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Title: The Diva's Ruby
Author: Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion), 1854-1909
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 "The Diva's Ruby" ***

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Internet Archive)



THE DIVA'S RUBY



     THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
     NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
     ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

     MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
     LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
     MELBOURNE

     THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
     TORONTO



Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by =equal
  signs=.



  [Illustration: "Apparently looking down at his loosely hanging
   hands."--Page 92.]



     THE
     DIVA'S RUBY

     A SEQUEL TO
     "PRIMADONNA" AND "FAIR MARGARET"

     BY
     F. MARION CRAWFORD
     AUTHOR OF "SARACINESCA," "ARETHUSA,"
     ETC., ETC.

     WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
     BY J. MONTGOMERY FLAGG

     New York
     THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
     1908

     _All rights reserved_



     COPYRIGHT, 1907,
     BY F. MARION CRAWFORD.

     Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1908.


     Norwood Press
     J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
     Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"Apparently looking down at his loosely hanging hands"    _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

"'Funny idea of honour,' observed the American"                       62

"'You want my blessing, do you, Miss Barrack?'"                      116

"Margaret gazed at him in surprise while she might have
counted ten"                                                         154

"She was aware of his slight change of position without
turning her eyes"                                                    170

"She grasped Lady Maud's arm"                                        198

"She watched him intently while he read the printed report"          226

"The two dined on deck"                                              284

"'What has happened?' she cried. 'Are you ill, dear?'"               294

"She buried her handsome face in the splendid flowers"               340

"Their eyes met"                                                     348

"The man was not Boris Leven"                                        422



THE DIVA'S RUBY



CHAPTER I


There is a ruby mine hidden in the heart of the mountains near a
remote little city of Central Asia, unknown to European travellers;
and the secret of the treasure belongs to the two chief families of
the place, and has been carefully guarded for many generations, handed
down through the men from father to son; and often the children of
these two families have married, yet none of the women ever learned
the way to the mine from their fathers, or their brothers, or their
husbands, none excepting one only, and her name was Baraka, which may
perhaps mean 'Blessed'; but no blessing came to her when she was born.
She was much whiter and much more beautiful than the other girls of
the little Tartar city; her face was oval like an ostrich egg, her
skin was as the cream that rises on sheep's milk at evening, and her
eyes were like the Pools of Peace in the Valley of Dark Moons; her
waist also was a slender pillar of ivory, and round her ankle she
could make her thumb meet her second finger; as for her feet, they
were small and quick and silent as young mice. But she was not
blessed.

When she was in her seventeenth year a traveller came to the little
city, who was not like her own people; he was goodly to see, and her
eyes were troubled by the sight of him, as the Pools of Peace are
darkened when the clouds lie on the mountain-tops and sleep all day;
for the stranger was tall and very fair, and his beard was like spun
gold, and he feared neither man nor evil spirit, going about alone by
day and night. Furthermore, he was a great physician, and possessed a
small book, about the size of a man's hand, in which was contained all
the knowledge of the world. By means of this book, and three small
buttons that tasted of mingled salt and sugar, he cured Baraka's
father of a mighty pain in the midriff which had tormented him a whole
week. He brought with him also a written letter from a holy man to the
chiefs of the town; therefore they did not kill him, though he had a
good Mauser revolver with ammunition, worth much money, and other
things useful to believers.

Satan entered the heart of Baraka, and she loved the traveller who
dwelt in her father's house, for she was not blessed; and she stood
before him in the way when he went out, and when he returned she was
sitting at the door watching, and she took care to show her
cream-white arm, and her slender ankle, and even her beautiful face
when neither her father nor her mother was near. But he saw little and
cared less, and was as grave as her father and the other greybeards of
the town.

When she perceived that he was not moved by the sight of her, she
watched him more closely; for she said in her girl's heart that the
eyes that are blind to a beautiful woman see one of three things:
gold, or power, or heaven; but her sight was fixed only on him. Then
her throat was dry, her heart fluttered in her maiden breast like a
frightened bird, and sometimes, when she would have tried to speak,
she felt as if her tongue were broken and useless; the fire ran
lightly along her delicate body, her eyes saw nothing clearly, and a
strange rushing sound filled her ears; and then, all at once, a fine
dew wet her forehead and cooled it, and she trembled all over and was
as pale as death--like Sappho, when a certain god-like man was near.
Yet the stranger saw nothing, and his look was bright and cold as a
winter's morning in the mountains.

Almost every day he went out and climbed the foot-hills alone, and
when the sun was lowering he came back bringing herbs and flowers,
which he dried carefully and spread between leaves of grey paper in a
large book; and he wrote spells beside them in an unknown tongue, so
that no one dared to touch the book when he went out, lest the genii
should wake and come out from between the pages, to blind the curious
and strike the gossips dumb, and cast a leprosy on the thief.

At night he lay on the roof of the fore-house beside the gate of the
court, because it was cool there. Baraka came to him, before midnight,
when her mother was in a deep sleep; she knelt at his side while he
slept in the starlight, and she laid her head beside his, on the sack
that was his pillow, and for a little while she was happy, being near
him, though he did not know she was there. But presently she
remembered that her mother might wake and call her, and she spoke
very softly, close to his ear, fearing greatly lest he should start
from his sleep and cry out.

'The ruby mine is not far off,' she said. 'I know the secret place.
Rubies! Rubies! Rubies! You shall have as many as you can carry of the
blood-red rubies!'

He opened his eyes, and even in the starlight they were bright and
cold. She stroked his hand softly and then pressed it a little.

'Come with me and you shall know the great secret,' she whispered.
'You shall fill this sack that is under your head, and then you shall
take me with you to Egypt, and we will live in a marble palace and
have many slaves, and be always together. For you will always remember
that it was Baraka who showed you where the rubies were, and even when
you are tired of her you will treat her kindly and feed her with fig
paste and fat quails, such as I hear they have in the south all
winter, and Frank rice, and coffee that has been picked over, bean by
bean, for the great men.'

She said all this in a whisper, stroking his hand; and while she
whispered he smiled in his great golden beard that seemed as silvery
in the starlight as her father's.

'That is women's talk,' he answered. 'Who has seen mines of rubies?
and if you know where they are, why should you show them to me? You
are betrothed. If you had knowledge of hidden treasures you would keep
it for your husband. This is some trick to destroy me.'

'May these hands wither to the wrists if a hair of your head be harmed
through me,' she answered; and as she knelt beside him, the two little
hands held his face towards her very tenderly, and then one of them
smoothed the thick hair back from his forehead.

'You are betrothed,' he repeated, 'and I am your father's guest. Shall
I betray him?'

'I care nothing, neither for father, nor mother, nor brothers, nor
betrothed,' Baraka answered. 'I will give you the riches of Solomon if
you will take me, for I will have no other man.'

'There are no rubies,' said the stranger. 'Show them to me and I will
believe.'

The girl laughed very low.

'Did I not know you for a man of little faith?' she asked. 'I have
shown you my arm from the wrist to the shoulder. Is it not like the
tusk of a young elephant? Yet you have not believed. I have shown you
my ankles, and you have seen me span them with my fingers as I sat at
the door, yet you believed not. I have unveiled my face, which it is a
shame to do, but you could not believe. I have come to you in the
starlight when you were asleep, and still you have no faith that I
love you, though I shall be cast out to perish if I am found here. But
I will give you a little handful of rubies, and you will believe, and
take me, when I have shown you where you may get thousands like them.'

She took from her neck a bag of antelope skin, no larger than her
closed hand, and gave it to him with the thin thong by which it had
hung.

'When you have seen them in the sun you will want others,' she said.
'I will take you to the place, and when you have filled your sack with
them you will love me enough to take me away. It is not far to the
place. In two hours we can go and come. To-morrow night, about this
time, I will wake you again. It will not be safe to unbar the door, so
you must let me down from this roof by a camel rope, and then follow
me.'

When Baraka was gone the stranger sat up on his carpet and opened the
small bag to feel the stones, for he knew that he could hardly see
them in the starlight; but even the touch and the weight told him
something, and he guessed that the girl had not tried to deceive him
childishly with bits of glass. Though the bag had been in her bosom,
and the weather was hot, the stones were as cold as jade; and moreover
he felt their shape and knew at once that they might really be rough
rubies, for he was well versed in the knowledge of precious stones.

When the day began to dawn he went down from the roof to the common
room of the fore-house, where guests were quartered, yet although
there was no other stranger there he would not take the bag from his
neck to examine the stones, lest some one should be watching him from
a place of hiding; but afterwards, when he was alone in the foot-hills
and out of sight of the town, searching as usual for new plants and
herbs, he crept into a low cave at noon, and sat down just inside the
entrance, so that he could see any one coming while still a long way
off, and there he emptied the contents of the little leathern wallet
into his hand, and saw that Baraka had not deceived him; and as he
looked closely at the stones in the strong light at the entrance of
the cave, the red of the rubies was reflected in the blue of his
bright eyes, and made a little purple glare in them that would have
frightened Baraka; and he smiled behind his great yellow beard.

He took from an inner pocket a folded sheet on which a map was traced
in black and green ink, much corrected and extended in pencil; and he
studied the map thoughtfully in the cave while the great heat of the
day lasted; but the lines that his eye followed did not lead towards
Persia, Palestine, and Egypt, where Baraka wished to live with him in
a marble palace and eat fat quails and fig paste.

She came to him again that night on the roof, bringing with her a
small bundle, tightly rolled and well tied up. He wrapped his blanket
round her body, and brought it up under her arms so that the rope
should not hurt her when her weight came upon it, and so he let her
down over the edge of the roof to the ground, and threw the rope after
her; and he let himself over, holding by his hands, so that when he
was hanging at the full length of his long arms he had only a few feet
to drop, for he was very tall and the fore-house was not high, and he
wished to take the rope with him.

Baraka's house was at the head of the town, towards the foot-hills;
every one was sleeping, and there was no moon. She followed the stony
sheep-track that struck into the hills only a few hundred paces from
the last houses, and the stranger followed her closely. He had his
sack on his shoulder, his book of plants and herbs was slung behind
him by a strap, and in his pockets he had all the money he carried for
his travels and his letters to the chiefs, and a weapon; but he had
left all his other belongings, judging them to be of no value compared
with a camel-bag full of rubies, and only a hindrance, since he would
have to travel far on foot before daylight, by dangerous paths.

The girl trod lightly and walked fast, and as the man followed in her
footsteps he marked the way, turn by turn, and often looked up at the
stars overhead as men do who are accustomed to journeying alone in
desert places. For some time Baraka led him through little valleys he
had often traversed, and along hillsides familiar to him, and at last
she entered a narrow ravine which he had once followed to its head,
where he had found that it ended abruptly in a high wall of rock, at
the foot of which there was a clear pool that did not overflow. It was
darker in the gorge, but the rocks were almost white, so that it was
quite possible to see the way by the faint light.

The man and the girl stood before the pool; the still water reflected
the stars.

'This is the place,' Baraka said. 'Do you see anything?'

'I see water and a wall of rock,' the man answered. 'I have been here
alone by day. I know this place. There is nothing here, and there is
no way up the wall.'

Baraka laughed softly.

'The secret could not have been kept by my fathers for fourteen
generations if it were so easy to find out,' she said. 'The way is not
easy, but I know it.'

'Lead,' replied the traveller. 'I will follow.'

'No,' returned the girl. 'I will go a little way down the gorge and
watch, while you go in.'

The man did not trust her. How could he tell but that she had brought
him to an ambush where he was to be murdered for the sake of his money
and his good weapon? The rubies were real, so far as he could tell,
but they might be only a bait. He shook his head.

'Listen,' said Baraka. 'At the other side of the pool there is a place
where the water from this spring flows away under the rock. That is
the passage.'

'I have seen the entrance,' answered the traveller. 'It is so small
that a dog could not swim through it.'

'It looks so. But it is so deep that one can walk through it easily,
with one's head above water. It is not more than fifty steps long.
That is how I found it, for one day I wandered here alone in the
morning for shade, when the air was like fire; and being alone I
bathed in the clear pool to cool myself, and I found the way and
brought back the stones, which I have hidden ever since. For if my
father and brothers know that I have seen the treasure they will
surely kill me, because the women must never learn the secret. You
see,' she laughed a little, 'I am the first of us who has known it,
since many generations, and I have already betrayed it to you! They
are quite right to kill us when we find it out!'

'This is an idle tale,' said the traveller. 'Go into the pool before
me and I will believe and follow you under the rock. I will not go and
leave you here.'

'You are not very brave, though you are so handsome! If they come and
find me here, they will kill me first.'

'You say it, but I do not believe it. I think there is a deep hole in
the passage and that I shall slip into it and be drowned, for no man
could swim in such a place. I have but one life, and I do not care to
lose it in a water-rat's trap. You must go in and lead the way if you
wish me to trust you.'

Baraka hesitated and looked at him.

'How can I do this before you?' she asked.

'I will not go alone,' the man answered, for he suspected foul play.
'Do as you will.'

The girl took from her head the large cotton cloth with which she
veiled herself, and folded it and laid it down on the rock by the
pool; then she let her outer tunic of thin white woollen fall to the
ground round her feet and stepped out of it, and folded it also, and
laid it beside her veil, and she stood up tall and straight as a young
Egyptian goddess in the starlight, clothed only in the plain shirt
without sleeves which the women of her country wear night and day; and
the traveller saw her cream-white arms near him in the soft gloom, and
heard her slip off her light shoes.

'I will go before you,' she said; and she stepped into the pool and
walked slowly through the water.

The traveller followed her as he was, for he was unwilling to leave
behind him anything he valued, and what he had was mostly in the
pockets of his coat, and could not be much hurt by water. Even his
pressed herbs and flowers would dry again, his cartridges were quite
waterproof, his letters were in an impervious case, and his money was
in coin. When he entered the pool he took his revolver from its place
and he held it above the water in front of him as he went on. With his
other hand he carried the sack he had brought, which was one of those
that are made of Bokhara carpet and are meant to sling on a camel.

Baraka was almost up to her neck in the water when she reached the
other side of the pool; a moment later she disappeared under the rock,
and the traveller bent his knees to shorten himself, for there was
only room for his head above the surface, and he held up his revolver
before his face to keep the weapon dry, and also to feel his way, lest
he should strike against any jutting projection of the stone and hurt
himself. He counted the steps he took, and made them as nearly as
possible of equal length. He felt that he was walking on perfectly
smooth sand, into which his heavily shod feet sank a very little.
There was plenty of air, for the gentle draught followed him from the
entrance and chilled the back of his neck, which had got wet; yet it
seemed hard to breathe, and as he made his way forward his imagination
pictured the death he must die if the rock should fall in behind him.
He was glad that the faint odour of Baraka's wet hair came to his
nostrils in the thick darkness, and it was very pleasant to hear her
voice when she spoke at last.

'It is not far,' she said quietly. 'I begin to see the starlight on
the water.'

The passage did not widen or grow higher as it went on. If it had been
dry, it would have been a commodious cave, open at each end, wide at
the bottom and narrowing to a sharp angle above. But the pool was fed
by a spring that never failed nor even ebbed, though it must sometimes
have overflowed down the ravine through which the two had reached the
pool.

They came out from under the rock at last, and were in the refreshing
outer air. The still water widened almost to a circle, a tiny lake at
the bottom of a sort of crater of white stone that collected and
concentrated the dim light. On two sides there were little crescent
beaches of snow-white sand, that gleamed like silver. The traveller
looked about him and upward to see if there were any way of climbing
up; but as far as he could make out in the half-darkness the steep
rock was as smooth as if it had been cut with tools, and it sloped
away at a sharp angle like the sides of a funnel.

Baraka went up towards the right, and the bottom shelved, so that
presently the water was down to her waist, and then she stood still
and pointed to a dark hollow just above the little beach. Her wet
garment clung to her, and with her left hand she began to wring the
water from her hair behind her head.

'The rubies are there,' she said, 'thousands upon thousands of them.
Fill the sack quickly, but do not take more than you can carry, for
they are very heavy.'

The traveller waded out upon the beach, and the water from his clothes
ran down in small rivulets and made little round holes in the white
sand. He put down his revolver in a dry place, and both his hands felt
for the precious stones in the shadowy hollow, loosening small
fragments of a sort of brittle crust in which they seemed to be
clustered.

'You cannot choose,' Baraka said, 'for you cannot see, but I have been
here by daylight and have seen. The largest are on the left side of
the hollow, near the top.'

By the stars the traveller could see the pieces a little, as he
brought them out, for the white rocks collected the light; he could
see many dark crystals, but as to what they were he had to trust the
girl.

'Do not take more than you can carry,' she repeated, 'for you must not
throw them away to lighten the burden.'

'You can carry some of them,' answered the traveller.

He broke up the crust of crystals with a small geologist's hammer and
tore them out like a madman, and his hands were bleeding, for though
he was a philosopher the thirst for wealth had come upon him when he
felt the riches of empires in his grasp, and the time was short; and
although he knew that he might some day come back with armed men to
protect him, and workmen to help him, he knew also that to do this he
must share the secret with the over-lord of that wild country, and
that his portion might be the loss of his head. So he tore at the ruby
crust with all his might, and as he was very strong, he broke out
great pieces at once.

'We cannot carry more than that, both of us together,' said Baraka,
though she judged more by the sound of his work than by what she could
see.

He lifted the sack with both his hands, and he knew by its weight that
she was right. Under the water it would be easy enough to carry, but
it would be a heavy load for a man to shoulder.

'Come,' Baraka said, 'I will go back first.'

She moved down into the deeper water again, till it was up to her
neck; and feeling the way with her hands she went in once more under
the rock. The traveller followed her cautiously, carrying the heavy
sack under water with one hand and holding up his revolver with the
other, to keep it dry.

'I begin to see the starlight on the water,' Baraka said, just as
before, when they had been going in.

When she had spoken, she heard a heavy splash not far off, and the
water in the subterranean channel rose suddenly and ran past her in
short waves, three of which covered her mouth in quick succession and
reached to her eyes, and almost to the top of her head, but sank again
instantly; and they passed her companion in the same way, wetting his
weapon.

'Go back,' Baraka said, when she could speak; 'the rock is falling.'

The traveller turned as quickly as he could, and she came after him,
gaining on him because he carried the heavy sack and could not move
as fast as she. He felt his damp hair rising with fear, for he
believed that, after all, she had brought him into a trap. They
reached the opening and came out into the pool again.

'You have brought me here to die,' he said. 'Your father and your
brothers have shut up the entrance with great stones, and they will go
up the mountain and let themselves down from above with ropes and
shoot me like a wolf in a pit-fall. But you shall die first, because
you have betrayed me.'

So he cocked his revolver and set the muzzle against her head, to kill
her, holding her by her slender throat with his other hand; for they
were in shallow water and he had dropped the sack in the pool.

Baraka did not struggle or cry out.

'I would rather die by your hand than be alive in another man's arms,'
she said, quite quietly.

He let her go, merely because she was so very brave; for he did not
love her at all. She knew it, but that made no difference to her,
since no other woman was near; if they could get out alive with the
rubies she was sure that he would love her for the sake of the great
wealth she had brought him. If they were to starve to death at the
bottom of the great rock wall in the mountains, she would probably die
first, because he was so strong; and then nothing would matter. It was
all very simple.

The traveller fished up the sack and waded out upon the tiny beach,
and again the water ran down from his clothes in rivulets and made
round holes in the white sand. He looked up rather anxiously, though
he could not have seen a head looking down from above if there had
been any one there. There was not light enough. He understood also
that if the men were going to shoot at him from the height they would
wait till it was daylight. Baraka stood still in the water, which
was up to her waist, and he paid no attention to her, but sat down to
think what he should do. The night was warm, and his clothes would dry
on him by degrees. He would have taken them off and spread them out,
for he thought no more of Baraka's presence than if she had been a
harmless young animal, standing there in the pool, but he could not
tell what might happen at any moment, and so long as he was dressed
and had all his few belongings about him, he felt ready to meet fate.

Baraka saw that he did not heed her, and was thinking. She came up out
of the water very slowly, and she modestly loosened her wet garment
from her, so that it hung straight when she stood at the end of the
beach, as far from the traveller as possible. She, also, sat down to
dry herself: and there was silence for a long time.

After half-an-hour the traveller rose and began to examine the rock,
feeling it with his hands wherever there was the least shadow, as high
as he could reach, to find if there was any foothold, though he was
already sure that there was not.

'There is no way out,' Baraka said at last. 'I have been here by day.
I have seen.'

'They will let themselves down from above with ropes, till they are
near enough to shoot,' the traveller answered.

'No,' replied Baraka. 'They know that you have a good weapon, and they
will not risk their lives. They will leave us here to starve. That is
what they will do. It is our portion, and we shall die. It will be
easy, for there is water, and when we are hungry we can drink our
fill.'

The traveller knew the people amongst whom he had wandered, and he did
not marvel at the girl's quiet tone; but it chilled his blood, for he
understood that she was in earnest; and, moreover, she knew the place,
and that there was no way out.

'You said well that I had brought you here to die,' she said
presently, 'but I did not know it, therefore I must lose my life also.
It is my portion. God be praised.'

He was shamed by her courage, for he loved life well, and he held his
head down and said nothing as he thought of what was to come. He knew
that with plenty of good water a man may live for two or three weeks
without food. He looked at the black pool in which he could not even
see the reflections of the stars as he sat, because the opening above
was not very wide, and he was low down, a good way from the water's
edge. It seemed a good way, but perhaps it was not more than three
yards.

'You will die first,' Baraka said dreamily. 'You are not as we are,
you cannot live so long without food.'

The traveller wondered if she were right, but he said nothing.

'If we had got out with the treasure,' continued Baraka, 'you would
have loved me for it, because you would have been the greatest man in
the world through me. But now, because we must die, you hate me. I
understand. If you do not kill me you will die first; and when you are
dead I shall kiss you many times, till I die also. It will be very
easy. I am not afraid.'

The man sat quite still and looked at the dark streak by the edge of
the pool where the water had wet it when the falling boulder outside
had sent in little waves. He could see it distinctly. Again there was
silence for a long time. Now and then Baraka loosened her only garment
about her as she sat, so that it might dry more quickly; and she
quietly wrung out her thick black hair and shook it over her shoulders
to dry it too, and stuck her two silver pins into the sand beside her.

Still the traveller sat with bent head, gazing at the edge of the
pool. His hands were quite dry now, and he slowly rubbed the clinging
moisture from his revolver. Some men would have been thinking, in such
a plight, that if starving were too hard to bear, a bullet would
shorten their sufferings in the end; but this man was very full of
life, and the love of life, and while he lived he would hope.

He still watched the same dark streak where the sand was wet; he had
not realised that he had been so far from it till then, but by looking
at it a long time in the starlight his sight had probably grown tired,
so that he no longer saw it distinctly. He raised himself a little on
his hands and pushed himself down till it was quite clearly visible
again, and he looked at the rock opposite and up to the stars again,
to rest his eyes. He was not more than a yard from the water now.

The place was very quiet. From far above a slight draught of air
descended, warm from the rocks that had been heated all day in the
sun. But there was no sound except when Baraka moved a little.

Presently she did not move any more, and when the traveller looked he
saw that she was curled up on the sand, as Eastern women lie when they
sleep, and her head rested on her hand; for her garment was dry now,
and she was drowsy after the walk and the effort she had made.
Besides, since there was no escape from death, and as the man did not
love her, she might as well sleep if she could. He knew those people
and understood; and he did not care, or perhaps he also was glad. He
was a man who could only have one thought at a time. When he had left
the house of Baraka's father he had been thinking only of the rubies,
but now that he was in danger of his life he could think only of
saving it, if there were any way. A woman could never be anything but
a toy to him, and he could not play with toys while death was looking
over his shoulder. He was either too big for that, or too little;
every man will decide which it was according to his own measure. But
Baraka, who had not been taught to think of her soul nor to fear
death, went quietly to sleep now that she was quite sure that the
traveller would not love her.

He had been certain of the distance between his feet and the water's
edge as he sat; it had been a yard at the most. But now it was more;
he was sure that it was a yard and a half at the least. He rubbed his
eyes and looked hard at the dark belt of wet sand, and it was twice as
wide as it had been. The water was still running out somewhere, but it
was no longer running in, and in an hour or two the pool would be dry.
The traveller was something of an engineer, and understood sooner than
an ordinary man could have done, that his enemies had intentionally
stopped up the narrow entrance through which he had to come, both to
make his escape impossible, and to hasten his end by depriving him of
water. The fallen boulder alone could not have kept out the overflow
of the spring effectually. They must have shovelled down masses of
earth, with the plants that grew in it abundantly and filled it with
twining threadlike roots, and they must have skilfully forced
quantities of the stuff into the openings all round the big stone,
making a regular dam against the spring, which would soon run down in
the opposite direction. They knew, of course, that Baraka had led him
to the place and had gone in with him, for she had left all her outer
garments outside, and they meant that she should die also, with her
secret. In a week, or a fortnight, or a month, they would come and dig
away the dam and pry the boulder aside, and would get in and find the
white bones of the two on the sand, after the vultures had picked them
clean; and they would take the traveller's good revolver, and his
money.

He thought of all these things as he sat there in the dim light, and
watched the slow receding of the water-line, and listened to the
girl's soft and regular breathing. There was no death in her dream, as
she slept away the last hours of the night, though there might not be
many more nights for her. He heard her breath, but he did not heed
her, for the water was sinking before him, sinking away into the sand,
now that it was no longer fed from the opening.

He sat motionless, and his thoughts ran madly from hope to despair and
back again to hope. The water was going down, beyond question; if it
was merely draining itself through the sand to some subterranean
channel, he was lost, but if it was flowing away through any passage
like the one by which he had entered, there was still a chance of
escape,--a very small chance. When death is at the gate the tiniest
loophole looks wide enough to crawl through.

The surface of the pool subsided, but there was no loophole; and as
the traveller watched, hope sank in his heart, like the water in the
hollow of the sand; but Baraka slept on peacefully, curled up on her
side like a little wild animal. When the pool was almost dry the
traveller crept down to the edge and drank his fill, that he might not
begin to thirst sooner than need be; and just then day dawned suddenly
and the warm darkness gave way to a cold light in a few moments.

Immediately, because it was day, Baraka stretched herself on the sand
and then sat up; and when she saw what the traveller was doing she
also went and drank as much as she could swallow, for she had
understood why he was drinking as soon as she saw that the pool was
nearly dry. When she could drink no more she looked up at the rocks
high overhead, and they were already white and red and yellow in the
light of the risen sun; for in that country there is no very long time
between dark night and broad day.

Baraka sat down again, on the spot where she had slept, but she said
nothing. The man was trying to dig a little hole in the wet sand with
his hands, beyond the water that was still left, for perhaps he
thought that if he could make a pit on one side, some water would stay
in it; but the sand ran together as soon as he moved it; and
presently, as he bent over, he felt that he was sinking into it
himself, and understood that it was a sort of quicksand that would
suck him down. He therefore threw himself flat on his back, stretching
out his arms and legs, and, making movements as if he were swimming,
he worked his way from the dangerous place till he was safe on the
firm white beach again. He sat up then, and bent his head till his
forehead pressed on his hands, and he shut his eyes to keep out the
light of day. He had not slept, as Baraka had, but he was not sleepy;
perhaps he would not be able to sleep again before the end came.
Baraka watched him quietly, for she understood that he despaired of
life, and she wondered what he would do; and, besides, he seemed to
her the most beautiful man in the world, and she loved him, and she
was going to die with him.

It comforted her to think that no other woman could get him now. It
was almost worth while to die for that alone; for she could not have
borne that another woman should have him since he despised her, and if
it had come to pass she would have tried to kill that other. But there
was no danger of such a thing now; and he would die first, and she
would kiss him many times when he was dead, and then she would die
also.

The pool was all gone by this time, leaving a funnel-shaped hollow in
the sand where it had been. If any water still leaked through from
without it lost itself under the sand, and the man and the girl were
at the bottom of a great natural well that was quite dry. Baraka
looked up, and she saw a vulture sitting in the sun on a pinnacle,
three hundred feet above her head. He would sit there till she was
dead, for he knew what was coming; then he would spread his wings a
little and let himself down awkwardly, half-flying and
half-scrambling. When he had finished, he would sit and look at her
bones and doze, till he was able to fly away.

Baraka thought of all this, but her face did not change, and when she
had once seen the vulture she did not look at him again, but kept her
eyes fixed, without blinking, on her companion's bent head. To her he
seemed the most handsome man that had ever lived. There, beside him,
lay his camel bag, and in it there were rubies worth a kingdom; and
Baraka was very young and was considered beautiful too, among the wild
people to whom she belonged. But her father had chosen her name in an
evil hour, for she was indeed not blessed, since she was to die so
young; and the man with the beard of spun gold and the very white skin
did not love her, and would not even make pretence of loving, though
for what was left of life she would have been almost satisfied with
that.

The hours passed, and the sun rose higher in the sky and struck deeper
into the shady well, till he was almost overhead, and there was
scarcely any shadow left. It became very hot and stifling, because the
passage through which the air had entered with the water was shut up.
Then the traveller took off his loose jacket, and opened his flannel
shirt at the neck, and turned up his sleeves for coolness, and he
crept backwards into the hollow where the ruby mine was, to shelter
himself from the sun. But Baraka edged away to the very foot of the
cliff, where there remained a belt of shade, even at noon; and as she
sat there she took the hem of her one garment in her hands and slowly
fanned her little feet. Neither he nor she had spoken for many hours,
and she could see that in the recess of the rock he was sitting as
before, with his forehead against his hands that were clasped on his
knees, in the attitude and bearing of despair.

He began to be athirst now, in the heat. If he had not known that
there was no water he could easily have done without it through a long
day, but the knowledge that there was none, and that he was never to
drink again, parched his life and his throat and his tongue till it
felt like a dried fig in his mouth. He did not feel hunger, and indeed
he had a little food in a wallet he carried; but he could not have
eaten without water, and it did not occur to him that Baraka might be
hungry. Perhaps, even if he had known that she was, he would not have
given her of what he had; he would have kept it for himself. What was
the life of a wild hill-girl compared with his? But the vulture was
watching him, as well as Baraka, and would not move from its pinnacle
till the end, though days might pass.

The fever began to burn the traveller, the fever of thirst which
surely ends in raving madness, as he knew, for he had wandered much in
deserts, and had seen men go mad for lack of water. His hands felt red
hot, the pulses were hammering at his temples, and his tongue became
as hot as baked clay; he would have borne great pain for a time if it
could have brought sleep, for this was much worse than pain, and it
made sleep impossible. He tried to take account of what he felt, for
he was strong, and he was conscious that the heat of the fever, and
the throbbing in his arteries, and the choking dryness in his mouth
and throat, were not really his main sensations, but only accessories
to it or consequences of it. The real suffering was the craving for
the sight, the touch, and the taste of water; to see it alone would be
a relief, even if he were not allowed to drink, and to dip his hands
into a stream would be heaven though he were not permitted to taste a
drop. He understood, in a strangely clear way, that what suffered now
was not, in the ordinary sense, his own self, that is, his nerves, but
the physical composition of his body, which was being by degrees
deprived of the one prime ingredient more necessary than all others.
He knew that his body was eight-tenths water, or thereabouts, but that
this proportion was fast decreasing by the process of thirst, and that
what tormented him was the unsettling of the hydrostatic balance which
nature requires and maintains where there is any sort of life in
animals, plants, or stones; for stones live and are not even
temporarily dead till they are calcined to the state of quicklime, or
hydraulic cement, or plaster of Paris; and they come to life again
with furious violence and boiling heat if they are brought into
contact with water suddenly; or they regain the living state by slow
degrees if they are merely exposed to dampness. The man knew that what
hurt him was the battle between forces of nature which was being
fought in his flesh, and it was as much more terrible than the mere
pain his fleshly nerves actually suffered from it, as real death is
more awful than the most tremendous representation of it that ever was
shown in a play. Yet a stage tragedy may draw real burning tears of
sorrow and sympathy from them that look on.

The traveller was a modern man of science, and understood these
things, but the knowledge of them did not make it easier to bear
thirst or to die of hunger.

Baraka was not thirsty yet, because she had drunk her fill in the
morning, and was not used to drink often; it was enough that she could
look at the man she loved, for the end would come soon enough without
thinking about it. All day long the traveller crouched in the hollow
of the ruby cave, and Baraka watched him from her place; when it grew
dark the vulture on the pinnacle of rock thrust its ugly head under
its wing. As soon as Baraka could not see any more she curled herself
up on the white sand like a little wild animal and went to sleep,
though she was thirsty.

It was dawn when she awoke, and her linen garment was damp with the
dew, so that the touch of it refreshed her. The traveller had come out
and was lying prone on the sand, his face buried against his arm, as
soldiers sleep in a bivouac. She could not tell whether he was asleep
or not, but she knew that he could not see her, and she cautiously
sucked the dew from her garment, drawing it up to her mouth and
squeezing it between her lips.

It was little enough refreshment, but it was something, and she was
not afraid, which made a difference. Just as she had drawn the edge of
her shift down and round her ankles again, the man turned on his side
suddenly, and then rose to his feet. For an instant he glared at her,
and she saw that his blue eyes were bloodshot and burning; then he
picked up the heavy camel bag, and began to make his way round what
had been the beach of the pool, towards the passage through which they
had entered, and which was now a dry cave, wide below, narrow at the
top, and between six or seven feet high. He trod carefully and tried
his way, for he feared the quicksand, but he knew that there was none
in the passage, since he had walked through the water and had felt the
way hard under his feet. In a few moments he disappeared under the
rock.

Baraka knew what he meant to do; he was going to try to dig through
the dam at the entrance to let the water in, even if he could not get
out. But she was sure that this would be impossible, for by this time
her father and brothers had, no doubt, completely filled the spring
with earth and stones, and had turned the water in the other
direction. The traveller must have been almost sure of this too, else
he would have made the attempt much sooner. It was the despotism of
thirst that was driving him to it now, and he had no tool with which
to dig--it would be hopeless work with his hands.

The girl did not move, for in that narrow place and in the dark she
could not have helped him. She sat and waited. By and by he would come
out, drenched with sweat and yet parching with thirst, and he would
glare at her horribly again; perhaps he would be mad when he came out
and would kill her because she had brought him there.

After some time she heard a very faint sound overhead, and when she
looked up the vulture was gone from his pinnacle. She wondered at
this, and her eyes searched every point and crevice of the rock as far
as she could see, for she knew that the evil bird could only have been
frightened away; and though it fears neither bird nor beast, but only
man, she could not believe that any human being could find a foothold
near to where it had perched.

But now she started, and held her breath and steadied herself with one
hand on the sand beside her as she leaned back to look up. Something
white had flashed in the high sun, far up the precipice, and the
sensation the sight left was that of having seen sunshine on a moving
white garment.

For some seconds, perhaps for a whole minute, she saw nothing more,
though she gazed up steadily, then there was another flash and a small
patch of snowy white was moving slowly on the face of the cliff, at
some distance above the place where the vulture had been. She bent her
brows in the effort to see more by straining her sight, and meanwhile
the patch descended faster than it seemed possible that a man could
climb down that perilous steep. Yet it was a man, she knew from the
first, and soon she saw him plainly, in his loose shirt and white
turban. Baraka thought of a big white moth crawling on a flat wall.
She was light of foot and sure of hold herself, and could step
securely where few living things could move at all without instant
danger, but she held her breath as she watched the climber's descent
towards her. She saw him plainly now, a brown-legged, brown-armed man
in a white shirt and a fur cap, and he had a long gun slung across his
back. Nearer still, and he was down to the jutting pinnacle where the
vulture had sat, and she saw his black beard; still nearer by a few
feet and she knew him, and then her glance darted to the mouth of the
cave, at the other end of which the man she loved was toiling
desperately alone in the dark to pierce the dam of earth and stones.
It was only a glance, in a second of time, but when she looked up the
black-bearded man had already made another step downwards. Baraka
measured the distance. If he spoke loud now she could understand him,
and he could hear her answer. He paused and looked down, and he saw
her as plainly as she saw him. She knew him well, and she knew why he
had come, with his long gun. He was her father's brother's son, to
whom she was betrothed; he was Saäd, and he was risking his life to
come down and kill her and the man whom she had led to the ruby mines
for love's sake.

He would come down till he was within easy range, and then he would
wait till he had a fair chance at them, when they were standing still,
and she knew that he was a dead shot. The traveller's revolver could
never carry as far as the long gun, Baraka was sure, and Saäd could
come quite near with safety, since he seemed able to climb down the
face of a flat rock where there was not foothold for a cat. He was
still descending, he was getting very near; if the traveller were not
warned he might come out of the cave unsuspiciously and Saäd would
shoot him. Saäd would wish to shoot him first, because of his
revolver, and then he would kill Baraka at his leisure. If he fired at
her first the traveller would have a chance at him while he was
reloading his old gun. She understood why he had not killed her yet,
if indeed he wanted to, for it was barely possible that he loved her
enough to take her alive.

After hesitating for a few moments, not from fear but in doubt, she
gathered herself to spring, and made a dash like an antelope along the
sand for the mouth of the cave, for she knew that Saäd would not risk
wasting his shot on her while she was running. She stopped just under
the shelter of the rock and called inward.

'Saäd is coming down the rock with his gun!' she cried. 'Load your
weapon!'

When she had given this warning she went out again and stood before
the mouth of the cave with her back to it. Saäd was on the rock, not
fifty feet above the ground, at the other side of the natural wall,
but looked as if even he could get no farther down. He was standing
with both his heels on a ledge so narrow that more than half the
length of his brown feet stood over it; he was leaning back, flat
against the sloping cliff, and he had his gun before him, for he was
just able to use both his hands without falling. He pointed the gun at
her and spoke.

'Where is the man?'

'He is dead,' Baraka answered without hesitation.

'Dead? Already?'

'I killed him in his sleep,' she said, 'and I dragged his body into
the cave for fear of the vulture, and buried it in the sand. Be not
angry, Saäd, though he was my father's guest. Come down hither and I
will tell all. Then you shall shoot me or take me home to be your
wife, as you will, for I am quite innocent.'

She meant to entice him within range of the stranger's weapon.

'There is no foothold whereby to get lower,' he answered, but he
rested the stock of his gun on the narrow ledge behind him.

'Drag out the man's body, that I may see it.'

'I tell you I buried it. I killed him the night before last; I cannot
dig him up now.'

'Why did you run to the mouth of the cave when you saw me, if the man
is dead?'

'Because at first I was afraid you would shoot me from above,
therefore I took shelter.'

'Why did you come out again, if you were in fear?'

'After I had run in I was ashamed, for I felt sure that you would not
kill me without hearing the truth. So I came out to speak with you.
Get down, and I will show you the man's grave.'

'Have I wings? I cannot come down. It is impossible.'

Baraka felt a puff of hot air pass her, just above her right ankle,
and at the same instant she heard a sharp report, not very loud, and
more like the snapping of a strong but very dry stick than the
explosion of firearms. She instinctively sprang to the left, keeping
her eyes on Saäd.

For a moment he did not move. But he was already dead as he slowly
bent forward from the rock, making a deep obeisance with both arms
hanging down before him, so that his body shot down perpendicularly to
the sand, where it struck head first, rolled over and lay motionless
in a heap. The traveller's was a Mauser pistol that would have killed
as surely at five hundred yards as fifty; and the bullet had gone
through the Tartar's brain.

Baraka sprang up the sandy slope and ran along the narrow beach to the
body. In an instant she had detached the large brown water-gourd from
the thong by which it had hung over Saäd's shoulder, and she felt that
it was full. Without a thought for herself she hastened back to the
mouth of the cave where the traveller was now standing. His face was
dripping with perspiration that ran down into his matted golden beard,
his eyes were wild, his hands were bleeding.

'Drink!' cried Baraka joyfully, and she gave him the gourd.

He gripped it as a greedy dog snaps at a bit of meat, and pulling out
the wooden plug he set the gourd to his lips, with an expression of
beatitude. But he was an old traveller and only drank a little,
knowing that his life might depend on making the small supply last. A
gourd of water was worth more than many rubies just then.

'Are you very thirsty yet?' he asked in a harsh voice.

'No,' answered Baraka bravely; 'keep it for yourself.'

His hand closed round the neck of the gourd and he looked up towards
the rocks above. The vulture had come back and was circling slowly
down.

'You had better bury the body, while I go on working,' said the
traveller, turning back into the cave and taking the gourd with him.

Baraka had marked the place where he had tried to dig for water and
had almost disappeared in the quicksand. She took from the body the
wallet, in which were dates and some half-dry bread, and then dragged
and pushed, and rolled the dead man from the place where he had
fallen. The vulture sat on the lowest ledge where his claws could find
a hold, and though he watched her with horrible red eyes while she
robbed him of his prey, he did not dare go nearer.

The body sank into the moving sand, and Baraka had to roll herself
back to firmer ground in haste to escape being swallowed up with the
dead man. The last she saw of him was one brown foot sticking up. It
sank slowly out of sight, and then she went to the hollow where the
ruby mine was and took up a piece of the broken crust, full of
precious stones, and threw it at the vulture as hard as she could. It
did not hit him, but he at once tumbled off the ledge into the air,
opened his queer, bedraggled wings and struck upwards.

Then Baraka sat down in the shade and slowly brushed away the dry sand
that had got into the folds of her linen garment, and looked steadily
at the mouth of the cave and tried not to realise that her throat was
parched and her lips almost cracking with thirst, and that the
traveller had a gourd almost full of water with him. For she loved
him, and was willing to die that he might live a little longer;
besides, if he succeeded in digging his way out, there would be plenty
to drink, and when he was free she was sure that he would love her
because she had made him so rich.

The sun rose higher and at last shone down to the bottom of the chasm,
and she sat in the narrow strip of shade, where she had passed most of
the previous day. She was very thirsty and feverish, and felt tired,
and wished she could sleep, but could not. Still the traveller toiled
in the darkness, and from time to time she heard sounds from far away
as of stones and loose earth falling. He was still working hard, for
he was very strong and he was desperate.

Baraka thought that if he was able to dig through the dam the water
would run in again, and she watched the sand for hours, but it was
drier than ever. The shadow broadened again, and crept up the rock
quickly as the afternoon passed.

It was a long time since she had heard any sound from the cave; she
went to the entrance and listened, but all was quite still. Perhaps
the traveller had fallen asleep from exhaustion, too tired even to
drag himself out into the air when he could work no longer. She sat
down in the entrance and waited.

An hour passed. Perhaps he was dead. At the mere inward suggestion
Baraka sprang to her feet, and her heart beat frantically, and stood
still an instant, and then beat again as if it would burst, and she
could hardly breathe. She steadied herself against the rock, and then
went in to know the truth, feeling her way, and instinctively shading
her eyes as many people do in the dark.

A breath of cool air made her open them, and to her amazement there
was light before her. She thought she must have turned quite round
while she was walking, and that she was going back to the entrance, so
she turned again. But in a few seconds there was light before her once
more, and soon she saw the dry sand, full of her footprints and the
traveller's, and then the hollow where the mine was came in sight.

She retraced her steps a second time, saw the light as before, ran
forward on the smooth sand and stumbled upon a heap of earth and
stones, just as she saw the sky through an irregular opening on the
level of her face. Scarcely believing her senses she thrust out her
hand towards the hole. It was real, and she was not dreaming; the
traveller had got out and was gone, recking little of what might
happen to her, since he was free with his treasure.

Baraka crept up the slope of earth as quickly as she could and got
out; if she had hoped to find him waiting for her she was
disappointed, for he was nowhere to be seen. He had got clear away,
with his camel-bag full of rubies. A moment later she was lying on the
ground, with her face in the little stream, drinking her fill, and
forgetful even of the man she loved. In order to deprive them of water
the men had dug a channel by which it ran down directly from the
spring to the ravine on that side; then they had blocked up the
entrance with stones and earth, believing that one man's strength
could never suffice to break through, and they had gone away. They had
probably buried or burnt Baraka's clothes, for she did not see them
anywhere.

She ate some of the dates from the dead man's wallet, and a bit of
the dry black bread, and felt revived, since her greatest need had
been for water, and that was satisfied. But when she had eaten and
drunk, and had washed herself in the stream and twisted up her hair,
she sat down upon a rock; and she felt so tired that she would have
fallen asleep if the pain in her heart had not kept her awake. She
clasped her hands together on her knees and bent over them, rocking
herself.

When nearly an hour had passed she looked up and saw that the sun was
sinking, for the shadows were turning purple in the deep gorge, and
there was a golden light on the peaks above. She listened then,
holding her breath; but there was no sound except the tinkling of the
tiny stream as it fell over a ledge at some distance below her,
following its new way down into the valley.

She rose at last, looked upward, and seemed about to go away when a
thought occurred to her, which afterwards led to very singular
consequences. Instead of going down the valley or climbing up out of
it, she went back to the entrance of the cave, taking the wallet with
her, dragged herself in once more over the loose stones and earth,
reached the secret hollow where the pool had been, and made straight
for the little mine of precious stones. The traveller had broken out
many more than he had been able to carry, but she did not try to
collect them all. She was not altogether ignorant of the trade carried
on by the men of her family for generations, and though she had not
the least idea of the real value of the finest of the rubies, she knew
very well that it would be wise to take many small ones which she
could exchange for clothing and necessaries with the first women she
met in the hills, while hiding the rest of the supply she would be
able to carry in the wallet.

When she had made her wise selection, she looked once more towards the
quicksand, and left the place for ever. Once outside she began to
climb the rocks as fast as she could, for very soon it would be night
and she would have to lie down and wait many hours for the day, since
there was no moon, and the way was very dangerous, even for a Tartar
girl who could almost tread on air.

High up on the mountain, over the dry well where Baraka and the
stranger had been imprisoned, the vulture perched alone with empty
craw and drooping wings. But it was of no use for him to wait; the
living, who might have died of hunger and thirst, were gone, and the
body of dead Saäd lay fathoms deep in the quicksand, in the very maw
of the mountain.



CHAPTER II


There was good copy for the newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic
in the news that the famous lyric soprano, Margarita da Cordova, whose
real name was Miss Margaret Donne, was engaged to Monsieur Konstantin
Logotheti, a Greek financier of large fortune established in Paris,
and almost as well known to art-collectors as to needy governments,
would-be promoters, and mothers of marriageable daughters. The mothers
experienced a momentary depression such as Logotheti himself felt when
an historical Van Dyck which he wanted was secretly sold out of a
palace in Genoa to a rival collector and millionaire for a price which
he would willingly have given; the people he knew shrugged their
shoulders at the news that he was to marry a singer, or shook their
heads wisely, or smiled politely, according to the scale of the
manners they had inherited or acquired; the shopkeepers sent him
thousands of insinuating invitations to inspect and buy all the things
which a rich man is supposed to give to his bride, from diamonds and
lace and eighty horse-power motor-cars to dressing-cases, stationery
and silver saucepans; and the newspapers were generously jubilant, and
rioted for a few days in a perfect carnival of adjectives.

The people who made the least fuss about the marriage were Cordova
and Logotheti themselves. They were both so well used to perpetual
publicity that they did not resent being written and talked about for
a time as if they were a treaty, a revolution, a divorce, or a
fraudulent trust. But they did not encourage the noise, nor go about
side by side in an offensively happy way, nor accept all the two
hundred and eighty-seven invitations to dine out together which they
received from their friends during three weeks. It was as much as
their overworked secretaries could do to answer all these within a
reasonable and decent time.

The engagement was made known during the height of the London season,
not long after they had both been at a week-end party at Craythew,
Lord Creedmore's place in Derbyshire, where they had apparently come
to a final understanding after knowing each other more than two years.
Margaret was engaged to sing at Covent Garden that summer, and the
first mention of the match was coupled with the information that she
intended to cancel all her engagements and never appear in public
again. The result was that the next time she came down the stage to
sing the Waltz Song in _Romeo and Juliet_ she received a tremendous
ovation before she opened her handsome lips, and another when she had
finished the air; and she spent one of the happiest evenings she
remembered.

Though she was at heart a nice English girl, not much over twenty-four
years of age, the orphan daughter of an Oxford don who had married an
American, she had developed, or fallen, to the point at which very
popular and successful artists cannot live at all without applause,
and are not happy unless they receive a certain amount of adulation.
Even the envy they excite in their rivals is delicious, if not almost
necessary to them.

Margaret's real nature had not been changed by a success that had been
altogether phenomenal and had probably not been approached by any
soprano since Madame Bonanni; but a second nature had grown upon it
and threatened to hide it from all but those who knew her very well
indeed. The inward Margaret was honest and brave, rather sensitive,
and still generous; the outward woman, the primadonna whom most people
saw, was self-possessed to a fault, imperious when contradicted, and
coolly ruthless when her artistic fame was at stake. The two natures
did not agree well together, and made her wretched when they
quarrelled, but Logotheti, who was going to take her for better, for
worse, professed to like them both, and was the only man she had ever
known who did. That was one reason why she was going to marry him,
after having refused him about a dozen times.

She had loved another man as much as she was capable of loving, and at
one time he had loved her, but a misunderstanding and her devotion to
her art had temporarily separated them; and later, when she had almost
told him that she would have him if he asked her, he had answered her
quite frankly that she was no longer the girl he had cared for, and he
had suddenly disappeared from her life altogether. So Logotheti,
brilliant, very rich, gifted, gay, and rather exotic in appearance
and manner, but tenacious as a bloodhound, had won the prize after a
struggle that had lasted two years. She had accepted him without much
enthusiasm at the last, and without any great show of feeling.

'Let's try it,' she had said, and he had been more than satisfied.

After a time, therefore, they told their friends that they were going
to 'try it.'

The only woman with whom the great singer was at all intimate was the
Countess Leven, Lord Creedmore's daughter, generally called 'Lady
Maud,' whose husband had been in the diplomacy, and, after vainly
trying to divorce her, had been killed in St. Petersburg by a bomb
meant for a Minister. The explosion had been so terrific that the dead
man's identity had only been established by means of his pocket-book,
which somehow escaped destruction. So Lady Maud was a childless widow
of eight-and-twenty. Her father, when he had no prospect of ever
succeeding to the title, had been a successful barrister, and then a
hard-working Member of Parliament, and he had been from boyhood the
close friend of Margaret's father. Hence the intimacy that grew up
quickly between the two women when they at last met, though they had
not known each other as children, because the lawyer had lived in town
and his friend in Oxford.

'So you're going to try it, my dear!' said Lady Maud, when she heard
the news.

She had a sweet low voice, and when she spoke now it was a little sad;
for she had 'tried it,' and it had failed miserably. But she knew
that the trial had not been a fair one; the only man she had ever
cared for had been killed in South Africa, and as she had not even the
excuse of having been engaged to him, she had married with
indifference the first handsome man with a good name and a fair
fortune who offered himself. He chanced to be a Russian diplomatist,
and he turned out a spendthrift and an unfaithful husband. She was too
kind-hearted to be glad that he had been blown to atoms by dynamite,
but she was much too natural not to enjoy the liberty restored to her
by his destruction; and she had not the least intention of ever
'trying it' again.

'You don't sound very enthusiastic,' laughed Margaret, who had no
misgivings to speak of, and was generally a cheerful person. 'If you
don't encourage me I may not go on.'

'There are two kinds of ruined gamblers,' answered Lady Maud; 'there
are those that still like to watch other people play, and those who
cannot bear the sight of a roulette table. I'm one of the second kind,
but I'll come to the wedding all the same, and cheer like mad, if you
ask me.'

'That's nice of you. I really think I mean to marry him, and I wish
you would help me with my wedding-gown, dear. It would be dreadful if
I looked like Juliet, or Elsa, or Lucia! Everybody would laugh,
especially as Konstantin is rather of the Romeo type, with his
almond-shaped eyes and his little black moustache! I suppose he really
is, isn't he?'

'Perhaps--just a little. But he is a very handsome fellow.'

Lady Maud's lips quivered, but Margaret did not see.

'Oh, I know!' she cried, laughing and shaking her head. 'You once
called him "exotic," and he is--but I'm awfully fond of him all the
same. Isn't that enough to marry on when there's everything else? You
really will help me with my gown, won't you? You're such an angel!'

'Oh, yes, I'll do anything you like. Are you going to have a regular
knock-down-and-drag-out smash at St. George's? The usual thing?'

Lady Maud did not despise slang, but she made it sound like music.

'No,' answered Margaret, rather regretfully. 'We cannot possibly be
married till the season's quite over, or perhaps in the autumn, and
then there will be nobody here. I'm not sure when I shall feel like
it! Besides, Konstantin hates that sort of thing.'

'Do you mean to say that you would like a show wedding in Hanover
Square?' inquired Lady Maud.

'I've never done anything in a church,' said the Primadonna, rather
enigmatically, but as if she would like to.

'"Anything in a church,"' repeated her friend, vaguely thoughtful, and
with the slightest possible interrogation. 'That's a funny way of
looking at it!'

Margaret was a little ashamed of what she had said so naturally.

'I think Konstantin would like to have it in a chapel-of-ease in the
Old Kent Road!' she said, laughing. 'He sometimes talks of being
married in tweeds and driving off in a hansom! Then he suggests going
to Constantinople and getting it done by the Patriarch, who is his
uncle. Really, that would be rather smart, wouldn't it?'

'Distinctly,' assented Lady Maud. 'But if you do that, I'm afraid I
cannot help you with the wedding-gown. I don't know anything about the
dress of a Fanariote bride.'

'Konstantin says they dress very well,' Margaret said. 'But of course
it is out of the question to do anything so ridiculous. It will end in
the chapel-of-ease, I'm sure. He always has his own way. That's
probably why I'm going to marry him, just because he insists on it. I
don't see any other very convincing reason.'

Lady Maud could not think of anything to say in answer to this; but as
she really liked the singer she thought it was a pity.

Paul Griggs, the veteran man of letters, smiled rather sadly when she
met him shopping in New Bond Street, and told him of Margaret's
engagement. He said that most great singers married because the only
way to the divorce court led up the steps of the altar. Though he knew
the world he was not a cynic, and Lady Maud herself wondered how long
it would be before Logotheti and his wife separated.

'But they are not married yet,' Griggs added, looking at her with the
quietly ready expression of a man who is willing that his indifferent
words should be taken to have a special meaning if the person to whom
he has spoken chooses, or is able, to understand them as they may be
understood, but who is quite safe from being suspected of suggesting
anything if there is no answering word or glance.

Lady Maud returned his look, but her handsome face grew rather cold.

'Do you know of any reason why the marriage should not take place?'
she inquired after a moment.

'If I don't give any reason, am I ever afterwards to hold my peace?'
asked Griggs, with a faint smile on his weather-beaten face. 'Are you
publishing the bans? or are we thinking of the same thing?'

'I suppose we are. Good-morning.'

She nodded gravely and passed on, gathering up her black skirt a
little, for there had been a shower. He stood still a moment before
the shop window and looked after her, gravely admiring her figure and
her walk, as he might have admired a very valuable thoroughbred. She
was wearing mourning for her husband, not because any one would have
blamed her if she had not done so, considering how he had treated her,
but out of natural self-respect.

Griggs also looked after her as she went away because he felt that she
was not quite pleased with him for having suggested that he and she
had both been thinking of the same thing.

The thought concerned a third person, and one who rarely allowed
himself to be overlooked; no less a man, in fact, than Mr. Rufus Van
Torp, the American potentate of the great Nickel Trust, who was Lady
Maud's most intimate friend, and who had long desired to make the
Primadonna his wife. He had bought a place adjoining Lord Creedmore's,
and there had lately been a good deal of quite groundless gossip about
him and Lady Maud, which had very nearly become a scandal. The truth
was that they were the best friends in the world, and nothing more;
the millionaire had for some time been interested in an unusual sort
of charity which almost filled the lonely woman's life, and he had
given considerable sums of money to help it. During the months
preceding the beginning of this tale, he had also been the object of
one of those dastardly attacks to which very rich and important
financiers are more exposed than other men, and he had actually been
accused of having done away with his partner's daughter, who had come
to her end mysteriously during a panic in a New York theatre. But, as
I have told elsewhere, his innocence had been proved in the clearest
possible manner, and he had returned to the United States to look
after the interests of the Trust.

When Griggs heard the news of Margaret's engagement to Logotheti, he
immediately began to wonder how Mr. Van Torp would receive the
intelligence; and if it had not already occurred to Lady Maud that the
millionaire might make a final effort to rout his rival and marry the
Primadonna himself, the old author's observation suggested such a
possibility. Van Torp was a man who had fought up to success and
fortune with little regard for the obstacles he found in his way; he
had worked as a cowboy in his early youth, and was apt to look on his
adversaries and rivals in life either as refractory cattle or as
dangerous wild beasts; and though he had some of the old-fashioned
ranchero's sense of fair-play in a fight, he had much of the reckless
daring and ruthless savagery that characterise the fast-disappearing
Western desperado.

Logotheti, on the other hand, was in many respects a true Oriental,
supremely astute and superlatively calm, but imbued, at heart, with a
truly Eastern contempt for any law that chanced to oppose his wish.

Both men had practically inexhaustible resources at their command, and
both were determined to marry the Primadonna. It occurred to Paul
Griggs that a real struggle between such a pair of adversaries would
be worth watching. There was unlimited money on both sides, and equal
courage and determination. The Greek was the more cunning of the two,
by great odds, and had now the considerable advantage of having been
accepted by the lady; but the American was far more regardless of
consequences to himself or to others in the pursuit of what he wanted,
and, short of committing a crime, would put at least as broad an
interpretation on the law. Logotheti had always lived in a highly
civilised society, even in Constantinople, for it is the greatest
mistake to imagine that the upper classes of Greeks, in Greece or
Turkey, are at all deficient in cultivation. Van Torp, on the
contrary, had run away from civilisation when a half-educated boy, he
had grown to manhood in a community of men who had little respect for
anything and feared nothing at all, and he had won success in a field
where those who compete for it buy it at any price, from a lie to a
life.

Lady Maud was thinking of these things as she disappeared from
Griggs's sight, and not at all of him. It might have surprised her to
know that his eyes had followed her with sincere admiration, and
perhaps she would have been pleased. There is a sort of admiration
which acknowledged beauties take for granted, and to which they attach
no value unless it is refused them; but there is another kind that
brings them rare delight when they receive it, for it is always given
spontaneously, whether it be the wondering exclamation of a street boy
who has never seen anything so beautiful in his life, or a quiet look
and a short phrase from an elderly man who has seen what is worth
seeing for thirty or forty years, and who has given up making
compliments.

The young widow was quite unconscious of Griggs's look and was very
busy with her thoughts, for she was a little afraid that she had made
trouble. Ten days had passed since she had last written to Rufus Van
Torp, and she had told him, amongst other things, that Madame da
Cordova and Logotheti were engaged to be married, adding that it
seemed to her one of the most ill-assorted matches of the season, and
that her friend the singer was sure to be miserable herself and to
make her husband perfectly wretched, though he was a very good sort
in his way and she liked him. There had been no reason why she should
not write the news to Mr. Van Torp, even though it was not public
property yet, for he was her intimate friend, and she knew him to be
as reticent as all doctors ought to be and as some solicitors' clerks
are. She had asked him not to tell any one till he heard of the
engagement from some one else.

He had not spoken of it, but something else had happened. He had
cabled to Lady Maud that he was coming back to England by the next
steamer. He often came out and went back suddenly two or three times
at short intervals, and then stayed away for many months, but Lady
Maud thought there could not be much doubt as to his reason for coming
now. She knew well enough that he had tried to persuade the Primadonna
to marry him during the previous winter, and that if his passion for
her had not shown itself much of late, this was due to other causes,
chiefly to the persecution of which he had rid himself just before he
went to America, but to some extent also to the fact that Margaret had
not seemed inclined to accept any one else.

Lady Maud, who knew the man better than he knew himself, inwardly
compared him to a volcano, quiescent just now, so far as Margaret was
concerned, but ready to break out at any moment with unexpected and
destructive energy.

Margaret herself, who had known Logotheti for years, and had seen him
in his most dangerous moods as well as in his very best moments, would
have thought a similar comparison with an elemental force quite as
truly descriptive of him, if it had occurred to her. The enterprising
Greek had really attempted to carry her off by force on the night of
the final rehearsal before her first appearance on the stage, and had
only been thwarted because a royal rival had caused him to be locked
up, as if by mistake, in order to carry her off himself; in which he
also had failed most ridiculously, thanks to the young singer's
friend, the celebrated Madame Bonanni. That was a very amusing story.
But on another occasion Margaret had found herself shut up with her
Oriental adorer in a room from which she could not escape, and he had
quite lost his head; and if she had not been the woman she was, she
would have fared ill. After that he had behaved more like an ordinary
human being, and she had allowed the natural attraction he had for her
to draw her gradually to a promise of marriage; and now she talked to
Lady Maud about her gown, but she still put off naming a day for the
wedding, in spite of Logotheti's growing impatience.

This was the situation when the London season broke up and Mr. Van
Torp landed at Southampton from an ocean greyhound that had covered
the distance from New York in five days twelve hours and thirty-seven
minutes, which will doubtless seem very slow travelling if any one
takes the trouble to read this tale twenty years hence, though the
passengers were pleased because it was not much under the record time
for steamers coming east.

Five hours after he landed Van Torp entered Lady Maud's drawing-room
in the little house in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, where she had
lived with the departed Leven from the time when he had been attached
to the Russian Embassy till he had last gone away. She was giving it
up now, and it was already half dismantled. It was to see Van Torp
that she was in town in the middle of August, instead of with her
father at Craythew or with friends in Scotland.

London was as hot as it could be, which means that a New Yorker would
have found it chilly and an Italian delightfully cool; but the
Londoners were sweltering when Van Torp arrived, and were talking of
the oppressive atmosphere and the smell of the pavement, not at all
realising how blessed they were.

The American entered and stood still a moment to have a good look at
Lady Maud. He was a middle-sized, rather thick-set man, with rude
hands, sandy hair, an over-developed jaw, and sharp blue eyes, that
sometimes fixed themselves in a disagreeable way when he was
speaking--eyes that had looked into the barrel of another man's
revolver once or twice without wavering, hands that had caught and
saddled and bridled many an unridden colt in the plains, a mouth like
a carpet-bag when it opened, like a closed vice when it was shut. He
was not a handsome man, Mr. Rufus Van Torp, nor one with whom any one
short of a prize-fighter would meddle, nor one to haunt the dreams of
sweet sixteen. It was not for his face that Lady Maud, good and
beautiful, liked him better than any one in the world, except her own
father, and believed in him and trusted him, and it was assuredly not
for his money. The beggar did not live who would dare to ask him for a
penny after one look at his face, and there were not many men on
either side of the Atlantic who would have looked forward to any sort
of contest with him without grave misgivings.

'Well,' he said, advancing the last step after that momentary pause,
and taking the white hand in both his own, 'how have you been? Fair to
middling? About that? Well--I'm glad to see you, gladder than a
sitting hen at sunrise!'

Lady Maud laid her left hand affectionately on the man's right, which
was uppermost on hers, and her voice rippled with happiness.

'If you had only said a lark instead of a hen, Rufus!' she laughed.

'We could get along a great sight better without larks than without
hens,' answered her friend philosophically. 'But I'll make it a
nightingale next time, if I can remember, or a bald eagle, or any bird
that strikes you as cheerful.'

The terrible mouth had relaxed almost to gentleness, and the fierce
blue eyes were suddenly kind as they looked into the woman's face. She
led him to an old-fashioned sofa, their hands parted, and they sat
down side by side.

'Cheerful,' he said, in a tone of reflection. 'Yes, I'm feeling pretty
cheerful, and it's all over and settled.'

'Do you mean the trouble you were in last spring?'

'N--no--not that, though it wasn't as funny as a Sunday School treat
while it lasted, and I was thankful when it was through. It's another
matter altogether that I'm cheerful about--besides seeing you, my
dear. I've done it, Maud. I've done it at last.'

'What?'

'I've sold my interest in the Trust. It won't be made known for some
time, so don't talk about it, please. But it's settled and done, and
I've got the money.'

'You have sold the Nickel Trust?'

Lady Maud's lips remained parted in surprise.

'And I've bought you a little present with the proceeds,' he answered,
putting his large thumb and finger into the pocket of his white
waistcoat. 'It's only a funny little bit of glass I picked up,' he
continued, producing a small twist of stiff writing-paper. 'You
needn't think it's so very fine! But it's a pretty colour, and when
you're out of mourning I daresay you'll make a hat-pin of it. I like
handsome hat-pins myself, you know.'

He had untwisted the paper while speaking, it lay open in the palm of
his hand, and Lady Maud saw a stone of the size of an ordinary
hazel-nut, very perfectly cut, and of that wonderful transparent red
colour which is known as 'pigeon's blood,' and which it is almost
impossible to describe. Sunlight shining through Persian rose-leaf
sherbet upon white silk makes a little patch of colour that is perhaps
more like it than any other shade of red, but not many Europeans have
ever seen that, and it is a good deal easier to go and look at a
pigeon's blood ruby in a jeweller's window.

'What a beautiful colour!' exclaimed Lady Maud innocently, after a
moment. 'I didn't know they imitated rubies so well, though, of
course, I know nothing about it. If it were not an impossibility, I
should take it for a real one.'

'So should I,' assented Mr. Van Torp quietly. 'It'll make a pretty
hat-pin anyway. Shall I have it mounted for you?'

'Thanks, awfully, but I think I should like to keep it as it is for a
little while. It's such a lovely colour, just as it is. Thank you so
much! Do tell me where you got it.'

'Oh, well, there was a sort of a traveller came to New York the other
day selling them what they call privately. I guess he must be a
Russian or something, for he has a kind of an off-look of your
husband, only he wears a beard and an eyeglass. It must be about the
eyes. Maybe the forehead too. He'll most likely turn up in London one
of these days to sell this invention, or whatever it is.'

Lady Maud said nothing to this, but she took the stone from his hand,
looked at it some time with evident admiration, and then set it down
on its bit of paper, upon a little table by the end of the sofa.

