where she had hopes of renewing her mental energy by the sights and
sounds of a great city and association with other brain workers.  Autumn
removals were in full swing and there was no great difficulty in finding
house-room for herself and the children, though she was unprepared to
find how Paris rents had risen since the days when she and her mother
sojourned in the Latin Quarter.  It was to that part of Paris she
naturally turned--the only possible part for artists and writers to
live, though the rich and empty-headed are fond of calling it the "wrong
side" of the river.  A studio seemed the most suitable form of
residence, for she knew she would not be able to work in a small room,
and she hated the sordid construction of a cheap flat.  She was
fortunate in finding a good _atelier_ in a little secluded _rue_ on the
confines of the Quarter--a big, high room, with kitchen and small
bedroom attached, looking out onto a little square yard with clusters of
shrubs, ivied walls, and a few old battered statues that lent a
picturesque air.  Here she had settled down and with resolute energy
begun the series of "Wanderfoot" articles for which Branker Preston had
obtained a commission.  It was an arduous task.  No matter how much
material is stored in the mind it is not easy to import the air and
colour of far-off lands into a Paris _atelier_.  The art of putting
things down had not yet been recaptured either.  Still, the stimulus of
even the short journey from Jersey to Paris had done something for her,
and though to her critical eye the articles she achieved seemed but pale
echoes of her former work, they at least paid the rent and kept things
going in rue Campagne Premiere. The continuation of Haidee’s education
became a problem needing instant attention; for Val very soon realised
that the Latin Quarter with its liberal ideas of morality and its
fascinating students was no place for a young impressionable girl.  Her
own child she would have allowed to stay, for she knew that anything
with her nature would come to no harm among these careless, attractive
people, to whom she felt herself blood-kin.  But Haidee, the child of a
pretty flighty mother, was of different stock.  Besides, there was a
responsibility to Westenra in the matter.  There were no convents left
in Paris, or indeed, in France.  All those lovely homes where girls
learned a sweet sedateness and many beautiful arts had been closed by a
ruthless government.  No more in France may the gentle coifed women
impart composure and beauty of mind to English and American girls and
train the aristocratic children of France to a love of Church and
Country.  What the loss is to the sum of the world’s harmony can never
be computed, but American and English mothers have a slight realisation
of it.

It was in Belgium that Val at last found what was needed for Haidee--a
little community of French nuns who, refusing to unveil, had been
obliged to flee over the border, and there had founded a convent to
which many good Catholics in Paris sent their children.  It was well
within Val’s means too, for the living is cheap in Belgium, and the fare
in the convent was simple though good.  Haidee hated terribly to go, but
Val was firm, though she held out the promise of early liberation if
Haidee would work well at French and try and pass her _brevet simple_.
This was no difficult task, for the girl had been well grounded in
French during their sojourn in Jersey.  Remained the problem of
Bran--and little children are a problem in France to parents of limited
means.  No one caters for them as in other countries.  No one even
understands the art of teaching and amusing them at the same time, nor
even how to feed them. There are no kindergartens and no milk puddings!
Small wonder that French babies are small and sallow and sad!  Since the
nuns were driven out there are only the public Lycées where strong and
weak, rough and gentle, are jumbled together with results that no
thinking woman would welcome for her child.  From their tenderest years
French children are crammed with lessons, pushed ahead to pass exams,
while the business of play so necessary for little children is almost
entirely suppressed.

Val very certainly had no intention of confiding her son to such
institutions.  She was therefore obliged to hire a daily governess for
him, for though, at his age, he needed little teaching, he had to be
sent out of doors so that she might have silence and solitude wherein to
work.  Even this was a costly business.  In England a nursery governess
can be afforded by almost every one, but in France it costs one hundred
francs a month to have your child well taken care of and taught his
alphabet for a few hours a day.

Val did not grudge it, but what worried her was that Bran did not
thrive.  Paris was no place for him.  The Luxembourg Gardens make a good
play-ground for city-bred children, but Bran was Val’s own child in his
need of air and space and horizon.  His bloom faded a little, and he
began to look very fair and spiritual.  Also his love of the picture and
statue galleries seemed to his mother something too wistful and
wonderful in a small boy, and brought tears to her pillow in the silence
of many a night.  Then she took him to Belgium for awhile and left him
with Haidee and the good nuns.  He was a shy creature, though he hated
any one to know it, and believed he hid his secret well behind a set
smile and little hardy incomprehensible sayings.  When the nuns
clustered round him calling him their "little Jesus," a favourite name
in France for a pretty child, he disdained to shelter behind Val’s
skirts, as instinct bade him, but nothing could be got out of him except
an enigmatic saying he always kept for strangers:

    "The cat says bow-wow-wow, and
    The dog says meow, meow, meow."

All the while he smiled his little bright smile and his eyes roving
keenly noted every detail of the pale æsthetic faces.  Even the tears in
the Reverend Mother’s eyes did not escape him.  Afterward he said to

"I like that one with the floating eyes.  I think she wishes she had a
nice little boy like me.  Her voice was littler than a pin’s head when
she called me her _petit Jesu_.  But why do they nearly all have green

When Val kissed him farewell it nearly broke her heart to see the brave
smile he maintained, though Haidee was sniffling and snuffling at his
elbow, partly with momentary grief but mostly with indignation at being,
as she rudely phrased it: "Shut up in a convent with a lot of old

Back in Paris the studio seemed desolate and empty.  Bran had become so
much a part of his mother’s being and life that without him she was like
a bird from whom a wing had been torn.  A month later Haidee wrote:

"I think Bran is fretting.  Whenever I speak to him he puts that little
fixed grin on his mouth, but you should see his eyes."

Within an hour Val was in the Brussels express speeding for that dear
sight.  On the journey back to Paris, happy now and healed of her broken
wing, she heard all the history of his lonely nights and the "purply-red
pain" that he got in his stomach when he thought of her.  Cuddled to her
side he wept as he had never wept whilst separated from her, and Val’s
tears ran down her face too while she listened, registering a vow that
she would never part with him again.

So once more he went out with a governess and came home to his mother
full of original criticisms of Moreau’s pictures and the statues of
Rodin, until one morning nearly two years after their arrival in Paris,
and just when Haidee had arrived for the summer holidays, Val rose up
from her bed with the itch for travel in her feet, and the longing
quickly communicated to the children for the sight of a clear horizon.
They tore their possessions from the walls, stuffed them into trunks,
and shook the dust of Paris from their feet.

"Let’s go to Italy and live on olives and spaghetti, "was Haidee’s
suggestion, but Bran knew the news of the world.

"We might get an earthquake!"

The size of the cheque from Branker Preston, however, was what really
decided the affair, limiting them to wandering happily enough in
Brittany. But the water and primitive methods of Breton cooks made Val
think nervously of typhoid, and after a time she headed for Normandy.
Normans are cleaner in their household ways than Bretons, of whom they
slightingly speak as "_les pores Bretons_," declaring that they eat out
of holes in the table and never wash the holes.  Besides, Normandy in
winter is milder than Brittany.  So, travelling by highways and byways,
they happened at last on Mascaret.

It was the tag end of September when they arrived.  All the summer
visitors were gone and the big silver beach deserted, but summer itself
still lingered.  They got an entrancing glimpse of the gentle green and
gold beauty of the place before the chills of autumn set in.  Even then
they had been able to bathe and go sailing in the fishing boat of one of
_père_ Duval’s sons, who was now in his turn lighthouse-keeper of
Mascaret.  For ten sunny October days, too, they had assisted with all
the ardour of novitiates at _père_ Duval’s cider making, becoming
acquainted with the secrets of _cidre bouché_, and the grades to be
found in _cidre ordinaire_ unto the third and fourth watering. They even
sampled the latter as drunk by the fishermen and called for at the cafés
by the name of _le boisson avec le brulot dedans_: which signifies cider
very liberally diluted with French cognac. Then the winter closed in on
Mascaret with wild gales and high-flowing tides.  On Christmas Eve snow
came softly down, so that the walk to midnight mass had been like acting
in that scene painted by a Dutch painter where the village folk are seen
winding their way through the snow, lanterns and hot-water bottles in
their hands, to the distant church with windows full of red light.  All
the winter interests of the simple village had been sampled and shared
by Val and the children, and they had been happier there than ever in
France. The children loved the freedom of the place and the _bonhomie_
of the French folk so different to English people of that class.  The
three went about in their red sweaters and lived a life of absolute
unconvention.  It was a good place to write a masterpiece in--if one
were only a master--was Val’s ironical thought, and in spite of her
self-directed irony, she did achieve during the first months there a
wonderful little curtain raiser, which Branker Preston had no difficulty
in disposing of to a London manager.  It dealt with Boers and Zulus, and
had been well received, but unfortunately the play it had preceded in
the bill was a failure and the two were withdrawn together before Val
could greatly benefit, but it had brought in five guineas a week for six
weeks, and this success had put her in heart for further work of the
kind.  She had sickened of writing "Wanderfoot" articles from a chair.
She could by this time have written some very spirited ones on the
subject of France in general and Normandy in particular, but she had her
reasons for not wishing to attract attention to her whereabouts, as such
articles would surely have done.  Preston advised her to write a novel,
but she knew she had neither the patience to spin a long story through
many chapters to its end, nor the gift of character portrayal. What was
hers was a sense for situation, colour, and atmosphere, and it occurred
to her that the best vehicle for a display of these qualities was the
theatre.  Her first little venture had attracted the attention of
several managers, and one of them told Preston that he was ready to
consider a three-act play by her.  It was this play she was busy upon
now.  But it was sometimes hard to transport the atmosphere of far-away
tropical Natal into a little wooden villa facing the English Channel,
with a wild spring gale tearing at the windows, and the rollers booming
like cannon on the Barleville beach--for the promise of summer had gone
as swiftly as it came, and the spring tides were flooding up the river
flinging great walls of spray over the _digue_ and splashing three feet
deep across the Terrasse, right to the steps of the _Hotel de la Mer_,
so that the journey to the village had to be made by a path up the

Val found that the only way to ignore Normandy and the bleak mists of
_La Manche_ was to sit over a _chaufferette_ full of bright red embers
of charcoal, letting the heat steal up her skirts and enveloping her
whole person from the soles of her feet to her scalp in a lovely glow.
Immediately she would begin to write things full of the tropical languor
of Africa.  In her brain palms waved, little pot-bellied Kaffirs rolled
in the hot dirt, sunshine blazed over a blue and green land, the air was
filled with the scent of mimosa, and great-limbed Zulus danced in
rhythmic lines with chant and stamp and swing of assegai before
Cetewayo, the great and cruel king.

Unfortunately, a _chaufferette_ is not always an easy thing to manage.
Like everything French it has a temperament, and is liable to moods when
it will burn and moods when it won’t.  It is a wooden or tin box,
perforated at the top and open at one side to admit an earthenware bowl
full of the charcoal which is called _charbon de bois_--actually
calcined morsels of green wood.  The baker makes this charbon by
sticking green wood branches into his hot oven after he has finished
baking his bread, but each baker makes a limited supply only, and will
not sell it except to people who buy his bread.  Every one uses
_chaufferette_ in Normandy during the winter, and visitors are given one
to put their feet on as soon as they enter a house, though sometimes
when the host is rich enough to keep a perpetual fire going, a supply of
hot bricks is kept in the oven instead.

Val’s _chaufferette_ was of most uncertain temper. Hortense always lit
it in the morning, and left it by the writing-table.  When Val came to
it all that had to be done was to gently insert an old spoon under the
little ash heap and lift it all round, when a red hot centre of glowing
embers would disclose itself.  But sometimes an old nail or piece of
"Carr-_diff_" found its way by accident into the pot, then the charbon
would immediately sulk itself into oblivion, or sometimes for no reason
at all after being perfectly lighted it would just go out.  Ensued a
struggle in which Val and Haidee invariably came off second-best.  They
would take the pot out of its box and stand it on a window-sill with the
window drawn low to make a draught; put it on the front door step and,
kneeling down, blow on it until fine ash sat thick upon their noses and
their eyes were full of tears; build paper bonfires on it; fan it wildly
with newspapers.  All to no avail!  Usually that was the end of work and
inspiration for the day.  Val declared that she could not _think_ with
cold feet.  But sometimes old _père_ Duval, compassionate for the mad,
would send up his wooden box, large enough for two men to warm their
feet on, with a great iron saucepan full of glowing charbon inside, and
Val would sit toasting over it and write things of a tropical languor

Haidee had passed her _brevet simple_, an exam, about equal to the
English Oxford Junior, and the American 6th standard, and was now
working for the _brevet supérieure_ with a French woman who had been a
governess before she married a retired commercial traveller and settled
in Mascaret. The discovery of this good woman was a stroke of luck for
Val, though certainly Haidee did not consider it so.  However, her
lessons only took up four hours a day.  For the rest she and Bran idled
joyous and care-free through life, climbing the cliff, fishing, digging
for sand-eels, making long excursions inland, or meeting the fishing
boats in the evening when they came in with the day’s haul, and all the
villagers would be at the _port_ to bargain for fish.  Haidee usually
haggled for and bought a _raie_ (dog-fish) for the next day’s dinner,
and Bran would run a stick through its ribald-looking mouth, and carry
the slithery monstrous thing home, to be met by scowls from Hortense,
who, stolid as she was, hated the sight of a _raie_, and could not face
the business of washing and gutting it without cries of _douleur_ and

"_Ah!  C’est craintive!  C’est affreux!_"

But meat was too dear for daily consumption, and _raie_ the only fish
brought in by the boats throughout the winter months, so it had to be
eaten, and some one had to prepare it.  And after all, wrestling with
_raie_ was one of the jobs for which Hortense was paid three francs a
week.  It was her business to come in the morning at seven o’clock, make
the fires, and deliver "little breakfast" at each bedside; afterwards
she swept and made the beds, then disappeared until just before lunch,
when she came to perform upon the _raie_ and execute one or two culinary
feats that were beyond the scope of Val or Haidee--such as cutting up
onions, which neither of them could accomplish without weeping aloud, or
putting the chipped potatoes into a pan full of boiling dripping, a
business that when conducted by Val made a rain of grease spots all over
the kitchen and scalded every one in sight.  After washing the midday
dishes, and chopping up vegetables for the soup, Hortense would consider
her function over for the day, and leave Val and Haidee to grapple as
best they might with tea, supper, fires, and the _chaufferette_.  The
supper was no very great difficulty, merely a matter of putting the cut
vegetables into a pot with a large lump of specially prepared and
seasoned dripping, and standing said pot on the stove until supper-time,
when its contents would be marvellously transformed into _soupe à la
graise_, a savoury and nourishing broth eaten as an evening meal by
every peasant in Normandy.  The fires were the greatest nuisance.  The
stove in the kitchen either became a red-hot furnace and purred like a
man-eater, or else went out; and the stove with an open grate in Val’s
room, which old man Duval had paid a month’s rent for and gone all the
way to Cherbourg to fetch, had a way of going out also before any one
even noticed that it was low; then there would be much scratching with a
poker, searching for kindling wood, pouring out of paraffin, sudden
happy blazes that nearly took the roof off, and black smuts everywhere.
When all was over, and a beautiful fire roaring after the united efforts
of the family, Val would find that her _chaufferette_ had gone out!  It
was hard to even think masterpieces among such distractions, to say
nothing of writing them.  Tea was easily got.  Haidee made the toast on
the salad fork, Val buttered it with dripping, Bran laid the table. Then
all three sat with their feet on the stove, drinking out of the big
coffee bowls, eating every scrap of the delicious smoky toast and
licking their fingers afterwards.  If Val had written anything funny or
dramatic that day she would sometimes read it out to them, but for the
most part her instinct was to hide what she wrote. She said she felt as
if she had lost something afterwards, and if any one had been even
looking at her written sheets they never seemed quite the same to her
again--some virtue went out of her work the moment she shared it with
any one.

Usually, after tea she settled down for another struggle with her ideas,
and Bran and Haidee went for a prowl on the _digue_ in the hope of
adventures. Bran, whose mind was as full of fairies as if he had been
born in the wilds of Ireland, was always in hope of meeting a giant or a
dwarf, but he had learned not to mention these aspirations to Haidee.
Anyway, there was always the village gossip to listen to in the _petit
port_, where the fishing boats anchored and usually the excitement of
watching the _Quatre Frères_ come chup--chup--chupping up the river to
her moorings.  She was a natty and picturesque trawler, with a petrol
engine that was the admiration of the village installed in her bowels.
Because of this engine she was known as the _Chalutier à petrole_, but
at Villa Duval she was called by Bran’s translation of her name, _The
Cat’s Frères_.  She never caught anything but _raie_, and of this
despised species far fewer than any of the other boats, but she dashed
in and out of the harbour with great slam and needed five men to handle
her.  There was a legend that the petrol engine frightened the fish
away.  It was known that the four brothers who owned her were anxious to
get rid of her.  Every one knew that she cost more than she brought in.
But Haidee and Bran shared a fugitive hope that Val’s play would make
them all so rich that they would be able to acquire her as a pleasure

Sometimes strange craft from Granville or a Brittany port would come in
for the night, and there was the _St. Joseph_, a great fishing trawler
from Lannion, carrying a master and seven hands, that put in when
weather was heavy.  Her sails were patched with every colour of the
rainbow, her decks were filthy, and her years sat heavy upon her--you
could hear her creaking and groaning two miles from shore: but to Haidee
and Bran she stood for the true romance!  She always brought in tons of
fish, not only the everlasting _raie_, but deep-sea fish, and as soon as
her arrival was heralded all the village sabots came clipper-clopping
down the terrace, shawls clutched round bosoms, the wind flicking bright
red spots in old cheeks, every one anxious to pick and choose from the
mass of coal-fish, red gurnet, plaice, congers, and mullets that was
hooked out of the hold and flung quivering ashore.  The big
weather-beaten fishermen in their sea-boots bandied jests with the
carking old village wives and the girls showered laughter.  In the end,
the villagers departed with full baskets, and the seamen well content
adjourned to the _petit café_ close by for a "cup of coffee with a burn
in it" and a good meal.

                               CHAPTER XV

                        WAYS SACRED AND SECULAR

"A gentleman makes no noise: a lady is serene."--EMERSON.

In May, the gentle month of May, the weather cleared up again, and green
things commenced to sprout and bloom on the cliff above Villa Duval. The
country-side began to bloom and blossom as the rose.  From the high
coast that lies facing the sea, Jersey could be discerned on clear days
etched as if in India ink upon the horizon thirteen miles away.  Clots
of sea-samphire burst into flower, cleverly justifying its name of
_creste marine_ by just keeping out of reach of the high tides.  The
gorse showed dots of yellow amongst its prickles, and little brilliant
blue squills stuck up their perky faces and gave out a sweet scent.  All
along the path to the lighthouse wild thyme came out in springy masses,
and the mad Americans often went up that way for the special purpose of
lying on it as on a soft, pink silk rug.  It seemed to cause them a
peculiar kind of joy to put their faces down in it, crying, "Oh! oh!

The garbage-hole across the road in front of Villa Duval which the
dustman had been trying for many summers to transform into a building
plot by filling it with empty tins and rubbish from the hotel, and which
had been an eyesore all the winter, now suddenly became a place of
beauty, for a lot of prickly, thistly-looking plants growing among the
jam tins burst into a blaze of red and yellow.  It turned out that they
were poppies that had been keeping themselves secret all through the
winter, and the yellow bright gold of "Our Lady’s bedstraw."  One day
Haidee brought home some long, fragile trails of cinquefoil, one of the
first spring things, and Val, worn and haggard under her blue veil,
pinned it over her heart because she had read in old Elizabethan days
that cinquefoil was supposed to be a cure for inflammations and fevers.
She quoted to Haidee what an old herbalist had once written of such

"Let no man despise them because they are plain and easy: the ways of
God are all such."

Haidee flushed faintly and retired into awkward silence, shy like most
girls of her age at the mention of God.  She was going to make her
communion the next day with the First Communion candidates, but it was
not her first, for that had been made once when she was ill in New York.
She was to be confirmed in June when the archbishop of a neighbouring
parish intended to visit Mascaret and hold a confirmation service.

It being Saturday afternoon Hortense as well as Haidee was due at the
confessional for the recital of her weekly sins, therefore she bustled
over the washing-up, announcing her intention of making a _bon_
confession, as though the one she usually made was of an inferior brand.

"What are you going to tell?" asked Haidee, drying plates.  She knew
very well it was forbidden to talk about your confession, but the
subject was a curiously fascinating one.  Hortense had a "cupful of
sins" for the curé’s ear.  She had been reading love stories in the
_Petit Journal_ (a forbidden paper because it is "against the Church"),
telling the cards, and consulting her dream book; also she had missed
Vespers twice and several meetings of the "Children of Mary," of which
body she was a member.  She computed that her _pénitence_ would be as
long as her arm.

"He will scold me well, I know," she said cheerfully, "for he saw me
talking with Léon Bourget yesterday."

"What! that awful fisherman with the hump?"

"Yes; but he is not a bad fellow, mademoiselle, only all the fishermen
here are wicked towards the curé because, as you know, he would not bury
the mother of Jean le Petit, and they had to go and get the mayor to do

"Yes; but you must remember that she lived with old man le Petit without
being married to him, and that is forbidden by the Church.  She would
not even repent on her death-bed and receive the Blessed Sacrament.  How
could the curé bury her after that?"

Haidee knew all about the little scandal, for the storm it occasioned
had raged all the winter about the curé’s head.  The same day he had
refused to bury _mère_ le Petit he was obliged to go to Paris on Church
business.  On his return in the dusk of a December evening he was met at
the station by all the fishermen in the village partially disguised in
home-made masks, each carrying some instrument or implement with which
to make hideous sounds; pots, pans, old trays, sheep-bells, and
cow-horns had all been pressed into service, and the din was truly
fearsome.  The curé preserving his serenity was conducted to his
presbytery by this scratch band, and on every dark night thereafter it
had serenaded him from the shadows near his house.  The blare sometimes
continued until the small hours of the morning, keeping not only the
unfortunate curé, but the whole village awake.  The gendarmes from
Barleville, the nearest police-station, had made several midnight raids
with the stated intention of capturing the offenders, but their efforts
were attended by a lack of success so striking as to suggest a certain
amount of sympathy, not to say complicity, on the part of the law.  At
any rate, the curé’s music, or "_Mujik de Churie_," as it was popularly
pronounced, went on gaily, and there had been some kind of unofficial
announcement that it would continue until the curé cleared out.  Old
_pére_ Duval opined, however, that the entertainment was likely to cease
with the arrival of the first summer visitors, for however vindictive
the fishermen were they knew which side their bread was buttered on, and
were politic enough not to want to drive away trade by their thrilling

Having finished drying plates Haidee retired up-stairs to prepare her
confession, telling Hortense to be sure and wait for her.  She proceeded
to write her sins down on a piece of paper.  In spite of her good French
she stammered so much from nervousness when confessing that the curé had
arranged this method with her.  She always gave him the piece of paper,
which he took away to the sacristy while she waited in the confessional.
When he had read her paper he came back, conferred penance and a little
scolding, then gave her absolution.

With the aid of a French Catechism, which had a formula for confession
in it, she proceeded to write out her sins, her method being to dive
into the book first for a question and then into her soul for a sin that
corresponded.  Eventually the piece of paper contained the following

"Je ne me suis pas confessé depuis trois semaines; j’ai recu
l’absolution.  Je m’accuse:

"De n’avoir pas fait ma priere du matin beaucoup de fois.

"De n’avoir pas fait ma prière du soir plusieurs fois.

"D’avoir manqué aux Vêpres 4 fois.

"D’avoir été distraite dans l’Église 2 fois.

"D’avoir été dissipée dans l’Église 2 fois.

"D’avoir désobéi à ma mère 2 fois.

"D’avoir manqué de respect envers elle 1 fois.

"De m’été disputée avec mon frère 2 fois.

"D’avoir fait des petits mensonges 4 fois.

"Je m’accuse de tous ces pèches et de ceux dont je ne me souviens pas.

"Je demande pardon de Dieu et à vous, mon père, la pénitence et
l’absolution selon que vous m’en jugerez digne."

Whether this list of offences truly represented the burden of her
transgressions for the past three weeks it would be hard to say.  It is
possible that Val could have made out a longer and more comprehensive
one for her, as she often threatened to do when Haidee vexed her.
Anyway, the latter folded up her piece of paper with a complacency that
either betokened a clear conscience or a heart hardened in crime.  She
computed that her penance would be to recite a decade of the rosary, and
she knew that the curé would then speak of the next Church feast, and of
the wishes preferred by the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin, tell
her to invoke the aid of the Saints when she felt herself tempted to
sin, to try always to give a good example to her little brother, and to
be very pious so that her mother would be converted and become a
Catholic.  Both Val and Haidee had long since given up explaining that
they were not mother and daughter.  They found that it saved time and a
lot of questions just to let people think what they liked.

Putting on her hat Haidee now popped her head out of the window and gave
a hoot to Hortense, who was below in the yard cleaning her boots on the
garden seat.  Just as they were about to start Val came down-stairs and
begged Haidee to go to the butcher’s shop on her way back, and bring
home something for Sunday’s dinner.

"What kind of something?" asked Haidee belligerently, for the butcher’s
shop had no allure for her.  There ensued a discussion as to which was
the most economical meat to get.  Hortense, waiting at the bottom of the
steps, piped in with the announcement that every one ought to eat lamb
on First Communion Sunday.  Val and Haidee looked at each other.
Vaguely they knew that the price of lamb was high.  But suddenly it came
into Val’s mind how sick the children must be of _raie_, and stewed
veal, and that though funds were low the play was nearly finished.  They
would have a nice English dinner for once.  Roast lamb and mint sauce!
She gave Haidee her last _louis_ to change.

"Pick some mint from the cliff-side as you come back," she enjoined.
French peasants have no use for mint in their cooking.  Some English
visitors had once planted a root of it in _pére_ Duval’s garden, but
after they were gone he flung it out again on to the cliff-side, where
it had increased and multiplied until it was now a large bed.

In the butcher’s shop Haidee found a number of villagers squabbling over
beef-bones, and not a sign of lamb anywhere.  The truth was that every
portion of the one lamb killed early in the week had been sold, and
though there were still one or two customers in need of First Communion
lamb, Mother Durand knew better than to offer any of the freshly-killed
beast that hung in the back shed. Peasants are well aware that
freshly-killed meat should not be cut too early or it will be full of
air, soft, flabby, and never tender.  Mother Durand, under her calm
exterior, was furiously angry with her man for having delayed the
killing until now--after to-day there would be no demand for anything
but beef-bones and veal until the summer visitors began to arrive.  The
young American mademoiselle asking guilelessly for lamb was a godsend.
Waiting until the last villager had gone from the shop so that there
would be no adverse comment on what she meant to do, she turned
ingratiatingly to Haidee.

