Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Armorel of Lyonesse - A Romance of To-day
Author: Besant, Walter, 1836-1901
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 "Armorel of Lyonesse - A Romance of To-day" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: _Frontispiece._ _Her face turned towards the window._]



    ARMOREL OF LYONESSE

    A Romance of To-day


    BY

    WALTER BESANT

    AUTHOR OF 'ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS OF MEN'


    [Illustration]


    A NEW EDITION

    _WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRED. BARNARD_


    London

    CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY

    1891



the Proprietors of 'The Illustrated London News'_



CONTENTS


_PART I._

    CHAPTER                                     PAGE

         I. THE CHILD OF SAMSON                    1

        II. PRESENTED BY THE SEA                  11

       III. IN THE BAR PARLOUR                    17

        IV. THE GOLDEN TORQUE                     23

         V. THE ENCHANTED ISLAND                  35

        VI. THE FLOWER-FARM                       45

       VII. A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY                 56

      VIII. THE VOYAGERS                          62

        IX. THE LAST DAY BUT ONE                  69

         X. MR. FLETCHER RETURNS FOR HIS BAG      80

        XI. ROLAND'S LETTER                       86

       XII. THE CHANGE                            91

      XIII. ARMOREL'S INHERITANCE                 95


_PART II._

         I. SWEET COZ                            115

        II. THE SONATA                           122

       III. THE CLEVEREST MAN IN LONDON          127

        IV. MASTER OF ALL THE ARTS               134

         V. ONLY A SIMPLE SERVICE                139

        VI. THE OTHER STUDIO                     148

       VII. A CANDID OPINION                     153

      VIII. ALL ABOUT MYSELF                     160

        IX. TO MAKE HIM HAPPY                    166

         X. THE SECRET OF THE TWO PICTURES       173

        XI. A CRITIC ON TRUTH                    178

       XII. TO MAKE THAT PROMISE SURE            186

      XIII. THE DRAMATIST                        192

       XIV. AN HONOURABLE PROPOSAL               198

        XV. NOT TWO MEN, BUT ONE                 201

       XVI. THE PLAY AND THE COMEDY              205

      XVII. THE NATIONAL GALLERY                 217

     XVIII. CONGRATULATIONS                      223

       XIX. WHAT NEXT?                           229

        XX. A RECOVERY AND A FLIGHT              235

       XXI. ALL LOST BUT----                     242

      XXII. THE END OF WORLDLY TROUBLES          254

     XXIII. THE HOUR OF TRIUMPH                  264

      XXIV. THE CUP AND THE LIP                  267

       XXV. TO FORGET IT ALL                     280

      XXVI. NOT THE HEIR, AFTER ALL              288

     XXVII. THE DESERT ISLAND                    292

    XXVIII. AT HOME                              299

      XXIX. THE TRESPASS OFFERING                306



ARMOREL OF LYONESSE



_PART I_


CHAPTER I

THE CHILD OF SAMSON


It was the evening of a fine September day. Through the square window,
built out so as to form another room almost as large as that which had
been thus enlarged, the autumn sun, now fast declining to the west,
poured in warm and strong; but not too warm or too strong for the girl
on whose head it fell as she sat leaning back in the low chair, her
face turned towards the window. The sun of Scilly is never too fierce
or too burning in summer, nor in winter does it ever lose its force;
in July, when the people of the adjacent islands of Great Britain and
Ireland venture not forth into the glare of the sun, here the soft sea
mists and the strong sea air temper the heat; and in December the sun
still shines with a lingering warmth, as if he loved the place. This
girl lived in the sunshine all the year round; rowed in it; lay in it;
basked in it bare-headed, summer and winter; in the winter she would
sit sheltered from the wind in some warm corner of the rocks; in
summer she would lie on the hillside or stand upon the high headlands
and the sea-beat crags, while the breezes, which in the Land of
Lyonesse do never cease, played with her long tresses and kept her
soft cheek cool.

The window was wide open on all three sides; the girl had been doing
some kind of work, but it had dropped from her hands, and now lay
unregarded on the floor; she was gazing upon the scene before her, but
with the accustomed eyes which looked out upon it every day. A girl
who has such a picture continually before her all day long never tires
of it, though she may not be always consciously considering it and
praising it. The stranger, for his part, cannot choose but cry aloud
for admiration; but the native, who knows it as no stranger can, is
silent. The house, half-way up the low hill, looked out upon the
south--to be exact, its aspect was S. W. by S.--so that from this
window the girl saw always, stretched out at her feet, the ocean, now
glowing in the golden sunshine of September. Had she been tall enough,
she might even have seen the coast of South America, the nearest land
in the far distance. Looking S. W., that is, she would have seen the
broad mouth of Oroonooque and the shores of El Dorado. This broad
sea-scape was broken exactly in the middle by the Bishop's Rock and
its stately lighthouse rising tall and straight out of the water; on
the left hand the low hill of Annet shut out the sea; and on the right
Great Minalto, rugged and black, the white foam always playing round
its foot or flying over its great black northern headland, bounded and
framed the picture. Almost in the middle of the water, not more than
two miles distant, a sailing ship, all sails set, made swift way,
bound outward one knows not whither. Lovely at all times is a ship in
full sail, but doubly lovely when she is seen from afar, sailing on a
smooth sea, under a cloudless sky, the sun of afternoon lighting up
her white sails. No other ships were in sight; there was not even the
long line of smoke which proclaims the steamer below the horizon;
there was not even a Penzance fishing-boat tacking slowly homewards
with brown sails and its two masts: in this direction there was no
other sign of man.

The girl, I say, saw this sight every day: she never tired of it,
partly because no one ever tires of the place in which he was born and
has lived--not even an Arab of the Great Sandy Desert; partly because
the sea, which has been called, by unobservant poets, unchanging, does
in fact change--face, colour, mood, even shape--every day, and is
never the same, except, perhaps, when the east wind of March covers
the sky with a monotony of grey, and takes the colour out of the face
of ocean as it takes the colour from the granite rocks, last year's
brown and yellow fern, and the purple heath. To this girl, who lived
with the sea around her, it always formed a setting, a background, a
frame for her thoughts and dreams. Wherever she went, whatever she
said or sang, or thought or did, there was always in her ears the
lapping or the lashing of the waves; always before her eyes was the
white surge flying over the rocks; always the tumbling waves. But, as
for what she actually thought or what she dreamed, seeing how ignorant
of the world she was, and how innocent and how young, and as for what
was passing in her mind this afternoon as she sat at the window, I
know not. On the first consideration of the thing, one would be
inclined to ask how, without knowledge, can a girl think, or imagine,
or dream anything? On further thought, one understands that knowledge
has very little to do with dreams or fancies. Yet, with or without
knowledge, no poet, sacred bard, or prophet has ever been able to
divine the thoughts of a girl, or to interpret them, or even to set
them down in consecutive language. I suppose they are not, in truth,
thoughts. Thought implies reasoning and the connection of facts, and
the experience of life as far as it has gone. A young maiden's mind is
full of dimly seen shadows and pallid ghosts which flit across the
brain and disappear. These shadows have the semblance of shape, but
it is dim and uncertain: they have the pretence of colour, but it
changes every moment: if they seem to show a face, it vanishes
immediately and is forgotten. Yet these shadows smile upon the young
with kindly eyes; they beckon with their fingers, and point to where,
low down on the horizon, with cloudy outline, lies the Purple
Island--to such a girl as this the future is always a small island
girt by the sea, far off and lonely. The shadows whisper to her; they
sing to her; but no girl has ever yet told us--even if she
understands--what it is they tell her.

She had been lying there, quiet and motionless, for an hour or more,
ever since the tea-things had been taken away--at Holy Hill they have
tea at half-past four. The ancient lady who was in the room with her
had fallen back again into the slumber which held her nearly all day
long as well as all the night. The house seemed thoroughly wrapped and
lapped in the softest peace and stillness; in one corner a high clock,
wooden-cased, swung its brass pendulum behind a pane of glass with
solemn and sonorous chronicle of the moments, so that they seemed to
march rather than to fly. A clock ought not to tick as if Father Time
were hurried and driven along without dignity and by a scourge. This
clock, for one, was not in a hurry. Its tick showed that Time rests
not--but hastes not. There is admonition in such a clock. When it has
no one to admonish but a girl whose work depends on her own sweet
will, its voice might seem thrown away; yet one never knows the worth
of an admonition. Besides, the clock suited the place and the room.
Where should Time march with solemn step and slow, if not on the quiet
island of Samson, in the archipelago of Scilly? On its face was
written the name of its maker, plain for all the world to see--'Peter
Trevellick, Penzance, A.D. 1741.'

The room was not ceiled, but showed the dark joists and beams above,
once painted, but a long time ago. The walls were wainscotted and
painted drab, after an old fashion now gone out: within the panels
hung coloured prints, which must have been there since the beginning
of this century. They represented rural subjects--the farmer sitting
before a sirloin of beef, while his wife, a cheerful nymph, brought
him 'Brown George,' foaming with her best home-brewed; the children
hung about his knees expectant of morsels; or the rustic bade farewell
to his sweetheart, the recruiting-sergeant waiting for him, and the
villagers, to a woman, bathed in tears. There were half a dozen of
those compositions simply coloured. I believe they are now worth much
money. But there were many other things in this room worth money.
Opposite the fireplace stood a cabinet of carved oak, black with age,
precious beyond price. Behind its glass windows one could see a
collection of things once strange and rare--things which used to be
brought home by sailors long before steamers ploughed every ocean and
globe-trotters trotted over every land. There were wonderful things
in coral, white and red and pink; Venus's-fingers from the
Philippines; fans from the Seychelles; stuffed birds of wondrous hue,
daggers and knives, carven tomahawks, ivory toys, and many other
wonders from the far East and fabulous Cathay. Beside the cabinet was
a wooden desk, carved in mahogany, with a date of 1645, said to have
been brought to the islands by one of the Royalist prisoners whom
Cromwell hanged upon the highest carn of Hangman's Island. There was
no escaping Cromwell--not even in Scilly any more than in Jamaica. In
one corner was a cupboard, the door standing open. No collector ever
came here to gaze upon the treasures unspeakable of cups and saucers,
plates and punch-bowls. On the mantelshelf were brass candlesticks and
silver candlesticks, side by side with 'ornaments' of china, pink and
gold, belonging to the artistic reign of good King George the Fourth.
On the hearthrug before the fire, which was always burning in this
room all the year round, lay an old dog sleeping.

Everybody knows the feeling of a room or a house belonging to the old.
Even if the windows are kept open, the air is always close. Rest, a
gentle, elderly angel, sits in the least frequented room with folded
wings. Sleep is always coming to the doors at all hours: for the sake
of Rest and Sleep the house must be kept very quiet: nobody must ever
laugh in the house: there is none of the litter that children make:
nothing is out of its place: nothing is disturbed: the furniture is
old-fashioned and formal: the curtains are old and faded: the carpets
are old, faded, and worn: it is always evening: everything belonging
to the house has done its work: all together, like the tenant, are
sitting still--solemn, hushed, at rest, waiting for the approaching
end.

The only young thing at Holy Hill was the girl at the window.
Everything else was old--the servants, the farm labourers, the house
and the furniture. In the great hooded arm-chair beside the fire
reposed the proprietor, tenant, or owner of all. She was the oldest
and most venerable dame ever seen. At this time she was asleep: her
head had dropped forward a little, but not much; her eyes were closed;
her hands were folded in her lap. She was now so very ancient that she
never left her chair except for her bed; also, by reason of her great
antiquity, she now passed most of the day in sleep, partly awake in
the morning, when she gazed about and asked questions of the day. But
sometimes, as you will presently see, she revived again in the
evening, became lively and talkative, and suffered her memory to
return to the ancient days.

By the assistance of her handmaidens, this venerable lady was enabled
to present an appearance both picturesque and pleasing, chiefly
because it carried the imagination back to a period so very remote. To
begin with, she wore her bonnet all day long. Fifty years ago it was
not uncommon in country places to find very old ladies who wore their
bonnets all day long. Ursula Rosevean, however, was the last who still
preserved that ancient custom. It was a large bonnet that she wore, a
kind of bonnet calculated to impress very deeply the imagination of
one--whether male or female--who saw it for the first time: it was of
bold design, as capacious as a store-ship, as flowing in its lines as
an old man-of-war--inspired to a certain extent by the fashions of the
Waterloo period--yet, in great part, of independent design. Those few
who were permitted to gaze upon the bonnet beheld it reverently.
Within the bonnet an adroit arrangement of cap and ribbons concealed
whatever of baldness or exiguity as to locks--but what does one know?
Venus Calva has never been worshipped by men; and women only pay their
tribute at her shrine from fear--never from love. The face of the
sleeping lady reminded one--at first, vaguely--of history. Presently
one perceived that it was the identical face which that dread
occidental star, Queen Elizabeth herself, would have assumed had she
lived to the age of ninety-five, which was Ursula's time of life in
the year 1884. For it was an aquiline face, thin and sharp; and if her
eyes had been open you would have remarked that they were bright and
piercing, also like those of the Tudor Queen. Her cheek still
preserved something of the colour which had once made it beautiful;
but cheek and forehead alike were covered with lines innumerable, and
her withered hands seemed to have grown too small for their natural
glove. She was dressed in black silk, and wore a gold chain about her
neck.

The clock struck half-past five, melodiously. Then the girl started
and sat upright--as awakened out of her dream. 'Armorel,' it seemed to
say--nay, since it seemed to say, it actually did say--'Child Armorel,
I am old and wise. For a hundred and forty-three years, ever since I
left the hands of the ingenious Peter Trevellick, of Penzance, in the
year 1741, I have been counting the moments, never ceasing save at
those periods when surgical operations have been necessary. In each
year there are 31,536,000 moments. Judge, therefore, for yourself how
many moments in all I have counted. I must, you will own, be very wise
indeed. I am older even than your great-great-grandmother. I remember
her a baby first, and then a pretty child, and then a beautiful woman,
for all she is now so worn and wizened. I remember her father and her
grandfather. Also her brothers and her son, and her grandson--and your
own father, dear Armorel. The moments pass: they never cease: I tell
them as they go. You have but short space to do all you wish to do.
You, child, have done nothing at all yet. But the moments pass.
Patience. For you, too, work will be found. Youth passes. You can hear
it pass. I tell the moments in which it melts away and vanishes. Age
itself shall pass. You may listen if you please. I tell the moments in
which it slowly passes.'

Armorel looked at the clock with serious eyes during the delivery of
this fine sermon, the whole bearing of which she did not perhaps
comprehend. Then she started up suddenly and sprang to her feet, stung
by a sudden pang of restlessness, with a quick breath and a sigh. We
who have passed the noon of life are apt to forget the disease of
restlessness to which youth is prone: it is an affection which greatly
troubles that period of life, though it should be the happiest and the
most contented; it is a disorder due to anticipation, impatience, and
inexperience. The voyage is all before: youth is eager to be sailing
on that unknown ocean full of strange islands. Who would not be
restless with such a journey before one and such discoveries to make?

Armorel opened the door noiselessly, and slipped out. At the same
moment the old dog awoke and crept out with her, going delicately and
on tiptoe, lest he should awaken the ancient lady. In the hall outside
the girl stood listening. The house was quite silent, save that from
the kitchen there was wafted on the air a soft droning--gentle,
melodious, and murmurous, like the contented booming of a bumble-bee
among the figwort. Armorel laughed gently. 'Oh!' she murmured, 'they
are all asleep. Grandmother is asleep in the parlour; Dorcas and
Chessun are asleep in the kitchen; Justinian is asleep in the cottage;
and I suppose the boy is asleep somewhere in the farmyard.'

The girl led the way, and the dog followed.

She passed through the door into the garden of the front. It was not
exactly a well-ordered garden, because everything seemed to grow as it
pleased; but then in Samson you have not to coax flowers and plants
into growing: they grow because it pleases them to grow: this is the
reason why they grow so tall and so fast. The garden faced the
south-west, and was protected from the north and east by the house
itself and by a high stone wall. There is not anywhere on the island a
warmer and sunnier corner than this little front garden of Holy Hill.
The geranium clambered up the walls beside and among the branches of
the tree-fuchsia, both together covering the front of the house with
the rich colouring of their flowers. On either side of the door grew a
great tree, with gnarled trunk and twisted branches, of lemon verbena,
fragrant and sweet, perfuming the air; the myrtles were like unto
trees for size; the very marguerites ran to timber of the smaller
kind; the pampas-grass in the warmest corner rose eight feet high,
waving its long silver plumes; the tall stalk still stood which had
borne the flowers of an aloe that very summer; the leaves of the plant
itself were slowly dying away, their life-work, which is nothing at
all but the production of that one flowering stem, finished. That
done, the world has no more attractions for the aloe: it is
content--it slowly dies away. And in the front of the garden was a row
of tall dracæna palms. An old ship's figure-head, thrown ashore after
a wreck, representing the head and bust of a beautiful maiden, gilded,
but with a good deal of the gilt rubbed off, stood on the left hand
of the garden, half hidden by another fuchsia-tree in flower: and a
huge old-fashioned ship's lantern hung from an iron bar projecting
over the door of the house.

The house itself was of stone, with a roof of small slates. Impossible
to say how old it was, because in this land stone-work ages rapidly,
and soon becomes covered with yellow and orange lichen, while in the
interstices there grows the grey sandwort; and in the soft sea air and
the damp sea mists the sharp edges even of granite are quickly rounded
off and crumbled. But it was a very old house, save for the square
projecting window, which had been added recently--say thirty or forty
years ago--a long, low house of two storeys, simply built; it stands
half-way up the hill which slopes down to the water's edge; it is
protected from the north and north-east winds, which are the deadliest
enemies to Scilly, partly by the hill behind and partly by a spur of
grey rock running like an ancient Cyclopean wall down the whole face
of the hill into the sea, where for many a fathom it sticks out black
teeth, round which the white surge rises and tumbles, even in the
calmest time.

Beyond the garden-wall--why they wanted a garden-wall I know not,
except for the pride and dignity of the thing--was a narrow green,
with a little, a very little, pond; in the pond there were ducks; and
beside the green was a small farmyard, containing everything that a
farmyard should contain, except a stable. It had no stable, because
there are no horses or carts upon the island. Pigs there are, and
cows; fowls there are, and ducks and geese, and a single donkey for
the purpose of carrying the flower-baskets from the farm to the
landing-place; but neither horse nor cart.

Beyond the farmyard was a cottage, exactly like the house, but
smaller. It was thatched, and on the thatch grew clumps of samphire.
This was the abode of Justinian Tryeth, bailiff, head man, or foreman,
who managed the farm. When you have named Ursula Rosevean, and
Armorel, her great-great-granddaughter, and Justinian Tryeth, and
Dorcas his wife--she was a native of St. Agnes, and therefore a Hicks
by birth--Peter his son, and Chessun his daughter, you have a complete
directory of the island, because nobody else now lives on Samson.
Formerly, however, and almost within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant, according to the computation of antiquaries and the voice
of tradition, this island maintained a population of over two score.

The hill which rises behind the house is the southern hill of the two,
which, with the broad valley between them, make up the island of
Samson. This hill slopes steeply seaward to south and west. It is not
a lofty hill, by any means. In Scilly there are no lofty hills. When
Nature addressed herself to the construction of this archipelago she
brought to the task a light touch: at the moment she happened to be
full of feeling for the great and artistic effects which may be
produced by small elevations, especially in those places where the
material is granite. Therefore, though she raised no Alpine peak in
Scilly, she provided great abundance and any variety of bold
coast-line with rugged cliffs, lofty carns, and headlands piled with
rocks. And her success as an artist in this _genre_ has been
undoubtedly wonderful. The actual measurement of Holy Hill,
Samson--but why should we measure?--has been taken, for the admiration
of the world, by the Ordnance Survey. It is really no more than a
hundred and thirty-two feet--not a foot more or less. But then one
knows hills ten times that height--the Herefordshire Beacon, for
example--which are not half so mountainous in the effect produced.
Only a hundred and thirty-two feet--yet on its summit one feels the
exhilaration of spirits caused by the air, elsewhere of five thousand
feet at least. On its southern and western slopes lie the fields which
form the flower-farm of Holy Hill.

Below the farmyard the ground sloped more steeply to the water: the
slope was covered with short heather fern, now brown and yellow, and
long trailing branches of bramble, now laden with ripe blackberries,
the leaves enriched with blazon of gold and purple and crimson.

Armorel ran across the green and plunged among the fern, tossing her
arms and singing aloud, the old dog trotting and jumping, but with
less elasticity, beside her. She was bare-headed; the sunshine made
her dark cheeks ruddy and caused her black eyes to glow. Hebe, young
and strong, loves Phoebus, and fears not any freckles. When she came
to the water's edge, where the boulders lie piled in a broken mass
among and above the water, she stood still and looked across the sea,
silent for a moment. Then she began to sing in a strong contralto; but
no one could hear her, not even the coastguard on Telegraph Hill, or
he of the Star Fort: the song she sang was one taught her by the old
lady, who had sung it herself in the old, old days, when the road was
always filled with merchantmen waiting for convoy up the Channel, and
when the islands were rich with the trade of the ships, and their
piloting, and their wrecks--to say nothing of the free trade which
went on gallantly and without break or stop. As she sang she lifted
her arms and swung them in slow cadence, as a Nautch-girl sometimes
swings her arms. What she sang was none other than the old song--

    Early one morning, just as the sun was rising,
    I heard a maid sing in the valley below:
        Oh! don't deceive me. Oh! never leave me.
        How could you use a poor maiden so?

In the year of grace 1884 Armorel was fifteen years of age. But she
looked nineteen or twenty, because she was so tall and so well-grown.
She was dressed simply in a blue flannel; the straw hat which she
carried in her hand was trimmed with red ribbons; at her throat she
had stuck a red verbena--she naturally took to red, because her
complexion was so dark. Black hair; black eyes; a strongly marked
brow; a dark cheek of warm and ruddy hue; the lips full, but the mouth
finely curved; features large but regular--she was already, though so
young, a tall and handsome woman. Those able to understand things
would recognise in her dark complexion, in her carriage, in her eyes,
and in her upright figure, the true Castilian touch. The gipsy is
swarthy; the negro is black; the mulatto is dusky: it is not the
colour alone, but the figure and the carriage also, which mark the
Spanish blood. A noble Spanish lady; yet how could she get to Samson?

She wore no gloves--you cannot buy gloves in Samson--and her hands
were brown with exposure to sea and sun, to wind and rain: they were
by no means tiny hands, but strong and capable hands; her arms--no one
ever saw them, but for shape and whiteness they could not be
matched--would have disgraced no young fellow of her own age for
strength and muscle. That was fairly to be expected in one who
continually sailed and rowed across the inland seas of this
archipelago; who went to church by boat and to market by boat; who
paid her visits by boat and transacted her business by boat, and went
by boat to do her shopping. She who rows every day upon the salt
water, and knows how to manage a sail when the breeze is strong and
the Atlantic surge rolls over the rocks and roughens the still water
of the road, must needs be strong and sound. For my own part, I admire
not the fragile maiden so much as her who rejoices in her strength.
Youth, in woman as well as in man, should be brave and lusty; clean of
limb as well as of heart; strong of arm as well as of will; enduring
hardness of voluntary labour as well as hardness of involuntary pain;
with feet that can walk, run, and climb, and with hands that can hold
on. Such a girl as Armorel--so tall, so strong, so healthy--offers,
methinks, a home ready-made for all the virtues, and especially the
virtues feminine, to house themselves therein. Here they will remain,
growing stronger every day, until at last they have become part and
parcel of the very girl herself, and cannot be parted from her.
Whereas, when they visit the puny creature, weak, timid, delicate--but
no--'tis better to remain silent.

How many times had the girl wandered, morning or afternoon, down the
rough face of the hill, and stood looking vaguely out to sea, and
presently returned home again? How many such walks had she taken and
forgotten? For a hundred times--yea, a thousand times--we do over and
over again the old familiar action, the little piece of the day's
routine, and forget it when we lie down to sleep. But there comes the
thousandth time, when the same thing is done again in the same way,
yet is never to be forgotten. For on that day happens the thing which
changes and charges a whole life. It is the first of many days. It is
the beginning of new days. From it, whatever may have happened before,
everything shall now be dated until the end. Mohammed lived many
years, but all the things that happened unto him or his successors
are dated from the Flight. Is it for nothing that it has been told
what things Armorel did and how she looked on this day? Not so, but
for the sake of what happened afterwards, and because the history of
Armorel begins with this restless fit, which drove her out of the
quiet room down the hillside to the sea. Her history begins, like
every history of a woman worth relating, with the man cast by the sea
upon the shores of her island. The maiden always lives upon an island,
and whether the man is cast upon the shore by the sea of Society, or
the sea of travel, or the sea of accident, or the sea of adventure, or
the sea of briny waves and roaring winds and jagged rocks, matters
little. To Armorel it was the last. To you, dear Dorothy or Violet, it
will doubtless be by the sea of Society. And the day that casts him
before your feet will ever after begin a new period in your reckoning.

Armorel stopped her song as suddenly as she had begun it. She stopped
because on the water below her, not far from the shore, she saw a
strange thing. She had good sea eyes--an ordinary telescope does not
afford a field of vision much larger or clearer across water than
Armorel's eyes--but the thing was so strange that she shaded her
forehead with her hand, and looked more curiously.

It would be strange on any evening, even after the calmest day of
summer, when the sun is setting low, to see a small boat going out
beyond Samson towards the Western Islets. There the swell of ocean is
always rolling among the rocks and round the crags and headlands of
the isles. Only in calm weather and in broad daylight can the boatman
who knows the place venture in those waters. Not even the most skilled
boatman would steer for the Outer Islands at sunset. For there are
hidden rocks, long ridges of teeth that run out from the islands to
tear and grind to powder any boat that should be caught in their
devouring jaws. There are currents also which run swiftly and
unexpectedly between the islands to sweep the boat along with them
till it shall strike the rocks and so go down with any who are abroad;
and there are strong gusts which sweep round the headlands and blow
through the narrow sounds. So that it is only when the day is calm and
in the full light of the sun that a boat can sail among these islands.

Yet Armorel saw a boat on the water, not half a mile from Samson, with
two men on board. More than this, the boat was apparently without oars
or sails, and it was drifting out to sea. What did this mean?

She looked and wondered. She looked again, and she remembered.

The tide was ebbing, the boat was floating out with the tide; the
breeze had dropped, but there was still something left--what there was
came from the south-east and helped the boat along; there was not much
sea, but the feet of Great Minalto were white, and the white foam kept
leaping up the sides, and on her right, over the ledges round White
Island, the water was tearing and boiling, a white and angry heap.
Why, the wind was getting up, and the sun was setting, and if they did
not begin to row back as hard as they could, and that soon, they would
be out to sea and in the dark.

She looked again, and she thought more. The sinking sun fell upon the
boat, and lit it up so plainly that she could now see very well two
things. First, that the boat was really without any oars or sails at
all; and next, that the two men in her were not natives of Scilly. She
could not discern their faces, but she could tell by their appearance
and the way they sat in the boat that they were not men of the place.
Besides, what would an islander want out in a boat at such a time and
in such a place? They were, therefore, visitors; and by the quiet way
in which they sat, as if it mattered not at all, it was perfectly
plain that they understood little or nothing of their danger.

Again she considered, and now it became certain to her, looking down
upon the boat, that the current was not taking her out to sea at all,
which would be dangerous enough, but actually straight on the ridge or
ledge of rocks lying off the south-west of White Island. Then, seized
with sudden terror, she turned and fled back to the farm.



CHAPTER II

PRESENTED BY THE SEA


'Peter!' cried Armorel in the farmyard. 'Peter! Peter! Wake up! Where
is the boy? Wake up and come quick!'

The boy was not sleeping, however, and came forth slowly, but
obediently, in rustic fashion. He was a little older than most of
those who still permit themselves to be called boys: unless his looks
deceived one, he was a great deal older, for he was entirely bald,
save for a few long, scattered hairs, which were white. His beard and
whiskers also consisted of nothing but a few sparse white hairs. He
moved heavily, without the spring of boyhood in his feet. Had Peter
jumped or run, one might in haste have inferred a condition of drink
or mental disorder. As for his shoulders, too, they were rounded, as
if by the weight of years--a thing which is rarely seen in boys. Yet
Armorel called this antique person 'the boy,' and he answered to the
name without remonstrance.

'Quick, Peter!' she cried. 'There's a boat drifting on White Island
Ledge, and the tide's running out strong; and there are two men in
her, and they've got no oars in the boat. Ignorant trippers, I
suppose! They will both be killed to a certainty, unless---- Quick!'

Peter followed her flying footsteps with a show of haste and a
movement of the legs approaching alacrity. But then he was always a
slow boy, and one who loved to have his work done for him. Therefore,
when he reached the landing-place, he found that Armorel was well
before him, and that she had already shipped mast and sail and oars,
and was waiting for him to shove off.

Samson has two landing beaches, one on the north-east below Bryher
Hill, and the other farther south, on the eastern side of the valley.
There might be a third, better than either, on Porth Bay, if anyone
desired to put off there, on the west side facing the other islands,
where nobody has any business at all except to see the rocks or shoot
wild birds.

The beach used by the Holy Hill folk was the second of these two; here
they kept their boats, and had their old stone boat-house to store the
gear; and it was here that Armorel stood waiting for her companion.

Peter was slow on land; at sea, however, he alone is slow who does not
know what can be got out of a boat, and how it can be got. Peter did
possess this knowledge; all the islanders, in fact, have it. They are
born with it. They also know that nothing at sea is gained by hurry.
It is a maxim which is said to rule or govern their conduct on land as
well as afloat. Peter, therefore, when he had pushed off, sat down and
took an oar with no more appearance of hurry than if he were taking a
boat-load of boxes filled with flowers across to the port. Armorel
took the other oar.

'They are drifting on White Island Ledge,' repeated Armorel; 'and the
tide is running out fast.'

Peter made no reply--Armorel expected none--but dipped his oar. They
rowed in silence for ten minutes. Then Peter found utterance, and
spoke slowly.

'Twenty years ago--I remember it well--a boat went ashore on that very
Ledge. The tide was running out--strong, like to-night. There was
three men in her--visitors they were, who wanted to save the boatman's
pay. Their bodies was never found.'

Then both pulled on in silence, and doggedly.

In ten minutes or more they had rounded the Point at a respectful
distance, for reasons well known to the navigator and the nautical
surveyor of Scilly. Peter, without a word, shipped his oar. Armorel
did likewise. Then Peter stepped the mast and hoisted the sail,
keeping the line in his own hand, and looked ahead, while Armorel took
the helm.

'It's Jinkins's boat,' said Peter, because they were now in sight of
her. 'What'll Jinkins say when he hears that his boat's gone to
pieces?'

'And the two men? Who are they? Will Jinkins say nothing about the
men?'

'Strangers they are; gentlemen, I suppose. Well, if the breeze doesn't
soon---- Ah, here it is!'

The wind suddenly filled the sail. The boat heeled over under the
breeze, and a moment after was flying through the water straight up
the broad channel between the two Minaltos and Samson.

The sun was very low now. Between them and the west lay the boat they
were pursuing--a small black object, with two black silhouettes of
figures clear against the crimson sky. And now Armorel perceived that
they had by this time gotten an inkling, at least, of their danger,
for they no longer sat passive, but had torn up a plank from the
bottom, with which one, kneeling in the bows, was working as with a
paddle, but without science. The boat yawed this way and that, but
still kept on her course drifting to the rocks.

'If she touches the Ledge, Peter,' said Armorel, 'she will be in
little bits in five minutes. The water is rushing over it like a
mill-stream.'

This she said ignorant of mill-streams, because there are none on
Scilly; but the comparison served.

'If she touches,' Peter replied, 'we may just go home again. For we
shall be no good to nobody.'

Beyond the boat they could plainly see the waters breaking over the
Ledge; the sun lit up the white foam that leaped and flew over the
black rocks just showing their teeth above the water as the tide went
down.

Here is a problem--you may find plenty like it in every book of
algebra. Given a boat drifting upon a ledge of rocks with the current
and the tide; given a boat sailing in pursuit with a fair wind aft;
given also the velocity of the current and the speed of the boat and
the distance of the first boat from the rocks: at what distance must
the second boat commence the race in order to catch up the first
before it drives upon the rocks?

This second boat, paying close attention to the problem, came up hand
over hand, rapidly overtaking the first boat, where the two men not
only understood at last the danger they were in, but also that an
attempt was being made to save them. In fact, one of them, who had
some tincture or flavour of the mathematics left in him from his
school days, remembered the problems of this class, and would have
given a great deal to have been back again in school working out one
of them.

Presently the boats were so near that Peter hailed, 'Boat ahoy! Back
her! Back her! or you'll be upon the rocks. Back her all you know!'

'We've broken our oars,' they shouted.

'Keep her off!' Peter bawled again.

Even with a plank taken from the bottom of the boat a practised
boatman would have been able to keep her off long enough to clear the
rocks; but these two young men were not used to the ways of the sea.

'Put up your hellum,' said Peter, quietly.

'What are you going to do?' The girl obeyed first, as one must do at
sea, and asked the question afterwards.

'There's only one chance. We must cut across her bows. Two lubbers!
They ought not to be trusted with a boat. There's plenty of room.' He
looked at the Ledge ahead and at his own sail. 'Now--steady.' He
tightened the rope, the boat changed her course. Then Peter stood up
and called again, his hand to his mouth, 'Back her! Back her! Back her
all you know!' He sat down and said quietly, 'Now, then--luff it
is--luff--all you can.'

The boat turned suddenly. It was high time. Right in front of
them--only a few yards in front--the water rushed as if over a
cascade, boiling and surging among the rocks. At high tide there would
have been the calm, unruffled surface of the ocean swell; now there
were roaring floods and swelling whirlpools. The girl looked round,
but only for an instant. Then the boat crossed the bows of the other,
and Armorel, as they passed, caught the rope that was held out to her.

One moment more and they were off the rocks, in deep water, towing the
other boat after them.

Then Peter arose, lowered the sail, and took down his mast.

'Nothing,' he said, 'between us and Mincarlo. Now, gentlemen, if you
will step into this boat we can tow yours along with us. So--take
care, sir! Sit in the stern beside the young lady. Can you row, either
of you?'

They could both row, they said. In these days a man is as much ashamed
of not being able to row as, fifty years ago, he was ashamed of not
being able to ride. Peter took one oar and gave the other to the
stranger nearest. Then, without more words, he dipped his oar and
began to row back again. The sun went down, and it suddenly became
cold.

Armorel perceived that the man beside her was quite a young man--not
more than one- or two-and-twenty. He wore brave attire--even a brown
velvet jacket, a white waistcoat, and a crimson necktie; he also had a
soft felt hat. Nature had not yet given him much beard, but what there
was of it he wore pointed, with a light moustache so arranged as to
show how it would be worn when it became of a respectable length. As
he sat in the boat he seemed tall; and he did not look at all like one
of the bawling and boastful trippers who sometimes come over to the
islands for a night and pretend to know how to manage a boat. Yet----

'What do you mean,' asked the girl, severely, 'by going out in a boat,
when you ought to have known very well that you could not manage her?'

'We thought we could,' replied this disconcerted pretender, with
meekness suitable to the occasion. Indeed, under such humiliating
circumstances, Captain Parolles himself would become meek.

'If we had not seen you,' she continued, 'you would most certainly
have been killed.'

'I begin to think we might. We should certainly have gone on those
rocks. But there is an island close by. We could swim.'

'If your boat had touched those rocks you would have been dead in
three minutes,' this maid of wisdom continued. 'Nothing could have
saved you. No boat could have come near you. And to think of standing
or swimming in that current and among those rocks! Oh! but you don't
know Scilly.'

'No,' he replied, still with a meekness that disarmed wrath, 'I'm
afraid not.'

'Tell me how it happened.'

The other man struck in--he who was wielding the oar. He also was a
young man, of shorter and more sturdy build than the other. Had he
not, unfortunately, confined his whole attention in youth to football,
he might have made a good boatman. Really, a young man whose
appearance conveyed no information or suggestion at all about him
except that he seemed healthy, active, and vigorous, and that he was
presumably short-sighted, or he would not have worn spectacles.

'I will tell you how it came about,' he said. 'This man would go
sketching the coast. I told him that the islands are so beautifully
and benevolently built that every good bit has got another bit on the
next island, or across a cove, or on the other side of a bay, put
there on purpose for the finest view of the first bit. You only get
that arrangement, you know, in the Isles of Scilly and the Isles of
Greece. But he wouldn't be persuaded, and so we took a boat and went
to sea, like the three merchants of Bristol city. We saw Jerusalem and
Madagascar very well, and if you hadn't turned up in the nick of time
I believe we should have seen the river Styx as well, with Cocytus
very likely: good old Charon certainly: and Tantalus, too much
punished--overdone--up to his neck.'

Armorel heard, wondering what, in the name of goodness, this talker of
strange language might mean.

'When his oar broke, you know,' the talker went on, 'I began to laugh,
and so I caught a crab; and while I lay in the bottom laughing like
Tom of Bedlam, my oar dropped overboard, and there we were. Five
mortal hours we drifted; but we had tobacco and a flask, and we didn't
mind so very much. Some boat, we thought, might pick us up.'

'Some boat!' echoed Armorel. 'And outside Samson!'

'As for the rocks, we never thought about them. Had we known of the
rocks, we should not have laughed----'

'You have saved our lives,' said the young man in the velvet jacket.
He had a soft sweet voice, which trembled a little as he spoke. And,
indeed, it is a solemn thing to be rescued from certain death.

'Peter did it,' Armorel replied. 'You may thank Peter.'

'Let me thank you,' he said, softly and persuasively. 'The other man
may thank Peter.'

'Just as you like. So long, that is, as you remember that it will have
to be a lesson to you as long as you live never to go out in a boat
without a man.'

'It shall be a lesson. I promise. And the man I go out with, next
time, shall not be you, Dick.'

'Never,' she went on, enforcing the lesson, 'never go in a boat alone,
unless you know the waters. Are you Plymouth trippers? But then
Plymouth people generally know how to handle a boat.'

'We are from London.' In the twilight the blush caused by being taken
for a Plymouth tripper was not perceived. 'I am an artist, and I came
to sketch.' He said this with some slight emphasis and distinction.
There must be no mistaking an artist from London for a Plymouth
tripper.

'You must be hungry.'

'We are ravenous, but at this moment one can only feel that it is
better to be hungry and alive than to be drowned and dead.'

'Oh!' she said, earnestly, 'you don't know how strong the water is. It
would have thrown you down and rolled you over and over among the
rocks, your head would have been knocked to pieces, your face would
have been crushed out of shape, every bone would have been broken:
Peter has seen them so.'

'Ay! ay!' said Peter. 'I've picked 'em up just so. You are well off
those rocks, gentlemen.'

Silence fell upon them. The twilight was deepening, the breeze was
chill. Armorel felt that the young man beside her was shivering--perhaps
with the cold. He looked across the dark water and gasped: 'We are
coming up,' he said, 'out of the gates of death and the jaws of hell.
Strange! to have been so near unto dying. Five minutes more, and there
would have been an end, and two more men would have been created for no
other purpose but to be drowned.'

Armorel made no reply. The oars kept dipping, dipping, evenly and
steadily. Across the waters on either hand flashed lights: St. Agnes
and the Bishop from the south--they are white lights; and from the
north the crimson splendour of Round Island: the wind was dropping,
and there was a little phosphorescence on the water, which gleamed
along the blade of the oar.

In half an hour the boat rounded the new pier, and they were in the
harbour of Hugh Town at the foot of the landing steps.

'Now,' said Armorel, 'you had better get home as fast as you can and
have some supper.'

'Why,' cried the artist, realising the fact for the first time, 'you
are bare-headed! You will kill yourself.'

'I am used to going about bare-headed. I shall come to no harm. Now go
and get some food.'

'And you?' The young man stood on the stepping-stones ready to mount.

'We shall put up the sail and get back to Samson in twenty minutes.
There is breeze enough for that.'

'Will you tell us,' said the artist, 'before you go--to whom we are
indebted for our very lives?'

'My name is Armorel.'

'May we call upon you? To-night we are too bewildered. We cannot say
what we ought and must say.'

'I live on Samson. What is your name?'

'My name is Roland Lee. My friend here is called Dick Stephenson.'

'You can come if you wish. I shall be glad to see you,' she corrected
herself, thinking she had been inhospitable and ungracious.

'Am I to ask for Miss Armorel?'

She laughed merrily. 'You will find no one to ask, I am afraid. Nobody
else, you see, lives on Samson. When you land, just turn to the left,
walk over the hill, and you will find the house on the other side.
Samson is not so big that you can miss the house. Good-night, Roland
Lee! Good-night, Dick Stephenson!'

'She's only a child,' said the young man called Dick, as he climbed
painfully and fearfully up the dark and narrow steps, slippery with
sea-weed and not even protected by an inner bar. 'I suppose it doesn't
much matter since she's only a child. But I merely desire to point out
that it's always the way. If there does happen to be an adventure
accompanied by a girl--most adventures bring along the girl: nobody
cares, in fact, for an adventure without a girl in it--I'm put in the
background and made to do the work while you sit down and talk to the
girl. Don't tell me it was accidental. It was the accident of design.
Hang it all! I'll turn painter myself.'



CHAPTER III

IN THE BAR PARLOUR


At nine o'clock the little bar parlour of Tregarthen's was nearly
full. It is a very little room, low as well as little, therefore it is
easily filled. And though it is the principal club-room of Hugh Town,
where the better sort and the notables meet, it can easily accommodate
them all. They do not, however, meet every evening, and they do not
all come at once. There is a wooden settle along the wall, beautifully
polished by constant use, which holds four: a smaller one beside the
fire, where at a pinch two might sit; there is a seat in the window
which also might hold two, but is only comfortable for one. A small
round table only leaves room for one chair. This makes sitting
accommodation for nine, and when all are present, and all nine are
smoking tobacco like one, the atmosphere is convivially pungent. This
evening there were only seven. They consisted of the two young men
whose perils on the deep you have just witnessed; a Justice of the
Peace--but his office is a sinecure, because on the Scilly Isles
virtue reigns in every heart; a flower-farmer of the highest standing;
two other gentlemen weighed down with the mercantile anxieties and
interests of the place--they ought to have been in wigs and square
brown coats, with silver buckles to their shoes; and one who held
office and exercised authority.

The art of conversation cannot be successfully cultivated on a small
island, on board ship, or in a small country town. Conversation
requires a continual change of company, and a great variety of topics.
Your great talker, when he inconsiderately remains too long among the
same set, becomes a bore. After a little, unless he goes away, or
dies, or becomes silent, they kill him, or lock him up in an asylum.
At Tregarthen's he would be made to understand that either he or the
rest of the population must leave the archipelago and go elsewhere. In
some colonial circles they play whist, which is an excellent method,
perhaps the best ever invented, for disguising the poverty or the
absence of conversation. At Tregarthen's they do not feel this
necessity--they are contented with their conversation; they are so
happily contented that they do not repine even though they get no more
than an observation dropped every ten minutes or so. They are not
anxious to reply hurriedly; they are even contented to sit silently
enjoying the proximity of each other--the thing, in fact, which lies
at the root of all society. The evening is not felt to be dull, though
there are no fireworks of wit and repartee. Indeed, if Douglas Jerrold
himself were to appear with a bag full of the most sparkling epigrams
and repartees, nobody would laugh, even when he was kicked out into
the cold and unappreciative night--the stars have no sense of
humour--as a punishment for impudence.

This evening the notables spoke occasionally; they spoke slowly--the
Scillonians all talk slowly--they neither attempted nor looked for
smartness. They did not tell stories, because all the stories are
known, and they can now only be told to strangers. The two young men
from London listened without taking any part in the talk: people who
have just escaped--and that narrowly--a sharp and painful death by
drowning and banging on jagged rocks are expected to be hushed for
awhile. But they listened. And they became aware that the talk, in
whatever direction it wandered, always came back to the sea.
Everything in Scilly belongs to the sea: they may go up country, which
is a journey of a mile and a half, or even two miles--and speak for a
moment of the crops and the farms; but that leads to the question of
import and export, and, therefore, to the vessels lying within the
pier, and to the steam service to Penzance and to vessels in other
ports, and, generally, to steam service about the world. And again,
wherever two or three are gathered together in Scilly, one at least
will be found to have ploughed the seas in distant parts. This confers
a superiority on the society of the islands which cannot, even in
these days, be denied or concealed. In the last century, when a man
who was known to have crossed the Pacific entered a coffee-house, the
company with one accord gazed upon him with envy and wonder. Even now,
familiarity hath not quite bred contempt. We still look with
unconcealed respect upon one who can tell of Tahiti and the New
Hebrides, and has stood upon the mysterious shores of Papua. And, at
Tregarthen's this evening, these two strangers were young; they had
not yet made the circuit of the round earth; they had had, as yet, not
many opportunities of talking with travellers and sailors. Therefore,
they listened, and were silent.

Presently, one after the other, the company got up and went out. There
is no sitting late at night in Scilly. There were left of all only the
Permanent Official.

'I hear, gentlemen,' he said, 'that you have had rather a nasty time
this evening.'

'We should have been lost,' said the artist, 'but for a--young lady,
who saw our danger and came out to us.'

'Armorel. I saw her towing in your boat and landing you. Yes, it was a
mighty lucky job that she saw you in time. There's a girl! Not yet
sixteen years old! Yet I'd rather trust myself with her in a boat,
especially if she had the boy Peter with her, than any boatman of the
islands. And there's not a rock or an islet, not a bay or a headland
in this country of bays and capes and rocks, that she does not know.
She could find her way blindfold by the feel of the wind and the force
of the current. But it's in her blood. Father to son--father to son
and daughter too--the Roseveans are born boatmen.'

'She saved our lives,' repeated the artist. 'That is all we know of
her. It is a good deal to know, perhaps, from our own point of view.'

'She belongs to Samson. They've always lived on Samson. Once there
were Roseveans, Tryeths, Jenkinses, and Woodcocks on Samson. Now, they
are nearly all gone--only one family of Rosevean left, and one of
Tryeth.'

'She said that nobody else lived there.'

'Well, it is only her own family. They've started a flower-farm lately
on Holy Hill, and I hear it's doing pretty well. It's a likely
situation, too, facing south-west and well sheltered. You should go
and see the flower-farm. Armorel will be glad to show you the farm,
and the island too. Samson has got a good many curious things--more
curious, perhaps, than she knows, poor child!'

He paused for a moment, and then continued: 'There's nobody on the
island now but themselves. There's the old woman, first--you should
see her too. She's a curiosity by herself--Ursula Rosevean--she was a
Traverse, and came from Bryher to be married. She married Methusalem
Rosevean, Armorel's great-great-grandfather--that was nigh upon eighty
years ago; she's close upon a hundred now; and she's been a widow
since--when was it?--I believe she'd only been a wife for twelve
months or so. He was drowned on a smuggling run--his brother Emanuel,
too. Widow used to look for him from the hill-top every night for a
year and more afterwards. A wonderful old woman! Go and look at her.
Perhaps she will talk to you. Sometimes, when Armorel plays the
fiddle, she will brighten up and talk for an hour. She knows how to
cure all diseases, and she can foretell the future. But she's too old
now, and mostly she's asleep. Then there's Justinian Tryeth and
Dorcas, his wife--they're over seventy, both of them, if they're a
day. Dorcas was a St. Agnes girl--that's the reason why her name was
Hicks: if she'd come from Bryher she'd have been a Traverse; if from
Tresco she'd have been a Jenkins. But she was a Hicks. She's as old as
her husband, I should say. As for the boy, Peter----'

'She called him the boy, I remember. But he seemed to me----'

'He's fifty, but he's always been the boy. He never married, because
there was nobody left on Samson for him to marry, and he's always been
too busy on the farm to come over here after a wife. And he looks more
than fifty, because once he fell off the pier, head first, into the
stern of a boat, and after he'd been unconscious for three days, all
his hair fell off except a few stragglers, and they'd turned white.
Looks most as old as his father. Chessun's near fifty-two.'

'Who is Chessun?'

'She's the girl. She's always been the girl. She's never married, just
like Peter her brother, because there was no one left on Samson for
her. And she never leaves the island except once or twice a year, when
she goes to the afternoon service at Bryher. Well, gentlemen, that's
all the people left on Samson. There used to be more--a great many
more--quite a population, and if all stories are true, they were a
lively lot. You'll see their cottages standing in ruins. As for
getting drowned, you'd hardly believe! Why, take Armorel alone. Her
father, Emanuel--he'd be about fifty-seven now--he was drowned--twelve
years ago it must be now--with his wife and his three boys, Emanuel,
John, and Andrew, crossing over from a wedding at St. Agnes. He
married Rovena Wetherel, from St. Mary's. Then there was her
grandfather, he was a pilot--but they were all pilots--and he was cast
away taking an East Indiaman up the Channel, cast away on Chesil Bank
in a fog--that was in the year 1845--and all hands lost. His
father--no, no, that was his uncle--all in the line were drowned;
that one's uncle died in his bed unexpectedly--you can see the bed
still--but they do say, just before some officers came over about a
little bit of business connected with French brandy. One of the
Roseveans went away, and became a purser in the Royal Navy. Those were
the days for pursers! Their accounts were never audited, and when
they'd squared the captain and paid him the wages and allowances for
the dummies and the dead men, they had left as much--ay, as a couple
of thousand a year. After this he left the Navy and purveyed for the
Fleet, and became so rich that they had to make him a knight.'

'Was there much smuggling here in the old days?'

'Look here, sir; a Scillonian in the old days called himself a pilot,
a fisherman, a shopkeeper, or a farmer, just as he pleased. That was
his pleasant way. But he was always--mind you--a smuggler. Armorel's
great-great-great-grandfather, father of the old lady's husband--him
who was never heard of afterwards, but was supposed to have been cast
away off the French coast--he was known to have made great sums of
money. Never was anyone on the islands in such a big way. Lots of
money came to the islands from smuggling. They say that the St.
Martin's people have kept theirs, and have got it invested; but, for
all the rest, it's gone. And they were wreckers too. Many and many a
good ship before the islands were lit up have struck on the rocks and
gone to pieces. What do you think became of the cargoes? Where were
the Scilly boats when the craft was breaking up? And did you never
hear of the ship's lantern tied to the horns of a cow? They've got one
on Samson could tell a tale or two; and they've still got a
figure-head there which ought to have haunted old Emanuel Rosevean
when his boat capsized off the coast of France.'

'An interesting family history.'

'Yes. Until the Preventive Service put an end to the trade, the
Roseveans were the most successful and the most daring smugglers in
the islands. But an unlucky family. All these drownings make people
talk. Old wives' talk, I dare say. But for something one of them
did--wrecking a ship, robbing the dead, who knows--they say the bad
luck will go on till something is done--I know not what.'

He got up and put on his cap, the blue-cloth cap with a cloth peak,
much affected in Scilly, because the wind blows off any other form of
hat ever invented.

'It is ten o'clock--I must go. Did you ever hear the story, gentlemen,
of the Scillonian sailor?' He sat down again. 'I believe it must have
been one of the Roseveans. He was on board a West Indiaman, homeward
bound, and the skipper got into a fog and lost his reckoning. Then he
asked this man if he knew the Scilly Isles. "Better nor any book,"
says the sailor. "Then," says the skipper, "take the wheel." In an
hour crash went the ship upon the rocks. "Damn your eyes!" says the
skipper, "you said you knew the Scilly Isles." "So I do," says the
man; "this is one of 'em." The ship went to pieces, and near all the
hands were lost. But the people of the islands had a fine time with
the flotsam and the jetsam for a good many days afterwards.'

'I believe,' said the young man--he who answered to the name of
Dick--'that this patriot is buried in the old churchyard. I saw an
inscription to-day which probably marks his tomb. Under the name is
written the words "Dulce et decor"--but the rest is obliterated.'

'Very likely--they would bury him in the old churchyard. Good-night,
gentlemen!'

'Roland!' The young man called Dick jumped from the settle. 'Roland!
Pinch me--shake me--stick a knife into me--but not too far--I feel as
if I was going off my head. The fair Armorel's father was a corsair,
who was drowned on his way from the coast of France, with his
grandfather and his great-grandfather and great-grand-uncles, after
having been cast away upon the Chesil Bank, and never heard of again,
though he was wanted on account of a keg of French brandy picked up in
the Channel. He made an immense pile of money, which has been lost;
and there's an old lady at the farm so old--so old--so very, very
old--it takes your breath away only to think of it--that she married
Methusalem. Her husband was drowned--a new light, this, on
history--and of course she escaped on the Ark--as a stowaway or a
cabin passenger. Armorel plays the fiddle and makes the old lady
jump.'

'We'll go over there to-morrow.'

'We will. It is a Land of Enchantment, this outlying bit of Lyonesse.
Meanwhile, just to clear my brain, I think I must have a whisky. The
weakness of humanity demands it.

    Oh! 'twas in Tregarthen's bar,
    Where the pipes and whiskies are----

They are an unlucky family,' he went on, 'because they "did
something." Remark, Roland, that here is the very element of romance.
My ancestors have "done something" too. I am sure they have, because
my grandfather kept a shop, and you can't keep a shop without "doing
something." But Fate never persecuted my father, the dean, and I am
not in much anxiety that I too shall be shadowed on account of the old
man. Yet look at Armorel Rosevean! There's distinction, mind you, in
being selected by Fate for vicarious punishment. The old corsair
wrecked a ship and robbed the bodies: therefore, all his descendants
have got to be drowned. Dear me! If we were all to be drowned because
our people had once "done something," the hungry, insatiate sea would
be choked, and the world would come to an end. A Scotch whisky,
Rebecca, if you please, and a seltzer! To-morrow, Roland, we will once
more cross the raging main, but under protection. If you break an oar
again, you shall be put overboard. We will visit this fair child of
Samson. Child of Samson! The Child of Samson! Was Delilah her mother,
or is she the grand daughter of the Timnite? Has she inherited the
virtues of her father as well as his strength? Were the latter days of
Delilah sanctified and purified? Happily, she is only as yet a
child--only a child, Roland'--he emphasised the words--'although a
child of Samson.'

       *       *       *       *       *

In the night a vision came to Roland Lee. He saw Armorel once more
sailing to his rescue. And in his vision he was seized with a mighty
terror and a shaking of the limbs, and his heart sank and his cheek
blanched; and he cried aloud, as he sank beneath the cold waters: 'Oh,
Armorel, you have come too late! Armorel, you cannot save me now.'



CHAPTER IV

THE GOLDEN TORQUE


The morning was bright, the sky blue, the breeze fresh--so fresh that
even in the Road the sea broke over the bows and the boat ran almost
gunwale under. This time the two lands-men were not unprotected: they
were in charge of two boatmen. Humiliating, perhaps; but your true
courage consisteth not in vain boasting and arrogant pretence, and he
is safest who doth not ignorantly presume to manage a boat. Therefore,
boatmen twain now guided the light bark and held the ropes.

'Dick,' said Roland, presently, looking ahead, 'I see her. There she
is--upon the hillside among the brown fern. I can see her, with her
blue dress.'

Dick looked, and shook his short-sighted head.

'I only see Samson,' he said. 'He groweth bigger as we approach. That
is not uncommon with islands. I perceive that he hath two hills, one
on the north and the other on the south; he showeth--perhaps with
pride--a narrow plain in the middle. The hills appear to be strewn
with boulders, and there are carns, and perhaps Logan stones. There is
always a Logan stone, but you can never find it. There are also, I
perceive, ruins. Samson looks quite a large island when you come near
to it. Life on Samson must be curiously peaceful. No post-office, no
telegrams, no telephones, no tennis, no shops, no papers, no
people--good heavens! For a whole month one would enjoy Samson.'

'Don't you see her?' repeated Roland. 'She is coming down the
hillside.'

'I dare say I do see her if I knew it; but I cannot at this distance,
even with assisted eyes----'

'Oh! a blue dress--blue--against the brown and yellow of the fern. Can
you not----?'

Dick gazed with the slow, uncertain eyes of short sight, and adjusted
his glasses.

'My pal,' he said, 'to please you I would pretend to see anything. In
fact, I always do: it saves trouble. I see her plainly--blue dress,
you say--certainly--sitting on a rock----'

'Nonsense! She is walking down the hill. You don't see her at all.'

'Quite so. Coming down the hill,' Dick replied, unmoved.

'She has been in my mind all night. I have been thinking all kinds of
things--impossible things--about this nymph. She is not in the least
common, to begin with. She is----'

'She is only a child, Roland. Don't----'

'A child? Why shouldn't she be a child? I suppose I may admire a
beautiful child? Do you insinuate that I am going to make love to
her?'

'Well, old man, you mostly do.'

'It was not so dark last night but one could see that she is a very
beautiful girl. She looks eighteen, but our friend last night assured
us that she is not yet sixteen. A very beautiful girl she is: features
regular, and a head that ought to be modelled. She is dark, like a
Spaniard.'

'Gipsy, probably. Name of Stanley or Smith--Pharaoh Stanley was, most
likely, her papa.'

'Gipsy yourself! Who ever heard of a gipsy on Scilly? You might as
well look for an organ-grinder! Spanish blood, I swear! Castilian of
the deepest blue. Then her eyes! You didn't observe her eyes?'

'I was too hungry. Besides, as usual, I was doing all the work.'

'They are black eyes----'

'The Romany have black eyes--roving eyes--hard, bold, bad, black
eyes.'

'Soft black--not hard black. The dark velvet eyes which hold the
light. Dick, I should like to paint those eyes. She is now looking at
our boat. I can see her lifting her hand to shade her eyes. I should
like to paint those eyes just at the moment when she gives away her
heart.'

'You cannot, Childe Roland, because there could only be one other
person present on that interesting occasion. And that person must not
be you.'

'Dick, too often you are little better than an ass.'

'If you painted those eyes when she was giving away her heart it might
lead to another and a later picture when she was giving away her
temper. Eyes which hold the light also hold the fire. You might be
killed with lightning, or, at least, blinded with excess of light.
Take care!'

'Better be blinded with excess of light than pass by insensible. Some
men are worse than the fellow with the muck-rake. He was only
insensible to a golden crown; they are insensible to Venus. Without
loveliness, where is love? Without love, what is life?'

'Yet,' said Dick, drily, 'most of us have got to shape our lives for
ourselves before we can afford to think of Venus.'

It will be understood that these two young men represented two large
classes of humanity. One would not go so far as to say that mankind
may be divided into those two classes only: but, undoubtedly, they are
always with us. First, the young man who walketh humbly, doing his
appointed task with honesty, and taking with gratitude any good thing
that is bestowed upon him by Fate. Next, the young man who believes
that the whole round world and all that therein is are created for his
own special pleasure and enjoyment; that for him the lovely girls
attire themselves, and for his pleasure go forth to dance and ball;
for him the actress plays her best; for him the feasts are spread, the
corks are popped, the fruits are ripened, the suns shine. To the
former class belonged Dick Stephenson: to the latter, Roland Lee.
Indeed, the artistic temperament not uncommonly enlists a young man in
the latter class.

'Look!' cried the artist. 'She sees us. She is coming down the hill.
Even you can see her now. Oh! the light, elastic step! Nothing in the
world more beautiful than the light, elastic step of a girl. Somehow,
I don't remember it in pictures. Perhaps--some day--I may----' He
began to talk in unconnected jerks. 'As for the Greek maiden by the
sea-shore playing at ball and showing bony shoulders, and all that--I
don't like it. Only very young girls should play at ball and jump
about--not women grown and formed. They may walk or spring as much as
they like, but they must not jump, and they must not run. They must
not laugh loud. Violent emotions are masculine. Figure and dress alike
make violence ungraceful: that is why I don't like to see women jump
about. If they knew how it uglifies most of them! Armorel is only a
child--yes--but how graceful, how complete she is in her movements!'

She was now visible, even to a short-sighted man, tripping lightly
through the fern on the slope of the hill. As she ran, she tossed her
arms to balance herself from boulder to boulder. She was singing, too,
but those in the boat could not hear her; and before the keel touched
the sand she was silent.

She stood waiting for them on the beach, her old dog Jack beside her,
a smile of welcome in her eyes, and the sunlight on her cheeks. Hebe
herself--who remained always fifteen from prehistoric times until the
melancholy catastrophe of the fourth century, when, with the other
Olympians, she was snuffed out--was not sweeter, more dainty, or
stronger, or more vigorous of aspect.

'I thought you would come across this morning,' she said. 'I went to
the top of the hill and looked out, and presently I saw your boat.
You have not ventured out alone again, I see. Good-morning, Roland
Lee! Good-morning, Dick Stephenson!'

She called them thus by their Christian names, not with familiarity,
but quite naturally, and because when she went into the world--that is
to say, to Bryher Church--on Sunday afternoon, each called unto each
by his Christian name. And to each she gave her hand with a smile of
welcome. But it seemed to Dick, who was observant rather than jealous,
that his companion appropriated to himself and absorbed both smiles.

'Shall I show you Samson? Have you seen the islands yet?'

No; they had only arrived two days before, and were going back the
next day.

'Many do that,' said the girl. 'They stay here a day or two: they go
across to Tresco and see the gardens: then perhaps they walk over
Sallakey Down, and they see Peninnis and Porthellick and the old
church, and they think they have seen the islands. You will know
nothing whatever about Scilly if you go to-morrow.'

'Why should we go to-morrow?' asked the artist. 'Tell me, that, Dick.'

'I, because my time is up, and Somerset House once more expects me.
You, my friend,' Dick replied, with meaning, 'because you have got
your work to do and you must not fool around any longer.'

Roland Lee laughed. 'We came first of all,' he said, turning to
Armorel, 'in order to thank you for----'

'Oh! you thanked me last night. Besides it was Peter----'

'No, no. I refuse to believe in Peter.'

'Well, do not let us say any more about it. Come with me.'

The landing-place of Samson is a flat beach, covered with a fine white
sand and strewn with little shells--yellow and grey, green and blue.
Behind the beach is a low bank on which grow the sea-holly, the
sea-lavender, the horned poppy, and the spurge, and behind the bank
stretches a small plain, low and sandy, raised above the high tide by
no more than a foot or two. Armorel led the way across this plain to
the foot of the northern hill. It is a rough and rugged hill, wild and
uncultivated. The slope facing the south is covered with gorse and
fern, the latter brown and yellow in September. Among the fern at this
season stood the tall dead stalks of foxglove. Here and there were
patches of short turf set about with the withered flowers of the
sea-pink, and the long branches of the bramble lay trailing over the
ground. The hand of some prehistoric giant has sprinkled the slopes of
this hill with boulders of granite: they are piled above each other so
as to make carns, headlands, and capes with strange resemblances and
odd surprises. Upon the top they found a small plateau sloping gently
to the north.

'See!' said Armorel. 'This is the finest thing we have to show on
Samson, or on any of the islands. This is the burial-place of the
kings. Here are their tombs.'

'What kings?' asked Dick, looking about him. 'Where are the tombs?'

'The kings,' Roland repeated; 'there can be no other kings. These are
their tombs. Do not interrupt.'

'The ancient kings,' Armorel replied, with historic precision. 'These
mounds are their tombs. See--one--two--half a dozen of them are here.
Only kings had barrows raised over them. Did you expect graves and
headstones, Dick Stephenson?'

'Oh, these are barrows, are they?' he replied, in some confusion. A
man of the world does not expect to be caught in ignorance by the
solitary inhabitant of a desert island.

'A long time ago,' Armorel went on, 'these islands formed part of the
mainland. Bryher and Tresco, St. Helen's, Tean, St. Martin's and St.
Mary's, were all joined together, and the road was only a creek of the
sea. Then the sea washed away all the land between Scilly and the
Land's End. They used to call the place Lyonesse. The kings of
Lyonesse were buried on Samson. Their kingdom is gone, but their
graves remain. It is said that their ghosts have been seen. Dorcas saw
them once.'

'I should like to see them very much,' said Roland.

'If you were here at night, we could go out and look for them. I have
been here often after dark looking for them.'

'What did you see?'

She answered like unto the bold Sir Bedivere--who, perhaps, was
standing on that occasion not far from this hill-top.

'I saw the moonlight on the rocks, and I heard the beating of the
waves.'

Quoth Dick: 'The spook of a king of Lyonesse would be indeed worth
coming out to see.'

Armorel led the way to a barrow, the top of which showed signs of the
spade.

'See!' she said. 'Here is one that has been opened. It was a long time
ago.'

There were the four slabs of stone still in position which formed the
sides of the grave, and the slab which had been its cover lying close
beside.

Armorel looked into the grave. 'They found,' she whispered, 'the bones
of the king lying on the stone. But when someone touched them they
turned to dust. There is the dust at your feet in the grave. The wind
cannot bear it away. It may blow the sand and earth into it, but the
dust remains. The rain can turn it into mud, but it cannot melt it.
This is the dust of a king.'

The young men stood beside her silent, awed a little, partly by the
serious look in the girl's face, and partly because, though it now
lay open to the wind and rain, it was really a grave. One must not
laugh beside the grave of a man. The wind lifted Armorel's long
locks and blew them off her white forehead: her eyes were sad and
even solemn. Even the short-sighted Dick saw that his friend was
right: they were soft black eyes, not of the gipsy kind; and he
repented him of a hasty inference. To the artist it seemed as if
here was a princess of Lyonesse mourning over the grave of her
buried king and--what?--father--brother--cousin--lover? Everything,
in his imagination, vanished--except that one figure: even her
clothes were changed for the raiment--say the court mourning--of
that vanished realm. And also, like Sir Bedivere, he heard nothing
but the wild water lapping on the crag.

And here followed a thing so strange that the historian hesitates
about putting it down.

Let us remember that it is thirty years, or thereabouts, since this
barrow was laid open; that we may suppose those who opened it to have
had eyes in their heads; that it has been lying open ever since; and
that every visitor--to be sure there are not many--who lands on Samson
is bound to climb this hill and visit this open barrow with its
perfect kistvaen. These things borne in mind, it will seem indeed
wonderful that anything in the grave should have escaped discovery.

Roland Lee, leaning over, began idly to poke about the mould and dust
of the grave with his stick. He was thinking of the girl and of the
romance with which his imagination had already clothed this lonely
spot; he was also thinking of a picture which might be made of her; he
was wondering what excuse he could make for staying another week at
Tregarthen's--when he was startled by striking his stick against
metal. He knelt down and felt about with his hands. Then he found
something and drew it out, and arose with the triumph that belongs to
an archæologist who picks up an ancient thing--say, a rose noble in a
newly ploughed field. The thing which he found was a hoop or ring. It
was covered and encrusted with mould; he rubbed this off with his
fingers. Lo! it was of gold: a hoop of gold as thick as a lady's
little finger, twisted spirally, bent into the form of a circle, the
two ends not joined, but turned back. Pure gold: yellow, soft gold.

'I believe,' he said, gasping, 'that this must be--it _is_--a torque.
I think I have seen something like it in museums. And I've read of
them. It was your king's necklace: it was buried with him: it lay
around the skeleton neck all these thousand years. Take it, Miss
Armorel. It is yours.'

'No! no! Let me look at it. Let me have it in my hands. It is
yours'--in ignorance of ancient law and the rights of the lord
proprietor--'it is yours because you found it.'

'Then I will give it to you, because you are the Princess of the
Island.'

She took it with a blush and placed it round her own neck, bending
open the ends and closing them again. It lay there--the red, red
gold--as if it belonged to her and had been made for her.

'The buried king is your ancestor,' said Roland. 'It is his legacy to
his descendant. Wear the king's necklace.'

'My luck, as usual,' grumbled Dick, aside. 'Why couldn't I find a
torque and say pretty things?'

'Come,' said Armorel, 'we have seen the barrows. There are others
scattered about--but this is the best place for them. Now I will show
you the island.'

The hill slopes gently northward till it reaches a headland or carn of
granite boldly projecting. Here it breaks away sharply to the sea.
Armorel climbed lightly up the carn and stood upon the highest
boulder, a pretty figure against the sky. The young men followed and
stood below her.

[Illustration: _Armorel climbed lightly up the carn._]

At their feet the waves broke in white foam (in the calmest weather
the Atlantic surge rolling over the rocks is broken into foam), a
broad sound or channel lay between Samson and the adjacent island: in
the channel half a dozen rocks and islets showed black and
threatening.

'The island across the channel,' said Armorel, 'is Bryher. This is
Bryher Hill, because it faces Bryher Island. Yonder, on Bryher is
Samson Hill, because it faces Samson Island. Bryher is a large place.
There are houses and farms on Bryher, and a church where they have
service every Sunday afternoon. If you were here on Sunday, you could
go in our boat with Peter, Chessun, and me. Justinian and Dorcas
mostly stay at home now, because they are old.'

'Can anybody stay on the island, then?' asked Roland, quickly.

'Once the doctor came for Justinian's rheumatism, and bad weather
began and he had to stay a week.'

'His other patients meanly took advantage and got well, I suppose,'
said Dick.

'I hope so,' Armorel replied simply.

She turned and looked to the north-east, where lie the eastern
islands, the group between St. Martin's and St. Mary's, a miniature in
little of the greater group. From this point they looked to the eye of
ignorance like one island. Armorel distinguished them. There were
Great and Little Arthur; Ganilly, with his two hills, like Samson; the
Ganninicks and Meneweather, Ragged Island, and Inisvouls.

'They are not inhabited,' said the girl, pointing to them one by one;
'but it is pleasant to row about among them in fine weather. In the
old time, when they made kelp, people would go and live there for
weeks together. But they are not cultivated.'

Then she turned northwards, and showed them the long island of St.
Martin's, with its white houses, its church, its gentle hills, and its
white and red daymark on the highest point. Half of St. Martin's was
hidden by Tresco, and more than half of Tresco by Bryher. Over the
downs of Tresco rose the dome of Round Island, crowned with its white
lighthouse. And over Bryher, out at sea, showed the rent and jagged
crest of the great rock Menovawr.

'You should land on Tresco,' said Armorel. 'There is the church to
see. Oh! it is a most beautiful church. They say that in Cornwall
itself there is hardly any church so fine as Tresco Church. And then
there are the gardens and the lake. Everybody goes to see the gardens,
but they do not walk over the down to Cromwell's Castle. Yet there is
nothing in the islands like Cromwell's Castle, standing on the Sound,
with Shipman's Head beyond. And you must go out beyond Tresco, to the
islands which we cannot see here--Tean and St. Helen's, and the rest.'

Then she turned westward. Lying scattered among the bright waters,
whitened by the breeze, there lay before their eyes--dots and specks
upon the biggest maps, but here great massive rocks and rugged islets
piled with granite, surrounded by ledges and reefs, cut and carved by
winds and flying foam into ragged edges, bold peaks, and defiant
cliffs--places where all the year round the seals play and the
sea-gulls scream, and, in spring, the puffins lay their eggs, with the
oyster-catchers and the sherewaters, the shags and the hern. Over all
shone the golden sun of September, and round them all the water leaped
and sparkled in the light.

'Those are the Outer Islands.' The girl pointed them out, her eyes
brightening. 'It is among the Outer Islands that I like best to sail.
Look! that great rock with the ledge at foot is Castle Bryher; that
noble rock beyond is Maiden Bower; the rock farthest out is Scilly. If
you were going to stay, we would sail round Scilly and watch the waves
always tearing at his sides. You cannot see from here, but he is
divided by a narrow channel; the water always rushes through this
channel roaring and tearing. But once we found it calm--and we got
through; only Peter would never try again. If you were going to
stay--sometimes in September it is very still----'

'I did not know,' said Roland, 'that there was anything near England
so wonderful and so lovely.'

'You cannot see the islands in one morning. You cannot see half of
them from this hill. You like them more and more as you stay longer,
and see them every day with a different light and a different sea.'

'You know them all, I suppose?' Roland asked.

'Oh! every one. If you had sailed among them so often, you would know
them too. There are hundreds, and every one has got its name. I think
I have stood on all, though there are some on which no one can land,
even at low tide and in the calmest weather. And no one knows what
beautiful bays and beaches and headlands there are hidden away and
never seen by anyone. If you could stay, I would show them to you. But
since you cannot----' She sighed. 'Well, you have not even seen the
whole of Samson yet--and that is only one of all the rest.'

She leaped lightly from the rocks, and led them southward.

'See!' she said. 'On this hill there are ten great barrows at least,
every one the tomb of a king--a king of Lyonesse. And on the sides of
the hill--they kept the top for the kings--there are smaller barrows,
I suppose of the princes and princesses. I told you that the island
was a royal burying-ground. At the foot of the hill--you can see
them--are some walls which they say are the ruins of a church; but I
suppose that in those days they had no church.'

They left these venerable tombs behind them and descended the hill. At
its foot, between the two hills, there lies a pretty little bay,
circular and fringed with a beach of white sand. If one wanted a port
for Samson, here is the spot, looking straight across the Atlantic,
with Mincarlo lying like a lion couchant on the water a mile out.

'This is Porth Bay,' said their guide. 'Out there at the end is Shark
Point. There are sharks sometimes, I believe: but I have never seen
them. Now we are going up the southern hill.'

It began with a gentle ascent. There were signs of former cultivation;
stone walls remained, enclosing spaces which once were fields--nothing
in them now but fern and gorse and bramble and wild flowers. Half-way
up there stood a ruined cottage. The walls were standing, but the roof
was gone and all the woodwork. The garden-wall remained, but the
little garden was overrun with fern.

'This was my great-great-grandmother's cottage,' said Armorel. 'It was
built by her husband. They lived in it for twelve months after they
were married. Then he was drowned, and she came to live at the farm.
See!'--she showed them in a corner of the garden a little wizened
apple-tree, crouching under the stone wall out of the reach of the
north wind--'she planted this tree on her wedding-day. It is too old
now to bear fruit; but she is still living, and her husband has been
dead for seventy-five years. I often come to look at the place, and to
wonder how it looked when it was first inhabited. There were flowers,
I suppose, in the garden, when she was young and happy.'

'There are more ruins,' said Roland.

'Yes, there are other ruins. When all the people except ourselves went
away, these cottages were deserted, and so they fell into decay. They
used to live by smuggling and wrecking, you see, and when they could
no longer do either, they had to go away or starve.'

They stood upon the highest point of Holy Hill, some twenty feet above
the summit of the northern hill, and looked out upon the Southern
Islands.

'There!' said Armorel, with a flush of pride, because the view here is
so different and yet so lovely.

'Here you can see the South Islands. Look! there is Minalto, which you
drifted past yesterday: those are the ledges of White Island, where
you were nearly cast away and lost: there is Annet, where the
sea-birds lay their eggs--oh! thousands and thousands of puffins,
though now there are not any: you should see them in the spring. That
is St. Agnes--a beautiful island. I should like to show you Camberdizl
and St. Warna's Cove. And there are the Dogs of Scilly beyond--they
look to be black spots from here. You should see them close: then you
would understand how big they are and how terrible. There are Gorregan
and Daisy, Rosevean and Rosevear, Crebawethan and Pednathias; and
there--where you see a little circle of white--that is Retarrier
Ledge. Not long ago there was a great ship coming slowly up the
Channel in bad weather: she was filled with Germans from New York
going home to spend the money they had saved in America: most of them
had their money with them tied up in bags. Suddenly, the ship struck
on Retarrier. It was ten o'clock in the evening and a great sea
running. For two hours the ship kept bumping on the rocks: then she
began to break up, and they were all drowned--all the women and all
the children, and most of the men. Some of them had life-belts on, but
they did not know how to tie them, and so the things only slipped down
over their legs and helped to drown them. The money was found on them.
In the old days the people of the islands would have had it all; but
the coastguard took care of it. There, on the right of Retarrier, is
the Bishop's Rock and lighthouse. In storms, the lighthouse rocks like
a tree in the wind. You ought to sail over to those rocks, if it was
only to see the surf dashing up their sides. But, since you cannot
stay----' Again she sighed.

'These are very interesting islands,' said Dick. 'Especially is it
interesting to consider the consequences of being a native.'

'I should like to stay and sail among them,' said Roland.

'For instance'--Dick pursued his line of thought--'in the study of
geography. We who are from the inland parts of Great Britain must
begin by learning the elements, the definitions, the terminology. Now
to a Scilly boy----'

'A Scillonian,' the girl corrected him. 'We never speak of Scilly
folk.'

'Naturally. To a Scillonian no explanation is needed. He knows,
without being told, the meaning of peninsula, island, bay, shore,
archipelago, current, tide, cape, headland, ocean, lake, road,
harbour, reef, lighthouse, beacon, buoy, sounding--everything. He must
know also what is meant by a gale of wind, a stiff breeze, a dead
calm. He recognises, by the look of it, a lively sea, a chopping sea,
a heavy sea, a roaring sea, a sulky sea. He knows everything except a
river. That, I suppose, requires very careful explanation. It was a
Scilly youth--I mean a Scillonian--who sat down on the river bank to
wait for the water to go by. The history seems to prove the commercial
intercourse which in remote antiquity took place between Phoenicia
and the Cassiterides or Scilly Islands.'

Armorel looked puzzled. 'I did not know that story of a Scillonian and
a river,' she said, coldly.

'Never mind his stories,' said Roland. 'This place is a story in
itself: you are a story: we are all in fairyland.'

'No'--she shook her head. 'Bryher is the only island in all Scilly
which has any fairies. They call them pixies there. I do not think
that fairies would ever like to come and live on Samson: because of
the graves, you know.'

She led them down the hill along a path worn by her own feet alone,
and brought them out to the level space occupied by the
farm-buildings.

'This is where we live,' she said. 'If you could stay here, Roland
Lee, we could give you a room. We have many empty rooms'--she
sighed--'since my father and mother and my brothers were all drowned.
Will you come in?'

She took them into the 'best parlour,' a room which struck a sudden
chill to anyone who entered therein. It was the room reserved for days
of ceremony--for a wedding, a christening, or a funeral. Between these
events the room was never used. The furniture presented the aspect
common to 'best parlours,' being formal and awkward. In one corner
stood a bookcase with glass doors, filled with books. Armorel showed
them into this apartment, drew up the blind, opened the window--there
was certainly a stuffiness in the air--and looked about the room with
evident pride. Few best parlours, she thought, in the adjacent islands
of St. Mary's, Bryher, Tresco, or even Great Britain itself, could
beat this.

She left them for a few minutes, and came back bearing a tray on which
were a plate of apples, another of biscuits, and a decanter full of a
very black liquid. Hospitality has its rules even on Samson, whither
come so few visitors.

'Will you taste our Scilly apples?' she said. 'These are from our own
orchard, behind the house. You will find them very sweet.'

Roland took one--as a general rule, this young man would rather take a
dose of medicine than an apple--and munched it with avidity. 'A
delicious fruit!' he cried. But his friend refused the proffered gift.

'Then you will take a biscuit, Dick Stephenson? Nothing? At least, a
glass of wine?'

'Never in the morning, thank you.'

'You will, Roland Lee?' She turned, with a look of disappointment, to
the other man, who was so easily pleased and who said such beautiful
things. 'It is my own wine--I made it myself last year, of ripe
blackberries.'

'Indeed I will! Your own wine? Your own making, Miss Armorel? Wine of
Samson--the glorious vintage of the blackberry! In pies and in
jam-pots I know the blackberry, but not, as yet, in decanters. Thank
you, thank you!'

He smiled heroically while he held the glass to the light, smelt it,
rolled it gently round. Then he tasted it. 'Sweet,' he said,
critically. 'And strong. Clings to the palate. A liqueur wine--a
curious wine.' He drank it up, and smiled again. 'Your own making! It
is wonderful! No--not another drop, thank you!'

'Shall I show you?'--the girl asked, timidly--'would you like to see
my great-great-grandmother? She is so very old that the people come
all the way from St. Agnes only just to look at her. Sometimes she
answers questions for them, and they think it is telling their
fortunes. She is asleep. But you may talk aloud. You will not awaken
her. She is so very, very old, you know. Consider: she has been a
widow nearly eighty years.'

She led them into the other room, where, in effect, the ancient dame
sat in her hooded chair fast asleep, in cap and bonnet, her hands, in
black mittens, crossed.

'Heavens!' Roland murmured. 'What a face! I must draw that face!
And'--he looked at the girl bending over the chair placing a pillow in
position--'and that other. It is wonderful!' he said aloud. 'This is,
indeed, the face of one who has lived a hundred years. Does she
sometimes wake up and talk?'

'In the evening she recovers her memory for awhile and
talks--sometimes quite nicely, sometimes she rambles.'

'And you have a spinning-wheel in the corner.'

'She likes someone to work at the spinning-wheel while she talks. Then
she thinks it is the old time back again.'

'And there is a violin.'

'I play it in the evening. It keeps her awake, and helps her to
remember. Justinian taught me. He used to play very well indeed until
his fingers grew stiff. I can play a great many tunes, but it is
difficult to learn any new ones. Last summer there were some ladies at
Tregarthen's--one of them had a most beautiful voice, and she used to
sing in the evening with the window open. I used to sail across on
purpose to land and listen outside. And I learned a very pretty tune.
I would play it to you in the evening if you were not going away.'

'I am not obliged to go away,' the young man said, with strangely
flushing cheeks.

'Roland!' That was Dick's voice--but it was unheeded.

'Will you stay here, then?' the girl asked.

'Here in this house? In your house?'

'You can have my brother Emanuel's room. I shall be very glad if you
will stay. And I will show you everything.' She did not invite the
young man called Dick, but this other, the young man who drank her
wine and ate her apple.

'If your--your--your guardian--or your great-great-grandmother
approves.'

'Oh! she will approve. Stay, Roland Lee. We will make you very happy
here. And you don't know what a lot there is to see.'

'Roland!' Again Dick's warning voice.

'A thousand thanks!' he said. 'I will stay.'



CHAPTER V

THE ENCHANTED ISLAND


The striking of seven by the most sonorous and musical of clocks ever
heard reminded Roland of the dinner-hour. At seven most of us are
preparing for this function, which civilisation has converted almost
into an act of praise and worship. Some men, he remembered, were now
walking in the direction of the club: some were dressing: some were
making for restaurants: some had already begun. One naturally
associates seven o'clock with the anticipation of dinner. There are
men, it is true, who habitually take in food at midday and call it
dinner: there are also those who have no dinner at all. He began to
realise that he was not, this evening, going to have any dinner at
all. For he was now at the farmhouse, sitting in the square window
with Armorel: he had gone back to Tregarthen's and returned with his
portmanteau and his painting gear: fortunately he had also taken an
abundant lunch at that establishment. He had become an inhabitant of
Samson. The increased population, therefore, now consisted of seven
souls.

In fact, there was no dinner for him. Everybody in Samson dines at
half-past twelve: he had tea with Armorel at half-past four: after tea
they wandered along the shore and stood upon Shark Point to see the
sun set behind Mincarlo, an operation performed with zeal and
despatch, and with great breadth and largeness of colouring. When the
shades of evening began to prevail they were fain to get home quickly,
because there is no path among the boulders, nor have former
inhabitants provided hand-rails for visitors on the carns. Therefore
they retraced their steps to the farm, and Armorel left him sitting
alone in the square window while she went about some household duties.
In the quiet room the solemn clock told the moments, and there was
light enough left to discern the ghostly figure of the ancient dame
sleeping in her chair. The place was so quiet and so strange that the
visitor presently felt as if he was sitting among ghosts. It is at
twilight, in fact, that the spirits of the past make themselves most
readily felt, if not seen. Now, it was exactly as if he had been in
the place before. He knew, now, why he had been so suddenly and
strangely attracted to Samson. He _had been there before_--when, or
under what conditions, he knew not, and did not ask himself. It is a
condition of the mind known to everybody. A touch--a word--a look--and
we are transported back--how many years ago? The hills, the rocks, the
house, Armorel herself--all were familiar to him. The thing was
absurd, yet in his mind it was quite clear. It was so absurd that he
thought his mind was wandering, and he arose and went out into the
garden. There, the figure-head of the woman under the tall
fuchsia-tree--the glow from the fire in the sitting-room fell upon the
face through the window--seemed to smile upon him as upon an old
friend. He went back again and sat down. Where was Armorel?

This strange familiarity with an unknown place quickly passes, though it
may return. He now began to feel as if, perhaps, he was making a
mistake. He was living on an island, with, practically, no other
companion than a girl of fifteen. Dick, who had become suddenly grumpy
on learning his resolution to stay, might be right. Well, he would
sketch and paint; he would be very careful; not a word should be said
that might disturb the child's tranquillity. No--Dick was a fool. He was
going to have a day or two--just a day or two--of quiet happiness. The
girl was young and beautiful and innocent. She was also made happy--she
showed that happiness without an attempt at concealment--because he was
going to stay. What would follow?

Well--it was an adventure. One does not ask what is going to follow on
first encountering an adventure. What young man, besides, sallying
forth upon a simple holiday, looks to find himself upon a desert
island with no other companion than a trustful and admiring maiden of
fifteen?

Then Armorel returned and took a chair beside him. He was a little
surprised--but then, on a desert island nothing happens as on terra
firma--that she did not ring for lights, and was still not without
some hope of dinner. They took up the thread of talk about the
islands, concerning which Roland Lee perceived that he would before
long know a good deal. Local knowledge is always interesting; but it
does not, except to novelists, possess a marketable value. One cannot,
for instance, at a dinner-party, turn the conversation on the
respective families of St. Agnes and St. Martin's. He made a mental
note that he would presently change the subject to one of deeper
personal interest. Perhaps he could get Armorel to talk about herself.
That would be very much more interesting than to hear about the three
Pipers' Holes of Tresco, White, and St. Mary's Islands. How did she
live--this girl--and what did she do--and what did she think?

Meantime, while the girl herself was talking of the rocks and bays,
the crags and coves, the white sand and the grey granite, the seals
and the shags, the puffins and the dottrells, she was wondering, for
her part, what manner of man this was--how he lived, and what he did,
and what he thought. For when man and woman meet they are clothed and
covered up; they are a mystery each to the other; never, since the
Fall, have we been able to read each other's hearts.

But when the clock struck seven Armorel sprang to her feet, as one who
hath a serious duty to perform, and preparations to make for it.

First she pulled down the blind, and so shut out what was left of the
twilight. The fire had sunk low, but by its light she was dimly
visible. She pushed back the table; she placed two chairs opposite the
old lady, and another chair before the spinning-wheel.

'Something,' said the young man to himself, 'is certainly going to
happen. One can no longer hope for dinner. Family prayers, perhaps; or
the worship of the old lady as an ancestor. The descendants of the
ancient people of Lyonesse no doubt bow down to the sun and dance to
the moon, and pass the children through the holèd stone, and make Baal
fires, and worship their grandmothers. It will be an interesting
function. But, perhaps, only family prayers.'

Armorel took down the fiddle that hung on the wall and began to tune
it, twanging the strings and drawing the bow across in the manner
which so pleasantly excites the theatre before the music begins.

'Not family prayers, then,' said the young man, perhaps disappointed.

What did happen, however, was a series of things quite new and wholly
unexpected. Never was known such a desert island.

First of all, the lady of many generations moved uneasily in her sleep
at the twanging of the strings, and her fingers clutched at her dress
as if she was startled by an uneasy dream.

And then the door opened, and a small procession of three came in. At
this point, had the young man been a Roman Catholic, he would have
crossed himself. As he was not, he only started and murmured, 'As I
thought. The worship of the ancestor! These are the ghosts of the
grandfather and the grandmother. The old lady is a mummy. They are all
ghosts--I shall presently awake and find myself on my back among the
barrows.'