'If I were you, I wouldn't leave it around much,' observed Mr. Van
Torp carelessly. 'Somebody might take a fancy to it. The colour's
attractive, you see, and it looks like real.'

'Oh, I'll be very careful of it, never fear! I can't tell you how much
I like it!' She twisted it up tightly in its bit of paper, rose to her
feet, and put it away in her writing-table.

'It'll be a sort of souvenir of the old Nickel Trust,' said her
friend, watching her with satisfaction.

'Have you really sold out all your interest in it?' she asked, sitting
down again; and now that she returned to the question her tone showed
that she had not yet recovered from her astonishment.

'That's what I've done. I always told you I would, when I was ready.
Why do you look so surprised? Would you rather I hadn't?'

Lady Maud shook her head and her voice rippled deliciously as she
answered.

'I can hardly imagine you without the Nickel Trust, that's all! What
in the world shall you do with yourself?'

'Oh, various kinds of things. I think I'll get married, for one. Then
I'll take a rest and sort of look around. Maybe something will turn
up. I've concluded to win the Derby next year--that's something
anyway.'

'Rather! Have you thought of anything else?'

She laughed a little, but was grave the next moment, for she knew him
much too well to believe that he had taken such a step out of caprice,
or a mere fancy for change; his announcement that he meant to marry
agreed too well with what she herself had suddenly foreseen when she
had parted with Griggs in Bond Street a few days earlier. If Margaret
had not at last made up her mind to accept Logotheti--supposing that
her decision was really final--Rufus Van Torp would not suddenly have
felt sure that he himself must marry her if she married at all. His
English friend could not have put into words what she felt had taken
place in his heart, but she understood him as no one else could, and
was certain that he had reached one of the great cross-roads of his
life.

A woman who has been married for years to such a man as Leven, and who
tries to do good to those fallen and cast-out ones who laugh and cry
and suffer out their lives, and are found dead behind the
Virtue-Curtain, is not ignorant of the human animal's instincts and
ways, and Lady Maud was not at all inclined to believe her friend a
Galahad. In the clean kingdom of her dreams men could be chaste, and
grown women could be as sweetly ignorant of harm as little children;
but when she opened her eyes and looked about her she saw, and she
understood, and did not shiver with delicate disgust, nor turn away
with prim disapproval, nor fancy that she would like to be a mediæval
nun and induce the beatific state by merciless mortification of the
body. She knew very well what the Virtue-Curtain was trying to hide;
she lifted it quietly, went behind it without fear, and did all she
could to help the unhappy ones she found there. She did not believe in
other people's theories at all, and had none herself; she did not even
put much faith in all the modern scientific talk about vicious
inheritance and degeneration; much more than half of the dwellers
behind the scenes had been lured there in ignorance, a good many had
been dragged there by force, a very considerable number had been
deliberately sold into slavery, and nine out of ten of them stayed
there because no one really tried to get them out. Perhaps no one who
did try was rich enough; for it is not to be expected that every human
sinner should learn in a day to prefer starving virtue to well-fed
vice, or, as Van Torp facetiously expressed it, a large capital locked
up in heavenly stocks to a handsome income accruing from the bonds of
sin. If Lady Maud succeeded, as she sometimes did, the good done was
partly due to the means he gave her for doing it.

'Come and be bad and you shall have a good time while you are young,'
the devil had said, assuming the appearance, dress, and manner of
fashion, without any particular regard for age.

'Give it up and I'll make you so comfortable that you'll really like
not being bad,' said Lady Maud, and the invitation was sometimes
accepted.

Evidently, a woman who occupied herself with this form of charity
could not help knowing and hearing a good deal about men which would
have surprised and even shocked her social sisters, and she was not in
danger of taking Rufus Van Torp for an ascetic in disguise.

On the contrary, she was quite able to understand that the tremendous
attraction the handsome singer had for him might be of the most
earthly kind, such as she herself would not care to call love, and
that, if she was right, it would not be partially dignified by any of
that true artistic appreciation which brought Logotheti such rare
delight, and disguised a passion not at all more ethereal than Van
Torp's might be. In refinement of taste, no comparison was possible
between the Western-bred millionaire and the cultivated Greek, who
knew every unfamiliar by-way and little hidden treasure of his
country's literature and art, besides very much of what other nations
had done and written. Yet Lady Maud, influenced, no doubt, by the
honest friendship of her American friend, believed that Van Torp would
be a better and more faithful husband, even to a primadonna, than his
Oriental rival.

Notwithstanding her opinion of him, however, she was not prepared for
his next move. He had noticed the grave look that had followed her
laughter, and he turned away and was silent for a few moments.

'The Derby's a side show,' he said at last. 'I've come over to get
married, and I want you to help me. Will you?'

'Can I?' asked Lady Maud, evasively.

'Yes, you can, and I believe there'll be trouble unless you do.'

'Who is she? Do I know her?' She was trying to put off the evil
moment.

'Oh, yes, you know her quite well. It's Madame Cordova.'

'But she's engaged to Monsieur Logotheti----'

'I don't care. I mean to marry her if she marries any one. He shan't
have her anyway.'

'But I cannot deliberately help you to break off her engagement! It's
impossible!'

'See here,' answered Mr. Van Torp. 'You know that Greek, and you know
me. Which of us will make the best husband for an English girl? That's
what Madame Cordova is, after all. I put it to you. If you were forced
to choose one of us yourself, which would you take? That's the way to
look at it.'

'But Miss Donne is not "forced" to take one of you----'

'She's going to be. It's the same. Besides, I said "if." Won't you
answer me?'

'She's in love with Monsieur Logotheti,' said Lady Maud, rather
desperately.

'Is she, now? I wonder. I don't much think so myself. He's clever and
he's obstinate, and he's just made her think she's in love, that's
all. Anyhow, that's not an answer to my question. Other things being
alike, if she had to choose, which of us would be the best husband for
her?--the better, I mean. You taught me to say "better," didn't you?'

Lady Maud tried to smile.

'Of two, yes,' she answered. 'You are forcing my hand, my dear
friend,' she went on very gravely. 'You know very well that I trust
you with all my heart. If it were possible to imagine a case in which
the safety of the world could depend on my choosing one of you for my
husband, you know very well that I should take you, though I never was
the least little bit in love with you, any more than you ever were
with me.'

'Well, but if you would, she ought,' argued Mr. Van Torp. 'It's for
her own good, and as you're a friend of hers, you ought to help her to
do what's good for her. That's only fair. If she doesn't marry me,
she's certain to marry that Greek, so it's a forced choice, it appears
to me.'

'But I can't----'

'She's a nice girl, isn't she?'

'Yes, very.'

'And you like her, don't you?'

'Very much. Her father was my father's best friend.'

'I don't believe in atavism,' observed the American, 'but that's
neither here nor there. You know what you wrote me. Do you believe
she'll be miserable with Logotheti or not?'

'I think she will,' Lady Maud answered truthfully. 'But I may be
wrong.'

'No; you're right. I know it. But marriage is a gamble anyway, as you
know better than any one. Are you equally sure that she would be
miserable with me? Dead sure, I mean.'

'No, I'm not sure. But that's not a reason----'

'It's a first-rate reason. I care for that lady, and I want her to be
happy, and as you admit that she will have a better chance of
happiness with me than with Logotheti, I'm going to marry her myself,
not only because I want to, but because it will be a long sight better
for her. See? No fault in that line of reasoning, is there?'

'So far as reasoning goes----' Lady Maud's tone was half an admission.

'That's all I wanted you to say,' interrupted the American. 'So that's
settled, and you're going to help me.'

'No,' answered Lady Maud quietly; 'I won't help you to break off that
engagement. But if it should come to nothing, without your
interfering--that is, by the girl's own free will and choice and
change of mind, I'd help you to marry her if I could.'

'But you admit that she's going to be miserable,' said Van Torp
stubbornly.

'I'm sorry for her, but it's none of my business. It's not honourable
to try and make trouble between engaged people, no matter how
ill-matched they may be.'

'Funny idea of honour,' observed the American, 'that you're bound to
let a friend of yours break her neck at the very gravel pit where you
were nearly smashed yourself! In the hunting field you'd grab her
bridle if she wouldn't listen to you, but in a matter of marriage--oh,
no! "It's dishonourable to interfere," "She's made her choice and she
must abide by it," and all that kind of stuff!'

Lady Maud's clear eyes met his angry blue ones calmly.

'I don't like you when you say such things,' she said, lowering her
voice a little.

'I didn't mean to be rude,' answered the millionaire, almost humbly.
'You see I don't always know. I learnt things differently from what
you did. I suppose you'd think it an insult if I said I'd give a large
sum of money to your charity the day I married Madame Cordova, if
you'd help me through.'

  [Illustration: "'Funny idea of honour,' observed the American."]

'Please stop.' Lady Maud's face darkened visibly. 'That's not like
you.'

'I'll give a million pounds sterling,' said Mr. Van Torp slowly.

Lady Maud leaned back in her corner of the sofa, clasping her hands
rather tightly together in her lap. Her white throat flushed as when
the light of dawn kisses Parian marble, and the fresh tint in her
cheeks deepened softly; her lips were tightly shut, her eyelids
quivered a little, and she looked straight before her across the room.

'You can do a pretty good deal with a million pounds,' said Mr. Van
Torp, after the silence had lasted nearly half a minute.

'Don't!' cried Lady Maud, in an odd voice.

'Forty thousand pounds a year,' observed the millionaire thoughtfully.
'You could do quite a great deal of good with that, couldn't you?'

'Don't! Please don't!'

She pressed her hands to her ears and rose at the same instant.
Perhaps it was she, after all, and not her friend who had been brought
suddenly to a great cross-road in life. She stood still one moment by
the sofa without looking down at her companion; then she left the room
abruptly, and shut the door behind her.

Van Torp got up from his seat slowly when she was gone, and went to
the window, softly blowing a queer tune between his closed teeth and
his open lips, without quite whistling.

'Well----' he said aloud, in a tone of doubt, after a minute or two.

But he said no more, for he was much too reticent and sensible a
person to talk to himself audibly even when he was alone, and much too
cautious to be sure that a servant might not be within hearing, though
the door was shut. He stood before the window nearly a quarter of an
hour, thinking that Lady Maud might come back, but as no sound of any
step broke the silence he understood that he was not to see her again
that day, and he quietly let himself out of the house and went off,
not altogether discontented with the extraordinary impression he had
made.

Lady Maud sat alone upstairs, so absorbed in her thoughts that she did
not hear the click of the lock as he opened and shut the front door.

She was much more amazed at herself than surprised by the offer he had
made. Temptation, in any reasonable sense of the word, had passed by
her in life, and she had never before understood what it could mean to
her. Indeed, she had thought of herself very little of late, and had
never had the least taste for self-examination or the analysis of her
conscience. She had done much good, because she wanted to do it, and
not at all as a duty, or with that idea of surprising the Deity by the
amount of her good works, which actuates many excellent persons. As
for doing anything seriously wrong, she had never wanted to, and it
had not even occurred to her that the opportunity for a wicked deed
could ever present itself to her together with the slightest desire to
do it. Her labours had taken her to strange places, and she knew what
real sin was, and even crime, and the most hideous vice, and its still
more awful consequences; but one reason why she had wrought fearlessly
was that she felt herself naturally invulnerable. She knew a good many
people in her own set whom she thought quite as bad as the worst she
had ever picked up on the dark side of the Virtue-Curtain; they were
people who seemed to have no moral sense, men who betrayed their wives
wantonly, young women who took money for themselves and old ones who
cheated at bridge, men who would deliberately ruin a rival in
politics, in finance, or in love, and ambitious women who had driven
their competitors to despair and destruction by a scientific use of
calumny. But she had never felt any inclination towards any of those
things, which all seemed to her disgusting, or cowardly, or otherwise
abominable. Her husband had gone astray after strange gods--and
goddesses--but she had never wished to be revenged on them, or him,
nor to say what was not true about any one, nor even what was true and
could hurt, nor to win a few sovereigns at cards otherwise than
fairly, nor to wish anybody dead who had a right to live.

She was eight-and-twenty years of age and a widow, when temptation
came to her suddenly in a shape of tremendous strength, through her
trusted friend, who had helped her for years to help others. It was
real temptation. The man who offered her a million pounds to save
miserable wretches from a life of unspeakable horror, could offer her
twice as much, four, five, or ten millions perhaps. No one knew the
vast extent of his wealth, and in an age of colossal fortunes she had
often heard his spoken of with the half-dozen greatest.

The worst of it was that she felt able to do what he asked; for she
was inwardly convinced that the great singer did not know her own mind
and was not profoundly attached to the man she had accepted. Of the
two women, Margaret was by far the weaker character; or, to be just,
the whole strength of her nature had long been concentrated in the
struggle for artistic supremacy, and could not easily be brought to
exert itself in other directions. Lady Maud's influence over her was
great, and Logotheti's had never been very strong. She was taken by
his vitality, his daring, his constancy, or obstinacy, and a little by
his good looks, as a mere girl might be, because the theatre had made
looks seem so important to her. But apart from his handsome face,
Logotheti was no match for Van Torp. Of that Lady Maud was sure.
Besides, the Primadonna's antipathy for the American had greatly
diminished of late, and had perhaps altogether given place to a
friendly feeling. She had said openly that she had misjudged him,
because he had pestered her with his attentions in New York, and that
she even liked him since he had shown more tact. Uncouth as he was in
some ways, Lady Maud knew that she herself might care for him more
than as a friend, if her heart were not buried for ever in a soldier's
grave on the Veldt.

That was the worst of it. She felt that it was probably not beyond her
power to bring about what Van Torp desired, at least so far as to
induce Margaret to break off the engagement which now blocked his way.
Under cover of roughness, too, he had argued with a subtlety that
frightened her now that she was alone; and with a consummate knowledge
of her nature he had offered her the only sort of bribe that could
possibly tempt her, the means to make permanent the good work she had
already carried so far.

He had placed her in such a dilemma as she had never dreamed of. To
accept such an offer as he made, would mean that she must do something
which she felt was dishonourable, if she gave 'honour' the meaning an
honest gentleman attaches to it, and that was the one she had learned
from her father, and which a good many women seem unable to
understand. To refuse, was to deprive hundreds of wretched and
suffering creatures of the only means of obtaining a hold on a decent
existence which Lady Maud had ever found to be at all efficacious. She
knew that she had not done much, compared with what was undone; it
looked almost nothing. But where law-making had failed altogether,
where religion was struggling bravely but almost in vain, where
enlightened philanthropy found itself paralysed and bankrupt, she had
accomplished something by merely using a little money in the right
way.

'You can do quite a great deal of good with forty thousand pounds a
year.'

Van Torp's rough-hewn speech rang through her head, and somehow its
reckless grammar gave it strength and made it stick in her memory,
word for word. In the drawer of the writing-table before which she was
sitting there was a little file of letters that meant more to her than
anything else in the world, except one dear memory. They were all from
women, they all told much the same little story, and it was good to
read. She had made many failures, and some terrible ones, which she
could never forget; but there were real successes, too, there were
over a dozen of them now, and she had only been at work for three
years. If she had more money, she could do more; if she had much, she
could do much; and she knew of one or two women who could help her.
What might she not accomplish in a lifetime with the vast sum her
friend offered her!--the price of hindering a marriage that was almost
sure to turn out badly, perhaps as badly as her own!--the money value
of a compromise with her conscience on a point of honour which many
women would have thought very vague indeed, if not quite absurd in
such a case. She knew what temptation meant, now, and she was to know
even better before long. The Primadonna had said that she was going to
marry Logotheti chiefly because he insisted on it.

The duel for Margaret's hand had begun; Van Torp had aimed a blow that
might well give him the advantage if it went home; and Logotheti
himself was quite unaware of the skilful attack that threatened his
happiness.



CHAPTER III


A few days after she had talked with Lady Maud, and before Mr. Van
Torp's arrival, Margaret had gone abroad, without waiting for the
promised advice in the matter of the wedding-gown. With admirable
regard for the proprieties she had quite declined to let Logotheti
cross the Channel with her, but had promised to see him at Versailles,
where she was going to stop a few days with her mother's old American
friend, the excellent Mrs. Rushmore, with whom she meant to go to
Bayreuth to hear _Parsifal_ for the first time.

Mrs. Rushmore had disapproved profoundly of Margaret's career, from
the first. After Mrs. Donne's death, she had taken the forlorn girl
under her protection, and had encouraged her to go on with what she
vaguely called her 'music lessons.' The good lady was one of those
dear, old-fashioned, kind, delicate-minded and golden-hearted American
women we may never see again, now that 'progress' has got civilisation
by the throat and is squeezing the life out of it. She called Margaret
her 'chickabiddy' and spread a motherly wing over her, without the
least idea that she was rearing a valuable lyric nightingale that
would not long be content to trill and quaver unheard.

Immense and deserved success had half reconciled the old lady to what
had happened, and after all Margaret had not married an Italian tenor,
a Russian prince, or a Parisian composer, the three shapes of man
which seemed the most dreadfully immoral to Mrs. Rushmore. She would
find it easier to put up with Logotheti than with one of those, though
it was bad enough to think of her old friend's daughter marrying a
Greek instead of a nice, clean Anglo-Saxon, like the learned Mr.
Donne, the girl's father, or the good Mr. Rushmore, her lamented
husband, who had been an upright pillar of the church in New York, and
the president of a Trust Company that could be trusted.

After all, though she thought all Greeks must be what she called
'designing,' the name of Konstantin Logotheti was associated with
everything that was most honourable in the financial world, and this
impressed Mrs. Rushmore very much. Her harmless weakness had always
been for lions, and none but the most genuine ones were allowed to
roar at her garden-parties or at her dinner table. When the Greek
financier had first got himself introduced to her more than two years
earlier, she had made the most careful inquiries about him and had
diligently searched the newspapers for every mention of him during a
whole month. The very first paragraph she had found was about a new
railway which he had taken under his protection, and the writer said
that his name was a guarantee of good faith. This impressed her
favourably, though the journalist might have had reasons for making
precisely the same statement if he had known Logotheti to be a
fraudulent promoter. One of the maxims she had learned in her youth,
which had been passed in the Golden Age of old New York, was that
'business was a test of character.' Mr. Rushmore used to say that, so
it must be true, she thought; and indeed the excellent man might have
said with equal wisdom that long-continued rain generally produces
dampness. He would have turned in his well-kept grave if he could have
heard a Wall Street cynic say that nowadays an honest man may get a
bare living, and a drunkard has been known to get rich, but that
integrity and whisky together will inevitably land anybody in the
workhouse.

Logotheti was undoubtedly considered honest, however, and Mrs.
Rushmore made quite sure of it, as well as of the fact that he had an
immense fortune. So far as the cynic's observation goes, it may not be
equally applicable everywhere, any more than it is true that all
Greeks are blacklegs, as the Parisians are fond of saying, or that all
Parisians are much worse, as their own novelists try to make out. If
anything is more worthless than most men's opinion of themselves, it
is their opinion of others, and it is unfortunately certain that the
people who understand human nature best, and lead it whither they
will, are not those that labour to save souls or to cure sickness, but
demagogues, quacks, fashionable dressmakers, and money-lenders. Mrs.
Rushmore was a judge of lions, but she knew nothing about humanity.

At Versailles, with its memories of her earlier youth, the Primadonna
wished to be Margaret Donne again, and to forget for the time that she
was the Cordova, whose name was always first on the opera posters in
New York, London, and Vienna; who covered her face with grease-paint
two or three times a week; who loved the indescribable mixed smell of
boards, glue, scenery, Manila ropes and cotton-velvet-clad chorus,
behind the scenes; who lived on applause, was made miserable now and
then by a criticism which any other singer would have thought
flattery, and who was, in fact, an extraordinary compound of genius
and simplicity, generosity and tetchiness, tremendous energy in one
direction and intellectual torpidity and total indifference in all
others. If she could have gone directly from Covent Garden to another
engagement, the other self would not have waked up just then; but she
meant to take a long holiday, and in order not to miss the stage too
much, it was indispensable to forget it for a while.

She travelled incognito. That is to say, she had sent her first maid
and theatrical dresser Alphonsine to see her relations in Nancy for a
month, and only brought the other with her; she had, moreover, caused
the stateroom on the Channel boat to be taken in the name of Miss
Donne, and she brought no more luggage to Versailles than could be
piled on an ordinary cart, whereas when she had last come from New
York her servants had seen eighty-seven pieces put on board the
steamer, and a hat-box had been missing after all.

Mrs. Rushmore came out to meet her on the steps in the hot sunshine,
portly and kind as ever, and she applied an embrace which was
affectionate, yet imposing.

'My dearest child!' she cried. 'I was sure I had not quite lost you
yet!'

'I hope you will never think you have,' Margaret answered, almost
quite in her girlish voice of old.

She was very glad to come back. As soon as they were alone in the cool
drawing-room, Mrs. Rushmore asked her about her engagement in a tone
of profound concern, as though it were a grave bodily ailment which
might turn out to be fatal.

'Don't take it so seriously,' Margaret answered with a little laugh;
'I'm not married yet!'

The elderly face brightened.

'Do you mean to say that--that there is any hope?' she asked eagerly.

Margaret laughed now, but in a gentle and affectionate sort of way.

'Perhaps, just a little! But don't ask me, please. I've come
home--this is always home for me, isn't it?--I've come home to forget
everything for a few weeks.'

'Thank heaven!' ejaculated Mrs. Rushmore in a tone of deep relief.
'Then if--if he should call this afternoon, or even to-morrow--may I
tell them to say that you are out?'

She was losing no time; and Margaret laughed again, though she put her
head a little on one side with an expression of doubt.

'I can't refuse to see him,' she said, 'though really I would much
rather be alone with you for a day or two.'

'My darling child!' cried Mrs. Rushmore, applying another embrace,
'you shall! Leave it to me!'

Mrs. Rushmore's delight was touching, for she could almost feel that
Margaret had come to see her quite for her own sake, whereas she had
pictured the 'child,' as she still called the great artist, spending
most of her time in carrying on inaudible conversations with Logotheti
under the trees in the lawn, or in the most remote corners of the
drawing-room; for that had been the accepted method of courtship in
Mrs. Rushmore's young days, and she was quite ignorant of the changes
that had taken place since then.

Half-an-hour later, Margaret was in her old room upstairs writing a
letter, and Mrs. Rushmore had given strict orders that until further
notice Miss Donne was 'not at home' for any one at all, no matter who
might call.

When the letter already covered ten pages, Margaret laid down her pen
and without the least pause or hesitation tore the sheets to tiny
bits, inking her fingers in the process because the last one was not
yet dry.

'What a wicked woman I am!' she exclaimed aloud, to the very great
surprise of Potts, her English maid, who was still unpacking in the
next room, the door being open.

'Beg pardon, ma'am?' the woman asked, putting in her head.

'I said I was a wicked woman,' Margaret answered, rising; 'and what's
more, I believe I am. But I quite forgot you were there, Potts, or I
probably should not have said it aloud.'

'Yes, ma'am,' answered Potts meekly, and she went back to her
unpacking.

Margaret had two maids, who were oddly suited to her two natures. She
had inherited Alphonsine from her friend the famous retired soprano,
Madame Bonanni, and the cadaverous, clever, ill-tempered, garrulous
dresser was as necessary to Cordova's theatrical existence as paint,
limelight, wigs, and an orchestra. The English Potts, the meek,
silent, busy, and intensely respectable maid, continually made it
clear that her mistress was Miss Donne, an English lady, and that
Madame Cordova, the celebrated singer, was what Mr. Van Torp would
have called 'only a side-show.'

Potts was quite as much surprised when she heard Miss Donne calling
herself a wicked woman as Alphonsine would have been if she had heard
Madame Cordova say that she sang completely out of tune, a statement
which would not have disturbed the English maid's equanimity in the
very least. It might have pleased her, for she always secretly hoped
that Margaret would give up the stage, marry an English gentleman with
a nice name, and live in Hans Crescent or Cadogan Gardens, or some
equally smart place, and send Alphonsine about her business for ever.

For the English maid and the French maid hated each other as
whole-heartedly as if Cressy or Agincourt had been fought yesterday.
Potts alluded to Alphonsine as 'that Frenchwoman,' and Alphonsine
spoke of Potts as 'l'Anglaise,' with a tone and look of withering
scorn, as if all English were nothing better than animals. Also she
disdained to understand a word of their 'abominable jargon'; and Potts
quietly called the French language 'frog-talk,' but spoke it quite
intelligibly, though without the least attempt at an accent.
Nevertheless, each of the two was devoted to Margaret, and they were
both such excellent servants that they never quarrelled or even
exchanged a rude word--to Margaret's knowledge. They treated each
other with almost exaggerated politeness, calling each other
respectively 'Meess' and 'Mamzell'; and if Alphonsine's black eyes
glared at Potts now and then, the English maid put on such an air of
sweetly serene unconsciousness as a woman of the world might have
envied.

The letter that had been torn up before it was finished was to have
gone to Lady Maud, but Margaret herself had been almost sure that she
would not send it, even while she was writing. She had poured out her
heart, now that she could do so with the consoling possibility of
destroying the confession before any one read it. She had made an
honest effort to get at the truth about herself by writing down all
she knew to be quite true, as if it were to go to her best friend; but
as soon as she realised that she had got to the end of her positive
knowledge and was writing fiction--which is what might be true, but is
not known to be--she had the weakness to tear up her letter, and to
call herself names for not knowing her own mind, as if every woman
did, or every man either.

She had written that she had done very wrong in engaging herself to
Logotheti; that was the 'wickedness' she accused herself of,
repeating the self-accusation to her astonished maid, because it was a
sort of relief to say the words to somebody. She had written that she
did not really care for him in that way; that when he was near she
could not resist a sort of natural attraction he had for her, but that
as soon as he was gone she felt it no longer and she wished he would
not come back; that his presence disturbed her and made her
uncomfortable, and, moreover, interfered with her art; but that she
had not the courage to tell him so, and wished that some one else
would do it for her; that he was not really the sort of man she could
ever be happy with; that her ideal of a husband was so and so, and
this and that--and here fiction had begun, and she had put a stop to
it by destroying the whole letter instead of crossing out a few
lines,--which was a pity; for if Lady Maud had received it, she would
have told Mr. Van Torp that he needed no help from her since Margaret
herself asked no better than to be freed from the engagement.

Logotheti did not come out to Versailles that afternoon, because he
was plentifully endowed with tact where women were concerned, and he
applied all the knowledge and skill he had to the single purpose of
pleasing Margaret. But before dinner he telephoned and asked to speak
with her, and this she could not possibly refuse. Besides, the day had
seemed long, and though she did not wish for his presence she wanted
something--that indescribable, mysterious something which disturbed
her and made her feel uncomfortable when she felt it, but which she
missed when she did not see him for a day or two.

'How are you?' asked his voice, and he ran on without waiting for an
answer. 'I hope you are not very tired after crossing yesterday. I
came by Boulogne--decent of me, wasn't it? You must be sick of seeing
me all the time, so I shall give you a rest for a day or two.
Telephone whenever you think you can bear the sight of me again, and
I'll be with you in thirty-five minutes. I shall not stir from home in
this baking weather. If you think I'm in mischief you're quite
mistaken, dear lady, for I'm up to my chin in work!'

'I envy you,' Margaret said, when he paused at last. 'I've nothing on
earth to do, and the piano here is out of tune. But you're quite
right, I don't want to see you a little bit, and I'm not jealous, nor
suspicious, nor anything disagreeable. So there!'

'How nice of you!'

'I'm very nice,' Margaret answered with laughing emphasis. 'I know it.
What sort of work are you doing? It's only idle curiosity, so don't
tell me if you would rather not! Have you got a new railway in Brazil,
or an overland route to the other side of beyond?'

'Nothing so easy! I'm brushing up my Tartar.'

'Brushing up what? I didn't hear.'

'Tartar--the Tartar language--T-a-r--'he began to spell the word.

'Yes, I hear now,' interrupted Margaret. 'But what in the world is
the use of knowing it? You must be awfully hard up for something to
do!'

'You can be understood from Constantinople to the Pacific Ocean if you
can speak Tartar,' Logotheti answered in a matter-of-fact tone.

'I daresay! But you're not going to travel from Constantinople to the
Pacific Ocean----'

'I might. One never can tell what one may like to do.'

'Oh, if it's because Tartar is useful "against the bites of sharks,"'
answered Margaret, quoting Alice, 'learn it by all means!'

'Besides, there are all sorts of people in Paris. I'm sure there must
be some Tartars. I might meet one, and it would be amusing to be able
to talk to him.'

'Nonsense! Why should you ever meet a Tartar? How absurd you are!'

'There's one with me now--close beside me, at my elbow.'

'Don't be silly, or I'll ring off.'

'If you don't believe me, listen!'

He said something in a language Margaret did not understand, and
another voice answered him at once in the same tongue. Margaret
started slightly and bent her brows with a puzzled and displeased
look.

'Is that your teacher?' she asked with more interest in her tone than
she had yet betrayed.

'Yes.'

'I begin to understand. Do you mind telling me how old she is?'

'It's not "she," it's a young man. I don't know how old he is. I'll
ask him if you like.'

Again she heard him speak a few incomprehensible words, which were
answered very briefly in the same tongue.

'He tells me he is twenty,' Logotheti said. 'He's a good-looking young
fellow. How is Mrs. Rushmore? I forgot to ask.'

'She's quite well, thank you. But I should like to know----'

'Will you be so very kind as to remember me to her, and to say that I
hope to find her at home the day after to-morrow?'

'Certainly. Come to-morrow if you like. But please tell me how you
happened to pick up that young Tartar. It sounds so interesting! He
has such a sweet voice.'

There was no reply to this question, and Margaret could not get
another word from Logotheti. The communication was apparently cut off.
She rang up the Central Office and asked for his number again, but the
young woman soon said that she could get no answer to the call, and
that something was probably wrong with the instrument of Number
One-hundred-and-six-thirty-seven.

Margaret was not pleased, and she was silent and absent-minded at
dinner and in the evening.

'It's the reaction after London,' she said with a smile, when Mrs.
Rushmore asked if anything was the matter. 'I find I am more tired
than I knew, now that it's all over.'

Mrs. Rushmore was quite of the same opinion, and it was still early
when she declared that she herself was sleepy and that Margaret had
much better go to bed and get a good night's rest.

But when the Primadonna was sitting before the glass and her maid was
brushing out her soft brown hair, she was not at all drowsy, and
though her eyes looked steadily at their own reflection in the mirror,
she was not aware that she saw anything.

'Potts,' she said suddenly, and stopped.

'Yes, ma'am?' answered the maid with meek interrogation, and without
checking the regular movement of the big brush.

But Margaret said no more for several moments. She enjoyed the
sensation of having her hair brushed; it made her understand exactly
how a cat feels when some one strokes its back steadily, and she could
almost have purred with pleasure as she held her handsome head back
and moved it a little in real enjoyment under each soft stroke.

'Potts,' she began again at last, 'you are not very imaginative, are
you?'

'No, ma'am,' the maid answered, because it seemed to be expected of
her, though she had never thought of the matter.

'Do you think you could possibly be mistaken about a voice, if you
didn't see the person who was speaking?'

'In what way, ma'am?'

'I mean, do you think you could take a man's voice for a woman's at a
distance?'

'Oh, I see!' Potts exclaimed. 'As it might be, at the telephone?'

'Well--at the telephone, if you like, or anywhere else. Do you think
you might?'

'It would depend on the voice, ma'am,' observed Potts, with caution.

'Of course it would,' assented Margaret rather impatiently.

'Well, ma'am, I'll say this, since you ask me. When I was last at home
I was mistaken in that way about my own brother, for I heard him
calling to me from downstairs, and I took him for my sister Milly.'

'Oh! That's interesting!' Margaret smiled. 'What sort of voice has
your brother? How old is he?'

'He's eight-and-twenty, ma'am; and as for his voice, he has a sweet
counter-tenor, and sings nicely. He's a song-man at the cathedral,
ma'am.'

'Really! How nice! Have you a voice too? Do you sing at all?'

'Oh, no, ma'am!' answered Potts in a deprecating tone. 'One in the
family is quite enough!'

Margaret vaguely wondered why, but did not inquire.

'You were quite sure that it was your brother who was speaking, I
suppose,' she said.

'Oh, yes, ma'am! I looked down over the banisters, and there he was!'

Margaret had the solid health of a great singer, and it would have
been a serious trouble indeed that could have interfered with her
unbroken and dreamless sleep during at least eight hours; but when she
closed her eyes that night she was quite sure that she could not have
slept at all but for Potts's comforting little story about the brother
with the 'counter-tenor' voice. Yet even so, at the moment before
waking in the morning, she dreamt that she was at the telephone again,
and that words in a strange language came to her along the wire in a
soft and caressing tone that could only be a woman's, and that for the
first time in all her life she knew what it was to be jealous. The
sensation was not an agreeable one.

The dream-voice was silent as soon as she opened her eyes, but she had
not been awake long without realising that she wished very much to see
Logotheti at once, and was profoundly thankful that she had torn up
her letter to Lady Maud. She was not prepared to admit, even now, that
Konstantin was the ideal she should have chosen for a husband, and
whom she had been describing from imagination when she had suddenly
stopped writing. But, on the other hand, the mere thought that he had
perhaps been amusing himself in the society of another woman all
yesterday afternoon made her so angry that she took refuge in trying
to believe that he had spoken the truth and that she had really been
mistaken about the voice.

It was all very well to talk about learning Tartar! How could she be
sure that it was not modern Greek, or Turkish? She could not have
known the difference. Was it so very unlikely that some charming
compatriot of his should have come from Constantinople to spend a few
weeks in Paris? She remembered the mysterious house in the Boulevard
Péreire where he lived, the beautiful upper hall where the statue of
Aphrodite stood, the doors that would not open like other doors, the
strangely-disturbing encaustic painting of Cleopatra in the
drawing-room--many things which she distrusted.

Besides, supposing that the language was really Tartar--were there not
Russians who spoke it? She thought there must be, because she had a
vague idea that all Russians were more or less Tartars. There was a
proverb about it. Moreover, to the English as well as to the French,
Russians represent romance and wickedness.

She would not go to the telephone herself, but she sent a message to
Logotheti, and he came out in the cool time of the afternoon. She
thought he had never looked so handsome and so little exotic since she
had known him. To please her he had altogether given up the terrific
ties, the lightning-struck waistcoats, the sunrise socks, and the
overpowering jewellery he had formerly affected, and had resigned
himself to the dictation of a London tailor, who told him what he
might, could, should, and must wear for each circumstance and hour of
daily life, in fine gradations, from deer-stalking to a royal
garden-party. The tailor, who dressed kings and made a specialty of
emperors, was a man of taste, and when he had worked on the Greek
financier for a few weeks the result was satisfactory; excepting for
his almond-shaped eyes no one could have told Logotheti from an
Englishman by his appearance, a fact which even Potts, who
disapproved of Margaret's choice, was obliged to admit.

Mrs. Rushmore was amazed and pleased.

'My dear,' she said afterwards to Margaret, 'what a perfectly
wonderful change! Think how he used to look! And now you might almost
take him for an American gentleman!'

He was received by Mrs. Rushmore and Margaret together, and he took
noticeable pains to make himself agreeable to the mistress of the
house. At first Margaret was pleased at this; but when she saw that he
was doing his best to keep Mrs. Rushmore from leaving the room, as she
probably would have done, Margaret did not like it. She was dying to
ask him questions about his lessons in Tartar, and especially about
his teacher, and she probably meant to cast her inquiries in such a
form as would make it preferable to examine him alone rather than
before Mrs. Rushmore; but he talked on and on, only pausing an instant
for the good lady's expressions of interest or approval. With
diabolical knowledge of her weakness he led the conversation to the
subject of political and diplomatic lions, and of lions of other
varieties, and made plans for bringing some noble specimens to tea
with her. She was not a snob; she distrusted foreign princes,
marquises, and counts, and could keep her head well in the presence of
an English peer; but lions were irresistible, and Logotheti offered
her a whole menagerie of them, and described their habits with
minuteness, if not with veracity.

He was telling her what a Prime Minister had told an Ambassador about
the Pope, when Margaret rose rather abruptly.

'I'm awfully sorry,' she said to Mrs. Rushmore, by way of apology,
'but I really must have a little air. I've not been out of the house
all day.'

Mrs. Rushmore understood, and was not hurt, though she was sorry not
to hear more. The 'dear child' should go out, by all means. Would
Monsieur Logotheti stay to dinner? No? She was sorry. She had
forgotten that she had a letter to write in time for the afternoon
post. So she went off and left the two together.

Margaret led the way out upon the lawn, and they sat down on garden
chairs under a big elm-tree. She said nothing while she settled
herself very deliberately, avoiding her companion's eyes till she was
quite ready, and then she suddenly looked at him with a sort of blank
stare that would have disconcerted any one less superlatively
self-possessed than he was. It was most distinctly Madame de Cordova,
the offended Primadonna, that spoke at last, and not Miss Margaret
Donne, the 'nice English girl.'

'What in the world has got into you?' she inquired in a chilly tone.

He opened his almond-shaped eyes a little wider, with an excellent
affectation of astonishment at her words and manner.

'Have I done anything you don't like?' he asked in a tone of anxiety
and concern. 'Was I rude to Mrs. Rushmore?'

Margaret looked at him a moment longer, and then turned her head away
in silence, as if scorning to answer such a silly question. The look
of surprise disappeared from his face, and he became very gloomy and
thoughtful but said nothing more. Possibly he had brought about
exactly what he wished, and was satisfied to await the inevitable
result. It came before long.

'I don't understand you at all,' Margaret said less icily, but with
the sad little air of a woman who believes herself misunderstood. 'It
was very odd yesterday, at the telephone, you know--very odd indeed. I
suppose you didn't realise it. And now, this afternoon, you have
evidently been doing your best to keep Mrs. Rushmore from leaving us
together. You would still be telling her stories about people if I
hadn't obliged you to come out!'

'Yes,' Logotheti asserted with exasperating calm and meekness, 'we
should still be there.'

'You did not want to be alone with me, I suppose. There's no other
explanation, and it's not a very flattering one, is it?'

'I never flatter you, dear lady,' said Logotheti gravely.

'But you do! How can you deny it? You often tell me that I make you
think of the Victory in the Louvre----'

'It's quite true. If the statue had a head it would be a portrait of
you.'

'Nonsense! And in your moments of enthusiasm you say that I sing
better than Madame Bonanni in her best days----'

'Yes. You know quite as much as she ever did, you are a much better
musician, and you began with a better voice. Therefore you sing
better. I maintain it.'

'You often maintain things you don't believe,' Margaret retorted,
though her manner momentarily relaxed a little.

'Only in matters of business,' answered the Greek with imperturbable
calm.

'Pray, is "learning Tartar" a matter of business?' Her eyes sparkled
angrily as she asked the question.

Logotheti smiled; she had reached the point to which he knew she must
come before long.

'Oh, yes!' he replied with alacrity. 'Of course it is.'

'That accounts for everything, since you are admitting that I need not
even try to believe it was a man whom I heard speaking.'

'To tell the truth, I have some suspicions about that myself,'
answered Logotheti.

'I have a great many.' Margaret laughed rather harshly. 'And you
behave as if you wanted me to have more. Who is this Eastern woman?
Come, be frank. She is some one from Constantinople, isn't she? A
Fanariote like yourself, I daresay--an old friend who is in Paris for
a few days, and would not pass through without seeing you. Say so, for
heaven's sake, and don't make such a mystery about it!'

'How very ingenious women are!' observed the Greek. 'If I had thought
of it I might have told you that story through the telephone
yesterday. But I didn't.'

Margaret was rapidly becoming exasperated, her eyes flashed, her firm
young cheeks reddened handsomely, and her generous lips made scornful
curves.

'Are you trying to quarrel with me?'

The words had a fierce ring; he glanced at her quickly and saw how
well her look agreed with her tone. She was very angry.

'If I were not afraid of boring you,' he said with quiet gravity, 'I
would tell you the whole story, but----' he pretended to hesitate.

He heard her harsh little laugh at once.

'Your worst enemy could not accuse you of being a bore!' she retorted.
'Oh, no! It's something quite different from boredom that I feel, I
assure you!'

'I wish I thought that you cared for me enough to be jealous,'
Logotheti said earnestly.

'Jealous!'

No one can describe the tone of indignant contempt in which a
thoroughly jealous woman disclaims the least thought of jealousy with
a single word; a man must have heard it to remember what it is like,
and most men have. Logotheti knew it well, and at the sound he put on
an expression of meek innocence which would have done credit to a cat
that had just eaten a canary.

'I'm so sorry,' he cried in a voice like a child's. 'I didn't mean to
make you angry, I was only wishing aloud. Please forgive me!'

'If your idea of caring for a woman is to make her jealous----'

This was such an obvious misinterpretation of his words that she
stopped short and bit her lip. He sighed audibly, as if he were very
sorry that he could do nothing to appease her, but this only made her
feel more injured. She made an effort to speak coldly.

'You seem to forget that so long as we are supposed to be engaged I
have some little claim to know how you spend your time!'

'I make no secret of what I do. That is why you were angry just now.
Nothing could have been easier than for me to say that I was busy with
one of the matters you suggested.'

'Oh, of course! Nothing could be easier than to tell me an untruth!'

This certainly looked like the feminine retort-triumphant, and
Margaret delivered it in a cutting tone.

'That is precisely what you seem to imply that I did,' Logotheti
objected. 'But if what I told you was untrue your argument goes to
pieces. There was no Tartar lesson, there was no Tartar teacher, and
it was all a fabrication of my own!'

'Just what I think!' returned Margaret. 'It was not Tartar you spoke,
and there was no teacher!'

'You have me there,' answered the Greek mildly, 'unless you would like
me to produce my young friend and talk to him before you in the
presence of witnesses who know his language.'

'I wish you would! I should like to see "him"! I should like to see
the colour of "his" eyes and hair!'

'Black as ink,' said Logotheti.

'And you'll tell me that "his" complexion is black too, no doubt!'

'Not at all; a sort of creamy complexion, I think, though I did not
pay much attention to his skin. He is a smallish chap, good-looking,
with hands and feet like a woman's. I noticed that. As I told you, a
doubt occurred to me at once, and I will not positively swear that it
is not a girl after all. He, or she, is really a Tartar from Central
Asia, and I know enough of the language to say what was necessary.'

'Necessary!'

'Yes. He--or she--came on a matter of business. What I said about a
teacher was mere nonsense. Now you know the whole thing.'

'Excepting what the business was,' Margaret said incredulously.

'The business was an uncut stone,' answered Logotheti with
indifference. 'He had one to sell, and I bought it. He was recommended
to me by a man in Constantinople. He came to Marseilles on a French
steamer with two Greek merchants who were coming to Paris, and they
brought him to my door. That is the whole story. And here is the ruby.
I bought it for you, because you like those things. Will you take it?'

He held out what looked like a little ball of white tissue-paper, but
Margaret turned her face from him.

'You treat me like a child!' she said.

To her own great surprise and indignation, her voice was unsteady and
she felt something burning in her eyes. She was almost frightened at
the thought that she might be going to cry, out of sheer
mortification.

Logotheti said nothing for a moment. He began to unroll the paper from
the precious stone, but changed his mind, wrapped it up again, and put
it back into his watch-pocket before he spoke.

'I did not mean it as you think,' he said softly.

She turned her eyes without moving her head, till she could just see
that he was leaning forward, resting his wrists on his knees, bending
his head, and apparently looking down at his loosely hanging hands.
His attitude expressed dejection and disappointment. She was glad of
it. He had no right to think that he could make her as angry as she
still was, angry even to tears, and then bribe her to smile again when
he was tired of teasing her. Her eyes turned away again, and she did
not answer him.

'I make mistakes sometimes,' he said, speaking still lower, 'I know I
do. When I am with you I cannot be always thinking of what I say. It's
too much to ask, when a man is as far gone as I am!'

'I should like to believe that,' Margaret said, without looking at
him.

'Is it so hard to believe?' he asked so gently that she only just
heard the words.

'You don't make it easy, you know,' said she with a little defiance,
for she felt that she was going to yield before long.

'I don't quite know how to. You're not in the least capricious--and
yet----'

'You're mistaken,' Margaret answered, turning to him suddenly. 'I'm
the most capricious woman in the world! Yesterday I wrote a long
letter to a friend, and then I suddenly tore it up--there were ever so
many pages! I daresay that if I had written just the same letter this
morning, I should have sent it. If that is not caprice, what is it?'

'It may have been wisdom to tear it up,' Logotheti suggested.

'I'm not sure. I never ask myself questions about what I do. I hate
people who are always measuring their wretched little souls and then
tinkering their consciences to make them fit! I don't believe I wish
to do anything really wrong, and so I do exactly what I like, always!'

Possibly she had forgotten that she had called herself a wicked woman
only yesterday; but that had been before the conversation at the
telephone.

'If you will only go on doing what you like,' Logotheti answered, 'it
will give me the greatest pleasure in the world to help you. I only
ask one kindness.'

'You have no right to ask me anything to-day. You've been quite the
most disagreeable person this afternoon that I ever met in my life.'

'I know I have,' Logotheti answered with admirable contrition. 'I'll
wait a day or two before I ask anything; perhaps you will have
forgiven me by that time.'

'I'm not sure. What was the thing you were going to ask?'

He was silent now that she wished to know his thought.

'Have you forgotten it already?' she inquired with a little laugh that
was encouraging rather than contemptuous, for her curiosity was
roused.

They looked at each other at last, and all at once she felt the deeply
disturbing sense of his near presence which she had missed for three
days, though she was secretly a little afraid and ashamed of it; and
to-day it had not come while her anger had lasted. But now it was
stronger than ever before, perhaps because it came so unexpectedly,
and it drew her to him, under the deep shadow of the elm-tree that
made strange reflections in their eyes--moving reflections of fire
when the lowering sun struck in between the leaves, and sudden, still
depths when the foliage stirred in the breeze and screened the
glancing ray.

He had played upon her moods for an hour, as a musician touches a
delicate and responsive instrument, and she had taken all for earnest
and had been angry and hurt, and was reconciled again at his will. Yet
he had not done it all to try his power over her, and surely not in
any careless contempt of her weaknesses. He cared for her in his way,
as he was able, and his love was great, if not of the most noble sort.
He was strong, and she waked his strength with fire; he worshipped
life, and her vital beauty thrilled the inner stronghold of his being;
when she moved, his passionate intuition felt and followed the lines
of her moving grace; if she rested, motionless and near him, his
waking dream enfolded her in a deep caress. He felt no high and mystic
emotion when he thought of her; he had never read of St. Clement's
celestial kingdom, where man and woman are to be one for ever, and
together neither woman nor man, for such a world could never seem
heavenly to him, whose love was altogether earthly. Yet it was Greek
love, not Roman; its deity was beauty, not lust; the tutelary goddess
of its temple was not Venus the deadly, the heavy-limbed, with a mouth
like a red wound and slumbrous, sombre eyes, but Cyprian Aphrodite,
immortal and golden, the very life of the sparkling sky itself sown in
the foam of the sea.

Between the two lies all the distance that separates gross idolatry
from the veneration of the symbol; the gulf that divides the animal
materialism of a twentieth-century rake from the half-divine dreams of
genius; the revolting coarseness of Catullus at his worst from himself
at his best, or from an epigram of Meleager or Antipater of Sidon; a
witty Greek comedy adapted by Plautus to the brutal humour of Rome
from Swinburne's immortal _Atalanta in Calydon_. Twenty-five centuries
of history, Hellenic, Byzantine and modern, have gone to make the
small band of cultivated Greeks of to-day what they are, two thousand
and five hundred years of astounding vicissitudes, of aristocracy,
democracy and despotism, of domination and subjection, mastery,
slavery and revolution, ending in freedom more than half regained. We
need not wonder why they are not like us, whose forefathers of a few
centuries ago were still fighting the elements for their existence,
and living and thinking like barbarians.

The eyes of the Greek and the great artist met, and they looked long
at one another in the shade of the elm-tree on the lawn, as the sun
was going down. Only a few minutes had passed since Margaret had been
very angry, and had almost believed that she was going to quarrel
finally, and break her engagement, and be free; and now she could not
even turn her face away, and when her hand felt his upon it, she let
him draw it slowly to him; and half unconsciously she followed her
hand, bending towards him sideways from her seat, nearer and nearer,
and very near.

And as she put up her lips to his, he would that she might drink his
soul from him at one deep draught--even as one of his people's poets
wished, in the world's spring-time, long ago.

It had been a strange love-making. They had been engaged during more
than two months, they were young, vital, passionate; yet they had
never kissed before that evening hour under the elm-tree at
Versailles. Perhaps it was for this that Konstantin had played, or at
least, for the certainty it meant to him, if he had doubted that she
was sincere.



CHAPTER IV


Without offending Mr. Van Torp, Lady Maud managed not to see him again
for some time, and when he understood, as he soon did, that this was
her wish, he made no attempt to force himself upon her. She was
probably thinking over what he had said, and in the end she would
exert her influence as he had begged her to do. He was thoroughly
persuaded that there was nothing unfair in his proposal and that, when
she was convinced that he was right, she would help him. In a
chequered career that had led to vast success, he had known people who
called themselves honest and respectable but who had done unpardonable
things for a hundredth part of what he offered. Like all real
financiers, he knew money as a force, not as a want, very much as any
strong working man knows approximately how much he can lift or carry,
and reckons with approximate certainty on his average strength. To
speak in his own language, Mr. Van Torp knew about how many
horse-power could be got out of any sum of money, from ten cents to
more millions than he chose to speak of in his own case.

And once more, before I go on with this tale, let me say that his
friendship for Lady Maud was so honest that he would never have asked
her to do anything he thought 'low down.' To paraphrase a wise saying
of Abraham Lincoln's, some millionaires mean to be bad all the time,
but are not, and some are bad all the time but do not mean to be, but
no millionaires mean to be bad all the time and really are. Rufus Van
Torp certainly did not mean to be, according to his lights, though in
his life he had done several things which he did not care to remember;
and the righteous had judged him with the ferocious integrity of men
who never take a penny unjustly nor give one away under any
circumstances.

But when he had taken the first step towards accomplishing his
purpose, he was very much at a loss as to the next, and he saw that he
had never undertaken anything so difficult since he had reorganised
the Nickel Trust, trebled the stock, cleared a profit of thirty
millions and ruined nobody but the small-fry, who of course deserved
it on the principle that people who cannot keep money ought not to
have any. Some unkind newspaper man had then nicknamed it the Brass
Trust, and had called him Brassy Van Torp; but it is of no use to
throw mud at the Golden Calf, for the dirt soon dries to dust and
falls off, leaving the animal as beautifully shiny as ever.

Mr. Van Torp did not quite see how he could immediately apply the
force of money to further his plans with effect. He knew his
adversary's financial position in Europe much too well to think of
trying to attack him on that ground; and besides, in his rough code
it would not be fair play to do that. It was 'all right' to ruin a
hostile millionaire in order to get his money. That was 'business.'
But to ruin him for the sake of a woman was 'low down.' It would be
much more 'all right' to shoot him, after fair and due warning, and to
carry off the lady. That was impossible in a civilised country, of
course; but as it occurred to him, while he was thinking, that he
might find it convenient to go somewhere in a hurry by sea, he bought
a perfectly new yacht that was for sale because the owner had died of
heart disease the week after she was quite ready to take him to the
Mediterranean. The vessel was at least as big as one of the ocean
liners of fifty years ago, and had done twenty-two and one-tenth knots
on her trial. Mr. Van Torp took her over as she was, with her
officers, crew, cook and stores, and rechristened her. She had been
launched as the _Alwayn_; he called her the _Lancashire Lass_--a bit
of sentiment on his part, for that was the name of a mare belonging to
Lady Maud's father, which he had once ridden bareback when he was in
an amazing hurry.

He had one interview with the Captain.

'See here, Captain,' he said, 'I may not want to take a trip this
season. I'm that sort of a man. I may or I may not. But if I do want
you, I'll want you quick. See?'

With the last word, he looked up suddenly, and the Captain 'saw,' for
he met a pair of eyes that astonished him.

'Yes, I see,' he answered mechanically.

'And if you're in one place with your boat, and I wire that I want you
in another, I'd like you to get there right away,' said Mr. Van Torp.

'Yes, sir.'

'They say she'll do twenty-two and a tenth,' continued the owner, 'but
when I wire I want you I'd like her to do as much more as she can
without bursting a lung. If you don't think you've got the kind of
engineer who'll keep her red-hot, tell me right off and we'll get
another. And don't you fuss about burning coal, Captain. And see that
the crew get all they can eat and not a drop of drink but tea and
coffee, and if you let 'em go on shore once in a way, see that they
come home right side up with care, Captain, and make each of 'em say
"truly rural" and "British Constitution" before he goes to bed, and if
he can't, you just unship him, or whatever you call it on a boat.
Understand, Captain?'

The Captain understood and kept his countenance.

'Now, I want to know one thing,' continued the new owner. 'What's the
nearest sea-port to Bayreuth, Bavaria?'

'Venice,' answered the Captain without the least hesitation, and so
quickly that Mr. Van Torp was immediately suspicious.

'If that's so, you're pretty smart,' he observed.

'You can telephone to Cook's office, sir, and ask them,' said the
Captain quietly.

The instrument was on the table at Mr. Van Torp's elbow. He looked
sharply at the Captain, as he unhooked the receiver and set it to his
ear. In a few seconds communication was given.

'Cook's office? Yes. Yes. This is Mr. Van Torp, Rufus Van Torp of New
York. Yes. I want to know what's the nearest sea-port to Bayreuth,
Bavaria. Yes. Yes. That's just what I want to know. Yes. I'll hold the
wire while you look it up.'

He was not kept waiting long.

'Venice, you say? You're sure you're right, I suppose? Yes. Yes. I was
only asking. No thank you. If I want a ticket I'll look in myself.
Much obliged. Good-bye.'

He hung the receiver in its place again, and turned to his Captain
with a different expression, in which admiration and satisfaction were
quite apparent.

'Well,' he said, 'you're right. It's Venice. I must say that, for an
Englishman, you're quite smart.'

The Captain smiled quietly, but did not think it worth while to
explain that the last owner with whom he had sailed had been
Wagner-mad and had gone to Bayreuth regularly. Moreover, he had judged
his man already.

'Am I to proceed to Venice at once, sir?' he asked.

'As quick as you can, Captain.'

The Englishman looked at his watch deliberately, and made a short
mental calculation before he said anything. It was eleven in the
morning.

'I can get to sea by five o'clock this afternoon, sir. Will that do?'

Mr. Van Torp was careful not to betray the least surprise.

'Yes,' he said, as if he were not more than fairly satisfied, 'that'll
do nicely.'

'Very well, sir, then I'll be off. It's about three thousand miles,
and she's supposed to do that at eighteen knots with her own coal. Say
eight days. But as this is her maiden trip we must make allowance for
having to stop the engines once or twice. Good-morning, sir.'

'Good-day, Captain. Get in some coal and provisions as soon as you
arrive in Venice. I may want to go to Timbuctoo, or to Andaman Islands
or something. I'm that sort of a man. I'm not sure where I'll go.
Good-bye.'

The Captain stopped at the first telegraph office on his way to the
Waterloo Station and telegraphed both to his chief engineer, Mr.
M'Cosh, and his chief mate, Mr. Johnson, for he thought it barely
possible that one or the other might be ashore.

'Must have steam by 4 P.M. to-day to sail at once long voyage. Coming
next train. Owner in hurry. Send ashore for my wash. Brown, Captain.'

When the clocks struck five on shore that afternoon, and the man at
the wheel struck two bells from the wheel-house, and the look-out
forward repeated them on the ship's bell, all according to the most
approved modern fashion on large steamers, the beautiful _Lancashire
Lass_ was steaming out upon Southampton Water.

Out of the merest curiosity Mr. Van Torp telegraphed to Cowes to be
informed of the exact moment at which his yacht was under way, and
before six o'clock he had a message.

'Yacht sailed at four thirty-nine.'

The new owner was so much pleased that he actually smiled, for Captain
Brown had been twenty-one minutes better than his word.

'I guess he'll do,' thought Mr. Van Torp. 'I only hope I may need
him.'

He was not at all sure that he should need the _Lancashire Lass_ and
Captain Brown; but it has often been noticed that in the lives of born
financiers even their caprices often turn out to their advantage, and
that their least logical impulses in business matters are worth more
than the sober judgment of ordinary men.

As for Captain Brown, he was a quiet little person with a rather pink
face and sparkling blue eyes, and he knew his business. In fact he had
passed as Extra Master. He knew that he was in the service of one of
the richest men in the world, and that he commanded a vessel likely to
turn out one of the finest yachts afloat, and he did not mean to lose
such a berth either by piling up his ship, or by being slow to do
whatever his owner wished done, within the boundaries of the possible;
but it had not occurred to him that his owner might order him to
exceed the limits of anything but mere possibility, such, for
instance, as those of the law, civil, criminal, national, or
international.

Mr. Van Torp had solid nerves, but when he had sent his yacht to the
only place where he thought he might possibly make use of it, he
realised that he was wasting valuable time while Logotheti was making
all the running, and his uncommon natural energy, finding nothing to
work upon as yet, made him furiously impatient. It seemed to hum and
sing in his head, like the steam in an express engine when it is
waiting to start.

He had come over to England on an impulse, as soon as he had heard of
Cordova's engagement. Until then he had not believed that she would
ever accept the Greek, and when he learned from Lady Maud's letter
that the fact was announced, he 'saw red,' and his resolution to
prevent the marriage was made then and there. He had no idea how he
should carry it out, but he knew that he must either succeed or come
to grief in the attempt, for as long as he had any money left, or any
strength, he would spend both lavishly for that one purpose.

Yet he did not know how to begin, and his lack of imagination
exasperated him beyond measure. He was sleepless and lost his
appetite, which had never happened to him before; he stayed on in
London instead of going down to his place in Derbyshire, because he
was always sure that he meant to start for the Continent in a few
hours, with an infallible plan for success; but he did not go.

The most absurd schemes suggested themselves. He was disgusted with
what he took for his own stupidity, and he tried to laugh at the
sentimental vein that ran through all his thoughts as the thread
through a string of beads. He grew hot and cold as he recalled the
time when he had asked Margaret to marry him, and he had frightened
her and she had fled and locked herself into her own room; his heart
beat faster when he thought of certain kindly words she had said to
him since then, and on which he built up a great hope now, though they
had meant nothing more to her than a general forgiveness, where she
really had very little to forgive. A genuine offer of marriage from a
millionaire is not usually considered an insult, but since she had
chosen to look at it in that light, he was humble enough to be
grateful for her pardon. If he had not been so miserably in love he
would have been even more amazed and alarmed at his own humility, for
he had not shown signs of such weakness before. In a life which had
been full of experience, though it was not yet long, he had convinced
himself that the 'softening' which comes with years, and of which kind
people often speak with so much feeling, generally begins in the
brain; and the thought that he himself was growing less hard than he
had been, already filled him with apprehension. He asked himself why
he had withdrawn from the Nickel Trust, unless it was because his
faculties were failing prematurely. At the mere thought, he craved the
long-familiar excitement of making money, and risking it, and he
wished he had a railway or a line of steamers to play with; since he
could not hit upon the scheme for which he was racking his brains. For
once in his life, too, he felt lonely, and to make it worse he had not
received a line from his friend Lady Maud since she had abruptly left
him in her own drawing-room. He wondered whether she had yet made up
her mind to help him.

He was living in a hotel in London, though he did not like it.
Americans, as a rule, would a little rather live in hotels than in
houses of their own, perhaps because it is less trouble and no dearer,
at least not in American cities. Housekeeping in New York can be done
with less risk by a company than by an individual, for companies do
not succumb to nervous prostration, whatever may happen to their
employees.

But Mr. Van Torp was an exception to the rule, for he liked privacy,
and even solitude, and though few men were better able to face a
newspaper reporter in fair fight, he very much preferred not to be
perpetually on the look-out lest he should be obliged to escape by
back stairs and side doors, like a hunted thief. He felt safer from
such visits in London than in New York or Paris, but only relatively
so.

He was meditating on the future one morning, over an almost untouched
breakfast, between nine and ten o'clock, when his man Stemp brought a
visiting card.

'Reporter?' he inquired, without looking up, as he leaned far back in
his chair, his gaze riveted on the cold buttered toast.

'No, sir. It's some sort of a foreigner, and he talks a heathen
language.'

'Oh, he does, does he?' The question was asked in a tone of far-away
indifference.

'Yes, sir.'

A long silence followed. Mr. Van Torp still stared at the buttered
toast and appeared to have forgotten all about the card. Stemp
endeavoured very tactfully to rouse him from his reverie.

'Shall I get you some more hot toast, sir?' he inquired very gently.

'Toast? No. No toast.'

He did not move; his steady gaze did not waver. Stemp waited a long
time, motionless, with his little salver in his hand. At last Van Torp
changed his position, threw his head so far back that it rested on the
top of the chair, thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his
trousers and stared at the ceiling as intently as he had gazed at the
plate. Then he spoke to his man again.

'Stemp.'

'Yes, sir.'

'What do you suppose that fellow wants, now, Stemp? Do you suppose he
thinks I speak his heathen language? What does he come bothering me
for? What's the good?'

'Well, sir,' answered Stemp, 'I can't quite say, but I believe there's
something written on the card if you care to look at it, sir, and he
has a person with him that speaks a little English. Shall I throw him
out, sir?'

Stemp asked the question with such perfect gravity that, being an
Englishman, he might very well have been thought to mean the words
literally. But he did not. He merely adopted Mr. Van Torp's usual way
of expressing that the master was not at home.

'I'll look at the card, anyway.'

He stretched out one hand without turning his eyes towards it; the
careful Stemp promptly brought the little salver into contact with the
large fingers, which picked up the card and raised it deliberately to
the line of vision. By this means Mr. Van Torp saved himself the
trouble of turning his head.

It was a rather large card, bearing in the middle two or three
odd-looking signs which meant nothing to him, but underneath them he
read in plain characters the single work 'Barak.'

'Barrack!' grumbled the American. 'Rubbish! Why not "teapot," or
"rocking-horse," or anything else that's appropriate?'

As he paused for an answer, Stemp ventured to speak.

'Can't say, sir. P'rhaps it's the only word he knows, sir, so he's had
it printed.'

Van Torp turned his head at last, and his eyes glared unpleasantly as
he examined his valet's face. But the Englishman's features were
utterly impassive; if they expressed anything it was contempt for the
heathen person outside, who only knew one word of English.

Mr. Van Torp seemed satisfied and glanced at the card again.

'I guess you didn't mean to be funny,' he said, as if acknowledging
that he had made a mistake.

'Certainly not, sir,' answered Stemp, drawing himself up with an air
of injured pride, for he felt that his professional manners were
suspected, if not actually criticised.

'That's all right,' observed Mr. Van Torp, turning the card over. 'Oh,
the writing's on the back, I see. Yes. Now, that's very curious, I
must say,' he said, after reading the words. 'That's very curious,' he
repeated, laying strong and equal emphasis on the last two words. 'Ask
him to walk in, Stemp.'

'Yes, sir. With the man who speaks English for him, I suppose, sir?'

'No. He can wait outside till I want him, and you can go away too.
I'll see the man alone.'

'Very good, sir.'

As the valet went out Mr. Van Torp turned his chair half round without
getting up, so that he sat facing the door. A moment later Stemp had
ushered in the visitor, and was gone.

A slim youth came forward without boldness, but without the least
timidity, as if he were approaching an equal. He had an oval face, no
moustache, a complexion like cream, short and thick black hair and
very clear dark eyes that met the American's fearlessly. He was under
the average height, and he wore rather thin, loose grey clothes that
had been made by a good tailor. His hands and feet were smaller than a
European's.

'So you're Mr. Barrack,' Mr. Van Torp said, nodding pleasantly.

The young face smiled, and the parted lips showed quite perfect
teeth.

'Barak,' answered the young man, giving the name the right sound.

'Yes, I understand, but I can't pronounce it like you. Take a chair,
Mr. Barrack, and draw up to the table.'

The young man understood the gesture that explained the speech and sat
down.

'So you're a friend of Mr. Logotheti's, and he advised you to come to
me? Understand? Logotheti of Paris.'

Barak smiled again, and nodded quickly as he recognised the name. The
American watched his face attentively.

'All right,' he continued. 'You can trot out your things now, right on
the table-cloth here.'

He had seen enough of Indians and Mexicans in his youth to learn the
simple art of using signs, and he easily made his meaning clear to his
visitor. Barak produced a little leathern bag, not much bigger than an
ordinary purse, and fastened with thin thongs, which he slowly untied.
Mr. Van Torp watched the movements of the delicate fingers with great
interest, for he was an observant man.

'With those hands,' he silently reflected, 'it's either a lady or a
thief, or both.'

Barak took several little twists of tissue paper from the bag, laid
them in a row on the table-cloth, and then began to open them one by
one. Each tiny parcel contained a ruby, and when the young man counted
them there were five in all, and they were fine stones if they were
genuine; but Mr. Van Torp was neither credulous nor easily surprised.
When Barak looked to see what impression he had produced on such a
desirable buyer, he was disappointed.

'Nice,' said the American carelessly; 'nice rubies, but I've seen
better. I wonder if they're real, anyway. They've found out how to
make them by chemistry now, you know.'

But Barak understood nothing, of course, beyond the fact that Mr. Van
Torp seemed indifferent, which was a common trick of wily customers;
but there was something about this one's manner that was not assumed.
Barak took the finest of the stones with the tips of his slender young
fingers, laid it in the palm of his other hand, and held it under Mr.
Van Torp's eyes, looking at him with an inquiring expression. But the
American shook his head.

'No rubies to-day, thank you,' he said.

Barak nodded quietly, and at once began to wrap up the stones, each in
its own bit of paper, putting the twists back into the bag one by one.
Then he drew the thongs together and tied them in a neat sort of knot
which Mr. Van Torp had never seen. The young man then rose to go, but
the millionaire stopped him.