"But certainly, mademoiselle ... there is none in the shop ... but
outside I have a lamb that is _superbe_ ... just the thing for a
_première communion_ ... it is not for every one I would cut that lamb,
but for such customers as you and your _belle maman_ there is nothing I
would not do."  She returned presently from the back shed. "There,
mademoiselle--a beautiful shoulder.  Six francs."

Haidee was horrified at the price.  Their dinner meat usually cost about
one franc twenty, and she knew that there was much to be accomplished
with Val’s last twenty-franc piece.

"Could n’t you give me a smaller one, Madame Durand? ... and not so

"Ah, mademoiselle, you should have said to me before that you wanted it
small.  It is cut now ... and what would I do with the pieces from it?
Do you think I could sell them?  But no."

So Haidee took the shoulder, and returned home with it tucked under her
arm.  On arrival as it happened old _veuve_ Michel was in the kitchen
with Val, having just brought home some odds and ends of family washing.

"What!" she cried, on seeing the lamb.  "A shoulder of freshly-killed
lamb, full of air and bubbles ... cut off the poor nice lamb while it
had yet the hot life in it!  Shame on the wretched woman Durand ... to
take advantage thus of poor innocent Americans! ... Shame!  But then
every one knows how she treated her poor daughter who wanted to be a
nun.  Madame, the stones in the street are not more wicked than that
woman Amélie Durand!"

Val, much disturbed by these sayings, examined the shoulder of mutton.
Certainly it was very bubbly looking: warm too.  She remembered now
hearing the cook in New York storm over a piece of freshly-killed meat,
declaring that it had been cut too soon and was not fit to eat.

"How ought I to cook it to make the best of it?" she inquired in dismay.

"Cook it!" cried Widow Michel, scarlet in the face from indignation
combined with the effects of her afternoon bottle of cognac.  "No good
to cook it.  Better to pluck a rock from the cliff-side and cook it."

"How much was it, Haidee?"

"Six francs."

"_Mon Dieu_!  What imposition!  Take it back, Haidee dear, and tell her
that it is too dear and too fresh ...  she must give us a pound of steak
instead.  We are too poor to buy meat we can’t eat, you know, darling.
Six francs!  Did you pay for it?"

"Why, yes, of course I paid for it.  You know I had the _louis_.  Oh!
blow Val, I don’t care much about taking it back."

"But, Haidee, what’s the use of talking like that ... we can’t eat that
bubbly lamb ... think of poor Brannie without dinner!  I ’d go myself if
I had any hair....  Tell her it ’s ridiculous to have given you such
meat.  I remember now Hortense said that leg we had at Christmas and
could n’t eat was too freshly-killed--it was soft and tough at the same
time, and all slithery when you tried to cut it.  Don’t you remember--it
made you sick to look at it?"

Yes, Haidee remembered well enough, but she did n’t like taking the
shoulder back just the same. However, _veuve_ Michel offered the moral
support of her company, and she returned to Mother Durand.  Half-an-hour
later she was back at the Villa, the wretched shoulder of lamb still in
her hands.

"She won’t take it back.  She says it ’s a rule of the shop never to
take back meat that has once gone out of it."

"But it was back within half-an-hour."

"Yes, I told her so--and you should have heard old _veuve_ Michel going
on at her, but she did n’t care two sous.  She said, ’Oh, yes,
mademoiselle, carrying my lamb up and down the Terrasse in the hot
sun--you think that improves the meat.  Hein? Well, I don’t think so.
_Dame_, no!"

"Hot sun!  I wish it were hot!  They don’t know what sun is in this
odious climate," cried Val in wrath.

"I know--but she won’t take it back."  Haidee flung the shoulder
despondently upon the table. But Val’s monkey was up, and she was
determined not to be outdone by the cunning little Norman woman.  Also
it seemed to her by now that if she offered the children that shoulder
of lamb she would be offering them poisoned meat.  She hated it.  She
would rather have eaten sea-sand. With trembling hands she arranged
across her forehead the _chi-chi_ that M. Poiret had made for her out of
her own hair (the first time she had availed herself of it), put on a
deep hat, tied a motor veil over all, then with Bran held by one hand
and the shoulder of lamb in the other she set out to do battle with
Mother Durand.  Haidee, though sick of the subject, accompanied the
expedition out of curiosity.

The little red-cheeked, hard-eyed woman--a typical shrewd Normandy
peasant--was alone in the shop, tidying up her lard-bowls with a large
flat knife.

"Madame Durand!" said Val, controlling her voice as best she could.
"About this shoulder of lamb....?"

"Yes, madame!  What about it?"

"You must take it back ... I do not care for freshly-killed meat...."
She began to stumble with her French.  "Not good for the stomach ....
very hard ... wicked ... no good .... il faut give me back my six

"But not at all, madame ... the meat is good ... _superbe_ ... there is
nothing the matter with it.  I asked mademoiselle if she was willing I
should cut from the freshly-killed lamb, and she said yes....  _Alors?_"

"Oh!  How can you say so, Madame Durand?" cried Haidee indignantly.  "I
had no idea you were cutting it from a lamb all hot."

"Mademoiselle finds it very convenient to say that now ... _très
commode_!  But my husband and daughter were in the shop, and heard
mademoiselle ask to have it cut from the lamb."

"Oh, Val!  don’t you believe it ... the old liar!"  Haidee did not pick
her words when indignant.

"In any case I will not have it back ... you can take it or leave it,
madame," the old woman smiled the smile of one who plays a winning game.

"I will leave it then," said Val, losing all calmness.  "_Vous est pas
juste ... vous est mal honnête ... voleur_!  It is because we are
strangers that you take advantage of us ...it is the first time I have
found such _méchanterie_ in this village....  If you will not give me
back my money you can keep it and the meat too!"  She flung it down and
raged from the shop.

"_Comme wus voudrez, madame_," responded Mother Durand, only too
delighted with such a plan, and to see the backs of the departing trio.
But two minutes later, just as she was removing the paper covering from
the offending shoulder, Val returned.  Stretching her firm, thin hand
across the counter she gripped the meat once more.

"No!  I won’t let you keep it to sell again. Rather will I take it and
give it to the first dog I meet!"

"As you please, madame," repeated Mother Durand blandly, not to be
nonplussed, whatever might be her feelings.

Val stalked from the shop, the shoulder now devoid of wrappings in her
hand.  Haidee and Bran, sympathetic but apprehensive, waited without.

"She shall not have it.  Find a dog, Haidee."

"Oh, Val!  What’s the good? ... keep it ... it will be better than
nothing for dinner to-morrow."

"I would rather eat mud," said Val, white to the lips.  "Find a dog."

But there was no dog in sight.  They marched down the road, a silent
band, looking to right and left for something canine.  Usually the
village was thick with hungry mongrels, but to-day it was as though the
earth had opened to receive all flesh-eating quadrupeds.  Not even a cat
showed its face.

"Perhaps a giant"--murmured Bran.  Haidee was congratulating herself
that they would get home without further adventure, or that at least
Val’s fury would presently abate enough for her to abandon her idea,
when, just in front of the Café Rosetta a lean liver-and-white pointer
with the legs of a bull dog and the ears of a cocker spaniel strolled
out.  Val held the shoulder towards him.

"Here, boy, here--a good supper for you!"

The "boy" regarded her suspiciously for a moment, then came forward a
step.  She encouraged him with a kind word, and held the meat nearer,
but, suspecting a trick, he backed growling.  He had never seen a
shoulder of lamb before except in a dream, and did not recognise the
pink-and-white thing.  He only recognised that they were
strangers--probably knew them to be the mad Americans from Villa Duval.
At any rate, after one long sniff he turned and walked sadly away.  Val
in a fury threw the lamb after him, but he never turned.  Mournfully he
slunk down the slope of the _petit port_ to seek the garbage heaps in
the river bed.  As the three stood staring after him a little red-faced
_bonne_ came running out of the café.

"_Qu’est ce qu’il y a, madame?_" she cried.  Val pointed to the meat
lying in the dust.

"Take that and give it to a dog."

"But yes, madame; thank you, madame."

Smiling all over, she picked up the meat and dusted it carefully.  They
saw very well she did not mean to give it to a dog.

"It is not fit for human food," stammered Val, still shaking.

"But no, madame; thank you, madame."

She smiled and looked at it with fond eyes.  Val could have struck her.
On the _Terrasse_ Haidee said:

"Val, how could you?  It will be all over the town.  Even the curé will

Val did not answer.  Her rage expended, she was wondering what her
Brannie was going to have for dinner the next day.  Two great tears
stole down her face.

When Haidee came back from eight o’clock Mass the next morning she
noticed many of the villagers standing about in groups.  They were
evidently discussing some affair of great interest, but their grave and
serious voices subsided into whispers at the sight of her, and while she
passed a dead silence prevailed in each group.  However, in front of
Lemonier’s shop an old beldame lifted her voice in the manner of a
prophetess and gave forth the dark saying that "it was to be hoped that
people who threw good meat to dogs would never live to feel the pangs of

Haidee repeated this at home as a great joke, but was sorry she did, for
Val turned pale as a condemned criminal, and her eyes searched the faces
of both children as if for the outward signs of an inward gnawing at
their vitals--but so far both looked plump and composed.

She spent the whole morning juggling with six eggs and a pint of milk,
the result being an exceedingly wobbly-looking baked custard which
appeared to supplement the meagre midday repast. At the sight of it Bran
nearly lost his appetite for the potatoes baked in their jackets which
his soul loved, and when pudding-time came he began to squirm and
declare he was not hungry.  With the name of Bran he appeared to have
also inherited that great king’s primitive tastes in food, for he cared
for nothing except milk, oatmeal porridge, and potatoes with butter.

"Do eat some, Brannie," pleaded the pale and guilty Val.  "I made it
specially for you.  It is lovely."

"Yes, I can see it is lovely," said Brannie, politely, edging away from
the table.  "But it smells like a pussy cat just after she has been
drinking milk."

When Hortense arrived to wash up she reported that the two brothers of
the _bonne_ at the Café Rosetta were in the village, having been
summoned from Cherbourg by telegraph to come and lunch with their sister
on a shoulder of Première Communion lamb.


The confirmation ceremony was most grand. It was the first time so
important a personage as an Archbishop had visited Mascaret, and the
villagers, sensible of the honour done them, were inclined to forgive
the curé his imagined misdeeds for having arranged it.  Not only were
all the Premier Communion candidates from other villages present, but a
great many of the summer visitors had arrived, and it was an enormous
congregation that waited in the stuffy church.  The Archbishop’s train
was late, but at last he came from the sacristy very crumpled and
tired-looking in his gold and purple robes, and walking with faltering
feet, for his years were heavy on him and he was weary with travelling.
Everything about him seemed old, from the rich lace on his aube to his
gentle blue eyes, which looked as though they saw visions of far-off
places--everything but the small and wonderful white teeth in his sunken
gentle mouth.  His stole was beautifully painted with lilies, and his
mitre of shining white and gold most splendid, but sometimes during the
long service his head drooped a little under it and rested on his
breast.  There was such a weariness about him that Val was glad when she
heard a few months later that he had laid aside his heavy and elaborate
gold and white panoply of office and gone to rest. He had about twelve
priests with him, keen, able-looking men, of a very different type to
the simple curés who were herding their flocks from the surrounding
villages, and they clustered about him as though to keep the eyes of the
world from resting too long upon this venerable representative of the
Pope.  The _Vicaire-Général_, a splendid looking man with an eagle eye
and a strong beaked nose, surveyed the church as a general might the
field of battle, while the congregation chanted the Benedictus Dominus.
It seemed to Val that when his eye rested on her he saw deep down into
her heart and had no pity for her failures, being of the Napoleonic
brand of man who has no use for any but the strong ones of earth.

After the Archbishop with crumpled crooked fingers had given his solemn
benediction to the people, singing in a trembling yet wonderfully
thrilling old voice,

    "Sit nomen benedictum ... Adjutorium Domini ... Benedicat vos
    omnipotens Deus Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus,"

he sat down just inside the chancel rails, and talkingly questioned the
children on their catechism. Most of them were too shy to distinguish
themselves much, though the son of the village milkman, an ugly
cross-eyed boy, acquitted himself manfully.  Later the Archbishop rested
in his chair, his chin on his breast, seeming to sleep, while priests
prowled and hovered round him.  The Mascaret curé darted about the
church giving instructions, and presently the children broke shrilly
into the popular hymn:

    "Je suis chrétien, voilà ma gloire,
      Mon espérance et mon soutien,
    Mon chant d’amour et de victoire,
      Je suis chrétien!  Je suis chrétien!"

The village boys loved this hymn.  It lent itself to much lusty shouting
in the last two lines of the chorus, and they delighted in it, passing
winks to each other as they hurled it from their lungs with something of
the same ardour as had served for the "_mujik de churie_."  But later
when they filed in long lines to where the old Archbishop sat waiting
for them, their mien changed.  No one could be vicious or violent before
that beautiful tired presence waiting with white trembling hands to
bless them.  They came quietly, one by one, and knelt on the velvet
cushion at his feet, the boys bashful and cloddish in their best smocks,
the girls wearing the elaborate and top-heavy mob cap of silk and
muslins and ribbons that it is the Normandy peasant woman’s pride to
perch above her harsh features.  Haidee, in a white hemstitched muslin
frock with a flounce of delicate lace round its edge, walked among them
like some woodland sylph escaped from a Corot picture.  Her long legs
clad in white silk stockings and sandals created something of a scandal
amongst the peasant mothers, whose ideas of decency bid them cover up
the legs of their girls with the longest and heaviest skirts they can
afford.  Her headgear, too, was considered characteristic of the madness
with which God had afflicted the occupants of Villa Duval, for it was a
tulle veil bound about her brow by a wreath of real daisies, gathered
and twined by Val and Bran.

Each child carried a tiny slip of paper on which was written the new
name which must be assumed at confirmation as in baptism.  This paper
was handed to a priest who stood on the left of the Archbishop and who,
glancing swiftly at it, transposed it into Latin and murmured it into
the great prelate’s ear.  Haidee, who had chosen Joan, was astonished to
hear the Archbishop thus address her:

"Joanna!  I mark thee with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee
_par le chrême du salut_, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Ghost."  Then he gave her a little tap on the left cheek and held
out his ring to her; she kissed it fervently and went away uplifted.  In
passing back a priest on the right stopped her and wiped away the holy
chrism (composed of balm and oil) with a piece of cotton wool, which he
let fall into a basket held by a choir boy whose blue eyes vaguely
disturbed Haidee’s saintly dream.  A little farther on another priest
intercepted her and wiped her forehead once more, none too gently she
thought, with a rather dissipated-looking napkin.  The cowboy look came
over her face at that, and Val reflected that it was just as well there
were no more priests to waylay her before she reached her seat, for that
Wild-West scowl was often followed by acts which made up in vigour for
what they lacked in dignity.

Val was not able to see the end of the ceremony, for just as the priests
closed in on the Archbishop, one with a gilt bowl, another with soap and
broidered towel, another to take his ring, Bran whispered to her in a
panting whisper:

"Mammie!  I ’ve got the gasps!"

There was nothing for it but retreat to the churchyard, for when Bran
got "the gasps" the only cure for them was air and solitude.  It was a
nervous affliction which often seized him when he was deeply bored or,
curiously enough, when he was intensely excited, making him gasp like a
chicken with the pip, and Val would feel her heart come into her throat
with every opening of his little beak.  While he regained his breathing
powers in the churchyard, she sat on a stone watching him, thinking how
she would have liked the hands of the Archbishop on his precious head
too. There was surely some special benediction in such delicate old
hands; and though she asked no blessings for herself, she wanted them
all for Garrett Westenra’s son.  And while she sat there musing, out of
the sacristy door came the Archbishop himself.  He, too, seemed
afflicted with gasps, for his mouth opened and closed and his breath
came in little pants.  None of his priests were with him, only the
village curé escorting him to the presbytery, and he seemed somewhat
like a child escaped for a moment from his nurses. When he saw Bran’s
smiling face his own lit up and its weariness was for an instant wiped

"A little American Catholic," said the curé, but the old prelate had not
waited for an introduction before making the sign of the Cross over
Bran’s bright head.  Val knelt in the dust while the faltering feet
passed by.  She felt as though a star had fallen from heaven for her.

                              CHAPTER XVI

                           THE WAYS OF GIRLS

    "Il n’est pas de rose assez tendre
    Sur la palette du printemps,
    Madame, pour oser prétendre
    Lutter contre vos dix-sept ans."

"Did you see the people from Villa Shai-poo?" asked Haidee, as they
walked home.

"No, which were they?"  Val was away in a land of her own peopling and
her eyes were vague.

"An awfully distinguished old man, with a little white goatee and nice
American-looking boots; and two boys...."  She stopped abruptly. Val’s
attention was attracted.

"What kind of boys?"

"Oh, well!  I didn’t notice them much.  You know all French boys look as
if they wear stays. I dare say these are n’t so bad though.  Hortense
says the eldest is in a regiment _très chic_.  The other one failed for
the navy last year."  Her manner was meant to suggest pointed

"They must be more than boys."

"The one with the greeny-blue eyes is twenty-four and the one with dark
blue ones is nineteen and a half," responded Haidee.  Val smiled at this
artless testimony of her "indifference."

They were passing Shai-poo at the moment; a big, square, roomy-looking
house, with those solid grey walls that stand for centuries and are so
typical of Normandy, surrounded by a spacious garden full of the charm
of careless grace--groups of trees, flowering grasses, little forests of
tall bamboos, beds of brilliant flowers that looked as if they had
sprung up by happy accident, winding paths, and a tea-house in the form
of a Chinese pagoda.  A great mainmast rooted from the bowels of a
French war-ship of old type was erected in a clear open space that lay
almost like a deck around it.  From its top lazily floated a silk flag
embroidered with the Chinese Royal arms.

"Their grandfather the Admiral must have arrived," said Haidee
excitedly.  "They only put up that flag for him--it is the one he took
in the battle of Shai-poo.  That is the mast of his old ship."

"Goodness, Haidee! what a lot you know about them!  Who is the man with
the goatee and the American boots then?"

"Oh, that’s the father of Sacha, the one in the army.  The other boy,
Rupert, is a cousin and an orphan."

"Oh!"  Val pondered these things in her heart. It was plain that Haidee
was growing up, and beginning to take an interest in other things than
hens and rabbits!  Evidently too she had been listening to Hortense’s
gossip.  Val felt guilty somehow, and wished wistfully that poor Haidee
could have the society and companionship of a girl of her own age and

When they got home they found that John the Baptist had left some
letters.  One of them was from Harriott Kesteven, asking if Val would
mind very much if she came to Mascaret for the summer months, bringing
her girl Kitty.  It seemed almost like an answer to Val’s wish for
society for Haidee.

Her only doubt was as to Westenra.  Would this, even though he never
knew or cared, be treachery to him--a last fire made of the blackened
embers of a burnt boat?

It could scarcely be that after all!  He had been at great pains these
last few years to show her by his silence and coldness how little her
doings mattered to him.  Apparently on his return to America after the
fatal visit to Jersey he had flung himself into work with the result
that sometimes occurs in the lives of men; a temple of public success
had begun to raise its walls above the grave of his private sorrows.
International journals frequently mentioned his name in connection with
some wonderful operation performed at his now famous nursing home.
Under the ægis of the skilful Miss Holland the house in 68th Street had
become something very like a gold mine, as the size of the quarterly
cheques (which Val never used) gave proof.  Of more importance was the
fact that he had advanced with great strides in his scientific work, and
the results of his experimental investigations in diabetes were the talk
of medical Europe.  There were rumours of his nomination for the next

Small wonder if in this furious concentration on work and the fame it
brought him, personal emotion as far as Val was concerned should be
crushed out of his life like a useless, hurtful thing.  That at last was
the impression she gained from his letters to Haidee, conned and brooded
over in the silence of the night when the children slept.  True, love
for Haidee and his son breathed from every line, but there was never a
word in the cold courteous messages to Val that she could lay upon her
heart to heal its aching wound.  Time and distance had widened the
breach between them until now it was a gaping ravine over which the
correspondence with Haidee formed the last frail bridge.  He had never
put foot in Europe since the visit to Jersey, but taken all his
vacations in different parts of America.  Sometimes he wrote vaguely of
coming over to see them all, but Val felt herself left outside his world
now, and doubted that he seriously considered making a movement that
would bring him back into hers.  It seemed almost ironical to be
wondering whether she would have his approval or not in allowing
Harriott Kesteven to come to Mascaret.  It was so patent that he had
long since taken advantage of the circumstance that freed his life from

She decided in the end that with a clear conscience she might wire to
London the word "come."

"Of course I know there is a hotel in the place, Val," Mrs. Kesteven had
written, "but we’d much rather come and picnic and be insane with you on
the Dutch-treat plan, each paying our own share.  Do let us."

And Val, though she knew her friend had two thousand a year, and was
used to every comfort of modern civilisation, felt no hesitation about
bidding her welcome.  Harriott Kesteven was a woman after her own heart;
one who could make herself just as much at home in the little wooden
cabins of Villa Duval as in her luxurious London flat; who would rather
tramp the desert with the friend of her heart than be borne in the
silken litters of a stranger’s caravan.

To herself Val could not disguise what a joy it would be to see Harriott
again; to show her Bran--the one tangible treasure snatched from the
grudging hand of Fate; to open her heart a little to eyes that were
lovingly tolerant, and would smile rather than condemn.  Friendship
should be always such a joy: clear water in sight of a thirsty soul--a
tree under which to rest after long travel!

Harriott having speedily wired back that she and her girl were starting
at once, via Southampton and Jersey, preparations for their advent set
in at Villa Duval.  They were not very complicated preparations,
however, merely a matter of clearing out the two spare cabins, and
storing the boxes and baggage in one of _pére_ Duval’s lofts.  Then a
great gathering of wild flowers to stand in jam jars all over the house
and a hunting expedition to the village for a _bonne-à-tout-faire_.  A
middle-aged stony-faced shrew bearing the poetical name of Azalie was
captured, and a bargain struck with her to come in from seven in the
morning till seven in the evening, for the sum of ten francs fifty a
week, bread, coffee, and cider thrown in. Hortense was to act as her

Then on one afternoon the band of three went across to the _digue_ not
more than five hundred yards from their door, to meet the steamer from
Jersey.  It was the first boat of the year, and its arrival quite the
event of the season, so all the world of Mascaret was leaning on the
ropes put up by the Customs’ officers to prevent passengers escaping
before declaring themselves innocent of contraband.  Val, with her
_chi-chi_ tied across her forehead, her face swathed in veils, stood
biting her lips and trembling with emotion, nervous as a bird at the
thought of seeing her friend again. She wondered fearfully if Harriott
would find her greatly changed.  Haidee, full of curiosity, was scowling
under her brigand hat ready to get out all her porcupine-prickles if she
did not like the other girl on sight.  Bran pranced with excitement at
the thought of seeing a big ship once more.  Near by were standing the
two young men from the Villa Shai-poo, and from behind her veils Val
took stock of them and found them goodly to look upon. She liked their
loose blue flannel suits, so different from the usual tight correct
clothes worn by young Frenchmen at the seaside.  She liked their clear
skins and eyes too, and their sleek black heads. In fact, they were not
very French-looking at all, but much more like Irish boys.  The younger
one especially, with his misty violet eyes and rather dreamy face, might
easily have been mistaken for a west-of-Ireland lad.  The elder and
handsomer of the two possessed already the Frenchman’s hardy eye for a
woman, and Val intercepted several appraising glances cast in the
direction of Haidee. The younger fellow contented himself with smiling
at Bran, who smiled back in friendly fashion.

"I like that boy," he confided to Val, "he’s got a hole ’n his chin and
his hair is jet black."  Bran decided all his likes and dislikes by
colour and smell.  His favourite colours were yellow, red, green, and
wet-black.  This last was very different to ordinary black, which was
the colour of toothache.  Little rheumatic pains which he sometimes got
in his knees were grey.  The worst pain you could get was a purply-red
one which came when you were sad and gave you the stomach-ache.  He had
once solemnly stated that the only colour he hated was yellowy-pink, but
as he always called yellow pink and pink yellow no one had been able to
solve the riddle of this hated colour.

Long before the boat came alongside Val recognised Harriott by the
condition of her hat. Mrs. Kesteven’s hats invariably looked as though
some one had been taking a siesta on them, but the moment she got close
enough for her little soft, stern face to be seen no one thought of her
hat any more.  It was the same with her clothes. She always had an
extraordinary stock of last year’s gowns to "finish up," but under the
thrall of her charming manners no one ever noticed that her skirt was
wider than was fashionable and her sleeves the wrong shape.  It would
have been difficult to compute how many new spring gowns she had
contributed that year to youthful poor relations, but she herself was
"finishing up" a faded purple linen of weird cut, while the hat of
battered violets on her head was certainly not in its first season.  But
all the glow of friendship and true affection was in her sunny eyes.
She flew from the deck of the wheezy old steamer, and in spite of the
Customs’ officers’ efforts to head her off, embraced Val over the ropes.
Behind her came Kitty, very fair, pretty, and beautifully dressed.
Haidee shot a scowl at her.

"A Smarty-Arty!" was her inward comment, though she was slightly
overawed by Kitty’s clothes.

"She ’s taller than me, but her feet are bigger," thought Kitty.

"And this is my Brannikin, Harry."

"What a duck! ... give me a kiss, Bran."

But Bran retreated behind his mother’s skirts murmuring:

"The cat says bow-wow-wow."

"Don’t be silly, my Wing.  Come on--and say how do you do.  This is

"_Je sais bien_," said Bran, and handed Kitty a hardy smile.  Bran knew
all things well--at least that was his favourite response to all
remarks. When Val first took him to Notre Dame and they knelt together
in the light of the wonderful rose-window, she whispered in his ear:

"Brannie, you are in the most beautiful church in the world."

"_Je sais bien_," he had answered blandly.

They all proceeded to Villa Duval, followed by the speculative glances
of the crowd and the grocer’s handcart carrying Harriott’s luggage.
Kitty and Haidee, subtly aware of the admiring eyes of the two young
Frenchmen, assumed a demure air mingled with light and not too
annihilating scorn.

Harriott expressed herself charmed with Villa Duval and all that therein
was, from the rose-tree on the balustrade that bore both pink and white
roses as a tribute to _pére_ Duval’s skill in grafting, to the meat-safe
suspended by a chain from the dining-room floor to the cellar below.
After inspecting the cabins, peeping out of the windows, and hearkening
to the man-eater in the kitchen, she said:

"You don’t know how lucky you are, Val, living in peace and simplicity
like this.  You ought to be a very happy woman."

"So I am--happy as a tomtit on a pump-handle," said Val, smiling gaily,
but Harriott, who had the seeing eye, saw the heart-hunger behind the
smile, and knew that happiness had eluded her friend once more.