First came an ancient dame, but not so ancient as she of the great
chair. Grey-headed she was, and equipped in a large cap; wrinkled was
her face, and her chin, for lack of teeth, approached her nose, quite
in the ancestral manner. She was followed by an old man, also
grey-headed and grey-bearded, wrinkled of face, his shoulders bent and
twisted with rheumatism, his fingers gnarled and twisted. These two
took the chairs set for them by Armorel. The third in the procession
was a woman already elderly and with streaks of grey in her hair. She
was thin and sharp-faced. She sat down before the spinning-wheel and
began to work, not as you may now see the amateur, but in the quiet,
quick, professional manner which means business.

The stranger was not quite right in his conjecture. They were not
ancestors. The old man, who had worked on the farm, man and boy, for
nearly seventy years, and now managed it altogether, was Justinian
Tryeth. The old woman was Dorcas, his wife. The middle-aged woman was
their daughter Chessun, who had been maid on the farm, as her brother
Peter had been boy, all her life.

Whatever was intended was clearly a daily function, because each
dropped into his own place without hesitation. The old woman had
brought some knitting with her, her daughter picked up the thread of
the spindle, and the old man, taking the tongs, stimulated the coals
into a flame, which he continually nursed and maintained with new
fuel. There was neither lamp nor candle in the room; the ruddy
firelight, rising and falling, played about the room, warming the drab
panels into crimson, sinking into the dark beams of the joists,
flashing among the china in the cupboard, painting red the
Venus's-fingers in the cabinet, and throwing strange lights and
shadows upon the aged lady in the chair. Was she really alive? Was
she, after all, only a mummy?

Roland looked on breathless. What was to be done next? Time had gone
back eighty years--a hundred and eighty years--any number of years. As
they sat here in the firelight with the spinning-wheel, the old
serving-people with their mistress, without lamp or candle, so they
sat in the generations long gone by. And again that curious feeling
fell upon him that he had seen it all before. Yet he could not
remember what was to be done next. Armorel, the tuning complete,
turned with a look of inquiry to the old man.

'"Singleton's Slip,"' he commanded with the authority of a professor.

The girl began to play this old tune. Perhaps you remember the style
of the fiddler--he is getting scarce now--who used to sit in the
corner and play the hornpipe for the sailors in the days when every
sailor could dance the hornpipe. Perhaps you do not remember that
fiddler and his style. That is your misfortune. For there was a noble
freedom in the handling of his bow, and the interpretation of his
melodies was bold and original. He poured into the music all the
spirit it was capable of containing, and drew out of his hearers every
emotion that each particular tune was able to draw. Because you see
tunes have their limitations. You cannot strike every chord in the
human heart with a simple hornpipe. This sailor's best friend,
however, did all that could be done. And always conscientious, if you
please, never allowing his playing to become slovenly or to lack
spirit.

Armorel played after the manner of this old fiddler, standing up to
her work in the middle of the room.

'Singleton's Slip' is a ditty which was formerly much admired by those
who danced the hey, the jig, or the simple country dance: it was also
much played by the pipe and tabor upon the village green; it
accompanied the bear when he carried the pole; it assisted those who
danced on stilts; and it lent spirit to those who frolicked in the
morrice. Charles II. knew it; Tom D'Urfey wrote words to it, I
believe, but I have not yet found them in his collection; Rochester
must certainly have danced to it. Armorel played it; first cheerfully
and loudly, as if to arouse the spirits of those who listened, to
remind them that legs may be shaken to this tune, and that ladies may
be, and should be, when this tune begins, taken to their places and
presently handed round and down the middle. Then she played it
trippingly, as if they were actually all dancing. Then she played it
tenderly--there is, if you come to think of it, a good deal of
possible tenderness in the air--and, lastly, she played it joyfully,
yet softly. How had she learned all these modes and moods?

While she played the old man listened critically, nodding his head and
beating the time. Then, fired with memory, he bent his arms and worked
his fingers as if they held the fiddle and the bow. And he threw back
his head and thrust out his leg and leaned sideways, just like that
jolly fiddler of whom we have just been reminded. Such, my friends, is
the power of music.

After a little while Justinian stopped this imaginary performance, and
sitting forward yielded himself wholly to the influence of the tune,
cracking his fingers over his head and beating time with one foot, just
as you may see the old villager in the old coloured prints--no villager
in these days of bad beer ever cracks his fingers or shows any external
signs of joyful emotion. As for the two serving-women, they reminded the
spectator of the supers on the stage who march when they are told to
march, sit down to feast when they are ordered, and swell a procession
for a funeral or a festival, all with unmoved countenance, showing a
philosophy so great that the triumph of victory or the disaster of
defeat finds them equally calm and self-contained--that is to say, the
two women showed no sense at all of being pleased or moved by
'Singleton's Slip.' They went on--one with her knitting and the other
with her spinning.

As for the ancient lady, however, when the music began she
straightened herself, sat upright, and opened her eyes. Then Chessun
hastened to adjust her bonnet: if ladies sleep in their bonnets, these
adornments have a tendency to fall out of the perpendicular. Heaven
forbid that we should gaze upon Ursula Rosevean with her bonnet
tilted, like a lady in a van coming home to Wapping from Fairlop Fair!
This done, the venerable dame looked about her with eyes curiously
bright and keen. Then she began to beat time with her fingers; and
then she began to talk; but--and this added to the strangeness of the
whole business--nobody seemed to regard what she said. It was much as
if the Oracle of Delphi were pouring out the most valuable prophecies
and none of her attendants paid any heed. 'If,' thought the young man,
'I were to take down her words, they would be a Message.' And what
with the voice of the Oracle, the spirited fiddling, the firelight
dancing about the room, the old man snapping his fingers, and perhaps
some physical exhaustion following on the absence of dinner, the young
man felt as if the music had got into his head; he wanted to get up
and dance with Armorel round and round the room; he would not have
marvelled had Dorcas and Justinian bidden him lead out Chessun and so
take hands, round twice, down the middle and back again, set and turn
single--where had he learnt these phrases and terms of the old country
dance? Nowhere; they belonged to the place and to the music and to the
time--and that was at least a hundred and eighty years back.

The fiddle stopped. Armorel held it down, and looked again at her
master.

''Tis well played,' he said. 'A moving piece. Now, "Prince Rupert's
March."'

She nodded, and began another tune. This is a piece which may be
played many ways. First, to those who understand it rightly, it
indicates the tramp of an army, the riding of the cavalry, the
jingling of sabres. Next, it may serve for a battle-piece, and you
shall hear between the bars the charge of the horse and the clashing
of the steel. Or, it may be played as a triumphal march after victory;
or, again, as a country dance, in which a stately dignity takes the
place of youthful mirth and merriment. At such a dance, to the tune of
'Prince Rupert's March,' the elders themselves--yea, the Justice of
Peace, the Vicar, the Mayor and Aldermen, and the Head-borough
himself--may stand up in line.

And now Roland became conscious of the old lady's words; he heard them
clear and distinct, and as she talked the firelight fell upon her
eyes, and she seemed to be gazing fixedly upon the stranger.

'When the "Princess Augusta," East Indiaman, struck upon the
Castinicks in the middle of the night, she went to pieces in an
hour--any vessel would. They said she was wrecked by the people of
Samson, who tied a ship's lantern between the horns of a cow. But it
was never proved. There are other islands in Scilly, and other
islanders, if you talk of wrecking. Some of the dead bodies were
washed ashore, and a good part of the cargo, so that there was
something for everybody; a finer wreck never came to the islands.
What! If a ship is bound to be wrecked, better that she should strike
on British rocks and cast her cargo ashore for the king's subjects.
Better the rocks of Scilly than the rocks of France. What the sea
casts up belongs to the people who find it. That is just. But you must
not rob the living. No. That is a great crime. 'Twas in the year '13.
When Emanuel Rosevean, my father-in-law, rescued the passenger who was
lying senseless lashed to a spar, he should not have taken the bag
that was hanging round his neck. That was not well done. He should
have given the man his bag again. He stood here before he went away.
"You have saved my life," he said. "I had all my treasure in a bag
tied about my neck. If I had brought that safe ashore I could have
offered you something worth your acceptance. But I have nothing. I
begin the world again." Emanuel heard him say this, and he let him go.
But the bag was in his box. He kept the bag. Very soon the wrath of
the Lord fell upon the house, and His Hand has been heavy upon us ever
since. No luck for us--nor shall be any till we find the man and give
him back his bag of treasure.'

She went on repeating this story with small variations and additions.
But Roland was now listening again to the fiddle.

Armorel stopped again.

'"Dissembling Love,"' said her master.

She began that tune obediently.

The stranger within the gates seemed compelled to listen. His brain
reeled; the old woman fascinated him. The words which he had heard had
been few, but now he seemed to see, standing before the fire, his hair
powdered, and in black silk stockings and shoes with steel buckles,
the man who had been saved and robbed shaking hands with the man who
had saved and robbed him. Oh! it was quite clear; he had seen it all
before; he remembered it. This time he heard nothing of the tune.

'My husband, Methusalem, my dear husband, with his only brother, began
to pay for that wickedness. They were capsized crossing to St. Mary's,
and drowned. If I had thought what was going to happen I would have
taken the bag and walked through all England looking for him until I
had found him. Yes--if it took me fifty years. But I knew nothing. I
thought our happiness would last for ever. Five-and-twenty years
after, my son, Emanuel, was cast away in the Bristol Channel piloting
a vessel. They struck on Steep Holm in a fog. And your own father,
Armorel, was drowned with his wife and three boys on their way home
from a wedding-feast at St. Agnes.'

Here her voice dropped, and Roland heard the concluding bars of
'Dissembling Love,' which Armorel was playing with quite uncommon
tenderness.

When she stopped, Justinian gave her no rest. '"Blue Petticoats,"' he
commanded.

Armorel again obeyed.

Then the old lady went back in memory to the days of her girlhood--now
so long ago. Nowhere now can one find an old lady who will tell of her
girlish days when the century was not yet arrived at the age of ten.

'We shall dance to-night,' she said, 'on Bryher Green. My boy will be
there. We shall dance together. John Tryeth from Samson will play his
fiddle. We shall dance "Prince Rupert's March" and "Blue Petticoats"
and "Dissembling Love." The Ensign from the garrison is coming and the
Deputy Commissary. They will drink my health. But they shall not have
me for partner. My boy will be there--my own boy--the handsomest man
on all the islands, though he is so black. That's the Spaniard in him.
His mother was a Mureno--Honor Mureno, the last of the Murenos. He has
got the old Spaniard's sword still. It's the Spanish blood. It gives
my boy his black eyes and his black hair; it makes his cheeks
swarthy; and it makes him proud and hot-tempered. I like a man to be
quick and proud if he's strong and brave as well. When I have sons,
the Lord make them all like their father!'

So she went on talking of her lover.

Armorel stopped and looked again at her master.

'"The Chirping of the Lark,"' he said.

Armorel began this tune. It is of an artificial character, lending
itself less readily than the rest to emotion; the composer called it
'The Chirping of the Lark' because he wanted a title: it resembles the
song of that warbler in no single particular. But it changed the old
lady's current of thought.

'This long war,' she said, looking round cheerfully, 'will be the
making of the islands if it lasts. Never was there so much money
about: we roll in money: the women have all got silks and satins: the
men drink port wine and the finest French brandy, which they run over
for themselves: the merchantmen put into the road, and the sailors
spend their money at the port. Why shouldn't we go on fighting the
French until they haven't a ship left afloat? My man made the run last
week, and hid the cargo--I know where. I shall help him to carry the
kegs across to the garrison, where they want brandy badly. A fine run
and a good day's work!'

She looked around with a jubilant countenance. Then another memory
seized her, and the light left her eyes.

'Better be drowned yourself than marry a man who is going to be
drowned! Better not marry at all than lose your husband six months
afterwards. It is long ago, now, Armorel. Time goes on--one can
remember. He would be very old now--yes--very old. Sometimes I see him
still. But he has not grown old where he is staying. That is bad for
me, because he liked young women, not old women. Men mostly do. They
are so made, even the oldest of them. Perhaps the old women, when they
rise again, are made young again, so that their lovers may love them
still.'

The clock struck half-past eight. Armorel stopped playing and the old
lady stopped talking at the same moment. Her eyes closed, her head
fell forward, she became comatose.

Then the two serving-women got up and helped her, or carried her, out
of the room to her bedroom behind. And the old man arose, and without
so much as a good-night hobbled away to his own cottage.

'She will go to bed now,' said Armorel. 'Chessun will take in her
broth and her wine, and she will sleep all night.'

'Do you have this performance every night?'

'Yes; the playing seems to put life and heart into her. All the
morning she dozes, or if she wakes she is not often able to talk; but
in the evening, when we sit around the fire just as they used to sit
in the old days, without candles--because my people were poor and
candles were dear--and when Chessun spins and I play--she revives and
sits up and talks, as you have seen her.'

'Yes. It is rather ghostly.'

'Justinian used to play--oh! he could play very well indeed.'

'Not so well as you.'

'Yes--much better--and he knows hundreds of tunes. But his fingers
became stiff with rheumatism, and, as he had put off teaching Peter
until it was too late, he taught me. That is all.'

'I think you play wonderfully well. Do you play nothing but old
tunes?'

'I only know what I have learned. There is that song which I heard the
lady sing last year--I don't know what it is called. Tell me if you
like it.'

She struck the strings again and played a song full of life and
spirit, of tenderness and fond memory--a bright, sparkling song--which
wanted no words.

'Oh!' cried Roland, 'you are really wonderful. You are playing the
"Kerry Dance."'

She laughed and layed down the violin.

'We must not have any more playing to-night. Do you really like to
hear me play? You look as if you did.'

'It is wonderful,' he replied. 'I could listen all night. But if there
is to be no more music, shall we look outside?'

If there were no light in the house the ship's lantern was hanging up,
with one of those big ship's candles in it which are of such noble
dimensions, and of generosity so unbounded in the matter of tallow.
There was no moon; but the sky was clear and the sea could be seen by
the light of the stars, and the revolving lights of Bishop's Rock and
St. Agnes flashed across the water.

The young man shivered.

'We are in fairyland,' he said. 'It is a charmed island. Nothing is
real. Armorel, your name should be Titania. How have you made me hear
and believe all these things? How do you contrive your sorceries? Are
you an enchantress? Confess--you cannot, in sober truth, play those
tunes; the old lady is in reality only a phantom, called into visible
shape by your incantations? But you are a benevolent witch--you will
not turn me into a pig?'

'I do not understand. There have been no sorceries. There are no
witches left on the Scilly Islands. Formerly there were many. Dorcas
knows about them. I do not know what was the good of them.'

'I suppose you are quite real, after all. It is only strange and
incomprehensible.'

'It is a fine night. To-morrow it will be a fine day with a gentle
breeze. We will go sailing among the Outer Islands.'

'The air is heavy with perfume. What is it? Surely an enchanted land!'

'It is the scent of the lemon-verbena tree--see, here is a sprig. It
is very sweet.'

'How silent it is here! Night after night never to hear a sound.'

'Nothing but the sound of the waves. They never cease. Listen--it is a
calm night. But you can hear them lapping on the beach.'

Ten minutes later, when they returned to the house, they found candles
lighted and supper spread. A substantial supper, such as was owed to a
man who had had no dinner. There was cold roast fowl and ham; there
was a lettuce-salad and a goodly cheese. And there was the unexpected
and grateful sight of a 'Brown George,' with a most delectable ball of
white froth at the top. Also, Roland remarked the presence of the
decanter containing the blackberry wine.

'Now you shall have some supper.' Armorel assumed the head of the
table and took up the carving-knife. 'No, thank you--I can carve very
well. Besides, you are our visitor, and it is a pleasure to carve for
you. Will you have a wing or a leg? Do you like your ham thin? Not too
thin? Oh, how hungry you must be! That is ale--home-brewed ale: will
you take some? or would you prefer a glass of the blackberry wine?
No?--help yourself.'

'The beer for me,' said Roland. He filled and drank a tumbler of the
beverage dear to every right-minded Briton. It was strong and
generous, with flakes of hop floating in it like the bee's-wing in
port. 'This is splendid beer,' he said. 'I do not remember that I ever
tasted such beer as this. It is humming ale--October ale--stingo. No
wonder our forefathers fought so well when they had such beer as this
to fight upon!'

'Peter is proud of his home-brewed.'

'Do you make everything for yourselves? Is Samson sufficient for all
the needs of the islanders? This beer is the beer of Samson--strong
and mighty. My hair is growing long already--and curly.'

'We make all we can. There are no shops, you see, on Samson. We bake
our own bread: we brew our own beer: we make our own butter: we even
spin our own linen.'

'And you make your own wine, Armorel.' He called her naturally by her
Christian name. You could not call such a girl 'Miss Armorel' or 'Miss
Rosevean.' 'It is a wonderful island!'

After supper they sat by the fireside, and, by permission, he smoked
his pipe.

Then, everybody else on the island being in bed and asleep, they
talked. The young man had his way. That is to say, he encouraged the
girl to talk about herself. He led her on: he had a soft voice, soft
eyes, and a general manner of sympathy which surprised confidence.

She began, timidly at first, to talk about herself, yet with feminine
reservation. No woman will ever talk about herself in the way which
delights young men. But she told him all he asked: her simple lonely
life--how she arose early in the morning, how she roamed about the
island and sang aloud with none to hear her but the sea-gulls and the
shags.

'Do you never draw?' he asked.

She had tried to draw, but there was no one to help her.

'Do you read?'

No, she seldom read. In the best parlour there was a bookcase full of
books, but she never looked at them. As for the old lady and Dorcas,
they had never learned to read. She had been at school over at St.
Mary's, till she was thirteen, but she hardly cared to read.

'And the newspapers--do you ever read them?'

She never read them. She knew nothing that went on.

As for her ambitions and her hopes--if he could get at them. Fond
youth!--as if a girl would ever tell her ambitions! But Armorel,
apparently, had none to tell. She lived in the present; it was joy
enough for her to wander in the soft warm air of her island home, upon
the hills and round the coast, to cruise among the rocks while the
breeze filled out the sail and the sparkling water leaped above the
bow.

So far she told: nay, she hid nothing, because there was nothing to
hide. She told no more because, as yet, her ambitions and her dreams
of the future had no shape: they were vague and misty--she was only
aware of their existence when restlessness seized her and impelled her
to get up and run over the hills to Porth Bay and back again.

But at night, when she went to bed, she experienced quite a new and
disquieting sensation. It showed at least that she was no longer a
child, but already on the threshold of womanhood. With blushing cheek
and beating heart she remembered that for an hour and more she had
been talking about nothing but herself! What would Mr. Roland Lee
think of a girl who could waste his time in talking about nothing but
herself?



CHAPTER VI

THE FLOWER-FARM


Roland, startled out of sleep by the sudden feeling of danger which
always seizes us in a strange bed--except a bed at an inn--sat up and
looked around him. His room was small and low and simply furnished. He
was lying on a feather bed of the old-fashioned kind; the bedstead was
of wood, but without curtains. He presently remembered where he was:
on Samson Island--the guest of a child, a girl of fifteen.

He sprang out of bed and threw open the window. His room was over the
porch. The fragrance of the lemon-verbena tree arose like steam from
a haystack, and filled his chamber. Below him, and beyond the garden,
the geese waddled on the green, the ducks splashed in the pond, and in
the farmyard Peter walked about slowly, carrying a pitchfork in his
hands, but, apparently, for amusement rather than use, as if it had
been a court sword.

He looked at his watch. It was half-past seven. At this time in London
he would have been still in the first long slumber of the night. Now
he was eager to be up and dressed, if only for a better understanding
of the situation. To be the guest of a child has the freshness of
novelty; but it is a situation which might lead to complications.
Suppose a guardian, or a lawyer, or a cousin of some kind were to
cross over in a boat and ask what he was doing there. And suppose he
had no better reply than the plain truth--that this young lady had
been so good as to invite him. Would a man go down to stay at a
country house on the simple invitation of a school-girl? At the same
time, this girl appeared to be the mistress of the establishment.
There was an ancient lady--too old for superintendence--and there were
servants. Well, if no guardian challenged his presence, why, then, for
a single day--he must not stay more--it surely mattered little. The
girl was but a child. Yet he must not stay longer. Perhaps they were
not too well off: he must not be a burden. And, again, though the girl
invited him to stay she named no limit of time. She did not invite him
to stay, for a week or for a fortnight. Perhaps she expected him to go
away that very morning.

He proceeded--with somewhat thoughtful countenance, considering these
things--to dress, paying as much attention to his personal appearance
as a young man should, and an old man must. It is the privilege of
middle-aged men to go slovenly if they please: no one regardeth him of
middle age. While their locks are turning grey and their children are
growing up they are in the thick of the day's work, and they may
disregard, if they choose, the mysteries of the toilette. Apollo,
however, must be as jealous about his apparel and adornment as the
Graces themselves, who are always represented at the moment before the
choice is made. A velvet jacket and a white waistcoat are trifles in
themselves, but they become a youthful figure and a face which has
finely-cut features and is decorated with a promising silky beard,
pointed withal, and the brown shading of a young moustache. Besides,
he who is an artist thinks more than other young men about such
things. Dress, to him, as to a woman, becomes costume. Colour has to
be considered; such picturesqueness as is possible in modern fashion
is aimed at; the artistic craving for fitness and beauty must be
satisfied. Roland did what he could: and with his velvet coat, a clean
white waistcoat, a crimson scarf, a good figure, and a handsome face,
he was as handsome a youth of twenty-one as one is likely to find
anywhere.

Again, as he opened his door and began to descend the narrow stairs,
there came over him that curious feeling of having been in the place
before. He had felt it in the evening when Armorel played 'Dissembling
Love.' Now he felt it again. And when he stood in the porch he seemed
to remember standing there once--long ago, long ago--but how long he
could not tell; nor, as happened to him before, could he remember what
had happened on that occasion.

Armorel herself was in the garden looking for some flowers for the
breakfast-table. She greeted him with a smile of welcome and a
friendly grasp of the hand. There was also a look of kindly solicitude
on her face which would have suited a châtelaine of forty years. Had
he slept well? Had he really been provided with everything he wanted?
Was there anything at all lacking? If so, would he speak to Chessun?
Breakfast, she said, leaving him in the garden, would be served in a
few minutes.

Would he speak to Chessun? Then, it seemed as if she meant him to stay
another night. What should he do?

Then Armorel came back.

'Breakfast is quite ready,' she said. 'Come in, Roland Lee. It is a
beautiful morning. There is a fresh breeze and a smooth sea. We can go
anywhere this morning. I have spoken to Peter, and he will be ready to
go with us in an hour or so. I think we may even get out to Scilly and
Maiden Bower.'

Yes; the morning was bright and the sky was clear. In the golden
sunshine of September the islets across the water showed like
creations of a poet's dream.

Roland drew a deep breath of admiration. 'Everybody,' he said, 'ought
to come to Scilly and to stay a long time.'

He turned from the view to the girl beside him. She had changed her
blue flannel dress for a daintier and a prettier costume--think not
that there are no shops at Hugh Town--of grey nun's cloth, daintily
embroidered in front. Still at her throat she wore a red flower, and
round her neck clung the golden torque found in the old king's grave.
Her dark eyes glowed: her lips were parted in a smile: her cheek
showed the dewy bloom that some girls, fortunate above their sisters,
can exhibit when they first appear in the morning: her long tresses
were now tied up and confined; she looked as if she had just stepped
forth from her chamber, fresh from her sleep. No one certainly could
have guessed that she had been up since six; nor that the fish which
had been hissing in the frying-pan, and were now lying meekly side by
side in a dish on the breakfast-table, were of her own catching. An
hour's sitting in the boat off Samson Ledge with hook and line had
procured this splendid contribution to the morning banquet. Fish
fragrant with the salt sea: fish that had not been packed tight in
boxes, nor travelled in railway trains, nor been slapped about on
counters, nor been packed in ice; fish that can never lie on a London
table--these were set out before Roland's hungry gaze.

The ancient dame did not appear. The two breakfasted, as they had
supped, together. I do not know how or where Armorel learned the art
and practice of hospitality, but certainly she showed a true feeling
in the matter of feeding--especially at breakfast. First, the table
was decorated with the autumn leaves of the bramble--crimson, yellow,
purple--few, indeed, know how beautiful a table may be made when
decorated with these leaves. There were also a few late flowers from
the garden; but not many. The coffee was strong, the milk hot and
thick, the bread and butter home-made, like the beer of yester eve:
the ham was cured by Chessun: the eggs were collected by Armorel: she
had also with her own hands made the jam and the cake.

Armorel sat behind the cups with as much ease as if she had been
accustomed from infancy to entertain young gentlemen at breakfast. She
was serious over her task, and poured out the coffee as if it was
something precious, not to be wasted or carelessly administered, which
is the spirit in which all good food should be approached. She did not
ask any questions, nor did she talk much during the banquet. Perhaps
she had an instinctive perception of the great truth that breakfast,
which is taken at the beginning of the day--the sacred day, with all
its possibilities and its chances of what may happen; the fateful day,
which alone and unaided may change the whole course and current of a
life--should be approached with a becoming gravity. At breakfast the
man fortifies himself before he goes forth to work. But he has the
work before him. In the evening it is done: he has passed through the
dangers of the day: he still lives: he has received no hurt: he has,
we hope, prospered in his honest handiwork: he may laugh and rejoice.
But at breakfast we should be serious.

'What will you do,' asked Armorel, breakfast completed, 'until Peter
is ready? He has got some work, you know, before he can come out.'

'I should like first,' he said, 'to see your flower-farm, if I may.'

'If you please. But there is nothing to see at this time of the year.
You must not think we grow flowers all the year round. If you were
here in February, you would see the fields covered with beautiful
flowers--iris, anemone, jonquil, narcissus, and daffodil. They are
very pretty then, and the air is sweet with their scent. But now the
fields are quite bare.'

'I should like to see them, however.'

'I will show them to you. It is a great happiness to the islands,'
said Armorel, gravely, 'that we have found out the flower-farming.
Everybody was very poor before. All the old ways of living were gone,
you see. A long time ago the people had wrecks every winter--the sea
cast up quantities of things which they could sell, or they went out
in boats and took the things out of the hold when the ship was on the
rocks. And then they were all smugglers: the Scillonians used to run
over to France openly, day and night, with no one to stop them. And
they used to carry fruit and vegetables out to the homeward-bound
ships in the Channel. And then they were pilots as well. Some of the
men used to make as much as two hundred pounds a year as pilots. My
grandfathers were all pilots. They were smugglers too; and they had
this farm and grew vegetables for the ships. Then the Government built
the lighthouses, and there were no more wrecks; and the Preventive
Service came and stopped the smuggling; and since the steamers took
the place of the sailing-ships no vessels put in here, and there are
no more pilots wanted. So, you see, it was as if nothing was left at
all.'

'It does seem rough on the people.'

'First they tried kelp-making. They collected the sea-weed and put it
in a kiln or furnace, and made a fire under it. I can show you some of
the old furnaces still. But that came to an end. Then they tried a
fishing company; but I believe it did not pay. And then they began to
build ships; but I suppose other people could build them better. So
that came to an end too. And for some time I do not know how all the
people lived. As for the farms, they could never grow enough for the
islands. Then a great many of the people went away. They had to go, or
they would have starved. Some went to England, and some to America,
and some to Australia. All the families went away from Samson, one by
one, until at last there were none left but ourselves and Justinian.
On Bryher and St. Martin's they became fishermen, but not here. As for
Justinian, he sent away all his boys except Peter. Oh! they have done
very well--splendidly. One is a coastguard, and one is bo's'n in the
Queen's Navy. One is captain of a steamer trading between Philadelphia
and Cuba, and one is actually chief steward on a great Pacific liner!
Justinian is very proud of him.'

'Indeed, yes,' said Roland, 'with reason.'

'The Scillonians,' the girl continued, proudly, 'all get on very well
wherever they go. They are honest, you see, as well as clever.'

'And the flower-farming?'

'Somebody discovered that the early spring flowers, which begin here
in January, could be carried to London and sold quite fresh. And then
everybody began to plant bulbs. That is all. We have had a farm of
some kind here for I do not know how many generations.'

'Since the time,' Roland suggested, 'when, in consequence of the
separation of Scilly from the mainland and the disappearance of
Lyonesse, the royal family found themselves left in Samson.'

She laughed. 'Well, all these stone inclosures on the hill belonged to
our farm. We grew things and ate them, I suppose. Perhaps we sold
them. But we were then poor, I know, and now we have no more trouble.'

Beside and behind the farmhouse on the slope of the hill they came
upon a series of little fields following one after the other. They
were quite small--some mere patches, none larger than a garden of
ordinary size, and they were all enclosed and shut in by high hedges,
so that they looked like largish boxes with the lids off. Some of the
hedges were of elm, growing thick and close; some of escallonia, with
its red flowers; some of veronica, its purple blossom like heads of
bulrush; some of the service-tree; and some, but not many, of
tamarisk, its pink bunches of blossom all displayed at this time of
the year. But the fields were now brown and bare, and had nothing at
all growing in them, except a few patches of gladiolus, now dying.
Beyond these fields, however, there were others of larger area, with
ruder hedges formed by laths, reeds, wooden palings, and stone walls.
These were inclosed, and partly sheltered for the growth of
vegetables.

'These are our fields,' said Armorel. 'At this time of the year there
is nothing to show you. Our harvest begins in January, and lasts till
May; but February and March are our best months. See--there is Peter,
with a young man from Bryher, planting bulbs for next year: they are
taken up every three years and replanted.'

Peter, in fact, was at work. He was superintending--a form of work
which he found to suit him best--while the young man from Bryher, who
looked more than half sailor, with a broad, long-handled spade, was
leisurely turning over the light sandy soil and laying in the bulbs
side by side out of a great basket.

'It seems an easy form of agriculture,' said Roland.

'It is not hard. There is nothing to do after this until the flowers
are picked. But sometimes a cold wind will come down from the north
and will kill a whole field full of blossoms--in spite of all our
hedges. That is a terrible loss. When everything goes well, we cut the
flowers, pack them in boxes, carry them over to the port, and next
morning they are sold in London--oh! and all over the country, in
every big town.'

'I shall never again behold a daffodil in February,' said Roland,
'without thinking of Samson. You have lent a new association to the
spring flowers. Henceforth they will bring back this glorious view of
sea and islands, grey and black rocks, the splendid sunshine and the
fresh breeze--and,' he added, with a winning smile and deferential
eyes, 'the Lady of Lyonesse.'

Armorel laughed. It was very nice to be called the Lady of
Lyonesse--nobody before had ever called her anything except plain
Armorel. And it was quite a new experience to have a young gentleman
treating her with deference as well as compliment.

At the back of the house was an orchard, through which they presently
passed. Like the flower-fields, it was protected by a high hedge. But
the apple-trees looked like the olives of Provence: every one seemed
in the last decay of age. They were twisted and dwarfish; the branches
grew in queer angles and elbows, as if they were crouching down out of
reach of the north wind; the trunks were bent, and, which completed
their resemblance to the olive, all alike were covered and clothed
with a thick grey lichen, clinging to every bough like a glove, and
hanging like a fringe. If you tear it off, the tree begins to shiver
and shake, though on Samson it is never cold.

'Let us sit down,' said Roland, 'in this secluded spot and talk. Have
I your leave, Armorel, to---- Thank you.' He filled and lit his
briar-root, and lay back on the warm bank, gazing upwards at the blue
sky through the leaves and the twisted branches of an aged apple-tree.

'It is good to be here. Do you know how very, very good it was of you
to ask me, Armorel? And do you know how very, very rash it was?'

The girl, who showed her youth and inexperience in many little ways,
regarded him with admiration unconcealed. Certainly, he was a
personable young man, even picturesque; when his beard should be a
little longer, when his moustache should be a little stronger, he
might be able to pass for Charles I. idealised, and in early manhood,
when as yet he had not begun to dissimulate.

'I was so glad when you promised to stay,' she replied, truthfully.

'Again, it is most good of you to say so. But, Armorel, a dreadful
misgiving has possessed me. Does your--does the Ancestress approve of
the invitation?'

Armorel laughed. 'Why,' she said, 'we never consult her about
anything. She is too old, you know.'

'Was nobody consulted at all? Did you ask me here all out of your own
head, as the children say?'

'Why not? There is nobody to consult. Why should I not ask you?'

'It was very good of you--only--well--you are younger than most ladies
who invite people to their house.'

'Well--but I asked you,' she replied, with a little irritation, 'and
you said you would come. You asked if anybody could stay on the
island.'

'Yes, of course.' He did not explain that at first he thought the
place was a lodging-house. The mistake was not unnatural; but he could
not explain. 'I ought to have known,' he said. 'You are the Queen of
Samson, as well as a Princess in Lyonesse. I beg your Majesty to
forgive the ignorance of a traveller from foreign parts.'

'Justinian and Peter manage the farm. Dorcas and Chessun manage the
house. There is no one to ask,' she added, simply, 'what I am doing.'

She said this with a touch of sadness.

'Have you no relations--cousins--nobody?'

'I have some far-off cousins. They live in London, I believe. One of
them went away--a long, long time ago, in the Great War--and became a
purser in the Navy. After that he was purveyor for the Fleet, and was
made a knight. He was my grandfather's cousin, so I suppose he is dead
by this time, but I dare say he has left children.'

'You are very lonely, Armorel.'

'I had three brothers; but they were all drowned--father, mother,
three brothers, all drowned together coming from St. Agnes. That was
ten years ago, when I was only a little girl and did not know what it
meant. All our misfortunes, my great-great-grandmother says, are due
to the wickedness of her husband's father, who took a bag of treasure
from the neck of a passenger rescued from a wreck. You heard her last
night. Do you think that God would drown my innocent brothers and my
innocent father and mother all on the same day, because, eighty years
ago, that wicked thing was done?'

'No, Armorel. I can believe a great deal, but that I cannot believe.'

'And so, you see, I am quite alone. Why should I not invite you to
stay here?'

'There is not, in reality, Armorel, any reason, except that you did
not know anything about me.'

'Oh! but I saw you and talked with you.'

'Yes; but that was not enough. We do not ask people into our houses
unless we know something about them.'

'I could see that you were a gentleman.'

'You are very good to think so. Let me try to justify that belief.
But, Armorel, seriously, there are thieves and rogues and wicked men
in the world. Some of these may come to Scilly. Do not ask another
stranger. Believe me, it is dangerous. As for me, you have shown me
your flower-farm and have entertained me hospitably: let me thank you
and take my departure.'

'Go away? Take your departure? Why?' Armorel looked ready to cry. 'You
have only just come. You have seen nothing.'

'Do you wish me to stay another night?'

'Of course I do. What is it, Roland Lee? You have got something on
your mind. Why should you not stay?'

'I should like somebody,' he replied, weakly, 'to approve. If the
Ancestress, or even Dorcas, or Chessun herself, would approve----'

'Why, of course Dorcas approves. She says it is the best thing in the
world for me to have someone here to talk to. She said so yesterday
evening, and again this morning.'

'In that case, Armorel, and since it is so delightful here--and so
new--and since you are so kind, I will stay one more day.'

He remembered his friend's warning, and the grumpiness which he showed
on the way back. His conscience smote him, but not severely. He would
be very careful. And, after all, she was but a child. He would just
stay the one day and make a sketch or two. Then he would go away.

'That is settled, then. One more day--or, perhaps, one more week, or a
month, or a year,' she said, laughing. 'And now, before Peter is
ready, I must leave you for ten minutes, because I have to make a cake
for your tea this evening. As for dinner, we shall have that in the
boat, or on one of the islands. It is my business, you know, to make
the puddings and the cakes.'

'Armorel--you shall not. I would rather go without.'

'You shall certainly not go without a cake. Why, I like to make
things. It would be dull here indeed if I had not got things to do all
day long.'

'Do you not find it dull sometimes, even with things to do?'

'Perhaps. Sometimes. I suppose we are all of us tempted to be
discontented at times, even when we have so many blessings as I
enjoy.' Armorel was young enough, you see, to talk the language of her
nurses and serving-women.

'How do you get through the day?'

'I get up at six o'clock, except in winter, when it is too dark. I
have a run with Jack after breakfast; we run up the hill and down the
other side--round Porth Bay, just to see the waves beating on White
Island Ledge, where you very nearly----'

'Very nearly,' Roland echoed, 'but for you.'

'Then we run up Bryher Hill and stand on the carn just for Jack to
bark at the north wind.'

'Sometimes it rains.'

'Oh, yes--and sometimes it blows such a gale of wind that I could not
stand on the carn for a moment. Then I stay at home and make or mend
something. There are always things to be made or mended. Then we are
always wanting stores of some kind or other, and I have to go over to
Hugh Town and buy them. At Hugh Town there are shops where they keep
beautiful things--you can buy anything you want at Hugh Town. We
cannot make pins and needles at home, can we? Then we have dinner, and
Granny is brought in. Sometimes she wakes up then, and gets lively,
and knows everything that is going on. She will talk quite sensibly
for an hour at a time. And I have my fiddle to practise. After tea,
when the days are long enough, I go up on the hills again and wander
about till dark.'

'And do you never have any companions at all?' he asked with a
curious, unreasoning, perfectly inexcusable touch of jealousy, because
it could not matter to him even if all the young men of St. Mary's and
Bryher and Tresco and St. Martin's came over every Sunday to court
this dainty damsel. Yet he did feel the least bit anxious.

'Never any companions. Nobody ever comes here. They used to come, when
Granny was still able to talk, in order to ask her advice. She was so
wise, you see.'

'And every evening you make music for the Ancestress and the worthy
Tryeth family?'

'Yes, and then I have supper and go to bed. Generally by nine o'clock
we are all asleep in the house.'

'It would be a monotonous life if you were older. But it is only a
preliminary or a preparation to something else. It is the overture,
played in soft music, to the happy comedy of your future life,
Armorel.'

'You mean to say something kind,' she replied. 'Of course, my life
must seem dull to you.'

'One cannot always live on lovely skies and sunlit seas and enchanted
islands.'

'Sometimes it seems to me that a little more talk would be pleasant.
Justinian talks very well, to be sure; but he is the only one. He
knows quantities of wrecks. It would astonish you to hear him tell of
the wrecks he has seen. Dorcas talks very little now, because she has
lost all her teeth. Chessun is a silent woman, because she's always
been kept under by her mother. And Peter's not a talkative boy,
because he's always been kept under both by his father and his mother.
Besides, he got that nasty fall which made all his hair fall off. You
can't wonder if he thinks about that a good deal. And they are all
getting old.'

'Yes. They seem to be getting very old indeed. Some day they will
follow the example of other old people and vanish. Then, Armorel, you
will be like Robinson Crusoe or Alexander Selkirk.'

'I know all about Alexander Selkirk. He lived alone on Juan Fernandez,
having been put ashore by Captain Stradling, of the "Cinque Ports." He
had been four years and four months on the island when Captain Woodes
Rogers found him. He was clothed in goat-skin. He built two huts with
pimento-trees, and covered them with long grass and lined them with
the skin of goats. He made fire by rubbing two sticks together on his
knee. And he lived by catching goats. You mean, Roland Lee,' she said,
with great seriousness, 'that some day or other all these old people
will die--my great-great-grandmother, Justinian, Dorcas, and even
Peter and Chessun, and that then I shall be alone on the island. That
would be terrible. But it will not happen in that way. I am sure it
will not, because it would be so very terrible. We are in the Lord's
hand, and it will not be allowed.'

The young man coloured and dropped his eyes. There certainly was not a
single girl of all those whom he knew in London who could have said
such a thing so simply and so sincerely. Not the youngest girl fresh
from the most religious teaching could say such a thing. Yet they go
to church a good deal oftener than Armorel, whose chances were only
once a week, and then only when the weather was fine. This it is to be
a Scillonian, and to believe what you hear in church. Roland had no
reply to make. Even to hint that faith so simple and so complete was
rare would have been cruel and wicked.

'You have quoted Woodes Rogers,' he said presently. 'Have you read
that good old navigator? It is not often that one finds a girl quoting
from Woodes Rogers.'

'Oh! I do not read much. There is a bookcase full of books; but I only
read the voyages. There is a whole row of them. Woodes Rogers,
Shelvocke, Commodore Anson, Wallis, Carteret, and Cook--and more
besides. I like Carteret best, because his ship was so small and so
crazy, and his men so few and so weak, and yet he would keep on
traversing the ocean as long as he could, and discovered a great deal
more than his commander, who cowardly deserted him.'

'There are other things in the world besides voyages--and other
books.'

'I learned the other things at school. There was geography--the world
is only the Scilly Islands spread out big--and history, too. You would
be surprised to find what a lot of English history there is that
belongs to Scilly. Queen Elizabeth built the Star Fort--you've seen
the Star Fort on the Garrison. There is Charles the First's Castle, on
Tresco, all in ruins; and, down below it, Cromwell's Castle, which I
will show you. And Charles the Second stayed here. Oh! and there was
the Spanish Armada; I must not forget that, because of another
great-great-far-off-great-grandfather, three hundred years ago, who
was wrecked here.'

'How was that?'

'He was a captain, or officer of some kind, on board one of the
Spanish ships; his name was Don Hernando Mureno. After the Armada was
defeated and driven away, some of the ships came down the Irish Sea,
and among them his ship--and she ran ashore on one of the Outer
Islands--I think on Maiden Bower. How many were saved I cannot tell
you; but some were, and among them Don Hernando Mureno himself. He
stayed here, and never wanted to go away any more; but married a
Scillonian, and lived out his life on Bryher, and is buried at the old
church at St. Mary's, where I could show you his grave and the
headstone--though the letters are all gone by this time. I have his
sword still, and I will show it to you. One of my grandfathers married
his granddaughter. They say I take after the Spanish side.'

'You are a true Castilian, Armorel; unless, indeed, you happen to be
an Andalusian or a Biscayan.'

'Do you think I ought to read the other books?' she asked him,
anxiously. 'If you really think so, I will try--I will, really.'

I suppose that no young man--not even the most hardened lecturers at
Newnham--ever becomes quite indifferent to the spectacle of Venus
entrusting the care of her intellect to a young philosopher. It is a
moving spectacle, and still novel. It makes a much more beautiful
picture than that of Venus handing over the care of her soul to the
Shaven and Shorn. Roland coloured. He felt at once the responsibility
and the delicacy of the task thus offered him.

'We will look into the shelves,' he said. 'I suppose that the
Ancestress no longer reads?'

'She never learned to read at all. She can neither read nor write: yet
there was never anyone who knew so much. She could cure all diseases,
and the people came over here from all the islands for her advice.
Dorcas knew a great deal, but she does not know the half or the
quarter of her mistress's knowledge.'

'Armorel'--Roland knocked out the ashes of his pipe--'I think you
want--very badly--someone to advise you.'

'Will you advise me, Roland Lee?'

'Child'--he slowly got up--'all my life, so far, I have been looking
for someone to advise and help myself. You must not lean upon a reed.
Come--let us seek Peter the boy, and launch the ship and go forth upon
our voyage about this sea of many islands. Perchance we may discover
Circe upon one of them--unless you are yourself Circe--and I shall
presently find myself transformed; but you are too good to turn me
into anything except a prince or a poet. And we may light upon St.
Brandan's Land; or we may find Judas Iscariot floating on that island
of red-hot brass; or we may chance on Andromeda, and witness the
battle of Perseus and the dragon; or we may find the weeping
Ariadne--everything is possible on an island.'

'Roland Lee,' said the girl, 'you are talking like your friend Dick
Stephenson. Why do you say such extravagant things? This is the island
of Samson, and I am nothing in the world but Armorel Rosevean.'



CHAPTER VII

A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY


All day long the boat sailed about among the channels and over the
shallow ledges of the Outer or Western Islands, whither no boat may
reach save on such a day, so quiet and so calm. The visitor who comes
by one boat and goes away by the next thinks he has seen this
archipelago. As well stand inside a great cathedral for half an hour
and then go away thinking you have seen it all. It takes many days to
see these fragments of Lyonesse, and to get a time sense of the place.
They sailed round the southern point of Samson, and they steered
westward, leaving Great Minalto on the lee, towards Mincarlo, lying,
like an old-fashioned sofa, high at the two ends and flat in the
middle. They found a landing at the southern point, and clambered up
the steep and rocky sides of the low hill. On this island there are
four peaks with a down in the middle, all complete. It is like a
doll's island. Everywhere in Scilly there are the same features:
here a hill strewn with boulders; here a little down, with fern and
gorse and heath; here a bay in which the water, on such days as it can
be approached, peacefully laps a smooth white beach; here dark caves
and holes in which the water always, even in the calmest day of
summer, grumbles and groans, and, when the least sea rises, begins to
roar and bellow--in time of storm it shrieks and howls. Those who sail
round these rumbling water-dungeons begin to think of sea monsters.
Hidden in those recesses the awful calamary lies watching, waiting,
his tentacles forty feet long stretching out in the green water,
floating innocently till they touch their prey, then seizing and
haling it within sight of the baleful, gleaming eyes and within reach
of the devouring mouth. In these holes, too, lie the great
conger-eels--they fear nothing that swims except that calamary; and in
these recesses walk about the huge crabs which devour the dead bodies
of shipwrecked sailors. On the sunlit rocks one looks to see a
mermaiden, with glittering scales, combing out her long fair tresses:
perhaps one may unfortunately miss this beautiful sight, which is rare
even in Scilly; but one cannot miss seeing the seals flopping in the
water and swimming out to sea, with seeming intent to cross the broad
ocean. And in windy weather porpoises blow in the shallow waters of
the sounds. All round the rocks at low tide hangs the long sea-weed,
undisturbed since the days when they manufactured kelp, like the rank
growth of a tropical creeper: at high tide it stands up erect, rocking
to and fro in the wash and sway of the water like the tree-tops of the
forest in the breeze. Everywhere, except in the rare places where men
come and go, the wild sea-birds make their nests; the shags stand on
the ledges of the highest rocks in silent rows gazing upon the water
below; the sea-gulls fly, shrieking in sea-gullic rapture--there is
surely no life quite so joyous as a sea-gull's; the curlews call; the
herons sail across the sky; and, in spring, millions of puffins swim
and dive and fly about the rocks, and lay their eggs in the hollow
places of these wild and lonely islands.

These things, which one presently expects and observes without wonder
in all the islands, were new to Roland when he set foot on the rugged
rock of Mincarlo. He climbed up the steep sides of the rock and stood
upon the top of its highest peak. He made two or three rapid sketches
of rock and sea, the girl looking over his shoulder, watching
curiously, for the first time in her life, the growth of a picture.

[Illustration: _Watching curiously, for the first time in her life,
the growth of a picture._]

Then he stood and looked around. The great stones were piled about;
the brown turf crept up their sides; where there was space to grow,
the yellow branches of the fern were spread; and on all four sides lay
the shining water.

'All my life,' he said, 'I have dreamed of islands. This is true joy,
Armorel. For a permanency, Samson is better than Mincarlo, because
there is more of it. But to come here sometimes--to sit on this carn
while the wind whistles in your ear, and the waves are lapping against
the rocks all day long and always----Armorel, is there any other
world? Are there men and women living somewhere? Is there anybody but
you and me--and Peter?' he added, hastily. 'I don't believe in London.
It is a dream. Everything is a dream but the islands and the boat and
Armorel.'

She was only a child, but she turned a rosy red at the compliment.
Nothing but the boat and herself. She was very fond of the boat, you
see, and she felt that the words conveyed a high compliment. Then they
began to explore the rest of this mountainous island, which has such a
variety of scenery all packed away in the small space of twelve acres.
When they had walked over the whole of Mincarlo that is accessible,
they returned to their landing-place, where Peter sat in the boat
keeping her off, with head bent as if he was asleep.

'It must be half-past twelve,' said Armorel. 'I am sure you are
hungry. We will have dinner here.'

'No better place for a picnic. Come along, Peter. Bear a hand with the
basket. Here, Armorel, is a rock that will do for a table, and here is
one on which we two can sit. There is a rock for you, Peter. Now! The
opening of a luncheon-basket is always a moment of grave anxiety. What
have we got?'

'This is a rabbit-pie,' said Armorel. 'And this is a cake-pudding. I
made it yesterday. Do you like cake-pudding? Here are bread and salt
and things. Can you make your dinner off a rabbit-pie, Roland Lee?'

'A very good dinner too.' The young man now understood that on Samson
one uses the word dinner instead of lunch, and that supper is an
excellent cold spread served at eight. 'A very good dinner, Armorel. I
mean to carve this. Sit down and let me see you make a good dinner.'

An admirable rabbit-pie, and an excellent cake-pudding. Also, there
had not been forgotten a stone jar filled with that home-brewed of
which the like can no longer be found in any other spot in the British
Islands. I hope one need do no more than indicate the truly
appreciative havoc wrought by the young gentleman among all these good
gifts and blessings.

After dinner, to lie in the sunshine and have a pipe, looking across
the wide stretch of sunny water to the broken line of rocks and the
blue horizon beyond, was happiness undeserved. Beside him sat the
girl, anxious that he should be happy--thinking of nothing but what
might best please her guest.

Then they got into the boat again, and sailed half a mile or so due
north by the compass, until they came within another separate
archipelago, of which Mincarlo is an outlying companion.

It is the group of rocks, called the Outer or the Western Islands,
lying tumbled about in the water west of Bryher and Samson. Some of
them are close together, some are separated by broad channels. Here
the sea is never calm: at the foot of the rocks stretch out ledges,
some of them bare at low water, revealing their ugly black stone
teeth: the swell of the Atlantic on the calmest days rises and falls
and makes white eddies, broken water, and flying spray. Among these
rocks they rowed: Peter and Roland taking the oars, while Armorel
steered. They rowed round Maiden Bower, with its cluster of granite
forts defying the whole strength of the Atlantic, which will want
another hundred thousand years to grind them down--about and among the
Black Rocks and the Seal Rocks, dark and threatening: they landed on
Ilyswillig, with his peak of fifty feet, a strange wild island: they
stood on the ledge of Castle Bryher and looked up at the tower of
granite which rises out of the water like the round keep of a Norman
castle: they hoisted sail and stood out to Scilly himself, where his
twin rocks command the entrance to the islands. Scilly is of the dual
number: he consists of two great mountains rising from the water
sheer, precipitous, and threatening: each about eighty feet high, but
with the air of eight hundred; each black and square and terrible of
aspect: they are separated by a narrow channel hardly broad enough for
a boat to pass through.

'One day last year,' said Armorel--'it was in July, after a fortnight
of fine weather--we went through this channel, Peter and I--didn't we,
Peter? It was a dead calm, and at high tide.'

The boy nodded his head.

The channel was now, the tide being nearly high, like a foaming
torrent, through which the water raced and rushed, boiling into
whirlpools, foaming and tearing at the sides. The rapids below Niagara
are not fiercer than was this channel, though the day was so fair and
the sea without so quiet.

'Once,' said Peter, breaking the silence, 'there was a ship cast up by
a wave right into the fork of the channel. She went to pieces in ten
minutes, for she was held in a vice like, while the waves beat her
into sticks. Some of the men got on to the north rock--what they call
"Cuckoo"--and there they stuck till the gale abated. Then people saw
them from Bryher, and a pilot-boat put off for them.'

'So they were saved?' said Roland.

'No, they were not saved,' Peter replied, slowly. ''Twas this way: the
pilot-boat that took them off the rock capsized on the way home. So
they was all drowned.'

'Poor beggars! Now, if they had been brought safe ashore we might have
been told what these rocks look like in rough weather: and what Scilly
is like when you have climbed it: and how a man feels in the middle of
a storm on Scilly.'

'You can see very well what it is like from Samson,' said Armorel.
'The waves beat upon the rocks, and the white spray flies over them
and hides them.'

'I should like to hear as well as to see,' said Roland. 'Fancy the
thunder of the Atlantic waves against this mass of rock, the hissing
and boiling in the channel, the roaring of the wind and the dashing of
the waves! I wonder if any of these shipwrecked men had a sketch-book
in his pocket.

'To be drowned,' he continued, 'just by the upsetting of a boat, and
after escaping death in a much more exciting manner! Their companions
were torn from the deck and hurled and dashed against the rock, so
that in a moment their bones were broken to fragments, and the
fragments themselves were thrown against the rocks till there was
nothing left of them. And these poor fellows clung to the rock, hiding
under a boulder from the driving wind--cold, starving, wet, and
miserable. And just as they thought of food and shelter and warmth
again, to be taken and plunged into the cold water, there to roll
about till they were drowned! A dreadful tragedy!'

Having thus broken the ice, Peter proceeded to relate more stories of
shipwreck, taking after his father, Justinian Tryeth, whose
conversational powers in this direction were, according to Armorel,
unrivalled. There is a shipwreck story belonging to every rock of
Scilly, and to many there are several shipwrecks. As there are about
as many rocks of Scilly as there are days in the year, the stories
would take long in the telling.

Fortunately, Peter did not know all. It is natural, however, that a
native of Samson, and the descendant of many generations of wreckers,
should love to talk about wrecks. Therefore he proceeded to tell of
the French frigate which came over to conquer Scilly in 1798, and was
very properly driven ashore by the sea which owns allegiance to
Britannia, and all hands lost, so that the Frenchmen captured no more
than their graves, which now lie in a triumphant row on St. Agnes. On
Maiden Bower he placed, I know not with what truth, the wreck of the
Spaniard which gave Armorel an ancestor. On Mincarlo he remembered the
loss of an orange-ship on her way from the Azores. On Menovaur he had
seen a collier driven in broad daylight and broken all to pieces in
half a day, and of her crew not a man saved. Other things, similarly
cheerful, he narrated slowly while the sunshine made these grey rocks
put on a hospitable look and the boat danced over the rippling waves.
With his droning voice, his smooth face with the long white hair upon
it, like the last scanty leaves upon a tree, he was like the figure of
Death at the Feast, while Armorel--young, beautiful, smiling--reminded
her guest of Life, and Love, and Hope.

They sailed round so many of these rocks and islets: they landed on so
many: they lingered so long among the reefs, loth to leave the wild,
strange place, that the sun was fast going down when they hoisted sail
and steered for New Grinsey Sound on their homeward way.

You may enter New Grinsey Sound either from the north or from the
south. The disadvantage of attempting it from the former on ordinary
days is that those who do so are generally capsized and frequently
drowned. On such a day as this, however, the northern passage may be
attempted. It is the channel, dangerous and beset with rocks and
ledges, between the islands of Bryher and Tresco. As the boat sailed
slowly in, losing the breeze as it rounded the point, the channel
spread itself out broad and clear. On the right hand rose,
precipitous, the cliffs and crags of Shipman's Head, which looks like
a continuation of Bryher, but is really separated from the island by a
narrow passage--you may work through it in calm weather--running from
Hell Bay to the Sound. On the left is Tresco, its downs rising steeply
from the water, and making a great pretence of being a very lofty
ascent indeed. In the middle of the coast juts out a high promontory,
surrounded on all sides but one by the water. On this rock stands
Cromwell's Castle, a round tower, older than the Martello Towers. It
still possesses a roof, but its interior has been long since gutted.
In front of it has been built a square stone platform or bastion,
where once, no doubt, they mounted guns for the purpose of defending
this channel against an invader, as if Nature had not already defended
it by her ledges and shallows and hardly concealed teeth of granite.
To protect by a fort a channel when the way is so tortuous and
difficult, and where there are so many other ways, is almost as if
Warkworth Castle, five miles inland, on the winding Coquet, had been
built to protect the shores of Northumberland from the invading Dane:
or as if Chepstow above the muddy Wye had been built for the defence
of Bristol. There, however, the castle is, and a very noble picture it
made as the boat slowly voyaged through the Sound. The declining sun,
not yet sunk too low behind Bryher, clothed it with light and
splendour, and brought out the rich colour of grey rock and yellow
fern upon the steep hillside behind. Beyond the castle, in the midst
of the Sound, rose a pyramidal island, a pile of rocks, seventy or
eighty feet high, on whose highest carn some of Oliver Cromwell's
prisoners were hanged, according to the voice of tradition, which,
somehow, always goes dead against that strong person.

Roland, who had exhausted the language of delight among the Outer
Islands, contemplated this picture in silence.

'Do you not like it?' asked the girl.

'Like it?' he repeated. 'Armorel! It is splendid.'

'Will you make a sketch of it?'

'I cannot. I must make a picture. I ought to come here day after day.
There must be a good place to take it from--over there, I think, on
that beach. Armorel! It is splendid. To think that the picture is to
be seen so near to London, and that no one comes to see it!'

'If you want to come day after day, Roland,' she said, softly, 'you
will not be able to go away to-morrow. You must stay longer with us on
Samson.'

'I ought not, child. You should not ask me.'

'Why should you not stay if you are happy with us? We will make you as
comfortable as ever we can. You have only to tell us what you want.'

She looked so eagerly and sincerely anxious that he yielded.

'If you are really and truly sure,' he said.

'Of course I am really and truly sure. The weather will be fine, I
think, and we will go sailing every day.'

'Then I will stay a day or two longer. I will make a picture of
Cromwell's Castle--and the hill at the back of it and the water below
it. I will make it for you, Armorel; but I will keep a copy of it for
myself. Then we shall each have a memento of this day--something to
remember it by.'

'I should like to have the picture. But, oh! Roland!--as if I could
ever forget this day!'

She spoke with perfect simplicity, this child of Nature, without the
least touch of coquetry. Why should she not speak what was in her
heart? Never before had she seen a young man so brave, so gallant, so
comely: nor one who spoke so gently: nor one who treated her with so
much consideration.

He turned his face: he could not meet those trustful eyes, with the
innocence that lay there: he was abashed by reason of this innocence.
A child--only a child. Armorel would change. In a year or two this
trustfulness would vanish. She would become like all other girls--shy
and reserved, self-conscious in intuitive self-defence. But there was
no harm as yet. She was a child--only a child.

As the sun went down the bows ran into the fine white sand of the
landing-place, and their voyage was ended.

'A perfect day,' he murmured. 'A day to dream of. How shall I thank
you enough, Armorel?'

'You can stay and have some more days like it.'



CHAPTER VIII

THE VOYAGERS


This was the first of many such voyages and travels, though not often
in the outside waters, for the vexed Bermoothes themselves are not
more lashed by breezes from all the quarters of the compass than these
isles of Scilly. They sailed from point to point, and from island to
island, landing where they listed or where Armorel led, wandering for
long hours round the shores or on the hills. All the islands, except
the bare rocks, are covered with down and moorland, bounded in every
direction by rocky headlands and slopes covered with granite
boulders. They were quite alone in their explorations: no native is
ever met upon those downs: no visitor, except on St. Mary's, wanders
on the beaches and around the bays. They were quite alone all the day
long: the sea-breeze whistled in their ears; the gulls flew over their
heads--the cormorants hardly stirred from the rocks when they climbed
up; the hawk that hung motionless in the air above them changed not
his place when they drew near. And always, day after day, they came
continually upon unexpected places: strange places, beautiful places:
beaches of dazzling white: wildly heaped carns: here a cromlech, a
logan stone, a barrow--Samson is not the only island which guards the
tombs of the Great Departed--a new view of sea and sky and
white-footed rock. I believe that there does not live any single man
who has actually explored all the isles of Scilly: stood upon every
rock, climbed every hill, and searched on every island for its
treasures of ancient barrows, plants, birds, carns, and headlands.
Once there was a worthy person who came here as chaplain to St.
Martin's. He started with the excellent intention of seeing
everything. Alas! he never saw a single island properly: he never
walked round one exhaustively. He wrote a book about them, to be sure;
but he saw only half. As for Samson, this person of feeble
intelligence even declared that the island was not worth a second
visit! After that one would shut the book, but is lured on in the hope
of finding something new.

One must not ask of the islanders themselves for information about the
isles, because few of them ever go outside their own island unless to
Hugh Town, where is the Port, and where are the shops. Why should
they? On the other islands they have no business. Justinian Tryeth,
for instance, was seventy-five years of age; Hugh Town he knew, and
had often been there, though now Peter did the business of the farm at
the Port: St. Agnes he knew, having wooed and won a wife there: he had
been to Bryher Church, which is close to the shore--the rest of Bryher
was to him as unknown as Iceland. As for St. Martin's, or Annet, or
Great Ganilly, he saw them constantly; they were always within his
sight, yet he had never desired to visit them. They were an emblem, a
shape, a name to him, and nothing more. It is so always with those who
live in strange and beautiful places: the marvels are part of their
daily life: they heed them not, unless, like Armorel, they have no
work to do and are quick to feel the influences of things around them.
Most Swiss people seem to care nothing for their Alps, but here and
there is one who would gladly spend all his days high up among the
fragrant pines, or climbing the slope of ice with steady step and
slow.

But these young people did try to visit all the islands. Upon Roland
there fell the insatiate curiosity--the rage--of an explorer and a
discoverer. He became like Captain Cook himself: he longed for more
islands: every day he found a new island. 'Give,' cries he who sails
upon unknown seas and scans the round circle of the horizon for the
cloudy peak of some far-distant mountain, 'give--give more
islands--still more islands! Let us sail for yonder cloud! Let us sail
on until the cloud becomes a hill-top, and the hill another island!
Largesse for him who first calls "Land ahead!" There shall we find
strange monsters and treasures rare, with friendly natives, and girls
more blooming than those of fair Tahiti. Let us sail thither, though
it prove no more than a barren rock, the resting-place of the
sea-lion; though we can do no more than climb its steep sides and
stand upon the top while the spray flies over the rocks and beats upon
our faces.' In such a spirit as Captain Carteret (Armorel's favourite)
steered his frail bark from shore to shore did Roland sail among those
Scilly seas.

Of course they went to Tresco, where there is the finest garden in all
the world. But one should not go to see the garden more than once,
because its perfumed alleys, its glasshouses, its cultivated and
artificial air, are somehow incongruous with the rest of the islands.
As well expect to meet a gentleman in a Court dress walking across
Fylingdale Moor. Yet it is indeed a very noble and royal garden: other
gardens have finer hothouses: none have a better show of flowers and
trees of every kind: for variety it is like unto the botanical gardens
of a tropical land: you might be standing in one of the alleys of the
garden of Mauritius, or of Java, or the Cape. Here everything grows
and flourishes that will grow anywhere, except, of course, those
plants which carry patriotism to an extreme and refuse absolutely to
leave their native soil. You cannot go picking pepper here, nor can
you strip the cinnamon-tree of its bark. But here you will see the
bamboos cluster, tall and graceful: the eucalyptus here parades his
naked trunk and his blue leaves: here the fern-tree lifts its circle
of glory of lace and embroidery twenty feet high: the prickly pear
nestles in warm corners: the aloe shoots up its tall stalk of flower
and of seed: the palms stand in long rows: and every lovely plant,
every sweet flower, created for the solace of man, grows abundantly,
and hastens with zeal to display its blossoms: the soft air is full of
perfumes, strange and familiar: it is as if Kew had taken off her
glass roofs and placed all her plants and trees to face the English
winter. But, then, the winter of Scilly is not the winter of Great
Britain. The botanist may visit this garden many times, and always
find something to please him; but the ordinary traveller will go but
once, and admire and come away. It is far better outside on the breezy
down, where the dry fern and withered bents crack beneath your feet,
and the elastic turf springs as you tread upon it. There are other
things on Tresco: there is a big fresh-water lake--it would be a
respectable lake even in Westmoreland--where the wild birds disport
themselves: beside it South American ostriches roam gravely, after
the manner of the bird. It is pleasant to see the creatures. There is
a great cave, if you like dark damp caves: better than the cave, there
is a splendid bold coast sloping steeply from the down all round the
northern part of the island.

Then they walked all round St. Mary's. It is nine miles round; but if,
as these young people did, you climb every headland and walk round
every bay, and descend every possible place where the boulders make a
ladder down to the boiling water below, it is nine hundred miles
round, and, for its length, the most wonderful walk in all the world.
They crossed the broad Sound to St. Agnes, and saw St. Warna's
wondrous cove: they stood on the desolate Gugh and the lonely Annet,
beloved of puffins: they climbed on every one of the Eastern Islands,
and even sailed, when they found a day calm enough to permit the
voyage, among the Dogs of Scilly, and clambered up the black boulders
of Rosevear and scared the astonished cormorants from wild Goreggan.

One day it rained in the morning. Then they had to stay at home, and
Armorel showed the house. She took her guest into the dairy, where
Chessun made the butter and scalded the cream--that rich cream which
the West-country folk eat with everything. She made him stand by and
help make a junket, which Devonshire people believe cannot be made
outside the shadow of Dartmoor: she took him into the kitchen--the old
room with its old furniture, the candlesticks and snuffers of brass,
the bacon hanging to the joists, the blue china, the ancient pewter
platters, the long bright spit--a kitchen of the eighteenth century.
And then she took him into a room which no longer exists anywhere else
save in name. It was the still-room, and on the shelves there stood
the elixirs and cordials of ancient time: the currant gin to fortify
the stomach on a raw morning before crossing the Road; the cherry
brandy for a cold and stormy night; the elderberry wine, good mulled
and spiced at Christmas-time; the blackberry wine; the home-made
distilled waters--lavender water, Hungary water, Cyprus water, and the
Divine Cordial itself, which takes three seasons to complete, and
requires all the flowers of spring, summer, and autumn. Then they went
into the best parlour, and Armorel, opening a cupboard, took out an
old sword of strange shape and with faded scabbard. On the blade there
was a graven Latin legend. 'This is my ancestor's sword,' she said.
'He was an officer of the Spanish Armada--Hernando Mureno was his
name.'

'You are indeed a Spanish lady, Armorel. Your ancestor is well known
to have been the bravest and most honourable gentleman in King
Philip's service.'

'He remained here--he would not go home: he married and became a
Protestant.'

She put back the sword in its place, and brought forth other things to
show him--old-fashioned watches, old compasses, sextants, telescopes,
flint-and-steel pistols--all kinds of things belonging to the old days
of smuggling and of piloting.

Then she opened the bookcase. It should have been filled with
histories of pirates and buccaneers; but it was not: it contained a
whole body of theology of the Methodist kind. Roland tossed them over
impatiently. 'I don't wonder,' he said, 'at your reading nothing if
this is all you have.' But he found one or two books which he set
aside.

As they wandered about the islands, of course they talked. It wants
but little to make a young man open his heart to a girl; only a pair
of soft and sympathetic eyes, a face full of interest and questions of
admiration. Whether she tells him anything in return is quite another
matter. Most young men, when they review the situation afterwards,
discover that they have told everything and learned nothing. Perhaps
there is nothing to learn. In a few days Armorel knew everything about
her guest. He had come from Australia--from that far-distant land--in
search of fortune. He had as yet made but few friends. He was unknown
and without patrons. He had no family connections which would help
him. The patrimony on which he was to live until he should begin to
succeed was but small, and although he held money-making in the
customary contempt, it was necessary that he should make a good deal,
because--which is often the case--his standard of comfort was pitched
rather high: it included, for instance, a good club, good cigars, and
good claret. Also, as he said, an artist should be free from sordid
anxieties: Art demands an atmosphere of calm: therefore, he must have
an income. This, like everything that does not exist, must be created.
Man is godlike because he alone of creatures can create: he, and he
alone, constantly creates things which previously did not exist--an
income, honour, rank, tastes, wants, desires, necessities, habits,
rules, and laws.

'How can you bear to sell your pictures?' asked the girl. 'We sell our
flowers, but then we grow them by the thousand. You make every picture
by itself--how can you sell the beautiful things? You must want to
keep them every one to look at all your life. Those that you have
given to me I could never part with.'

'One must live, fair friend of mine,' he replied, lightly. 'It is my
only way of making money, and without money we can do nothing. It is
not the selling of his pictures that the artist dreads--that is the
necessity of Art as a profession: it is the danger that no one will
care about seeing them or buying them. That is much more terrible,
because it means failure. Sometimes I dream that I have become old and
grey, and have been working all my life, and have had no success at
all, and am still unknown and despised. In Art there are thousands of
such failures. I think the artist who fails is despised more than any
other man. It is truly miserable to aspire so high and to fall so low.
Yet who am I that I should reach the port?'

'All good painters succeed,' said the girl, who had never seen a
painter before or any painting save her own coloured engravings. 'You
are a good painter, Roland. You must succeed. You will become a great
painter in everybody's estimation.'

'I will take your words for an oracle,' he said. 'When I am
melancholy, and the future looks dark, I will say, "Thus and thus
spoke Armorel."'

The young man who is about to attempt fortune by the pursuit of Art
must not consider too long the wrecks that strew the shores and float
about the waters, lest he lose self-confidence. Continually these
wrecks occur, and there is no insurance against them: yet continually
other barques hoist sail and set forth upon their perilous voyage. It
may be reckoned as a good point in this aspirant that he was not
over-confident.

'Some are wrecked at the outset,' he said. 'Others gain a kind of
success. Heavens! what a kind! To struggle all their lives for
admission to the galleries, and to rejoice if once in a while a
picture is sold.'

'They are not the good painters,' the girl of large experience again
reminded him.

'Am I a good painter?' he replied, humbly. 'Well, one can but try to
do good work, and leave to the gods the rest. There is luck in things.
It is not every good man who succeeds, Armorel. To every man, however,
there is allotted the highest stature possible for him to reach. Let
me be contented if I grow to my full height.'

'You must, Roland. You could not be contented with anything less.'

'To reach one's full height, one must live for work alone. It is a
hard saying, Armorel. It is a great deal harder than you can
understand.'

'If you love your work, and if you are happy in it----' said the girl.

'You do not understand, child, Most men never reach their full height.
You can see their pictures in the galleries--poor, stunted things. It
is because they live for anything rather than their work. They are
pictures without a soul in them.'

Now, when a young man holds forth in this strain, one or two things
suggest themselves. First, one thinks that he is playing a part,
putting on 'side,' affecting depths--in fact, enacting the part of the
common Prig, who is now, methinks, less common than he was. If he is
not a prig uttering insincere sentimentalities, he may be a young man
who has preserved his ideals beyond the usual age by some accident.
The ideals and beliefs and aspirations of young men, when they first
begin the study of Art in any of its branches, are very beautiful
things, and full of truths which can only, somehow, be expressed by
very young men. The third explanation is that in certain
circumstances, as in the companionship of a girl not belonging to
society and the world--a young, innocent, and receptive girl--whose
mind is ready for pure ideas, uncontaminated by earthly touch, the old
enthusiasms are apt to return and the old beliefs to come back. Then
such things may spring in the heart and rise to the lips as one could
not think or utter in a London studio.

Sincere or not, this young man pursued his theme, making a kind of
confession which Armorel could not, as yet, understand. But she
remembered. Women at all ages remember tenaciously, and treasure up in
their hearts things which they may at some other time learn to
understand.

'There was an old allegory, Armorel,' this young man went on, 'of a
young man choosing his way, once for all. It is an absurd story,
because every day and all day long we are pulled the other way.
Sometimes it makes me tremble all over only to think of the flowery
way. I know what the end would be. But yet, Armorel, what can you know
or understand about the Way of Pleasure, and how men are drawn into it
with ropes? My soul is sometimes sick with yearning when I think of
those who run along that Way and sing and feast.'

'What kind of Way is it, Roland?'

'You cannot understand, and I cannot tell you. The Way of Pleasure and
the Way of Wealth. These are the two roads by which the artistic life
is ruined. Yet we are dragged into them by ropes.'

'You shall keep to the true path, Roland,' the girl said, with
glistening eyes. 'Oh! how happy you will be when you have reached your
full height--you will be a giant then.'

He laughed and shook his head. 'Again, Armorel, I will take it from
your lips--a prophecy. But you do not understand.'

'No,' she said. 'I am very ignorant. Yet if I cannot understand, I can
remember. The Way of Pleasure and the Way of Wealth. I shall remember.
We are told that we must not set our hearts upon the things of this
world. I used to think that it meant being too fond of pretty frocks
and ribbons. Dorcas said so once. Since you have come I see that there
are many, many things that I know nothing of. If I am to be dragged to
them by ropes, I do not want to know them. The Way of Pleasure and the
Way of Wealth. They destroy the artistic life,' she repeated, as if
learning a lesson. 'These ways must be ways of Sin, don't you think?'
she asked, looking up with curious eyes.

Doubtless. Yet this is not quite the modern manner of regarding and
speaking of the subject. And considering what an eighteenth-century
and bourgeois-like manner it is, and how fond we now are of that
remarkable century, one is surprised that the manner has not before
now been revived. When we again tie our hair behind and assume
silver-buckled shoes and white silk stockings, we shall once more
adopt that manner. It was not, however, artificial with Armorel. The
words fell naturally from her lips. A thing that was prejudicial to
the better nature of a man must, she thought, belong to ways of Sin.
Again--doubtless. But Roland did not think of it in that way, and the
words startled him.

'Puritan!' he said. 'But you are always right. It is the instinct of
your heart always to be right. But we no longer talk that language. It
is a hundred years old. In these days there is no more talk about
Sin--at least, outside certain circles. There are habits, it is true,
which harm an artist's eye and destroy his hand. We say that it is a
pity when an artist falls into these habits. We call it a pity,
Armorel, not the way of Sin. A pity--that is all. It means the same
thing, I dare say, so far as the artist is concerned.'



CHAPTER IX

THE LAST DAY BUT ONE


The last day but one! It always comes at length--it is bound to
come--the saddest, the most sentimental of all days. The boy who
leaves school--I speak of the old-fashioned boy and the ancient
school--where he has been fagged and bullied and flogged, on this last
day but one looks round with a choking throat upon the dingy walls and
the battered desks. Even the convict who is about to be released after
years of prison feels a sentimental melancholy in gazing for the last
time upon the whitewashed walls. The world, which misunderstands the
power of temptation and is distrustful as to the reality of
repentance, will probably prove cold to him. How much more, then, when
one looks around on the last day but one of a holiday! To-morrow we
part. This is the last day of companionship.

Roland's holiday was to consist of a day or two, or three at the
most--yet lo! the evening and the morning were the twenty-first day.
There was always something new to be seen, something more to be
sketched, some fresh excuse for staying in a house where this young
man lived from the first as if he had been there all his life and
belonged to the family. Scilly has to be seen in cloud as well as in
sunshine: in wind and rain as well as in fair weather: one island had
been accidentally overlooked; another must be re-visited.

So the days went on, each one like the days before it, but with a
difference. The weather was for the most part fine, so that they could
at least sail about the islands of the Road. Every morning the young
man got up at six and, after a bathe from Shark Point, walked all
round Samson and refreshed his soul by gazing upon the Outer Islands.
Breakfast over, he took a pipe in the farmyard with Justinian and
Peter, who continually talked of shipwrecks and of things washed
ashore. During this interval Armorel made the puddings and the cakes.
When she had accomplished this delicate and responsible duty, she came
out, prepared for the day. They took their dinner-basket with them,
and sallied forth: in the afternoon they returned: in the evening, at
seven o'clock, the table was pushed back: the old serving people came
in; the fire was stirred into animation; Armorel played the
old-fashioned tunes; and the ancient lady rallied, and sat up, and
talked, her mind in the past. All the days alike, yet each one
differing from its neighbours. There is no monotony, though place and
people remain exactly the same, when there is the semblance of
variety. For, besides the discovery of so many curious and interesting
islands, this fortunate young man, as we have seen, discovered that
his daily companion, though so young--'only a child'--was a girl of
wonderful quickness and ready sympathy. A young artist wants
sympathy--it is necessary for his growth: sympathy, interest, and
flattery are necessary for the artistic temperament. All these Armorel
offered him in large measure, running over. She kept alive in him that
faith in his own star which every artist, as well as every general,
must possess. Great is the encouragement of such sympathy to the young
man of ambitions. This consideration is, indeed, the principal excuse
for early marriages. Three weeks of talk with such a girl--no one else
to consider or to interrupt--no permission to be sought--surely these
things made up a holiday which quite beat the record! Three whole
weeks! Such a holiday should form the foundation of a life-long
friendship! Could either of them ever forget such a holiday?

Now it was all over. For very shame Roland could make no longer any
excuses for staying. His sketch-book was crammed. There were materials
in it for a hundred pictures--most of them might be called Studies of
Armorel. She was in the boat holding the tiller, bare-headed, her hair
flying in the breeze, the spray dashing into her face, and the clear
blue water rushing past the boat: or she was sitting idly in the same
boat lying in Grinsey Sound, with Shipman's Head behind her: or she
was standing on the sea-weed at low water under the mighty rock of
Castle Bryher: or she was standing upright in the low room, violin in
hand, her face and figure crimsoned in the red firelight: or she was
standing in the porch between the verbena-trees, the golden
figure-head smiling benevolently upon her, and the old ships lanthorn
swinging overhead with an innocent air, as if it had never heard of a
wreck and knew not how valuable a property may be a cow, judiciously
treated--with a lighted lanthorn between its horns--on a stormy night.
There were other things: sketches of bays and coves, and headlands and
carns, gathered from all the islands--from Porthellick and Peninnis on
St. Mary's, which everybody goes to see, to St. Warna's Cove on St.
Agnes, whither no traveller ever wendeth.

A very noble time. No letters, no newspapers, no trouble of any kind:
yet one cannot remain for ever even in a house where such a permanent
guest would be welcomed. Now and then, it is true, one hears how such
a one went to a friend's house and stayed there. La Fontaine, Gay,
and Coleridge are examples. But I have never heard, before this case,
of a young man going to a house where a quite young girl, almost a
child, was the mistress, and staying there. Now the end had come: he
must go back to London, where all the men and most of the women have
their own shows to run, and there is not enough sympathy to go round:
back to what the young artist, he who has as yet exhibited little and
sold nothing, calls his Work--putting a capital letter to it, like the
young clergyman. Perhaps he did not understand that under the eyes of
a girl who knew nothing about Art he had done really better and finer
work, and had learned more, in those three weeks than in all the time
that he had spent in a studio. Well; it was all over. The sketching
was ended: there would be no more sailing over the blue waves of the
rolling Atlantic outside the islands: no more quiet cruising in the
Road: no more fishing: no more clambering among the granite rocks: no
more sitting in sunny places looking out to sea, with this bright
child at his side.

Alas! And no more talks with Armorel. From the first day the child sat
at his feet and became his disciple, Heloïse herself was not an apter
pupil. She ardently desired to learn: like a curious child she asked
him questions all day long, and received the answers as if they were
gospel: but no child that he had ever known betrayed blacker gaps of
ignorance than this girl of fifteen. Consider. What could she know?
Other girls learn at school: Armorel's schooling was over at fourteen,
when she came home from St. Mary's to her desert island. Other girls
continue their education by reading books: but Armorel never read
anything except voyages of the last century, which treat but little of
the modern life. Other girls also learn from hearing their elders
talk: but Armorel's elders never talked. Other girls, again, learn
from conversation with companions: but Armorel had no companions. And
they learn from the shops in the street, the people who walk about,
from the church, the theatre, the shows: but Armorel had no better
street than the main street of Hugh Town. And they learn from society:
but this girl had none. And they learn from newspapers, magazines, and
novels: but Armorel had none of these. No voice, no sound of the outer
world reached Alexandra Selkirk of Samson. Juan Fernandez itself was
not more cut off from men and women. Therefore, in her seclusion and
her ignorance, this young man came to her like another Apollo or a
Vishnu at least--a revelation of the world of which she knew nothing,
and to which she never gave a thought. He opened a door and bade her
look within. All she saw was a great company painting pictures and
talking Art; but that was something. As for what he said, this young
man ardent, she remembered and treasured all, even the lightest
things, the most trivial opinions. He did not abuse her confidence.
Had he been older he might have been cynical: had he not been an
artist he might have been flippant: had he been a City man and a
money-grub he might have shown her the sordid side of the world. Being
such as he was he showed her the best and most beautiful part--the
world of Art. But as for these black gaps of ignorance, most of them
remained even after Roland's visit.

'Your best friend, Armorel,' said her guest, 'would not deny that you
are ignorant of many things. You have never gone to a dinner-party or
sat in a drawing-room: you cannot play lawn-tennis; you know none of
the arts feminine: you cannot talk the language of Society: oh! you
are a very ignorant person indeed! But then there are compensations.'

'What are compensations? Things that make up? Do you mean the boat and
the islands?'

'The boat is certainly something, and the islands give a flavour of
their own to life on Samson, don't they? If I were talking the usual
cant I should say that the chief compensation is the absence of the
hollow world and its insincere society. That is cant and humbug,
because society is very pleasant, only, I suppose, one must not expect
too much from it. Your real compensations, Armorel, are of another
kind. You can fiddle like a jolly sailor, all of the olden time. If
you were to carry that fiddle of yours on to the Common Hard at
Portsea not a man among them all, even the decayed veteran--if he
still lives--who caught Nelson, the Dying Hero, in his arms, but would
jump to his feet and shuffle--heel and toe, double-step, back-step,
flourish and fling. I believe those terms are correct.'

'I am so glad you think I can fiddle.'

'You want only instruction in style to make you a very fine violinist.
Besides, there is nothing more pleasing to look at, just now, than a
girl playing a violin. It is partly fashion. Formerly it was thought
graceful for a girl to play the guitar, then the harp; now it is the
fiddle, when it is not the zither or the banjo. That is one
compensation. There is another. I declare that I do not believe there
is in all London a girl with such a genius as yours for puddings and
pies, cakes and biscuits. I now understand that there is more wanted,
in this confection, than industry and application. It is an art. Every
art affords scope for genius born not made. The true--the really
artistic--administration of spice and sugar, milk, eggs, butter, and
flour requires real genius--such as yours, my child. And as to the
still-room, there isn't such a thing left, I believe, in the whole
world except on Samson, any more than there is a spinning-wheel. Who
but yourself, Armorel, possesses the secret, long since supposed to be
hopelessly lost, of composing Cyprus water, and the Divine Cordial? In
this respect, you belong to a hundred years ago, when the modern
ignorance was unknown. And where can I find--I should like to know--a
London girl who understands cherry brandy, and can make her own
blackberry wine?'

'You want to please me, Roland, because you are going away and I am
unhappy.' She hung her head in sadness too deep for tears. 'That is
why you say all these fine things. But I know that they mean very
little. I am only an ignorant girl.'

'I must always, out of common gratitude, want to please you. But I am
only speaking the bare truth. Then there is the delicate question of
dress. An ordinary man is not supposed to know anything about dress,
but an artist has always to consider it. There are certainly other
girls--thousands of other girls--more expensively dressed than you,
Armorel; but you have the taste for costume, which is far better than
any amount of costly stuff.'

'Chessun taught me how to sew and how to cut out.' But the assurance
of this excellence brought her no comfort.

'When I am gone, Armorel, you will go on with your drawing, will you
not?' It will be seen that he endeavoured, as an Apostle of Art, to
introduce its cult even on remote Samson. That was so, and not without
success. The girl, he discovered, had been always making untaught
attempts at drawing, and wanted nothing but a little instruction. This
was a fresh discovery. 'That you should have the gift of the pencil is
delightful to think of. The pencil, you see, is like the Jinn--I fear
you have no Jinn on Samson--who could do almost anything for those who
knew how to command his obedience, but only made those people
ridiculous who ignorantly tried to order him around. If you go on
drawing every day I am sure you will learn how to make that Jinn
obedient. I will send you, when I get home, some simple books for your
guidance. Promise, child, that you will not throw away this gift.'

'I will draw every day,' she replied, obediently, but with profound
dejection.

'Then there is your reading. You must read something. I have looked
through your shelves, and have picked out some books for you. There is
a volume of Cowper and of Pope, and an old copy of the _Spectator_,
and there is Goldsmith's "Deserted Village."'

'I will read anything you wish me to read,' she replied.

'I will send you some more books. You ought to know something about
the world of to-day. Addison and Goldsmith will not teach you that.
But I don't know what to send you. Novels are supposed to represent
life; but then they pre-suppose a knowledge of the world, to begin
with. You want an account of modern society as it is, and the thing
does not exist. I will consider about it.'

'I will read whatever you send me. Roland, when I have read all the
books and learned to draw, shall I have grown to my full height?
Remember what you said about yourself.'

'I don't know, Armorel. It is not reading. But----' He left the
sentence unfinished.

'Who is to tell me--on Samson?' she asked.

In the afternoon of this day Roland planted his easel on the plateau
of the northern hill, where the barrows are, and put the last touches
to the sketch, which he afterwards made into the first picture which
he ever exhibited. It appeared in the Grosvenor of '85: of course
everybody remembers the picture, which attracted a very respectable
amount of attention. It was called the 'Daughter of Lyonesse.' It
represented a maiden in the first blossom of womanhood--tall and
shapely. She was dressed in a robe of white wool thrown over her left
shoulder and gathered at the waist by a simple belt of brown leather:
a white linen vest was seen below the wool: round her neck was a
golden torque: behind her was the setting sun: she stood upon the
highest of a low pile of granite boulders, round the feet of which
were spread the yellow branches of the fern and the faded flowers of
the heather: she shaded her eyes from the sun with her left hand, and
looked out to sea. She was bare-headed: the strong breeze lifted her
long black hair and blew it from her shoulders: her eyes were black
and her complexion was dark. Behind her and below her was the
splendour of sun and sky and sea, with the Western Islands rising
black above the golden waters.

The sketch showed the figure, but the drapery was not complete: as yet
it was a study of light and colour and a portrait.

'I don't quite know,' said the painter, thoughtfully, 'whether you
ought not to wear a purple chiton: Phoenician trade must have
brought Phoenician luxuries to Lyonesse. Your ancestors were
tin-men--rich miners--no doubt the ladies of the family went dressed
in the very, very best. I wonder whether in those days the King's
daughter was barefooted. The _caliga_, I think--the leather
sandal--would have been early introduced into the royal family on
account of the spikiness of the fern in autumn and the thorns of the
gorse all the year round. The slaves and common people, of course,
would have to endure the thorns.'

He continued his work while he talked, Armorel making no reply,
enacting the model with zeal.

'It is a strange sunset,' he went on, as if talking to himself, 'a day
of clouds, but in the west a broad belt of blue low down in the
horizon: in the midst of the belt the sun flaming crimson: on either
hand the sky aglow, but only in the belt of clear: above is the solid
cloud, grey and sulky, receiving none of the colour: below is also the
solid, sulky cloud, but under the sun there spreads out a fan of light
which strikes the waters and sets them aflame in a long broad road
from the heavens to your feet, O child of Lyonesse. Outside this road
of light the waters are dull and gloomy: in the sky the coloured belt
of light fades gradually into soft yellows, clear greens, and azure
blues. A strange sunset! A strange effect of light! Armorel, you see
your life: it is prefigured by the light. Overhead the sky is grey and
colourless: where the glow of the future does not lie on the waters
they are grey and colourless. Nothing around you but the waste of
grey sea: before you black rocks--life is always full of black rocks:
and beyond, the splendid sun--soft, warm, and glowing. You shall
interpret that in your own way.'

Armorel listened, standing motionless, her left hand shading her eyes.