'Say, don't go just yet. I'll show you a ruby that'll make you sit
up.'

He rose as he spoke, and Barak understood his smile and question, and
waited. Mr. Van Torp went into the next room, and came back almost
immediately, bringing a small black morocco case, which he set on the
table and unlocked with a little key that hung on his watch-chain. He
was not fond of wearing jewellery, and the box held all his
possessions of that sort, and was not full. There were three or four
sets of plain studs and links; there were half a dozen very big gold
collar-studs; there was a bit of an old gold chain, apparently cut off
at each end, and having one cheap little diamond set in each link; and
there was a thin old wedding-ring that must have been a woman's;
besides a few other valueless trinkets, all lying loose and in
confusion. Mr. Van Torp shook the box a little, poked the contents
about with one large finger, and soon found an uncut red stone about
the size of a hazel-nut, which he took out and placed on the white
cloth before his visitor.

'Now that's what I call a ruby,' he said, with a smile of
satisfaction. 'Got any like that, young man? Because if you have I'll
talk to you, maybe. Yes,' he continued, watching the Oriental's face,
'I told you I'd make you sit up. But I didn't mean to scare you
bald-headed. What's the matter with you, anyway? Your eyes are popping
out of your head. Do you feel as if you were going to have a fit? I
say! Stemp!'

Barak was indeed violently affected by the sight of the uncut ruby,
and his face had changed in a startling way; a great vein like a
whipcord suddenly showed itself on his smooth forehead straight up and
down; his lids had opened so wide that they uncovered the white of the
eye almost all round the iris; he was biting his lower lip so that it
was swollen and blood-red against the little white teeth; and a moment
before Mr. Van Torp had called out to his servant, the young man had
reeled visibly, and would perhaps have collapsed if the American had
not caught the slender waist and supported the small head against his
shoulder with his other hand.

Stemp was not within hearing. He had been told to go away, and he had
gone, and meant to be rung for when he was wanted, for he had suffered
a distinct slight in being suspected of a joke. Therefore Mr. Van Torp
called to him in vain, and meanwhile stood where he was with his arm
round Barak, and Barak's head on his shoulder; but as no one came at
his call, he lifted the slim figure gently and carried it towards the
sofa, and while he was crossing the large room with his burden the
palpable truth was forced upon him that his visitor's slimness was
more apparent than real, and an affair of shape rather than of pounds.
Before he had quite reached the lounge, however, Barak stirred,
wriggled in his arms, and sprang to the floor and stood upright,
blinking a little, like a person waking from a dream, but quite
steady, and trying to smile in an apologetic sort of way, though
evidently still deeply disturbed. Mr. Van Torp smiled, too, as if to
offer his congratulations on the quick recovery.

'Feel better now?' he inquired in a kindly tone, and nodded. 'I wonder
what on earth you're up to, young lady?' he soliloquised, watching
Barak's movements.

He was much too cautious and wise to like being left alone for many
minutes with a girl, and a good-looking one, who went about London
dressed in men's clothes and passed herself for a ruby merchant. Mr.
Van Torp was well aware that he was not a safe judge of precious
stones, that the rubies he had seen might very well be imitation, and
that the girl's emotion at the sight of the rough stone might be only
a piece of clever acting, the whole scene having been planned by a
gang of thieves for the purpose of robbing him of that very ruby,
which was worth a large sum, even in his estimation; for it was nearly
the counterpart of the one he had given Lady Maud, though still uncut.

Therefore he returned to the table and slipped the gem into his pocket
before going to the door to see whether Stemp was within hail.

But Barak now understood what he was going to do, and ran before him,
and stood before the door in an attitude which expressed entreaty so
clearly that Mr. Van Torp was puzzled.

'Well,' he said, standing still and looking into the beautiful
imploring eyes, 'what on earth do you want now, Miss Barrack? Try and
explain yourself.'

A very singular conversation by signs now began.

Barak pointed to the waistcoat-pocket into which he had put the stone.
The matter concerned that, of course, and Van Torp nodded. Next,
though after considerable difficulty, she made him understand that she
was asking how he had got it, and when this was clear, he answered by
pretending to count out coins with his right hand on the palm of his
left to explain that he had bought it. There was no mistaking this,
and Barak nodded quickly and went on to her next question. She wanted
to know what kind of man had sold him the ruby. She improvised a
pretty little dumb show in which she represented the seller and Mr.
Van Torp the buyer of the ruby, and then by gestures she asked if the
man who sold it was tall.

Van Torp raised his hand several inches higher than his own head. He
had bought the ruby from a very tall man. Putting both hands to her
chin and then drawing them down as if stroking a long beard, she
inquired if the man had one, and again the answer was affirmative. She
nodded excitedly and pointed first to Van Torp's sandy hair and then
to her own short black locks. The American pointed to his own, and
then touched his watch-chain and smiled. The man's hair was fair, and
even golden. By a similar process she ascertained that his eyes were
blue and not black, and her excitement grew. Last of all she tried to
ask where the man was, but it was some time before she could make Mr.
Van Torp understand what she meant. As if to help her out of her
difficulty, the sun shone through the clouds at that moment and
streamed into the room; she pointed to it at once, turned her back to
it, and then held out her right hand to indicate the east, and her
left to the west.

'Oh, yes,' said Van Torp, who had seen Indians do the same thing, 'it
was west of here that I bought it of him, a good way west.'

He pointed in that direction, and thrust out his arm as if he would
make it reach much further if he could. At this Barak looked deeply
disappointed. Several times, to show that she meant London, or at
least England, she pointed to the floor at her feet and looked
inquiringly at Van Torp, but he shook his head and pointed to the
west again, and made a gesture that meant crossing something. He spoke
to her as if she could understand.

'I've got your meaning,' he said. 'You're after the big man with the
yellow beard, who is selling rubies from the same place, and has very
likely gone off with yours. He looked like a bad egg in spite of his
handsome face.'

He turned his eyes thoughtfully to the window. Barak plucked gently at
his sleeve and pretended to write in the palm of her left hand, and
then went through all the descriptive gestures again, and then once
more pretended to write, and coaxingly pushed him towards a little
table on which she saw writing materials.

'You'd like to have his address, would you, Miss Barrack? I wonder why
you don't call in your interpreter and tell me so. It would be much
simpler than all this dumb crambo.'

Once more he made a step towards the door, but she caught at his
sleeve, and entreated him in her own language not to call any one; and
her voice was so deliciously soft and beseeching that he yielded, and
sat down at the small table and wrote out an address from memory. He
handed her the half-sheet of paper when he had dried the writing and
had looked over it carefully.

'Poor little thing!' he said in a tone of pity. 'If you ever find him
he'll eat you.'

  [Illustration: "'You want my blessing, do you, Miss Barrack?'"]

Barak again showed signs of great emotion when she put the address
into an inside pocket of her man's coat, but it was not of the same
kind as before. She took Van Torp's big hand in both her own, and,
bending down, she laid it on her head, meaning that he might
dispose of her life ever afterwards. But he did not understand.

'You want my blessing, do you, Miss Barrack? Some people don't think
Brassy Van Torp's blessing worth much, young lady, but you're welcome
to it, such as it is.'

He patted her thick hair and smiled as she looked up, and her eyes
were dewy with tears.

'That's all right, my dear,' he said. 'Don't cry!'

She smiled too, because his tone was kind, and, standing up, she took
out her little leathern bag again quickly, emptied the twists of paper
into her hand, selected one by touch, and slipped the rest back. She
unwrapped a large stone and held it up to the light, turning it a
little as she did so. Van Torp watched her with curiosity, and with an
amused suspicion that she had perhaps played the whole scene in order
to mollify him and induce him to buy something. So many people had
played much more elaborate tricks in the hope of getting money from
him, and the stones might be imitations after all, in spite of
Logotheti's pencilled line of recommendation.

But Barak's next action took Van Torp by surprise. To his amazement,
she pressed the ruby lightly to her heart, then to her lips, and last
of all to her forehead, and before he knew what she was doing she had
placed it in his right hand and closed his fingers upon it. It was a
thank-offering.

'Nonsense!' objected the millionaire, smiling, but holding out the
stone to her. 'It's very sweet of you, but you don't mean it, and I
don't take presents like that. Why, it's worth a thousand pounds in
Bond Street any day!'

But she put her hands behind her back and shook her head, to show that
she would not take it back. Then with her empty hand she again touched
her heart, her lips, and forehead, and turned towards the door.

'Here, stop!' said Mr. Van Torp, going after her. 'I can't take this
thing! See here, I say! Put it back into your pocket!'

She turned and met him, and made a gesture of protest and entreaty, as
if earnestly begging him to keep the gem. He looked at her keenly, and
he was a judge of humanity, and saw that she was hurt by his refusal.
As a last resource, he took out his pocket-book and showed her a
quantity of folded bank-notes.

'Well,' he said, 'since you insist, Miss Barrack, I'll buy the stone
of you, but I'll be everlastingly jiggered if I'll take it for
nothing.'

Barak's eyes suddenly flashed in a most surprising way, her lower lip
pouted, and her cheek faintly changed colour, as a drop of scarlet
pomegranate juice will tinge a bowl of cream.

She made one step forwards, plucked the stone from his fingers, rather
than took it, and with a quick, but girlishly awkward movement, threw
it towards the window as hard as she could, stamping angrily with her
little foot at the same moment. Mr. Van Torp was extremely
disconcerted, as he sometimes was by the sudden actions of the sex he
did not understand. Fortunately the stone hit the wall instead of
going out of the window.

'I'm really very sorry, Miss Barrack,' he said in a tone of humble
apology, and he went quickly and picked up the gem. 'I hadn't quite
understood, you see.'

She watched him, and drew back instinctively towards the door, as if
expecting that he would again try to give it back to her. But he shook
his head now, bowed with all the grace he could affect, which was
little, and by way of making her feel that he accepted the gift, he
pressed it to his heart, as she had done, and to his lips, but not to
his forehead, because he was afraid that might cause some new mistake,
as he did not know what the gesture meant.

Barak's face changed instantly; she smiled, nodded, and waved her hand
to him, to say that it was all right, and that she was quite
satisfied. Then she made a sort of salute that he thought very
graceful indeed, as if she were taking something from near the floor
and laying it on her forehead, and she laughed softly and was out of
the room and had shut the door before he could call her back again.

He stood still in the middle of the room, looking at the gem in his
hand with an expression of grave doubt.

'Well,' he said to himself, and his lips formed the words, though no
sound articulated them, 'that's a queer sort of a morning's work,
anyway.'

He reflected that the very last thing he had ever expected was a
present of a fine ruby from a pretty heathen girl in man's clothes,
recommended to him by Logotheti. Though he almost laughed at the
thought when it occurred to him, he did not like the idea of keeping
the stone; yet he did not know what to do with it, for it was more
than probable that he was never to see Barak again, and if he ever
did, it was at least likely that she would refuse to take back her
gift, and as energetically as on the first occasion.

At that moment it occurred to him that he might sell it to a dealer
and give the proceeds to Lady Maud for her good work. His
recollections of Sunday School were very misty, poor man, but a story
came back to him about some one who had observed that something
valuable might have been sold and the money given to the poor. If he
had remembered the rest, and especially that the person who made the
suggestion had been Judas Iscariot, he would certainly have hesitated,
for he would have been sure that there was something wrong with any
advice that came from that quarter. But, happily for the poor, the
name of Judas had dropped out of his memory in connexion with the
incident.

'At least it will do some good to somebody, and I shall not be keeping
what I've no right to.'

A mere acquaintance, judging him by his hard face and his
extraordinary financial past, would not have believed that such a
simple and highly moral reflexion could occur to him. But Lady Maud,
who knew him, would have given him credit for this and much more, even
though she felt that he had lately tempted her to do something which
her father would call dishonourable, and that the temptation had not
yet quite taken itself off to the bottomless pit, where temptations
are kept in pickle by the devil's housekeeper.

Mr. Van Torp took his hat and gloves, but as he was really a good
American, he had no stick to take; and he went out without even
telling Stemp that he was going. In spite of what Londoners were
calling the heat, he walked, and did not even feel warm; for in the
first place he had lately come from Washington and New York, where a
Hottentot would be very uncomfortable in July, and, moreover, he had
never been at all sensitive to heat or cold, and lived as soberly as
an Arab in the desert. Therefore London seemed as pleasantly cool to
him with the thermometer at eighty as it seems to a newly landed
Anglo-Indian who has lately seen the mercury at a hundred and
thirty-five on the shady side of the verandah.

He walked up at a leisurely pace from his hotel by the river to
Piccadilly and Bond Street, and he entered a jeweller's shop of modest
appearance but ancient reputation, which had been in the same place
for nearly a century, and had previously been on the other side of the
street.

Outside, two well-dressed men were looking at the things in the
window; within, a broad-shouldered, smart-looking man with black hair
and dressed in perfectly new blue serge was sitting by the counter
with his back to the door, talking with the old jeweller himself. He
turned on the chair when he heard the newcomer's step, and Mr. Van
Torp found himself face to face with Konstantin Logotheti, whom he had
supposed to be in Paris.

'Well,' he said, without betraying the surprise he felt, 'this is
what I call a very pleasant accident, Mr. Logotheti.'

The Greek rose and shook hands, and the American did not fail to
observe on the counter a small piece of tissue paper on which lay an
uncut stone, much larger than the one he had in his pocket.

'If you are in any hurry,' said Logotheti politely, 'I don't mind
waiting in the least. Mr. Pinney and I are in the midst of a
discussion that may never end, and I believe neither of us has
anything in the world to do.'

Mr. Pinney smiled benignly and put in a word in the mercantile plural,
which differs from that of royalty in being used every day.

'The truth is, we are not very busy just at this time of the year,' he
said.

'That's very kind of you, Mr. Logotheti,' said Van Torp, answering the
latter, 'but I'm not really in a hurry, thank you.'

The stress he laid on the word 'really' might have led one to the
conclusion that he was pretending to be, but was not. He sat down
deliberately at a little distance, took off his hat, and looked at the
gem on the counter.

'I don't know anything about such things, of course,' he said in a
tone of reflexion, 'but I should think that was quite a nice ruby.'

Again Mr. Pinney smiled benignly, for Mr. Van Torp had dealt with him
for years.

'It's a very fine stone indeed, sir,' he said, and then turned to
Logotheti again. 'I think we can undertake to cut it for you in
London,' he said. 'I will weigh it and give you a careful estimate.'

As a matter of fact, before Van Torp entered, Logotheti had got so far
as the question of setting the gem for a lady's ring, but Mr. Pinney,
like all the great jewellers, was as discreet and tactful as a
professional diplomatist. How could he be sure that one customer might
like another to know about a ring ordered for a lady? If Logotheti
preferred secrecy, he would only have to assent and go away, as if
leaving the ruby to be cut, and he could look in again when it was
convenient; and this was what he at once decided to do.

'I think you're right, Mr. Pinney,' he said. 'I shall leave it in your
hands. That's really all,' he added, turning to Mr. Van Torp.

'Really? My business won't take long either, and we'll go together, if
you like, and have a little chat. I only came to get another of those
extra large collar-studs you make for me, Mr. Pinney. Have you got
another?'

'We always keep them in stock for your convenience, sir,' answered the
famous jeweller, opening a special little drawer behind the counter
and producing a very small morocco case.

Mr. Van Torp did not even open it, and had already laid down the
money, for he knew precisely what it cost.

'Thanks,' he said. 'You're always so obliging about little things, Mr.
Pinney.'

'Thank you, sir. We do our best. Good-morning, sir, good morning.'

The two millionaires went out together. Two well-dressed men stood
aside to let them pass and then entered the shop.

'Which way?' asked Logotheti.

'Your way,' answered the American. 'I've nothing to do.'

'Nor have I,' laughed the Greek. 'Nothing in the world! What can
anybody find to do in London at this time of year?'

I'm sure I don't know,' echoed Van Torp, pleasantly. 'I supposed you
were on the Continent somewhere.'

'And I thought you were in America, and so, of course, we meet at old
Pinney's in London!'

'Really! Did you think I was in America? Your friend, the heathen girl
in boy's clothes, brought me your card this morning. I supposed you
knew I was here.'

'No, but I thought you might be, within six months, and I gave her
several cards for people I know. So she found you out! She's a born
ferret--she would find anything. Did you buy anything of her?'

'No. I'm not buying rubies to-day. Much obliged for sending her, all
the same. You take an interest in her, I suppose, Mr. Logotheti? Is
that so?'

'I?' Logotheti laughed a little. 'No, indeed! Those days were over
long ago. I'm engaged to be married.'

'By the bye, yes. I'd heard that, and I meant to congratulate you. I
do now, anyway. When is it to be? Settled that yet?'

'Some time in October, I think. So you guessed that Barak is a girl.'

'Yes, that's right. I guessed she was. Do you know anything about
her?'

'What she told me. But it may not be true.'

'Told you? Do you mean to say you understand her language?'

'Oh, yes. Tartar is spoken all over the East, you know. It's only a
sort of simplified Turkish, and I picked it up in the Crimea and the
Caucasus when I was travelling there some years ago. She comes from
some place in Central Asia within a possible distance of Samarkand and
the Transcaucasian railway, for that was the way she ultimately got to
the Caspian and to Tiflis, and then to Constantinople and Paris. How a
mere girl, brought up in a Tartar village, could have made such a
journey safely, carrying a small fortune with her in precious stones,
is something nobody can understand who has not lived in the East,
where anything is possible. A woman is practically sacred in a
Mohammedan country. Any man who molests her stands a good chance of
being torn to ribands by the other men.'

'It used to be something like that in the West, when I punched
cattle,' observed Mr. Van Torp, quietly. 'A man who interfered with a
lady there was liable to get into trouble. Progress works both ways,
up and down, doesn't it? Bears at one end and rots at the other. Isn't
that so?'

'It's just as true of civilisation,' answered the Greek.

'They're the same thing, I should say,' objected Mr. Van Torp.

'Oh, not quite, I think!'

Logotheti smiled at his own thoughts. To his thinking, civilisation
meant an epigram of Meleager, or Simonides' epitaph on the Spartans
who fell at Thermopylæ, or a Tragedy of Sophocles, or the Aphrodite of
Syracuse, or the Victory of the Louvre. Progress meant railways, the
Paris Bourse, the Nickel Trust, and Mr. Van Torp.

'Well,' said the latter, 'you were telling me about Miss Barrack.'

'Is that what you call her?' Logotheti laughed lightly.

He seemed to be in very good humour. Men often are, just before
marriage; and sometimes, it is said, when they are on the eve of great
misfortunes which they cannot possibly foresee. Fate loves unexpected
contrasts. Logotheti told his companion the story of the ruby mine,
substantially as it was narrated at the beginning of this tale, not
dreaming that Van Torp had perhaps met and talked with the man who had
played so large a part in it, and to find whom Baraka had traversed
many dangers and overcome many difficulties.

'It sounds like the _Arabian Nights_,' said Mr. Van Torp, as if he
found it hard to believe.

'Exactly,' assented Logotheti. 'And, oddly enough, the first of these
stories is about Samarkand, which is not so very far from Baraka's
native village. It seems to have taken the girl about a year to find
her way to Constantinople, and when she got there she naturally
supposed that it was the capital of the world, and that her man, being
very great and very rich, thanks to her, must of course live there. So
she searched Stamboul and Pera for him, during seven or eight months.
She lived in the house of a good old Persian merchant, under the
protection of his wife, and learned that there was a world called
Europe where her man might be living, and cities called Paris and
London, where people pay fabulous prices for precious stones. Persian
merchants are generally well-educated men, you know. At last she made
up her mind to dress like a man, she picked up an honest Turkish
man-servant who had been all over Europe with a diplomatist and could
speak some French and English as well as Tartar, she got a letter of
recommendation to me from a Greek banker, through the Persian who did
business with him, joined some Greeks who were coming to Marseilles by
sea, and here she is. Now you know as much as I do. She is perfectly
fearless, and as much more sure of herself than any man ever was, as
some young women can be in this queer world. Of course, she'll never
find the brute who thought he was leaving her to be murdered by her
relations, but if she ever did, she would either marry him or cut his
throat.'

'Nice, amiable kind of girl,' remarked Mr. Van Torp, who remembered
her behaviour when he had refused her proffered gift. 'That's very
interesting, Mr. Logotheti. How long do you count on being in London
this time? Three or four days, maybe?'

'I daresay. No longer, I fancy.'

'Why don't you come and take dinner with me some night?' asked the
American. 'Day after to-morrow, perhaps. I'd be pleased to have you.'

'Thank you very much,' Logotheti answered. 'Since you ask me, I see no
reason why I should not dine with you, if you want me.'

They agreed upon the place and hour, and each suddenly remembered an
engagement.

'By the way,' said Mr. Van Torp without apparent interest, 'I hope
Madame Cordova is quite well? Where's she hiding from you?'

'Just now the hiding-place is Bayreuth. She's gone there with Mrs.
Rushmore to hear _Parsifal_. I believe I'm not musical enough for
that, so I'm roving till it's over. That's my personal history at this
moment! And Miss Donne is quite well, I believe, thank you.'

'I notice you call her "Miss Donne" when you speak of her,' said Van
Torp. 'Excuse me if I made a mistake just now. I've always called her
Madame Cordova.'

'It doesn't matter at all,' answered Logotheti carelessly, 'but I
believe she prefers to be called by her own name amongst friends.
Good-bye till day after to-morrow, then.'

'At half after eight.'

'All right--half-past--I shall remember.'

But at two o'clock, on the next day but one, Logotheti received a
note, brought by hand, in which Mr. Van Torp said that to his very
great regret he had been called away suddenly, and hoped that
Logotheti would forgive him, as the matter was of such urgent
importance that he would have already left London when the note was
received.

This was more than true, if possible, for the writer had left town two
days earlier, very soon after he had parted from Logotheti in Pall
Mall, although the note had not been delivered till forty-eight hours
later.



CHAPTER V


Mr. Van Torp knew no more about Bayreuth than about Samarkand, beyond
the fact that at certain stated times performances of Wagner's operas
were given there with as much solemnity as great religious festivals,
and that musical people spoke of the Bayreuth season in a curiously
reverent manner. He would have been much surprised if any one had told
him that he often whistled fragments of _Parsifal_ to himself and
liked the sound of them; for he had a natural ear and a good memory,
and had whistled remarkably well when he was a boy.

The truth about this seemingly impossible circumstance was really very
simple. In what he called his cow-punching days, he had been for six
months in company with two young men who used to whistle softly
together by the hour beside the camp fire, and none of the other
'boys' had ever heard the strange tunes they seemed to like best, but
Van Torp had caught and remembered many fragments, almost
unconsciously, and he whistled them to himself because they gave him a
sensation which no 'real music' ever did. Extraordinary natures, like
his, are often endowed with unnoticed gifts and tastes quite unlike
those of most people. No one knew anything about the young men who
whistled Wagner; the 'Lost Legion' hides many secrets, and the two
were not popular with the rest, though they knew their business and
did their work fairly well. One of them was afterwards said to have
been killed in a shooting affray and the other had disappeared about
the same time, no one knew how, or cared, though Mr. Van Torp thought
he had recognised him once many years later. They were neither
Americans nor Englishmen, though they both spoke English well, and
never were heard to use any other language. But that is common enough
with emigrants to the United States and elsewhere. Every one who has
been to sea in an American vessel knows how the Scandinavian sailors
insist on speaking English amongst themselves, instead of their own
language.

Mr. Van Torp was fond of music, quite apart from his admiration for
the greatest living lyric soprano, and since it was his fancy to go to
Bayreuth in the hope of seeing her, he meant to hear Wagner's
masterpiece, and supposed that there would not be any difficulty about
such a simple matter, nor about obtaining the sort of rooms he was
accustomed to, in the sort of hotel he expected to find where so many
rich people went every other year. Any one who has been to the holy
place of the Wagnerians can imagine his surprise when, after infinite
difficulty, he found himself, his belongings and his man deposited in
one small attic room of a Bavarian tanner's house, with one
feather-bed, one basin and one towel for furniture.

'Stemp,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'this is a heathen town.'

'Yes, sir.'

'I suppose I'm thought close about money,' continued the millionaire,
thinking aloud, 'but I call five dollars a day dear, for this room,
don't you?'

'Yes, sir, I do indeed! I call it downright robbery. That's what I
call it, sir.'

'Well, I suppose they call it business here, and quite a good business
too. But I'd like to buy the whole thing and show 'em how to run it.
They'd make more in the end.'

'Yes, sir. I hope you will, sir. Beg pardon, sir, but do you think it
would cost a great deal?'

'They'd ask a great deal, anyway,' answered the millionaire
thoughtfully. 'Stemp, suppose you get me out some things and then take
a look around, while I try to get a wash in that--that tea-service
there.'

Mr. Van Torp eyed the exiguous basin and jug with some curiosity and
much contempt. Stemp, impassive and correct under all circumstances,
unstrapped a valise, laid out on the bed what his master might need,
and inquired if he wished anything else.

'There isn't anything else,' answered Mr. Van Torp, gloomily.

'When shall I come back, sir?'

'In twenty-five minutes. There isn't half an hour's wash in that
soup-plate, anyway.'

He eyed the wretched basin with a glance that might almost have
cracked it. When his man had gone, he proceeded to his toilet, such as
it was, and solaced himself by softly whistling as much of the 'Good
Friday' music as he remembered, little dreaming what it was, or that
his performance was followed with nervous and almost feverish interest
by the occupant of the next room in the attic, a poor musician who had
saved and scraped for years to sit at the musical feast during three
days.

'E sharp!' cried an agonised voice on the other side of the closed
door, in a strong German accent. 'I know it is E sharp! I know it!'

Mr. Van Torp stopped whistling at once, lowered his razor, and turned
a mask of soapsuds in the direction whence the sound came.

'Do you mean me?' he inquired in a displeased tone.

'I mean who whistles the "Good Friday" music,' answered the voice. 'I
tell you, I know it is E sharp in that place. I have the score. I
shall show you if you believe not.'

'He's mad,' observed Mr. Van Torp, beginning to shave again. 'Are you
a lunatic?' he asked, pausing after a moment. 'What's the matter with
you anyhow?'

'I am a musician, I tell you! I am a pianist!'

'It's the same thing,' said Mr. Van Torp, working carefully on his
upper lip, under his right nostril.

'I shall tell you that you are a barbarian!' retorted the voice.

'Well, that doesn't hurt,' answered Mr. Van Torp.

He heard a sort of snort of scorn on the other side and there was
silence again. But before long, as he got away from his upper lip with
the razor, he unconsciously began to whistle again, and he must have
made the same mistake as before, for he was interrupted by a deep
groan of pain from the next room.

'Not feeling very well?' he inquired in a tone of dry jocularity.
'Stomach upset?'

'E sharp!' screamed the wretched pianist.

Van Torp could hear him dancing with rage, or pain.

'See here, whoever you are, don't call names! I don't like it. See?
I've paid for this room and I'm going on whistling if I like, and just
as long as I like.'

'You say you make noises you like?' cried the infuriated musician.
'Oh, no! You shall not! There are rules! We are not in London, sir, we
are in Bayreuth! If you make noises, you shall be thrown out of the
house.'

'Shall I? Well, now, that's a funny sort of a rule for a hotel, isn't
it?'

'I go complain of you,' retorted the other, and Mr. Van Torp heard a
door opened and shut again.

In a few minutes he had done all that the conditions would permit in
the way of making himself presentable, and just as he left the room he
was met by Stemp, the twenty-five minutes being just over.

'Very good, sir. I'll do what I can, sir,' said the excellent man, as
Mr. Van Torp pointed to the things that lay about.

As he went out, he recognised the voice of his neighbour, who was
talking excitedly in voluble German, somewhere at the back of the
house.

'He's complaining now,' thought Mr. Van Torp, with something like a
smile.

He had already been to the best hotel, in the hope of obtaining rooms,
and he had no difficulty in finding it again. He asked for Madame da
Cordova. She was at home, for it was an off-day; he sent in his card,
and was presently led to her sitting-room. Times had changed. Six
months earlier he would have been told that there had been a mistake
and that she had gone out.

She was alone; a letter she had been writing lay unfinished on the
queer little desk near the shaded window, and her pen had fallen
across the paper. On the round table in the middle of the small bare
room there stood a plain white vase full of corn-flowers and poppies,
and Margaret was standing there, rearranging them, or pretending to do
so.

She was looking her very best, and as she raised her eyes and greeted
him with a friendly smile, Mr. Van Torp thought she had never been so
handsome before. It had not yet occurred to him to compare her with
Lady Maud, because for some mysterious natural cause the beautiful
Englishwoman who was his best friend had never exerted even the
slightest feminine influence on his being; he would have carried her
in his arms, if need had been, as he had carried the Tartar girl, and
not a thrill of his nerves nor one faster beat of his heart would have
disturbed his placidity; she knew it, as women know such things, and
the knowledge made her quite sure that he was not really the
coarse-grained and rather animal son of nature that many people said
he was, the sort of man to whom any one good-looking woman is much the
same as another, a little more amusing than good food, a little less
satisfactory than good wine.

But the handsome singer stirred his blood, the touch of her hand
electrified him, and the mere thought that any other man should ever
make her his own was unbearable. After he had first met her he had
pursued her with such pertinacity and such utter ignorance of women's
ways that he had frightened her, and she had frankly detested him for
a time; but he had learned a lesson and he profited by it with that
astounding adaptability which makes American men and women just what
they are.

Margaret held out her hand and he took it; and though its touch and
her friendly smile were like a taste of heaven just then, he pressed
her fingers neither too much nor too little, and his face betrayed no
emotion.

'It's very kind of you to receive me, Miss Donne,' he said quietly.

'I think it's very kind of you to come and see me,' Margaret answered.
'Come and sit down and tell me how you got here--and why!'

'Well,' he answered slowly, as they seated themselves side by side on
the hard green sofa, 'I don't suppose I can explain, so that you'll
understand, but I'll try. Different kinds of things brought me. I
heard you were here from Lady Maud, and I thought perhaps I might have
an opportunity for a little talk. And then--oh, I don't know. I've
seen everything worth seeing except a battle and _Parsifal_, and as it
seemed so easy, and you were here, I thought I'd have a look at the
opera, since I can't see the fight.'

Margaret laughed a little.

'I hope you will like it,' she said. 'Have you a good seat?'

'I haven't got a ticket yet,' answered Mr. Van Torp, in blissful
ignorance.

'No seat!' The Primadonna's surprise was almost dramatic. 'But how in
the world do you expect to get one now? Don't you know that the seats
for _Parsifal_ are all taken months beforehand?'

'Are they really?' He was very calm about it. 'Then I suppose I shall
have to get a ticket from a speculator. I don't see anything hard
about that.'

'My dear friend, there are no speculators here, and there are no
tickets to be had. You might as well ask for the moon!'

'I can stand, then. I'm not afraid of getting tired.'

'There are no standing places at all! No one is allowed to go in who
has not a seat. A week ago you might possibly have picked up one in
Munich, given up by some one at the last moment, but such chances are
jumped at! I wonder that you even got a place to sleep!'

'Well, it's not much of a place,' said Mr. Van Torp, thoughtfully.
'There's one room the size of a horsebox, one bed, one basin, one
pitcher and one towel, and I've brought my valet with me. I've
concluded to let him sleep while I'm at the opera, and he'll sit up
when I want to go to bed. Box and Cox. I don't know what he'll sit on,
for there's no chair, but he's got to sit.'

Margaret laughed, for he amused her.

'I suppose you're exaggerating a little bit,' she said. 'It's not
really quite so bad as that, is it?'

'It's worse. There's a lunatic in the next room who calls me E. Sharp
through the door, and has lodged a complaint already because I
whistled while I was shaving. It's not a very good hotel. Who is E.
Sharp, anyway? Maybe that was the name of the last man who occupied
that room. I don't know, but I don't like the idea of having a mad
German pianist for a neighbour. He may get in while I'm asleep and
think I'm the piano, and hammer the life out of me, the way they do.
I've seen a perfectly new piano wrecked in a single concert by a
fellow who didn't look as if he had the strength to kick a mosquito.
They're so deceptive, pianists! Nervous men are often like that, and
most pianists are nothing but nerves and hair.'

He amused her, for she had never seen him in his present mood.

'E sharp is a note,' she said. 'On the piano it's the same as F
natural. You must have been whistling something your neighbour knew,
and you made a mistake, and nervous musicians really suffer if one
does that. But it must have been something rather complicated, to have
an E sharp in it! It wasn't "Suwanee River," nor the "Washington Post"
either! Indeed I should rather like to know what it was.'

'Old tunes I picked up when I was cow-punching, years ago,' answered
Mr. Van Torp. 'I don't know where they came from, for I never asked,
but they're not like other tunes, that's certain, and I like them.
They remind me of the old days out West, when I had no money and
nothing to worry about.'

'I'm very fond of whistling, too,' Margaret said. 'I study all my
parts by whistling them, so as to save my voice.'

'Really! I had no idea that was possible.'

'Quite. Perhaps you whistle very well. Won't you let me hear the tune
that irritated your neighbour the pianist? Perhaps I know it, too.'

'Well,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'I suppose I could. I should be a little
shy before you,' he added, quite naturally. 'If you'll excuse me, I'll
just go and stand before the window so that I can't see you. Perhaps I
can manage it that way.'

Margaret, who was bored to the verge of collapse on the off-days,
thought him much nicer than he had formerly been, and she liked his
perfect simplicity.

'Stand anywhere you like,' she said, 'but let me hear the tune.'

Van Torp rose and went to the window and she looked quietly at his
square figure and his massive, sandy head and his strong neck.
Presently he began to whistle, very softly and perfectly in tune. Many
a street-boy could do as well, no doubt, and Mrs. Rushmore would have
called it a vulgar accomplishment, but the magnificent Primadonna was
too true a musician, as well as a singer, not to take pleasure in a
sweet sound, even if it were produced by a street-boy.

But as Mr. Van Torp went on, she opened her eyes very wide and held
her breath. There was no mistake about it; he was whistling long
pieces from _Parsifal_, as far as it was possible to convey an idea of
such music by such means. Margaret had studied it before coming to
Bayreuth, in order to understand it better; she had now already heard
it once, and had felt the greatest musical emotion of her life--one
that had stirred other emotions, too, strange ones quite new to her.

She held her breath and listened, and her eyes that had been wide open
in astonishment, slowly closed again in pleasure, and presently, when
he reached the 'Good Friday' music, her own matchless voice floated
out with her unconscious breath, in such perfect octaves with his high
whistling that at first he did not understand; but when he did, the
rough hard man shivered suddenly and steadied himself against the
window-sill, and Margaret's voice went on alone, with faintly breathed
words and then without them, following the instrumentation to the end
of the scene, beyond what he had ever heard.

Then there was silence in the room, and neither of the two moved for
some moments, but at last Van Torp turned, and came back.

'Thank you,' he said, in a low voice.

Margaret smiled and passed her hand over her eyes quickly, as if to
dispel a vision she had seen. Then she spoke.

'Do you really not know what that music is?' she asked. 'Really,
really?'

'Oh, quite honestly I don't!'

'You're not joking? You're not laughing at me?'

'I?' He could not understand. 'I shouldn't dare!' he said.

'You've been whistling some of _Parsifal_, some of the most beautiful
music that ever was written--and you whistle marvellously, for it's
anything but easy! Where in the world did you learn it? Don't tell me
that those are "old tunes" you picked up on a Californian ranch!'

'It's true, all the same,' Van Torp answered.

He told her of the two foreigners who used to whistle together in the
evenings, and how one was supposed to have been shot and the other had
disappeared, no one had known whither, nor had cared.

'All sorts of young fellows used to drift out there,' he said, 'and
one couldn't tell where they came from, though I can give a guess at
where some of them must have been, since I've seen the world. There
were younger sons of English gentlemen, fellows whose fathers were
genuine lords, maybe, who had not brains enough to get into the army
or the Church. There were cashiered Prussian officers, and Frenchmen
who had most likely killed women out of jealousy, and Sicilian
bandits, and broken Society men from New York. There were all sorts.
And there was me. And we all spoke different kinds of English and had
different kinds of tastes, good and bad--mostly bad. There was only
one thing we could all do alike, and that was to ride.'

'I never thought of you as riding,' Margaret said.

'Well, why should you? But I can, because I was just a common cow-boy
and had to, for a living.'

'It's intensely interesting--what a strange life you have had! Tell me
more about yourself, won't you?'

'There's not much to tell, it seems to me,' said Van Torp. 'From being
a cow-boy I turned into a miner, and struck a little silver, and I
sold that and got into nickel, and I made the Nickel Trust what it is,
more by financing it than anything else, and I got almost all of it.
And now I've sold the whole thing.'

'Sold the Nickel Trust?' Margaret was quite as much surprised as Lady
Maud had been.

'Yes. I wasn't made to do one thing long, I suppose. If I were, I
should still be a cow-boy. Just now, I'm here to go to _Parsifal_, and
since you say those tunes are out of that opera, I daresay I'm going
to like it very much.'

'It's all very uncanny,' Margaret said thoughtfully. 'I wonder who
those two men were, and what became of the one who disappeared.'

'I've a strong impression that I saw him in New York the other day,'
Van Torp answered. 'If I'm right, he's made money--doing quite well, I
should think. It wouldn't surprise me to hear he'd got together a
million or so.'

'Really? What is he doing? Your stories grow more and more
interesting!'

'If he's the fellow we used to call Levi Longlegs on the ranch, he's a
Russian now. I'm not perfectly sure, for he had no hair on his face
then, and now he has a beard like a French sapper. But the eyes and
the nose and the voice and the accent are the same, and the age would
about correspond. Handsome man, I suppose you'd call him. His name is
Kralinsky just at present, and he's found a whole mine of rubies
somewhere.'

'Really? I love rubies. They are my favourite stones.'

'Are they? That's funny. I've got an uncut one in my pocket now, if
you'd like to see it. I believe it comes from Kralinsky's mine, too,
though I got it through a friend of yours, two or three days ago.'

'A friend of mine?'

He was poking his large fingers into one of the pockets of his
waistcoat in search of the stone.

'Mr. Logotheti,' he said, just as he found it. 'He's discovered a
handsome young woman from Tartary or somewhere, who has a few rubies
to sell that look very much like Kralinsky's. This is one of them.'

He had unwrapped the stone now and he offered it to her, holding it
out in the palm of his hand. She took it delicately and laid it in her
own, which was so white that the gem shed a delicate
pomegranate-coloured light on the skin all round it. She admired it,
turned it over with one finger, held it up towards the window, and
laid it in her palm again.

But Van Torp had set her thinking about Logotheti and the Tartar girl.
She put out her hand to give back the ruby.

'I should like you to keep it, if you will,' he said. 'I shan't forget
the pleasure I've had in seeing you like this, but you'll forget all
about our meeting here--the stone may just make you remember it
sometimes.'

He spoke so quietly, so gently, that she was taken off her guard, and
was touched, and very much surprised to feel that she was. She looked
into his eyes rather cautiously, remembering well how she had
formerly seen something terrifying in them if she looked an instant
too long; but now they made her think of the eyes of a large
affectionate bulldog.

'You're very kind to want to give it to me,' she answered after a
moment's hesitation, 'but I don't like to accept anything so valuable,
now that I'm engaged to be married. Konstantin might not like it. But
you're so kind; give me any little thing of no value that you have in
your pocket, for I mean to remember this day, indeed I do!'

'I gave nothing for the ruby,' said Van Torp, still not taking it from
her, 'so it has no value for me. I wouldn't offer you anything that
cost me money, now, unless it was a theatre for your own. Perhaps the
thing's glass, after all; I've not shown it to any jeweller. The girl
made me take it, because I helped her in a sort of way. When I wanted
to pay for it she tried to throw it out of the window. So I had to
accept it to calm her down, and she went off and left no address, and
I thought I'd like you to have it, if you would.'

'Are you quite, quite sure you did not pay for it?' Margaret asked.
'If we are going to be friends, you must please always be very
accurate.'

'I've told you exactly what happened,' said Van Torp. 'Won't you take
it now?'

'Yes, I will, and thank you very much indeed. I love rubies, and this
is a beauty, and not preposterously big. I think I shall have it set
as it is, uncut, and only polished, so that it will always be itself,
just as you gave it to me. I shall think of the "Good Friday" music
and the Chimes, and this hideous little room, and your clever
whistling, whenever I look at it.'

'You're kind to-day,' said Mr. Van Torp, after a moment's debate as to
whether he should say anything at all.

'Am I? You mean that I used to be very disagreeable, don't you?' She
smiled as she glanced at him. 'I must have been, I'm sure, for you
used to frighten me ever so much. But I'm not in the least afraid of
you now!'

'Why should any one be afraid of me?' asked Van Torp, whose mere smile
had been known to terrify Wall Street when a 'drop' was expected.

Margaret laughed a little, without looking at him.

'Tell me all about the Tartar girl,' she said, instead of answering
his question.

She would not have been the thoroughly feminine woman she was--far
more feminine, in the simple human sense, than Lady Maud--if she had
not felt satisfaction in having tamed the formidable money-wolf so
that he fawned at her feet; but perhaps she was even more pleased, or
amused, than she thought she could be by any such success. The man was
so very much stronger and rougher than any other man with whom she had
ever been acquainted, and she had once believed him to be such a
thorough brute, that this final conquest flattered her vanity. The
more dangerous the character of the wild beast, the greater the merit
of the lion-tamer who subdues him.

'Tell me about this handsome Tartar girl,' she said again.

Van Torp told her Baraka's history, as far as he knew it from
Logotheti.

'I never heard such an amusing set of stories as you are telling me
to-day,' she said.

'That particular one is Logotheti's,' he answered, 'and he can
probably tell you much more about the girl.'

'Is she really very pretty?' Margaret asked.

'Well,' said Van Torp, quoting a saying of his favourite great man,
'for people who like that kind of thing, I should think that would be
the kind of thing they'd like.'

The Primadonna smiled.

'Can you describe her?' she asked.

'Did you ever read a fairy story about a mouse that could turn into a
tiger when it liked?' inquired the American in a tone of profound
meditation, as if he were contemplating a vision which Margaret could
not see.

'No,' said she, 'I never did.'

'I don't think I ever did, either. But there might be a fairy story
about that, mightn't there?' Margaret nodded, with an expression of
displeased interest, and he went on: 'Well, it describes Miss Barrack
to a T. Yes, that's what I call her. She's put "Barak" on her business
card, whatever that means in a Christian language; but when I found
out it was a girl, I christened her Miss Barrack. People have to have
names of some kind if you're going to talk about them. But that's a
digression. Pardon me. You'd like a description of the young person.
I'm just thinking.'

'How did you find out she was a girl?' Margaret asked, and her tone
was suddenly hard.

Mr. Van Torp was not prepared for the question, and felt very
uncomfortable for a moment. In his conversation with women he was
almost morbidly prudish about everything which had the remotest
connexion with sex. He wondered how he could convey to Margaret the
information that when he had been obliged to carry the pretended boy
across the room, he had been instantly and palpably convinced that he
was carrying a girl.

'It was a question of form, you see,' he said awkwardly.

'Form? Formality? I don't understand.' Margaret was really puzzled.

'No, no!' Mr. Van Torp was actually blushing. 'I mean his form--or her
form----'

'Oh, her figure? You merely guessed it was a girl in boy's clothes?'

'Certainly. Yes. Only, you see, he had a kind of fit--the boy did--and
I thought he was going to faint, so I picked him up and carried him to
a sofa, and--well, you understand, Miss Donne. I knew I hadn't got a
boy in my arms, that's all.'

'I should think so!' assented the Englishwoman--'I'm sure I should!
When you found out she was a girl, how did she strike you?'

'Very attractive, I should say; very attractive,' he repeated with
more emphasis. 'People who admire brunettes might think her quite
fascinating. She has really extraordinary eyes, to begin with, those
long fruity Eastern eyes, you know, that can look so far to the right
and left through their eyelashes. Do you know what I mean?'

'Perfectly. You make it very clear. Go on, please.'

'Her eyes--yes.' Mr. Van Torp appeared to be thinking again. 'Well,
there was her complexion, too. It's first-rate for a dark girl. Ever
been in a first-class dairy? Do you know the colour of Alderney cream
when it's ready to be skimmed? Her complexion's just like that, and
when she's angry, it's as if you squeezed the juice of about one red
currant into the whole pan of cream. Not more than one, I should
think. See what I mean?'

'Yes. She must be awfully pretty. Tell me more. Has she nice hair?
Even teeth?'

'I should think she had!' answered Mr. Van Torp, with even more
enthusiasm than he had shown yet. 'They're as small and even and white
as if somebody had gone to work and carved them all around half a new
billiard ball, not separate, you understand, but all in one piece.
Very pretty mouth they make, with those rather broiled-salmon-coloured
lips she has, and a little chin that points up, as if she could hold
her own. She can, too. Her hair? Well, you see, she's cut it short, to
be a boy, but it's as thick as a beaver's fur, I should say, and
pretty black. It's a silky kind of hair, that looks alive. You know
what I mean, I daresay. Some brunettes' hair looks coarse and dusky,
like horsehair, but hers isn't that kind, and it makes a sort of
reflection in the sun, the way a young raven's wing-feathers do, if
you understand.'

'You're describing a raving beauty, it seems to me.'

'Oh, no,' said the American innocently. 'Now if our friend Griggs, the
novelist, were here, he'd find all the right words and things, but I
can only tell you just what I saw.'

'You tell it uncommonly well!' Margaret's face expressed anything but
pleasure. 'Is she tall?'

'It's hard to tell, in men's clothes. Three inches shorter than I am,
maybe. I'm a middle-sized man, I suppose. I used to be five feet ten
in my shoes. She may be five feet seven, not more.'

'But that's tall for a woman!'

'Is it?' Mr. Van Torp's tone expressed an innocent indifference.

'Yes. Has she nice hands?'

'I didn't notice her hands. Oh, yes, I remember!' he exclaimed,
suddenly correcting himself. 'I did notice them. She held up that ruby
to the light and I happened to look at her fingers. Small, well-shaped
fingers, tapering nicely, but with a sort of firm look about them that
you don't often see in a woman's hands. You've got it, too.'

'Have I?' Margaret looked down at her right hand. 'But, of course,
hers are smaller than mine,' she said.

'Well, you see, Orientals almost all have very small hands and
feet--too small, I call them--little tiny feet like mice.'

Margaret's own were well-shaped, but by no means small.

'The girl is in London, you say?' Her tone made a question of the
statement.

'She was there two days ago, when I left. At least, she had been to
see me that very morning. Almost as soon as she was gone I went out,
and in the first shop I looked into I met Logotheti. It was Pinney's,
the jeweller's, I remember, for I bought a collar stud. We came away
together and walked some time, and he told me the Tartar girl's story.
I asked him to dine to-day, but I was obliged to leave town suddenly,
and so I had to put him off with a note. I daresay he's still in
London.'

'I daresay he is,' Margaret repeated, and rising suddenly she went to
the window.

Mr. Van Torp rose too, and thought of what he should say in taking his
leave of her, for he felt that he had stayed long enough. Strange to
say, too, he was examining his not very sensitive conscience to
ascertain whether he had said anything not strictly true, but he
easily satisfied himself that he had not. If all was fair in love and
war, as the proverb said, it was certainly permissible to make use of
the plain truth.

The Primadonna was still looking out of the window when the door
opened and her English maid appeared on the threshold. Margaret turned
at the sound.

'What is it?' she asked quietly.

'There's Mr. Van Torp's man, ma'am,' answered Potts. 'He wants to
speak to his master at once.'

'You had better tell him to come up,' Margaret answered. 'You may just
as well see him here without going all the way downstairs,' she said,
speaking to Van Torp.

'You're very kind, I'm sure,' he replied; 'but I think I'd better be
going anyway.'

'No, don't go yet, please! There's something else I want to say. See
your man here while I go and speak to Mrs. Rushmore. Send Mr. Van
Torp's man up, Potts,' she added, and left the room.

The American walked up and down alone for a few moments. Then the
impassive Stemp was ushered in by the maid, and the door was shut
again.

'Well?' inquired Mr. Van Torp. 'Has anything happened?'

'Yes, sir,' Stemp answered. 'They have turned us out of the house,
sir, and your luggage is in the street. Where shall I have it taken,
sir?'

'Oh, they've turned us out, have they? Why?'

'Well, sir, I'm afraid it's partly my fault, but there must be some
misunderstanding, for I'm quite sure I didn't whistle in your room,
sir.'

'So am I, Stemp. Quite sure. Go on. What happened?'

'Well, sir, you hadn't been gone more than ten minutes when somebody
knocked, and there was the landlord, if that's what he calls himself,
and a strange German gentleman with him, who spoke English. Rather
shabby-looking, sir, I thought him. He spoke most uncivilly, and said
I was driving him half crazy with my whistling. I said I hadn't
whistled, and he said I had, and the landlord talked German at me, as
it were, sir. I said again I hadn't whistled, and he said I had, the
shabby gentleman, I mean, speaking most uncivilly, sir, I assure you.
So when I saw that they doubted my word, I put them out and fastened
the door, thinking this was what you would have ordered, sir, if you'd
been there yourself, but I'm afraid I did wrong.'

'No, Stemp. You didn't do wrong.'

'Thank you, sir.'

'I suppose, though, that when you put them out they didn't exactly
want to go, did they?'

'No, sir, but I had no trouble with them.'

'Any heads broken?'

'No, sir, I was careful of that. I sent the landlord downstairs first,
as he was a fat man and not likely to hurt himself, and the shabby
gentleman went down on top of him quite comfortably, so he did not
hurt himself either. I was very careful, sir, being in a foreign
country.'

'What happened next? They didn't come upstairs again and throw you
out, I suppose.'

'No, sir. They went and got two of these German policemen with swords,
and broke into the room, and told me we must move at once. I didn't
like to resist the police, sir. It's sometimes serious. The German
gentleman wanted them to arrest me, so I offered to pay any fine there
was for having been hasty, and we settled for two sovereigns, which I
thought dear, sir, and I'd have gone to the police station rather than
pay it, only I knew you'd need my services in this heathen town, sir.
I'm highly relieved to know that you approve of that, sir. But they
said we must turn out directly, just the same, so I re-packed your
things and got a porter, and he's standing over the luggage in the
street, waiting for orders.'

'Stemp,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'I'd been whistling myself, before you
came in, and the lunatic in the next room had already been fussing
about it. It's my fault.'

'Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.'

'And it will be my fault if we have to sleep in a cab to-night.'

The door opened while he was speaking, and Margaret heard the last
words as she entered the room.

'I'm sorry,' she said, 'I thought you had finished. I could not help
hearing what you said about sleeping in a cab. That's nonsense, you
know.'

'Well,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'they've just turned us out of the one room
we had because I whistled _Parsifal_ out of tune.'

'You didn't whistle it out of tune,' Margaret answered, to Stemp's
great but well-concealed astonishment. 'I know better. Please have
your things brought here at once.'

'Here?' repeated Mr. Van Torp, surprised in his turn.

'Yes,' she answered, in a tone that forestalled contradiction. 'If
nothing else can be had you shall have this room. I can do without
it.'

'You're kindness itself, but I couldn't do that,' said Mr. Van Torp.
'Bring our things to this hotel, anyway, Stemp, and we'll see what
happens.'

'Yes, sir.'

Stemp disappeared at once, and his master turned to Margaret again.

'Nothing will induce me to put you to such inconvenience,' he said,
and his tone was quite as decided as hers had been.

She smiled.

'Nothing will induce me to let a friend of mine be driven from pillar
to post for a lodging while I have plenty of room to spare!'

'You're very, very kind, but----'

'But the mouse may turn into a tiger if you contradict it,' she said
with a light laugh that thrilled him with delight. 'I remember your
description of the Tartar girl!'

'Well, then, I suppose the hyæna will have to turn into a small woolly
lamb if you tell him to,' answered Mr. Van Torp.

'Yes,' laughed Margaret. 'Be a small, woolly lamb at once, please, a
very small one!'

'Knee-high to a kitten; certainly,' replied the millionaire
submissively.

'Very well. I'll take you with me to hear _Parsifal_ to-morrow, if you
obey. I've just asked Mrs. Rushmore if it makes any difference to
her, and she has confessed that she would rather not go again, for it
tires her dreadfully and gives her a headache. You shall have her
seat. What is it? Don't you want to go with me?'

  [Illustration: "Margaret gazed at him in surprise while she might have
   counted ten."]

Mr. Van Torp's face had hardened till it looked like a mask, he stared
firmly at the wall, and his lips were set tightly together. Margaret
gazed at him in surprise while she might have counted ten. Then he
spoke slowly, with evident effort, and in an odd voice.

'Excuse me, Miss Donne,' he said, snapping his words out. 'I'm so
grateful that I can't speak, that's all. It'll be all right in a
second.'

A huge emotion had got hold of him. She saw the red flush rise
suddenly above his collar, and then sink back before it reached his
cheeks, and all at once he was very pale. But not a muscle of his face
moved, not a line was drawn; only his sandy eyelashes quivered a
little. His hands were thrust deep into the pockets of his jacket, but
the fingers were motionless.

Margaret remembered how he had told her more than once that she was
the only woman the world held for him, and she had thought it was
nonsense, rather vulgarly and clumsily expressed by a man who was not
much better than an animal where women were concerned.

It flashed upon her at last that what he had said was literally true,
that she had misjudged an extraordinary man altogether, as many people
did, and that she was indeed the only woman in the whole world who
could master and dominate one whom many feared and hated, and whom
she had herself once detested beyond words.

He was unchanging, too, whatever else he might be, and, as she
admitted the fact, she saw clearly how fickle she had been in her own
likes and dislikes, except where her art was concerned. But even as to
that, she had passed through phases in which she had been foolish
enough to think of giving up the stage in the first flush of her vast
success.

While these thoughts were disturbing her a little, Mr. Van Torp
recovered himself; his features relaxed, his hands came out of his
pockets, and he slowly turned towards her.

'I hope you don't think me rude,' he said awkwardly. 'I feel things a
good deal sometimes, though people mightn't believe it.'

They were still standing near together, and not far from the door
through which Margaret had entered.

'It's never rude to be grateful, even for small things,' she answered
gently.

She left his side, and went again to the window, where she stood and
turned from him, looking out. He waited where he was, glad of the
moments of silence. As for her, she was struggling against a generous
impulse, because she was afraid that he might misunderstand her if she
gave way to it. But, to do her justice, she had never had much
strength to resist her own instinctive generosity when it moved her.

'Lady Maud told me long ago that I was mistaken about you,' she said
at last, without looking at him. 'She was right and I was quite
wrong. I'm sorry. Don't bear me any grudge. You won't, will you?'

She turned now, rather suddenly, and found him looking at her with a
sort of hunger in his eyes that disappeared almost as soon as hers met
them.

'No,' he answered, 'I don't bear you any grudge, I never did, and I
don't see how I ever could. I could tell you why, but I won't, because
you probably know, and it's no use to repeat what once displeased
you.'

'Thank you,' said Margaret, she scarcely knew why.

Her handsome head was a little bent, and her eyes were turned to the
floor as she passed him going to the door.

'I'm going to see the manager of the hotel,' she said. I'll be back
directly.'

'No, no! Please let me----'

But she was gone, the door was shut again, and Mr. Van Torp was left
to his own very happy reflections for a while.

Not for long, however. He was still standing before the table staring
at the corn-flowers and poppies without consciously seeing them when
he was aware of the imposing presence of Mrs. Rushmore, who had
entered softly during his reverie and was almost at his elbow.

'This is Mr. Van Torp, I presume,' she said gravely, inclining her
head. 'I am Mrs. Rushmore. You have perhaps heard Miss Donne speak of
me.'

'I'm very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Rushmore,' said the American,
bowing low. 'I've often heard Miss Donne speak of you with the
greatest gratitude and affection.'

'Certainly,' Mrs. Rushmore answered with gravity, and as she
established herself on the sofa she indicated a chair not far from
her.

It was only proper that Margaret should always speak of her with
affection and gratitude. Mr. Van Torp sat down on the chair to which
she had directed rather than invited him; and he prepared to be bored
to the full extent of the bearable. He had known the late Mr. Rushmore
in business; Mr. Rushmore had been a 'pillar' of various things,
including honesty, society, and the church he went to, and he had
always bored Mr. Van Torp extremely. The least that could be expected
was that the widow of such an estimable man should carry on the
traditions of her deeply lamented husband. In order to help her
politely to what seemed the inevitable, Mr. Van Torp mentioned him.

'I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Rushmore,' he said in the proper
tone of mournfully retrospective admiration. 'He was sincerely
lamented by all our business men.'

'He was,' assented the widow, as she would have said Amen in church,
in the right place, and with much the same solemn intonation.

There was a moment's pause, during which the millionaire was trying to
think of something else she might like to hear, for she was Margaret's
friend, and he wished to make a good impression. He was therefore not
prepared to hear her speak again before he did, much less for the
subject of conversation she introduced at once.

'You know our friend Monsieur Logotheti, I believe?' she inquired
suddenly.

'Why, certainly,' answered Van Torp, brightening at once at the
mention of his rival, and at once also putting on his moral armour of
caution. 'I know him quite well.'

'Indeed? Have you known many Greeks, may I ask?'

'I've met one or two in business, Mrs. Rushmore, but I can't say I've
known any as well as Mr. Logotheti.'

'You may think it strange that I should ask you about him at our first
meeting,' said the good lady, 'but I'm an American, and I cannot help
feeling that a fellow-countryman's opinion of a foreigner is very
valuable. You are, I understand, an old friend of Miss Donne's, though
I have not had the pleasure of meeting you before, and you have
probably heard that she has made up her mind to marry Monsieur
Logotheti. I am bound to confess, as her dear mother's oldest friend,
that I am very apprehensive of the consequences. I have the gravest
apprehensions, Mr. Van Torp.'

'Have you really?' asked the millionaire with caution, but
sympathetically. 'I wonder why!'

'A Greek!' said Mrs. Rushmore sadly. 'Think of a Greek!'

Mr. Van Torp, who was not without a sense of humour, was inclined to
answer that, in fact, he was thinking of a Greek at that very moment.
But he abstained.

'There are Greeks and Greeks, Mrs. Rushmore,' he answered wisely.

'That is true,' answered the lady, 'but I should like your opinion, as
one of our most prominent men of business--as one who, if I may say
so, has of late triumphantly established his claim to respect.' Mr.
Van Torp bowed and waved his hand in acknowledgment of this high
praise. 'I should like your opinion about this--er--this Greek
gentleman whom my young friend insists upon marrying.'

'Really, Mrs. Rushmore----'

'Because if I thought there was unhappiness in store for her I would
save her, if I had to marry the man myself!'

Mr. Van Torp wondered how she would accomplish such a feat.

'Indeed?' he said very gravely.

'I mean it,' answered Mrs. Rushmore.

There was a moment's silence, during which Mr. Van Torp revolved
something in his always active brain, while Mrs. Rushmore looked at
him as if she expected that he would doubt her determination to drag
Logotheti to the matrimonial altar and marry him by sheer strength,
rather than let Margaret be his unhappy bride. But Mr. Van Torp said
something quite different.

'May I speak quite frankly, though we hardly know each other?' he
asked.

'We are both Americans,' answered the good lady, with a grand national
air. 'I should not expect anything but perfect frankness of you.'

'The truth is, Mrs. Rushmore, that ever since I had the pleasure of
knowing Miss Donne, I have wanted to marry her myself.'

'You!' cried the lady, surprised beyond measure, but greatly pleased.

'Yes,' said Mr. Van Torp quietly, 'and therefore, in my position, I
can't give you an unbiassed opinion about Mr. Logotheti. I really
can't.'

'Well,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'I am surprised!'

While she was still surprised Mr. Van Torp tried to make some running,
and asked an important question.

'May I ask whether, as Miss Donne's oldest friend, you would look
favourably on my proposal, supposing she were free?'

Before Mrs. Rushmore could answer, the door opened suddenly, and she
could only answer by an energetic nod and a look which meant that she
wished Mr. Van Torp success with all her excellent heart.

'It's quite settled!' Margaret cried as she entered. 'I've brought the
director to his senses, and you are to have the rooms they were
keeping for a Russian prince who has not turned up!'



CHAPTER VI


In the sanctuary of Wagnerians the famous lyric Diva was a somewhat
less important personage than in any of those other places which are
called 'musical centres.' Before the glories of the great Brunhilde,
or the supreme Kundry of the day, the fame of the 'nightingale
soprano' paled a little, at least in the eyes of more than half the
people who filled the Bayreuth theatre. But she did not pass unnoticed
by any means. There were distinguished conductors of Wagner's music
who led the orchestra for other operas too; there were Kundrys and
Brunhildes who condescended to be Toscas sometimes, as a pure matter
of business and livelihood, and there were numberless people in the
audience who preferred _Cavalleria Rusticana_ to the _Meistersinger_
or the _Götterdämmerung_, but would not dare to say so till they were
at a safe distance; and all these admired the celebrated Cordova,
except the few that were envious of her, and who were not many.
Indeed, for once it was the other way. When Margaret had come back to
her own room after hearing _Parsifal_ the first time, she had sat down
and hidden her face in her hands for a few moments, asking herself
what all her parts were worth in the end compared with Kundry, and
what comparison was possible between the most beautiful of Italian or
French operas and that one immortal masterpiece; for she thought, and
rightly perhaps, that all the rest of Wagner's work had been but a
preparation for that, and that _Parsifal_, and _Parsifal_ alone, had
set the genius of music beside the genius of poetry, an equal, at
last, upon a throne as high. On that night the sound of her own voice
would have given her no pleasure, for she longed for another tone in
it; if by some impossible circumstance she had been engaged to sing as
Juliet that night, she would have broken down and burst into tears.
She knew it, and the knowledge made her angry with herself, yet for
nothing she could think of would she have foregone the second hearing
of _Parsifal_, and the third after that; for she was a musician first,
and then a great singer, and, like all true musicians, she was swayed
by music that touched her, and never merely pleased by it. For her no
intermediate condition of the musical sense was possible between
criticism and delight; but beyond that she had found rapture now, and
ever afterwards she would long to feel it again. Whether, if her voice
had made it possible to sing the part of Kundry, she could have lifted
herself to that seventh heaven by her own singing, only the great
Kundrys and Parsifals can tell. In lyric opera she knew the keen joy
of being both the instrument and the enthralled listener; perhaps a
still higher state beyond that was out of any one's reach, but she
could at least dream of it.

She took Van Torp with her to the performance the next day, after
impressing upon him that he was not to speak, not to whisper, not to
applaud, not to make any sound, from the moment he entered the theatre
till he left it for the dinner interval. He was far too happy with her
to question anything she said, and he obeyed her most scrupulously.
Twenty-four hours earlier she would have laughed at the idea that his
presence beside her at such a time could be not only bearable, but
sympathetic, yet that seemed natural now. The Diva and the ex-cowboy,
the accomplished musician and the Californian miner, the sensitive,
gifted, capricious woman and the iron-jawed money-wolf had found that
they had something in common. Wagner's last music affected them in the
same way.

Such things are not to be explained, and could not be believed if they
did not happen again and again before the eyes of those who know how
to see, which is quite a different thing from merely seeing.
Margaret's sudden liking for the man she had once so thoroughly
disliked had begun when he had whistled to her. It grew while he sat
beside her in the darkened theatre. She was absorbed by the music, the
action, and the scene, and at this second hearing she could follow the
noble poem itself; but she was subconscious of what her neighbour
felt. He was not so motionless merely because she had told him that he
must sit very still; he was not so intent on what he heard and saw,
merely to please her; it was not mere interest that held him, still
less was it curiosity. The spell was upon him; he was entranced, and
Margaret knew it.

Even when they left the theatre and drove back to the hotel, he was
silent, and she was the first to speak. Margaret hated the noise and
confusion of the restaurant near the Festival Theatre.

'You have enjoyed it,' she said. 'I'm glad I brought you.'

'I've felt something I don't understand,' Van Torp answered gravely.

She liked the reply for its simplicity. She had perhaps expected that
he would summon up his most picturesque language to tell her how much
pleasure the music had given him, or that he would perhaps laugh at
himself for having been moved; but instead, he only told her that he
did not understand what he had felt; and they walked on without
another word.

'Go and get something to eat,' she said when they reached the hotel,
'and I'll meet you here in half an hour. I don't care to talk either.'

He only nodded, and lifted his hat as she went up the steps; but
instead of going to eat, he sat down on a bench outside, and waited
for her there, reflecting on the nature of his new experience.

Like most successful men, he looked on all theories as trash, good
enough to amuse clever idlers, but never to be taken into
consideration in real life. He never asked about the principle on
which any invention was founded; his first and only question was,
'Will it work?'

Considering himself as the raw material, and the theatre he had just
left as the mill, he was forced to admit that _Parsifal_ 'worked.'

'It works all right,' he inwardly soliloquised. 'If that's what it
claims to do, it does it.'

When he had reached this business-like conclusion, his large lips
parted a little, and as his breath passed between his closed teeth, it
made soft little hissing sounds that had a suggestion of music in
them, though they were not really whistled notes; his sandy lashes
half veiled his eyes and he saw again what he had lately seen: the
King borne down to the bath that would never heal his wound, and the
dead swan, and the wondering Maiden-Man brought to answer for his
bow-shot, the wild Witch-Girl crouching by the giant trees, and the
long way that led upward through the forest, and upward ever, to the
Hall of the Knights, and last of all, the mysterious Sangreal itself,
glowing divinely in the midst.

He did not really understand what he had seen and saw again as he half
closed his eyes. That was the reason why he accepted it passively, as
he accepted elemental things. If he could by any means have told
himself what illusion it was all intended to produce upon his sight
and hearing, he would have pulled the trick to pieces, mentally, in a
moment, and what remained would have been the merely pleasant
recollection of something very well done, but not in itself different
from other operas or plays he had heard and seen elsewhere, nothing
more than an 'improvement on _Lohengrin_,' as he would probably have
called it.