"I ’ve no right to grumble, Harry.  I ’ve got what I wanted--a son.  You
know I always felt my life would not be complete without a son--and he
is the son of a real man.  But, if one had forty sons, there would still
always be that little round hole in one’s heart which no child can ever
quite fill--you know, Harriott."

Yes, Harriott knew.  Not for nothing had her beautiful hair turned
snow-white at thirty.  She, too, had a void in her big, warm heart which
neither Kitty nor the dozen impecunious youthful relations to whom she
played godmother had been able to fill.

Haidee and Kitty soon became thick as thieves, and, like thieves,
distrusted each other thoroughly. Blondes and brunettes nearly always
do.  Pretending to be quite unimpressed by each other’s looks secretly
each admired the other’s type exceedingly, and in little ways, which
they supposed no one noticed, tried to copy each other’s good points in
dress and style.  It was funny to see Haidee, whose hair had always been
a shameful sort of mane flying to the winds, now brush it out sleek and
straight under a red ribbon (in opposition to Kitty’s blue one) bound _à
la Grec_ above her brow, while Kitty could not rest until she had
discarded her stockings and bought herself a pair of canvas sandals at
Lemonier’s.  She was, to her annoyance, however, no more able to imitate
the tan which covered Haidee, than the latter could acquire the milky
whiteness of Kitty’s complexion.  They set each other off well--Haidee
with her tall dark beauty, Kitty fair and fluffy as a Persian kitten. It
was small wonder that wherever they went attention was focused upon
them.  The two French boys were always hovering in the vicinity, whether
on the beach when the party went to bathe, on the _digue_ to watch the
Jersey boat arrive--now one of the daily interests--or out walking on
the cliff.  Often, as they sauntered in the lanes, the girls ahead,
Harry and Val loitering and gossiping behind, the sound of bicycles
would be heard and the two boys would whirr past, sending swift, hardy
glances at the girls, making the occasion an excuse for apologetically
lifting their caps.

"I ’m afraid it’s neither you behind your blue veil, nor I with ’nearly
fifty’ scrawled across my features, who is causing such commotion in
those two male bosoms," chuckled Harriott to Val.

"It gives one a little shock to feel so out of it!" said Val, laughing a
little.  "When men’s eyes slip past to the girl behind, one begins to
realise that one cannot stay in the great game for ever."

"For ever--no," said Harry; "but _you ’re_ not out of it yet, my
dear--you ’ve only taken the blue veil for a while."

"Oh, Harry, I was out of it the moment Bran came.  I got my prize,
little as I deserved it, and retired from the arena.  Even if I had n’t
loved my man I could never have continued to amuse myself that way once
I had a son."

"That doesn’t make the least difference to your attracting power, my
dear.  You are one of those women who will always have for men the same
kind of pull as the moon for the sea."

Val laughed a little mournfully as she reflected that her moonlight
quality had not the power to pull just the one man she wanted across the
sea to her.


On the third day after the Kestevens’ arrival the Frenchmen achieved
acquaintance with Bran on the beach.  He came back to his party
announcing that "Sacha" and "Rupert" had asked him if he would like to
go out sailing with them.

"Come for a walk in their boat they said," he said, grinning gaily at
their literal English.  "And they asked if my sisters like going out for
walks in a boat, too?"

Kitty and Haidee exchanged rapid eye-signals, then looked away at the
sea.  Harriott frowned.

"Why don’t the idiotic creatures come and call on us like honest men, or
send their women folk?"

"He’s got no women folk but his sister, and she hasn’t come from Paris
yet," burst from Haidee suddenly.

"Whose sister?"


"She ’s expected on Thursday," supplemented Kitty.  A minute later the
two discovered urgent business elsewhere--perhaps for fear of being
questioned as to the source of their information.

Val and Harriott gazed at each other stupefied.

"Goodness! they know all about these French fellows.  What are we to

"Take no notice, Harry.  Let them have their little excitement, dear
things.  A woman’s life is so short.  Bran said to me as we lay in bed
this morning, ’Mammie, in 120 months, I ’ll be fifteen; how old will you
be?’  And, my dear, I calculated and found it would bring me up to
forty-two--and another 120 months to fifty-two, and then another, and
life will be done!  Have you ever thought of it, dear: that our lives
are just a series of months in batches of 120?"

"You need not talk yet," sighed Harriott.  "It’s the last few batches
that are so short.  The years fly like greased lightning after forty."

"And the early ones seem so long and weary--until the first love
adventure looms in sight.  Ah! those first little adventures, how lovely
they are! To realise that we are desirable ... that some one wants us
... finds us pretty and charming ... to feel the little wings of
womanhood sprouting on our shoulder-blades!  Oh, Harry, we mustn’t
grudge the enchantment of it to our girls! Don’t you remember how
delightful it was?  Was anything that came after half so wonderful?"

"I know," said Harriott, the gentle light of reminiscence in her eye.
"But this is a different matter, my dear.  These are _Frenchmen_."

"But they are really very Irish-looking," laughed Val, who not being
English never could understand the curious aversion that sits deep in
almost every Englishwoman’s heart for the male species across the
Channel.  "And those two kids are as happy and excited as larks in the
wind. I ’m sure that kind of thing should never be suppressed, Harry."

"I dare say you are right, dear.  Only we must make fun of them
sometimes so that there shall be no danger of their taking it seriously.
I think I ’d rather have Kitty take the veil than take a Frenchman."

That same evening as they all sat playing Bridge in the little wooden
dining-room of Villa Duval, a whirr of bicycle wheels was heard without.
Then a silence and the sound of some one walking softly over the glass
and broken china with which the other side of the road was freely
decorated.  Under the table Haidee handed Kitty a hack on the shins, but
their faces remained bland, their interest in the game unabated.  It was
a black night and to look out of the window availed nothing.  A few
moments later came the sound of bicycles in retreat.  At bedtime the two
girls stayed whispering and speculating long in Kitty’s room, which
overlooked the road, but the mystery of the bicycles was
unexplained--until the next morning.  Bran, standing on Val’s bed, as
was his pleasant custom when dressing, suddenly shouted--and a shout in
Villa Duval could be heard through every room in the house.

"_What’s that red thing in my ’Jules Duval’?_"

The _Jules Duval_, as has been explained, was _pére_ Duval’s old fishing
boat, which had been fixed-up and painted to be the special joy and
plaything of Bran.  He adored boats and everything to do with the sea,
and spent all his days in the _Jules_ going imaginary voyages.

"There ’s something red fastened to the mast," he shrieked excitedly,
and upstairs two necks were craned to cracking point from Kitty’s
bedroom window.  Insufficiently clothed as he was Bran tore out to the
boat, and came back bearing in triumph an enormous cabbage rose--full
blown, and rather tired from being up all night.  Both girls put out
their hands for it.  Bran looked at them in surprise.

"Why, it was in _my_ boat!  Perhaps an angel put it there for me..."
The girls turned away in wrath.  Later they were each seen to go
separately to the _Jules_ and give a sort of casual glance into the
bottom of it.  It was possible, of course, that Bran might have
overlooked something!

"Only one rose!  How clever of those young scamps!" chuckled Val, and
Harriott with joyful malice pinned the flopping rose to the breast of
Bran’s red sweater, where it drooped its life away.

The girls were constrained with each other all day.  The tide was low
and there was no excuse to go to the beach.  Perhaps that was why the
two took books and sat in the _Jules_ all the morning pretending to
read, but with a keen lookout on the road and all stray cyclists.  Bran,
greatly delighted to have passengers, took them several voyages to New
York and back.  Harry and Val, professing to be busy inside the Villa,
cast many an intrigued glance from the windows.  Nothing happened.

Next morning a basket of figs was found in the boat--beautiful,
luscious, purple figs.  Now the only fig-trees in Mascaret grew in the
garden of the Admiral of Shai-poo!

Val and Harriott went to early Mass, and returning ran into the two
heroes coming up from the river.  They had been for an early morning
sail, and wore a pleasantly disreputable air in their blue fisherman
jerseys and turned-up coat collars. They cast sheepish glances at the
two ladies, and the younger had the grace to blush.

"They really are nice-looking boys," Harriott admitted, but at the
breakfast table a few minutes later she expressed herself differently.

"We met those two Romeos from the Villa Shai-poo as we were coming from
Mass," she announced.  "Seedy-looking fellows.  One of them looked as if
a tub might do him good."

The girls bristled like Irish terriers.

"Which one?" they demanded in one breath.

"The one with the drunken blue eyes," said Val, aware that this was
sheer malice.

"Oh, that’s Rupert!"  Relief burst from Haidee. But Kitty’s appetite was
gone.  She assumed a dark and menacing expression of countenance that
her mother declared reminded her of Mendelssohn’s _Spring Song_.

"It makes me want to prance and leap like Cissie Loftus imitating Maude
Allen when I see you look like that, Kit," she said.  But Kit remained
cross as a cat and would not smile.

"And where did these figs come from?" asked Val in amaze.

"They are Bran’s," quoth Haidee demurely. "An angel left them in the
_Jules_ for him."

It may have been religious fervour which then seized the girls or it may
merely have been a fervour for going in the direction of Mascaret, at
any rate they patronised both High Mass and Vespers and seemed to be
discontented that there were no further services to attend.

In the evening, as it was Sunday, there were letters to write instead of
the usual game of Bridge. Every one appeared to be deeply occupied, but
a listening look was so apparent on two faces that Harriott could not
resist a mischievous remark to Val.

"I wonder if the cabbages have come yet?"  As if by some magical
arrangement with fate there came on the instant the usual whirring sound
followed by the crackling underfoot of broken crockery which had strayed
from the garbage hole.

"What’s that?" cried Bran nervously from his bed in the next room.

"Hush, my Wing!  I expect it’s only a basket of eggs arriving in the
_Jules_," soothed his mother.

"Soon we shall not have to go to market, Val," remarked Harriott; "all
that we need will be found in the boat.  I wonder if it’s a Customs’
officer or a gendarme who is so kind?"

"I think a delicate attention on our part would be to tie a return
bouquet on to the mainmast," said Val thoughtfully.  "Should we go out
and gather some, Harry--just to show that we enjoyed the figs?"

"Oh, no!  Val," burst out Haidee, "you ’ll spoil everything."

"Spoil?" said Val with wondering eyes.  "_Everything_? Surely a little
gratitude...?  Old _père_ Duval has some nice sunflowers."

But the girls had burst from the room in a rage. Val and Harriott,
exploding with laughter, went for a walk down the _digue_ in the mild

"Poor kids!" said Harriott.  "Perhaps we really ought not to torment
them so much."

"My dear, it is the proudest moment of their lives," laughed Val.
"Their first conquest!  At such times mothers are always looked upon as
sort of ogresses anyway--we may as well be amused ogresses."

They had an adventure all to themselves that night.  A little party of
people passed them talking French, and bound like themselves for a
stroll to the end of the breakwater.  There were two ladies and two men,
and in the latter Val felt certain she recognised the boys from
Shai-poo. Behind them, at a little distance, smoking a deliciously
fragrant cigar and humming cheerfully after the manner of a Frenchman
who has just enjoyed a good dinner, strolled a third man, evidently
belonging to the party, for he called out an occasional remark to the
others.  All disappeared into the blackness at the far end of the pier,
where a lamp and storm-bell were built into a little chapel-shaped
shelter.  Val and Harriott, deciding not to walk farther, seated
themselves by dint of a certain amount of physical exertion upon the
high wall which runs beside the _digue_, their legs dangling, the sea
below, the cool black night all round them.  By and by the French party
returned in the order of their going, the last man still lagging behind.
He had perhaps lingered longer than the others to watch the seas dashing
against the bulky end of the pier, for the advance party passed some
five minutes before his cheerful humming was heard.  As he came along a
pale streak of gold from the far lighthouse swept over him, revealing
him an elderly, distinguished man of the _Légion d’honneur_ type.  Val
immediately recognised in him the man whom Haidee had pointed out as
General Lorrain, the father of Sacha: he of the American boots and
pointed goatee.

"Ah!  Le phare est très chic ce soir!"  He called out suddenly.  He had
seen them in the same sweeping line of light, but it never occurred to
them that he mistook them for the ladies of his party until he came up
and gave Harriott an affectionate squeeze on her ankle, repeating his

"_N’est ce pas_, Comtesse--it gives a very _chic_ illumination to-night,
the lighthouse?"

Mrs. Kesteven gave a very _chic_ gasp, and almost leaped from the wall
into the sea below.  And Val, realising what had happened, hastily
leaned forward and in her bad French, always ten times worse when she
was excited, cried:

"_Mais--vous faisez une erreur, monsieur._"

The poor man, horrified as Mrs. Kesteven herself, blurted out a throaty:

"_Parr-don!  Je vous demands parr-don, mesdames,_" and fled.

Val said her French did it--that wonderful phrase "_faisez une erreur_,"
quite unknown to the French grammar.  But Harriott declared her
suspicion that the quality of her woollen stockings was the cause of the
poor man’s panic.

"I imagine the French Comtesse whom that pinch was meant for is not much
addicted to Jaeger and flannel lingerie," she said with a grim glint of
humour in her eye.  "Anyway it is a lesson to us not to sit out alone on
dark nights."

Next morning there was a basket of grapes in the boat.

"This is really beginning to go a little too far," declared Val.
"Either some one is robbing the Admiral’s garden and wants to drag us
into the affair as accomplices, or else there is an impression abroad
that we are in need of food and clothing."

She and Harriott gravely discussed the point as to whether it would be
better to put up a public notice by the wayside, or call in the

"Oh, mother!" cried Kitty in a voice of mingled consternation and
impatience, and wriggled Mrs. Kesteven into her bedroom where she could
harangue her without ribald interruption from Val. The minute Haidee got
Val alone she said furiously:

"Oh, Val, you are a silly ass!  You know quite well it ’s _them_!"


"Those Lorrain boys.  Do leave off rotting."


"Och! _you!_" cried Haidee in a black rage, and flung out of the room.

                              CHAPTER XVII

                            THE WAYS OF BOYS

               "For every grain of wit a grain of folly."

All the same, Val and Harry were beginning to say to each other, "What

It was a great relief that the Lorrain boys, most correctly dressed and
apparently laced in their best corsets, came very ceremoniously to call
that afternoon.  They were accompanied by two ladies. One was
Mademoiselle Celine Lorrain, the other the Comtesse de Vervanne, who had
come to spend part of the summer with them.  Upon being introduced to
the latter, Val and Mrs. Kesteven, who knew what they knew about a
_chic_ lighthouse and a lady’s ankle, exchanged a fleet glance that was
not without humour.

Celine Lorrain, the sister of Sacha, was a girl of twenty-five, with
eyes of Mediterranean blue in a rather broad sweet face.  The boys had
monopolised all the beauty of the family, but she had a singularly pure
expression, and with her gallant bearing would have made an ideal Joan
of Arc.  The countess, of a very different type, was, it transpired, the
bosom friend of another and married Lorrain sister.  She was little and
piquant and plump, and made-up as for the stage.  Pearl powder lay thick
as white velvet on her nose, and her dark-green eyes were artistically
outlined with spode-blue shadows.  A little mole on her chin had been
carefully blackened--and in her cheeks was a wild-rose flush out of a
box.  A few gilt streaks in the little dark plaits she wore coiled over
her ears _jeune fille_ fashion told that at some past period her hair
had been magically changed to gold, but was now returning to its
original colour. No doubt she was extremely picturesque, and her manners
were charming.  But Val, who always looked at eyes, noticed that hers,
in spite of their enshrouding blue shadows, were as cold as some still
mountain lake, though, at the same time, full of the swift brightness of
the Parisienne who misses nothing there is to see.  She included the two
women, the girls, and the room in one rapid enveloping glance, much as a
painter might take a snapshot of something he meant to examine more
carefully later on, and thereafter took upon herself the "expense of the
conversation," as the French phrase runs.  Unfortunately, her English
was not so excellent as she believed it to be--though a good deal more
amusing.  In answer to Val’s polite "How do you do?" she responded

"Vary much."  And later she related, with a pretty little high laugh:
"It is the costume in France for strange womens to visit first, but we
have taken the beef by the horns and come to see you in case you have
not the spirit of the adventuress."

Mrs. Kesteven, fearing that Kitty and Haidee might disgrace themselves
if they listened to much of this style of thing, gradually wriggled the
conversation back into French, at which they were all fairly fluent,
except Val who, however, understood everything.  With a general
intention to be amiable, time hung on no one’s hands.  Every one took
tea, and the young men made themselves useful, twisting with ease in the
tiny room to hand cups and bread and butter.

"We must all be friends and go walks and swims together," said the
Comtesse.  "I hear your girls swim beautifully, Madame Valdana.  I want
them to teach me."

"And would you let them go sailing with us in our little sailing boat?"
a voice beguiled in Val’s ear, and she found the misty blue eyes which
she had maliciously described as "drunken" looking at her.

"Oh, I don’t know about that," she said in her faltering French.

"You spik in English and I spik in French and we will understand us," he
said, smiling charmingly at her.  He reminded her intensely of Bran, and
for this reason she felt a great leaning to him. Besides, no one could
have helped liking him. His fresh clear skin was made fresher by the
blueness of his eyes and the blackness of his hair. Added to his boyish
beauty was a sort of good honest look that warmed the heart.

"We are very all right sailors," he continued, still politely expressing
himself in English.  "My cousin and I have sailed our boat here every
year since we had ten years of age.  You need not have fear of

"My sister often goes with us," chimed in Sacha, "but she’s getting
lazy.  Mademoiselle your daughter and Mees Kesteven both say they adore
to go on the sea."

Val let them remain under the impression that Haidee was her daughter,
feeling that it gave her more authority to shake her head at the idea of
the girls going sailing.  But the chorus of beguilements continued and
the two girls kept saying:

"Oh, do, Val ... _do_, mother ... _do_ ... _do_...."

Bran made a diversion by bursting in, bright of eye, his fair hair wild,
a strong scent of puppy dog about him, for he had been amusing himself
with a litter of terriers bred by _pére_ Duval.

He was introduced to the company, but his news would hardly keep until
the ceremony was over.

"Mammie!  At last I ’ve found out the difference between boy puppies and
girl puppies. The boys----"

"Go and wash your hands for tea, darling."

"But, Mammie, the boys--

"Yes, I know, Bran, go now and wash your----"

"The boys have blue eyes and the girls have brown ones," he shouted
indignantly as, hurt and astonished at his mother’s strange lack of
interest in his latest discovery, he was being pushed from the room by
Haidee.  Val suddenly ran after him and hugged him, and every one
exploded into laughter.

Val and Harriott found themselves almost mesmerised into giving
half-promises to let the girls go sailing, but after the visitors were
gone and the last echo of the Comtesse’s little gay sky-high laugh had
died away, they gazed at each other doubtfully.  The mesmerism was
wearing off.

"I don’t think we ought to let them go," Mrs. Kesteven said.

"I ’m sure we ought not," declared Val, wondering what Westenra would
say if Haidee were drowned.  There was a chorus of howls.  Kitty put on
her _Spring Song_ face.  Haidee’s expression resembled that of a rhino
about to charge.

"Mother, you _promised_...!"

"Oh, Val, you mean pig...!"

They burst from the room, scowling and muttering. Later even sobs were
heard upstairs.

"Perhaps, after all...?" Harriott wavered.

"They are, I ’m sure, nice boys..." said Val, "and evidently good
sailors.  Shall we ask _père_ Duval?"

They found the latter, as usual, hoeing his garden, Bran assisting him.
Bran loved _père_ Duval, who, he said, "smelt like a bar of iron that
had been lying at the bottom of the sea for a few weeks ... all green
and rusty, but yet nice."

"Of those two boys," the old man peered at them with his bleary eyes,
"you need have no fear, mesdames.  There are no better sailors on this
coast.  And round here it is very safe too--no bad winds--safe as

Less uneasy, they went upstairs to throw the oil of consent upon the
stormy waters of rebellion. Immediately the two began to get out their
sweaters and warm skirts as if to start at once, though the sail had
been fixed for next morning. Harriott and Val stood smiling grimly,
throwing little darts.

"I hope you ’ll take your tubs before you go--even though you may get an
unpremeditated dip," gibed Harriott.

"Yes; brush your teeth, dears, and your hair," supplemented the other
tormentor.  "Don’t go out looking like a pair of rabbits plucked out of
a dust barrel."

"Rabbits!  Dust barrels!" snorted the girls, shaking their hair, each
strong in the consciousness of annihilating beauty.  Afterwards Haidee
said with a superior smile to Kitty:

"Poor things!  It must be awful to be old."

"Yes," said Kitty, who was sniffing a good deal. "They ’re mad with
jealousy.  That’s why I don’t take any notice of all Mother’s blither."
She added thoughtfully: "I hope she doesn’t find out I ’ve got a cold,
before to-morrow morning. She ’s such a fuss pot."

"Let’s go to bed early, then she won’t," suggested Haidee.  And they
went, and rose early too.  Usually it was the work of two persons to
pick them out of their blankets, but they were up at five, pinking and
preening before the mirror, with many a glance from the window to see
why the river was n’t filling.  The tide, it seemed, was unaccountably
delayed that morning!

Val, who always rose at seven to make tea on her spirit lamp, took the
usual cup to Harriott’s bedside, and found Kitty there by special
command.  She was vehemently denying that she had a cold.

"I hawed god wud, buther, I ted you."

"Kitty, how can you say so?  You can’t speak properly.  All traffic in
your nose is absolutely suspended."

"It tiddent, buther!"

"You are snorting and snuffling like the bull of Bashan."

"I ’b _dot_, buther."

"I ’m sure it’s no good for her to go out in that state," sighed
Harriott afterwards.  "But what would you?  She ’d have broken a blood
vessel if I ’d stopped her."

Val looked out of the window and reported gleefully:

"They are prowling up and down the _digue_ like two hungry tigers.  If
they could only pull the tide in with ropes they would set to work at

At last there was water enough to float a boat, and the Lorrains’ little
craft was seen winging down the river from the _petit port_.  The girls
came racing back to get their warm coats.  A moment later Bran’s voice
was heard from the front steps:

"I want to go too--I want to go too!"  He had smelt what was in the
wind, and hastily shuffling on his little garments was following the
girls. With the cold brutality of an elder sister Haidee rebuffed him.

"No; you can’t come.  We don’t want any kids."

"Besides, you can’t swim," said Kitty more kindly.

"I can swim--I can swim!" averred Bran, and ran after them wailing
passionately.  "I can swim--I _can_ swim!"

Val had to fly out and bring him home weeping on her shoulder.

"You shall have a beautiful boat all your own some day, my Wing, and we
’ll sail away in it together."

She comforted him, drying his tears on her blue veil.

"Oh, jeer buck!" sniffled Bran, trying to cheer up, "and will daddy come

Val thought of a lost ship in which she had thought to sail with all she
loved to the islands of the blest, and her breath caught in her throat.
"Yes, darling, let us pray so," she said, though she had no hope.


From that day forward the Shai-pooites and the Duvalites were constantly
together.  The two parties joined forces and were as one man in all
things that pertained to amusements and making the sunny days fly by.

There was always the daily excursion to the beach.  Kitty and Haidee
were as much at home in the water as two seals, and Val too was a good
swimmer.  Harriott always turned blue when she had been in two or three
minutes, so her lot in life was to stay on the beach and rub Bran down
when he came from floundering like a little scarlet tadpole in the surf.
The Insanes wore red twill costumes, and resembled nothing so much as a
band of Indians on the warpath when they came prancing from the cabins
across the flat beach, with the Shai-pooites in dark blue _maillots_ at
their heels.  A strange note of colour was a scarf of deep orange, which
Val wore round her head, dock fashion.  She never let her cropped head
be seen by any one, though it was well covered now with little sprouting
fluffy curls. Only Bran was allowed to see it in the nights, and loved
to nestle against it, as a bird nestles against the downy breast of its
mother.  From the rest of the world she kept her distance, even in the
sea, for she hated any one to see the curiousness of her face without
its frame of hair.

The Comtesse was learning to "make the plank"--otherwise float, and on
calm days incessant laughter came streaming over the smooth, silky
waves, as her plump little person was held up by a ring of instructors.
When all seemed well they let go, and immediately a shrill cry would
ring out:

"_Ah, mon Dieu!  Je coule....  Je coule dans le milieu_.  I am sinking
in ze middle!"  And down she would drop and come up spluttering: "Ah!
_Quelle abomination de la désolation!_"

But she never went in deep enough to damage the wild-rose flush in her
cheeks and the blue mountain shadows round her eyes.  The two English
girls and Celine Lorrain came out always sleek as seals, their hair
dripping and dank about them, but when Madame de Vervanne’s cerise
head-wrap was unbound, never a hair was out of place.  She thoroughly
understood the art of bathing beautifully.  Later, arrayed in a wondrous
kimono, she would take a sun bath on the beach, scuffling her bare feet
daintily in the sand.

"_Imaginez-vous!_" she told Mrs. Kesteven.  "I never knew until this
year that I had Greek feet. _Le vrai grec_, with the arch and perfect
toes--see?"  She stuck out her short white foot.  "An artist revealed it
to me this year.  Figure it to yourself! I have had them all these years
and did not know."

She flung her little laugh to heaven, and the other women could not but
join in it at this frank exhibition of vanity.  Never was a little lady
more thoroughly pleased with herself than Christiane de Vervanne, and,
indeed, she was of those who add to the gaiety of nations.  Without her
cold, brilliant wit and Harriott Kesteven’s gentle humour the party
might easily have been heavy. Val, shrouding a brooding heart as well as
a cropped head behind her blue veil, came forth little except when alone
with Harriott or the children, whilst Kitty and Haidee, alternately
weighed down by the new-born consciousness of their wonderful beauty and
absolute desirability, were not amusing except unintentionally, and
often indeed when their plans went wrong were sulky and quarrelsome.  At
other times they would be buoyed up to a pitch of perky inanity most
provoking.  But on the whole the two girls improved noticeably under the
influence of their first flirtation.  Haidee’s cowboy habits dropped
from her one by one never to return, and untidiness was no longer a
habit.  Kitty became gentler, too, and less inclined to treat her mother
as a slave sent unto the world for her special benefit. Respect for
their elders is one of the most attractive traits in the character of
young French people, and the girls were quick to note the astonishment
and disapproval of the Lorrains at any discourtesy shown by them to Val
and Harriott.  An actual demonstration of how parents should be treated
could not be given by Sacha and Celine unfortunately, for (for reasons
of his own at which Mrs. Kesteven and Val could make a good guess),
General Lorrain, their only surviving parent, never called with his
family at Villa Duval, nor even materialised when the English party took
tea at Shai-poo.  Val and Harriott often wondered whether he had taken
the Comtesse into his confidence over the little _contretemps_ on the
_digue_ when Mrs. Kesteven’s ankle had been mistaken for that of Madame
de Vervanne’s.  Certainly the latter gave no sign.