'If the picture,' he went on, 'comes out as I hope it may, it will be
one of those that suggest many things. Every good picture, Armorel, as
well as every good poem, suggests. It is like that statue of Christ
which is always taller than the tallest man. Nobody can ever get above
the thought and soul of a good picture or a good poem. There is always
more in it than the wisest man knows. That is the proof of genius.
That is why I long all day for the mysterious power of putting into my
work the soul of everyone who looks upon it--as well as my own soul.
When you come to stand before a great picture, Armorel, perhaps you
will understand what I mean. You will find your heart agitated with
strange emotions--you will leave it with new thoughts. When you go
away from your desert island, remember every day to read a piece of
great verse, to look upon a great picture, and to hear a piece of
great music. As for these suggested thoughts, you will not perhaps be
able to put them into words. But they will be there.'

Still Armorel made no reply. It was as if he were talking to a statue.

'I have painted you,' he said, 'with the golden torque round your
neck: the red gold is caught by the sunshine: as for your dress, I
think it must be a white woollen robe--perhaps a border of purple--but
I don't know---- There are already heaps of colour--colour of sky and
of water, of the granite with the yellow lichen, and of brown and
yellow fern and of heather faded---- No--you shall be all in white,
Armorel. No dress so sweet for a girl as white. A vest of white linen
made by yourself from your own spinning-wheel, up to the throat and
covering the right shoulder. Are you tired, child?'

'No--I like to hear you talk.'

'I have nearly done--in fact,' he leaned back and contemplated his
work with the enthusiasm which is to a painter what the glow of
composition is to the writer, 'I have done all I can until I go home.
The sun of Scilly hath a more golden glow in September than the sun of
St. John's Wood. If I have caught aright--or something like it--the
light that is around you and about you, Armorel---- The sun in your
left hand is like the red light of the candle through the closed
fingers. So--I can do no more--Armorel! you are all glorious within
and without. You are indeed the King's Daughter: you are clothed with
the sun as with a garment: if the sun were to disappear this moment,
you would stand upon the Peak, for all the island to admire--a flaming
beacon!'

His voice was jubilant--he had done well. Yet he shaded his eyes and
looked at canvas and at model once more with jealousy and suspicion.
If he had passed over something! It was an ambitious picture--the most
ambitious thing he had yet attempted.

'Armorel!' he cried. 'If I could only paint as well as I can see! Come
down, child; you are good indeed to stand so long and so patiently.'

She obeyed and jumped off her eminence, and stood beside him looking
at the picture.

'Tell me what you think,' said the painter. 'You see--it is the King's
Daughter. She stands on a peak in Lyonesse and looks forth upon the
waters. Why? I know not. She seeks the secrets of the future, perhaps.
She looks for the coming of the Perfect Knight, perhaps. She expects
the Heaven that waits for every maiden--in this world as well as in
the next. Everyone may interpret the picture for himself. She is
young--everything is possible to the young. Tell me, Armorel, what do
you think?'

She drew a long breath. 'A--h!' she murmured. 'I have never seen
anything like this before. It is not me you have painted, Roland. You
say it is a picture of me--just to please and flatter me. There is my
face--yet not my face. All is changed. Roland, when I am grown to my
full height, shall I look like this?

'If you do, when that day comes, I shall be proved to be a painter
indeed,' he replied. 'If you had seen nothing but yourself--your own
self--and no more, I would have burnt the thing. Now you give me
hopes.

Afterwards, Armorel loved best to remember him as he stood there
beside this unfinished picture, glowing with the thought that he had
done what he had attempted. The soul was there.

Out of the chatter of the studio, the endless discussions of style and
method, he had come down to this simple spot, to live for three weeks,
cut off from the world, with a child who knew nothing of these things.
He came at a time when his enthusiasm for his work was at its
fiercest: that is, when the early studies are beginning to bear fruit,
when the hand has acquired command of the pencil and can control the
brush, and when the eye is already trained to colour. It was at a time
when the young artist refuses to look at any but the greatest work,
and refuses to dream of any future except that of the greatest and
noblest work. It is a splendid thing to have had, even for a short
time, these dreams and these enthusiasms.

'The picture is finished,' said Armorel, 'and to-morrow you will go
away and leave me.' The tears welled up in her eyes. Why should not
the child cry for the departure of this sweet friend?

'My dear child,' he said, 'I cannot believe that you will stay for
ever on this desert island.'

'I do not want to leave the island. I want to keep you here. Why don't
you stay altogether, Roland? You can paint here. Have we made you
happy? Are you satisfied with our way of living? We will change it for
you, if you wish.'

'No--no--it is not that. I must go home. I must go back to my work.
But I cannot bear to think of you left alone with these old people,
with no companions and no friends. The time will come when you will
leave the place and go away somewhere--where people live and talk----'

He reflected that if she went away it might be among people ignorant
of Art and void of culture. This beautiful child, who might have been
a Princess--she was only a flower-farmer of the Scilly Islands. What
could she hope or expect?

'I do not want to go into the world,' she went on. 'I am afraid,
because I am so ignorant. People would laugh at me. I would rather
stay here always, if you were with me. Then we would do nothing but
sail and row and go fishing: and you could paint and sketch all the
time.'

'It is impossible, Armorel. You talk like a child. In a year or two
you will understand that it is impossible. Besides, we should both
grow old. Think of that. Think of two old people going about sailing
among the islands for ever: I, like Justinian Tryeth, bald and bowed
and wrinkled: you, like Dorcas--no, no; you could never grow like
Dorcas: you shall grow serenely, beautifully old.'

'What would that matter?' she replied. 'Some day, even, one of us
would die. What would that matter, either, because we should only be
parted by a year or two? Oh! whether we are old or young the sea never
grows old, nor the hills and rocks--and the sunshine is always the
same. And when we die there will be a new heaven and a new earth--you
can read it in the Book of Revelation--but no more sea, no more sea.
That I cannot understand. How could angels and saints be happy without
the sea? If one lives among people in towns, I dare say it may be
disagreeable to grow old, and perhaps to look ugly like poor Dorcas;
but not, no, not when one lives in such a place as this.'

'Where did you get your wisdom, Armorel?'

'Is that wisdom?'

'When I go away my chief regret will be that I kept talking to you
about myself. Men are selfish pigs. We should have talked about
nothing but you. Then I should have learned a great deal. See how we
miss our opportunities.'

'No, no; I had nothing to tell you. And you had such a great deal to
tell me. It was you who taught me that everybody ought to try to grow
to his full height.'

'Did I? It was only a passing thought. Such things occur to one
sometimes.'

She sat down on a boulder and crossed her hands in her lap, looking at
him seriously and gravely with her great black eyes.

'Now,' she said, 'I want to be very serious. It is my last chance.
Roland, I am resolved that I will try to grow to my full height. You
are going away to-morrow, and I shall have no one to advise me. Give
me all the help you can before you go.'

'What help can I give you, Armorel?'

'I have been thinking. You have told me all about yourself. You are
going to be a great artist: you will give up all your life to your
work: when you have grown as tall as you can, everybody will
congratulate you, and you will be proud and happy. But who is to tell
me? How shall I know when I am grown to my full height?'

'You have got something more in your mind, Armorel.'

'Give me a model, Roland. You always paint from a model yourself--you
told me so. Now, think of the very best actual girl of all the girls
you know--the most perfect girl, mind: she must be a girl that I can
remember and try to copy. I must have something to think of and go by,
you know.'

'The very best actual girl I know?' he laughed, with a touch of the
abominable modern cynicism which no longer believes in girls. 'That
wouldn't help you much, I am afraid. You see, Armorel, I should not
look to the actual girls I know for the best girl at all. There is,
however'--he pulled his shadowy moustache, looking very wise--'a most
wonderful girl--I confess that I have never met her, but I have heard
of her: the poets keep talking about her--and some of the novelists
are fond of drawing her; I have heard of her, read of her, and dreamed
of her. Shall I tell you about her?'

'If you please--that is, if she can become my model.'

'Perhaps. She is quite a possible girl, Armorel, like yourself. That
is to say, a girl who may really develop out of certain qualities. As
for actual girls, there are any number whom one knows in a way--one
can distinguish them--I mean by their voices, their faces, and their
figures and so forth. But as for knowing anything more about them----'

'Tell me, then, about the girl whom you do know, though you have never
seen her.'

'I will if I can. As for her face--now----'

'Never mind her face,' she interrupted, impatiently.

'Never mind her face, as you say. Besides, you can look in the glass
if you want to know her face.'

'Yes; that will do,' said Armorel, simply. 'Now go on.'

'First of all, then, she is always well dressed--beautifully
dressed--and with as much taste as the silly fashion of the day
allows. A woman, you know, though she is the most beautiful creature
in the whole of animated nature, can never afford to do without the
adornments of dress. It does not much matter how a man goes dressed.
He only dresses for warmth. In any dress and in any rags a handsome
man looks well. But not a woman. Her dress either ruins her beauty or
it heightens it. A woman must always, and at all ages, look as
beautiful as she can. Therefore, she arranges her clothes so as to set
off her beauty when she is young: to make her seem still beautiful
when she is past her youth: and to hide the ravages of time when she
is old. That is the first thing which I remark about this girl. Of
course, she doesn't dress as if her father was a Silver King. Such a
simple stuff as your grey nun's cloth, Armorel, is good enough to make
the most lovely dress.'

'She is always well dressed,' his pupil repeated. 'That is the first
thing.'

'She is accomplished, of course,' Roland added, airily, as if
accomplishments were as easy to pick up as the blue and grey shells on
Porth Bay. 'She understands music, and plays on some instrument. She
knows about art of all kinds--art in painting, sculptures,
decorations, poetry, literature, music. She can talk intelligently
about art; and she has trained her eye so that she knows good work.
She is never carried away by shams and humbug.'

'She has trained her eye, and knows good work,' Armorel repeated.

'Above all, she is sympathetic. She does not talk so as to show how
clever she is, but to bring out the best points of the man she is
talking with. Yet when men leave her they forget what they have said
themselves, and only remember how much this girl seems to know.'

'Seems to know?' Armorel looked up.

'One woman cannot know everything. But a clever woman will know about
everything that belongs to her own set. We all belong to our own set,
and every set talks its own language--scientific, artistic, whatever
it is. This girl does not pretend to enter into the arena; but she
knows the rules of the game, and talks accordingly. She is always
intelligent, gracious, and sympathetic.'

'She is intelligent, gracious, and sympathetic,' Armorel repeated. 'Is
she gracious to everybody--even to people she does not like?'

'In society,' said Roland, 'we like everybody. We are all perfectly
well-bred and well-behaved: we always say the kindest things about
each other.'

'Now you are saying one thing and meaning another. That is like your
friend Dick Stephenson. Don't, Roland.'

'Well, then, I have very little more to say. This girl, however, is
always a woman's woman.'

'What is that?'

'Difficult to explain. A wise lady once advised me when I went
courting, first to make quite sure that the girl was a woman's woman.
I think she meant that other girls should speak and think well of her.
I haven't always remembered the advice, it is true, but----' Here he
stopped short and in some confusion, remembering that this was not an
occasion for plenary confession.

But Armorel only nodded gravely. 'I shall remember,' she said.

'The rest you know. She loves everything that is beautiful and good.
She hates everything that is coarse and ugly. That is all.'

'Thank you--I shall remember,' she repeated. 'Roland, you must have
thought a good deal about girls to know so much.'

He blushed: he really did. He blushed a rich and rosy red.

'An artist, you know,' he said, 'has to draw beautiful girls.
Naturally he thinks of the lovely soul behind the lovely face. These
things are only commonplaces. You yourself, Armorel--you--will shame
me, presently--when you have grown to that full height--for drawing a
picture so insufficient of the Perfect Woman.'

He stooped slightly, as if he would have kissed her forehead. Why not?
She was but a child. But he refrained.

[Illustration: _He stooped slightly, as if he would have kissed her
forehead._]

'Let us go home,' he said, with a certain harshness in his voice. 'The
sun is down. The clouds have covered up the belt of blue. You have
seen your splendid future, Armorel, and you are back in the grey and
sunless present. It grows cold. To-morrow, I think, we may have rain.
Let us go home, child: let us go home.'



CHAPTER X

MR. FLETCHER RETURNS FOR HIS BAG


Half an hour later the blinds were down, the fire was brightly
burning, the red firelight was merrily dancing about the room, and the
table was pushed back. Then Dorcas and Justinian came in--the two old
serving-folk, bent with age, grey-headed, toothless--followed by
Chessun--thin and tall, silent and subdued. And Armorel, taking her
violin, tuned it, and turned to her old master for instructions, just
as she had done on the first and every following night of Roland's
stay.

'"Barley Break,"' said Justinian.

Armorel struck up that well-known air. Then, as before, the ancient
dame started, moved uneasily, sat upright, and opened her eyes and
began to talk. But to-night she was not rambling: she did not begin
one fragment of reminiscence and break off in the middle. She started
with a clear story in her mind, which she began at the beginning and
carried on. When Armorel saw her thus disposed, she stopped playing
'Barley Break,' which may amuse the aged mind and recall old
merriment, but lacks earnestness.

'"Put on thy smock o' Monday,"' said Justinian.

This ditty lends itself to more sustained thought. Armorel put more
seriousness into it than the theme of the music would seem to
warrant. The old lady, however, seemed to like it, and continued her
narrative without interrupting it at any point. Armorel also observed
that, though she addressed the assembled multitude generally, she kept
glancing furtively at Roland.

'The night was terrible,' said the ancient dame, speaking distinctly
and connectedly; 'never was such a storm known--we could hear the
waves beating and dashing about the islands louder than the roaring of
the wind, and we heard the minute-gun, so that there was little sleep
for anyone. At daybreak we were all on the shore, out on Shark Point.
Sure enough, on the Castinicks the ship lay, breaking up fast--a
splendid East Indiaman she was. Her masts were gone and her bows were
stove in--as soon as the light got strong enough we could see so
much--and the shore covered already with wreck. But not a sign of
passengers or crew. Then my husband's father, who was always first,
saw something, and ran into the water up to his middle and dragged
ashore a spar. And, sure enough, a man was lashed to the spar. When
father hauled the man up, he was quite senseless, and he seemed dead,
so that another quarter of an hour would have finished him, even if
his head had not been knocked against a rock, or the spar turned over
and drowned him. Just as father was going to call for help to drag him
up, he saw a little leather bag hanging from his neck by a leather
thong. There were others about, all the people of Samson--fifty of
them--men, women, and children--all busy collecting the things that
had been washed ashore, and some up to their waists in the water after
the things still floating about. But nobody was looking. Therefore,
father, thinking it was a dead man, whipped out his knife, cut the
leather thong, and slipped the bag into his own pocket, not stopping
to look at it. No one saw him, mind--no one--not even your father,
Justinian, who was close beside him at the time.'

'Ay, ay,' said Justinian: 'if father had seen it, naturally----' But
his voice died away, and Roland was left to wonder what, under such
circumstances, a native of Samson would have done.

'No one saw it. Father thought the man was dead. But he wasn't.
Presently he moved. Then they carried him up the hill to the
farm--this very house--and laid him down before the fire--just at your
feet, Armorel--and I was standing by. "Get him a cordial," says
father. So we gave him a dram, and he drank it and opened his eyes. He
was a gentleman--we could see that--not a common sailor: not a common
man.'

Here her head dropped, and she seemed to be losing herself again.

'Try her with a Saraband,' said Justinian, as if a determined effort
had to be made. Armorel changed her tune. A Saraband lends itself to a
serious and even solemn turn of thought. As a dance it requires the
best manners, the bravest dress, and the most dignified air. It will
be seen, therefore, that to a mind bent upon a grave narrative of
deeds lamentable and fateful, the Saraband, played in a proper frame
of mind, may prove sympathetic. The ancient lady lifted her head,
strengthened by the opening bars, which, indeed, are very strong, and
resumed her story. Armorel, to be sure, and all her hearers, knew the
history well, having heard it every night in disjointed bits. The Tale
of the Stolen Treasure was familiar to her: it was more than
familiar--it was a bore: the Family Doom seemed unjust to her: it
disturbed her sense of Providential benevolence: yet she threw all her
soul into the Saraband in order to prolong by a few minutes the waking
and conscious moments of this remote ancestress. A striking
illustration, had the others understood it, of filial piety.

'But I was standing close by father,' she went on--'I was beside him
on the beach, and I saw it. I saw him cut the thong and slip the bag
into his pocket. When he came to himself, I whispered to father,
"There's his bag: you've got his bag in your pocket." "I know," he
said, rough. "Hold your tongue, girl." So I said no more, but waited.
Then the man opened his eyes and tried to sit up; but he couldn't,
being still dizzy with the beating of the waves. But he looked at us,
wondering where he was. "You are ashore, Master," said father. "The
only one of all the ship's company that is, so far." "Ashore?" he
asked. "Ay, ashore: where else would you be? Your ship's in splinters:
your captain and your crew are dead men all. But you're ashore." With
that the man shut his eyes and lay quiet for a time. Then he opened
them again. "Where am I?" he asked. "You are on Samson, in Scilly," I
told him. Then he tried to get up again, but he couldn't. And so we
carried him upstairs and laid him on the bed.

'He was in bed for nigh upon six weeks. Never was any man so near his
latter end. I nursed him all the time. He had a fever, and his head
wandered. In his rambling he told me who he was. His name was Robert
Fletcher--Robert Fletcher,' she repeated, nodding to Roland with
strange significance. 'A brave gentleman, and handsome and
well-mannered. He had been in the service of an Indian King; and,
though he was only thirty, he had made his fortune and was bringing it
home, thinking that he would do nothing more all his life but just sit
down and enjoy himself. All his fortune was in the bag. When he
recovered he told me that the last thing he remembered, before he was
washed off the ship, was feeling for the safety of his bag. And it was
gone. And he was a beggar. Poor man! And I knew all the time where the
bag was and who had it. But I could not tell him. If father sinned
when he kept the bag, I sinned as well, because I knew he kept it. If
father was punished when his son was drowned, that son was my husband,
and I was punished too.'

She stopped, and it seemed as if for the evening she had run down; but
Armorel stimulated her again, and she went on, looking more and more
at the face of the stranger that was in their gates.

'While he lay ill and was like to die, father was uneasy--I know why.
He wanted him to die, because then he could keep the treasure with a
quiet mind. "All's ours that comes ashore," that's what we used to
say. He never confessed his thoughts--but I, who knew what was in the
bag, guessed them very well.

'The stranger began to recover, and father fell into a gloomy fit, and
would go and sit by himself for hours. Nobody dared ask him--for he
was a man of short temper and rough in his speech--what was the matter
with him, but I knew very well. He was gloomy because he didn't want
to lose that bag. But the man got better, and at last quite well, and
one morning he came down dressed in clothes that father lent him,
because his own were ruined in the washing of him ashore, and he bade
us all farewell. "Captain Rosevean," he said, very earnestly, "when I
left India I was rich: I was carrying all my fortune home with me in a
small compass, for safety, as I thought. I was going to be a rich man,
and work no more. Well--I have escaped with my life, and that is all.
If I were not a beggar I would offer you half my fortune for saving my
life. As it is, I can offer you nothing but my gratitude."

'So he shook hands with father, who stood as white as a sheet, for all
he was a ruddy-faced man and inclined to brandy. "And farewell,
Mistress Ursula," he said. "Farewell, my kind nurse." So he kissed me,
being a courteous gentleman. "I shall come back again to see you," he
said; "I shall surely come back. Look to see me some day, when you
least expect me." So he went away, and they rowed him over to the
Port, and he sailed to Penzance. Father went to his own room, where
the treasure was. And my heart sank heavy as lead. The more I thought
of the wickedness, the heavier fell my heart. There was father and his
son, my husband, and myself and my own son not yet born. The Hand of
the Lord would be upon us for that wickedness. I ought to have cried
out to the stranger before he went away that his treasure was safe and
that we were keeping it for him. But I didn't. Then I tried to comfort
myself. I said that when he came again I would give him back the bag,
even if I had to steal it from father's chest.

'It was a long time ago--they are all gone, swallowed up by the
sea--which was right, because we stole the treasure from the sea. He
never came back. I looked for him to come after my husband was
drowned, and after my son went too, and my grandson--but he never came
again as he promised. And at last, at last'--her voice rose almost to
a shriek, and everybody jumped in his chair; but Armorel continued to
play the Saraband slowly and with much expression--'at last he has
come back, and we are saved. All that are left of us are saved.
Armorel, my child, you are saved. Your bones shall not lie rotting
among the sea-weed: your flesh shall not be devoured by crabs and
conger-eels: you may sail without fear among the islands. For he has
kept his promise and has come back.

Then she rose--she, who had not stood upon her feet for three
years--actually rose and stood up, or seemed to stand: the red light,
playing on her face, made her eyes shine like two balls of fire.
'You,' she cried, pointing her long, skinny, finger at Roland. 'You!
oh! you have come at last. You have suffered all that innocent blood
to be shed: but you have come at last.' She sank back among her
pillows, but her finger still pointed at the stranger. 'Sir,' she said
now, with tremulous voice, 'you are welcome. Late though it is, Mr.
Fletcher, you are welcome. When you came a day or two ago I wondered,
being now very old and foolish, if it was really you. Now I know. I
remember, though it is nearly eighty years ago. You are welcome again
to Samson, Mr. Fletcher. You find me changed, no doubt. I knew you
would keep your promise and come again, some time or other. As for
you, I see little change. You are dressed differently, and when you
were here last your hair was worn in another fashion. But you are no
older to look at. You are not changed at all by time. You would not
know me again. How should you? I suppose you knew--somebody told you,
perhaps--that the bag was safe after all. That knowledge has kept you
young. Nothing short of that knowledge could have kept you young. I
assure you, Sir, had I known where to find you I would have taken the
bag and its contents to you long, long ago. And now you are come back
in search of it.'

'It was eighty years ago!' Dorcas whispered to Chessun, shuddering.
'He must be more than a hundred!'

'A hundred years!' returned her daughter, with pallid cheeks. 'It
isn't in nature. He looks no more than twenty. Mother, is he a man and
alive?'

'Pretend that you are Mr. Fletcher,' whispered Armorel. 'Do not
contradict her. Say something.'

'It is a long time ago,' said Roland. 'I should have kept my promise
much sooner. And as for that bag--you saved my life, you know. Pray
keep the bag. It has long been forgotten.'

'Keep the bag? Do you know what is in it? Do you know what it is
worth? That, Mr. Fletcher, is your politeness. We, who have suffered
so much from the possession of the bag, cannot believe that you have
forgotten it, because if we have suffered for our guilt you must have
suffered through that guilt. Else there would be no justice. No
justice at all unless you have suffered too. Else all those lives have
been wasted and thrown away.'

The old lady spoke with the voice and firmness of a woman of fifty.
She looked strong: she sat up erect. Armorel played on, now softly,
now loudly. The serving-folk looked on open-mouthed: the women with
terror undisguised. Was this gentleman, so young and so pleasant, none
other than the man whose injury had brought all these drownings upon
the family? Nearly eighty years ago that happened. Then, he must be a
ghost! What else could he be? No human creature could come back after
eighty years still so young.

'When I said, Madam,' Roland explained, 'that I had forgotten the bag,
what I meant was that after losing it so long I had quite abandoned
all hope of finding it again. I assure you that I have not come here
in search of it. In fact, I thought it was lying at the bottom of the
sea, where so many other treasures lie.'

'It is not at the bottom of the sea, Mr. Fletcher. You shall have it
again, to-morrow. You are still so young that you can enjoy your
fortune. Make good use of it, Sir, and do not forget the poor. I have
counted the contents again and again. They are not things that wear
out and rust, are they? No, no. You must often have laughed to think
that the moth and the worm cannot destroy that treasure. You will be
very pleased to have it back.'

'I shall be very pleased indeed,' he echoed, 'to have my treasure
again.'

'Face and voice unchanged.' The old lady shook her head. 'And after
eighty years. It is a miracle, yet not a greater miracle than the
Vengeance which has pursued this house so long. This single crime has
been visited upon the third and fourth generation. 'Tis time that
punishment should cease at last--cease at last! I must tell you, Mr.
Fletcher,' she went on, 'that when my husband was drowned and my
father-in-law died, I took possession of the bag and everything else.
I said nothing to my son. Why? Because, until the owner of the stolen
bag came back, the curse was on him and his children. No--no; I would
not let him know. But I knew very well what would happen to all of
them. Oh! yes; I knew, and I waited. But he was happy, and his son and
his grandson and his great-grandson, until they were drowned, one
after the other. And still you stayed away.'

'Madam, had I known, I would have returned fifty years ago and more,
in time to have saved them all.'

'You might have come sooner, Sir, permit me to say, and so have saved
some.' It was wonderful how erect the old lady held herself, and with
what firmness and precision she spoke.

'There is now only one left--the child Armorel. To-morrow, Sir, you
shall have your bag again. Once more you are our guest: this time, I
hope you will leave a blessing instead of a curse upon the house.'

At this moment Armorel ceased playing. Then this ancient lady stopped
talking. She looked round: her eyes lost their fire: her face its
expression: her mouth its firmness: she fell back in her pillows, and
her head dropped.

Dorcas and Chessun rose and carried her to her own room. The old man
got up, too, and shambled out. Armorel pushed the table into its
place, and lit the candles. The incident was closed. In the morning
the old lady had forgotten everything.

'Almost,' said Roland, 'she has made me believe that my name is
Fletcher. Shall I to-morrow morning ask her for the bag? Where is that
bag? Armorel, it is a true story. I am quite certain of it.'

'Oh, yes, it is true. Justinian knows about the wreck, though it
happened before he was born. Mr. Fletcher was the only man saved of
all the ship and company--captain, officers, crew, and passengers--the
only one. He was rescued by Captain Rosevean himself and brought here.
He had the bedroom where you sleep--the bedroom which was my brother
Emanuel's room. Here he lay ill a long time, but recovered and went
away.'

'And the bag?'

'I know nothing about the bag. That has gone long ago, I suppose, with
all the money that my people made by smuggling and by piloting. I have
seen her watching you for some days past: I thought she would speak to
you last night. To-morrow she will have forgotten everything.'

'I suppose I have some kind of resemblance to Mr. Robert Fletcher,
presumably deceased. Well--but, Armorel, this is a fortunate evening.
The family luck has come back--I have brought it back. The Ancient one
said so, and you are saved. She may call me Fletcher--call me
Tryeth--call me any name that flyeth--if she only calls me him who
arrived in time to save you, Armorel.'



CHAPTER XI

ROLAND'S LETTER


Roland went away. Like Mr. Robert Fletcher, he promised to return,
and, like her great-great-grandmother, but for other reasons, Armorel
treasured this promise. Also like Mr. Robert Fletcher, now presumably
deceased, Roland went away with the sense of having left something
behind him. Not his heart, dear reader. A young man of twenty-one does
not give away his heart in the old-fashioned way any longer: he
carries it about with him, carefully kept in its proper place: what
Roland had left behind him, for awhile, was a part of himself. It
would perhaps come back to him in good time, but for the present it
remained on Samson, and discoursed to the rest of him in London
whenever he would listen, on the beauties of that archipelago and the
graces of the child Armorel. And this part of himself, which haunted
Samson, made him sit down and write a letter. It would have been a
tender, a sorrowful, an affectionate letter had it not been for that
other part of him--the greater part--which went to London. That other
part of him remonstrated. 'She is but a simple country girl,' it said.
'Her future will be to marry a simple Scillonian. Why disturb her
mind? Why seek to plant the seeds of discontent under the guise of
culture? Leave her--leave her to herself. Forget those dark eyes, in
whose depths there seemed to lie so sweet, so great a soul. Believe
me, there was nothing at all behind those eyes but ignorance and
curiosity. How could there be anything? Leave her in peace. Or, since
you must write, let it be a cold letter--friendly, but fatherly--and
let her understand clearly that the visit can produce no further
consequences whatever.' Thus the London half of him--the bigger half.
Perhaps his friend Dick Stephenson remonstrated in the same strain.
But the lesser half insisted on writing a letter of some kind--and had
his way.

He wrote a letter, and sent it off.

It was the very first letter that had ever been sent to Samson. Of
that I am quite sure. No letters ever reached that island. If people
had business with Samson, they transacted it at the Port with
Justinian or Peter. Of course it was the first letter that had ever
been received by Armorel. Peter brought it across for her. He had
wrapped the unaccustomed thing in brown paper for fear the spray
should fall upon it. Armorel drew it forth from its covering and gazed
upon it with the wonder of a child who gets an unexpected toy. She
read over the address a dozen times: '"Miss Rosevean"--look at it,
Dorcas. What a pity you cannot read! "Miss Rosevean"--he might have
written "Armorel"--"Island of Samson, Scilly." Of course, it is from
Roland. No one else would write to me.' Then she opened it carefully,
so as not to injure any part of the writing--indeed, Roland possessed
that desirable, but very rare, gift of a very beautiful hand. No
Penman of the monastery: no scrivener of a later age: no Arab or
Persian scribe, could write a more beautiful hand. It was a hand in
which every letter was clearly formed, as if it made a picture of
itself, and every word was a Group, like the Eastern Isles of Scilly,
to be admired by the whole world.

The letter began--the London portion conceding so much--with a
pen-and-ink sketch of the writer's head: if it was just a little
idealised, who shall blame the limner? This was delightful. Armorel
had no portrait of her friend. What would follow after such a
beautiful beginning? Then the writing began, and Armorel addressed
herself seriously to the mastering of and the meaning of the letter. I
blush to record the fact, but Armorel read handwriting slowly.
Consider. Since she left school she had seen none: while at school she
had seen little. People easily forget such a simple thing, though we
who write all day long cannot understand how a man can forget how to
write. Yet there are many working-men who cannot read handwriting, nor
can they themselves write. They have had no occasion, all their lives,
to use either accomplishment, and so have readily forgotten it--a fact
which shows the profound wisdom of the School Boards in teaching
spelling. Armorel could read the letter, but she read it slowly.

It seemed, when she read it first, sentence by sentence, a really
beautiful letter--regarded as a letter in the abstract. After she had
read it two or three times over, and had mastered the whole document,
she began to understand that the writer of it was not the man she
remembered, not the man whose memory she loved and cherished, not at
all her friend Roland Lee. All the old _camaraderie_ was gone. It was
the letter of another man altogether. It was cold and stiff. The
coldness went to the girl's heart. She had never known Roland to be
cold. Where was the sympathy which formerly flowed in magnetic
currents from one to the other? Where was the brotherly interest?--she
called it brotherly. The writer spoke, it is true, with gratitude
overwhelming, of his stay on the island, and her hospitality. But,
good gracious! Armorel wanted no thanks. His visit had made her happy:
he knew that. Why should he take up a page and a half in returning
thanks to her, when her own heart was full of gratitude to him? He
said that the three weeks he had spent among the islands had been a
holiday which he could never forget--this was very good, so far; but
then he spoiled all by adding that he should not readily
forget--'readily forget' he wrote--his fair companion and guide among
those labyrinthine waters. 'Fair companion!' What had fairness to do
with it? Armorel had been his pupil: he taught her all day long. She
did not want to be called his 'fair companion': that was mockery. She
wanted to be called 'his dear friend' or 'his dear sister': that would
have gone straight to her heart. She expected at least so much when
she opened the letter. But worse--far worse--was to follow. He
actually spoke of the possibilities of their never meeting again, the
world (outside Scilly) being so very wide. Never to meet again! And he
had promised to return: he had faithfully promised. Why, he had only
to take the steamer from Penzance: Samson Island would not sail away.
Why did he not rather say when he was to be expected? Worst of all, he
spoke of her forgetting him. Oh! how could she forget him? As for the
rest of the letter, the paternal advice to continue in the path of
industry, and so forth, no clergyman in the pulpit could speak more
wisely: but these things touched not the girl. Woman wants affection
rather than wisdom, even though she understands, or has, at least,
been told, that Wisdom delivereth from the way of the Evil Man.

Armorel at length laid the letter down with a sigh and a tear. She
kept it in her pocket for some days, and read it every day: but with
increasing sadness. Finally, she laid it in a drawer where were all
the sketches, fragments of illustration, and outline drawings which
Roland had given her. She would read it no longer. She would wait till
Roland came back, and she would ask him what it meant. Perhaps it was
the way of the world to be so cold and so constrained in
letter-writing.

There came a box with the letter. It contained books--quite a large
number of books--selected by Roland with the view of suiting the case
of one who dwells upon a desert island. It was just as if Captain
Woodes Rogers had left Alexander alone upon Juan Fernandez, and gone
home to make up for him a parcel of books intended to show him what
went on in the wider world. There were also drawing materials,
colours, brushes, pencils, books of instruction, and books of music.
Roland the fatherly--the London part of Roland--neglected nothing that
might be solidly serviceable to the young Person. Observe, here, one
of those black gaps of ignorance already spoken of in this girl of the
Lonely Isles. She did not know that an answer to the letter was
absolutely necessary. In the London studio the writer sat wondering
why no answer came. He had been so careful, too: not a word which
could be misunderstood: he had been so truly fatherly. And yet no
reply.

Nobody was at hand to tell Armorel that she must sit down and write
some kind of an answer. She tried, in fact: she made several attempts.
But she could not write anything that satisfied her. The coldness of
the letter chilled her. She wanted to write as she had talked with
him--all out of the fulness of her heart. How could she write to this
frigid creature? The writer of such a letter could not be her dear
companion who laughed and made her laugh, sang and made her sing, made
pictures for her, told her all about his own private ambitions, and
had no secrets from her: it was a strange man who wrote to her and
signed the name of Roland Lee. The real Roland would never have hinted
at the possibility of her forgetting him, or at the chance of their
never meeting again. The real Roland would have written to say when he
was coming again. She could not reply to this impostor.

Therefore, she never answered that letter at all; and so she got no
more letters. It was a pity, because, had she written what was in her
mind, for very pity the real Roland would have returned to her. Once,
and once only, the voice of Roland came to her across the sea--and
then it was a changed voice. He spoke no more. But he would come
again: he said he would come again. Every day she sat on the hill
beside the barrow, and gazed across the Road. She could see the pier
of Hugh Town and the vessels in the port: perhaps Roland had come over
from Penzance by the morning steamer, and would shortly sail across
the Road, and leap out upon the beach, and run to meet and greet her,
with both hands outstretched, the light of affection in his eyes, and
the laugh of welcome in his voice. She was graver and more silent than
before: she did not sing so often as she walked among the ferns: she
did not prattle to Chessun and Dorcas while she made her cakes and
puddings. But nobody noticed any change in her: the serving-women, if
they observed any, would have said only that Armorel was growing into
a woman already.

The autumn changed to winter. Roland would not come in winter, when
the sea is stormy and there is little sunshine. She must wait now
until spring. Meantime, on Samson, where are no trees except those
wizened and crooked little trees of the orchard, there is not much to
mark the winter except the cold wind and the short days. Here there is
never frost or snow, hail or ice. The brown turf is much the same in
December as in August; the dead fern is not so yellow; the dead and
dying leaves of the bramble are not so splendid. The wind is colder,
the sky is more grey; otherwise winter makes little difference in the
external aspect of this archipelago. When the short days begin, the
brown fields of the flower-farms clothe themselves with the verdure of
spring: before the New Year has fairly set in, some of the fresh
delicate flowers have been already cut and laid in the hothouse to be
sent across to Covent Garden. The harvest of the year begins with its
first day, and they reap it from January to May.

There are plenty of things on such a farm for a girl to do. Armorel
did not, if you please, sit down to weep. But she daily recalled with
tender regret every one of the pleasant days of that companionship.
She kept her promise, too: she read something every morning in the
books which Roland had sent her: every afternoon she attempted to
carry on the drawing lesson by herself: she practised her violin
diligently: and every evening she played the old tunes to the old
lady, and awakened her once more to life and memory. There was no
change, except that everything now was coloured by what he had said.
She was to grow to her full height--he had told her how--but at
present she hardly saw her way to carrying out those instructions. Her
full height! Ignorant of the truth--since such a girl grown to her
full height would be so tall as to be out of all proportion, not only
to Samson, but even to St. Mary's itself.

Sometimes one falls into the habit of associating a single person with
an idea, a thought, an anticipation, a place. Whenever the mind turns
to this thought, the person is present. For example, there is a street
in London which I have learned, from long habit, to associate with a
second-hand bookseller. He was a gentle creature, full of reading, who
had known many men. I sometimes sat at the back of his shop conversing
with him. Sometimes a twelve-month would pass without my seeing him at
all. But always when I think of this street I think of this old
gentleman. The other day I passed through it. Alas! the shutters were
up: the house was to let: my gentle friend was gone. Armorel
associated her future--the unknown future--with Roland. Suppose that
when that future should be the present she should find the shutters
up, the house deserted, the tenant dead!

The harvest of flowers was well begun: the boxes piled in the hold of
the steamer merrily danced in the roll of the Atlantic waves as the
_Lady of the Isles_ made her way to Penzance: in London the delicate
narcissus and the jonquil returned to the dinner-tables, and stood
about in glasses. Roland Lee bought them and took them home to his
studio, where he sat looking at them, reminded of Armorel--who had
never even answered his letter. Perhaps the flowers came from Samson.
Why did the girl send him no answer to his letter? Then his memory
went back to that little island with its two hills, and its barrows,
and the quiet house--and to the girl who lived there. On what rock of
Samson was she sitting? Where was she at that moment? Gazing somewhere
over the wild waste of waters, the wind blowing about her curls, and
the beating of the waves in her ears. She had forgotten him. Why not?
He was only a visitor of a week or two. She was nothing but a
child--and an ignorant farmer-girl living in a desert island.
Ignorant? No; that was not the word. He saw her once more standing in
the middle of the room, the ruddy firelight in her eyes and on her
cheeks, playing 'Singleton's Slip' and 'Prince Rupert's March,' while
the Ancient Lady mopped and mowed and discoursed of other days. And
again: he saw her standing on the beach when he said farewell, the
tears in her eyes, her voice choked. Then he longed again, as he had
longed then, to take her in his arms, even in the presence of Peter
the boy, to soothe and kiss her and bid her weep no more, because he
would never, never leave her.

So strong was the impression made upon this young man by this child of
fifteen, that after six months spent in the society of many other
girls, of charms more matured, he still remembered her, and thought of
her with that kind of yearning regret which is perilously akin to
love. An untaught, ignorant girl--whose charm lay in her innocent
confidence, her soft black eyes, and the beauty of the maiden emerging
from the child--could hardly make a permanent impression on a man of
the world, even a young man of only twenty-one. The time would go on,
and the girl would be forgotten, except as a pleasant memory
associated with a delightful holiday. An artist is, perhaps, above his
fellows, liable to swift and sudden changes; his mind dwells
continually on beauty. All lovely girls have not black hair and black
eyes. Apollo, himself, the god of artists, loved not only all the nine
Muses and all the three Graces, but a good many nymphs and princesses
as well--such is the artistic temperament, so catholic is its
admiration of beauty.



CHAPTER XII

THE CHANGE


'A change,' said Roland, 'will surely come, and that before long. I
cannot believe'--Armorel remembered the words afterwards--'that you
will stay on this island for ever.' It needed no unusual gift of
prophecy to foretell impending change when the most important member
of the household was nearing her hundredth year.

The change foretold actually came in April, when the flower-fields had
lost their beauty and the harvest of Scilly was nearly over. Late
blossoms of daffodil still reared their heads among the thick leaves,
though their blooming companions had all been cut off to grace London
tables; there were broad patches of wallflower little regarded; the
leaves of the bulbs were drooping and already turning brown: these
were the signs of approaching summer to the Scillonian, who has
already had his spring. On the adjacent island of Great Britain the
primrose clustered on the banks; the hedges of the West Country were
splendid, putting forth tender leaves over a wealth of wild flowers;
the chestnut-buds were swollen and sticky, ready to burst. Do we not
know the signs and tokens of coming spring? On Scilly, the lengthening
day--there are no hedges and no trees to speak of--the completion of
the flower harvest, and the drooping of the daffodil-leaves in the
fields are the chief signs of spring. Yet there are other signs: if
there are no woods to show the tender leaf of spring, there are the
green shoots of the fern on the down: and there are the birds. The
puffin has already come back; he comes in his thousands: he arrives in
April, and he departs in September: whence he cometh and whither he
goeth no man hath ever learned nor can naturalist discover. At the
same time comes the guillemot, and sometimes the solan-goose: the tern
and the sheerwater come too, if they come at all, in spring: but the
wild ducks and the wild geese depart before the flower-harvest is
finished.

Armorel got up one morning in April a little earlier than usual. It
was five o'clock: the sun was rising over Telegraph Hill on St.
Mary's. She ran down the stairs, opened the door, and stood on the
porch drawing a deep breath. No one was as yet stirring on Samson,
though I think Peter was beginning to turn in his bed. Out at sea
Armorel saw a great steamer, homeward bound, perhaps an Australian
liner: the level rays of the early sun shone on her spars and made
them stand out clear and fine against the sky: behind her streamed her
long white cloud of smoke and steam, hanging over the water, light and
feathery. There were no other ships visible. The air was cold, but the
sun of April was already strong. Armorel shivered, caught her hat, and
ran over the hill, singing as she went, not knowing that in the night,
while she slept, the Angel of Death had visited the house.

About seven o'clock she came back, having completely circumnavigated
the island of Samson, and made, as usual, many curious observations
and discoveries in the manners and customs of puffins, terns, and
shags. She returned in the cheerful mood which belongs to youth,
health, and readiness for breakfast. She instantly perceived, however,
on arriving, that something had happened--something unusual. For Peter
stood in the porch: what was Peter doing in the porch at seven o'clock
in the morning, when he ought to have been ministering to the pigs?
Further, Peter was standing in the attitude of a boy who waits to be
sent on an errand. It is an attitude of expectant readiness--of zeal
according to duty--of activity bought and freely rendered. You will
observe this attitude in all office boys--except telegraph-boys: they
never assume it: they affect no zeal: they betray no eagerness to put
in a fair day's work. Such an attitude would lack the dignity due to a
Government officer. And at sight of Armorel Peter hung his head as one
who sorrows, or is ashamed or repentant. What did he do that for? What
had happened? Why should he hang his head?

She asked these questions of Peter, who only shook his head and
pointed within. She heard Justinian's voice giving some directions.
She also heard Dorcas and Chessun. They were all three speaking in low
voices. She hurried in. The door of the old lady's bedroom--that
sacred apartment into which no one, except the two handmaidens, had
ever ventured--stood wide open; not only that, but Justinian himself
was in the room--actually in the room--and beside the bed. Then
Armorel understood what had happened. On no other condition would
Justinian be admitted to his old mistress's room. On the other side of
the bed stood Dorcas and Chessun. Seeing Armorel at the door, these
two ladies instantly lifted up their voices and wailed aloud--nay,
they shrieked and screamed their lamentations, as if it was the first
time in the world's history that death had carried off an aged woman.
This they did by a kind of instinct: the thing, though they knew it
not, was a survival. In ancient times it was the custom in Lyonesse
that the women should all wail and weep and shriek, and beat their
breasts and tear their hair, and cut their cheeks with their nails,
while the body of the dead king or warrior was carried up the slope of
the hill to be laid in its kistvaen and covered with its barrow on
Samson island.

They wailed aloud, then, because it had always been the right thing
for the women of Samson to do. Otherwise, when one so ancient dies at
last, mind and memory gone before, what place is there for wailing and
weeping? One natural tear we drop, for all must die; but grief belongs
to the death-bed of the young. There needed no shriek of the women nor
anyone's speech to tell Armorel that the white face upturned on the
bed was not the face of a living woman. They had folded the dead hands
across her breast: the eyes were closed: the countless wrinkles of the
aged face were smoothed out: the lips were parted with a wan smile.
After many, many years, Ursula, the widow, was gone to rejoin her
husband. Pray Heaven her desire be granted, and that she rise again
young and beautiful--such a woman as that ill-starred sailor, dragged
to the bottom of the sea by the weight of Robert Fletcher's bag, had
loved in life!

Peter presently sailed across the Road, and returned with the doctor.
It is the part of the doctor not only to usher the new-born into life,
but to bar or open the gates of the tomb: without him very few of us
die, and without him no one can be buried. This man of science
graciously expressed his willingness to acknowledge, though he had not
been called in, that the deceased died of old age. Then he went back.

In the evening there was no music. The violin remained in its place;
the great chair was empty; no one brought out the spinning-wheel; the
table was not pushed back. How was the long evening to be got through
without the violin? How could those ancient tunes be played any more
in the presence of that empty chair? When the serving-folk came in as
usual and sat round the fire, and the women sighed and moaned, and
Justinian stimulated the coals to a flame, and the ruddy light played
upon their faces, Armorel began to think that a continuance of these
evenings would be tedious. Then they began to talk, the conversation
naturally turning on Death and Judgment, and the prospects of Heaven
and the departed.

'She was not one of them,' said Dorcas, 'as would never talk of such
things. I've often heard her say she wanted to rise again, young and
beautiful, same as she was when her husband was took, so that he
should love her again.'

'Nay,' said Justinian; 'that's foolish talk. There's neither marrying
nor giving in marriage there. You ought to know so much, Dorcas.
Husbands and wives will know each other, I doubt not, if it's only for
the man's forgiveness after the many crosses and rubs. 'Twould be a
pity, wife, if we didn't know each other, golden crown and all. I'd be
sorry to think you were not about somewhere.'

Armorel listened without much interest. She wondered vaguely how
Dorcas would look in a golden crown, and hoped that she might not
laugh when she should be permitted to gaze upon her thus wonderfully
adorned. Then she listened in silence while these thinkers followed up
their speculations on the next world and the decrees of Heaven, with
the freedom of their kind. A strangely brutal freedom! It consigns,
without a thought of pity, the majority of mankind to a doom which
they are too ignorant to realise and too stupid to understand. The
deceased lady, it was agreed, might, perhaps--though this was by no
means certain--have fallen under Conviction of Sin at some remote
period, before any of them knew her. Not since, that was certain. And
as for her husband, he was cut off in his sins--like all the
Roseveans, struck down in his sins, without a warning. So that if the
old lady expected to meet him, after their separation of nearly eighty
years, on the Shores of Everlasting Praise, she would certainly be
disappointed, because he was otherwise situated and disposed of.
Therefore she might just as well go up old and wrinkled. This kind of
talk was quite familiar to Armorel, and generally meant nothing to
her. The right of private judgment is claimed and freely exercised in
Scilly, where that branch of the Church Catholic called Bryanite
greatly flourishes. Formerly, she would have passed over this talk
without heeding. Now, she had begun to think of these as well as of
many other things. Roland's words on religious things startled her
into thinking. She listened, therefore, wondering what view people
like Roland Lee would take of her great-grandfather's present
condition, and of the poor old lady's prospects of meeting him again.
Then her thoughts wandered from these nebulous speculations, and she
heard no more, though the conversation became lurid with the flames of
Tartarus, and these old religioners gloated over the hopeless
sufferings of the condemned. A sweet and holy thing, indeed, has
mankind made of the Gospel of Great Joy!

Before they separated, Chessun rose and left the room noiselessly.
Armorel had no experience of the situation, but she knew that
something was going to be done, something connected with the impending
funeral--something solemn.

In fact, Chessun returned after ten minutes or a quarter of an hour,
the others making a pretence of expecting nothing. Doctrinal
meditation was written on Justinian's brow: resignation on that of
Dorcas. Chessun bore in her hands a tray with glasses and a silver
tankard filled with something that steamed. It was a posset, made with
biscuits, new milk and sherry, nutmeg and sugar--an emotional drink,
strong, sweet, comforting, very good for mournful occasions, but, of
late years, unfortunately, gone out of fashion.

They all had a glass, the two women moaning over their glasses, and
the old man shaking his head. Then they went to bed.

They had a posset every night until the funeral. They buried the
ancient dame on Bryher. A boat carried the coffin across the water to
the landing-place in New Grinsey Sound, behind which stands the little
old church with its churchyard. Armorel and her household followed in
one of the family boats, as in a mourning-carriage. All the people of
Tresco and Bryher were present at the funeral; and most of them came
across to Samson after the ceremony to drink a glass of wine and eat a
slice of cake, the women no longer wailing and the men no longer
shaking their heads.

All the Roseveans who have escaped the vengeance of Mr. Fletcher's
terrible bag lie in Bryher churchyard. They are mostly widows, poor
things! They sleep alone, because their husbands' bones lie about
among the tall weeds in the tranquil depths of the ocean.

And Armorel, looking forward, thought with terror of the long, silent
evenings, while the old serving-folk would sit round in the firelight,
silent, or saying things that might as well have been left unsaid.



CHAPTER XIII

ARMOREL'S INHERITANCE


'You are now the mistress, dearie,' said Dorcas. 'It is time that you
should learn what that means.'

It was the morning after the funeral--the Day of Accession--the
beginning of the new reign.

'Why, Dorcas, it makes no difference, does it? There are still the
flowers and the house and everything.'

'Yes--there's everything.' The old woman nodded her head meaningly.
'Oh! yes--there is everything. Oh! you don't know--you don't
suspect--nobody knows--what a surprise is in store for you!'

'What surprise, Dorcas?'

'You've never been into her room except to see her lying dead. It's
your room now. You can go in whenever you like. Always the master or
the mistress has slept in that room. When her father-in-law died she
took the room. And she's slept in it ever since. And no one, except me
and Chessun to clean up and sweep and dust, has ever been in that room
since. And now it's yours.'

'Well, Dorcas, it may be mine; but I shall go on sleeping in my own
room.'

'Then keep it locked--keep it locked up--day and night. There's nobody
in Samson to dread--but keep it locked! As for sleeping in it, time
enough, perhaps, when you come to marry. But keep it locked----'

'Why, Dorcas, what is in it?'

'I am seventy-five years old and past,' Dorcas went on. 'I was fifteen
when I came to the house, and here I've been ever since. Not one of
the grandchildren nor the great-grandchildren ever came in here. No
one ever knew what is kept here.'

'What is it, then?' Armorel asked again.

'She used to come here alone, by daylight, regularly once a month. She
locked the door when she came in. No one ever knew what she was doing,
and no one ever asked. One day she forgot to lock the door, and by
accident I opened it, and saw what she was doing.'

'What was she doing?'

'She'd opened all the cupboards and boxes, and she'd spread out all
the things, and was counting, and--no, no--you may guess, when you
have looked for yourself, what she was doing. I shut the door softly,
and she never knew that I'd looked in upon her. She might have been
overseen from the orchard, but no one ever went in there except to
gather the fruit. To make safe, however, I've put up a muslin blind
now, because Peter might take it into his head--boys go everywhere
peering and prying. Nobody knows what I saw. I never even told
Justinian. Men blab, you see: they get together, and they drink--then
they blab. You can never trust a man with a secret. How long would it
be before Peter would let it out if he knew? Once over at Hugh Town,
drinking at a bar, and all the world would know in half an hour. No,
no; the secret was hers: it was mine as well--but that was an
accident--she never knew that: now it will be yours and mine. And we
will tell nobody--nobody at all.'

'Where shall I find this wonderful secret, Dorcas?'

'Wherever you look, dearie. Oh! the room is full of things. There
can't be such another room in all the world. It's crammed with things.
Look everywhere. If they knew, all the young lords and princes would
be at your feet, Armorel, because you are so rich. Best keep it
secret, though, and get richer.'

'I so rich? Dorcas, you are joking!'

'No--you shall look and find out. Not that you will understand at
first--because, how should you know the value of things? Here's her
bunch of keys. She always carried them in her pocket, and at night she
kept them under her pillows--and there I found them, sure enough, when
she was cold and dead. Take them, child. I never told her
secret--no--not even to my own husband. Take the keys, child. They are
yours--your own. You can open everything: you can look at everything:
you can do what you like with everything. It's your inheritance. But
tell no one,' she repeated, earnestly. 'Oh! my dear, let it remain a
secret. Don't let anyone see you when you come in here. Lock the door,
as she did--and keep it locked.'

The old woman led Armorel by the hand to the door of the room where
there was to be found the Great Surprise. She opened it, placed a
bunch of keys in her hand, pushed her in and closed it behind her,
whispering, 'Lock it, and keep it locked.'

The girl turned the key obediently, wondering what would happen next.

The room was on the ground floor, looking out upon the orchard, with a
northern aspect, so that the sun could only shine in for a small
portion of the year, during the summer months. The apple-trees were
now in blossom, the white pink and flowers bright in the sunshine
contrasting with the grey lichen which wrapped every branch and hung
down like ribbons. The room was the oldest part of the house, the only
remaining portion of an earlier house: it was low and small: the
fireplace had never been modernised: it stood wide open, with its dogs
and its broad chimney: the window was of three narrow lights, one of
which could be opened: all were still provided with the old diamond
panes in their leaden setting. Armorel observed the muslin blind put
up by Dorcas to keep out prying eyes. In dull and cloudy days the room
would be gloomy. As it was, even with the bright sunshine out of
doors, the air seemed cold and oppressive--perhaps from the fresh
association of Death. Armorel shivered as she looked about her.

The greater part of the room was taken up by a large bed. In the old
lady's time it had curtains and a head, and things at the four corners
like the plumes of a hearse, but in faded crimson. Then it looked
splendid. Now, the bed had been stripped: curtains and plumes and all
were gone, and only the skeleton bed left, with its four great solid
posts and its upper beams, and its feather bed lying exposed, with the
bare pillow-cases upon the mattress. But the bedstead was magnificent
without its trappings, because it was made of mahogany black with age:
they no longer make such bedsteads. There was also a table--an old
black table--with massive legs; but there was nothing on it.

Between door and wall there was a row of pegs, with a chair beneath
them. Now, by some freak of chance, when Dorcas and Chessun hung up
the ancient dame's things for the last time--her great bonnet, and the
cap of many ribbons within it, and her silk dress--they arranged them
so as to present a most extraordinary presentment of the venerable
lady herself--much elongated and without any face: she seemed to be
sitting in the chair below the pegs, dressed as usual, and nodding her
great bonnet, but pulled out to eight or ten feet in length. Armorel
caught the ghostly similitude and started, trembling. It seemed as if
in a moment the wrinkled old face, with the hawk-like nose and the
keen eyes, would come back to the bonnet and the cap. She was so much
startled that she turned the bonnet round. And then the figure seemed
watching with the shoulders. This was uncanny, but it was not so
terrible as the faceless form.

Beside the fireplace was a cupboard--one of those huge cupboards which
one only finds in the old houses. Armorel tried the door, but it was
locked. Against the wall stood a chest of drawers, brass-bound,
massive. She tried the handles, but every lock was fast. Under the
window stood an old sea-chest. It was a very big sea-chest. One would
judge, from its rich carvings and its ornamental ironwork, that it was
probably the sea-chest of an admiral at least--perhaps that of Admiral
Hernando Mureno, Armorel's ancestor, if such was his rank in the navy
of his Catholic Majesty. The sight of this sea-chest caused the girl
to shiver with the fear of expectation. Nobody contemplates the
absolutely unknown without a certain fear. It contained, she was
certain, the things that Dorcas had seen, of which she would not
speak. The chest seemed to drag her: it cried, 'Open me. Look inside
me--see what I have got to show you.'

Then she remembered, as one in a dream, hearing people talk. Words
long forgotten came back to her. 'Twas in Hugh Town, whither she went
across to school when she was as yet a little girl. 'What have the
Roseveans'--thus and thus said the voice--'done with all their money?
They've never spent anything: they've gone on saving and saving. Some
day we shall find out what became of it.' Was she going to find out
what had become of it?

The old lady, in her most lucid moments, had never dropped the least
hint of any inheritance, except that disagreeable necessity of getting
drowned on account of the unfortunate Robert Fletcher. And that was
not an inheritance to gladden the heart. Yet there was an inheritance.
It was here, in this room. And she was locked in alone, in order that
she, herself unseen by any, might discover what it was.

Baron Bluebeard's last wife--she who afterwards, as a beautiful, rich,
and lively young widow, set so many hearts aflame--was not more
curious than Armorel. Nor was she, in the course of her
investigations, more afraid than Armorel. The girl looked nervously
about the room, so ghostly and so full of shadow. All old rooms have
their ghosts, but some of them have so many that one is not afraid of
them. There is a sense of companionship in a crowd of ghosts. This
room had only one--that of the woman who had grown old in it--who had
spent nearly eighty years in it. All the old ghosts had grown tired of
this monotonous room, gone away and left the place to her. Armorel not
only 'believed in ghosts'--many of us accord to these shadows a
shadowy, theoretical belief--she actually knew that ghosts do
sometimes appear. Dorcas had seen many--Chessun herself, while not
going actually that length, threw out hints. She herself had often,
too, gone to look for them. Now she glanced nervously where the
'things' were hanging, expecting to see the ancestral figure reappear,
shoulders move, the bonnet and cap turn round, the old, old face
within them, ready to warn, to admonish, and to guide. If this had
happened, it would have seemed to Armorel nothing but what was natural
and in the regular course of things looked for. But, outside, the sun
shone on the white apple-blossom. No one is very much afraid of ghosts
in the sunshine.

She encouraged herself with this reflection, and began with unlocking
the chest of drawers. The lower drawers, when they were opened,
contained nothing but the 'things' of her great-great-grandmother.
Among them was a box roughly made--a boy's box made with a jack-knife:
it contained a gold watch with a French name upon it--a very old
watch, with a representation of the Annunciation in low relief on the
gold face. There were also in the box two or three gold chains and
sundry rings and trinkets. Armorel took them out and laid them on the
table. They were, she said to herself, part of her inheritance. Was
this the Great Surprise spoken of by Dorcas? She tried the two upper
drawers. They were locked, but she easily found the right key, and
opened them. She found that they were filled with lace; they were
crammed with lace. There were packets of lace tied up tight, rolls of
lace, cardboards with lace wound round and round--an immense quantity
of lace was lying in these drawers. As for its value, Armorel knew
nothing. Nor did she even ask herself what the value might be. She
only unrolled one or two packets, and wondered vaguely what in the
world she should do with so much lace. And she wished it was not so
yellow. Yet the packets she unrolled contained Valenciennes--some of
it half a yard wide, precious almost beyond price. Armorel knew,
however, very well how it had got there, and what it meant. The
descendant of so many brave runners was not ignorant that lace,
velvet, silk and satin, brandy and claret, all came from the French
coast with which her gallant forefathers were so familiar before the
Preventive Service interfered. This, then, was left from the smuggling
times. They had not sold all. They had kept enough, in fact, to stock
half a dozen West-End shops, to adorn the trousseau of fifty
Princesses. And here the stuff had lain undisturbed since--well,
perhaps, since the unfortunate visit of Mr. Robert Fletcher.

'My inheritance, so far,' said Armorel, 'is a pile of yellow lace and
a gold watch and chain and some trinkets. Is this the Great Surprise?'
But she looked at the sea-chest. Something more must be there.

Next she turned to the cupboard. It was locked and double-locked. But
she found the key. The cupboard was one of those great receptacles
common in the oldest houses, almost rooms in themselves, but dark
rooms, where mediæval housekeepers kept their stores. In those days,
housekeeping on a respectable scale meant the continual maintenance of
immense stores. All the things which now we get from shops as we want
them were then laid in store long before they were wanted. Outside the
country town there were no shops; and, even in London itself, people
did not run to the shop every day. The men had great quantities of
shirts--three clean shirts a day was the allowance of a solid city man
under good Queen Anne--a city man who respected himself: the women had
a corresponding quantity of flowered petticoats. Wine was by no means
the only thing laid down for future years. All these accumulations
helped to give solidity to the appearance of life. When a woman
thought of her cupboards filled with fine linen and a man of his
cellars filled with wine, the uncertainty and brevity of life alleged
by the Preacher seemed not to concern them. It would be absurd to lay
down a great bin of good port if one was not going to live long enough
to drink it. The fashion, therefore, has its advantages.

Armorel threw open the door and looked in. The place was so dark that
she was obliged to light a candle in order to examine the shelves
running round the sides of the cupboard. There was a strange smell in
the place, which, perhaps, had not been opened for a long time. Bales
of some kind lay upon the upper shelves. Armorel took down two and
opened them. They contained silk--strong, rich silk. She rolled them
up and put them back. On a lower shelf was a most singular collection.
In the front row were one--two--no fewer than six punch-bowls, all of
silver except one, and that was of silver gilt. This must be the Great
Surprise. Armorel took them all out and placed them on the table. For
the most part they showed signs of having been used with freedom--one
has heard of an empty punch-bowl being kicked about the place as a
conclusion to the feast. But six punch-bowls! 'They came,' said
Armorel, 'from the wrecks.' Behind the punch-bowls were silver
candlesticks, silver snuffers, silver cups, silver tankards--some with
coats-of-arms, some with names engraven. There was also a great silver
ship, one of those galleons in silver which formerly adorned Royal
banquets. All these Armorel took out and arranged upon the table.
Among them was a tall hour-glass mounted in silver. Armorel set the
sand running again, after many years. On the floor there were packets
and bundles tied up and rolled together. Armorel opened one of them,
and, finding that it contained a packet of gold lace and a pair of
gold epaulettes, she left them undisturbed. And standing against the
wall, stacked behind the bundles of gold lace, were swords--dozens of
swords. What could she do with swords? Well, then, now, at last, she
had found the Great Surprise. But still the sea-chest seemed to drag
her and to call to her: 'Open me! Open me! See what I have got for
you!'

'So far, then,' she said, 'I have inherited a pile of lace; a gold
watch, rings, and chains; six punch-bowls, twenty-four silver
candlesticks, twelve silver cups, four great tankards, a silver ship,
I know not how many old swords, and a bundle of gold lace. I wonder if
these things make a person rich?'

If so, great wealth does not satisfy the soul. This was certain,
because Armorel really felt no richer than before. Yet the array of
punch-bowls was truly imposing, and the silver candlesticks, the
snuffers, the tankards, the cups, and the ship, though they sadly
wanted the brush and the chamois leather, with a pinch of 'whitenin','
were worthy of a College Plate-Room. One might surely feel a little
elation at the thought of owning all this silver, even if one did not
understand its intrinsic value. But, like the effect of champagne,
such elation would quickly wear off.

Next, Armorel remembered the secret cupboard at the head of the bed.
Her own bed had its secret recess at the head--every respectable
bedstead used formerly to have them. Where else could money be hidden
away safely? To be sure, everybody knew this hiding-place, but
everybody pretended not to know. It was an open secret, like the
concealed drawer in a schoolboy's desk. Our forefathers were full of
such secrets that everybody knew. The stocking in the teapot: the
receptacle under the hearthstone: the hidden compartment in the
cabinet: the secret room: the secret staircase: the recess in the head
of the bed--these were all secrets that everybody knew and everybody
respected. I think that even the burglar respected these conventions.
Armorel knew how to open the panel--she found the spring and it flew
open, rustily, as if it had not been opened for a great many years.
Behind the panel was a recess eighteen inches long and about nine
inches deep. And here stood a Black Jack--nothing less than a Black
Jack; a quart Jack, not a Leather Jack, but a tankard made of tin and
painted with hunting scenes something like an Etruscan vase, or
perhaps more like a Brown George. Why should anyone want to hide away
a Black Jack? This quart pot, however, held something better than
stingo--even stronger: it was half-filled with foreign money. Here
were moidores, doubloons, ducats, pieces-of-eight, Louis d'ors,
Spanish pillar dollars, sequins, gold coins from India--nothing at all
in the pot less than a hundred years old. Armorel took out a handful
and looked at them. Well, gold coins do look like money. She began to
feel really rich. She had a quart tankard half-full of gold coins. She
added the Black Jack to the other treasures on the table. All this
foreign money must have come out of the wrecks. And, since it was all
so old, out of wrecks that had happened before the memory even of the
Ancient Lady. This, then, was perhaps the Great Surprise.

But there remained the sea-chest under the window, and again, when
Armorel looked upon it, the chest continued to call to her, 'Open me!
Open me! See what I have for you!'

Armorel found the key which unlocked it, and threw open the lid.
Within, there was the deep tray which belongs to every sea-chest. This
was filled with a quantity of uninteresting brown canvas bags. She
wanted to see what was below, and tried to lift the tray, but it was
too heavy. Then, still regarding the bags as of no account, she took
one out. It was heavy, and when she lifted it there was a clink as of
coin. It was tied tightly at the mouth with a piece of string. She
opened it. Within there were gold coins. She took out a handful: they
were all sovereigns, some of them worn, some quite new and fresh from
the Mint. She poured out the whole contents of the bag on the table.
Why, it was actually full of golden sovereigns. Nothing else in the
bag. All golden sovereigns! And there were five hundred of them. She
counted them. Five hundred pounds! She had never, it is true, thought
much about money--but--five hundred pounds! It seemed an amazing sum.
Five hundred pounds! And all in a single bag. And such a little bag as
this. She put back the money and tied up the bag.

Then she took out another bag. This was as big as the first, and
heavier. It was full of guineas--Armorel counted them. There were also
five hundred of them. Some of them were so old that they bore the
impression of the elephant, and therefore belonged to the seventeenth
century. But most of them belonged to the eighteenth century, and bore
the heads of the three first Georges. Five hundred guineas--and never
before had Armorel seen a guinea! Well, she thought, that made a
thousand pounds. She took up another bag and opened it. That, too,
weighed as much and was full of gold. And another, and yet another.
They were all full of gold. And now she knew what Dorcas
meant--this--nothing but this--was the Great Surprise! Not the
punch-bowls, or the lace, or the bales of silk, but these bags full of
gold constituted her wealth. She understood money, you see: lace and
silk were beyond her. This was her inheritance!

Consider: the Roseveans, from father to son, had been from time
immemorial wreckers, smugglers, and pilots. They were also farmers. On
their little farm they grew nearly enough to support their simple
lives. They had pigs and poultry; they had milch cows; they had a few
sheep; they kept geese, pigeons, ducks; they made their own beer and
their own cordials and strong waters; they made their own linen; they
were unto themselves millers, tinkers, carpenters, cabinet-makers,
builders, and thatchers. They grew their own salads and vegetables,
and if they wanted any fruit they grew that as well. Oats and barley
they grew, clover and hay. I believe that on Samson wheat has never
been grown--indeed, there are only eighty acres in all. There was
left, therefore, little to buy. Coals, wood for fuel and for
carpentering, things in iron, crockery, tools, cloth clothes, flannel,
flour, and sometimes a little beef--what else did they want? As for
fish, they had only to catch as much as they wanted. Tea, coffee,
sugar, and so forth came in with later civilisation, when small ale,
possets, and hypsy died out.

In order to provide these small deficiencies they were pilots, to
begin with. This trade brought in a steady income. They also sent out
boats, filled with fresh vegetables, to meet the homeward-bound East
Indiamen. And they were also, like the rest of the artless islanders,
wreckers and smugglers. In the former capacity they occasionally
acquired an extraordinary quantity of odd and valuable things. In the
latter profession they made at times, and until the Peace and the
Preventive Service put an end to the business, a really fine income.

Then, on Samson, they continued to live after the patriarchal fashion
and in the old simplicity. Each Captain Rosevean in turn was the
chieftain or sheik. To him his family brought all that they earned or
found. The sea-chest took it all. For three hundred years, at least,
this sea-chest received everything and gave up nothing. Nobody ever
took anything out of it: nobody looked into it: nobody knew, until
Ursula counted the money and made bags for it, what there was in the
chest. Nobody ever asked if they were rich or how rich they were.

There was no bank on Samson: there is not even now a bank in the
Scilly archipelago at all: nobody understood any other way of saving
money than the good old fashion of putting it by in a bag. On Samson
there never were thieves, even when as many as fifty people lived on
the island. Therefore the Captain Rosevean of the time, though he knew
not how much was saved, nor did he ever inquire, laid the last
additions to the pile in the tray of the old sea-chest with the rest,
and, having locked it up, dropped the key in his pocket, and went
about his business in perfect confidence, never thinking either that
it might be stolen, or that he might count up his hoard, proceed to
enjoy it, and alter his simple way of life. Every Captain Rosevean in
succession added to that hoard every year; not one among them all
thought of spending it or taking anything from it. He added to it.
Nobody ever counted it until the reign of Ursula. It was she who made
the little brown bags of canvas: she, usurping the place of Family
Chief or Sheik, took from her sons and grandsons all the money that
they made. They gave it over to her keeping--she was the Family Bank.
And, like her predecessors in that room, she told no one of the hoard.

Most of the bags contained guineas of George I., George II., and
George III., down to the year 1816, when the Mint left off coining
guineas. A few contained sovereigns of later date; but the family
savings since that year had been small and uncertain. The really fat
time--the prosperous time--when the money poured in, was during the
long war which lasted for nearly five-and-twenty years.

There were actually forty of these bags. Armorel laid them out upon
the table and counted them. Forty! And each bag to all appearance, for
she only counted two, contained five hundred guineas or pounds. Forty
times five hundred--that makes twenty thousand pounds, if all were
sovereigns! There are, I am told, a few young ladies in this country
who have as much as twenty thousand pounds for their dot. There are
also a great many young ladies in France, and an amazing multitude,
whom no man may number, in the United States of America, who have as
much. But I am quite sure that not one of these heiresses, except
Armorel herself, has ever actually gazed upon her fortune in a
concrete form--tangible--to be counted--to be weighed--to be admired.
It is a pity that they cannot do this, if only because they would then
see for themselves what a very small pile of gold a fortune of twenty
thousand pounds actually makes. This would make them humble. Armorel
stood looking at the table thus laden with bewildered eyes.

'I have got,' she murmured, 'twenty thousand sovereigns and guineas at
least: I have got a painted pot full of old money. I have got six
punch-bowls, a great silver ship, a large number of silver
candlesticks and cups: I have got a silver-mounted hour-glass'--its
sand was now nearly run--'I have got a great quantity of lace and
silk. I suppose all this does make riches. Whatever shall I do with
it? Shall I give it to the poor? or shall I put it back into the box
and leave it there? But perhaps there is something else in the box.'

The chest, in fact, continued to call aloud to be examined. Even while
Armorel looked at her glittering treasures spread out upon the table
she felt herself drawn towards the chest. There was more in it. There
was another Surprise waiting for her--even a greater Surprise,
perhaps, than that of the bags of gold. 'Search me!' cried the chest.
'Search me! Look into the innermost recesses of me: explore my
contents to the very bottom: let nothing escape your eyes.'

Armorel knelt down before the chest and took out the tray. It was
empty now, and she could lift it easily.

Beneath the tray there was a most miscellaneous collection of things.

They lay in layers, separated and divided--Ursula's hand was here--by
silk handkerchiefs of the good old kind--the bandanna, now gone out of
fashion.

First Armorel took out and laid on the floor a layer of silver spoons,
silver ladles, even silver dishes, all of antique appearance and for
the most part stamped with a crest or a coat-of-arms: for in the old
days if a man was Armiger he loved to place his shield on everything;
to look at it and glory in it: to let others see it and envy it.

Then she found a layer of watches. There were gold watches and silver
watches; the latter of all kinds, down to the veritable turnip. The
glasses were broken of nearly all, and, if one had examined, the works
would have been found rusted with the sea-water which had got in. What
were they worth now? Perhaps the value of the cases and of the jewels
with which the works were set, and more with one or two, where
miniatures adorned the back and jewels were set in the face. Armorel
turned with impatience from the watches to the gold chains, which lay
beside them. There were yards of gold chain: gold chains of all kinds,
from the heavy English make to the dainty interlaced Venetian and
thread-like Trichinopoly; there were silver chains also--massive
silver chains, made for some extinct office-bearer, perhaps bo's'n on
the Admiral's ship of the Great Armada. Armorel drew up some of the
chains and played with them, tying them round her wrists and letting
them slip through her fingers--the pretty delicate things, which spoke
of wealth almost as loudly as the bags of guineas.

She laid them aside, and took up a silk handkerchief containing a
small collection of miniatures. They were almost all portraits of
women: young and pretty women: ladies on land whose faces warmed the
hearts and fired the memories of men at sea. The miniatures had hung
round the necks of some and had lain in the sea-chests of others,
whose bones had long since melted to nothing in the salt sea depths,
while those of their mistresses had turned to dust beneath the aisle
of some village church, their memory long since forgotten, and their
very name trampled out by the feet of the rustics.

Armorel laid aside these pictures--they were very pretty, but she
would look at them again another time.

The next parcel was a much larger one. It consisted of snuff-boxes.
There were dozens of snuff-boxes: one or two of gold: one or two
silver-gilt: some silver. In the lids of some were pictures, some most
beautifully and delicately executed; some of subjects which Armorel
did not understand--and why, she thought, should painters draw people
without proper clothes? Venus and the Graces and the Nymphs, in whom
our eighteenth-century ancestors took such huge delight, were to this
young person merely people. The snuff-boxes were very well in their
way, but Armorel had no inclination to look at them again.

Then she found in a handkerchief, the four corners of which were
loosely tied together, a great quantity of rings. There were rings of
every kind--the official ring or the ring of office, the signet-ring,
the ring with the shield, the ring with the name of a ship, the ring
with the name of a regiment, mourning-rings, wedding-rings,
betrothal-rings, rings with posies, cramp-rings with the names of the
Magi on them--but their power was gone--gimmal-rings, rings episcopal,
rings barbaric, mediæval, and modern, rings set with every kind of
precious stone--there were hundreds of rings. All drowned sailors used
to have rings on their fingers.

Armorel began to get tired of all these treasures. Beneath them,
however, at the bottom of the box, lay piled together a mass of
curios. They were stowed away for the most part in small boxes, of
foreign make and appearance: ivory boxes: carved wood boxes. They
consisted of all kinds of things, such as gold and silver buckles,
brooches, painted fans, jewel-hilted daggers, crystal tubes of attar
of roses, and knives of curious construction. The girl sighed: she
would look over them at another time. They would, perhaps, add
something to the inheritance, but for the moment she was satisfied.
She had seen enough. She was putting back a dagger whose jewelled
handle flashed in the unaccustomed light, when she saw, lying half
hidden among this pile of curious things, the corner of a chagreen
case. This attracted her curiosity, and she took it out. The chagreen
had been green in colour, but was now very much discoloured. It had
been fastened by a silver clasp, but this was broken: a small leather
strap was attached to two corners. Armorel expected to find another
bag of money. But this did not contain gold. It was lighter than the
canvas bags. As she took it into her hands she remembered the bag of
Robert Fletcher. Yes. The leathern strap of this case had been cut
through. She held in her hands--she was certain--the abominable Thing
that had brought so much trouble on the family. Again the room felt
ghostly: she heard voices whispering: the voices of all those who had
been drowned: the voices of the women who had mourned for them: the
voice of the old lady who was herself a witness of the crime. They all
whispered together in her ears: 'Armorel, you must find him. You must
give it back to him.'

What was in it? The clasp acted no longer. Armorel lifted the
overlapping leather and looked within. There was a thick roll of silk.
She took this out. Wrapped up in the silk, laid in folds, side by
side, were a quantity of stones--common-looking stones, such as one
may pick up, she thought, on the beach of Porth Bay. There were a
couple of hundred or more, mostly small stones, only one or two of
them bigger than the top of Armorel's little finger.

'Only stones!' she cried. 'All this trouble about a bag full of red
stones!'

Among the stones lay a small folded paper. Armorel opened it. The
paper was discoloured by age or by water, and most of the writing was
effaced. But she could read some of it.

'... from the King of Burmah himself. This ruby I estimate to be worth
... 000_l._ at the very least. The other ... Mines. The second largest
stone weighs ... about 2,000_l._ The smaller ... rt Fletcher.'

It was a note on the contents of the parcel, written by the owner.

The stones, therefore, were rubies, uncut rubies. Armorel knew little
about precious stones and jewels, but she had heard and read of them.
The price of a virtuous woman, she knew, was far above rubies. And
Solomon's fairest among women was made comely with rows of jewels.
Queen Sheba, moreover, brought precious stones among her presents to
the Wise King. The girl wondered why such common-looking objects as
these should be precious. But she was humbly ignorant, and put that
wonder by.

This, then, was nothing less than Robert Fletcher's fortune. He had
this round his neck, and he was bringing it home to enjoy. And it was
taken from him by her ancestor. A wicked thing indeed! A foul and
wicked thing! And the poor man had been sent empty away to begin his
life all over again. She shivered as she looked at them. All for the
sake of these dull, red bits of stone! How can man so easily fall into
temptation? In the empty room, so quiet, so ghostly, she heard again
the whispers, 'Armorel, find him--find the man--and give him back his
jewels.'

She replied aloud, not daring to look round her lest she should see
the pale and eager faces of those who had suffered death by drowning
in consequence of this sin, 'Yes--yes, I will find him! I will find
him!'

She pushed the chagreen case back into its corner and covered it up.
'I will find him,' she repeated. Then she rose to her feet and looked
about the room. Heavens! What a sight! The bags of gold, two of them
open, their contents lying piled upon the table--the chains of gold on
the floor--the handful of old gold coins lying on the table beside the
Black Jack, the snuff-boxes, the miniatures, the punch-bowls, the
rings, the silver cups--the low room, dark and quiet, filled with
ghosts and voices, the recent occupant wagging her shoulders and
shaking the back of her bonnet at her from the opposite wall, and,
through the open window, the sight of the sunlight on the
apple-blossoms mocking the gold and silver in this gloomy cave. She
comprehended, as yet, little of the extent of her good fortune. Lace
and silk, rings and miniatures, snuff-boxes: all these things had no
value to her--of buying and selling she had no kind of experience. All
she understood was that she was the possessor of a vast quantity of
things for which she could find no possible use--one jewelled dagger,
for instance, might be used for a dinner-knife, or for a paper-knife;
but what could she do with a dozen? In addition to this museum of
pretty and useless things she had forty bags with five hundred
guineas, or pounds, in each--twenty-one thousand pounds, say, in cash.
This museum was perfectly unique: no family in Great Britain had such
a collection. It had been growing for more than three hundred years:
it was begun in the time of the Tudor Kings, at least, perhaps even
earlier. Wrecks there were, and Roseveans, on Samson, before the
seventh Henry. I doubt if any other family, even the oldest and the
noblest, has been collecting so long. Certainly no other family, even
in this archipelago of wrecks, can have had such opportunities of
collecting with such difficulties in dissipating. For more than three
hundred years! And Armorel was sole heiress!

She understood that she had inherited something more than twenty
thousand pounds--how much more, she knew not. Now, unless one knows
something of the capacities of one single pound, one cannot arrive at
the possibilities of twenty thousand pounds. Armorel knew as much as
this. Tea at Hugh Town costs two shillings a pound--perhaps
two-and-four--sugar threepence a pound: nun's cloth so much a
yard--serge and flannel so much: coals, so much a ton: wood for fuel,
so much. This was nearly the extent of her knowledge: and it must be
confessed that it goes very little way towards a right comprehension
of twenty thousand pounds.

Once, again, she had heard Justinian talking of the flower-farm. 'It
has made,' he said, 'four hundred pounds this year, clear.' To which
Dorcas replied, 'And the housekeeping doesn't come to half that, nor
near it.' Whence, by the new light of this Great Surprise, she
concluded, first, that the other two hundred, thus made, must have
been added to those money-bags, and, next, that two hundred pounds a
year would be a liberal allowance for her whole yearly expenditure.
Then she made a little calculation. Two hundred pounds a year--two
hundred into twenty thousand--twenty thousand--two and four
noughts--she put five bags in a row for the number--subtract two--she
did so--there remained three--divide by two--she did so--one hundred
years was the result of that sum. Her twenty thousand pounds would
therefore last her exactly one hundred years. At the expiration of the
century all would be gone. For the first time in her life Armorel
comprehended the fleeting nature of riches. And, naturally, the
discovery, though she shivered at the thought of losing all, made her
feel a little proud. A strange result of wealth, to advance the
inheritor one more step in the knowledge of possible misery! She was
like unto the curious youth who opens a book of medicine, only to
learn of new diseases and terrible sufferings and alarming symptoms,
and to imagine these in his own body of corruption. In a hundred years
there would be no more. She would then be reduced to sell the lace and
the other things for what they would then be worth. There would still,
however, remain the flower-farm. She would, after all, be no worse off
than before the Great Surprise. And then there sprang up in her heart
the blossom of another thought, to be developed, later on, into a
lovely flower.

She had risen from her knees now, and was standing beside the table,
vaguely gazing upon her inheritance. It was all before her. So the
Ancient Lady had stood many and many a time counting the money:
looking to see if all was safe: content to count it and to know that
it was there. The old lady was gone, but from the opposite wall her
shoulders and the back of her bonnet were looking on.

Well: Armorel might go on doing exactly the same. She might live as
her forefathers had lived: there was the flower-farm to provide all
their necessities: if it brought in four hundred pounds a year, she
could add two hundred to the heap--in every two years and a half
another bag of five hundred sovereigns. All her people had done
this--why not she? It seemed expected of her; a plain duty laid upon
her shoulders. If she were to live on for eighty years longer--which
would bring her to her great-great-grandmother's age--she would save
eighty times two hundred--sixteen thousand pounds. The inheritance
would then be worth thirty-six thousand pounds--a prodigious sum of
money indeed. And, besides, the Black Jack, with its foreign gold, and
the rings and lace and things!

A strange room it was this morning. What voice was it that whispered
solemnly in her ear, 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and
steal'?

Never before had this injunction possessed any other significance to
her than belongs to one manifestly addressed to other people. The
Bible is full of warnings addressed to other people. Armorel was like
the Royal Duke who used to murmur during the weekly utterance of the
Commandments, 'Never did that. Never did that.' Now, this precept was
clearly and from the very first intended to meet her own case. Oh! To
live for nothing than to add more bags to that tray in the great
sea-chest!

Roland had prophesied that there would be a change. It had come
already in part, and more was coming.

What next? As yet the girl did not understand that she was mistress of
her own fate. Hitherto things had been done for her. She was now about
to act for herself. But how? If Roland were only here! But he had only
written once, and he had never kept his promise to write back again to
Samson. If he were here he could advise.

She looked around, and saw the heaps of things that were all hers, and
she laughed. The girl whom Roland thought to be only an ignorant and
poor little country girl, a flower-farmer's girl of Samson Island,
living alone with her old grandmother and the serving-folk, was
ignorant still, no doubt. But she was not poor: she was rich--she
could have all that can be bought with money--she was rich. What would
Roland say and think? And she laughed aloud.

She was rich--the last girl in the world to hope, or expect, or desire
riches. Thus Fate mocks us, giving to one, who wants it not, wealth:
and to another, who knows not how to use it, youth: and to a third,
insensible of its power, beauty. The young lady of society, she whom
the good old hymns used to call the Worldling--fond and pretty title!
there are no Worldlings now--would have had no difficulty in knowing
how to use this wonderful windfall. She, indeed, is always longing,
perhaps praying, for money: she is always thinking how delightful it
would be to be rich, and how there is nothing in the whole world more
desirable than much fine gold. But to Lady Worldling, poor thing! such
a windfall never happens. Again, there are all the distressed
gentlewomen, the unappreciated artists, the authors whose books won't
sell, the lawyers who have no clients, the wives whose name is
Quiverful, the tradesman who 'scapes the Bankruptcy Court year after
year by the skin of his teeth, and the poor dear young man who pines
away because he cannot join the rabble rout of Comus--why, why does
not such a windfall ever come to any of these? It never does: yet they
spend all their spare time--all the time when they ought to be
planning and devising ways and means of advancement--in dreaming of
the golden days they would enjoy, if only such a windfall fell to
them. One such man I knew: he dreamed of wealth all his life: he tried
to become rich by taking every year a share in a foreign lottery. Of
course, he never won a prize. While he was yet young and even far down
the shady or outer slope of middle age he continually built castles in
the air, fashioning pleasant ways for himself when he should get that
prize. When he grew old, he dreamed of the will he would make and of
the envy with which other old men, when he was gone, should regard the
memory of one who had cut up so well. So he died poor; but I think he
had always, through his dreaming, been as happy as if he had been
rich.

Armorel told herself, standing in the midst of this great treasure,
that she was rich. Roland had once told her, she remembered, that an
artist ought to have money in order to be free: only in freedom, he
said, could a man make the best of himself. What was good for an
artist might be good for her. At the same time--it is not for nothing
that a girl reads and ponders over the Gospels--there were terrible
words of warning--there were instances. She shuddered, overwhelmed
with the prospects of new dangers.

She knew everything: the room had yielded all its secrets there were
no more cupboards, boxes, or drawers. The sight of the treasures
already began to pall upon her. She applied herself to putting
everything back. First the chagreen case. This she laid carefully in
its corner among the daggers and pistols, remembering that she had
promised to find the owner. How should she do that if she remained on
Samson? Then she put back the snuff-boxes, the miniatures, and the
watches in their silk handkerchiefs: then the box of rings and the
silver spoons and dishes. Then she put the tray in its place and laid
the bags in the tray, and locked the old sea-chest. This done, she
bore back to the shelves in the cupboard the punch-bowls,
candlesticks, tankards, and the big silver ship: she locked and
double-locked the cupboard-door: she crammed the lace into the
drawers, and put back the box of trinkets.

Then she dropped the keys in her pocket. Oh! what a lump to carry
about all day long! But the weight of the keys in her pocket was
nothing to the weight that was laid upon her shoulders by her great
possessions. This, however, she hardly felt at first.

Everything was her own.

When the new King comes to the throne he makes a great clearance of
all the personal belongings of the old King. He gives away his cloaks
and his uniforms, and all the things belonging to the daily life of
his predecessor. That is always done. Therefore, Queen Armorel--Vivat
Regina!--at this point gathered together all her predecessor's
belongings. She turned them out of the drawers and laid them on the
floor--with the great bonnet and the wonderful cap of ribbons. And
then she opened the door. She would give these things to Dorcas. Her
great-great-grandmother should have no more authority there. Even her
clothes must go. If her ghost should remain, it should be without the
bonnet and the cap.

She called Dorcas, who came, curious to know how her young mistress
took the Great Surprise. Armorel had taken it, apparently, as a matter
of course. So the new King stands upon the highest step of the Throne,
calm and collected, as if he had been prepared for this event, and was
expecting it day after day.

'You know all now, dearie?' she whispered, shutting the door
carefully. 'Did you find everything?'

'Yes--I believe I found everything.'

'The silver in the cupboard: the lace: the bags of gold?'

'I think I have found everything, Dorcas.'

'Then you are rich, my dear. No Rosevean before you was ever half so
rich. For none of it has been spent. They've all gone on saving and
adding--almost to the last she saved and added. Oh! the last thing she
lost was the love of saving, and the jealousy of her keys she never
lost. Oh! you are very rich--you are the richest girl in the whole of
Scilly--not even in St. Mary's is there anyone who can compare with
you. Even the Lord Proprietor himself--I hardly know.'

'Yes. I believe I must be very rich,' said Armorel. 'Dorcas, you kept
her secret. Keep mine as well. Let no one know.'

'No one shall know, dearie--no one. But lock the door. Keep the door
locked always.'

'I will. Now, Dorcas, here are all her dresses and things. You must
take them all away and keep them. They are for you.'