But this was something not 'more,' but quite of another kind, and it
affected him as the play of nature's forces sometimes did; it was
like the brooding of the sea, the rising gale, the fury of the storm,
like the leaden stillness before the earthquake, the awful heave of
the earth, the stupendous crash of the doomed city, the long rolling
rumble of falling walls and tumbling houses, big with sudden death; or
again, it was like sad gleams of autumn sunshine, and the cold
cathedral light of primeval forests in winter, and then it was the
spring stirring in all things, the rising pulse of mating nature, the
burst of May-bloom, the huge glow of the earth basking in the full
summer sun.

He did not know, and no one knew, what nature meant by those things.
How could nature's meaning be put into words? And so he did not
understand what he had felt, nor could he see that it might have
significance. What was the 'interpretation' of a storm, of an
earthquake, or of winter and summer? God, perhaps; perhaps just
'nature.' He did not know. Margaret had told him the story of the
opera in the evening; he had followed it easily enough and could not
forget it. It was a sort of religious fairy-tale, he thought, and he
was ready to believe that Wagner had made a good poem of it, even a
great poem. But it was not the story that could be told, which had
moved him; it was nothing so easily defined as a poem, or a drama, or
a piece of music. A far more cultivated man than he could ever become
might sit through the performance and feel little or nothing, of that
he was sure; just as he could have carried beautiful Lady Maud in his
arms without feeling that she was a woman for him, whereas the
slightest touch of Margaret Donne, the mere fact of being near her,
made the blood beat in his throat.

That was only a way of putting it, for there was no sex in the music
he had just heard. He had sat so close to Margaret that their arms
constantly touched, yet he had forgotten that she was there. If the
music had been _Tristan and Isolde_ he could not have been unaware of
her, for a moment, for that is the supreme sex-music of Wagner's art.
But this was different, altogether different, though it was even
stronger than that.

He forgot to look at his watch. Margaret came out of the hotel,
expecting to find him waiting for her within the hall, and prepared to
be annoyed with him for taking so long over a meal. She stood on the
step and looked about, and saw him sitting on the bench at a little
distance. He raised his eyes as she came towards him and then rose
quickly.

'Is it time?' he asked.

'Yes,' she said. 'Did you get anything decent to eat?'

'Yes,' he answered vaguely. 'That is, now I think of it, I forgot
about dinner. It doesn't matter.'

She looked at his hard face curiously and saw a dead blank, the blank
that had sometimes frightened her by its possibilities, when the eyes
alone came suddenly to life.

'Won't you go in and get a biscuit, or a sandwich?' she asked after a
moment.

'Oh, no, thanks. I'm used to skipping meals when I'm interested in
things. Let's go, if you're ready.'

'I believe you are one of nature's Wagnerites,' Margaret said, as
they drove up the hill again, and she smiled at the idea.

'Well,' he answered slowly, 'there's one thing, if you don't mind my
telling you. It's rather personal. Perhaps I'd better not.'

The Primadonna was silent for a few moments, and did not look at him.

'Tell me,' she said suddenly.

'It's this. I don't know how long the performance lasted, but while it
was going on I forgot you were close beside me. You might just as well
not have been there. It's the first time since I ever knew you that
I've been near you without thinking about you all the time, and I
hadn't realised it till I was sitting here by myself. I hope you don't
mind my telling you?'

'It only makes me more glad that I brought you,' Margaret said
quietly.

'Thank you,' he answered; but he was quite sure that the same thing
could not happen again during the Second Part.

Nevertheless, it happened. For a little while, they were man and
woman, sitting side by side and very near, two in a silent multitude
of other men and women; but before long he was quite motionless, his
eyes were fixed again and he had forgotten her. She saw it and
wondered, for she knew how her presence moved him, and as his hands
lay folded on his knee, a mischievous girlish impulse almost made her,
the great artist, forget that she was listening to the greatest music
in the world and nearly made her lay her hand on his, just to see
what he would do. She was ashamed of it, and a little disgusted with
herself. The part of her that was Margaret Donne felt the disgust; the
part that was Cordova felt the shame, and each side of her nature was
restrained at a critical moment. Yet when the 'Good Friday' music
began, she was thinking of Van Torp and he was unconscious of her
presence.

It could not last, and soon she, too, was taken up into the artificial
paradise of the master-musician and borne along in the gale of golden
wings, and there was no passing of time till the very end; and the
people rose in silence and went out under the summer stars; and all
those whom nature had gifted to hear rightly, took with them memories
that years would scarcely dim.

The two walked slowly back to the town as the crowd scattered on foot
and in carriages. It was warm, and there was no moon, and one could
smell the dust, for many people were moving in the same direction,
though some stopped at almost every house and went in, and most of
them were beginning to talk in quiet tones.

Margaret stepped aside from the road and entered a narrow lane, and
Van Torp followed her in silence.

'This leads out to the fields,' she said. 'I must breathe the fresh
air. Do you mind?'

'On the contrary.'

  [Illustration: "She was aware of his slight change of position without
   turning her eyes."]

He said nothing more, and she did not speak, but walked on without
haste, dilating her nostrils to the sweet smell of grass that reached
her already. In a little while they had left the houses behind them,
and they came to a gate that led into a field.

Van Torp was going to undo the fastening, for there was no lock.

'No,' she said, 'we won't go through. I love to lean on a gate.'

She rested her crossed arms on the upper rail and Van Torp did the
same, careful that his elbow should not touch hers, and they both
stared into the dim, sweet-scented meadow. He felt her presence now
and it almost hurt him; he could hear his slow pulse in his ears, hard
and regular. She did not speak, but the night was so still that he
could hear her breathing, and at last he could not bear the warm
silence any longer.

'What are you thinking about?' he asked, trying to speak lightly.

She waited, or hesitated, before she answered him.

'You,' she said, after a time.

He moved involuntarily, and then drew a little further away from her,
as he might have withdrawn a foot from the edge of a precipice, out of
common caution. She was aware of his slight change of position without
turning her eyes.

'What made you say what you did to Mrs. Rushmore yesterday afternoon?'
she asked.

'About you?'

'Yes.'

'She asked me, point-blank, what I thought of Logotheti,' Van Torp
answered. 'I told her that I couldn't give her an unbiassed opinion of
the man you meant to marry, because I had always hoped to marry you
myself.'

'Oh--was that the way it happened?'

'Mrs. Rushmore could hardly have misunderstood me,' said Van Torp,
gathering the reins of himself, so to say, for anything that might
happen.

'No. But it sounds differently when you say it yourself.'

'That was just what I said, anyhow,' answered Van Torp. 'I didn't
think she'd go and tell you right away, but since she has, I don't
regret having said that much.'

'It was straightforward, at all events--if it was all true!' There was
the faintest laugh in her tone as she spoke the last words.

'It's true, right enough, though I didn't expect that I should be
talking to you about this sort of thing to-night.'

'The effect on Mrs. Rushmore was extraordinary, positively
fulminating,' Margaret said more lightly. 'She says I ought to break
off my engagement at once, and marry you! Fancy!'

'That's very kind of her, I'm sure,' observed Mr. Van Torp.

'I don't think so. I like it less and less, the more I think of it.'

'Well, I'm sorry, but I suppose it's natural, since you've concluded
to marry him, and it can't be helped. I wasn't going to say anything
against him, and I wouldn't say anything for him, so there was nothing
to do but to explain, which I did. I'm sorry you think I did wrong,
but I should give the same answer again.'

'Mrs. Rushmore thinks that Konstantin is a designing foreigner because
he's a Greek man of business, and that you are perfection because you
are an American business man.'

'If I'm perfection, that's not the real reason,' said Van Torp,
snatching at his first chance to steer out of the serious current; but
Margaret did not laugh.

'You are not perfection, nor I either,' she answered gravely. 'You are
famous in your way, and people call me celebrated in mine; but so far
as the rest is concerned we are just two ordinary human beings, and if
we are going to be friends we must understand each other from the
first, as far as we can.'

'I'll try to do my share,' said Van Torp, taking her tone.

'Very well. I'll do mine. I began by thinking you were amusing, when I
first met you. Then you frightened me last winter, and I hated you.
Not only that, I loathed you--there's no word strong enough for what I
felt. When I saw you in the audience, you almost paralysed my voice.'

'I didn't know it had been as bad as that,' said Mr. Van Torp quietly.

'Yes. It was worse than I can make you understand. And last spring,
when you were in so much trouble, I believed every word that was said
against you, even that you had murdered your partner's daughter in
cold blood to get rid of her, though that looked as incredible to
sensible people as it really was. It was only when I saw how Lady Maud
believed in you that I began to waver, and then I understood.'

'I'm glad you did.'

'So am I. But she is such a good woman herself that nobody can be
really bad in whom she believes. And now I'm changed still more. I
like you, and I'm sure that we shall be friends, if you will make me
one promise and keep it.'

'What is it?'

'That you will give up all idea of ever marrying me, no matter what
happens, even if I broke----'

'It's no use to go on,' interrupted Van Torp, 'for I can't promise
anything like that. Maybe you don't realise what you're asking, but
it's the impossible. That's all.'

'Oh, nonsense!' Margaret tried to laugh lightly, but it was a failure.

'No, it's very far from nonsense,' he replied, almost sternly. 'Since
you've spoken first, I'm going to tell you several things. One is,
that I accepted the syndicate's offer for the Nickel Trust so as to be
free to take any chance that might turn up. It had been open some
time, but I accepted it on the day I heard of your engagement. That's
a big thing. Another is, that I played a regular trick on Logotheti so
as to come and see you here. I deliberately asked him to dine with me
last night in London. I went right home, wrote a note to him,
antedated for yesterday afternoon, to put him off, and I left it to be
sent at the right hour. Then I drove to the station, and here I am.
You may call that pretty sharp practice, but I believe all's fair in
love and war, and I want you to understand that I think so. There's
one thing more. I won't give up the hope of making you marry me while
you're alive and I am, not if you're an old woman, and I'll put up all
I have in the game, including my own life and other people's, if it
comes to that. Amen.'

Margaret bent her head a little and was silent.

'Now you know why I won't promise what you asked,' said Van Torp in
conclusion.

He had not raised his voice; he had not laid a heavy stress on half
his words, as he often did in common conversation; there had been
nothing dramatic in his tone; but Margaret had understood well enough
that it was the plain statement of a man who meant to succeed, and
whose strength and resources were far beyond those of ordinary
suitors. She was not exactly frightened; indeed, since her dislike for
him had melted away, it was impossible not to feel a womanly
satisfaction in the magnitude of her conquest; but she also felt
instinctively that serious trouble and danger were not far off.

'You have no right to speak like that,' she said rather weakly, after
a moment.

'Perhaps not. I don't know. But I consider that you have a right to
know the truth, and that's enough for me. It's not as if I'd made up
my mind to steal your ewe-lamb from you and put myself in its place.
Logotheti is not any sort of a ewe-lamb. He's a man, he's got plenty
of strength and determination, he's got plenty of money--even what I
choose to call plenty. He says he cares for you. All right. So do I.
He says he'll marry you. I say that I will. All right again. You're
the prize put up for the best of two fighting men. You're not the
first woman in history who's been fought for, but, by all that's holy,
there never was one better worth it, not Helen of Troy herself!'

The last few words came with a sort of stormy rush, and he turned
round suddenly, and stood with his back against the gate, thrusting
his hands deep into his coat-pockets, perhaps with the idea of keeping
them quiet; but he did not come any nearer to her, and she felt she
was perfectly safe, and that a much deeper and more lasting power had
hold of him than any mere passionate longing to take her in his arms
and press his iron lips on hers against her will. She began to
understand why he was what he was, at an age when many successful men
are still fighting for final success. He was a crown-grasper, like
John the Smith. Beside him Logotheti was but a gifted favourite of
fortune. He spoke of Helen, but if he was comparing his rival with
Paris he himself was more like an Ajax than like good King Menelaus.

Margaret was not angry; she was hardly displeased, but she was really
at a loss what to say, and she said the first sensible thing that
suggested itself and that was approximately true.

'I'm sorry you have told me all this. We might have spent these next
two days very pleasantly together. Oh, I'm not pretending what I don't
feel! It's impossible for a woman like me, who can still be free, not
to be flattered when such a man as you cares for her in earnest, and
says the things you have. But, on the other hand, I'm engaged to be
married to another man, and it would not be loyal of me to let you
make love to me.'

'I don't mean to,' said Van Torp stoutly. 'It won't be necessary. If I
never spoke again you wouldn't forget what I've told you--ever! Why
should I say it again? I don't want to, until you can say as much to
me. If it's time to go, hitch the lead to my collar and take me home!
I'll follow you as quietly as a spaniel, anywhere!'

'And what would happen if I told you not to follow me, but to go home
and lie down in your kennel?' She laughed low as she moved away from
the gate.

'I'm not sure,' answered Van Torp. 'Don't.'

The last word was not spoken at all with an accent of warning, but it
was not said in a begging tone either. Margaret's short laugh followed
it instantly. He took the cue she offered, and went on speaking in his
ordinary manner.

'I'm not a bad dog if you don't bully me, and if you feed me at
regular hours and take me for a walk now and then. I don't pretend I'm
cut out for a French pet, because I'm not. I'm too big for a lap-dog,
and too fond of sport for the drawing-room, I suppose. A good useful
dog generally is, isn't he? Maybe I'm a little quarrelsome with other
dogs, but then, they needn't come bothering around!'

Margaret was amused, or pretended to be, but she was also thinking
very seriously of the future, and asking herself whether she ought to
send for Logotheti at once, or not. Van Torp would certainly not
leave Bayreuth at a moment's notice, at her bidding, and if he stayed
she could not now refuse to see him, with any show of justice. She
thought of a compromise, and suddenly stood still in the lane.

'You said just now that you would not say over again any of those
things you have told me to-night. Do you mean that?'

'Yes, I mean it.'

'Then please promise that you won't. That's all I ask if you are going
to spend the next two days here, and if I am to let you see me.'

'I promise,' Van Torp answered, without hesitation.

She allowed herself the illusion that she had both done the right
thing and also taken the position of command; and he, standing beside
her, allowed himself to smile at the futility of what she was
requiring of him with so much earnestness, for little as he knew of
women's ways he was more than sure that the words he had spoken that
night would come back to her again and again; and more than that he
could not hope at present. But she could not see his face clearly.

'Thank you,' she said. 'That shall be our compact.'

To his surprise, she held out her hand. He took it with wonderful
calmness, considering what the touch meant to him, and he returned
discreetly what was meant for a friendly pressure. She was so well
satisfied now that she did not think it necessary to telegraph to
Logotheti that he might start at once, though even if she had done so
immediately he could hardly have reached Bayreuth till the afternoon
of the next day but one, when the last performance of _Parsifal_ would
be already going on; and she herself intended to leave on the morning
after that.

She walked forward in silence for a few moments, and the lights of the
town grew quickly brighter.

'You will come in and have some supper with us, of course,' she said
presently.

'Why, certainly, since you're so kind,' answered Van Torp.

'I feel responsible for your having forgotten to dine,' she laughed.
'I must make it up to you. By this time Mrs. Rushmore is probably
wondering where I am.'

'Well,' said the American, 'if she thinks I'm perfection, she knows
that you're safe with me, I suppose, even if you do come home a little
late.'

'I shall say that we walked home very slowly, in order to breathe the
air.'

'Yes. We've walked home very slowly.'

'I mean,' said Margaret quickly, 'that I shall not say we have been
out towards the fields, as far as the gate.'

'I don't see any harm if we have,' observed Mr Van Torp indifferently.

'Harm? No! Don't you understand? Mrs. Rushmore is quite capable of
thinking that I have already--how shall I say?----' she stopped.

'Taken note of her good advice,' he said, completing the sentence for
her.

'Exactly! Whereas nothing could be further from my intention, as you
know. I'm very fond of Mrs. Rushmore,' Margaret continued quickly, in
order to get away from the dangerous subject she had felt obliged to
approach; 'she has been a mother to me, and heaven knows I needed one,
and she has the best and kindest heart in the world. But she is so
anxious for my happiness that, whenever she thinks it is at stake, she
rushes at conclusions without the slightest reason, and then it's very
hard to get them out of her dear old head!'

'I see. If that's why she thinks me perfection, I'll try not to
disappoint her.'

They reached the hotel, went upstairs, and separated on the landing to
get ready for supper. Margaret went to her own room, and before
joining Mrs. Rushmore she wrote a message to Alphonsine, her theatre
maid, who was visiting her family in Alsatia. Margaret generally
telegraphed her instructions, because it was much less trouble than to
write. She inquired whether Alphonsine would be ready to join her in
Paris on a certain day, and she asked for the address of a wig-maker
which she had forgotten.

On his side of the landing, Mr. Van Torp found Stemp waiting to dress
him, and the valet handed him a telegram. It was from Captain Brown,
and had been re-telegraphed from London.

'Anchored off Saint Mark's Square to-day, 3.30 P.M. Quick passage. No
stop. Coaling to-morrow. Ready for sea next morning.'

Mr. Van Torp laid the message open on the table in order to save
Stemp the trouble of looking for it afterwards.

'Stemp,' he asked, as he threw off his coat and kicked off his dusty
shoes, 'were you ever sea-sick?'

'Yes, sir,' answered the admirable valet, but he offered no more
information on the subject.

During the silence that followed, neither wasted a second. It is no
joke to wash and get into evening dress in six minutes, even with the
help of a body-servant trained to do his work at high speed.

'I mean,' said Van Torp, when he was already fastening his collar,
'are you sea-sick nowadays?'

'No, sir,' replied Stemp, in precisely the same tone as before.

'I don't mean on a twenty-thousand-ton liner. Black cravat. Yes. I
mean on a yacht. Fix it behind. Right. Would you be sea-sick on a
steam yacht?'

'No, sir.'

'Sure?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Then I'll take you. Tuxedo.'

'Thank you, sir.'

Stemp held up the dinner-jacket; Mr. Van Torp's solid arms slipped
into the sleeves, he shook his sturdy shoulders, and pulled the jacket
down in front while the valet 'settled' the back. Then he faced round
suddenly, like a soldier at drill.

'All right?' he inquired.

Stemp looked him over carefully from head to foot in the glare of the
electric light.

'Yes, sir.'

Van Torp left the room at once. He found Mrs. Rushmore slowly moving
about the supper-table, more imposing than ever in a perfectly new
black tea-gown and an extremely smart widow's cap. Mr. Van Torp
thought she was a very fine old lady indeed. Margaret had not entered
yet; a waiter with smooth yellow hair stood by a portable sideboard on
which there were covered dishes. There were poppies and corn-flowers
in a plain white jar on the table. Mrs. Rushmore smiled at the
financier; it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that she beamed
upon him. They had not met alone since his first visit on the previous
afternoon.

'Miss Donne is a little late,' she said, as if the fact were very
pleasing. 'You brought her back, of course.'

'Why, certainly,' said Mr. Van Torp with an amiable smile.

'You can hardly have come straight from the theatre,' continued the
lady, 'for I heard the other people in the hotel coming in fully
twenty minutes before you did.'

'We walked home very slowly,' said Mr. Van Torp, still smiling
amiably.

'Ah, I see! You went for a little walk to get some air!' She seemed
delighted.

'We walked home very slowly in order to breathe the air,' said Mr. Van
Torp--'to breathe the air, as you say. I have to thank you very much
for giving me your seat, Mrs. Rushmore.'

'To tell the truth,' replied the good lady, 'I was very glad to let
you take my place. I cannot say I enjoy that sort of music myself. It
gives me a headache.'

Margaret entered at this point in a marvellous 'creation' of Chinese
crape, of the most delicate shade of heliotrope. Her dressmaker called
it also a tea-gown, but Mr. Van Torp would have thought it 'quite
appropriate' for a 'dinner-dance' at Bar Harbor.

'My dear child,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'how long you were in getting
back from the theatre! I began to fear that something had happened!'

'We walked home very slowly,' said Margaret, with a pleasant smile.

'Ah? You went for a little walk to get some air?'

'We just walked home very slowly, in order to breathe the air,'
Margaret answered innocently.

It dawned on Mr. Van Torp that the dignified Mrs. Rushmore was not
quite devoid of a sense of humour. It also occurred to him that her
repetition of the question to Margaret, and the latter's answer, must
have revealed to her the fact that the two had agreed upon what they
should say, since they used identically the same words, and that they
therefore had an understanding about something they preferred to
conceal from her. Nothing could have given Mrs. Rushmore such profound
satisfaction as this, and it revealed itself in her bright smiles and
her anxiety that both Margaret and Van Torp should, if possible,
over-eat themselves with the excellent things she had been at pains to
provide for them and for herself. For she was something of an epicure
and her dinners in Versailles were of good fame, even in Paris.

Great appetites are generally silent, like the sincerest affections.
Margaret was very hungry, and Mr. Van Torp was both hungry and very
much in love. Mrs. Rushmore was neither, and she talked pleasantly
while tasting each delicacy with critical satisfaction.

'By the bye,' she said at last, when she saw that the millionaire was
backing his foretopsail to come to anchor, as Captain Brown might have
expressed it, 'I hope you have not had any further trouble about your
rooms, Mr. Van Torp.'

'None at all, that I know of,' answered the latter. 'My man told me
nothing.'

'The Russian prince arrived this evening while you were at the
theatre, and threatened the director with all sorts of legal
consequences because the rooms he had ordered were occupied. He turns
out to be only a count after all.'

'You don't say so,' observed Mr. Van Torp, in an encouraging tone.

'What became of him?' Margaret asked, without much interest.

'Did Potts not tell you, my dear? Why, Justine assisted at the whole
interview and came and told me at once.'

Justine was Mrs. Rushmore's Parisian maid, who always knew everything.

'What happened?' inquired Margaret, still not much interested.

'He arrived in an automobile,' answered Mrs. Rushmore, and she paused.

'What old Griggs calls a sudden-death-cart,' Mr. Van Torp put in.

'What a shocking name for it!' cried Mrs. Rushmore. 'And you are
always in them, my dear child!' She looked at Margaret. 'A
sudden-death-cart! It quite makes me shiver.'

'Griggs says that all his friends either kill or get killed in them,'
explained the American.

'My throat-doctor says motoring is very bad for the voice, so I've
given it up,' Margaret said.

'Really? Thank goodness your profession has been of some use to you at
last, my dear!'

Margaret laughed.

'Tell us about the Russian count,' she said. 'Has he found lodgings,
or is he going to sleep in his motor?'

'My dear, he's the most original man you ever heard of! First he
wanted to buy the hotel and turn us all out, and offered any price for
it, but the director said it was owned by a company in Munich. Then he
sent his secretary about trying to buy a house, while he dined, but
that didn't succeed either. He must be very wealthy, or else quite
mad.'

'Mad, I should say,' observed Mr. Van Torp, slowly peeling a peach.
'Did you happen to catch his name, Mrs. Rushmore?'

'Oh, yes! We heard nothing else all the afternoon. His name is
Kralinsky--Count Kralinsky.'

Mr. Van Torp continued to peel his peach scientifically and
economically, though he was aware that Margaret was looking at him
with sudden curiosity.

'Kralinsky,' he said slowly, keeping his eyes on the silver blade of
the knife as he finished what he was doing. 'It's not an uncommon
name, I believe. I've heard it before. Sounds Polish, doesn't it?'

He looked up suddenly and showed Margaret the peeled peach on his
fork. He smiled as he met her eyes, and she nodded so slightly that
Mrs. Rushmore did not notice the movement.

'Did you ever see that done better?' he asked with an air of triumph.

'Ripping!' Margaret answered. 'You're a dandy dab at it!'

'My dear child, what terrible slang!'

'I'm sorry,' said Margaret. 'I'm catching all sorts of American
expressions from Mr. Van Torp, and when they get mixed up with my
English ones the result is Babel, I suppose!'

'I've not heard Mr. Van Torp use any slang expressions yet, my dear,'
said Mrs. Rushmore, almost severely.

'You will,' Margaret retorted with a laugh. 'What became of Count
Kralinsky? I didn't mean to spoil your story.'

'My dear, he's got the Pastor to give up his house, by offering him a
hundred pounds for the poor here.'

'It's cheap,' observed Mr. Van Torp. 'The poor always are.'

'You two are saying the most dreadful things to-night!' cried Mrs.
Rushmore.

'Nothing dreadful in that, Mrs. Rushmore,' objected the millionaire.
'There's no investment on earth like charity.'

'We are taught that by charity we lay up treasures in heaven,' said
the good lady.

'Provided it's not mentioned in the newspapers,' retorted Mr. Van
Torp. 'When it is, we lay up treasures on earth. I don't like to
mention other men in that connexion, especially as I've done the same
thing myself now and then, just to quiet things down; but I suppose
some names will occur to you right away, don't they? Where is the
Pastor going to sleep, now that the philanthropist has bought him
out?'

'I really don't know,' answered Mrs. Rushmore.

'Then he's the real philanthropist,' said Van Torp. 'If he understood
the power of advertisement, and wanted it, he'd let it be known that
he was going to sleep on the church steps without enough blankets, for
the good of the poor who are to have the money, and he'd get everybody
to come and look at him in his sleep, and notice how good he was.
Instead of that, he's probably turned in under the back stairs, in the
coal-hole, without saying anything about it. I don't know how it
strikes you, Mrs. Rushmore, but it does seem to me that the
clergyman's the real philanthropist after all!'

'Indeed he is, poor man,' said Margaret, a good deal surprised at Van
Torp's sermon on charity, and wondering vaguely whether he was talking
for effect or merely saying what he really thought.

An effect certainly followed.

'You put it very sensibly, I'm sure,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'though of
course I should not have looked for anything else from a
fellow-countryman I respect. You startled me a little at first, when
you said that the poor are always cheap! Only that, I assure you.'

'Well,' answered the American, 'I never was very good at expressing
myself, but I'm glad we think alike, for I must say I value your
opinion very highly, Mrs. Rushmore, as I had learned to value the
opinion of your late husband.'

'You're very kind,' she said, in a grateful tone.

Margaret was not sure that she was pleased as she realised how easily
Van Torp played upon her old friend's feelings and convictions, and
she wondered whether he had not already played on her own that night,
in much the same way. But with the mere thought his words and his
voice came back to her, with his talk about the uselessness of ever
repeating what he had said that once, because he knew she could never
forget it. And her young instinct told her that he dealt with the
elderly woman precisely as if she were a man, with all the ease that
proceeded from his great knowledge of men and their weaknesses; but
that with herself, in his ignorance of feminine ways, he could only be
quite natural.

He left them soon after supper, and gave himself up to Stemp,
pondering over what he had accomplished in two days, and also about
another question which had lately presented itself. When he was ready
to send his valet to bed he sat down at his table and wrote a
telegram:

'If you can find Barak, please explain that I was mistaken. Kralinsky
is not in New York, but here in Bayreuth for some days, lodging at the
Pastor's house.'

This message was addressed to Logotheti at his lodgings in London, and
Van Torp signed it and gave it to Stemp to be sent at once. Logotheti
never went to bed before two o'clock, as he knew, and might very
possibly get the telegram the same night.

When his man was gone, Van Torp drew his chair to the open window and
sat up a long time thinking about what he had just done; for though he
held that all was fair in such a contest, he did not mean to do
anything which he himself thought 'low-down.' One proof of this odd
sort of integrity was that the telegram itself was a fair warning of
his presence in Bayreuth, where Logotheti knew that Margaret was still
stopping.

As for the rest, he was quite convinced that it was Kralinsky himself,
the ruby merchant, who had suddenly appeared at Bayreuth, and that
this man was no other than the youth he had met long ago as a cow-boy
in the West, who used to whistle _Parsifal_ with his companion in
exile, and who, having grown rich, had lost no time in coming to
Europe for the very purpose of hearing the music he had always loved
so well. And that this man had robbed the poor Tartar girl, Mr. Van
Torp had no manner of doubt; and he believed that he had probably
promised her marriage and abandoned her; and if this were true, to
help her to find Kralinsky was in itself a good action.



CHAPTER VII


When Van Torp and Logotheti left Mr. Pinney's shop, the old jeweller
meant to have a good look at the ruby the Greek had brought him, and
was going to weigh it, not merely as a matter of business, for he
weighed every stone that passed through his hands from crown diamonds
to sparks, but with genuine curiosity, because in a long experience he
had not seen very many rubies of such a size, which were also of such
fine quality, and he wondered where this one had been found.

Just then, however, two well-dressed young men entered the shop and
came up to him. He had never seen either of them before, but their
looks inspired him with confidence; and when they spoke, their tone
was that of English gentlemen, which all other Englishmen find it
practically impossible to imitate, and which had been extremely
familiar to Mr. Pinney from his youth. Though he was the great
jeweller himself, the wealthy descendant of five of his name in
succession, and much better off than half his customers, he was alone
in his shop that morning. The truth was that his only son, the sixth
Pinney and the apple of his eye, had just been married and was gone
abroad for a honeymoon trip, and the head shopman, who was Scotch, was
having his month's holiday in Ayrshire, and the second man had been
sent for, to clean and restring the Duchess of Barchester's pearls at
her Grace's house in Cadogan Gardens, as was always done after the
season, and a couple of skilled workmen for whom Mr. Pinney found
occupation all the year round were in the workshop at their tables;
wherefore, out of four responsible and worthy men who usually were
about, only the great Mr. Pinney himself was at his post.

One of the two well-dressed customers asked to see some pins, and the
other gave his advice. The first bought a pin with a small sapphire
set in sparks for ten guineas, and gave only ten pounds for it because
he paid cash. Mr. Pinney put the pin into its little morocco case,
wrapped it up neatly and handed it to the purchaser. The latter and
his friend said good-morning in a civil and leisurely manner,
sauntered out, took a hansom a few steps farther down the street, and
drove away.

The little paper twist containing Logotheti's ruby was still exactly
where Mr. Pinney had placed it on the counter, and he was going to
examine the stone and weigh it at last, when two more customers
entered the shop, evidently foreigners, and moreover of a sort
unfamiliar to the good jeweller, and especially suspicious.

The two were Baraka and her interpreter and servant, whom Logotheti
had called a Turk, and who was really a Turkish subject and a
Mohammedan, though as to race, he was a half-bred Greek and Dalmatian.
Now Dalmatians are generally honest, truthful, and trustworthy, and
the low-class Greek of Constantinople is usually extremely sharp, if
he is nothing more definitely reprehensible; and Baraka's man was a
cross between the two, as I have said, and had been brought up as a
Musulman in a rich Turkish family, and recommended to Baraka by the
Persian merchant in whose house she had lived. He had been originally
baptized a Christian under the name of Spiro, and had been
subsequently renamed Selim when he was made a real Moslem at twelve
years old; so he used whichever name suited the circumstances in which
he was placed. At present he was Spiro. He was neatly dressed in grey
clothes made by a French tailor, and he wore a French hat, which
always made a bad impression on Mr. Pinney. He had brown hair, brown
eyes, a brown moustache, and a brown face; he looked as active as a
cat, and Mr. Pinney at once put him down in his mind as a 'Froggy.'
But the jeweller was less sure about Baraka, who was dressed like any
young Englishman, but looked like no European he had ever seen. On the
whole, he took the newcomer for the son of an Indian rajah sent to
England to be educated.

The interpreter spoke broken but intelligible English. He called
Baraka his master, and explained that the latter wished to see some
rubies, if Mr. Pinney had any, cut or uncut. The young gentleman, he
said, did not speak English, but was a good judge of stones.

For one moment the jeweller forgot the little paper twist as he turned
towards his safe, pulling out his keys at the same time. To reach the
safe he had to walk the whole length of the shop, behind the counter,
and before he had gone half way he remembered the stone, turned, came
back, and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket. Then he went and got
the little japanned strong-box with a patent lock, in which he kept
loose stones, some wrapped up in little pieces of paper, and some in
pill-boxes. He brought it to his customers, and opened it before them.

They stayed a long time, and Spiro asked many questions for Baraka,
chiefly relating to the sliding-scale of prices which is regulated by
the weight of the stones where their quality is equally good, and
Baraka made notes of some sort in a little English memorandum-book, as
if she had done it all her life; but Mr. Pinney could not see what she
wrote. He was very careful, and watched the stones, when she took them
in her fingers and held them up against the light, or laid them on a
sheet of white paper to look at them critically.

She bought nothing; and when she had seen all he had to show her, she
thanked him very much through Spiro, said she would come back another
day, and went out with a leisurely, Oriental gait, as if nothing in
the world could hurry her. Mr. Pinney counted the stones again, and
was going to lock the box, when his second man came in, having
finished stringing the Duchess's pearls. At the same moment, it
occurred to Mr. Pinney that he might as well go to luncheon, and that
he had better put Logotheti's ruby into the little strong-box and lock
it up in the safe until he at last had a chance to weigh it. He
accordingly took the screw of paper from his waistcoat pocket, and as
a matter of formality he undid it once more.

'Merciful Providence!' cried Mr. Pinney, for he was a religious man.

The screw of paper contained a bit of broken green glass. He threw his
keys to his shopman without another word, and rushed out into the
street without his hat, his keen old face deadly pale, and his
beautiful frock-coat flying in his wake.

He almost hurled himself upon a quiet policeman.

'Thief!' he cried. 'Two foreigners in grey clothes--ruby worth ten
thousand pounds just gone--I'm Pinney the jeweller!'

You cannot astonish a London policeman. The one Pinney had caught
looked quietly up and down the street, and then glanced at his
interlocutor to be sure that it was he, for he knew him by sight.

'All right,' he said quickly, but very quietly. 'I'll have them in a
minute, sir, for they're in sight still. Better go in while I take
them, sir.'

He caught them in less than a minute without the slightest difficulty,
and by some odd coincidence two other policemen suddenly appeared
quite close to him. There was a little stir in the street, but Baraka
and Spiro were too sensible and too sure of themselves to offer any
useless resistance, and supposing there was some misunderstanding they
walked back quietly to Mr. Pinney's shop between two of the policemen,
while the third went for a four-wheeler at the nearest stand, which
happened to be the corner of Brook Street and New Bond Street.

Mr. Pinney recognised his late customers without hesitation, and went
with them to the police station, where he told his story and showed
the piece of green glass. Spiro tried to speak, but was ordered to
hold his tongue, and as no rubies were found in their pockets he and
Baraka were led away to be more thoroughly searched.

But now, at last, Baraka resisted, and with such tremendous energy
that there would have been serious trouble if Spiro had not called out
something which at once changed the aspect of matters.

'Master is lady!' he yelled. 'Lady, man clothes!'

'That makes a pretty bad case,' observed the sergeant who was
superintending. 'Send for Mrs. Mowle.'

Baraka did not resist when she saw the matron, and went quietly with
her to a cell at the back of the station. In less than ten minutes
Mrs. Mowle came out and locked the door after her. She was a cheery
little person, very neatly dressed, and she had restless bright eyes
like a ferret. She brought a little bag of soft deerskin in her hand,
and a steel bodkin with a wrought silver handle, such as southern
Italian women used to wear in their hair before such weapons were
prohibited. Mrs. Mowle gave both objects to the officer without
comment.

'Any scars or tattoo-marks, Mrs. Mowle?' he inquired in his
business-like way.

'Not a one,' answered Mrs. Mowle, who had formerly taken in washing
at home and was the widow of a brave policeman, killed in doing his
duty.

In the bag there were several screws of paper, which were found to
contain uncut rubies of different sizes to a large value. But there
was one, much larger than the others, which Mr. Van Torp had not seen
that morning. Mr. Pinney looked at it very carefully, held it to the
light, laid it on a sheet of paper, and examined it long in every
aspect. He was a conscientious man.

'To the best of my belief,' he deposed, 'this is the stone that was on
my counter half an hour ago, and for which this piece of green glass
was substituted. It is the property of a customer of mine, Monsieur
Konstantin Logotheti of Paris, who brought it to me this morning to be
cut. I think it may be worth between nine and ten thousand pounds. I
can say nothing as to the identity of the paper, for tissue paper is
very much alike everywhere.'

'The woman,' observed the officer in charge of the station, 'appears
to steal nothing but rubies. It looks like a queer case. We'll lock up
the two, Mr. Pinney, and if you will be kind enough to look in
to-morrow morning, I'm sure the Magistrate won't keep you waiting for
the case.'

Vastly relieved and comforted, Mr. Pinney returned to his shop.
Formality required that the ruby itself, with the others in the bag,
should remain in the keeping of the police till the Magistrate ordered
it to be returned to its rightful owner, the next morning; but Mr.
Pinney felt quite as sure of its safety as if it were in the japanned
strong-box in his own safe, and possibly even a little more sure, for
nobody could steal it from the police station.

But after he was gone, Spiro was heard calling loudly, though not
rudely or violently, from his place of confinement.

'Mr. Policeman! Mr. Policeman! Please come speak!'

The man on duty went to the door and asked what he wanted. In his
broken English he explained very clearly that Baraka had a friend in
London who was one of the great of the earth, and who would certainly
prove her innocence, vouch for her character, and cause her to be set
at large without delay, if he knew of her trouble.

'What is the gentleman's name?' inquired the policeman.

The name of Baraka's friend was Konstantin Logotheti, and Spiro knew
the address of the lodgings he always kept in St. James's Place.

'Very well,' said the policeman. 'I'll speak to the officer at once.'

'I thank very much, sir,' Spiro answered, and he made no more noise.

The sergeant looked surprised when the message was given to him.

'Queer case this,' he observed. 'Here's the thief appealing to the
owner of the stolen property for help; and the owner is one of those
millionaire financiers; and the thief is a lovely girl in man's
clothes. By the bye, Sampson, tell Mrs. Mowle to get out some women's
slops and dress her decently, while I see if I can find Mr. Logotheti
by telephone. They'll be likely to know something about him at the
Bank if he's not at home, and he may come to find out what's the
matter. If Mrs. Foxwell should look in and want to see the girl, let
her in, of course, without asking me. If she's in town, she'll be here
before long, for I've telephoned to her house, as usual when there's a
girl in trouble.'

There was a sort of standing, unofficial order that in any case of a
girl or a young woman being locked up, Mrs. Foxwell was to know of it,
and she had a way of remembering a great many sergeants' names, and
doing kind things for their wives at Christmas-time, which further
disposed them to help her in her work. But the London police are by
nature the kindliest set of men who keep order anywhere in the world,
and they will readily help a man or woman who tries to do good in a
sensible, practical way; and if they are sometimes a little prejudiced
in favour of their own perspicuity in getting up a case, let that
policeman, of any other country, who is quite without fault, throw the
first stone at their brave, good natured heads.

Logotheti was not at his lodgings in St. James's Place, and from each
of two clubs to which the officer telephoned rather at random, the
only answer was that he was a member but not in the house. The officer
wrote a line to his rooms and sent it by a messenger, to be given to
him as soon as he came in.

  [Illustration: "She grasped Lady Maud's hand."]

It was late in the hot afternoon when Mrs. Foxwell answered the
message by coming to the police station herself. She was at once
admitted to Baraka's cell and the door was closed after her.

The girl was lying on the pallet bed, dressed in a poor calico skirt
and a loose white cotton jacket, which Mrs. Mowle had brought and had
insisted that she must put on; and her man's clothes had been taken
from her with all her other belongings. She sat up, forlorn, pale and
lovely, as the kind visitor entered and stood beside her.

'Poor child!' exclaimed the lady, touched by her sad eyes. 'What can I
do to help you?'

Baraka shook her head, for she did not understand. Then she looked up
into eyes almost as beautiful as her own, and pronounced a name,
slowly and so distinctly that it was impossible not to hear each
syllable.

'Konstantin Logotheti.'

The lady started, as well she might; for she was no other than Lady
Maud, who called herself by her own family name, 'Mrs. Foxwell,' in
her work amongst the poor women of London.

Baraka saw the quick movement and understood that Logotheti was well
known to her visitor. She grasped Lady Maud's arm with both her small
hands, and looked up to her face with a beseeching look that could not
be misunderstood. She wished Logotheti to be informed of her
captivity, and was absolutely confident that he would help her out of
her trouble. Lady Maud was less sure of that, however, and said so,
but it was soon clear that Baraka did not speak a word of any language
known to Lady Maud, who was no great linguist at best. Under these
circumstances it looked as if there were nothing to be done for the
poor girl, who made all sorts of signs of distress, when she saw that
the English woman was about to leave her, in sheer despair of being of
any use. Just then, however, the sergeant came to the door, and
informed the visitor that the girl had an accomplice who spoke her
language and knew some English, and that by stretching a point he
would bring the man, if Mrs. Foxwell wished to talk with him.

The result was that in less than half an hour, Lady Maud heard from
Spiro a most extraordinary tale, of which she did not believe a single
word. To her plain English mind, it all seemed perfectly mad at first,
and on reflection she thought it an outrageous attempt to play upon
her credulity; whereas she was thoroughly convinced that the girl had
come to grief in some way through Logotheti and had followed him from
Constantinople, probably supporting herself and her companion by
stealing on the way. Lady Maud's husband had been a brute, but he knew
the East tolerably well, having done some military duty in the
Caucasus before he entered the diplomatic service; his stories had
chiefly illustrated the profound duplicity of all Asiatics, and she
had not seen any reason to disbelieve them.

When Spiro had nothing more to say, therefore, she rose from the only
seat there was and shook her head with an air of utter incredulity,
mingled with the sort of pitying contempt she felt for all lying in
general. She could easily follow the case, by the help of the sergeant
and the Police Court reports, and she might be able to help Baraka
hereafter when the girl had served the sentence she would certainly
get for such an important and cleverly managed theft. The poor girl
implored and wept in vain; Lady Maud could do nothing, and would not
stay to be told any more inane stories about ruby mines in Tartary.
She called the sergeant, freed herself from Baraka's despairing hold
on her hand and went out. Spiro was then marched back to his cell on
the men's side.

Though it was hot, Lady Maud walked home, as Mr. Van Torp had done
that same morning when he had left Mr. Pinney's shop. She always
walked when she was in any distress or difficulty, for the motion
helped her to think, since she was strong and healthy, and only in her
twenty-ninth year. Just now, too, she was a good deal disturbed by
what had happened, besides being annoyed by the attempt that had been
made to play on her credulity in such a gross way.

She was really fond of Margaret Donne, quite apart from any admiration
she felt for the Primadonna's genius, by which she might have been
influenced. In her opinion, the Tartar girl's appeal for help to reach
Logotheti could only mean one thing, and that was very far from being
to his credit. If the girl had not been positively proved to be a
thief and if she had not attempted to impose upon her by what seemed
the most absurd falsehoods, Lady Maud would very probably have taken
her under her own protection, as far as the law would allow. But her
especial charity was not for criminals or cheats, though she had
sometimes helped and comforted women accused of far worse crimes than
stealing. In this instance she could do nothing, and she did not even
wish to do anything. It was a flagrant case, and the law would deal
with it in the right way. The girl had come to grief, no doubt, by
trusting Logotheti blindly, and he had thrown her off; if she had sunk
into the dismal depths of woe behind the Virtue-Curtain, as most of
her kind did, Lady Maud would have gone in and tried to drag her out,
as she had saved others. But Logotheti's victim had taken a different
turn, had turned thief and had got into the hands of justice. Her sin
would be on his head, no doubt, but no power could avert from her the
just consequences of a misdeed that had no necessary connexion with
her fall.

Thus argued Lady Maud, while Baraka lay on her pallet bed in her
calico skirt and white cotton jacket, neither weeping, nor despairing
by any means, nor otherwise yielding to girlish weakness, but already
devising means for carrying on her pursuit of the man she would still
seek, even throughout the whole world, though she was just now a
penniless girl locked up as a thief in a London police station. It was
not one of the down-hearted, crying sort that could have got so far
already, against such portentous odds.

She guessed well enough that she would be tried the next morning in
the Police Court; for Spiro, who knew much about Europe, and England
in particular, had told her a great deal during their travels. She
had learned that England was a land of justice, and she would probably
get it in the end; for the rest, she was a good Musulman girl and
looked on whatsoever befell her as being her portion, for good or
evil, to be accepted without murmuring.

Lady Maud could not know anything of this and took Baraka for a common
delinquent, so far as her present situation was concerned. But when
the Englishwoman thought of what must have gone before, and of the
part Logotheti had almost certainly played in the girl's life, her
anger was roused, and she sat down and wrote to Margaret on the
impulse of the moment. She gave a detailed account of her experience
at the police station, including especially a description of the way
Baraka had behaved in trying to send a message to Logotheti.

'I tell you quite frankly,' Lady Maud wrote in conclusion, 'that my
friend Mr. Van Torp has begged me very urgently to use any friendly
influence I may possess, to induce you to reconsider your engagement,
because he hopes that you will accept him instead. You will not think
any less well of him for that. A man may ask his best friend to help
him to marry the girl he is in love with, I am sure! I told him that I
would not do anything to make trouble between you and Logo. If I am
making trouble now, by writing all this, it is therefore not to help
Mr. Van Torp, but because the impression I have had about Logo has
really frightened me, for you. I made such a wretched failure of my
own married life that I have some right to warn a friend who seems to
be on the point of doing just the same thing. I don't forget that in
spite of all your celebrity--and its glories--you are nothing but a
young girl still, under twenty-five; but you are not a schoolgirl, my
dear, and you do not expect to find that a man like Logo, who is well
on towards forty now, is a perfect Galahad. Even I didn't flatter
myself that Leven had never cared for any one else, when I married
him, and I had not half your knowledge of the world, I fancy. But you
have a right to be sure that the man you marry is quite free, and that
you won't suddenly meet a lovely Eastern girl of twenty who claims him
after you think he is yours; and your friend has a right to warn you,
if she feels sure that he is mixed up in some affair that isn't over
yet. I'm not sure that I should be a good friend to you if I held my
tongue. Our fathers were very close friends before us, Margaret, and
there is really a sort of inheritance in their friendship, between you
and me, isn't there? Besides, if you think I'm doing wrong, or that
I'm making trouble out of nothing, just to help Mr. Van Torp, you can
tell me so and we shall part I suppose, and that will be the end of
it! Except that I shall be very, very sorry to lose you.

'I don't know where Logo is, but if he were near enough I should go to
him and tell him what I think. Of course he is not in town now--nobody
is, and I've only stayed on to clear everything out of my house, now
that I'm giving it up. I suppose he is with you, though you said you
did not want him at Bayreuth! Show him this letter if you like, for
I'm quite ready to face him if he's angry at my interference. I would
even join you in Paris, if you wanted me, for I have nothing to do and
strange to say I have a little money! I've sold almost all my
furniture, you know, so I'm not such a total pauper as usual. But in
any case answer this, please, and tell me that I have done right, or
wrong, just as you feel about it--and then we will go on being
friends, or say good-bye, whichever you decide.'

Lady Maud signed this long letter and addressed it to Miss Margaret
Donne, at Bayreuth, feeling sure that it would be delivered, even
without the name of the hotel, which she did not know. But the
Bayreuth post-office was overworked during the limited time of the
performances, and it happened that the extra assistant through whose
hands the letter passed for distribution either did not know that Miss
Donne was the famous Cordova, or did not happen to remember the hotel
at which she was stopping, or both, and it got pigeonholed under D, to
be called for. The consequence was that Margaret did not receive it
until the morning after the performance of _Parsifal_ to which she had
taken Van Torp, though it had left London only six hours after him;
for such things will happen even in extremely well-managed countries
when people send letters insufficiently addressed.

Furthermore, it also happened that Logotheti was cooling himself on
the deck of his yacht in the neighbourhood of Penzance, while poor
Baraka was half-stifled in the Police Station. For the yacht, which
was a very comfortable one, though no longer new, and not very fast
according to modern ideas, was at Cowes, waiting to be wanted, and
when her owner parted from Van Torp after promising to dine on the
next day but one, it occurred to him that the smell of the wood
pavements was particularly nasty, that it would make no real
difference whether he returned to Pinney's at once or in two days, or
two weeks, since the ruby he had left must be cut before it was
mounted, and that he might just as well take the fast train to
Southampton and get out to sea for thirty-six hours. This he did,
after telegraphing to his sailing-master to have steam as soon as
possible; and as he had only just time to reach the Waterloo Station
he did not even take the trouble to stop at his lodgings. He needed no
luggage, for he had everything he wanted on board, and his man was far
too well used to his ways to be surprised at his absence.

The consequence of this was that when Baraka's case came up the next
morning there was no one to say a word for her and Spiro. Mr. Pinney
identified the ruby 'to the best of his belief' as the one stolen from
his counter, the fact that Baraka had been disguised in man's clothes
was treated as additional evidence, and she and Spiro were sent to
Brixton Gaol accordingly, Spiro protesting their innocence all the
while in eloquent but disjointed English, until he was told to hold
his tongue.

Further, Lady Maud read the Police Court report in an evening paper,
cut it out and sent it to Margaret as a document confirming the
letter she had posted on the previous evening; and owing to the same
insufficiency in the address, the two missives were delivered
together.

Lastly, Mr. Pinney took the big ruby back to his shop and locked it up
in his safe with a satisfaction and a sense of profound relief such as
he had rarely felt in a long and honourable life; and he would have
been horrified and distressed beyond words if he could have even
guessed that he had been the means of sending an innocent and helpless
girl to prison. The mere possibility of such a mistake would have sent
him at the greatest attainable speed to Scotland Yard, and if
necessary in pursuit of the Home Secretary himself. The latter was in
the north of Scotland, on a friend's moor, particularly preoccupied
about his bag and deeply interested in the education of a young
retriever that behaved like an idiot during each drive instead of
lying quiet behind the butts, though it promised to turn out a
treasure in respect of having the nose and eye of a vulture and the
mouth of a sucking-dove. The comparisons are those of the dog's owner,
including the 'nose' of the bird of prey, and no novelist can be held
responsible for a Cabinet Minister's English.

One thing more which concerns this tale happened on that same day. Two
well-dressed young men drove up to the door of a quiet and very
respectable hotel in the West End; and they asked for their bill, and
packed their belongings, which were sufficient though not numerous;
and when they had paid what they owed and given the usual tips, they
told the porter to call two hansoms, and each had his things put on
one of them; and they nodded to each other and parted; and one hansom
drove to Euston and the other to Charing Cross; and whether they ever
met again, I do not know, and it does not matter; but in order to
clear Baraka's character at once and to avoid a useless and perfectly
transparent mystery, it is as well to say directly that it was the
young man who drove to Euston, on his way to Liverpool and New York,
who had Logotheti's ruby sewn up in his waistcoat pocket; and that the
ruby really belonged to Margaret, since Logotheti had already given it
to her, before he had brought it to Mr. Pinney to be cut and set. But
the knowledge of what is here imparted to the reader, who has already
guessed this much of the truth, would not help Baraka out of Brixton
Gaol, where the poor girl found herself in very bad company indeed;
even worse, perhaps, than that in which Spiro was obliged to spend his
time.



CHAPTER VIII


Margaret received her friend's letter and the account of Baraka's
trial by the same post on the morning after she and Mr. Van Torp had
been to hear _Parsifal_ together, and she opened the two envelopes
before reading her other letters, though after assuring herself that
there was nothing from Logotheti. He did not write every day, by any
means, for he was a man of the world and he knew that although most
women demand worship at fixed hours, few can receive it so regularly
without being bored to the verge of exasperation. It was far better,
Logotheti knew, to let Margaret find fault with him for writing too
little than to spoil her into indifference by writing too much. Women
are often like doctors, who order their patients to do ten things and
are uncommonly glad if the patient does one.

So Margaret had no letter from Logotheti that morning, and she read
Lady Maud's and the enclosure before going on to the unpaid bills,
religious tracts, appeals for alms, advertisements of patent
medicines, 'confidential' communications from manufacturers of motor
cars, requests to sing for nothing at charity concerts, anonymous
letters of abuse, real business letters from real business men, and
occasional attempts at blackmail, which are the usual contents of a
celebrity's post-bag, and are generally but thinly salted with
anything like news from friends.

The Primadonna, in her professional travels, had grown cautious of
reading her letters in a room where there were other people; she had
once surprised a colleague who was toying with an opera-glass quite
absently, ten paces away, as if trying its range and focus, but who
frequently directed it towards a letter she was perusing; and
short-sighted people had dropped a glove or a handkerchief at her very
feet in order to stoop down and bring their noses almost against a
note she held in her hand. The world is full of curious people;
curiosity is said, indeed, to be the prime cause of study and
therefore of knowledge itself. Margaret assuredly did not distrust
Mrs. Rushmore, and she did not fear Potts, but her experience had
given her the habit of reading her important letters alone in her own
room, and sometimes with the door locked. Similarly, if any one came
near her when she was writing, even about the most indifferent
matters, she instinctively covered the page with her hand, or with a
piece of blotting-paper, sometimes so hastily as to lead a person to
believe that she was ashamed of what she had written. Natural habits
of behaviour remind us how we were brought up; acquired ones recall to
us the people with whom we have lived.

Margaret read the newspaper cutting first, supposing that it contained
something flattering about herself, for she had been a little short of
public admiration for nearly a fortnight. Baraka's case was reported
with the rather brutal simplicity which characterises such accounts
in the English papers, and Logotheti's name appeared in Mr. Pinney's
evidence. There had been the usual 'laughter,' duly noted by the
stenographer, when the poor girl's smart man's clothes were produced
before the magistrate by the policeman who had arrested her. The
magistrate had made a few stern remarks when ordering the delinquents
to prison, and had called Baraka 'hardened' because she did not burst
into tears. That was all, and there were barely five-and-twenty lines
of small print.

But the Primadonna bit her handsome lip and her eyes sparkled with
anger, as she put the cutting back into the first envelope, and took
the folded letter out of the other. The girl had not only stolen a
ruby, but it was Margaret's ruby, her very own, the one Logotheti had
given her for her engagement, and which she had insisted upon having
set as a ring though it would cover more than half the space between
her knuckle and the joint of her third finger. Further, it had been
stolen by the very girl from whom Logotheti had pretended that he had
bought it, a fact which cast the high light of absurdity on his
unlikely story! It was natural enough that she should have seen it,
and should have known that he was taking it to Pinney's, and that she
should have been able to prepare a little screw of paper with a bit of
glass inside, to substitute for it. The improbabilities of such an
explanation did not occur to Lady Maud, who saw only the glaring fact
that the handsome Tartar girl had accompanied Logotheti, between
London and Paris, disguised as a man, and had ultimately robbed him,
as he richly deserved. She had imposed upon Van Torp too, and had
probably tried to sell him the very stone she had stolen from
Logotheti, and the one she had made him take as a gift was nothing but
a bit of glass, as he said it might be, for all he knew.

She devoured Lady Maud's letter in a few moments, and then read it
twice again, which took so long that Mrs. Rushmore sent Justine to
tell Potts to ask if Miss Donne did not mean to go out that morning,
though the weather was so fine.

Great singers generally develop a capacity for flying into rages, even
if they have not been born with hot tempers. It is very bad for the
voice, but it seems to be a part of the life. Margaret was very angry,
and Potts became as meek and mild as a little lamb when she saw the
storm signals in her mistress's face. She delivered her message in a
pathetic and oppressed tone, like a child reciting the collect for the
day at a Sunday school.

The Primadonna, imposing as a young lioness, walked slowly backwards
and forwards between her window and the foot of the iron bedstead.
There was an angry light in her eyes and instead of flushing, as her
cheeks did for any ordinary fit of temper, they were as white as wax.
Potts, who was a small woman, seemed to shrink and become visibly
smaller as she stood waiting for an answer. Suddenly the lioness stood
still and surveyed the poor little jackal that served her.

'Ask Mrs. Rushmore if she can wait half an hour,' she said. 'I'm very
angry, Potts, and it's not your fault, so keep out of the way.'

She was generous at all events, but she looked dangerous, and Potts
seemed positively to shrivel through the crack of the door as she
disappeared. She was so extremely glad to keep out of the way! There
were legends already about the great singer's temper, as there are
about all her fellow-artists. It was said, without the slightest
foundation, that she had once tossed a maid out of the window like a
feather, that on another occasion she had severely beaten a coachman,
and that she had thrown two wretched lap-dogs into a raging fire in a
stove and fastened the door, because they had barked while she was
studying a new part. As a matter of fact, she loved animals to
weakness, and was kindness itself to her servants, and she was
generally justified in her anger, though it sometimes made her say
things she regretted. Oedipus found the right answer to the Sphinx's
riddle in a moment, but the ingenious one about truth propounded by
Pontius Pilate has puzzled more than sixty generations of Christians.
If the Sphinx had thought of it, Oedipus would never have got to
Thebes and some disgustingly unpleasant family complications would
have been prevented by his premature demise.

Margaret's wrath did not subside quickly, and as it could not spend
itself on any immediate object, it made her feel as if she were in a
raging fever. She had never been ill in her life, it was true, and
therefore did not know what the sensation was. Her only experience of
medical treatment had been at the hands of a very famous specialist
for the throat, in New York, to whom she went because all her
fellow-artists did, and whose mere existence is said by grateful
singers to effectually counteract the effects of the bad climate
during the opera season. He photographed her vocal chords, and the
diagrams produced by her best notes, made her breathe
pleasant-smelling sprays and told her to keep her feet dry in rainy
weather. That was the sum of her experience with doctors, and it was
not at all disagreeable.

Now, her temples throbbed, her hands trembled and were as hot as fire,
her lips were drawn and parched, and when she caught sight of herself
in the looking-glass she saw that she was quite white and that her
eyes were bloodshot.

But she was really a sensible English girl, although she was so very
angry.

'This is ridiculous!' she said aloud, with emphasis. 'I won't be so
silly!' And she sat down to try and think quietly.

It was not so easy. A Tartar girl indeed! More probably a handsome
Greek. How could they know the difference in a London Police Court?
She was not aware that in London and other great cities the police
disposes of interpreters for every known language, from the Malay
dialects to Icelandic. Besides, it did not matter! She would have been
angry if Logotheti had made love to the Duchess of Barchester, or to
Lady Dick Savory, the smartest woman in London, or to Mrs.
Smythe-Hockaday, the handsomest woman in England; she would have been
angry of course, but not so furious as she was now, not in a white
rage that made her teeth chatter, and her eyes burn as if they were
red-hot in her head. An ignorant Eastern girl! A creature that
followed him about in man's clothes! A thief! Pah! Disgusting!

Each detail that occurred to her made it more unbearable. She
remembered her conversation with him through the telephone when she
was at Versailles, his explanation the next day, which she had so
foolishly accepted, his kiss! Her blood raged in her eyes, and her
hands shook together. On that evening he had refused to stay to
dinner; no doubt he had gone back to his house in Paris, and had dined
with the girl--in the hall of the Aphrodite! It was not to be
believed, and after that memorable moment under the elm-tree, too,
when the sun was going down--after an honest girl's first kiss, the
first she had given any man since she had been a child and her lips
had timidly touched her dead father's forehead! People would not
believe it, perhaps, because she was an artist and an opera-singer;
but it was true.

It was no wonder that they had succeeded in deceiving her for a while,
the two Orientals together! They had actually made Rufus Van Torp
believe their story, which must have been a very different matter from
lying to a credulous young woman who had let herself fall in love! But
for her friend Lady Maud she would still be their victim. Her heart
went out to the woman who had saved her from her fate, and with the
thought came the impulse to send a message of gratitude; and the
first fury of her anger subsided with the impulse to do so. By and by
it would cool and harden to a lasting resentment that would not soften
again.

Her hand still shook so that she could hardly hold the pen steady
while she wrote the telegram.

'Unspeakably grateful. If can join me here will gladly wait for you.
Must see you at once. Do come.'

She felt better as she rose from the table, and when she looked at
herself in the mirror she saw that her face had changed again and that
her natural colour was returning. She rang for Potts, remembering that
the half-hour must be almost up.

The maid appeared at once, still looking very small and mild; but one
glance told her that the worst was past. She raised her head, threw
back her shoulders and stood up straight, apparently growing visibly
till she regained her ordinary size.

'Potts,' Margaret said, facing round upon her, 'I've been in a rage,
but I'm only angry now. Do I look like a human being again?'

'Yes, ma'am,' answered the maid, inspecting her gravely. 'You are
still a bit pale, ma'am, and your eye is a trifle wild, I may say. A
motor veil, perhaps, if you are thinking of going out, ma'am.'

'I haven't got such a thing, have I? I never motor now.'

Potts smiled the smile of the very superior maid, and moved towards a
perfectly new leather hat-box that stood in the corner.

'I always put in two for sea, ma'am,' she said. 'You wore one when we
crossed the Channel the last time, if you remember.'

'Potts, you're a treasure!'

'Yes, ma'am,' Potts answered vaguely in her meek voice, as she dived
into one of the curious secret pockets of the hat-box. 'That is,
ma'am,' she said, correcting herself, 'I mean, it's very kind of you
to say so.'

Without further consulting Margaret, who had seated herself before the
dressing-table, Potts proceeded to fasten a broad-brimmed black straw
hat on the thick brown hair; she then spread an immense white veil
over it, drew it under her mistress's chin and knotted in a way that
would have amazed a seaman.

When Margaret was putting on her gloves, Mrs. Rushmore herself came to
the door, knocked and opened discreetly before there was any answer.

'My dear child,' she asked, 'what in the world is the matter? Nothing
serious, I trust?'

'Oh, nothing,' Margaret answered, going forward to meet her, and
finding her natural voice. 'I'm sorry if I've kept you waiting.'

'It's so unlike you, my dear,' Mrs. Rushmore said, with emphasis; 'and
Potts looked quite grave when she brought me your message half an hour
ago.'

'You would have been more surprised if she had burst out laughing,'
Margaret said viciously.

'My dear,' Mrs. Rushmore answered, 'I'm astonished at you! I know
something has happened. I know it. You are not yourself this
morning.'

This was a statement so evidently absurd that it could not be answered
except by a flat contradiction; so Margaret said nothing, and went on
working her hand into a perfectly new glove.

'I see that you have not even opened your letters,' Mrs. Rushmore
continued severely. 'Except that,' she added, noticing the loose
sheets of Lady Maud's letter on the toilet-table.

Margaret gathered them up hastily, folded them into a crumpled package
and thrust them into the empty envelope. For once, she had forgotten
her caution, but she retrieved herself by pushing the thick letter
into her long glove, much to Potts' distress, for it made an ugly
lump. She made it worse by forcing in the second envelope, which
contained the newspaper cutting.

'I'm ready now,' she said.

Mrs. Rushmore turned and led the way with stately steps; she was
always imposing, but when she was offended she was monumental. The two
went out in silence, opened their parasols, the one black, the other
scarlet, and walked slowly down the straight, dull street side by
side. Mrs. Rushmore spoke first, after they had gone some distance.

'I know,' she said, 'that something has happened. It was in that
letter. You cannot deny it, Margaret. It was in the letter you folded
in that hurried manner.'

'The news was,' answered the Primadonna, still vicious.

'I told you so. My dear child, it's not of the slightest use to try to
deceive me. I've known you since you were a child.'

'I'm not trying to deceive you.'

'When I asked what had happened, you answered, "Nothing." I do not
call that very frank, do you?'

'Potts was there, to begin with,' explained Margaret rather crossly.

But Mrs. Rushmore no longer heard. Her head was up, her parasol lay
back upon her shoulder, her faded eyes were brighter than before, and
the beginning of a social smile wreathed her hitherto grave lips.
There was game about, and she was pointing; there were lions to
windward.

'There's Mr. Van Torp, my dear,' she said in quite another tone, and
very low, 'and unless I'm much mistaken--yes, I knew it! He's with
Count Kralinsky. I saw the Count from the window yesterday when he
arrived. I hope our friend will present him.'

'I daresay,' Margaret answered indifferently, but surveying the two
men through the white mist of her thick veil.

'Yes,' said Mrs. Rushmore with delight, and almost whispering in her
excitement. 'He has seen us, and now he's telling the Count who we
are.'

Margaret was used to her excellent old friend's ways on such
occasions, and gave no more heed to them than she would have given to
a kitten scampering after a ball of string. The kitten would certainly
catch the ball in the end, and Mrs. Rushmore would as surely capture
the lion.

Mr. Van Torp raised his hat when he was within four or five paces of
the ladies, and his companion, who was a head and shoulders taller
than he, slackened his pace and stopped a little way behind him as
Mrs. Rushmore shook hands and Margaret nodded pleasantly.

'May I present Count Kralinsky?' asked the American. 'I've met him
before, and we've just renewed our acquaintance.'

Mr. Van Torp looked from Mrs. Rushmore to Margaret, and tried to see
her expression through her veil. She answered his look by a very
slight inclination of the head.

'We shall be delighted,' said the elder lady, speaking for both.

Mr. Van Torp introduced the Count to Mrs. Rushmore and then to
Margaret, calling her 'Miss Donne,' and she saw that the man was
handsome as well as tall and strong. He had a magnificent golden
beard, a clear complexion, and rather uncertain blue eyes, in one of
which he wore a single eyeglass without a string. He was quietly
dressed and wore no jewellery, excepting one ring, in which blazed a
large 'tallow-topped' ruby. He had the unmistakable air of a man of
the world, and was perfectly at his ease. When he raised his straw hat
he disclosed a very white forehead, and short, thick fair hair. There
was no sign of approaching middle age in his face or figure, but
Margaret felt, or guessed, that he was older than he looked.

In her stiffly correct French, Mrs. Rushmore said that she was
enchanted to make his acquaintance, and Margaret murmured sweetly but
unintelligibly.

'The Count speaks English perfectly,' observed Mr. Van Torp.

He ranged himself beside Margaret, leaving the foreigner to Mrs.
Rushmore, much to her gratification.

'We were going to walk,' she said. 'Will you join us?' And she moved
on.

'It is a great pleasure to meet you,' Kralinsky said by way of opening
the conversation. 'I have often heard of you from friends in Paris.
Your little dinners at Versailles are famous all over Europe. I am
sure we have many mutual friends, though you may never have heard my
name.'