It transpired that she was in the position so unfortunate in France of
having been obliged to divorce her husband.  She was most frank about
the details of her conjugal unhappiness, and the fact that she had been
thrust a little way out of her own world since the divorce, did not seem
to weigh her down very much.  The Lorrains were among the few of her
liberal and broad-minded friends to whom her position had made no
difference. Her husband had been an officer in General Lorrain’s
regiment, and she married him when she was eighteen and he thirty and
_très connaisseur_.

"Like most young girls I thought it was a very wonderful thing for him
that I was conferring my innocence upon him--that he too shared my state
of ecstatic bliss, and that it would last for ever. _Quelle bêtise_!
Naturally for him it was nothing--he was soon _ennuyée_ with my bliss.
That is a mistake young girls make--they soon bore a sophisticated man
with their simplicity."

"A sophisticated Frenchman, I dare say," said Harriott dryly.

"Ah!  There you hit the affair on the back, Mistress Kesteven," agreed
the Comtesse affably. "I do not spik of your Englishmen with the big
hearts and the big feets."

She proceeded to describe the lady who stole her husband.

"She was my best friend, and I was very proud to know her--very _chic_,
very Parisienne, and with the cleverness of forty.  Ah! she was as
subtle as an Egyptian!  What chance had I against her when she began to
put her cobra spells on de Vervanne?  I could only look on like a
fascinated rabbit."  She burst into a peal of laughter.  Val looked at
her thoughtfully, wondering if she were the result of her ill luck or
the cause of it. Certainly she had arrived at being much more like the
cobra than the rabbit.

"Did you ever hear of the little baker’s girl, who had to carry round
the tarts and cakes to her master’s customers?  Some one said to her,
’Do you never take any of the nice tarts, my child?’  ’Oh, no,’ said
she, ’that would be stealing.  I only lick them, and that does no one
any harm.’"

Harriott threw an apprehensive glance ahead. They were taking one of
their long country walks, the younger folk marching in front, with Bran
and a tea-basket to leaven their exuberance.  It was a relief to see
that they were out of ear-shot, for the Comtesse’s baker-girl stories
were apt to be very spiced bread indeed, and less likely to point a
moral than to adorn some one without morals.

"If my friend had only been like the little _boulangère_," continued the
Comtesse mournfully, "I would have said nothing.  But no, she was greedy
and wicked, and could not content herself except by stealing my nice
cake."  She trilled and bubbled with laughter.  The other woman’s
thought, if interpreted, might have read much the same as Wolfe Tone’s
brief reflections on the subject of Madame de Vervanne’s countrywomen:

"A fine morality, split me!"

At the same time it was impossible not to feel a touch of admiration for
a woman who could turn her tragedy into laughter.  Val was wistfully
inclined to wish that she could achieve the same state of philosophy

Meanwhile the Comtesse, very pleased with her little tale, and the
thought that she had shocked the "women made of wood," as she secretly
described all Englishwomen, walked ahead, for the path had narrowed, her
skirt held high to avoid the brambles, revealing the famous Greek feet
encased in high-heeled _suède_ shoes, with a pair of boy’s socks falling
round her ankles.  She affected these at the seaside, under the
impression that she was being truly Arcadian.  Suddenly she burst into a
little song.  Her voice was dainty and pretty, her specialty innocent
nursery rhymes with a tang to the tail of them.  She never sang anything
that was not of eighteenth-century origin.  All of her songs were about
shepherdesses and _boulangères_--sometimes a curé would be introduced
into the last verse, but his presence there rarely imported holiness.

When the kettle was singing over the fire of wood branches, and the band
sat scattered at ease among golden clumps of gorse and purple heather,
she trilled them one of the least frisky in her vocabulary:

    "Philis plus avare que tendre,
      Ne gagnant rien à refuser,
    Un jour exigea de Sylvandre
      Trente moutons pour un baiser!

    "Le lendemain nouvelle affaire!
      Pour le berger, le troc fut bon
    Car il obtint de la bergère,
      Trente baisers pour un mouton!

    "Le lendemain Philis plus tendre,
      Craignant de déplaire au berger,
    Fut trop heureuse de lui rendre
      Trente moutons pour un baiser!

    "Le lendemain Philis peu sage
      Aurait donné moutons et chien
    Pour un baiser que le volage
      A Lisette donnait pour rien."

After this contribution to the general well-being the Comtesse embraced
Bran, who wriggled desperately to get away, for as he had secretly
confided to his mother, he did not care for her smell. She said she
would let him go if he would sing them a song, so Bran, in spite of his
shyness, paid the price with two of his little impromptu anthems,
chanting and rolling his eyes at them like a Zulu:

    "Mary, Queen of Scots,
      Went to sea
    In a soft boat,
      A boat as soft as cream."

    "Bobyian went to church
      But he had no money
    So he took two sous out of the plate."

They all applauded and hugged him.

"Sapristi!  You have the voice of an angel, _mon ami_," said Sacha.

"I know it well," answered Bran modestly in his pretty French.

"Ah!  He is enormous, this Bran!  He knows all things well," cried the
Comtesse.  "And can you tell me now, _mon petit ange_, where can I get
such another little boy as you for myself?"

For the first time Bran’s noted phrase faltered on his lips.  He
considered the point for a moment, but swiftly came to the conclusion
that no little angel would care to leave his wings under a cloud in
heaven, as he had done, to come down and seek the Comtesse for his
mother, so he presently announced to a breathless audience:

"_Je ne sais pas!_"

"Ah, ha!" twittered the Comtesse.  "I like better to hear you say so, my
little hen, than to hear you answer that you know well."

                             CHAPTER XVIII



    "All the great things of life are simply done,
    Creation, Death, and Love the Double Gate."

One morning Harriott came into Val’s room and found her writing at the
table with the blue veil fallen off, lying on her shoulders.

"Why, Val!" she exclaimed in genuine astonishment. "Your hair is
perfectly lovely!  Never, never cover it up any more!"

"Really?" said Val shyly and flushing deep rose.  "Do you think I might
go without the veil now?"

"Do I think!  Look at yourself!"  She gave Val a gentle push towards her
mirror, where the pale oval face was reflected, a very girlish face
still in spite of sorrows, and framed now in a nebulous, wavering frame
of feathery, fluttering curls.

"I never saw anything so dear," said Harriott, dipping her hand into the
airy softness.  "It is ten times prettier than it was before.  How on
earth did you manage it?"

"It must be the salad oil," said Val laughing. "I ’ve rubbed in a whole
quart bottle during the winter.  Poor Bran!  Many is the morning he has
come sniffing to my pillow with the question, ’Did you have potato salad
for supper last night, Mammie?’  Is n’t it extraordinary what we women
will do for vanity’s sake, Harry. You ’d think I ought to know better at
thirty-two, wouldn’t you?"

"Thirty-two, what’s _that_?  Women are only just beginning to find
themselves at thirty. You ’re an infant still, my dear, and fortunately
you look it."  She added inconsequently, "I think that man of yours must
be a pig."

A grave sadness came back into Val’s face.

"Never say anything like that, Harry.  Those are the kind of words that
separate friends."

For a moment Mrs. Kesteven regarded her reproachfully, but her soul was
too loyal a one to misunderstand Val’s feelings.  There was a great
soul-likeness between the two women.  Only that Val would be always more
or less primitive, while Harriott Kesteven had come of a long line of
cultivated ancestors, and was more highly civilised. But in the simple
elementary things the two felt and saw alike.

"Forgive me, dearest," she said gently.  "It is only that I hate to see
you so alone--and lonely. You were not meant for such a life."

"I must be unworthy of companionship, for it is always taken from me,"
said Val, as if to herself, staring at her image in the glass.  "I
sometimes tremble because of Bran.  Oh, Harry, if Bran--if Bran--!"  Her
eyes darkened with tears, her lips twisted in an anguish of terror and
love and foreboding.

"Never think of such a thing," cried Harriott. "It is like inviting the
daughter of Zeus to come after you.  You will have Bran and much more
than Bran, dear.  Your life is far from over. There are those whom
Sorrow elects her own for many years only to bless them in the end.  All
will come right with you yet, Val."

"Bless you, Harry!  What would one do without friendship?"

"Well, you’ll never have to do without me wherever you are, darling.
Mine is one of the hands stretched across seas and hills to you.  But I
fear that my material body must leave you this day week; all sorts of
things call me back to London."

"So soon?"

"My dear, do you realise that the summer is nearly over?  While we have
sat in the sunshine talking of old days, and watching the children grow
their wings, two of our precious months are gone.  Two of the hundred
and twenty, Val!"

"Never mind, they ’ve left us something," said Val, kissing her.

From that day forward she discarded the blue veil.  The French friends
were amazed when they saw her without her shroudings.  It had a
curiously different effect upon them all.  Something discontented and
critical came into the still-lake eyes of Madame de Vervanne, but Celine
used to like to come close and brush her cheek against Val’s head as if
she or Val were a kitten.  The two boys seemed suddenly to wake up and
realise that Val was still a factor in the game, at least Sacha did, and
the look half gallant, half appraising, which he had so far kept only
for Kitty and Haidee or any other pretty girl who happened along, began
to lurk in his eye for Val also.  With Rupert it was a little different.
He had from the first recognised something vital and alluring behind the
blue veil, and had never shown himself averse to leaving the girls to
walk with Val, carrying her things, or holding one of Bran’s hands while
she held the other.  There had come to exist between them one of those
wordless sympathies that make for friendship.  They spoke the same
language, for there was one great bond between them--the wanderlust.
Rupert, strange and rare thing in a Frenchman, had "the love for other
lands!"  Hoping to assuage his thirst for travel in a legitimate way,
and one traditional in his family, he had entered for the Navy and had
worked hard to get in from the Lycée St. Louis.  But though his physical
qualifications for that profession were perfect, he was no student and
the exams. had been too much for him.  Three times he had gone up, and
failed, and the third time was the last.  He was over nineteen, and the
age limit for men entering the Navy was passed.

At odds and ends of times he told Val these things, and her heart went
out to him while her mind greatly wondered at the stupidity of the
French Government.  Here was an ideal sailor lost to his country because
he could not pass a difficult exam., that dealt largely with languages
and mathematics, though you had only to watch him with his inferiors,
the villagers and fishermen, to know that he possessed all the qualities
characteristic of the good sailor and commander of men.  Above all he
was a lover of the sea.  As an Englishman or American other gates to
that "lover and mother of men" would have been open to him.  But as a
French gentleman having failed to get into the Navy, he was obliged to
renounce the love of his life, for there was no other way, compatible
with honour, of wooing her.

The next best thing then he declared was to join the Colonial Infantry,
and achieve travel and adventure in foreign service.  But such a
decision thoroughly scandalised his family, for the Colonial Infantry is
looked upon as the last resort of the destitute.  Only men who have n’t
a penny of private income go to the Colonies, and it was considered a
most unfitting fate for a man of such brilliant fortune as Rupert would
be master of in a year or so.  Even Sacha, who had no more than two
hundred and twenty francs a year, disdained the Colonial Infantry and
was in the "Dragons," preferring a cavalry regiment likely to be
stationed within reach of Paris, living a life of gaiety on credit,
always in debt, but always with an open chance of catching an heiress
whose fortune would regulate his affairs and settle him in life.

The Colonial Infantry very often means quick promotion, but it also
means travel and rough life in far places, and these things do not
appeal to the ordinary young Frenchman, who is out for "life" of a very
different kind.  That they appealed to Rupert showed that he was far
from being an ordinary Frenchman.  In his family everything was still
being done to try and dissuade him.  But he showed no signs of budging
from his purpose--for him the Colonial Infantry or nothing, he said, and
had already accomplished the one year’s military service essential to a
candidate for St. Cyr.  He told Val of his intentions, and she secretly
upheld them and encouraged him to go his own way.  For to her Rupert
looked like one of those whom Nature chooses to track her across deserts
and mountains and seas.  He had the vague yet ardent eyes of the
follower of the Lone Trail.  Val recognised in him, boy as he was, a
wanderer like herself, and it seemed to her that it would be a tragic
thing to confine such a boy to the smug and conventional paths of life
in France.

While the Kestevens were still in Mascaret, Rupert was looked upon as
being more or less property at the disposal of Kitty, and Val had only
an occasional opportunity for the long rambling talks she liked with
him.  But after the Kestevens had gone, and Val made her _début_,
veilless, indeed hatless, with shining fluffy hair curling in the sun,
her eyes containing a secret, and about her that certain flower-like
grace which is the peculiar attribute of those who keep always a little
dew in the heart, Rupert came hovering continually about her and she
grew fonder than ever of him. A reef was taken in their friendship, and
no one seemed to mind very much except Christiane de Vervanne.  The
little Comtesse took rather more than an ordinary interest in Rupert,
and when she was about, Val with her seventh sense often felt in the air
the presence of the little silken cobwebs that some women, spiderlike,
spin out and weave about all young male things.  However, Rupert so far
appeared to be immune to any spells except those of the sea, and other
lands.  And because Val too felt these spells he loved to be with her.
The Comtesse, on the other hand, looked upon such talk as the ravings of
madness.  She strongly opposed the Colonial Infantry scheme, and
declared it a shame to think of one of La France’s sons departing to
other stupid countries.  It was plain that she meant to do all she could
to prevent such a catastrophe.

It was lovely autumn weather, and in the cool of every afternoon the
party went forth on blackberrying expeditions, gathering the fruit which
the peasants despise and leave to rot upon the hedges. Every morning
Villa Duval was fragrant with the fresh scent of blackberries stewing in
their own juice, to be eaten at tea time the same day.  The flies and
the wasps swarmed in, and at intervals all doors and windows would be
closed and the family, assisted by the granite-eyed Azalie and armed
with bath towels, would engage in a _grande battue_, and the wooden
walls of the villa resounded with slaps and bangs.  Only Bran would take
no part in these massacres.  He had a funny little objection to killing
anything, and strongly disapproved of Azalie’s methods.

"She is very unkind," he complained.  "She just _kills_ the flies.  She
does n’t look into their eyes first to see whether they are poor or good
or naughty."

"How do they look when they ’re good, assie?" jeered Haidee.

Bran strangely but immediately glazed his eyes, and with some odd
movement of his hands acutely suggested the attitude of a sick fly
suffering with cold.

"And a naughty one?"

His eyes rolled, and he lifted a paw to his nose. A sprightly fly!

The days were slipping along very peacefully when suddenly Val’s eyes
were opened to the fact that Haidee was in danger.  Her little girlish
flirtation with Sacha Lorrain was growing into something more serious.

One afternoon, as Val was sitting in the _Jules_, with Bran at the
imaginary wheel, a puff of wind blew a sheet of paper up into the air
and over the side of the boat.  Carelessly she took it up, but her idle
glance crystallised into consternation when she found that it was a
rough draft of what was evidently meant to be a poem, in Haidee’s

That an out-of-door, tomboy creature like Haidee should take to writing
poems was strange enough, but what startled Val still more was its open
dedication to Sacha.  It ran into several verses:

    "You are more beautiful than the rising sun,
      And I love you more,
    And I wish to steal you and keep you
      As in the old, old law.

    "For you are mine, you were born for me:
      It is written in the book of Fate
    That thou should ’st love me, and I love thee--
      Do now, ’fore it is too late.

    "Come to me now, to my ever open arms,
      And make me glad,
    And I will mark our meeting with an everlasting kiss
      To make us sad."

Poor Haidee!

When Val had finished reading it her eyes were full of tears, though her
lips smiled.  It was not poetry, but in its broken, ill-balanced phrases
it revealed what poetry does not always do--the heart of the writer and
the big things in the writer’s nature struggling to get out.  The old
cowboy rudeness and lawlessness were there, but Val was so thankful to
God to see the sign of big things--of generosity, of the courage that
dares, of soul. Yes, there under the beat of young passion’s wing was
another still small sweet sound--the voice of soul.  What else did those
two last lines reveal?

      "...an everlasting kiss
    To make us sad."

Only the soul knows the secret of that great sadness lurking under
passion’s wing!

Poor Haidee!  So her feet, too, were touching the outer waves of that
stormy sea where women sink or swim, and few reach the happy shore!  Yet
Val was proud to recognise that she was not afraid to put forth.  This
was no suppliant cry of one afraid to drown!  Here was not one of the
world’s little clinging creatures that grip round a man’s neck and pull
him under.  She, too, had the strong arm and the stout heart.  She would
give help, not only seek to take it.  Yes, that was what Haidee’s poor
little poem revealed more than anything to Val--that she was one of
life’s givers.

"Thank God for it," said Val, "and let her give."  After long thought,
doubled up in Bran’s boat and staring at the sea as was her way, she
added: "but not to Sacha Lorrain."

It is not to be supposed that she had spent a whole summer of intimacy
with the Lorrain family without drawing up some kind of a moral estimate
of each member of it.  They were not very harsh affairs, these little
estimates.  For it was ever Val’s way to "heave her log" into the heart
rather than the mind, and to what was in the pocket she never gave a
thought.  Like many of the cleverest women, she had no judgment, no gift
of looking past the hardy eye and the smooth smile into the mind to see
what was brewing there.  But she had instincts, and sometimes
inspirations, and a highly tuned ear for sincerity.  Also, no act or
look or word containing beauty was ever lost on her.

Well! it must be confessed that Sacha had emerged but poorly from her
process of assessment. She had turned her ear and inclined her eye for
many a long day for grace in him--and both had gone unrequited.

If Sacha’s worldly possessions were small, they still predominated over
his jewels of the heart, while in mind he possessed much the same
qualities as Christiane de Vervanne--gaiety, egotism, the hard, cold
brilliance of a diamond, a straining ambition for all the worldly "good
things of life."  In their alikeness these two might have been brother
and sister, while Celine and Rupert, though only cousins, much more
closely resembled each other in nature and bearing.

It seemed the usual irony of circumstance that had ordained for Sacha,
who loved the good things of the world, comparative poverty, while to
Rupert, the John o’ Dreams and lover of seas and skies, was given
wealth!  The latter’s father (the general’s brother), with a head for
finance, had gone into banking instead of the army, and thereafter
married a banker’s daughter with a fortune, which he had trebled and
quadrupled to leave to their only son.

However, Sacha, with a small income squeezed out of his father’s
pension, gave himself a very good time, and had every intention and
likelihood of making a rich marriage.  In the meantime he was open to
any love experiences that came to hand.  Like all young Frenchmen, he
preferred women older than himself, and went in fear of the young
girl--when she was French.  But this summer no flirtations with women
older than himself had offered; Mrs. Kesteven treated him like a
grandson, Val was secret behind her veil, while the Comtesse’s
beguilements were not for him--he and she understood each other too
well.  Remained Haidee, who was _jeune fille_ indeed, without being

Her daring boyish ways and fresh beauty attracted him immensely, and
though he was an honourable fellow, according to his lights, the lights
of a young French officer make no very great illumination, and
apparently he had not been able to resist the temptation of making her
fall in love with him.

Val, reviewing the position, knew that it would be fatal to let Haidee
lose her head over this young worldling.  He was only amusing himself.
No Frenchman who is poor ever contemplates marriage with a girl unless
she happens to have a _dot_ worthy of consideration, in which case the
affair becomes a ceremonious one in which parents and relations take an
even more important part than the young people themselves.  Val knew all
this well, and that there was not the faintest idea of anything serious
in Sacha Lorrain’s mind.  But, no doubt, it was very amusing to make a
little American girl fall in love--and to him appeared harmless enough.
Only, it would have to be put a stop to at once, though at first Val did
not quite see how.  Impossible to break off friendly relations all at
once with the occupants of Shai-poo.  They had all become too intimate
for that. Besides, such an act would not serve its purpose. Haidee was
too wilful and lawless not to find means of being with the Lorrains
whatever Val did, and opposition would simply have the effect of making
her keener.  The only course open to Val was one that Sacha himself had
suggested by his manner since she came out from behind her blue veil.
Whether it was that he was piqued by her preference for his cousin, or
whether he thought a little jealousy might be good for Haidee, it would
be hard to say, but at any rate he had shown distinct signs and symbols
of being attracted to Val.  So far she had disregarded, while being
greatly amused by his not very subtle efforts to flirt with her, but she
now resolved to make a change in her tactics. If Sacha wanted a
flirtation with a woman older than himself he should have it.

She gave him an opening the very next day on one of their long
excursions, and he grabbed it with a fervour that astonished her.  She
kept him at her side all the afternoon.  Rupert took her defection
good-naturedly, and devoted himself to Haidee, who rebuffed him and
sulked.  The next day, on the beach, Val did the same thing.  Sacha
became more fervent.  Rupert began to look wounded.  Haidee glared, and
would not speak when they reached home.

After all, it was an easy matter.  What inexperienced girl, however
pretty, can hold her own against a woman of the world, determined on
capture--especially when the prey is only a youth?  Sacha, his vanity
flattered by Val’s sudden interest in him, paid little attention to
Haidee’s scowls and sulks.  And when Val realised how serious it was,
saw how Haidee paled and flushed and lost her appetite, she lured the
mothlike Sacha all the more within the radius of the flame which
attracted him.  She did not mean to burn him, only to dazzle him a
little; but if his wings were slightly scorched, that was his affair.
Haidee had got to be saved from unhappiness even at that cost.

The thing was made easier by the departure of the Comtesse and Celine to
pay a week’s visit to some army friends stationed at Cherbourg.  With no
one left but the two boys, it was simple for Val to take entire
possession of Sacha.  Haidee was left to the share of Rupert.  She liked
Rupert well enough--no one could help it.  But she was in love with
Sacha.  Before long the look of an assassin came into her eyes when she
turned them upon Val.  But Val did not falter in her purpose.  Not even
when Rupert withdrew from the quartette and let Sacha come alone to the
villa. On such occasions they all went out together as usual, but Val
kept Sacha by her side.  She was the soul of gaiety, she flirted and
spun fine threads. Haidee gloomed and grew paler.  Val’s heart ached for
the girl, and she was sick of the business herself, but Sacha’s leave
was almost up.  It was only a matter of days.  She determined to stick
at the wicket.

On Sacha’s last evening the whole party from Shai-poo came to Villa
Duval with the suggestion of a moonlight walk to the cliff point near
the lighthouse.  The Comtesse and Celine had returned from Cherbourg
bringing in tow a young cavalry lieutenant, a friend of Sacha’s, and
plainly a satellite of Christiane de Vervanne.  The object of the walk
was to re-cement a wooden cross upon the ruined walls of the old church
of Mascaret. The village in some by-gone age had been situated on the
North Foreland, but the gales and storms that besieged it there had
driven the villagers inland, and no trace remained of habitation except
the four walls of a primitive church, battered and time-stained, pitched
perilously on the side of the cliff, like wreckage flung there by some
wild storm from the sea below.  The little wooden cross that leaned
crazily on the east wall had been put there many years past by Rupert
and Sacha, and it was a sort of religious rite with them to re-cement it
upright in its place every year.

It was a glorious night for a walk, and when they came to claim her, Val
could make no excuse for not going, though all that day a wave of
dreariness had possessed and submerged her, making her long to be alone.
She could not plead that Bran would be lonely, for, tired out from an
afternoon’s net-fishing in the shallows of the river, he was deep
asleep, and Hortense by some unwonted chance was available to watch over
him.  Besides, Haidee looked so wretched and wistful that compassion
overcame reason in Val.  She began to half doubt her right of
interference.  Because of this she allowed herself to be taken
possession of by Rupert and Celine, while the Comtesse and her
lieutenant went on ahead, so that nothing was left for Sacha to do but
walk with Haidee.  He did it with so bad a grace that the latter was
even more unhappy than if she had been left to herself.  The two walked
in silence and when they were winding in single file round the face of
the cliff Sacha made a determined effort to regain Val, but she
cold-bloodedly hedged him off. She saw now very plainly that her labour
was at an end.  He and Haidee were so thoroughly estranged that all
danger was past, and her task over. Subtly her manner changed then to
one of half quizzing gaiety extremely disconcerting to the amorous
Sacha, and yet with which he could find no fault, for her flirtation
with him had been so delicately done that it could hardly bear that
name.  Puzzled and savage at the change in her he turned back to Haidee,
but Haidee had her pride that wrestled with her poor little crushed love
and for the time at least conquered it.  She would not be left and again
taken at will.  She retired behind a sullen scowl.  Sacha, for once, was
at a loose end and did not like it a bit.

Arrived at the _vieille église_, the two cousins climbed cautiously up
the crumbling walls, Rupert with the string handle of the cement pot
between his teeth.  The rest of the party, scattered on the sloping
cliff-side in the mother-of-pearl moonlight, sat watching them.  Below,
the sea, a star-spangled mirror, stretched from France to where Alderney
humped against the sky-line.  On the Jersey coast a powerful light
winked spasmodically. The sky, clear in the east, was flecked overhead
and in the west with tiny snatches of snowy cloud, regular as knitted
stitches, or the scales on a mackerel’s back.

Softly the Comtesse began to sing to them:


    "Au clair de la lune,
      Mon ami Pierrot,
    Prête-moi ta plume
      Pour écrire un mot.
    Ma chandelle est morte,
      Je n’ ai plus de feu.
    Ouvre-moi ta porte
      Pour 1’ amour de Dieu!


    "Au clair de la lune
      Pierrot répondit:
    ’Je n’ai pas de plume,
      Je suis dans mon lit!
    Va chez la voisine,
      Je crois qu’ elle y est,
    Car dans sa cuisine
      On bat le briquet.’


    "Au clair de la lune
      L’aimable Lubin
    Frappe chez la Brune,
      Elle repond soudain:
    ’Qui frappe de la sorte?’
      Il dit à son tour:
    ’Ouvrez votre porte
      Pour le dieu d’amour!’


    "Au clair de la lune
      On n’ y voit qu’ un peu,
    On cherche la plume
      On cherche du feu.
    En cherchant de la sorte
      Je ne sais ce qu’ on trouva,
    Mais je sais que la porte
      Sur eux se ferma!"

"Ah!" she sighed softly in the silence that followed her song.  "And now
we all go back to Paris!  That dear Paris!  _C’est comme un amant qu’il
faut quitter pour un revoir plus chaud, et comme tout neuf_!  If you do
not budge from it, it becomes like a husband, fatiguing and _exigeant_,
who makes you work too much and never gives you room to breathe.
But----" she gazed ecstatically towards Alderney in which direction the
lieutenant and Rupert happened to be sitting. "Go away for a little
while and you find yourself dreaming of the sweet suffocating embrace
that exalts the veins----"

"How white the sea looks!" suddenly broke in Val.  It troubled her to
see how Haidee hung upon the pretty immodest phrases that slipped so
easily from Christiane de Vervanne’s lips. "What were those lines of
yours, Sacha, about when the sea is milk-white and Jersey black as ink
and a storm coming to-morrow?"