'Very well, dearie. Though how I'm to wear black silk---- Oh! Child,'
she cried, out of the religious terrors of her soul--'it is written
that it is harder for a rich man to enter into heaven than for a camel
to pass through the eye of a needle. My dear, if these great riches
are to drag your soul down into hell, it would be better if they were
all thrown into the sea, the silver punch-bowls and the bags of gold
and all. But there's one comfort. It doesn't say, impossible. It only
says, harder. So that now and then, perhaps, a rich man may wriggle
in--just one--and oh! I wish, seeing the number of rich people there
are in the world, that there'd been shown one camel--only a single
camel--going through the needle's eye. Think what a miracle! 'Twould
have brought conviction to all who saw it, and consolation ever
afterwards to all who considered it--oh! the many thousands of
afflicted souls who are born rich! You are not the only one, child,
who is rich through no fault of her own. Often have I told Justinian,
thinking of her, and he not knowing or suspecting, but believing I was
talking silly, that, considering the warnings and woes pronounced
against the rich, we cannot be too thankful. But don't despair, my
dear--it is nowhere said to be impossible. And there's the rich young
man, to be sure, who was told to sell all that he had and to give to
the poor. He went away sorrowful. You can't do that, Armorel, because
there are no poor on Samson. And it's said, "Woe unto you that are
rich, for you have had your consolation!" Well, but if your money
never is your consolation--and I'm sure I don't know what it is going
to console you for--that doesn't apply to you, does it? There's the
story of the Rich Man, again; and there's texts upon texts, when you
come to think of them. You will remember them, child, and they will be
your warnings. Besides, you are not going to waste and riot like a
Prodigal Son, and where your earthly treasure is there you will not
set your heart. You will go on like all the Roseveans before you: and
though the treasure is kept locked up, you will add to it every year
out of your savings, just as they did.'

'There is another parable, Dorcas. I think I ought to remember that as
well. It is that of the Talents. If the man who was rich with Five
Talents had locked them up, he would not have been called a good and
faithful servant.'

'Yes, dearie, yes. You will find some Scripture to comfort and assure
your soul, no doubt. There's a good deal in Scripture. Something for
all sorts, as they say. Though, after all, riches is a dangerous
thing. Child! if they knew it over at St. Mary's, not a young man in
the place but would be sailing over to Samson to try his luck. Our
secret, child, all to ourselves.'

'Yes; our secret, Dorcas. And now take away all these things,
everything that belonged to her: there are her shoes--take them too. I
want the room to be all my own. So.'

When all the things were gone, Armorel closed and locked the door.
Then she ran out of the house gasping, for she choked. Everything was
turned into gold. She gasped and choked and ran out over the hill and
down the steps and across the narrow plain, and up the northern hill,
hoping to drive some of the ghosts from her brain, and to shake off
some of the bewildering caused by the Great Surprise. But a good deal
remained, and especially the religious terrors suggested by that pious
Bryanite Christian and Divider of the Word, Dorcas Tryeth.

When she sat down in the old place upon the carn, the great gulf
between herself and Bryher island reminded her of that great gulf in
the parable. How if she should be the Rich Man sitting for ever and
for ever on the red-hot rock, tormented with pain and thirst--and how
if on Samson Hill beyond she should see Abraham himself, the
patriarch, with Lazarus lying at his feet--as yet she had developed no
Lazarus--but who knows the future? The Rich Man must have been a
thoughtless and selfish person. Until now the parable never interested
her at all: why should it? She had no money.

The other passages, those which Dorcas had kindly quoted in this her
first hour of wealth, came crowding into her mind, and told her they
were come to stay. All these texts she had previously classed with the
denunciations of sins the very meaning of which she knew not. She had
no concern with such wickedness. Nor could she possibly understand how
it was that people, when they actually knew that they must not do such
things, still went on doing them. Now, however, having become rich
herself, all the warnings of the New Testament seemed directed against
herself. Already, the load of wealth was beginning to weigh upon her
young shoulders.

She changed the current of her thoughts. Even the richest girl cannot
be always thinking about woes and warnings. Else she would do nothing,
good or bad. She began to think about the outer world. She had been
thinking of it constantly ever since Roland left her. Now, as she
looked across the broad Roadstead, and remembered that thirty miles
beyond Telegraph Hill rose the cliffs where the outer world
begins--they can be seen in a clear day--a longing, passionate and
irresistible, seized her. She could go away now, whenever she pleased.
She could visit the outer world and make the acquaintance of the
people who live in it.

She laughed, thinking how Justinian, who had never been beyond St.
Mary's, pictured, as he was fond of doing, the outer world. The Sea of
Tiberias was to him the Road: the Jordan was like Grinsey Sound: the
steep place down which the swine fell into the sea was like Shipman's
Head: the Sermon on the Mount took place on just such a spot as the
carn of the North Hill on Samson, with the sun shining on the Western
Islands: the New Jerusalem in his mind was a city like Hugh Town,
consisting of one long street with stone houses, roofed with slate;
each house two storeys high, a door in the middle, and one window on
each side. On the north side of the New Jerusalem was the harbour,
with the ships, the sea-shore, and the open sea beyond: on the south
side was a bay with beaches of white sand and black rocks at the
entrance, exactly like Porth Cressa. And it was a quiet town, with
seldom any noise of wheels, and always the sound of the sea lapping on
either hand, north or south.

Now, there was nothing to keep her: she could go to visit the outer
world whenever she pleased--if only she knew how. A girl of sixteen
can hardly go forth into the wide, wide world all alone, announcing to
the four corners her desire to make the acquaintance of everybody and
to understand anything.

And then she began to remember her teacher's last instructions. The
perfect girl was one who had trained her eye and her hand: she could
play one instrument well: she understood music: she understood art:
she was always gracious, sympathetic, and encouraging: she knew how to
get their best out of men: she was always beautifully dressed: she had
the sweetest and the most beautiful manners.

And here she blushed crimson, and then turned pale, and felt a pang as
if a knife had pierced her very heart. For a dreadful thought struck
her. She thought she understood at last the true reason why Roland
never came back, though he promised, and looked so serious when he
promised.

Why? why? Because she was so ill-mannered. Of course that was the
reason. Why did Roland speak so strongly about the perfect girl's
gracious and sympathetic manners, unless to make her understand, in
this kindly and thoughtful way, how much was wanting in herself? Of
course, he only looked upon her as a common country girl, who knew
nothing, and would never learn anything. He wanted her to understand
that--to feel that she would never rise to higher levels. He drew this
picture of the perfect girl to make and keep her humble. Nay, but now
she had this money--all this wealth--now--now---- She sprang to her
feet and threw out her arms, the gesture that she had learned I know
not where. 'Oh!' she cried, 'it is the gift of the Five Talents! I am
not the rich young man. I have not received these riches for my
consolation. They are my Five Talents. I will go away and learn--I
will learn. I will become the perfect girl. I will train eye and hand.
I will grow--grow--grow--to my full height. That will be true work in
the service of the Giver of those Talents. I shall become a good and
faithful servant when I have risen to the stature that is possible for
me!'



PART II


CHAPTER I

SWEET COZ


'I suppose,' said Philippa, 'that we were obliged to ask her.'

'Well, my dear,' her mother replied, 'Mr. Jagenal is an old friend,
and when----' Her voice dropped, and she did not finish the sentence.
It is absurd to finish a sentence which is understood.

'Perhaps she will not do anything very outrageous.'

'Well, my dear, Mr. Jagenal distinctly said that her manner----' Again
she left the sentence unfinished. Perhaps it was her habit.

'As she bears our name and comes from our place we can hardly deny the
cousinship. In a few minutes, however, we shall know the worst.'

Philippa, dressed for dinner, was standing before the fire, tapping
the fender impatiently with her foot, and playing with her fan. A
handsome girl of three- or four-and-twenty: handsome, not pretty, if
you please, nor lovely. By no means. Handsome, with a kind of beauty
which no painter or sculptor would assign to Lady Venus, because it
lacked softness; nor to Diana, because that huntress, chaste and fair,
was country-bred, and Philippa was of the town--urban. The young lady
was perfectly well satisfied with her own style of beauty. If she
exaggerated a little its power, that is a common feminine mistake. The
exaggeration brings to dress a moral responsibility. Philippa was
dressed this evening in a creamy white silk, which had the effect of
softening a face and manner somewhat cold and even hard. The young men
of the period complained that Philippa was stand-offish. Certainly she
did not commit the mistake, too common among girls, of plunging
straight off into sympathetic interest with every young man. Philippa
waited for the young men to interest her, if they could. Generally,
they could not. And, while many girls listen with affected deference
to the opinions of the young man, Philippa made the young man receive
hers with deference. These plain facts show, perhaps, why Philippa, at
twenty-four, was still free and unengaged.

In appearance she was tall--all young ladies who respect themselves
are tall in these days: her features were clearly cut, if a little
pronounced: her hazel eyes were intellectually bright, though cold:
her hair, the least-marked feature, was of a common brown colour, but
she treated it so as to produce a distinctive effect: her mouth was
fine, though her lips were rather thin: her figure was correct, though
Venus herself would have preferred more of it, and, perhaps, that more
flexible. But it is the commonplace girl, we know, who runs to
plumpness.

She was dressed with greater care than usual that evening, because
people were coming, but not to dinner. The only guests at dinner were
to be one Mr. Jagenal, the well known family solicitor, of Lincoln's
Inn, and a certain far-off cousin, named Armorel Rosevean, from the
Scilly Isles, and her companion and chaperon, one Mrs. Jerome
Elstree--unknown.

'My dear,' her mother began, 'you are too desponding. Mr. Jagenal
assured your father----' She dropped her voice again.

'Oh! He is an old bachelor. What does he know? Our cousin comes from
Scilly. So did we. It does very well to talk of coming from Scilly, as
if it was something grand, but I have been looking into a book about
it. Old families of Scilly, we say. Why, they have never been anything
but farmers and smugglers. And our cousin, I hear, is actually a small
tenant-farmer--a flower-farmer--a kind of market-gardener! She grows
daffodils and jonquils and anemones and snowdrops, and sells them.
Very likely the daffodils on our table have come from her farm.
Perhaps she will tell us about the price they fetch a dozen. And she
will inform us at dinner how she counts the stalks and makes out the
bills.'

'Absurd! She is an heiress. Mr. Jagenal says----'

'An heiress? How can she be an heiress?' Philippa repeated, with
scorn. 'She inherits the lease of a little flower-farm. The people of
Scilly are all quite, quite poor. My book says so. Some years ago the
Scilly folk were nearly starving.'

'Your book must be wrong, Philippa. Mr. Jagenal says that the girl has
a respectable fortune. When a man of his experience says that, he
means----' Here her voice dropped again.

'Well; the island heiress will go back, I dare say, to her
inheritance.'

At this point Mr. Jagenal himself was announced--elderly, precise,
exact in appearance and in language.

'You have not yet seen your cousin?' he asked.

'No. She will be here immediately, I suppose.'

'Your cousin came to our house five years ago. My late partner
received her. She brought a letter from a clergyman then at the Scilly
Islands. She was sixteen, quite ignorant of the world, and a really
interesting girl. She had inherited a very handsome fortune. My late
partner found her tutors and guardians, and she has been travelling
and learning. Now she has come to London again. She chooses to be her
own mistress, and has taken a flat. And I have found a companion for
her--widow of an artist--our young friend Alec Feilding knew about
her--name of Elstree. I think she will do very well.'

'Alec knew her? He has never told me of any lady of that name.'
Philippa looked a little astonished.

Then the girl of whom they were talking, with the companion in
question, appeared.

You know how one forms in the mind a whole image, or group of images,
preparatory; and how these shadows are all dispelled by the appearance
of the reality. At the very first sight of Armorel, Philippa's
prejudices and expectations--the vision of the dowdy rustic, the
half-bred island savage, the uncouth country maiden--all vanished into
thin air. New prejudices might arise--it is a mistake to suppose that
because old prejudices have been cleared away there can be no
more--but, in this case, the old ones vanished. For while Armorel
walked across the room, and while Mrs. Rosevean stepped forward to
welcome her, Philippa made the discovery that her cousin knew how to
carry herself, how to walk, and how to dress. Girls who have learned
these three essentials have generally learned how to talk as well. And
a young lady of London understands at the first glance whether a
strange young person, her sister in the bonds of humanity, is also a
lady. As for the dress, it showed genius either on the part of Armorel
herself or of her advisers. There was genius in the devising and
invention of it. But genius of this kind one can buy. There was the
genius of audacity in the wearing of it, because it was a dress of the
kind more generally worn by ladies of forty than of twenty-one. And it
required a fine face and a good figure to carry it off. Ladies will
quite understand when I explain that Armorel wore a train and bodice
of green brocaded velvet: the sleeves and the petticoat trimmed with
lace. You may see a good deal of lace--of a sort--on many dresses; but
Philippa recognised with astonishment that this was old lace, the
finest lace in the world, of greater breadth than it is now made--lace
that was priceless--lace that only a rich girl could wear. There were
also pearls on the sleeves: she wore mousquetaire gloves--which proved
many things: there were bracelets on her wrists, and round her neck
she had a circlet of plain red gold--it was the torque found in the
kistvaen on Samson, but this Philippa did not know. And she observed,
taking in all these details in one comprehensive and catholic glance
of mind and eye, that her cousin was a very beautiful girl indeed,
with something Castilian in her face and appearance--dark and
splendid. For a simple dinner she would have been overdressed; but
considering the reception to come afterwards, she was fittingly
arrayed. She was accompanied by her companion--Philippa might have
remembered that one must be an heiress in order to afford the luxury
of such a household official. Mrs. Jerome Elstree was almost young
enough to want a chaperon for herself, being certainly a good deal
under thirty. She was a graceful woman of fair complexion and blue
eyes: if Armorel had desired a contrast to herself she could not have
chosen better. She wore a dress in the style which is called, I
believe, second mourning. The dress suggested widowhood, but no longer
in the first passionate agony--widowhood subdued and resigned.

The hostess rose from her chair and advanced a step to meet her
guests. She touched the fingers of Mrs. Elstree. 'Very pleased,
indeed,' she murmured, and turned to Armorel. 'My dear cousin'--she
seized both her hands, and looked as well as spoke most motherly. 'My
dear child, this is, indeed, a pleasure! And to think that we have
known nothing about your very existence all the time! This is my
daughter--my only daughter, Philippa.' Then she subsided into her
chair, leaving Philippa to do the rest. 'We are cousins,' said
Philippa, kindly but with cold and curious eyes. 'I hope we shall be
friends.' Then she turned to the companion. 'Oh!' she cried, with a
start of surprise. 'It is Zoe!'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Elstree, a quick smile on her lips. 'Formerly it was
Zoe. How do you do, Philippa?' Her voice was naturally soft and sweet,
a caressing voice, a voice of velvet. She glanced at Philippa as she
spoke, and her eyes flashed with a light which hardly corresponded
with the voice. 'I was wondering, as we came here, whether you would
remember me. It is so long since we were at school together. How long,
dear? Seven years? Eight years? You remember that summer at the
seaside--where was it? One changes a good deal in seven years. Yet I
thought, somehow, that you would remember me. You are looking very
well, Philippa--still.'

A doubtful compliment, but conveyed in the softest manner, which
should have removed any possible doubt. Armorel looked on with some
astonishment. On Philippa's face there had risen a flaming spot.
Something was going on below the surface. But Philippa laughed.

'Of course, I remember you very well,' she said.

'But, dear Philippa,' Mrs. Elstree went on, softly smiling and gently
speaking, 'I am no longer Zoe. I am Mrs. Jerome Elstree--I am La Veuve
Elstree. I am Armorel's companion.'

'I am sorry,' Philippa replied coldly. Her eyes belied her words. She
was not sorry. She did not care whether good or evil had happened to
this woman. She was too good a Christian to desire the latter, and not
good enough to wish the former. What she had really hoped--whenever
she thought of Zoe--was that she might never, never meet her again.
And here she was, a guest in her own home, and companion to her own
cousin!

Then Mr. Rosevean appeared, and welcomed the new cousin cordially. He
seemed a cheerful, good-tempered kind of man, was sixty years of age,
bald on the forehead, and of aspect like the conventional Colonel of
_Punch_--in fact, he had been in the Army, and served through the
Crimean war, which was quite enough for honour. He passed his time
laboriously considering his investments--for he had great
possessions--and making small collections which never came to
anything. He also wrote letters to the papers, but these seldom
appeared.

Then they went in to dinner. The conversation naturally turned at
first upon Scilly, their common starting-point, and the illustrious
family of the Roseveans.

'As soon as I heard about you, my dear young lady, I set to work to
discover our exact relationship. My grandfather, Sir Jacob--you have
heard of Sir Jacob Rosevean, Knight of Hanover? Yes; naturally--he was
born in the year 1760. He was the younger brother of Captain Emanuel
Rosevean, your great-grandfather, I believe.'

'My grandfathers were all named either Emanuel or Methusalem. They
took turns.'

'Quite so,' Mr. Rosevean nodded his head in approbation. 'The
preservation of the same Christian names gives dignity to the family.
Anthony goes with Ashley: Emanuel or Methusalem with Rosevean. The
survival of the Scripture name shows how the Puritanic spirit lingers
yet in the good old stocks.' Philippa glanced at her mother, mindful of
her own remarks on the old families of Scilly. 'We come of a very fine
old family, cousin Armorel. I hope you have been brought up in becoming
pride of birth. It is a possession which the world cannot give and the
world cannot take away. We are a race of Vikings--conquering Vikings.
The last of them was, perhaps, my grandfather, Sir Jacob, unless any of
the later Roseveans----'

'I am afraid they can hardly be called Vikings,' said Armorel, simply.

'Sir Jacob--my grandfather--was cast, my dear young friend, in the
heroic mould--the heroic mould. Nothing short of that. For the
services which he rendered to the State at the moment of Britannia's
greatest peril, he should have been raised to the House of Lords. But
it was a time of giants--and he had to be contented with the simple
recognition of a knighthood.'

'Jacob Rosevean'--who was it had told Armorel this--long before? And
why did she now remember the words so clearly, 'ran away and went to
sea. He could read and write and cipher a little, and so they made him
clerk to the purser. Then he rose to be purser himself, and when he
had made some money he left the service and became Contractor to the
Fleet, and supplied stores of all kinds during the long war, and at
last he became so rich that they were obliged to make him a Knight.'

'The simple recognition of a Knighthood,' Mr. Rosevean went on. 'This
it is to live in an age of heroes.'

Armorel waited for further details. Later on, perhaps, some of the
heroic achievements of the great Sir Jacob would be related.
Meantime, every hero must make a beginning: why should not Jacob
Rosevean begin as purser's clerk? It was pleasing to the girl to
observe how large and generous a view her cousins took of the family
greatness--never before had she known to what an illustrious stock she
belonged. The smuggling, the wrecking, the piloting, the
farming--these were all forgotten. A whole race of heroic ancestors
had taken the place of the plain Roseveans whom Armorel knew. Well: if
by the third generation of wealth and position one cannot evolve so
simple a thing as an ancient family, what is the use of history,
genealogy, heraldry, and imagination? The Roseveans were Vikings: they
were the terror of the French coast: they went a-crusading with
short-legged Robert: they were rovers of the Spanish Main: the great
King of Spain trembled when he heard their name: they were buccaneers.
Portraits of some of these ancestors hung on the wall: Sir Jacob
himself, of course, was there; and Sir Jacob's great-grandfather, a
Cavalier; and his grandfather, an Elizabethan worthy. Presumably,
these portraits came from Samson Island. But Armorel had never heard
of any family portraits, and she had grown up in shameful ignorance of
these heroes. There was a coat-of-arms, too, with which she was not
acquainted. Yet there were circumstances connected with the grant of
that shield by the Sovereign--King Edward the First--which were highly
creditable to the family. Armorel listened and marvelled. But her host
evidently believed it all: and, indeed, it was his father, not
himself, who had imagined these historic splendours.

'It is pleasing,' he said, 'to revive these memories between members
of different branches. You, however, are fresh from the ancestral
scenes. You are the heiress of the ancient island home: yours is the
Hall of the Vikings: to you have been entrusted the relics of the
past. I look upon you and seem to see again the Rovers putting forth
to drag down the Spanish pride. There are noble memories, Armorel--I
must call you Armorel--associated with that isle of Samson, our
ancient family domain. Let us never forget them.'

The dinner came to an end at last, and the ladies went away.

Mrs. Elstree sat down in the most comfortable chair by the fire and
was silent, leaning her face upon her hands and looking into the
firelight. Mrs. Rosevean took a chair on the other side and fell
asleep. Philippa and Armorel talked.

'I cannot understand,' said Philippa, bluntly, 'how such a girl as you
could have come from Scilly. I have been reading a book about the
place, and it says that the people are all poor, and that Samson, your
island--our island--is quite a small place.'

'I will tell you if you like,' said Armorel, 'as much about myself as
you please to hear.' The chief advantage of an autobiography--as you
shall see, dear reader, if you will oblige me by reading mine, when it
comes out--is the right of preserving silence upon certain points.
Armorel, for example, said nothing at all about Roland Lee. Nor did
she tell of the chagreen case with the rubies. But she did tell how
she found the treasure of the sea-chest, and the cupboard, and how she
took everything, except the punch-bowls and the silver ship and cups,
to London, and how she gave them over to the lawyer to whom she had a
letter. And she told how she was resolved to repair the deficiencies
of her up-bringing, and how, for five long years, she had worked day
and night.

'I think you are a very brave girl,' said Philippa. 'Most girls in
your place would have been contented to sit down and enjoy their good
fortune.'

'I was so very ignorant when I began. And--and one or two things had
happened which made me ashamed of my ignorance.'

'Yet it was brave of you to work so hard.'

'At first,' said Armorel, 'when this good fortune came to me I was
afraid, thinking of the Parable of the Rich Man.' Philippa started and
looked astonished. In the circle of Dives this Parable is never
mentioned. No one regardeth that Parable, which is generally believed
to be a late interpolation. 'But when I came to think, I understood
that it might be the gift of the Five Talents--a sacred trust.'

Philippa's eyes showed no comprehension of this language. Armorel,
indeed, had learned long since that the Bryanite or Early Christian
language is no longer used in society. But Philippa was her cousin.
Perhaps, in the family, it would still pass current.

'I worked most at music. Shall I play to you?'

'Nothing, dear Philippa,' said Zoe, half-turning round, 'would please
you so much as to hear Armorel play. You used to play a little
yourself'--Philippa had been the pride and glory of the school for her
playing--'A little!' Had she lost her memory?

'Will you play this evening?'

'I brought her violin in the carriage,' said Zoe, softly. 'I wanted to
give you as many delightful surprises as possible, Philippa. To find
your cousin so beautiful: to hear her play: and to receive me again!
This will be, indeed, an evening to remember.'

'I will play if you like,' said Armorel, simply. 'But perhaps you have
made other arrangements.'

'No--no--you can play? But of course, you have had good masters. You
shall play instead of me.'

Zoe murmured her satisfaction, and turned again her face to the fire.

'Tell me, Armorel,' said Philippa, 'all this about the Vikings--the
Hall of the Vikings--the Rovers--and the rest of it. Was it familiar
to you?'

'No; I have never heard of any Vikings or Rovers. And there is no
Hall.'

'We are, I suppose, really an old family of Scilly?'

'We have lived in the same place for I know not how many years. One
of the outlying rocks of Scilly is called Rosevean. Oh! there is no
doubt about our antiquity. About the Crusaders, and all the rest of
it, I know nothing. Perhaps because there was nobody to tell me.'

'I see,' said Philippa, thoughtfully. 'Well, it does no harm to
believe these things. Perhaps some of them are true. Sir Jacob,
certainly, cannot be denied; nor the Roseveans of Samson Island. My
dear, I am very glad you came.'



CHAPTER II

THE SONATA


The room was full of people. It was the average sort of reception,
where one always expects to meet men and women who have done
something: men who write, paint, or compose; women who do the same,
but not so well; women who play and sing; women who are æsthetic, and
show their appreciation of art by wearing hideous dresses; women who
recite: men and women who advocate all kinds of things--mostly cranks
and cracks. There are, besides, the people who know the people who do
things: and these, who are a talkative and appreciative folk, carry on
the conversation. Thirdly, there are the people who do nothing, and
know nobody, who go away and talk casually of having met this or that
great man last night.

'Armorel,' said Philippa, 'let me introduce Dr. Bovey-Tracy. Perhaps
you already know his works.'

'Unfortunately--not yet,' Armorel replied.

The Doctor was quite a young man, not more than two- or
three-and-twenty. His degree was German, and his appearance, with long
light hair and spectacles, was studiously German. If he could have
Germanised his name as well as his appearance he would certainly have
done so. As a pianist, a teacher of music, and a composer, the young
Doctor is already beginning to be known. When Armorel confessed her
ignorance, he gently spread his hands and smiled pity. 'If you will
really play, Armorel, Dr. Bovey-Tracy will kindly accompany you.'

Armorel took her violin out of the case and began to tune it.

'What will you play?' asked the musician: 'Something serious? So?'

Armorel turned over a pile of music and selected a piece. It was the
Sonata by Schumann in D minor for violin and pianoforte. 'Shall we
play this?'

Philippa looked a little surprised. The choice was daring. The Herr
Doctor smiled graciously: 'This is, indeed, serious,' he said.

I suppose that to begin your musical training with the performance of
heys and hornpipes and country dances is not the modern scientific
method. But he who learns to fiddle for sailors to dance may acquire a
mastery over the instrument which the modern scientific method teaches
much more slowly. Armorel began her musical training with a fiddle as
obedient to her as the Slave of the Lamp to his master. And for five
years she had been under masters playing every day, until----

The pianist sat down, held his outstretched fingers professionally
over the keys, and struck a chord. Armorel raised her bow, and the
sonata began.

I am told that there is now quite a fair percentage of educated people
who really do understand music, can tell good playing from bad, and
fine playing from its counterfeit. In the same way, there is a
percentage--but not nearly so large--of people who know a good picture
when they see it, and can appreciate correct drawing if they cannot
understand fine colour. Out of the sixty or seventy people who filled
this room, there were certainly twenty--but then it was an
exceptionally good collection--who understood that a violinist born
and trained was playing to them, in a style not often found outside
St. James's Hall. And they marvelled while the music delivered its
message--which is different for every soul. They sat or stood in
silence, spellbound. Of the remaining fifty, thirty understood that a
piece of classical music was going on: it had no voice or message for
them: they did not comprehend one single phrase--the sonata might have
been a sermon in the Bulgarian tongue: but they knew how to behave in
the presence of Music, and they governed themselves accordingly. The
Remnant--twenty in number--containing all the young men and most of
the girls, understood that here was a really beautiful girl playing
the fiddle for them. The young men murmured their admiration, and the
girls whispered envious things--not necessarily spiteful, but
certainly envious. What girl could resist envy at sight of that dress,
with its lace, and that command of the violin, and--which every girl
concedes last of all, and grudgingly--that face and figure?

Philippa stood beside the piano, rather pale. She knew, now, why her
old schoolfellow had been so anxious that Armorel should play. Kind
and thoughtful Zoe!

The playing of the first movement surprised her. Here was one who had,
indeed, mastered her instrument. At the playing of the second, which
is a scherzo, bright and lively, she acknowledged her mistress--not
her rival. At the playing of the third, which contains a lovely,
simple, innocent, and happy tune, her heart melted--never, never,
could she so pour into her playing the soul of that melody: never
could she so rise to the spirit of the musician and put into the music
what even he himself had not imagined. But Zoe was wrong. Her soul was
not filled with envy. Philippa had a larger soul.

It was finished. The twenty who understood gasped. The thirty who
listened murmured thanks, and resumed their talk about something
else. The twenty who neither listened nor understood went on talking
without any comment at all.

'You have had excellent masters,' said the Doctor. 'You play very well
indeed--not like an amateur. It is a pity that you cannot play in
public.'

'You have made good use of your opportunities,' said Philippa. 'I have
never heard an amateur play better. I play a little myself; but----'

'I said you would be pleased,' Zoe murmured softly at her side. 'I
knew you would be pleased when you heard Armorel play.'

'You will play yourself, presently?' said the Herr Doctor.

'No; not this evening,' Philippa replied. 'Impossible--after Armorel.'

'Not this evening!' echoed Zoe, sweetly.

Then there came walking tall and erect through the crowd, which
respectfully parted right and left to let him pass, a young man of
striking and even distinguished appearance.

'Philippa,' he said, 'will you introduce me to your cousin?'

'Armorel, this is another cousin of mine--unfortunately not of
yours--Mr. Alec Feilding.'

'I am very unfortunate, Miss Rosevean. I came too late to hear more
than the end of the sonata. Normann-Néruda herself could not interpret
that music better.' Then he saw Zoe, and greeted her as an old friend.
'Mrs. Elstree and I,' he said, 'have known each other a long time.'

'Fifty years, at least,' Zoe murmured. 'Is it not so long, Philippa?'

'Will you play something else?' he asked. 'The people are dying to
hear you again.'

Armorel looked at Philippa. 'If you will,' she said kindly. 'If you
are not tired. Play us, this time, something lighter. We cannot all
appreciate Schumann.'

'Shall I give you a memory of Scilly?' she replied. 'That will be
light enough.'

She played, in fact, that old ditty--one of those which she had been
wont to play for the Ancient Lady--called 'Prince Rupert's March.' She
played this with variations which that gallant Cavalier had never
heard. It is a fine air, however, and lends itself to the phantasy of
a musician. Then those who had understood the sonata laughed with
condescension, as a philosopher laughs when he hears a simple story;
and those who had pretended to understand pricked up their ears,
thinking that this was another piece of classical music, and joyfully
perceiving that they would understand it; and those who had made no
pretence now listened with open mouths and ears as upright as those of
any wild-ass of the desert. Music worth hearing, this. Armorel played
for five or six minutes. Then she stopped and laid down her violin.

'I think I have played enough for one evening,' she said.

She left the piano and retired into the throng. A girl took her place.
The Herr Doctor placed another piece of music before him, lifted his
hands, held them suspended for a moment, and then struck a chord. This
girl began to sing.

Mr. Alec Feilding followed Armorel and led her to a seat at the end of
the room. Then he sat down beside her and, as soon as the song was
finished, began to talk.

He began by talking about music, and the Masters in music. His talk
was authoritative: he laid down opinions: he talked as if he was
writing a book of instruction: and he talked as if the whole wide
world was listening to him. But not quite so loudly as if that had
been really the case.

He was a man of thirty or so, his features were perfectly regular, but
his expression was rather wooden. His eyes were good, but rather too
close together. His mouth was hidden by a huge moustache, curled and
twisted and pointed forwards.

Armorel disliked his manner, and for some reason or other distrusted
his face.

He left off laying down the law on music, and began to talk about
things personal.

'I hope you like your new companion,' he said. 'She is an old friend
of mine. I was in hopes of being able to advance her husband in his
profession. But he died before I got the chance. Mr. Jagenal told me
what was wanted, and I was happy in recommending Zoe--Mrs. Elstree.'

'Thank you,' said Armorel, coldly. 'I dare say we shall get to like
each other in time.'

'If so, I shall rejoice in having been of some service to you as well
as to her. What is her day at home?'

'I believe we are to be at home on Wednesdays.'

'As for me,' he said lightly, 'I am always at home in my studio. I am
a triple slave--Miss Rosevean--as you may have heard. I am a slave of
the brush, the pen, and the wastepaper-basket. If you will come with
Mrs. Elstree to my studio I can show you one or two things that you
might like to see.'

'Thank you,' she replied, without apparent interest in his studio. The
young man was not accustomed to girls who showed no interest in him,
and retired, chilled. Presently she heard his voice again. This time
he was talking with Philippa. They were talking low in the doorway
beside her, but she could not choose but hear.

'You recommended her--you?' said Philippa.

'Why not?'

'Do you know how--where--she has been living for the last seven
years?'

'Certainly. She married an American. He died a year ago, leaving her
rather badly off. Is there any reason, Philippa, why I should not
recommend her? If there is I will speak to Mr. Jagenal.'

'No--no--no. There is no reason that I know of. Somebody told me she
had gone on the stage. Who was it?'

'Gone on the stage? No--no: she was married to this American.'

'You have never spoken to me about her.'

'Reason enough, fair cousin. You do not like her.'

'And--you--do,' she replied slowly.

'I like all pretty women, Philippa. I respect one only.'

Then other people came and were introduced to Armorel. One does not
leave in cold neglect a girl who is so beautiful and plays so
wonderfully. None of them interested Armorel very much. At the
beginning, when a girl first goes into society, she expects to be
interested and excited at a general gathering. This expectation
disappears, and the current coin of everybody's talk takes the place
of interest.

Suddenly she caught a face which she knew. When a girl has been
travelling about for five years she sees a great many faces. This was
a face which she remembered perfectly well, yet could not at first
place it in any scene or assign it to any date. Then she recollected.
And she walked boldly across the room and stood before the owner of
that face.

'You have forgotten me,' she said abruptly.

'I--I--can I ever have known you?' he asked.

'Will you shake hands, Mr. Stephenson? You were Dick Stephenson five
years ago. Have you forgotten Armorel, of Samson Island in Scilly?'

No. He had not forgotten that young lady. But he would never have
known her thus changed--thus dressed.

'Where is your friend Roland Lee?'

Dick Stephenson changed colour. 'I have not seen him for a long time.
We are no longer--exactly--friends.'

'Why not?' she asked, with severity. 'Have you done anything bad? How
have you offended him?'

'No, no; certainly not.' He coloured more deeply. 'I have done nothing
bad at all,' he added with much indignation.

'Have you deserted him, then? I thought men never gave up their
friends. Come to see me, Mr. Stephenson. You shall tell me where he is
and what he is doing.'

In the press of the crowd, as they were going away, she heard Mr.
Jagenal's voice.

'You are burning the candle at both ends, Alec,' he was saying. 'You
cannot possibly go on painting, writing, editing your paper, riding in
the Park, and going out every evening as you do now. No man's
constitution can stand it, young gentleman. Curb your activity. Be
wise in time.'



CHAPTER III

THE CLEVEREST MAN IN LONDON


Alec Feilding--everybody, even those who had never seen him, called
him Alec--stood before the fire in his own den. In his hand he held a
manuscript, which he was reading with great care, making dabs and
dashes on it with a thick red pencil.

Sometimes he called the place his studio, sometimes his study. No
other man in London, I believe, has so good a right to call his
workshop by either name. No other man in London, certainly, is so well
known both for pen and pencil. To be at once a poet, a novelist, an
essayist, and a painter, and to do all these things well, if not
splendidly, is given to few.

The room was large and lofty, as becomes a studio. A heavy curtain
hung across the door: the carpet was thick: there was a great
fireplace, as deep and broad as that of an old hall, the fire burning
on bricks in the ancient style. Above the fireplace there was no
modern overmantel, but dark panels of oak, carved in flowers and
grapes, with a coat of arms--his own: he claimed descent from the
noble House of Feilding: and in the centre panel his own portrait let
into the wall without a frame--the work was executed by the most
illustrious portrait-painter of the day--the face full of thought, the
eyes charged with feeling, the features clear, regular, and classical.
A beautiful portrait, with every point idealised. Three sides of the
room were fitted with bookshelves, as becomes a study, and these were
filled with books. The fourth side was partly hung with tapestry and
partly adorned with armour and weapons. Here were also two small
pictures, representing the illustrious Alec in childhood--the light of
future genius already in his eyes--and in early manhood.

A large library table, littered with books, manuscripts, and proofs,
belonged to the study. An easel before the north light, and another
table provided with palettes, brushes, paints, and all the tools of
the limning trade, belonged to the studio.

The house, which was in St. John's Wood, stood in an old garden at the
end of a cul-de-sac off the main road: it was, therefore, quiet: the
house itself was new, built in the style now familiar, and put up for
the convenience of those who believe that there is nothing in the
world to be considered except Art. Therefore there was a spacious
hall: stairs broad enough for an ancient mansion led to the first
floor and to the great studio. There were also three or four small
cupboards, called bedrooms, dining-room, and anything else you might
please. But the studio was the real thing. The house was built for the
studio.

The place was charged with an atmosphere of peace. Intellectual calm
reigned here. Art of all kinds abhors noise. One could feel here the
silence necessary for intellectual efforts of the highest order.
Apart from the books and the easel and this silence, the character of
the occupant was betrayed--or perhaps proclaimed--by other things. The
furniture was massive: the library table of the largest kind: the easy
chairs by the fire as solid and comfortable as if they had been
designed for a club smoking-room: a cabinet showed a collection of
china behind glass: the appointments, down to the inkstand and the
paper-knife, were large and solid: all together spoke not only of the
artist but of the successful artist: not only of the man who works,
but of one who works with success and honour: the man arrived. The
things also spoke of the splendid man, the man who knows that success
should be followed by the splendid life. Too often the successful man
is a poor-spirited creature, who continues in the humble middle-class
style to which he was born; is satisfied with his suburban villa,
never wants a better house or one more finely appointed, and has no
craving for society. What is success worth if one does not live up to
it? Success is not an end: it is the means: it brings the power of
getting the things that make life--wine--horses--the best cook at the
best club--sport--the society, every day, of beautiful and well-bred
women--all these things the man who has succeeded can enjoy. Those who
have not yet succeeded may envy the favourite of Fortune.

As for his work, this highly successful man owned that he could not
desert the Muse of Painting any more than her sister of
Belles-Lettres. Happy would he be with either, were t'other dear
charmer away! Happier still was he with both! And they were not
jealous. They allowed him--these tender creatures--to love them both.
He was by nature polygamous, perhaps.

Therefore those who were invited to see his latest picture--the lucky
few, because you must not think that his studio was open on Show
Sunday for all the world to see--stayed, when they had admired that
production, to talk of his latest poem or his latest story.

Over the mantelshelf was quite a stack of invitations. And really one
hardly knows whether Alec Feilding was most to be envied for his
success as a painter--though he painted little: or for his
stories--though these were all short--much too short: or for his
verses--certainly written in the most delightful vein of _vers de
société_: or for his essays, full of observation: or for his social
success, which was undoubted. And there is no doubt that there was not
any man in London more envied, or who occupied a more enviable
position, than Alec Feilding. To be sure, he deserved it: because,
without any exception, he was the cleverest man in town.

He owned and edited a paper of his own--a weekly journal devoted to
the higher interests of Art. It was called _The Muses Nine_. It was
illustrated especially by blocks from art books noticed in its
columns. In this paper his own things first appeared: his verses, his
stories, his essays. The columns signed _Editor_ were the leading
feature of the paper, for which alone many people bought it every
week. The contents of these columns were always fresh, epigrammatic,
and delightful: in the stories a certain feminine quality lent
piquancy--it seemed sometimes as if a man could not have written these
stories: the verses always tripped lightly, merrily, and gracefully
along. An Abbé de la Cour in the last century might have served up
such a weekly dish for the Parisians, had he been the cleverest man in
Paris.

Alec Feilding's enemies--every man who is rising or has risen has
enemies--consoled themselves for a success which could not be denied
by sneering at the ephemeral character of his work. It was for to-day:
to-morrow, they said, it would be flat. This was not quite true, but,
as it is equally true of nearly every piece of modern work, the
successful author could afford to disregard this criticism. Perhaps
there may be, here and there, a writer who expects more than a limited
immortality: I do not know any, but there may be some. And these will
probably be disappointed. The enemies said further that his social
success--also undoubted--was due to his unbounded cheek. This, too,
was partly true, because, if one would rise at all, one must possess
that useful quality: without it one will surely sink. It is not to be
denied that this young man walked into drawing-rooms as if his
presence was a favour: that he spoke as one who delivers a judgment:
and that he professed a profound belief in himself. With such gifts
and graces--the gift of painting, the gift of verse, the gift of
fiction, a handsome presence, good manners, and unbounded cheek--Alec
Feilding had already risen very high indeed for so young a man. His
enemies, again, said that he was looking out for an heiress.

His enemies, as sometimes but not often happens, spoke from imperfect
knowledge. Every man has his weak points, and should be careful to
keep them to himself--friends may become enemies--and to let no one
know them or suspect them. As for the weak points of Alec
Feilding--had his enemies known them---- But you shall see.

He sat down at his library-table and began to copy the manuscript that
he had been reading. It was a laborious task, first because copying work
is always tedious, and next because he was making alterations--changing
names and places--and leaving out bits. He worked on steadily for about
half an hour.

Then there was a gentle tap at the door, and his servant--who looked
as solemn and discreet as if he had been Charles the Second's
confidential clerk of the Back-stairs--came in noiselessly on tiptoe
and whispered a name. Alec placed the manuscript and his copy
carefully in a drawer, and nodded his head.

You have already seen the man who came in. Five years older, and a
good deal altered--changed, perhaps, for the worse--but then the
freshness of twenty-one cannot be expected to last. The man who
stayed three weeks in Samson, and promised a girl that he would
return. The man who broke that promise, and forgot the girl. He never
went back to Scilly. Perhaps he had grown handsomer: his Vandyke beard
and moustache were by this time thicker and longer: he was more
picturesque in appearance than of old: he still wore a brown velvet
coat: he looked still more what he was--an artist. But his cheek was
thin and pale, dark rings were round his eyes, his face was gloomy: he
wore the look of waste--the waste of energy and of purpose. It is not
good to see this look in the eyes of a young man.

'You sent for me,' he said, with no other greeting.

'I did. Come in. Is the door shut? I've got some good news for you.
Heavens! you look as if you wanted good news badly! What's the matter,
man? More debts and duns? And I want to consult you a little about
this picture of yours'--he pointed to the easel.

[Illustration: _'I want to consult you a little about this picture of
yours.'_]

'Mine? No: yours. You have bought me--pictures and all.'

'Just as you like. What does it matter--here--within these walls?'

'Hush! Even here you should not whisper it. The birds of the air, you
know---- Take great care'---- Roland laughed, but not mirthfully.
'Mine?' he repeated; 'mine? Suppose I were to call together the
fellows at the club, and suppose I were to tell the story of the last
three years?--eh? eh? How a man was fooled on until he sold himself
and became a slave--eh?'

'You can't tell that story, Roland, you know.'

'Some day I will--I must.'

Alec Feilding threw himself back in his chair, crossed his legs, and
joined his fingers. It is an attitude of judicial remonstrance.

'Come, Roland,' he said, smiling blandly. 'Let us have it out. It
galls sometimes, doesn't it? But remember you can't have
everything--come, now. If you were to tell the fellows at the club,
truthfully, the whole story, they would, I dare say, be glad to get
such a beautiful pile of stones to throw at me. One more reputation
built on pretence and humbug--eh? Yes: the little edifice which you
and I have reared together with so much care would be shattered at a
single stroke, wouldn't it? You could do that: you can always do that.
But at some little cost to yourself--some little cost, remember.'

Roland remarked that the cost or consequences of that little exploit
might be condemned.

'Truly. If you will. But not until you realise what they are. Now my
version of the story is this. There was once--three years ago--a
fellow who had failed. The Academy wouldn't accept his pictures; no
one would buy them. And yet he had some power and true feeling. But he
could not succeed: he could not get anybody to buy his pictures. And
then he was an extravagant kind of man: he was head over ears in
debt: he liked to lead the easy life--dinner and billiards at the
club--all the rest of it. Then there was another man--an old
schoolfellow of his--a man who wanted, for purposes of his own, a
reputation for genius in more than one branch of Art. He wanted to
seem a master of painting as well as poetry and fiction. This man
addressed the Failure. He said, "Unsuccessful Greatness, I will buy
your pictures of you, on the simple condition that I may call them
mine." The Failure hesitated at first. Naturally. He was loth to write
himself down a Failure. Everybody would be. Then he consented. He
promised to paint no more in the style in which he had failed except
for this other man. Then the other man, who knew his way about, called
his friends together, set up a picture painted by the Failure on an
easel, bought the tools, laid them out on the table--there they
are--and launched himself upon the world as an artist as well as a
poet and author. A Fraud, wasn't he? Yet it paid both men--the Fraud
and the Failure. For the Fraud knew how to puff the work and to get it
puffed and praised and noticed everywhere; he made people talk about
it: he had paragraphs about it: he got critics to treat his--or the
Failure's--pictures seriously: in fact, he advertised them as
successfully and as systematically as if he had been a soap-man. Is
this true, so far?'

'Quite true. Go on--Fraud.'

'I will--Failure. Then the price of the pictures went up. The Fraud
was able to sell them at a price continually rising. And the Failure
received a price in proportion. He shared in the proceeds. The Fraud
gave him two thirds. Is that true? Two thirds. He ran your price,
Failure, from nothing at all to four hundred and fifty pounds--your
last, and biggest price. And he gave you two thirds. All you had to do
was to produce the pictures. What he did was to persuade the world
that they were great and valuable pictures. Is that true?'

Roland grunted.

'Three years ago you were at your wits' end for the next day's dinner.
You had borrowed of all your friends: you had pawned your watch and
chain: you were face to face with poverty--no; starvation. Deny that,
if you can.' He turned fiercely on Roland. 'You can't deny it. What
are you now? You have a good income: you dine every day on the best of
everything: you do yourself well in every respect. Hang it, Roland,
you are an ungrateful dog!'

'You have ruined my life. You have robbed me of my name.'

'Let us stop heroics. If you are useful to me, I am ten times as
useful to you. Because, my dear boy, without me you cannot live.
Without you I can do very well. Indeed, I have only to find another
starving genius--there are plenty about--in order to keep up my
reputation as a painter. Go to the club. Call the men together. Tell
them if you like, and what you like. You have no proofs. I can deny
it, and I can give you the sack, and I can get that other starving
genius to carry on the work.'

Roland made no reply.

'Why, my dear fellow--why should we quarrel? What does it matter about
a little reputation? What is the good of your precious name to you
when you are dead? Here you are--painting better and better every
day--your price rising--your position more assured--what on earth can
any man want more? As for me, you are useful to me. If you were not, I
should put an end to the arrangement. That is understood. Very well,
then. Enough said. Now, if you please, we will look at the picture.'

He got up and walked across the room to the easel. Roland followed
submissively, with hanging head. He staggered as he went: not with
strong drink, but with the rage that tore his heart.

'It is really a very beautiful thing,' said the cleverest man in all
London, looking at it critically. 'I think that even you have never
done anything quite so good.'

The picture showed a great rock rising precipitous from the sea--at
its base was a reef or projecting shelf. The shags stood in a line on
the top of the rock: the sea-gulls flew around the rock and sailed
merrily before the breeze: there was a little sea on, but not much: a
boat with a young man in it lay off the rock, and a girl was on the
reef standing among the long yellow sea-weed: the spray flew up the
sides of the rock: the sun was sinking. What was it but one of
Roland's sketches made in the Outer Islands, with Armorel for his
companion?

'It is very good, Roland,' Alec repeated. 'If I am not so good a
painter myself, I am not envious. I can appreciate and acknowledge
good work.' Under the circumstances, rather an extraordinary speech.
But Roland's gloomy face softened a little. Even at such a moment the
artist feels the power of praise. The other, standing before the
picture, watched the softening of the face. 'Good work?' he repeated
by way of question. 'Man! it is splendid work! I can feel the breath
of the salt breeze: I can see the white spray flying over the rock:
the girl stands out real and living. It is a splendid piece of work,
Roland.'

'I think it is better than the last,' the unlucky painter replied
huskily.

'I should rather think it is. I expect to get a great name for this
picture'--the painter winced--'and you--you--the painter, will get a
much more solid thing--you will get a big cheque. I've sold it
already. No dealers this time. It has been bought by a rich American.
Three hundred is the figure I can offer you. And here's your cheque.'

He took it, ready drawn and signed, from his pocket-book. Roland Lee
received it, but he let it drop from his fingers: the paper fluttered
to the floor. He gazed upon the picture in silence.

'Well? What are you thinking of?'

'I was thinking of the day when I made the sketch for that picture. I
remember what the girl said to me.'

'What the devil does it matter what the girl said? All we care about
is the picture.'

'I remember her very words. You who have bought the picture can see
the girl; but I, who painted it, can hear her voice.'

'You are not going off into heroics again?'

'No, no. Don't be afraid. I am not going to tell you what she said.
Only I told her, being pleased with what she told me, that she was a
prophetess. Nobody ought ever to prophesy good things about a man, for
they never come to pass. Let them prophesy disappointment and ruin and
shame, and then they always come true. My God! what a prophecy was
hers! And what has come of it? I have sold my genius, which is my
soul. I have traded it away. It is the sin unforgiven in this world
and in the next.'

'When you give over tragedy and blank verse----'

'Oh! I have done.'

'I should like to ask you a question.'

'Ask it.'

'The foreground--the sea-weeds lying over the boulders. Does the light
fall quite naturally? I hardly understand--look here. If the
sunlight----'

'_You_ to pretend to be a painter!' Roland snorted impatiently. '_You_
to talk about lights and shadows! Man alive! I wonder you haven't been
found out ages ago! The light falls this way--this way--see!'--he
turned the painting about to show how it fell.

'Oh! I understand. Yes, yes; I see now.' Alec seemed not to resent
this language of contempt.

'Is there anything else you want to know before I go? Perhaps you wish
the sea painted black?'

'Cornish coast again, I suppose?'

'Somewhere that way. What does it matter where you put it? Call it a
view on Primrose Hill.'

He stooped and picked up the cheque. He looked at it savagely for a
moment as if he would like to tear it into a thousand fragments. Then
he crammed it into his pocket and turned to go.

'My American,' said Alec, 'who rolls in money, is ready to buy
another. I think I can make an advance of fifty. Shall we say three
hundred and fifty? And shall we expect the painting in three months or
so? Before the summer holidays--say. You will become rich, old man. As
for this fellow, he is going to the New Gallery. Go and gaze upon it,
and say to yourself, "This was worth, to me, three hundred--three
hundred." How many men at the club, Roland, can command three hundred
for a picture? Thirty is nearer their figure; and your own, dear boy,
would have continued to stand at double duck's egg if it had not been
for me. Trust me for running up your price. Our interests, my dear
Roland, are identical and indivisible. I think you are the only
painter in history whose name will remain unknown though his works
will live as long as the pigments keep their colour. Fortune is yours,
and fame is mine. You have got the best of the bargain.'

'Curse you and your bargain!'

'Pleasant words, Roland'--his face darkened. 'Pleasant words, if you
please, or perhaps ... I know, now, what is the reason of this
outbreak. I heard last night a rumour. You've been taking opium
again.'

'It isn't true. If it was, what does that matter to you?'

'This, my friend. The partnership exists only so long as the work
continues to improve. If bad habits spoil the quality of the work I
shall dissolve the partnership, and find that other starving
genius--plenty, plenty, plenty about. Nothing shakes the nerves more
quickly than opium. Nothing destroys the finer powers of head and hand
more surely. Don't let me hear any more about opium. Don't fall into
bad habits if you want to go on making an income. And don't let me
have to speak of this again. Now, there is no more to be said, I
think. Well, we part friends. Ta-ta, dear boy.'

Roland flung himself out of the room with an interjection of great
strength not found in the school grammars.

Alec Feilding returned to his table. 'Roland's a great fool,' he
murmured. 'Because there isn't a gallery in London that wouldn't jump
at his pictures, and he could sell as fast as he could paint. A great
fool he is. But it would be very difficult for me to find another man
so good and such a fool. On fools and their folly the wise man
flourishes.'



CHAPTER IV

MASTER OF ALL THE ARTS


This unreasonable person dispatched, and the illustrious artist's
doubts about his lights and shadows dispelled, Alec Feilding resumed
his interrupted task. That is to say, he took the manuscript out of
the drawer and went on laboriously copying it. So great a writer,
whose time was so precious, might surely give out his copying work.
Lesser men do this. For half an hour he worked on. Then the servant
tapped at the door and came in again, noiselessly as before, to
whisper a name.

Alec nodded, and once more put back the manuscript in the drawer.

The visitor was a young lady. She was of slight and slender figure,
dressed quite plainly, and even poorly, in a cloth jacket and a stuff
frock. Her gloves were shabby. Her features were fine but not
beautiful, the eyes bright, and the mouth mobile, but the forehead too
large for beauty. She carried a black leather roll such as those who
teach music generally carry about with them. She was quite young,
certainly not more than two-and-twenty.

'Effie?' He looked round, surprised.

'May I come in for two minutes? I will not stay longer. Indeed, I
should be so sorry to waste your time.'

'I am sure you would, Effie.' He gave her his hand, without rising.
'Precious time--my time--there is so little of it. Therefore,
child----'

'I have brought you,' she said, 'another little poem. I think it is
the kind of thing you like--in the _vers de société_ style. She
unrolled her leather case and took out a very neatly written paper.

He read it slowly. Then he nodded his head approvingly and read it
aloud.

'How long does it take you to knock off this kind of thing, Effie?'

'It took me the whole of yesterday. This morning I corrected it and
copied it out. Do you like it?'

'You are a clever little animal, Effie, and you shall make your
fortune. Yes; it is very good, very good indeed: Austin Dobson himself
is not better. It is very good: light, tripping, graceful--in good
taste. It is very good indeed. Leave it with me, Effie. If I like it
as well to-morrow as I do to-day, you may depend upon seeing it in the
next number.'

'Oh!' she blushed a rosy red with the pleasure of being praised.
Indeed, it is a pleasure which never palls. The old man who has been
praised all his life is just as eager for more as the young poet who
is only just beginning. 'Oh! you really think it is good?'

'I do indeed. The best proof is that I am going to buy it of you. It
shall go into the editor's column--my own column--in the place of
honour.'

'Yes,' she replied, but doubtfully--and she reddened again for a
different reason. 'Oh, Mr. Feilding,' she said with an effort, 'I am
so happy when I see my verses in print--in your paper--even without my
name. It makes me so proud that I hardly dare to say what I want.'

'Say it, Effie. Get it off your mind. You will feel better
afterwards.'

'Well, then, it cannot be anything to you--so great and high, with
your beautiful stories and your splendid pictures. What is a poor
little set of verses to you?'

'Go on--go on.' His face clouded and his eyes hardened.

'In the paper it doesn't matter a bit. It is--it is--later--when they
come out all together in a little volume--with--with----'

'Go on, I say.' He sat upright, his chair half turned, his hands on
the arms, his face severe and judicial.

'With your name on the title-page.'

'Oh! that is troubling your mind, is it?'

'When the critics praise the poems and praise the poet--oh! is it
right, Mr. Feilding? Is it right?'

'Upon my word!' He pushed back his chair and rose, a tall man of six
feet, frowning angrily--so that the girl trembled and tottered. 'Upon
my word! This--from you! This from the girl whom I have literally kept
from starvation! Miss Effie Wilmot, perhaps you will tell me what you
mean! Haven't I bought your verses? Haven't I polished and corrected
them, and made them fit to be seen? Am I not free to do what I please
with my own?'

'Yes--yes--you buy them. But I--oh!--I write them!'

'Look here, child; I can have no nonsense. Before I took these verses
of you, had you any opening or market for them?'

'No. None at all.'

'Nobody would buy them. They were not even returned by editors. They
were thrown into the basket. Very well. I buy them on the condition
that I do what I please with them. I give you three pounds--three
pounds--for a poem, if it is good enough for me to lick into shape.
Then it becomes my own. It is a bargain. When you leave off wanting
money you will leave off bringing me verses. Then I shall look for
another girl. There are thousands of girls about who can write verses
as good as these.'

The girl remained silent. What her employer said was perfectly true.
And yet--and yet--it was not right.

'What more do you want?' he asked brutally.

'I am the author of these poems,' she said. 'And you are not.'

'Within these walls I allow you to say so--this once. Take care never
to say so again. Outside these walls, if you say so, I will bring an
action against you for libel and slander and defamation of character.
Remember that. You had better, however, take these verses and go
away.' He flung them at her feet. 'We will put an end to the
arrangement.'

'No, no--I consent.' She humbly stooped and picked them up. 'Do what
you like with them. I am too poor to refuse. Do what you please.'

'It is your interest, certainly, to consent. Why, I paid you last year
a hundred pounds. A hundred pounds! There's an income for a girl of
twenty! Well, Effie, I forgive you. But no more nonsense. And give
over crying.' For now she was sobbing and crying. 'Look here,
Effie'--he laid his hand on hers--'some day, before long, I will put
your verses in another column, with your name at the end--"Effie
Wilmot." Come, will that do?'

'Oh! if you would! If you really would!'

'I really will, child. Don't think I care much about the thing. What
does it matter to me whether I am counted a writer of society verses?
It pleased me that the world should think me capable of these trifles
while I am elaborating a really ambitious poem. One more little volume
and I shall have done. Besides, all this time you are improving. When
you burst upon the world it will be with wings full-fledged and
flight-sustained that you will soar to the stars. Fair poetess, I will
make your fame assured. Be comforted.'

She looked up, tearful and happy. 'Oh, forgive me!' she said. 'Yes; I
will do everything--exactly--as you want!'

'The world wants another poetess. You shall be that sweet singer. Let
me be the first to acknowledge the gift divine.' He bowed and raised
her hand and kissed the fingers of her shabby glove.

'Now, child,' he said, 'your visit has gained you another three
pounds--here they are.'

She took the money, blushing again. The glowing prospect warmed her
heart. But the three golden sovereigns chilled her again. She had
parted with her child--her own. It was gone--and he would call it his
and pretend to be the father. And yet he was going to make such
splendid amends to her.

'How is your brother?'

'He is always the same. He works all day at his play. In the afternoon
he creeps out for a little on his crutches. In the future, Mr.
Feilding, we are both going to be happy, he with his dramas and I with
my poems.'

'Is his drama nearly ready?'

'Very nearly.'

'Tell him to let me read it. I can, at least, advise him.'

'If you will! Oh! you are so kind! What we should have done without
your help and the money you have given me, I do not know.'

'You are welcome, sweet singer and heavenly poet.' The great man took
her hand and pressed it. 'Now be thankful that you came here. You have
cleared your mind of doubts, and you know what awaits you in the
future. Bring your brother's little play. I should like--yes, I should
like to see what sort of a play he has written.'

She went away, happier for the prophecy. In the dead of night she
dreamed that she saw Mr. Alec Feilding carried along in a triumphal
car to the Temple of Fame. The goddess herself, flying aloft in a
white satin robe, blew the trumpet, and a nymph flying lower down--in
white linen--put on the laurel crown and held it steady when the
chariot bumped over the ruts. It was her crown--her own--that adorned
those brows. Is it right? she asked again. Is it right?

Mr. Feilding, when she was gone, proceeded to copy out the poem
carefully in his own handwriting, adding a few erasures and
corrections so as to give the copy the hall-mark of the poet's study.
Then he threw the original upon the fire.

'There!' he said, 'if Miss Effie Wilmot should have the audacity to
claim these things as her own, at least I have the originals in my own
handwriting--with my own corrections upon them, too, as they were sent
to the printer. Yes, Effie, my dear; some day perhaps your verses
shall appear with your name to them. Not while they are so good,
though. I only wish they were a little more masculine.'

Again he lugged out that manuscript, and resumed his copying,
laboriously toiling on. The clock ticked, and the ashes dropped, and
the silence was profound while he performed this intellectual feat.

At the stroke of noon the servant disturbed him a third time. He put
away his work in the drawer, and went out to meet this visitor.

This time it was none other than a Lady of Quality--a Grande Dame de
par le monde. She came in splendid attire, sailing into the studio
like some richly adorned pinnace or royal yacht. A lady of a certain
age, but still comely in the eyes of man.

'Lady Frances!' cried Alec. 'This is, indeed, unexpected. And you know
that it is the greatest honour for me to wait upon you.'

'Yes, yes; I know that. But I thought I should like to see you as you
are--in your own studio. So I came. I hope not at an inconvenient
time.'

'No time could be inconvenient for a visit from you.'

'I don't know. Your model might be sitting to you. To be sure, you are
not a figure-painter. But one always supposes that models are standing
to artists all day long. Good-looking women, too, I believe. Perhaps
you have got one hidden away behind the screen, just as they do on the
stage. I will look.' She put up her glasses and walked across the room
to look behind the screen. 'No: she has gone. Oh! is this your new
picture?'

He bowed. 'I hope you like it.'

'I do,' she said, looking at it. 'It seems to me the very best thing
you have done. Oh! it is really beautiful! Do you know, Mr. Feilding,
that you are a very wonderful man?'

Alec laughed pleasantly. Of course he knew. 'If you think so,' he
said.

'You write the most beautiful verses and the most charming stories:
you paint the most wonderful pictures: you belong to society, and you
go everywhere. How do you do it? How do you find time to do it? I
suppose you never want any sleep? Poet, painter, novelist, journalist!
Are you a sculptor as well, by chance?'

'Not yet. Perhaps----'

'Glutton! Are you a dramatist?'

'Again--not yet. Perhaps, some time----

'Insatiate! You are a Master of all the Arts. Alec Feilding, M.A.' He
laughed pleasantly, again.

'You are the cleverest man in all London. Well; I sent you another
story yesterday----'

'You did. I was about to write and thank you for it. Is it a true
story?'

'Quite true. It happened in my husband's family, thirty years ago.
They are not very proud of it. You can dress it up somehow with new
names.'

'Quite so. I shall rewrite the whole.'

'I don't mind. It is a great pleasure to me to see the stories in
print. And no one suspects poor little Me. Are they so _very_ badly
written?'

'The style is a little--just a little, may I say?--jerky. But the
stories are admirable. Do let me have some more, Lady Frances.'

'Remember. No one is to know where you get them.'

'A Masonic secrecy forms part of my character. I even put my own name
to them for greater security.'

He did. Every week he put his own name to stories which he got from
people like this Lady of Quality.

'That ought to disarm suspicion. On the other hand, everybody must
know that you cannot invent these things.'

Alec laughed. 'Most people give me credit for inventing even your
stories.'

'By the way,' she said, 'are you coming to my dinner next week?'

'With the greatest pleasure.'

'If you don't come you shall have no more stories drawn from the
domestic annals and the early escapades of the British Aristocracy.'

'I assure you, Lady Frances, I look forward with the greatest----'

'Very well, then. I shall expect you. And remember--secrecy.'

She laid her finger on her lips and vanished.

The smile faded out of the young man's face. He sat down again, and
once more set himself to work doggedly copying out the manuscript,
which was, indeed, none other than the story furnished him by Lady
Frances. It was going to appear in the next week's issue of the
journal, with his name at the end.

Was not Alec Feilding the cleverest all-round man in the whole of
London--_Omnium artium magister_?



CHAPTER V

ONLY A SIMPLE SERVICE


Mrs. Elstree took the card that the maid brought her. She started up,
mechanically touched her hair--which was of the feathery and fluffy
kind--and her dress, with the woman's instinct to see that everything
was in order: the quick colour rose to her cheek--perhaps from the
heat of the fire. 'Yes,' she said, 'I am at home.' She was sitting
beside the fire in the drawing-room of Armorel's flat. It was a cold
afternoon in March: outside, a black east wind raged through the
streets; it was no day for driving or for walking: within, soft
carpets, easy-chairs, and bright fires invited one to stay at home.
This lady, indeed, was one of those who love warmth and physical ease
above all other things. Actually to be warm, lazily warm, without any
effort to feel warmth, afforded her a positive and distinct physical
pleasure, just as a cat is pleased by being stroked. Therefore, though
a book lay in her lap, she had not been reading. It is much pleasanter
to lie back and feel warm, with half-closed eyes, in a peaceful room,
than to be led away by some impetuous novelist into uncomfortable
places, cold places, fatiguing places.

She started, however, and the book fell to the floor, where it
remained. And she rose to her feet when the owner of the card came in.
The relict of Jerome Elstree was still young, and grief had as yet
destroyed none of her beauty. She looked better, perhaps, in the
morning--which says a great deal.

'Alec?' she murmured--her eyes as soft as her voice. 'I thought you
would come this afternoon.'

'Are you quite alone, Mrs. Elstree?' he asked with a look of warning.

'Quite, Mr. Feilding. And, since the door is shut, and we are quite
alone--why--then----' She laughed, held out both her hands, and put up
her face like a child.

He took her hands and bent to kiss her lips.

'Zoe,' he said, 'you grow lovelier every day. Last night----' He
kissed her again.

'Lovelier than Philippa?'

'What is Philippa beside you? An iceberg beside a--a garden of
flowers----'

'There is beauty in icebergs, I have read.'

'Never mind Philippa, dear Zoe. She is nothing to us.'

'I don't mind her a bit, Alec, if you don't. If you begin to mind
her---- But we will wait until that happens. Why are you here to-day?'

'I have come to call upon Mrs. Elstree, widow of my poor friend Jerome
Elstree.'

'Ce pauvre Jerome! The tears come into my eyes'--in fact, they did at
that moment--'look!--when I think of him. So often have I spoken of
his virtues and his untimely fate that he has really lived. I never
before understood that there are ghosts of men who never lived as well
as ghosts of the dead.'

'And I came to call upon your charge, Miss Rosevean.'

'Yes'--she said this dubiously, perhaps jealously--'so I supposed. Why
did you send me here, Alec? You have always got some reason for
everything. There was no need for my coming--I was doing as well as I
expect to do.'

The young man looked about the room without replying to this question.

'Someone,' he said presently, 'has furnished this room who knows
furniture.'

'It was Armorel herself. I have no taste--as you know.'

'And how do you get on with her? Are you happy here, Zoe?'

'I am as happy as I ever expect to be--until----'

'Yes, yes,' he interrupted, impatiently. 'You like her, then?'

'I like her as much as I can like any woman. You know, Alec, I am not
greatly in love with my own sex. If there were no other women in the
world than just enough to dress me, get my dinner, and keep my house
clean, I should not murmur. Eve was the happiest of women, in spite of
the difficulties she must have had in keeping up with the fashion.
Because, you see, she was the only woman.'

'No doubt. And now tell me about this girl.'

'She is rich. To be rich is everything. Money makes an angel of every
woman. When I was eighteen, and first met you, Alec, I was rich. Then
you saw the wings sticking out visibly one on each shoulder, didn't
you? They are gone now--at least,' she looked over her shoulder, 'I
see them no longer.'

'I heard she was rich. Where did the money come from?'

'It has been saving up for I don't know how long. The girl is only
twenty-one, and she has about thirty thousand pounds, besides all
kinds of precious things worth I don't know how much.'

'Jagenal told me she was comfortably off--"comfortably," he
said--but--thirty thousand pounds!'

'The mere thought of so much makes your eyes glow quite poetically,
Alec. Write a poem on thirty thousand pounds. Well, that is what she
has, and all her own, without any drawbacks: no nasty poor
relations--no profligate brothers--to nibble and gnaw. She has not
either brother or sister--an enviable lot when one has money. When one
has no money a brother--a successful brother--might be useful.'

'And how do you get on with her?'

'I think we do pretty well together. But my post is precarious.'

'Why?'

'Because the young woman is pretty, rich, and masterful. It is a
curious thing about women that the most masterful soonest find their
master.'

'You mean that she will marry.'

'If she gets engaged, being rich, she will certainly marry at once.
Until she marries I believe we can get on together, because she is
totally independent of me. This afternoon, for example, she has gone
out to look at pictures somewhere, with a girl she has picked up
somehow--a girl who writes.'

'But, my dear Zoe, you must look after her. Don't let her pick up
girls and make friendships. You are here to look after her. I hoped
that you would gain her complete confidence--become indispensable to
her.'

'Oh! that is why you sent me here? Pray, my dear Alec, what can
Armorel be to you?'

'Nothing, dear child,' he replied, patting her soft hand, 'that will
bring any discord between you and me. But--make yourself indispensable
and necessary to her.'

'You will tell me, I dare say, presently, what you mean. But you don't
know this young islander. Necessary to me she is, as you know.
Necessary to her I shall never become. We have nothing in common. I
can do nothing for her at all, except go out to theatres and concerts
and things in the evening. Even then our tastes clash. I like to
laugh; she likes to sit solemnly with big eyes staring--so--as if she
was receiving inspiration. I like comic operas, she likes serious
plays; I like dance music, she likes classical music; I like the
fool's paradise, she likes--the other kind, where they all behave so
well and are under no illusions. In fact, Armorel takes herself quite
seriously all round. Of course, a girl with such a fortune can take
herself anyhow she pleases.'

'She knows how to dress, apparently. Most advanced girls disdain
dress.'

'But she is not an advanced girl. She is only a girl who knows a great
deal. She is not in the least emancipated. Why, she still professes
the Christian religion. She is just a girl who has set herself
resolutely to learn all she can. She has been about it for five years.
When she began, I understand that she knew nothing. What she means to
do with her knowledge I have not learned. She talks French and German
and Italian. You have heard her play? Very well: you can't beat that.
You shall see some of her drawings. They are rather in your style, I
think. A highly cultivated girl. That is all.'

'A female prig? A consciously superior person?'

'Not a bit. Rather humble-minded. But masterful and independent. Where
she fails is, of course, in ordinary talk. She can't talk--she can
only converse. She doesn't know the pictures and painters, and poets
and novelists of the day--she doesn't know a single person in society.
She doesn't know any personal history at all. And she doesn't care
about any. That is Armorel.'

'I see,' he replied thoughtfully. 'Things will be difficult, I am
afraid.'

'What things? Oh! there is another point in which she differs from
people of society.'

'Yes?'

'When you and I, dear Alec, think and talk of people, we conclude that
they are exactly like ourselves--do we not? Quite worldly and selfish,
you know. Everyone with his little show to run for himself. Now,
Armorel, on the other hand, concludes that everyone is like--not
us--but herself. Do you catch the difference? There is a difference,
you know.'

'Sometimes, Zoe, I seem not to understand you. But never mind. Under
your influence----'

'I have no influence at all with her. I never shall have.'

'But, my dear Zoe, why are you here? I want you--I repeat--to exercise
an overwhelming influence.'

'Oh! It is impossible. Consider--you who know me so well--how can I
influence a girl who is always seeking after great things? She wants
everything noble and lofty and pure. She has what they call a great
soul--and I--oh! Alec, you know that I belong to the infinitely little
souls. There are a great, great number of us, but we are very
contemptible.'

'Let us think,' he replied. 'Let us contrive and devise some way----'

'Enough about Armorel. Tell me now about yourself.'

'I am always the same.'

'You have come, perhaps, this afternoon,' she murmured softly, 'to
bring me some new hope--Oh! Alec--at last--some hope?'

'I have no new hope to give you, child.'

Both sat in silence, looking into the firelight.

'It is seven years--seven years,' said Zoe, 'since I had my great
quarrel with Philippa. She was eighteen then--and so was I--I charged
her with throwing herself at your head, you know. So she did. So she
does still. Why, the woman can't conceal, even now, that she loves
you. I saw it in her eyes last night, I saw it in her attitude when
she was talking to you. She swore after the row we had that she would
never speak to me again. But you see she has broken that vow. I was
eighteen then, and I was rich, a good deal richer than Philippa ever
will be. When you and I became engaged I was twenty-one. That is four
years ago, Alec. Yet, a year or two, and the girl you were--engaged
to--will be thin and faded. For your sake, my dear boy, I hope that
you will not keep her waiting very much longer before you present her
to the world.'

'My dear child, could I help the smash that came--the smash and
scandal? When the whole town was ringing with your father's smash and
his suicide, and the ruin of I don't know how many people, was that
the moment for us to step forward and take hands before the world?'

'No; you certainly could not. As a man of the world, you would have
been justified in breaking off the thing--especially as it was only a
day or two old.'

'I could not let you go, Zoe,' he said, with a touch of real
tenderness. 'I was madly in love.'

'I think you were, Alec. I really think that at the time you were
truly and madly in love. Else you would never have done a thing of
which you repented the next day.'

'I have never repented, dear Zoe--never once.'

'Perhaps you calculated that something would be saved out of the
smash. Perhaps, for once in your life, you never calculated at all
upon anything. Well--I consented to keep the thing a secret.'

'You know that it was necessary.'

'You said so. I obeyed. But four years--four years--and no prospect of
a termination. Consider!' She pleaded as she had spoken before, in the
same soft, caressing, murmuring tone.

'I do consider, Zoe. You can have your freedom again. I have no
right----'

'Nonsense! My freedom? It is your own that you want. My freedom?' she
repeated, but without raising her voice. 'Mine? What could I do with
it--now? Whither could I turn? Do not, I advise you, think that I will
ever while I live restore your freedom to you.'

'I spoke in your own interest, believe me.'

'I am now what you have made me. You know what that is. You know what
I was four years ago.'

'I have advised you, it is true.'

'No; you have led me. At the moment of my greatest trouble you made me
break away from my own people, who were sorry for my misfortunes, and
would have kept me among them in my own circle. There was no reason
for me to leave them. The wreck of my father's fortune was not imputed
to me. You persuaded me to assert my own independence, and to go upon
the stage, for which I was as well fitted as for the kingdom of
heaven.'

'I hoped--I thought--that you would succeed.'

'No; what you hoped and intended was to keep me in your power. You
would not let me go, and you could not--or would not----'

'Could not, my child. I could not.'

'For four years I have endured the humiliations of the actress who is
a failure and can only take the lowest parts. You know what I have
endured, and yet---- Oh! Alec, your love is, indeed, a noble gift! And
now, for your sake, I am here, playing a part for you. I am the young
widow of the man who never existed. I make up a hundred lies every day
to a girl who believes every word--which makes it more disgraceful and
more horrible. When one knows that she is disbelieved it is
different.'

'Zoe, you know my position.'

'Very well, indeed. You live in a little palace. You keep your
man-servant and your two horses. You go every day into some kind of
good society----'

'It is necessary: my position demands it.'

'Your position, my friend, has nothing to do with it. If you stayed at
home every evening just as many copies of your paper would be sold.
You spend all this money on yourself, Alec, because you are a selfish
person and indulgent, and because you like to make a great show of
success.'

'You do not understand.'

'Oh, yes, I do! You paint lovely pictures, which you sell: you write
admirable stories and excellent verses--at least, I suppose they are
admirable and excellent. You put them into a paper which is your
own----'

'Yes--yes. But all these things leave me as poor as I was four years
ago.'

He got up and stood before the fire, looking into it. Then he walked
across to the window and gazed into the street. Then he returned and
looked into the fire again. This restlessness may be a sign that
something is on a man's mind.

'Zoe,' he said at length, without looking at her, 'your impatience
makes you unjust. You do not understand. Things have come to a
crisis.'

'What kind of a crisis?'

'A financial crisis. I must have money.'

'Then go and make it. Paint more pictures: write more poetry. Make
money, as other men do. It is very noble and grand to pretend that you
only work when you please; but it isn't business, and it isn't true.'

'Again--you do not understand. I must have money in a short time, or
else----'

'Else--what may happen, Alec?' She leaned forward, losing her
murmuring manner for the first time.

'I may--I must--become bankrupt. That to me signifies social ruin.'

'You have something more to say. Won't you say it at once?'

'If I can get over this difficulty it will be all right--my anxieties
over. I thought, Zoe, when I sent you here, that, with a girl rich,
mistress of her own, of age, it would be easy for you to wind yourself
into her confidence and borrow--or beg, or somehow get what I want out
of her. To borrow would be best.'

'How much do you want? Tell me exactly.'

'I want, before the end of next month, about 3,000_l._ Say, 3,500_l._'

'That is a very large sum of money.'

'Not to this girl. Make her lend it to you. Make up some story. Beg it
or borrow it--and----' he laid his hand upon her shoulder, but she
made no movement in reply; he stooped and kissed her head, but she did
not look up. 'Zoe--I swear--if you will do this for me, our long and
weary waiting shall be at an end. I will acknowledge everything. I
will give up this extravagant life: we will settle down like a couple
of honest bourgeois: we will live over the shop if you like--that is,
the publishing office of the paper.' He took her hand and raised it to
his lips, but she made no response.

'Would she ever get the money back again?'

'Perhaps. How can I tell?'

'Even for the bribe you offer, Alec, I am afraid I cannot do it.'

'We will try together. We will lay ourselves out to attract the girl,
to win her confidence. Consider. She is alone. She is in our
hands----'

'Yes, yes. But you do not know her. Alec, if I cannot succeed, what
will you do?'

'I must look out for some girl with money and get engaged to her. The
mere fact of an engagement would be enough for me.'

'Yes,' she said quickly, 'it would have to be. Will you get engaged
to--to Philippa?'

'No; Philippa will only have money at the death of her father and
mother--not before. Philippa is out of the question.'

'Is there nobody among all your fine friends who will lend you the
money?'

'No one. We do not lend money to each other. We go on as if there were
no money difficulties in the world, as well as no diseases, no old
age, no dying. We do not speak of money.'

'Friendship in society has its limits. Yes; I see. But can't you
borrow it in the usual way of business people?'

'I should have to show books and enter into unpleasant explanations.
You see, Zoe, the paper has got a very good name, but rather a small
circulation. Everybody sees it, but very few buy it.'

'And so you heard of Armorel, and you thought that here was a chance.
You say to me, in plain words: "If you get this money, there shall be
an end of the false position." Is that so?'

'That is exactly what I do say and swear, Zoe. It is a very simple
thing. You have only to persuade the girl to lend you this money, or
to advance it, or to invest it by your agency--or something--a very
simple and easy thing. You love me well enough to do me such a simple
service.'

'I love you well enough, I suppose,' she replied sadly, 'to do
everything you tell me to do. A simple service! Only to deceive and
plunder this girl, who believes us all to be honourable and truthful!'

'Oh, we shall find a way--some way--to pay her back. Don't be afraid.
And don't go off into platitudes, Zoe--you are much too pretty--and
when it is done, and you are openly, before the world----'

'I know you well enough to know how much happiness to expect. I am a
fool. All women are fools. Philippa is a fool. And I've set my foolish
heart on--you. If I fail--if I fail'--her words sank to the softest
and gentlest murmur--'you are going to cast about for an heiress, and
you will get engaged to her, and then--then--we shall see, dear Alec,
what will happen then.' She sat up, her cheek fiery, and her eyes
flashing, though her voice was so soft. 'Hush!' she whispered. 'I hear
Armorel's step!'

They heard her voice as well outside, loud and clear.

'Come to my own room,' she said. 'What you want is there. This way.'

'It is the girl with her--the girl who writes. They have gone into her
own room--her boudoir--her study--where she works half the day. The
girl lives with her brother, close by.'

They listened, silent, with hushed breath, like conspirators.

'Poor Armorel!' said Zoe. 'If she only knew what we are plotting! She
thinks me the most truthful of women! And all I am here for is to
cheat her out of her money! Don't you think I had better make a clean
breast and ask her to give me the money and let me go?'

'Begin to-day,' said Alec. 'Begin to talk about me. Interest her in
me. Let her know how great and good----'

'Hush!'

Then they heard her voice again in the hall.

'No--no--you must come this evening. Bring Archie with you. I will
play, and he shall listen. You shall both listen. And then great
thoughts will come to you.'

'Always great thoughts--great thoughts--great pictures,' Zoe murmured.
'And we are so infinitely little. Brother worm, shall we crawl into
some hole and hide ourselves?'

Then the door opened, and Armorel herself appeared, fresh and rosy in
spite of the cold wind.

'My dear child,' said Zoe softly, looking up from her cushions, 'come
in and sit down. You must be perishing with the east wind. Do sit down
and be comfortable. You met Mr. Feilding last night, I believe.'

The visitor remained for a quarter of an hour. Armorel had been to see
a certain picture in the National Gallery. He talked of pictures just
as, the night before, he had talked of music: that is to say, as one
who knows all the facts about the painters and their works and their
schools: their merits and their defects. He knew and could talk
fluently the language of the Art Critic, just as he knew and could
talk the language of the Musical Critic. Armorel listened. Now and
then she made a remark. But her manner lacked the reverence with which
most maidens listened to this thrice-gifted darling of the Muses. She
actually seemed not to care very much what he said.

Zoe, for her part, lay back in her cushions in silence.

'How do you like him?' she asked, when their visitor left them.

'I don't know; I haven't thought about him. He talks too much, I
think. And he talks as if he was teaching.'

'No one has a better right to talk with authority.'

'But we are free to listen or not as we please. Why has he the right
to teach everybody?'

'My dear child, Alec Feilding is the cleverest man in all London.'

'He must be very clever then. What does he do?'

'He does everything--poetry, painting, fiction--everything!'

'Oh, you will show me his poetry, perhaps, some time? And his pictures
I suppose we shall see in May somewhere. He doesn't look as if he was
at all great. But one may be wrong.'

'My dear Armorel, you are a fortunate girl, though you do not
understand your good fortune. Alec--I am privileged to call him
Alec--has conceived a great interest in you. Oh, not of the common
love kind, that you despise so much--nothing to do with your _beaux
yeux_--but on account of your genius. He was greatly taken with your
playing: if you will show him your pictures he will give you
instruction that may be useful to you. He wants to know you, my dear.'

'Well,' said Armorel, not in the least overwhelmed, 'he can if he
pleases, I suppose, since he is a friend of yours.'

'That is not all: he wants your friendship as a sister in art. Such a
man--such an offer, Armorel, must not be taken lightly.'

'I am not drawn towards him,' said the girl. 'In fact, I think I
rather dislike his voice, which is domineering; and his manner, which
seems to me self-conscious and rather pompous; and his eyes, which are
too close together. Zoe, if he were not the cleverest man in London, I
should say that he was the most crafty.'

Zoe laughed. 'What man discovers by experiment and experience,' she
murmured, incoherently, 'woman discovers at a glance. And yet they
say----'



CHAPTER VI

THE OTHER STUDIO


The Failure was at work in his own studio. Not the large and lofty
chamber fitted and furnished as if for Michael Angelo himself, which
served for the Fraud. Not at all. The Failure did his work in a simple
second-floor back, a chamber in a commonplace lodging-house of Keppel
Street, Bloomsbury. Nowhere in the realms of Art was there a more
dismal studio. The walls were bare, save for one picture which was
turned round and showed its artistic back. The floor had no carpet:
there was no other furniture than a table, strewn and littered with
sketches, paints, palettes, brushes: there were canvases leaning
against the wall: there was a portfolio also leaning against the wall:
there was an easel and the man standing before it: and there was a
single chair.

For three years Roland Lee had withdrawn from his former haunts and
companions. No one knew now where he lived: he had not exhibited: he had
resigned his membership at the club: he had gone out of sight. Many
London men every year go out of sight. It is quite easy. You have only
to leave off going to the well-known places of resort: very soon--so
soon that it is humiliating only to think of it--men cease asking where
you are: then they cease speaking of you: you are clean gone out of
their memory--you and your works--it is as if the sea had closed over
you. There is not left a trace or a sign of your existence. Perhaps, now
and then, something may revive your name: some little adventure may be
remembered: some frolic of youth--for the rest--nothing: Silence:
Oblivion. It does, indeed, humiliate those who look on. When such an
accident revived the memory of Roland Lee, one would ask another what
had become of him. And no one knew. But, of course, he had gone
down--down--down. When a man disappears it means that he sinks. He had
gone out of sight: therefore he had gone under. Yet, when you climb, you
can never get so high as to be invisible. Even the President, R.A., is
not invisible. Again, the higher that a balloon soars, the smaller does
it grow; but the higher a man climbs up the Hill of Fame the bigger does
he show. It is quite certain that when a man has disappeared he has
sunk. The only question--and this can never be answered--is, what
becomes of the men who sink? One man I heard of--also, like Roland, an
artist--who has been traced to a certain tavern, where he fuddles
himself every evening, and where you may treat with him for the purchase
of his pictures at ten shillings--ay, or even five shillings--apiece.
And two scholars--scholars gone under--I heard of the other day. They
now reside in the same lodging-house. It is close to the Gray's Inn
Road. One lives in the garret, and the other occupies the cellar. In the
evening they get drunk together and dispute on points of the finer
scholarship. But this only accounts for three. And where are all the
rest?

Of Roland Lee nobody knew anything. There was no story or scandal
attached to him: he was no drinker: he was no gambler: he was no
profligate. But he had vanished.

Yet he had not gone far--only to Keppel Street, which is really a
central place. Here he occupied a second floor, and lived alone.
Nobody ever called upon him: he had no friends. Sometimes he sat all
day long in his studio doing nothing: sometimes he went forth, and
wandered about the streets: in the evening he dined at restaurants
where he was certain to meet none of his old friends. He lived quite
alone. As to that rumour concerning opium, it was an invention of his
employer and proprietor. He did not take opium. Day after day,
however, he grew more moody. What developments might have followed in
this lonely life I know not. Opium, perhaps: whisky, perhaps:
melancholia, perhaps. And from melancholia--Good Lord deliver us!

One thing saved him. The work which filled his soul with rage also
kept his soul from madness. When the spirit of his Art seized him and
held him he forgot everything. He worked as if he was a free man: he
forgot everything, until the time came when he had to lay down his
palette and to come back to the reality of his life. Some men would
have accepted the position: there were, as we have seen, compensations
of a solid and comfortable kind: had he chosen to work his hardest,
these golden compensations might have run into four figures. Some men
might have sat and laughed among their friends, forgetting the
ignominy of their slavery. Not so Roland. His chains jangled as he
walked; they cut his wrists and galled his ankles: they filled him
with so much shame that he was fain to go away and hide himself. And
in this manner he enjoyed the great success which his employer had
achieved for his pictures. To arrive at the success for which you have
always longed and prayed--and to enjoy it in such a fashion. Oh!
mockery of fate!

This morning he was at work contentedly--with ardour. He was beginning
a picture from one of his sketches: it was to be another study of
rocks and sea: as yet there was little to show: it was growing in his
brain, and he was so fully wrapped in his invention that he did not
hear the door open, and was not conscious that for the first time
within three years he had a visitor.

She opened the door and stood for a moment looking about her. The bare
and dingy walls, the scanty furniture, the meanness of the place, made
her very soul sink within her. For they cried aloud the story of the
painter.

For five long years she had thought of him. He was successful: he was
rising to the top of the tree: he was conquering the world--so brave,
so strong, so clever! There was no height to which he could not rise.
She should find him splendid, triumphant, and yet modest--her old
friend the same, but glorified. And she found him thus, in this dingy
den--so low, so shabby! Consider, if she had risen while he was
sinking, how great was now the gulf between them! Then she stepped
into the room and stood beside the artist at his easel.

'Roland Lee,' she whispered.

He started, looked up, and recognised her. 'Armorel!' he cried.

Then, strange to say, instead of hastening to meet and greet her, and
to hold out hands of welcome, he stood gazing at her stupidly, his
face changing colour from crimson to white. His hair was unkempt, she
saw; his cheeks worn; his eyes haggard, with deep lines round them;
and his dress was shabby and uncared for.

'You have not forgotten me, then?' she said.

'Forgotten you? No. How could I forget you?'

'Then are you pleased to see me? Shake hands with me, Roland Lee.'

He complied, but with restraint. 'Have you dropped from the clouds?'
he asked. 'How did you find me here?'

'I met your old friend Dick Stephenson. He told me that you lived
here. You are no longer friends: but he has seen you going in and
coming out. That is how I found you. Are you well, Roland?'

'Yes, I am well.'

'Does all go well with you, my old friend?'

'Why not? You see--I have got a magnificent studio: there is every
outward sign of wealth and prosperity: and if you look into any
art-criticisms you will find the papers ringing with my name.'

'You are changed.' Armorel passed over the bitterness of this speech.
'You are a little older, perhaps.' She did not tell him how haggard
and worn he looked, how unkempt and unhappy.

'Let me see some of your work,' she said. The picture on the easel was
only in its very first stage. She looked about the room. Nothing on
the walls but one picture with its face turned round. 'May I look at
this?' She turned it round. It was the picture of herself, 'The
Princess of Lyonesse,' the sketch of which he had finished on the last
day of his holiday. 'Oh!' she cried, 'I remember this. And you have
kept it, Roland--you have kept it. I am glad.'

'Yes, I have kept the only picture which I can call my own.'

'Was I like that in those days?'

'You are like that now. Only, the little Princess has become a tall
Queen.'

'Yes, yes; I remember. You said, then, that if I should ever look like
this, you would be proved to be a painter indeed. Roland, you are a
painter indeed.'

'No, no,' he said; 'I am nothing--nothing at all.'

'We were talking--when you made this sketch--of how one can grow to
his highest and noblest.'