Mrs. Rushmore was visibly pleased, and as the way was not very wide,
Margaret and Van Torp dropped behind. They soon heard the other two
enumerating their acquaintances. Kralinsky was surprised at the number
of Mrs. Rushmore's friends, but the Count seemed to know everybody,
from all the Grand Dukes and Archdukes in Russia, Germany, and
Austria, to the author of the latest successful play in Paris, and the
man of science who had discovered how to cure gout by radium.
Kralinsky had done the cure, seen the play, and dined with the
royalties within the last few weeks. Mrs. Rushmore thought him one of
the most charming men she had ever met.

In the rear Mr. Van Torp and the Primadonna were not talking; but he
looked at her, she looked at him, they both looked at Kralinsky's
back, and then they once more looked at each other and nodded; which
meant that Van Torp had recognised the man he had met selling rubies
in New York, and that Margaret understood this.

'I'll tell you something else that's quite funny, if you don't mind
dropping a little further behind,' he said.

Margaret walked still more slowly till a dozen paces separated them
from the other two.

'What is it?' she asked in a low tone.

'I believe he's my old friend from whom I learned to whistle
_Parsifal_,' answered the American. 'I'm pretty sure of it, in spite
of a good many years and a beard--two things that change a man. See
his walk? See how he turns his toes in? Most cow-boys walk like that.'

'How very odd that you should meet again!' Margaret was surprised, but
not deeply interested by this new development.

'Well,' said Van Torp thoughtfully, 'if I'd known I was going to meet
him somewhere, I'd have said this was as likely a place as any to find
him in, now that I know what it was he whistled. But I admit that the
other matter has more in it. I wonder what would happen if I asked him
about Miss Barrack?'

'Nothing,' Margaret answered confidently. 'Nothing would happen. He
has never heard of her.'

Van Torp's sharp eyes tried in vain to penetrate the veil.

'That's not quite clear,' he observed. 'Or else this isn't my good
day.'

'The girl fooled you,' said Margaret in a low voice. 'Did she mention
his name to you?'

'Well, no----'

'She never saw him in her life, or if she ever did, it was she who
robbed him of rubies; and it was not the other way, as you supposed.
Men are generally inclined to believe what a nice-looking girl tells
them!'

'That's true,' Van Torp admitted. 'But all the same, I don't quite
understand you. There's a meaning in your voice that's not in the
words. Excuse me if I'm not quick enough this morning, please. I'm
doing my best.'

'Your friend Baraka has been arrested and sent to prison in London for
stealing a very valuable ruby from the counter in Pinney's,' Margaret
explained. 'The stone had just been taken there by Monsieur Logotheti
to be cut. The girl must have followed him without his knowing it, and
watched her chance, though how old Pinney can have left such a thing
lying on the counter where any one could take it is simply
incomprehensible. That's what you heard in my voice when I said that
men are credulous.'

Mr. Van Torp thought he had heard even more in her accent when she had
pronounced Logotheti's name. Besides, she generally called him 'Logo,'
as all his friends did. The American said nothing for a moment, but he
glanced repeatedly at the white veil, through which he saw her
handsome features without their expression.

'Well,' he said at last, almost to himself, for he hardly expected her
to understand the language of his surprise, 'that beats the band!'

'It really is rather odd, you know,' responded Margaret, who
understood perfectly. 'If you think I've adorned the truth I'll give
you the Police Court report. I have it in my glove. Lady Maud sent it
to me with a letter.' She added, after an instant's hesitation, 'I'm
not sure that I shall not give you that to read too, for there's
something about you in it, and she is your best friend, isn't she?'

'Out and out. I daresay you'd smile if I told you that I asked her to
help me to get you to change your mind.'

'No,' Margaret answered, turning slowly to look at him. 'She tells me
so in this letter.'

'Does she really?' Van Torp had guessed as much, and had wished to
undermine the surprise he supposed that Margaret had in store for him.
'That's just like her straightforward way of doing things. She told me
frankly that she wouldn't lift a finger to influence you. However, it
can't be helped, I suppose.'

The conclusion of the speech seemed to be out of the logical sequence.

'She has done more than lift a finger now,' Margaret said.

'Has she offended you?' Van Torp ventured to ask, for he did not
understand the constant subtone of anger he heard in her voice. 'I
know she would not mean to do that.'

'No. You don't understand. I've telegraphed to ask her to join us
here.'

Van Torp was really surprised now, and his face showed it.

'I wish we were somewhere alone,' Margaret continued. 'I mean, out of
the way of Mrs. Rushmore. She knows nothing about all this, but she
saw me cramming the letters into my glove, and I cannot possibly let
her see me giving them to you.'

'Oh, well, let me think,' said the millionaire. 'I guess I want to buy
some photographs of Bayreuth and the _Parsifal_ characters in that
shop, there on the right. Suppose you wait outside the door, so that
Mrs. Rushmore can see you if she turns around. She'll understand that
I'm inside. If you drop your parasol towards her you can get the
letters out, can't you? Then as I come out you can just pass them to
me behind the parasol, and we'll go on. How's that? It won't take one
second, anyhow. You can make-believe your glove's uncomfortable, and
you're fixing it, if anybody you know comes out of the shop. Will that
do? Here we are. Shall I go in?'

'Yes. Don't be long! I'll cough when I'm ready.'

The operation succeeded, and the more easily as Mrs. Rushmore went
quietly on without turning her head, being absorbed and charmed by
Kralinsky's conversation.

'You may as well read the newspaper cutting now,' Margaret said when
they had begun to walk again. 'That cannot attract attention, even if
she does look round, and it explains a good many things. It's in the
thinner envelope, of course.'

Van Torp fumbled in the pocket of his jacket, and brought out the slip
of newspaper without the envelope, a precaution which Margaret noticed
and approved. If she had been able to forget for a moment her anger
against Logotheti she would have been amazed at the strides her
intimacy with Van Torp was making. He himself was astounded, and did
not yet understand, but he had played the great game for fortune
against adversaries of vast strength and skill, and had won by his
qualities rather than his luck, and they did not desert him at the
most important crisis of his life. The main difference between his
present state of mind and his mental view, when he had been fighting
men for money, was that he now felt scruples wholly new to him. Things
that had looked square enough when millions were at stake appeared to
him 'low down' where Margaret was the prize.

She watched him intently while he read the printed report, but his
face did not change in the least. At that short distance she could see
every shade of his expression through the white veiling, though he
could not see hers at all. He finished reading, folded the slip
carefully, and put it into his pocket-book instead of returning it to
the envelope.

  [Illustration: "She watched him intently while he read the printed
   report."]

'It does look queer,' he said slowly. 'Now let me ask you one thing,
but don't answer me unless you like. It's not mere inquisitiveness on
my part.' As Margaret said nothing, though he waited a moment for her
answer, he went on. 'That ruby, now--I suppose it's to be cut for you,
isn't it?'

'Yes. He gave it to me in Versailles, and I kept it some days. Then he
asked me to let him have it to take to London when I came here.'

'Just so. Thank you. One more question, if I may. That stone I gave
you, I swear I don't know that it's not glass--anyhow, that stone,
does it look at all like the one that was stolen?'

'Oh, no! It's quite another shape and size. Why do you ask? I don't
quite see.'

'What I mean is, if these people are around selling rubies, there may
be two very much alike, that's all.'

'Well, if there were? What of it?'

'Suppose--I'm only supposing, mind, that the girl really had another
stone about her a good deal like the one that was stolen, and that
somebody else was the thief. Queer things like that have happened
before.'

'Yes. But old Pinney is one of the first experts in the world, and he
swore to the ruby.'

'That's so,' said Van Torp thoughtfully. 'I forgot that.'

'And if she had the other stone, she had stolen it from Monsieur
Logotheti, I have not the least doubt.'

'I daresay,' replied the millionaire. 'I'm not her attorney. I'm not
trying to defend her. I was only thinking.'

'She was at his house in Paris,' Margaret said, quite unable to keep
her own counsel now. 'It was when I was at Versailles.'

'You don't say so! Are you sure of that?'

'He admitted it when I was talking to him through the telephone, and I
heard her speaking to him in a language I did not understand.'

'Did you really? Well, well!' Mr. Van Torp was beginning to be
puzzled again. 'Nice voice, hasn't she?'

'Yes. He tried to make me think he wasn't sure whether the creature
was a boy or a girl.'

'Maybe he wasn't sure himself,' suggested the American, but the tone
in which she had spoken the word 'creature' had not escaped him.

He was really trying to put the case in a fair light, and was not at
all manoeuvring to ascertain her state of mind. That was clear
enough now. How far she might go he could not tell, but what she had
just said, coupled with the way in which she spoke of the man to whom
she was engaged as 'Monsieur Logotheti,' made it quite evident that
she was profoundly incensed against him, and Van Torp became more than
ever anxious not to do anything underhand.

'Look here,' he said, 'I'm going to tell you something. I took a sort
of interest in that Tartar girl the only time I saw her. I don't know
why. I daresay I was taken in by her--just ordinary "taken in," like a
tenderfoot. I gave her that fellow's address in New York.' He nodded
towards Kralinsky. 'When I found he was here, I wired Logotheti to
tell her, since she's after him. I suppose I thought Logotheti would
go right away and find her, and get more mixed up with her than ever.
It was mean of me, wasn't it? That's why I've told you. You see, I
didn't know anything about all this, and that makes it meaner still,
doesn't it?'

Possibly if he had told her these facts forty-eight hours earlier she
might have been annoyed, but at present they seemed to be rather in
his favour. At all events he was frank, she thought. He declared war
on his rival, and meant fight according to the law of nations. Lady
Maud would not be his friend if he were playing any double game, but
she had stuck to him throughout his trouble in the spring, he had
emerged victorious and reinstated in public opinion, and she had been
right. Lady Maud knew him better than any one else, and she was a good
woman, if there ever was one.

Yet he had accused himself of having acted 'meanly.' Margaret did not
like the word, and threw up her head as a horse does when a beginner
holds on by the curb.

'You need not make yourself out worse than you are,' she answered.

'I want to start fair,' said the millionaire, 'and I'd rather your
impression should improve than get worse. The only real trouble with
Lucifer was he started too high up.'

This singular statement was made with perfect gravity, and without the
slightest humorous intention, but Margaret laughed for the first time
that day, in spite of the storm that was still raging in the near
distance of her thoughts.

'Why do you laugh?' asked Van Torp. 'It's quite true. I don't want to
start too high up in your estimation and then be turned down as unfit
for the position at the end of the first week. Put me where I belong
and I won't disappoint you. Say I was doing something that wasn't
exactly low-down, considering the object, but that mightn't pass
muster at an honour-parade, anyhow. And then say that I've admitted
the fact, if you like, and that the better I know you the less I want
to do anything mean. It won't be hard for you to look at it in that
light, will it? And it'll give me the position of starting from the
line. Is that right?'

'Yes,' Margaret answered, smiling. 'Slang "right" and English "right"!
You ask for a fair field and no favour, and you shall have it.'

'I'll go straight,' Van Torp answered.

He was conscious that he was hourly improving his knowledge of women's
little ways, and that what he had said, and had purposely expressed in
his most colloquial manner, had touched a chord which would not have
responded to a fine speech. For though he often spoke a sort of
picturesque dialect, and though he was very far from being highly
educated, he could speak English well enough when he chose. It
probably seemed to him that good grammar and well-selected words
belonged to formal occasions and not to everyday life, and that it was
priggish to be particular in avoiding slang and cowardly to sacrifice
an hereditary freedom from the bonds of the subjunctive mood.

'I suppose Lady Maud will come, won't she?' he asked suddenly, after a
short silence.

'I hope so,' Margaret said. 'If not, she will meet me in Paris, for
she offers to do that in her letter.'

'I'm staying on in this place because you said you didn't mind,'
observed Van Torp. 'Do you want me to go away if she arrives?'

'Why should I? Why shouldn't you stay?'

'Oh, I don't know. I was only thinking. Much obliged anyway, and I'll
certainly stay if you don't object. We shall be quite a party, shan't
we? What with us three, and Lady Maud and Kralinsky there----'

'Surely you don't call him one of our "party"!' objected Margaret.
'He's only just been introduced to us. I daresay Mrs. Rushmore will
ask him to dinner or luncheon, but that will be all.'

'Oh, yes! I suppose that will be all.'

But his tone roused her curiosity by its vagueness.

'You knew him long ago,' she said. 'If he's not a decent sort of
person to have about, you ought to tell us--indeed you should not have
introduced him at all if he's a bad lot.'

Mr. Van Torp did not answer at once, and seemed to be consulting his
recollections.

'I don't know anything against him,' he said at last. 'All foreigners
who drift over to the States and go West haven't left their country
for the same reasons. I suppose most of them come because they've got
no money at home and want some. I haven't any right to take it for
granted that a foreign gentleman who turns cow-boy for a year or two
has cheated at cards, or anything of that sort, have I? There were all
kinds of men on that ranch, as there are on every other and in every
mining camp in the West, and most of 'em have no particular names.
They get called something when they turn up, and they're known as that
while they stay, and if they die with their boots on, they get buried
as that, and if not, they clear out when they've had enough of it;
and some of 'em strike something and get rich, as I did, and some of
'em settle down to occupations, as I've known many do. But they all
turn into themselves again, or turn themselves into somebody else
after they go back. While they're punching cattle they're generally
just "Dandy Jim" or "Levi Longlegs," as that fellow was, or something
of that sort.'

'What were you called?' asked Margaret.

'I?' Van Torp smiled faintly at the recollection of his nickname. 'I
was always Fanny Cook.'

Margaret laughed.

'Of all the inappropriate names!'

'Well,' said the millionaire, still smiling, 'I guess it must have
been because I was always sort of gentle and confiding and sweet, you
know. So they concluded to give me a girl's name as soon as they saw
me, and I turned out a better cook than the others, so they tacked
that on, too. I didn't mind.'

Margaret smiled too, as she glanced at his jaw and his flat, hard
cheeks, and thought of his having been called 'Fanny.'

'Did you ever kill anybody, Miss Fanny?' she asked, with a little
laugh.

A great change came over his face at once.

'Yes,' he answered very gravely. 'Twice, in fair self-defence. If I
had hesitated, I should not be here.'

'I beg your pardon,' Margaret said quietly. 'I should not have asked
you. I ought to have known.'

'Why?' he asked. 'One gets that kind of question asked one now and
then by people one doesn't care to answer. But I'd rather have you
know something about my life than not. Not that it's much to be proud
of,' he added, rather sadly.

'Some day you shall tell me all you will,' Margaret answered. 'I
daresay you did much better than you think, when you look back.'

'Lady Maud knows all about me now,' he said, 'and no one else alive
does. Perhaps you'll be the second that will, and that'll be all for
the present. They want us to come up with them, do you see?'

Mrs. Rushmore and Kralinsky had stopped in their walk and were waiting
for them. They quickened their pace.

'I thought perhaps this was far enough,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'Of
course I could go on further, and it's not your usual walk, my dear,
but unless you mind--'

Margaret did not mind, and said so readily; whereupon Mrs. Rushmore
deliberately took Van Torp for her companion on the way back.

'I'm sure you won't object to walking slowly,' she said to him, 'and
Miss Donne and the Count can go as fast as they like, for they are
both good walkers. I am sure you must be a great walker,' she added,
turning to the Russian.

He smiled blandly and bent his head a little, as if he were
acknowledging a compliment. Van Torp looked at him quietly.

'I should have thought you were more used to riding,' said the
American.

'Ah, yes!' The indifferent answer came in a peculiarly oily tone,
though the pronunciation was perfect. 'I was in the cavalry before I
began to travel. But I walked over two thousand miles in Central Asia,
and was none the worst for it.'

Margaret was sure that she was not going to like him, as she moved on
with him by her side; and Van Torp, walking with Mrs. Rushmore, was
quite certain that he was Levi Longlegs, who had herded cattle with
him for six months very long ago.



CHAPTER IX


Logotheti reached his lodgings in St. James's Place at six o'clock in
the evening of the day on which he had promised to dine with Van Torp,
and the latter's note of excuse was given to him at once. He read it,
looked out of the window, glanced at it again, and threw it into the
waste-paper basket without another thought. He did not care in the
least about dining with the American millionaire. In fact, he had
looked forward to it rather as a bore than a pleasure. He saw on his
table, with his letters, a flat and almost square parcel, which the
addressed label told him contained the Archæological Report of the
Egyptian Exploration Fund, and he had heard that the new number would
contain an account of a papyrus recently discovered at Oxyrrhynchus,
on which some new fragments of Pindar had been found. No dinner that
could be devised, and no company that could be asked to meet him at
it, could be half as delightful as that to the man who so deeply loved
the ancient literature of his country, and he made up his mind at once
that he would not even take the trouble to go to a club, but would
have a bird and a salad in his rooms.

Unhappily for his peace and his anticipated feast of poetry, he looked
through his letters to see if there were one from Margaret, and there
was only a coloured postcard from Bayreuth, with the word 'greetings'
scrawled beside the address in her large hand. Next to the card,
however, there was a thick letter addressed in a commercial writing he
remembered but could not at once identify; and though it was
apparently a business communication, and could therefore have waited
till the next morning, when his secretary would come as usual, he
opened it out of mere curiosity to know whence it came.

It was from Mr. Pinney the jeweller, and it contained a full and
conscientious account of the whole affair of the theft, from the
moment when Logotheti and Van Torp had gone out together until Mr.
Pinney had locked up the stone in his safe again, and Baraka and Spiro
had been lodged in Brixton Gaol. The envelope contained also a cutting
from the newspaper similar to the one Margaret had received from Lady
Maud.

Logotheti laid the letter on the table and looked at his watch. It was
now a quarter-past six, and old-fashioned shops like Pinney's close
rather early in the dull season, when few customers are to be expected
and the days are not so long as they have been. In the latter part of
August, in London, the sun sets soon after seven o'clock, and
Logotheti realised that he had no time to lose.

As he drove quickly up towards Bond Street, he ran over the
circumstances in his mind, and came to the conclusion that Baraka had
probably been the victim of a trick, though he did not exclude the
bare possibility that she might be guilty. With all her cleverness and
native sense, she might be little more than a savage who had picked up
European manners in Constantinople, where you can pick up any manners
you like, Eastern or Western. The merchant who had given her a letter
for Logotheti only knew what she had chosen to tell him, and connived
in her deception by speaking of her as a man; and she might have told
him anything to account for having some valuable precious stones to
dispose of. But, on the other hand, she might not be a Tartar at all.
Any one, from the Bosphorus to the Amur, may speak Tartar, and pretend
not to understand anything else. She might be nothing but a clever
half-bred Levantine from Smyrna, who had fooled them all, and really
knew French and even English. The merchant had not vouched for the
bearer's character beyond saying that 'he' had some good rubies to
sell, called himself a Tartar, and was apparently an honest young
fellow. All the rest was Baraka's own story, and Logotheti really knew
of nothing in her favour beyond his intimate conviction that she was
innocent. Against that stood the fact that the stolen ruby had been
found secreted on her person within little more than half an hour of
her having had a chance to take it from Pinney's shop.

From quite another point of view, Logotheti himself argued as Margaret
had done. Baraka knew that he possessed the ruby, since she had sold
it to him. She knew that he meant to have it cut in London. She might
easily have been watching him and following him for several days in
the hope of getting it back, carrying the bit of bottle glass of the
same size about with her, carefully prepared and wrapped in
tissue-paper, ready to be substituted for the gem at any moment. She
had watched him go into Pinney's, knowing very well what he was going
for; she had waited till he came out, and had then entered and asked
to see any rubies Mr. Pinney had, trusting to the chance that he might
choose to show her Logotheti's, as a curiosity. Chance had favoured
her, that was all. She had doubtless recognised the twist on the
counter, and the rest had been easy enough. Was not the affair of the
Ascot Cup, a much more difficult and dangerous theft, still fresh in
every one's memory?

Logotheti found Mr. Pinney himself in the act of turning the discs of
the safe before going home and leaving his shopman to shut up the
place. He smiled with grave satisfaction when Logotheti entered.

'I was hoping to see you, sir,' he said. 'I presume that you had my
letter? I wrote out the account with great care, as you may imagine,
but I shall be happy to go over the story with you if there is any
point that is not clear.'

Logotheti did not care to hear it; he wished to see the ruby. Mr.
Pinney turned the discs again to their places, stuck the little key
into the secret keyhole which then revealed itself, turned it three
times to the left and five times to the right, and opened the heavy
iron door. The safe was an old-fashioned one that had belonged to his
father before him. He got out the japanned tin box, opened that, and
produced the stone, still in its paper, for it was too thick to be put
into one of Mr. Pinney's favourite pill-boxes.

Logotheti undid the paper, took out the big uncut ruby, laid it in the
palm of his hand, and looked at it critically, turning it over with
one finger from time to time. He took it to the door of the shop,
where the evening light was stronger, and examined it with the
greatest care. Still he did not seem satisfied.

'Let me have your lens, Mr. Pinney,' he said, 'and some electric light
and a sheet of white paper.'

Mr. Pinney turned up a strong drop light that stood on the counter,
and produced the paper and a magnifier.

'It's a grand ruby,' he said.

'I see it is,' Logotheti answered rather curtly.

'Do you mean to say,' asked the surprised jeweller, 'that you had
bought it without thoroughly examining it, sir--you who are an
expert?'

'No, that's not what I mean,' answered the Greek, bending over the
ruby and scrutinising it through the strong magnifier.

Mr. Pinney felt himself snubbed, which had not happened to him for a
long time, and he drew himself up with dignity. A minute passed, and
Logotheti did not look up; another, and Mr. Pinney grew nervous; a few
seconds more, and he received a shock that took away his breath.

'This is not my ruby,' said Logotheti, looking up, and speaking with
perfect confidence.

'Not--your--ruby!' Mr. Pinney's jaw dropped. 'But----' He could get no
further.

'I'm sorry,' Logotheti said calmly. 'I'm very sorry, for several
reasons. But it's not the stone I brought you, though it's just as
large, and most extraordinarily like it.'

'But how do you know, sir?' gasped the jeweller.

'Because I'm an expert, as you were good enough to say just now.'

'Yes, sir. But I am an expert too, and to the best of my expert belief
this is the stone you left with me to be cut, the day before
yesterday. I've examined it most thoroughly.'

'No doubt,' answered the Greek. 'But you hadn't examined mine
thoroughly before it was stolen, had you? You had only looked at it
with me, on the counter here.'

'That is correct, sir,' said Mr. Pinney nervously. 'That is quite
true.'

'Very well. But I did more than merely look at it through a lens or
weigh it. I did not care so much about the weight, but I cared very
much for the water, and I tried the ruby point on it in the usual way,
but it was too hard, and then I scratched it in two places with the
diamond, more out of curiosity than for any other reason.'

'You marked it, sir? There's not a single scratch on this one!
Merciful Providence! Merciful Providence!'

'Yes,' Logotheti said gravely. 'The girl spoke the truth. She had two
stones much larger than the rest when she first came to me in Paris,
this one and another. They were almost exactly alike, and she wanted
me to buy both, but I did not want them, and I took the one I thought
a little better in colour. This is the other, for she still had it;
and, so far as I know, it is her legal property, and mine is gone. The
thief was one of those two young fellows who came in just when Mr. Van
Torp and I went out. I remember thinking what nice-looking boys they
were!'

He laughed rather harshly, for he was more annoyed than his
consideration for Mr. Pinney made him care to show. He had looked
forward to giving Margaret the ruby, mounted just as she wished it;
and the ruby was gone, and he did not know where he was to find
another, except the one that was now in Pinney's hands, but really
belonged to poor Baraka, who could certainly not sell it at present. A
much larger sum of money was gone, too, than any financier could lose
with equanimity by such a peculiarly disagreeable mishap as being
robbed. There were several reasons why Logotheti was not pleased.

So far as the money went, he was not sure about the law in such a
case, and he did not know whether he could claim it of Pinney, who had
really been guilty of gross carelessness after a lifetime of
scrupulous caution. Pinney was certainly very well off, and would not
suffer nearly as much by the loss of a few thousand pounds as from the
shame of having been robbed in such an impudent fashion of a gem that
was not even his, but had been entrusted to his keeping.

'I am deeply humiliated,' said the worthy old jeweller. 'I have not
only been tricked and plundered, but I have been the means of sending
innocent people to prison.'

'You had better be the means of getting them out again as soon as
possible,' said Logotheti. 'You know what to do here in England far
better than I. In my country a stroke of the pen would free Baraka,
and perhaps another would exile you to Bagdad, Mr. Pinney!'

He spoke lightly, to cheer the old man, but Mr. Pinney shook his head.

'This is no jesting matter, sir,' he said. 'I feel deeply humiliated.'

He really did, and it was evidently a sort of relief to him to repeat
the words.

'I suppose,' said Logotheti, 'that we shall have to make some kind of
sworn deposition, or whatever you call it, together, and we will go
and do it at once, if you please. Lock up the ruby in the safe again,
Mr. Pinney, and we will start directly. I shall not go back to my
lodgings till we have done everything we can possibly do to-night.'

'But you will dine, sir?' Mr. Pinney put that point as only a
well-regulated Englishman of his class can.

'I shall not dine, and you will not dine,' answered Logotheti calmly,
'if our dinner is at all likely to keep those people in prison an hour
longer than is inevitable.'

Mr. Pinney looked graver than ever. He was in the habit of dining
early, and it is said that an Englishman does not fight on an empty
stomach, and will eat an excellent breakfast before being hanged.

'You can eat sandwiches in the hansom,' said the Greek coldly.

'I was thinking of you, sir,' Mr. Pinney answered gloomily, as he
finished the operation of shutting the safe; he did not like
sandwiches, for his teeth were not strong.

'You must also make an effort to trace those two young men who stole
the ruby,' said Logotheti.

'I most certainly shall,' replied the jeweller, 'and if it is not
found we will make it good to you, sir, whatever price you set upon
it. I am deeply humiliated, but nobody shall say that Pinney and Son
do not make good any loss their customers sustain through them.'

'Don't worry about that, Mr. Pinney,' said Logotheti, who saw how much
distressed the old jeweller really was.

So they went out and hailed a hansom, and drove away.

It would be tiresome to give a detailed account of what they did. Mr.
Pinney had not been one of the principal jewellers in London for forty
years without having been sometimes in need of the law; and
occasionally, also, the law had been in need of him as an expert in
very grave cases, some of which required the utmost secrecy as well as
the greatest possible tact. He knew his way about in places where
Logotheti had never been; and having once abandoned the idea of
dinner, he lost no time; for the vision of dinner after all was over
rose softly, as the full moon rises on a belated traveller, very
pleasant and companionable by the way.

Moreover, as the fact that Baraka and Spiro were really innocent has
been kept in view, the manner in which they were proved so is of
little importance, nor the circumstances of their being let out of
Brixton Gaol, with a vague expression of regret on the part of the law
for having placed faith in what Mr. Pinney had testified 'to the best
of his belief,' instead of accepting a fairy story which a Tartar
girl, caught going about in man's clothes, told through the broken
English of a Stamboul interpreter. The law, being good English law,
did not make a fuss about owning that it had been mistaken; though it
reprimanded Mr. Pinney openly for his haste, and he continued to feel
deeply humiliated. It was also quite ready to help him to find the
real thieves, though that looked rather difficult.

For law and order, in their private study, with no one looking on, had
felt that there was something very odd about the case. It was strange,
for instance, that the committed person should have a large bank
account in Paris in his, or her, own name, and should have made no
attempt to conceal the latter when arrested. It was queer that 'Barak'
should be known to a number of honourable Paris jewellers as having
sold them rubies of excellent quality, but that there should never
have been the least suspicion that he, or she, took any that belonged
to other people. It was still more extraordinary that 'Barak' should
have offered an enormous ruby, of which the description corresponded
remarkably well with the one that had appeared in evidence at the
Police Court, to two French dealers in precious stones, who had not
bought it, but were bearing it in mind for possible customers, and
were informed of Barak's London address, in case they could find a
buyer. In the short time since Baraka had been in prison, yards of
ciphered telegrams had been exchanged between the London and Paris
police; for the Frenchmen maintained that if the Englishmen had not
made a mistake, there must have been a big robbery of precious stones
somewhere, to account for those that Baraka was selling; but that, as
no such robbery, or robberies, had been heard of anywhere in Europe,
America, India, or Australia, the Englishmen were probably wrong and
had locked up the wrong person. For the French jewellers who had
bought the stones all went to the Paris Chief of Police and laid the
matter before him, being much afraid that they had purchased stolen
goods which had certainly not been offered for sale in 'market overt.'
The result was that the English police had begun to feel rather
nervous about it all, and were extremely glad to have matters cleared
up, and to say so, and to see about the requisite order to set the
prisoners at large.

Also, Mr. Pinney restored the ruby to her, and all her other
belongings were given back to her, even including the smart grey suit
of men's clothes in which she had been arrested; and her luggage and
other things which the manager of the hotel where she had been
stopping had handed over to the police were all returned; and when
Spiro appeared at the hotel to pay the small bill that had been left
owing, he held his head as high as an Oriental can when he has got
the better of any one, and that is pretty high indeed. Furthermore,
Mr. Pinney insisted on giving Logotheti a formal document by which
Messrs. Pinney and Son bound themselves to make good to him, his
heirs, or assigns, the loss of a ruby, approximately of a certain
weight and quality, which he had lost through their carelessness.

All these things were arranged with as little fuss and noise as might
be; but it was not possible to keep the singular circumstances out of
the newspapers; nor was it desirable, except from Mr. Pinney's point
of view, for Baraka had a right to be cleared from all suspicion in
the most public manner, and Logotheti insisted that this should be
done. It was done, and generously too; and the girl's story was so
wonderfully romantic that the reporters went into paroxysms of
adjectivitis in every edition of their papers, and scurried about town
like mad between the attacks to find out where she was and to
interview her. But in this they failed; and the only person they could
lay hands on was Logotheti's private secretary, who was a middle-aged
Swiss with a vast face that was as perfectly expressionless as a
portrait of George the Fourth on the signboard of an English country
inn, or a wooden Indian before the door of an American tobacconist's
shop. He had been everywhere and spoke most known languages, for he
had once set up a little business in Constantinople that had failed;
and his power of knowing nothing, when he had a secret to keep for his
employer, was as the combined stupidity of ten born idiots.

He knew nothing. No, he did not know where Baraka was; he did not know
what had become of her servant Spiro; he did not know where Logotheti
was; he did not know anything; if the reporters had asked him his own
name, he would very likely have answered that he did not know that
either. The number of things he did not know was perfectly
overwhelming. The reporters came to the conclusion that Logotheti had
spirited away the beautiful Tartar; and they made some deductions, but
abstained from printing them yet, though they worked them out on
paper, because they were well aware that Logotheti was engaged to
marry the celebrated Cordova, and was too important a personage to be
trifled with, unless he had a fall, which sometimes happens to
financiers.

On the day following Baraka's liberation, Lady Maud received
Margaret's pressing telegram begging her to go to Bayreuth. The
message reached her before noon, about the time when Margaret and her
companions had come back from their morning walk, and after hesitating
for half-an-hour, she telegraphed that she would come with pleasure,
and would start at once, which meant that evening.

She had just read the official account of the ruby case in its new
aspect, and she did not believe a word of the story. To her mind it
was quite clear that Logotheti was still infatuated with the girl,
that he had come to London as fast as he could, and that he had
deliberately sworn that the ruby was not his, but another one, in
order to get her out of trouble. If it was not his it had not been
stolen from Pinney's, and the whole case fell through at once. If she
was declared innocent the stone must be given back to her; he would
take it from her as soon as they were alone and return it to his own
pocket; and being an Oriental, he would probably beat her for robbing
him, but would not let her out of his sight again till he was tired of
her. Lady Maud had heard from her late husband how all Turks believed
that women had no souls and should be kept under lock and key, and
well fed, and soundly beaten now and then for the good of their
tempers. This view was exaggerated, but Lady Maud was in a humour to
recall it and accept it without criticism, and she made up her mind
that before leaving town to join Margaret she would make sure of the
facts. No friend of hers should marry a man capable of such outrageous
deeds.

If she had not been an impulsive woman she could never have done so
much good in the world; and she had really done so much that she
believed in her impulses, and acted on them without taking into
consideration the possibility that she might be doing harm. But the
damage which very actively good people sometimes do quite
unintentionally is often greater and more lasting than that done by
bad people, because the good ones carry with them the whole resistless
weight of real goodness and of real good works already accomplished.

Perhaps that is why honestly convinced reformers sometimes bring about
more ruin in a few months than ten years of bribery and corruption
have wrought before them.

Lady Maud was a reformer, in a sense, and she was afraid of nothing
when she thought she was doing right. She went to Logotheti's lodgings
and asked to see him, as regardless of what any one should think of
her, if she were recognised, as she had been in the old days when she
used to go to Van Torp's chambers in the Temple in the evening.

She was told that Logotheti was out of town. Where? The servant did
not know that. The lady could see the secretary, who might, perhaps,
tell her. He received every one who had business with Monsieur
Logotheti.

She went up one flight and was admitted to a very airy sitting-room,
simply furnished. There were several large easy-chairs of different
shapes, all covered with dark wine-coloured leather, and each
furnished with a different appliance for holding a book or writing
materials. There was a long bookcase full of books behind glass. There
was a writing-table, on which were half-a-dozen monstrously big
implements of an expensive kind, but handsome in their way: a
paper-cutter hewn from at least a third of an elephant's tusk, and
heavy enough to fell a man at a blow; an enormous inkstand, apparently
made of a solid brick of silver, without ornament, brightly polished,
and having a plain round hole in the middle for ink; a blotting-case
of the larger folio size, with a Greek inscription on it in raised
letters of gold; a trough of imperial jade, two feet long, in which
lay a couple of gold penholders fitted with new pens, and the thickest
piece of scarlet sealing-wax Lady Maud had ever seen. They were
objects of the sort that many rich men receive as presents, or order
without looking at them when they are furnishing a place that is to be
a mere convenience for a few days in the year. There was nothing
personal in what Lady Maud saw, except the books, and she could not
have examined them if she had wished to.

The one thing that struck her was a delicate suggestion of sweetness
in the fresh air of the room, something that was certainly not a
scent, and yet was not that of the perfumes or gums which some
Orientals like to burn where they live. She liked it, and wondered
what it was, as she glanced about for some one of the unmistakable
signs of a woman's presence.

The Swiss secretary had risen ponderously to receive her, and as she
did not sit down he remained standing. His vast face was fringed with
a beard of no particular colour, and his eyes were fixed and blue in
his head, like turquoises set in pale sole leather.

'I am Countess Leven,' she said, 'and I have known Monsieur Logotheti
some time. Will you kindly tell me where he is?'

'I do not know, madam,' was the answer.

'He is not in London?'

'At present I do not know, madam.'

'Has he left no address? Do you not forward his letters to him?'

'No, madam. I do not forward his letters to him.'

'Then I suppose he is on his yacht,' suggested Lady Maud.

'Madam, I do not know whether he is on his yacht.'

'You don't seem to know anything!'

'Pardon me, madam, I think I know my business. That is all I know.'

Lady Maud held her beautiful head a little higher and her lids drooped
slightly as she looked down at him, for he was shorter than she. But
the huge leathern face was perfectly impassive, and the still,
turquoise eyes surveyed her without winking. She had never seen such
stolidity in a human being. It reminded her of those big Chinese
pottery dogs with vacant blue eyes that some people keep beside a
fireplace or a hall door, for no explicable reason.

There was clearly nothing to be done, and she thought the secretary
distinctly rude; but as that was no reason why she should be, she bade
him good-morning civilly and turned to go. Somewhat to her surprise,
he followed her quickly across the room, opened the door for her and
went on into the little hall to let her out. There was a small table
there, on which lay some of Logotheti's hats, and several pairs of
gloves were laid out neatly before them. There was one pair, of a
light grey, very much smaller than all the rest, so small indeed that
they might have fitted a boy of seven, except that they looked too
narrow for any boy. They were men's gloves as to length and buttons,
but only a child could have worn them.

Lady Maud saw them instantly, and remembered Baraka's disguise; and as
she passed the big umbrella jar to go out, she saw that with two of
Logotheti's sticks there was a third, fully four inches shorter; just
a plain crook-handled stick with a silver ring. That was enough.
Baraka had certainly been in the lodgings and had probably left in
them everything that belonged to her disguise. The fact that the
gloves and the stick were in the hall, looked very much as if she had
come in dressed as a man and had left them there when she had gone
away in woman's attire. That she was with Logotheti, most probably on
his yacht, Lady Maud had not the least doubt, as she went down the
stairs.

The Swiss secretary stood at the open door on the landing till she was
out of sight below, and then went in again, and returned to work over
a heap of business papers and letters. When he had worked half an
hour, he leaned back in his leathern chair to rest, and stared fixedly
at the bookcase. Presently he spoke aloud in English, as if Lady Maud
were still in the room, in the same dull, matter-of-fact tone, but
more forcibly as to expression.

'It is perfectly true, though you do not believe me, madam. I do not
know anything. How the dickens should I know where they are, madam?
But I know my business. That is all.'



CHAPTER X


The _Erinna_ was steaming quietly down the Channel in a flat calm, at
the lazy rate of twelve knots an hour, presumably in order to save her
coal, for she could run sixteen when her owner liked, and he was not
usually fond of going slow. Though September was at hand, and Guernsey
was already on the port quarter, the sea was motionless and not so
much as a cat's-paw stirred the still blue water; but the steamer's
own way made a pleasant draught that fanned the faces of Logotheti and
Baraka as they lay in their long chairs under the double awning
outside the deck-house.

The Tartar girl wore a skirt and jacket of dark blue yachting serge,
which did not fit badly considering that they had been bought
ready-made by Logotheti's man. She had little white tennis shoes on
her feet, which were crossed one over the other on the deck-chair, but
instead of wearing a hat she had bound a dove-coloured motor-veil on
her head by a single thick gold cord, in the Asiatic way, and the thin
folds hung down on each side, and lay on her shoulders, shading her
face, and the breeze stirred them. Logotheti's valet had been sent out
in a taximeter, provided with a few measurements and plenty of cash,
and commissioned to buy everything that a girl who had nothing at all
to wear, visible or invisible, could possibly need. He was also
instructed to find a maid who could speak Tartar, or at least a
little Turkish.

After five hours he had come back with a heavy load of boxes of all
shapes and sizes and the required maid. You can find anything in a
great city, if you know how to look for it, and he had discovered
through an agency a girl from Trebizonde who had been caught at twelve
years old by missionaries, brought to England and educated to go into
service; she spoke English very prettily, and had not altogether
forgotten the _lingua franca_ of Asia. It was her first place, outside
of the retired missionary's house, where she had been brought up and
taught by a good old lady who had much to say about the heathen, and
gave her to understand that all her deceased forefathers and relatives
were frying. As she could not quite believe this, and had not a
grateful disposition, and was of an exceedingly inquiring turn of
mind, she was very glad to get away, and when she learned from the
valet that her mistress was a Tartar lady and a Musulman, and could
not speak English, her delight was quite boundless; she even said a
few unintelligible words, in a thoughtful tone, which did not sound at
all like any Christian prayer or thanksgiving she had learned from the
missionaries.

Moreover, while Logotheti and Baraka were lying in their chairs by the
deck-house, she was telling the story of her life and explaining
things generally to the good-looking young second mate on the other
side of the ship.

The consequence of her presence, however, was that Baraka was dressed
with great neatness and care, and looked very presentable, though her
clothes were only ready-made things, bought by a man-servant, who had
only her height and the size of her waist to guide him. Logotheti
watched her delicate, energetic profile, admiring the curves of her
closed lips, and the wilful turning up of her little chin. She was
more than very pretty now, he thought, and he was quietly amused at
his own audacity in taking her to sea alone with him, almost on the
eve of his marriage. It was especially diverting to think of what the
proper people would say if they knew it, and to contrast the
intentions they would certainly attribute to him with the perfectly
honourable ones he entertained.

As for Baraka, it never occurred to her that she was not as safe with
him as she had been in her father's house in the little white town far
away, nearly three years ago; and besides, her steel bodkin with the
silver handle had been given back to her, and she could feel it in its
place when she pressed her left hand to her side. But the little maid
who had been brought up by the missionaries took quite another point
of view, though this was not among the things she was explaining so
fluently in her pretty English to the second mate.

Logotheti had been first of all preoccupied about getting Baraka out
of England without attracting attention, and then for her comfort and
recovery from the strain and suffering of the last few days. As for
that, she was like a healthy young animal, and as soon as she had a
chance she had fallen so sound asleep that she had not waked for
twelve hours. Logotheti's intention was to take her to Paris by a
roundabout way, and establish her under some proper sort of
protection. Margaret was still in Germany, but would soon return to
France, and he had almost made up his mind to ask her advice, not
dreaming that in such a case she could really deem anything he did an
unpardonable offence. He had always laughed at the conventionalities
of European life, and had paid very little heed to them when they
stood in his way.

He had been on deck a long time that day, but Baraka had only been
established in her chair a few minutes. As yet he had hardly talked
with her of anything but the necessary preparations for the journey,
and she had trusted him entirely, being so worn out with fatigue and
bodily discomfort, that she was already half asleep when he had at
last brought her on board, late on the previous night. Before the
yacht had sailed he had received Van Torp's telegram informing him
that Kralinsky was at Bayreuth; for his secretary had sat up till two
in the morning to telegraph him the latest news and forward any
message that came, and Van Torp's had been amongst the number.

Baraka turned her head a little towards him and smiled.

'Kafar the Persian said well that you are a great man,' she said in
her own language. 'Perhaps you are one of the greatest in the world. I
think so. He told me you were very rich, and so did the Greek
merchants who came with me to France. When you would not buy the other
ruby I thought they were mistaken, but now I see they were right.
Where you are, there is gold, and men bow before you. You say: "Set
Baraka free," and I am free. Also, you say: "Give her the ruby that is
hers," and they give it, and her belongings, too, all clean and in
good order and nothing stolen. You are a king. Like a king, you have a
new fire-ship of your own and an army of young men to do your bidding.
They are cleaner and better dressed than the sailors on the Sultan's
fire-ships that lie in the Golden Horn, for I have seen them. They are
as clean as the young effendis in London, in Paris! It is wonderful!
You have not many on your ship, but you could have ten ships, all with
sailors like these, and they would be all well washed. I like clean
people. Yes, you are a great man.'

She turned her eyes away from him and gazed lazily at the still blue
sea, having apparently said all she had to say. Logotheti was well
used to Asiatics and understood that her speech was partly
conventional and intended to convey that sort of flattery which is
dear to the Oriental soul. Baraka knew perfectly well what a real king
was, and the difference between a yacht and a man-of-war, and many
other things which she had learned in Constantinople. Primitive
people, when they come from Asia, are not at all simple people, though
they are often very direct in pursuing what they want.

'I have something of importance to tell you,' Logotheti said after a
pause.

Baraka prepared herself against betraying surprise by letting her lids
droop a little, but that was all.

'Speak,' she answered. 'I desire knowledge more than gold.'

'You are wise,' said the Greek gravely. 'No doubt you remember the
rich man Van Torp, for whom I gave you a letter, and whom you had seen
on the day you were arrested.'

'Van Torp.' Baraka pronounced the name distinctly, and nodded. 'Yes, I
remember him well. He knows where the man is whom I seek, and he wrote
the address for me. I have it. You will take me there in your ship,
and I shall find him.'

'If you find him, what shall you say to him?' Logotheti asked.

'Few words. These perhaps: "You left me to die, but I am not dead, I
am here. Through me you are a rich, great man. The rubies are my
marriage portion, which you have taken. Now you must be my husband."
That is all. Few words.'

'It is your right,' Logotheti answered. 'But he will not marry you.'

'Then he shall die,' replied Baraka, as quietly as if she were saying
that he should go for a walk.

'If you kill him, the laws of that country may take your life,'
objected the Greek.

'That will be my portion,' the girl answered, with profound
indifference.

'You only have one life,' Logotheti observed. 'It is yours to throw
away. But the man you seek is not in that country. Van Torp has
telegraphed me that he is much nearer. Nevertheless, if you mean to
kill him, I will not take you to him, as I intended to do.'

Baraka's face had changed, though she had been determined not to
betray surprise at anything he said; she turned to him, and fixed her
eyes on his, and he saw her lashes quiver.

'You will tell me where he is,' she said anxiously. 'If you will not
take me I will go alone with Spiro. I have been in many countries with
no other help. I can go there also, where he is. You will tell me.'

'Not if you mean to murder him,' said Logotheti, and she saw that he
was in earnest.

'But if he will not be my husband, what can I do, if I do not kill
him?' She asked the question in evident good faith.

'If I were you, I should make him share the rubies and the money with
you, and then I would leave him to himself.'

'But you do not understand,' Baraka protested. 'He is young, he is
beautiful, he is rich. He will take some other woman for his wife, if
I leave him. You see, he must die, there is no other way. If he will
not marry me, it is his portion. Why do you talk? Have I not come
across the world from the Altai, by Samarkand and Tiflis, as far as
England, to find him and marry him? Is it nothing that I have done, a
Tartar girl alone, with no friend but a bag of precious stones that
any strong thief might have taken from me? Is the danger nothing? The
travel nothing? Is it nothing that I have gone about like a shameless
one, with my face uncovered, dressed in a man's clothes? That I have
cut my hair, my beautiful black hair, is that as nothing too? That I
have been in an English prison? That I have been called a thief? I
have suffered all these things to find him, and if I come to him at
last, and he will not be my husband, shall he live and take another
woman? You are a great man, it is true. But you do not understand. You
are only a Frank, after all! That little maid you have brought for me
would understand me better, though she has been taught for six years
by Christians. She is a good girl. She says that in all that time she
has never once forgotten to say the Fatiheh three times a day, and to
say "el hamdu illah" to herself after she has eaten! She would
understand. I know she would. But you, never!'

The exquisite little aquiline features wore a look of unutterable
contempt.

'If I were you,' said Logotheti, smiling, 'I would not tell her what
you are going to do.'

'You see!' cried Baraka, almost angrily. 'You do not understand. A
servant! Shall I tell my heart to my handmaid, and my secret thoughts
to a hired man? I tell you, because you are a friend, though you have
no understanding of us. My father feeds many flocks, and has many
bondmen and bondwomen, whom he beats when it pleases him, and can put
to death if he likes. He also knows the mine of rubies, as his father
did before him, and when he desires gold he takes one to Tashkent, or
even to Samarkand, a long journey, and sells it to the Russians. He is
a great man. If he would bring a camel bag full of precious stones to
Europe he could be one of the greatest men in the world. And you think
that my father's daughter would open her heart's treasure to one of
her servants? I said well that you do not understand!'

Logotheti looked quietly at the slim young thing in a ready-made blue
serge frock, who said such things as a Lady Clara Vere de Vere would
scarcely dare to say above her breath in these democratic days; and he
watched the noble little features, and the small white hands, that had
come down to her through generations of chieftains, since the days
when the primeval shepherds of the world counted the stars in the
plains of Káf.

He himself, with his long Greek descent, was an aristocrat to the
marrow, and smiled at the claims of men who traced their families back
to Crusaders. With the help of a legend or two and half a myth, he
could almost make himself a far descendant of the Tyndaridæ. But what
was that compared with the pedigree of the little thing in a blue
serge frock? Her race went back to a time before Hesiod, before Homer,
to a date that might be found in the annals of Egypt, but nowhere else
in all the dim traditions of human history.

'No,' he said, after a long pause. 'I begin to understand. You had not
told me that your father was a great man, and that his sires before
him had joined hand to hand, from the hand of Adam himself.'

This polite speech, delivered in his best Tartar, though with sundry
Turkish terminations and accents, somewhat mollified Baraka, and she
pushed her little head backwards and upwards against the top of the
deck chair, as if she were drawing herself up with pride. Also, not
being used to European skirts, she stuck out one tiny foot a little
further across the other, as she stretched herself, and she
indiscreetly showed a pale-yellow silk ankle, round which she could
have easily made her thumb meet her second finger. Logotheti glanced
at it.

'You will never understand,' she said, but her tone had relented, and
she made a concession. 'If you will take me to him, and if he will not
be my husband, I will let Spiro kill him.'

'That might be better,' Logotheti answered with extreme gravity, for
he was quite sure that Spiro would never kill anybody. 'If you will
take an oath which I shall dictate, and swear to let Spiro do it, I
will take you to the man you seek.'

'What must be, must be,' Baraka said in a tone of resignation. 'When
he is dead, Spiro can also kill me and take the rubies and the money.'

'That would be a pity,' observed the Greek, thoughtfully.

'Why a pity? It will be my portion. I will not kill myself because
then I should go to hell-fire, but Spiro can do it very well. Why
should I still live, then?'

'Because you are young and beautiful and rich enough to be very happy.
Do you never look at your face in the mirror? The eyes of Baraka are
like the pools of paradise, when the moon rose upon them the first
time, her waist is as slender as a young willow sapling that bends to
the breath of a spring breeze, her mouth is a dark rose from
Gulistán----'

But Baraka interrupted him with a faint smile.

'You speak emptiness,' she said quietly. 'What is the oath, that I may
swear it? Shall I take Allah, and the Prophet, and the Angel Israfil
to witness that I will keep my word? Shall I prick my hand and let the
drops fall into your two hands that you may drink them? What shall I
do and say? I am ready.'

'You must swear an oath that my fathers swore before there were
Christians or Musulmans in the world, when the old gods were still
great.'

'Speak. I will repeat any words you like. Is it a very solemn oath?'

'It is the most solemn that ever was sworn, for it is the oath of the
gods themselves. I shall give it to you slowly, and you must try to
pronounce it right, word by word, holding out your hands, like this,
with the palms downwards.'

'I am ready,' said Baraka, doing as he bade her.

He quoted in Greek the oath that Hypnos dictates to Hera in the
_Iliad_, and Baraka repeated each word, pronouncing as well as she
could.

'I swear by the inviolable water of the Styx, and I lay one hand upon
the all-nourishing earth, the other on the sparkling sea, that all the
gods below may be our witnesses, even they that stand round about
Kronos. Thus I swear!'

As he had anticipated, Baraka was much more impressed by the
importance of the words she did not understand than if she had bound
herself by any oath familiar to her.

'I am sorry,' she said, 'but what is done is done, and you would have
it so.'

She pressed her hand gently to her left side and felt the long steel
bodkin, and sighed regretfully.

'You have sworn an oath that no man would dare to break,' said
Logotheti solemnly. 'A man would rather kill pigs on the graves of his
father and his mother than break it.'

'I shall keep my word. Only take me quickly where I would be.'

Logotheti produced a whistle from his pocket and blew on it, and a
quartermaster answered the call, and was sent for the captain, who
came in a few moments.

'Head her about for Jersey and Carterets, Captain,' said the owner.
'The sea is as flat as a board, and we will land there. You can go on
to the Mediterranean without coaling, can you not?'

The captain said he could coal at Gibraltar, if necessary.

'Then take her to Naples, please, and wait for instructions.'

Baraka understood nothing, but within two minutes she saw that the
yacht was changing her course, for the afternoon sun was all at once
pouring in on the deck, just beyond the end of her chair. She was
satisfied, and nodded her approval.

But she did not speak for a long time, paying no more attention to
Logotheti's gaze than if he had not existed. No people in the world
can remain perfectly motionless so long as Asiatics, perfectly
absorbed in their own thoughts.

To the Greek's art-loving nature it was pure delight to watch her.
Never, since he had first met Margaret Donne, had he seen any woman or
young girl who appealed to his sense of beauty as Baraka did, though
the impression she made on him was wholly different from that he
received when Margaret was near.

The Primadonna was on a large scale, robust, magnificently vital, a
Niké, even a young Hera; and sometimes, especially on the stage, she
was almost insolently handsome, rather than beautiful like Lady Maud.
Baraka was an Artemis, virginal, high-bred; delicately modelled for
grace and speed rather than for reposeful beauty, for motion rather
than for rest. It was true that the singer's walk was something to
dream of and write verses about, but Baraka's swift-gliding step was
that of the Maiden Huntress in the chase, her attitude in rest was the
pose of a watchful Diana, ready to spring up at a sound or a breath, a
figure almost boyish in its elastic vigour, and yet deeply feminine in
meaning.

Baraka once more turned her head without lifting it from the back of
the deck-chair.

'I am hungry and thirsty again,' she said gravely. 'I do not
understand.'

'What will you eat, and what will you drink?' Logotheti asked.

She smiled and shook her head.

'Anything that is good,' she said; 'but what I desire you have not in
your ship. I long for fat quails with Italian rice, and for fig-paste,
and I desire a sherbet made with rose leaves, such as the merchant's
wife and I used to drink at the Kaffedji's by the Galata Bridge, and
sometimes when we went up the Sweet Waters in a caïque on Friday. But
you have not such things on your ship.'

Logotheti smiled.

'You forget that I am myself from Constantinople,' he said. 'It is now
the season for fat quails in Italy, and they are sent alive to London
and Paris, and there are many in my ship, waiting to be eaten. There
is also fig-paste from the Stamboul confectioner near the end of the
Galata Bridge, and preserved rose leaves with which to make a sherbet,
and much ice; and you shall eat and drink the things you like best.
Moreover, if there is anything else you long for, speak.'

'You are scoffing at Baraka!' answered the slim thing in blue serge,
with the air of a displeased fairy princess.

'Not I. You shall see. We will have a table set here between us, with
all the things you desire.'

'Truly? And coffee too? Real coffee? Not the thin mud-broth of the
Franks?'

'Real coffee, in a real fildjan.'

Baraka clapped her small white hands for pleasure.

'You are indeed a very great man!' she cried. 'You are one of the
kings!'

At the sound of the clapping she had made, Logotheti's Greek steward
appeared in a silver-laced blue jacket and a fez.

'He comes because you clapped your hands,' Logotheti said, with a
smile.

Baraka laughed softly.

'We are not in your ship,' she said. 'We are in Constantinople! I am
happy.' The smile faded quickly and her dark lashes drooped. 'It is a
pity,' she added, very low, and her left hand felt the long steel
bodkin through her dress.

The steward knew Turkish, but did not understand all she said in her
own tongue; and besides, his master was already ordering an unusual
luncheon, in Greek, which disturbed even his Eastern faculty of
hearing separately with each ear things said in different languages.

Baraka was busy with her own thoughts again, and paid no more
attention to her companion, until the steward came back after a few
minutes bringing a low round table which he placed between the two
chairs. He disappeared again and returned immediately with a salver on
which there were two small cups of steaming Turkish coffee, each in
its silver filigree stand, and two tall glasses of sherbet, of a
beautiful pale rose colour.

Baraka turned on her chair with a look of pleasure, tasted the light
hot foam of the coffee, and then began to drink slowly with enjoyment
that increased visibly with every sip.

'It is real coffee,' she said, looking up at Logotheti. 'It is made
with the beans of Arabia that are picked out one by one for the
Sheikhs themselves before the coffee is sold to the Indian princes.
The unripe and broken beans that are left are sold to the great Pashas
in Constantinople! And that is all there is of it, for the Persian
merchant explained all to me, and I know. But how you have got the
coffee of the Sheikhs, I know not. You are a very great man.'

'The gates of the pleasant places of this world are all locked, and
the keys are of gold,' observed Logotheti, who could quote Asiatic
proverbs by the dozen, when he liked. 'But the doors of Hades stand
always open,' he added, suddenly following a Greek thought, 'and from
wheresoever men are, the way that leads to them is but one.'

Baraka had tasted the sherbet, which interested her more than his
philosophical reflexions.

'This also is delicious,' she said, 'but in Stamboul even a poor man
may have it for a few paras.'

'And good water from the fountain for nothing,' returned Logotheti.

There was silence again as she leaned back, sufficiently satisfied to
wait another hour for the fat quails, the Italian rice, and the
fig-paste, to which she was looking forward. And the yacht moved on at
her leisurely twelve-knot speed, through the flat calm of the late
summer sea, while an atmosphere of bodily peace and comfort gathered
round Baraka like a delicate mist that hid the future and softened the
past.

By and by, when she had eaten the fat quail and the Italian rice, and
then the fig-paste, and had drunk more sherbet of rose leaves, and
more coffee, but none of these things in any excess, that perfect
peace came upon her which none but Asiatics can feel, and which we
cannot understand; and they call it Kêf, and desire it more than any
other condition of their inner and outer selves; but there is no
translating of that word.

It is the inexplicable state of the cat when it folds its fore-paw in,
and is so quiet and happy that it can hardly purr, but only blinks
mildly once in two or three minutes. Logotheti knew the signs of it,
though he had never really felt it himself, and he knew very well that
its presence has the power to deaden all purpose and active will in
those who enjoy it. The sole object of taking opium is to produce it
artificially, which is never quite possible, for with most
opium-smokers or opium-eaters the state of peace turns into stupor at
the very moment when it is about to become consciously beatific.

He understood that this wonderful barbarian girl, who had shown such
courage, such irresistible energy, such unchanging determination in
the search that had lasted more than two years, was temporarily
paralysed for any purpose of action by the atmosphere with which he
was surrounding her. She would come to herself again, and be as much
awake, as determined, and as brave as ever, but she was quiescent now,
and the mere thought of effort would be really painful. Perhaps no one
who has not lived in Asia can quite understand that.

Logotheti took out his notebook, which had a small calendar with a few
lines for each day in the year, and he began to count days and
calculate dates; for when he had expected to go to Bayreuth with the
Primadonna he had found out all about the performances, and he knew
how long she meant to stay.

His calendar told him that this was the off-day, between the second
and third representations of _Parsifal_, and that Margaret had her
rooms at the hotel for another week. He would allow two days more for
her to reach Versailles and rest from the journey before she would
wish to see him; and as he thought she had treated him rather badly in
not letting him go with her, because he was not enough of a Wagnerian,
he intended to keep her waiting even a day or two longer, on the
sometimes mistaken theory that it is better to make a woman impatient
than to forestall her wishes before she has had time to change her
mind.

Besides, Van Torp's telegram showed that he was in Bayreuth, and
Logotheti flattered himself that the more Margaret saw of the
American, the more anxious she would be to see her accepted adorer. It
was her own fault, since Logotheti might have been with her instead.

The result of his calculations was that he had at least ten days
before him, and that as he was not at all bored by the little Tartar
lady in blue serge, it was quite useless to put her ashore at
Carterets and take her to Paris by that way. The idea of spending
eight or nine hours alone in a hot and dirty railway carriage, while
she and her maid passed the night in another compartment, was
extremely dreary; and besides, he had not at all made up his mind what
to do with her, and it would probably end in his taking her to his own
house. Margaret would have some right to resent that; but as for the
trip in the yacht, she need never know anything about it. The girl was
really as safe with him as any girl could be with her own brother, and
so long as no one knew that she was with him, nothing else mattered.
Furthermore, he was good enough to be convinced that if she were let
loose in Europe by herself, with plenty of money, boundless courage,
and such a clever courier as Spiro seemed to be, she would certainly
find Kralinsky at last and murder him, regardless of having sworn by
the inviolable water of the Styx. Lastly, he saw that she was at
present in that state of Asiatic peace in which it was perfectly
indifferent to her what happened, provided that she were not
disturbed.

He rose quietly and went aft. Though she was awake she scarcely
noticed that he had left her, and merely opened and shut her eyes
twice, like the happy cat already spoken of. She was not aware that
the yacht changed her course again, though it was pleasant not to have
the reflexion from the sea in her eyes any longer; if Logotheti had
told her that he was heading to seaward of Ushant instead of for
Jersey and Carterets, she would not have understood, nor cared if she
had, and would have been annoyed at being disturbed by the sound of
his voice.

It was pure bliss to lie there without a want, a thought, or a memory.
An imaginative European might fancy that she had waking dreams and
visions in the summer air; that she saw again the small white town,
the foot-hills, the broad pastures below, the vastness of Altai
above, the uncounted flocks, the distant moving herds, the evening
sunlight on the walls of her father's house; or that she lived over
again those mortal hours of imprisonment in the rocky hollow, and
looked into the steel-bright eyes of the man who would not love her
and saw the tall figure of Saäd already dead, bending forward from the
ledge and pitching headlong to the sand.

Not at all. She saw none of these things. She was quiescently
blissful; the mysterious Kêf was on her, and the world stood still in
the lazy enchantment--the yacht was not moving, the sun was not
sinking westwards, her pulse was not beating, she was scarcely
breathing, in her own self she was the very self of peace, motionless
in an immeasurable stillness.

When the sky reddened at evening Logotheti was again in his chair,
reading. She heard six bells struck softly, the first sound she had
noticed in four hours, and she did not know what they meant; perhaps
it was six o'clock _alla Franca_, as she would have called it; no one
could understand European time, which was one in Constantinople,
another in Paris, and another in England. Besides, it made no
difference what time it was; but Kêf was departing from her--was gone
already, and the world was moving again--not at all in an unpleasant
or disturbing way, but moving nevertheless.

'When shall we reach that place?' she asked lazily, and she turned her
face to Logotheti.

'Allah knows,' he answered gravely, and he laid his book on his knees.

She had been so well used to hearing that answer to all sorts of
questions since she had been a child that she thought nothing of it,
and waited awhile before speaking again. Her eyes studied the man's
face almost unconsciously. He now wore a fez instead of a yachting
cap, and it changed his expression. He no longer looked in the least
like a European. The handsome red felt glowed like blood in the
evening light, and the long black silk tassel hung backwards with a
dashing air. There was something about him that reminded Baraka of
Saäd, and Saäd had been a handsome man, even in her eyes, until the
traveller had come to her father's house with his blue eyes and golden
beard. But Saäd had only seen her unveiled face once, and that was the
last thing he saw when the ball from the Mauser went through his
forehead.

'I mean,' she asked after some time, 'shall we be there to-morrow? or
the next day? I see no land on this side; is there any on the other?'

'No,' Logotheti answered, 'there is no land near. Perhaps, far off, we
might see a small island.'

'Is that the place?' Baraka began to be interested at last.

'The place is far away. You must have patience. All hurry comes from
Satan.'

'I am not impatient,' the girl answered mildly. 'I am glad to rest in
your ship, for I was very tired, more tired than I ever was when I was
a child, and used to climb up the foot-hills to see Altai better. It
is good to be in your ship for a while, and after that, what shall be,
will be. It is Allah that knows.'

'That is the truth,' responded the Greek. 'Allah knows. I said so just
now. But I will tell you what I have decided, if you will listen.'

'I listen.'

'It is better that you should rest several days after all your
weariness, and the man you seek will not run away, for he does not
know you are so near.'

'But he may take another woman,' Baraka objected, growing earnest at
once. 'Perhaps he has already! Then there will be two instead of one.'

'Spiro,' said Logotheti, with perfect truth, 'would as soon kill two
as one, I am sure, for he is a good servant. It will be the same to
him. You call me a great man and a king; I am not a king, for I have
no kingdom, though some kingdoms would like to have as much
ready-money as I. But here, on the ship, I am the master, not only
because it is mine, and because I choose to command, but because the
men are bound by English law to obey me; and if they should refuse and
overpower me, and take my ship where I did not wish to go, the laws of
all nations would give me the right to put them all into prison at
once, for a long time. Therefore when I say, "Go to a certain place,"
they take the ship there, according to their knowledge, for they are
trained to that business and can guide the vessel towards any place in
the world, though they cannot see land till they reach it. Do you
understand all these things?'

'I understand,' Baraka answered, smiling. 'But I am not bound to obey
you, and at least I can beg you to do what I ask, and I think you will
do it.'

Her voice grew suddenly soft, and almost tender, for though she was
only a Tartar girl, and very young and slim, she was a woman. Eve had
not had long experience of talking when she explained to Adam the
properties of apples.

Logotheti answered her smile and her tone.

'I shall do what you ask of me, but I shall do it slowly rather than
quickly, because that will be better for you in the end. If we had
gone on as we were going, we should have got to land to-night, but to
a wretched little town from which we should have had to take a night
train, hot and dirty and dusty, all the way to Paris. That would not
help you to rest, would it?'

'Oh, no! I wish to sleep again in your ship, once, twice, till I
cannot sleep any more. Then you will take me to the place.'

'That is what you shall do. To that end I gave orders this afternoon.'

'You are wise, as well as great,' Baraka said.

She let her feet slip down to the deck, and she sat on the side of the
chair towards Logotheti, looking at her small white tennis-shoes,
which had turned a golden pink in the evening reflexions, and she
thoughtfully settled her serge skirt over her slim yellow silk ankles,
almost as a good many European girls would always do if they did not
so often forget it.

She rose at last, and went and looked over the rail at the violet sea.
It is not often that the Atlantic Ocean is in such a heavenly temper
so near the Bay of Biscay. Logotheti got out of his chair and came and
stood beside her.

'Is this sea always so still?' she asked.

She was gazing at the melting colours, from the dark blue, spattered
with white foam, under the yacht's side, to the deep violet beyond,
and further to the wine-purple and the heliotrope and the horizon
melting up to the eastern sky.

Logotheti told her that such days came very rarely, even in summer,
and that Allah had doubtless sent this one for her especial benefit.
But she only laughed.

'Allah is great, but he does nothing where there are English people,'
she observed, and Logotheti laughed in his turn.

They left the rail and walked slowly forward, side by side, without
speaking; and Logotheti told himself how utterly happy he should be if
Baraka could turn into Margaret and be walking with him there; yet
something answered him that since she was not by his side he was not
to be pitied for the company of a lovely Tartar girl whose language he
could understand and even speak tolerably; and when the first voice
observed rather drily that Margaret would surely think that he ought
to feel very miserable, the second voice told him to take the goods
the gods sent him and be grateful; and this little antiphone of Ormuzd
and Ahriman went on for some time, till it occurred to him to stop the
duo by explaining to Baraka how a European girl would probably slip
her arm, or at least her hand, through the arm of the man with whom
she was walking on the deck of a yacht, because there was generally a
little motion at sea, and she would like to steady herself; and when
there was none, there ought to be, and she would do the same thing by
force of habit. But Baraka looked at such behaviour quite differently.