    "Quand la mer est comme le lait, et Jersey tout noir
    On peut attendre un orage avant demain soir,"

quoted Sacha sulkily.

The Comtesse shot an icy glance at Val.  She did not like her rhapsodies

"_Épatant_, that woman!" she murmured to her cavalry-man.

On the walk home Sacha tried once more to re-arrange the order of the
party and get Val to himself, but pitilessly she left him to the mercy
of Haidee, furious and vengeful as a Gorgon. When they reached home it
would have been hard to say whose was the crossest-looking of their two
faces.  Trinkling back farewells, the Shai-poo party continued on its
way down the _Terrasse_, but Sacha stayed.  He had gripped Val’s hand
over the little fence that enclosed the yard and would not let it go.

"I must speak to you," he said urgently, fiercely, and did not care that
Haidee lingered within earshot, and when she heard his words started,
then tore up the flight of steps into the villa.

"What is it, Sacha?" said Val, gently.

"You have been playing with me!"  He was white-lipped and furious.  She
felt ashamed though her intention had been good.

"Oh, Sacha!--do not be angry!  Surely you too were playing?--I----"

"No!" he shot out at her.  "It was not play for me--I----"

But she would have no declarations.

"Well--I am truly sorry--you must forgive me--I, am very fond of you,
Sacha--both you and Rupert--but you must not think--Why, I am a very
serious woman.  Think, I have a son, and am almost old enough to be your

"Why did you not say that to me before? Why have you been to me these
last weeks so full of allure, so _attirant_?" he asked savagely.
"Sapristi! you have been fooling me.  It has pleased you to play with my

She thought it the wisest thing then to tell him the flat ungentle

"As it pleased you to play with Haidee’s."

He glared at her, and she stood staring steadily back, the light of
battle in her eye.

"Haidee is only a child--her heart is very tender and romantic.  I could
not have its first bloom rubbed off by you, Sacha--a sophisticated
Frenchman who would laugh and go on your way.  She is too good for

He breathed hard.

"So!"  He muttered at last, "That is it?"

"Yes, that is it."  There was a silence.  Then she said gently:

"And in your heart you do not blame me, Sacha. Think if it had been your
little sister, and you had seen her trying to waste her heart’s first
freshness foolishly, uselessly.  What would you have done? I know well
enough what you would have done."

"You had no right to play----" he began, but he was softened.

"Oh yes, every right.  Haidee is like my little sister."

She put her left hand over the gate and laid it on the one which gripped
her right.

"Come!  There are no bones broken, Sacha. You know very well that you do
not really care about me.  This was just one of the little experiences
of which you will have scores in your life; the remembrance of it may
help you in others.  But I have not found it uninteresting.  You are a
charming and attractive fellow--if I did not happen to be immune--(this
was sheer guile on her part, but honey has a great healing quality in
such cases). I assure you that I have found it anything but an
uninteresting experience.  Will you not pay me the same compliment and
shake hands on it?"

After a little pause he let go his grip of her right hand and took the
other into a more gentle grasp.  The scowl passed from his face.  He was
not a bad-hearted fellow--only one of his kind!  A smile came into his
hard blue eyes.

"_B’en_!  All rite," he accepted, and kissed her hand, not without a
show of grace.

Val sighed as she went softly indoors, and a pain shot through her
breast as she came upon Haidee in the sitting-room, head on the table,
hair spread in every direction, absolute abandonment in her pose.  A
longing seized Val to sit down and put her arm round the girl’s waist,
but she knew Haidee too well to succumb to it.  Instead, she pretended
to notice nothing unusual.

"A headache, chicken?" she asked casually, and went to hang her hat
behind the door.  At the sound of her voice Haidee sprang up and stood
facing her.

"I hate you--I hate you--" she cried passionately.  "You always take
away the people I love from me!"

"Oh, Haidee!" cried Val, sorrowfully, suddenly remembering the night she
had found the child on Westenra’s bed.

"I hate you!" she screamed in concentrated rage, her face dark with
passion.  "I will hurt you some day.  You’ll see!"

She flung out of the room.

"So that is my reward for putting up with that silly ass for three
weeks!" said Val to herself, and sighed once more.  Wearily she lighted
her candle and went to warm her heart with a glimpse of her son.  He lay
flung on the pillow like a warm pink rose.  She burrowed her nose gently
into his soft neck, scenting the lovely puppy dog scent that all young
things have round their throats, scenting, too, the little stinky hands
that in his yearning for bed he had only half-washed.  With a wet sponge
and some drops of eau-de-cologne she gently removed from them the
mingled odour of shell-fish, bread and jam, and night dews.  Then she
made the sign of the Cross over him, and went to bed.


The mackerel sky had not lied!  The next morning was all glittering with
sunlight under a steel blue sky swept clear by a September wind that
tore up the sea and sent it pounding in great grey-green walls with
spittering spraying tops to crash upon the shore.  They were delicious
to jump in, those great tawny breakers, and carried the jumper fifteen
or twenty feet high before they hurled themselves with a roaring swish
to cream along the beach.  It was not a day to venture out far.  Even
good swimmers in such a sea contented themselves with going in only up
to the armpits, waiting for the breaker to gather them up, then pass and
leave them in flat, clear water ready for the next.

The Comtesse and Celine, tired from their journey the day before, sat
and looked on, but Rupert, Val, Haidee, and Sacha, with half a dozen
others, were in the water jumping like maniacs, diving through sheer
solid green walls, disappearing under avalanches of foam, gasping,
laughing, panting.  Sometimes short, wild screams, almost as of terror,
were jerked out of them as the breaker moved on them like some monster
determined on destruction.

"_Quelle courage!_" said Christiane de Vervanne wonderingly.  "And did
you ever see anything like Madame Valdana screaming and jumping like a
mad thing!  She behaves with a great curiousness at times, that lady!"

"She is an original!" said Celine, who was fond of Val, and felt for her
none of the antagonism which the generality of Frenchwomen, in spite of
the _entente cordiale_ and Edward the Peacemaker, always will feel for
Englishwomen.  True, Val was not English, but Celine was unaware of the

In time Val gave Haidee the signal to come out. They had been in quite
half an hour, the breakers appeared to be getting worse, and the wind
had turned bitterly cold.  Every one but the members of their party had
already left the water.  The Frenchmen, however, Sacha, Rupert, and the
young officer, were disinclined to come out. Instead it seemed as though
with the departure of the ladies they felt free to go farther in.  Val
stood in the creaming froth watching them for a moment before she raced
Haidee to the cabins.

"I wish they would n’t," she said uneasily, and suddenly threw out her
voice in a coo-ee.

"_Venez_!  _Venez_, you boys!  You’ve been in long enough!"

The laugh and shout in Sacha’s voice that came blowing back seemed to be
snatched by the waves and torn to ribbons by the wind before it reached
the beach.  Val found herself shivering, and ran for the cabins.  Just
as she was dressed she heard a scream, and looking through the
diamond-shaped hole in the door, saw Celine standing up stripping off
her clothes to her knickerbockers, while the Comtesse stood by screaming
and wringing her hands.  A moment later every one was pouring out of the
cabins, and Val and Haidee back in their wet bathing suits were running
down to the water’s edge.  Only two heads were bobbing in the waves--the
third had disappeared!


It was nearly half an hour later when they brought Sacha Lorrain’s body
to the beach.  The delay came of no one knowing where he went down. Only
Celine had seen the wave hit him full in the face and knock him
backwards stunned, but when, followed by Val and Haidee, she swam out to
the spot she had marked with her mind’s eye, he was not there.  They
dived and swam under water all round the place.  In that rough sea, with
the waves growing every moment more violent and blinding, and churning
up the sands, they could scarcely see a yard before them under water.
And of course every moment was of value.  Some one had run to the
_digue_ to get the lifeboat manned; some one else to Villa Duval for hot
bottles.  Azalie, her harsh face grown amazingly soft, stood laden with
blankets.  Fishermen joined the searchers in the water.  Fishwives
walked up and down the beach wringing their hands.

"The General’s son!  The Admiral’s grandson! Monsieur Sacha!"

"Only the other day he was a _petit gars_ in his sailor’s suit.  It was
my man who taught him to swim."

"He made his first communion the same day as my Jean!"

"Ah!  The gay eyes he had!"

Before they found him every one from the village was grouped on the
beach.  Sacha’s father--General Lorrain--the curé, the doctor, the
mayor. All stood waiting with strained, fearful faces, while the boat
pulled up and down, battered by the waves.  The swimmers exhausted would
come up to rest in the surf, then enter again.  The sunshine had gone,
and the storm Sacha had prophesied the night before was creeping like a
black beast across the horizon.  It was a sailor in the lifeboat who
spied the body at last, and diving down into the water heaved it over
the side.  Then they pushed the boat in through the surf, and poor Sacha
was taken out and laid on the sands he had trodden so blithely an hour

After the first half an hour every one knew there was no hope, though
none voiced the knowledge. People just stood in silent groups a little
way off from the central group that knelt, and swayed, and jerked and
moved unceasingly.  Rupert, white and exhausted, wrapped in his bathing
toga, walked up and down the beach, stopping every now and then to try
and get Celine away, but Celine would not come.  She was rubbing Sacha’s
feet, and staring, staring at his cold, calm face.  Every now and then
she would say imploringly:

"Listen, Sacha!  Sacha, my brother!  _Veux tu écoute?_"

The General, very calm and stern-faced, stood at the head of the group.
But sometimes he would go away suddenly and walk swiftly up and down
with Rupert, for a moment or two, his head high, the little ribbon of
honour a red dot on his upright breast, then return to look down again
at the still, still face of his only son.  He could do nothing.  The
operations were in the hands of competent men.  The doctor from
Barleville had come rushing in his motor to reinforce the Mascaret
doctor.  Val, when she was dressed, sat on a rock with her arms round
Bran, and could not bear to see the General’s eyes.  Haidee and
Christiane de Vervanne were crouched close by.

All the sailors and lifeboatmen were acquainted with the business of
resuscitation, and there was no lack of relays.  When one batch of men
wearied another took its place.  But all was in vain. The body of Sacha
Lorrain lay there, very gallant in its youth and beauty, but his soul
was gone beyond recall, and

    "...might not come again
    Homeward to any shore on any tide."

                              CHAPTER XIX

                           THE WAY OF NEMESIS

    "Spring is dead,
    And summer is dead.
    Oh! my heart,
    And, oh! my head!"

It had always been understood that after the summer Haidee was to go
back to Paris to finish her education at the Versailles Lycée, while Val
and Bran put in another healthy, if desolate winter at Mascaret.  Now
the latter part of the plan was impossible.  The place was haunted, for
Val, by poor Sacha’s ghost.  She knew not where to go except it were
back to Paris.  Bran was older now and his health established.  Perhaps
if she could find a governess for him he would get along all right while
she worked!  The need for work was imperative.  Funds were down to zero.
She knew not where to turn for money, except where nothing but the
prospect of starvation for Bran would let her turn--to the Credit
Lyonnais where lay the accumulating quarterly sums from Westenra.

So when the time came for Haidee to make her entrance at the Lycée, Bran
and Val returned to Paris as well: the latter having written and
re-engaged her old studio which was to let furnished.

Haidee was a changed girl.  She seemed to have grown years older and
hard as a stone.  She had withdrawn herself from all intimacy with Val,
and was even cold and harsh in her manner to Bran, who could not
understand and was always saying wistfully:

"Don’t you love me any more, Haidee?"

"Of course I do," she would answer impatiently.

"Then why do you look at me as if you ’d like to spank me on my tailie?"

"Oh, don’t worry me, Bran.  You make me tired!"

Mascaret seemed suddenly to have grown old and grey.  A great coldness
had settled upon the little village.  Bitter winds swept every leaf from
the trees and the sun was hidden in wet mists. The Villa Shai-poo, its
flagstaff bare, its windows shuttered and barred, looked like a bereaved
brooding mother folding arms on her grief.  The occupants of Villa Duval
were the last of the visitors to leave the village.  Even Sacha had
gone. His people had taken him back to Paris to lie in the family vault
at Père La Chaise.

From Mascaret to Paris is an eight hours’ journey on the worst line in
France, and when they reached St. Lazare Station late in the afternoon
they were all tired out, with hearts as heavy as lead.  Val left Bran on
Haidee’s lap in the waiting-room while she went to unlock the trunks in
the Customs’ shed.  There were crowds of travellers and loads of baggage
to be gone through, for the boat-train from Cherbourg was just in also.
Val, very weary, sat on the low table waiting, and staring about her
with sad eyes full of trouble. Suddenly, standing quite near, she saw a
face she knew.  She could not immediately place the man in her memory
but she was so sure of knowing him that she smiled and gave a little
nod.  Immediately he took off his hat and approached.

"I think you _almost_ remember, Mrs. Valdana, but not quite," he said.
The moment she heard his voice she placed him.  It was the French Jew
who had sat next her on board the _Bavaric_.

"How do you do, Mr. Bernstein!" she said cordially, extending her hand.
It was as though she had met an old friend.  A look of keen pleasure
came into his shrewd face.

"Such a memory must be a treasure to you as a journalist!"

"A journalist!"  The words sounded strange in her ears.  How many years
ago since she was a journalist!  Since she first met this man!  A far
absorbed look came into her eyes.

"I knew you in a minute," he said.  "You have not changed at all, only
grown a little"--("sadder," he was going to say, but

"Ah! you have not changed either," she said dryly.

"You have even the same beautiful chain on you!  I hope you have not
forgotten your promise to give me first refusal if ever you want to sell

A startled look flashed across her face.

"Ah, yes!  My chain!  You did say that, did n’t you?"  She stared at him
meditatively. "What do you really think it is worth?"

"It would be hard to say right here."  He had grown extremely American
in accent and speech. "But if you would call and see me with it.  Are
you staying in Paris?"


He got out a card.

"Well, here is my office address--_Rue de Bach_. Call any time you like,
but soon, as I am off to England again in three days."

"I will come to-morrow," she said.  "In the meantime, would n’t it be a
good thing for you to take the necklace with you and examine it?"

She detached it from her neck with some little difficulty, for the clasp
was a firm one, and held it out.  The Jew looked at her with eyes in
which for a moment there hovered a shade of something like pity that
quickly turned to pleasure.  A faint flush came into his face, and as he
took the necklace he pressed her hand warmly.  In America where he had
been for the past five years such a trusting spirit as Val’s was not met
with every day in the week, and the _rencontre_ refreshed his jaded
Hebraic heart like wine.

"You _just_ come," he said cordially, "and I bet I ’ll have something
good to tell you."

Immediately afterwards she was called to open her luggage, and bade him
good-bye, telling him that she had some one waiting for her.

All the way of the long drive across Paris, she sat cogitating the
question of the necklace.  Even if it turned out to be of value, ought
she to part with it?  Would ill luck come to her for parting with her
mother’s mascot?  Could any worse luck than she already had, come to
her, she began to ask herself in irony?  Then she stopped and flung her
arms round Bran.  Yes; yes.  Ill luck can always come to mothers.
Mothers are never safe--nor fathers!  She thought of Sacha lying still
on the beach, and of that stern look on his father’s face!

"Oh God!  What are necklaces? ... what is money? ... what is anything
against that pain?" she cried in her heart, and held Bran so tightly
that he gave a yelp.  Haidee, as always now, sat wrapt in a sullen
reserve.  Neither by look nor word did she exhibit the faintest sympathy
for any troubles but her own.  The only thing that seemed to interest
her was the prospect of getting away from Val and Bran to her new life
at school.  It chilled Val’s heart to have one who had been so close
turn away from her thus.  Even worse it was to see Bran’s dear little
efforts to be kind and friendly, snubbed.  Every rebuff to him was like
a blow in the face to Val. But she would not blame Haidee: the child was
dear to Westenra.  Besides she _was_ only a child, and had suffered
through Sacha’s death.  The shock of it coming on top of her wounded
pride and little lost love-dream was enough to embitter her, thought
Val, and blamed herself for ever having interfered.

"Such things are safe in God’s hands!  He takes care of children and
drunkards.  Who am I to have arrogated His rights?"

But Haidee’s attitude acutely added to the misery and uncertainty of
life at this time, and in the dusky shadows of the cab as it rumbled
over to the Latin Quarter, Val held her boy’s head against her breast
and slow tears stole down her face and were drawn in between her lips,
drying her throat with their salty flavour.  Life too tasted salt and
acrid.  It seemed to her that in everything she had put her hand to she
had failed and fallen short.

At _rue Campaigne première_ the concierge almost embraced them, so
delighted was she to see them again.

"Many people have been looking for Madame and wishing her back," she
announced.  "Not only artists but persons very _chic_ also have been to

"Locusts!" said Val to herself.  "Locusts and devourers all!"  She knew
those _chic_ ones well. People who would not work themselves and could
not bear to see others achieving.  All artists have this class to
contend with.

"I told every one you would be back this week. I know you owe no one
money, and are not afraid, like some artists, of visitors," said the
concierge cheerfully, and Val gave a groan.  She resolved to be up early
the next day and take Haidee off to school before there was a chance of
meeting any early-fliers.

Before she went to bed, however, she unpacked her papers and found a
little old parchment letter which dealt with the gift to her mother of
the comfort necklace.  It was written in Russian and neither she nor her
mother had ever had the curiosity to have it translated, but Iolita had
always been careful to preserve it, and it had marvellously survived all
Val’s many packings and wanderings.  She now sealed it up and forwarded
it to Bernstein on the vague chance of its being of use in the valuation
of the necklace.

At seven in the morning she received a _petit bleu_ from him, evidently
sent off the night before, but posted after tea, asking her to call
without fail at three o’clock that afternoon.  Immediately she sent out
her _femme de ménage_ to see if Bran’s old governess, the young American
girl, could take charge of him for the day, giving him lunch and tea at
her mother’s home.  That matter satisfactorily settled, she started for
the Gare Montparnasse with Haidee, en route for Versailles.  It took the
whole morning to settle Haidee in, pay her bills, and talk over with the
Directrice her future course of study.  Asked to lunch with the girls at
the Lycée she would not stay.  It was no pleasure to be with Haidee
while she preserved that sullen, resentful manner.  Life was grim
enough!  So Val took lunch in a little _crémerie_ in the avenue de
Paris, and returned to Paris by tram to the _Pont Royal_, where she
dismounted and took a bus to Bernstein’s number in the _Rue de Bach_.

He received her with a manner full of some suppressed excitement which
quickly communicated itself to her.

"You have something to tell me?" she said, trembling with she knew not
what fear.  She had almost forgotten the necklace.  With her curious
sense of prevision it was revealed to her in some way that for the
moment the Jew was arbiter of her destiny.

"Sit down," he said, pushing a comfortable chair towards her.  "I want
you to tell me the history of the necklace."

"Oh, as to that, Mr. Bernstein, I know very little.  My mother gave it
to me when she died. She had always worn it, ever since I can remember.
She loved the beautiful little pictures, and she had an idea that it was
not only a mascot against extreme poverty but also that it possessed
some healing power in sickness.  Many times when we were very poor
indeed she was asked by people who liked curious things to sell it, but
she never would.  She always remembered that the old Russian man who
gave it to her told her that in the day of trouble it would bring
comfort to her and hers.  He was a strange old man who lived in exile in
Spain.  He had committed some political crime and had fled from Russia;
was very wealthy but lived with great simplicity in quite a poor part of
Seville, and it was there that he made great friends with my mother and
her father, who was blind but had been a great adventurer and soldier of
fortune.  The old Russian grew to love my mother--every one who knew my
mother loved her.  And one day he gave her the necklace.  She took it
because it was so pretty and yet did not seem very valuable.  She never
took jewels from people, though of course many were offered her, as to
all dancers.  But this man was very old and gentle and his gift seemed
simple too.  Only, he strangely insisted on giving her, with it, that
paper which I sent you last night.  That was to show that it was a deed
of gift, and no one could take it from her.  But no one ever tried.  He
was assassinated a year or two later and all his papers and jewels
mysteriously stolen, but my mother had left Spain then and was in London
and no one ever claimed the necklace.  She loved it and I love it.  It
hardly seems to me, Mr. Bernstein, after talking about it that I can
part with it after all."  She took it up and fingered the glowing,
luminous beads tenderly.

"Not even for seventy-five thousand pounds!" he said quietly.

"What!" She stared at him.  She thought he had gone mad.

"That is what I offer you," he said in a business-like tone.


"They are pearls of the first quality."


"Yes, the pale green colour is only a clever coating of paint that can
be removed easily by the use of a certain spirit.  Look here where I
have worked at this one a little--I had to, you know, in order to be
certain.  I have n’t harmed the painting."

He showed her a bead that had a picture of a desert on it, with tiny
palms waving, and a primitive well.  From the back of this he had
removed the pale green colouring and there instead glowed the rich
ivory-grey thick yet luminous substance of the pearl.

"I was pretty certain of it from the first, that is why I was so keen.
It is one of the most wonderful necklaces the world has ever seen.  It
once belonged to the Russian royal family--as your old man in Seville
did.  He knew what he was doing when he gave it to your mother, and when
he wrote out that paper, which was a deed of gift, witnessed by his old
Chinese servant and the Russian consul.  I had it translated first thing
this morning.  It will hold good in a court of law. It was the Chinese
servant who painted the pictures on the pearls to hide and disguise
them, and by Gee! he was an artist, that fellow.  Only a trained eye
like mine would have suspected the truth.  And let me tell you, Mrs.
Valdana, with any one but you I should have made use of my knowledge to
my own advantage.  It is my business to do so.  Every business man is
entitled to make use of the ignorance of those he deals with.  That is
business training, _we_ have learned it and paid for it, the other party
has n’t.  It is like a doctor’s fees.  You pay him because he knows
better than you.  He has been in training for years, and paid with his
mind and his soul for that training, while you have been busy with other
things--training in another direction perhaps. Well, the time comes when
you need his training and you pay for it."

"I understand," said Val quietly.

He laughed.

"No, you don’t understand at all.  You could never understand such a
method.  You have never got the best of any one in your life.  That is
why I am not going to use my method in your case.  But I can tell you,"
he added with a grim smile, "it is a unique case.  I never did such a
thing before in my life and never will again.  It is a good thing after
all that there are not many people like you in the world, Mrs. Valdana.
Jewellers with hearts might be ruined."

"It is very kind of you, but I can’t accept this sacrifice of your
interests," said Val, stammering a little, very embarrassed and
uncomfortable.  "I couldn’t dream of accepting it," she added firmly.

"Don’t worry--skip," said he laughing.  "My sacrifice is only
comparative.  At the worst I stand to make anything between five to
twenty-five thousand pounds out of the deal."

"Are you sure?"

"Dead sure--seventy-five thousand pounds sure," he said dryly.  "My
philanthropy does n’t run to such risks as that.  It only means that if
you had n’t happened to be _you_, it would have been I who took
seventy-five and the rest and you who got the speculative twenty-five."

"I think you are too kind," she said.  "I don’t know how to thank you."

"Don’t try," he said blithely.  "It will be a good deal all round, and
everybody happy. That old Russian knew something when he told your
mother to put it by for a day of need.  Now I am going to fix the matter
instantly and give you a cheque for half the amount on the Bank of
France.  The rest you shall have to-morrow.  Sit down while I get busy."

She asked him to make out a clear statement of the sale, price, etc.,
and to give it to her.  She had a special purpose in this.  In the act
of writing he looked up suddenly.

"By the way, talking of doctors, do you remember a man called Westenra
who was on board the _Bavaric_?"  He looked at her keenly, for he
remembered very well the talk of her interest in that same man.  But of
the truth he had no inkling.

"Yes," she said slowly.

"Well, what do you think?  I got appendicitis in New York last May, and
my partner, who is an American, said to me, ’There is only one man for
you, and he is the best man in New York; come along to his nursing
home.’  And when I got there who was his famous guy but our man from the
_Bavaric_!  What do you think of that?"

"I knew he was a surgeon," said Val evenly.

"Well, I tell you, I was surprised.  He did me up bully.  He ’s got a
fine place there in 68th Street.  A tip-top show; everything running on
wheels.  And a corking, handsome girl that he ’s going to marry, at the
head of things."

He applied himself to his writing.

"Is he not married already?" said Mrs. Valdana, and he thought, as he
had often thought before, what a strange melancholy cadence her voice

"A widower, I believe.  The nurses told me so at any rate.  You know
what jolly gossips they are.  But Miss Holland is a cut above the
ordinary American nurse, that’s why they ’re so jealous of her, I guess,
and ready to say that she ’s been after the doctor for years, and only
made a success of the place because of that.  And why not, I say?
That’s what most women make a success of things for, isn’t it, Mrs.
Valdana--some fellow?"

"Or a failure of things!" said Mrs. Valdana, following some train of
thought of her own. There was a deeper melancholy in her voice, and he
thought how tired and ill she looked.

"You ought to get away for a change, Mrs. Valdana," he said, when he
handed her the cheque and shook hands in farewell.  "You look like a
woman who ’s come to the end of her tether."

She felt like it too.  She went home like a woman who has heard the
sentence of death pronounced upon her.  In the Metro she lay back in her
corner with closed eyes and whispered to herself.

"What is the good?  What is the good?  Oh, that one might let go--lay it
all down and go to rest!"

But she knew she could not.  There are always ropes to bind the hopeless
ones fast to life--to pull them forth from the shadows back to the bleak
grey road of life.  Bran was her rope.

At the concierge’s lodge she was informed that several visitors had
called and gone, but one, more persistent, waited for her on her

"He has been many times, poor soul," said she, "and one has not the
heart to refuse him entrance. I think he is one of those whom Art has
been too much for."

Val hardly heard her.  A sort of numb dulness that had taken possession
of her prevented her from feeling anything but a passing vexation that
she might not be alone; heavily she climbed the stair and came at last
to the door.  A tall loose figure in grey tweeds rose up at her from the

"Val!  Will you forgive me for dogging you like this?" said a humble
trembling voice she did not know.  She had to peer into his face and
examine him before it dawned upon her that it was Horace Valdana.


"How did you find me?" she said dully.  He was sitting doubled up in the
most comfortable chair in the studio.  But there was no comfort in his
face or attitude.  His arms, pressed in a curious way against his
stomach, seemed holding something there that hurt him.

"Bribed one of Branker Preston’s office boys."

This simple statement was in keeping with all the rest he had uttered
within the last hour. The man was changed.  He was finished with lying
and subterfuge because life had finished with him--or was finishing
rapidly.  The hand of death was on him at last, there could be no
mistake about it this time.  His doom was dight. He had lied and lied,
but nothing he could now say availed, for his face told the truth.  He
was doomed, and by some strange act of justice the fell disease that had
him in its grip was the very one he had only pretended to have years
before when playing for her sympathy and money.