'I have grown to my lowest,' he replied. 'But you--you----'

'What has happened, my friend? You told me so much once about
yourself--you taught me so much--you put so many new things into my
head--you must tell me more! What has happened?'

'Nothing.'

'Why are you here in this poor room? I have been to studios in Rome
and Florence, and Paris and Vienna: they are lovely rooms, fit for a
man whose mind is always full of lovely images and sweet thoughts. But
this--this room is not a studio. It is an ugly little prison. How can
light and colour visit such a place?'

'It explains itself. It proclaims aloud--Failure--Failure--Failure!'

'This picture is not Failure.'

'My name is unknown. I work on like a mole under ground. I am a
Failure. You have seen Dick Stephenson. What did he say of me?'

'He said that you must have left off working. But you have not.'

'What does it matter how much or how long a Failure goes on working?'

'Have you lost heart, Roland?'

'Heart, and hope, and faith. Everything is lost, Armorel!'

'You have lost your courage because you have failed. But many men have
failed at first--great men. Robert Browning failed for years. You were
brave once, Roland. You were able to say that if you knew you were
doing good work you cared nothing for the critics.'

'You see, Dick was right. I no longer do any work. I never send
anything to the exhibitions.'

'But why--why--why?'

'Ask me no more questions, Armorel. Go away and leave me. How
beautiful and glorious you have grown, child! But I knew you would.
And I have gone down so low, and--and--well, you see! Yes. I remember
how we talked of growing to our full height. We did not think, you
see, of the depths to which we might also drop. There are awful
depths, which you could never guess.'

He sank into the chair, and his head dropped.

Armorel stood over him, the tears gathering into her eyes.

'Roland,' she laid her hand upon his shoulder--there is no action more
sisterly--'since I have found you I shall not let you go again. It is
five years since you went away. You will tell me about yourself, when
you please. I have a great deal to tell you. Don't you remember how
sympathetic you used to be in the old days? I want a great deal more
sympathy now, because I am five years older, and I am trying so much.
I want you to hear me play--you were the first who ever praised my
playing, you know. And you must see my drawings. I have worked every
day, as I promised you I would. I have remembered all your
instructions. Come and see your pupil's work, my master.'

He made no reply.

'You live too much alone,' she went on. 'Dick Stephenson told me that
you have given up your club, and that you go nowhere, and that no one
knows how you live. You have dropped quite away from your old friends.
Why did you do that? You live in this dismal room by yourself--alone
with your thoughts: no wonder you lose courage and faith.' She opened
the portfolio and drew out a number of the sketches. 'Why,' she said,
'here are some of those you made with me. Here is Castle Bryher--you
in the boat, and I on the ledge among the sea-weed under the great
rock--and the shags in a row on the top: and here is Porth
Cressa--and here Peninnis--and here Round Island. Oh! we have so many
things to talk about. Will you come to see me?'

'You had better leave me alone, Armorel,' he said. 'Even you can do no
good to me now.'

'When will you come? See--I will write down my address. I have a flat,
and it is ever so much better furnished than this, Sir. Will you come
to-night? I shall be at home. There will be no one but Effie Wilmot.
Oh! I am not going to talk about you, but about myself. I want your
praise, Roland, and your sympathy. Both were so ready--once. Will you
come to-night?'

'You will drive me mad, I think, Armorel!'

'Will you come?'

He shook his head.

'I have got to tell you how I became rich, if you will listen. You
must come and hear my news. Why, there is no one but you in all London
who knew me when I lived on Samson alone with those old people. You
will come to-night, Roland?' Again she laid her hand upon his
shoulder. 'I will ask no questions about you--none at all. You will
tell me what you please about yourself. But you must let me talk to
you about myself, as frankly as in the old days. If you have got any
kindly memory left of me at all, Roland, you will come.'

He rose and lifted his shameful eyes to hers, so full of pity and of
tears.

'Yes,' he said; 'I will do whatever you tell me.'



CHAPTER VII

A CANDID OPINION


Youth in the London lodging-house! Youth quite poor--youth
ambitious--youth with a possible future--youth meditating great
things! Walk along the streets of Lodging-land--there are miles of
such streets--and consider with trembling that the dingy houses
contain thousands of young people--boys and girls--who have come to
the city of golden pavements to make--not a fortune, unless that
happens as well--but their name. In the long struggle before the
lowest rung of the ladder is reached they endure hardness, but they
complain not. Everything is going to be made up to them in the
splendid time to come.

Something more than a year ago two such young people came up from the
country, and found shelter in a London lodging-house, where they could
work and study until success should arrive. They were boy and girl,
brother and sister--twins. They had very little money, and could
afford no more than one sitting-room. Therefore, one worked in the
sitting-room and the other in a bedroom, because their occupations
demanded solitude. The one in the sitting-room was the girl. She was
engaged in the pursuit of poetry: she made verses continually, every
day. Unless she was reading verse, she was either making, or
polishing, or devising verses. Of all pursuits in the world this is at
once the most absorbing and the most delightful. It is also, with the
greater part of these who follow it, the most useless. Thomas the
Rhymer sits down and takes his pen: it is nine of the clock. He
considers: he writes: he scratches out: he writes again: he corrects
again: after ten minutes or so, he looks up. It is three in the
afternoon: the luncheon hour is past: the morning is gone: all he has
to show for the six golden hours, when an account of them is demanded,
will be a single stanza of a ballade. And perhaps not a single editor
will look at it. To Effie Wilmot, the girl-twin, thus engaged morning
after morning, the hours become moments and the days minutes. The
result and outcome of her labours you have already learned. But she
was young, and she lived in hope. A few more weeks, and the great man,
her patron, would have satisfied that whim of wishing to be thought a
poet of society. Strange that one who painted pictures of such
wonderful beauty, who wrote such charming stories in such endless
variety--stories quaint and bizarre, stories pathetic, stories
humorous--should so condescend! What could a few simple verses--such
as hers--do to increase his fame? However, that was nearly over. She
felt quite happy and light-hearted: as happy as if, like other poets,
she was writing things that would appear with her own name: she
pursued the light and airy fancies of her brain, capturing one or two,
chaining them in the prison of her rhymes, which, of course, were set
to the old-new tunes affected by the little poets of the day. If they
have got no message to deliver, they can at least come on the stage
and repeat over again the old things clad in dress revived. We can
keep on dressing up in the poet's habit until the poet himself shall
come along.

Effie worked on, sitting at the window. Poets can work anywhere,
though, of course, they ought to sit habitually on the sides of hills,
with hanging woods and mountain-streams and waterfalls. But they can
work just as well in a mean London lodging, such as this where Effie
sat, looking out, if she looked through the curtain, upon a most
commonplace street. We can all--common spirits as well as poets--rise
above our streets and houses and our dingy setting--otherwise there
would be no work done at all. Nay, if we were all cockered up, and
daintily surrounded with things æsthetic and artistic and beautiful, I
believe we should be so happy that nobody would ever do anything. The
poet would murmur his thoughts in indolent rhyme by the fireside: the
musician would drop his fingers among the notes, echoing faintly and
imperfectly the music in his soul--all for his own enjoyment: the
story-teller would tell his stories to his wife: the dramatist would
make plots without words for his children to act: the painter would
half sketch his visions and leave them unfinished. Art would die.

No such temptations were offered to Effie. The æsthetic movement had
not touched that ground-floor front. The shaky round table stood under
the flaring gas which every night made her head ache; the chiffonier
contained in its recesses the tea and sugar and bread and butter, and,
when the money ran to such luxuries, her jam or her honey or her
oranges. There was one easy-chair and one arm-chair; and before the
window a small square table, which had, at least, the merit of being
firm; and at this she wrote. Everybody knows this kind of room
perfectly.

The poetic workshop is always kept locked. No poet ever tells of the
terrific struggles he has to encounter before he finally subdues his
thought and compels it to walk or run in double harness of rhythm and
rhyme. No poet ever confesses how he sometimes has to let that thought
go because he cannot subdue it--nay, the same discomfiture has been
reported of those who, like M. Jourdain, speak in prose. And no poet
ever shows, as a painter will readily show us, the first sketch, the
first rough draft of a poem, the unfinished lines, the first feeble
attempts at the rhythmic expression of a great thought. Let us respect
the mystery of the craft--have we not all dabbled in verse and essayed
to play upon the scrannel-pipe?

It was towards noon, however, that Effie was disturbed by the arrival
of a visitor. The event was so unusual--so unprecedented even--that no
instructions had ever been given to the lodging-house servant in the
art of introducing callers. She therefore opened the door, and put in
her head--'A gentleman, Miss'--and went downstairs, leaving the
gentleman to walk in if he pleased.

'You, Mr. Feilding?' Effie cried, springing to her feet. 'Oh! This is,
indeed----'

The great man took her hand. 'My dear child,' he said, 'I have been
thinking over our conversation of the other day. I am, of course, only
anxious to be of service to you and to your brother, and so I thought
I would call.' He was quite magnificent in his fur-lined coat, and he
was very tall and big, so that he seemed to fill up the whole room.
But he had an unusual air of hesitation. 'I thought,' he repeated,
'that I would call. Yes----'

The girl sat with her hands in her lap, waiting.

'You remember what I told you about--the--the verses which you
sometimes bring me----'

'Oh! Yes. I remember. It is so kind of you, Mr. Feilding, so very kind
and noble----' For the moment the dazzling prospect of seeing her
verses acknowledged as her own in place of seeing them adopted by the
Editor, made her believe that none but a truly noble person could do
such a thing.

'I mean to begin even sooner than I had intended. It is true that when
I took your verses I made them my own by those little touches and
corrections which, as you know very well, distinguish true poetry
from its imitation'--It was not until he was gone that Effie
remembered that not a single alteration had ever been made. So great
is the power of the human voice that for the moment she listened and
acquiesced, subdued and ashamed of herself--'At last, my young friend,
the time for alteration and improvement is past. You can now stand
alone--your verses signed--if, of course, we remain, as I hope, on the
same friendly relations.'

'Oh!' she murmured.

'Enough. We understand each other. Your brother, you told me, is at
work on a play--a romantic drama.'

'Yes. He has finished it. He has been at work upon it for two years,
thinking of nothing else all day.'

Mr. Feilding nodded approval.

'That is the way,' he said heartily, 'to produce good work.
Perfect--absolute--devotion--regardless of any earthly consideration.
Art--Art--before all else. And now it is done?'

'Yes; he is copying it out.'

'Effie'--he suddenly changed the subject--'you have never told me of
your resources. Tell me! I do not ask out of idle curiosity. That you
are not rich I know----'

'No, we are not rich. We have a little--a thousand pounds apiece--and
we have resolved to live on that, and on what we can get besides,
until we have made our way. We have no rich relations to help us. My
father is a country clergyman with a small living. We came to town so
that Archie could get treatment for his hip. He is better now, and we
shall stay altogether if we can only hold on.'

'A thousand pounds each. That is seventy pounds a year, I suppose?'

'Yes. But during the last twelve months you have given me a hundred
pounds for my verses--three pounds for every poem, and there were
thirty-three altogether in the volume--"Voices and Echoes," you know.'

The poet who had published these verses did not change colour or show
any sign of emotion in the presence of the poet who had written them.
He nodded his head. 'Yes,' he said, 'on a hundred and seventy pounds a
year you can live--on seventy you would starve. Where is your
brother?'

'He works in his bedroom. It is the room behind, on the same floor. My
room is upstairs.'

'He requires, I suppose, good food, wine, and certain luxuries?'

'When we can afford them. Since you took my verses we have been able
to buy things.'

'Your money is well expended. I should like to see your brother,
Effie.'

'I will take you to him,' she said. But she hesitated and blushed.
'Oh! Mr. Feilding, Archie knows nothing about the--the volumes, you
know! He sees only the verses in the paper. And he only knows that you
have been so kind as to take them. Don't tell him anything else.'

'Your secret, Effie,' he replied generously, 'is safe with me. He
shall not know it from my lips.'

She thanked him. Again, it was not until he was gone that Effie
remembered that he could not possibly reveal that fact to her brother.

She led him into the room, at the back of which was her brother's
study and bedroom as well.

Her brother might have been herself, save for a slight manly growth
upon the upper lip, and for the pale cheek of ill health. The same
large forehead overhanging the face, eyes sunken but as bright as his
sister's, the same sensitive lips were his. A finer face than his
sister's, and stronger, but not so sweet. Beside his chair a pair of
crutches proclaimed that he was a cripple. Before him was a table, at
which he was writing. There were on the table, besides his writing
materials, a number of little dolls, some of which were arranged in
groups, while others were lying about unused. He was copying his
finished play: as he copied it he played the scenes with the dolls and
spoke the dialogue. The dolls were his characters: there was not a
single scene or change of the grouping which this conscientious young
dramatist had not rehearsed over and over again, until every line of
the dialogue had its own stage picture, clear and distinct in his
mind.

'You are Mr. Feilding?' he asked, rising with some difficulty. 'I have
heard so much of you from Effie. It is a great honour to have a call
from you.'

'I take a deep interest,' the great man replied, 'in anything that
concerns Miss Effie Wilmot. I have been able--I believe you know--to
give her some assistance and advice in her work. Oh!'--he waved his
hand to deprecate any expressions of gratitude--'I have done very
little--very little indeed. Now, about yourself. I learn from your
sister that you have ambitions--you would become a dramatist?'

'I have no other ambition. It is my only dream.'

'A very good dream indeed. And you have made, I am told, a start--a
maiden effort--a preliminary flight to try your wings. You have
written your first attempt at a play?'

'Yes. It is here. It is finished.'

'Tell me, briefly, the plot.'

Some young dramatists mar their plot in getting it out. This young man
had taken the trouble to write out first a rough outline of his piece
and next a complete scenario with every situation detailed. These he
read to his visitor one after the other.

'Yes,' said Mr. Feilding, when he had finished; 'there is something in
the idea of the play. Perhaps not a completely novel motif. A good
deal might be said as to the arrangement of the scenes. And one or
two of the characters might--but these are details. Remains to find
out how the dialogue goes. Will you read me a scene or two?'

The dramatist read. As he read he might have observed in the eyes of
his listener a growing eagerness, as of one who vehemently yearns to
get possession of something--his neighbour's vineyard, for example, or
his solitary ewe lamb. But the reader did not observe this. He was
wholly wrapped in his piece: he threw his soul into the reading: he
was anxious only that his words and his situations should produce the
best effect upon his hearer.

'Yes, yes; your dialogue, unhappily, shows the want of skill common to
the beginner,' said Mr. Feilding, when he had finished. 'It will have
to be completely rewritten. As it stands now, the play would be simply
killed by it, in spite of the situations, which, with some
alterations, are really pretty good--pretty good for a first effort.'

'You don't think, then--that----' the dramatist's voice broke down.
Consider: for two long years he had done nothing but cast, recast,
write, rewrite this play. He had dreamed all this time of success with
this play. And now--now--the very first critic--and that the most
accomplished man of the day--no less than Mr. Alec Feilding--told him
that the play would not be received unless the dialogue was entirely
rewritten. He _could_ not rewrite the dialogue. It was a part of
himself. As well ask him to remake his own face or to reconstruct his
legs. His face fell: his cheeks grew pale: his eyes filled with
unmanly tears.

'I am truly sorry, believe me,' said the critic, 'to throw cold water
on your hopes. I have been myself an aspirant. Yet'--he hesitated in
his kindliness--'why encourage illusive expectations? The play as it
is--I say, as it is only--must be pronounced totally unfit for the
stage. No manager would think of it for a moment.'

'Then I may as well throw it on the fire? And all my work wasted!'

'Nay--not wasted. Good work--true work--is never wasted. You ought to
have learned much--very much--from this two years' labour. And, as for
putting it into the fire'--he laughed genially--'I believe I can show
you a better way than that. Look here, Archie--I call you by your
Christian name because I have so often talked about you: we are old
friends--I should be really sorry to think that you had actually lost
all your time. Give me this play: I will take it--skeleton, scenario,
dialogue--all, just as it is--the mere rough, crude, shapeless thing
that it is. I will buy it of you--useless as it is. I will give you
fifty pounds down for it, and it shall become my property--my own,
absolutely. I shall then, perhaps, recast and rewrite the play from
beginning to end. When I have made a play out of it worth putting on
the stage--when, in short, I have made it my own play--I may possibly
bring it out--possibly. Most likely, however, not. There's a chance
for you, Archie, such as you will never get again! Fifty pounds
down--think of that! Fifty pounds!'

The dramatist laid his hand, for reply, upon his papers.

'If it should ever be brought out,' this good Samaritan went on, 'you
will come and see it acted. What a splendid lesson it will be for you
in the art of writing drama!'

The dramatist's fingers tightened on his manuscript.

'Of course you must consider your sister,' the considerate critic
continued. 'She has been able to make a few pounds of late, having
been so fortunate as to attract the interest of... one who is not
wholly without influence. Should that interest fail or be withdrawn
you might have--both of you--to suffer much privation. The luxuries
which you now enjoy would be impossible--and----'

'Oh, you kill me!' cried the unfortunate youth.

'Shall I leave you for the present? My offer is always open--on the
condition of secrecy--one is bound to keep business transactions
secret. I will leave you now. There is no hurry. Think it over
carefully and send me an answer.'

He went out and shut the door. The young dramatist, I am ashamed to
say, fell to tears and weeping over the destruction of his hopes.

'Effie,' said Mr. Feilding, 'I have talked with your brother. He has
read some of the play to me----'

'And you think?' she asked him eagerly.

He shook his head mournfully. 'The boy has much to learn--very much.
Meantime, the play itself is worthless--quite worthless.'

'Oh! Poor boy! And he has built so much upon it.'

'Yes--they all do at the outset. Mind, Effie, he is a clever boy: he
will do. Meantime, he must study.'

'Oh! Poor Archie! Poor boy!'

'It seems hard, doesn't it, not to succeed all at once? Yet Browning
and Tennyson and Thackeray were all well on for forty before they
succeeded. Why should he despair? Meantime I have made him a little
offer.'

'Oh! Mr. Feilding, you are always so good.'

'I have offered to give him fifty pounds--down--and to take this rough
unlicked thing he calls a Play. If I find time I shall, perhaps,
rewrite the whole, and put it on the stage. It will then, of course,
be my own--my own, Effie. Good-bye, child. I have not forgotten our
talk--or my promise--if we remain on friendly relations.'

He went away. Effie sank into a chair. What she had done with her own
work had never seemed to her half so terrible as what was now proposed
to be done with her brother's work.

She crept into his room. He sat with his head in his hands, most
mournful of bards since the world began.

'Archie, I know--I know; he has told me. Oh! Archie--do you think it
is true?'

[Illustration: _'Archie, I know--I know.'_]

'He says so, Effie. He says it is worthless.'

'Yet he will give you fifty pounds.'

'That is to please you--for your sake. The thing is worthless--no
manager would look at it.'

'Yet--fifty pounds! Why should Mr. Feilding give fifty pounds--a whole
fifty pounds--for a worthless play? Archie, don't do it--don't let him
have it; wait a little--we will ask somebody else. Oh! I could tell
you something. Wait--tell him, if you must say anything, that you will
think it over.'

When Effie turned over the pages of the next number of _The Muses
Nine_, she found, first of all, her own verses in the Editor's column
with his name at the bottom. This sight, which had formerly made her
so proud, now filled her with shame. The generous promise of the
future failed to awaken in her any glow of hope. For the very words
with which her only editor had beguiled her of her verses--the plea
that they were worthless, and must be rewritten--he had used to her
brother. And as her poems had never been rewritten, so would Archie's
play, she felt sure, be presented without a single alteration, with
the name of Mr. Alec Feilding as author. That week she took no verses
to the studio-study.

And a certain paragraph in the same columns perused by this suspicious
young woman brought rage--nothing short of rage--into her heart. No!
not her brother, as well as herself! It ran thus: 'I have always been
under the impression that the dearth of good plays is due to nothing
else in the world than the fact that the good men who ought to be
writing them all run off into the domain of fiction. It is a pleasant
country--that of Fable Land. I have been there, and I hope to go there
again and make a long stay. But Play Land--that is also a pleasant
country. I have been there lately, and I hope to demonstrate that a
good play may still be produced in the English tongue--a good and
original play. In short, I have written a romantic drama, of which all
I can say at present is that it lies finished, in my fireproof safe,
and that a certain actor-manager will probably play the title-rôle
before many moons have waxed and waned.'

'No,' said Effie, crumpling up the paper. 'You have not got Archie's
romantic drama yet.'



CHAPTER VIII

ALL ABOUT MYSELF


'You have kept this promise, then.' Armorel welcomed her old friend
with eyes of kindness and lips of smiles. 'Do you ever think of the
promise that you broke? Effie, dear'--this young lady was the only
other occupant of the room--'this is Mr. Roland Lee--my first friend
and my first master. He knew me long ago, in Samson, in the days of
which I have told you. We have memories of our own--memories such as
make the old friendships impossible to be dissolved--whatever happens.
Roland, you first put a pencil into my hand and taught me how to use
it. In return, I used to play old-fashioned tunes in the evening. And
you first put thoughts into my head. Before you came my head was
filled with phantoms, which had neither voice nor shape. What am I to
do now in return for such a gift?' She gave him both her hands, and
her face was so glowing, her eyes so soft yet serious withal, her
voice so full of tenderness--that the luckless painter stood confused
and overwhelmed. How had he deserved such a reception?

'This evening,' she went on, 'we are going to talk about nobody but
myself, and about nothing but my own affairs. Effie, you will be
horribly bored. It is five years since I had such a chance. Because,
my dear, though you have the best will in the world, and would talk to
me about old times if you could, you did not know me when I lived on
Samson in the Scilly Islands--and Roland did. That is, if he still
remembers Samson.'

'I remember every day on Samson: every blade of grass on the island:
every boulder and every crag.'

'And every talk we had in those days?--all the things you told me?'

'I remember, as well, a girl who has so changed, so grown----'

'So much the better. Then we can talk just as we used to do. I thought
you would somehow remember the girl, Roland.' She looked up again,
smiling. Then she hesitated, and went on slowly: 'Yet I was afraid,
this morning, that you might have forgotten one of the two who
wandered about the island together.'

'I could never forget you, Armorel.'

'I meant--the other--Roland.'

He made no reply. In his evening dress--which was full of creases, as
if it had not been put on for a very long time--he looked a little
less forlorn than in the shabby old brown-velvet jacket; he had
brushed his hair--nay, he had even had it cut and trimmed: but there
still hung about him the look of waste: his eyes were melancholy: his
bearing was dejected: he spoke with hesitation: he was even shy, like
a schoolboy. Effie noted these things, and wondered. And she observed,
besides, not only that his coat was creased, but that his shirt was
frayed at the cuffs, and torn in the front. In fact, the young man, in
dropping out of society, had, as a natural consequence, neglected his
wardrobe and allowed his linen to run to seed unrebuked. Every man who
has been a bachelor--most of us have--remembers how shirts behave when
the eye of the master is once taken off them.

He was shy because the atmosphere of the drawing-room, so dainty, so
luxurious, so womanly, was strange to him. Three years and more had
passed since he had been in such a room. He was also shy because this
splendid creature, this girl dressed in silk and lovely lace, this
miracle of girls, called herself Armorel, his once simple rustic maid
of Samson Isle. Further, he was ashamed because this girl remembered
him as he was in the good old days, when his face was turned to the
summit of the mountain and his feet were on the upward slope.

Armorel had placed on the table a portfolio full of drawings.

'Now for myself,' she said, gaily. 'Roland, you are an artist. You
must look at my drawings. Here are the best I have done. I have had
many masters since you, but none that taught me so much in so short a
time. Do you remember when you first found out that I could hold a
pencil? You were very patient then, Master. Be lenient now.'

'I had a very apt pupil,' he began, turning over the drawings. 'These
need no leniency. These are very good indeed. You have had other and
better masters.'

'I have had other masters, it is true. I have done my best, Roland--to
grow.'

He dropped his eyes. But he continued to turn over the sketches. The
drawings showed, at least, that natural aptitude which may be genius
and may be that imitation of genius which is difficult to distinguish
from the real gift. Many painters with no more natural aptitude than
Armorel have risen to be Royal Academicians.

'But these are very good indeed,' Roland repeated, with emphasis. 'You
have, indeed, worked well, and you have the true feeling.'

'Do you remember, Roland, that day when we talked about the Perfect
Woman? No, I see by your eyes that you have forgotten. But I remember.
I will not tell you all. One thing she had done: she had trained her
eye and her hand. She knew what was good in Art, and was not carried
away by any follies or fashions. I did not understand then what you
meant by follies and fashions. But I am wiser now. I have been
training eye and hand. I think I know a good picture, or a good
statue, or a good work in any Art. Do not think me conceited, Master.
I have been obedient to your instructions--that is all.'

'You have the soul of an artist, Armorel,' said her Master. 'But
yet--I fear--I think--you have missed the supreme gift. You are not a
great artist.'

'No, I can grow no higher in painting. I have learned my own
limitations. If it is only to understand and to worship the Great
Masters it is worth while to get so far. Are you satisfied with your
pupil?'

For a moment the old look came back to Roland's eyes. 'You are the
best of pupils,' he said. 'But I might have expected so much. Tell me
how you succeeded in getting away from Samson?'

She told him, briefly, how the Ancient Lady died, how she found the
family treasure, and how she had resolved to go away and learn: how
she found masters and guardians: how she lived in Florence, Dresden,
Paris: how she worked unceasingly. 'I remembered, always, Roland, your
picture of the Perfect Woman.'

'Could I--I--have told you things that have made you--what you are?'
It seemed as if another man had given the girl this excellent advice.
Not himself--quite another man.

'Effie, dear,' Armorel turned to her, 'you do not understand. I must
tell you. Five years ago, when I lived on Samson, a girl so ignorant
that it makes me tremble to think what might have happened--there came
to the island a young gentleman who was so kind as to take this
ignorant girl--me--in hand, and to fill her empty head with all kinds
of great and noble thoughts. He was an artist by profession. Oh! an
artist filled with ardour and with ambition. He would be satisfied
with nothing short of the best: he taught me that none of us ought to
be satisfied till we have attained our full stature, and grown as tall
as we possibly can. It made that ignorant girl's heart glow only to
hear him talk, because she had never heard such talk before. Then he
left her, and came back no more. But presently the chance came to this
girl, as you have heard, and she was able to leave the island and go
where she could find masters and teachers. It is five years ago. And
always, every day, Roland'--her lip quivered--'I have said to myself,
"My first master is growing taller--taller--taller--every day--I must
grow as tall as I can, or else when I meet him again I shall be too
insignificant for him to notice." Always I have thought how I should
meet him again. So tall, so great, so wonderful!'

Effie remarked that while Armorel addressed Roland she did not look at
him until the last words, when she turned and faced him with eyes
running over. The man's head dropped: his fingers played with the
drawings: he made no reply.

'In the evening,' Armorel went on, 'we used to have music. I played
only the old-fashioned tunes then that Justinian Tryeth taught me--do
you remember the tunes, Roland? I will play one for you again.' She
took a violin out of the case and began to tune the strings. 'This is
my old fiddle. It has been Justinian's--and his father's before him. I
have had other instruments since then, but I love the old fiddle
best.' She drew her bow across the strings. 'I can play much better
now, Roland. And I have much better music; but I will play only the
old tunes, because I want you to remember quite clearly those two who
walked and talked and sailed together. It is so easy for you to forget
that young man. But I remember him very well indeed.' She drew the bow
across the strings again. 'Now we are in the old room, while the old
people are sitting round the fire. Effie, dear, put the shade over
the lamp and turn it low--so--now we are all sitting in the firelight,
just as it used to be on Samson--see the red light dancing about the
walls. It fills your eyes and makes them glow, Roland. Oh! we are back
again. What are you thinking of, artist, while the music falls upon
your ears?--while I play--what shall I play? "Dissembling Love," which
others call "The Lost Heart"?' She played it with the old spirit, but
far more than the old delicacy and feeling. 'You remember that,
Roland? Do you hear the lapping of the waves in Porth Bay and the
breakers over Shark Point? Or is it too rustic a ditty? I will play
you something better, but still the old tunes.' She played first
'Prince Rupert's March,' and then 'The Saraband'--great and lofty airs
to one who can play them greatly. While she played Effie watched. In
Armorel's eyes she read a purpose. This was no mere play. The man she
called her master listened, sitting at the table, the sketches spread
out before him, ill at ease, and as one in a troubled dream.

'Do you see him again, that young man?' Armorel asked. 'It makes one
happy only to think of such a young man. He knew the dangers before
him. "The Way of Wealth," he said once, "and the Way of Pleasure draw
men as if with ropes." But he was so strong and steadfast. Nothing
would turn him from his way. Not Pleasure, not Wealth, not anything
mean or low. There was never any young man so noble. Oh! Do you
remember him, Roland? Tell me--tell me--do you remember him?'

Over the pictures on the table he bowed his head. But he made no
reply. Then Effie, watching the glittering tears in Armorel's eyes and
the bowed head of the man, stole softly out of the room and closed the
door.

Armorel put down her fiddle. She drew nearer to the man. His head sank
lower. She stood over him, tall and queenly, as the Muse stood over
Alfred de Musset. She laid her hand upon his shoulder.

'That old spirit is not dead, but sleeping, Roland. You have not
driven it forth. It is your own still. You have only silenced its
voice for a while. You think that you have killed it; but you remember
it still. Thank God! it has been only sleeping. If it were dead you
would not remember. Let it wake again. Oh! Roland--let it wake
again--again. Oh! Roland--Roland--my friend and Master----' She could
say no more.

The man raised his head. It is a shameful and a terrible thing to see
the face of a man who is disgraced and conscious of his shame. Perhaps
it is worse to see the face of a man who is disgraced and is
unconscious of his shame. He looked round, and saw the tears in the
girl's eyes and the quivering of her lips.

'The man you remember,' he said hoarsely, 'is dead and buried. He died
three years ago and more. Another man--a poor and mean creature--walks
about in his shape. He is unworthy to be in your presence. Suffer him
to go, and think of him no longer.'

'Not another man, because you remember the former. Roland, come back,
my old friend; come back!'

'It is too late.' But he wavered.

'It is never too late. Oh! I wonder--was it the Way of Pleasure or was
it the Way of Wealth?'

'Do I look,' he asked bitterly, 'as if it was the Way of Pleasure?'

'It is not too late, Roland. You have sinned against yourself. If it
were too late you would be happy after the kind of those who can live
in sin and be happy. Since you are not happy, it is not too late. The
doors of heaven stand open night and day for all.'

'You talk the old language, Armorel.'

'It is the language of my soul. I will say the same thing in any
tongue you please, so that you understand me.'

'To go back--to begin all over again--to go on as if the last three
years had never been----'

'Yes--yes--as if they had never been! That is best. As if they had
never been.'

'Armorel, do you know,' he asked her quickly--'do you know the
thing--the Awful Thing--that I have done?'

'Do not tell me. Never tell me.'

'Some day, I think I must. What shall I say, now?'

'Say that your footsteps are turned in the old way, Roland.'

He pushed back the chair and stood up. Now, if they had been measured,
he would have proved four inches and a half taller than the girl, for
he was half an inch short of six feet, and she was exactly five feet
seven. Yet as they stood face to face, it seemed to him--and to her as
well--as if she towered over him by as many inches as separate the
tallest woman from the smallest man. Nature thus accommodates herself
to the mental condition of the moment.

The small man, however, did a very strange thing. He drew forth a
pocket-book and took from it what Armorel perceived to be a cheque.
This he deliberately tore across twice, and threw the fragments into
the fire.

'You do not understand this act, Armorel. It is the turning of the
footstep.'

She took his hand and pressed it. 'I pray,' she said, 'that the way
may prove less thorny than you think!'

Nature, again accommodating herself, caused the small, mean man to
grow suddenly several inches. There was still a goodly difference
between the two, but it was lessened. More than that, the man
continued to grow; and his face was brighter, and his eyes less
haggard.

'I will go now, Armorel,' he said.

'You will come again--soon?'

'Not yet. I will come again, when the shame of the present belongs to
the past.'

'No. You shall come often. But of past or present we will speak no
more. Tell me, in your own good time, Roland, how you fare. But do not
desert your old pupil. Come to see me often.'

He bowed his head and went away.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Effie,' said Armorel, presently, 'I cannot tell you what all this
means.'

'It means a man who has fallen,' said the girl, wise with poetic
instinct. 'Anyone could see failure and shame written on his face. It
ought to be a noble face, but something has gone out of it. You knew
him long ago--when he was different--and you tried to bring him to his
old self. Oh! Armorel--you are wonderful--you were his better
spirit--you were his muse--calling him back.'

She laid her hand in Armorel's. They stood together in silence. Then
Armorel spoke.

'I feared it was quite another man--a new man--a stranger that I had
found. But it was not. It was the same man after all.'

Effie stooped and picked up a fragment of paper lying on the hearth.
'Mr. Feilding's signature,' she said, unthinking. At times, when one
is moved, trifles sometimes seem to acquire importance.

'That? It is a part of a cheque which he tore up. Effie, dear--it was
good of you to go away and leave us when you did. Perhaps he would not
have spoken so freely if you had been here. Oh! he is the same man,
after all. He has come back to me. Effie, tell me; but you know no
more than I. If you once loved a man, and if you suffered the thought
of him to lie in your heart for years, and if you filled him with all
the virtues that there are, and if he grew in your heart to be a
knight perfect at all points----'

'Well, Armorel?' For she stopped, and Effie took her hand.

'Oh! Effie,' she replied, with glowing cheeks; 'could you ever
afterwards love another man? Could you ever cease to love that man of
your imagination? Could any meaner man content you? For my
part--never!--never!--never!'



CHAPTER IX

TO MAKE HIM HAPPY


'Shall we discuss Mr. Feilding any longer?' Armorel asked, with a
little impatience. 'It really seems as if we had nothing to talk about
but the perfections of this incomparable person.' It was in the
evening. Armorel had discovered, already, that the evenings spent at
home in the society of her companion were both long and dull; that
they had nothing to talk about; that Zoe regarded every single
subject from a point of view which was not her own; and that both in
conversation and in personal intercourse she was having a great deal
more than she desired of Mr. Alec Feilding. Therefore, she was
naturally a little impatient. One cannot every evening go and sit
alone in the study: one cannot play the violin all the evening: and
one cannot reduce a companion to absolute silence.

Zoe, who had been talking into the fire from her cushions, turned her
fluffy head, opened her blue eyes wide, and looked, not reproachfully
but sorrowfully and with wonder, at a girl who could hear too much
about Alec Feilding.

'Let me talk--just a little--sometimes--of my best friend, Armorel,
dear. If you only knew what Alec has been to me and to my lost
lover--my Jerome!'

'Forgive me, Zoe. Go on talking about him.'

'How quiet and cosy,' she murmured, in reply, 'this room is in the
evening! It makes one feel virtuous only to think of the cold wind and
the cold people outside. This heaven is surely a reward for the
righteous. It is enough only to lie in the warmth without talking. But
the time and the place invite confidences. Armorel, I am going to
repose a great confidence in you--a secret plan of my own. And you are
so very, very sympathetic when you please, dear child--especially when
Effie is here--I wonder if she is worth it?--that you might spare me a
little of your sympathy.'

'My dear Zoe'--Armorel felt a touch of remorse--she had been
unsympathetic--'you shall have all there is to spare. But what kind of
sympathy do you want? You were talking of Mr. Feilding--not of
yourself.'

'Yes--and that is of myself in a way. I know you will not
misunderstand me, dear. You will not imagine that I am--well, in love
with Alec, when I confess to you that I think a very great deal about
him.'

'I never thought so, at all,' said Armorel.

Zoe's eyes opened for a moment and gleamed. It was a doubtful saying.
Why should not she be in love with Alec, or Alec with her? But Armorel
knew nothing about love.

'When a woman has loved once, dear,' she murmured, 'her heart is gone.
My love-passages,' she put her handkerchief to her eyes--to some women
the drawing-room is the stage--'my love-story, dear, is finished and
done. My heart is in the grave with Jerome. But this you cannot
understand. I think so much of Alec--first, because he has been all
goodness to me; and, next, because he is so wonderfully clever.'

'Talk about him, Zoe, as long as you please.'

'If he had been an ordinary man,' she went on, 'I should have been
equally grateful, I suppose. But there it would have ended. To be
under a debt of gratitude to such a man as Alec makes one long to do
something in return. And, besides, there are so very, very few good
men in the world that it does one good only to talk about them.'

'I suppose that Mr. Feilding is really a man of great genius,' said
Armorel. 'I confess he seems to me rather ponderous in his talk--may I
say, dull? From genius one expects the unexpected.'

'Dull? Oh, no! A little constrained in his manner. That comes from his
excessive sensibility. But dull?--oh, no!'

'He seemed dull at the theatre last night.'

'It was a curious coincidence meeting him there, was it not?'

'I thought you must have told him that you were going.'

'No, no; quite a coincidence. And he so seldom goes to a theatre. The
badness of the acting, he says, irritates his nerves to such a degree
that it sometimes spoils his work for a week. And yet he is actually
going to bring out a play himself. There is a paragraph in the paper
about it--his own paper. Give it to me, dear; it is on the sofa. Thank
you.' She read the paragraph, which we already know. 'What do you
think of that, Armorel?'

'Isn't it rather arrogant--about good men turning out good work?'

'My dear, genius can afford to be arrogant. True genius is always
impatient of small people and of stupidities. It suffers its contempt
to be seen, and that makes the stupidities cry out about arrogance.
Even the most stupid can cry out, you see. But think. He is going to
add a new wreath to his brow. He is already known as a poet, a
novelist, a painter, an essayist, and now he is to become a dramatist.
He really is the cleverest man in the whole world.'

Armorel expressed none of the admiration that was expected. She was
wondering whether, if Mr. Feilding had not been quite so clever, he
might not have been quite so heavy and didactic in conversation. Less
clever people, perhaps, are more prodigal of their cleverness, and
give away some of it in conversation. Perhaps the very clever want it
all for their books.

'I said I would give you his poems,' Zoe continued. 'I bought the book
for you--the second series, which is better than the first. It is on
the piano, dear; that little parcel, thank you.' She opened the parcel
and disclosed a dainty little volume in white and gold. It was
illustrated by a small etching of the poet's head for a frontispiece.
It was printed in beautiful new type on thick paper--the kind called
hand-made--the edges left ragged. There were about a hundred and
twenty pages, and on every two pages there was a single poem. These
were not arranged in any order or sequence of thought. They were all
separate. The poet showed knowledge of contemporary manners in serving
up so small a dish of verse. Fifty or sixty short poems is quite as
much as the reader of poetry will stand in these days.

Armorel turned over the pages and began to read them. Strange! How
could a man so ponderous, so pompous in his conceit, so dogmatic, so
self-conscious, write such pretty, easy-flowing numbers? The metres
fitted the subject; the rhymes were apt, the cadence true, the verses
tripped light and graceful like a maiden dancing.

'How could such a man,' she cried, 'get a touch so light? It is truly
wonderful.'

'I told you so, dear. He is altogether wonderful.'

She went on reading. Presently she cried out, 'Why! he writes like a
woman. Only a woman could have written these lines.' She read them
out. 'It is a woman's hand, and a woman's way of thinking.'

'That shows his genius. No one except Alec--or a woman--could have
said just that thing in just that manner.'

Armorel closed the volume. 'I think,' she said, 'that I like a man to
write like a man and a woman like a woman.'

'Then,' said Zoe, 'how is a novelist to make a woman talk?'

'He makes his women talk like women if he can. But when he speaks
himself it must be with the voice of a man. In these poems it is the
poet who speaks, not any character, man or woman.'

'You will like the poems better as you read them. They will grow upon
you. And you will find the poet himself--not a woman, but a man--in
his verses. It helps one so much to understand the verses when you
know the poet. I think I could almost understand Browning if I had
ever known him. Think of Alec when you read his verses.'

'Yes,' said Armorel, still without enthusiasm.

'You said we were talking about nothing else, dear,' Zoe went on. 'I
talk so much of him because I respect and revere him so much. I have
known Alec a long time'--she lay back with her head turned from her
companion, talking softly into the fire, as if she was communing with
herself. 'He is, though you do not understand it yet, a man of the
most highly strung and sensitive nature. The true reason why he talks
ponderously--as you call it, Armorel--is that he is conscious of the
traps into which this very sensitiveness of his may lead him: for
instance, he may say, before persons unworthy of his confidence,
things which they would most likely misunderstand. It is simply wicked
to cast pearls before swine. A poet, more than any other man, must be
quite sure of his audience before he gives himself away. I assure you,
when Alec feels himself alone with his intimates--a very little
circle--his talk is brilliant.'

'We are unlucky, then,' said Armorel, still without enthusiasm.

'Another thing may make him seem dull. He is always preoccupied,
always thinking about his work: his mind is overcharged.'

'I thought he was always in society--a great diner-out?'

'He is. Society brings him relief. The inanities of social
intercourse rest his brain. Without this rest he would be crushed.'

'I see,' said Armorel, coldly.

'Then there is that other side of him--of which you know nothing. My
dear, he is constantly thinking of others. His private life--but I
must not tell too much. Not only the cleverest man in London, but the
best.'

Armorel felt guilty. She had not, hitherto, looked upon this phoenix
with the reverence which was due to so great a creature. Nay, she did
not like him. She was repelled rather than attracted by him. She liked
him less every time she met him. And this was oftener than she
desired. Somehow or other, they were always meeting. On some pretext
or other he was always calling. And certainly for the last few days
Zoe was unable to talk about anything else. The genius, the greatness
of this man seemed to overwhelm her.

'And now, my dear,' she went on, still talking about him, 'for my
little confidences. I have a great scheme in my head. Oh! a very great
scheme indeed.' She turned round and sat up, looking Armorel full in
the face. Her eyes under her fluffy hair were large and luminous, when
she lifted them. Oftener, they were large but sleepy eyes. Now they
were quite bright. She was wide awake and she was in earnest. 'I have
spoken to no one but you about it as yet. Perhaps you and I can manage
it all by ourselves.'

'What is it?'

'You and I, dear, you and I, we two--we can be so associated and bound
up in the life of the poet-painter as to be for ever joined with his
name. Petrarch and Laura are not more closely connected than we may be
with Alec Feilding, if you only join with me.'

'First tell me what it is--this plan of yours.'

'It is nothing less than just to relieve him, once for all, from his
business cares.'

'Has he business cares?'

'They take up his precious time. They weigh upon his mind. Why should
such a man have any business at all to look after?'

'Well, but,' said Armorel, refusing to rise to this tempting bait,
'why does such a man allow himself to have business cares, if they
worry him?'

'It is the conduct of his journal, my dear.'

'But other authors and painters do not conduct journals. Why should
he? I believe that successful writers and artists make very large
incomes. If he is so successful, why does he trouble about managing a
paper? That is certainly work that can be done by a man of inferior
brain.'

'You are so matter-of-fact, dear. The paper is his own, and he thinks,
I suppose, that nobody but himself could edit the thing. Leave poor
Alec one or two human weaknesses. He may think this, and yet make no
allowance for his own shrinking and sensitive nature.'

Certainly Armorel had seen no indications in this poet-painter of the
shrinking nature. It was very carefully concealed.

'Of course,' Zoe continued, 'you hardly know him. But his genius you
do know. And the business worries that are inseparable from a journal
are a serious hindrance to his higher work. Believe me, dear, even if
you do not understand why it should be so.'

'I can very well believe it--I only ask why Mr. Feilding alone, among
authors and painters, should hamper himself with such worries.'

'Well, dear--there they are. And I have formed a plan--Oh!'--she
clasped her hands and opened her eyes wide--'such a plan! The best and
the cleverest plan in the world for the best and the cleverest man in
the world! But I want your help.'

'What can I do?'

'I will tell you. First of all. You must remember that Alec is the
sole proprietor, as well as the editor of this journal--_The Muses
Nine_. It is his property. He created it. But the business management
of the paper worries him. My plan, Armorel--my plan'--she spoke and
looked most impressive--'will relieve him altogether of the work.'

'Yes--and how do I come into your plan?'

'This way. I have found out, through a person of business, that if he
would sell a share--say a quarter, or an eighth--of his paper he would
be able to put the business part of it into paid hands--the people who
do nothing else. Now, Armorel, we will buy that share--you and I between
us will buy it. You shall advance the whole of the money, and I will pay
you back half. The price will be nothing to you. That is, it will be a
great deal, because the investment will be such a splendid thing, and
the returns will be so brilliant. You will increase your income
enormously, and you will have the satisfaction'--she paused, because,
though she was herself more animated, earnest, and eloquent with voice
and eyes, and though she threw so much persuasion into her manner, the
tell-tale face of the girl showed no kindling light of response at
all--'the satisfaction,' she continued, 'of feeling that such a help to
Literature and Art will make us both immortal.'

Armorel made no reply. She was considering the proposition coldly, and
it was one of those things which must be considered without
enthusiasm.

'As for money,' Zoe continued, with one more attempt to awaken a
responsive fire, 'I have found out what will be wanted. For three
thousand five hundred pounds we can get this share in the paper. Only
three thousand five hundred pounds! That is no more than one thousand
seven hundred and fifty pounds apiece! I shall insist upon having my
share in the investment, because I should grudge you the whole of the
work. As for the returns, I have been well advised of that. Of course,
Alec is beyond all paltry desire for gain, and he might ask a great
deal more. But he leaves everything to his advisers--and oh! my dear,
he must on no account know--yet--who is doing this for him.
Afterwards, we will break it to him gradually, perhaps, when he has
quite recovered from the worries and is rested. If we think of
returns, ten, twenty, even fifty per cent. may be expected as the
paper gets on. Think of fifty per cent.!'

'No,' said Armorel. 'Let us, too, be above paltry desire for gain. Let
those who do want more money go in for this business. If your advice
is correct, Mr. Feilding can have no difficulty at all in selling a
share of the paper. People who want more money will be only too eager
to buy it.'

'My dear child, everybody wants more money.'

'I have quite enough. But why do you ask me to join you, Zoe? I do not
know Mr. Feilding, except as an acquaintance. He is, I dare say, all
that you think. But I do not find him personally interesting. And
there is no reason why I should pretend to be one of the train who
follow him and admire him.'

'But I want you--I want you, Armorel.' Zoe clasped her hands and
lifted her eyes, humid now. But a woman's eyes move a girl less than a
man. 'I want you, and none but you, to join me in this. We two alone
will do it. It will be such a splendid thing to do! Nothing short of
the rescue of the finest and most poetic mind of the day from sordid
cares and worries. Think of what future ages will say of you!'

Armorel laughed. 'Indeed!' she said. 'This kind of immortality does
not tempt me very much. But, Zoe, it is really useless to urge me. I
could not do this, if I would. And truly I would not if I could; for I
made a promise to Mr. Jagenal, when I came of age the other day, that
I would not lend or part with any money without taking his advice; and
that I would not change any of his investments without consulting him.
I seem to know, beforehand, what he would say if I consulted him about
this proposal.'

'Then, my dear,' said Zoe, lying back in her cushions and turning her
face to the fire, 'let us talk about the matter no more.'

She had failed. From the outset she felt that she was going to fail.
The man had had every chance. He had met the girl constantly: she had
left him alone with her: but he had not attracted her in the least.
Well: she confessed, in spite of his cleverness, Alec had somewhat of
a wooden manner: he was too authoritative; and Armorel was too
independent. She had failed.

Armorel, for her part, remembered how her lawyer had warned her on the
day when she became twenty-one and of age to manage her own affairs:
all kinds of traps, he told her, are set to catch women who have got
money in order to rob them of their money: they are besieged on every
side, especially on the sides presumably the weakest: she must put on
the armour of suspicion: she must never--never--never--here he held up
a terrifying forefinger--enter into any engagement or promise, verbal
or in writing, without consulting him. The memory of this warning made
her uneasy--because it was her own companion, the lady appointed by
her lawyer himself, who had made the first attempt upon her money.
True, the attempt was entirely disinterested. There would be no gain
to Zoe even if she were to accede: the proposal was prompted by the
purest friendship. And yet she felt uneasy.

As for the disinterested companion, she wrote a letter that very
night. She said: 'I have made an attempt to get this money for you. It
has failed. It was hopeless from the first. You have had your chance:
you have been with the girl often enough to attract and interest her:
yet she is neither attracted nor interested. I have given her your
poems: she says they ought to be the work of a woman: she likes the
verse, but she cares nothing about the poet. Strange! For my own part,
I have been foolish enough to love the man, and to care not one brass
farthing about his work. Your poems--your pictures--they all seem to
me outside yourself, and not a part of you at all. Why it is so I
cannot explain. Well, Alec, you planted me here, and I remain till you
tell me I may go. It is not very lively: the girl and I have nothing
in common: but it is restful and cosy, and I always did like comfort
and warmth. And Armorel pays all the bills. What next, however? Is
there any other way? What are my lord's commands?'



CHAPTER X

THE SECRET OF THE TWO PICTURES


A good many things troubled Armorel--the companion with whom she could
not talk: her persistent praises of Mr. Feilding: the constant
attendance of that illustrious genius--and she wanted advice.
Generally, she was a self-reliant person, but these were new
experiences. Effie, she knew, could not advise her. She might go to
Mr. Jagenal; but, then, elderly lawyers are not always ready to
receive confidences from young ladies. Then she thought of her cousin
Philippa, whom she had not seen since that first evening. Philippa
looked trustworthy and judicious. She went to see her in the morning,
when she would be alone. Philippa received her with the greatest
friendliness.

'If you really would like a talk about everything,' she said, 'come
to my own room.' She led the way. 'Here we shall be quiet and
undisturbed. It is the place where I practise every day. But I shall
never be able to play like you, dear. Now, take that chair and let us
begin. First, why do you come so seldom?'

'Frankly and truly, do you wish me to come often?'

'Frankly and truly, fair cousin, yes. But come alone. Mrs. Elstree and
I were at school together, and we were not friends. That is all. I
hope you like her for a companion.'

'The first of my difficulties,' said Armorel, 'is that I do not. I
imagined when she came that it mattered nothing about her. You see, I
have been for five years under masters and teachers, and I never
thought anything about them outside the lesson. I thought my companion
would be only another master. But she isn't. I have her company at
breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And all the evening. I think I am wrong
not to like her, because she is always good-tempered. Somehow, she
jars upon me. She likes everything I do not care about--comic operas,
dance music, French novels. She has no feeling for pictures, and her
taste in literature is ... not mine. Oh, I am talking scandal. And she
is so perfectly inoffensive. Mostly she lies by the fire and either
dozes or reads her French novels. All day long, I go about my devices.
But there is the evening.'

'This is rather unfortunate, Armorel, is it not?'

'If it were only for a month or two, one would not mind. Tell me,
Philippa, how long must I have a companion?'

Philippa laughed. 'I dare say the question may solve itself before
long. Women generally achieve independence--with the wedding
ring--unless that brings worse slavery.'

'No,' said Armorel, gravely, 'I shall not achieve independence that
way.'

'Not that way?'

'Not by marrying!'

'Why not, Armorel?'

'You will not laugh at me, Philippa? I learned a long time ago that I
could only marry one kind of man. And now I cannot find him.'

'You did know such a man formerly? My dear, you are not going to let a
childish passion ruin your own life.'

'I knew a man who was, in my mind, this kind of man. He came across my
life for two or three weeks. When he went away I kept his image in my
mind, and it gradually grew as I grew--always larger and more
beautiful. The more I learned--the more splendid grew this image. It
was an Idol that I set up and worshipped for five long years.'

'And now your Idol is shattered?'

'No; the Idol remains. It is the man, who no longer corresponds to the
Idol. The man who might have become this wonderful Image is gone--and
I can never love any other man. He must be my Idol in the body.'

'But, Armorel, this is unreal. We are not angels. Men and women must
take each other with their imperfections.'

'My Idol may have had his imperfections, too. Well, the man has gone.
I am punished, perhaps, for setting up an Idol.'

She was silent for awhile, and Philippa had nothing to say.

'But about my companion?' Armorel went on. 'When can I do without
one?'

'There is nothing but opinion to consider. Opinion says that a young
lady must not live alone.'

'If one never hears what opinion says, one need not consider opinion
perhaps.'

'Well, but you could not go into society alone.'

'That matters nothing, because I never go into society at all.'

'Never go into society at all? What do you mean?'

'I mean that we go nowhere.'

'Well, what are people about? They call upon you, I suppose?'

'No; nobody ever calls.'

'But where are Mrs. Elstree's friends?'

'She has no friends.'

'Oh! She has--or had--an immense circle of friends.'

'That was before her father lost everything and killed himself. They
were fair-weather friends.'

'Yes, but one's own people don't run away because of misfortune.'
Philippa looked dissatisfied with the explanation. 'My dear cousin,
this must be inquired into. Your lawyer told me that Mrs. Elstree's
large circle of friends would be of such service to you. Do you really
mean that you go nowhere? And your wonderful playing absolutely
wasted? And your face seen nowhere? Oh! it is intolerable that such a
girl as you should be so neglected.'

'I have other friends. There is Effie Wilmot and her brother who wants
to become a dramatist. And I have found an old friend, an artist. I am
not at all lonely. But in the evening, I confess, it is dull. I am not
afraid of being alone. I have always been alone. But now I am not
alone. I have to talk.'

'And uncongenial talk.'

'Now advise me, Philippa. Her talk is always on one subject--always
the wonderful virtues of Mr. Feilding.'

'My cousin Alec? Yes'--Philippa changed colour, and shaded her face
with a hand-screen. 'I believe she knows him.'

'Your cousin? Oh! I had forgotten. But it is all the better, because
you know him. Philippa, I am troubled about him. For not only does Zoe
talk about him perpetually, but he is always calling on one pretext or
other. If I go to a picture-gallery, he is there: if I walk in the
park, I meet him: if I go to church--Zoe does not go--he meets me in
the porch: if we go to the theatre, he is there.'

'I did not think that Alec was that kind of man,' said Philippa, still
keeping the hand-screen before her face. 'Are you mistaken, perhaps?
Has he said anything?'

'No: he has said nothing. But it annoys me to have this man following
me about--and--and--Philippa--he is your cousin--I know--but I detest
him.'

'Can you not show that you dislike his attentions? If he will not
understand that you dislike him--wait--perhaps he will speak--though I
hardly think--you may be mistaken, dear. If he speaks, let your answer
be quite unmistakable.'

'Then I hope that he will speak to-morrow. Zoe wanted me to find some
money in order to help him in some way--out of some worries.'

'My dear child--I implore you--do not be drawn into any money
entanglements. What does Zoe mean? What does it all mean? My dear,
there is something here that I cannot understand. What can it mean?
Zoe to help my cousin out of worries about money? Zoe? What has Zoe to
do with him and his worries?'

'He has been very kind to her and to her husband.'

'There is something we do not understand,' Philippa repeated.

'You are not angry with me for not liking your cousin?'

'Angry? No, indeed. He has been so spoiled with his success that I
don't wonder at your not liking him. As for me, you know, it is
different. I knew Alec before his greatness became visible. No one, in
the old days, ever suspected the wonderful powers he has developed.
When he was a boy, no one knew that he could even hold a pencil,
nobody suspected him of making rhymes--and now see what he has done.
Yet, after all, his achievements seem to me only like incongruous
additions stuck on to a central house. Alec and painting don't go
together, in my mind. Nor Alec and vers de société. Nor Alec and
story-telling. In his youth he passed for a practical lad, full of
common-sense and without imagination.'

'Was he of a sensitive, highly nervous temperament?'

'Not to my knowledge. He has been always, and is still, I think, a man
of a singularly calm and even cold temper--not in the least nervous
nor particularly sensitive.'

Armorel compared this estimate with that of her companion. Strange
that two persons should disagree so widely in their estimate of a man.

'Then, three or four years ago, he suddenly blossomed out into a
painter. He invited his friends to his chambers. He told us that he
had a little surprise for us. And then he drew aside a curtain and
disclosed the first picture he thought worthy of exhibition. It hangs
on the wall above your head, Armorel, with its companion of the
following year. My father bought them and gave them to me.'

Armorel got up to look at them.

'Oh!' she cried. 'These are copies!'

[Illustration: _'Oh!' she cried. 'These are copies!'_]

'Copies? No. They are Alec's own original pictures. What makes you
think they are copies?'

What made her think that they were copies was the very remarkable fact
that both pictures represented scenes among the Scilly Isles: that in
each of them was represented--herself--as a girl of fifteen or
sixteen: that the sketches for both these pictures had been made in
her own presence by the artist: that he was none other than Roland
Lee: and that the picture she had seen in his studio was done by the
same hand and in the same style as the two pictures before her. Of
that she had no doubt. She had so trained her eye and hand that there
could be no doubt at all of that fact.

She stared, bewildered. Philippa, who was beside her looking at the
pictures, went on talking without observing the sheer amazement in
Armorel's eyes.

'That was his first picture,' she continued; 'and this was the second.
I remember very well the little speech he made while we were all
crowding round the picture. "I am going," he said, "to make a new
departure. You all thought I was just following the beaten road at the
Bar. Well, I am trying a new and a shorter way to success. You see my
first effort." It was difficult to believe our eyes. Alec a painter?
One might as well have expected to find Alec a poet: and in a few
months he was a poet: and then a story-teller. And his poetry is as
good as it is made in these days; and his short stories are as good as
any of those by the French writers.'

'What is the subject of this picture?' Armorel asked with an effort.

'The place is somewhere on the Cornish coast, I believe. He always
paints the same kind of picture--always a rocky coast--a tossing
sea--perhaps a boat--spray flying over the rocks--and always a girl,
the same girl. There she is in both pictures--a handsome black-haired
girl, quite young--it might be almost a portrait of yourself when you
were younger, Armorel.'

'Almost,' said Armorel.

'This girl is now as well known to Alec's friends as Wouvermann's
white horse. But no one knows the model.'

Armorel's memory went back to the day when Roland made that sketch.
She stood--so--just as the painter had drawn her, on a round boulder,
the water boiling and surging at her feet and the white foam running
up. Behind her the granite rock, grey and black. How could she ever
forget that sketch?

'Alec is wonderful in his seas,' Philippa went on. 'Look at the bright
colour and the clear transparency of the water. You can feel it
rolling at your feet. Upon my word, Armorel, the girl is really like
you.'

'A little, perhaps. Yes; they are good pictures, Philippa. The man who
painted them is a painter indeed.'

She sat down again, still bewildered.

Presently she heard Philippa's voice. 'What is it?' she asked. 'You
have become deaf and dumb. Are you ill?'

'No--I am not ill. The sight of those pictures set me thinking. I will
go now, Philippa. If he speaks to me I will reply so that there can be
no mistake. But if he persists in following me about, I will ask you
to interfere.'

'If necessary,' Philippa promised her. 'I will interfere for you. But
there is something in all this which I do not understand. Come again
soon, dear, and tell me everything.'

When they began this talk, one girl was a little troubled, but not
much. The other was free from any trouble. When they parted, both
girls were troubled.

One felt, vaguely, that danger was in the air. Zoe meant something by
constantly talking about her cousin Alec. What understanding was there
between him and that woman--that detestable woman?

The other walked home in a doubt and perplexity that drove everything
else out of her head. What did those pictures mean? Had Roland given
away his sketches? Was there another painter who had the very touch of
Roland as well as his sketches? No, no; it was impossible.

Suddenly she remembered something on the fragment of paper that Effie
picked up. The corner of the torn cheque--even the signature of Alec
Feilding. What did that mean? Why had Roland torn up a cheque signed
by Mr. Feilding? Why had he called that act the turning of the
footstep?



CHAPTER XI

A CRITIC ON TRUTH


One painter may make use of another man's sketches for his own
pictures. The thing is conceivable, though one cannot recall, and
there is no record of, any such case. It is, perhaps, possible.
Portrait-painters have employed other men to paint backgrounds and
even hands and drapery. Now, the two pictures hanging in Philippa's
room were most certainly painted from Roland's sketches. If there were
any room for doubt the figure of Armorel herself in the foreground
removed that doubt. Therefore, Roland must have lent his sketches to
Mr. Feilding. What else did he lend? Can one man lend another his eye,
his hand, his sense of colour, his touch, his style? There was once, I
seem to have read, a man who sold his soul to the only Functionary who
buys such things, and keeps a stock of them second-hand, on the
condition that he should be able to paint as well as the immortal
Raffaello. He obtained his wish, because the Devil always keeps his
bargain to the letter, with the result that, instead of winning the
imperishable wreath for himself that he expected, he was never known
at all, and his pictures are now sold as those of the master whose
works they so miraculously resemble. Armorel had perhaps heard this
story somewhere. Could the cleverest man in all London have made a
similar transaction, taking Roland Lee for his model? If so, the Devil
had not cheated him at all, and he got out of the bargain all he
expected, because he not only painted quite as well as his master, and
in exactly the same style, so that it was impossible to distinguish
between them, but, which the other unfortunate did not get, all the
credit was given to him, while the original model or master languished
in obscurity.

It was obvious to a trained eye, at very first sight, that the style
of the pictures was that of Roland Lee. He had a style of his own. The
first mark of genius in any art is individuality. His style was no
more to be imitated in painting than the style of Robert Browning can
be followed in poetry. Painters there are who have been imitated and
have created a school of imitators: even these can always be
distinguished from their copyists. The subtle touch of the master, the
personal presence of his hand, cannot be copied or imitated. In these
two pictures the hand of Roland was clearly, unmistakably visible. The
light thrown over them, the atmosphere with which they were
charged--everything was his. He had caught the September sunshine as
it lies over and enfolds the Scilly Islands--who should know that soft
and golden light better than Armorel?--he had caught the
transparencies of the seas, the shining yellows of the sea-weed, the
browns and purples of bramble and fern, the greyness and the blackness
of the rock: you could hear the rush of the water eddying among the
boulders; you could see the rapid movement of the sea-gulls' wings as
they swept along with the wind. Could another, even with the original
sketches lying before him, even with skill and feeling of his own,
reproduce these things in Roland's own individual style?

'No,' she cried, but not aloud; 'I know these pictures. They are not
his at all. They are Roland's.'

Every line of thought that she followed--to write these down would be
to produce another 'Ring and Book'--in her troubled meditations after
the discovery led her to the same conclusion. It was that at which she
had arrived in a single moment of time, without argument or reasoning,
and at the very first sight of the pictures. The first thought is
always right. 'They are Roland's pictures'--that was the first
thought. The second thought brings along the doubts, suggests
objections, endeavours to be judicial, deprecates haste, and calls for
the scales. 'They cannot,' said the second thought, 'be Roland's
paintings, because Mr. Feilding says they are his.' The third thought,
which is the first strengthened by evidence, declared emphatically
that they were Roland's, whatever Mr. Feilding might say, and could
be the work of none other.

Therefore, the cleverest man in all London, according to everybody,
the best and most generous and most honourable, according to Armorel's
companion, was an impostor and a Liar. Never before had she ever heard
of such a Liar.

Armorel, it is true, knew but little of the crooked paths by which
many men perform this earthly pilgrimage from the world which is to
the world which is to come. Children born on Samson--nay, even those
also of St. Mary's--have few opportunities of observing these ways.
That is why all Scillonians are perfectly honest: they do not know how
to cheat--even those who might wish to become dishonest, if they knew.
In her five years' apprenticeship the tree of knowledge had dropped
some of its baleful fruit at Armorel's feet: that cannot be avoided
even in a convent garden. Yet she had not eaten largely of the fruit,
nor with the voracity that distinguishes many young people of both
sexes when they get hold of these apples. In other words, she only
knew of craft and falsehood in general terms, as they are set forth in
the Gospels and by the Apostles, and especially in the Book of
Revelation, which expressly states the portion of liars. Yet, even
with this slight foundation to build upon, Armorel was well aware that
here was a fraud of a most monstrous character. Surely, there never
was, before this man, any man in the world who dared to present to the
world another man's paintings, and to call them his own? Men and women
have claimed books which they never wrote--witness the leading case of
the false George Eliot and the story told by Anthony Trollope; men
have pretended to be well-known writers--did I not myself once meet a
man in an hotel pretending to be one of our most genial of
story-tellers? Men have written things and pretended that they were
the work of famous hands. Literature--alas!--hath many impostors. But
in Art the record is clean. There are a few ghosts, to be sure, here
and there--sporadic spectres!--but they are obscure and mostly
unknown. Armorel had never heard or seen any of them. Surely there
never before was any man like unto this man!

And, apart from the colossal impudence of the thing, she began to
consider the profound difficulties in carrying it out. Because, you
see, no one man, unaided, could carry it through. It requires the
consent, the silence, and the active--nay, the zealous--cooperation of
another man. And how are you to get that man?

In order to get this other man--this active and zealous
fellow-conspirator--you must find means to persuade him to sacrifice
every single thing that men care for--honour, reputation, success. He
must be satisfied to pursue Art, actually and literally, for Art's own
sake. This is, I know, a rule of conduct preached by every art critic,
every æsthete, every lecturer or writer on Art. Yet observe what it
may lead to. Was there, for instance, an unknown genius who gave his
work to Giotto, with permission to call it his own? And was that
obscure genius content to sit and watch that work in the crowd, unseen
and unsuspected, while he murmured praises and thanksgiving for the
skill of hand and eye which had been given to him, but claimed by that
other young man, Messer Giotto? Did Turner have his ghost? Sublime
sacrifice of self! So to pursue Art for Art's sake as to give your
pictures to another man by which he may rise to honour--even, it may
be, to the Presidency of the Royal Academy, contented only with the
consciousness of good and sincere work, and with the possession of
mastery! It is beyond us: we cannot achieve this greatness--we cannot
rise to this devotion. Art hath no such votaries. By what persuasions,
then--by what bribes--was Roland induced to consent to his own
suicide--ignoble, secret, and shameful suicide?

He must have consented; in no other way could the thing be done. He
must have agreed to efface himself--but not out of pure devotion to
Art. Not so. The Roland of the past survived still. The burning desire
for distinction and recognition still flamed in his soul. The
bitterness and shame with which he spoke of himself proved that his
consent had been wrung from him. He was ashamed. Why? Because another
bore the honours that should be his. Because he was a bondman of the
impostor. Of this Armorel was certain. Roland Lee--the man whom for
five long years she had imagined to be marching from triumph to
triumph--conqueror of the world--had sold himself--for what
consideration she knew not--hand and eye, genius and brain, heart and
soul--had sold himself into slavery. He had consented to a monstrous
and most impudent fraud! And the man who stood before the canvas in
public, writing his name in the corner, was--the noun appellative, the
proper noun--belonging to such an act. And her own friend--her gallant
hero of Art--what else was he in this conspiracy of two? You cannot
persuade a woman--such is the poverty of the feminine imagination--to
call a thing like this by any other name than its plain, simple, and
natural one. A man may explain away, find excuses, make suggestions,
point out extenuating circumstances, show how the force of events
destroys free will, and propose a surplice and a golden crown for the
unfortunate victim of fate, instead of bare shoulders and the
nine-clawed cat. But a woman--never. If the thing done is a Lie, the
man who did it is a ----

'Armorel,' said her companion--it was in the afternoon, and she had
been dozing after her lunch--'what is the matter? You have been
sitting in the window, which has a detestable view of a dismal street,
for two long hours without talking. At lunch you sat as if in a dream.
Are you ill? Has anything happened? Has the respectable Mr. Jagenal
robbed you of your money? Has Philippa been saying amiable things
about me?'

'I have found out something which has disquieted me beyond
expression,' said Armorel, gravely.

Zoe changed colour. 'Heavens!'--she laughed curiously. 'What has come
out now? Anything about me? One never knows what may come out next. It
is very odd what a lot of things may be said about everybody.'

'My discovery has nothing to do with you, at least--no, nothing at
all.'

'That is reassuring.' It certainly was, as everybody knows who does
not wish the curtain to draw up once again on the earlier and
half-forgotten scenes of the play. 'Perhaps it might relieve you,
dear, if you were to tell me. But do not think I am curious. Besides,
I dare say I could tell you more than you could tell me. Is it about
Philippa's hopeless attachment for the man who will never marry her,
and her cruelty to the reverend gentleman who will?'

'No--no: it is nothing about Philippa. I know nothing about any
attachments.'

'Well, you will tell me when you please.' Zoe relapsed into warmth and
silence. But she watched the girl from under her heavy eyelids.
Something had happened--something serious. Armorel pursued her
meditations, but in a different line. She now remembered that the
leader in this Fraud was the man whom Zoe professed to honour above
all other living men: could she tell this disciple what she had
discovered? One might as well inform Kadysha that her prophet Mohammed
was an epileptic impostor. And, again, he was Philippa's first cousin,
and she regarded him with pride, if not--as Zoe suggested--with a
warmer feeling still. How could she bring this trouble upon Philippa?

And, again, it was Roland's secret. How could she reveal a thing which
would cover him with ridicule and discredit for the rest of his life?
She must be silent for the sake of everybody.

'Zoe,' she sprang to her feet, 'don't ask me anything more. Forget
what I said. It is not my own secret.'

'My dear child,' Zoe murmured, 'if nobody has run away with your
money, and if you have found out no mares' nests about me, I don't
mind anything. I have already quite forgotten. Why should I remember?'

'Of course,' Armorel repeated impatiently--this companion of hers
often made her impatient--'there is nothing about you. It
concerns----'

'Mr. Feilding.'

It was only an innocent maid who opened the door to announce an
afternoon caller; but Armorel started, for really it was the right
completion to her sentence, though not the completion she meant to
make.

He came in--the man of whom her mind was full--tall, handsome, calm,
and self-possessed. Authority sat, visible to all, upon his brow. His
dress, his manner, his voice, proclaimed the man who had
succeeded--who deserved to succeed. Oh! how could it be possible?

Armorel mechanically gave him her hand, wondering. Then, quite in the
old style, and as a survival of Samson Island, there passed rapidly
through her mind the whole procession of those texts which refer to
liars. For the moment she felt curious and nervously excited, as one
who should talk with a man condemned. Then she came back to London and
to the exigencies of the situation. Yet it was really quite wonderful.
For he sat down and began to talk for all the world as if he was a
perfectly truthful person: and she rang the bell for tea, and poured
it out for him, as if she knew nothing to the contrary. That he, being
what he was, should so carry himself; that she, who knew everything,
should sit down calmly and put milk and sugar in his tea, were two
facts so extraordinary that her head reeled.

Presently, however, she began to feel amused. It was like knowing
beforehand, so that the mind is free to think of other things, the
story and the plot of a comedy. She considered the acting and the
make-up. And both were admirable. The part of successful genius could
not be better played. One has known genius too modest to accept the
position, happiest while sitting in a dark corner. Here, however, was
genius stepping to the front and standing there boldly in sight of
all, as if the place was his by the double right of birth and of
conquest.

He sat down and began to talk of Art. He seldom, indeed, talked about
anything else. But Art has many branches, and he talked about them
all. To-day, however, he discoursed on drawing and painting. He was
accustomed to patient listeners, and therefore he assumed that his
discourse was received with respect, and did not observe the
preoccupied look on the face of the girl to whom he discoursed--for
Zoe made no pretence of listening, except when the conversation seemed
likely to take a personal turn. Nor did he observe how from time to
time Armorel turned her eyes upon him--eyes full of astonishment--eyes
struck with amazement.

Presently he descended for awhile from the heights of principle to the
lower level of personal topic. 'Mrs. Elstree tells me,' he said,
smiling with some condescension, 'that you paint--of course as an
amateur--as well as play. If you can draw as well as you can play you
are indeed to be envied. But that is, perhaps, too much to be
expected. Will you show me some of your work? And will you--without
being offended--suffer me to be a candid critic?'

Armorel went gravely to her own room and returned with a small
portfolio full of drawings which she placed before him, still with the
wonder in her eyes. What would he say--this man who passed off another
man's pictures for his own? She stood at the table over him, looking
down upon him, waiting to see him betray himself--the first criminal
person--the first really wicked man--she had ever encountered in the
flesh.

'You are not afraid of the truth?' he asked, turning over the
sketches. 'In Art--truth--truth is everything. Without truth there is
no Art. Truth and sincerity should be our aim in criticism as well as
in Art itself.'

Oh! what kind of conscience could this man have who was able so to
talk about Art, seeing what manner of man he was? Armorel glanced at
Zoe, half afraid that he would convict himself in her presence. But
she seemed asleep, lying back in her cushions.

His remarks were judgments. Once pronounced, there was no appeal. Yet
his judgments produced no effect upon the girl, not the least. She
listened, she heard, she acquiesced in silence.

Perhaps because he was struck with her coldness he left off examining
the sketches, and began a learned little discourse about composition
and harmony, selection and grouping. He illustrated these remarks, not
obtrusively, but quite naturally, by referring to his own pictures,
appealing to Zoe, who lazily raised her head and murmured response, as
one who knew it all beforehand. Now, as to the discourse itself,
Armorel recognised every word of it already: she had read and had been
taught these very things. It showed, she thought, what a pretender the
man must be not to understand work that had been done by one who had
studied seriously, and already knew all that he was laboriously
enforcing. But she said nothing. It was, moreover, the lesson of a
professor, not of an artist. Between the professional critic who can
neither paint nor draw and the smallest of the men who can paint and
draw there is, if you please, a gulf fixed that cannot be passed over.

'This drawing, for instance,' he concluded, taking up one from the
table, 'betrays exactly the weakness of which I have been speaking. It
has some merit. There is a desire for truth--without truth what are
we? The lights are managed with some dexterity, the colour has real
feeling. But consider this figure. From sheer ignorance of the
elementary considerations which I have been laying down, you have
placed it exactly in front. Had it been here, at the right, the effect
of the figure in bringing up the whole of the picture would have been
heightened tenfold. For my own part, I always like a figure in a
painting--a single figure for choice--a girl, because the treatment of
the hair and the dress lends itself to effect.'

'His famous girl!' echoed Zoe. 'That model whom nobody is allowed to
see!'

Now, the figure was placed in the middle for very excellent reasons,
and in full consideration of those very principles which this
expounder had been setting forth. But what yesterday would have
puzzled her, now amused her one moment and irritated her the next.

He took up a crayon. 'Shall I show you,' he asked, 'exactly what I
mean?'

'If you please. Here is a piece of paper which will do.'

He spoke in the style which Matthew Arnold so much admired--the Grand
Style--the words clear and articulate, the emphasis just, the manner
authoritative. 'I will just indicate your background,' he said,
poising the pencil professionally--he looked as if the Grand Style
really belonged to him--'in two or three strokes, and then I will
sketch in your figure in the place--here--where it properly belongs.
You will see immediately, though, of course--your eye--cannot----' He
played with the chalk as one considering where to begin--but he did
not begin. Armorel remembered a certain day when Roland gave her his
first lesson, pencil in hand. Never was that pencil idle: it moved
about of its own accord: it was drawing all the time: it seemed to be
drawing out of its own head. Mr. Feilding, on the other hand, never
touched the paper at all. His pencil was dumb and lifeless. But
Armorel waited anxiously for him to begin. Now, at any rate, she
should see if he could draw. She was disappointed. The clock on the
overmantel suddenly struck six. Mr. Feilding dropped the crayon. 'Good
heavens!' he cried. 'You make one forget everything, Miss Rosevean. We
must put off the rest of this talk for another day. But you will
persevere, dear young lady, will you not? Promise me that you will
persevere. Even if the highest peak cannot be attained--we may not all
reach that height--it is something to stand upon the lower slope, if
it is only to recognise the greatness of those who are above and the
depths below--how deep they are!--of the world which knows no art.
Persevere--persevere! I will call again and help you, if I may.' He
pressed her hand warmly, and departed.

'I really think,' said Zoe, 'that he believes you worth teaching,
Armorel. I have never known him give so much time to any one girl
before. And if you only knew how they flock about him!'

'Zoe,' said Armorel, without answering this remark, 'you have seen all
Mr. Feilding's pictures, have you not?'

'I believe, all.'

'Do they all treat the same subject?'

'Up to the present, he has exhibited nothing but sea and coast pieces,
headlands, low tide on the rocks, and so forth. Always with this
black-haired girl--something like you, but not much more than a
child.'

'Did you ever see him actually at work?'

'You mean working at an unfinished thing? No; never. He cannot endure
anyone in his studio while he is at work.'

'Did he ever draw anything for you--any pen-and-ink sketch--pencil
sketch? Have you got any of his sketches--rough things?'

'No. Alec has a secretive side to his character. It comes out in odd
ways. No one suspected that he could paint, or even draw, until, three
or four years ago, he suddenly burst upon us with a finished picture;
and then it came out that he had been secretly drawing all his life,
and studying seriously for years. Where he will break out next, I
don't know.'

'He may break out anywhere,' said Armorel, 'except upon the fiddle. I
think that he will never play the fiddle. Yes, Zoe, he really is a
very, very clever man. He is certainly the very cleverest man in all
London.'



CHAPTER XII

TO MAKE THAT PROMISE SURE


There are few instincts and impulses of imperfect human nature more
deeply rooted or more certain to act upon us than the desire to 'have
it out' with some other human creature. Women are especially led or
driven by this impulse, even among the less highly civilised to the
tearing out of nose- and ear-rings. You may hear every day at all
hours in every back street of every city the ladies having it out with
each other. In fact there is a perpetual court of Common Pleas being
held in these streets, without respite of holiday or truce, in which
the folk have it out with each other, while friends--sympathetic
friends--stand by and act as judges, jury, arbitrators, lawyers, and
all. Things are reported, things are said, things are done, a personal
explanation is absolutely necessary, before peace of mind can be
restored, or the way to future action become clearly visible. The two
parties must have it out.

In Armorel's case she found that before doing anything she must see
that member of the conspiracy--if, indeed, there was a conspiracy--who
was her own friend: she must see Roland. She must know exactly what it
meant, if only to find out how it could be stopped. In plain words,
she must have it out. Those who obey a natural impulse generally
believe that they are acting by deliberate choice. Thus the doctrine
of free will came to be invented: and thus Armorel, when she took a
cab to the other studio, had no idea but that she was acting the most
original part ever devised for any comedy.

As before, she found the artist in his dingy back room, alone. But the
picture was advancing. When she saw it, a fortnight before, it was
little more than the ghost of a rock with a spectral sea and a shadowy
girl beside the sea. Now, it was advanced so far that one could see
the beginnings of a fine painting in it.

Roland stepped forward and greeted his old friend. Why--he was already
transformed. What had he done to himself? The black bar was gone from
his forehead: his eyes were bright: his cheeks had got something of
their old colour: his hair was trimmed, and his dress, as well as his
manner, showed a return to self-respect.

'What happy thought brings you here again, Armorel?' he asked, with
the familiarity of an old friend.

'I came to see you at work. Last time I came only to see you. Is it
permitted?'

'Behold me! I am at work. See my picture--all there is of it.'

Armorel looked at it long and carefully. Then she murmured
unintelligibly, 'Yes, of course. But there never could have been any
doubt.' She turned to the artist a face full of encouragement. 'What
did I prophesy for you, Roland? That you should be a great painter?
Well, my prophecy will come true.'

'I hope, but I fear. I am beginning the world again.'

'Not quite. Because you have never ceased to work. Your hand is firmer
and your eye is truer now than it was four years ago, when you--ceased
to exhibit. But you have never ceased to work. So that you go back to
the world with better things.'

'They refused to buy my things before.'

'They will not refuse now. Nay, I am certain. Don't think of money, my
old friend: you must not--you shall not think of money. Think of
nothing but your work--and your name. What ought to be done to a man
who should forget his name? He deserves to be deprived of his genius,
and to be cast out among the stupid. But you, Roland, you were always
keen for distinction--were you not?'

He made no reply.

'How well I know the place,' she said, standing before the picture.
'It is the narrow channel between Round Island and Camber Rock. Oh!
the dear, terrible place. When you and I were there, you remember,
Roland, the water was smooth and the sea-birds were flying quietly. I
have seen them driven by the wind off the island and beating up
against it like a sailing ship. But in September there are no puffins.
And I have seen the water racing and roaring through the channel,
dashing up the black sides of the rocks--while we lay off, afraid to
venture near. It was low tide when you made your sketch. I remember
the long, yellow fringing sea-weed hanging from the rock six feet
deep. And there is your girl sitting in the boat. Oh! I remember her
very well. What a happy time she had while you were with her, Roland!
You were the very first person to show her something of the outer
world. It seemed, when you were gone, as if you had taken that girl
and planted her on a high rock so that she could see right across the
water to the world of men and Art. You always keep this girl in your
pictures?'

'Always in these pictures of coast and rock.'

'Roland, I want you to make a change. Do not paint the girl of sixteen
in this picture. Let me be your model instead. Put me into the
picture. It is my fancy. Will you let me sit for you again?'

'Surely, Armorel, if I may. It will be--oh, but you cannot--you must
not come to this den of a place.'

'Indeed, I think it is not a nice place at all. But I shall stipulate
that you take another and a more decent studio immediately. Will you
do this?'

'I will do anything--anything--that you command.'

'You know what I want. The return of my old friend. He is on his way
back already.'

'I know--I know. But whether he ever can come back again I know not. A
shade or spectre of him, perhaps, or himself, besmirched and smudged,
Armorel--dragged through the mud.'

'No. He shall come back--himself--in spotless robes. Now you shall
take a studio, and I will come and sit to you. I may bring my little
friend, Effie Wilmot, with me? That is agreed, then. You will go, Sir,
this very morning and find a studio. Have you gone back to your old
friends?'

'Not yet. I had very few friends. I shall go back to them when I have
got work to show. Not before.'

'I think you should go back as soon as you have taken your new studio.
It will be safer and better. You have been too much alone. And there
is another thing--a very important thing--the other night you made me
a promise. You tore up something that looked like a cheque. And you
assured me that this meant nothing less than a return to the old
paths.'

'When I tore up that accursed cheque, Armorel, I became a free man.'

'So I understood. But when one talks of free men one implies the
existence of the master or owner of men who are not free. Have you
signified to that master or owner your intention to be his bondman no
longer?'

'No. I have not.'

'This man, Roland,' she laid her hand on his, 'tell me frankly, has he
any hold upon you?'

'None.'

'Can he injure you in any way? Can he revenge himself upon you? Is
there any old folly or past wickedness that he can bring up against
you?'

'None. I have to begin the world again: that is the outside mischief.'

'All your pictures you have sold to this man, Roland, with me in every
one?'

'Yes, all. Spare me, Armorel! With you in every one. Forgive me if you
can!'

'I understand now, my poor friend, why you were so cast down and
ashamed. What? You sold your genius--your holy, sacred genius--the
spirit that is within you! You flung yourself away--your name, which
is yourself--you became nothing, while this man pretends that the
pictures--yours--were his! He puts his name to them, not your
own--he shows them to his friends in the room that he calls his
studio--he sends them to the exhibition as his own--and yet you
have been able to live! Oh, how could you?--how could you? Oh! it
was shameful--shameful--shameful! How could you, Roland? Oh, my
master!--I have loaded you with honour--oh, how could you?--how
could you?'

The vehemence of her indignation soon revived the old shame. Roland
hung his head.

'How could I?' he repeated. 'Yes, say it again--ask the question a
thousand times--how could I?'

'Forgive me, Roland! I have been thinking about it continually. It is
a thing so dreadful, and yesterday something--an unexpected
something--brought it back to my mind--and--and--made me understand
more what it meant. And oh, Roland, how could you? I thought, before,
that you had only idled and trifled away your time; but now I know.
And again--again--again--how could you?'

'It is no excuse--but it is an explanation--I do not defend myself.
Not the least in the world--but ... Armorel, I was starving.'

'Starving?'

'I could not sell my pictures. No one wanted them. The dealers would
give me nothing but a few shillings apiece for them. I was penniless,
and I was in debt. A man who drops into London out of Australia has no
circle of friends and cousins who will stand by him. I was alone.
Perhaps I loved too well the luxurious life. I tried for employment on
the magazines and papers, but without success. In truth, I knew not
where to look for the next week's rent and the next week's meals. I
was a Failure, and I was penniless. Do you ask more?'

'Then the man came----'

'He came--my name was worth nothing--he asked me to suppress it. My
work--which no one would buy--he offered to buy for what seemed, in my
poverty, substantial prices if I would let him call it his own. What
was the bargain? A life of ease against the bare chance of a name with
the certainty of hard times. I was so desperate that I accepted.'

'You accepted. Yes.... But you might have given it up at any moment.'

'To be plunged back again into the penniless state. For the life of
ease, mark you, brought no ease but a bare subsistence. Only quite
lately, terrified by the success of the last picture, my employer has
offered to give me two thirds of all he gets. The cheque you saw me
tear up and burn was the first considerable sum I have ever received.
It is gone, and I am penniless again----'

'And now that you are penniless?'

'Now I shall pawn my watch and chain and everything else that I
possess. I shall finish this picture, and I will sell it for what the
dealers will give me for it. Too late, this year, for exhibition. And
so ... we shall see. If the worst comes I can carry a pair of boards
up and down Piccadilly, opposite to the Royal Academy, and dream of
the artistic life that once I hoped would be my own.'

'You will do better than that, Roland,' said Armorel, moved to tears.
'Oh! you will make a great name yet. But this man--don't tell me his
name. Roland, promise me, please, not to tell me his name. I want
you--just now--to think that it is your own secret--to yourself. If I
should find it out, by accident, that would be--just now--my
secret--to myself. This man--you have not yet broken with him?'

'Not yet.'

'Will you go to him and tell him that it is all over? Or will you
write to him?'

'I thought that I would wait, and let him come to me.'

'I would not, if I were you. I would write and tell him at once, and
plainly. Sit down, Roland, and write now--at once--without delay. Then
you will feel happier.'

'I will do what you command me,' he replied meekly. He had, indeed,
resolved with all his might and main that the rupture should be made;
but, as yet, he had not made it.

'Get paper, then, and write.'

He obeyed, and sat down. 'What shall I say?' he asked.

'Write: "After four years of slavery, I mean to become a man once
more. Our compact is over. You shall no longer put your name to my
works; and I will no longer share in the infamy of this fraud. Find,
if you can, some other starving painter, and buy him. I have torn up
your cheque, and I am now at work on a picture which will be my own.
If there is any awkwardness about the subject and the style, in
connection with the name upon it, that awkwardness will be yours, not
mine." So--will you read it aloud? I think,' said Armorel, 'that it
will do. He will probably come here and bluster a little. He may even
threaten. He may weep. You will--Roland--are you sure--you will be
adamant?'

'I swear, Armorel! I will be true to my promise.'

Armorel heaved a sigh. Would he stand steadfast? He might have much to
endure. Would he be able to endure hardness? It is only the very young
man who can be happy in a garret and live contentedly on a crust. At
twenty-six or twenty-seven, the age at which Roland had now arrived,
one is no longer quite so young. The garret is dismal: the crust is
insipid, unless there are solid grounds for hope. Yet he had the solid
grounds of improved work--good work.

'Should you be afraid of him?' she asked.

'Afraid of him?' Roland laughed. 'Why, I never meet him but I curse
him aloud. Afraid of him? No. I have never been afraid of anything but
of becoming penniless. Poverty--destitution--is an awful spectre. And
not only poverty but--I confess, with shame----'

'Oh! man of little faith'--she did not want to hear the end of that
confession--'you could not endure a single hour. You did this awful
thing for want of money.'

'I did,' said Roland, meekly.