'That would be a sort of dance,' she said. 'I am not a dancing girl! I
have seen men and women dancing together, both Russians in Samarkand
and other people in France. It is disgusting. I would rather go
unveiled among my own people!'

'Which may Allah forbid!' answered Logotheti devoutly. 'But, as you
say, where there are Englishmen, Allah does nothing; the women go
without veils, and the boys and girls dance together.'

'I have done worse,' said Baraka, 'for I have dressed as a man, and if
a woman did that among my people she would be stoned to death and not
buried. My people will never know what I have done since I got away
from them alive. But he thought he was leaving me there to die!'

'Surely. I cannot see why you wish to marry a man who robbed you and
tried to compass your death! I can understand that you should dream of
killing him, and he deserves to be burnt alive, but why you should
wish to marry him is known to the wisdom of the blessed ones!'

'You never saw him,' Baraka answered with perfect simplicity. 'He is a
beautiful man; his beard is like the rays of the morning sun on a ripe
cornfield. His eyes are bright as an eagle's, but blue as sapphires.
He is much taller and bigger and stronger than you are. Do you not see
why I want him for a husband? Why did he not desire me for his wife?
Am I crooked, am I blinded by the smallpox, or have I six fingers on
both hands and a hump on my shoulder like the Witch of Altai? Was my
portion a cotton shift, one brass bangle and a horn comb for my hair?
I gave him the riches of the world to take me, and he would not! I do
not understand. Am I an evil sight in a man's eyes? Tell me the truth,
for you are a friend!'

'You are good to see,' Logotheti answered, stopping and pretending to
examine her face critically as she stood still and faced him. 'I was
telling you what I thought of you before luncheon, I think, but you
said I spoke "emptiness," so I stopped.'

'I do not desire you to speak for yourself,' returned Baraka. 'I wish
you to speak for any man, since I go about unveiled and any man may
see me. What would they say in the street if they saw me now, as a
woman? That is what I must know, for he is a Frank, and he will judge
me as the Franks judge when he sees me! What will he say?'

'Shall I speak as a Frank? Or as they speak in Constantinople?'

'Speak as he would speak, I pray. But speak the truth.'

'I take Allah to witness that I speak the truth,' Logotheti answered.
'If I had never seen you, and if I were walking in the Great Garden in
London and I met you by the bank of the river, I should say that you
were the prettiest dark girl in England, but that I should like to see
you in a beautiful Feringhi hat and the best frock that could be made
in Paris.'

Baraka's face was troubled, and she looked into his eyes anxiously.

'I understand,' she said. 'Before I meet him I must have more clothes,
many beautiful new dresses. It was shameless, but it was easy to dress
as a man, after I had learned, for it was always the same--the
difference was three buttons--or four buttons, or a high hat or a
little hat; not much. Also the Feringhi men button their garments as
the Musulmans do, the left over the right, but I often see their
women's coats buttoned like a Hindu's. Why is this? Have the women
another religion than the men? It is very strange!'

Logotheti laughed, for he had really never noticed the rather singular
fact which had struck the born Asiatic at once.

'But this woman's dressing is very difficult to learn,' Baraka went
on, leaning back upon the rail with both elbows, and sticking out her
little white shoes close together. Without the girl Maggy whom you
have found for me--but her real name is Gula, and she is a good
Musulman--without her, Allah knows what I should do! I could not put
on these things for myself; alone, I cannot take them off. When I was
like a man, buttons! Two, three, four, twenty--what did it matter? All
the same way and soon done! But now, I cannot tell what I am made of.
Allah knows and sees what I am made of. Hooks, eyes, strings, little
bits one way, little bits the other way, like the rigging of
ships--those Turkish ships with many small sails that go up the
Bosphorus, you remember? And it is all behind, as if one had no
front! Gula knows how it is done. But if I were alone, without her
help, Allah is my witness, I would tie the things all round me
decently and sit very still for fear they should come off! That is
what I should do!

The Greek thought her extremely amusing. She punctuated her
explanations with small gestures indicative of her ignorance and
helplessness.

'You will soon grow used to it,' he said. 'But you must get some
pretty things in Paris before you go to meet the man. It would also be
better to let your hair grow long before meeting him, for it is hard
to wear the hats of the Feringhi ladies without hair.'

'I cannot wait so long as that. Only to get pretty dresses, only so
long! I will spend a thousand pounds or two--is that enough? I have
much money in Paris; I can give more.'

'You can get a good many things for a thousand pounds, even in Paris,'
Logotheti answered.

Baraka laughed.

'It will not be what I paid for the first clothes after I ran away,'
she said. 'I did not know then what the stones were worth! A little
ruby to one woman for a shift and an over-tunic, a little ruby to
another for a pair of shoes, a little ruby for a veil and a
head-blanket, all little rubies! For each thing one! I did not know;
the women did not know. But at Samarkand I sold one for money to a
good Persian merchant, and what he gave me was enough for the journey,
for me and the old woman servant I hired there, till we got to
Tiflis; for the Persian merchants everywhere gave me letters from one
to another, and their wives took me in, or I should have been robbed.
That is how I reached Stamboul after many, many months, more than a
year. The Persian merchants are good men. All fear them, because they
are wise in their dealings, but they are honest men. They do not lie,
but they are silent and shake their heads, and you must guess what
they mean; and if you do not guess right, that is your fault, not
theirs. Why should they speak when they can hold their peace? But this
is all emptiness! We must talk of the fine dresses I must buy in
Paris, and of what I must put on my head. The barbers in Paris sell
wigs. I have seen them in the windows, very well made, of all colours,
even of the Khenna colour. I shall wear a wig, so that the beautiful
Feringhi hat will stay on. I shall perhaps wear a Khenna-coloured
wig.'

'I should not advise a wig,' said Logotheti gravely, 'certainly not
one of that dye.'

'You know, and you are a friend. When I feel rested we will go to
Paris, and you shall take me to all the richest shops and tell them in
French what I want. Will you?'

'I shall do all I can to help you,' answered the Greek, wondering what
would happen if his friends met him piloting a lovely barbarian about
between the smartest linendraper's and the most fashionable
dressmaker's establishment in the Rue de la Paix.

They had watched the sun set, and the clear twilight glow was in the
cloudless sky and on the violet sea. Not a sound disturbed the
stillness, except the smooth wash of the water along the yacht's side.
At her leisurely three-quarters speed the engines ran noiselessly and
the twin screws turned well below the water-line in the flat calm. The
watch below was at supper, and the captain was just then working a
sunset amplitude in the chart-room to make quite sure of his deviation
on the new course; for he was a careful navigator, and had a proper
contempt for any master who trusted another man's adjustment of his
compasses.

Baraka drew one end of her veil round her throat and across her mouth
and over to the other side of her face, so that her features were
covered almost as by a real yashmak. The action was well-nigh
unconscious, for until she had left Constantinople she had never gone
with her face uncovered, except for a short time, of necessity, after
she had begun her long journey, almost without clothes to cover her,
not to speak of a veil. But the sensation of being screened from men's
sight came back pleasantly as she stood there; for the Greek was much
more like her own people than the French or English, and he spoke her
language, and to be with him was not like being with Mr. Van Torp, or
walking in the streets of London and Paris.

The veil brought back suddenly the sense of real power that the
Eastern woman has, and of real security in her perpetual disguise,
which every man must respect on pain of being torn to pieces by his
fellows. Reams of trash have been written about the inferior position
of women in the East; but there, more than anywhere else in the world,
they rule and have their will. Their domination there never had a
parallel in Europe but once, and that was in the heyday of the Second
French Empire, when a great nation was almost destroyed to please a
score of smart women.

Veiled as she was, Baraka turned to Logotheti, who started slightly
and then laughed; for he had not been watching her, and the effect of
the improvised yashmak was sudden and striking. He made the Oriental
salutation in three movements, touching his heart, his lips, and his
forehead with his right hand.

'Peace be with you, Hanum Effendim!' he said, as if he were greeting a
Turkish lady who had just appeared beside him.

'Peace, Effendim,' answered Baraka, with a light little laugh; but
after a moment she went on, and her voice had changed. 'It is like
Constantinople,' she said, 'and I am happy here--and it is a pity.'

Logotheti thought he heard her sigh softly behind her veil, and she
drew it still more closely to her face with her little ungloved hand,
and rested one elbow on the rail, gazing out at the twilight glow. In
all his recollections of many seas, Logotheti did not remember such a
clear and peaceful evening; there was a spell on the ocean, and it was
not the sullen, disquieting calm that often comes before a West Indian
cyclone or an ocean storm, but rather that fair sleep that sometimes
falls upon the sea and lasts many days, making men wonder idly whether
the weather will ever break again.

The two dined on deck, with shaded lights, but screened from the
draught of the ship's way. The evening was cool, and the little maid
had dressed Baraka in a way that much disturbed her, for her taper
arms were bare to the elbows, and the pretty little ready-made French
dress was open at her ivory neck, and the skirt fitted so closely that
she almost fancied herself in man's clothes again. But on her head she
would only wear the large veil, confined by a bit of gold cord, and
she drew one fold under her chin, and threw it over the opposite
shoulder, to be quite covered; and she was glad when she felt cold,
and could wrap herself in the wide travelling cloak they had bought
for her, and yet not seem to do anything contrary to the customs of a
real Feringhi lady.

  [Illustration: "The two dined on deck."]



CHAPTER XI


Lady Maud found Mr. Van Torp waiting for her at the Bayreuth station.

'You don't mean to say you've come right through?' he inquired,
looking at her with admiration as he grasped her hand. 'You're as
fresh as paint!'

'That's rather a dangerous thing to say to a woman nowadays,' she
answered in her rippling voice. 'But mine won't come off. How is
Margaret?'

Her tone changed as she asked the question.

'She showed me your letter about Logo,' answered her friend without
heeding the question, and watching her face to see if she were
surprised.

She got into the carriage he had brought, and he stood by the door
waiting for the porter, who was getting her luggage. She had no maid
with her.

'I'm glad you have told me,' she answered, 'though I wish she had not.
You probably think that when I wrote that letter I remembered what you
said to me in London about giving me money for my poor women.'

'No,' said Van Torp thoughtfully, 'I don't believe I do think so. It
was like me to make the offer, Maud. It was like the sort of man I've
been, and you've known me. But it wouldn't have been like you to
accept it. It wasn't exactly low-down of me to say what I did, but
it's so precious like low-down that I wouldn't say it again, and I
suppose I'm sorry. That's all.'

His rough hand was on the side of the little open carriage. She
touched it lightly with her gloved fingers and withdrew them
instantly, for the porter was coming with her not very voluminous
luggage.

'Thank you,' she said quickly. 'I understood, and I understand now.'

They drove slowly up the Bahnhofstrasse, through the dull little town,
that looks so thoroughly conscious of its ancient respectability as
having once been the 'Residenz' of a Duke of Würtemburg, and of its
vast importance as the headquarters of Richard Wagner's
representatives on earth.

'See here,' said Mr. Van Torp. 'I've almost persuaded them all to run
down to Venice, and I want to know why you won't come too?'

'Venice?' Lady Maud was surprised. 'It's as hot as Tophet now, and
full of mosquitoes. Why in the world do you want to take them there?'

'Well,' answered the American, taking plenty of time over the
monosyllable, 'I didn't exactly mean to stay there more than a few
minutes. I've bought a pretty nice yacht since I saw you, and she's
there, eating her head off, and I thought you might all come along
with me on her and go home that way, or somewhere.'

'I had no idea you had a yacht!' Lady Maud smiled. 'What it is to have
the Bank of England in your pocket! Where did you get her, and what
is her name? I love yachts!'

Van Torp explained.

'I forget what she was called,' he said in conclusion, 'but I changed
her name. It's _Lancashire Lass_ now.'

'The dear old mare you rode that night! How nice of you! It's a
horse's name, of course, but that doesn't matter. I'm so glad you
chose it. I shall never forget how you looked when you galloped off
bareback in your evening clothes with no hat!'

'I don't know how I looked,' said Van Torp gravely. 'But I know quite
well how I felt. I felt in a hurry. Now, what I want you to decide
right away is whether you'll come, provided they will--for I don't
suppose you and I could go mooning around in the yacht by ourselves.'

'And I don't suppose,' returned Lady Maud, mimicking him ever so
little, 'that if "they" decide not to come, you will have time for a
long cruise.'

'Now that's not fair,' objected the American. 'I didn't intend to put
it in that way. Anyhow, will you come if they do? That's the point.'

'Really, it depends a little on who "they" are. Do you mean only
Margaret and that nice old friend of hers--Mrs. Patmore, isn't she? I
never met her.'

'Rushmore,' said Van Torp, correcting her.

'It's the same thing,' said Lady Maud vaguely, for she was trying to
make up her mind quickly.

'You don't know her,' replied her friend. 'That's the reason why you
say it's the same thing. Nothing's the same as Mrs. Rushmore.'

'Is she very dreadful?' asked Lady Maud, in some apprehension.

'Dreadful? No! She's very sweet, I think. One of those real,
old-fashioned, well-educated New York ladies, and refined right down
to the ground. There's only one thing----'

He stopped, trying to find words to express the one thing.

'What is it? All you say about her sounds very nice----'

'She's got the celebrity habit.'

'Lions?' suggested Lady Maud, who understood him.

'Yes,' he assented, 'she's a dandy after lions. She likes them for
breakfast, dinner, and tea, with a sandwich thrown in between times.
She likes them to talk to, and to look at, and to tell about. That's
just a habit, I suppose, like chewing gum, but she'll never get over
it at her age. She's got to have a party of some kind every other
minute, even here, or she's uneasy at night. But I'm bound to say,
with all truth, she does it well. She's a perfect lady, and she always
says the right thing and does the right thing. Besides, we're great
friends, she and I. We get on beautifully.'

'You're a celebrity,' observed Lady Maud.

'So's Miss Donne, and a much bigger one. So's Logo, for that matter,
but she doesn't think a great deal of Greeks. You're a sort of
celebrity, too, and she's perfectly delighted you're coming, because
you're "Lady" Maud, and a Russian countess into the bargain. Then
there's that other Russian--not that you're one, but you
understand--Kralinsky is his name, Count Kralinsky. Ever hear that
name?'

'Never. It sounds Polish.'

'He might be anything. Sometimes I'm absolutely sure he's a man I used
to know out West when I was on the ranch, and then again there's
something quite different about him. Something about his legs or his
eyes, I can't tell which. I don't quite make him out. There's one
thing, though. He's the Kralinsky I bought your ruby from in New York
a month ago, and he doesn't deny it, though I don't remember that he
was a Count then. He seemed glad to see me again, but he doesn't seem
to talk much about selling rubies now. Perhaps he's got through that,
as the camel said to the eye of the needle.'

'Eh? What?' Lady Maud laughed.

'Oh, nothing. I guess it's out of the Bible, or something. I'll tell
you all about him by and by. He's going away this afternoon, but he's
promised to join us in Venice for a trip, because Mrs. Rushmore finds
him so attractive. He seems to know everybody intimately, all over the
world. I'd like you to see him. Here we are, and there's Miss Donne
waiting for you on the steps. I wish we'd had a longer ride together.'

They reached the hotel, and Van Torp went off promptly, leaving
Margaret to take Lady Maud upstairs and introduce her to Mrs.
Rushmore.

An hour later the two young women were together in Margaret's room,
while Potts was unpacking for Lady Maud in the one that had been
secured for her in spite of all sorts of difficulties.

The Primadonna was sitting at her toilet-table, turned away from the
glass, and Lady Maud occupied the only possible chair there was, a
small, low easy-chair, apparently much too small for such a tall
woman, but less uncomfortable than it looked.

They exchanged the usual banalities. It was awfully good of Margaret
to ask Maud, it was awfully good of Maud to come. The journey had been
tolerable, thank you, by taking the Orient Express as far as
Stuttgart. Margaret did not compare Maud's complexion to fresh paint,
as Van Torp had done, but to milk and roses; and Maud said with truth
that she had never seen Margaret looking better. It was the rest,
Margaret said, for she had worked hard.

'Are you going on Mr. Van Torp's yacht?' asked Lady Maud suddenly. 'He
spoke to me about it on the way from the station, and asked me to
come, in case you accept.'

'I don't know. Will you go if I do? That might make a difference.'

Lady Maud did not answer at once. She wished that she knew how matters
had gone between Margaret and Van Torp during the last few days, for
she sincerely wished to help him, now that she had made up her mind as
to Logotheti's real character. Nevertheless, her love of fair-play
made her feel that the Greek ought to be allowed a chance of
retrieving himself.

'Yes,' she said at last, 'I'll go, on one condition. At least, it's
not a condition, my dear, it's only a suggestion, though I hate to
make one. Don't think me too awfully cheeky, will you?'

Margaret shook her head, but looked very grave.

'I feel as if I were getting into a bad scrape,' she said, 'and I
shall be only too glad of any good advice. Tell me what I had better
do.'

'I must tell you something else first as a continuation of my letter,
for all sorts of things happened after I wrote it.'

She told Margaret all that has been already narrated, concerning the
news that Baraka had been set at large on Logotheti's sworn statement
that the ruby was not his, and that he had seen it in her possession
in Paris; and she told how she had tried to find him at his lodgings,
and had failed, and how strangely the leather-faced secretary's
answers had struck her, and how she had seen Baraka's gloves and stick
in Logotheti's hall; and finally she said she had taken it into her
head that Logotheti had spirited away the Tartar girl on his yacht,
which, as every one in town had known through the papers, was at Cowes
and in commission. For Logotheti, in his evidence, had explained his
absence from the Police Court by the fact that he had been off in the
_Erinna_ for two days, out of reach of news.

Margaret's face grew darker as she listened, for she knew Lady Maud
too well to doubt but that every word was more than scrupulously true;
and the deduction was at least a probable one. She bit her lip as she
felt her anger rising again.

'What do you advise me to do?' she asked, in a sullen tone.

'Telegraph to Logo and prepay an answer of twenty words. Telegraph to
his rooms in St. James's Place and at the same time to his house in
Paris. Telegraph anything you like that really needs an immediate
reply. That's the important thing. If he does not answer within
twenty-four hours--say thirty-six at the most--he is either on his
yacht or hiding. Excuse the ugly word, dear--I don't think of any
other. If you are afraid of the servants, I'll take the message to the
telegraph office and send it for you. I suppose you have some way of
signing which the clerks don't recognise--if you sign at all.'

Margaret leaned back in her chair in silence. After a few seconds she
turned towards the glass, rested her chin on her folded knuckles, and
seemed to be consulting her own reflexion. It is a way some women
have. Lady Maud glanced at her from time to time, but said nothing. At
last the Primadonna rose with a sweep that upset the light chair
behind her, one of those magnificent sweeps that look so well on the
stage and are a little too large for a room. She got her blotter and
pen from a shelf, brought it back to the toilet-table, picked up the
chair in a very quiet and sensible way, as if she had never been on
the stage in her life, and sat down to write.

'I shall take your advice, dear,' she said, opening the blotter and
placing a large sheet of paper in the right position.

Lady Maud rose and went to the window, where she stood looking out
while Margaret wrote her message.

'You needn't write it out twice,' she said, without turning round.
'Just put "duplicate message" and both addresses.'

'Yes. Thank you.'

Margaret was already writing. Her message said it was absolutely
necessary that she should see Logotheti directly, and bade him answer
at once, if he could come to Bayreuth; if important financial affairs
hindered him, she herself would return immediately to Paris to see
him.

She was careful to write 'financial' affairs, for she would not admit
that any other consideration could delay his obedience. While she was
busy she heard, but scarcely noticed, an unearthly hoot from a big
motor car that was passing before the hotel. There must have been
something in the way, for the thing hooted again almost at once, and
then several times in quick succession, as if a gigantic brazen ass
were beginning to bray just under the window. The noises ended in a
sort of wild, triumphant howl, with a furious puffing, and the motor
took itself off, just as Margaret finished.

She looked up and saw Lady Maud half bent, as if she had been struck;
she was clinging with one hand to the flimsy chintz curtain, and her
face was as white as a sheet. Margaret started in surprise, and rose
to her feet so suddenly that she upset the chair again.

'What has happened?' she cried. 'Are you ill, dear?'

The delicate colour came slowly back to the smooth cheeks, the
thoroughbred figure in black drew itself up with elastic dignity, and
the hand let go of the curtain.

'I felt a little faint,' Lady Maud answered. 'Did I frighten you? It
was nothing, and it's quite gone, I assure you.'

'You looked dreadfully ill for a moment,' Margaret said in a tone of
concern. 'Won't you let me send for something? Tea? Or something iced?
I'm sure you have had nothing to eat or drink for hours! How
disgracefully thoughtless of me!'

She was just going to ring, but her friend stopped her.

'No--please!' she cried. 'I'm all right, indeed I am. The room is a
little warm, I think, and I've been shut up in that stuffy train for
thirty hours. Have you written your telegram? I'll put on my hat at
once, and take it for you. The little walk will do me good. Where is
the telegraph? But they can tell me downstairs. Don't bother! Walking
always brings me round, no matter what has happened!'

  [Illustration: "'What has happened?' she cried. 'Are you ill, dear?'"]

She spoke nervously, in disjointed phrases, in a way not like herself,
for there was generally an air of easy calm in all she did, as if
nothing really mattered in the least, save when she was deeply
interested; and hardly anything interested her now except what she had
made her work. In all that belonged to that, she was energetic,
direct, and quick.

Margaret was sure that something was wrong, but let her go, since she
insisted, and Lady Maud folded the written message and went to the
door. Just as she was going to turn the handle Margaret spoke to her.

'If I have no answer to that by to-morrow afternoon I shall accept Mr.
Van Torp's invitation.'

'I hope you will go,' Lady Maud said with sudden decision, 'for if you
do, I can go with you, and I'm dying to see the new yacht!'

Margaret looked at her in surprise, for it was only a little while
since she had seemed much less ready to join the party, and only
willing to do so, if at all, in order to please her friend. She saw
Margaret's expression.

'Yes,' she said, as if in explanation, 'I've been thinking it over in
the last few minutes, and I want very much to go with you all. I shall
be back in less than an hour.'

'An hour?'

'Say half an hour. I want a good walk.'

She opened the door quickly and passed out, shutting it almost
noiselessly after her; she was a very graceful woman and moved easily,
whether in small spaces or large. In all her life she had probably
never overturned a chair with her skirt, as Margaret had done twice
within ten minutes. She had not Baraka's gliding movement, the
virginal step of the girl of primeval race; hers was rather the
careless, swaying walk of a thoroughbred in good training, long-limbed
and deep-breathed, and swift at need, but indolently easy when no
call was made upon her strength. She and Baraka and the young
Primadonna represented well three of the possible types of beauty,
very different from each other; so widely different that perhaps no
two of them would be likely to appeal to one man, as mere feminine
beauty, at the same period of his life.

Straight and tall in her mourning, Lady Maud went down the stairs of
the hotel. As she was going out the hall porter raised his cap, and
she stopped a moment and asked him which was the nearest way to the
telegraph office. He stood on the doorstep and pointed in the
direction she was to follow as he answered her question.

'Can you tell me,' she asked, 'whose motor car it was that passed
about ten minutes ago, and made so much noise?'

'Count Kralinsky's, my lady,' the porter answered; for he spoke good
English, and had the true hotel porter's respect for the British
aristocracy abroad.

'He was the gentleman with the big fair beard, I suppose? Yes, thank
you.'

She went out into the dull street, with its monotonous houses, all two
stories high, and she soon found the telegraph office and sent
Margaret's duplicate message. She had not glanced at it, but the clerk
asked her questions about words that were not quite clearly written,
and she was obliged to read it through. It occurred to her that it was
couched in extremely peremptory terms, even for an offended
bride-elect; but that was none of her business.

When the clerk had understood, she walked up the hill to the Festival
Theatre. It all looked very dull and heavy, being an off-day, and as
she was not a Wagnerian it meant absolutely nothing to her. She was
disappointed in the whole town, so far as she had expected anything of
it, for she had pictured it as being either grand in its way, or
picturesque, or at least charming; and it was not. Her British soul
stuck up its nose in the general atmosphere of beer and sausage, which
she instantly perceived rather than saw; and the Teutonism of
everything, from the appearance of the Festival Theatre itself to the
wooden faces of the policemen, and the round pink cheeks of the few
children she met, roused antagonism in her from the first. She went on
a little farther, and then turned back and descended the hill, always
at the same even, easy pace, for she was rarely aware of any change of
grade when she walked alone.

But by degrees her expression had altered since she had left the
telegraph office, and she looked profoundly preoccupied, as if she
were revolving a very complicated question in her mind, which disliked
complications; and there was now and then a flash of displeased wonder
in her face, when she opened her eyes quite wide and shut them, and
opened them again, as if to make sure that she was quite awake.

She went on, not knowing whither and not caring, always at the same
even pace, and hardly noticing the people who passed her, of whom a
good many were in two-horse cabs, some in queer little German motors,
and a few on foot; and still she thought, and wondered, and tried to
understand, but could not. At all events, she was glad to be alone;
she was glad not to have even Van Torp with her, who was by far the
most congenial person she knew; for he had the rare good gift of
silence, and used it very often, and when he talked she liked his odd
speech, his unusual expressions, even his Western accent; she liked
him for his simple, unswerving friendship, and for his kind
heart--though the world would have screamed with laughter at the idea;
and more than all, she liked him for himself, and because she knew
certainly that neither he nor she could possibly, under any
circumstances, grow to like each other in any other way.

But she did not wish that he were walking beside her now, and she was
quite indifferent to the fact that time was passing, and that Margaret
was beginning to wonder where in the world she was.

'My dear child,' Mrs. Rushmore said, when the Primadonna expressed her
surprise, 'those English people are all alike, when they are once out
on a road by themselves. They must take a long walk. I am quite sure
that at this moment Countess Leven is miles from here--miles,
Margaret. Do you understand me? I tell you she is walking mile upon
mile. All English people do. You are only half English after all, my
dear, but I have known you to walk a long distance alone, for no good
reason that I could see.'

'It's good for the voice if you don't overdo it,' Margaret observed.

'Yes. But Countess Leven does not sing, my dear. You forget that. Why
should she walk mile upon mile like that? And I know Mr. Van Torp is
not with her, for Justine told me a quarter of an hour ago that she
heard him tell his man to bring him some hot water. So he is at home,
you see. Margaret, what do you suppose Mr. Van Torp wants hot water
for at this extraordinary hour?'

'I really don't know,' Margaret answered, sipping her tea rather
gloomily, for she was thinking of the telegram she had given Lady Maud
to send.

'You don't think Mr. Van Torp drinks, do you, my dear?' inquired Mrs.
Rushmore.

'Hot water? Some people do. It's good for the digestion.'

'No, you purposely misunderstand me. I mean that he makes use of it
for--for the purpose of mixing alcoholic beverages alone in his room.'

Margaret laughed.

'Never! If there's a perfectly sober man living, it is he!'

'I am glad to hear you say so, my dear. Because, if I thought he had
habits, nothing would induce me to go on board his yacht. Nothing,
Margaret! Not all his millions! Do you understand me? Margaret, dear,
if you do not mind very much, I think we had better not accept his
invitation after all, though I am sure it is well meant.'

'You're very much mistaken if you think he drinks,' Margaret said,
still inclined to laugh.

'Well, my dear,' returned Mrs. Rushmore, 'I don't know. Justine
certainly heard him tell his man to bring him some hot water a quarter
of an hour ago. Perhaps it may have been twenty minutes. It is a very
extraordinary hour to ask for such a thing, I am sure.'

Margaret suggested that Mr. Van Torp might possibly have a fancy to
wash his hands in hot water at that unusual time of day, and Mrs.
Rushmore seemed temporarily satisfied, for apparently she had not
thought of this explanation.

'Margaret,' she said solemnly, 'if you feel that you can put your hand
into the fire for Mr. Van Torp's habits, I will go with you on his
yacht. Not otherwise, my dear.'

The Primadonna laughed, and at last Mrs. Rushmore herself smiled, for
she was not without a sense of humour.

'I cannot help it, my dear,' she said. 'You must not laugh at me if I
am nervous about such things; nervous, you understand, not
unreasonable. But since you are prepared to take all the
responsibility I will go with you, my child. I cannot even say it is a
sacrifice on my part, for I am an excellent sailor, as you know, and
very fond of the sea. In my young days my dear husband used to have a
nice cat-boat at Newport, and he always took me with him. He used to
say that I steered quite nicely.'

The vision of Mrs. Rushmore steering a Newport cat-boat was quite new
to Margaret, and her lips parted in surprise.

'Oh, yes, my child, we were very fond of sailing in those days,'
continued the elderly lady, pleased with her recollections. 'I often
got quite wet, I assure you, but I remember catching cold only once. I
think it rained that day. My dear husband, I recollect, asked me to
name the boat when he bought it, and so I called it the _Sea-Mew_.'

'The _Sea-Mew_?' Margaret was mystified.

'Yes. It was a cat-boat, my dear. Cats often mew. You understand, of
course. It was not very funny, perhaps, but I remember that my dear
husband laughed, and liked the name.'

Margaret was laughing softly too.

'I think it's awfully good, you know,' she said. 'You needn't say it's
not funny, for it's a very creditable little joke. Do you think you
could steer a boat now? I'm sure I could never learn! Everything about
sailing and ships is an utter mystery to me.'

'I daresay I could steer a cat-boat,' said Mrs. Rushmore calmly. 'I am
sure I could keep a row-boat straight. Let me see--there's a thing you
move----'

'The rudder?' suggested Margaret.

'No, my dear. It's not the rudder, nor the boom, nor the
centre-board--how all the names come back to me! Yes, it is the
tiller. That is the name. When you know which way to move the tiller,
it is quite easy to steer.'

'I fancy so,' said Margaret gravely.

'Most people move it the wrong way when they begin,' continued the
good lady. 'You see "port" means "left" and "starboard" means
"right." But when you turn the tiller to the left the boat goes to the
right. Do you understand?'

'It seems all wrong,' observed Margaret, 'but I suppose you know.'

'Yes. In the same way, when you turn the tiller to the right the boat
goes to the left. The great thing is to remember that. It is the same
way with "weather" and "lee." I could show you if we were in a boat.

'I haven't a doubt of it,' Margaret said. 'You're perfectly amazing! I
believe you are a regular sailor.'

'Oh, no,' protested Mrs. Rushmore modestly; 'but indeed I often took
the cat-boat out alone, now that I think of it. I used to raise the
sail alone--I mean, I hoisted it. "Hoist"--that is the proper word, I
remember. I was quite strong in those days.'

'Really, you are most extraordinary!' Margaret was genuinely
surprised. 'You'll astonish Mr. Van Torp when he hears your nautical
language on the yacht! Fancy your knowing all about sailing! I knew
you could swim, for we've often been in together at Biarritz--but
sailing! Why did you never tell me?'

'Shall we keep some tea for Countess Leven?' asked Mrs. Rushmore,
changing the subject. 'I fear it will get quite cold. Those English
people never know when to stop walking. I cannot understand what they
can see in it. Perhaps you will kindly touch the bell, my dear, and I
will send the tea away. It can be brought fresh for her when she
comes. Thank you, Margaret. But she will not come in till it is just
time to dress for dinner. Mark my words, my child, the Countess will
be late for dinner. All English people are. Have you heard from
Monsieur Logotheti to-day?'

'Not to-day,' Margaret answered, repressing a little start, for she
was as near to being nervous as she ever was, and she was thinking of
him just then, and the question had come suddenly.

'I think it is time you heard from him,' said Mrs. Rushmore, her
natural severity asserting itself. 'I should think that after those
very strange stories in the papers he would write to you and explain,
or come himself. By the bye, perhaps you will kindly pass me the
_Herald_, my dear. What did you once tell me was the name of his
yacht?'

'The _Erinna_,' Margaret answered, handing Mrs. Rushmore the sheet.

'Exactly! I think that means the "Fury."'

'He told me it was the name of a Greek poetess,' Margaret observed.

'On account of her temper, I suppose,' answered the good lady
absently, for she was looking up and down the columns in search of
something she had already seen. 'Here it is!' she said. 'It is under
the yachting news. "Cape Finisterre. Passed at 4 P.M., going south,
steam yacht _Erinna_, with owner and party on board. All well." My
dear child, it is quite clear that if this is Monsieur Logotheti's
yacht, he is going to Gibraltar.'

'I don't know anything about geography,' Margaret said, and her wrath,
which had been smouldering sullenly for days, began to glow again.

'Margaret,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'you surprise me! You were very well
taught----'

But the Primadonna did not hear the long tirade of mild reproof that
followed. She knew well enough where Gibraltar was, and that Logotheti
was going all the way round to the Mediterranean on his yacht with
some one for company, and that the voyage was a long one. After what
Lady Maud had said, there was not the least doubt in her mind as to
his companion, who could be no one but Baraka. He had been told that
he was not wanted at Bayreuth, and he was celebrating the sunset of
his bachelor life in his own way. That was clear. If he received the
telegram that had just been sent to him, he would get it at Gibraltar,
should he stop there, and as for answering it before Margaret left
Bayreuth, she was inclined to make such a thing impossible by going
away the next morning, if not that very night.

Her angry reflexions and Mrs. Rushmore's lecture on the importance of
geography in education were interrupted by the discreet entrance of
Mr. Van Torp, who was announced and ushered to the door by Justine in
a grand French manner. On the threshold, however, he stood still and
asked if he might come in; being pressed to do so, he yielded,
advanced, and sat down between the two ladies.

'Mr. Van Torp,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'I insist upon knowing what has
become of Countess Leven.'

'I don't know, Mrs. Rushmore,' answered the millionaire, slowly
rubbing his hands. 'I haven't spoken to her since I brought her from
the station. I daresay she's all right. She's most probably gone to
take a walk. She often does in the country, I know--her father's
country seat is next to mine, Mrs. Rushmore. I hope you'll pay me a
visit some day. Why, yes, Lady Maud sometimes goes off alone and walks
miles and miles.'

'There, Margaret,' said Mrs. Rushmore triumphantly, 'what did I tell
you? Mr. Van Torp says the Countess often walks for miles and miles.'

'Why, certainly,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'though I'm bound to say she's
just as fond of horseback. Her friends generally call her Lady Maud,
Mrs. Rushmore. Perhaps you won't mind my telling you, as she prefers
it a good deal herself. You see, I've had the pleasure of knowing her
several years, so I daresay you'll forgive me for mentioning it.'

'I think it is quite kind of you, on the contrary,' answered Mrs.
Rushmore. 'Margaret, why did you never tell me of this? Had you any
reason for not telling me?'

'I don't think I noticed what you called her,' Margaret answered
patiently.

'Because if you had any reason,' said Mrs. Rushmore, following her own
thoughts, 'I insist upon knowing what it was.'

'Well, now, I'll tell you,' rejoined Mr. Van Torp, to save Margaret
the trouble of answering the futile little speech, 'her husband didn't
treat her very well. There's not a purer woman in the six continents,
Mrs. Rushmore, but he tried to divorce her, because he'd lost his
money, if he ever had any, and she has none, and he wanted to marry an
heiress. However, they automobilised him, or something, in St.
Petersburg last June.'

'Auto--what did you say?' inquired Mrs. Rushmore.

'Killed by an automobile,' explained Mr. Van Torp gravely. 'But now I
come to think, it wasn't that. He got blown up by a bomb meant for a
better man. It was quite instantaneous, I recollect. His head
disappeared suddenly, and the greater part of him was scattered
around, but they found his pocket-book with his cards and things, so
they knew who it was. It was driven through somebody else's hat on the
other side of the street, wasn't it, Miss Donne? Things must have been
quite lively just then, where it happened. I supposed you knew.'

Mrs. Rushmore explained that she had never heard any details.

'Besides,' said Mr. Van Torp, in answer, though not quite relevantly,
'everybody always calls her "Lady Maud" instead of "Countess Leven,"
which she has on her cards.'

'She would naturally use the higher title,' observed Mrs. Rushmore
reverently.

'Well, now, about that,' objected Mr. Van Torp, 'I'm bound to say I
think the daughter of an English earl as good as a Russian count,
anywhere west of Siberia. I don't know how they figure those things
out at courts when they have to balance 'em up for seats at a
dinner-party, of course. It's just my impression, that's all, as a
business man. He's dead anyway, and one needn't make personal remarks
about dead men. All the same, it was a happy release for Lady Maud,
and I doubt if she sits up all night mourning for him. Have you been
out this afternoon, Miss Donne?'

He changed the subject with extreme directness, and Mrs. Rushmore, who
was used to the dictatorial ways of lions, took the hint submissively
enough, though she would have been glad to discuss the relative and
intrinsic values of the designations 'Lady Maud' and 'Countess Leven.'
But it was much more important that the lion should be left alone with
Margaret as much as possible, and the excellent lady therefore
remembered that she had something to do and left them.

'I had a little talk with Kralinsky before he left,' said Van Torp,
when she was gone. 'He says he'll meet us in Venice any time in the
next few days. He's just going to run over to Vienna in his
sudden-death-cart for twenty-four hours; then he'll go south, he says.
He ran me up to the hotel and dropped me. I daresay you heard the
toots. I thought I saw Lady Maud looking out of the window of your
room as I got out.'

'Yes,' Margaret said. 'But how do you know that is my window?'

'In the first place, I've counted the windows. I felt a sort of
interest in knowing which was yours. And then, I often see your maid
opening the shutters in the morning.'

'Oh!' Margaret smiled. 'Did you notice anything unusual about Lady
Maud when you saw her?' she asked, for she knew that he had good eyes.

'Since you mention it, I thought she looked as if she didn't feel
quite up to the mark--pale, I thought she was.'

'Yes,' Margaret said. 'She felt ill for a moment, and I thought she
was going to faint. But it passed almost directly, and she insisted on
going for a walk.'

'Oh,' mused Mr. Van Torp, 'is that so? Well, I daresay it was the best
thing she could do. I was telling you about Kralinsky. He's not Levi
Longlegs after all, and I'm not sure he was ever in the West.'

'I thought it sounded unlikely,' Margaret said.

'I asked him, just like that, in a friendly way, and he thought a
moment and made an effort to recollect, and then he seemed quite
pleased to remember that I'd been "Fanny" and he'd been Levi Longlegs,
and that he used to whistle things out of _Parsifal_ by the fire of an
evening.'

'Well--but in that case---' Margaret stopped with an inquiring look.

'Just so,' continued Van Torp, nodding. 'Did you ever attend a trial
and hear a witness being cross-examined by a lawyer who wants him to
remember something, and he wants to remember it himself, but can't,
because he never heard of it before in his life? It's quite funny. The
lawyer makes steps for him and puts his feet into them so that he gets
along nicely, unless the judge happens to wake up and kick, and then
the little game stops right there, and somebody laughs. Well, my talk
with Kralinsky was like that, only there was no judge, so he went
away happy; and we're old friends now, and punched cows on the same
ranch, and he's coming on my yacht. I only wonder why he was so
anxious to remember all that, and why he thought it would be kind of
friendly if I called him Levi Longlegs again, and he called me Fanny
Cook. I wonder! He says he's still very fond of _Parsifal_, and came
on purpose to hear it, but that he's completely forgotten how to
whistle. That's funny too. I just thought I'd tell you, because if you
come on my yacht and he comes too, you're liable to see quite a good
deal of one another.'

'Did you tell him that Mrs. Rushmore and I would come?' Margaret
asked. 'And Lady Maud?'

'Why, no. You've not promised yet, any more than you did last night
when he was there and we talked about it, so how could I? I forgot to
mention Lady Maud to him, or else I thought I wouldn't--I forget
which. It doesn't matter.'

'No.' Margaret smiled. 'Not a little bit!'

'You seem amused,' observed Mr. Van Torp.

'By your way of putting it, and your pretending to forget such a
thing.'

'It wasn't quite true that I forgot, but I wanted to, so I didn't say
anything about her. That's why I put it in that way. I don't choose to
leave you any doubt about what I say, or mean, even in the smallest
things. The moment you feel the least doubt about the perfect accuracy
of anything I tell you, even if it's not at all a downright lie or
anything resembling one, you won't trust me at all, in anything.
Because, if you trust me, you'll end by liking me, and if you don't
trust me you'll go back to thinking that I'm the Beast out of
Revelations, or something, as you used to. I've forgotten the Beast's
number.'

Margaret smiled again, though she was continually conscious of her own
sullenly smouldering anger against Logotheti. Van Torp was gaining
influence over her in his own uncouth way. Logotheti had been able to
play upon her moods, as on that day under the elm-tree at Versailles,
and she blushed when she remembered that single kiss he had won from
her. But the American had no idea of such tactics in love, for he had
never learned them. He was making war on the modern scientific system
of never losing a hair's-breadth of ground once gained, keeping his
communications constantly open with the base from which he had
started, bringing up fresh forces to the front without intermission,
and playing his heavy artillery with judgment and tenacity.

'The number doesn't matter,' Margaret said, 'for I've forgotten all
about the Beast.'

'Thank you,' answered Mr. Van Torp. 'To change the subject--I've got a
little scheme to propose. Maybe you'll think well of it. Anyhow, as
it's a mere matter of business connected with your career, you won't
mind my explaining it to you, will you?'

'No, indeed!' Margaret was interested at once. 'Do tell me!' she said,
leaning forward a little.

'Well,' he began, 'I've looked around this place a good deal since
I've been here, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not very
well done, anyhow, except _Parsifal_. That's what most of the people
really come for. I'm informed that they give all the other operas
better in Munich, with the advantage of being in what you may call a
Christian town, compared with this. Is that correct, do you think?'

'Yes, I believe so.'

'It is, you can depend upon it. Now, what I want to know is, why you
and I shouldn't go into a little business partnership, and do this
kind of thing brown, as it ought to be done.' Margaret opened her
handsome eyes wide. 'Because,' continued Mr. Van Torp, as coolly as if
he were explaining a new plan to a board of directors, 'we've got the
capital and the ability between us, and there's a demand in New York
for what I propose to do. It'll fill a want, I know, and that means
success and money. Why don't we build a theatre together? When I say a
theatre, I mean a first-class opera-house and not a barn. We'll employ
the best architects to build it, and, of course, I'd leave everything
about it to you. I've got a block in New York just about in the right
place, and it won't take long to build. I'll give the land and put up
the money for the building, if you'll undertake the management. You'll
put in any money you like, of course, and we'll share the profits.
Maybe they'll be quite handsome, for we'll lease the theatre to other
people outside of the season. We'll have the best talent in Europe,
and pay for it, and the public will pay us back. We'll call it the
Cordova Opera, if you like, and you'll run it according to your own
ideas, and sing or not, whenever you please.'

'Are you in earnest?'

Margaret had some difficulty in pronouncing the words clearly. He had
brought up some very heavy artillery indeed, and at the right moment.
Was there ever a great soprano who did not dream of having the most
perfect theatre of her very own, and who could receive unmoved the
offer to build one from a man who could build twenty if he chose? Very
rarely in her life had she been aware of her bodily heart, but she
could feel it now, beating like a hammer on the anvil.

'I'm in earnest,' Van Torp answered with perfect calm. 'I've thought
the whole thing over in all its aspects, just as I would a railroad,
or a canal, or a mine, and I've concluded to try it, if you'll help
me, because it's going to be a safe investment. You see, Miss Donne,'
he went on slowly, 'there's no artist on the Grand Opera stage now
who's so well equipped for the business as you are. I'm not flattering
you, either. In your own kind of parts you've simply got no rival.
Everybody says so, and I suppose you won't play kitty and deny it.
Let's start fair, now.'

'It would be silly to deny that I'm one of the first,' Margaret
admitted.

'That'll do, thank you. One of the first, and the first is one of
them, and you're it. Besides, you've got before you what's behind most
of them. You're young. I'm not talking about your personal appearance,
but that's just one more item in the assets. Another big one is that
you're a first-class musician, whereas half these singers can only
bang the box like great, thundering, overgrown schoolgirls. Allow
that?'

'I suppose I must "allow" anything!' laughed the Primadonna.

'Well, now, I've told you. You've got the name I need, and you've got
the voice, and the talent, and you've got the science and culture. I
suppose you'll let me say that I've got the business ability, won't
you?'

The iron mouth smiled a little grimly.

'Rather! I fancy some people have wished you had less!'

'And the money's here, for I always have a blank cheque in my pocket.
If you like, I'll fill it in, and we'll deposit it wherever you say,
in the name of the "Cordova Opera Company," or "Madame da Cordova,
Rufus Van Torp and Co." We can make out our little agreement in
duplicate right here, on the corner of the table, and sign it; and
before we leave here you might go around and speak to the best singers
about an engagement in New York for a Wagner festival, a year from
next Christmas. That's business, and this is a purely business
proposition. If you'd like to think it over, I'll go and take a little
walk before dinner.'

'It sounds like a dream!' Margaret answered, in a wondering tone.

'Money's an awful reality,' Van Torp remarked. 'I'm talking business,
and as I'm the one who's going to put up most of the capital, you'll
do me the credit to believe that I'm quite wide awake.'

'Do you really, really, really mean it?' She spoke almost like a
child.

It was not the first time in his life that the financier had seen the
stunning effect of a big sum, projected with precision, like a shell,
at exactly the right moment. He was playing the great game again, but
for a prize he thought worth more than any he had yet won, and the
very magnitude of the risk steadied his naturally steady brain.

'Yes,' he said quietly, 'I do. Perhaps I've startled you a little, and
I shouldn't like you to make a decision till you feel quite ready to.
I'll just say again that I've thought the whole thing out as a genuine
venture, and that I believe in it, or I wouldn't propose it. Maybe
you've got some sensible lawyer you have confidence in, and would like
to consult him first. If you feel that way, I'd rather you should. A
business partnership's not a thing to go into with your eyes shut, and
if we had any reason for distrusting one another, it would be better
to make inquiries. But so far as that goes, it appears to me that
we've got facts to go on, which would make any partnership succeed.
You've certainly got the musical brains, besides a little money of
your own, and I've certainly got the rest of the funds. I'd like you
to put some money in, though, if you can spare it, because that's a
guarantee that you're going to be in earnest, too, and do your share
in the musical side. You see I'm talking to you just as I would to a
man in the same position. Not because I doubt that if you put your
name to a piece of paper you really will do your share as a partner,
but because I'm used to working in that sort of way in business. How
does that strike you? I hope you're not offended?'

'Offended!'

There was no mistaking the suppressed excitement and delight in her
voice. If he had possessed the intelligence of Mephistopheles and the
charm of Faust he could not have said anything more subtly pleasing to
her dignity and her vanity.

'Of course,' he said, 'it needn't be a very large sum. Still it ought
to be something that would make a difference to you.'

She hesitated a moment, and then spoke rather timidly.

'I think perhaps--if we did it--I could manage a hundred thousand
pounds,' she said. 'Would that be too little, do you think?'

The large mouth twitched and then smiled pleasantly.

'That's too much,' he said, shaking his head. 'You mustn't put all
your eggs in one basket. A hundred thousand dollars would be quite
enough as your share of the capital, with option to buy stock of me at
par, up to a million, or so, if it's a success.'

'Really? Would that be enough? And, please, what is "stock" in such a
case?'

'Stock,' said the financier, 'is a little plant which, when well
watered, will grow like the mustard seed, till all the birds of Wall
Street make their nests in its branches. And if you don't water it too
much, it'll be all right. In our case, the stock is going to be that
share of the business which most people sell to raise money, and
which we mean to keep for ourselves. I always do it that way, when
circumstances allow. I once bought all the stock of a railroad for
nothing, for instance, and sold all the bonds, and let it go bankrupt.
Then I bought the road one day, and found all the stock was in my own
pocket. That's only a little illustration. But I guess you can leave
the financial side in my hands. You won't lose by it, I'm pretty
sure.'

'I fancy not!' Margaret's eyes were wide open, her hands were clasped
tightly on her knee, and she was leaning forward a little. 'Besides,'
she went on, 'it would not be the money that I should care about! I
can earn more money than I want, and I have a little fortune of my
own--the hundred thousand I offered you. Oh, no! It would be the
splendid power to have the most beautiful music in the world given as
it could be given nowhere else! The joy of singing myself--the parts I
can sing--in the most perfect surroundings! An orchestra picked from
the whole world of orchestras, the greatest living leaders, the most
faultless chorus! And the scenery, and the costumes--everything as
everything could be, if it were really, really the best that can be
had! Do you believe it is possible to have all that?'

'Oh, yes, and with your name to it, too. We'll have everything on
earth that money can buy to make a perfect opera, and I'll guarantee
it'll pay after the first two seasons. That is, if you'll work at it
as hard as I will. But you've got to work, Miss Donne, you've got to
work, or it's no use thinking of it. That's my opinion.'

'I'll work like a Trojan!' cried Margaret enthusiastically.

'Trojans,' mused Van Torp, who wanted to bring her back to her
ordinary self before Mrs. Rushmore or Lady Maud came in. 'Let me see.
They say that because the Trojans had to work so hard to get over the
Alps coming down into Italy, don't they?'

Whether Mr. Van Torp made this monstrous assertion in ignorance, or
for effect, no one will ever know. An effect certainly followed at
once, for Margaret broke into an echoing laugh.

'I believe it was the Carthaginians,' she said presently. 'It's the
same thing, as Lady Maud is so fond of saying!'

'All in the family, as Cain said when he killed Abel,' observed Van
Torp without a smile.

Margaret looked at him and laughed again. She would have laughed at
anything in the remotest degree amusing just then, for she found it
hard to realise exactly what she was doing or saying. The possibility
he had suddenly placed within her reach appealed to almost everything
in her nature at once, to her talent, her vanity, her real knowledge
of her art, her love of power, even to her good sense, which was
unusually practical in certain ways. She had enough experience in
herself, and enough knowledge of the conditions to believe that her
own hard work, combined with Van Torp's unlimited capital, could and
certainly would produce such an opera-house, and bring to it such
artists as had never been seen and heard, except perhaps in Bayreuth,
during its first great days, now long past.

Then, too, he had put the matter before her so skilfully that she
could look upon it honestly as a business partnership, in which her
voice, her judgment, and her experience would bear no contemptible
proportion to his money, and in which she herself was to invest money
of her own, thereby sharing the risk according to her fortune as well
as giving the greater part of the labour. She felt for some weak place
in the scheme, groping as if she were dazzled, but she could find
none.

'I don't think I shall need time to think this over,' she said,
controlling her voice better, now that she had made up her mind. 'As I
understand it, I am to put in what I can in the way of ready-money,
and I am to give my time in all ways, as you need it, and my voice,
when it is wanted. Is that it?'

'Except that, when you choose to sing, the Company will allow you your
usual price for each appearance,' answered Van Torp in a business-like
manner. 'You will pay yourself, or we both shall pay you, just as much
as we should pay any other first-class soprano, or as much more as you
would get in London or New York if you signed an engagement.'

'Is that fair?' Margaret asked.

'Why, certainly. But the Company, which is you and I, will probably
rule that you mustn't sing in Grand Opera anywhere in the States east
of the Rockies. They've got to come to New York to hear you.
Naturally, you'll be free to do anything you like in Europe outside
of our season, when you can spare the time.'

'Of course.'

'Well, now, I suppose we might as well note that down right away, as a
preliminary agreement. What do you say?'

'I say that I simply cannot refuse such an offer!' Margaret answered.

'Your consent is all that's necessary,' he said, in a matter-of-fact
tone.

He produced from an inner pocket a folded sheet of foolscap, which he
spread on the corner of the table beside him. He took out a fountain
pen and began to write quickly. The terms and forms were as familiar
to him as the alphabet and he lost no time; besides, as he had told
the Primadonna, he had thought out the whole matter beforehand.

'What if Mrs. Rushmore comes in just as we are signing it?' asked
Margaret.

'We'll tell her, and ask her to witness our signatures,' replied Van
Torp without looking up. 'I judge Mrs. Rushmore to have quite a
knowledge of business.'

'You seem able to write and talk at the same time,' Margaret said,
smiling.

'Business talk, yes.' The pen ran on swiftly. 'There. That's about
all, I should say. Do you think you can read my writing? I don't
suppose you've ever seen it.'

He turned the page round, and handed it to her. The writing was large
and perfectly legible, but very different from the 'commercial' hand
of most American business men. Any one word, taken at random, might
have seemed unformed, at first sight, but the appearance of the whole
was oddly strong and symmetrical. Margaret read the clauses carefully.
She herself had already signed a good many legal papers in connexion
with her engagements and her own small fortune, and the language was
not so unfamiliar to her as it would have been to most women.

'Shall I sign first?' she asked, when she had finished. 'My own name?
Or my stage name?'

'Your own name, please,' said Van Torp without hesitation. 'The others
only binding in your profession, because you appear under it, and it's
your "business style."'

She wrote 'Margaret Donne' at the foot of the page in her large and
rather irregular hand, and passed the paper back to Van Torp, who
signed it. He waved the sheet slowly to and fro, to dry the ink.

'It's only a preliminary agreement,' he said, 'but it's binding as far
as it goes and I'll attend to the rest. You'll have to give me a power
of attorney for my lawyer in New York. By the bye, if you decide to
come, you can do that in Venice, where there's a real live consul.
That's necessary. But for all matters of business herein set forth, we
are now already "The Madame da Cordova and Rufus Van Torp Company,
organised for the purpose of building an Opera-house in the City of
New York and for giving public performances of musical works in the
same, with a nominal capital hereafter to be agreed upon." That's
what we are now.'

He folded the sheet, returned it to his inner pocket and held out his
hand in a cheerful, business-like manner.

'Shall we shake hands on it?' he asked.

'By all means,' Margaret answered readily, and their eyes met; but she
drew back her hand again before taking his. 'This is purely a matter
of business between us,' she said, 'you understand that? It means
nothing else?'

'Purely a matter of business,' answered Rufus Van Torp, slowly and
gravely.



CHAPTER XII


'Stemp,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'we must have something to eat on that
yacht.'

'Yes, sir. Quite so, sir.'

Stemp, who could do anything, was clipping the millionaire's thatch of
sandy hair, on the morning after the transaction last described. Mr.
Van Torp abhorred barbers and shaved himself, and in his less
'prominent' days he had been in the habit of cutting his own hair by
using two looking-glasses. The result had rarely been artistic, and
even Stemp was not what is described on some American signs as a
tonsorial artist, but he managed to clip his master's rough mane with
neatness and precision, if not in the 'Bond Street style.'

'I mean,' said Mr. Van Torp, explaining himself, 'we must have
something good to eat.'

'Oh, I see, sir,' answered Stemp, as if this were quite a new idea.

'Well, now, do you suppose you can get anything to eat in Italy?'

'Salmon-trout is very good there, sir, and quails are in season at the
end of August. They are just going back to Egypt at this time of the
year, sir, and are very fat. There's Gorgonzola cheese, too, and figs
and muscatel grapes are coming on. I think that's all, sir.'

'It's not bad. How about chickens?'

'Well, sir, the poultry in those parts is not much to boast of. An
Italian fowl is mostly either a hawk or a butterfly. That's my
experience, sir, when I travelled there with the late Duke of
Barchester, a few years ago. His Grace was most particular, sir,
having a poor stomach, and nothing to occupy his mind after the
Duchess died in a fit of rage, having thrown her wig at him, sir, they
do say, and then fallen down in a fit which was quite awful to see,
and ended as we all know.'

'As far as I can see, you'd better go on to Venice, Stemp,' said Mr.
Van Torp, not interested in his man's reminiscences. 'You'd better go
off to-night and tell Captain Brown to hurry up and get ready, because
I'm bringing a party of friends down the day after to-morrow. And then
you just scratch round and find something to eat.'

'Yes, sir. I'll telegraph to the caterers, and I think you'll be
satisfied, sir.'

'There's an American lady coming, who knows what's good to eat, and
likes it, and wants it, and means to get it, and you've got to find it
for her somehow. I can live on hog and hominy myself. And I shan't
want you in the least. You'd better take most of my baggage with you
anyway. Just leave my Tuxedo and a couple of suits, and some new
flannel pants and a shirt-case, and take the rest. But don't waste
time over that either if you've got to catch the train, for the main
thing's to get there right away. You can go first-class, Stemp--you
won't be so done up.'

'Thank you, sir.'

A silence followed, during which the valet's scissors made a
succession of little chinking noises; from time to time he turned Mr.
Van Torp's head very gingerly to a slightly different position.

'Stemp.'

'Yes, sir.'

'You take a good look around that yacht, and decide about the
state-rooms, before I come. This way. You give the best room to Miss
Donne, and have a large bouquet of carnations on the table. See?'

'Beg pardon, sir, but carnations are out of season.'

'You get them just the same.'

'Yes, sir.'

'And give the second-best room to her ladyship, Stemp, if there are
not two alike, but be extra careful to see that everything's
comfortable. Lady Maud likes wood violets, Stemp. You get a handsome
bouquet of them, and don't tell me they're out of season too, because
you've got to get them, anyway, so it's no use to talk.'

'Yes, sir. I see, sir.'

'And then you get the third-best room ready for Mrs. Rushmore, and you
get some flowers for her too, out of your own head. Maybe she likes
those roses with stems three feet long. Use your own judgment,
anyway.'

'Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.'

Another silence followed, and the hair-cutting was finished. Mr. Van
Torp glanced at himself in the glass and then turned to his valet.

'Say, Stemp, I was thinking. Maybe that third bedroom's not quite so
good as the others, and the lady might feel herself sort of
overlooked.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Well, I was thinking. If that's the case, and it looks sort of
second-class, you go out and get a man and have him gild it all around
nicely so as to brighten it up. I guess she'll think it's all right if
it's gilt and the others aren't. Some people are like that.'

'I see, sir. Yes, sir. I'll attend to it, sir. Will there be any more
ladies and gentlemen, sir?'

'There's that Russian gentleman, Count Kralinsky. Put him at the other
end of the ship, somewhere out of the way of the ladies. I suppose
he'll bring his valet, and there'll be two or three maids. That's all.
Now don't mind me any more, but just fly around, and don't forget
anything. Understand? We aren't going to be in England or the States,
where you can sit still and telephone for anything you've forgotten,
from peanuts to a funeral. You'll have to go full speed ahead in all
directions if you're going to wake things up.'

Thereupon Mr. Van Torp sat down by the window to read the paper.

His attention was arrested by a sensational 'scare-head' about a thief
and a ruby worth fifty thousand dollars. Some disaffected colleague in
London had known, or cleverly guessed, where the stone was that had
been stolen from Mr. Pinney's, and had informed the police; the
nice-looking young fellow who spoke like an English gentleman had
walked directly into the arms of the plain-clothes man waiting for
him on the pier in New York, the stone had been found sewn up in his
waistcoat, and his pleasant career of liberty had ended abruptly in a
cell.

Mr. Van Torp whistled softly as he read the account a second time.
Then he neatly cut the column out of the paper, folded it with great
precision, smoothed it with care and placed it in his pocket-book next
to a cheap little photograph of Madame da Cordova as 'Juliet,' which
he had bought in a music-shop in New York the day after he had heard
her for the first time, and had carried in his pocket ever since. He
looked up to see what Stemp was doing, and as the man was kneeling
before a box on the floor, with his back turned, he took out the
rather shabby photograph and gazed at it quietly for fully thirty
seconds before he put it back again.

He took up the mutilated newspaper and looked up and down the columns,
and among other information which he gathered in a few moments was the
fact that Logotheti's yacht had 'passed Cape Saint Vincent, going
east, owner and party on board.' The previous telegram had not escaped
him, and if he had entertained any doubts as to the destination of the
_Erinna_, they vanished now. She was certainly bound for the
Mediterranean. He remembered having heard that many steam yachts
coming from England put into Gibraltar for coal and fresh provisions,
coal being cheaper there than in French and Italian ports, and he
thought it very probable that the _Erinna_ would do the same; he also
made some deductions which need not be explained yet. The only one
worth mentioning here was that Logotheti would be likely to hear in
Gibraltar that the ruby had been found and was on its way back to
England, and that as he would know that Margaret would be anxious
about it, since he had already given it to her, he would hardly let
the occasion of communicating with her go by. As for writing from
Gibraltar to any place whatsoever in the hope that a letter will
arrive in less than a week, it is sheer folly. Mr. Van Torp had never
tried it, and supposed it possible, as it looks, but he was tolerably
sure that Logotheti would telegraph first, and had perhaps done so
already, for the news of his passing Cape Saint Vincent was already
twenty-four hours old.

This was precisely what had happened. When Mr. Van Torp opened his
door, he came upon Margaret and Mrs. Rushmore on the landing, on the
point of going out for a walk, and a servant had just brought the
Primadonna a telegram which she was reading aloud, so that the
American could not help hearing her.

'"Cruising till wanted,"' she read quickly. '"Ruby found. Address,
yacht _Erinna_, Naples."'

She heard Van Torp close his door, though she had not heard him open
it, and turning round she found herself face to face with him. Her
eyes were sparkling with anger.

'Very sorry,' he said. 'I couldn't help hearing.'

'It's of no consequence, for I should have told you,' Margaret
answered briefly.

He argued well for himself from her tone and manner, but he chose to
show that he would not force his company upon her just then, when she
was in a visible rage, and instead of stopping to exchange more words
he passed the two ladies hat in hand, and bowing rather low, after his
manner, he went quietly downstairs.

Margaret watched him till he disappeared.

'I like that man,' she said, as if to herself, but audibly. 'I cannot
help it.'

Mrs. Rushmore was more than delighted, but had tact enough not to make
any answer to a speech which had probably not been meant for her ears.

'Perhaps,' she said, 'you would rather not go out just yet, my dear?'

Margaret was grateful for the suggestion, and they turned back into
their rooms.

Meanwhile Van Torp had reached the door of the hotel, and found Lady
Maud standing there with her parasol up, for the sun was streaming in.

'I was waiting for you,' she said simply, as soon as he reached her
side, and she stepped out into the street. 'I thought you would come
down, and I wanted to speak to you, for I did not get a chance last
night. They were both watching me, probably because they thought I was
ill, and I had to chatter like a magpie to keep up appearances.'

'You did it very well,' Van Torp said. 'If I had not seen your face at
the window when I got out of the automobile yesterday, I shouldn't
have guessed there was anything wrong.'

'But there is--something very wrong--something I can hardly bear to
think of, though I must, until I know the truth.'

They turned into the first deserted street they came to.

'I daresay I can give a guess at what it is,' Van Torp answered
gravely. 'I went to see him alone yesterday on purpose, before he
started, and I must say, if it wasn't for the beard I'd feel pretty
sure.'

'He had a beard when I married him, and it was like that--just like
that!'

Lady Maud's voice shook audibly, for she felt cold, even in the
sunshine.

'I didn't know,' Van Torp answered. 'That alters the case. If we're
not mistaken, what can I do to help you? Let's see. You only had that
one look at him, through the window, is that so?'

'Yes. But the window was open, and it's not high above the ground, and
my eyes are good. He took off his hat when he said good-bye to you,
and I saw his face as distinctly as I see yours. When you've been
married to a man'--she laughed harshly--'you cannot be easily mistaken
about him, when you're as near as that! That is the man I married. I'm
intimately convinced of it, but I must be quite sure. Do you
understand?'

'Of course. If he's really Leven, he's even a better actor than I used
to think he was. If he's not, the resemblance is just about the most
extraordinary thing! It's true I only saw Leven three or four times in
my life, but I saw him to look at him then, and the last time I did,
when he made the row in Hare Court, he was doing most of the talking,
so I remember his voice.'

'There's only one difficulty,' Lady Maud said. 'Some one else may have
been killed last June. It may even have been the pickpocket who had
stolen his pocket-book. Such things have happened, or do in books! But
this is certainly the man you met in New York and who sold you the
stone you gave me, is he not?'

'Oh, certainly. And that was at the end of July, and Leven was killed
late in June.'

'Yes. That only leaves a month for him to have been to Asia--that's
absurd.'

'Utterly, totally, and entirely impossible,' asseverated Mr. Van Torp.
'One of two things. Either this man is your husband, and if he is,
he's not the man who found the rubies in Asia. Or else, if he is that
man, he's not Leven. I wish that heathen girl had been here yesterday!
She could have told in a minute. She'd better have been here anyway
than cutting around the Mediterranean with that fellow Logotheti!'

'Yes,' Lady Maud answered gravely. 'But about myself--if Leven is
alive, what is my position--I mean--I don't really quite know where I
am, do I?'

'Anybody but you would have thought of marrying again already,'
observed Mr. Van Torp, looking up sideways to her eyes, for she was
taller than he. 'Then you'd really be in a bad fix, wouldn't you? The
Enoch Arden thing, I suppose it would be. But as it is, I don't see
that it makes much difference. The man's going under a false name, so
he doesn't mean to claim you as his wife, nor to try and get a divorce
again, as he did before. He's just going to be somebody else for his
own good, and he'll get married that way, maybe. That's his business,
not yours. I don't suppose you're going to get up in church and forbid
the banns, are you?'

'I would, like a shot!' said Lady Maud. 'So would you, I'm sure! Think
of the other woman!'

'That's so,' answered Van Torp without enthusiasm. 'However, we've got
to think about you and the present, and decide what we'll do. I
suppose the best thing is for me to put him off with some excuse, so
that you can come on the yacht.'

'Please do nothing of the sort!' cried Lady Maud.

'But I want you to come,' objected her friend.

'I mean to come. Do you think I am afraid to meet him?'

Van Torp looked at her in some surprise, and not without admiration.

'There isn't anybody like you, anyway,' he said quietly. 'But there's
going to be a circus on that ship if he's Leven,' he added. 'If he
makes a fuss, I'll read the Riot Act and lock him up.'

'Oh, no,' answered Lady Maud, who was used to Mr. Van Torp's familiar
vocabulary, 'why need there be any trouble? You've not told him I am
coming, you say. Very well. If he sees me suddenly after he has been
on board a little while, he'll certainly betray himself, and then I
shall be sure. Leven is a man of the world --"was" or "is"--God knows
which! But if it is he, and he doesn't want to be recognised, he'll
behave as if nothing had happened, after the first moment of surprise.
At least I shall be certain! You may wonder--I don't know myself,
Rufus--I wish you could help me!'