And Val, during that hour in which she sat listening to him not so much
pleading his cause as merely stating his case in all its hideous
pitifulness, came to the decision that she had no longer right nor
reason for withholding such help as he begged.  It had been a black,
terrible hour.

Not less so because she was really touched by the look of suffering on
his face, by those spasmodic jerks of his arms, and that habit of
holding fast to something within that ate like a rat at his vitals,
while sweat broke out on his forehead and a grey agony passed ghostlike
across his face.  Her heart could never harden itself against suffering,
and she came nearer in those moments to forgetting the wrongs Valdana
had worked upon her than ever before.

And it looked uncommonly like her duty to forgive this man and take care
of him now that he so urgently needed it.  There was no one else in the
world to do it.  For his mother was dead, and his secret buried with
her.  She had died very suddenly, the end doubtless brought on by the
dreadful anxiety of having to carry that same secret unshared.  Such
provision as she could secretly make for him she had made, but it was
only a slight one, and Valdana had long been at the end of his

"And if you turn me down, Val, and you have every right to, I shan’t
blame you a bit.  I shall see what the Seine can do for me--though I ’d
rather it had been the old Thames."

A better man would have given the river first refusal perhaps, but
Valdana had never set up for a hero, and was not going to begin now.

In the end her decision was clinched as often happens by something
outside herself.  A terrible spasm seized him, doubling him up right
there before her, turning him grey, and jerking a groan of agony from
the very depths of him.  A fit of shivering succeeded, and it was plain
that the man was not fit to be up and about.  His place was in bed,
under medical supervision.

With decision came energy, and in a few moments she had him lying on the
large divan in which she and Bran were used to sleep, covered up, and a
steaming cup of tea inside him.  Then she ran downstairs to the
concierge’s lodge and telephoned for a doctor.  Afterwards she sent
round to Bran’s governess to ask them to keep him for the night.  They
were good responsible people, and she knew that she could trust them
with her child--for a night at least, until she knew what further was to
be done.

The doctor suggested a hospital; such a case, he said, needed constant
nursing and care.

"Unless you are well enough off to have a nurse to help you," and he
tried not to look doubtfully around him at the big bare studio, "I
should think you had better try and get rid of the responsibility of
this hopeless case by putting him into one of the English or American
hospitals here.  You are American, are n’t you?"

"I have plenty of money," said Val, leaving his question unanswered,
"and am quite able to have help in nursing him here.  Please give me
full instructions and information."

The doctor looked surprised, and more so when, after he had examined
Valdana, she paid him his fee and took down the address of the best
cancer specialist in Paris.

"Not that he can do any good.  The case is too far advanced for
operation--even I can tell you that.  But he will be able to give the
best treatment for alleviation until the end comes--that won’t be long,
I expect."

And the great specialist could do no more (as is more often the case
than people guess) than confirm the verdict of the ordinary

"A matter of months!" he said.  "And they will be bad months--for others
beside the patient. You had better send him to a hospital."

But Val shook her head.  She had determined to accept this duty that was
so clear to her; and there was money now to ease the way.  Seventy-five
thousand pounds!  How neatly that sum had been inserted into the gap of
circumstance by the clever hand of Fate!

                               CHAPTER XX

                       THE WAYS OF LIFE AND DEATH

    "Oh them who plantest in the eyes and hearts of girls
    The cult of wounding and the barbs of love!"
      Translation from BAUDELAIRE’S Litany to Satan.

"Yes; she is very droll, your _belle-maman_," said the Comtesse de
Vervanne.  "To live in three _ateliers_!  That is _fantastique_!  Three
big wide _ateliers_! one for herself, one for the little Bran, and one
other for--_who_?  Who is it that dwells in the third _atelier_ across
the landing, Haidee, my very dear?"

"Don’t ask _me_," said Haidee sulkily, yet with alert eyes, for she was
unable to contain her curiosity and amazement at the news.  Val with
three studios, who on their return to Paris had not possessed the price
of a quarter’s rent for one! And according to Madame de Vervanne they
were big studios--no mere holes in the wall with skylights let in the
ceiling.  Parquet floors, beautifully shaded walls, wide galleries and
French windows that led into balconies!  It sounded like an Arabian
tale.  Haidee knew, as she knew most practical everyday things, how the
rents of studios ranged, and she computed that the rent of such a one as
the Comtesse described ran into not a centime less than three thousand
francs a year. And Val with three!  But the thing was incomprehensible,
_impayable_--fantastic indeed as the Comtesse described it!

She was aware from the new address forwarded to her that Val had removed
to the Lamartine Building in Boulevard Raspail, a great block of newly
finished and very elaborate studios, which they in company with all the
other hard-working and poor artists of the Quarter had long made a mock
of, calling it the American Crystal Palace. It had lifts, a roof garden,
balconies, baths, and all the luxuries that artists can never aspire to.
Haidee on seeing the changed address had supposed that in the feeble
condition of the family finances Val had been obliged to take one or two
of the tiny rooms always to be let at the top of most big mansions, and
which are usually rented out to domestics.  The idea was not displeasing
to Haidee.  In the frame of mind she had adopted she liked to think of
Val suffering discomfort and poverty.  And she did not care either if
Bran had to undergo the same thing, because she knew that if Bran’s
quarters were cramped Val would suffer far more than for herself.  It
will be seen that the dark caves in Haidee’s soul had taken unto
themselves infernal occupants, as dark caves will if the sunshine of
loving-kindness is not let into them from day to day.  It actually irked
her to hear now from Christiane de Vervanne that Bran’s room was as big
as a schoolroom.

"About four times as big as this," said the Comtesse, casting an
appraising eye round classroom B of the Pavilion Mauve.  "With shelves
all round, and an assortment of toys most wonderful. Even I could find
myself very much amused with such toys.  He has a _foxe_ too."

"A fox!" shrieked Haidee.

"But yes--one of the little black and white ones with the tail of him
cut off."

"Oh, a fox-_terrier_."  Haidee turned away impatiently, but curiosity
obliged her to turn back instantly to hear the rest of the amazing tale.

"At one end of this big nursery studio two white beds, one for the
_petit_ Bran and one for the American governess who is permanently
installed and very devoted."

"A governess to sleep with Bran!" exclaimed Haidee.  "Oh, no, that is
too strong.  I have never known Val let Bran sleep out of her sight!"

"But yes--it is all so _bizarre_.  You must go home and see, my Haidee."

Indeed Haidee registered a resolution to write to Val that very night
and ask for a _sortie_ letter to be sent for her to come home for the
following Saturday night and Sunday.  She was still hating Val with a
fierce hatred and had no desire to see her.  But this was a thing that
had got to be looked into.

"And," continued Madame de Vervanne, with her amiable air of finding
everything extremely amusing, "who do I find installed in the studio of
Madame Valdana taking tea, indeed making tea, as much at home as if he
had collected the sticks for it on the Mascaret beach, but--who do you
think, my Cabbage?"

"Goodness knows!" muttered the Cabbage. "Val is mad."

"Why, who but our _cher_ Poulot, Rupert!"

"Rupert!  She ’s got _him_, now?" cried Haidee, and her face darkened as
definitely as if some one had passed a blacking-brush over it.

"Yes," said the Comtesse softly, reflectively. "It is as you say.  First
poor dear Sacha, now the innocent Poulot.  Who next?"  She sighed.

There was a little silence.  Then Haidee said:

"Rupert has been twice to see me, once on Sunday and once on Thursday."

"Ah! and did he tell you how many times he went to see Madame

"No, indeed, and I don’t care anyhow," was the retort given with perhaps
unnecessary fierceness.

"But," cooed Madame soothingly, "one should care a little, _chère_
Haidee, for the sake of the poor good Poulot.  She is no doubt a very
fine lady, the charming Mistress Valentine, but we do not wish to see
Rupert suffer as Sacha did."

The subtle words bit into Haidee’s heart like acid on an old wound.  She
had been very much touched at the Comtesse’s act in writing to the
Directrice for permission to call at the Lycée. And it was very
gratifying that Madame de Vervanne should have arrived in a motor which
also contained a young lieutenant of Dragons in uniform, and which stood
growling and puffing at the Lycée gates, filling all the girls with
excitement and envy.  Haidee’s vanity too was greatly flattered by the
tender and confidential manner of the older woman, who never forgot also
to tell her how pretty and clever she was and to give recognition to the
fact that she was now seventeen. So different to Val’s manner of
treating her as though she were still a child and quite unable to
arrange her own destiny.  A curious, fresh access of fury was aroused in
Haidee’s breast by the Comtesse’s tale of Rupert’s devotion to Val.
Rupert had been to see Haidee twice.  He was stationed at Fontainebleau,
doing his second year of military service, and when he came to the Lycée
accompanied by his sister Celine he was wearing the ordinary private
soldier’s uniform, and looking very handsome in the gay red and blue.
All the girls had admired him immensely, and Haidee herself liked him
extraordinarily better than in Mascaret.  While Celine talked with some
of the girls she knew, Rupert and Haidee had wandered about the gardens,
talking about Sacha and little incidents of their happy time together
that now, looked at from a little distance of time, seemed wonderfully
perfumed and beautified.  The remembrance of these two walks with him
made Haidee burn with sudden indignation against Val.

The Comtesse had begun to talk about other things, made Haidee show her
all round Pavilion Mauve and the big roomy schoolhouse, then take her
out into the grounds, along the paths that wound amongst other
Pavilions, the Red, the Blue, the Rose--and over broad lawns that in the
soft mild air of Versailles were green, even in winter.  In the middle
of one of the lawns was a little lake bordered by strange-leaved
dwarf-like bushes that in summer were thick with crimson flowers, but
which now stretched out frail black branches to the silent fountain.
Dead leaves rustled and cracked under the Comtesse’s high-heeled shoes
as they walked.  She waved her hand at the well-kept tennis courts.

"But you are charmingly well here!" she cried, in her gay little
soprano.  "Oh, to be young again and lovely like you, my child!  Not all
the Mistress Valdanas could take away from me what I wanted!"

She returned meditatively to the former subject.

"But who is it that resides in the third _atelier_ think you, Haidee?
Curiosity consumes and burns me.  There is a door leading into it from
Madame’s _atelier_.  Twice she left us to go swiftly and return.  Once
when the door opened I heard a man cough.  Tell me?--it could not be the
mysterious papa returned, could it?"

Haidee gazed at her blankly.

"There _is_ a mysterious papa, is it not?"  If the curiosity of the
Comtesse had not always been pleasantly glossed by pretty childish
gestures and rippling laughter, it might have seemed vulgar. Haidee was
not clever enough to realise this, and she was staggered by the whole
strange story, which sounded unlike Val in every detail, but even in her
amazement she was not going to confide to a comparative stranger the
tangled domestic history of the family.  If she had no feeling but one
of resentment for Val, she could still be loyal to Westenra.

"Oh yes, there is a papa--Bran’s papa of course, and my guardian; but it
would n’t be him."

"That makes even more _bizarre_ the affair," said the Comtesse lightly.
Then, knowing that she had said enough for the time being, she dismissed
the subject and shortly afterwards departed with her Dragon.

As soon as she was gone Haidee, who was nothing if not prompt, sat down
and wrote to Val for a _sortie_ letter for the coming Sunday.  She
intended to investigate this mystery of the three studios for
herself--likewise the story of Rupert’s entanglement.

But to her acute annoyance the opportunity was not afforded her.  A
letter from Val came by return to the effect that she was too busy and
worried to be able to receive Haidee that term. As a palliative she sent
a parcel of books, an enormous box of exquisite chocolates from
Boissier’s, and a dozen tennis balls.  Haidee was a devotee of tennis
and always complained bitterly of the lack of balls, for tennis balls
are outrageously expensive in France.  These Val sent were of the best
quality and must have cost at least three francs each.  The mystery


During the bad time of worriment and weariness with Valdana, Rupert was
indeed a great stay to Val.  Being stationed so close to Paris he was
able to come often to the Lamartine Studios, and she was always glad to
see the blue friendly eyes that had in them some of the space and
compassion of sea and sky.  There was something so loyal and reliable
about him that she had actually told him the truth about Valdana, and
been definitely aided by his sympathy and understanding.  His influence
was good, too, for Bran, who was beginning to reach that stage when the
society and point of view of men means a great deal in a boy’s life.
And Bran had always had a special _penchant_ for boys and men.  It gave
Val many a sharp pang, not of resentment but of sorrow, to observe in
him a yearning for his father, for she knew that whatever she was able
to do for her son, she could never assuage that longing, never give him
the masculine companionship and influence of which he had been robbed.
It grieved her terribly to think that in her son’s life those lovely
pliable years, when bonds between father and son are so simply but
strongly fashioned from the one’s weakness and the other’s strength,
were passing week by week, month by month. Glad enough then was she that
he had at least the friendly brotherly affection and influence of so
clear-hearted a boy as Rupert.

With Valdana she never allowed Bran to come into contact.  Indeed,
Valdana from the first was practically oblivious to those about him. His
race was very nearly run.  He had come to Val in the last lap of it,
upheld by God knew what strange resolution to make her share to the
bitter end their disastrous partnership.  Having found her he seemed
content to let life wreak her pitiless worst on him before he was
allowed to depart to that death which he had once ignobly shirked, but
whose embrace he now longed for with the ardour of a lover.  His
sufferings, indeed, were terrible.  In the centre of the great lofty
room he lay and wrestled with an agony that was almost unceasing.  But
he was well aware of being surrounded and enfolded by every comfort.
Softened light, flowers, music, good nursing, everything that money and
kindness could supply to alleviate pain was at hand, and he knew he had
Val to thank, and vaguely wondered how she achieved it, but did not care
much as long as she was by his bedside, in the pale blue linen overall
she always assumed as soon as she entered.  Cancer may or may not be
infectious--that is one of the problems science has not yet solved--but
with Bran so near she took no risks, changing even her clothes on
entering and leaving the sick-room, which was an entirely self-contained
_appartement_ and _atelier_. She had been so fortunate as to obtain in
the newly-finished building the whole of the immense floor of three
studios.  It rejoiced her to be able to give her Brannie one entirely to
himself and his governess.  That was one of the joys the seventy-five
thousand pounds had brought her.  She had already spent some hundreds of
it on furnishing and the heavy expenses entailed by Valdana’s needs.
But the rest she had been wise enough to allow the kindly Bernstein to
invest for her, and her mind was at rest at last and for the first time
in her life from the gnawing tooth of poverty. She was doing no writing.
Not only was her life, divided between Bran and the sick man, too full
for such a thing, but at last she could permit herself the luxury of
refraining from writing when she had nothing to say.  That forced work
in Mascaret had sickened her soul.  Now she could let her creative
faculty rest for a while at least and give undivided attention to this
duty of hers to Valdana.

As for having Haidee home, it was out of the question.  She felt herself
unable to go into the matter of her relation to Valdana with any one so
antagonistic to her as Haidee was at present. She knew that the girl
still cherished bitterness against her for poor Sacha’s defection, and
she could only hope that with the coming of other interests, this
feeling would pass away and allow a return to the old footing of
comradeship and affection.  She let Haidee profit too by the necklace
windfall, sending her presents of music, books, and the countless pretty
trifles that girls set store on.  Bran went weekly with his governess to
see her, and Rupert, urged by Val, went very often too.  Rupert knew all
about the affair of Sacha. Not from Val, but because by a strange
coincidence Sacha had opened his heart to his cousin the night before
his death.  The two young men had shared the same room at Shai-poo, and
in the silences of the night shared many confidences also.  That was how
Rupert had come to know the truth, and to keep his reverence and
affection for Val unshaken.

"I love the sea, I love the music of the violin, and I love you--all
with the same love," he told her one day.  He had found her weeping
alone in her studio.  The strain of Valdana’s hideous suffering and
Westenra’s long silence sometimes racked her so that she was glad of the
relief of tears.  "You know what Jean Paul Richter said of music,--’Thou
speakest to me of things which in all my endless life I have found
not--and shall not find’;--that is what you and the sea and the violin
say to me."

She blessed him for that, not from gratified vanity, but for comfort in
the thought that others besides herself suffered from the cry of those
things "that we find not nor shall find."

"Dear boy," she said, and stroked his hair as if he had been Bran while
he knelt by her.  "I love you too--as if you were my son, as your mother
must have loved you, Rupert."

Rupert kissed her hand in a very un-sonlike fashion and looked at her

"I want to comfort you," he said, "to take pain out of your life."

"You cannot do that, Rupert."  She quoted gently--"’Pain is the Lord of
Life--none can escape from its net.’"  Something in his eyes made her go
on steadily.  "My pain is chiefly caused by love.  I love my little
Brannie’s father, Rupert--there can never be any other man in my life.
He speaks to me of all those things which I have found not nor shall

Rupert bowed his head again over her hand, his boyish mouth drawn in a
straight line.  It was unfortunate that the Comtesse, whom the _femme de
ménage_ had admitted to the entrance hall, should have come softly in at
that moment.

"Ah, the nice Poulot!" she twittered merrily. "Taking the lessons of
deportment from the _charmante_ Madame Val!"  And burst into happy

But she had not called it "deportment" when she reported the episode to
Haidee a few days later.

"He is gone, our Poulot," she said mournfully. "She has put into
bandages his hands and foots--a slave!"

"He did not seem very bandaged last time he came out here," answered
Haidee rather snappishly, not even amused any more by the Comtesse’s
weird English.

"Ah, but you do not see him with her, my child!  It is amazing how she
finds the time and energy for so much ’flirt’!--She is enormous!--and
with the sick lover in the third _atelier_ all the same time!"

"The sick lover!  Comtesse, what _do_ you mean?"

"Ah, of course, I did not tell you yet.  The concierge it was who
informed me that Madame Valdana occupies herself with a sick gentleman
in the third room.  The doctor every day, and always fruit and flowers
arriving.  Is it not romantic?  But always silence and the sealed-up lip
from Madame Valdana.  She takes no one into her heart where the secret
is, except Poulot."

Haidee was now looking frightfully miserable. These visits from Madame
de Vervanne were a disturbing element in her life and almost she wished
they could be dispensed with.  She was working hard to try and pass her
_baccalauréat_ and achieve her _diplôme_, but a visit from the Comtesse
always left her disinclined to grapple with school work.  And this news
about Rupert and Val irritated her intensely.  What business had Val to
let Rupert get so fond of her?  It was a shame, a wrong to her--Haidee.
First Westenra, then Sacha, now Rupert--just when he was so nice to her,
and she was beginning to like him so much. She ground her teeth in
childish rage and jealousy. The Comtesse put an arm round her waist and
they walked together down the paths of the Lycée gardens, now dank and
sodden by winter rains.

"Tell me ... could not the papa of Bran make her mind her own business,
which is surely to nurse the sick friend and leave poor Rupert alone? I
think he will not even pass his exam, for the Colonials if he had not a
mind at ease.  You know he is working for that now, so that when he has
done his two years’ service he will be eligible if he still wishes to

How his mind would be eased by a break with Val she did not specify.
Nor why she had developed such fervour for the hitherto detested
Colonial infantry scheme.  But Haidee was in no state of mind to thrash
out these intricacies. Worked up by the subtle Frenchwoman’s malice into
a state of teeming anger against Val, and blind to the fact that she was
being used as a catspaw, she allowed herself to consider the Comtesse’s
suggestion, and in the end wrote Westenra a letter which contained many
bitter and cruel things about Val, and gave him fuller information
concerning the three studios than even the story of the Comtesse
justified.  That she was ashamed of herself for her action, and that it
was only a passing spirit of vindictiveness which impelled it, did not
make the letter as a document any the less poignantly indicting.


And that same evening Val was watching the final effort of Valdana’s
troubled spirit to break from the bonds of the body and go forth upon
its way.  Ate Dea had run him to earth.  The Hand whose fingers he had
slipped through on the veldt was closing in on him inexorably, but with
a worse thing in it now than a soldier’s short sharp doom.  It was only
a matter of hours when he must join those others from whom he had
fled--but with a difference!  The difference between the lonely, painful
death from an atrocious malady, and an end worthy of a man, face to the
enemy, his comrades about him--

    "Fighting hard and dying grimly,
    Silent lips and striking hand."

"It seems hardly worth while now to have shirked!" he said quietly.
"Just for a few more years crawling up and down the earth!  I wonder why
we dread old Death so, Val?  After all he ’s the best pal we
have--always waiting so patiently and faithfully; whatever we do,
nothing estranges him from his purpose.  He never gets mad and takes our
gift and gives it to some other fellow--the gift of rest, darkness,

Like many a blackguard Valdana cherished in the deeps of him odds and
ends of noble thought and chivalrous intention garnered from the lines
of some man-poet.  Lindsay Gordon always was the waster’s poet, and
always will be.  He helped Horace Valdana to die now with gratitude
instead of curses in his mouth.

    "Tho’ the gifts of the Light in the end prove curses,
    Yet abides the gift of the Darkness,

His mind had grown strangely clear.  He lay upon the wide divan in the
centre of the room, and his eye roving from object to object, unusual
recognition in its glance.  A Godin stove glowed in one corner of the
great room; the fire in it had never been allowed to die out since the
first occupation of the studio.  It filled the room with a summery
warmth that drew out to the last drop the fragrance of a jar of Sicilian
lilac that stood in the open window; and brought lovely memories of the
veldt from an enormous bunch of mimosa stuck in a blue pot on the piano.
So warm was the climate of the room that a balcony door stood
perpetually open, even on a night such as this, when the outside air
sliced against the warmth of the body with the keenness of a scimitar.
Shaded lights threw faintly-tinted shadows in far corners. The only
objects that showed clear in the dimness of the big shadowy room were
the busts and figures of dead white clay--a gigantic head of Tolstoi,
bearded, rugged; a perfect reproduction of Houdon’s bust of Napoleon as
First Consul; some little Donatello angels.

"It ’ll be cold lying here in a Paris cemetery, Val!" said Valdana

His eye rested reflectively on the face of _L’Inconnue_, hung on a nail
against a pale green-and-rose Persian rug--that lovely mask taken from
the dead face of a young unknown girl, fished out one morning from the
river’s muddy waters.  She had cast her secret into the bosom of the
Seine, and that kind, wicked, cruel, voluptuous, motherly old river had
kept it for ever, so that to this day the world still wonders and longs
to know who the girl was, and why with youth and beauty and all the
gifts of life stamped upon her she chose to go out into the dark with
that little radiant smile on her lips, as if in the last instant she had
thought on some wondrous hour into which all the beauty of life had been
compressed--and was glad to die because that hour could never come

Val, who had often studied the quietly smiling tragic face, said once:

"It was some man’s eyes she was thinking of just before she sprang!
That little smile was meant for just one man in the world."

"Yes: it’ll be cold lying here in Paris," repeated Valdana thoughtfully.
"I wish now I ’d stayed with those fellows at Platkop.  They have the
sunshine, and they ’re all together."

Val smoothed the bright rug that lay over him with her thin nervous

"Don’t bother now, Dan."

It was many a long year since she had called him by that name which pity
now wrung from her.

"I wonder why I should have been the only one not wounded?"  He looked
at her critically. "All the others had got it somewhere, but I had n’t a
thing, not a spot!  And there was n’t a bullet left among those blasted
Boers: it was easy enough to slink off as the evening came on ... but
some of the fellows looked at me as I undid that door. No one said
anything, but they _looked_ at me, Val."

Val hid her eyes.

"One or two of them thought I was going to try for some water from the
spruit near by--God! it was as hot as hell there all that poisonous
day--and no water!  Yes, some of them thought ... but Brand, my sub, he
knew.  I saw the look he gave as I crept to the door--and the
smile--half his face was shot away, but he could still smile--he knew I
did n’t mean to come back----"

"Don’t talk about it any more," whispered the woman by his bedside.

In a swift vision she saw the shot-away face with the brave scornful
smile on it, and longed to hold it to her breast and kiss its broken
bloody lips. Oh, if men knew how women consecrate those brave, quiet
acts done in lone places with none to pity or to praise!

"Whose face is that hanging smiling there over your writing-desk?"  His
eyes were on another death-mask now, the most wonderful the world has
ever seen.  Keen, salient, proud yet gentle, all the arrogance and lust
of power and good living gone--only peace, the traces of physical pain,
and a gentle irony about the lips, left only ideality and lofty hope
stamped above the brows.  The world has one thing for which to thank the
Corsican doctor Antommarchi--that he took the cast of Napoleon’s face
"when illness had transmuted passion into patience, and death with its
last serene touch had restored the regularity and grandeur of youth."
That was the face from which Horace Valdana could not keep his eyes.

"By Jove!" he whispered at the last.  "He had the same thing as I ’ve
got.  He must have known the same hell as I am suffering now. Who am I
that I should complain!"

The thought helped him to "overcome the sharpness of death," and die
with greater dignity than he had lived.

A few days later, Val, with Rupert Lorrain standing by her side in the
cemetery of Montparnasse, dropped a few violets, flowers of compassion
and forgiveness, into an open grave, and Rupert threw down a friendly

Already it was spring.  The winter of pain and misery was past.  On the
graves crocuses were thrusting out their little sheathed heads, symbolic
proof of the sweetness that comes forth from sorrow.


                              CHAPTER XXI

                              LONELY WAYS

"I have lived long enough, having seen one thing, that love hath an
end."--A. C. SWINBURNE.

But for the time being she went no farther than to the South of France.
Not less than she, Bran, after wintering among houses, needed open
skies.  They were of one blood, and the longing for blue was on them
both--the blue of space and sea and sky.  And nowhere better in Europe
can that blueness be found in April and May than down along the
Mediterranean coast.  At first they went to Ste. Maxime, a little
village pitched in green and golden beauty beside St. Tropez’s azure
bay, and from where at dawn the sun can be seen shooting up from his
golden bath just behind Corsica.  For just several seconds the little
island, cradle of the world’s greatest general, shows like an inky mound
against an aureole of yellow light that swiftly turns to rose, for
another moment the sun rests on the peak of its highest mountain, then
Corsica seems to sink and disappear into the sea until the next day’s

Val did not stay long at Ste. Maxime.  She wanted a villa where she
could have Bran to herself, after the long months of enforced absences
from him.  If her unexpected fortune could not give her the delicious
joy of absolute companionship and intimacy with her child it was useless
indeed!  Besides, in hotels children are swiftly spoilt by people who do
not afterwards have to bear the brunt of the spoiling, and Val did not
mean Garrett Westenra’s boy to become weakened by the petting of
Frenchwomen who love to treat other people’s children like pretty
lap-dogs--to be caressed in certain moods and thrust aside in others.