'The Way of Pleasure and the Way of Wealth. I remember--you told me
long ago--they draw the young man by ropes. But not the girl. Why not
the girl? I have never felt this strange yearning for riot and excess.
In all the poetry, the novels, the pictures, and the plays the young
men are always being dragged by ropes to the Way of Pleasure. Are men
so different from women? What does it mean--this yearning? I cannot
understand it. What is your Way of Pleasure that it should attract you
so? Your poetry and your novels cannot explain it. I see feasting in
the Way of Pleasure, drinking, singing, dancing, gambling, sitting up
all night, and love-making. As for work, there is none. Why should the
young man want to feast? It is like a City Alderman to be always
thinking of banquets. Why should you want to drink wine perpetually? I
suppose you do not actually get tipsy. If you can sing and like
singing, you can sing over your work, I suppose. As for
love-making'--she paused. The subject, where a young man and a maiden
discuss it, has to be treated delicately.

'I have always supposed'--she added, with hesitation, for experience
was lacking--'that two people fall in love when they are fitted for
each other. But in this, your wonderful Way of Pleasure, the poets
write as if every man was always wanting to make love to every woman
if she is pleasant to look at, and without troubling whether she is
good or bad, wise or silly. Oh! every woman! any woman! there is
neither dignity of manhood nor self-respect nor respect to woman in
this folly.'

'You cannot understand any of it, Armorel,' said Roland. 'We ought all
of us to be flogged from Newgate to Tyburn.'

'That would not make me understand. Flora, Chloe, Daphne,
Amaryllis--they are all the same to the poet. A pretty girl seems all
that he cares for. Can that be love?'

'--And back again,' said Roland.

'Still I should not understand. In the poetry I think that love-making
comes first, and eating and drinking afterwards. As for love-making,'
she spoke philosophically, as one in search of truth, 'as for
love-making, I believe I could wait contentedly without it until I
found exactly the one man I could love. But that I should take a
delight in writing or singing songs about making love to every man who
was a handsome fellow--any man--every man--oh! can one conceive such a
thing? There is but one Way of Pleasure to such as you, Roland. If I
could paint so good a picture as this is going to be, it would be a
life-long joy. I should never, never, never tire of it. I should want
no other pleasure--nothing better--than to work day after day, to work
and study, to watch and observe, to feel the mastery of hand and eye.
Oh! Roland--with this before you--with this'--she pointed to the
picture--'you sold your soul--you--you--you!--for feasting and
drinking and--and--perhaps----'

'No, Armorel: no. Everything else if you like, but not love-making.'



CHAPTER XIII

THE DRAMATIST


If Mrs. Elstree was Armorel's official and authorised companion, her
private unpaid companion was Effie Wilmot. The official companion was
resident in the chambers, and was seen with her charge at the theatres
and concerts. The private unpaid companion went about with her all day
long, sat with her in her own room, knew what she thought, and talked
with her of the things she loved to discuss. So that, though the
representative of Order and Propriety had less to do, the unpaid
attachée had a much more lively time. Fortunately, the official
companion was best pleased when there was nothing to do. In those
days, when London was as yet an unknown land to both of them, the
girls went together to see things. Nobody knows what a great quantity
of things there are to see in London when you once set yourself
seriously to explore this great unknown continent. Captain Magalhaens
himself, crossing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, did not
experience a more interesting and exciting time than these two girls
in their walks in and about the great town, new to both. They were as
ravenous as American tourists beginning their European round. And,
like them, they consulted their Baedeker, their Hare, and their Peter
Cunningham. Pictures there are, all in the West-End; museums, with
every kind of treasure; historic houses--alas! not many; libraries;
art galleries of all kinds; cathedrals, churches, ancient and modern;
old streets, whose paving-stones are inscribed in the closest print
with the most wonderful recollections; old sites, broken fragments,
even. Every morning the two girls wandered forth, sometimes not coming
home until late in the afternoon. Then Effie went back to her lodging,
and spent the evening working at her verses; while Armorel practised
her violin, or read and dreamed away the time opposite her companion,
who sat for the most part in silence, gazing into the firelight, lying
back in her easy-chair beside the fire.

These ramblings belong to another book--the Book of the Things Left
Out. I could show you, dear reader, many curious and interesting
places visited by these two pilgrims, but one must not in this place
write these down, because Armorel's story is not Armorel's history.
Let us always be careful to distinguish. Besides, the events which
have to be related destroyed, as you will see, the calm and
tranquillity necessary for the proper enjoyment of such ramblings.
First, this discovery concerning the pictures. Who can visit old
churches and museums with a mind full of wrath and bitterness? So
wrathful was Armorel in considering the impudence of the fraud she had
discovered: so bitter was she in considering the cowardice of her old
hero: that she even failed to observe the unmistakable signs of
trouble which at this time showed themselves in her friend's face. If
not a beautiful face, it was expressive. When the projecting forehead
showed a thick black line: when the deep-set eyes were ringed with
dark circles: when the pale cheeks grew paler and more hollow: and
when the girl, who was generally so bright and animated, became silent
and _distraite_, something was wrong.

'What is it, Effie?' Armorel asked, waking up. 'I have asked you three
questions, and have received no answer. And you are looking ill. Has
anything gone wrong?'

'Oh!' cried Effie, 'it is horrid! You are in troubles of your own, and
you want me to add to them by telling you about mine.'

'I am in trouble, dear. And it makes me selfish and blind. You know
partly what it is about. It is about the Life that has gone wrong. I
have found out why and how. But I can never tell you or anybody. Never
mind. Tell me about yourself.'

'It is more about my brother than myself. You know that Archie has
been writing a play?'

'Yes. You write verses which you have never shown me; and your brother
writes plays. I shall see both some day, perhaps.'

'Whenever you like. But Archie has now finished his play.'

'Yes?'

'That means to him more than I can possibly tell you. He has been
living for that play, and for nothing else. It has filled his brain
day and night. Never was so much trouble given to a play before, I am
sure. It is himself.'

'I understand.'

'Well--then--you will understand also what he feels when he has been
told that his play is utterly worthless.'

'Who told him that?'

'A great authority--a writer of great reputation--the only living
writer whom we have ever known.'

'Well--but--Effie, if a great authority says this, it is frightful.'

'It would be, but for one thing, which you shall hear afterwards.
However, he did confess that some of the situations were fine. But the
dialogue, he said, was unfitted for the stage, and no manager would so
much as look at the play.'

'Poor Archie! What a dreadful blow! What does he say?'

'He is utterly cast down. He sits at home and broods. Sometimes he
swears that he will tear up the thing and throw it into the fire;
sometimes he recovers a little of his old confidence in it. He will
not eat anything, and he does not sleep; and I can find nothing to say
that will comfort him. If I knew anyone who would give him another
opinion--the play cannot be so bad. Armorel, will you read the play?'

'But, my dear, I am no critic. What would be the good of my reading
it?'

'I would rather have your criticism than'--she hesitated--'than
anybody's. Because you can feel--and you have the artist's soul; and
everybody has not----though he may paint such beautiful pictures,' she
added rather obscurely.

'Well, I will read the play, or hear him read it, if you think it will
do him any good, Effie. I will go with you at once.'

'Oh! will you, really? Archie will be shy at first. The last criticism
caused him so much agony that he dreads another. But yours will be
sympathetic, at least. You will understand what he meant, even if he
has not succeeded--poor boy!--in putting on the stage what was in his
heart. When he sees that you do feel for him, it will be different.
Oh! Armorel!'--the tears rose to her eyes--'you cannot know what that
play has been to both of us. We have talked over every situation: we
have rehearsed all the dialogue. I know it by heart, I think. I could
recite the whole of it, straight through. We have cried over it, and
laughed over it. I have dressed dolls for all the parts, and one of us
made them act while the other read the play. And, after all, to be
told that it is worthless! Oh! It is a shame! It is a shame! And it
isn't worthless. It is a great, a beautiful play. It is full of
tenderness, and of strength as well.'

'Let us go at once, Effie.'

'What a good thing it was for me that the Head of the Reading Room
sent me to you! I little thought I was going to make such a
friend'--she took Armorel's hand--'We had no friends--yes, there was
one, but he is no true friend. We have had no friends at all, and we
thought to make our way without any.'

'You came to London to conquer the world--such a great giant of a
world--you and your brother, Jack the Giant Killer.'

'Ah! But we had read, somewhere, that the world is a good-natured
giant. He only asks to be amused. If you make him laugh or cry, and
forget, somehow, his own troubles--the world is full of troubles--he
will give in at once. Archie was going to make him laugh and cry; I
was going to tickle him with pretty rhymes. But you may play for him,
act for him, dance for him, paint for him, sing for him, make stories
for him--anything that you will, and he will be subdued. That is what
we read, and we kept on repeating this assurance to each other, but as
yet we have not got very far. The great difficulty seems to make him
look at you and listen to you.'

'My dear, you shall succeed.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The young dramatist was sitting at his table, as melancholy as Keats
might have been after the _Quarterly Review's_ belabouring. He looked
wretched: there was no pretence at anything else: it was unmitigated
wretchedness. Despair sat upon his countenance, visible for all to
see: his hair had not apparently been brushed, nor his collar changed,
since the misery began: he seemed to have gone to bed in his clothes.
Trouble does thus affect many men. It attacks even their clothes as
well as their hair and their minds. The manuscript was lying on the
table before him, but the pen was dry: he had no longer any heart to
correct the worthless thing. It was the hour of his deepest dejection.
The day before he had plucked up a little courage: perhaps the critic
was wrong: to-day all was blackness.

'Here is Armorel, Archie!' cried Effie, with the assumption of
cheerfulness.

'I have come to ask a favour,' said Armorel, taking the hand that was
mechanically extended. 'I hear that your play is finished, and I am
told that it is a beautiful play.'

'No--it isn't,' said the author.

'And that an unkind critic has said horrid and unkind things about it.
And I want to read it, if I may. Oh! I am not a great critic, but,
indeed, Archie, I have some feeling for Art and for things beautiful.
May I read it?'

'The play is perfectly worthless,' he replied sternly, but with signs
of softening. 'It is only waste of time to read it. Better throw it
behind the fire!' He seized the manuscript as he spoke, but he did not
throw it behind the fire.

'Is your critic a dramatist?'

'No. He has never written a play that I know of. But he is a great
authority. Everybody would acknowledge that.'

'A critic who has never written a play may very easily make mistakes,'
said Armorel. 'You have only to read the critiques of pictures in the
papers written by men who cannot paint. They are full of mistakes.'

'This man would not make a mistake, would he, Effie?'

'Well, dear, I think he might, and besides, remember what he said at
the conclusion.' Armorel sat down. 'Now,' she said, 'tell me first
what the play is about, and then read it, or let Effie read it. I am
sure she will read it a great deal better than you.'

He hesitated. He was ashamed to show his miserable work to a second
critic. And yet he longed to have another opinion, because, when he
came to think about it, he could not understand why the thing could be
called worthless.

He yielded. He read, with faltering accents, the scenario which he had
prepared with so much pride. Now it was like unrolling a canvas daubed
for the scenery of Richardson's Show. He took no more pride in it.

'Oh!' cried Armorel, interrupting. 'This seems to me a very fine
situation.'

'My critic said that some of the situations were fine.'

He went on to the end without further interruption.

'Now, Effie,' said Armorel, 'you will read it aloud while your brother
plays it with his dolls. Then I am sure to catch the points.'

Archie sat up, and began to place his dolls while Effie read. He was
so expert in manipulating his puppets that he made them actually
represent the piece, changing the groups every moment, while Effie,
dropping the manuscript, folded her arms and recited the play,
watching Armorel's face.

This was quite another kind of critic. It was such a critic as the
playwright loves when he sits in his box and watches the people in the
house--a face which is easily moved to laughter or to tears, which
catches the points and feels the story. There are thousands of such
faces in every theatre every night. It is for them that the play is
written, and not for the critic, who comes to show his superiority by
picking out faults and watching for slips. For two hours, not pausing
for the division of the acts, Effie went on, her soft voice rising and
falling, the passion indicated but repressed; and Archie watched, and
moved his groups, and the audience of one sat motionless but not
unmoved.

'What?' she cried, springing to her feet and clasping her hands. It is
easy for this fine gesture to become theatrical and unreal, but
Armorel was never unreal. 'He dared to call this splendid play--this
glorious play--oh, this beautiful, sweet, and noble play!'--here
Archie's eyes began to fill, and his lips to quiver: he was but a
young dramatist, and of praise he had as yet had none--'he dared to
call this worthless?'

'He said it was utterly worthless,' said Effie.

'He said,' Archie added, 'that the language was wholly unfitted for
the stage. And then--then--after he'd said that, he offered to give me
fifty pounds for it.'

'Fifty pounds for a play quite worthless?'

'On the condition that he was to bring it out himself if he pleased,
under his own name.'

'Oh! but this is monstrous! Can there be,' asked Armorel, thinking of
the pictures, 'two such men in London?'

'If I would let him call it his own! He wants to take my
play--mine--to do what he likes with it--to bring it out as if it was
his own! Never! Never! I would rather starve first.'

'What did you tell him?'

'He said that he would wait for an answer. I have sent him none as
yet.'

'When you do,' said Armorel, 'let there be no hesitation or
possibility of mistaking. Oh! If I could tell you a thing that I
know!'

'I will put it quite plainly. Effie, am I the same man? I feel
transformed. What a difference it makes only to think that, perhaps,
after all one is not such a dreadful failure!' In fact, he looked
transformed. The trouble had gone out of him--out of his face--out of
his hair--out of his clothes--out of his attitude. Armorel even
fancied that his limp, day-before-yesterday's collar had become white
and starched again. That may have been mere fancy, but joy certainly
produces very strange effects.

'I would have sent an answer before,' he said, 'but it is so unlucky
for Effie. This great man--this critic--is the only editor who would
ever take her verses. And now, of course, he will be offended, and
will never take any more.'

'He shall not have any more,' said Effie, with red cheeks.

'Oh! But that would be horribly mean. Well, Archie, I will begin by
taking advice. I know a dramatic critic--his name is Stephenson. I
will ask him what you should do next, and I will ask him about your
verses, Effie, too--those verses which you are always going to show
me.'

'I tell her,' said her brother, 'that she will easily find another
editor. You would say so too, if you were to see her verses. I am
always telling her she ought to show them to you.'

The poet blushed. 'Some day, perhaps, when I am very courageous.'

'No--to-day.' Archie opened a drawer and took out a manuscript book
bound in limp brown leather. 'I will read you one,' he said.

'Of course, you will say kind things,' said the poet. 'But you cannot
deceive me, Armorel. I shall tell by your eyes and by your face if you
really like my rhymes.'

'Well, I will read one, and I will lend you the volume, and then you
will see whether Effie hasn't got her gifts as well as anybody else.'

He turned over the pages, selected a poem, and read it. The lines
showed, first of all, the command that comes of long and constant
practice; and next, they were sweet, simple, and pure in tone.

'Strange!' said Armorel. 'I seem to have heard something like them
before--a phrase, perhaps. Where did I read only the other day?...
Never mind. But, Effie, this is not ordinary girl's verse.'

'Oh! you really like it?'

'Of course I like it. But it is so strange--I seemed to know the
style. May I borrow the whole volume? I will be very careful with it.
Thank you. I will carry it home with me. And now--I have thought of a
plan. Listen, Archie. You know that many young dramatists bring out
their pieces first at a matinée. Now, suppose that you read your
piece, Archie, in my rooms in the evening. Should you like to do so?'

'I read badly,' he said. 'Could Effie read or recite it?'

'The very thing. Bring your dolls along and arrange your groups, while
Effie recites. You will do that, Effie?'

'I will do anything that will help Archie.'

'Very well, then. We will get an evening fixed as soon as possible. I
fear we shall have to wait a week at least. I will get my dramatic
critic and a few more people, and we will have a private performance
of our own. And then we shall defy this critic who said the piece was
worthless--and then wanted to buy it and to bring it out as his own. I
could not have believed,' she added, 'that there were two such
impudent pretenders and liars to be found in the whole of London.'

'Two?' asked Ellie, changing colour. 'There can be only one.'



CHAPTER XIV

AN HONOURABLE PROPOSAL


At the same time Mr. Alec Feilding, whose ears ought to have been
burning, was engaged in a serious conversation in his own studio with
Armorel's companion. The conversation took the form of reproach. 'I
expected,' he said--'I had a right to expect--greater devotion--more
attention to business. It was not for play that you undertook the
charge of this girl. How long have you been with her? Three months?
And no more influence with her than when you began.'

'Not a bit more,' Mrs. Elstree replied. She had of course taken the
most comfortable chair by the fire. 'Not a bit, my dear Alec. What is
more, I never shall have any influence over her. A society girl I
could manage. I know what she wants, and how she looks at things. With
such a girl as Armorel I am powerless.'

'She is a woman, I suppose.' He occupied a commanding position on his
own hearthrug, towering above his visitor, but yet he did not command
her.

'Therefore, you think, open to flattery and artful wiles. She is a
woman, and yet, strange to say, not open to flattery.'

'Rubbish! It is because you are too stupid or too careless to find out
the weak point.'

'To return, Alec: I have failed. I have no influence at all upon this
girl. I have spent hours and hours in singing your praise. I have
enlarged upon the absolute necessity of giving you a rest from
business cares. I have proposed that she and I together--that was the
way I put it--should buy a share in the paper, and that she should
advance my half. Oh! I grew eloquent on the glory that two women thus
coming to the relief of a man like yourself would achieve in after
years. I tried to speak from my heart, Alec.' The woman caught his
hand, but he drew it away. 'Oh! you deserve no help. You are
hard-hearted, and you are selfish: you have broken every promise you
ever made me: you spend all that you have in selfish pleasures: you
leave me almost without assistance----'

'When I have got you into the easiest and most luxurious berth that
can be imagined; when I have asked you for nothing but a simple----'

'Yes, dear Alec, but you see that an honest acknowledgment would be
worth all this goodness. Well, I say that I spoke from my heart,
because in spite of all I was proud of my man--mine, yes, though
Philippa still imagines, poor wretch!'

'Do leave my cousin's name out of it, will you, Zoe?' he said, a
little less roughly.

'I am proud of the man who is acknowledged to be the cleverest man in
London.' She got up and began to walk about the studio. She stopped
before the picture. 'Do you know, Alec--I am not a critic, but I can
feel a thing--that this is quite the best work you have ever done. Oh!
Those waves, they live and dance; and those birds, they fly; and the
air is so warm and soft!--you are a great painter. Odd! your girl is
curiously like Armorel. One would fancy your model was Armorel at
sixteen or so--a lovely girl she must have been then, and a lovely
woman she is now.' Zoe left the picture and began to look at the
papers on the table. 'What is this--the new story? Is it good?'

'To you, Zoe, I may confess that it is as good as anything I have ever
done.'

'You are really splendid, Alec! What is this?' She took up a very
neatly written page in his handwriting. 'Poetry?'

'Those are some verses for next week's journal. I think there is no
falling off there, Zoe.'

'Have you got another copy?'

'There is the copy that has gone to the printers'.'

'Then I will take this. It will do for a present--the autograph
original draft of the poem--or I may keep it.'

'Zoe, come back and sit down. We must talk seriously.'

She returned and took up her old position by the fire. 'As seriously
as you please. It means something disagreeable--something to do with
money. Let us get it over. To go back to what we were saying,
therefore. I cannot get you that money from Armorel. And at the very
word of money she refers one to her lawyer. No confidence at all, as
between friends who love each other. That is the position, Alec.' She
sat with her hands clasped over her right knee.

'I must have some money,' he said.

'Then, as I have before remarked, Alec--make it.'

'If one cannot have money, Zoe, one may get credit, which is sometimes
just as good.'

'I cannot help you in getting credit.'

'Perhaps you can. You can help me, Zoe, by keeping quite quiet.'

'Oh! I am always quiet. I have remained quiet for three years and
more, while you flirt with countesses and cousins. How much more quiet
do you wish me to remain? While you marry them?'

'Not quite that, my child. But next door to it. While I get engaged to
one of them--to one who has money.'

'Not--Philippa.'

'No--I told you before. What the devil is the good of harping on
Philippa? You see, if I can let it be understood that I am going to
marry an heiress, the difficulties will be tided over. Therefore I
shall get engaged to your charge--Armorel Rosevean.'

'Oh!' Zoe received this proposition with coldness. 'This is a charming
thing for me to sanction, isn't it?'

'It will do you no harm.'

'I have certainly endured things as bad.'

'You see, Zoe, one could always break off the thing when the time
came.'

'Certainly.'

'And you would know all the time that it was a mere pretence.'

'I should certainly know that.'

'Well; is there any other observation?'

'You would make it an open engagement--go about with her--have it
publicly known?'

'Of course. The whole point is publicity. I must be known to be
engaged to an heiress.'

'And it would last----'

'As long as might prove necessary. One could find an excuse at any
time for breaking it off.'

'Or I could.'

'Just so. It really amounts to nothing at all.'

'To nothing at all!' Zoe neither raised her voice nor her eyes. 'Here
is a man who proposes to pretend love and to win a girl's affections,
when he can never marry her. He also proposes to throw her over, as
soon as she has served his purpose. It is nothing at all, of course!
Alec, you are really a wonderful man!'

'Nonsense! The thing is done every day.'

'No--not every day. If you are the cleverest man in London, you are
also the most heartless.'

'You know that you can say what you please,' he replied, without any
outward sign of annoyance. 'Even heroics.'

'But,' she said, nursing her knee and swinging backwards and forwards,
'we have forgotten one thing--the most important thing of all, in
fact. My poor boy, there is no more chance of your being engaged to
Armorel than of your entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.'

'Why?'

'Other girls you might catch: you are tall and big and handsome; and
you have the reputation of being so very, very clever. Most girls
would be carried away. But not Armorel. She is not subdued by bigness
in men, and she doesn't especially care for a clever man. She is
actually so old-fashioned--think of it!--that she wants--character.'

'Well! What objection would that raise, I should like to know?'

Zoe laughed softly and sweetly.

'Don't you see, dear Alec? Oh! But you must let Armorel explain to
you.'



CHAPTER XV

NOT TWO MEN, BUT ONE


Great is the power of coincidence. Things have got a habit of
happening just when they are most likely to be useful. It is not on
the stage alone that the long-lost uncle turns up, or the long-missing
will is found in the cupboard. And you cannot invent for fiction
anything half so strange as the daily coincidence of common life. A
tolerably long experience of the common life has convinced me of this
great truth. Therefore, the coincidence which happened to Armorel on
the very day when the young dramatist unfolded his griefs will not, by
wise men, be thought at all strange.

It was in the evening. She was sitting with her companion, thinking
over Archie and his play. Was it really good? Was it good enough to
hold the stage, and to command the attention of the audience? To her
it seemed a singularly beautiful, poetical, and romantic piece. But
Armorel was of a lowly and humble mind. She knew that she had no
experience in things dramatic. Had it been a picture, now----

'Oh!' cried her companion, suddenly starting upright in the cushioned
chair where she was lying apparently asleep, 'I had almost forgotten.
My dear, I have got a present for you.'

'From yourself, Zoe?'

'Yes; from myself. It is a present which cost me nothing, but is worth
a good deal. The making of it cost nobody anything. Yet it is a very
precious thing. The material of which it is made is worth nothing. Yet
the thing is worth anything you please.'

'It must be a picture, then.'

'It is a Work of Art, but not a picture. Guess again.'

'No; I will not guess any more. May I have it without guessing?'

Zoe held in her hands a small roll of blue paper. This she now opened,
and gazed at the writing upon it with idolatry: but it hardly carried
conviction with it--perhaps it was a little overdone.

'Least imaginative of girls,' she said. It pleased her to consider
Armorel's refusal to join in that little scheme of hers as proving a
lack of imagination. 'I have brought you, though you do not deserve
it, what any other girl in London would give--would give--a dance,
perhaps, to obtain, and you shall have it for nothing.'

'I want to hear what it is.'

'It is nothing less, Armorel, nothing less--I got it to-day from the
table in his studio--than an autograph: it is the copy used by the
printers--an autograph poem of Alec's! An autograph poem, as yet
unpublished.'

'Is that all?' replied the least imaginative of girls. 'You must not
give it to me, really. You will value it far more than I shall.
Besides, I suppose it is to be published some day.'

'But the original manuscript--the autograph poem, dear child! Don't
you know the value of such a thing? Take it. You shall be enriched in
spite of yourself. Take it and put it aside somewhere in your desk, in
some safe place. Heavens! if one had the autograph of a poem of Byron,
for example!'

'Mr. Feilding is not Byron,' said Armorel, coldly. 'He may write
pretty feminine verses, but he is not Byron. Thank you, however. I
will take it, and I will keep it and value it because you think it
valuable. I do not suppose the autograph verses of small poets are
worth keeping; but still--as you value it' ...

This was very ungracious and ungrateful. But she was really tired of
Mr. Feilding's praises, and after the discovery of the pictures, and
after the strange story she had heard only that morning--no; she
wanted to hear no more, for the present, of the praises of this
man--the cleverest man in London!

However, she unrolled the paper, and began to read the contents, at
first carelessly. Then, 'Oh! what is this?' she cried.

'What is what?' asked Mrs. Elstree.

'This is a copy.'

They were the same words as she had used concerning the pictures. She
remembered this, and a strange suspicion seized her. 'A copy,' she
repeated, wondering.

'A copy? Not at all. They are the verses which are to appear in the
next number of the journal--or the number after next. Alec's own
verses, of course. Sweetly pretty, I think: what makes you say that
they are copied?'

'I thought that I had seen them--something like them--somewhere
before.' She went on reading. As she read she remembered the lines
more clearly.

'What is the matter, Armorel?' asked Zoe. 'What makes you look so
fierce? Heaven help your husband when you look like that!'

'Did I look fierce? It must have been something that I remembered.
Yes--that was it.'

'May I read the verses again?' Zoe read them, suspiciously. There was
something in them which had startled Armorel. What was it? She could
see nothing to account for this emotion. Certainly she was not fond of
poetry, and failed to appreciate the fine turns and subtle tones, the
felicitous phrase and the unexpected thought with which the poet
delights his readers. In this little poem she could find nothing but a
few jingling rhymes. Why should Armorel behave so strangely?

'What is it, my dear?' she asked again.

'Something I remembered--nothing of any importance.'

'Armorel, has Alec said anything to you? Has he--has he wanted to make
love to you? Has he offended you by speaking?'

'No. There has been no question of love-making between us, and there
never will be.'

'One cannot say.' Zoe looked at the matter from experience. 'One can
never say. Men are strange creatures; and Alec certainly thinks a
great deal of you.'

'I cannot imagine his making love--any more than I can imagine his
painting a picture or writing a poem. Perhaps he would make love as he
paints.'

'Well, he paints very well.'

'Very well indeed, I dare say.' She got up. 'I am going to leave you
to-night, Zoe. I want to go to my own room. I have things to write.
You don't mind?'

'My dear child, mind! Of course, one would rather have your company.
But since you must leave me'--she sank back in her chair with a sigh.
'Give me that book, dear--if you please--the French novel. When one
has been married one can read French novels without trying to conceal
the fact. They are mostly wicked, and sometimes witty. Not always.
Good-night, dear. I shall not expect you back this evening.'

Armorel, in her own room, opened the manuscript book of poems which
Archie had given her, and found--the very last of all--the lines which
she had remembered. She laid the precious autograph beside Effie's
poem. Word for word--comma for comma--they were exactly the same.
There was not the slightest difference. And again Armorel thought of
the two pictures.

Then she thought of the little dainty volume in white parchment
containing the Second Series of 'Voice and Echo, by Alec Feilding.'
She had tossed it aside, impatient with the man, when Zoe gave it to
her. Now she looked for it, and found it after a little search. She
opened it side by side with Effie's manuscript book. Presently she
found the page in Effie's book which corresponded with the first page
of the printed volume. There were about thirty or forty poems in the
little book: in the manuscript book there were double that number; but
the same poems followed each other one after the other in the same
order, and without the difference of a single word, both in book and
manuscript.

This discovery justifies my remarks about the common coincidences of
daily life.

Again Armorel remembered that Zoe possessed another volume--the First
Series of 'Voice and Echo, by Alec Feilding.' It was lying--she had
seen it in the afternoon--in the drawing-room. She went in search of
it, and returned without waking her companion, who had apparently
fallen asleep over her novel.

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Elstree was not sleeping. She was broad
awake, but she was curious. She desired to know what it all meant: why
Armorel was suddenly struck with hardness, why her cheek burned, and
her eyes flashed; and what she wanted in the drawing-room. She
perceived that Armorel had come in search of Alec's first volume of
verse. Oh! Alec's first volume of verse. Now--what might Armorel want
with that book?

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of March it is light at about half-past five. Everybody is
then in their soundest sleep. But at that hour Mrs. Elstree came
softly out of her bedroom, wrapped in a dressing-gown, her feet in
soft slippers of white wool, and looked at the books and papers on the
table in Armorel's room. There was a manuscript volume of verse,
professing to be by one Effie Wilmot. There were also two printed
little volumes, bound in white-and-gold, containing verses by one Alec
Feilding. Strange and wonderful! The verses in both books were exactly
the same! Mrs. Elstree returned to bed, thoughtful.

       *       *       *       *       *

Armorel, for her part, when she returned to her own room, compared the
first series of poems, as she had compared the second, with the
manuscript book. And the first series, too, word for word, was the
same as the earlier poems in the book.

'Good heavens!' cried Armorel. 'The man steals his verses, as he
steals his pictures! Poor Effie! She is as bad as Roland!'

This was Thought the First. One has already seen how the three
Thoughts treated her before. This time it was just the same. Thought
the Second came next, and began to argue. A very capable logician is
Thought the Second, once distinguished for what Oxford men call
Science. If, said Thought the Second, the manuscript and the volumes
agree, it seems to show that Effie has copied the latter into her own
book, and now tries to pass the poems off as her own. Such things have
been done. If this was the case--and why not?--Effie would be, indeed,
a girl full of deceit and desperately wicked. But then, how came Effie
to have in her volume a poem hitherto unpublished, which was lying on
Mr. Feilding's table? Yet, surely, it was quite as probable that the
girl should deceive her as that the man should deceive the world.

Next. Thought the Third. This sage remarked calmly, 'The man is full
of villany. He has deceived the world in the matter of the pictures.
Why not also in the matter of the poems? But let us consider the
character of the verses. Take internal evidence.' Then Armorel read
the whole series right through in the two little printed volumes. Oh!
They were feminine. Only a woman could write these lines. Womanhood
breathed in every one. Now that the key was supplied, she understood.
She recognised the voice, eager, passionate, of her friend.

'They are all Effie's!' she cried again; 'all--all. The man has stolen
his verses as well as his pictures.'

This discovery, when she had quite made up her mind that it was as
true as the former, entirely fell in with all that Effie had told her
concerning herself. She had sold her poems all to one editor--he was
the only editor who would ever take them--and now she was afraid that
he would take no more. Why?--why?--because--oh, now she understood
all--because he wanted to be a dramatist in the same way that he was a
painter and a poet, and neither Archie nor his sister would consent!
'Yes,' she said, 'he is, indeed, the cleverest man in London.'

Before she went to bed that night she had devised a little plan--quite
an ingenious clever little plan. You shall hear what it was, and how
it came off.



CHAPTER XVI

THE PLAY AND THE COMEDY


Armorel arranged for the reading of the play one evening four or five
days later. It was a short notice, but she secured the people whom she
wanted most, and trusted to chance for the others. She occupied
herself in the interval in arranging the details and leading
situations for a little comedy drama of her own--a play of some
melodramatic force, in which, as in 'Hamlet,' a certain guilty person
was to discover by a kind of dumb show that his guilt was known to
her. It was to be a comedy which no one, except herself, was to
understand. You shall see, directly, what an extremely clever little
comedy it was, and how effective to the person principally concerned.
She said nothing at all about this comedy even to Effie. As for words,
there were none. They were left to the principal character. This is,
indeed, the ancient and original drama. The situations were, at the
outset, devised beforehand. The actors filled in the dialogue. This
form of drama is still kept up, and with vigour. When the schoolboy
sets the booby-trap, or sews up the shirt-sleeves, or greases the
side-walk--if that old situation is still remembered--or practises any
other kindly and mirthful sally, the victim supplies the words. The
confidence trick in all its branches is another form of the primitive
drama, and this evening's performance with reference to a certain
person was only another example. You will hear, presently, what
admirable dialogue was elicited by Armorel's situations.

By half-past eight she had completed the mounting of her piece. First,
for the reading of the play she placed a table at the side of the
room, with a space at the back sufficient for a chair, or for a person
to sit. A reading-lamp, with one of those silver cowls that throw the
whole light upon the table, stood at either end, illuminating a small
space in the middle. This was for the manipulation of the dolls. For,
though the people had been asked to come for a reading, Armorel had
determined to try the experiment of a recitation, accompanied by the
presentment of those puppets which Effie had dressed with such care,
and her brother manipulated so deftly. Needless to say that more than
one rehearsal had been held. In front of the table she placed a
semicircle of chairs for some of her audience. At one side of the
table was the piano: a music-stand, with a violin case, gave promise
of an overture. Between the music-stand and the table was room for a
person to stand, and on the table a water-decanter and a glass showed
that this was the place for the reciter. On the other side of the
table, in the corner of the room, stood an easel, and on it a picture,
with curtains arranged so that they could fall over and cover it up.
The picture was lighted up by two lamps. The room had no other lights
in it at all, so that, if these two lamps were lowered or
extinguished, the only light would be that thrown by the reading-lamps
upon the table. As for the picture, it was as yet unfinished, but
nearly finished. Of course it was Roland Lee's new picture. This
evening, indeed, which professed to be the simple reading of a new
play by a new writer, included a great deal more: it included, in
fact, Roland's return to the arena he had deserted, and, as you shall
see, the stepping upon the stage of both the twins, brother and
sister. When one adds that Mr. Alec Feilding would be one of the
company, you understand, dear reader, the nature of Armorel's comedy,
and the kind of situation devised and prepared by that artful and
vindictive young lady.

'How long will it take, dear?' asked Mrs. Elstree, wearily
contemplating these preparations.

'I should say that the play will take an hour and a half or two hours
to recite. Then there will be a little music between the acts. I dare
say it will last two hours and a half.'

'Oh, that will bring us to half-past eleven at least! And then it will
be too late for anything else.'

'We don't want anything else to-night.'

'No, dear. The play will be quite enough for us. I wish it was over. I
am so constituted, Armorel, that I cannot see the least use in going
out of my way to help anybody. If you succeed in helping people to
climb up, they only trample on you as soon as they get the chance. If
you fail, they are a burden upon you for life. These two Wilmot
people, for instance: what are you going to do with them when you have
read their play and stuff? You can't get a manager to play it any the
more for having it read. The two are no further advanced.'

'Yes; I shall have made the young man known. He will be introduced.
Mr. Stephenson promised to bring some critics with him, and you have
asked Mr. Feilding to do the same. An introduction--perhaps the
creation of some personal interest--may be to Archie of the greatest
advantage.'

'Then he will rise by your help, and he will proceed to trample upon
you. That is, if the brother is like the sister. If ever I saw
"trampler" written plain on any woman's face, it is written on the
great square block of bone that Effie Wilmot calls a forehead.'

'They may trample on me if they please,' Armorel replied, smiling.

The tramplers were naturally the first to arrive. They were both pale,
and they trembled, especially the one who was not going to speak. He
came in, limping on his crutches, and looked around with terror at the
preparations. One does not realise before the night comes what a
serious thing is a first appearance in public. Besides, the strong
light on the table, the expectant chairs, the arrangement of
everything, presented an aspect at once critical and threatening. The
manuscript play and the box of puppets were in readiness.

'Now, Archie,' said Armorel, 'it is not yet nine o'clock. You shall
have a cup of coffee to steady your nerves. So shall you, Effie. After
that we will settle ourselves.' She talked about other things to
distract their thoughts. 'See, Effie, that is Roland Lee's new
picture. It is not yet finished. The central figure is myself. You
see, it is as yet only sketched in. I am going to sit for him, but he
has caught a good likeness, has he not? It will be a lovely picture
when it is completed, and I am going to give him permission to flatter
me as much as ever he pleases. The scene is among the outer rocks of
Scilly. We will go there some day and sail about the Western Islands,
and I will show you Camber Rock and the Channel, and Castle Bryher and
Menovawr and Maiden Bower, and all the lovely places where I lived
till I was sixteen years of age. Are you in good voice to-night,
Effie?'

'I don't know. I hope so.'

'She has eaten nothing all day,' said Archie.

'You are not really frightened, are you, Effie?' The girl was white
with nervousness. 'A little excited and anxious. Will you have another
cup of coffee? A little jelly? Remember I shall be close beside you,
with the play in my hand, to prompt. I like your dress. You look very
well in white, dear.'

'Oh! Armorel, I am horribly frightened. If I should break down,
Archie's chance will be ruined. And if I recite it badly I shall spoil
the play.'

'You will not break down, dear; you will think of nothing but the
play. You will forget the people. Besides, it will be so dark that you
will hardly see them.'

'I will try my best. Perhaps when I begin--Oh! for Archie's sake, I
would stand up on the stage at the theatre and speak before all the
people! And yet----'

'She had no sleep last night,' said her brother. 'I think, after all,
I had better read it. Only I read so badly.'

Armorel's face fell. She had thought so much of the reciting. Then
Mrs. Elstree came to the rescue.

'Nonsense,' she said. 'You three people are making yourselves so
nervous that you will most certainly break down. Now, Mr. Wilmot, go
into your own place. Set out your dolls. Here's your cardboard back
scene.' She arranged it while Archie got himself and his crutches into
the chair behind, and began to take the dolls out of their box. 'So.
Now don't speak to your sister. You will only make her worse. And as
for you, Effie, if you break down now you will be a most disgraceful
coward. With your brother's future, perhaps, dependent on your
courage. For shame! Pull yourself together!' Effie, thus rudely
stimulated, and by a person she disliked greatly, lost her limpness
and stood upright. Her face also put on a little colour, and her lips
stiffened. The tonic worked, in fact. Then Zoe went on. 'Now,' she
said, 'take up your position here. How are you going to stand? Fold
your hands so. That is a very good attitude to begin with. Of course,
you understand nothing of gesture. Don't try it. Change your hands a
little--so--front--right--left--like that. And don't--don't--don't
hold your head like that, facing the crowd. Hold it up--like this.
Look at the corner of that cornice--straight up. Oh! you will lower
your head as you go on. But, to begin with, and at the opening of each
act, look up to that corner. Remember, if you break down----' She held
up a forefinger, threatening, admonitory, and left her standing in
position. 'You will do now,' she said.

'Besides,' said Armorel, 'no one will look at you. They will all be
looking at Archie's actors.'

The dramatist, relegated to the humble position of fantoccini-man,
would be also in complete shade behind the table. He would not be
seen, whatever emotion of anxiety he should feel. And for dexterity of
manipulation with his puppets he could vie even with the firm of
Codlin and Short.

The noise of cups and saucers in the dining-room proclaimed the
arrival of guests. The first to come was Roland Lee, still a little
shy, as Alexander Selkirk might have been, or Philip Quarles, or Mr.
Penrose, on his return to civilised society. He looked about the room.
Mrs. Elstree--looking resigned--and Armorel, standing by the fire, and
the two performers. Nobody else. And, in a place of honour, his
unfinished picture.

'It looks very well, doesn't it?' said Armorel. 'I wish it was a
little more complete. But it will do to show.'

'Are you quite sure it is wise?'

'Quite sure. The sooner you show everybody what you can do the
better.'

'I have found a new studio,' he told her in low tones. 'I have moved
in to-day. It is among the old lot of men that I used to know a
little. I have gone back to them just as if I had only been gone for a
day. I don't find that they have got on very much. Perhaps they spend
too much time smoking pipes and cigarettes and talking. They chaff me,
but with respect, because, I believe, they think I have been staying
in a lunatic asylum. Respect, you know, is due to madmen and to old
men.'

'I hope it is the kind of studio you want.'

'It will do. I am anxious to begin your sittings. When can you come?'

'Any day you please. To-morrow. The next day. I can begin at once.'

Then came a small party of men--journalists and critics--captured by
Dick Stephenson at the club, and bribed to come by the promise of an
introduction to the beautiful Miss Armorel Rosevean. I do not think
they expected much joy from the amateur reading of an unacted piece.
It is melancholy, indeed, to consider that though the preliminary and
tentative performance of the unacted play--long prayed for--has been
at last established, the promised appearance of the great dramatist
has not yet come off--nay, the theatrical critic weeps, swears, and
growls at the mention of a matinée, and when he is requested to attend
one passes it on if he can to his younger brother in the calling. And
yet such great treasures were expected of the matinée! However, they
agreed to come and listen on this occasion. It shall be put down to
their credit as a Samaritan deed.

'Dick Stephenson,' said Armorel, with an assumption of old friendship
which filled him with pride, 'I hope you are come here to-night in a
really serious frame of mind--you and your friends.'

'We are always serious.'

'I mean that you are going to hear an ambitious piece of work. All I
ask of you is to listen seriously, and to remember that it is really
the work of a man who aims at the very highest.'

'Will he reach the very highest?'

'I do not know. But I am quite certain that there are very few
artists, in any branch, who dare to aim high. Listen, and try to
understand what the poet has attempted--what has been in his mind.
Promise me this.'

'Certainly, I will promise you so much.'

'Thank you. It was for this that I asked you to-night. And see--here
is your old friend Roland Lee.' The two young men shook hands rather
sheepishly--the one because he had been an Ass--a long-eared Ass; and
the other, because he was not guiltless of letting his friend slip out
of his hands without a remonstrance and so away into paths unknown. 'I
hear,' said Armorel, with her beautiful seriousness, 'that you two
have suffered yourselves to drift apart of late. I hope that will be
all over now. Oh! you must never give up the early friendships. Have
you seen Roland's new picture? He has lent it to me for this evening.
Come and look at it.'

'Why,' cried one of the men, 'it is an unfinished picture of Alec
Feilding's!'

Roland turned hot and red.

'Not at all,' said Armorel. 'This is a sketch made in the isles of
Scilly and in my presence, five years ago. As for the figure, you see
it is not yet completed. I am the model. You remember Scilly, Dick
Stephenson? To be sure, you were not with us when we used to go
sailing about among the rocks.'

'I have reason to remember Scilly, seeing that you saved my life
there, and Roland's too. But the picture is curiously in Feilding's
style. Only it seems to me better than any of his. Old man'--he laid
his hand on Roland's shoulder: it was the renewal of the ancient
friendship--'old man, you've done the trick at last.'

Philippa came next, with her father and two or three girls. They, in
their turn, called out upon the striking similarity in style. A few
more people came, and it was a quarter past nine. But the man for whom
Armorel had especially arranged her little comedy did not come. He was
late. Perhaps he would not come at all.

'We must wait no longer,' said Armorel. 'Will everybody please to sit
down?'

Philippa placed herself at the piano. Armorel took out her violin and
tuned it. First, however, she made a little speech.

'I have asked you,' she said, 'to come this evening in order to hear a
play read. It is a play written by a young gentleman in whom some of
us take the deepest interest. I hope greatly that it will succeed. But
we want your judgment and opinion as well as our own. The play belongs
to all time and to no time. The scene is laid in Italy, and in the
sixteenth century; but it might as well have been laid in London and
in the nineteenth--only that we are more self-governed than a
dramatist likes, and we conceal our emotions. It is a play of romance
and of human passion. I entreat you to consider it seriously--as
seriously as the author himself considers it. We have arranged for you
a list of the dramatis personæ, with a little scenario of each
act--there are three--and we think that if, instead of hearing it
read, we have it recited, while the author himself plays the piece
before us by puppets on this little stage, we shall get a clearer idea
of the dramatic merits of the piece.'

This speech done, everybody took up the little book of the play and
began to read the scenario, while Armorel played an overture with
Philippa.

She played a Hungarian piece, one of the things that are now played
everywhere--a quite short piece.

When it was finished, Roland lowered the lamps beside his picture,
and covered them with crimson shades. Then there was no other light in
the room but that from the two reading-lamps on the table. Just before
the lamps were lowered Mr. Alec Feilding arrived, with half a dozen
men whom he had brought with him. She saw his startled face as he
caught sight of the picture as the lights were lowered. In the
twilight she could still distinguish his face among the men who stood
behind the chairs. And she watched him. Then Effie, who had not seen
the latest arrival, took her place, and the play began.

The effect was new and very curious. The people saw a girl standing up
beside the table--only the shadow of a girl--a ghostly figure in
white--the spectre of a white face--two bright eyes flashing in the
dim light. And they heard her voice, a rich, low contralto, beginning
to recite the play.

It is not the nervous creature who breaks down. He may generally be
trusted. He lies awake for whole nights before the time arrives: he
reaches the spot weak-kneed, trembling, and pale; but when the hour
strikes he braces himself, stands up, and goes through with it. Effie
had been partly pulled together, it is true, by the rough exhortation
of Mrs. Elstree, but some credit must be given to her own resolution.
She began with a little hesitation, fearing that she should forget the
words. Then they came back to her: she saw them written plainly before
her eyes in that friendly corner of the cornice: she hesitated no
longer: in full and flowing flood she poured forth the dialogue,
helped to right modulation by the strength of her own feeling and her
belief in the beauty and the splendour of the drama. Armorel meantime
watched her man. He had seen the picture. Now he recognised the play,
and he knew the reciter. As he stood at the back, tall above the rest,
she saw his face change from astonishment gradually to dismay. It was
rather a wooden face, but it passed plainly and successively through
the phases of doubt and certainty to that of dismay. Yes; dismay was
written on that face, with discomfiture and suspicion. In a more
demonstrative age he would have sat gnawing his nails: every wicked
man, overtaken by the consequence of his own wickedness, used formerly
to gnaw his nails. On the stage of the last century he would have
turned upon his persecutors with a 'Death and confusion!' before he
banged off the scene. We no longer use those fine old phrases. On the
modern stage he would stand with straightened arms and bowed head,
while the rest of the company pointed fingers of scorn at him, crushed
but defiant. In Armorel's drawing-room he stood quiet and motionless,
trying to collect himself. He saw, first of all, Roland Lee's new
picture in the corner; he saw Roland Lee himself, no longer the
negligent, despairing sloven, but once more a gentleman to outer view,
and in his right mind. Next, he observed that Effie, his own poet, was
reciting the play; and, thirdly, that the play was that for which he
had himself made a bid. Thus all three--painter, poet, and
dramatist--were friends of this girl Armorel; and they had all three,
he knew quite well, slipped clean out of his hands for ever, and were
lost to him; and all three, he suspected, had already related to each
other the history of his doings and dealings with themselves.
Therefore, while the play proceeded, his heart sank low--lower--lower.

There were three acts. When the first was finished Armorel stood up
again and, with Philippa, played another little piece, but not long.
And so between the second and the third.

Watching the people, Armorel became aware that the play had gripped
them, and held them fast. No one moved. The little space upon the
table between the two lamps, where the puppets stood before the
painted screen of cardboard, became a scene richly mounted: it was a
garden, or a dancing-hall, or an arbour, or a library, just as those
little books told them, and the puppets were men and women. We want so
little of mounting to fire the imagination, if only the poet has the
strength to seize it and to hold it by his words. Nothing, in this
case, but a modulated voice reciting a dramatic poem, and, to help it
out, a dozen dressed dolls, six or seven inches high, standing stiffly
on a little stage. Yet, even when passion was at its highest, in the
great scene of the third act, they were not ridiculous. Nobody laughed
at the dolls. That was because the showman knew their capabilities.
When they stood in their place, they indicated the nature of the
situation and explained the words. Had he tried to make them act, he
would have spoiled the whole. They made a series of groups--_tableaux
vivants_, _poses plastiques_--constantly changed by the deft hands of
the showman, finding relief in this occupation for the anxiety in his
soul. For he, less fortunate than Effie, who had grasped the cheering
truth, could not read in the circle of still faces before him their
rapt and magnetised condition.

And now the end of the third act was neared. The reciter rose to the
concluding situation. Her voice, firm and clear, rang out in the dim
light. The younger girls in the audience caught each other's hands.
The 'lines' were good lines, strong and nervous, rapid and yet
intense, equal to the strength and intensity of the situation.

At last the play was finished.

'Effie!' Armorel caught her in her arms, 'you have done splendidly!'

But the girl drew back. The honours of the evening were not for her,
but for her brother: she stood aside.

Armorel took the cowls from the reading-lamps, and the room returned
to light. Then the people began all to press round the dramatist and
to shake hands solemnly with him, to murmur, to assure, to
congratulate, and to prophesy. And the loud voice of Mr. Alec
Feilding arose as he stepped forward among the first and grasped the
young man's hand.

'Archie!' he said with astounding friendliness, 'this is better than I
expected. Let me congratulate you! I have had the privilege,' he
explained to the multitude, 'of hearing this play--at least, a part of
it--already. I told you, my dear boy, that your situations were
splendid, but your dialogue wanted pulling together in parts. You have
attended to my advice. I am glad of it. The result promises to be a
splendid success. What say you?' He turned to a very well-known
dramatic critic whom he had brought with him.

'If you can get the proper man to play the leading part,' he replied
more quietly, 'the play seems to me full of promise. Frankly, Mr.
Wilmot, I think you have written a most poetical and most romantic
piece. It is valuable, not only for itself, but for the promise it
contains.'

'For its promise,' repeated Alec Feilding blandly, 'as I told you, my
dear boy, for its promise--its admirable promise. I shall not rest now
until this play is produced--either at the Lyceum or at the Haymarket.
Once more.' Again he grasped Archie by the hand. Then another and
another followed. It was not until the next day the dramatist
recovered presence of mind enough to remember that Mr. Feilding had
not given him any advice: that he had not said it was a work of
promise: that he had offered to buy it for fifty pounds and bring it
out as his own, with his own name put to it: and that no alteration of
any kind had been made in it.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mr. Alec Feilding stepped back, he perceived that some one had
turned up the lamps beside the picture. He was a man of great presence
of mind and resource. He instantly stepped over to the picture and
began to examine it curiously. Armorel followed him.

'This is by my old friend Mr. Roland Lee,' she said. 'Do you know him?
Let me introduce him to you.' The men bowed distantly as those who,
having met for the first time in a crowd, see no reason for desiring
to meet each other again. That they should so meet, with such an
assumption of never having met before, struck Armorel with admiration.

'The picture is a good deal in your own style, Feilding,' said one of
the critics.

'Perhaps,' replied the successful painter in that style, briefly.

'It is taken from a sketch,' Armorel explained, 'made by Mr. Lee while
he was staying at the same spot as myself. He made a great number at
the time--which is now five years ago.'

Mr. Alec Feilding heard this statement with outward composure.
Inwardly he was raging.

'It is, in fact, exactly in your style,' said the same critic. 'One
would say that it was a copy of one of your pictures.'

'Perhaps,' he replied again.

'If,' said Roland, 'Mr. Feilding sends another picture in the same
style for exhibition this year, I hope that the similarity of style
may be tested by their hanging side by side.'

'Shall you send anything this year--in the same style?' asked Armorel.

'I hardly know. I have not decided.'

The critic looked at the picture more closely. 'Strange!' he murmured.
'One would swear ... the same style--so individual--and belonging to
two different men!'

Then Roland covered his picture over with the curtain. There had been
enough said.

'Now,' said Armorel, 'after our emotions and our fatigues of the play,
we are exhausted. There is supper in the next room. Before we go in I
want to sing you a song. I am not a singer, you know, and you must
only expect simple warbling. But I want you to like the song.'

She sat down to the piano and played a few bars of introduction. Then
she sang the first verse--it was Effie's latest song, that which Mr.
Feilding had accepted but not yet published.

He heard and recognised. This third blow finished him. He sat down on
the nearest chair, speechless. Mrs. Elstree watched him, wondering
what was the matter with him. For he was in a speechless rage. Lucky
for him that it was speechless, because for the moment he was beside
himself, and might have said anything.

'That is the first verse,' said Armorel. 'I have set it to an old
French air which I found in a book. The words seem written for the
music. There are two more verses.'

She sang them through. Her voice was pleasing though not strong: she
sang sweetly and with feeling, just as she had sung in the old days on
the shores of Samson, to the accompaniment of the waves lapping along
the white sands, and she watched the man whom she had been torturing
the whole evening through. Would not even this rouse him to some word
or deed which might proclaim him a pretender and an impostor
discovered? She knew, you see, that the lines were actually in type
ready to appear as another poem by the Editor. She finished and rose.
'Do you like the song, Philippa?' she said. 'I have even had it
printed and set to music. Anybody that pleases may carry away a copy.
I hope everybody will, and keep it in remembrance of this evening. For
the words are written by Miss Effie Wilmot, who has recited so
beautifully her brother's play. We will share the honours of the
evening between them. Archie, will you give me your arm? Roland'--in
her excitement she called him by his Christian name, which caused a
little surprise--'will you take Effie? Do you like the words, Mr.
Feilding?'

'Very much indeed. I had seen them before you, I think.'

'Yes? Then you recognised them. You have seen other poems by the same
hand, I believe?'

'Good-night, Miss Rosevean. I have had a delightful evening.' He
retired without any supper. On his way out, he passed Effie. 'You
should have trusted me,' he whispered hoarsely. 'I expected, at least,
common confidence. You will find that I have kept my promise--and you
have broken yours.' He passed on, and disappeared. Then they trooped
in to the dining-room, where they found spread that kind of midnight
refection which is dear to the hearts of those who are yet young
enough to love champagne and chicken. And after supper they went back
to the drawing-room and danced. Mrs. Elstree played to them--nobody
could play a waltz better. Roland danced with Armorel. 'You make me
believe,' he said, at the end of the waltz, 'that I am really back
again.'

'Of course you are back again.'

Then Armorel danced with the critics, and talked about the play; and
they all promised to go to great actors and speak about this wonderful
drama. And so all went away at last, and all to bed, well content.

'But,' said Zoe, when the last was gone, 'what was the matter with
Alec? Why did he look so glum? What made him in such an awful rage? He
can get into a blind rage, Armorel--blind and speechless. As for that,
I would not give a button for a man who could not. But what was the
matter with him?'

'Was he in a rage? Perhaps he wished that he had written the play
himself. Such a clever man as that would be sorry, perhaps, that
anything good was written, except by himself.'

Mr. Alec Feilding rushed down the stairs and into the street. He
hailed a cab, and jumped into it.

'Fleet Street! Quick!'

His printers, he knew, had work which kept them at work on Thursday
nights till long past midnight. It was not too late to make a
correction. His paper would be printed in the morning, and ready for
issue by five o'clock in the afternoon. In fact, Effie received a note
from him on Saturday morning:--

'My dear Effie,' he wrote, 'I send you a copy of my new number. You
will find, on looking into the editorial columns, that I have
performed what I promised. Not only have I accepted and published your
very charming verses, but I have added a brief note introducing the
writer as a débutante of promise. So much I am very pleased to have
been able to do for you. Now, as one writer introducing another, I
leave you with your public. Give them of your best. Let your first set
of published verses prove your worst. Aim at the best and highest;
write in a spirit of truth; let your Art be sincere and
self-respectful.

'I am sorry that this note, written on Tuesday, could not contain what
I should much have wished to add, had I known it: that your verses
have been adapted to an old air by Miss Armorel Rosevean. You did not,
however, think fit to take me into your confidence.

'I cannot hope to give you more than an occasional appearance in my
columns. I should advise you, with this introduction of mine and the
credentials of being published in my paper, to send verses to the
magazines. I think you will have little difficulty with the help of my
name in gaining admission.

'Allow me to add my congratulations on your brother's undoubted
success. His play is admirable as a chamber play. It may also succeed
on the stage, but of this it is impossible to be certain. Meantime, it
is very cheering to find that he listens to the advice of those who
have a right to speak, and that he follows that advice. It is both
cheering to his friends and promising as regards his own future. I do
not regret the time that I spent in advising upon that play.

         'I remain, my dear Effie, very sincerely yours,

            'ALEC FEILDING.'

The paper which contained the verses contained also the following
paragraph:--

'In place of the usual editorial verses--my editorial duties do not
always give me leisure for the service of the Muse--I have great
pleasure in inserting a set of verses from the pen of a young lady
whose name is new to my readers. She makes her bow to my readers in
this column. I venture, however, to prophesy that she will not long
remain unknown. Wherever the English language is spoken, before many
years the name of Effie Wilmot shall be known and loved. This is the
prophecy of one who at least can recognise good work when he sees it.'

Effie read both letter and paragraph to her brother, who raged and
stormed about the alleged advice and assistance. She also read them
both to Armorel, who only laughed a little.

'But,' said Effie, 'he never helped Archie at all! He gave him no
advice!'

'My dear, if he chooses to say that he did, what does it matter? Time
goes on, and every day will make your brother rise higher and Mr.
Feilding sink lower. And as to the verses, Effie, and your--your first
appearance'--Effie turned away her shamefaced cheek--'why, we will
take his advice and try other editors. Mr. Feilding is, indeed, the
cleverest man in London!'



CHAPTER XVII

THE NATIONAL GALLERY


Contrary to all reasonable expectation, Alec Feilding called at
Armorel's rooms the very next morning--and quite early in the morning,
when it was not yet eleven. Armorel, however, had already gone out. He
was received by Mrs. Elstree, who was, as usual, sitting, apparently
asleep, by the fire.

'You have come in the hope of seeing Armorel alone, I suppose?' she
said.

'Yes. You remember, Zoe,' he replied quickly--she observed that he was
pale, and that he fidgeted nervously, and that his eyes, restless and
scared, looked as if somebody was hunting him--'that we had a talk
about it. You said you wouldn't make a row. You know you did. You
consented.'

'Oh, yes! I remember. I am to play another part, and quite a new one.
You too are about to play a new part--one not generally desired--quite
the stage villain.' He made a gesture of impatience. 'Consider,
however,' she went on quickly, before he could speak. 'Do you think
this morning--the day after yesterday--quite propitious for your
purpose?'

'What do you mean?' he asked quickly. 'Why not the day after
yesterday?'

'Nothing. Still, if I might advise----'

'Zoe, you know nothing at all. And time presses. If there was reason,
a week ago, for me to be the reputed and accepted lover of this girl,
there is tenfold more reason now. You don't know, I say. For Heaven's
sake don't spoil things now by any interference.'

He was at least in earnest. Mrs. Elstree contemplated him with
curiosity. It seemed as if she had never seen him really in earnest
before. But now she understood. He knew by this time that Armorel had
discovered the source, the origins, of his greatness. She might
destroy him by a word. This knowledge would pierce the hide of the
most pachydermatous: his strength, you see, was like that of
Samson--it depended on a secret: it also now resembled that of Samson
in that it lay at the mercy of a woman.

'Alec,' said Mrs. Elstree, softly, 'you were greatly moved last night
by several things--by the play, by the picture, by the song. I watched
you. While the rest were listening to the play, I watched you. The
room was dark, and you thought no one could see you. But I could make
out your features. Armorel watched you, too, but for other motives. I
was wondering. She was triumphant. You know why?'

'What do you know?'

'Your face, which is generally so well under command, expressed
surprise, rage, disgust, and terror--all these passions, dear Alec. On
the stage we study how to express them. We represent an exaggeration
so that the gallery shall understand, and we call it Art. But I know
the symptoms.'

'What else do you know, I ask?'

'This morning you are nervous and agitated. You are afraid of
something. Alec, you know what I think of the cruelty and
hardheartedness of this project of yours--to sustain your credit on an
engagement which will certainly not last a month--I could not possibly
suffer the girl to be entangled longer than that--now give it over.'

'I cannot give it over: it is my only chance. Zoe, you don't know the
mischief she has done me, and will do me again. It is ruin--ruin!'

'Well then, Alec, don't go after her to-day. Indeed, I advise you not.
You are not in a condition to approach the subject, and she is not in
a condition to be approached. I do not ask your reasons, or the kind
of mischief you mean. I sit here and watch. In the course of time I
find out all things.'

'How much do you know, Zoe? What have you found out?'

'Knowledge, Alec, is power. Should I part in a moment, and for
nothing, with what I have acquired at the expense of a great deal of
contriving and putting together? Certainly not. You can go and find
Armorel, if you persist in choosing such a day for such a purpose. She
has gone, I believe, to the National Gallery.'

'I must find her to-day. I must bring things to a head. Good Heavens!
I don't know what new mischief they may be designing.'

'Go home and wait, Alec. No one will do anything to you to-day. You
are nervous and excited.'

'You don't understand, I say. Tell me, did the men talk last
night--about me--in your hearing?'

'Not in my hearing, certainly. Go home and rest, Alec.'

'I cannot rest. I must find the girl.'

'Well, if you want her--go and find her. Alec, remember, if you stood
the faintest chance of success with her, I think I should have to get
up and warn her. Even for your sake I do not think I could suffer this
wickedness to be done. But you have no chance--none--not on any day,
particularly on this day--and after last night. Go, however--go.'

When things have gone so far that assignations and appointments are
made and places of secret meeting agreed upon, there is hardly any
place in the whole of London more central, more convenient, or safer
than the National Gallery. Here the young lady of society may be
perfectly certain of remaining undiscovered. At the South Kensington
no one is quite safe, because in the modern enthusiasm for art all
kinds of people--even people in society--sometimes go there to see
embroideries and hangings, and handiwork of every sort. The India
Museum is perhaps safer even than the National Gallery--safer, for
such a purpose, than any other spot in the world. But there is a
loneliness in its galleries which strikes a chill to the most ardent
heart, and damps the spirit of the most resolute lover.

In the National Gallery there are plenty of people: but they are all
country visitors, or Americans, or copyists: never any people of the
young lady's own set: and there is never any crowd. One can sit and
talk undisturbed and quiet: the copyists chatter or go on with their
work regardless of anything: the attendants slumber: the visitors pass
round room after room, looking for pictures which have a story to
tell--and a story which they can read. That, you see, is the only kind
of picture--unless it be a picture of a pretty face--which the
ordinary visitor commonly understands. Not many young people know of
this place, and those who do keep the knowledge to themselves. The
upper rooms of the British Museum are also commended by some for the
same reason, but the approaches are difficult.

This use of the National Gallery once understood, the thing which
happened here the day after the reading of the play will not seem
incredible, though it certainly was not intended by the architect when
he designed the building. Otherwise there might have been convenient
arbours.

Armorel went often to the Gallery: the English girl reserves, as a
rule, her study of pictures, and art generally, till she gets to
Florence. Armorel, who had also studied art in Florence, found much to
learn in our own neglected Gallery. Sometimes she went alone:
sometimes she went with Effie, and then, being quite a learned person
in the matter of pictures and their makers, she would discourse from
room to room, till the day was all too short. The country visitors
streamed past her in languid procession: the lovers met by appointment
at her very elbow: the copyists flirted, talked scandal, wasted time,
and sighed for commissions: but Armorel had not learned to watch
people: she came to see the pictures: she had not begun to detach an
individual from the crowd as a representative: in other words, she was
not a novelist.

This morning she was alone. She carried a notebook and pencil, and was
standing before a picture making notes. It was a wet morning: the
rooms were nearly empty, and the galleries were very quiet.

She heard a manly step striding across the floor. She half turned as
it approached her. Mr. Alec Feilding took off his hat.

'Mrs. Elstree told me you were here,' he said. 'I ventured to follow.'

'Yes?'

'You--you--come often, I believe?' He looked pale, and, for the first
time in Armorel's recollection of him, he was nervous. 'There is, I
believe, a good deal to be learned here.'

'There is, especially by those who want to paint--of course, I
mean--who want to do their own paintings by themselves. Mr. Feilding,
frankly, what do you want? Why do you come here in search of me?' Her
face hardened: her eyes were cold and resolved. But the man was full
of himself; he noted not these symptoms.

'I came because I have something to say.'

'Of importance?'

'Of great importance.'

'Not, I hope, connected with Art. Do not talk to me about Art, if you
please, Mr. Feilding--not about any kind of Art.'

He bowed gravely. 'One cannot always listen to conversation involving
canons and first principles,' he said, with much condescension. 'Let
me, however, congratulate you on the promise of your protégés, Archie
and Effie Wilmot.'

'They are clever.'

'They are distinctly clever,' he repeated, recovering his usual
self-possession. 'Effie, as perhaps she has told you, has been my
pupil for a long time.'

'She has told me, in fact, something about her relations to you.'

'Yes.' The man was preoccupied and rather dense by nature. Therefore
he caught only imperfectly these side meanings in Armorel's replies.
'Yes--quite so--I have been able to be useful to her, and to her
brother also--very useful, indeed, happily.'

'And to--to others--as well--very useful, indeed,' Armorel echoed.

He understood that there was some kind of menace in these words. But
the very air, this morning, was full of menace. He passed them by.

'It is a curious coincidence that you should also have taken up this
interesting pair. It ought to bring us closer.'

'Quite the contrary, Mr. Feilding. It puts us far more widely apart.'

'I do not understand that. We have a common interest. For instance,
only the other day I accepted a poem of Effie's----'

'Only the other day, Mr. Feilding?'

'Yes, the day before yesterday. I had it set up, and I added a few
words introducing the writer. That was the day before yesterday. Judge
of my astonishment when, only yesterday, you sang that very song, and
handed it round printed with the accompaniment. I have made no
alteration. The verses will appear to-night, with my laudatory
introduction. Some men might complain that they had not been taken
into confidence. But I do not. Effie is a little genius in her way.
She is not practical: she does not understand that having disposed of
her verses to one editor she is not free to give them to another. But
I do not complain, if your action in her cause brings her into
notice.'

Here was a turning of tables! Now, some men overdo a thing. They smile
too much: they rub their hands nervously: they show a nervous anxiety
to be believed. Not so this man. He spoke naturally--he had now
recovered his usual equanimity: he looked blankly unconscious that any
doubt could possibly be thrown upon his word. Since he said it, the
thing must be so. Men of honour have always claimed and exacted this
concession. Therefore, the following syllogism:--

        Mr. Alec Feilding is a man of honour:
    Everybody must acknowledge so much.
        A man of honour cannot lie:
    Else--what becomes of his honour?
                      Therefore:
      Any statement made by Mr. Alec Feilding is literally true.

Armorel showed no doubt in her face. Why should she? There was no
doubt in her mind. The man was a Liar.

'The Wilmots will get on,' she said coldly, 'without any help from
anybody. Now, Mr. Feilding, you came to say something important to me.
Shall we go on to that important communication?' She took a seat on
the divan in the middle of the room. He stood over her, 'There is no
one here this morning,' she said. 'You can speak as freely as in your
own study.'

'Among your many fine qualities, Miss Rosevean,' he began floridly,
but with heightened colour, 'a certain artistic reserve is reckoned by
your friends, perhaps, the highest. It makes you queenly.'

'Mr. Feilding, I cannot possibly discuss my own qualities with any but
my friends.'

'Your friends! Surely, I also----'

'My friends, Mr. Feilding,' Armorel repeated, bristling like the
fretful porcupine. But the man, preoccupied and thick of skin, and
full of vainglory and conceit, actually did not perceive these quills
erect. Armorel's pointed remarks did not prick his hide: her coldness
he took for her customary reserve. Therefore he hurried to his doom.

'Give me,' he said, 'the right to speak to you as your dearest friend.
You cannot possibly mistake the attentions that I have paid to you for
the last few weeks. They must have indicated to you--they were,
indeed, deliberately designed to indicate--a preference--deepening
into a passion----'

'I think you had better stop at once, Mr. Feilding.'

There are many men who honestly believe that they are irresistible. It
seems incredible, but it is really true. It is the consciousness of
masculine superiority carried to an extreme. They think that they have
only to repeat the conventional words in the conventional manner for
the woman to be subjugated. They come: they conquer. Now, this man,
who plainly saw that he was to a certain extent--he did not know how
far--detected, actually imagined that the woman who had detected him
in a gigantic fraud one day would accept his proffered hand and heart
the very next day! There are no bounds, you see, to personal vanity.
Besides, for this man, if it was necessary that he should appear as
the accepted suitor of a rich girl, it was doubly necessary that the
girl should be the one woman in the world who could do mischief. He
was anxious to discover how much she knew. But of his wooing he had no
anxiety at all. He should speak: she would yield: she could do nothing
else.

'Permit me,' he replied blandly, 'to go on. I am, as you know, a
leader in the world of Art. I am known as a painter, a poet, and a
writer of fiction. I have other ambitions still.'

'Doubtless you will succeed in these as you have succeeded in those
three Arts.'

'Thank you.' He really did not see the meaning of her words. 'I take
your words as of happy augury. Armorel----'

'No, Sir! Not my Christian name, if you please.'

'Give me the right to call you by your Christian name.'

'You are asking me to marry you. Is that what you mean?'

'It is nothing less.'

'Really! When I tell you, Mr. Feilding, that I know you--that I know
you--it will be plain to you that the thing is absolutely impossible.'

'To know me,' he replied, showing no outward emotion, 'should make it
more than possible. What could I wish better than to be known to you?'

She looked him full in the face. He neither dropped his eyes nor
changed colour.

'What could be better for me?' he repeated. 'What could I hope for
better than to be known?'

'Oh! This man is truly wonderful!' she cried. 'Must I tell you what I
know?'

'It would be better, perhaps. You look as if you knew something to
my--actually--if I may say so--actually to my discredit!'

Armorel gasped. His impudence was colossal.

'To your discredit! Oh! Actually to your discredit! Sir, I know the
whole of your disgraceful history--the history of the past three or
four years. I know by what frauds you have passed yourself off as a
painter and as a poet. I know by what pretences you thought to lay the
foundation for a reputation as a dramatist. I know that your talk is
borrowed--that you do not know art when you see it: that you could
never write a single line of verse--and that of all the humbugs and
quacks that ever imposed themselves upon the credulity of people you
are the worst and biggest.'

He stared with a wonder which was, at least, admirably acted.

'Good Heavens!' he said. 'These words--these accusations--from you?
From Armorel Rosevean--cousin of my cousin--whom I had believed to be
a friend? Can this be possible? Who has put this wonderful array of
charges into your head?'

'That matters nothing. They are true, and you know it.'

'They are so true,' he replied sternly, 'that if anyone were to
dare to repeat these things before a third person, I should
instantly--instantly--instruct my solicitors to bring an action for
libel. Remember: youth and sex would not avail to protect that
libeller. If anyone--anyone--dares, I say----'

'Oh! say no more. Go, and do not speak to me again! What will be done
with this knowledge, I cannot say. Perhaps it will be used for the
exposure which will drive you from the houses of honest people. Go, I
say!'

[Illustration: _'Oh! say no more. Go, and do not speak to me again!'_]

She stamped her foot and raised her voice, insomuch that two drowsy
attendants woke up and looked round, thinking they had dreamed
something unusual.

The injured man of Art and Letters obeyed. He strode away. He, who had
come pale and hesitating, now, on learning the truth which he had
suspected and on receiving this unmistakable rejection, walked away
with head erect and lofty mien. He showed, at least by outward
bearing, the courage which is awakened by a declaration of war.



CHAPTER XVIII

CONGRATULATIONS


In the afternoon of the same day Armorel received a visit from a
certain Lady Frances, of whom mention has already been made. She was
sitting in her own room, alone. The excitements of the last night and
of the morning were succeeded by a gentle melancholy. These things had
not been expected when she took her rooms and plunged into London
life. Besides, after these excitements the afternoon was flat.

Lady Frances came in, dressed beautifully, gracious and cordial; she
took both Armorel's hands in her own, and looked as if she would have
kissed her but for conscientious scruples: she was five-and-forty, or
perhaps fifty, fat, comfortable, and rosy-cheeked. And she began to
talk volubly. Not in the common and breathless way of volubility which
leaves out the stops; but steadily and irresistibly, so that her
companion should not be able to get in one single word. Well-bred
persons do not leave out their commas and their full stops: but they
do sometimes talk continuously, like a cataract or a Westmoreland
Force, at least.

'My dear,' she said, 'I told your maid that I wanted to see you alone,
and in your own room. She said Mrs. Elstree was out. So I came in. It
is a very pretty little room. They tell me you play wonderfully. This
is where you practise, I suppose.' She put up her glasses and looked
round, as if to see what impression had been produced on the walls by
the music. 'And I hear also that you paint and draw. My dear, you are
the very person for him.' Again she looked round. 'A very pretty room,
really--wonderful to observe how the taste for decoration and domestic
art has spread of late years!' A doubtful compliment, when you
consider it. 'Well, my dear, as an old friend of his--at all events, a
very useful friend of his--I am come to congratulate you.'

'To congratulate me?'

'Yes. I thought I would be one of the first. I asked him two or three
days ago if it was settled, and he confessed the truth, but begged me
not to spread it abroad, because there were lawyers and people to see.
Of course, his secrets are mine. And, except my own very intimate
friends and one or two who can be perfectly trusted, I don't think I
have mentioned the thing to a soul. I dare say, however, the news is
all over the town by this time. Wonderful how things get carried--a
bird of the air--the flying thistledown----'

'I do not understand, Lady Frances.'

'My dear, you need not pretend, because he confessed. And I think you
are a very lucky girl to catch the cleverest man in all London, and he
certainly is a lucky man to catch such a pretty girl as you. They say
that he has got through all his money--men of genius are always bad
men of business--but your own fortune will set him up again--a hundred
thousand, I am told--mind you have it all settled on yourself. No one
knows what may happen. I could tell you a heartrending story of a girl
who trusted her lover with her money. But your lawyers will, of
course, look after that.'

'I assure you----'

'He tells me,' the lady went on, without taking any notice of the
interruption, 'that the thing will not come off for some time yet. I
wouldn't keep it waiting too long, if I were you. Engagements easily
get stale. Like buns. Well, I suppose you have learned all his secrets
by this time: of course he is madly in love, and can keep nothing from
you.'

'Indeed----'

'Has he told you yet who writes his stories for him? Eh? Has he told
you that?' The lady bent forward and lowered her voice, and spoke
earnestly. 'Has he told you?'

'I assure you that he has told me nothing--and----'

'That is in reality what I came about. Because, my dear, there must be
a little plain speaking.'

'Oh! but let me speak--I----'

'When I have said what I came to say'--Lady Frances motioned with her
hand gently but with authority--'then you shall have your turn. Men
are so foolish that they tell their sweethearts everything. The chief
reason why they fall in love, I believe, is a burning desire to have
somebody to whom they can tell everything. I know a man who drove his
wife mad by constantly telling her all his difficulties. He was always
swimming in difficulties. Well, Alec is bound to tell you before long,
even if he has not told you yet, which I can hardly believe. Now, my
dear child, it matters very little to him if all the world knew the
truth. All the world, to be sure, credits him with those stories,
though he has been very careful not to claim them. He knows better. I
say to such a clever man as Alec a few stories, more or less, matter
nothing. But it matters a great deal to me'--what was this person
talking about?--'because, you see, if it were to come out that I had
been putting together old family scandals and forgotten stories, and
sending them to the papers--there would be--there would be--Heaven
knows what there would be! Yes, my dear--you can tell Alec that you
know--I am the person who has written those stories. I wrote them,
every one. They are all family stories--every good old family has got
thousands of stories, and I have been collecting them--some of my own
people, some of my husband's, and some of other people--and writing
them down, changing names, and scenes, and dates, so that they should
not be identified except by the few who knew them.'

Armorel made no further attempt to stem the tide of communication.

'I have come to make you understand clearly, young lady, that it is
not his secret alone, but mine. You would do him a little harm,
perhaps--I don't know--by letting it out, but you would do me an
infinity of harm. I write them down, you see, and I take them to Alec,
and he alters them--puts the style right--or says he does--though I
never see any difference in them when they come out in the paper. And
everybody who knows the story asks how in the name of wonder he got
it.'

'Oh! But I do assure you that I know nothing at all of this.'

'Don't you? Well, never mind. Now you do know. And you know also that
you can't talk about it, because it is his secret as well as mine.
Why, you don't suppose that the man really does all he says he does,
do you? Nobody could. It isn't in nature. Everybody who knows anything
at all agrees that there must be a ghost--perhaps more than one. I'm
the story ghost. I dare say there's a picture ghost, and a poetry
ghost. He's a wonderful clever man, no doubt--it's the cleverest thing
in the world to make other people work for you; but don't imagine,
pray, that he can write stories of society. Bourgeois stories--about
the middle class--his own class--perhaps; but not stories about Us. My
stories belong to quite another level. Well, my dear, that is off my
mind. Remember that this secret would do a great deal of harm to him
as well as to me if it were to get about.'

'Oh! You are altogether--wholly--wrong----'

'My dear, I really do not care if I am wrong. You will not, however,
damage his reputation by letting out his secrets? A wife can help her
husband in a thousand ways, and especially in keeping up the little
deceptions. Thousands of wives, I am told, pass their whole lives in
the pretence that they and their husbands are gentlefolk. Alec has
been received into a few good houses; and though it is, of course,
more difficult to get a woman in than a man, I will really do what I
can for you. With a good face, good eyes, a good figure, and a little
addition of style, you ought to get on very well by degrees. Or you
might take the town by storm, and become a professional beauty.'

'Thank you--but----'

'And there's another thing. As an old friend of Alec's, I feel that I
can give advice to you. Let me advise you earnestly, my dear, to make
all the haste you can to get rid of your companion. I know all about
it. She was sent to your lawyer's by Alec himself. Why? Well, it is an
old story, and I suppose he wanted to place her comfortably--or he had
some other reason. He's always been a crafty man. You can see that in
his eyes.'

'Oh! But I cannot listen to this!' cried Armorel.

'Nonsense, my dear. You do not expect your husband to be an angel, I
suppose. Only silly middle-class girls who read novels do that. It
will do you no harm to know that the man is no better than his
neighbours. And I am sure he is no worse. I am speaking, in fact, for
your own good. My dear child, Alec ran after the woman years ago. She
was rich then, and used to go about. Certain houses do not mind who
enter within their gates. They lived in Palace Gardens, and Monsieur
le Papa was rich--oh! rich _à millions_--and the daughter was
sugar-sweet and as innocent as an angel--fluffy hair, all tangled and
rebellious--you know the kind--and large blue, wondering eyes,
generally lowered until the time came for lifting them in the faces of
young men. It was deadly, my dear. I believe she might have married
anybody she pleased. There was the young Earl of Silchester--he wanted
her. What a fool she was not to take him! No; she was spoony on Alec
Feilding----'

'Oh! I must not!' cried Armorel again.

'My dear, I'm telling you. Her papa went smash--poor thing!--a grand,
awful, impossible smash; other people's money mixed up in it. A dozen
workhouses were filled with the victims, I believe. That kind of smash
out of which it is impossible to pull yourself anyhow. Killed himself,
therefore. Went out of the world without invitation by means of a
coarse, vulgar, common piece of two-penny rope, tied round his great
fat neck. I remember him. What did the girl do? Ran away from society:
went on the stage as one of a travelling company. Why, I saw her
myself three years ago at Leamington. I knew her instantly. "Aha!" I
said, "there's Miss Fluffy, with the appealing, wondering eyes. Poor
thing! Here is a come down in the world!" Now I find her here--your
companion--a widow--widow of one Jerome Elstree deceased--artist, I am
told. I never heard of the gentleman, and I confess I have my doubts
as to his existence at all.'

Armorel ceased to offer any further opposition to the stream.

'The innocent, appealing blue eyes: the childish face: oh! I remember.
My dear, I hope you will not have any reason to be jealous of Mrs.
Elstree. But take care. There were other girls, too, now I come to
think about it. There was his cousin, Philippa Rosevean. Everybody
knows that he went as far with her as a man can go, short of an actual
engagement. Canon Langley, of St. Paul's, wants to marry her. She's an
admirable person for an ecclesiastical dignitary's wife--beautiful,
cold, and dignified. But, as yet, she has not accepted him. They say
he will be a bishop. And they say she loves her cousin Alec still.
Women are generally dreadful fools about men. But I don't know. I
don't think, if I were you, I should be jealous of Philippa. There's
another little girl, too, I have seen coming out of his studio. But
she's only a model, or something. If you begin to be jealous about the
models, there will be no end. Then, there are hundreds of girls about
town--especially those who can draw and paint a little, or write a
silly little song--who think they are greatly endowed with genius, and
would give their heads to get your chance. You are a lucky girl, Miss
Armorel Rosevean; but I would advise you, in order to make the most of
your good fortune, to change your companion quickly. Persuade her to
try the climate of Australia. Else, there may be family jars.'

Here she stopped. She had said what was in her mind. Whether she came
to say this out of the goodness of her heart; or whether she intended
to make a little mischief between the girl and her lover; or whether
she supposed Armorel to be a young lady who accepts a lover with no
illusions as to imaginary perfections, so that a new weakness
discovered here and there would not lower him in her opinion, I cannot
say. Lady Frances was generally considered a good-natured kind of
person, and certainly she had no illusions about perfection in any
man.

'May I speak now?' asked Armorel.

'Certainly, my dear. It was very good of you to hear me patiently. And
I've said all I wanted to. Keep my secret, and get rid of your
companion, and I'll take you in hand.'

'Thank you. But you would not suffer me to explain that you are
entirely mistaken. I am not engaged to Mr. Feilding at all.'

'But he told me that you were.'

'Yes; but he also tells the world, or allows the world to believe,
that he writes your stories. I am not engaged to Mr. Feilding, Lady
Frances, and, what is more, I never shall be engaged to that
man--never!'

'Have you quarrelled already?'

'We have not quarrelled, because before people quarrel they must be on
terms of some intimacy. We have never been more than acquaintances.'

'Well--but--child--he has been seen with you constantly. At theatres,
at concerts, in the park, in galleries--everywhere, he has been
walking with you as if he had the right.'

'I could not help that. Besides, I never thought----'

'Never thought? Why, where were you brought up? Never thought? Good
gracious! what do young ladies go into society for?'

'I am not a young lady of society, I am afraid.'

'Well--but--what was your companion about, to allow---- Oh!'--Lady
Frances nodded her head--'oh! now I understand. Now one can understand
why he got her placed here. Now one understands her business. My dear,
you have been placed in a very dangerous position--most dangerous.
Your guardians or lawyers are very much to blame. And you really never
suspected anything?'

'How should I suspect? I was always told that Mr. Feilding was not the
man to begin that kind of thing.'

'Were you? Your companion told you that, I suppose?'

'Oh! I suppose so. There seems a horrid network of deception all about
me, Lady Frances.' Armorel rose, and her visitor followed her example.
'You have put a secret into my hands. I shall respect it. Henceforth,
I desire but one more interview with this man. Oh! he is all
lies--through and through. There is no part of him that is true.'

'Nonsense, my dear; you take things too seriously. We all have our
little reservations, and some deceptions are necessary. When you get
to my age you will understand. Why won't you marry the man? He is
young: his manners are pretty good: he is a man of the world: he is
really clever: he is quite sure to get on, particularly if his wife
help him. He means to get on. He is the kind of man to get on. You see
he is clever enough to take the credit of other people's work: to make
others work for you is the first rule in the art of getting on. Oh! he
will do. I shall live to see him made a baronet, and in the next
generation his son will marry money, and go up into the Lords. That is
the way. My dear, you had better take him. You will never get a more
promising offer. You seem to me rather an unworldly kind of girl. You
should really take advice of those who know the world.'

'I could never--never--marry Mr. Feilding.

'Wealth, position, society, rank, consideration--these are the only
things in life worth having, and you are going to throw them away! My
dear, is there actually nothing between you at all? Was it all a fib?'

'Actually nothing at all, except that he offered himself to me this
very morning, and he received an answer which was, I hope, plain
enough.'

'Ah! now I see.' Lady Frances laughed. 'Now I understand, my dear, the
vanity of the man! The creature, when he told me that fib, thought it
was the truth because he had made up his mind to ask you, and, of
course, he concluded that no one could say "No" to him. Now I
understand. You need not fall into a rage about it, my dear. It was
only his vanity. Poor dear Alec! Well, he'll get another pretty girl,
I dare say; but, my dear, I doubt whether---- Rising men are scarce,
you know. Good-bye, child! Keep that little secret, and don't bear
malice. The vanity--the vanity of the men! Wonderful! wonderful!'

       *       *       *       *       *

'And now,' cried Armorel, alone--'now there is nothing left.
Everything has been torn from him. He can do nothing--nothing. The
cleverest man--the very cleverest man in all London!'



CHAPTER XIX

WHAT NEXT?


Roland had moved into his new studio before Armorel became, as she had
promised, his model in the new picture. She began to go there nearly
every morning, accompanied by Effie, and faithfully sat for two or
three hours while the painting went on. It was the picture which he
had begun under the old conditions, her own figure being substituted
for that of the girl which the artist originally designed. The studio
was one of a nest of such offices crowded together under a great roof
and lying on many floors. The others were, I dare say, prettily
furnished and decorated with the customary furniture of a studio, with
pictures, sketches, screens, and pretty things of all kinds. This
studio was nothing but a great gaunt room, with a big window, and no
furniture in it except an easel, a table, and two or three chairs.
There was simply nothing else. Under the pressure of want and failure
the unfortunate artist had long ago parted with all the pretty things
with which he had begun his career, and the present was no time to
replace them.

'I have got the studio,' he said, 'for the remainder of a lease,
pretty cheap. Unfortunately, I cannot furnish it yet. Wait until the
tide turns. I am full of hope. Then this arid wall and this great
staring Sahara of a floor shall blossom with all manner of lovely
things--armour and weapons, bits of carving and tapestry, drawings.
You shall see how jolly it will be.'

Next to the studio there were two rooms. In one of these, his bedroom,
he had placed the barest necessaries; the other was empty and
unfurnished, so that he had no place to sit in during the evening but
his gaunt and ghostly studio. However, the tide had turned in one
respect. He was now full of hope.

There is no better time for conversation than when one is sitting for
a portrait or standing for a model. The subject has to remain
motionless. This would be irksome if silence were imposed as well as
inaction. Happily, the painter finds that his sitter only exhibits a
natural expression when he or she is talking and thinking about
something else. And, which is certainly a Providential arrangement,
the painter alone among mortals, if we except the cobbler, can talk
and work at the same time. I do not mean that he can talk about the
Differential Calculus, or about the relations of Capital and Labour,
or about a hot corner in politics: but he can talk of things light,
pleasant, and on the surface.

'I feel myself back in Scilly,' said Armorel. 'Whenever I come here
and think of what you are painting, I am in the boat, watching the
race of the tide through the channel. The puffins are swarming on
Camber Rock, and swimming in the smooth water outside: there is the
head of a seal, black above the water, shining in the sunlight--how he
flounders in the current! The sea-gulls are flying and crying
overhead: the shags stand in rows upon the farthest rocks: the
sea-breeze blows upon my cheek. I suppose I have changed so much that
when I go back I shall have lost the old feeling. But it was joy
enough in those days only to sit in the boat and watch it all. Do you
remember, Roland?'

'I remember very well. You are not changed a bit, Armorel: you have
only grown larger and----' 'More beautiful,' he would have added, but
refrained. 'You will find that the old joy will return again--_la joie
de vivre_--only to breathe and feel and look around. But it will be
then ten times as joyous. If you loved Scilly when you were a child
and had seen nothing else, how much more will you love the place now
that you have travelled and seen strange lands and other coasts and
the islands of the Mediterranean!'

'I fear that I shall find the place small: the house will have
shrunk--children's houses always shrink. I hope that Holy Farm will
not have become mean.'