'I will, as far as I can.'

'No, you don't know what I mean! There's something in my life that I
never quite told you, I can't tell why not. There must be people who
know it besides my mother--I don't think my father ever did. Margaret
has an idea of it--I let fall a few words one day. In one way, you and
I have been so intimate for years --and yet----'

She stopped short, and the soft colour rose in her cheeks like a dawn.
Van Torp looked down at the pavement as he walked.

'See here,' he said in a low voice, 'you'd better not tell me. Maybe
you'll be sorry some day if you do.'

'It would be the first time,' she answered softly, 'and I've often
wished you knew everything. I mean to tell you now--just wait a
moment.'

They walked on; they were already in the outskirts of the dull little
town. Van Torp did not again raise his eyes to her face, for he knew
she would speak when she was ready. When she did, her voice was a
little muffled, and she looked straight before her as he was doing.
They were quite alone in the road now.

'When I was very young--nearly eleven years ago, in my first season--I
met a man I liked very much, and he liked me. We grew very, very fond
of each other. He was not much older than I, and had just joined the
army. We couldn't marry, because we had no money--my father had not
come into the title then, you know--but we promised each other that we
would wait. We waited, and no one knew, except, perhaps, my mother,
and she kept us from seeing each other as much as she could. Then came
the Boer war, and he was killed--killed in a wretched skirmish--not
even in a battle--buried somewhere on the Veldt--if I only knew where!
I read it in a despatch--just "killed"--nothing more. One doesn't die
of things, I suppose, and years passed, and I went out just the same,
and they wanted me to marry. You know how it is with a girl! I married
to get rid of myself--I married Leven because he was good-looking and
had money, and--I don't quite know why, but it seemed easier to marry
a foreigner than an Englishman. I suppose you cannot understand that!
It made all comparison impossible--perhaps that was it. When mine was
dead, I could never have taken another who could possibly have known
him, or who could be in the remotest degree like him.'

'I understand that quite well,' said Van Torp, as she paused.

'I'm glad, then, for it makes it easier to explain the rest. I don't
think I always did my best to be nice to Leven. You see, he soon grew
tired of me, and went astray after strange goddesses. Still, I might
have tried harder to keep him if I had cared what he did, but I was
faithful to him, in my own way, and it was much harder than you can
guess, or any one. Oh, it was not any living man that made it
hard--not that! It was the other. He came back--dead men do
sometimes--and he told me I was his, and not Leven's wife; and I
fought against that, just as if a man had made love to me in society.
It didn't seem honest and true to my real husband, in my thoughts, you
know, and in some things thoughts are everything. I fought with all my
might against that one, that dear one. I think that was the beginning
of my work--being sorry for other women who perhaps had tried to fight
too, and wondering whether I should do much better if my dead man came
back alive. Do you see? I'm telling you things I've hardly ever told
myself, let alone any one else.'

'Yes, I see. I didn't know any one could be as good as that.'

'You can guess the rest,' Lady Maud went on, not heeding what he said.
'When I believed that Leven was dead the fight was over, and I took my
dead man back, because I was really free. But now, if Leven is alive
after all, it must begin again. I ought to be brave and fight against
it; I must--but I can't, I can't! It's too hard, now! These two months
have been the happiest in my life since the day he was killed! How can
I go back again! And yet, if I cannot be an honest woman in my
thoughts I'm not an honest woman at all--I'm no better than if I
deserved to be divorced. I never believed in technical virtue.'

Van Torp had seen many sides of human nature, good and bad, but he had
never dreamed of anything like this, even in the clear depths of this
good woman's heart, and what he heard moved him. Men born with great
natures often have a tender side which the world does not dream of;
call it nervousness, call it degeneracy, call it hysterical who will;
it is there. While Lady Maud was finishing her poor little story in
broken phrases, with her heart quivering in her voice, Mr. Rufus Van
Torp's eyes became suddenly so very moist that he had to pass his hand
over them hastily lest a drop or two should run down upon his flat
cheeks. He hoped she would not notice it.

But she did, for at that moment she turned and looked at his face, and
her own eyes were dry, though they burned. She saw that his glistened,
and she looked at him in surprise.

'I'm sorry,' he said, apologising as if he had done something rude. 'I
can't help it.'

Their hands were hanging near together as they walked, and hers
touched his affectionately and gratefully, but she said nothing, and
they went on in silence for some time before she spoke again.

'You know everything now. I must be positively sure whether Leven is
alive or dead, for what I have got back in these last two months is my
whole life. A mere recognition at first sight and at ten yards is not
enough. It may be only a marvellous resemblance, for they say every
one has a "double" somewhere in the world.'

'They used to say, too, that if you met your "double" one of you would
die,' observed Van Torp. 'Those things are all stuff and nonsense, of
course. I was just thinking. Well,' he continued, dwelling on his
favourite monosyllable, 'if you decide to come on the yacht, and if
the man doesn't blow away, we shall know the truth in three or four
days from now, and that's a comfort. And even if he turns out to be
Leven, maybe we can manage something.'

Lady Maud chose not to ask what her friend thought he could 'manage';
for she had glanced at his face when he had spoken, and though it was
half turned away from her, she saw his expression, and it would have
scared a nervous person. She did not like him to be in that mood, and
was sorry that she had brought him to it.

But Mr. Van Torp, who was a strong man, and had seen more than one
affray in his ranching days, could not help thinking how uncommonly
easy it would be to pick up Count Kralinsky and drop him overboard on
a dark night next week, when the _Lancashire Lass_ would be doing
twenty-two knots, and there might be a little weather about to drown
the splash.



CHAPTER XIII


The millionaire did things handsomely. He offered to motor his party
to Venice, and as Margaret declined, because motoring was bad for her
voice, he telegraphed for a comfortable special carriage, and took his
friends down by railway, managing everything alone, in some
unaccountable way, since the invaluable Stemp was already gone in
search of something for Mrs. Rushmore to eat; and they were all very
luxuriously comfortable.

Kralinsky was not on board the yacht when they came alongside at
sunset in two gondolas, following the steam-launch, which carried a
load of luggage and the two maids. The Primadonna's trunks and
hat-boxes towered above Mrs. Rushmore's, and Mrs. Rushmore's above
Lady Maud's modest belongings, as the Alps lift their heads above the
lower mountains, and the mountains look down upon the Italian
foot-hills; and Potts sat in one corner of the stern-sheets with
Margaret's jewel-case on her knee, and Justine, with Mrs. Rushmore's,
glared at her viciously from the other corner. For the fierce Justine
knew that she was going to be sea-sick on the yacht, and the meek
Potts never was, though she had crossed the ocean with the Diva in
rough weather.

Stemp led the way, and Mr. Van Torp took the three ladies to their
cabins: first, Mrs. Rushmore, who was surprised and delighted by the
rich and gay appearance of hers, for it was entirely decorated in pink
and gold, that combination being Stemp's favourite one. The brass
bedstead had pink silk curtains held back by broad gold ribbands;
there was a pink silk coverlet with a gold fringe; everything that
could be gold was gilt, and everything that could be pink was rosy,
including the carpet.

Mr. Van Torp looked at Stemp with approval, and Stemp acknowledged
unspoken praise with silent modesty.

'Beg pardon, madam,' he said, addressing Mrs. Rushmore, 'this is not
exactly the largest cabin on the yacht, but it is the one in which you
will find the least motion.'

'It's very sweet,' said the American lady. 'Very dainty, I'm sure.'

On the writing-table stood a tall gilt vase full of immense pink
roses, with stems nearer four feet long than three. Mrs. Rushmore
admired them very much.

'How did you know that I love roses above all other flowers?' she
asked. 'My dear Mr. Van Torp, you are a wizard, I'm sure!'

Lady Maud and Margaret had entered, and kept up a polite little chorus
of admiration; but they both felt uneasy as to what they might find in
their respective cabins, for Margaret hated pink, and Lady Maud
detested gilding, and neither of them was especially fond of roses.
They left Mrs. Rushmore very happy in her quarters and went on. Lady
Maud's turn came next, and she began to understand, when she saw a
quantity of sweet wood violets on her table, just loosened, in an old
Murano glass beaker.

'Thank you,' she said, bending to smell them. 'How kind of you!'

There was not a trace of gilding or pink silk. The cabin was panelled
and fitted in a rare natural wood of a creamy-white tint.

'Beg pardon, my lady,' said Stemp. 'This and Miss Donne's cabin
communicate by this door, and the door aft goes to the dressing-room.
Each cabin has one quite independent, and this bell rings the pantry,
my lady, and this one rings Miss Donne's maid's cabin, as I understand
that your ladyship has not brought her own maid with her.'

'Very nice,' said Lady Maud, smelling the violets again.

Mr. Van Torp looked at Stemp as he would have looked at a horse that
had turned out even better than he had expected. Stemp threw open the
door of communication to the cabin he had prepared for the Primadonna.
The two cabins occupied the whole beam of the vessel, excepting the
six-foot gangway on each side, and as she was one of the largest
yachts afloat at the time, there was no lack of room.

'Carnations, at this time of year!' cried Margaret, seeing half an
armful of her favourite dark red ones, in a silver wine-cooler before
the mirror. 'You really seem to know everything! Thank you so much!'

She buried her handsome face in the splendid flowers and drew in a
deep, warm breath, full of their sensuous perfume, the spicy scent of
a laden clove-tree under a tropical sun.

'Thank you again!' she said enthusiastically. 'Thank you for
everything, the delightful journey, and this lovely room, and the
carnations!'

She stood up suddenly to her height, in sheer pleasure, and held out
her hand to him. He pressed it quietly, and smiled.

'Do as you would be done by,' he said. 'That's the Company's rule.'

She laughed at the allusion to their agreement, of which Lady Maud
knew nothing, for they had determined to keep it secret for the
present.

Mr. Van Torp had not found an opportunity of speaking to Lady Maud
alone, but he wished her to know when Kralinsky might be expected.

'Stemp,' he said, before leaving the cabin, 'have you heard from the
Count?'

'Yes, sir. He got here this morning from Vienna in his motor, sir, and
sent his things with his man, and his compliments to you and the
ladies, and he will come on board in time for dinner. That was all, I
think, sir.'

  [Illustration: "She buried her handsome face in the splendid
   flowers."]

Lady Maud heard, and made a scarcely perceptible movement of the head
by way of thanks to her friend, while listening to Margaret's
enthusiastic praise of everything she saw. Mr. Van Torp and his man
departed, just as Potts appeared, accompanied by a very neat-looking
English stewardess in a smart white cap. Lady Maud was unusually
silent, but she smiled pleasantly at what Margaret said, and the
latter made up her mind to drown her anger against Logotheti, and at
the same time to be avenged on him, in an orgy of luxurious comfort,
sea-air, and sunshine. The capacity of a perfectly healthy and
successful singer for enjoying everything, from a halfpenny bun and a
drive in a hansom to a millionaire's yacht and the most expensive fat
of the land, or sea, has never been measured. And if they do have
terrible fits of temper now and then, who shall blame them? They are
always sorry for it, because it is bad for the voice.

Mr. Van Torp reached his quarters, and prepared to scrub and dress
comfortably after a week at Bayreuth and a railway journey.

'Stemp.'

'Yes, sir.'

'That was quite nicely done. You must have had a lively time.'

'Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Hope everything is tolerably satisfactory
to you, sir.'

'Yes. Find anything good to eat? Chickens don't take gilding well, you
know--doesn't taste together. But I suppose you found something. Seen
the cook?'

'Yes, sir. I think things will be tolerable, sir, though this is not
London, I must say.'

Mr. Van Torp showed no surprise at the statement, and disappeared into
his bath-room, well pleased with himself and his man. But a moment
later he opened the door again and thrust out his square sandy head.

'Stemp, where have you put the Count? Far from here? I don't want him
near me.'

'Last cabin forward on the port side, sir, next to the smoking-room.
Very good cabin, sir.'

'Whereabouts is port, right or left?'

'Left-hand side of the vessel, sir,' answered Stemp, who had been on
many yachts. 'There are ten more cabins empty, sir, between large and
small, if you should think of asking any ladies and gentlemen to join
at another point, sir.'

'May pick up a couple somewhere. Can't tell yet.' And Mr. Van Torp
disappeared definitely.

Lady Maud did not begin to dress at once, as there was plenty of time
before dinner; she left the stewardess to unpack her things, and came
out upon the six-foot gangway outside her cabin door to breathe the
air, for it was warm. The city lay half a mile away in the after-glow
of the sunset. The water was very green that evening, as it sometimes
is in the Lagoons, though not always, and it was shaded off through
many opalescent tints to heliotrope; then it was suddenly black below
the steps of the Piazzetta and the Ducal Palace. Within the mysterious
canal to the right she could make out the Bridge of Sighs, and there
was the Ponte della Paglia, and the long line of irregular buildings
to the eastward of the Prisons, as far as the Public Gardens. To the
left there was the wide mouth of the Grand Canal, the Salute and the
Custom-House, and the broad opening of the Giudecca. It was familiar
to her, for she had seen it several times. She missed the Campanile,
which she had been made to climb by an energetic governess when she
was twelve years old, but all the rest was there and unchanged, a
dream of evening colour, an Eastern city rising out of an enchanted
water, under an Italian sky.

At any other time she would have enjoyed the sight almost without a
thought, as she enjoyed everything that seemed to her beautiful or
even pretty, though she had no pretensions to cultivated artistic
taste or knowledge. But now she felt none of that healthy pleasure
which a lovely sight naturally gave her. She was at a crisis of her
life, and the exquisite evening scene was the battlefield of a coming
struggle, with herself, or with another, she hardly knew. In half an
hour, or in an hour, at most, she was to sit at table with a man she
fully believed to be the husband for whom she had been wearing
mourning, out of mere decency, but with the profound inward
satisfaction of being free.

She was brave, and could try to think of what was before her if it
turned out that she was not mistaken, and she could attempt to
understand what had happened. She had already come to the conclusion
that if Kralinsky was really Leven, the latter had seized the
opportunity offered him by his own supposed death to disappear from
St. Petersburg, and had taken another name. Leven had been a ruined
man when he had tried to divorce her; when he died, or disappeared, he
left nothing but debts, which were extinguished with him, for no one
attempted to make his widow responsible for them, since there was no
estate and she had no fortune beyond the allowance her father made
her. Lord Creedmore was far from being a rich peer, too, and what he
gave her was not much, although it would more than suffice for her
simple wants, now that she intended to live with him again.

But if Leven had not been killed and had turned into Kralinsky, he now
had plenty of ready money, though it was not easy to guess how he had
obtained possession of a quantity of valuable Asiatic rubies within
the few weeks that had elapsed between his supposed destruction by the
bomb and the date of Van Torp's transaction with him in New York. That
was a mystery. So was his possible acquaintance, or connexion, with
the Eastern girl who was looking for him, if there was a shadow of
truth in Logotheti's story. Lady Maud did not believe there was, and
she felt morally sure that the tale had evolved itself out of the
Greek's fertile brain, as a fantastic explanation of his atrocious
conduct.

While she was thinking over these matters and rehearsing in her
thoughts the scene that was before her, she saw a gondola making
straight for the yacht across the fast fading green of the lagoon that
lay between the vessel and the Piazzetta. It came nearer, and she drew
back from the rail against her cabin door, under the shadow of the
promenade deck, which extended over the gangway and was supported by
stanchions, as on an ocean liner. The _Lancashire Lass_, with her
single huge yellow funnel, her one short signal mast, her
turret-shaped wheel-house, and her generally business-like appearance,
looked more like a cross between a fast modern cruiser and an ocean
'greyhound' than like a private yacht. She even had a couple of
quick-firing guns mounted just above her rail.

Lady Maud looked at the gondola, and as it came still nearer, she saw
that it brought only one passenger, and that he had a fair beard. She
quietly opened her cabin door, and went in to dress for dinner.

Meanwhile Mr. Van Torp had completed his toilet, and was rather
surprised to find himself magnificently arrayed in a dark-blue
dinner-jacket, with perfectly new gilt buttons, and an unfamiliar
feeling about the pockets. He had belonged to a yacht club for years,
because it seemed to be expected of him, and Stemp and the tailor had
thought fit that he should possess the proper things for a yachtsman.

'Stemp,' he said, 'is this the correct thing? I suppose you know.'

'Yes, sir. Very smart indeed, sir. White caps are usually worn by
yachting gentlemen in the Mediterranean, sir.' Stemp offered him the
cap in question, resplendent with a new enamelled badge. 'Beg pardon,
sir, but as to caps, most gentlemen lift them to ladies, just like
hats, sir, but the captain and the officers touch theirs. His Grace
always lifted his cap, sir.'

'I guess that'll be all right,' answered Mr. Van Torp, trying on the
cap. 'Send the captain to my study, Stemp, and find out about when the
ladies will be ready for dinner.'

Stemp disappeared, and in a few moments pink-faced Captain Brown
appeared, quiet, round, and smart.

'I suppose you're ready at any moment, Captain?' inquired the
millionaire.

'Yes, sir. The pilot is on board, and the gentleman you expected is
just coming alongside.'

'Oh, he is, is he?'

Mr. Van Torp evidently expected no answer to his favourite form of
question when he was thinking over what had just been said; and the
captain was silent.

'Then you can start now,' said the owner, after a moment's thought.

'Where are we bound, sir?'

'Oh, well, I don't know. I wanted to say a few words about that,
Captain. Do you happen to know anything about a yacht called the
_Erinna_, belonging to a Mr. Logotheti, a Greek gentleman who lives in
Paris?'

'Yes, sir,' answered Captain Brown, for it was a part of his business
to read the yachting news. 'She was at Cowes when we sailed. She was
reported the other day from Gibraltar as having entered the
Mediterranean after taking fresh provisions, owner and party on board.
There is no further word of her.'

'Well,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'I have an idea she's gone to Naples, but I
want you to find her right away wherever she is, owner and party on
board. That's all, Captain. If you happen to see her anywhere, you
just come and tell me if I'm alone, and if I'm not, why send one of
your young men to say you want to know something,--anything you happen
to think of, and I'll come to your room and tell you what to do. See?
That's all, and now let's start, please.'

'All right, sir.'

So Captain Brown went off with his instructions, and in a few moments
his owner heard the distant sound of the chain coming in over the most
noiseless of modern patent steam capstans; and the side-lights and
masthead and stern lights shone out as the anchor light went down, and
the twin screws began to turn over slowly, well below the water; and
the _Lancashire Lass_ was under weigh, with the captain, the pilot,
and the two junior officers all in a row on the bridge, while the
chief mate was seeing the anchor got inboard and stowed. But while the
captain was silently looking ahead into the warm dusk and listening to
the orders the pilot gave for the wheel in good English, but with a
marvellous Venetian accent, he was also considering how he might most
quickly find the _Erinna_, and he reflected that it would be an easier
task if he knew a little more definitely where she was. He was not at
all disturbed by the orders he had received, however, and was only
anxious to get all the speed he could out of his vessel as far as the
Straits of Messina, through which the yacht he was to find would
almost certainly pass, in preference to the Malta Channel, if she were
going to Greece and the East. If she kept to the waters west of Italy,
it would not be so very hard to hear of her, as the coast is dotted
with excellent marine signal stations, and official information as to
the movements of yachts is easily obtained.

When the party assembled in the deck saloon for dinner, Lady Maud was
missing. Stemp, who did not intend that his master should dine
without his personal attention, no matter how much the chief steward
might object to his presence, approached Mr. Van Torp and whispered
something. Lady Maud begged that the party would sit down without her,
and she would join them in a moment.

So they took their places, and the vacant one was on the owner's
right, between him and the Primadonna.

'You see,' said Mr. Van Torp, explaining to Mrs. Rushmore, which was
wholly unnecessary, 'we are Americans, and this ship is America, so
the English guest goes first.'

But Mrs. Rushmore knew these things, for she was used to handling
lions in numbers; and the little lions and the middle-sized ones are
very particular about their places at table, but the great big ones do
not care 'one dingle Sam,' as Mr. Van Torp would have elegantly
expressed their indifference. For he was a great big lion himself.

'Did you ever meet Lady Maud?' he inquired, speaking to Kralinsky.

'Which Lady Maud?' asked the foreigner in his rather oily voice.
'There are several.'

'Countess Leven, who was Lady Maud Foxwell,' explained Mrs. Rushmore.

Kralinsky turned quietly to her, his single eyeglass fixed and
glittering.

'No,' he answered. 'I knew poor Leven well, but I was never introduced
to his wife. I have heard that she is very beautiful.'

'You say you knew the late Count Leven?' observed Mrs. Rushmore, with
an encouraging and interrogatory smile.

'Intimately,' answered Kralinsky with perfect self-possession. 'We
were in the same regiment in the Caucasus. I daresay you remember that
he began life as a cavalry officer and then entered the diplomacy.
Gifted man, very,' the Russian added in a thoughtful tone, 'but no
balance! It seems to me that I have heard he did not treat his wife
very well.'

  [Illustration: "Their eyes met."]

Mr. Van Torp had met several very cool characters in his interesting
and profitable career, but he thought that if the man before him was
Leven himself, as he seemed to be, he beat them all for calm
effrontery.

'Were you ever told that you looked like him?' asked Mr. Van Torp
carelessly.

Even at this question Kralinsky showed no embarrassment.

'To tell the truth,' he replied, 'I remember that one or two in the
regiment saw a slight resemblance, and we were of nearly the same
height, I should say. But when I last saw Leven he did not wear a
beard.'

At this point Lady Maud came in quietly and made directly for the
vacant place. The two men rose as soon as she appeared, and she found
herself face to face with Kralinsky, with the table between them.
Their eyes met, but Lady Maud could not detect the slightest look of
recognition in his. Van Torp introduced him, and also watched his face
narrowly, but there was not the least change of expression, nor any
quick glance of surprise.

Yet Kralinsky possibly did not know that Lady Maud was on the yacht,
for he had not been told previously that she was to be of the party,
and in the short conversation which had preceded her appearance, no
one had actually mentioned the fact. She herself had come to dinner
late with the express purpose of presenting herself before him
suddenly, but she had to admit that the intended surprise did not take
place.

She was not astonished, however, for she had more than once seen her
husband placed in very difficult situations, from which he had
generally extricated himself by his amazing power of concealing the
truth. Being seated nearly opposite to him, it was not easy to study
his features without seeming either to stare at him rudely or to be
bestowing more attention on him than on any of the others. Her eyes
were very good, and her memory for details was fair, and if she did
not look often at his face, she watched his hands and listened to the
intonations of his voice, and her conviction that he was Leven grew
during dinner. Yet there was still a shadow of doubt, though she could
not have told exactly where it lay.

She longed to lead him into a trap by asking some question to which,
if he were Leven, he would know the answer, though not if he were any
one else, a question to which he would not hesitate to reply
unsuspectingly if the answer were known to him. But Lady Maud was not
ingenious in such conversational tricks, and could not think of
anything that would do.

The outward difference of appearance between him and the man she had
married was so small that she could assuredly not have sworn in
evidence that Kralinsky was not her husband. There was the beard, and
she had not seen Leven with a beard since the first months of her
marriage four years ago, when he had cut it off for some reason known
only to himself. Of course a recollection, already four years old,
could not be trusted like one that dated only as far back as three
months; for he had left her not long before his supposed death.

There were the hands, and there was the left hand especially. That
might be the seat of the doubt. Possibly she had never noticed that
Leven had a way of keeping his left little finger almost constantly
crooked and turned inward as if it were lame. But she was not sure
even of that, for she was not one of those people who study the hands
of every one they know, and can recognise them at a glance. She had
certainly never watched her husband's as closely as she was watching
Kralinsky's now.

Margaret was in the best of spirits, and talked more than usual, not
stopping to think how Van Torp's mere presence would have chilled and
silenced her three or four months earlier. If Lady Maud had time to
spare from her own affairs, it probably occurred to her that the
Primadonna's head was slightly turned by the devotion of a financier
considerably bigger and more serious than Logotheti; but if she had
known of the 'business agreement' between the two, she would have
smiled at Van Torp's wisdom in offering a woman who seemed to have
everything just the one thing in the world which she desired and had
not. Yet for all that, he might be far from his goal. It was possible
that Margaret might look upon him as Lady Maud herself did, and wish
to make him her best friend. Lady Maud would not be jealous if she
succeeded.

On the whole it was a gay dinner, and Mrs. Rushmore and Kralinsky knew
that it was a very good one, and told each other so afterwards as they
walked slowly up and down the great promenade deck in the starlight.
For people who are very fond of good eating can chatter pleasantly
about their food for hours, recalling the recent delights of a perfect
chaud-froid or a faultless sauce; and it was soon evident that there
was nothing connected with such subjects which Kralinsky did not
understand and appreciate, from a Chinese bird's-nest soup to the
rules of the great Marie-Antoine Carême and Brillat-Savarin's
Physiology of Taste. Kralinsky also knew everybody. Between gastronomy
and society, he appeared to Mrs. Rushmore to know everything there was
to be known.

Lady Maud caught snatches of the conversation as the two came near
her, and then turned back; and she remembered that Leven used to talk
on the same subjects with elderly women on whom he wished to make a
pleasant impression. The voice was his to the very least intonation,
and the walk was his, too, and yet she knew she had a doubt somewhere,
a very small doubt, which it was a sort of slow torture to feel was
still unsatisfied.

Mr. Van Torp sat between her and Lady Margaret, while the two others
walked. The deep-cushioned straw chairs stood round a low fixed table
on which there had been coffee, and at Margaret's request the light
had been put out, though it was only a small opalescent one, placed
under the awning abaft the wheel-house and bridge.

'We must be going very fast,' said Lady Maud, 'for the sea is flat as
a millpond, and yet there's a gale as soon as one gets out of the lee
of things.'

'She's doing twenty-two, I believe,' replied Van Torp, 'and she can do
twenty-three if pressed. She will, by and by, when she gets warmed
up.'

'Where are we going?' Margaret asked. 'At this rate we are sure to get
somewhere!'

'I don't know where we're going, I'm sure.' The millionaire smiled in
the gloom. 'But as you say, it doesn't take more than five minutes to
get somewhere in a ship like this.'

'You must have told the captain what you wanted him to do! You must
have given some orders!'

'Why, certainly. I told him to look around and see if he could find
another yacht anything like this, anywhere in the Mediterranean. So
he's just looking around, like that, I suppose. And if he finds
another yacht anything like this, we'll see which of us can go
fastest. You see I don't know anything about ships, or where to go, so
I just thought of that way of passing the time, and when you're tired
of rushing about and want to go anywhere in particular, why, I'll take
you there. If the weather cuts up we'll go in somewhere and wait, and
see things on shore. Will that do?'

Margaret laughed at the vagueness of such a roving commission, but
Lady Maud looked towards her friend in the starlight and tried to see
his expression, for she was sure that he had a settled plan in his
mind, which he would probably put into execution.

'I've figured it out,' he continued presently. 'This thing will go
over five hundred and twenty miles a day for eight days without
stopping for coal, and that makes more than four thousand miles, and I
call that a pretty nice trip, don't you? Time to cool off before going
to Paris. Of course if I chose to take you to New York you couldn't
get out and walk. You'd have to go.'

'I've no idea of offering any resistance, I assure you!' said
Margaret. 'I'm too perfectly, completely, and unutterably comfortable
on your yacht; and I don't suppose it will be any rougher than it was
last March when we crossed in the _Leofric_ together.'

'Seems a long time, doesn't it?' Van Torp's tone was thoughtful, but
expressed anything rather than regret. 'I prefer this trip, myself.'

'Oh, so do I, infinitely! You're so much nicer than you used to be, or
than I thought you were. Isn't he, Maud?'

'Far!' answered Lady Maud. 'I always told you so. Do you mind very
much if I go to bed? I'm rather sleepy after the journey.' She rose.
'Oh, I mustn't forget to tell you,' she added, speaking to Margaret,
'I always lock my door at night, so don't be surprised! If you want
to come in and talk when you come down just call, or knock, and I'll
let you in directly.'

'All right,' Margaret answered.

Lady Maud disappeared below, leaving the two together, for Mrs.
Rushmore and Kralinsky had found a pleasant sheltered place to sit,
further aft, and the Count was explaining to the good American lady
the delicious Russian mysteries of 'Borshtsh,' 'Shtshi,' 'Kasha,' and
'Smyetany,' after extolling the unapproachable flavour of fresh
sturgeon's roe, and explaining that 'caviare' is not at all the
Russian name for it and is not even a Russian word; and Mrs. Rushmore
listened with intense interest and stood up for her country, on a
basis of Blue Point oysters, planked shad, canvas-backs, and terrapin
done in the Philadelphian manner, which she maintained to be vastly
superior to the Baltimorian; and each listened to the other with real
interest.

Van Torp and Margaret had not been alone together for five minutes
since they had left Bayreuth on the previous day, but instead of
talking, after Lady Maud was gone, the Primadonna began to sing very
softly and beautifully, and not quite for herself only, for she well
knew what pleasure her voice gave her companion, and she was the more
ready to sing because he had never asked her to do so. Moreover, it
cost her nothing, in the warm evening air under the awning, and like
all great singers she loved the sound of her own voice. To be able to
do almost anything supremely well, one must do it with real delight,
and without the smallest effort which it is not a real pleasure to
make.

So Margaret leaned back comfortably in her cushioned chair, with her
head inclined a little forward, and the magic notes floated from her
lips through the soft moving night; for as the yacht ran on through
the calm sea at her great speed, it was as if she lay still and the
night itself were flying over her with muffled wings.

Margaret sang nothing grand nor very difficult; not the waltz-song
that had made her famous, nor the 'Good Friday' music which she could
never sing to the world, but sweet old melodious songs she had learned
when a girl; Schubert's 'Serenade' and 'Ave Maria,' and Tosti's
'Malia,' and then Beethoven's 'Adelaide'; and Van Torp was silent and
perfectly happy, as well he might be. Moreover, Margaret was happy
too, which was really more surprising, considering how very angry she
had been with Logotheti for a whole week, and that she was quite aware
of the manner in which he was passing his time in spite of her urgent
message. But before the magnificent possibilities which the 'business
agreement' had suddenly opened to her, the probability of her again
sending him any word, within a reasonable time, had diminished
greatly, and the prospect of flying into a rage and telling him her
mind when she saw him was not attractive. She had always felt his
influence over her more strongly when they had been together; and it
had always lost its power when he was away, till she asked herself why
she should even think of marrying him. She would not be the first
woman who had thought better of an engagement and had broken it for
the greater good of herself and her betrothed. In all probability she
had never been really and truly in love, though she had been very
sincerely fond of Edmund Lushington the English writer, who had
discovered rather late that the magnificent and successful Margarita
da Cordova was not at all the same person as the 'nice English girl,'
Margaret Donne, whom he had worshipped before she had gone upon the
stage. So far as he was concerned, she had received his change of mind
as a slight; as for Logotheti, she would never forgive him for not
having remained faithful even during the few weeks since they had
called themselves engaged; but Van Torp's position as a suitor was
different. At all events, she said to herself, he was a man; and he
did not offer her romantic affection, but power, and a future which
should soon give her the first position in the musical world, if she
knew how to use it. She was accustomed to the idea of great wealth and
of the ordinary things it could give; mere money impressed her no more
than it does most very successful artists, unless they are miserly and
fond of it for its own sake, which is comparatively unusual. She
wasted most of what she earned, in a sort of half-secret luxury and
extravagance which made little show but cost a great deal and gave her
infinite satisfaction. Even Lady Maud did not dream of the waste that
was a pleasure to the Primadonna, and the meek Potts was as reticent
as the fierce Justine was garrulous. It was a secret joy to Potts,
besides being a large source of revenue, to live with a mistress who
flatly refused ever to wear a pair of silk stockings more than once,
much less a pair of gloves. Mrs. Rushmore would have held up her
elderly hands at such reckless doings. Margaret herself, trusting to
her private fortune for her old age in case she never married, did as
she pleased with her money, and never thought of investing it; but now
and then, in moments of depression, it had occurred to her that when
she left the stage, as she must some day, she would not be able to
live as she did now, and the thought vaguely disturbed her for a few
minutes, but that was all, and she had always within reach the easy
remedy of marrying a millionaire, to whom such a sum as five hundred
pounds a year for silk stockings would be an insignificant trifle; and
while her voice lasted she could make more than that by giving one
concert in Chicago, for instance, or by singing two nights in opera.

This is not a digression. The Diva cared nothing for money in itself,
but she could use a vast amount of it with great satisfaction and
quite without show or noise. Mr. Van Torp's income was probably twenty
or thirty times as large as the most she could possibly use, and that
was a considerable asset in his favour.

He was not a cultivated man, like Logotheti; he had never known a word
of Latin or Greek in his life, his acquaintance with history was
lacunous--to borrow a convenient Latin word--and he knew very little
about the lives of interesting people long dead. He had once read part
of a translation of the _Iliad_ and had declared it to be nonsense.
There never were such people, he had said, and if there had been,
there was no reason for writing about them, which was a practical
view of the case, if not an æsthetic one. On the other hand, he was
oddly gifted in many ways and without realising it in the least. For
instance, he possessed a remarkable musical ear and musical memory,
which surprised and pleased even the Diva, whenever they showed
themselves. He could whistle her parts almost without a fault, and
much more difficult music, too.

For everyday life he spoke like a Western farmer, and at first this
had been intensely disagreeable to the daughter of the scholarly
Oxford classic; but she had grown used to it quickly since she had
begun to like him, till his way of putting things even amused her; and
moreover, on that night by the gate of the field outside Bayreuth, she
had found out that he could speak well enough, when he chose, in
grave, strong words that few women could hear quite indifferently.
Never, in all her acquaintance with Logotheti, had she heard from the
Greek one phrase that carried such conviction of his purpose with it,
as Van Torp's few simple words had done then.

Big natures are usually most drawn to those that are even bigger than
themselves, either to love them, or to strive with them. It is the
Second-Rates who take kindly to the little people, and are happy in
the adulation of the small-fry.

So Margaret was drawn away from Logotheti, the clever spoilt child of
fortune, the loving, unproductive worshipper of his own Greek Muses,
by the Crown-Grasper, the ruthless, uncultured hard-hitter, who had
cared first for power, and had got it unhelped, but who now desired
one woman, to the exclusion of all others, for his mate.

Vaguely, the Diva remembered how, when Van Torp had asked her to walk
with him on the deck of the _Leofric_ and she had at first refused and
then consented, Paul Griggs, looking on with a smile, had quoted an
old French proverb: 'A fortress that parleys, and a woman who listens,
will soon surrender.'

When she was silent after singing 'Adelaide,' association brought back
the saying of the veteran man of letters, for Van Torp asked her if
she cared to walk a little on the quiet deck, where there was a lee;
and the sea air and even the chairs recalled the rest, with a little
wonder, but no displeasure, nor self-contempt. Was she not her own
mistress? What had any one to say, if she chose to change her mind and
take the stronger man, supposing that she took either? Had Logotheti
established any claim on her but that of constancy? Since that was
gone, here was a man who seemed to be as much more enduring than his
rival, as he was stronger in every other way. What were small
refinements of speech and culture, compared with wide-reaching power?
What availed it to possess in memory the passionate love-roses of
Sappho's heart, if you would not follow her to the Leucadian cliff? Or
to quote torrents of Pindar's deep-mouthed song, if you had not the
constancy to run one little race to the end without swerving aside?
Logotheti's own words and epithets came back to Margaret, from many a
pleasant talk in the past, and she cared for them no longer. Full of
life himself, he lived half among the dead, and his waking was only a
dream of pleasure; but this rough-hewn American was more alive than
he, and his dreams were of the living and came true.

When Margaret bid Van Torp good-night she pressed his hand, frankly,
as she had never done before, but he took no sudden advantage of what
he felt in her touch, and he returned the pressure so discreetly that
she was almost disappointed, though not quite, for there was just a
little something more than usual there.

She did not disturb Lady Maud, either, when she went to her cabin,
though if she had known that her beautiful neighbour was wide awake
and restless, she would at least have said good-night, and asked her
if she was still so very tired.

But Lady Maud slept, too, at last, though not very long, and was the
only one who appeared at breakfast to keep Van Torp company, for
Margaret slept the sleep of a singer, which is deep and long as that
of the healthy dormouse, and Mrs. Rushmore had her first tea and toast
happily in her cheerful surroundings of pink and gilding. As for
Kralinsky, his man informed Stemp and the chief steward that the Count
never thought of getting up till between nine and ten o'clock, when he
took a cup of chocolate and a slice or two of sponge cake in his own
room before dressing. So Lady Maud and Van Torp had the yacht to
themselves for some time that morning.

'I fancy from what you said last night that your plan is to catch
Logotheti and the Tartar girl at sea,' said Lady Maud, when they were
alone.

'I supposed you'd understand,' answered Van Torp. 'Do you see any harm
in that? It occurred to me that it might be quite a drastic form of
demonstration. How does it strike you? At all low-down?'

'No, frankly not!' Lady Maud was still incensed at Logotheti's
conduct. 'A man who does such things deserves anything that his rival
can do to him. I hope you may overhaul the yacht, run alongside of her
and show Margaret the two, making love to each other in Tartar on
deck! That's the least that ought to happen to him!'

'Thank you. I like to hear you talk like that. Captain Brown will do
his level best, I think. And now, tell me,' he lowered his voice a
little more, 'is that man Leven, or not?'

'I am sure he is,' Lady Maud answered, 'and yet I feel as if there
ought to be a little doubt still. I don't know how to express it, for
it's rather an odd sensation.'

'I should think it might be! Is there anything I can say or do? I'll
ask the man any question you suggest. I'm certain he's not old Levi
Longlegs, and if he's not Leven, who on earth is he? That's what I
should like to know.'

'I shall find out, never fear! I know I shall, because I must, if I am
ever to have any peace again. I'm not a very nervous person, you know,
am I? But it's more than I can bear long, to sit opposite a man at
table, again and again, as I shall have to, and not be sure whether
he's my husband, come back from the dead, or some one else!' She
paused, and her nostrils dilated a little, but Van Torp only nodded
slowly and sympathetically. 'I mean to know before I go to bed
to-night,' she said, with a little desperation in her voice. 'I shall
talk to him till I am sure of one thing or the other. At table, I
cannot tell, but if we are alone together I know I can settle the
question. If you see that we are talking at the other end of the deck,
try to keep Mrs. Rushmore and Margaret from coming near us. Will you?'

To Mrs. Rushmore's amazement and Margaret's surprise, Lady Maud made a
dead set at Kralinsky all that day, an attention which he seemed to
appreciate as it deserved. Before breakfast was over, Van Torp had
repeated to her what Kralinsky had said about having formerly been
intimate with Leven, and Lady Maud took this statement as a basis of
operations for finding out just how much he knew of her own life; she
judged that if he were not Leven himself, he must soon betray the fact
by his ignorance.

That was the strangest day she had ever passed. She found it very easy
to talk with Kralinsky, as it always is when there has been long
familiarity, even if it has been only the familiar intercourse of
domestic discord. He knew many details of her life in London. That was
clear after half an hour's conversation. She alluded to the idle talk
there had been about her and Van Torp; Kralinsky knew all about that
and had heard, as he said, some silly story about Leven having found
her with the American in certain rooms in the Temple, and about an
envelope which was said to have contained over four thousand and one
hundred pounds in bank-notes. He politely scouted the story as
nonsense, but he had heard it, and Lady Maud knew that every word of
it was true. He knew of Leven's unsuccessful attempt to divorce her on
that ground, too, and he knew the number of her house in Charles
Street, Berkeley Square.

On the other hand, there were many things of which he knew nothing, or
pretended to be ignorant, such as the names of her brothers and
sisters, her father's favourite pursuits and the like. But she
understood very well that if he thought she suspected his identity
under the disguise of his beard, and if he wished to avoid
recognition, he was just the man to pretend blank ignorance of some
vital matters, after admitting his acquaintance with many others. He
had been very intimate with Leven, to the last, he said; Leven had
always written to him very fully about his life, very wittily
sometimes, but always without balance! That was it; he had no
'balance.' Yes, he himself had been in Petersburg when Leven was
killed and had seen him on the previous day. Within a week he had made
a rapid trip to New York, whence he had now just returned. He had
crossed on five-day boats both going and coming, and he named them.

'I am naturally interested in meeting any one who knew my husband so
well,' Lady Maud said, making a bold dash at a possibility. 'We had
many differences, as you seem to know, but I daresay that if he could
come back to life and know the real truth, we should forgive each
other.'

She looked up to him with a gentle smile as she said this, for she had
often felt it; and in that instant a flash of light came into his
usually rather uncertain eyes. Her heart stood still; she looked at
the sea again directly, for she was leaning against the rail; then she
drew breath, as if from an effort. She had seen a look that could only
mean recognition. Leven was alive and was standing beside her. But she
had the courage to go on talking, after a moment, and she tried to
change the subject, though not very adroitly.

During the afternoon Mr. Van Torp had a revelation, sudden and clear,
for he had watched Lady Maud and Kralinsky all day and had thought
about them a good deal, considering how his mind was occupied with
other matters even nearer to his heart than his best friend's welfare.
As soon as the revelation came upon him he rang for his own man.

Stemp, see here!' he began. 'You've valeted around with all sorts of
different-looking men. How long does it take to grow a beard like
Count Kralinsky's?'

'A year, sir. Not a day less, and longer with most gentlemen. If you
were thinking of it, sir----'

'You don't believe it could be managed in three months, by taking an
expert around with you to work on your face?'

'That's out of the question, sir. Gentlemen's beards that have shaved
all their lives, as I suppose you have, sir, do grow faster, but I
should consider a year a short time for such a fine one as the
Count's. Indeed I should, sir.'

'Do you suppose you could stick it on fresh every day, the way they do
for the stage?'

'Not so that it wouldn't show in broad daylight, sir.'

'Well, that's all. I wasn't exactly thinking of trying a beard. I was
only thinking--just like that. What I rang for was a cap. Got any more
like this? You see I've managed to get a spot of ink on this one. Had
it on the table when I was writing, I suppose. That's the worst of
white caps, they spot so.'

A little later, Mr. Van Torp was looking out for a chance to speak
alone with Lady Maud, and as soon as he found his opportunity, he told
her what Stemp had said. Strangely enough, it had never occurred to
him that such a remarkable beard as Kralinsky's must have taken a long
time to grow, and that Leven, who had none, had not left London more
than three months ago. He watched the effect of this statement on his
friend's face, but to his surprise she remained grave and sad.

'I cannot help it,' she said in a tone of conviction. 'He must be
Leven, whatever Stemp tells you about his beard.'

'Well, then it's a false beard, and will come off,' observed Mr. Van
Torp, with at least equal gravity. 'Stemp says that's impossible, but
he must be wrong, unless you are.'

'It's real,' Lady Maud said, 'and he is my husband. I've talked to him
all day, and he knows things about my life that no one else could,
and if there are others about which he is vague, that must be because
he is pretending, and does not want to show that he knows everything.'

Van Torp shook his head, but remained unconvinced; Lady Maud did not
change her mind either, and was already debating with herself as to
whether it would not be really wiser to speak out and tell Kralinsky
that she had recognised him under his transparent disguise. She felt
that she must know the worst, if she was ever to rest again.

Neither Margaret nor Mrs. Rushmore had ever seen Leven, and they had
not the least idea of what was really going on under their eyes. They
only saw that Lady Maud was making a dead set at the Count, and if
Margaret wondered whether she had misjudged her friend's character,
the elder lady had no doubt as to what was happening.

'My dear child,' she said to Margaret, 'your friend is going to
console herself. Widows of that age generally do, my dear. I myself
could never understand how one could marry again. I should always feel
that dear Mr. Rushmore was in the room. It quite makes me blush to
think of it! Yet it is an undeniable fact that many young widows marry
again. Mark my words, Margaret, your friend is going to console
herself before long. If it is not this one, it will be another. My
dear, I am quite positive about it.'

When the sun went down that evening the yacht had passed Otranto and
the Cape, and her course had been changed, to head her for Cape
Spartivento and the Straits of Messina, having done in twenty-four
hours as much as the little Italian mail-steamers do in forty-eight,
and nearly half as much again as the _Erinna_ could have done at her
highest speed. As Mr. Van Torp had predicted, his engines had 'warmed
up,' and were beating their own record. The gale made by the vessel's
way was stronger than a woman could stand in with any regard to her
appearance, but as the weather continued to be calm it was from
dead-ahead, and there was plenty of shelter on the promenade deck
abaft the wheel-house, on condition of not going too near the rail.

After dinner Kralinsky and Mrs. Rushmore walked a little, as on the
previous evening, and Lady Maud sat with Margaret and Van Torp. But
before the two walkers went off to sit down in the quiet corner they
had found yesterday, Lady Maud rose, went half-way aft, and
deliberately placed herself where they were obliged to pass close to
her at each turn, standing and leaning against the bright white side
of the engine skylight, which was as high as the wheel-house itself,
and broke in aft, where the big ventilating fans were situated, making
a square corner inward.

She stood there, and as it was not very dark in the clear starlight,
Kralinsky saw in passing that she followed his face with her eyes,
turning her head to look at him when he was coming towards her, and
turning it very slowly back again as he came near and went by. It was
impossible to convey more clearly an invitation to get rid of his
companion and join her, and he was the last man in the world to
misunderstand it.

But Mrs. Rushmore saw it too, and as she considered him a lion, and
therefore entitled to have his own way, she made it easy for him.

'My dear Count,' she said blandly, after passing Lady Maud twice, 'I
have really had enough now, and if you will promise to finish your
walk alone, I think I will go and sit with the others.'

He left her with Margaret and Van Torp and went back to Lady Maud, who
moved as he came up to her, made two steps beside him, and then
suddenly slipped into the recess where the fan-house joined the engine
skylight. She stood still, and he instantly ranged himself beside her.
They were quite out of sight of the others, and of the bridge, and
even if it had been daylight they could not have been seen except by
some one coming from aft.

'I want to speak to you,' she said, in a low, steady voice. 'Please
listen quite quietly, for some of them may begin to walk again.'

Kralinsky bent his head twice, and then inclined it towards her, to
hear better what she was going to say.

'It has pleased you to keep up this comedy for twenty-four hours,' she
began.

He made a slight movement, which was natural under the circumstances.

'I do not understand,' he said, in his oily voice. 'What comedy? I
really have no----'

'Don't go on,' she answered, interrupting him sharply. 'Listen to
what I am going to tell you, and then decide what you will do. I don't
think your decision will make very much difference to me, but it will
make a difference to the world and to yourself. I saw you from a
window when you brought Mr. Van Torp to the hotel in Bayreuth, and I
recognised you at once. Since this afternoon I have no doubt left.'

'I never saw you till last night,' said Kralinsky, with some little
surprise in his tone, and with perfect assurance.

'Do you really think you can deceive me any longer?' she asked. 'I
told you this afternoon that if you could come back from the dead, and
know the whole truth, we should probably forgive each other, though we
had many differences. Shall we?' She paused a moment, and by his quick
change of position she saw that he was much moved. 'I don't mean that
we should ever go back to the old life, for we were not suited to each
other from the first, you and I. You wanted to marry me because I was
pretty and smart, and I married you because I wanted to be married,
and you were better-looking than most men, and seemed to have what I
thought was necessary--fortune and a decent position. No, don't
interrupt me. We soon found out that we did not care for each other.
You went your way, and I went mine. I don't mean to reproach you, for
when I saw you were beginning to be tired of me I did nothing to keep
you. I myself was tired of it already. But whatever you may have
thought, I was a faithful wife. Mr. Van Torp had given me a great deal
of money for my charity, and does still. I can account for it. I
never used a penny of it for myself, and never shall; and he never
was, and never will be, any more than a trusted friend. I don't know
why you chose to disappear when the man who had your pocket-book was
killed and you were said to be dead. It's not my business, and if you
choose to go on living under another name, now that you are rich
again, I shall not betray you, and few people will recognise you, at
least in England, so long as you wear that beard. But you had it when
we were married, and I knew you at once, and when I heard you were to
be of the party here, I made up my mind at once that I would accept
the invitation and come too, and speak to you as I'm speaking now.
When I believed you were dead I forgave you everything, though I was
glad you were gone; frankly, I did not wish you alive again, but since
you are, God forbid that I should wish you dead. You owe me two things
in exchange for my forgiveness: first, yours, if I treated you
ungenerously or unkindly; and, secondly, you ought to take back every
word you ever said to me about Mr. Van Torp, for there was not a
shadow of truth in what you thought. Will you do that? I ask nothing
else.'

'Indeed I will, my dear Maud,' said Count Kralinsky, in a voice full
of emotion.

Lady Maud drew a long breath, that trembled a little as it left her
heated lips again. She had done what she believed most firmly to be
right, and it had not been easy. She had not been surprised by his
patient silence while she had been talking; for she had felt that it
was hers to speak and his to listen.

'Thank you,' she said now. 'I shall never go back to what I have said,
and neither of us need ever allude to old times again during this
trip. It will not last long, for I shall probably go home by land from
the first port we touch, and it is not likely that we shall ever meet
again. If we do, I shall behave as if you were Count Kralinsky whom I
have met abroad, neither more nor less. I suppose you will have
conscience enough not to marry. Perhaps, if I thought another woman's
happiness depended on it, I would consent to divorce you, but you
shall never divorce me.'

'No power could make me wish to,' Kralinsky answered, still deeply
moved. 'I was mad in those days, Maud; I was beside myself, between my
debts and my entanglements with women not fit to touch your shoes.
I've seen it all since. That is the chief reason why I chose to
disappear from society when I had the chance, and become some one
else! I swear to you, on my mother's soul in heaven, that I thought of
nothing but that--to set you free and begin life over again as another
man. No thought of marrying has ever crossed my mind! Do you think I
could be as bad as that? But I'm not defending myself--how could I?
All the right is on your side, and all the wrong on mine. And now--I
would give heaven and earth to undo it all and to come back to you!'

Lady Maud drew as far as she could into the corner where the fan-house
joined the engine skylight. She had not expected this; it was too
much repentance; it was too like a real attempt to win her again. He
had not seen her for more than three months; she knew she was very
beautiful; his fleeting passion had come to life again, as he had. But
her old repulsion for him was ten times stronger than when they had
parted, and she shrank back as far as she could, without speaking.
From far below the noiseless engines sent a quick vibration up to the
ironwork of the skylight. She felt it, but could hardly tell it from
the beatings of her own heart. He saw her shrinking from him and was
wise.

'Don't be afraid of me!' he cried, in a low and pleading tone. 'Not
that! Oh, please not that! I will not come nearer; I will not put out
my hand to touch yours, I swear it to you! But I love you as I never
loved you before; I never knew how beautiful you were till I had lost
you, and now that I have found you again you are a thousand times more
beautiful than in my dreams! No, I ask nothing! I have no right to ask
for what I have thrown away! You do not even pity me, I think! Why
should you? You were free when you thought me dead, and I have come
back to be a burden and a weight on your life. Forgive me, forgive me,
my lost darling, for the sake of all that might have been, but don't
fear me! Pity me, if you can, but don't be afraid of me! Say that you
pity me a little, and I shall be satisfied, and grateful too!'

Lady Maud was silent for a few seconds, while he stood turned towards
her, his hands clasped in a dramatic gesture, as if still imploring
her commiseration.

'I do pity you,' she said at last, quite steadily, for just then she
did not fear that he would try to touch even her hand. 'I pity you, if
you are really in love with me again. I pity you still more if this is
a passing thing that has taken hold of you merely because you still
think me handsome. But I will never take you back to be my husband
again. Never. That is finished, for good and all.'

'Ah, Maud, listen to me----'

But she had already slipped out of the corner and was walking slowly
away from him, not towards the others, but aft, so that he might join
her quietly before going back to them. He was a man of the world and
understood her, and did what was expected of him. Almost as soon as he
was beside her, she turned to go forward with her leisurely, careless
grace.

'We've been standing a long time,' said she, as if the conversation
had been about the weather. 'I want to sit down.'

'I am in earnest,' he said, very low.

'So am I,' answered Lady Maud.

They went on towards the wheel-house side by side, without haste, and
not very near together, like two ordinary acquaintances.



CHAPTER XIV


While the _Lancashire Lass_ was racing down to the Straits of Messina
the _Erinna_ was heading for the same point from the opposite
direction, no longer dawdling along at half-speed, but going her full
sixteen knots, after coaling in Naples, and any navigator who knew the
positions and respective speeds of the two yachts could have
calculated with approximate precision the point at which they would
probably sight each other.

Logotheti had given up the idea of taking Baraka to Paris, if he had
ever really entertained it at all. He assured her that Naples was a
great city, too, and that there was a first-rate French dressmaking
establishment there, and that the Ville de Lyon would turn her out
almost as smartly as the Rue de la Paix itself. He took Baraka ashore
and placed her for half a day in the hands of Madame Anna, who
undertook to do all that money could do in about a fortnight. He had
the effrontery to say that Baraka was a niece of his from
Constantinople, whose mother was on board the yacht, but had
unfortunately sprained her ankle in falling down the companion during
a gale, and could therefore not accompany her daughter on shore. The
young lady, he said, spoke only Turkish. Madame Anna, grave and
magnificently calm under all circumstances, had a vague recollection
of having seen the handsome Oriental gentleman already with another
niece, who spoke only French; but that was none of her business. When
would the young lady try on the things? On any day Madame Anna chose
to name; but in the meantime her uncle would take her down to Sicily,
as the weather was so wonderfully fine and it was still so hot. Madame
Anna therefore named a day, and promised, moreover, to see the best
linen-drapers and sempstresses herself, and to provide the young lady
with as complete an outfit as if she were going to be married. She
should have all things visible and invisible in the shortest possible
time. Logotheti, who considered himself a stranger, insisted on
putting down a thousand-franc note merely as a guarantee of good
faith. The dressmaker protested almost furiously and took the money,
still protesting. So that was settled, and Baraka was to be outwardly
changed into a beautiful Feringhi lady without delay. To tell the
truth, the establishment is really a smart one, and she was favourably
impressed by the many pretty frocks and gowns that were tried on
several pretty young women in order that she might make her choice.

Baraka would have liked a blue satin skirt with a yellow train and a
bright-green silk body, but in her travels she had noticed that the
taste of Feringhi ladies was for very sober or gentle colours,
compared with the fashionable standards of Samarkand, Tiflis, and
Constantinople, and she meekly acquiesced to everything that Logotheti
and Madame Anna proposed, after putting their heads together.
Logotheti seemed to know a great deal about it.

He took Baraka for a long drive in the afternoon, out by Pozzuoli to
Baia and back. The girl loved the sea; it was the only thing in the
western world that looked big to her, and she laughed at wretched
little mountains only four or five thousand feet high, for she had
dwelt at the feet of the lofty Altai and had sojourned in Tiflis under
the mighty peak of Kasbek. But the sea was always the sea, and to her
mountain sight it was always a new wonder beyond measure, vast,
moving, alive. She gazed out with wide eyes at the purpled bay,
streaked by winding currents of silver, and crisped here and there by
the failing summer breeze. Logotheti saw her delight, and musical
lines came back to him out of his reading, how the ocean is ever the
ocean, and the things of the sea are the sea's; but he knew that he
could not turn Greek verse into Turkish, try as he might, much less
into that primeval, rough-hewn form of it which was Baraka's native
tongue.

It was nearly dark when the naphtha launch took them out to the yacht,
which lay under the mole where the big English and German passenger
steamers and the men-of-war are moored.

Logotheti had at last received Margaret's telegram asking him to meet
her at once. It had failed to reach him in Gibraltar, and had been
telegraphed on thence to Naples, and when he read it he was
considerably disturbed. He wrote a long message of explanations and
excuses, and sent it to the Primadonna at Bayreuth, tripling the
number of words she had prepaid for his answer. But no reply came, for
Margaret was herself at sea and nothing could reach her. He sent one
of his own men from the yacht to spend the day at the telegraph
office, with instructions for finding him if any message came. The man
found him three times, and brought three telegrams; and each time as
he tore open the little folded brown paper he felt more uncomfortable,
but he was relieved to find each time that the message was only a
business one from London or Paris, giving him the latest confidential
news about a Government loan in which he was largely interested. When
he reached the yacht he sent another man to wait till midnight at the
office.

The Diva was angry, he thought; that was clear, and perhaps she had
some right to be. The tone of her telegram had been peremptory in the
extreme, and now that he had answered it after a delay of several
days, she refused to take any notice of him. It was not possible that
such a personage as she was should have left Bayreuth without leaving
clear instructions for sending on any telegrams that might come after
she left. At this time of year, as he knew, she was beset with offers
of engagements to sing, and they had to be answered. From eight
o'clock in the morning to midnight there were sixteen hours, ample
time for a retransmitted message to reach her anywhere in Europe and
to be answered. Logotheti felt a sensation of deep relief when the man
came aboard at a quarter-past midnight and reported himself
empty-handed; but he resolved to wait till the following evening
before definitely leaving Naples for the ten days which must elapse
before Baraka could try on her beautiful Feringhi clothes.

He told her anything he liked, and she believed him, or was
indifferent; for the idea that she must be as well dressed as any
European woman when she met the man she was seeking had appealed
strongly to her, and the sight of the pretty things at Madame Anna's
had made her ashamed of her simple little ready-made serges and
blouses. Logotheti assured her that Kralinsky was within easy reach,
and showed no inclination to travel far. There was news of him in the
telegrams received that day, the Greek said. Spies were about him and
were watching him for her, and so far he had shown no inclination to
admire any Feringhi beauty.

Baraka accepted all these inventions without doubting their veracity.
In her eyes Logotheti was a great man, something like a king, and
vastly more than a Tartar chieftain. He could send men to the ends of
the earth if he chose. Now that he was sure of where Kralinsky was, he
could no doubt have him seized secretly and brought to her, if she
desired it earnestly of him. But she did not wish to see the man, free
or a prisoner, till she had her beautiful new clothes. Then he should
look upon her, and judge whether he had done well to despise her love,
and to leave her to be done to death by her own people and her body
left to the vulture that had waited so long on a jutting point of rock
over her head three years ago.

Meanwhile, also, there were good things in life; there were very fat
quails and marvellous muscatel grapes, and such fish as she had never
eaten in Europe during her travels, and there was the real coffee of
the Sheikhs, and an unlimited supply of rose-leaf preserve. Her friend
was a king, and she was treated like a queen on the yacht. Every day,
when Gula had rubbed her small feet quite dry after the luxurious
bath, Gula kissed them and said they were like little tame white mice.
Saving her one preoccupation, Baraka was in an Eastern paradise, where
all things were perfect, and Kêf descended upon her every day after
luncheon. Even the thought of the future was brighter now, for though
she never left her cabin without her long bodkin, she was quite sure
that she should never need it. In imagination she saw herself even
more beautifully arrayed in Feringhi clothes than the pretty ladies
with champagne hair whom she had seen driving in the Bois de Boulogne
not long ago when she walked there with Spiro. She wondered why
Logotheti and Gula were both so much opposed to her dyeing her hair or
wearing a wig. They told her that ladies with champagne hair were not
always good ladies; but what did that matter? She thought them pretty.
But she wondered gravely how Gula knew that they were not good. Gula
knew a great many things.

Besides, Baraka was 'good' herself, and was extremely well aware of
the fact, and of its intrinsic value, if not of its moral importance.
If she had crossed a quarter of the world in spite of dangers and
obstacles which no European girl could pass unharmed, if alive at all,
it was not to offer a stained flower to the man she sought when she
found him at last.

As for Logotheti, though he was not a Musulman, and not even an
Asiatic, she felt herself safe with him, and trusted him as she would
certainly not have trusted Van Torp, or any other European she had
chanced to meet in the course of selling precious stones. He was more
like one of her own people than the Greeks and Armenians of
Constantinople or even the Georgians of the Caucasus.

She was not wrong in that, either. Logotheti was beginning to wonder
what he should do with her, and was vaguely surprised to find that he
did not like the idea of parting with her at all; but beyond that he
had no more thought of harming her than if she had been confided to
his care and keeping by his own mother.

Few Latins, whether Italians, French, or Spanish, could comprehend
that, and most of them would think Logotheti a milksop and a
sentimental fool. Many northern men, on the other hand, will think he
did right, but would prefer not to be placed in such a trying
position, for their own part, because beauty is beauty and human
nature is weak, and the most exasperating difficulty in which an
honest northern man can find himself where a woman is concerned is
that dilemma of which honour and temptation are the two horns. But the
best sort of Orientals look on these things differently, even when
they are young, and their own women are safer with them than European
women generally are among European men. I think that most men who
have really known the East will agree with me in this opinion.

And besides, this is fiction, even though it be founded on facts; and
fiction is an art; and the end and aim of art is always to discover
and present some relation between the true and the beautiful--as
perhaps the aim of all religions has been to show men the possible
connexion between earth and heaven. Nothing is so easily misunderstood
and misapplied as bare truth without comment, most especially when it
is an ugly truth about the worst side of humanity. We know that all
men are not mere animals; for heaven's sake let us believe that very
few, if any, must be! Even Demopithekos, the mob-monkey, may have a
conscience, when he is not haranguing the people.

Logotheti certainly had one, of its kind, though he seemed to Margaret
Donne and Lady Maud to be behaving in such an outrageous manner as to
have forfeited all claim to the Diva's hand; and Baraka, who was a
natural young woman, though a remarkably gifted and courageous one,
felt instinctively that she was safe with him, and that she would not
need to draw out her sharp bodkin in order to make her position clear,
as she had been obliged to do at least twice already during her
travels.

Yet it was a dreamy and sense-compelling life that she led on the
yacht, surrounded with every luxury she had ever heard of, and
constantly waited on by the only clever man she had ever really talked
with, excepting the old Persian merchant in Stamboul. The vision of
the golden-bearded giant who had left her to her fate after treating
her with stony indifference was still before her, but the reality was
nearer in the shape of a visible 'great man,' who could do anything he
chose, who caused her to be treated like a queen, and who was
undeniably handsome.

She wondered whether he had a wife. Judging marriage from her point of
view, there probably had been one put away in that beautiful house in
Paris. He was an Oriental, she told herself, and he would not parade
his wife as the Feringhis did. But she was one, too, and she
considered that it would be an insult to ask him about such things.
Spiro knew, no doubt, but she could not demean herself to inquire of a
servant. Perhaps Gula had found out already, for the girl had a way of
finding out whatever she wanted to know, apparently by explaining
things to the second mate. Possibly Gula could be made to tell what
she had learned, without being directly questioned. But after all,
Baraka decided that it did not matter, since she meant to marry the
fair-beard as soon as she had her pretty clothes. Yet she became
conscious that if he had not existed, she would think it very
satisfactory to marry the great man who could do anything he liked,
though if he had a wife already, as he probably had, she would refuse
to be the second in his house. The Koran allowed a man four, it was
said, but the idea was hateful to her, and moreover the Persian
merchant's wife had told her that it was old-fashioned to have more
than one, mainly because living had grown so expensive.

Logotheti sat beside her for hours under the awnings, talking or not,
as she chose, and always reading when she was silent, though he often
looked up to see if she wanted anything. He told her when they left
Naples that he would show her beautiful islands and other sights, and
the great fire-mountains of the South, Ætna and Stromboli, which she
had heard of on her voyage to Marseilles but had not seen because the
steamer had passed them at night. The fire-mountain at Naples had been
quiet, only sending out thin wreaths of smoke, which Baraka insisted
came from fires made by shepherds.

'Moreover,' she said, as they watched Vesuvius receding when they left
Naples, 'your mountains are not mountains, but ant-hills, and I do not
care for them. But your sea has the colours of many sherbets,
rose-leaf and violet, and lemon and orange, and sometimes even of pale
yellow peach-sherbet, which is good. Let me always see the sea till
the fine dresses are ready to be tried on.'

'This sea,' answered Logotheti, 'is always most beautiful near land
and amongst islands, and the big fire-mountain of Sicily looks as tall
as Kasbek, because it rises from the water's edge to the sky.'

'Then take me to it, and I will tell you, for my eyes have looked on
the Altai, and I wish to see a real mountain again. After that we will
go back and get the fine dresses. Will Gula know how to fasten the
fine dresses at the back, do you think?'

'You shall have a woman who does, and who can talk with Gula, and the
two will fasten the fine dresses for you.' Logotheti spoke with
becoming gravity.

'Yes,' Baraka answered. 'Spend money for me, that I may be good to
see. Also, I wish to have many servants. My father has a hundred,
perhaps a thousand, but now I have only two, Gula and Spiro. The man I
seek will think I am poor, and that will be a shame. While I was
searching for him, it was different; and besides, you are teaching me
how the rich Franks live in their world. It is not like ours. You
know, for you are more like us, though you are a king here.'

She spoke slowly and lazily, pausing between her phrases, and turning
her eyes to him now and then without moving her head; and her talk
amused him much more than that of European women, though it was so
very simple, like that of a gifted child brought suddenly to a new
country, or to see a fairy pantomime.

'Tell me,' he said after a time, 'if it were the portion of Kralinsky
to be gathered to his fathers before you saw him, what would you do?'

Baraka now turned not only her eyes to him but her face.

'Why do you ask me this? Is it because he is dead, and you are afraid
to tell me?'

'He was alive this morning,' Logotheti answered, 'and he is a strong
man. But the strong die sometimes suddenly, by accident if not of a
fever.'

'It is emptiness,' said Baraka, still looking at him. 'He will not die
before I see him.'

'Allah forbid! But if such a thing happened, should you wish to go
back to your own people? Or would you learn to speak the Frank and
live in Europe?'

'If he were dead, which may Allah avert,' Baraka answered calmly, 'I
think I would ask you to find me a husband.'

'Ah!' Logotheti could not repress the little exclamation of surprise.