So after a week or two during which an agent busied himself on her
behalf, she moved on to Cannes, and took possession of an ideal villa he
had found for her.  It lay above the road between Cannes and Cap
d’Antibes, but perched high beyond the dust and din of motors; on the
right, La Croisette winged away into the sea, on the left, a gaunt
shoulder of the Alps with a shawl of snow draped on it showed keen
against the mistral-swept skies; while about it, in all the tall beauty
and tropical splendour of Riviera foliage, clustered a garden full of
dreams.  A garden of winding paths edged by ivy leaves lying flat, and
little wild strawberry plants thrusting up coral fruits; tall palms and
cacti glowing with flaming candelabra, waxen-leaved creepers, branching
giant-aloes, delicate fern-like mimosa leaning tenderly above beds of
violets, large as purple butterflies, great patches of poppies, massed
clumps of heather white as snow and bright with happy bees; and
everywhere roses, roses drowsing in the sunshine, perfuming the air!

It was a garden in which coolness could be found on the sultriest day of
summer, but for spring days the open space before the wide white steps
and pillared porch was ideal.  The floor of this space was of gravel,
bleached by rain and a southern sun to snowy whiteness.  A clump of tall
pines spiking against the sky afforded a webwork of flickering shadows
under which to sit as in a balcony hung over the blueness of Golfe Juan.
Always there are ships in that bay of molten turquoise; red-sailed
fishing boats; leaden-coloured warships, with their grim air of power,
lying at anchor; yachts spreading white wings for flight.

The house itself, like nearly all Riviera villas, was square built, and
standing alone would have been less beautiful than solid and
comfortable-looking. But in its jewelled setting of leaf and gold and
blazing colour, the walls of dead white gave a note of quiet beauty and
peace.  A long balcony from the upper rooms dripped with clematis, and
all round the house, high on the walls, large medallions bore the names
of the days. Alternately with these were other medallions on which were
painted on a pale blue ground white and scarlet-winged storks, flying,
flying like the days.

The Villa of Little Days, a poetess who had lived and dreamed there
named it.  She was a famous woman, a friend of Gambetta, who in his
lifetime came often to visit her.  It was she who had planned the wild
and tender beauty of the garden.  Val blessed her often in the spring
months she and Bran passed there.

The domestic arrangements were, from her point of view, ideal.  A garage
across the road pertained to the villa, and had attached to it a cottage
which was occupied by a man and his wife whose services were at the
disposal of those who rented the villa.  The man minded the great garden
all through the sultry summer, dug, gathered, transplanted, and cut
firewood from the pines for the log fires of winter; also he could drive
a car, and did not disdain to clean a window. His wife Marietta, a
big-boned gay-faced Marseillaise, with the bloom of a peach on her
cheeks, and rings of garnets in her ears, made short work of such
cleaning as a villa bathed in perpetual sunshine and purified by
sea-breezes needed.  Incidentally, she could serve up a tureen of
_bouillabaisse_ of a flavour and fragrance to seduce the heart of a king
and convert a vegetarian from his amazing ways.

Bran, happy as always within sight of the sea, raced the garden with his
"fox," or sat under the pines with his mother, listening to the pine
needles growing, or hearing stories of the Greek heroes who, on the
shores of the Mediterranean, seem to be more real and comprehensible
than in any other part of the world.  Perhaps because old Greece and the
Ionian Isles are so near at hand! Indeed, the lure of the horizon is so
great on that fair shore, that if she had been alone in the world
nothing could have held Val from taking train to Marseilles, and from
thence as fast as ship could bear her.  But Bran and his well-being
bound her fast like Prometheus to his rock.  The rush of trains and the
throb of ships’ machinery are no furtherances to health in young
children.  It is in quiet gardens and comfortable homes that the young
heart expands and the little body shoots and flourishes.  The garden of
the veldt was what she could most have wished for him--that wild garden
where her own heart had grown its dreams. But it was far, far, and only
to be reached by such long journeying as the child was not yet fit for.
So she stayed with him in the southern garden, and if her own heart
sailed away sometimes in the ships that slid over the horizon down the
side of the world, her body remained to guard Westenra’s son and to give
him what she "possessed of soul."

Her only regret was that Haidee too could not be revelling in the golden
southern sunshine.  But Haidee was studying at Versailles with quite
extraordinary energy.  The exams. were close upon her, and Val was far
from wishing to divert her attention from the goal.  She had never
failed to impress upon the child the importance of mental equipment that
is grounded on solid instruction. She could see for Haidee too, where
she had never seen for herself, that to leave the mind and heart and
soul open and waiting for some man to walk in and fill them is to court
disaster.  There is no man in the world big enough to fill the heart and
mind and soul of a woman worth considering. The thing is to fill them
first with beauty and learning and wisdom, and let the man come in
after, if there be room.  For a woman to stake everything on a man is to
play a losing game. But another love in the soul, be it music,
literature, art, mathematics, or the maternal instinct, is insurance
against total beggary.  If by great good chance a man’s love brings
happiness, then the other love is an added glory; if misery comes the
other is a refuge.

Poor Val!  She had not followed the creed herself, but she saw well
enough the wisdom of it for Haidee, and had tried to instil into her the
prudence of going nap on Art rather than on Heart. She wanted Haidee to
benefit by her own failures, and never ceased from urging and
encouraging her on towards a goal.  A further instigation she used
freely was the mention of the great pride and pleasure Westenra would
feel in her successful passing of the "_Bacho_" and gaining of the

But Haidee, in response to all letters, kept on saying nothing.  Even to
Val’s promise of a trip to the South as soon as the exams, were over,
she made no more than a sullen acknowledgment. But Val knew from the
reports of the professors that she was working hard.

Most people flee from the Riviera during the summer months.  Of course
it is hot, but that is not the reason.  With the advent of the hot
weather the Riviera becomes very quiet.  The "season" is over, and the
fashionable birds fly away.  But as a matter of fact the charm of the
place is only ripening.  The blaze and beauty of the scene become riper
and more gorgeous.  The white villas disappear into their gardens,
submerged by a flood of green leaves that hide and protect them from the
blaze and dust, though of the last there is less than in the season, for
the motors cease from troubling and the siren is at rest.  The sweet
silence of the night is unbroken by blood-curdling shrieks or jerked-out
hoots from the cars of those rushing to, or returning furiously from,
Monte Carlo.  Of course in the bungalow type of villa built to catch the
spring sunshine, and with no well-treed garden in which to shelter from
fierce heat, it would be unwise and uncomfortable to stay through the
summer; but in the Villa of Little Days there was every comfort within
and without, and nothing to irk except the occasional bite of a mosquito
that had intrigued its way through wired windows and mosquito netting.
The days passed in a great idle peace.  For Val was frankly idle--with
her hands.  With her mind she was always working and giving forth to
Bran.  But with her hands, for the first time in her life since she had
sat idle under the shadow of a buck-sail imbibing her father’s vagabond
creeds, she did nothing.  And, even as in those days Gay Haviland had
handed on to his child what was his of greatness of heart and soul, so
in the southern garden during long torrid days of tropical peace, when
under the tingling ether thought seemed to detach itself in bright
fountains from the sluggish mass of lesser things, Val gave of all that
was best in her to Westenra’s son.  The pity of it is that all mothers
cannot have this unlimited leisure to give to their children in the days
when character is forming for life.

In a sense, too, Val was at peace for the first time since her early
marriage.  The menace and terror of Valdana’s existence, the load she
had carried on her conscience for years with regard to her position in
Westenra’s life, all had been swept away by the hand of Death, the
greatest friend! And she was free of Westenra too.  Whether it were true
or not that he intended to marry Miss Holland she would never lay claim
to his life or name again, never return to that life in New York that
crippled her soul, robbed her of her individuality, and turned her into
a useless, incapable creature whom she herself despised.

The decision was not even hers to make--at least so it seemed to her.
He had made it for her in Jersey.  And it was all old grief and pain!
She had learned during those terrible months of nursing Horace Valdana
to hush her heart to rest. She had had her chance with Garrett and his
love, and failed, it seemed.  Even in spite of Valdana’s resurrection
she would surely, had she been worthy, have kept Westenra’s love?  As it
was, love had done with her, she would never feel passion again.

    "All her red roses had fallen asleep,
    All her white roses were sleeping!"

The brave thing was to face the fact and abide by it.  Besides, she had
Bran.  A woman who is a mother can never be quite lonely and unhappy.
One little chapel of the heart may remain empty and dismantled but all
other spaces in it are filled to overflowing.  And ... away at the back
of Val’s mind a dream had begun to simmer and waver and take form--a
dream of a waggon on the veldt, with Bran.  Some day she would return to
work and wandering--she knew that now.


In the autumn Haidee passed her exams, brilliantly, getting honours with
her "_Bacho_" and a first-class _diplôme_.  It was a great achievement,
and Val was deeply pleased, knowing how the news would gratify Westenra.
She wrote at once sending Haidee a beautiful gift in celebration of the
success, and asking when she should come to Paris and fetch her South.
For by this time she had discovered that she could trust Marietta with
Bran, and had no fear of leaving him for a few days.

But Haidee wrote back coldly, barely acknowledging the gift, and stating
that she wished to stay on at the Lycée working at her music and
painting until December, when Celine Lorrain and her father were coming
down to Marseilles to see the last of Rupert, who, having finished his
two years’ military service, was going out to Morocco. Val made no
objection to this plan, but her heart was chilled at this open
preference for strangers. The Lorrains were good friends, of course, but
after all she and Haidee had been through poverty and sorrow and
sickness together.  She looked upon the girl, if not as her child, at
least as her younger sister.  Was it possible that she still cherished
resentment about Sacha?  At any rate Val was too proud to make any
further advances. She knew Haidee to be one of those natures that are
not softened by kindly advances, but rather inclined to hold the
advancers in contempt for their pains--a fault of youth that passes with
a wider knowledge and experience of humanity.

When she had gone to say good-bye to Haidee before leaving Paris, it was
with the intention of telling her the wonderful news about the necklace,
and also as much as was necessary of the return and death of Valdana
without exactly revealing the identity of the latter and his
relationship to herself.  However, Haidee’s bleak manner had nipped
untimely in the bud the good intention.  Val could not afford to take
into her confidence any one who was not entirely sympathetic, and though
she did not believe that Haidee would be capable of deliberate
disloyalty, yet she realised that the latter, in spite of the grown-up
airs, was only a child, and as such liable to be swayed by moods in
which she might fling a confidence to the four winds, and repent her
action when it was too late. And the secret of Horace Valdana’s
resurrection had not been kept these many years for it to be lightly
betrayed by a child.  As for the matter of the fortune gained by the
sale of the Comfort necklace, Val had been obliged to strangle her
longing to tell Haidee all about it, for how could she suppose that any
one who showed such an almost offensive indifference to her affairs was
really burning with curiosity to know the meaning of her suddenly
changed circumstances?  Haidee hid her feelings well.  Thus it came to
pass that a secret which Val would gladly have shared and felt redoubled
pleasure in the sharing, had been kept of necessity to herself.  She had
not even told Rupert, for she felt that apart from the children no one
else before Westenra had a right to know.  And since Westenra showed no
further interest in her--well, it was no one’s affair.

When the week came for the expected arrival of Haidee, what was Val’s
intense surprise to receive a letter from her saying that she should not
be coming down with the Lorrains.  For one thing, she wrote, General
Lorrain was ill and Celine could not leave him, so that Rupert would be
travelling alone.  For another, she added casually, as if prompted by an
afterthought, "Garry is in Paris and we are going about a great deal
together.  It is possible that he may come down South--_to see Bran_
before he returns to New York. But this is not quite certain.  I will
let you know later."

Westenra in Europe for the first time for four years, and this was the
way he notified her!  Val was stricken to the soul.  Never had she so
acutely realised the position to which he had relegated her.  A mere
minder of his child, and in some respects not so good as that, for a
nurse or governess would at least have received kindly and courteous
letters from her employer.  This casual second-hand message seemed to be
the cruellest of any of the blows her heart had suffered since first she
threw in her lot with Garrett Westenra.  And at first she sank under it.
It was the little more that is too much.  But presently with some of her
old courage she braced herself to the new situation. If she had got to
meet Westenra she would be ready for it.  She had not trained her soul
for years to no avail.  She had not lived with austerity, stood apart
from temptation, fought spiritual battles, for nothing.  A strong rock
was at her back for the hour of need, a rock she had been forming for
herself in all the years since she last saw Westenra. She would be ready
when he came to receive him with dignity and strength untainted by
resentment or any petty feeling.

But before that time Rupert the blue-eyed and ardent, in whom she
recognised so much of her own nature, came bursting into the Calendar of
Little Days.  She welcomed him with all the pleasure a woman feels in
seeing those whose affection for her is sure and unquestioning, who
doubt not her loyalty and pure intention.

His light-heartedness seemed to have waned a little, and his pleasure at
having attained his majority and freedom to depart where he listed was
not so great as Val had expected.  He explained the reason succinctly.

"It is all very well to be rich and free, Val, but I am very alone in
the world."  His eyes resting in hers took an expression of intense

"That is the curse the gods lay upon us wanderers, Rupert," she said

    "’Lover of the Lone Trail, the Lone Trail waits for you!’

"Yet it is that loneliness we are always trying by our own efforts to

"There is only one person in the world who can alleviate it for me."

"And you have not found her yet," interrupted Val promptly, and before
he could say what she read in his eyes, continued swiftly: "I want you
to tell me all about Haidee.  You saw her recently, didn’t you?  How is
she looking?"

"Very pretty," said Rupert gloomily.  "She is a great beauty, that
Haidee, and looks no longer like a brown pony."

"Brown pony?"

"Ah, I should not have said that!  It was one of poor Sacha’s _blagues_
that she always looked like a wild pony with her brown mane flying ...
but she is very different now and quite cured of Sacha, with her hair
put up and long frocks and the self-possessed manner of twenty."

"Has she really got her hair up?"

"Yes, indeed.  I saw her with the guardian. He is a fine fellow, is n’t
he?  She is much in love with him.  I think they will marry."

"Marry!"  Val started as if a missile had struck her.  A moment later
she controlled herself and laughed--an odd, nervous laugh.  "Why,
Rupert, how silly you are!  She is practically Dr. Westenra’s child.  He
has brought her up from a baby."

"That makes nothing.  She is not a baby any more, and she does n’t look
at him like a father.  I prophesy to you that Haidee marries him."

He was arrested by Val’s expression.

"You do not care for such a marriage?"

"It is out of the question to discuss such a thing," she said firmly,
but her face was ashen.

Rupert examined her acutely.  He did not know of course that he was
speaking of Bran’s father.

                              CHAPTER XXII

                            THE WAY OF LOVE

"The philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and
magazines of the soul."--EMERSON.

The Lemprière hat Haidee had on, though it was only a travelling hat of
soft silk, turned up in front with one orchid, must have cost at least
six guineas, but Westenra had paid it without blenching.  It seemed to
him that Val had trained him to buying hats and choosing pretty gowns,
though the strange thing, if he had analysed it, was that he had never
bought Val a hat or gown in his life.  Yet because of Val he knew that
women needed these things, and because life had gone exceedingly well
with him in the last few years, he bought for Haidee all she asked, and
made no demur.  In America he always travelled second, but now he and
Haidee were in a first-class carriage, en route for the South of France,
and it seemed natural enough.

Haidee had certainly come into her own, and it was a goodly inheritance
of beauty.  With her hair _coiffé_ and the hat with the orchid (a
wonderful imitation of a rare species found in the Congo forest), she
was a lovely dryad come to town. The cut of her tan shantung suit
betrayed a master hand, and from its open coat rippled little cascades
of fine lace.  Yet she looked discontented. Perhaps the bitter moodiness
on the face opposite had infected her.

Westenra had not worn that look when they commenced the journey; it was
within the last half-hour while they talked of Val that Haidee had
watched it creeping like a shadow into his eyes, making harsh lines
about his mouth.

"You should have gone to the Lamartine studios and made inquiries," she
said suddenly.  "Then you ’d have known all about it--far more than I
wrote and told you!"

"I have no right to make inquiries about Val, Haidee.  She is not my
wife and I have no claim whatever over----"

"Not your wife?"

"No.  Has she never told you?  Her husband whom she thought dead came
back.  You must never speak of this to any one."

"Of course not.  But how funny, Garry!"

"Very funny," he said grimly.  "That is, of course, who was staying with
her at the studios, with a perfect right to do so.  Only"--his face took
a harder expression--"she can’t go on having Bran too."

"But why not, Garry?  She hasn’t got the man--her husband--staying at
Cannes with her. She ’s told me heaps of times she and Bran are there
alone.  Rupert wrote and told me too."

"That is understood," said Westenra coldly. "Or I should n’t let you go
to her, even for a few days."

"Where are _you_ going?"

"To a hotel, of course.  I ’ve arranged for a room at the Metropole."

Haidee mused awhile, her brows knitted.

"And afterwards, Garry--when you have got Bran?"

"God knows, Haidee."  He did not speak like a man who has won fame and
renown and almost all he set out to get--except one small thing!  But
rather as one whose golden gifts have turned to ashes in the mouth,
whose laurels have fallen to dust.  Inspiration shot into Haidee’s eyes.

"Then you haven’t got a wife at all, Garry?"

"Devil a wife!"

"Then I don’t see why I can’t marry you at last.  I ’ve always wanted

Westenra began to laugh.

"There’s nothing to laugh at.  Lots of girls marry their guardians.  Oh,
_do_ let me marry you, Garry.  I do love you so."

"Dear Silly Billy, I couldn’t possibly."

"Why not?  Why _not_?  How can I come back to America with you and Bran
unless I _am_ married to you?  It would not be at all correct."  (Haidee
had not been brought up in conventional France for nothing!)  Westenra
grinned sardonically.

"And if you get Bran away from Val, he will need a mother, and you
surely would n’t marry some old strange pig of a woman to mind him. He
’s a gentle little kid and he _must_ be mothered. I believe he ’d just
die if he did n’t have love and kindness round him all the time."

Westenra left off laughing and for the first time considered her

"Do you think you ’d make him a good step-mother, Haidee?"

"I _love_ Bran, though I ’ve often been a pig to him--but _that’s_ Val’s
fault," she ended vindictively.  "Oh, do have me, Garry."

"Well, we ’ll think about it," said he gravely, though the suspicion of
a smile hovered in his eyes. Haidee pounced upon him with her fresh

"Won’t I just run your nursing home for you!"

"Oh, _that_!" said Westenra, startled.  "It runs itself now.
Besides"--("No more experiments like that," he had been going to say,
but did not)--"I have practically given it up.  There’ll be nothing for
you to do in New York but mind Bran and amuse yourself."

Haidee looked glum for a moment.  It was plain she was dying to run

"Anyway it’s settled, is n’t it, that I am to marry you and go back with
you and Bran?"  She flung her arms imploringly round his neck. Gently
and a little wearily he unlaced them.

"All right, dearest, if you ’re so keen on it, you shall go--but we
won’t get married just yet, I think--"  He patted her hand

"You ’ll meet some one you like better than me on the voyage, perhaps."

"Never, never," she said almost viciously, and her eyes seemed to look
down a long passage which had some one at the end of it.

"At last I ’ve got some one away from her!" she murmured to herself.

Westenra, even though in the past few weeks he had grown used to her
extraordinary childish innocence and ignorance of life, mixed with a
leaning for outlawry, an amazing respect for _étiquette_, and an anxiety
to keep up a conventional appearance, found this new phase
incomprehensible. He could not understand the gloating triumph of her
manner.  She behaved as if he were a hunting trophy which she had long
yearned to bag.  A dozen times she would jump up from her seat, examine
him proudly, hug him, and sit down again murmuring:

"I’ve got you--I’ve got you, haven’t I, Garry?  No one can get you away
again, can they?"

"Of course not, Silly Billy," came to be his standard reply.


Times are when a traveller arriving at Cannes railway station needs the
physique and temper of a thoroughly-aroused buffalo to make any
impression on the crowd that surges and sways and laughs and greets and
grumbles there.  But on the early June morning when Westenra and Haidee
Halston descended from the P.M.L. Express there was no one in sight
expect a few somnolent porters and a tall woman holding a small
arrow-straight boy by the hand.  The woman was beautifully dressed in
white linen and a hat smothered with red and yellow poppies. The arrowy
boy had a waving topknot of shiny, ruddy-gold hair, with bare legs and
sandalled feet to make a sculptor rave.

Haidee having seen them last recognised them first.  But even she had to
give a second glance to make sure that it really was Val and Bran. They
both looked so well and charming and beautiful to behold.  Bran had
never had clothes so truly _magnifique_ before.  And Val had roses in
her cheeks and lips--a strange thing in so hot a climate!  Somehow the
triumph Haidee had been exulting over and vengefully trumpeting in her
heart died down and faded away when she saw Val coming towards her,
hands out in the usual eager fashion, a kiss forming on her lips.  Both
she and Bran at the back of their welcoming smiles seemed to be wearing
their wistful lion-cub expression, and Haidee had to grip hard on to her
vengeance not to lose it altogether and just fall upon them both and hug
them.  Westenra, too, was aware of a sensation that surprised him, at
the sight of this woman who had once been so much to his life and now
was nothing, standing there with frank outstretched hands smiling a
welcome from under her cool flowery hat.  The fact was that she did not
sufficiently look the part of a shrine-smasher.  If he had not happened
to know her guilty it might have been quite difficult for him to believe
that this was the woman who had destroyed his life-dreams--and ruined
his home.  As it was he could only marvel at the strangeness of women
who could do such things and yet retain a look of honesty and inward
peace.  He marvelled, too, that as he took her hand and looked into the
eyes he knew so well his heart stirred like a live thing.  He was more
amazed by that strange stirring in his breast than if a body he had
certified dead and seen put away into the place of dead things suddenly
quickened in its shroud and returned to life.  For he had in the last
few years deliberately fought down and crushed out his feeling for Val
as a man might crush and kill a useless, hopeless thing.  It _was_
useless that madness he had felt for her--as useless as she was and
always would be to a sane, practical man.  There was no use or sense in
letting the pain of his longing for her get the upper hand of him and he
had not let it, but wrestled with it until he got it under.  Had she not
shown him in Jersey that she did not care enough for him to change?
Shown him, and told him, and proved her words with deeds.  And it was
all old grief and pain now.  Even if he had still retained any feeling
for her she had gone back to Valdana.  That ended it all as definitely
as if she lay before him in her coffin.  He would never have risked
seeing her again if it had not been for his son.

Ah! his son!  That was different.  It was natural and justifiable that
his veins should thrill at the sight of such a brave stripling.  Bran,
for all his elfin faun-like grace of body, had a big face, with the
promise of big things lurking behind its plastic contours and deep-set
eyes.  He sprang into his father’s arms and kissed him ardently.

"Oh!  Daddy, I do love you."

Val’s face curiously gave the impression that it had grown pale, while
the colour in her cheeks and lips "stayed put"--almost as if it _had_
been "put."  Haidee was interested in this phenomenon, but there was no
time to give it more than passing observation, for Rupert Lorrain
suddenly flashed into the scene with the announcement that he would
drive them back in his motor.  They engaged in a bustle for luggage, of
which Haidee had apparently brought a mountain--and a few moments later
all were packed into Rupert’s luxurious Panhard and flying along the
_route Nationale_, Bran tooting the siren and singing at the top of his

"Sing before breakfast, you ’ll cry before tea," quoted Haidee at him.
She had to shriek to be heard.

"Shall we drop you at your hotel, Garrett? Or will you come to breakfast
with us at the Villa?"  Val’s voice was the casual gentle voice of a
good friend.

The realisation that he had been calmly and unquestioningly going back
with this noisy crowd as though it belonged to him, to her villa which
was not his, shocked him into a stiff answer.

"At the hotel, please.  And I ’d like Bran to stay with me this morning,
if you don’t mind."

"Oh, yes," cried Bran, ecstatically.  "I’ll come."

"I’ll bring him back safely to you after lunch."

"Of course," said Val, smiling radiantly.  It is on record that martyrs
could radiantly smile even when the slow fire was applied.

So he and Bran were dropped at the Metropole, not without many
proprietary grumblings from Haidee and warnings from Rupert that he
would be back to join them ere long.  The car drove off amidst a shower
of shouts and calls and farewells. Only Val sat silent under her

As soon as they were on their way once more, under cover of the motor’s
burr, Haidee said, staring Val defiantly in the eyes:

"Garry and I are engaged."

It never occurred to her that Rupert had in any way prepared the way for
her announcement, and she was blinded with amazement and fury that Val
took it so serenely.  True she once more got the impression of pallor
under that unwonted colour in Val’s cheeks, but the latter’s eyes were
very big and bright and friendly when she said quietly:

"That is very wonderful news, chicken."

That was all!  The lovely dark face under the Congo orchid grew darker.

"We shall be awfully happy," she said fiercely. "And never think of this
rotten old Europe or any one in it again."

Val spoke a strange saying, laying her hand on the girl’s.

"One should try alway to keep a little dew in one’s heart, Haidee, or
else, in the heat and weariness of the desert it may dry up and blow
away like a leaf."

Haidee wrenched her hand away.


"And what do you think of being when you ’re a man, Bran?"

Bran reflected a while, balancing a spoonful of strawberry ice-cream on
the edge of his glass.

"Well, Daddy, sometimes I ’d like to be one of those professors that
feed the animals at the Zoo, _you_ know.  But after all, I think I
prefer to be an engine driver."  The little golden face looked up into
Westenra’s with the perfect confidence and frankness of a nature that
has never been snubbed or thwarted.  "You see one could be always going
to new places."

Westenra’s heart sank.  He got a sudden vision of Val smiling that very
smile of boyish confidence as she looked up from a deck chair saying:

"I would love to wake up in a new place every morning of my life."

Good God! was it possible that it was after all only a child, no better
or worse than this golden-headed stripling, whom he had had in his hands
all these years, treating harshly, misjudging, scolding, neglecting?
The thought was horrible, but it pierced as though it were true.

"What is the good of that, my boy?" he said gently.  He shrank from
losing that lovely confidence by an unsympathetic word, but--"What would
you do in all those new places?"

"Do?" Bran mused a while.  "Oh, there’d always be something to do,
Daddy.  Sometimes the people there would want a bridge made, or a tower
built, or there might be a giant there eating all the little boys and
girls.  Then I would stay just long enough to kill the giant, you know,
or make the bridge----"

"I see."

"Or sometimes I would just make a picture of the place."

"A picture?"

"Yes, I love to make pictures--then get on my engine again and away I ’d

So!  This was what she had made his son into? A vagabond like herself, a
wanderer, a seeker after nothingness?  He said it bitterly to himself,
yet there was no echoing bitterness in his heart.  The boy’s eyes were
so sweet and clear.  There seemed no base thought in any corner of him.
And that big head and wide glance--surely something great would come of
them!  The boy looked at the world as if it had been made for him.
Surely Raleigh had that spirit, and Drake, and Napoleon, and Cecil
Rhodes.  Surely it was the spirit of great adventure!