'Mean? with the verbena-trees, the fuchsias, the tall pampas-grass,
and the palms! Mean? with the old ship's lanthorn and the gilded
figure-head? Mean, Armorel? with the old orchard behind and the
twisted trees with their fringe of grey moss? You talk rank blasphemy!
Something dreadful will happen to you.'

'Perhaps it will be I myself, then, that will have grown mean enough
to think the old house mean. But Samson is a very little place, isn't
it? One cannot make out Samson to be a big place. I could no longer
live there always. We will go there for three or four months every
year; just for refreshment of the soul, and then return here among men
and women or travel abroad together, Effie. We could be happy for a
time there: we could sail and row about the rocks in calm weather: and
in stormy weather we should watch the waves breaking over the
headlands, and in the evening I would play "The Chirping of the
Lark."'

'I am ready to go to-morrow, if you will take me with you,' said
Effie.

Then they were silent again. Roland walked backwards and forwards,
brush and palette in hand, looking at his model and at his canvas.
Effie stood beside the picture, watching it grow. To one who cannot
paint, the growth of a portrait on the canvas is a kind of magic. The
bare outline and shape of head and face, the colour of the eyes, the
curve of the neck, the lines of the lips--anyone might draw these. But
to transfer to the canvas the very soul that lies beneath the
features--that, if you please, is different. Oh! How does the painter
catch the soul of the man and show it in his face? One must be oneself
an artist of some kind even to appreciate the greatness of the
portrait painter.

'When this picture is finished,' said Armorel, 'there will be nothing
to keep me in London; and we will go then.'

'At the very beginning of the season?'

'The season is nothing to me. My companion, Mrs. Elstree, who was to
have launched me so beautifully into the very best society, turns out
not to have any friends; so that there is no society for me, after
all. Perhaps it is as well.'

'Will Mrs. Elstree go to Scilly with you?' asked Roland.

'No,' said Armorel, with decision. 'On Samson, at least, one needs no
companion.'

Again they relapsed into silence for a space. Conversation in the
studio is fitful.

'I have a thing to talk over with you two,' she said. 'First, I
thought it would be best to talk about it to you singly; but now I
think that you should both hear the whole story, and so we can all
three take counsel as to what is best.'

'Your head a little more--so.' Roland indicated the movement with his
forefinger. 'That will do. Now pray go on, Armorel.'

'Once there was a man,' she began, as if she was telling a story to
children--and, indeed, there is no better way ever found out of
beginning a story--'a man who was, in no sense at all, and could never
become, try as much as he could, an artist. He was, in fact, entirely
devoid of the artistic faculty: he had no ear for music or for poetry,
no eye for beauty of form or for colour, no hand for drawing, no brain
to conceive: he was quite a prosaic person. Whether he was clever in
things that do not require the artistic faculty, I do not know. I
should hardly think he could be clever in anything. Perhaps he might
be good at buying cheap and selling dear.'

'Won't you take five minutes' rest?' asked the painter; hardly
listening at all to the beginning, which, as you see, promised very
little in the way of amusement. There are, however, many ways by which
the story-teller gets a grip of his hearer, and a dull beginning is
not always the least effective. He put down his palette. 'You must be
tired,' he said. 'Come and tell me what you think.' He looked
thoughtfully at his picture. Armorel's poor little beginning of a
story was slighted.

'You are satisfied, so far?' she asked.

'I will tell you when it is finished. Is the water quite right?'

'We are in shoal, close behind us are the broad Black Rock Ledges. The
water might be even more transparent still. It is the dark water
racing through the narrow ravine that I think of most. It will be a
great picture, Roland. Now I will take my place again.' She did so.
'And, with your permission, I will go on with my story: you heard the
beginning, Roland?'

'Oh! Yes! Unfortunate man with no eyes and no ears,' he replied,
unsuspecting. 'Worse than a one-eyed Calender.'

'This preposterous person, then, with neither eye, nor ear, nor hand,
nor understanding, had the absurd ambition to succeed. This you will
hardly believe. But he did. And, what is more, he had no patience, but
wanted to succeed all at once. I am told that lots of young men,
nowadays, are consumed with that yearning to succeed all at once. It
seems such a pity, when they should be happily dancing and singing and
playing at the time when they were not working. I think they would
succeed so very much better afterwards. Well, this person very soon
found that in the law--did I say he was a barrister?--he had no chance
of success except after long years. Then he looked round the fields of
art and literature. Mind, he could neither write nor practise any art.
What was he to do? Every day the ambition to seem great filled his
soul more and more, and every day the thing appeared to him more
hopeless: because, you see, he had no imagination, and therefore could
not send his soul to sleep with illusions. I wonder he did not go mad.
Perhaps he did, for he resolved to pretend. First, he thought he would
pretend to be a painter'--here Roland, who had been listening
languidly, started, and became attentive. 'He could neither paint nor
draw, remember. He began, I think, by learning the language of Art. He
frequented studios, heard the talk and read the books. It must have
been weary work for him. But, of course, he was no nearer his object
than before; and then a great chance came to him. He found a young
artist full of promise--a real artist--one filled with the whole
spirit of Art: but he was starving. He was actually penniless, and he
had no friends who could help him, because he was an Australian by
birth. This young man was not only penniless, but in despair. He was
ready to do anything. I suppose, when one is actually starving and
sees no prospect of success or any hope, ambition dies away and even
self-respect may seem a foolish thing.' Roland listened now, his
picture forgotten. What was Armorel intending? 'It must be a most
dreadful kind of temptation. There can be nothing like it in the
world. That is why we pray for our daily bread. Oh! a terrible
temptation. I never understood before how great and terrible a
temptation it is. Then the man without eye, or hand, or brain saw a
chance for himself. He would profit by his brother's weakness. He
proposed to buy the work of this painter and to call it his own.'

'Armorel, must you tell this story?'

'Patience, Roland. In his despair the artist gave way. He consented.
For three years and more he received the wages of--of sin. But his
food was like ashes in his mouth, and his front was stamped--yes,
stamped--by the curse of those who sin against their own soul.'

'Armorel----' But she went on, ruthless.

'The pictures were very good: they were exhibited, praised, and sold.
And the man grew quickly in reputation. But he wasn't satisfied. He
thought that as it was so easy to be a painter, it would be equally
easy to become a poet. All the Arts are allied: many painters have
been also poets. He had never written a single line of poetry. I do
not know that he had ever read any. He found a girl who was
struggling, working, and hoping.' Effie started and turned roseate
red. 'He took her poems--bought them--and, on the pretence of having
improved them and so made them his own, he published them in his own
name. They were pretty, bright verses, and presently people began to
look for them and to like them. So he got a double reputation. But the
poor girl remained unknown. At first she was so pleased at seeing her
verses in print--it looked so much like success--that she hardly
minded seeing his name at the end. But presently he brought out a
little volume of them with his name on the title-page, and then a
second volume--also with his name----'

'The scoundrel!' cried Roland. 'He cribbed his poetry too?'

Effie bowed her face, ashamed.

'And then the girl grew unhappy. For she perceived that she was in a
bondage from which there was no escape except by sacrificing the money
which he gave her, and that was necessary for her brother's sake. So
she became very unhappy.'

'Very unhappy,' echoed Effie. Both painter and poet stood confused and
ashamed.

'Then this clever man--the cleverest man in London--began to go about
in society a good deal, because he was so great a genius. There he met
a lady who was full of stories.'

'Oh!' said Roland. 'Is there nothing in him at all?'

'Nothing at all. There is really nothing at all. This man persuaded
the lady to write down these stories, which were all based on old
family scandals and episodes unknown or forgotten by the world. They
form a most charming series of stories. I believe they are written in
a most sparkling style--full of wit and life. Well, he did not put
his name to them, but he allowed the whole world to believe that they
were his own.'

'Good Heavens!' cried Roland.

'And still he was not satisfied. He found a young dramatist who had
written a most charming play. He tried to persuade the poor lad that
his play was worthless, and he offered to take it himself, alter
it--but there needed no alteration--and convert it into a play that
could be acted. He would give fifty pounds for the play, but it was to
be his own.'

'Yes,' said Effie, savagely. 'He made that offer, but he will not get
the play.'

'You have heard, now, what manner of man he was. Very well. I tell you
two the story because I want to consult you. The other day I arranged
a little play of my own. That is, I invited people to hear the
reciting of that drama: I invited the pretender himself among the
rest, but he did not know or guess what the play was going to be. And
at the same time I invited the painter and the poet. The former
brought his unfinished picture--the latter brought her latest poem,
which the pretender was going that very week to bring out in his own
name. I had set it to music, and I sang it. I meant that he should
learn in this way, without being told, that everything was discovered.
I watched his face during the recital of the play, and I saw the
dismay of the discovery creeping gradually over him as he realised
that he had lost his painter, his poet, and his dramatist. There
remained nothing more but to discover the author of the stories--and
that, too, I have found out. And I think he will lose his story-teller
as well. He will be deprived of all his borrowed plumes. At one blow
he saw himself ruined.'

Neither of the two made answer for a space. Then spoke Roland: 'Dux
femina facti! A woman hath done this.'

'He is ruined unless he can find others to take your places. The
question I want you to consider is--What shall be done next? Roland,
it is your name and fame that he has stolen--your pictures that he has
called his own. Effie, they are your poems that he has published under
his name. What will you do? Will you demand your own again? Think.'

'He must exhibit no more pictures of mine,' said Roland. 'He has one
in his studio that he has already sold. That one must not go to any
gallery. That is all I have to say.'

'He cannot publish any more poems of mine,' said Effie, 'because he
hasn't got any, and I shall give him no more.'

'What about the past?'

'Are we so proud of the past and of the part we have played in
it'--asked Roland--'that we should desire its story published to all
the world?'

Effie shook her head, approvingly.

'As for me,' he continued, 'I wish never to hear of it again. It
makes me sick and ashamed even to think of it. Let it be forgotten. I
was an unknown artist--I had few friends--I had exhibited one picture
only--so that my work was unknown--I had painted for him six or seven
pictures which are mostly bought by an American. As for the
resemblance of style, that may make a few men talk for a season. Then
it will be forgotten. I shall remain--he will have disappeared. I am
content to take my chance with future work, even if at first I may
appear to be a mere copyist of Mr. Alec Feilding.'

'And you, Effie?'

'I agree with Mr. Lee,' she replied briefly. 'Let the past alone. I
shall write more verses, and, perhaps, better verses.'

'Then I will go to him and tell him that he need fear nothing. We
shall hold our tongues. But he is not to exhibit the picture that is
in his studio. I will tell him that.'

'You will not actually go to him yourself, Armorel--alone--after what
has passed?' asked Effie.

'Why not? He can do me no harm. He knows that he has been found out,
and he is tormented by the fear of what we shall do next. I bring him
relief. His reputation is secured--that is to say, it will be the
reputation of a man who stopped at thirty, in the fulness of his first
promise and his best powers, and did no more work.'

'Oh!' cried Effie. 'I thought he was so clever! I thought that his
desire to be thought a poet was only a little infirmity of temper,
which would pass. And, after all, to think that----' Here the poet
looked at the painter, and the painter looked at the poet--but neither
spoke the thought: 'How could you--you, with your pencil: how could
you--you, with your pen--consent to the iniquity of so great a fraud?'



CHAPTER XX

A RECOVERY AND A FLIGHT


Amid all these excitements Armorel became aware that
something--something of a painful and disagreeable character, was
going on with her companion. They were at this time very little
together. Mrs. Elstree took her breakfast in bed; at luncheon she was,
just now, nearly always out; at dinner she sat silent, pale, and
anxious; in the evening she lay back in her chair as if she was
asleep. One night Armorel heard her weeping and sobbing in her room.
She knocked at the door with intent to offer her help if she was ill.
'No, no,' cried Mrs. Elstree; 'you need not come in. I have nothing
but a headache.'

This thing as well disquieted her. She remembered what Lady Frances
had suggested--it is always the suggestion rather than the bare fact
which sticks and pricks like a thorn, and will not come out or suffer
itself to be removed. Armorel thought nothing of the allegation
concerning the stage--why should not a girl go upon the stage if she
wished? The suggestion which pricked was that Mrs. Elstree had been
sent to her by the man whom she now knew to be fraudulent through and
through, in order to carry out some underhand and secret design. There
is nothing more horrid than the suspicion that the people about one
are treacherous. It reduces one to the condition of primitive man, for
whom every grassy glade concealed a snake and every bush a wild beast.
She tried to shake off the suspicion, yet a hundred things confirmed
it. Her constant praise of this child of genius, his persistence in
meeting them wherever they went, the attempt to make her find money
for his schemes. The girl, thus irritated, began to have uneasy
dreams; she was as one caught in the meshes; she was lured into a
garden whence there was no escape; she was hunted by a cunning and
relentless creature; she was in a prison, and could not get out.
Always in her dreams Zoe stood on one side of her, crying, 'Oh, the
great and glorious creature!--oh, the cleverness of the man!--oh, the
wonder and the marvel of him!' And on the other side stood Lady
Frances, saying, 'Why don't you take him? He is a liar, it is true,
but he is no worse than his neighbours--all men are liars! You can't
get a man made on purpose for you. What is your business in life at
all but to find a husband? Why are girls in Society at all except to
catch husbands? And they are scarce, I assure you. Why don't you take
the man? You will never again have such a chance--a rising man--a man
who can make other people work for him--a clever man. Besides, you are
as good as engaged to him: you have made people talk: you have been
seen with him everywhere. If you are not engaged to him you ought to
be.'

It was about a week after the reading of the play when this condition
of suspicion and unquiet was brought to an end in a very unexpected
manner.

Mr. Jagenal called at the rooms in the morning about ten o'clock. Mrs.
Elstree was taking breakfast in bed, as usual. Armorel was alone,
painting.

'My dear young lady,' said her kindly adviser, 'I would not have
disturbed you at this early hour but for a very important matter. You
are well and happy, I trust? No, you are not well and happy. You look
pale.'

'I have been a little worried lately,' Armorel replied. 'But never
mind now.'

'Are you quite alone here? Your companion, Mrs. Elstree?'

'She has not yet left her room. We are quite alone.'

'Very well, then.' The lawyer sat down and began nursing his right
knee. 'Very well. You remember, I dare say, making a certain
communication to me touching a collection of precious stones in your
possession? You made that communication to me five years ago, when
first you came from Scilly. You returned to it again when you arrived
at your twenty-first birthday, and I handed over to your own keeping
all your portable property.'

'Of course I remember perfectly well.'

'Then does your purpose still hold?'

'It is still, and always, my duty to hand over those rubies to their
rightful owner--the heir of Robert Fletcher, as soon as he can be
found.'

'It is also my duty to warn you again, as I have done already, that
there is no reason at all why you should do so. You are the sole
heiress of your great-great-grandmother's estate. She died worth a
great sum of money in gold, besides treasures in plate, works of art,
lace, and jewels cut and uncut. The rambling story of an aged woman
cannot be received as evidence on the strength of which you should
hand over valuable property to persons unknown, who do not even claim
it, and know nothing about it.'

'I must hand over those rubies,' Armorel repeated, 'to the person to
whom they belong.'

'It is a very valuable property. If the estimate which was made for me
was correct--I see no reason to doubt it--those jewels could be sold,
separately, or in small parcels, for nearly thirty-five thousand
pounds--a fortune larger than all the rest of your property put
together--thirty-five thousand pounds!'

'That has nothing to do with the question, has it? I have got to
restore those jewels, you see, to their rightful owner, as soon as he
can be discovered.'

'Well--but--consider again. What have you got to go upon? The story
about Robert Fletcher may or may not be true. No one can tell after
this lapse of time. The things were found by you lying in the old
sea-chest with other things--all your own. Who was this Robert
Fletcher? Where are his heirs? If they claim the property, and can
prove their claim, give it up at once. If not, keep your own. The
jewels are undoubtedly your own as much as the lace and the silks and
the silver cups, which were all, I take it, recovered from wrecks.'

'Do you disbelieve my great-great-grandmother's story, then?'

'I have neither to believe nor to disbelieve. I say it isn't evidence.
Your report of what she said, being then in her dotage, amounts to
just nothing, considered as evidence.'

'I am perfectly certain that the story is true. The leathern thong by
which the case hung round the man's neck has been cut by a knife, just
as granny described it in her story. And there is the writing in the
case itself. Nothing will persuade me that the story is anything but
true in every particular.'

'It may be true. I cannot say. At the same time, the property is your
own, and you would be perfectly justified in keeping it.'

'Mr. Jagenal'--Armorel turned upon him sharply--'you have found out
Robert Fletcher's heir! I am certain you have. That is the reason why
you are here this morning.'

Mr. Jagenal laid upon the table a pocket-book full of papers.

'I will tell you what I have discovered. That is why I came here.
There has been, unfortunately, a good deal of trouble in discovering
this Robert Fletcher and in identifying one of the Robert Fletchers we
did discover with your man. We discovered, in fact, ten Robert
Fletchers before we came to the man who may reasonably be supposed----
But you shall see.'

He opened the pocket-book, and found a paper of memoranda from which
he read his narrative:--

'There was one Robert Fletcher, the eleventh whom we unearthed. This
man promised nothing at first. He became a broker in the City in the
year 1810. In the same year he married a cousin, daughter of another
broker, with whom he entered into partnership. He did so well that
when he died, in the year 1846, then aged sixty-nine, his will was
proved under 80,000_l._ He left three daughters, among whom the estate
was divided, in equal shares. The eldest of the daughters, Eleanor,
remained unmarried, and died two years ago, at the age of
seventy-seven, leaving the whole of her fortune--greatly increased by
accumulations--to hospitals and charities. I believe she was, in early
life, alienated from her family, on account of some real or fancied
slight. However, she died: and her papers came into the hands of my
friends Denham, Mansfield, Westbury, and Co., of New Square, Lincoln's
Inn, solicitors. Her second sister, Frances, born in the year 1813,
married in 1834, had one son, Francis Alexander, who was born in 1835,
and married in 1857. Both Frances and her son are now dead; but one
son remained, Frederick Alexander, born in the year 1859. The third
daughter, Catharine, born in the year 1815, married in 1835, and
emigrated to Australia with her husband, a man named Temple. I have no
knowledge of this branch of the family.'

'Then,' said Armorel, 'I suppose the eldest son or grandson of the
second sister must have the rubies?'

'You are really in a mighty hurry to get rid of your property. The
next question--it should have come earlier--is--How do I connect this
Robert Fletcher with your Robert Fletcher? How do we know that Robert
Fletcher the broker was Robert Fletcher the shipwrecked passenger?
Well; Eleanor, the eldest, left a bundle of family papers and letters
behind her. Among them is a packet endorsed "From my son Robert in
India." Those letters, signed "Robert Fletcher," are partly dated from
Burmah, whither the writer had gone on business. He gives his
observations on the manners and customs of the country, then little
known or visited. He says that he is doing very well, indeed: so well,
he says presently, that, thanks to a gift made to him by the King, he
is able to think about returning home with the means of staying at
home and doing no more work for the end of his natural days.'

'Of course, he had those jewels.'

'Then he writes from Calcutta. He has returned in safety from Burmah
and the King, whose capricious temper had made him tremble for his
life. He is putting his affairs in order: he has brought his property
from Burmah in a portable form which he can best realise in London:
lastly, he is going to sail in a few weeks. This is in the year 1808.
According to your story it was somewhere about that date that the
wreck took place on the Scilly Isles, and he was washed ashore,
saved----'

'And robbed,' said Armorel.

'As we have no evidence of the fact,' answered the man of law, 'I
prefer to say that the real story ends with the last of the letters.
It remained, however, to compare the handwriting of the letters with
that of the fragment of writing in your leather case. I took the
liberty to have a photograph made of that fragment while it was in my
possession, and I now ask you to compare the handwriting.' He drew out
of his pocket-book a letter--one of the good old kind, on large paper,
brown with age, and unprovided with any envelope--and the photograph
of which he was speaking. 'There,' he said, 'judge for yourself.'

'Why!' cried Armorel. 'The writing corresponds exactly!'

'It certainly does, letter for letter. Well; the conclusion of the
whole matter is that I believe the story of the old lady to be correct
in the main. On the other hand, there is nothing in the papers to show
the existence in the family of any recollection of so great a loss.
One would imagine that a man who had dropped--or thought he had
dropped--a bag, full of rubies, worth thirty-five thousand pounds,
into the sea would have told his children about it, and bemoaned the
loss all his life. Perhaps, however, he was so philosophic as to
grieve no more after what was hopelessly gone. He was still in the
years of hope when the misfortune befell him. Possibly his children
knew in general terms that the shipwreck had caused a destruction of
property. Again, a man of the City, with the instincts of the City,
would not like it to be known that he had returned to his native
country a pauper, while it would help him in his business to be
considered somewhat of a Nabob. Of this I cannot speak from any
knowledge I have, or from any discovery that I have made.'

'Oh!' cried Armorel, 'I cannot tell you what a weight has been lifted
from me. I have never ceased to long for the restoration of those
jewels ever since I found them in the sea-chest.'

'There is--as I said--only one descendant of the second sister--a
man--a man still young. You will give me your instructions in writing.
I am to hand over to this young man--this fortunate young man--already
trebly fortunate in another sense--this precious packet of jewels. It
is still, I suppose, in the bank?'

'It is where you placed it for me when I came of age.'

'Very well. I have brought you an order for its delivery to me. Will
you sign it?'

Armorel heaved a great sigh. 'With what relief!' she said. 'Have you
got it here?'

Mr. Jagenal gave her the order on the bank for the delivery of sealed
packet, numbered III., to himself. She signed it.

'To think,' she said, 'that by a simple stroke of the pen I can remove
the curse of those ill-gotten rubies! It is like getting rid of all
your sins at once. It is like Christian dropping his bundle.'

'I hope the rubies will not carry on this supposed curse of yours.'

'Oh!' cried Armorel, with a profound sigh, 'I feel as if the poor old
lady was present listening. Since I could understand anything, I have
understood that the possession of those rubies brought disaster upon
my people. From generation to generation they have been drowned one
after the other--my father--my grandfather--my great-grandfather--my
mother--my brothers--all--all drowned. Can you wonder if I rejoice
that the things will threaten me no longer?'

'This is sheer superstition.'

'Oh! yes: I know, and yet I cannot choose but to believe it, I have
heard the story so often, and always with the same ending. Now, they
are gone.'

'Not quite gone. Nearly. As good as gone, however. Dismiss this
superstitious dread from your mind, my dear young lady.'

'The rubies are gone. There will be no more of us swallowed up in the
cruel sea.'

'No more of you,' repeated Mr. Jagenal, with the incredulous smile of
one who has never had in his family a ghost, or a legend, or a curse,
or a doom, or a banshee, or anything at all distinguished. 'And now
you will be happy. You don't ask me the name of the fortunate young
man.'

'No; I do not want to know anything more about the horrid things.'

'What am I to say to him?'

'Tell him the truth.'

'I shall tell him that you discovered the rubies in an old sea-chest
with other property accumulated during a great many years: that a
scrap of paper with writing on it gave a clue to the owner: and that,
by means of other investigation, he has been discovered: that it was
next to impossible for your great-grandfather, Captain Rosevean, to
have purchased these jewels: and that the presumption is that he
recovered them from the wreck, and laid them in the chest, saying
nothing, and that the chest was never opened until your succession to
the property. That, my dear young lady, is all the story that I have
to tell. And now I will go away, with congratulations to Donna
Quixote in getting rid of thirty-five thousand pounds.'

An hour or two afterwards, Mrs. Elstree appeared. She glided into the
room and threw herself into her chair, as if she desired to sleep
again. She looked harassed and anxious.

'Zoe,' cried Armorel, 'you are surely ill. What is it? Can I do
nothing for you?'

'Nothing. I only wish it was all over, or that I could go to sleep for
fifty years, and wake up an old woman--in an almshouse or
somewhere--all the troubles over. What a beautiful thing it must be to
be old and past work, with fifteen shillings a week, say, and nothing
to think about all day except to try and forget the black box! If it
wasn't for the black box--I know I should see them always coming along
the road with it--it must be the loveliest time.'

'Well--but--what makes you look so ill?'

'Nothing. I am not ill. I am never ill. I would rather be ill
than--what I am. A tearing, rending neuralgia would be a welcome
change. Don't ask me any more questions, Armorel. You look radiant,
for your part. Has anything happened to you?--anything good? You are
one of those happy girls to whom only good things come.'

'Do you remember the story I told you--about the rubies?'

'Yes.' She turned her face to the fire. 'I remember very well.'

'I have at last--congratulate me, Zoe--I have got rid of them.'

'You have got rid of them?' Mrs. Elstree started up. 'Where are they,
then?'

'Mr. Jagenal has been here. He has found a great-grandson of Robert
Fletcher, who is entitled to have them. I have never been so relieved!
The dreadful things are out of my hands now, and in Mr. Jagenal's. He
will give them to this grandson. Zoe, what is the matter?'

Mrs. Elstree rose to her feet, and stood facing Armorel, with eyes in
which wild terror was the only passion visible, and white cheeks. And,
as Armorel was still speaking, she staggered, reeled, and fell
forwards in a faint. Armorel caught her, and bore her to the sofa,
when she presently came to herself again. But the fainting fit was
followed by hysterical weeping and laughing. She knew not what she
said. She raved about somebody who had bought something. Armorel paid
no heed to what she said. She lamented the hour of her birth: she had
been pursued by evil all her life: she lamented the hour when she met
a certain man, unnamed, who had dragged her down to his own level: and
so on.

When she had calmed a little, Armorel persuaded her to lie down. It is
a woman's chief medicine. It is better than all the drugs in the
museum of the College of Physicians. Mrs. Elstree, pale and
trembling, tearful and agitated, lay down. Armorel covered her with a
warm wrapper, and left her.

A little while afterwards she looked in. The patient was quite calm
now, apparently asleep, and breathing gently. Armorel, satisfied with
the result of her medicine, left her in charge of her maid, and went
out for an hour. She went out, in fact, to tell Effie Wilmot the
joyful news concerning those abominable rubies. When she came back, in
time for luncheon, she was met by her maid, who gave her a letter, and
told her a strange thing. Mrs. Elstree had gone away! The sick woman,
who had been raving in hysterics, hardly able to support herself to
her bed, had got up the moment after Armorel left the house, packed
all her boxes hurriedly, sent her for a cab, and had driven away. But
she had left this note for Armorel. It was brief.

    'I am obliged to go away unexpectedly. In order to avoid
    explanations and questions and farewells, I have thought it
    best to go away quietly. I could not choose but go. For
    certain reasons I must leave you. For the same reasons I hope
    that we may never meet again. I ought never to have come here.
    Forgive me and forget me. I will write to Mr. Jagenal to-day.

            'ZOE.'

There was no reason given. She had gone. Nor, if one may anticipate,
has Armorel yet discovered the reasons for this sudden flight. Nor, as
you will presently discover, will Armorel ever be able to discover
those reasons.



CHAPTER XXI

ALL LOST BUT----


Mr. Alec Feilding paced the thick carpet of his studio with a restless
step and an unquiet mind. Never before had he faced a more gloomy
outlook. Black clouds, storm and rain, everywhere. Bad, indeed, is it
for the honest tradesman when there is no money left, and no credit.
But a man can always begin the world again if he has a trade. The
devil of it is when a man has no trade at all, except that of lying
and cheating in the abstract. Many men, it is true, combine cheatery
and falsehood with their trade. Few are so unfortunate as to have no
trade on which to base their frauds and adulterations.

Everything threatened, and all at once. Nay, it seemed as if
everything was actually taken from him and all at once. Not something
here, which might be repaired, and something there, a little later on,
but all at once--everything. Nothing at all left. Even his furniture
and his books might be seized. He would be stripped of his house, his
journal, his name, his credit, his position--even his genius!
Therefore his face--that face which Armorel found so wooden--was now
full of expression, but of the terror-stricken, hunted kind: that of
the man who has been found out and is going to be exposed.

On the table lay three or four letters. They had arrived that morning.
He took them up and read them one after the other. It was line upon
line, blow upon blow.

The first was from Roland Lee.

'I see no object,' he said, 'in granting you the interview which you
propose. There is not really anything that requires discussion. As to
our interests being identical, as you say--if they have been so
hitherto they will remain so no longer. As to the market price of the
pictures, which you claim to have raised by your judicious management,
I am satisfied to see my work rise to its own level by its own worth.
As to your threat that the influence which has been exerted for an
artist may be also exerted against him--you will do what you please.
Your last demand, for gratitude, needs no reply. I start again,
exactly where I was when you found me. I am still as poor and as
little known. The half-dozen pictures which you have sold as your own
will not help me in any way. Your assertion that I am about to reap
the harvest of your labours is absurd. I begin the world over again.
The last picture--the one now in your studio--you will be good enough
not to exhibit'--'Won't I, though?' asked the owner--'at the penalty
of certain inconveniences which you will learn immediately. I have
torn up and burned your cheque.'--'So much the better for me,' said
the purchaser.--'You say that you will not let me go without a
personal interview. If you insist upon one, you must have it. You will
find me here any morning. But, as you can only want an interview in
the hope of renewing the old arrangement, I am bound to warn you that
it is hopeless and impossible, and to beg that you will not trouble
yourself to come here at all. Understand that no earthly consideration
will induce me to bear any further share in the deception in which I
have been too long a confederate. The guilty knowledge of the past
should separate us as wide apart as the poles. To see you will be to
revive a guilty memory. Since we must meet, perhaps, from time to
time, let us meet as a pair of criminals who avoid each other's
conversation for fear of stirring up the noisome past. What has been
resolved upon, so far as I--and another--are concerned, Miss Armorel
Rosevean has undertaken to inform you.--R. L.'

'Deception! Criminals!' I suppose there is no depth of wickedness into
which men may not descend, step by step, getting daily deeper in the
mire of falsehood and crime, yet walking always with head erect, and
meeting the world with the front of rectitude. Had anyone told Mr.
Alec Feilding, years before, what he would do in the future, he would
have kicked that foul and obscene prophet. Well: he had done these
things, and deliberately: he had posed before the world as painter,
poet, and writer of fiction. As time went on, and the world accepted
his pretensions, they became a part of himself. Nay: he even excused
himself. Everybody does the same thing: or, just the same, everybody
would do it, given the chance: it is a world of pretension,
make-believe, and seeming. Besides, he was no highwayman, he bought
the things: he paid for them: they were his property. And
yet--'Deception! Criminals!' The words astonished and pained him.

And the base ingratitude of the man. He was starving: no one would buy
his things: nobody knew his work, when he stepped in. Then, by
dexterity in the art of Puff, which the moderns call _réclame_--he
actually believed this, being so ignorant of Art--he had forced these
pictures into notice: he had run up their price, until for that
picture on the easel he had been offered, and had taken, 450_l._!
Ungrateful!

'Deception! Criminals!'

Why, the man had actually received a cheque for 300_l._ for that very
picture. What more could he want or expect? True, he had refused to
cash the cheque. More fool he!

And now he was going absolutely to withdraw from the partnership, and
work for himself. Well--poor devil! He would starve!

He stood in front of the picture and looked at it mournfully. The
beautiful thing--far more beautiful than any he had exhibited before.
It cut him to the heart to think--not that he had been such a fraud,
but--that he could have no more from the same source. His career was
cut short at the outset, his ambitions blasted, by this unlucky
accident. Yet a year or two and the Academy would have made him an
Associate: a few more years and he would have become R.A. Perhaps, in
the end, President. And now it was all over. No Royal Academy for him,
unless--a thing almost desperate--he could find some other Roland
Lee--some genius as poor, as reckless of himself. And it might be
years--years--before he could find such a one. Meantime, what was he
to show? What was he to say? 'Deception! Criminals!' Confound the
fellow! The words banged about his head and boxed his ears.

The second letter was from Effie--the girl to whom he had paid such
vast sums of money, whom he had surrounded with luxuries--on whom he
had bestowed the precious gift of his personal friendship. This girl
also wrote without the least sense of gratitude. She said, in fact,
writing straight to the point, 'I beg to inform you that I shall not,
in future, be able to continue those contributions to your paper which
you have thought fit to publish in two volumes with your own name
attached. I have submitted my original manuscript of those verses to a
friend, who has compared them with your published volume, and has
ascertained that there is not the alteration of a single word. So that
your pretence of having altered and improved them, until they became
your own, is absurd. My brother begs me to add that your statement
made before all the people at the reading was false. You made no
suggestions. You offered no advice. You said that the play was
worthless. My brother has made no alterations. You offered to give him
fifty pounds for the whole rights in the play, with the right of
bringing it out under your own name. This offer he refuses absolutely.

'I sincerely wish I could restore the money you have given me. I now
understand that it was the price of my silence--the Wages of Sin.

            'E. W.'

No more verses from that quarter. Poets, however, there are in plenty,
writers of glib and flowing rhymes. To be sure, they are as a race
consumed by vanity, and want to have their absurd names stuck to
everything they do. Very well, henceforth he would have anonymous
verses, and engage a small army of poets. The letter moved him little,
except that it came by the same post as the other. It proved, taken
with the evening of the play, concerted action. As for comparing the
girl's manuscript verses with the volume, how was she to prove that
the manuscript verses were not copied out of the volume?

Then there was a third letter, a very angry letter, from Lady Frances,
his story-teller.

'I learn,' she said, 'that you have chosen me as the fittest person
upon whom to practise your deceptions. You assured me that you were
engaged to Miss Armorel Rosevean. I learn from the young lady herself
that this is entirely false: you did offer yourself, it is true, a
week after you had assured me of the engagement. You were promptly and
decidedly refused. And you had no reason whatever for believing that
you would be accepted.

'I should like you to consider that you owe your introduction into
society to me. You also owe to me whatever name you have acquired as a
story-teller. Every one of the society stories told in your paper has
been communicated to you by me. And this is the way in which you repay
my kindness to you.

'Under the circumstances, I think you cannot complain if I request
that in future we cease to meet even as acquaintances. Of course, my
contributions to your paper will be discontinued. And if you venture
to state anywhere that they are your own work, I will publicly
contradict the statement.

            'F. H.'

He stood irresolute. What was to be done? For the moment he could
think of nothing. 'It is that cursed girl!' he cried. 'Why did she
ever come here? By what unlucky accident did she meet these
two--Roland Lee and Effie? Why was I such a fool as to ask Lady
Frances to call upon her? Why did I send Zoe to her? It is all folly
together. If it had not been for her we should have been all going on
as before. I am certain we should--and going on comfortably. I should
have made Roland's fortune as well as my own name--and his hand was
getting stronger and better every day. And I should have kept that
girl in comfort, and made a very pretty little name for myself that
way. She was improving, too--a bright and clever girl--a real treasure
in proper hands. And I had the boy as well, or should have had. Good
Heavens! what losses! What a splendid possession to have destroyed! No
man ever before had such a chance--to say nothing of Lady Frances!' It
was maddening. We use the word lightly, and for small cause. But it
really was maddening. 'What will they say? What are they going to do?
What can they say? If it comes to a question of affirmation I can
swear as well as anyone, I suppose. If Roland pretends that he painted
my pictures--if Effie says she wrote my poems--how will they prove it?
What can they do?

'But things stick. If it is whispered about that there will be no more
pictures and no more poems--oh! it is the hardest luck.'

One more letter reached him by that morning's post:--

    'Dearest Alec,--I have left Armorel, and am no longer a
    Companion. The gilt could not disguise the pill. I have,
    however, a communication to make of a more comfortable
    character than this. It is true that I am like a housemaid out
    of a situation. But I think you will change the natural
    irritation caused by this announcement for a more joyful
    countenance when you see me. I shall arrive with my
    communication about noon to-morrow. Be at home, and be
    alone.--Your affectionate

            'ZOE.'

What had she got to say? At the present crisis what could it matter
what she had to say? If she had only got that money out of Armorel, or
succeeded in making the girl his servant. But she could not do the
only really useful thing he ever asked of her.

He laid down the letter on the table, beside one from his
printers--three days old. In this communication the printers pointed
out that his account was very large; that no satisfactory arrangement
had been proposed; that they were going to discontinue printing his
paper unless something practical was effected; and that they hoped to
hear from him without delay.

There was a knock at the door: the discreet man-servant brought a
card, with the silence and confidential manner of one who announces a
secret emissary--say a hired assassin.

The visitor was Mr. Jagenal. He came in friendly and expansive.

'My dear boy!' he said with a warm grasp. 'Always at work--always at
work?'

Alec dexterously swept the letters into an open drawer. 'Always at
work,' he said. 'But I must be hard pressed when I cannot give you
five minutes. What is it?'

'I will come to the point at once. You know Mrs. Elstree very well, I
believe?'

'Very well indeed--I knew her before her father's failure. Before her
marriage.'

'Quite so. Then what do you make of this?' He handed over a note,
which the other man read: 'Dear Sir,--Unexpected circumstances have
made it necessary for me to give up my charge of Armorel Rosevean at
once. I have not even been able to wait a single day. I have been
compelled to leave her without even wishing her farewell.--Very truly
yours, Zoe Elstree.'

'It is very odd,' he said truthfully. 'I know nothing of these
circumstances. I cannot tell you why she has resigned.'

'Oh! I thought I would ask you! Well, she has actually gone: she has
vanished: she has left the girl quite alone. This is all very
irregular, isn't it? Not quite what one expects of a lady, is it?'

'Very irregular indeed. Well, I am responsible for her introduction to
you, and I will find out, if I can, what it means. She is coming here
to-day, she writes: no doubt to give me her reasons. What will Miss
Rosevean do?'

'Oh! she is an independent girl. She tells me that she has found a
young lady about her own age, and they are going to live together.
Alec, I don't quite understand why you thought Mrs. Elstree so likely
a person for companion. Philippa tells me that she has no friends, and
we appointed her because we thought she had so many.'

'Pleasing--attractive--accomplished--what more did you want? And as
for friends, she must have had plenty.'

'But it seems she had none. Nobody has ever called upon her. And she
never went into any society. Are you sure that you were not misled
about her, my dear boy? I have heard, for instance, rumours about her
and the provincial stage.'

'Oh! rumours are nothing. I don't think I could have been mistaken in
her. However, she has gone. I will find out why. As for Armorel
Rosevean----'

'Alec--what a splendid girl! Was there no chance there for you? Are
you so critical that even Armorel is not good enough for you?'

'Not my style,' he said shortly. 'Never mind the girl.'

'Well--there is one more thing, Alec--and a more pleasant subject--about
yourself. I want to ask you one or two questions--family questions.'

'I thought you knew all about my family.'

'So I do, pretty well. However--this is really important--most
important. I wouldn't waste your time if it was not important. Do you
remember your great-aunt Eleanor Fletcher?'

'Very well. She left all her money to charities--Cat!'

'And your grandmother, Mrs. Needham?'

'Quite well. What is in the wind now? Has Aunt Eleanor been proved to
have made a later will in my favour?'

'You will find out in a day or two. Eh! Alec, you are a lucky dog.
Painter--poet--nothing in which you do not command success. And
now--now----'

'Now--what?'

'That I will tell you, my dear boy, in two or three days. There's many
a slip, we know, but this time the cup will reach your lips.'

'What do you mean?' cried the young man, startled. 'Cup? Do you mean
to tell me that you have something--something unexpected--coming to
me? Something considerable?'

'If it comes--oh! yes, it is quite certain to come--very considerable.
You are your mother's only son, and she was an only child, and her
grandfather was one Robert Fletcher, wasn't he?'

'I believe he was. There's a family Bible on the shelves that can tell
us.'

'Did you ever hear anything about the early life and adventures of
this Robert Fletcher?'

'No: he was in the City, I believe, and he left a good large fortune.
That is all.'

'That is all. That is all. Well, my dear boy, the strangest things
happen: we must never be surprised at anything. But be prepared
to-morrow--or next day--or the day after--to be agreeably--most
agreeably--surprised.'

'To the tune of--what? A thousand pounds, say?'

'Perhaps. It may amount very nearly to as much--very nearly--Ha!
ha!--to nearly as much as that, I dare say--Ho! ho!' He chuckled, and
wagged his white head. 'Very nearly a thousand pounds, I dare say.' He
walked over to look at the picture.

'Really, Alec,' he said, 'you deserve all the luck you get. Nobody can
possibly grudge it to you. This picture is charming. I don't know when
I have seen a sweeter thing. You have the finest feeling for rock and
sea-shore and water. Well, my dear boy, I am very sorry that you
haven't as fine a feeling for Armorel Rosevean--the sweetest girl and
the best, I believe, in the world. Good-bye!--good-bye! till the day
after to-morrow--the day after to-morrow! It will certainly reach to a
thousand--or very near. Ho! ho! Lucky dog!'

Mr. Jagenal went away nodding and smiling. There are moments when it
is very good to be a solicitor: they are moments rich in blessing:
they compensate, in some measure, for those other moments when the
guilty are brought to bay and the thriftless are made to tremble: they
are the moments when the solicitor announces a windfall--the return of
the long-lost Nabob--the discovery of a will--the favourable decision
of the Court.

Alec sat down and seized a pen. He wrote hurriedly to his printers:
'Let the present arrangements,' he said, continue unchanged. I shall
be in a position in two or three days to make a very considerable
payment, and, after that, we will start on a more regular
understanding.'

Another knock, and again the discreet man-servant came in on tiptoe.
'Lady refused her card,' he whispered.

The lady was none other than Armorel herself--in morning dress,
wearing a hat.

He bowed coldly. There was a light in her eyes, and a heightened
colour on her cheek, which hardly looked like a friendly call. But
that, of course, one could not expect.

'After our recent interview,' he said, 'and after the very remarkable
string of accusations which fell from your lips, I could hardly expect
to see you in my studio, Miss Rosevean.'

'I came only to communicate a resolution arrived at by my friends Mr.
Roland Lee and Miss Effie Wilmot.'

'From your friends Mr. Roland Lee and Miss Effie Wilmot? May I offer
you a chair?'

'Thank you. No. My message is only to tell you this. They have
resolved to let the past remain unknown.'

'To let the past remain unknown.' He tried to appear careless, but the
girl watched the sudden light of satisfaction in his eyes and the
sudden expression of relief in his face. 'The past remain unknown,' he
repeated. 'Yes--certainly. Am I--may I ask--interested in this
decision?'

'That you know best, Mr. Feilding. It seems hardly necessary to try to
carry it off with me--I know everything. But--as you please. They
agree that they have been themselves deeply to blame: they cannot
acquit themselves. Certainly it is a pitiful thing for an artist to
own that he has sold his name and fame in a moment of despair.'

'It would be indeed a pitiful thing if it were ever done.'

'Nothing more, therefore, will be said by either of them as to the
pictures or poems.'

'Indeed? From what you have already told me: from the gracious freedom
of your utterances at the National Gallery, I seem to connect those
two names with the charges you then brought. They refuse to bring
forward, or to endorse, those charges, then? Do you withdraw them?'

'They do not refuse to bring forward the charges. They have never made
those charges. I made them, and I, Mr. Feilding'--she raised her voice
a little--'I do not withdraw them.'

'Oh! you do not withdraw them? May I ask what your word in the matter
is worth unsupported by their evidence--even if their evidence were
worth anything?'

'You shall hear what my word is worth. This picture'--she placed
herself before it--'is painted by Mr. Roland Lee. Perhaps he will not
say so. Oh! It is a beautiful picture--it is quite the best he has
ever painted--yet. It is a true picture: you cannot understand either
its beauty or its truth. You have never been to the place: you do not
even know where it is: why, Sir, it is my birthplace. I lived there
until I was sixteen years of age: the scene, like all the scenes in
those pictures you call your own, was taken in the Scilly
archipelago.' He started. 'You do not even know the girl who stands in
the foreground--your own model. Why--it is my portrait--mine--look at
me, Sir--it is my portrait. Now you know what my word is worth. I have
only to stand before this picture and tell the world that this is my
portrait.'

He started and changed colour. This was unexpected. If the girl was to
go on talking in this way outside, it would be difficult to reply.
What was he to say if the words were reported to him? Because, you
see, once pointed out, there could be no doubt at all about the
portrait.

'A portrait of myself,' she repeated.

'Permit me to observe,' he said, with some assumption of dignity,
'that you will find it very difficult to prove these statements--most
difficult--and at the same time highly dangerous, because libellous.'

'No, not dangerous, Mr. Feilding. Would you dare to go into a Court of
Justice and swear that these pictures are yours? When did you go to
Scilly? Where did you stay? Under what circumstances did you have me
for a model? On what island did you find this view?'

He was silent.

'Will you dare to paint anything--the merest sketch--to show that this
picture is in your own style? You cannot.'

'Anyone,' he said, 'may bring charges--the most reckless charges. But
I think you would hardly dare----'

'I will do this, then. If you dare to exhibit this picture as your
own, I will, most assuredly, take all my friends and stand in front of
it, and tell them when and where it was painted, and by whom, and show
them my own portrait.'

The resolution of this threat quelled him. 'I have no intention,' he
said, 'of exhibiting this picture. It is sold to an American, and will
go to New York immediately. Next year, perhaps, I may take up your
challenge.'

She laughed scornfully. 'I promised Roland,' she said, 'that you
should not show this picture. That is settled, then. You shall not,
you dare not.'

She left the picture reluctantly. It was dreadful to her to think that
it must go, with his name upon it.

On a side-table lay, among a pile of books, the dainty white-and-gold
volume of poems bearing the name of this great genius. She took it up,
and laughed.

'Oh!' she said. 'Was there ever greater impudence? Every line in this
volume was written by Effie Wilmot--every line!'

'Indeed? Who says so?'

'I say so. I have compared the manuscript with the volume. There is
not the difference of a word.'

'If Miss Effie Wilmot, for purposes of her own, and for base purposes
of deception, has copied out my verses in her own handwriting,
probably a wonderful agreement may be found.'

'Shame!' cried Armorel.

'You see the force of that remark. It _is_ a great shame. Some girls
take to lying naturally. Others acquire proficiency in the art. Effie,
I suppose, took to it naturally. I am sorry for Effie. I used to think
better of her.'

'Oh! He tries, even now! How can you pretend--you--to have written
this sweet and dainty verse? Oh! You dare to put your signature to
these poems!'

'Of course,' said the divine Maker, with brazen front and calmly
dignified speech, 'if these things are said in public or outside the
studio, I shall be compelled to bring an action for libel. I have
warned you already. Before repeating what you have said here you had
better make quite sure that you can prove your words. Ask Miss Effie
Wilmot what proofs she has of her assertion, if it is hers, and not an
invention of your own!'

Armorel threw down the volume. 'Poor Effie!' she said. 'She has been
robbed of the first-fruits of her genius. How dare you talk of
proofs?' She took up the current number of the journal. 'That is not
all,' she said. 'Look here! This is one of your stories, is it not? I
read in a paper yesterday that no Frenchman ever had so light a touch:
that there are no modern stories anywhere so artistic in treatment and
in construction as your own--your own--your very own, Mr. Feilding.
Yet they are written for you, every one of them: they are written by
Lady Frances Hollington. You are a Triple Impostor. I believe that you
really are the very greatest Pretender--the most gigantic Pretender in
the whole world.'

'Of course,' he went on, a little abashed by her impetuosity. 'I
cannot stop your tongue. You may say what you please.'

'We shall say nothing more. That is what I came to say on behalf of my
friends. I wished to spare them the pain of further communication with
you.'

'Kind and thoughtful!'

'I have one more question to ask you, Mr. Feilding. Pray, why did you
tell people that I was engaged to you?'

'Probably,' he replied, unabashed, 'because I wished it to be
believed.'

'Why did you wish it to be believed?'

'Probably for private reasons.'

'It was a vile and horrible falsehood!'

'Come, Miss Rosevean, we will not call each other names. Otherwise I
might ask you what the world calls a girl who encourages a man to
dangle after her for weeks, till everybody talks about her, and then
throws him over.'

'Oh! You cannot mean----' Before those flashing eyes his own dropped.

'I mean that this is exactly what you have done,' he said, but without
looking up.

'Is it possible that a man can be so base? What encouragement did I
ever give you?'

'You surely are not going to deny the thing, after all. Why, it has
been patent for all the world to see you. I have been with you
everywhere, in all public places. What hint did you ever give me that
my addresses were disagreeable to you?'

'How can one reply to such insinuations?' asked Armorel, with flaming
face. 'And so you followed me about in order to be able to say that I
encouraged you! What a man! What a man! You have taught me to
understand, now, why one man may sometimes take a stick and beat
another. If I were a man, at this moment, I would beat you with a
stick. No other treatment is fit for such a man. I to encourage
you!--when for a month and more I have known what an Impostor and
Pretender you are! You dare to say that I have encouraged
you!--you--the robber of other men's name and fame!'

'Well, if you come to that, I do dare to say as much. Come, Miss
Armorel Rosevean. I certainly do dare to say as much.'

She turned with a gesture of impatience.

'I have said what I came to say. I will go.'

'Stop a moment!' said Alec Feilding. 'Is it not rather a bold
proceeding for a beautiful girl like you, a day or two after you have
refused a man, to visit him alone at his studio? Is it altogether the
way to let the world distinctly understand that there never has been
anything between us, and that it is all over?'

'I am less afraid of the world than you think. My world is my very
little circle of friends. I am very much afraid of what they think.
But it is on their account, and with their knowledge, that I am here.'

'Alone and unprotected?'

'Alone, it is true. I can always protect myself.'

'Indeed!' He turned an ugly--a villanous--face towards her. 'We shall
see! You come here with your charges and your fine phrases. We shall
see!'

He had been standing all this time before his study table. He now
stepped quickly to the door. The key was in the lock. He turned it,
drew it out, and dropped it in his pocket.

[Illustration: _'You have had your innings, and I am going to have
mine.'_]

'Now, my lovely lady,' he said, grinning, 'you have had your innings,
and I am going to have mine. You have come to this studio in order to
have a row with me. You have had that row. You can use your tongue in
a manner that does credit to your early education. As for your
nonsense about Roland Lee and Effie and Lady Frances, no one is going
to believe that stuff, you know. As for your question, I did tell Lady
Frances that you were engaged to me. And I told others. Because, of
course, you were--or ought to have been. It was only by some kind
of accident that I did not speak before. As I intended to speak the
next day, I anticipated the thing by twelve hours or so. What of that?
Well, I shall now have to explain that you seem not to know your own
mind. It will be awkward for you--not for me. You have thrown me over.
And all you have got to say in explanation is a long rigmarole of
abuse. This not my own painting? These not my own poems? These, again,
not my own stories? Really, Miss Armorel Rosevean, you know so very
little of the world--you are so inexperienced--you are so easily
imposed upon--that I am inclined to pity rather than to blame you. Of
course, you have tried to do me harm, and I ought to be angry with
you. But I cannot. You are much too beautiful. To a lovely woman
everything, even mischief, is forgiven.'

'Will you open the door and let me go?'

'All in good time. When I please. It will do you no harm to be caught
alone in my studio--alone with me. It will look so like returning to
the lover whom, in a moment of temper, you threw over. I will take
care that it shall bear that interpretation, if necessary. You have
changed your mind, sweet Armorel, have you not? You have repented of
that cruel decision?'

He advanced a little nearer. I really believe that he was still
confident in his own power of subjugating the sex feminine--Heaven
knows why some men always retain this confidence.

Armorel looked round the room: the window was high, too high for her
to reach: there was no way of escape except through the door. Then she
saw something hanging on the wall within her reach, and she took
courage.

He drew still nearer: he held out his hands, and laughed.

'You are a really lovely girl,' he said. 'I believe there is not a
more beautiful girl in the whole world. Before you go let us make
friends and forgive. It is not too late to change your mind. I will
forget all you have said and all the mischief you have done me. My man
is very discreet. He will say nothing about your visit here, unless I
give him permission to speak. This I will never allow unless I am
compelled. Come, Armorel, once more let me be your lover--once more.
Give me your hands.'

He bowed suppliant. He looked in her face with baleful eyes. He tried
to take her hands. Armorel sprang from him and darted to the other end
of the room.

The thing she had observed was hanging up among the weapons and armour
and tapestry which decorated this wall of the studio. It was an axe
from foreign parts, I think, from Indian parts, with a stout wooden
handle and a boss of steel at the upper part. Armorel seized this
lethal weapon. It was so heavy that no ordinary girl could have lifted
it. But her arm, strengthened by a thousand days upon the water,
tugging at the oar, wielded it easily.

'Open the door!' she cried. 'Open the door this moment!'

Her wooer made no reply. He shrank back before the girl who handled
this heavy axe as lightly as a paper-knife. But he did not open the
door.

'Open it, I say!'

He only shrank back farther. He was cowed before the wrath in her
face. He did not know what she would do next. I think he even forgot
that the key was in his pocket. The door, a dainty piece of furniture,
was not one of the common machine-made things which the competitive
German--or is it the thrifty Swede?--is so good as to send over to us.
It was a planned and fitted door, the panels painted with reeds and
grasses, the gift of some admirer of genius. Armorel raised the
axe--and looked at him. He did not move.

Crash! It went through the panel. Crash! again and again. The upper
part of the door was a gaping wreck of splinters. Outside, the
discreet man-servant waited in silence and expectation. Often ladies
had held interviews alone with his master. But this was the first time
that an interview had ended with such a crash.

'Will you open the door?' she asked again.

The man replied by a curse.

The lock--a piece of imitation mediævalism in iron--was fitted on to
the inner part of the door, a very pretty ornament. Armorel raised her
axe again, and brought the square boss at the top of it down upon the
dainty fragile lock, breaking it and tearing it from the wood. There
was no more difficulty in opening the door. She did so. She threw the
hatchet on the carpet and walked away, the discreet man-servant
opening the door for her with unchanged countenance, as if the
deplorable incident had not happened at all.



CHAPTER XXII

THE END OF WORLDLY TROUBLES


Not more than five minutes afterwards, Mrs. Elstree arrived upon this
scene of wreck. The splintered panels, the broken lock, the axe lying
on the floor, proclaimed aloud that there had been an Incident of some
gravity--certainly what we have called a Deplorable Incident.

Such a thing as a Deplorable Incident in such a place and with such a
man was, indeed, remarkable. Mrs. Elstree gazed upon the wreck with
astonishment unfeigned: she turned to the tenant of the studio, who
stood exactly where Armorel had left him. As the sea when the storm
has ceased continues to heave in sullen anger, so that majestic spirit
still heaved with wrath as yet unappeased.

In answer to the mute question of her eyes, he growled, and threw
himself into his study-chair. When she picked up the axe and bore it
back to its place, he growled. When she pointed to the door, he
growled again.

She looked at his angry face, and she laughed gently. The last time we
saw her she was pale and hysterical. She was now smiling, apparently
in perfect health of body and ease of mind. Perhaps she was a very
good actress--off the stage: perhaps she shook off things easily.
Otherwise one does not always step from a highly nervous and
hysterical condition to one of happiness and cheerfulness.

'There appears to have been a little unpleasantness,' she said softly.
'Something, apparently an axe--something hard and sharp--has been
brought into contact with the door. It has been awkward for the door.
There has been, I suppose, an earthquake.'

He said nothing, but drummed the table with his fingers--a sign of
impatient and enforced listening.

'Earthquakes are dangerous things, sometimes. Meanwhile, Alec, if I
were you I would have the broken bits taken away.' She touched the
bell on the table. 'Ford'--this was the name of the discreet
man-servant--'will you kindly take the door, which you see is broken,
off its hinges and send it away to be mended. We will manage with the
curtain.'

'What do you want, Zoe?'--when this operation had been effected--'what
is the important news you have to bring me? And why have you given up
your berth? I suppose you think I am able to find you a place just by
lifting up my little finger? And I hear you have gone without a
moment's notice, just as if you had run away?'

'I did run away, Alec,' she replied. 'After what has--been done'--she
caught her breath--'I was obliged to run away. I could no longer
stay.'

'What has been done, then? Did Armorel tell you? No--she couldn't.'

'She has told me nothing. I have hardly seen her at all during the
last few days. Of course, I know that you proposed to her--because you
went off with that purpose; and that she refused you--because that was
certain. And, now, don't begin scolding and questioning, because we
have got something much more important to discuss. I have given up my
charge of Armorel, and I have come here. If you possibly can, Alec,
clear up your face a little, forget the earthquake, and behave with
some attempt at politeness. I insist,' she added sharply, 'upon being
treated with some pretence at politeness.'

'Mind, I am in no mood to listen to a pack of complaints and squabbles
and jealousies.'

'Whatever mind you are in, my dear Alec, it wants the sweetening. You
shall have no squabbles or jealousies. I will not even ask who brought
along the earthquake--though, of course, it was an Angel in the House.
They are generally the cause of all the earthquakes. Fortunately for
you, I am not jealous. The important thing about which I want to talk
to you is money, Alec--money.'

Something in her manner seemed to hold out promise. A drowning man
catches at a straw. Alec lifted his gloomy face.

'What's the use?' he said. 'You have failed to get money in the way I
suggested. I haven't got any left at all. And we are now at the very
end. All is over and done, Zoe. The game is ended. We must throw up
the sponge.'

'Not just yet, dear Alec,' she said softly.

'Look here, Zoe'--he softened a little. 'I have thought over things. I
shall have to disappear for a while, I believe, till things blow over.
Now, here's just a gleam of luck. Jagenal the lawyer has been here
to-day. He came to tell me that he has discovered, somehow, something
belonging to me. He says it will run up to nearly a thousand pounds.
It isn't much, but it is something. Now, Zoe, I mean to convert that
thousand into cash--notes--portable property--and I shall keep it in
my pocket. Don't think I am going to let the creditors have much of
that! If the smash has to come off, I will then give you half, and
keep the other half myself. Meantime, the possession of the money may
stave off the smash. But if it comes, we will go away--different ways,
you know--and own each other no more.'

'Not exactly, my dear Alec. You may go away, if you please, but I
shall go with you. For the future, I mean to go the same way as
you--with you--beside you.'

'Oh!' His face did not betray immoderate joy at this prospect. 'I
suppose you have got something else to say. If that was all, I should
ask how you propose to pay for your railway ticket and your hotel
bill.'

'Of course, I have got something else to say.'

'It must be something substantial, then. Look here, Zoe: this is
really no time for fooling. Everything, I tell you, has gone, and all
at once. I can't explain. Credit--everything!'

'I have read,' said Zoe, taking the most comfortable chair and lying
well back in it, 'that the wise man once discovered that everybody
must be either a hammer or an anvil. I think it was Voltaire. He
resolved on becoming the hammer. You, Alec, made the same useful
discovery. You, also, became a hammer. So far, you have done pretty
well, considering. But now there is a sudden check, and you are thrown
out altogether.'

'Well?'

'That seems to show that your plans were incomplete. Your ideas were
sound, but they were not fully developed.'

'I don't know you this morning, Zoe. I have never heard you talk like
this before.'

'You have never known me, Alec,' she replied, perhaps a little sadly.
'You have never tried to know me. Well--I know all. Mr. Roland Lee,
the painter, was one anvil--you played upon him very harmoniously.
Effie Wilmot was another. Now, Alec, don't'--she knew the premonitory
symptoms--'don't begin to deny, either with the "D" or without,
because, I assure you, I know everything. You are like the ostrich,
who buries his head in the sand and thinks himself invisible. Don't
deny things, because it is quite useless. Before we go a step farther
I am going to make you understand exactly. I know the whole story. I
have suspected things for a long time, and now I have learned the
truth. I learned it bit by bit through the fortunate accident of
living with Armorel, who has been the real discoverer. First I saw the
man's work, and I saw at once where you got your pictures from, and
what was the meaning of certain words that had passed from Armorel.
Why, Armorel was the model--your model, and you didn't know it. And
the coast scenery is her scenery--the Scilly Isles, where you have
never been. I won't tell you how I pieced things together till I had
made a connected story and had no longer any doubt. But remember the
night of the Reading. Why did Armorel hold that Reading? Why did she
show the unfinished picture? Why did she sing that song? It was for
you, Alec. It was to tell you a great deal more than it told the
people. It was to let you know that everything was discovered. Do you
deny it now?'

'I suppose that infernal girl--she is capable of everything----'

'Even of earthquakes? No, Alec, she has told me nothing. They've got
into the habit of talking--she and Effie and the painter man--as if I
was asleep. You see I lie about a good deal by the fireside, and I
don't want to talk, and so I lie with my eyes shut and listen. Then
Armorel leaves everything about--manuscript poems, sketches,
letters--everything, and I read them. A companion, of course, must see
that her ward is not getting into mischief. It is her duty to read
private letters. When they talk in the evening, Effie, who worships
Armorel, tells her everything, including your magnificent attempt to
become a dramatic poet, my dear boy--wrong--wrong--you should not get
more than one ghost from one family. You should not put all your
ghosts into one basket. When the painter comes--Armorel is in love
with him, and he is in love with her; but he has been a naughty boy,
and has to show true repentance before.... Oh! It's very pretty and
sentimental: they play the fiddle and talk about Scilly and the old
times, and Effie sighs with sympathy. It is really very pretty,
especially as it all helped me to understand their ghostlinesses and
to unravel the whole story. Fortunately, my dear Alec, you have had to
do with a girl who is not of the ordinary society stamp, otherwise
your story would have been given to the society papers long ago, and
then even I could have done nothing for you. Armorel is a girl of
quite extinct virtues--forbearing, unrevengeful, honourable,
unselfish. You, my dear Alec, could never appreciate or understand
such a girl.'

'The girl is--a girl. What is there to understand in one girl more
than in another?'

'Nothing--nothing. O great Poet and greater Painter!--Nothing. O man
of fine insight, and delicate fancy, and subtle intellect!--Nothing.
Only a girl.'

'I know already that they are not going to say anything more about it.
They are going to let the whole business be forgotten. If anything
comes out through you----'

'Nothing will come out. I told you because it is well that we should
perfectly understand each other. You will never again be able to
parade before me in the disguise of genius. This is a great pity,
because you have always enjoyed playing the part. Never again, Alec,
because I have found you out. Should you ever find me out, I shall not
be able to walk with you in the disguise of ... but you must find out
first.'

'What do you mean?'

'Oh! you must find out first. When you do find out, you will be able
to hold out your arms and cry, "We are alike at last. You have come
down to my level: we are now in the same depths. Come to my arms,
sister in pretence! Come, my bride!"' She spread out her arms with an
exaggerated gesture and laughed, but not mirthfully.

'What on earth do you mean, Zoe? I never saw you like this before.'

'No, we change sometimes, quite suddenly. It is very unaccountable.
And now I shall never be anything else than what I am now--what you
have made me.'

'What have you done, then?'

'Done? Nothing. To do something is polite for committing a crime.
Could I have done something, do you think? Could I actually commit a
crime? O Alec!--my dear Alec!--a crime? Well, the really important
thing is that your troubles are over.'

'By Jove! They are only just beginning.'

'It is only money that troubles you. If it was conscience, or the
sense of honour, I could not help you. As it is only money----how
much, actually, will put a period to the trouble?'

'If I were to use Jagenal's promised thousand, I could really manage
with two thousand more.'

'Oh! Then, my dear Alec, what do you think of this?'

She drew out of her pocket a new clean white bank-book, and handed it
to him.

He opened it. 'Heavens, Zoe! What is the meaning of this?'

'You can read, Alec: it means what it says. Four thousand two hundred
and twenty-five pounds standing to my credit. Observe the name--Mrs.
Alexander Feilding--Mrs. Alexander Feilding--wife, that is, of Alec!
Mrs. Elstree has vanished. She has gone to join the limbo of ghosts
who never existed. Her adored Jerome is there, too.'

'What does it mean?'

'It means, again, that I have four thousand two hundred and
twenty-five pounds of my own, who, the day before yesterday, had
nothing. Where I got that money from is my own business. Perhaps
Armorel relented and has advanced this money--perhaps some old friends
of my father's--he had friends, though he was reputed so rich and died
so miserably--have quietly subscribed this amount--perhaps my cousins,
whom you forced me to abandon, have found me out and endowed me with
this sum--a late but still acceptable act of generosity--perhaps my
mother's sister, who swore she would never forgive me for going on the
stage, has given way at last! In short, my dear Alec----'

'Four thousand pounds! Where could you raise that money?'

'Make any conjecture you please. I shall not tell you. The main point
is that the money is here--safely deposited in my name and to my
credit. It is mine, you see, my dear Alec; and it can only be used for
your purposes with my consent--under my conditions.'

'How on earth,' he repeated slowly, 'did you get four thousand
pounds?'

'It is difficult for you to find an answer to that question,' she
replied, 'isn't it? Especially as I shall not answer it. About my
conditions now.'

'What conditions?'

'The possession of this capital--I have thought it all out--will
enable us, first of all, to pay off your creditors in full if you
must--or at least to satisfy them. Next, it will restore your credit.
Thirdly, it will enable you to live while I am laying the foundations
of a new and more stable business.'

'You?'

'I, my dear boy. I mean in future to be the active working and
contriving partner in the firm. I have the plans and method worked out
already in my head. You struck out, I must say, a line of audacity.
There is something novel about it. But your plan wanted elasticity.
You kept a ghost. Well, I suppose other people have done this before.
You kept three or four ghosts, each in his own line. Nobody thought of
setting up as the Universal Genius before--at least, not to my
knowledge. But, then, you placed your whole dependence upon your one
single family of ghosts. Once deprived of him--whether your painter,
your poet, your story-teller--and where were you? Lost! You are
stranded. This has happened to you now. Your paper is to come out as
usual, and you have got nothing to put into it. Your patrons will be
flocking to your studio, and you have got nothing to show. You have
made a grievous blunder. Now, Alec, I am going to remedy all this.'

'You?'

'You shall see what I am capable of doing. You shall no longer waste
your time and money in going about to great houses. Your wife shall
have her _salon_, which shall be a centre of action far more useful
and effective. You shall become, through her help, a far greater
leader, with a far greater name, than you have ever dreamed of. And
your paper shall be a bigger thing.'

'You, Zoe? You to talk like this?'

'You thought I was a helpless creature because I never succeeded on
the stage, and could not even carry out your poor little schemes upon
Armorel's purse, I suppose, and because I---- Well, you shall be
undeceived.'

'If I could only believe this!'

'You will find, Alec, that my stage experiences will not go for
nothing. Why, even if I was a poor actress, I did learn the whole
business of stage management. I am going to transfer that business
from the stage to the drawing-room, which shall be, at first, this
room. We shall play our little comedy together, you and I.' She sprang
to her feet, and began to act as if she was on the stage--'It will be
a duologue. Your _rôle_ will still be that of the Universal Genius;
mine will be that of the supposed extinct Lady--the Lady of the
Salon--I shall be at home one evening a week--say on Sunday. And it
shall be an evening remembered and expected. We shall both take Art
seriously: you as the Master, I as the sympathetic and intelligent
worshipper of Art. We shall attract to our rooms artists of every kind
and those who hang about artistic circles: our furniture shall show
the latest artistic craze: foreigners shall come here as to the art
centre of London--we will cultivate the foreign element: young people
shall come for advice, for encouragement, for introduction:
reputations shall be made and marred in this room: you shall be the
Leader and Chief of the World of Art. If there is here and there one
who knows that you are a humbug, what matters? Alec'--she struck a
most effective attitude--'rise to the prospect! Have a little
imagination! I see before me the most splendid future--oh! the most
splendid future!'

'All very well. But there's the present staring us in the face. How
and where are we to find the--the successors to Lady Frances and Effie
and----'

'Where to find ghosts? Leave that to me. I know where there are plenty
only too glad to be employed. They can be had very cheap, my dear
Alec, I can assure you. Oh! I have not been so low down in the social
levels for nothing. You paid a ridiculous price for your ghosts--quite
ridiculous. I will find you ghosts enough, never fear.'

'Where are they?'

'When one goes about the country with a travelling company one hears
strange things. I have heard of painters--good painters--who once
promised to become Royal Academicians, and anything you please, but
took to ways--downward ways, you know--and now sit in public-houses
and sell their work for fifteen shillings a picture. I will find you
such a genius, and will make him take pains and produce a picture
worthy of his better days, and you shall have it for a guinea and a
pint of champagne.'

Alec Feilding gasped. The vista before him was too splendid.

'Or, if you want verses, I know of a poet who used to write little
dainty pieces--_levers de rideau, libretti_ for little operettas, and
so forth. He carries the boards about the streets when he is very hard
up. I can catch that creature and lock him up without drink till he
has written a poem far better--more manly--than anything that girl of
yours could ever produce, for half-a-crown. And he will never ask what
becomes of it. If you want stories, I know a man--quite a young
fellow--who gets about fifteen shillings a week in his travelling
company. This fellow is wonderful at stories. For ten shillings a
column he will reel you out as many as you want--good stuff, mind--and
the papers have never found him out: and he will never ask what has
become of them, because he is never sober for more than an hour or two
at a time in the middle of the day, and he will forget his own
handiwork. Alec, I declare that I can find you as many ghosts as you
like, and better--more popular--more interesting than your old lot.'

'If I could only believe----' he repeated.

'You say that because you have never even begun to believe that a
woman can do anything. Well, I do not ask you to believe. I say that
you shall see. I owe to you the idea. All the working out shall be my
own. All the assistance you can give me will be your own big and
important presence and your manner of authority. Yes; some men get
rich by the labours of others: you, Alec, shall become famous--perhaps
immortal--by the genius--the collected genius, of others.'

His imagination was not strong enough to understand the vision that
she spread out before him. In a wooden way, he saw that she intended
something big. He only half believed it: he only half understood it:
but he did understand that ghosts were to be had.

'There's next week's paper, Zoe,' he said helplessly. 'Nothing for it
yet! We mustn't have a breakdown--it would be fatal!'

'Breakdown! Of course not, even if I write it all myself. You don't
believe that I can write even, I suppose?'

'Well, you shall do as you like.' He got up and stood over the fire
again, sighing his relief. 'At all events, we have got this money.
Good Heavens! What a chance! And what a day! I stood here this
morning, Zoe, thinking all was lost. Then old Jagenal comes in and
tells me of a thousand pounds--said it would run to nearly a thousand.
And then you come in with a bank-book of four thousand! Oh! it's
Providential! It's enough to make a man humble. Zoe, I confess'--he
took her hands in his, stooped, and kissed her tenderly--'I don't
deserve such treatment from you. I do not, indeed. Are you sure about
those ghosts? As for me, of course you are right. I can't paint a
stroke. I can't make a rhyme. I can't write stories. I can do
nothing--but live upon those who can do everything. You are quite sure
about those ghosts?'

'Oh, yes! Quite sure. Of course I knew all along. But you must keep it
up more religiously than ever, because the business is going to be so
much--so very much--bigger. Now for my conditions.'

'Any conditions--any!'

'You will insert this advertisement for six days, beginning to-morrow,
in the _Times_.'

He read it aloud. He read it without the least change of countenance,
so wooden was his face, so hard his heart.

'On Wednesday, April 21, 1887, at St. Leonard's, Worthing, Alexander
Feilding, of the Grove Studio, Marlborough Road, to Zoe, only daughter
of the late Peter Evelyn, formerly of Kensington Palace Gardens.'

'I believe,' he said, folding the paper, 'that was the date. It was
three years ago, wasn't it? I say, Zoe, won't it be awkward having to
explain things--long interval, you know--engagement as companion--wrong
name?'

'I have thought of that. But it would be more awkward pretending that
we were married to-day and being found out. No. There are not
half-a-dozen people who will ever know that I was Armorel's companion.
Then, a circumstance, which there is no need ever to explain, forbade
the announcement of our marriage--hint at a near relation's will--I
was compelled to assume another name. Cruel necessity!'

'You are a mighty clever woman, Zoe.'

'I am. If you are wise, now, you will assume a joyful air. You will go
about rejoicing that the bar to this public announcement has been at
length removed. Family reasons--you will say--no fault of yours or of
mine. It is your business, of course, how you will look--but I
recommend this line. Be the exultant bridegroom, not the downcast
husband. Will you walk so?'--she assumed a buoyant dancing step with a
smiling face--'or so?' she hung a dejected head and crawled sadly.

'By gad, it's wonderful!' he cried, looking at her with astonishment.
And, indeed, who would recognise the quiet, sleepy, indolent woman of
yesterday in the quick, restless, and alert woman of to-day?

'Henceforth I must work, Alec. I cannot sit down and go to sleep any
longer. That time has gone. I think I have murdered sleep.'

'Work away, my girl. Nobody wants to prevent you. Are there any other
conditions?'

'You will sell your riding-horses and buy a Victoria. Your wife must
have something to drive about in. And you will lead, in many respects,
an altered life. I must have, for the complete working out of my
plans, an ideal domestic life. Turtle-doves we must be for affection,
and angels incarnate for propriety. The highest Art in the home is the
highest standard of manners that can be set up.'

'Very good. Any more conditions?'

'Only one more condition. _J'y suis. J'y reste._ You will call your
servant and inform him that I am your wife, and the mistress of this
establishment. I think there will be no more earthquakes and broken
panels. Alec'--she laid her hand upon his arm--'you should have done
this three years ago. I should have saved you. I should have saved
myself. Now, whatever happens, we are on the same level--we cannot
reproach each other. We shall walk hand in hand. It was done for you,
Alec. And I would do it again. Yes--yes--yes. Again!' She repeated the
words with flashing eyes. 'Fraud--sham--pretence--these are our
servants. We command them. By them we live, and by them we climb. What
matter--so we reach the top--by what ladders we have climbed?' She
looked around with a gesture of defiance, fine and free. 'The world is
all alike,' she said. 'There is no truth or honour anywhere. We are
all in the same swim.'

The man dropped into his vacant chair. 'We are saved!' he cried.

'Saved!' she echoed. 'Saved! Did you ever see a Court of Justice,
Alec? I have. Once, when our company was playing at Winchester, I went
to see the Assizes. I remember then wondering how it would feel to be
a prisoner. Henceforth I shall understand his sensations. There they
stand, two prisoners, side by side--a man and a woman--a pair of them.
Found out at last, and arrested and brought up for trial. There sits
the Judge, stern and cold: there are the twelve men of the jury, grave
and cold: there are the policemen, stony-hearted: there are the
lawyers, laughing and talking: there are the people behind, all grave
and cold. No pity in any single face--not a gleam of pity--for the
poor prisoners. Some people go stealing and cheating because they are
driven by poverty. These people did not: they were driven by vanity
and greed. Look at them in the box: they are well dressed. See! they
are curiously like you and me, Alec'--she was acting now better than
she ever acted on the stage--'The man is like you, and the woman--oh!
you poor, unlucky wretch!--is like me--curiously, comically like me.
They will be found guilty. What punishment will they get? As for her,
it was for her husband's sake that she did it. But, I suppose, that
will not help her. What will they get, Alec?'

He sat up in the chair and heaved a great sigh of relief.

'What are you talking about, my dear? I was not listening. Well; we
are saved. It has been a mighty close shave. Another day, and I must
have thrown up the sponge. We have a world of work before us; but if
you are only half or quarter as clever as you think yourself, we shall
do splendidly.' He laid his arm round her waist, and drew her gently
and kissed her again. 'So--now you are sensible--what were you talking
about prisoners for? No more separations now. Let me kiss away these
tears. And now, Zoe--now--time presses. I am anxious to repair my
losses. Where are we to find these ghosts? Sit down. To work! To
work!'



CHAPTER XXIII

THE HOUR OF TRIUMPH


A man may do a great many things without receiving from the world the
least sign of regard or interest. He may write the most lovely
verses--and no one will read them. He may design and invent the most
beautiful play--which no one will act: he may advocate a measure
certain to bring about universal happiness--but no one will so much as
read it. There is one thing, however, by which he may awaken a spirit
of earnest curiosity and interest concerning himself: he may get
married. Everybody will read the announcement of his marriage in the
paper: everybody will immediately begin to talk about him. The
bridegroom's present position and future prospects, his actual income
and the style in which he will live: the question whether he has done
well for himself, or whether he has thrown himself away: the bride's
family, her age, her beauty, her _dot_, if she has got any: the
question whether she had not a right to expect a better marriage--all
these points are raised and debated when a man is married. Also, which
is even more remarkable, whatever a man does shall be forgotten by the
world, but the story of his marriage shall never be forgotten. A man
may live down calumny; he may hold up his head though he has been the
defendant in a disgraceful cause; he may survive the scandal of
follies and profligacies; he may ride triumphant over misfortune: but
he can never live down his own marriage. All those who have married
'beneath' them--whether beneath them in social rank, in manners, in
morals, character, in spiritual or in mental elevation, will bear
unwilling and grievous testimony to this great truth.

When, therefore, the _Times_ announced the marriage of Mr. Alexander
Feilding, together with the fact that the announcement was no less
than three years late, great amazement fell upon all men and all
women--yea, and dismay upon all those girls who knew this Universal
Genius--and upon all who knew or remembered the lady, daughter of the
financial City person who let in everybody to so frightful a tune, and
then, like another treacherous person, went away and hanged himself.
And as many questions were asked at the breakfast-tables of London as
there were riddles asked at the famous dinner-party at the town of
Mansoul. To these riddles there were answers, but to those none. For
instance, why had Alec Feilding concealed his marriage? Where had he
hidden his wife? And (among a very few) how could he permit her to go
about the country in a provincial troupe? To these replies there have
never been any answers. The lady herself, who certainly ought to know,
sometimes among her intimate friends alludes to the cruelty of
relations, and the power which one's own people have of making
mischief. She also speaks of the hard necessity, owing to these
cruelties, of concealing her marriage. This throws the glamour and
magic of romance--the romance of money--over the story. But there are
some who remain unconvinced.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bridegroom wrote one letter, and only one, of explanation. It was
to Mr. Jagenal, the family solicitor.

'To so old a friend,' he wrote, 'the fullest explanations are due
concerning things which may appear strange. Until the day before
yesterday there were still existing certain family reasons which
rendered it absolutely necessary for us to conceal our marriage and to
act with so much prudence that no one should so much as suspect the
fact. This will explain to you why we lent ourselves to the little
harmless--perfectly harmless--pretence by which my wife appeared in the
character of a widow. It also explains why she was unwilling--while
under false colours--to go into general society. The unexpected
disappearance of these family reasons caused her to abandon her charge
hurriedly. I had not learned the fact when you called yesterday. Now, I
hope that we may receive, though late, the congratulations of our
friends.--A. F.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'This,' said Mr. Jagenal, 'is an explanation which explains nothing.
Well, it is all very irregular; and there is something behind; and it
is no concern of mine. Most things in the world are irregular. The
little windfall of which I told him yesterday will be doubly welcome
now that he has a wife to spend his money for him. And now we
understand why he was always dangling after Armorel--because his wife
was with her--and why he did not fall in love with that most beautiful
creature.'

He folded up the note; put it, with a few words of his own, into an
envelope, and sent it to Philippa. Then he went on with the cases in
his hands. Among these were the materials for many other studies into
the workings of the feminine heart and the masculine brain. The
solicitor's tin boxes: the doctor's notebook: the priest's memory:
should furnish full materials for that exhaustive psychological
research which science will some day insist upon conducting.

In the afternoon of the same day was the Private View of the Grosvenor
Gallery. There was the usual Private View crowd--so private now that
everybody goes there. It would have been incomplete without the
presence of Mr. Alec Feilding.

Now, at the very thickest and most crowded time, when the rooms were
at their fullest, and when the talk was at its noisiest, he appeared,
bearing on his arm a young, beautiful, and beautifully dressed woman.
He calmly entered the room where half the people were talking of
himself and of his marriage, concealed for three years, with as much
coolness as if he had been about in public with his wife all that
time: he spoke to his friends as if nothing had happened: and he
introduced them to his wife as if it was by the merest accident that
they had not already met. Nothing could exceed the unconsciousness of
his manner, unless it was the simple and natural ease of his wife. No
one could possibly guess that there was, or could be, the least
awkwardness in the situation.

The thing itself, and the manner of carrying it through, constituted a
_coup_ of the most brilliant kind. This public appearance deprived the
situation, in fact, of all its awkwardness. No one could ask them at
the Grosvenor Gallery what it meant. There were one or two to whom the
bridegroom whispered that it was a long and romantic story: that there
had been a bar to the completion of his happiness, by a public avowal:
that this bar--a purely private and family matter--had only yesterday
been removed: nothing was really explained: but it was generally felt
that the mystery added another to the eccentricities of genius. There
was a something, they seemed to remember dimly, about the marriages
and love-passages of Shelley, Coleridge, and Lord Byron.

Mrs. Feilding, clearly, was a woman born to be an artist's wife:
herself, artistic in her dress, her manner, and her appearance:
sympathetic in her caressing voice: gracious in her manners: and
openly proud of a husband so richly endowed.

Alec presented a great many men to her. She had, it seemed, already
made acquaintance with their works, which she knew by name: she
betrayed involuntarily, by her gracious smile, and the interested,
curious gaze of her large and limpid eyes, the genuine admiration
which she felt for these works, and the very great pleasure with which
she made the acquaintance of this very distinguished author. If any of
them were on the walls, she bestowed upon them the flattery of
measured and appreciative praise: she knew something of the technique.

'Alec is not exhibiting this year,' she said. 'I think he is right. He
had but one picture: and that was in his old style. People will think
he can do nothing but sea-coast, rock, and spray. So he is going to
send his one picture away--if you want to see it you must make haste
to the studio--and he is going--this is a profound secret--to break
out in a new line--quite a new line. But you must not know anything
about it.'

A paragraph in a column of personal news published the fact, the very
next day, which shows how difficult it is to keep a secret.

Before Mrs. Feilding left the gallery she had made twenty friends for
life, and had laid a solid foundation for her Sunday evenings.

In the evening there was a First Night. No First Nights are possible
without the appearance of certain people, of whom Mr. Alec Feilding
was one. He attended, bringing with him his wife. Some of the men who
had been at the private view were also present at the performance, but
not many, because the followers of one art do not--as they
should--rally round any other. But all the dramatic critics were
there, and all the regular first-nighters, including the wreckers--who
go to pit and gallery--and the friends of the author and those of the
actors. Between the acts there was a good deal of circulation and
talking. Alec presented a good many more gentlemen to his wife. Before
they went home Mrs. Feilding had made a dozen more friends for life,
and placed her Sunday evenings on a firm and solid basis. Her social
success--at least among the men--was assured from this first day.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE CUP AND THE LIP


Two days after the Private View Alec Feilding repaired, by special
invitation, to Mr. Jagenal's office.

'I have sent for you, Alec,' said the solicitor, _ami de famille_, 'in
continuance of our conversation of the other day--about that little
windfall, you know.'

'I am not likely to forget it. Little windfalls of a thousand pounds
do not come too often.'

'They do not. Meantime another very important event has happened. I
saw the announcement in the paper, and I received your note----'

'You are the only person--believe me--to whom I have thought it right
to explain the circumstances----'

'Yes? The explanation, at all events, is one that may be given in the
same words--to all the world. I have no knowledge of Mrs. Feilding's
friends, or of any obstacles that have been raised to her marriage!
But I am rather sorry, Alec, that you sent her to me under a false
name, because these things, if they get about, are apt to make
mischief.'

'I assure you that this plan was only adopted in order the more
effectually to divert suspicion. It was with the greatest reluctance
that we consented to enter upon a path of deception. I knew, however,
in whose hands I was. At any moment I was in readiness to confess the
truth to you. In the case of a stranger the thing would have been
impossible. You, however, I knew, would appreciate the motive of our
action, and sympathise with the necessity.'

Mr. Jagenal laughed gently--behind the specious words he
discerned--something--the shapeless spectre which suspicion calls up
or creates. But he only laughed. 'Well, Alec,' he said, 'marriage is a
perfectly personal matter. You are a married man. You had reasons of
your own for concealing the fact. You are now enabled to proclaim the
fact. That is all anybody need know. We condone the little pretence of
the widowhood. Armorel Rosevean has lost her companion; whether she
has also lost her friend I do not know. The rest concerns yourself
alone. Very good. You are a married man. All the more reason that this
little windfall should be acceptable.'

'It will be extremely acceptable, I assure you.'

'Whether it is money or money's worth?'

'To save trouble I should prefer money.'

'You must take it as it comes, my dear boy.'

'Well, what is it?'

'It is,' replied Mr. Jagenal solemnly, 'nothing short of the sea
giving up its treasures, the dead giving up her secrets, and the
restoration of what was never known to be lost.'

'You a maker of conundrums?'

'You shall hear. Before we come to the thing itself--the treasure, the
windfall, the thing picked up on the beach--let me again recall to you
two or three points in your own family history. Your mother's maiden
name was Isabel Needham. She was the daughter of Henry Needham and
Frances his wife. Frances was the daughter of Robert Fletcher.'

'Very good. I believe that is the case.'

'Your money came to you from this Robert Fletcher, your maternal
great-grandfather. You should, therefore, remember him.'

'I recognise,' said Alec, sententiously, 'the respect that should be
paid to the memory of every man who makes money for his children.'

'Very good. Now, this Robert Fletcher as a young man, went out to
India in search of fortune. He was apparently an adventurous young
man, not disposed to sit down at the desk after the usual fashion of
young men who go out to India. We find him in Burmah, for
instance--then a country little known by Englishmen. While there he
managed to attract the notice and the favour of the King, who employed
him in some capacity--traded with him, perhaps; and, at all events,
advanced his interests--so that, while still a young man, he found
himself in the possession of a fortune ample enough for his wants----'

'Which he left to his daughters.'

'Don't be in a hurry. That was quite another fortune.'

'Oh! Another fortune? What became of the first?'

'Having enough, he resolved to return to his native country. But in
Burmah there were then no banks, merchants, drafts, or cheques. He
therefore converted his fortune into portable property, which he
carried about his person, no one, I take it, knowing anything at all
about it. Thus, carrying his treasure with him, he sailed for England.
Have you heard anything of this?'

'Nothing at all. The beginning of the story, however, is interesting.'

'You will enjoy the end still better. The ship in which he sailed met
with disaster. She was wrecked on the Isles of Scilly. It is said--but
this I do not know--that the only man saved from the wreck was your
great-grandfather: he was saved by one Emanuel Rosevean,
great-great-grandfather to Armorel, the girl whose charge your own
wife undertook.'

'Always that cursed girl!' murmured Alec.

'Robert Fletcher was clinging to a spar when he was picked up and
dragged ashore. He recovered consciousness after a long illness, and
then found that the leather case in which all his fortune lay had
slipped from his neck and was lost. Therefore, he had to begin the
world again. He went away, therefore. He went away----' Mr. Jagenal
paused at this point, rattled his keys, and looked about him. He was
not a story-teller by profession, but he knew instinctively that every
story, in order to be dramatic--and he wished this to be a very
dramatic history--should be cut up into paragraphs, illustrated by
dialogue, and divided into sections. Dialogue being impossible, he
stopped and rattled his keys. This meant the end of one chapter and
the beginning of another.

'Do pray get along,' cried his client, now growing interested and
impatient.

'He went away,' the narrator repeated, 'his treasure lost, to begin
the world again. He came here, became a stockbroker, made money--and
the rest you know. He appears never to have told his daughters of his
loss. I have been in communication with the solicitors of the late
Eleanor Fletcher, your great-aunt, and I cannot learn from them that
she ever spoke of this calamity. Yet had she known of it she must have
remembered it. To bring all your fortune--a considerable fortune--home
in a bag tied round your neck, and to lose it in a shipwreck is a
disaster which would, one thinks, be remembered to the third and
fourth generations.'

'I should think so. But you said something about the sea giving up its
treasure.'