'Yes. It is a shame for a woman not to be married. Am I an evil sight,
or poor, that I should go down to the grave childless? Or is there any
reproach upon me? Therefore I would ask you for a husband, because I
have no other friend but only you among the Feringhis. But if you
would not, I would go to Constantinople again, and to the Persian
merchant's house, and I would say to his wife: "Get me a husband, for
I am not a cripple, nor a monster, nor is there any reproach upon me,
and why should I go childless?" Moreover, I would say to the
merchant's wife: "Behold, I have great wealth, and I will have a rich
husband, and one who is young and pleasing to me, and who will not
take another wife; and if you bring me such a man, for whatsoever his
riches may be, I will pay you five per cent."'

Having made this remarkable statement of her intentions, Baraka was
silent, expecting Logotheti to say something. What struck him was not
the concluding sentence, for Asiatic match-makers and peace-makers are
generally paid on some such basis, and the slim Tartar girl had proved
long ago that she was a woman of business. What impressed Logotheti
much more was what seemed the cool cynicism of her point of view. It
was evidently not a romantic passion for Kralinsky that had brought
her from beyond Turkestan to London and Paris; her view had been
simpler and more practical; she had seen the man who suited her, she
had told him so, and had given him the secret of great wealth, and in
return she expected him to marry her, if she found him alive. But if
not, she would immediately take steps to obtain another to fill his
place and be her husband, and she was willing to pay a high price to
any one who could find one for her.

Logotheti had half expected some such thing, but was not prepared for
her extreme directness; still less had he thought of becoming the
matrimonial agent who was to find a match worthy of her hand and
fortune. She was sitting beside him in a little ready-made French
dress, open at the throat, and only a bit of veil twisted round her
hair, as any European woman might wear it; possibly it was her dress
that made what she said sound strangely in his ears, though it would
have struck him as natural enough if she had been muffled in a yashmak
and ferajeh, on the deck of a Bosphorus ferry-boat.

He said nothing in answer, and sat thinking the matter over.

'I could not offer to pay you five per cent,' she said after a time,
'because you are a king, but I could give you one of the fine rubies I
have left, and you would look at it sometimes and rejoice because you
had found Baraka a good husband.'

Logotheti laughed low. She amused him exceedingly, and there were
moments when he felt a new charm he had never known before.

'Why do you laugh?' Baraka asked, a little disturbed. 'I would give
you a good ruby. A king may receive a good ruby as a gift, and not
despise it. Why do you laugh at me? There came two German merchants to
me in Paris to see my rubies, and when they had looked, they bought a
good one, but not better than the one I would give you, and Spiro
heard them say to each other in their own language that it was for
their King, for Spiro understands all tongues. Then do you think that
their King would not have been glad if I had given him the ruby as a
gift? You cannot mock Baraka. Baraka knows what rubies are worth, and
has some still.'

'I do not mock you,' Logotheti answered with perfect gravity. 'I
laughed at my own thoughts. I said in my heart, "If Baraka asks me for
a husband, what will she say if I answer, Behold, I am the man, if you
are satisfied!" This was my thought.'

She was appeased at once, for she saw nothing extraordinary in his
suggestion. She looked at him quietly and smiled, for she saw her
chance.

'It is emptiness,' she said. 'I will have a man who has no other
wife.'

'Precisely,' Logotheti answered, smiling. 'I never had one.'

'Now you are indeed mocking me!' she said, bending her sharp-drawn
eyebrows.

'No. Every one knows it who knows me. In Europe, men do not always
marry very young. It is not a fixed custom.'

'I have heard so,' Baraka answered, her anger subsiding, 'but it is
very strange. If it be so, and if all things should happen as we said,
which Allah avert, and if you desired me for your wife, I would marry
you without doubt. You are a great man, and rich, and you are good to
look at, as Saäd was. Also you are kind, but Saäd would probably have
beaten me, for he beat every one, every day, and I should have gone
back to my father's house. Truly,' she added, in a thoughtful tone,
'you would make a desirable husband for Baraka. But the man I seek
must marry me if I find him alive, for I gave him the riches of the
earth and he gave me nothing and departed, leaving me to die. I have
told you, and you understand. Therefore let us not jest about these
things any more. What will be, will be, and if he must die, it is his
portion, and mine also, though it is a pity.'

Thereupon the noble little features became very grave, and she leaned
back in her chair and folded her hands in her lap, looking out at the
violet light on the distant volcano. After that, at dinner and in the
evening, they talked pleasantly. She told him tales of her own land,
and of her childhood, with legends of the Altai, of genii and
enchanted princesses; and he, in return, told her about the great
world in which he lived; but of the two, she talked the more, no doubt
because he was not speaking his own language. Yet there was a bond of
sympathy between them more natural and instinctive than any that had
ever drawn him and Margaret together.

When the sun was up the next morning and Logotheti came on deck to
drink his coffee alone, he saw the magic Straits not many miles ahead,
in an opalescent haze that sent up a vapour of pure gold to the pale
blue enamel of the sky. He had been just where he was now more than
once before, and few sights of nature had ever given him keener
delight. On the left, the beautiful outline of the Calabrian hills
descended softly into the still sea, on the right the mountains of
Sicily reared their lofty crests; and far above them all, twice as
high as the highest, and nobler in form than the greatest, Ætna
towered to the very sky, and a vast cloud of smoke rose from the
summit, and unfolded itself like a standard, in flowing draperies that
streamed westward as far as the eye could reach.

'Let her go half-speed, Captain,' said Logotheti, as his
sailing-master came up to bid him good-morning. 'I should like my
guest to see the Straits.'

'Very good, sir. We shall not go through very fast in any case, for
the tide is just turning against us.'

'Never mind,' Logotheti answered. 'The slower the better to-day, till
we have Ætna well astern.'

Now the tide in the Straits of Messina is as regular and easy to
calculate as the tide in the Ocean, and at full and change of the moon
the current runs six knots an hour, flowing or ebbing; it turns so
suddenly that small freight steamers sometimes get into difficulties,
and no sailing vessel I have ever seen has a chance of getting
through against it unless the wind is both fresh and free.

Furthermore, for the benefit of landsmen, it is well to explain here
that when a steamer has the current ahead, her speed is the difference
between her speed in slack water and that of the current or tide,
whereas, if the latter is with her, its speed increases her own.

Consequently, though the _Erinna_ could run sixteen knots, she would
only be able to make ten against the tide; for it chanced that it was
a spring tide, the moon being new on that very day. Similarly the
_Lancashire Lass_, running her twenty-three knots like a torpedo boat,
would only do seventeen under the same conditions.



CHAPTER XV


At two o'clock in the morning Captain Brown was called by the officer
of the watch, who told him that he was overhauling a good-sized steam
yacht. The latter was heading up for the Straits from the southward,
and the officer judged her to be not more than three or four miles on
the port bow.

Captain Brown, who meant business, was sleeping in his clothes in the
chart-room, and was on the bridge in ten seconds, peering over the
search-light with his big binocular. At two in the morning even the
largest yachts do not show such a blaze of lights as passenger
steamers generally do all night, and the one Captain Brown was
watching had only two or three, besides the regulation ones. She might
be white, too, though she might be a light grey, but he thought on the
whole that she was painted white. She was rigged as a two-masted
fore-and-aft schooner. So was the _Erinna_ now, though she had once
carried square topsails at the fore. She was also of about the same
size, as far as it was possible to judge under the search-light.
Captain Brown did not feel sure that he recognised her, but
considering what his orders were he knew it was his duty to settle the
question of her identity, which would be an easy matter in a quarter
of an hour or less, as the course of the two vessels converged.

He had been told to find the _Erinna_, but for what purpose he knew
not, and he naturally supposed it to be a friendly one. As a first
step, he ordered the Coston signal of his owner's yacht club to be
burned, turned off the search-light, and waited for an answer. None
came, however. Foreign yachts do not always burn signals to please
vessels of other nations.

A couple of minutes later, however, the white beam of a search-light
shot out and enveloped Captain Brown and his ship. The other man was
evidently having a good look at him, for the light was kept full on
for some time. But no signal was burned after it went out. Then
Captain Brown turned on his own light again, and looked once more; and
he had almost made up his mind that the other yacht was not quite as
long as the _Erinna_, when she suddenly starboarded her helm, made a
wide sweep away from him, and headed down the Sicilian coast in the
direction of Catania.

Captain Brown was so much surprised that he lowered his glasses and
looked at his chief mate, whose watch it was, and who was standing
beside him. It really looked very much as if the other vessel had
recognised him and were running away. The chief mate also looked at
him, but as they were more or less dazzled by the search-light that
had been played on them, they could hardly see one another's faces at
all. The captain wished his owner were on deck, instead of being sound
asleep below. Owners who are not at all nautical characters do not
like to be waked up at two o'clock in the morning by inquiries for
instructions. Captain Brown considered the situation for two or three
minutes before he made up his mind. He might be mistaken about the
length and the bows of the _Erinna_, and if by any possibility it were
she, he would not lose much by making sure of her. No other steamer
could now pass out of the Straits without being seen by him.

'Hard-a-starboard,' he said to the mate.

'Hard-a-starboard,' said the mate to wheel.

The big _Lancashire Lass_ described a vast curve at her racing speed,
while the captain kept his eye on the steamer he was going to chase.
Before she was dead ahead the mate ordered the wheel amidships, and
the _Lancashire Lass_ did the rest herself.

'That will do for a course,' the captain said, when he had the vessel
one point on the starboard bow.

'Keep her so,' said the mate to the wheel.

'Keep her so, sir,' answered the quartermaster.

It soon became clear to Captain Brown that he was chasing an
uncommonly fast vessel, though he was willing to admit that he might
have been a little out in judging the distance that separated him from
her. Allowing that she might do sixteen knots, and even that is a high
speed for yachts, he ought to have overtaken her in half an hour at
the outside. But he did not, and he was much puzzled to find that he
had gained very little on her when six bells were struck. Twice
already he had given a little more starboard helm, and the pursued
vessel was now right ahead, showing only her stern-light and the glare
of her after-masthead light.

'Didn't I hear four bells go just after you called me?' he asked of
the mate. 'Or was it five?'

'Four bells, sir. I logged it. At two-twenty we gave chase.'

'Mr. Johnson,' said the captain solemnly, 'he's doing at least
twenty.'

'At least that.'

The quartermaster who came to relieve the wheel at the hour, touched
his cap, and reported eighty-five and eighty-six revolutions of the
port and starboard engines respectively, which meant that the
_Lancashire Lass_ was doing her best. Then he took the other
quartermaster's place.

'Chase,' said the man relieved. 'Keep her so.'

'Keep her so,' answered the other, taking over the wheel.

Captain Brown spoke to his officer.

'Tell them to try and work the port engine up to eighty-six, Mr.
Johnson.'

The chief mate went to the engine telephone, delivered the message,
and reported that the engineer of the watch in the port engine said he
would do his best, but that the port engine had not given quite such a
good diagram as the starboard one that morning.

Then something happened which surprised and annoyed Captain Brown; and
if he had not been a religious man, and, moreover, in charge of a
vessel which was so very high-class that she ranked as third in the
world amongst steam yachts, and perhaps second, a fact which gave him
a position requiring great dignity of bearing with his officers, he
would certainly have said things.

The chased vessel had put out her lights and disappeared into complete
darkness under the Sicilian coast. Again he and his officer looked at
one another, but neither spoke. They were outside the wheel-house on
the bridge on the starboard side, behind a heavy plate-glass screen.
The captain made one step to the right, the mate made one to the left,
and both put up their glasses in the teeth of the gale made by the
yacht's tremendous way. In less than a minute they stepped back into
their places, and glanced at each other again.

Now it occurred to Captain Brown that such a financier as his owner
might be looking out for such another financier as the owner of the
_Erinna_ for some reason which would not please the latter, whose
sailing-master had without doubts recognised the _Lancashire Lass_ at
once, because she was very differently built from most yachts.

'Search-light again, Mr. Johnson,' said the captain.

The great beacon ran out instantly like a comet's tail, and he stood
behind it with his glasses. Instead of a steamer, he saw a rocky islet
sticking up sharp and clear, half a point on the starboard bow, about
three miles off. It was the largest of the Isles of the Cyclops, as he
very well knew, off Aci Reale, and it was perfectly evident that the
chased vessel had first put out her lights and had then at once run
behind the islands, close inshore. Captain Brown reflected that the
captain he was after must know the waters well to do such a thing,
and that the deep draught of his own ship made it the height of folly
to think of imitating such a trick at night. Yet so long as the other
stayed where she was, she could not come out without showing herself
under his search-light.

'Half-speed both engines,' he said quickly.

The mate worked the engine telegraph almost as soon as the captain
began to speak.

'Starboard five degrees more,' said Captain Brown.

The order was repeated to the wheel, and the quartermaster gave it
back, and repeated it a second time when the vessel's head had gone
off to port exactly to the required degree.

'Slow,' said Captain Brown. 'Stop her,' he said a moment later.

Twin-screw steamers cannot be stopped as quickly by reversing as those
with a single screw can, and the _Lancashire Lass_ would keep way on
for three miles or more, by which time she would be abreast of the
islands, and at a safe distance from them. Besides, the spring tide
was now running fresh down the Straits, making a current along the
coast, as Captain Brown knew. The instant the engines stopped, the
third mate came round from the chart-room, where he had been sent to
work a sight for longitude by Aldebaran for the good of his young
nautical soul.

A moment later Mr. Van Torp himself appeared on the bridge in pyjamas.

'Got her?' he asked eagerly.

Captain Brown explained that he thought he had cornered the _Erinna_
behind the islet, but was not quite sure of her. Mr. Van Torp waited
and said nothing, and the chief mate kept the search-light steadily on
the rocks. The yacht lost way rapidly, and lay quite still with the
islet exactly abeam, half a mile off, as the captain had calculated.
He then gave the order to go slow ahead.

A minute had not passed when the vessel that had lain concealed behind
the island ran out suddenly with all her regulation lights up,
apparently making directly across the bows of the _Lancashire Lass_.
Now the rule of the road at sea requires every steamer under weigh to
keep out of the way of any steamer that appears on her starboard side
forward of the beam. At such a short distance Captain Brown had hardly
any choice but to stop his ship again and order 'half-speed astern'
till she had no way, and he did so. She was barely moving when the
order was given, and a few turns of the engines stopped her
altogether.

'Is that the _Erinna_, Captain?' asked Mr. Van Torp.

Captain Brown had his glasses up and did not answer at once. After
nearly a minute he laid them down on the lid of the small box fastened
to the bridge-rail.

'No, sir,' he answered in a tone of considerable disappointment. 'At
four miles' distance she looked so much like her that I didn't dare to
let her slip through my fingers, but we have not lost more than a
couple of hours.'

'What is this thing, anyway? She's coming towards us pretty quick.'

'She's one of those new fast twin-screw revenue cutters the Italians
have lately built, sir. They look very like yachts at night. There's a
deal of smuggling on this coast, over from Malta. She's coming
alongside to ask what we mean by giving chase to a government vessel.'

Captain Brown was right, and when the big cutter had crossed his bows,
she ran all round him while she slowed down, and she stopped within
speaking distance on his starboard side. The usual questions were
asked and answered.

'English yacht _Lancashire Lass_, from Venice for Messina, expecting
to meet a friend's yacht at sea. Thought the revenue cutter was she.
Regretted mistake. Had the captain of the cutter seen or heard of
English yacht _Erinna_?'

He had not. There was no harm done. It was his duty to watch all
vessels. He wished Captain Brown a pleasant trip and good-night.

The Italian officer spoke English well, and there was no trouble.
Revenue cutters are very civil to all respectable yachts.

'Hard-a-starboard. Port engine slow astern, starboard engine
half-speed ahead.'

That was all Captain Brown said, but no one could guess what he was
thinking as his big vessel turned quickly to port on her heel, and he
headed her up for the Straits again. Mr. Van Torp said nothing at all,
but his lips moved as he left the bridge and went off to his own
quarters. It was now nearly four o'clock and the eastern sky was
grey.

The current was dead against the yacht through the Straits, which
were, moreover, crowded with all sorts of large and small craft under
sail, taking advantage of the tide to get through; many of them
steered very badly under the circumstances, of course, and it was out
of the question to run between them at full speed. The consequence was
that it was eight o'clock when the _Lancashire Lass_ steamed slowly
into Messina and dropped anchor out in the middle of the harbour, to
wait while Captain Brown got information about the _Erinna_, if there
were any to be had at the harbourmaster's office. It would have been
folly to run out of the Straits without at least looking in to see if
she were there, lying quietly moored behind the fortress of San
Salvatore and the very high mole.

She was not there, and had not been heard of, but a Paris _Herald_ was
procured in which it was stated that the _Erinna_ had arrived in
Naples, 'owner and party on board.'

'Well,' said Mr. Van Torp, 'let's get to Naples, quick. How long will
it take, Captain?'

'About eight hours, sir, counting our getting under weigh and out of
this crowded water, which won't take long, for the tide will soon
turn.'

'Go ahead,' said Mr. Van Torp.

Captain Brown prepared to get under weigh again as quickly as
possible. The entrance to Messina harbour is narrow, and it was
natural that, as he was in a hurry, a huge Italian man-of-war should
enter the harbour at that very moment, with the solemn and safe
deliberation which the movements of line-of-battle ships require when
going in and out of port. There was nothing to be done but to wait
patiently till the fairway was clear. It was not more than a quarter
of an hour, but Captain Brown was in a hurry, and as there was a fresh
morning breeze blowing across the harbour he could not even get his
anchor up with safety before he was ready to start.

The result of all these delays was that at about nine o'clock he saw
the _Erinna_ right ahead, bows on and only half a mile away, just
between Scylla and Faro, where the whirlpool is still a danger to
sailing vessels and slow steamers, and just as the tide was turning
against her and in his own favour. He did not like to leave the
bridge, even for a moment, and sent the second mate with an urgent
message requesting Mr. Van Torp to come up as soon as he could.

Five minutes earlier the owner had sat down to breakfast opposite Lady
Maud, who was very pale and had dark shadows under her eyes for the
first time since he had known her. As soon as the steward left them
alone, she spoke.

'It is Leven,' she said, 'and he wants me to take him back.'

Mr. Van Torp set down his tea untasted and stared at her. He was not
often completely taken by surprise, but for once he was almost
speechless. His lips did not even move silently.

'I was sure it was he,' Lady Maud said, 'but I did not expect that.'

'Well,' said Mr. Van Torp, finding his voice, 'he shan't. That's all.'

'No. I told him so. If I had been dressed I would have asked you to
put me ashore at Messina. I thought you were going to stop there--the
stewardess told me where we were, but she knew nothing else; and now
we're off again.'

'I can't help it, Maud,' said Van Torp, almost in a whisper, 'I don't
believe it. I don't believe in impossibilities like that beard of his.
It may sound ridiculous in the face of your recognising your own
husband, but it's a solid fact, and you can't get over it. I wish I
could catch the _Erinna_ and show him to that Tartar girl. She'd know
in a minute. He can't be her man and Leven too. There's only one thing
to be done that I can see.'

'What?' asked Lady Maud sadly and incredulously.

'Tell him you'll take him back on condition that he'll shave.'

Mr. Van Torp, who was in dead earnest, had just given his best friend
this piece of sound practical advice when the door opened, though he
had not rung, and the steward announced that the second mate had a
message for Mr. Van Torp. He was admitted, and he delivered it.

The owner sprang to his feet.

'By thunder, we've caught 'em!' he cried, as he rushed out of the deck
saloon.

Lady Maud leaned back and stared at his empty chair, wondering what
was going to happen next.

This was what happened. The _Lancashire Lass_ reversed her starboard
engine with full speed astern, put her helm hard over to port, and
turned back towards the Straits in the smallest space possible for
her, passing less than a cable's length from the Scylla rock, and
nearly running down half a dozen fishing-boats that pulled like mad to
get out of her way; for they supposed that her steering-gear had
broken down, unless her captain had gone raving mad.

While this was going on, Captain Brown himself, with the International
Signal Code in his hand, was calling out letters of the alphabet to a
quartermaster, and before his ship had made half a circle the flags
ran up the single stick the yacht carried.

'My owner has urgent business with your owner,' was what the flags
meant in plain English.

The _Erinna_ was going slow, for Baraka was only just ready to come on
deck, haste being, in her opinion, an invention of Shaitan's.
Logotheti, who wished her to see the Straits, was just inside the door
of the deck saloon, waiting for her to come out of her cabin. The
officer of the watch read off the signals of the other yacht, ran up
the answering pennant, and sent for the sailing-master, but could of
course do nothing else without orders. So the _Erinna_ continued to go
slow. All this took some minutes, for the officer had naturally been
obliged to look up the signal in the Code before answering that he
understood it; and in that time Van Torp's yacht had completed her
turn and was nearly alongside. The _Lancashire Lass_ slowed down to
the _Erinna's_ speed, and the two captains aimed their megaphones
accurately at each other from their respective bridges for a little
pleasant conversation. Captain Brown, instructed by Mr. Van Torp at
his elbow, repeated what his signals had meant. The other
sailing-master answered that he had already informed his owner, who
was coming to the bridge directly.

At that moment Logotheti appeared. There was not much more than a
cable's length between the two yachts, which in land-talk means two
hundred yards. Van Torp also saw a slim young lady in blue serge, with
a veil tied over her hair, leaning on the rail of the promenade deck
and looking towards him. With his glasses he recognised the features
of Baraka.

'Got 'em!' he ejaculated in a low but audible tone of intense
satisfaction.

Logotheti had also seen Van Torp, and waved his hand in a friendly
manner.

'Ask the gentleman if he'll come aboard, Captain,' said the American.
'I can't talk through your cornopean anyway. I suppose we can send the
naphtha launch for him if we stop, can't we?'

'Can't stop here,' answered Captain Brown. 'The currents might jam us
into each other, and we should most likely get aground in any case.
This is not even a safe place for going slow, when the tide is
running.'

'Well, you know your business, and I don't. Tell him we don't want to
interfere with any arrangements he's made, and that if he'll kindly
set the pace he likes we'll trot along behind him till we get to a
nice place, somewhere where we can stop. I suppose he can't run away
from us now, can he?'

Captain Brown smiled the smile of a man who commands a
twenty-three-knot boat, and proceeded to deliver the message in a more
concise form. Logotheti heard every word, and the answer was that he
was in no hurry and was quite at Mr. Van Torp's disposal. He would be
glad to know whom the latter had on board with him.

'Lady Maud Leven, Miss Margaret Donne, Mrs. Rushmore, and Count
Kralinsky,' answered Captain Brown, prompted by Van Torp.

The latter was watching the Greek through a pair of deer-stalking
glasses, and saw distinctly the expression of surprise that came into
his face when he heard the last of the names.

'Tell the gentleman,' said Van Torp, 'that if he'll bring his party
with him when we stop, I'll be very glad to have them all take lunch
with me.'

Captain Brown delivered the message. At such a short distance he did
not even have to raise his voice to be heard through the six-foot
megaphone.

To Van Torp's surprise, Logotheti nodded with alacrity, and the answer
came that he would bring his party with pleasure, but thought that his
visit would be over long before luncheon time.

'All right, good-bye,' said Van Torp, as if he were at the telephone.
'Ring off, Captain. That's all. Just let him give us a lead now and
we'll follow him through this creek again, since you say you can't
stop here.'

As he went off the bridge to return to his breakfast he passed close
to the chief mate, who had turned again, though it was his watch
below.

'I say, Mr. Johnson,' he asked, 'have we got a barber-shop on board
this ship?'

'No, sir,' answered the mate, who knew better than to be surprised at
anything.

'It's no matter,' said Mr. Van Torp. 'I was only asking.'

He went back to his breakfast with an improved appetite. When he
re-entered the saloon Lady Maud was still leaning back in her chair,
staring at his empty place.

'Well,' he said, 'they're both coming on board as soon as we get to a
place where we can stop.'

'Have you really seen the girl?' Lady Maud sat up, as if she were
waking from sleep.

'Oh, yes! There she was, looking over the rail, as neat as a pin, in a
blue serge dress, with a white veil tied over her hair, watching me.
We've got 'em right enough, and that's going to be the end of this
mystery!'

'Did you see any one else on the yacht?'

'Logo. That's all. He and I talked. At least, our captains talked for
us. They do know how to yell, those men! If the girl's the party, Logo
beats the band for brass, that's all I can say!'

'It is rather cool,' said Lady Maud thoughtfully. 'If he's alone with
her, it will be all up with his engagement.'

'Well, if that's the way he's going on, it's about time.' His tone was
all at once serious. 'Now, see here, have I done anything you
consider unfair to make this happen? I want your opinion right away,
for if you think I have, I'll stand up for Logo to Miss Donne as hard
as I can. Just think it over, please, and tell me your honest opinion.
If I've done anything low-down, I want to go right back and begin over
again.'

He was thoroughly in earnest, and awaited her answer with evident
anxiety. Knowing the man as she did, she would not give it hastily,
though it was hard to concentrate her thoughts just then on anything
but her own trouble; for she was quite convinced that Baraka would not
recognise Kralinsky as the man she was looking for, and that this
final proof would settle his identity as Leven, which she already did
not doubt.

She asked one or two questions.

'Before I answer you,' she said, 'tell me something, as you tell me
things, when you do. Have you any entanglement with another woman from
which you feel that you're not perfectly free? I don't like to ask
such a question, and I wouldn't if you had not put me on my honour for
my opinion.'

'No,' answered Van Torp very gravely, 'I have not. No living woman has
any claim on me, and no dead woman could have, if she came to life
again.'

'Then I think you had a right to do what you've done, and what you are
going to do. When a man behaves in that way he deserves no pity, and
now that the crisis is coming I may as well tell you that I've done
everything in my power to make Margaret give him up, ever since I have
been sure that he had taken the girl with him on his yacht. So far as
catching them under Margaret's very eyes is concerned, I'm glad you
have succeeded--very glad!'

On certain points Lady Maud was inflexible as to the conduct of men
and women, but especially of men. 'Mrs. Foxwell' spent much time
behind the Virtue-Curtain, seeking for poor souls who were willing to
be helped, and her experiences had led her to believe a modified
version of the story of Adam and Eve and the Apple-tree which was
quite her own. In her opinion Adam had been in the habit of talking to
his wife about the tree for some time, and when the serpent presented
itself to explain things he discreetly withdrew till the interview was
over. Therefore 'Mrs. Foxwell' was, on the whole, more charitably
inclined to her own sex than the other, and when she was 'Lady Maud'
she held very strong views indeed about the obligations of men who
meant to marry, and she expressed them when the intended bride was a
friend of hers.

'Thank you,' said Mr. Van Torp, after she had finished her speech.
'I'm glad you don't disapprove, for if you did I'd try to begin all
over again, as I told you. Any other question? You said "one or two,"
and I'd like to have them all now.'

'Only one more, though perhaps I've no business to ask it. If Margaret
marries you, shall you want her to leave the stage?'

'Why, no!' answered Mr. Van Torp with alacrity. 'That wouldn't suit my
plans at all. Besides, we're a Company, she and I.'

'What do you mean?' Lady Maud thought he was joking.

'Well, I wasn't going to tell you till we'd organised, but you're as
good as a deaf and dumb asylum about business things. Yes. We're
organising as "The Madame da Cordova and Rufus Van Torp Company." I'm
going to build an opera-house in New York on some land I've got on
Fifth Avenue, and Miss Donne is going to run it, and we mean to have
Wagner festivals and things, besides regular grand opera, in which
she's engaged to sing as often as she likes. There's never been an
opera-house on Fifth Avenue, but there's going to be, and people will
go to it. Miss Donne caught on to the scheme right away, so you see
she's not going to leave the stage anyhow. As for her accepting me, I
can't tell you, because I don't know. Maybe she will, maybe she won't.
That isn't going to interfere with the Company either way. Good
scheme, isn't it?'

'You're a wonderful man,' said Lady Maud, with genuine admiration. 'Do
you mean to say that you have settled all that between you already?'

'She signed the preliminary agreement in Bayreuth, and the papers are
being made out by my lawyer in New York. You don't think it was unfair
to offer to build a theatre and call it after her, do you? That isn't
"exercising undue influence," I suppose?'

'No, and I think you're going to win. The other man hasn't had a
chance since you got into your stride.'

'When a man chucks his chances, I'm not going to pick them up for him.
Charity begins at home.'

'Even if "home" is a bachelor establishment?' Lady Maud smiled for the
first time that day.

They talked a few minutes longer, agreeing that she should tell
Margaret what was going to happen; but that Mrs. Rushmore and
Kralinsky should be kept in ignorance of the plan, the American lady
because she might possibly yield to temptation and tell the Count, and
the latter for obvious reasons. It was not likely that any of them
would be on deck much before Logotheti came on board.

There is good anchorage out of the tidal current at Scaletta, some few
miles below Messina, on the Sicilian side, and towards this well-known
water the _Erinna_ led the way, followed at a short distance by the
_Lancashire Lass_.

Logotheti and Baraka watched her, and the girl recognised Van Torp on
the bridge of his yacht, without even using glasses, for she had eyes
like an eagle's, and the American millionaire stood alone at one end
of the bridge looking towards her.

Logotheti had told her that Kralinsky was on board, and that she
should see him as soon as both yachts could anchor. He explained that
it was an unforeseen coincidence, and that Mr. Van Torp must have
taken him on board somewhere on the previous day. To the Greek's
surprise, Baraka showed no outward sign of emotion. He had promised to
take her to the man, and had said that he was near at hand; that the
meeting should take place sooner than had been intended hardly
surprised her, because she had been so perfectly sure that it was
near. Her only preoccupation now was about her appearance in her
ready-made serge and blouse, when she had meant to show herself to
Kralinsky in the glory of a beautiful and expensive Feringhi dress.

But Logotheti explained that even the richest Feringhi ladies often
wore little blue serge frocks on yachts, and told her to watch the
_Lancashire Lass_ with her glasses, as there were three very great
Feringhi ladies on board, and she might see one, and be reassured; and
presently she saw Lady Maud walking alone on the promenade deck, in
clothes very like her own, excepting that they were black instead of
dark blue. So Baraka was satisfied, but she never took her eyes from
the following yacht, for she hoped that Kralinsky would come out and
show himself.

All at once he was there, taking off his white cap to Lady Maud, and
they stood still facing each other, and talking.

'I see him,' Baraka said in a low voice, without lowering her glasses.
'It is he.'

Logotheti, who had been much absorbed in thinking about his coming
interview with Margaret, raised his glasses too, for he was curious to
see the man at last. He had known Leven for years, though never
intimately, as he knew a vast number of people in London, and he was
struck at once by the resemblance in size, build, and complexion.

'He is fatter than he was, and paler,' Baraka said quietly, 'but it is
he. He is speaking earnestly with the beautiful woman in black. I can
see well. He likes her, but she does not like him. I think she is
telling him so. I am glad. But she is more beautiful than Baraka, even
in those poor clothes. When he sees me, he will deny me, because he
likes the beautiful woman in black. I will tell Spiro to be ready. It
is a pity, but I see there will be no other way. It is his portion and
mine. It is a great pity, for I have been happy with you.'

Instead of any look of anger, Logotheti now saw an expression of
profound resignation in her lovely young features. If he had been less
anxious about his own affairs, he would have smiled at her simplicity.

'When we are on that ship you will let me talk with him a little apart
from the rest, and Spiro shall go behind him and wait, looking at me.
If he denies me, I will make a sign, and Spiro shall shoot him, and
then kill me. It will be very easy and quick.'

'And what will become of Spiro?' inquired Logotheti gravely.

'I do not know,' Baraka said quietly. 'Perhaps he will lose his head.
How can I tell? But he is a good servant, and will obey me. Afterwards
it will not matter, for he is really a Musulman, and will go at once
to paradise if he dies, because he has killed a Christian.'

'But you are a Musulman, and he is to kill you also. What about that?'

'I am only a woman,' answered Baraka with supreme indifference. 'Now I
will call Spiro and tell him what he is to do. He has a good
revolver.'

Logotheti let her clap her hands and send the steward for her man,
and she rose when he appeared and made him follow her a little way
along the deck. The interview did not last long. She handed him her
glasses and made him look carefully at the intended victim; then she
apparently repeated her brief instructions again, pointing here and
there to the deck at her feet, to show him how they were to stand;
after which she turned quietly, came back to Logotheti's side, and sat
down again.

'He understands,' she said. 'It will be quite easy.'

But Logotheti, looking past her as she came forward, had met Spiro's
eyes; and he felt not even the slightest anxiety for Kralinsky's
safety, nor for Baraka's. He was still wondering what he should say to
Margaret, but while he tried to think it over, his eyes dwelt on the
noble little profile of the slender Asiatic girl at his side; and it
occurred to him that, although she had worn man's clothes and done
things that few women would dare to do, for the one purpose of her
life, she would much rather die than show herself on the stage in a
very low dress before thousands of people and sing to them, and take
money for doing it; and he remembered a time, not much more than two
years past, when the mere thought had driven the idea of marrying the
Primadonna quite out of his head for a while, and that, after all, it
had been her physical attraction that had overcome the prejudice,
making him say that he was as much in love with the Cordova as he had
been with Margaret Donne, that 'very nice English girl.' For men are
changeable creatures after they think they have changed themselves to
suit their tastes or their ideals, and the original man in them, good
or bad, fine or coarse, generally comes back in the great moments.

At a distance, Logotheti had supposed that he could somehow account to
the Diva for the position in which he had foolishly placed himself,
because he had done nothing and said nothing that he would have been
ashamed of before her, if she knew the whole truth; and he fancied
that even if they quarrelled she would make up with him before long,
and marry him in the end. He had a good opinion of himself as a
desirable husband; and with reason, since he had been persecuted for
years with offers of excellent marriages from mothers of high degree
who had daughters to dispose of. And beneath that conviction there
lurked, in spite of him, the less worthy thought, that singers and
actresses were generally less squeamish than women of the world about
the little entanglements of their intended husbands.

But now, at the very moment of meeting Margaret, he knew that if he
found her very angry with him, he would simply listen to what she had
to say, make a humble apology, state the truth coldly, and return to
his own yacht with Baraka, under her very eyes, and in full sight of
Lady Maud and Mrs. Rushmore. Besides, he felt tolerably sure that when
Spiro failed to carry out the young Tartar girl's murderous
instructions, she would forget all about the oath she had sworn by the
'inviolable water of the Styx' and try to kill him with her own hands,
so that it would be necessary to take her away abruptly, and even
forcibly.

Matters did not turn out as he expected, however, after the two yachts
stopped their engines in the quiet waters off Scaletta, under the
Sicilian mountains.

Before the _Erinna_ had quite lost her way, Logotheti had his naphtha
launch puffing alongside, and he got into it with Baraka and Spiro,
and the _Lancashire Lass_ had barely time to lower her ladder, while
still moving slowly, before the visitors were there.

Baraka bade Logotheti go up first, and trod daintily on the grated
steps as she followed him. The chief mate and chief steward were
waiting at the gangway. The mate saluted; the steward led the visitors
to the main saloon, ushered them in, and shut the door. Spiro was left
outside, of course.

Lady Maud was there, sitting in an easy-chair in the farthest corner.
She nodded to Logotheti, but did not rise, and paid no more attention
to Baraka than if she had not existed.

Mr. Van Torp shook hands coldly with Logotheti; Baraka walked directly
to Kralinsky, and then stood stone-still before him, gazing up
steadily into his eyes.

Neither Margaret nor Mrs. Rushmore was to be seen. Van Torp and
Logotheti both watched the other two, looking from one face to the
other. Kralinsky, with his eye-glass in his eye, surveyed the lovely
young barbarian unmoved, and the silence lasted half a minute. Then
she spoke in her own language and Kralinsky answered her, and only
Logotheti understood what they said to each other. Probably it did not
occur to Kralinsky that the Greek knew Tartar.

'You are not Ivan. You are fatter, and you have not his eyes.'

Logotheti drew a long breath.

'No,' answered Kralinsky. 'I am Yuryi, his brother. I never saw you,
but he told me of you.'

'Where is Ivan?'

'Dead.'

The proud little head was bowed down for a moment and Baraka did not
speak till several seconds had passed. Then she looked up again
suddenly. Her dark eyes were quite dry.

'How long?'

'More than four months.'

'You know it?'

'I was with him and buried him.'

'It is enough.'

She turned, her head high, and went to the door, and no one hindered
her from going out.

'Monsieur Logotheti!' Lady Maud called him, and the Greek crossed the
saloon and stood by her. 'He is not the man, I see,' she said, with a
vague doubt in her voice.

'No.'

Van Torp was speaking with Kralinsky in low tones. Lady Maud spoke to
Logotheti again, after an instant, in which she drew a painful breath
and grew paler.

'Miss Donne knows that you are on board,' she said, 'but she wishes me
to say that she will not see you, and that she considers her
engagement at an end, after what you have done.'

Logotheti did not hesitate.

'Will you kindly give a message to Miss Donne from me?' he asked.

'That quite depends on what it is,' Lady Maud answered coldly.

She felt that she herself had got something near a death-wound, but
she would not break down.

'I beg you to tell Miss Donne that I yield to her decision,' said
Logotheti with dignity. 'We are not suited to each other, and it is
better that we should part. But I cannot accept as the cause of our
parting the fact that I have given my protection to a young girl whom
I have extricated from great trouble and have treated, and still
treat, precisely as I should have treated Miss Donne if she had been
my guest. Will you tell her that?'

'I will tell her that.'

'Thank you. Good-morning.'

'Good-morning,' said Lady Maud icily.

He turned and went towards the door, but stopped to speak to Van Torp.

'This gentleman,' he said, 'is not the man my guest was anxious to
find, though he is strikingly like him. I have to thank you for giving
her an opportunity of satisfying herself. Good-morning.'

Mr. Van Torp was extremely grateful to Logotheti for having ruined
himself in Margaret's eyes, and would in any case have seen him to the
gangway, but he was also very anxious to know what Kralinsky and
Baraka had said to each other in Tartar. He therefore opened the door
for the Greek, followed him out and shut it behind him. Baraka and
Spiro had disappeared; they were already in the launch, waiting.

'Now what did they say, if it isn't a rude question?' asked the
American.

Logotheti repeated the short conversation almost word for word.

'He said that his name was Yuryi,' he concluded.

'That is George in English.'

'Oh, he's George, is he? And what's his dead brother's name again,
please?'

'Ivan. That is John. Before we part, Van Torp, I may as well tell you
that my engagement with Miss Donne is at an end. She was good enough
to inform me of her decision through Lady Maud. One thing more,
please. I wish you to know, as between man and man, that I have
treated Baraka as I would my own sister since I got her out of prison,
and I beg that you won't encourage any disagreeable talk about her.'

'Well, now,' said the American slowly, 'I'm glad to hear you say that,
just in that way. I guess it'll be all right about any remarks on
board my ship, now you've spoken.'

'Thank you,' said Logotheti, moving towards the gangway.

They shook hands with some cordiality, and Logotheti ran down the
steps like a sailor, without laying his hand on the man-rope, stepped
on board his launch, and was off in a moment.

'Good-bye! good-bye, Miss Barrack, and good luck to you!' cried Van
Torp, waving his cap.

Logotheti translated his words to Baraka, who looked back with a
grateful smile, as if she had not just heard that the man she had
risked her life to find in two continents had been dead four months.

'It was his portion,' she said gravely, when she was alone with
Logotheti on the _Erinna_, and the chain was coming in fast.

Van Torp went back to the main saloon and found Lady Maud and
Kralinsky there. She was apparently about to leave the Count, for she
was coming towards the door, and her eyes were dark and angry.

'Rufus,' she said, 'this man is my husband, and insists that I should
take him back. I will not. Will you kindly have me put ashore before
you start again? My things are ready now.'

'Excuse me,' answered Mr. Van Torp, digging his large thumbs into his
waistcoat pockets, 'there's a mistake. He's not your husband.'

'He is, indeed!' cried Lady Maud, in a tone her friend never forgot.

'I am Boris Leven,' said Kralinsky in an authoritative tone, and
coming forward almost defiantly. 'Then why did you tell the Tartar
girl that your name was George?' asked Mr. Van Torp, unmoved.

'I did not.'

'You've evidently forgotten. That Greek gentleman speaks Tartar better
than you. I wonder where you learned it! He's just told me you said
your name was George.'

'My name is George Boris,' answered Kralinsky, less confidently.

He was not a coward, but he had never been face to face with Van Torp
when he meant business, and the terrible American cowed him.

'My husband's name is only Boris--nothing else,' said Lady Maud.

'Well, this isn't your husband; this is George, whoever he is, and if
you don't believe it, I'm going to give you an object-lesson.'

Thereupon Mr. Van Torp pressed the button of a bell in the bulk-head
near the door, which he opened, and he stood looking out. A steward
came at once.

'Send me Stemp,' said Van Torp in a low voice, as he stepped outside.

'Yes, sir.'

'And, see here, send six sailors with him.'

'Six, sir?'

'Yes. Big fellows who can handle a man.'

'Very good, sir.'

Mr. Van Torp went in again and shut the door. Kralinsky disdained
flight, and was looking out of a window. Lady Maud had sat down again.
For the first time in her life she felt weak.

In less than one minute the door opened and Stemp appeared, impassive
and respectful. Behind him was the boatswain, a huge Northumbrian, and
five young seamen in perfectly new guernseys, with fair quiet faces.

'Stemp.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Take that man somewhere and shave him. Leave his moustache on.' Van
Torp pointed to Kralinsky.

For once in his life Stemp gasped for breath. Kralinsky turned a
greenish white, and seemed paralysed with rage.

'Take his beard off, sir, you mean?'

'Yes. Leave his moustache. Here, men,' added Van Torp, 'take that
fellow outside and hold him down in a chair while Stemp shaves him.
See?' The boatswain looked doubtful. 'He's pretending to be somebody
he's not,' said Van Torp, 'on my ship, and I want to see his face.
It's mutiny if you don't obey orders!'

'Aye, aye, sir,' responded the boatswain cheerfully, for he rather
liked the job since there was a good reason for it.

But instead of going about his business gently, the Northumbrian giant
suddenly dashed past Van Torp in a flash, and jumped and hurled
himself head foremost at Kralinsky's legs, exactly as if he were
diving. In the Count's violent fall the revolver he had drawn was
thrown from his hand and went off in the air. The boatswain had seen
it in time. The big man struggled a little, but the five seamen held
him fast and carried him out kicking.

'Stemp.'

The valet was preparing to follow the prisoner, and was quite calm
again.

'Yes, sir.'

'If he won't sit still to be shaved, cut his head off.'

'Yes, sir.'

Van Torp's eyes were awful to see. He had never been so angry in his
life. He turned and saw Lady Maud pressing her handkerchief to her
right temple. The ball had grazed it, though it had certainly not been
meant for her.

'Rufus!' she cried in great distress, 'what have you done?'

'The question is what he's done to you,' answered Van Torp. 'I believe
the blackguard has shot you!'

'It's nothing. Thank God it hit me! It was meant for you.'

Van Torp's rage instantly turned into tender care, and he insisted on
examining the wound, which was slight but would leave a scar. By a
miracle the ball had grazed the angle of the temple without going near
the temporal artery, and scarcely singeing the thick brown hair.

Van Torp rang and sent for water and absorbent cotton, and made a very
neat dressing, over which Lady Maud tied her big veil. Just as this
was done, Stemp appeared at the door.

'It's ready, sir, if you would like to come and see. I've not
scratched him once, sir.'

'All right.' Van Torp turned to Lady Maud. 'Do you feel faint? Lean on
my arm.'

But she would not, and she walked bravely, holding herself so straight
that she looked much taller than he, though she felt as if she were
going to execution.

A moment later she uttered a loud cry and clung to Van Torp's
shoulder with both hands. But as for him, he said only two words.

'You hellhound!'

The man was not Boris Leven.

  [Illustration: "The man was not Boris Leven."]

The eyes, the upper part of the face, the hair, even the flowing
moustaches were his, but not the small retreating chin crossed by the
sharp, thin scar of a sword-cut long healed.

'I know who you are,' said Van Torp, surveying him gravely. 'You're
Long-legged Levi's brother, that disappeared before he did. I remember
that scar.'

The sham Kralinsky was securely tied down in a chair and the boatswain
and the five seamen stood round him, an admiring public. Captain Brown
had been informed of what had happened and was going on, and the
discipline he maintained on board was so perfect that every man on the
watch was at his post, and the steamer was already under weigh again.
The boatswain and his contingent belonged to the watch below, which
had not been called for the start.

'Let me off easy,' said Long-legged Levi's brother. 'I've not done you
any harm.'

'Beyond wounding Lady Maud, after trying to pass yourself off as her
dead husband. No. I won't let you off. Boatswain, I want this man
arrested, and we'll take him and all his belongings before the British
Consul in Messina in less than an hour. You just attend to that, will
you? Somebody go and tell the Captain.'

'Aye, aye, sir.'

For the boatswain and the men had seen and heard, and they knew that
Mr. Van Torp was right, and they respected him, and the foreign
impostor had wounded an English woman; and having given his orders,
the owner and Lady Maud turned and left Long-legged Levi's brother
tied to the chair, in a very dejected state, and his uncertain eyes
did not even follow them.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rest is soon told. A long inquiry followed, which led to the
solution of the mystery and sent Count Yuryi Leven to Siberia; for he
was Boris Leven's twin brother.

The truth turned out to be that there had been three brothers, the
youngest being Ivan, and they had all entered the same Cossack
regiment, and had served in the Caucasus, where most officers learn
the Tartar language, which is spoken by all the different tribes. It
will be simpler to designate them by the English equivalents for their
names.

Boris behaved himself tolerably well in the army, but both his
brothers, John and George, who was his twin, were broken for cheating
at cards, and emigrated to America. So long as they all wore their
beards, as officers of Cossack regiments usually do, they were very
much alike. They were all educated men of refined tastes, and
particularly fond of music.

When his two brothers were cashiered, Boris resigned, entered the
diplomatic service, married Lady Maud Foxwell, and was killed by a
bomb in St. Petersburg.

John and George separated in America when they were tired of punching
cattle.

John was something of a naturalist and was by far the most gifted of
the three as well as the most daring. He gravitated to China and at
last to Mongolia, wandering alone in search of plants and minerals,
and it was to him that Baraka showed the ruby mine. He got back to
civilisation with his treasure and took it to Petersburg unmolested.

There he found George earning a poor living in an obscure position in
the public service, his conduct in the army having been condoned or
overlooked. John, who was the incarnation of selfishness, would do
nothing for him. George, exasperated by him, and half starved,
murdered him in such a way that he was supposed to have died by an
accident, took possession of his hoard of unsold rubies, and wrote to
his twin brother to come and share the fortune John had left them.

George and Boris had been in constant correspondence, and had even
helped each other with money from time to time. Some weeks elapsed
after Boris's return to St. Petersburg before his death, and during
that time, he told George, who knew London well and had moreover
helped him in his attempt to get a divorce, a vast number of details
about his married life and his wife's behaviour, her character and
tastes. Then Boris was killed in the street, and George left the
country and changed his name, with the vague idea that his own was not
a very creditable one and that if he kept it he might be troubled by
his brother Boris's numerous creditors. He began life over again as
Kralinsky.

He had not entertained the least intention of passing himself for
Boris and claiming Lady Maud as his wife, till he met her, and her
beauty made him lose his head completely when he saw that she took him
for her husband. He would have been found out inevitably sooner or
later, but Van Torp's vigorous action shortened Lady Maud's torments.

George was tried, and Russian justice awoke, possibly under pressure
from England. The family history of the Levens was exhumed and
dissected before the courts. The creditors of Boris Leven appeared in
legions and claimed that in proper course he should have inherited the
rubies from his murdered brother, who would then have been able to pay
his debts. The court thought so too, and ordered the confiscated
treasure to be sold.

But since it had been Boris's, the law was obliged to declare that the
residue of the money, after paying the debts, was the property of
Countess Leven, Boris's widow.

Lady Maud thus found herself in possession of a considerable fortune,
for she accepted the inheritance when she was assured that it would go
to the Russian Crown if she refused it. But there was a fall in the
price of rubies, and the Russian government at once sent an expensive
expedition to find the mine, an attempt which altogether failed,
because Ivan Leven had never told any one where it was, nor anything
about it, and the court only knew from certain jewellers who had dealt
both with Kralinsky and Baraka, that it was 'somewhere in Central
Asia,' which is an insufficient direction, even for a ruby mine.

The wealth Lady Maud thus commands enables her to carry much further
than formerly the peculiar form of charity which she believes to be
her own invention, if it may be properly called charity at all, and
which consists in making it worth while and agreeable to certain
unfortunate people to live decent lives in quiet corners without
starving, instead of calling to them to come out from behind the
Virtue-Curtain and be reformed in public. It is a very expensive
charity, however, and very hard to exercise, and will never be
popular; for the popular charities are those that cost least and are
no trouble.

Madame Konstantinos Logotheti is learning French and English, on the
Bosphorus, with her husband, and will make a sensation when he brings
her to London and Paris. On the day of his marriage, in
Constantinople, Logotheti received a letter from Lady Maud, telling
him how sorry she was that she had not believed him, that day on the
yacht at Scaletta, and saying that she hoped to meet his wife soon. It
was an honest apology from an honest woman.

He received a letter a few days later from Margaret, and on the same
day a magnificently printed and recklessly illustrated booklet reached
him, forwarded from Paris. The letter was from Margaret to tell him
that she also took back what she had thought about Baraka and hoped to
see him and her before long. She said she was glad, on the whole, that
he had acted like a lunatic, because it was likely that they would
both be happier. She herself, she said, was going to be married to Mr.
Van Torp, at St. George's, Hanover Square, before sailing for New
York, where she was going to sing at the Opera after Christmas. If he
should be in town then, she hoped he would come, and bring his wife.

The booklet was an announcement, interleaved with fine etchings, to
the effect that 'The Madame da Cordova and Rufus Van Torp Company'
would open their new Opera House in Fifth Avenue less than two years
hence, with a grand Wagner Festival, to last two months, and to
include the performance of _Parsifal_ with entirely new scenery, and
the greatest living artistes, whose names were given. There was a plan
of the house at the end of the booklet for the benefit of those who
wished to make arrangements for being at the festival, and such
persons were admonished that they must apply early if they expected to
get seats.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Van Torp had told the Diva that he would like her to choose a
wedding present which she really wanted, adding that he had a few
little things for her already. He produced some of them, but some were
on paper. Among the latter was a house in New York, overlooking the
Park and copied exactly from her own in London, the English architect
having been sent to New York himself to build it. Two small items were
two luxurious private cars of entirely different patterns, one for
America and one for Europe, which she was always to use when she
travelled, professionally or otherwise. He said he did not give her
the _Lancashire Lass_ because 'it wasn't quite new'--having been about
ten months in the water--but he had his own reasons, one of which was
that the yacht represented a sentiment to him, and was what he would
have called a 'souvenir.' But if she could think of anything else she
fancied, 'now was the time.'

She said that there was only one thing she should really like, but
that she could not have it, because it was not in the market. He asked
what it was, and it turned out to be the ruby which Logotheti had
given her, and had taken to Pinney's to be cut, and which had been the
cause of so many unexpected events, including her marriage. Logotheti
had it in his possession, she supposed, but he had shown good taste in
not trying to press it on her as a wedding present, for she could not
have accepted it. Nevertheless, she wanted it very much, more as a
remembrance than for its beauty.

Mr. Van Torp said he 'thought he could fix that,' and he did. He went
directly to Mr. Pinney and asked what had become of the stone. Mr.
Pinney answered that it was now cut, and was in his safe, for sale.
The good man had felt that it would not be tactful to offer it to Mr.
Van Torp. Logotheti, who was a fine gentleman in his way, had ordered
it to be sold, when a good opportunity offered, and directed that the
money should be given to the poor Greeks in London, under the
supervision of Lady Maud Leven, the Turkish Ambassador, and the Greek
Minister, as a committee. Mr. Pinney, after consultation with the best
experts, valued it at fourteen thousand pounds sterling. Mr. Van Torp
wrote a cheque for the money, put the stone into an inner pocket, and
took it to the Diva.

'Well,' he said, smiling, 'here's your ruby, anyway. Anything else
to-day?'

Margaret looked at him wonderingly, and then opened the small morocco
case.

'Oh--oh--oh!' she cried, in rising intimations of delight. 'I never
saw anything so beautiful in my life! It's ever so much more glorious
than when I last saw it!'

'It's been cut since then,' observed Mr. Van Torp.

'It ought to have a name of its own! I'm sure it's more beautiful than
many of the named crown jewels!' She felt half hypnotised as she gazed
into the glorious depths of the great stone. 'Thank you,' she cried,
'thank you so very much. I'm gladder to have it than all the other
things.'

And thereupon she threw her magnificent arms round Rufus Van Torp's
solid neck, and kissed his cool flat cheek several times; and it
seemed quite natural to her to do so; and she wished to forget how she
had once kissed one other man, who had kissed her.

'It wants a name, doesn't it?' assented Mr. Van Torp.

'Yes. You must find one for it.'

'Well,' he said, 'after what's happened, I suppose we'd better call it
"The Diva's Ruby."'



MR. CRAWFORD'S LATEST NOVELS

_Each, cloth, 12mo, $1.50_


=The Primadonna=

     "Mr. Crawford is a born story-teller. His imagination and
     inventiveness show as fresh and unwearied in his latest book
     as they did in 'Mr. Isaacs.'"--_Evening Telegraph_,
     Philadelphia.


=Fair Margaret= A Portrait.

     "An exhilarating romance, ... alluring in its naturalness
     and grace."--_Boston Herald._


=Arethusa=

     Dr. Frederick Taber Cooper, in _The Bookman_, says of Mr.
     Crawford: "In theory Mr. Crawford is a romanticist; in
     practice he is in turn realist, psychologue, mystic,
     whatever for the moment suits his needs or appeals to his
     instinct of born story-teller." He calls him, in fact, as
     others have done, "the prince of story-tellers."

_By the author of "Saracinesca," etc._



FRANK DANBY'S NEW NOVEL


     =The Heart of a Child= _Cloth, $1.50_

     "A book of such strength, such fineness, such sympathetic
     insight ... stands out conspicuously above the general level
     of contemporary fiction."--_The Bookman_.



"BARBARA'S" NEW BOOK


=The Open Window=

     Tales of the Months told by "Barbara," author of "The Garden
     of a Commuter's Wife," "People of the Whirlpool," etc.

     _Frontispiece. Cloth, $1.50_



Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS

THE SARACINESCA SERIES

_In the binding of the Uniform Edition, each, $1.50_


=Saracinesca=

     "The work has two distinct merits, either of which would
     serve to make it great,--that of telling a perfect story in
     a perfect way, and of giving a graphic picture of Roman
     society in the last days of the Pope's temporal power....
     The story is exquisitely told."--_Boston Traveler_


=Sant' Ilario.= A Sequel to "Saracinesca"

     "A singularly powerful and beautiful story.... It fulfils
     every requirement of artistic fiction. It brings out what is
     most impressive in human action, without owing any of its
     effectiveness to sensationalism or artifice. It is natural,
     fluent in evolution, accordant with experience, graphic in
     description, penetrating in analysis, and absorbing in
     interest."--_New York Tribune._


=Don Orsino.= A Sequel to "Sant' Ilario"

     "Perhaps the cleverest novel of the year.... There is not a
     dull paragraph in the book, and the reader may be assured
     that once begun, the story of _Don Orsino_ will fascinate
     him until its close."--_The Critic._


=Taquisara=

     "To Mr. Crawford's Roman novels belongs the supreme quality
     of uniting subtly drawn characters to a plot of uncommon
     interest."--_Chicago Tribune._


=Corleone=

     "Mr. Crawford is the novelist born ... a natural
     story-teller, with wit, imagination, and insight added to a
     varied and profound knowledge of social life."--_The
     Inter-Ocean_, Chicago.


=Casa Braccio.= _In two volumes, $2.00_. Illustrated by A. Castaigne.

     Like _Taquisara_ and _Corleone_, it is closely related in
     plot to the fortunes of the Saracinesca family.

     "Mr. Crawford's books have life, pathos, and insight; he
     tells a dramatic story with many exquisite touches."--_New
     York Sun._



Mr. WINSTON CHURCHILL'S NOVELS

_Each, cloth, gilt tops and titles, $1.50_


=Mr. Crewe's Career=      Illustrated

     "Another chapter in his broad, epical delineation of the
     American spirit.... It is an honest and fair story.... It is
     very interesting; and the heroine is a type of woman as
     fresh, original, and captivating as any that has appeared in
     American novels for a long time past."--_The Outlook_, New
     York.

     "Shows Mr. Churchill at his best. The flavor of his humor is
     of that stimulating kind which asserts itself just the
     moment, as it were, after it has passed the palate.... As
     for Victoria, she has that quality of vivid freshness,
     tenderness, and independence which makes so many modern
     American heroines delightful."--_The Times_, London.


=The Celebrity=      An Episode

     "No such piece of inimitable comedy in a literary way has
     appeared for years.... It is the purest, keenest
     fun."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean._


=Richard Carvel=      Illustrated

     "... In breadth of canvas, massing of dramatic effect, depth
     of feeling, and rare wholesomeness of spirit, it has seldom,
     if ever, been surpassed by an American romance."--_Chicago
     Tribune._


=The Crossing=      Illustrated

     "'The Crossing' is a thoroughly interesting book, packed
     with exciting adventure and sentimental incident, yet
     faithful to historical fact both in detail and in
     spirit."--_The Dial._


=The Crisis=      Illustrated

     "It is a charming love story, and never loses its
     interest.... The intense political bitterness, the intense
     patriotism of both parties, are shown
     understandingly."--_Evening Telegraph_, Philadelphia.


=Coniston=      Illustrated

     "'Coniston' has a lighter, gayer spirit and a deeper,
     tenderer touch than Mr. Churchill has ever achieved
     before.... It is one of the truest and finest transcripts of
     modern American life thus far achieved in our
     fiction."--_Chicago Record-Herald._



Mr. ROBERT HERRICK'S NOVELS

_Cloth, extra, gilt tops, each, $1.50_


=The Gospel of Freedom=

     "A novel that may truly be called the greatest study of
     social life, in a broad and very much up-to-date sense, that
     has ever been contributed to American fiction."--_Chicago
     Inter-Ocean._


=The Web of Life=

     "It is strong in that it faithfully depicts many phases of
     American life, and uses them to strengthen a web of fiction,
     which is most artistically wrought out."--_Buffalo Express._


=The Real World=

     "The title of the book has a subtle intention. It indicates,
     and is true to the verities in doing so, the strange
     dreamlike quality of life to the man who has not yet fought
     his own battles, or come into conscious possession of his
     will--only such battles bite into the
     consciousness."--_Chicago Tribune._


=The Common Lot=

     "It grips the reader tremendously.... It is the drama of a
     human soul the reader watches ... the finest study of human
     motive that has appeared for many a day."--_The World
     To-day._


=The Memoirs of an American Citizen.= Illustrated with about fifty
drawings by F. B. Masters.

     "Mr. Herrick's book is a book among many, and he comes
     nearer to reflecting a certain kind of recognizable,
     contemporaneous American spirit than anybody has yet
     done."--_New York Times._

     "Intensely absorbing as a story, it is also a crisp,
     vigorous document of startling significance. More than any
     other writer to-day he is giving us _the_ American
     novel."--_New York Globe._


=Together=

     "Journeys end in lovers meeting," says the old saw; so all
     novels used to end--in marriage. Yet Mr. Herrick's
     interesting new novel only begins there; the best brief
     description of it is, indeed,--a novel about married people
     for all who are married.



Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS

     Mr. Crawford has no equal as a writer of brilliant
     cosmopolitan fiction, in which the characters really belong
     to the chosen scene and the story interest is strong. His
     novels possess atmosphere in a high degree.


Mr. Isaacs

     (India)

     Its scenes are laid in Simla, chiefly. This is the work
     which first placed its author among the most brilliant
     novelists of his day.


Greifenstein

     (The Black Forest)

     "... Another notable contribution to the literature of the
     day. It possesses originality in its conception and is a
     work of unusual ability. Its interest is sustained to the
     close, and it is an advance even on the previous work of
     this talented author. Like all Mr. Crawford's work, this
     novel is crisp, clear, and vigorous, and will be read with a
     great deal of interest."--_New York Evening Telegram._


Zoroaster

     (Persia)

     "It is a drama in the force of its situations and in the
     poetry and dignity of its language; but its men and women
     are not men and women of a play. By the naturalness of their
     conversation and behavior they seem to live and lay hold of
     our human sympathy more than the same characters on a stage
     could possibly do."--_The New York Times._


The Witch of Prague

     (Bohemia)

_"A fantastic tale," illustrated by W. J. Hennessy._

     "The artistic skill with which this extraordinary story is
     constructed and carried out is admirable and delightful....
     Mr. Crawford has scored a decided triumph, for the interest
     of the tale is sustained throughout.... A very remarkable,
     powerful, and interesting story."--_New York Tribune._


Paul Patoff

     (Constantinople)

     "Mr. Crawford has a marked talent for assimilating local
     color, not to make mention of a broader historical sense.
     Even though he may adopt, as it is the romancer's right to
     do, the extreme romantic view of history, it is always a
     living and moving picture that he evolves for us, varied and
     stirring."--_New York Evening Post._


Marietta

     (Venice)

     "No living writer can surpass Mr. Crawford in the
     construction of a complicated plot and the skilful
     unravelling of the tangled skein."--_Chicago Record-Herald._

     "He has gone back to the field of his earlier triumphs, and
     has, perhaps, scored the greatest triumph of them
     all."--_New York Herald._



Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS

NOVELS OF ROMAN SOCIAL LIFE

_In decorated cloth covers, each, $1.50_


=A Roman Singer=

     "One of the earliest and best works of this famous
     novelist.... None but a genuine artist could have made so
     true a picture of human life, crossed by human passions and
     interwoven with human weakness. It is a perfect specimen of
     literary art."--_The Newark Advertiser._


=Marzio's Crucifix=

     "We have repeatedly had occasion to say that Mr. Crawford
     possesses in an extraordinary degree the art of constructing
     a story. It is as if it could not have been written
     otherwise, so naturally does the story unfold itself, and so
     logical and consistent is the sequence of incident after
     incident. As a story, _Marzio's Crucifix_ is perfectly
     constructed."--_New York Commercial Advertiser._


=Heart of Rome.= A Tale of the Lost Water

     "Mr. Crawford has written a story of absorbing interest, a
     story with a genuine thrill in it; he has drawn his
     characters with a sure and brilliant touch, and he has said
     many things surpassingly well."--_New York Times Saturday
     Review._


=Cecilia.= A Story of Modern Rome

     "That F. Marion Crawford is a master of mystery needs no new
     telling.... His latest novel, _Cecilia_, is as weird as
     anything he has done since the memorable _Mr. Isaacs_.... A
     strong, interesting, dramatic story, with the picturesque
     Roman setting beautifully handled as only a master's touch
     could do it."--_Philadelphia Evening Telegraph._


=Whosoever Shall Offend=

     "It is a story sustained from beginning to end by an ever
     increasing dramatic quality."--_New York Evening Post._


=Pietro Ghisleri=

     "The imaginative richness, the marvellous ingenuity of plot,
     the power and subtlety of the portrayal of character, the
     charm of the romantic environment,--the entire atmosphere,
     indeed,--rank this novel at once among the great
     creations."--_The Boston Budget._


=To Leeward=

     "The four characters with whose fortunes this novel deals
     are, perhaps, the most brilliantly executed portraits in the
     whole of Mr. Crawford's long picture gallery, while for
     subtle insight into the springs of human passion and for
     swift dramatic action none of the novels surpasses this
     one."--_The News and Courier._


=A Lady of Rome=



Mr. F. MARION CRAWFORD'S NOVELS

WITH SCENES LAID IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA

_In the binding of the Uniform Edition_


=A Tale of a Lonely Parish=

     "It is a pleasure to have anything so perfect of its kind as
     this brief and vivid story.... It is doubly a success, being
     full of human sympathy, as well as thoroughly artistic in
     its nice balancing of the unusual with the commonplace, the
     clever juxtaposition of innocence and guilt, comedy and
     tragedy, simplicity and intrigue."--_Critic._


=Dr. Claudius.= A True Story

     The scene changes from Heidelberg to New York, and much of
     the story develops during the ocean voyage.

     "There is a satisfying quality in Mr. Crawford's strong,
     vital, forceful stories."--_Boston Herald._


=An American Politician.= The scenes are laid in Boston

     "It need scarcely be said that the story is skilfully and
     picturesquely written, portraying sharply individual
     characters in well-defined surroundings."--_New York
     Commercial Advertiser._


=The Three Fates=

     "Mr. Crawford has manifestly brought his best qualities as a
     student of human nature and his finest resources as a master
     of an original and picturesque style to bear upon this
     story. Taken for all in all, it is one of the most pleasing
     of all his productions in fiction, and it affords a view of
     certain phases of American, or perhaps we should say of New
     York, life that have not hitherto been treated with anything
     like the same adequacy and felicity."--_Boston Beacon._


=Marion Darche=

     "Full enough of incident to have furnished material for
     three or four stories.... A most interesting and engrossing
     book. Every page unfolds new possibilities, and the
     incidents multiply rapidly."--_Detroit Free Press._

     "We are disposed to rank _Marion Darche_ as the best of Mr.
     Crawford's American stories."--_The Literary World._


=Katharine Lauderdale=


=The Ralstons.= A Sequel to "Katharine Lauderdale"

     "Mr. Crawford at his best is a great novelist, and in
     _Katharine Lauderdale_ we have him at his best."--_Boston
     Daily Advertiser._

     "A most admirable novel, excellent in style, flashing with
     humor, and full of the ripest and wisest reflections upon
     men and women."--_The Westminster Gazette._

     "It is the first time, we think, in American fiction that
     any such breadth of view has shown itself in the study of
     our social framework."--_Life._


     THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
     PUBLISHERS, 64-66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK





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