He spent a strangely happy day with his son. Unreal, yet as natural as
if he himself had lived every moment of it before.  When at last they
came to the Villa of Little Days it was to find the others gathered
together in the garden, sitting under the spiking pines.  Capacious
easy-chairs with bright cushions stood about on the gravelled terrace
and everywhere was colour, colour.  Blue above, and blue below, and
round them on shrub and tree and plant every known and lovely shade that
Nature could invent, all woven and blended as skilfully as the
broidering on some masterpiece of tapestry.  Val too had returned in
jewels and dress to her love of oriental colouring.  She had two large
silver rings set with turquoises in her ears, and round her neck a chain
of rugged chunks of malachite and turquoise-matrix.  None of these
things were expensive.  She never bought jewels because they were
valuable, but for the sheer colour of them and the joy that colour gave.
Diamonds said nothing to her and she would never have worn them if she
had been a millionairess. The ear-rings were a spare pair of Marietta’s
which she had been delighted to sell Val for a couple of _louis_; matrix
and malachite are, as every one knows, almost as common as
sea-shells--and so are violets common, and poppies of the field, and
forget-me-nots; but none the less are they the colour-gifts of God and
the world would be a less beautiful place without them.  Her gown of
some kind of flexible opaline silk blended with the colours of the
garden, even with the poppy hat which she still wore.  Westenra had
never seen her look so much at peace with herself and her surroundings
or realised before that she possessed beauty.  He did not realise indeed
that never had he seen Val in beautiful clothes nor in surroundings that
were full of grace and peace.  Always he had the picture of her rushing
about the house in 68th Street like some driven wild thing, the worried
look of a hunted creature in her eyes, the grey linen overalls typical
of the grey hurrying life, making her eyes grey only, without a glint of
the blueness which now made them so attractive.

They sat and talked, spying with field-glasses at the warships in the
bay.  Naval manoeuvres had been going on for some days, and a large
portion of the French fleet lay out in the blue, throwing great purple
shadows upon the water and sending up streamers of black smoke to

Rupert, as much at home in the family circle as if he belonged to it,
seemed to wish to monopolise Haidee, but she kept withdrawing from his
advances and plying herself to the task of playing proprietress to
Westenra.  She sat on the arm of his chair with her arm along his
shoulders, deferring to him in everything, constantly referring to New
York and their premeditated return there. Westenra, with Bran perched on
the back of his chair, legs dangling round his father’s neck, hands
occupied with his father’s hair, was forced into announcing plans of
some kind.  He disclosed a contemplated return to Paris to deliver two
important lectures at the Sorbonne.  That done, he should return South,
and book by some tramp steamer which would take him home via Greece and
Algeria, sailing from Marseilles.

"Don’t forget that I’m coming too," said Haidee feverishly.

"How could I?"  Westenra’s smile was dry.

"Me too, Daddy," chirruped Bran.  A kind of breathless stillness fell
for an instant.  Every one save Bran, busy with his father’s hair,
looked swiftly at Val and as swiftly away again.  Val sat like a stone
woman.  In the silence Bran, who had gone on twisting his father’s hair
into little spikes, spoke again placidly:

"Me too, Daddy.  I don’t want to be away from you any more."

A pang of joy and triumph shot through Westenra, but it was mingled with
something that cut like a knife on an open wound.  Val was staring
before her sightlessly.  Yet a little smile played round her lips--a
smile of some feeling Westenra hardly understood.  There was something
infinite in it, yet terribly human.

"You would rather go back to America than stay with me, Brannie?"

It was not pleading, nor sad, nor coaxing. Just a little simple
question.  Only she and Westenra knew how much hung on it, though one of
the others had a very good notion of what was behind.  Bran looked
across at his mother hesitatingly.  She had always trained him to truth
and directness, yet he searched her face for a moment as if for a clue.
Bran hated to hurt any one’s feelings--most of all his mother’s.  But
she smiled on, and he could read nothing.  He had never seen her eyes so
empty before, and could not know by what great effort she had emptied
them of all the fierce love and terror in her heart, so as to play fair,
and not bias the issue.  So after a little moment Bran said:

"I like daddy.  He’s got a hard smell--like steel.  I don’t want to be
away from him any more."  He slid an arm round his father’s neck. No one
looked at Val.  Suddenly and amazingly Haidee cried out in a fury of

"You are a little pig, Bran! ... an ungrateful little pig!"

She burst out crying, and jumping up ran to the house.  Bran’s eyes
slowly filled with tears.

"Haidee _is_ nasty!" he said in a trembling voice. "What have I done?"
In his trouble he turned naturally to his mother and the tenderness that
had never failed him.

"Nothing, my Wing.  Haidee will be all right by and by.  Here is
Marietta with the tea."

But Westenra would not take tea.  He appeared to stiffen at the sight of
it.  After Bran had swallowed a hurried _goûter_, as the French call it,
his father took him by the hand and they went away together for a walk
by the sea.  When they came back at seven, Westenra excused himself, and
returned to the hotel with a promise to call after dinner.


That evening he and Val walked together through the twilight garden in
which Gambetta had pondered his plans and philosophies.  They, too, had
a problem to consider.  It had to come, this talk together.  They both
had felt the imperativeness of it.  And now both were remembering that
other walk on the moonlit cliffs above St. Brelade’s Bay, when the
curlew wailed and cruel words were said that separated them as only
cruel words can separate, driving them apart for ever.  Even as Val had
struggled that long-ago night for words to explain and condone the
situation Westenra struggled now, while Val walked beside him still and
white, but with some hidden strength in her which he felt while he could
not understand it.

The curious thing was that, though he had meant to upbraid her, though
his heart was bitter against her, he found himself speaking as if he,
not she, were the defalcator.

"I suppose you think me a cold-blooded brute?"

With that which Haidee had told her still tingling in her mind she could
not pretend to misunderstand, but she tried to be fair.

"You know your own interests best, Garrett."

"Oh, as to my interests--"  He found that a strange answer, and
cogitated on it for a while.

"Haidee is devoted to you and your interests."

"Haidee?  I should not be such a fool as to expect that--again?"  No
doubt he meant that javelin to reach her.  If it did she gave no sign.
Only her next words might have been a faint attempt at a return thrust.

"Even Haidee would not find it a very difficult life since things are so
prosperous with you now."

He answered swiftly: "Yes; the law of compensation has been busy with my
affairs.  Unlucky in love--"  The sentence remained unfinished.

They found that they were standing still, staring white-faced at each
other.  For a moment they stayed so, then she said gently:

"Surely we have not come here to gibe at one another?  I--I bear you no
ill-will, Garrett."  It was such a strange way of expressing her
feelings that she could not help but stammer a little.

He laughed.  Strange, that he who felt so old in the train that morning
should now feel young enough for fierce anger and rage.

"That is good of you.  I am sorry I cannot with truth claim to
reciprocate your generosity."

The calmness that had amazed him sustained her now.

"Well, let us leave the subject then, and speak of one that matters more
to our future life--Bran. What about Bran?"

"You saw yourself to-day--you heard."  He did not care to keep
exultation from his voice.

"You think it fair, then, to take away from me what I have lived and
worked for these last six years?"

"Have not I worked for him too?"

"You may have done so.  It has made no difference to him."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that since we parted in Jersey, Bran, like myself, has neither
eaten nor drunk nor been clothed at your expense."


"The exact half of all moneys you have sent is lying at the Credit
Lyonnais.  The other half has been spent explicitly on Haidee.  You have
seen the bills."

His face darkened.

"How dared you treat me so?--my own son!"

"If you had come to see him it would have been different, but to stay
away year after year, and expect money to fill the gap that a father’s
influence and love and tenderness should have filled ... that seemed to
me too mercenary, too unworthy treatment of _my_ son."

"No matter ... no matter ... it is an infamous thing you have done--a
crowning act of cruelty.  I should have believed you incapable of it.
By God! how dared you let any one else feed and clothe my child?"

She looked at his furious face in genuine amazement.

"Had I no right to work for him?"

"_You_, yes; and I know you have--Haidee has told me.  But this last
year ... and _now_.  Who is paying for all this?"  He swung his arm
savagely at the beauties of the garden.  His gaze was full of rage and

"In leaving Bran I left my honour with you--and you have sold it for
this mess of pottage!  It is time he went with me!"

She faced him steadily, with the calmness born of long vigils with

"You are insulting me unnecessarily.  No one has supported your son but

He stared at her in unbelieving wrath.  But something about her words
and still gaze presently quieted the fury in his veins, and he spoke
more temperately.

"I will be glad to accept that.  It is strange that by your own efforts
you should have become wealthy enough to surround him with beauty and
ease such as this--but if you say so I accept it."

There was a silence.

"My own efforts had nothing to do with it, Garrett.  It is only that God
has been good to me. Did you ever hear the saying, that ’God takes care
of drunkards and children’?"

He regarded her long and earnestly.

"Are you a drunkard?"  Anything less like one he had never seen.  His
medical experience told him that she could not be one.  No drunkard
could look as she did.

"No, Garrett.  I can faithfully and truthfully say that I am not a

Then she was a child.  It was a child that he----!

"Let me tell you about it," she was saying. "About eleven months ago
something that might be regarded in the light of a family legacy came to
me.  The necklace my mother gave me turned out to be of extremely
valuable pearls.  I sold it for seventy-five thousand pounds--it has
since realised one hundred and twenty thousand.  That is the secret of
such comfort and ease as you now see us enjoying."

The story was amazing, but Westenra instinctively knew it to be true.
He had often been struck by the wonderful pearly beauty of the Comfort

"I am glad for your sake," he said at last; "it must simplify the future
a great deal.  I beg your pardon for what I said a moment ago.  It is
bad enough that I should have been denied the right to support my own
son--but I could not bear that that other fellow should have done it.
It even sticks in my gorge that you should have allowed Bran to come
into contact with him."

"Whom are you speaking of, Garrett?"

"Why do you ask that?  Surely you do not think me unaware of the fact of
your return to Valdana?"

"Ah!" she said softly, and drew in her breath. "You know that?"

"Of course I know.  It was that knowledge which brought me to France.  I
could not allow Bran or even Haidee, to be anywhere within the radius of
that--"  He bit off "scoundrel."

"Neither of them has ever seen him----"

"I thank you for that at least."

"Nor would ever have seen him."

"Oh, as to----"

"Is that the reason you would not enter my house nor accept my

He did not answer, but his neck stiffened, and he gave her the direct
look which she well knew meant assent.  And she thought to herself:

"There is not anything base and odious of which he does not think me
capable.  It is well that he and I should part for ever.  The soul
constantly suspected of baseness and cruelty must become degraded in
time and shrink away to nothing.  I will go away from here to places
where my soul can grow and not shrink."  These thoughts passed swiftly
through her mind.  All she said aloud was:

"You need not have feared.  Horace Valdana has never come here, nor ever
will.  He and I will not meet again."

They had come out of the shadowy whispering paths and reached the open
gravelled terrace, with the still waters of the Mediterranean lying
below, silent under the stars, sombre as a pool of blue ink. The little
group of chairs stood inviting.  By mutual consent they sat down.
Inside the Villa Haidee was at the piano playing wide, gallant chords,
to which Rupert, in a rather strong tenor, sang snatches of the

    "Et le pauvre gars ... fredonne tout has:
      *    *    *    *    *
    ’J’aime Paimpol et sa falaise,
      Son cloche et son grand Pardon.
    J’aime encore mieux, la Paimpolaise
      Qui m’attend au pays breton.’"

"Of course," said Westenra slowly, "if you are alone, and are going to
be alone ... I have no right to take Bran."

"There is no question of right--"  She put her hand over her heart--she
could not speak calmly of this last savage blow fate was dealing her by
the hand of her loved son.  "He wants to go. That is enough."

"You know I will mind him well," he said gently.

"No one can mind him as I do," was her inward cry, but she said nothing,
only pressed her hand harder to her side.

"----and that he will come back to you.  It is only fair that I should
have him for a little while, but naturally I do not want to keep him
from you, and I am very sure he would not stay."

She was still silent.  He looked at her keenly. Each knew what the other
suffered, for at the heart of each the parent hunger gnawed with cruel

"You will not beguile him from his wish to come with me?--I am very sure
you could.  It would be natural for him to stick to you after all you
’ve done for him--but you won’t?"  Almost he was pleading with her.

"Did I to-day?"  Her face was bleak.

"No, God knows--and it would have been easy enough!"

"I know he needs you.  A boy begins to need a father’s influence, and
Bran has always had a hunger for men and their ways ... but, oh! mind
him well, Garrett Westenra ... mind him well ... give him back to me as
sweet and whole in soul and body as I lend him to you--"  Her voice
broke.  She could bear no more.  Swiftly she rose, and with a little
gesture full of despair and abnegation and farewell, left him.


The next day Westenra was gone, presumably to Paris to give his
lectures.  Rupert, who had walked home with him the night before,
brought a brief message of farewell to the Villa of Little Days, and the
news that they might expect him back in anything under ten days.

As for Val, she went to bed for a week.  At least she retired to her
room, declaring a fear that a slight cold she had might develop into
_grippe_, and that summer _grippe_ was the most boring of all illnesses,
and that she was not going to risk becoming the greatest of bores.  So
she lay down a good deal in a darkened room.  When she was not resting
she wrote many letters, and in the cool of the evening she would sit on
her clematis-wreathed balcony with Bran in her arms, her lips on his
hair, listening to his account of the day’s doings.  For Rupert’s car
was perpetually at the gate, and never a day passed but he and Haidee
and Bran set off on some long excursion into the surrounding country.

Haidee came up to Val’s room sometimes to make perfunctory inquiries.
She would stare hard at the latter lying so lazily amongst her cushions,
and narrowly search the smiling face. But, except that colour had fled
from cheek and lip, Val showed no signs of trouble, only a vivid
interest in all they had been doing.

"You do take it easy, I must say," Haidee remarked half grudgingly the
fourth evening after Westenra’s departure.  "Lying here in the cool
while we have to scoot about in the heat and dust."

Val laughed.

"You don’t _have_ to, chicken.  And scooting in a motor is not so very
disagreeable after all. You look as if it agreed with you, anyway."

Indeed the girl was radiant, and her half-hearted grumblings were
entirely contradicted by her eager air of enjoying life.  She need not
have resented that Val smiled so brightly from her bed, and perhaps she
would not have done so if she could have seen that when the door closed
on her the light went out of the smoke-coloured eyes, and the smile
withered, leaving only weariness upon Val’s lips.

But on the day Westenra’s return was notified by telegram Val came down
very bright and gay and presided over the tea-table under the pines.
Rupert had just brought the others back from Grasse in a condition of
physical flop, and all three were distributed upon chairs in attitudes
of utter abandon.  Val, with all the colour back again in her pale dark
face, looked fresher than any of them.  Westenra’s wire was a subject of
great intrigue.  It had come not from Paris, but from a little
out-of-the-way place called Baurem les Mimosas, which lay about two
hours from Cannes and not even on the main line!  No one knew by which
train he was coming, or where to go and meet him.

"I don’t believe he has been in Paris at all," said Haidee
discontentedly, and certainly the man who at that moment appeared at the
top of one of the winding paths and came strolling towards them bore no
stamp of Paris on himself or his raiment.  His face, in spite of the
protecting brim of a cow-puncher’s hat which had clearly seen life and
experience in other climes, was badly sunburnt, and he wore a truly
disreputable grey flannel suit of the reach-me-down class, and evidently
made for the French figure rather than for an Irishman of large and
athletic build.  The waist and hip measurements were of such amplitude
as to give a slightly _bouffant_ effect, but the calf accommodation was
limited to bursting point; the rest of the trouser-leg would have hung
in frills round the ankles had they not been secured tightly by large
white safety-pins.  A pair of "Weary Willie" canvas shoes completed
Westenra’s outfit.

"_Garry!_" gasped Haidee, shocked beyond words. But Bran leaped upon his
father and embraced him joyously.

"Where you been, Daddy?"

"I been bicycling," responded daddy affably and saluted every one,
beginning with Val and ending with Rupert.  "That’s where I been!"

"Bicycling!  What a thing!" cried Haidee, while Val made him fresh tea.
"How _could_ you come through Cannes such a sight, Garry?"

"What’s the matter with me?  I feel good in these togs.  In future I
shall always dress like this."

Haidee shuddered.

"You did n’t go to Paris after all?"

"No, Haidee, I did not go to Paris.  I hired a bicycle, bought this
bicycling suit you don’t admire, and took to the open road.  There isn’t
any village between here and Toulon that I haven’t explored inside out,
nor any ’café débitant’ where I have n’t sampled the chianti or the
astispumanti or anything else that was _tanti_."

"But what for, Garry?  Why?"

"I had some thinking to do," said Garry, "and I thought I could do it
better on a bicycle than in Paris."

"Have you thought about when you’re going to take me in a ship, Daddy?"

Bran had climbed on his knee.

"Yes; I ’ve been thinking about that, my son."

Haidee said abruptly:

"Did n’t you say we would take one of those tramp steamers that go from
Marseilles, and touch at all sorts of ports?"

"That was the idea."  Westenra held up a cigar to Val, and she nodded
permission to smoke. "Why?"

"Well, as Rupert is going to Morocco next week I thought we might as
well take the same ship."  Haidee sounded rather breathless.

"Ah!" remarked Westenra thoughtfully and lay back in his chair, his face
between the knees of Bran, who had climbed up into his favourite

Rupert murmured something about that being "an idea _bien gentille_" and
hunted nervously for a cigarette.

"In that case," announced Val quietly, "we shall all be sailing from
Marseilles at much the same time."

"All?"  Every eye was immediately focused upon her.


"But you ’re not coming--"  Haidee broke off confusedly.

"No; but I am leaving France."

"Leaving France?" ejaculated Rupert.

"Yes, leaving France, and all cities, to go back to the life I lived as
a child and which has been pulling and calling me ever since."

"What, that life in a waggon?" Haidee had heard of it so often it was
strange she should become so excited about it now.

"Yes; a waggon that starts every late afternoon, and treks throughout
the night; and brings you to a fresh place every morning."  Her face
suddenly lost the veil of shadows that had hung over it so long.  Space,
and joy and distance, and a fierce wistfulness came into her gaze.  "One
goes on and on to places one has never seen before, sometimes to places
_no one_ has ever seen before--that is best, that is wonderful----"

Strangely the veil that had passed from her face seemed to fall upon the
faces of her listeners.  Not one among them but looked curiously

"I shall see the wildebeeste grazing on the horizon once more--and hear
the guinea-fowl in the bush crying ’come back! come back!"

Westenra stared at her.  Was this the woman who had run his nursing

"Everything in nature, if you leave it alone, will come back--to the
ways of its early life."

"If you leave it alone?"  Westenra spoke almost involuntarily.  She

"Am not I going to be left alone?"

There was a silence.  Every one sat staring at her.

"Who but I would care for such a foolish life!" she said more sombrely.

"But wouldn’t I?" burst out Rupert.  "It is what I have always longed
for.  To _coucher à la belle étoile_!  _Zut, alors_!  I will come too.
It is understood."

Val laughed.

"You would soon be bored.  One must be a wanderfoot by birth and

But he repudiated the saying, and there was no boredom in his eye nor in
the eyes of any.  An odd uneasiness possessed them all.  Haidee looked
paler and was biting her lip.  Bran had descended from his father’s
shoulders and advancing on Val stood looking at her, a startling
reflection of her fierce wistfulness in his own eyes.  But he still kept
a hand on his father’s knee.

It was Marietta who broke up the séance by coming out to announce in an
autocratic manner that dinner would be ready in ten minutes.  No one had
realised that it was so late.  Westenra did not accept the invitation to
stay and dine as he was, but having secured its extension to the evening
sprang on his bicycle and rode for his hotel to the endangerment of
several lives on the _route Nationale_.

It hardly seemed an hour before he was back again, very big and handsome
in conventional dress, among the tranquil trees of the garden. The place
was silvered and transformed by the light of the moon, which, at the
full, hung like a great luminous pearl on the radiant breast of heaven.
The windows of the Villa were all set wide, and in the drawing-room
Haidee’s fingers were weaving fairy tales at the piano with such magic
that they seemed real voices and hands that called and tugged at Val and
Rupert under the trees.  The boy stirred restlessly in his chair,
gripping its sides.  Since dinner Val had been sitting there, very
silent, while Haidee played.

When he heard the bell tinkle on the garden gate far below, and knew
that some one, probably Westenra, was entering, he said suddenly:

"I forgot to tell you that the other night when I walked home with the
doctor I happened to mention to him ... that ... well, that I was with
you at the funeral of Mr. Valdana."

"Ah!"  Val sighed strangely and sat up straight in her chair.  It was
too late for anything more to be said.  Westenra was upon them.  And
since Rupert, vacating his chair, was already on his way to the
drawing-room, it was quite simple and natural that Westenra should sit
down beside her. They talked, a little disjointedly about the beauty of
the night, how well Haidee played, what a charming fellow Rupert was.
Then he said suddenly:

"And you are really going back to that wild wandering life of yours,

It was the first time he had called her Val in all these years.  She
trembled a little, answering sadly:

"Like water, I must return to my own level."

"Then you should live on the mountain tops."

She trembled again and her heart ached a little more poignantly.  Why
should he mock her?

"You think you will be happy?"  His voice was not mocking, only very

"Oh! happy?" she echoed.  "Who is happy?  But--

    ’Give me the long white road, and the grey path of the sea,
    And the wind’s will, and the birds’ will, and the heartache
      still in me,’

and I will reproach no one."

"Reproaching has never been a pastime of yours, I think--and you may be
glad of it, Val, for reproaches, like curses, have a way of coming home
to roost.  My conscience is no better than an aviary----"

Her involuntary laugh lightened the strain a little, but Westenra was a
thorough man, and did not mean to leave it at that.  Sombrely he

"I beg your forgiveness, Val, for every reproach I have ever made you in
your capacity as wife, mother--or lover.  They were undeserved, every

Why should his voice have grown hoarse at the last, and her heart come
climbing up into her throat as if to suffocate her?  It was some moments
before she could half-whisper, half-mutter a response.

"You are too generous; I deserved everything you ever said--but after
long thinking I see--that--we cannot all win out as wives and mothers.
Of some of us, when you ’ve said we are good lovers you ’ve said all.  I
hoped I was a good mother too--but it is plain that I am not, for Bran,
even Bran on whom I had staked my last throw--even Bran leaves me--"

Strange that Haidee should choose this moment to launch forth into the
first trembling plaintive notes of the 17th Sonata, that wonderful pæan
of terror and beauty under whose rushing spell seven and a half years
agone Val had lain her face against her husband’s and shared with him
the greatest, sweetest secret that can ever lie between man and woman!

"Bran shall never leave you--if you will have me with him--or even if
you will not."

"Garrett--what are you saying?"

"’The years teach much that the days never know.’  Val, I have realised
during the last seven days what I have been learning ever since you came
into my life, that everything is worthless but the love and happiness of
the woman you love."

"Oh, Joe!" she cried in great humility and wonder.  "You with all your
gifts of mind and brain; with all you have done for science, and still
will do----!"

"It can all go to the devil," he said cheerfully. "I ’m coming to live
with you in a waggon on the veldt, to see the wildebeeste, whatever they
may be, grazing on the horizon, and hear the guinea-fowl calling from
the bush.  These things have got a hold on my imagination and will never
let go. And if I can’t do something for science, even out there on the
veldt, I ’m a poor sort of fellow and will deserve to be forgotten."

"But the rewards you have already won--that are just within your
grasp?--the chair at Columbia--the Nobel--the--"  (She herself set no
store by such things, but well she knew how men value them more than
their immortal souls.)

"Too bad!" said Westenra, with an ironical smile.  "Did you ever hear of
what John L. Sullivan said the day after his defeat at New Orleans?  A
sympathiser came wheedling up to him, saying: ’It’s too bad, Jawn!  Too
bad! What ’ll you do now?’  Sullivan, real man that he always was, even
in defeat, growled back at him: ’What ’ll I do now?  Pugh!  _Ain’t I
John L. Sullivan still?_’  Pretty good philosophy for a pug, Val!  I can
only say in all humility--same here! Even in defeat I----"

His words were cut short by a very whirlwind of lace and tears and
laughter.  A pair of arms were thrown round Val’s neck, and a sobbing,
happy voice cried, loud enough for all who wished to hear:

"Oh, Val--I love you, and I beg your pardon. I am a pig from away
back--and a cat and a beast--but oh!  I am so happy!  Rupert and I are
going to get married to-morrow, and after we have been in Morocco a
little we shall come out and join you in your waggon."

Westenra stood up big and grim in the moonlight.

"Hell’s blood and blazes!--and is _this_ the way I am thrown down at the
eleventh or any moment?--bring me the bridegroom, and I ’ll eat him up
at one mouthful.  I ’ll beat the gizzard out of him--I’ll----"

"_M’voilà, Monsieur le Docteur_!  Here I am," said Rupert, not without
dignity, and with great goodwill.

"Well, get out," said Westenra softly, "and take your bride to be with
you.  That’s all that’s required of you for the time being."

He cared not how they went nor where, so long as he was alone once more
with this only woman of his life.  He took her hand in his and drew her
close until her cheek lay against his as on a long-ago night, driving up
Broadway to 68th Street. Before them, through the trees, glimmered a
silver expanse of water, with grim warships lying at rest and little
red-sailed fishing boats rocking softly.

"Heart of my heart--does n’t this seem to you a fair sea on which to
launch a new ship of dreams."

"No.  Not a new ship, Joe.  The same old ship.  I have never been out of
it for an hour, or a moment."

                                THE END


                          By Cynthia Stockley


                   The Story of a South African Girl

            _With Frontispiece.  $1.35 net.  By mail, S1.50_

_The Bookman, in a long review, concludes by saying:_

"It shows the bravery of self-conquest, the courage of mother love that
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                        A Story of South Africa

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                     By the Author of "The Rosary"

                            The Broken Halo

                         By Florence L. Barclay

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                    _Over One Million Copies of Mrs.
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                       _The Melrose Prize Novel_
                        _Awarded Prize of $1250_

                      The Lure of the Little Drum

                          By Margaret Peterson

              _12°.  With Portrait of Author.  $1.35 net.
                            By mail, $1.50_

                The adjudicators of the competition were
                    Joseph Conrad, W. J. Locke, and
                           Mary Cholmondeley

This strongly conceived dramatic and exciting story of Anglo-Indian life
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thoroughly.  The drama of the flight is admirably conceived."

                        New Book by Myrtle Reed

                               _Author of
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                        Threads of Grey and Gold

             _12°.  With Colored Frontispiece.  $1.50 net_
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As the title suggests, this is a literary tapestry in which have been
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                          G. P. Putnam’s Sons
                        New York -------- London

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