'That we come to next. Five years ago, by the death of a very aged
lady, her great-great-grandmother, Armorel Rosevean succeeded to an
inheritance which turned out to be nothing less than the accumulated
savings of many generations. Among other possessions she found in this
old lady's room a sea-chest containing things apparently recovered
from wrecks, or drowned men, or washed ashore by the sea--a very
curious and interesting collection: there were snuff-boxes, watches,
chains, rings, all kinds of things. Among these treasures she turned
out, at the bottom of the chest, a case of shagreen with a leather
thong. On opening this Armorel found it to contain a quantity of
precious stones, and a scrap of paper which seemed to show that they
had formerly been the property of one Robert Fletcher. We may suppose,
if we please, that the case containing the jewels was cast up on the
beach after the storm, and tossed into the chest without much
knowledge of its contents or their value. We may suppose that Emanuel
Rosevean found the case. We may suppose what we please, because we can
prove nothing. For my own part, I think there is no reasonable doubt
that the case actually contained the fortune of Robert Fletcher. The
dates of the story seem to correspond: the handwriting appears to be
his: we have letters of his speaking of his intention to return, and
of his property being in convenient portable shape.'

'Well--then--this portable fortune belongs to Robert Fletcher's
heirs.'

'Not so quick. How are you going to prove your claim? You have nothing
to go by but a fragment of writing with part of his name on it. You
cannot prove that he was shipwrecked, and if you could do that you
could not prove that these jewels belonged to him.'

'If there is no doubt, she ought to give them up. She is bound in
honour.'

'I said that in my mind there is no reasonable doubt. That is because
I have heard a great deal more than could be admitted in evidence. But
now--listen again without interrupting. When, five years ago, the
young lady placed the management of her affairs in my hands through
the Vicar of her parish, I had every part of her very miscellaneous
fortune valued and a part of it sold. I had these rubies examined by a
merchant in jewels.'

'And how much were they worth?'

'One with another--some being large and very valuable indeed, and
others small--they were said, by my expert, to be worth thirty-five
thousand pounds. They might, under favourable circumstances and if
judiciously placed in the market realise much more. Thirty-five
thousand pounds!'

'What?' He literally opened his mouth. 'How much do you say?'

'Thirty-five thousand pounds.'

'Oh! But the stones are not hers--they belong--they belong--to us--to
the descendants of Robert Fletcher.' No one would have called that
face wooden, now. It was full of excitement--the excitement of a newly
awakened hope. 'Does she propose to buy me off with a thousand pounds?
Does she think I am to be bought off at any price? The jewels are
mine--mine--that is, I have a share in them.'

'Gently--gently--gently! What proof have you got of this story?
Nothing. You never heard of it: your great-grandfather never spoke of
it. Nothing would have been heard of it at all but for this old lady
from whom Armorel inherited. The property is hers as much as anything
else. If she gives up anything it is by her own free and uncompelled
will. She need give nothing. Remember that.'

'Then she offers me a miserable thousand pounds for my share--which
ought to be at least a third. Jagenal'--he turned purple and the veins
stood out on his forehead--'That infernal girl hates me! She has done
me--I cannot tell you how much mischief. She persecutes me. Now she
offers to buy me out of my share of thirty-five thousand pounds--a
third share--nay--a half, because my great-aunt left no children--for
a thousand pounds down!'

'I did not say so.'

'You told me that the windfall would amount to a thousand pounds.'

'That was in joke, my boy. You are perfectly wrong about Armorel
hating you. How can she hate you? You are so far wrong in this
instance that she has instructed me to give you the whole of this
fortune--actually to make you a free gift of the whole property--the
whole, mind--thirty-five thousand pounds!'

'To me! Armorel gives me--me--the whole of this fortune?' Blank
astonishment fell upon him. He stood staring--open-mouthed. 'To ME?'
he repeated.

'To you. She does not, to be sure, know to whom she gives it. She is
only desirous of restoring the jewels which she insists in believing
to belong to Robert Fletcher's family. Therefore, as it would be
obviously impossible to find out and to divide this fortune among all
the descendants of Robert Fletcher, who are scattered about the globe,
she was resolved to give them to the eldest descendant of the second
daughter.'

'Oh!' Alec turned pale, and dropped into a chair, broken up. 'To the
eldest descendant of the second--the second daughter. Then----'

'Then to you, as the only grandson of the second daughter--Frances.'

'The second daughter was----' He checked himself. He sighed. He sat
up. His eyes, always small and too close together, grew smaller and
closer together. 'The other branch of the family,' he said slowly,
'has vanished--as you say--it is scattered over the face of the globe.
I do not know anything about my cousins--if I have any cousins.
Perhaps when you have carried on the search a little further----'

'But I am not going to carry it on any further at all. Why should I?
We have nothing more to learn. I am instructed by Armorel to give the
rubies to you. It is a gift--not a right. It is not an inheritance,
remember--it is a free gift. She says, "These rubies used to belong to
Robert Fletcher. I will restore them to someone of his kin." You are
that someone. Why should I inquire further?'

'Oh!' Alec sank back in his chair and closed his eyes as one who
recovers from a sharp pang, and sighed deeply. 'If you are satisfied,
then---- But if other cousins should turn up----'

'They will have nothing, because nobody is entitled to anything. Come
Alec, my boy, you look a little overcome. It is natural. Pull yourself
together, and look at the facts. You will have thirty-five thousand
pounds--perhaps a little more. At four per cent.--I think I can put
you in the way of getting so much with safety--you will have fourteen
hundred a year. You will have that, apart from your literary and
artistic income. It is not a gigantic fortune, it is true; but let me
tell you that it is a very handsome addition indeed to any man's
income. You will not be able to live in Kensington Palace Gardens,
where your wife lived as a girl; but you can take a good house and see
your friends, and have anything in reason. Well, that is all I have to
say, except to congratulate you, which I do, my Alec'--he seized the
fortunate young man's hand and shook it warmly--'most heartily. I do,
indeed. You deserve your good luck--every bit of the good luck that
has befallen you. Everybody who knows you will rejoice. And it comes
just at the right moment--just when you have acknowledged your
marriage and taken your wife home.'

'Really,' said Alec, now completely recovered, 'I am overwhelmed with
this stroke of luck. It is the most unexpected thing in the world. I
could never have dreamed of such a thing. To find out, on the same
day, that one's great-grandfather once made a fortune and lost it, and
that it has been recovered, and that it is all given to me--it
naturally takes one's breath away at first.'

'You would like to gaze upon this fortune from the Ruby Mines of
Burmah, would you not?' Mr. Jagenal threw open the door of a safe, and
took out a parcel in brown paper. 'It is here.' He opened the parcel,
and disclosed the shagreen case which we have already seen in the
sea-chest. He laid it on the table, and unrolled the silk in which the
stones were rolled. 'There they are--look common enough, don't they?
One seems to have picked up stones twice as pretty on the sea-shore:
here are two or three cut and polished--bits of red glass would look
as pretty.'

'Thirty-five thousand pounds!' Alec cried, laying a hand, as if in
episcopal benediction, upon the treasure. 'Is it possible that this
little bundle of stones should be worth so much?'

'Quite possible. Now--they are yours--what will you do with them.'

'First, I will ask you to put them back in the safe.'

'I will send them to your bank if you please.'

'No--keep them here--I will consult you immediately about their
disposition. Thirty-five thousand pounds! Thirty-five----perhaps we
may get more for them. What am I to say to this girl? Perhaps when she
learns who has got the rubies she will refuse to let them go. I am
sure she would never consent.'

'Nonsense--about persecution and annoyance! Armorel hate you? Why
should she hate you? The sweetest girl in the world. You men of genius
are too ready to take offence. The things are yours. I have given them
to you by her instructions. I have written you a letter, formally
conveying the jewels to you. Here it is. And now go home, my dear
fellow, and when you feel like taking a holiday, do it with a tranquil
mind, remembering that you've got fourteen hundred pounds a year given
you for nothing at all by this young lady, who wasn't obliged to give
you a penny. Why, in surrendering these jewels, she has surrendered a
good half of her whole fortune. Find me another girl, anywhere, who
would give up half her fortune for a scruple. And now go away, and
tell your wife. Let her rejoice. Tell her it is Armorel's wedding
present.'

Alec Feilding walked home. He was worth thirty-five thousand
pounds--fourteen hundred pounds a year. When one comes to think of it,
though we call ourselves such a very wealthy country, there are
comparatively few, indeed, among us who can boast that they enjoy an
income of fourteen hundred pounds a year, with no duties,
responsibilities, or cares about their income--and with nothing to do
for it. Fourteen hundred pounds a year is not great wealth; but it
will enable a man to keep up a very respectable style of living: many
people in society have got to live on a great deal less. He and his
wife were going to live on nothing a year, except what they could get
by their wits. Fourteen hundred a year! They could still exercise
their wits: that is to say, he should expect his wife, now the
thinking partner, to exercise her wits with zeal. But what a happiness
for a man to feel that he does not live by his wits alone! Alas! It is
a joy that is given to few indeed of us.

As for his late literary and artistic successes, how poor and paltry
did they appear to this man, who had no touch of the artist nature,
beside this solid lump of money, worth all the artistic or poetic fame
that ever was achieved!

He went home dancing. He was at peace with all mankind. He found it in
his heart to forgive everybody: Roland Lee, who had so basely deserted
him: Effie, that snake in the grass: Lady Frances, the most
treacherous of women: Armorel herself---- Oh! Heavens! what could not
be forgiven to the girl who had made him such a gift? Even the revolt
against his authority: even the broken panel, the shattered lock, and
the earthquake.

In this mood he arrived home. His wife, the thinking partner, was hard
at work in the interests of the new firm. In her hand was a manuscript
volume of verse: on the table beside her lay an open portfolio of
sketches and drawings.

'You see, Alec,' she looked up, smiling. 'Already the ghosts have
begun to appear at my call. If you ask me where I found them, I reply,
as before, that when one travels about with a country company one has
opportunities. All kinds of queer people may be heard of. Your ghosts,
in future, my dear boy, must be of the tribe which has broken down and
given in, not of those who are still young and hopeful. I have found a
man who can draw--here is a portfolio full of his things: in black and
white: they can be reproduced by some photographic process: he is in
an advanced stage of misery, and will never know or ask what becomes
of his things. He ought to have made his fortune long ago. He hasn't,
because he is always drunk and disreputable. It will do you good to
illustrate the paper with your own drawings. There's a painter I have
heard of. He drinks every afternoon and all the evening at a certain
place, where you must go and find him. He has long since been turned
out of every civilised kind of society, and you can get his pictures
for anything you like; he can't draw much, I believe, but his
colouring is wonderful. There is an elderly lady, too, of whom I have
heard. She can draw, too, and she's got no friends, and can be got
cheap. And this book is full of the verses of a poor wretch who was
once a rising literary man, and now carries a banner at Drury-Lane
Theatre whenever they want a super. As for your stories, I have got a
broken-down actor--he writes better than he can act--to write stories
of the boards. They will appear anonymously, and if people attribute
them to you he will not be able to complain. Oh, I know what I am
about, Alec! Your paper shall double its circulation in a month, and
shall multiply its circulation by ten in six months, and without the
least fear of such complications as have happened lately. They must
lie avoided for the future--proposals as well as earthquakes--my dear
Alec.'

Alec sat down on the table and laughed carelessly. 'Zoe,' he said,
'you are the cleverest woman in the world. It was a lucky day for us
both when you came here. I made a big mistake for three years. Now
I've got some news for you--good news----'

'That can only mean--money.'

'It does mean--money, as you say. Money, my dear. Money that makes the
mare to go.'

'How much, Alec?'

'More than your four thousand. Twenty times as much as that little
balance in your book.'

'Oh, Alec! is it possible? Twenty times as much? Eighty thousand
pounds?'

'About that sum,' he replied, exaggerating with the instincts of the
City, inherited, no doubt, from Robert Fletcher. 'Perhaps quite that
sum if I manage certain sales cleverly.'

'Is it a legacy?--or an inheritance?--how did you get it?'

'It is not exactly a legacy: it is a kind of restoration to an unknown
person: a gift not made to me personally, but to me unknown.'

'You talk to me in riddles, Alec.'

'I would talk in blank verse if I could. It is, indeed, literally
true. I have received an--estate--in portable property worth nearly
forty thousand pounds.'

'Oh! Then we shall be really rich, and not have to pretend quite so
much? A little pretence, Alec, I like. It makes me feel like returning
to society: too much pretence reminds one of the policeman.'

'Don't you want to know how I have come into this money?'

'I am not curious, Alec. I like everything to be done for me. When I
was a girl there were carriages and horses and everything that I
wanted--all ready--all done for me, you know. Then I was stripped of
all. I had nothing to do or to say in the matter. It was done for me.
Now, you tell me you have got eighty thousand pounds. Oh! Heavens! It
is done for me. The ways of fate are so wonderful. Things are given
and things are taken away. Why should I inquire how things come?
Perhaps this will be taken away in its turn.'

'Not quite, Zoe. I have got my hand over it. You can trust your
husband, I think, to keep what he has got.' Indeed, he looked at this
moment cunning enough to be trusted with keeping the National Debt
itself.

'Eighty thousand pounds!' she said. 'Let me write it down. Eighty
thousand pounds! Eight and one, two, three, four oughts.' She wrote
them down, and clasped her hands, saying, 'Oh! the beauty--the
incomparable beauty--of the last ought!'

'Perhaps not quite so much,' said her husband, thinking that the
exaggeration was a little too much.

'Don't take off one of my oughts--not my fourth: not my Napoleon of
oughts!'

'No--no. Keep your four oughts. Well, my dear, if it is only sixty
thousand or so, there is two thousand a year for us. Two thousand a
year!'

'Don't, Alec; don't! Not all at once. Break it gently.'

'We will carry on the paper; and perhaps do something or
other--carefully, you know--in Art. There is no need to knock things
off. And if you can make the paper succeed, as you think, there will
be so much the more. Well, we can use it all. For my part, Zoe, my
dear, I don't care how big the income is. I am equal to ten thousand.'

'Of course, and you will still pronounce judgments and be a leader.
Now let us talk of what we will do--where we will live--and all. Two
thousand is pretty big to begin with, after three years' tight fit;
but the paper will bring in another two thousand easily. I've been
looking through the accounts--bills and returns--and I am sure it has
been villanously managed. We will run it up: we will have ten thousand
a year to spend. A vast deal may be done with ten thousand a year: we
will have a big weekly dinner as well as an At Home. We will draw all
the best people in London to the house: we will----'

She enlarged with great freedom on what could be done with this
income: she displayed all the powers of a rich imagination: not even
the milkmaid of the fable more largely anticipated the joys of the
future.

'And, oh! Alec,' she cried. 'To be rich again! rich only to the
limited extent of ten thousand a year, is too great happiness. When my
father was ruined, I thought the world was ended. Well, it was ended
for me, because you made me leave it and disappear. The last four
years I should like to be clean forgotten and driven out of my
mind--horrid years of failing and enduring and waiting! And now we are
rich again! Oh! we are rich again! It is too much happiness!'

The tears rose to her eyes; her soft and murmuring voice broke.

'My poor Zoe,' her husband laid his hand on hers, 'I am rejoiced,' he
said, 'as much for your sake as for my own.'

'How did you get this wonderful fortune, Alec?'

'Through Mr. Jagenal, the lawyer. It's a long story. A
great-grandfather of mine was wrecked, and lost his property. That was
eighty years ago. Now, his property was found. Who do you think found
it? Armorel Rosevean. And she has restored it--to me.'

'What?' She sprang to her feet, her face suddenly turning white.
'What? Armorel?'

'Yes, certainly. Curious coincidence, isn't it? The very girl who has
done me so much mischief. The man was wrecked on the island where her
people lived.'

'Yes--yes--yes. The property--what was it? What was it? Quick!'

'It was a leather case filled with rubies--rubies worth at least
thirty-five thousand pounds---- What's the matter?'

'Rubies! Her rubies! Oh! Armorel's rubies! No--no--no--not that!
Anything--anything but that! Armorel's rubies--Armorel's rubies!'

'What is the matter, Zoe? What is it?'

She gasped. Her eyes were wild: her cheek was white. She was like one
who is seized with some sudden horrible and unintelligible pain. Or
she was like one who has suddenly heard the most dreadful and most
terrible news possible.

'What is it, Zoe?' her husband asked again.

'You? Oh! you have brought me this news--you! I thought, perhaps,
someone--Armorel--or some other might find me out. But you!--you!'

'Again, Zoe'--he tried to be calm, but a dreadful doubt seized
him--'what does this mean?'

'I remember,' she laughed wildly, 'what I said when I gave you the
bank-book. If you found me out, I said, we should be both on the same
level. You would be able to hold out your arms, I said, and to cry,
"You have come down to my level. Come to my heart, sister in
wickedness." That is what I said. Oh! I little thought--it was a
prophecy--my words have come true.'

She caught her head with her hand--it is a stagey gesture: she had
learned it on the stage: yet at this moment of trouble it was simple
and natural.

'What the DEVIL do you mean?' he cried with exasperation.

'They were _your_ rubies all the time, and I did not know. Your
rubies! If I had only known! Oh! what have I done? What have I done?

'Tell me quick, what you have done.' He caught her by the arm roughly.
He actually shook her. His own face now was almost as white as hers.
'Quick--tell me--tell me--tell me!'

'You wanted money badly,' she gasped. Her words came with difficulty.
'You told me so every time I saw you. It was to get money that I went
to live with Armorel. I could not get it in that way. But I found
another way. She told me about the rubies. I knew where they were
kept. In the bank. In a sealed packet. I had seen an inventory of the
things in the bank. Armorel told me the story of the rubies, and I
never believed it--I never thought that there would be any search for
the man's heirs. I never thought the story was true. She told me,
besides, all about her other things--her miniatures and snuff-boxes,
and watches and rings. She showed me all her beautiful lace, worth
thousands. And as for the gold things and the jewels, they were all in
the bank, in separate sealed parcels, numbered. She showed me the bank
receipts. Opposite each number was written the contents of each, and
opposite Number Three was written "The case containing the rubies."'

'Well? Well?'

'Hush! What did I do? Let me think. I am going mad, I believe. It was
for your sake--all for your sake, Alec! All for your sake that I have
ruined you!'

'Ruined me? Quick! What have you done?'

'It was for your sake, Alec--all for your sake! Oh, for your own sake
I have lost and ruined you!'

'You will drive me mad, I think!' he gasped.

'I wrote a letter, one day, to the manager of the bank. I wrote it in
imitation of Armorel's hand. I signed her name at the end so that no
one could have told it was a forgery. My letter told him to give the
sealed packet numbered three to the bearer who was waiting. I sent the
letter by a commissionaire. He returned bringing the packet with him.'

'And then?'

'Oh! Then--then--Alec, you will kill me--you will surely kill me when
you know! You care for nothing in the world but for money--and I--I
have stolen away your money! It is gone--it is gone!'

'You stole those rubies? But I have seen them. They are in Jagenal's
safe. What do you mean?' he cried hoarsely.

'I have sold them. I stole them, and I sold them all--they were
worth--how much did you say? Fifty--sixty--eighty thousand pounds? I
sold them all, Alec, for four thousand two hundred and twenty-five
pounds! I sold them to a Dutchman in Hatton Garden.'

'You are raving mad! You dream! I have seen them. I have handled
them.'

'What you have seen were the worthless imitation jewels that I
substituted. I found out where to get sham rubies made of paste, or
something--some cut and some uncut. I bought them, and I substituted
them in the case. Then I returned the packet to the bank. I had the
packet in my possession no more than one morning. The man who bought
the stones swore they were worth no more. He said he should lose money
by them: he was going away to America immediately, and wanted to
settle at once, otherwise he would not give so much. That is what I
have done, Alec.'

'Oh!' he stood over her, his eyes glaring; he roared like a wild
beast; he raised his hand as if to slay her with a single blow. But he
could find no words. His hand remained raised--he was speechless--he
was motionless--he was helpless with blind rage and madness.

[Illustration: _His hand remained raised--he was speechless--he was
motionless--he was helpless with blind rage and madness._]

His wife looked up, and waited. Now that she had told her tale she was
calm.

'If you are going to kill me,' she said, 'you had better do it at
once. I think I do not care about living any longer. Kill me, if you
like.'

He dropped his arm: he straightened himself, and stood upright.

'You are a Thief!' he said hoarsely. 'You are a wretched, miserable
THIEF!'

She pointed to the picture on the easel.

'And you--my husband?'

He threw himself into a chair. Then he got up and paced the room: he
beat the air with his hands: his face was distorted: his eyes were
wild: he abandoned himself to one of those magnificent rages of which
we read in History. William the Conqueror--King Richard--King
John--many mediæval kings used to fall into these rages. They are less
common of late. But then such provocation as this is rare in any age.

When, at last, speech came to him, it was at first stuttering and
broken: speech of the elementary kind: speech of primitive man in a
rage: speech ejaculatory: speech interjectional: speech of railing and
cursing. He walked--or, rather, tramped--about the room: he stamped
with his foot: he banged the table with his fist: he roared: he
threatened: he cleared the dictionary of its words of scorn, contempt,
and loathing: he hurled all these words at his wife. As a tigress
bereft of her young, so is such a man bereft of his money.

His wife, meantime, sat watching, silent. She waited for the storm to
pass. As for what he said, it was no more than the rolling of thunder.
She made no answer to his reproaches; but for her white face you would
have thought she neither heard nor felt nor cared.

Outside the discreet man-servant heard every word. Once, when his
master threatened violence, he thought it might be his duty to
interfere. As the storm continued, he began to feel that this was no
place for a man-servant who respected himself. He remembered the
earthquake. He had then been called upon to remove from its hinges a
door fractured in a row. That was a blow. He was now compelled to
listen while a master, unworthy of such a servant, brutally swore at
his wife. He perceived that his personal character and his dignity no
longer allowed him to remain with such a person. He resigned,
therefore, that very day.

When the bereaved sufferer could say no more--for there comes a time
when even to shriek fails to bring relief--he threw himself into a
chair and began to cry. Yes: he cried like a child: he wept and sobbed
and lamented. The tears ran down his cheeks: his voice was choked with
sobs. The discreet man-servant outside blushed with shame that such a
thing should happen under his roof. The wife looked on without a sign
or a word. We break down and cry when we have lost the thing which
most we love--it may be a wife; it may be a child: in the case of
this young man the thing which most he loved and desired was money. It
had been granted to him--in large and generous measure. And, lo! it
was torn from his hands before his fingers had even closed around it.
Oh! the pity--the pity of it!

This fit, too, passed away.

Half an hour later, when he was quite quiet, exhausted with his rage,
his wife laid her hand upon his shoulder.

'Alec,' she said, 'I have always longed for one thing most of all. It
was the only thing, I once thought, that made it worth the trouble to
live. An hour ago it seemed that the thing had been granted to me. And
I was happy even with this guilt upon my soul. I know you for what you
are. Yet I desired your love. Henceforth, this dreadful thing stands
between us. You can no longer love me--that is certain, because I have
ruined you--any more than I can hold you in respect. Yet we will
continue to walk together--hand in hand--I will work and you shall
enjoy. If we do not love each other, we can continue in partnership,
and show to the world faces full of affection. At least you cannot
reproach me. I am a thief, it is true--most true! And you--Alec!
you--oh! my husband!--what are you?'



CHAPTER XXV

TO FORGET IT ALL


When Philippa read the announcement in the _Times_, she held her
breath for a space. It was at breakfast. Her father was reading the
news; she was looking through that column which interests us all more
than any other. Her eye fell upon her cousin's name. She read, she
changed colour, she read again. Her self-control returned. She laid
down the paper. 'Here,' she said, 'is a very astonishing
announcement!' A very astonishing announcement indeed!

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later she called upon Armorel at her rooms.

'You are left quite alone in consequence of this--this amazing
revelation?'

'Quite. Not that I mind being alone. And Effie Wilmot is coming.'

'Nothing in the world,' said Philippa, 'could have astonished me more.
It is not so much the fact of the marriage--indeed, my cousin's name
was mentioned at one time a good deal in connection with hers--but the
dreadful duplicity. He sent her to you--she came to us--as a widow.
And for three years they have been married! Is it possible?'

'Indeed,' said Armorel, 'I know nothing. She left me without a cause,
and now I hear of her marriage. That is all.'

'My dear, the thing reflects upon us. It is my cousin who has brought
this trouble upon you.'

'Oh! no, Philippa! As if you could be held responsible for his
actions! And, indeed, you must not speak of trouble. I have had none.
My companion was never my friend in any sense: we had nothing in
common: we must have parted company very soon: she irritated me in
many ways, especially in her blind praise of the man who now turns out
to be her husband. I really feel much happier now that she has gone.'

'But you have no companion--no chaperon.'

'I don't want any chaperon, I assure you.'

'But you cannot go into society alone.'

'I never do go into society. You know that nobody ever called upon
Mrs. Elstree--or Mrs. Feilding, as we must now call her. There are
only two houses in the whole of this great London into which I have
found an entrance--yours and Mr. Jagenal's.'

'Yes; I know now. And most disgraceful it is that you should have been
so sacrificed. That also is my cousin's doing. He represented his
wife--it seems difficult to believe that he has got a wife--as a
person belonging to a wide and very desirable circle of friends. Not a
soul called upon her! The world cannot continue to know a woman who
has disappeared bodily for three long years, during which she was
reported to have been seen on the stage of a country theatre. What has
she been doing? Why has she been in hiding? It was culpable negligence
in Mr. Jagenal not to make inquiries. What it must be called in my
cousin others may determine. As for you, Armorel, you have been most
disgracefully and shamefully treated.'

'I suppose I ought to have had a companion who was recognised by
society. But it seems to matter very little. I have made one or two
new friends, and I have found an old friend.'

'It is not too late, of course, even for this season. Now, my dear
Armorel, I am charged with a mission. It is to bring you back with
me--to get you to stay with us for the season and, at least, until the
summer holidays. That is, if you would be satisfied with our friends.'

'Thank you, Philippa, a thousand times. I do not think I can accept
your kindness, however, because I feel as if I must go away somewhere.
I have had a great deal of anxiety and worry. It has been wretched to
feel--as I have been made to feel--that I was in the midst of
intrigues and designs, the nature of which I hardly understood. I must
go away out of the atmosphere. I will return to London when I have
forgotten this time. I cannot tell you all that has been going on,
except that I have discovered one deception after another----'

'She is an abominable woman,' said Philippa.

'On the island of Samson, at least, there will be no wives who call
themselves widows, and no men who call themselves'--painters and
poets, she was going to say, but she checked herself--'call
themselves,' she substituted, 'single men, when they are already
married.'

'But, surely you will not go away now--just at the very beginning of
the season?'

'The season is nothing at all to me.'

'Oh! But, Armorel--think. You ought to belong to society. You are
wealthy: you are a most beautiful girl: you are quite young: and you
have so many gifts and accomplishments. My dear cousin, you might do
so well, so very well. There is no position to which you could not
aspire.'

Armorel laughed. 'Not in that way,' she said. 'I have already told
you, dear Philippa, that I am not able to think of things in that
way.'

'Always that dream of girlhood, dear? Well, then, come and show
yourself, if only to make the men go mad with love and the women with
envy. Stay with us. Or, if you prefer it, I will find you a companion
who really does belong to the world.'

'No, no; for the present I have had enough of companions. I want
nothing more than to go home and rest. I feel just a little battered.
My first experience of London has not been, you see, quite what I
expected. Let me go away, and come back when I feel more charitable
towards my fellow-creatures.'

'You have had a most horrid experience,' said Philippa. 'I trembled
for you when I learned who your companion was. I was at school with
her, and--well, I do not love her. But what could I do? Mr. Jagenal
said she had been most strongly recommended--I could not interfere: it
was too late: and besides, after what had happened, years before, it
would have looked vindictive. And then she has been rich and is now
poor, and perhaps, I thought, she wanted money: and when one has
quarrelled it is best to say nothing against your enemy. Besides, I
knew nothing definite against her. She said she was a widow--my cousin
Alec said that he had been an old friend of her husband: he spoke of
having helped him. Oh! he made up quite a long and touching story
about his dead friend. So, you see, I refrained, and if I could say
nothing good, I would say nothing bad.'

'I am sure that no one can possibly blame you in the matter,
Philippa.'

'Yet I blame myself. For if I had caused a few questions to be asked
at first, all the lies about the widowhood might have been avoided.'

'Others would have been invented.'

'Perhaps. Well--she is married, and I don't suppose her stay here will
have done you any real harm. As for her, to go masquerading as a widow
and to tell a thousand lies daily can hardly do any woman much good.
Have you made up your mind how you will treat her if you should
meet?'

'She has settled that question. She wrote me a letter saying that she
has behaved so badly that she wishes never to see me again. And if we
should meet she begs that it will be as perfect strangers.'

'Really--after all that has been done--that is the very least----'

'So we are to meet as strangers. I suppose that will be best. It would
be impossible to ask for explanations. Poor Zoe! One does not know all
her history. She told me once that she had been very unhappy. I have
heard her crying in her room at night. Perhaps, she is to be more
pitied than blamed. It is her husband whom I find it difficult to
forgive and to forget. He is like a nightmare: he cannot be put so
easily out of my mind.'

'Unfortunately, no. I, who have thought of him all my life, must
continue to think of him.'

'You will forgive him, Philippa. You must. Besides, you have less to
forgive. He has never offered his hand and heart to you.'

Philippa blushed a rosy red, and confusion gathered to her eyes,
because there had, in fact, been many occasions when things were said
which---- Armorel was sorry that she had said this.

'You mean, Armorel, that he actually--did this--to you?'

'Yes. It was only the other day--the morning after we read the play.
He came to the National Gallery, where I often go in the morning, and,
in one of the rooms, he told me how much he loved me--words, however,
go for nothing in such things--and kindly said that marriage with me
would complete his happiness.'

'Oh! He is a villain--a villain indeed!' Her voice rose and her cheeks
flushed. 'Forgive him, Armorel? Never!'

'Considering that it was only a day or two before he was going to
announce in the paper the fact that he had been married for three
years, it does seem pretty bad, doesn't it?'

'And you, Armorel?'

'Fortunately, I was able to dismiss him unmistakably.'

'Oh!' Philippa cried in exasperation. 'My cousin has been guilty of
many treacherous and base actions; but this is quite the worst thing
that I have heard of him--worse even than sending you his own wife,
under a false name and disguised with a lying story on her lips. No,
Armorel; I will never forgive him. Never!' Her eyes gleamed and her
lips trembled. She meant what she said. 'Never! It is the worst, the
most wicked thing he has ever done--because he might have succeeded.'

'I suppose he meant to get something by the pretence.'

'He wanted, I suppose, to have it reported that he was going to marry
a rich girl. I had heard that he was continually seen with you. And I
had also heard that he had confessed to an engagement which was not to
be announced. My father has found out that his affairs are in great
confusion.'

'But what good would an engagement of twenty-four hours do for him?'

'Indeed, I do not understand. Perhaps, after all, he had allowed
himself to fall in love--but I do not know. Men sometimes seem to
behave like mad creatures, with no reason or rule of self-control--as
if there was no such thing as consequence and no such thing as the
morrow. I do not understand anything about him. Why are his affairs in
confusion? He had, to begin with, a fortune of more than twelve
thousand pounds from his mother; his pictures latterly commanded a
good price. And his paper is supposed to be doing well. To be sure he
keeps horses and goes a great deal into society. And, perhaps, his
wife has been a source of expense to him. But it is no use trying to
explain or to find out things. Meantime, to you, his conduct has been
simply outrageous. A man who sends his own wife as companion to a
girl, and then makes love to her, is--my dear, there is no other
word--he is a Wretch. I will never forgive him.' Armorel felt that she
would keep her word. This pale, calm, self-contained Philippa could be
moved to anger. And again she heard her companion's soft voice
murmuring, 'My dear, the woman shows that she loves him still.'

'Fortunately for me,' said Armorel, 'my heart has remained untouched.
I was never attracted by him; and latterly, when I had learned certain
things, it became impossible for me to regard him with common
kindliness. And, besides, his pretence and affectation of love were
too transparent to deceive anybody. He was like the worst actor you
ever saw on any stage--wooden, unreal--incapable of impressing anyone
with the idea that he meant what he said.'

'I wonder how far Zoe--his wife--knew of this?'

'I would rather not consider the question, Philippa. But, indeed, one
cannot help, just at first, thinking about it, and I am compelled to
believe that she was his servant and his agent throughout. I believe
she was instigated to get money from me if she could, and I believe
she knew his intentions as regards me, and that she consented. She
must have known, and she must have consented.'

'She would excuse herself on the ground of being his wife. For their
husbands some women will do anything. Perhaps she worships him. His
genius, very likely, overshadows and awes her.' Armorel smiled, but
made no objection to this conjecture. 'Some women worship the genius
in a man as if it was the man himself. Some women worship the man
quite apart from his genius. I used to worship Alec long before he was
discovered to be a genius at all. When I was a school-girl, Alec was
my knight--my Galahad--purest-hearted and bravest of all the knights.
There was no one in the world--no living man, and very few dead
men--Bayard, Sidney, Charles the First, and two or three more
only--who could stand beside him. He was so handsome, so brave, so
great, and so good, that other men seemed small beside him. Well, my
hero passed through Cambridge without the least distinction: I thought
it was because he was too proud to show other men how easily he could
beat them. Then he was called to the Bar, but he did not immediately
show his eloquence and his abilities: that was because he wanted an
opportunity. And then I went out into the world, and made the
discovery that my hero was in reality quite an ordinary young
man--rather big and good-looking, perhaps--with, as we all thought
then, no very great abilities. And he certainly was always--and he is
still--heavy in conversation. But he was still my cousin, though he
ceased to be my hero. He was more than a cousin--he was almost my
brother; and brothers, as you do not know, perhaps, Armorel, sometimes
do things which require vast quantities of patience and forgiveness. I
am sure no girl's brother ever wanted forgiveness more than my cousin
Alec.'

Her face, cold and pale, had, in fact, the sisterly expression.
Philippa's enemies always declared that in the composition and making
of her the goddess Venus, who presumably takes a large personal
interest in the feminine department, had no lot or part at all. Yet
certain words--the late companion's words--kept ringing in Armorel's
ears: 'My dear, the woman loves him still. She has never ceased to
love him.'

'There was nothing to forgive at first,' she went on: 'on the
contrary, everything to admire. Yet his career has been throughout so
unexpected as to puzzle and bewilder us. Consider, Armorel. Here was a
young man who had never in boyhood, or later, shown the least love or
leaning towards Art or the least tinge of poetical feeling, or the
smallest power as a _raconteur_, or any charm of writing--suddenly
becoming a fine painter--a really fine painter--a respectable poet,
and an admirable story-teller. When he began with the first picture
there grew up in my head a very imaginative and certain set of ideas
connecting the painter's mind with his Art. I saw a grave mind
dwelling gravely and earnestly on the interpretation of nature. It
seemed impossible that one who should so paint sea and shore should be
otherwise than grave and serious.'

'Impossible,' said Armorel.

'What we had called, in our stupidity, dulness, now became only
seriousness. He took his Art seriously. But then he began to write
verses, and then I found that there was a new mind--not a part of the
old mind, but a new mind altogether. It was a mind with a light vein of
fancy and merriment: it was affectionate, sympathetic, and happy: and
it seemed distinctly a feminine mind. I cannot tell you how difficult
it was to fit that mind to my cousin Alec--it was like dressing him up
in an ill-fitting woman's riding-habit. And then he began those stories
of his--and, behold, another mind altogether!--this time a worldly
mind--cynical, sarcastic, distrustful, epigrammatic, and heartless--not
at all a pleasant mind. So that you see I had four different minds all
going about in the same set of bones--the original Alec Feilding,
handsome and commonplace, but a man of honour: the serious student of
Art: the light and gay-hearted poet, sparkling in his verses like a
glass of champagne: and the cynical man of the world, who does not
believe that there are any men of honour or any good women. Why, how
can one man be at the same time four men? It is impossible. And now we
have a fifth development of Alec. He has become--at the same time--a
creature who marries a wife secretly--no one knows why: and hides her
away for three years and then suddenly produces her--no one knows why.
What does he hide her away for? Why does she consent to be hidden away?
Then, the very day before he has got to produce his wife for all the
world to see--I am perfectly certain that she herself forced him to
take that step--he makes love to a young lady, and formally asks her to
marry him. Reconcile, if you can, all these contradictions.'

'They cannot possibly be reconciled.'

'We have heard of seven devils entering into one man; but never of
angels and devils mixed, my dear. Such a man cannot be explained, any
more than the Lady Melusina herself.'

'Do not let us try. As for me, I am going to forget the existence of
Mr. Alec Feilding if I can. In order to do this the quicker I mean to
go home and stay there. Come and see me on the island of Samson,
Philippa. But you must not bring your father, or he may be
disappointed at the loss of his ancestral hall. To you I shall not
mind showing the little house where your ancestors lived.'

'I should like very much--above all things--to see the place.'

'I will bribe you to come. I have got a great silver punch-bowl--old
silver, such as you love--for you. You shall have a choice of rings, a
choice of snuff-boxes. There is a roll of lace put away in the
cupboard that would make you a lovely dress. It will be like the
receiving of presents which we read of in the old books.'

'I will try to come, Armorel, after the season.'

Armorel laughed.

'There is the difference between us, Philippa. You belong to the
world, and I do not. Oh! I will come back again some day and look at
it again. But it will always be a strange land to me. You will leave
London after the season; I am leaving it before the season. Come,
however, when you can. Scilly is never too hot in summer nor too cold
in winter. Instead of a carriage you shall have a boat, and instead of
a coachman you shall have my boy Peter. We will sail about and visit
the Islands: we will carry our midday dinner with us: and in the
evening we will play and sing. Nobody will call upon you there: there
are no dinner-parties, and you need not bring an evening dress. The
only audience to our music will be my old servants, Justinian and
Dorcas his wife, and Chessun, and Peter the boy.'

There were no preparations to make: there was nothing to prevent
Armorel from going away immediately. She asked Effie to go with her.
She opened the subject in the evening, when she and her brother and
Roland were all sitting together in her drawing-room by the light of
the fire alone, which she loved. They were thoughtful and rather
silent, conscious of recent events.

'While we were in Regent Street this afternoon, Effie,' said Armorel,
'I was thinking of the many happy faces that we met. The street seemed
filled with happiness. I was wondering if it was all real. Are they
all as happy as they seem? Is there no falsehood in their lives? The
streets are filled with happy people. The theatres are filled with
happy faces: society shows none but happy faces. It ought to be the
happiest of worlds. Have we, alone, fallen among pretenders and
intriguers?'

'They are gone from you, Armorel. Can you not forget them?' Effie
murmured.

'I seem to hear the murmuring voice of my companion always. She
whispers in her caressing voice, "Oh! my dear, he is so good and
great! He is so full of truth and honour. Will you lend him a thousand
pounds? He thinks so highly of you. A thousand pounds--two thousand
pounds. If I had it to lay at the feet of so much genius!" And all the
time she is his wife. And in my thoughts I am always hearing his
voice, which I learned to hate, laying down a commonplace. And in my
dreams I awake with a start, because he is making love to me while Zoe
listens at the door.'

'You must go away somewhere,' said Roland.

'I shall go home--to my own place. Effie, will you come with me?'

'Go with you? Oh! To Scilly?'

'To the land of Lyonesse. I have arranged it all, dear. Archie shall
have these rooms of mine to live in: you shall come with me. It is two
years since you have been out of London: your cheeks are pale: you
want our sea-breezes and our upland downs. Will you come with me,
Effie?'

She held out her hand. 'I will go with you,' said the girl, 'round the
whole world, if you order me.'

'Then that is settled. Archie, you must stay because your future
demands it. I met Mr. Stephenson yesterday. He told me that he is in
great hopes about the play, and that, meantime, he will be able to put
some work into your hands.'

'You are always thinking about me,' said Archie.

'Come to us in the summer. Take your holiday on Samson. Oh! Effie, we
will be perfectly happy. We will forget London, and everything that
has happened. Thank Heaven, the rubies are gone! I will send a piano
there: we will carry with us loads of books and music. We will have a
perfectly lovely time, with no one but ourselves. Roland will tell you
how we will live. You will do nothing for a time, while you are
drinking in the fresh air and getting strong. Then--then--you shall
have ideas--great and glorious ideas--and you shall write far, far
better poetry than any you have attempted yet.'

'And, meantime--we who have to remain behind?' asked Roland. 'What
shall we do when you are gone?'

       *       *       *       *       *

It takes longer to get to Penzance than to Edinburgh, because the
train ceases to run and begins to crawl as soon as it leaves Plymouth.
The best way is to take the nine o'clock train and to travel all
night. Then you will probably sleep from Reading to Bristol: from
Bristol to Exeter: and from Exeter to Plymouth. After that you will
keep awake.

In this way and by this train Armorel and Effie travelled to Penzance.
Effie fell asleep very soon, and remained asleep all night long,
waking up somewhere between Lostwithiel and Marazion. Armorel sat up
wakeful the whole night through, yet was not tired in the morning.
Partly, she was thinking of her stay in London, the crowning of her
apprenticeship five years long. Nothing had happened as she had
expected. Nothing, in this life, ever does. She had found the hero of
her dreams defeated and fallen, a pitiable object. But he stood erect
again, better armed and in better heart, his face turned upwards.

Partly, another thing filled her heart and made her wakeful.

Roland and Archie came with them to the station.

'Shall I ever be permitted to visit again the Land of Lyonesse?'
whispered the former at the window just before the guard's whistle
gave the signal for the train to start.

She gave him her hand. 'Good-bye, Roland. You will come to
Scilly--when you please--as soon as you can.'

He held her hand.

'I live only in that hope,' he replied.

The train began to move. He bent and kissed her fingers.

She leaned forward. 'Roland,' she said, 'I also live only in that
hope.'



CHAPTER XXVI

NOT THE HEIR, AFTER ALL


The storm expended itself. The gale cannot go on blowing: the injured
man cannot go on raging, cursing, or weeping. Alec Feilding became
calm. Yet a settled gloom rested like a dark cloud upon his front: he
had lost something--a good part--of his pristine confidence. That
enviable quality which so much impresses itself upon others--called
swagger--had been knocked out of him. Indeed, he had sustained a blow
from which he would never wholly recover: such a man could never get
over the loss of such a fortune: his great-grandfather, so far as
could be learned, lost his fortune and began again, with cheerful
heart. Alec would begin again, because he must, but with rage and
bitterness. It was like being struck down by an incurable disease: it
might be alleviated, but it would never be driven out: from time to
time, in spite of the physicians, the patient writhes and groans in
the agony of this disease. So from time to time will this man, until
the end of time, groan and lament over the wicked waste and loss of
that superb inheritance.

Of course he disguised from himself--this is one of the things men
always do hide away--the fact that he himself was part and parcel of
the deed: he had destroyed himself by his own craft and cunning. Had
he not placed his wife with Armorel under instructions to persuade and
coax her into advancing money for his own purposes, the thing could
never have happened.

Henceforth, though the pair should have the desire of their hearts:
though they should march on to wealth and success: though the wife
should invent and contrive with the cleverness of ten for the good of
the firm: though the husband should grow more and more in the
estimation of the outer world into the position of a Master and an
Authority: between the two will lie the memory of fraud and crime, to
divide them and keep them apart.

On the day after the revelation, a thought came into the mind of the
inheritor of the rubies. The thing that had happened unto him--could
he cause it to happen unto another? Perhaps one remembers how, on
learning that the rubies were to be given to the eldest grandson of
the second daughter, he had dropped, limp and pale, into a chair. One
may also remember how, on learning that no further investigation would
be made, he recovered again. The fact was, you see, that Mr. Jagenal
had made a little mistake. His searchers had altered the order of the
three sisters. Frances, Alec Feilding's grandmother, was not the
second, but the third daughter. When the rubies were actually waiting
and ready for him, it would have been foolish to mention that fact,
especially as no further search was to be made, and the elder branch,
wherever it was, would never know anything of the matter at all.
Therefore, he then held his tongue.

Now, on the other hand, the jewels being worthless, he thought, first
of all, that it would look extremely scrupulous to inform Mr. Jagenal
of the discovery that his grandmother was really the third daughter:
next, if the other branch should be discovered, the fortunate heir
would, like himself, be raised to the heavens only to be dashed down
again to earth. Let someone else, as well as himself, experience the
agonies of that fall. He chuckled grimly as he considered the torments
in store for this fortunate unknown cousin. As for danger to his wife,
he considered rightly that there was none: the stones had been
consigned to the bank by Armorel, and in her own name: she signed an
order for their delivery to Mr. Jagenal: he had kept them in his safe.
They would certainly lie there some time before he found the new
heir. Nay. They had been in his custody for five years before he gave
them over formally to Armorel. Who could say when the robbery had been
effected? Who would think of asking the bank whether during the short
time the parcel was held in the name of Armorel it had been taken out?
Clearly the whole blame and responsibility lay with Mr. Jagenal
himself. He would have a very curious problem to solve--namely, how
the rubies had been changed in his own safe.

'Well, Alec, come to take away your rubies?' asked Mr. Jagenal,
cheerily. 'There they are in that safe.'

'No,' he replied, sadly. 'I am grieved indeed to say that I have not
come for the rubies. I shall never come for the rubies.'

'Why not?'

'Because they are not for me. According to your instructions, I have
no claim to them.'

'No claim?'

'I understand that Miss Rosevean intends to give these jewels to the
first representative of the family of Robert Fletcher. That is to say,
to the eldest grandchild of the first, second, or third daughter, as
the case may be?'

'That is so.'

'Very well. The eldest daughter left no children. You therefore sent
for me as the eldest--and only--grandchild of the second daughter?'

'I did.'

'Then I have to tell you that you are wrong. My grandmother was the
third daughter.'

'Is it possible?'

'Quite possible. She was the third daughter. I was not very accurately
acquainted with that part of my genealogy, and the other day I could
not have told you whether I came from the second or the third
daughter. I have since ascertained the facts. It was the second
daughter who went away to Australia or New Zealand, or somewhere. I do
not know anything at all about my cousins, but I think it very
unlikely that there are none in existence.'

'Very unlikely. What proof have you that your grandmother was the
second daughter?'

'I have an old family Bible--I can show it you, if you like. In this
has been entered the date of the birth, the place and date of baptism,
the names of the sponsors of all three sisters. There is also a note
on the second sister's marriage and on her emigration. I assure you
there can be no doubt on the subject at all.'

'Oh! This is very disastrous, my dear boy. How could my people have
made such a mistake? Alec, I feel for you--I do, indeed!'

'It is most disastrous!' Alec echoed with a groan. 'I have been in the
unfortunate position of a man who is suddenly put into possession
of a great fortune one day, and as suddenly deprived of it the next.
Of course, as soon as I discovered the real facts, it became my duty
to acquaint you with them.'

'By George!' cried Mr. Jagenal. 'If you had kept the facts to
yourself, no one would ever have been any wiser. No one, because the
transfer of the property is a sheer gift made by my client to you
without any compulsion at all. It is a private transaction of which I
should never have spoken to anyone. Well, Alec, I must not say that
you are wrong. But many men--most men perhaps--with a less keen sense
of honour than you--well--I say no more. Yet the loss and
disappointment must be a bitter pill for you.'

'It is a bitter pill,' he replied truthfully. 'More bitter than you
would suspect.'

'You will have the satisfaction of feeling that you have behaved in
this matter as a man of the strictest honour.'

'I am very glad, considering all things, that I have not had the
rubies in my own possession, even for a single hour.'

'That is nothing: of course they would have been safe in your hands.
Well, Alec, I am sorry for you. But you are young: you are clever: you
are succeeding hand over hand: pay a little more attention to your
daily expenses, put down your horses and live for a few years quietly,
and you will make your own fortune--ay, a fortune greater far than was
contained in this unlucky case of precious stones.'

'I suppose you will renew your search, now, after the descendants of
the second daughter?'

'I suppose we must. Do not forget that if there are no
descendants--or, which is much the same thing, if we cannot find them
in a reasonable time, I shall advise my client to transfer the jewels
to the grandson of the third daughter. And I hope, my dear boy--I
hope, I say, that we may never find those descendants.'

Alec departed, a little cheered by the consolation that he had passed
on the disappointment to another.

He went home, and found his wife in the studio, apparently waiting for
him. There were dark rings round her eyes. She had been weeping. Since
the storm they had not spoken to each other.

He sat down at his table--it was perfectly bare of papers--no sign of
any work at all upon it--and waited for her to begin.

'Is it not time,' she asked, 'that this should cease? You have
reproached me enough, I think. Remember, we are on the same level.
But, whatever I have done, it was done for your sake. Whatever you
have done, was done for your own sake. Now, is there going to be an
end to this situation?'

[Illustration: _'Is it not time,' she asked, 'that this should
cease?'_]

He made a gesture of impatience.

'Understand clearly--if I am to help you for the future: if I am going
to pull you through this crisis: if I am to direct and invent and
combine for you, I mean to be treated with the semblance of
kindness--the show of politeness at least.'

He sat up, moved by this appeal, which, indeed, was to his purse--that
is, to his heart.

'I say, my husband,' she repeated, 'you must understand me clearly.
Again, what I have done was done for you--for you. Unless you agree to
my conditions it shall have been done--for myself. I have four
thousand pounds in the bank in my own name. You cannot touch it. I
shall go away and live upon that money--apart from you. And you shall
have nothing--nothing--unless----'

'Unless what?' He shook off his wrath with a mighty effort, as a sulky
boy shakes off his sulks when he perceives that he must, and that
instantly. He threw off his wrath and sat up with a wan semblance of a
smile, a spectral smile, feebly painted on his lips. 'Unless what,
Zoe? My dear child, can you not make allowance for a man tried in this
terrible fashion? I don't believe that any man was ever so mocked by
Fortune. I have been crushed. Yes, any terms, any condition you
please. Let us forget the past. Come, dear, let us forget what has
happened.' He sprang to his feet and held out his arms.

She hesitated a moment. 'There is no other place for me now,' she
murmured. 'We are on the same level. I am all yours--now.'

Then she drew herself away, and turned again to the table. 'Come,
Alec,'she said, 'to business. Time presses. Sit down, and give me all
your attention.'



CHAPTER XXVII

THE DESERT ISLAND


The train proceeded slowly along the head of Mount's Bay, the waters
of the high tide washing up almost to the sleepers on the line.
Armorel let down the window and looked out across the bay--

    Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
    Looks towards Namancos and Bayona's hold.

'See, Effie!' she cried. 'There is Mount's Bay. There is the Lizard.
There is Penzance. And there--oh! there is the Mount itself!'

St. Michael's Mount, always weird and mysterious, rose out of the
waters wrapped in a thin white cloud, which the early sun had not yet
been able to dissipate. I am told there is a very fine modern house
upon the Mount. I prefer not to believe that story. The place should
always remain lonely, awful, full of mystery and wonder. There is also
said to be a battery with guns upon it. Perhaps. But there are much
more wonderful things than these to tell of the rock. Upon its highest
point those gallant miners--Captain Caractac and Captain Caerleon,
both of Boadicea Wheal--were wont to stand gazing out upon the stretch
of waters expecting the white sails and flashing oars of the
Phoenician fleet, come to buy their white and precious tin, with
strong wines from Syria and spices from the far East, and purple robes
and bronze swords and spearheads, far better than those made by Flint
Jack of the Ordnance Department. Hither came white-robed priests with
flowing beards and solemn faces--faces supernaturally solemn, till
they were alone upon the rock. Then, perhaps, an eyelid trembled. What
they did I know not, nor did the people, but it was something truly
awful, with majestic rites and ineffable mysteries and mumbo-jumbo of
the very noblest. Here St. Michael himself once, in the ages of Faith,
condescended to appear. It was to a hermit. Such appearances were the
prizes of the profession. Many went a-hermiting in hopes of getting a
personal call from a Saint who would otherwise have fought and lived
and died quite like the rest of the world. And, indeed, there were so
many Cornish Saints--such as St. Buryan, St. Levan, St. Ives, St.
Just, St. Keverne, St. Anthony, not to speak of St. Erth, St. Gulval,
St. Austell, St. Wenn--all kindly disposed saints, anxious to
encourage hermits, and pleased to extend their own sphere of
usefulness, that few of these holy men were disappointed.

In the bay the blue water danced lightly in the morning breeze: the
low, level sunlight shone upon Penzance on the western side: the
fishing-boats, back from the night's cruise, lay at their moorings,
their brown sails lowered: the merchantmen and trading craft were
crowded in the port: beyond, the white curves chased each other across
the water, and showed that, outside, the breeze was fresh and the
water lively.

'We are almost at home,' said Armorel. 'There is our steamer lying off
the quay--she looks very little, doesn't she? Only a short voyage of
forty miles--oh! Effie, I do hope you are a good sailor--and we shall
be at Hugh Town.'

'Are we really arrived? I believe I have slept the whole night
through,' said Effie, sitting up and pulling herself straight. 'Oh!
how lovely!'--as she too looked out of window. 'Have you slept well,
Armorel?'

'I don't think I have been asleep much. But I am quite happy, Effie,
dear--quite as happy as if I had been sound asleep all night. There
are dreams, you know, which come to people in the night when they are
awake as well as when they are asleep. I have been dreaming all night
long--one dream which lasted all the night--one voice in my ears--one
hand in mine. Oh! Effie, I have been quite happy!' She showed her
happiness by kissing her companion. 'I am happier than I ever thought
to be. Some day, perhaps, I shall be able to tell you why.'

And then the train rolled in to Penzance Station.

It was only half-past seven in the morning. The steamer would not
start till half-past ten. The girls sent their luggage on board, and
then went to one of the hotels which stand all in a row facing the
Esplanade. Here they repaired the ravages of the night, which makes
even a beautiful girl like Armorel show like Beauty neglected, and
then they took breakfast, and, in due time, went on board.

Now behold! They had left in London a pitiless nor'-easter and a black
sky. They found at Penzance a clear blue overhead, light and sunshine,
and a glorious north-westerly breeze. That is not, certainly, the
quarter whose winds allay the angry waves and soothe the heaving
surge. Not at all. It is when the wind is from the north-west that the
waves rise highest and heaviest. Then the boat bound to Scilly tosses
and rolls like a round cork, yet persistently forces her way westward,
diving, ploughing, climbing, slipping, sliding, and rolling, shipping
great seas and shaking them off again, always getting ahead somehow.
Then those who come forth at the start with elastic step and lofty
looks lie low and wish that some friend would prod Father Time with a
bradawl and make him run: and those who enjoy the sea, Sir, and are
never sick, are fain to put down the pipe with which they proudly
started and sink into nothingness. For taking the conceit out of a
young man there is nothing better than the voyage from Penzance to
Scilly, especially if it be a tripper's voyage--that is, back again
the same day.

There is, on the Scilly boat, a cabin, or rather a roofed and walled
apartment, within which is the companion to the saloon. Nobody ever
goes into the saloon, though it is magnificent with red velvet, but
round this roofed space there is a divan or sofa. And here lie the
weak and fearful, and all those who give in and oppose no further
resistance to the soft influences of ocean. Effie lay here, white of
cheek and motionless. She had never been on the sea before, and she
had a rough and tumbling day to begin with, and the sea in glory and
grandeur--but all was lost and thrown away so far as she was
concerned. Armorel stood outside, holding to the ropes with both
hands. She was dressed in a waterproof: the spray flew over her: her
cheek was wet with it: her eyes were bright with it: the heavy seas
dashed over her: she laughed and shook her waterproof: as for wet
boots, what Scillonian regardeth them? And the wind--how it blew
through and through her! How friendly was its rough welcome! How
splendid to be once more on rough water, the boat fighting against a
head wind and rolling waves! How glorious to look out once more upon
the wild ungoverned waves!

It was not until the boat had rounded the Point and was well out in
the open that these things became really enjoyable. Away south stood
the Wolf with its tall lighthouse: you could see the white waves
boiling and fighting around it and climbing half-way up. Beyond the
Wolf a great ocean steamer plunged through the water outward bound.
Presently there came flying past them the most beautiful thing ever
invented by the wit of man or made by his craft, a three-masted
schooner under full sail--all sails spread--not forging slowly along
under poverty-stricken stays which proclaim an insufficient crew, but
flying over the water under all her canvas. She was a French boat, of
Havre.

'There is Scilly, Miss,' said the steward, pointing out to sea.

Yes; low down the land lay, west by north. It looked like a cloud at
first. Every moment it grew clearer; but always low down. What one
sees at first are the eastern shores of St. Agnes and Gugh, St.
Mary's, and the Eastern Islands. They are all massed together, so that
the eye cannot distinguish one from the other, but all seem to form
continuous land. By degrees they separated. Then one could discover
the South Channel and the North Channel. When the tide is high and the
weather fair the boat takes the former: at low tide, the latter.
To-day the captain chose the South Channel. And now they were so near
the land that Armorel could make out Porthellick Bay, and her heart
beat, though she was going home to no kith or kin, and to nothing but
her _familia_, her serving folk. Next she made out Giant's Castle,
then the Old Town, then Peninnis Head, black and threatening. And now
they were so near that every carn and every boulder upon it could be
made out clearly: and one could see the water rising and falling at
the foot of the rock, and hear it roaring as it was driven into the
dark caves and the narrow places where the rocks opened out and made
make-believe of a port or haven of refuge. And now Porthcressa Bay,
and now the Garrison, and smooth water.

Then Armorel brought out Effie, pale and languid. 'Now, dear, the
voyage is over: we are in smooth water, and shall be in port in ten
minutes. Look round--it is all over: we are in the Road. And over
there--see!--with his twin hills--is my dear old Samson.'

There was a little crowd on the quay waiting to see the boat arrive.
All of them--boatmen, fishermen, and flower-farmers' men, to say
nothing of those representing the interests of commerce--pressed
forward to welcome Armorel. Everybody remembered her, but now she was
a grand young lady who had left them a simple child. They shook hands
with her and stepped aside. And then Peter came forward, looking no
older but certainly no younger, and Armorel shook hands with him too.
He had the boat alongside, and in five minutes more the luggage was on
board, the mast was up, the sail set, and Armorel was sitting in her
old place, the strings in her hand, while Peter held the rope and
looked out ahead, shading his eyes with his right hand in the old
familiar style.

'It is as if I never left home at all,' said Armorel. 'I sailed like
this with Peter yesterday--and the day before.'

'You've growed,' said Peter, after an inquiring gaze, being for the
moment satisfied that there was nothing ahead and that there was no
immediate danger of shipwreck on the Nut Rock or Green Island.

'I am five years older,' Armorel replied.

'It's been a rare harvest this year,' he went on. 'I thought we should
never come to the end of the daffodils.'

'Now I am at home indeed,' said Armorel, 'when I hear the old, old
talk about the flowers. To-morrow, Effie, I will show you our little
fields where we grow all the lovely flowers--the anemone and
jonquil--the narcissus and the daffodil. This afternoon, when we have
had dinner and rested a little, I will take you all round Samson and
show you the glories of the place: they are principally views of other
islands: but there is a headland and two bays, and there are the Tombs
of the Kings--the Ancient Kings of Lyonesse--in one of them Roland
Lee'--she blushed and turned away her head--henceforth, she
understood, this was a name to be treated with more reverence--'found
a golden torque, which you have seen me wear. And oh! my dear--you
shall be so happy: the sea-breeze shall fill your soul with music: the
sea-birds shall sing to you: the very waves shall lap on the shore in
rhyme and rhythm for you: and the sun of Scilly, which is so warm and
glowing, but never too warm, shall colour that pale cheek of yours,
and fill out that spare form. And oh, Effie! I hope you will not get
tired of Samson and of me! We are two maidens living on a desert
island: there is nobody to talk to except each other: we shall wander
about together as we list. Oh, I am so happy, Effie!--and oh, my dear,
I am so hungry!'

The boat ran up over the white sand of the beach. They jumped out, and
Armorel, leaving Peter to bring along the trunks by the assistance of
the donkey, led the way over the southern hill to Holy Farm.

'Effie,' she said, 'I have been tormented this morning with the fear
that everything would look small. I was afraid that my old memories--a
child's memories--would seem distorted and exaggerated. Now I am not
in the least afraid. Samson has got all his acres still: he looks
quite as big and quite as homely as ever he did--the boulders are as
huge, the rocks are as steep. I remember every boulder, Effie, and
every bush, and every patch of brown fern, and almost every trailing
branch of bramble. How glorious it is here! How the sea-breeze sweeps
across the hill--it comes all the way from America--across the
Atlantic! Effie, I declare you are looking rosier already. I must
sing--I must, indeed--I always used to sing!----' She threw up her
arms in the old gesture, and sang a loud and clear and joyous burst of
song--sang like the lark springing from the ground, because it cannot
choose but sing. 'I used to jump, too; but I do not want, somehow, to
jump any more. Ah, Effie, I was quite certain there would be some
falling-off, but I could not tell in what direction. I can no longer
jump. That comes of getting old. To be sure, I did not jump when I
took Roland Lee about the islands. Sometimes I sang, but I was ashamed
to jump. Here we are upon the top. It is not a mighty Alp, is it?--but
it serves. Look round--but only for a moment, because Chessun will
have dinner waiting for us, and you are exhausted by your bad
passage--you poor thing. This is our way, down the narrow lanes. Here
our fields begin: they are each about as big as a dinner-table. See
the tall hedges to keep off the north wind: there is a field of
narcissus, but there are no more flowers, and the leaves are dying
away. This way! Ah! Here we are!'

The house did not look in the least mean, or any smaller than Armorel
expected. She became even prouder of it. Where else could one find a
row of palms, with great verbena-trees and prickly pear and aloes, not
to speak of the creepers over the porch, the gilt figure-head, and the
big ship's lantern hung in the porch? Within, the sunlight poured into
the low rooms--all of them looking south--and made them bright: in the
room where formerly the ancient lady passed her time in the hooded
chair--the lady passed away and the chair gone--the cloth was spread
for dinner. And in the porch were gathered the serving-folk--Justinian
not a day older, Dorcas unchanged, and Chessun thin and worn, almost
as old, to look at, as her mother. And as soon as the greetings were
over, and the questions asked and answered, and the news told of the
harvest and the prices, and the girls had run all over the house,
Chessun brought in the dinner.

It is a blessed thing that we must eat, because upon this necessity we
have woven so many pretty customs. We eat a welcome home: we eat a
godspeed: we eat together because we love each other: we eat to
celebrate anything and everything. Above all, upon such an event as
the return of one who has long been parted from us we make a little
banquet. Thought and pains had been bestowed upon the dinner which
Chessun placed upon the table. Dorcas stood by the table, watching the
effect of her cares. First there was a chicken roasted, with bread
crumbs--a bird blessed with a delicacy of flavour and a tenderness of
flesh and a willingness to separate at the joints unknown beyond the
shores of Scilly: Dorcas said so, and the girls believed it--Effie, at
least, willing to believe that nothing in the world was so good as in
this happy realm of Queen Armorel. Dorcas also invited special
attention to the home-cured ham, which was, she justly remarked, mild
as a peach: the potatoes, served in their skins, were miracles of
mealiness--had Armorel met with such potatoes out of Samson? had the
young lady, her visitor, ever seen or dreamed of such potatoes? There
was spinach grown on the farm, freshly cut, redolent of the earth,
fragrant with the sea-breeze. And there was home-made bread, sweet,
wholesome, and firm. There was also placed upon the table a Brown
George, filled with home-brewed, furnished with a head snow-white,
venerable, and benevolent, such a head as not all the breweries of
Burton--or even of the whole House of Lords combined--could furnish.
Alas! that head smiled in vain upon this degenerate pair. They would
not drink the nut-brown, sparkling beer. It was not wasted, however.
Peter had it when he brought the pack-ass to the porch laden with the
last trunk. Nor did they so much as remove the stopper from the
decanter containing a bottle of the famous blackberry wine, the
primest _crû_ of Samson, opened expressly for this dinner. Yet this
was not wasted either, for Justinian, who knew a glass of good wine,
took it with three successive suppers. Is it beneath the dignity of
history to mention pudding? Consider: pudding is festive: pudding
contributes largely to the happiness of youth. Armorel and Effie
tackled the pudding as only the young and hungry can. And this day,
perhaps from the promptings of simple piety, being rejoiced that
Armorel was back again; perhaps from some undeveloped touch of poetry
in her nature, Chessun placed upon the table that delicacy seldom seen
at the tables of the unfortunate Great--who really get so few of the
good things--known as Grateful Pudding. You know the ingredients of
this delightful dish? More. To mark the day, Chessun actually made it
with cream instead of milk!

'To-morrow,' said Armorel, fired with emulation, 'I will show you,
Effie, what I can do in the way of puddings and cakes. I always used
to make them: and, unless my lightness of hand has left me, I think
you will admire my teacakes, if not my puddings. Roland Lee praised
them both. But, to be sure, he was so easily pleased. He liked
everything on the island. He even liked--oh! Effie!--he liked me.'

'That was truly wonderful, Armorel.'

'Now, Effie, dear, lie down in this chair beside the window. You can
look straight out to sea--that is Bishop's Rock, with its lighthouse.
Lie down and rest, and I will talk to you about Scilly and Samson and
my own people. Or I will play to you if you like. I am glad the new
piano has arrived safely.'

'I like to look round this beautiful old room. How strange it is! I
have never seen such a room--with things so odd.'

'They are all things from foreign lands, and things cast up by the
sea. If you like odd things I will show you, presently, my punch-bowls
and the snuff-boxes and watches and things. I did not give all of them
to the care of Mr. Jagenal five years ago.'

'It is wonderful: it is lovely: as if one could ever tire of such a
place!'

'Lie down, dear, and rest. You have had such a tossing about that you
must rest after it, or you may be ill. It promises to be a fine and
clear evening. If it is we will go out by-and-by and see the sun set
behind the Western Rocks.'

'We are on a desert island,' Effie murmured obediently, lying down and
closing her eyes. 'Nobody here but ourselves: we can do exactly what
we please: think of it, Armorel! Nobody wants any money, here: nobody
jostles his neighbour: nobody tramples upon his friend. It is like a
dream of the primitive life.'

'With improvements, dear Effie. My ancestors used to lead the
primitive life when Samson was a holy island and the cemetery of the
Kings of Lyonesse: they went about barefooted and they were dressed in
skins: they fought the wolves and bears, and if they did not kill the
creatures, why, the creatures killed them: they were always fighting
the nearest tribe. And they sucked the marrow-bones, Effie, think of
that! Oh! we have made a wonderful advance in the civilisation of
Samson Island.'



CHAPTER XXVIII

AT HOME


'I am so very pleased to see _you_ here, Mr. Stephenson.' Mrs.
Feilding welcomed him with her sweetest and most gracious smile. 'To
attract our few really sincere critics--there are so many incompetent
pretenders--as well as the leaders in all the Arts is my great
ambition. And now you have come.'

'You are very kind,' said Dick, blushing. I dare say he is a really
great critic at the hours when he is not a most superior clerk in the
Admiralty. At the same time, one is not often told the whole, the
naked, the gratifying truth.

'To have a _salon_, that is my desire: to fill it with men of light
and leading. Now you have broken the ice, you will come often, will
you not? Every Sunday evening, at least. My husband will be most
pleased to find you here.'

'Again, you are very kind.'

'We saw you yesterday afternoon at that poor boy's _matinée_; did we
not? The crush was too great for us to exchange a word with you. What
do you think of the piece?'

'I always liked it. I was present, you know, at the reading that
night.'

'Oh yes; the reading--Armorel Rosevean's Reading. Yes. Though that
hardly gave one an idea of the play.'

'The piece went very well indeed. I should think it will catch on; but
of course the public are very capricious. One never knows whether they
will take to a thing or not. To my mind there is every prospect of
success. In any case, young Wilmot has shown that he possesses
poetical and dramatic powers of a very high order indeed. He seems the
most promising of the men before us at present. That is, if he keeps
up to the standard of this first effort.'

'Ye--es? Of course we must discount some of the promise. You have
heard, for instance, that my husband lent his advice and assistance?'

'He said so, after the reading, did he not?'

'Nobody knows, Mr. Stephenson,' she clasped her hands and turned those
eyes of limpid blue upon the young man, 'how many successes my husband
has helped to make by his timely assistance! What he did to this
particular play I do not know, of course. During the reading and
during yesterday's performance, I seemed to hear his voice through all
the acts. It haunted me. But Alec said nothing. He sat in silence,
smiling, as if he had never heard the words before. Oh! It is
wonderful! And now--not a word of recognition! You help people to
climb up, and then they pretend--they pretend--to have got up by their
own exertions! Not that Alec expects gratitude or troubles himself
much about these things, but, naturally, I feel hurt. And oh! Mr.
Stephenson, what must be the conscience of the man--how can he bear to
live--who goes about the world pretending--pretending,' she shook her
head sadly, 'pretending to have written other men's works!'

'Men will do anything, I suppose. This kind of assistance ought,
however, to be recognised. I will make some allusion to it in my
notice of the play. Meantime, if I can read the future at all, Master
Archie Wilmot's fortune is made, and he will.'

'Mr. Roland Lee showed his picture that night. He had just come out of
a madhouse, had he not?'

'Not quite that. He failed, and dropped out. But what he did with
himself or how he lived for three years I do not exactly know. He has
returned, and never alludes to that time.'

'And he exactly imitates my husband, I am told.'

'No, no--not exactly. The resemblance is close, only an experienced
critic'--Oh! Dick Stephenson!--'could discern the real differences of
treatment.' Mrs. Feilding smiled. 'But I knew him before he
disappeared, and I assure you his method was then the same as it is
now. Very much like your husband's style, yet with a difference.'

'I am glad there is a difference. An artist ought, at least, to have a
style of his own. You know, I suppose, that Armorel has gone away?'

'I have heard so.'

'It became possible for us at last to acknowledge things. So I joined
my husband. Armorel went home--to her own home in the Scilly Islands.
She took Effie Wilmot with her. Indeed, the girl's flatteries have
become necessary to her. I fear she was unhappy, poor child! I
sometimes think, Mr. Stephenson, that she saw too much of Alec. Of
course he was a good deal with us, and I could not tell her the whole
truth, and--and--girls' heads are easily turned, you know, when genius
seems to be attracted. Poor Armorel!' she sighed, playing with her
fan. 'Time, I dare say, will help her to forget.'

'It is a pity,' said Dick Stephenson, changing the subject, because he
did not quite believe this version, 'it is a pity that Mr. Feilding,
who can give such admirable advice to a young dramatist, does not
write a play himself.'

'Hush!' she looked all round, 'nobody is listening. Alec _has_ written
a play, Mr. Stephenson. It is a three-act drama--a tragedy--strong--oh!
so strong--so strong!' She clasped her hands again, letting the fan
dangle from her wrist. 'So effective! I don't know when I have seen a
play with more striking situations. It is accepted. But not a word has
yet been said about it.'

'May I say something about it? Will you let me be the first to
announce it, and to give some little account of it?'

'I will ask Alec. If he consents, I will tell you more about the play.
And, my dear Mr. Stephenson, you, one of our old friends, really ought
to do some work for the paper.'

'I have not been asked,' he replied, colouring, for he was still at
that stage when the dramatic critic is flattered by being invited to
write for a paper.

'You shall be. How do you like the paper?'

'It has so completely changed its character, one would think that the
whole staff had been changed. Everybody reads it now, and everybody
takes it, I believe.'

'The circulation has gone up by leaps and bounds. It is really
wonderful. But, Mr. Stephenson, here is one of the reasons. Give me a
little credit--poor me! I cannot write, but I can look on, and I have
a pair of eyes, and I can see things. Now, I saw that Alec was killing
himself with writing. Every week a story; also, every week, a poem;
every week an original article; and then those notes. I made him stop.
I said to him, "Stamp your own individuality on every line of the
paper; but write it yourself no longer. Edit it." You see, it is not
as if Alec had to prove his powers: he has proved them already. So he
can afford to let others do the hard work, while he adds the magic
touch--the touch of genius--that touch that goes to the heart. And the
result you see.'

'Yes; the brightest--cleverest--most varied paper that exists.'

'With a large staff. Formerly Alec and one or two others formed the
whole staff. Well, Mr. Stephenson, I know that Alec is going to ask
you to do some of the dramatic criticism, and if you consent I shall
be very pleased to have been the first to mention it.'

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be understood from this conversation that the new methods of
managing the business of the Firm were essentially different from the
old. The paper had taken a new departure: it prospered. It was
understood that the editor put less of his own work into it; but the
articles, verses, and stories were all unsigned, and no one could tell
exactly which were his papers: therefore, as all were clever, his
reputation remained on the same level. Also, there was a thick and
solid mass of advertisements each week, which represented public
confidence widespread and deep. 'Give me,' cries the proprietor of a
paper, 'the confidence of advertisers. That is proof enough of
popularity.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Feilding moved to another part of the room, and began to talk
with another man.

'My husband,' she said, 'has prepared a little surprise for us this
evening. I say for us, because I have not seen what he has to
show--since it came back from the frame-maker.'

'It is a picture, then?'

'A picture in a new style. He has abandoned for a time his coast and
sea-shore studies. This is in quite a new style. I think--I hope--that
it will be liked as well as his old.'

'He is indeed a wonderful man!'

'Is he not?' She laughed--a low and musical--a contented and a happy
laugh. 'Is he not? You never know what Alec may be going to do next.'

Mrs. Feilding's Sundays have already become a great success: such a
success as a woman of the world may desire, and a clever woman can
achieve. There is once more, as she says proudly, a _salon_ in London.
If it does not quite take the lead that she pretends in Art and
Letters, it is always full. Men who go there once, go again: they find
the kind of entertainment that they like: plenty of people for talk,
to begin with. Then, every man is made, by the hostess, to feel that
his own position in the literary and artistic world is above even his
own estimate: that is soothing: in fact, the note of the _salon_ is
appreciation--not mutual admiration, as the envious do enviously
affirm. Moreover, everybody in the _salon_ has done something--perhaps
not much, but something. And then the place is one where the talk is
delightfully free, almost as free as in a club smoking-room. Every
evening, again, there is some kind of entertainment, but not too much,
because the _salon_ has to keep up its reputation for conversation,
and music destroys conversation. 'Let us,' said Mrs. Feilding, 'revive
the dead art of conversation. Let the men in this room make their
reputation as they did a hundred years ago, for brilliant talk.' I
have not heard that Mrs. Feilding has yet developed a talker like the
mighty men of old: perhaps one will come along later: those, however,
who have looked into the subject with an ambition in that line, and
have ascertained the nature of the epigrams, repartees, retorts,
quips, jokes, and personal observations attributed to Messrs. Douglas
Jerrold and his brilliant circle are doubtful of reviving that Art
except in a modified and a greatly chastened, even an effeminate form.

The entertainments provided by Mrs. Feilding consisted of a little
music or a little singing--always by a young and little-known
professional: there was generally something in the fashion--young lady
with a banjo or a tum-tum, or anything which was popular: young
gentleman to whistle: young actor or actress to give a character
sketch: sometimes a picture sent in for private exhibition: sometimes
a little poem printed for the evening and handed about--one never knew
what would be done.

But always the hostess would be gracious, winning, caressing, smiling,
and talking incessantly: always she would be gliding about the room,
making her friends talk: the happy wife of the most accomplished and
most versatile man in London. And always that illustrious genius
himself, calm and grave, taking Art seriously, laying down with
authority the opinion that should be held to a circle who surrounded
him. The circle consisted chiefly of women and of young men. Older
men, with that reluctance to listen to the voice of Authority which
distinguishes many after thirty, held aloof and talked with each
other. 'Alec Feilding,' said one of them, expressing the general
opinion, 'may be a mighty clever fellow, but he talks like a dull
book. You've heard it all before. And you've heard it better put. It's
wonderful that such a clever dog should be such a dull dog.'

They came, however, in spite of the dulness: the wife would have
carried off a hundred dull dogs.

As in certain earlier and better-known circles, the men greatly
outnumbered the women. 'I am not in love with my own sex,' said Mrs.
Feilding, quite openly. 'I prefer the society of men.' But some women
came of their own accord, and some were brought by their fathers,
husbands, lovers, and brothers. No one could say that ladies kept away
from Mrs. Feilding's Sunday evenings.

This evening, the principal thing was the uncovering of a new
picture--Mr. Feilding's new picture.

At ten o'clock the painter-poet, in obedience to a whisper from his
wife, moved slowly, followed by his ring of disciples--male and
female--all young--a callow brood--to the upper end of the room, where
was an easel. A picture stood upon it, but a large green cloth was
thrown over it.

'I thought,' said Mr. Alec Feilding, in his most dignified manner,
'that you would like to see this picture before anyone else. It is one
of the little privileges of our Sunday evenings to show things to each
other. Some of you may remember,' he said, with the true humility of
genius, 'that I have exhibited, hitherto, chiefly pictures of coast
scenery. I have always been of opinion that a man should not confine
himself to one class of subjects. His purchasing public may demand it,
but the true artist should disregard all and any considerations
connected with money.'

'Your true artist hasn't always got a weekly journal to fall back
upon,' growled a young A.R.A. who did stick to one class of subjects.
He had been brought there. As a rule, artists are not found at Mrs.
Feilding's, nor do they rally round the cleverest man in London.

'I say,' repeated the really great man, 'that the wishes of buyers
must not be weighed for an instant in comparison with the true
interests of Art.'

'Like a copy-book,' murmured the Associate.

'Therefore, I have attempted a new line altogether. I have made new
studies. They have cost a great deal of time and trouble and anxious
thought. It is quite a new departure. I anticipate, beforehand, what
you will say at first. But--Eccolo!'

He lifted the green cloth. At the same moment his wife turned up a
light that stood beside the painting. He disclosed a really very
beautiful painting: a group of trees beside a shallow pool of water:
the trees were leafless: a little snow lay at their roots: the pool
was frozen over: there was a little mist over the ground, and between
the trunks one saw the setting sun.

[Illustration: _He disclosed a really very beautiful painting._]

'By Jove! It's a Belgian picture!' cried the Associate. And, indeed,
you may see hundreds of pictures exactly in this style in the Brussels
galleries, where the artists are never tired of painting the flat
country and the trees, at every season and under every light.

'Precisely,' said the painter. 'That is the remark which I
anticipated. Let us call it--if you like--a Belgian picture. The
subject is English: the treatment, perhaps, Belgian. For my part, I am
not too proud to learn something from the Belgians.'

The Associate touched the man nearest him--an artist, not yet an
Associate--by the arm.

'Ghosts!' he murmured. 'Spooks and ghosts!'

'Spectres!' replied the other. 'Phantoms and bogies!'

'A Haunted Studio!' said the Associate. 'My knees totter! My hair
stands on end!'

'I tremble--I have goose-flesh!' replied his friend.

'Let us--let us run to the Society of Psychical Research!' whispered
the Associate.

'Let us swiftly run!' said the other.

They fled, swiftly and softly. Only Mrs. Feilding observed their
flight. She also gathered from their looks the subject of their talk.
And she resolved that she would not, henceforth, encourage artists at
her Sunday evenings. She turned to Dick Stephenson.

'You, Mr. Stephenson,' she said, 'who are a true critic and understand
work, tell me what _you_ think of the picture.'

The great critic--he was not really a humbug; he was very fond of
looking at pictures; only, you see, he was not an artist--advanced to
the front, bent forward, considered a few moments, and then spoke.

'A dexterous piece of work--truly dexterous in the highest sense: full
of observation intelligently and poetically rendered: careful:
truthful: with intense feeling. I could hardly have believed that any
English painter was capable of work in this _genre_.'

The people all gazed upon the canvas with rapt admiration: they
murmured that it was wonderful and beautiful. Then Alec covered up
the picture, and somebody began to play something.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Alec,' said Mr. Jagenal, who seldom came to these gatherings, 'I
congratulate you. Your picture is very good. And in a new style. When
will you be content to settle down in the jog-trot that the British
public love?'

'Let me change my subject sometimes. When I am tired of trees I will
go back, perhaps, to the coast and seapieces.'

'Ah! But take care. There's a fellow coming along---- By the way,
Alec, I have made a discovery lately.'

'What is it?'

'About those rubies. Why, man'--for Alec turned suddenly pale--'you
remember that business still?'

'Indeed I do,' he replied. 'And I am not likely to forget it in a
hurry.'

'My dear boy, to paint such pictures is worth many such bags of
precious stones, if you will only think so.'

'What's your discovery?' Alec asked hoarsely.

'Well; I have found, quite accidentally, the eldest grandchild of the
second daughter--your great-aunt.'

'Oh!' Again he changed colour. 'Then you will, I suppose, hand him
over the things.'

'Yes, certainly. I have sent for him. He does not yet know what I want
him for. And I shall give him the jewels in obedience to Armorel's
instructions. Alec, I have always been desperately sorry for your
unfortunate discovery.'

'It caused a pang, certainly. And who is my cousin?'

'Well, Alec, I will not tell you until I have made quite sure. Not
that there is any doubt. But I had better not. You will perhaps like
to make his acquaintance. Perhaps you know him already. I don't say,
mind.'

'Well, Sir,' said Alec, 'when he realises the extent and value of this
windfall, I expect he will show a depth of gratitude which will
astonish you. I do, indeed.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'Zoe,' he said, when everybody was gone, 'are you quite sure that in
the matter of those rubies your action can never be discovered?'

'Anything may be discovered. But I think--I believe--that it will be
difficult. Why?'

'Because my cousin, the grandson of Robert Fletcher's second daughter,
has been found, and he will receive the jewels to-morrow. And when he
finds out what they are worth----'

'Then, Alec, it will be asked who had the jewels. They were taken to
the bank by Mr. Jagenal and taken thence to Mr. Jagenal. What have
you--what have I--to do with them? Don't think about it, Alec. It has
nothing to do with us. No suspicion can possibly attach to us. Forget
the whole business. The evening went off very well. The picture struck
everybody very much. And I've laid the foundation for curiosity about
the play. And as for the paper, I was going into the accounts this
morning: it is paying at the rate of three thousand a year. Alec, you
have never until now been really and truly the cleverest man in
London.'



CHAPTER XXIX

THE TRESPASS OFFERING


It was a day in midwinter. Over the adjacent island of Great Britain
there was either a yellow fog, or a white fog, or a black fog. Perhaps
there was no fog at all, but a black east wind, or there was melting
snow, or there was cold sleet and rain: whatever there was, to be out
of doors brought no joy, and the early darkness was tolerable because
it closed and hid and put away the day. In the archipelago of Scilly,
the sky was bright and clear: the sea was blue, except in the shallow
places, where it was a light transparent green: the waves danced and
sparkled: round the ledges of the rocks the white foam rolled and
leaped: the sunshine was warm: the air was fresh. The girls stood on
the northern carn of Samson. They had been on the island now for eight
months. For the greater part of that time they were alone. Only in the
summer Archie came to pay them a visit. His play was accepted: it would
probably be brought out in January, perhaps not till later, according
to the success of the piece then running. Meantime, he had got
introductions, thanks to Armorel's evening, and now found work enough
to keep him going on one or two journals, where his occasional
papers--the papers of a young and clever man feeling his way to
style--were taken and published. And he was, of course, writing another
play: he was in love with another heroine--happy, if he knew his own
happiness, in starting on that rare career in which a man is always in
love, and blamelessly, even with the knowledge of his wife, with a
succession of the loveliest and most delightful damsels--country girls
and princesses--lasses of the city and of the milking path--Dolly and
Molly and stately Kate, and the Duchess of Dainty Device. As yet, he
had only lost his heart to two and was now raving over the second of
his sweethearts. One such youth I have known and followed as he passed
from the Twenties to the Thirties--to the Forties--even to the Fifties.
He has always loved one girl after the other. He knows not how life can
exist unless a man is in love: he is a mere slave and votary of Love:
yet never with a goddess of the earth. He loves an image--a
simulacrum--a phantom: and he looks on with joy and satisfaction--yea!
the tears of happiness rise to his eyes when he sees that phantom at
the last, after many cruel delays, fondly embraced--not by himself--but
by another phantom. Happy lover! so to have lost the substance, yet to
be satisfied with the shadow!

Except for Archie's visit they had no guests all through the summer.
The holiday visitors mostly arrive at Hugh Town, sail across to Tresco
Gardens and back, some the same day, some the next day, thinking they
have seen Scilly. None of them land on Samson. Few there are who sail
about the Outer Islands where Armorel mostly loved to steer her boat.
The two girls spent the whole time alone with each other for company.
I do not know whether the literature of the country will be enriched
by Effie's sojourn in Lyonesse, but one hopes. At least, she lost her
pale cheeks and thin form: she put on roses, and she filled out: she
became almost as strong as Armorel, almost as dexterous with the
sheet, and almost as handy with the oar. But of verses I fear that few
came to her. With the best intentions, with piles of books, these two
maidens idled away the summer, basking on the headlands, lying among
the fern, walking over the downs of Bryher and St. Martin's, sailing
in and out among the channels, bathing in Porth Bay, or off the lonely
beach of Ganilly in the Eastern group. Always something to see or
something to do. Once they ventured to sail by themselves--a parlous
voyage, but the day was calm--all the way round Bishop's Rock and
back: another time they sailed--but this time they took Peter--among
the Dogs of Scilly, climbed up on Black Rosevean, and stood on
Gorregan with the cruel teeth. Once, on a very calm day in July, they
even threaded the narrow channel between the twin rocks known together
as the Scilly. Always there was something new to do or to see. So the
morning and the afternoon passed away, and there was nothing left but
tea and a little music, and a stroll in the moonlight or beneath the
stars, and a talk together, and so to bed: and if there came a rainy
day, the cakes to make and the puddings to compose! A happy, lazy,
idle, profitable time!

'We have been six months here and more, Effie,' said Armorel. They
were sitting in the sunshine in the sheltered orchard, among the
wrinkled and twisted old apple-trees. 'What next? When shall we think
of going back to London? We must not stay here altogether, lest we
rust. We will go back--shall we?--as soon as the short, dark days are
over, and we will make a new departure somehow, but in what direction
I do not quite know. Shall we travel? Shall we cultivate society? What
shall we do?'

'We will go back to London as soon as Archie's play is produced. Dear
Armorel, I do not want ever to go away. I should like to stay here
with you always and always. It has been a time of peace and quiet.
Never before have I known such peace and such quiet. But we must go.
We must go while the spell of the place is still upon us. Perhaps if
we were to stay too long--Nature does not expect us to outstay her
welcome--not that her welcome is exhausted yet--but if we go away,
shall we ever come back? And, if so, will it be quite the same?'

'Nothing ever returns,' said Armorel the sage. 'We shall go away and
we shall come back again, and there will be changes. Everything
changes daily. The very music of the sea changes from day to day; but
it is always music. My old grandmother in the great chair used to hold
her hand to her ear--so--to catch the lapping of the waves and the
washing of the tide among the rocks. It was the music that she had
known all her life. But the tune was different--the words of the song
in her head were different--the key was changed--but always the music.
Oh, my dear! I never tire of this music. We will go away, Effie; we
must not stay too long here, lest we fall in love with solitude and
renounce the world. But we will come back and hear the same music
again, with a new song. We must go back.' She sighed. 'Eight months.
We must go and see Archie's play. Archie! It will be a proud and
glorious day for him, if it succeeds. It must succeed. And not a word
or a sign all this time from Roland! What is he doing? Why----' She
stopped.

Effie laid a hand on hers.

'You have been restless for some days, Armorel,' she said.

'Yes--yes. I do not doubt him. No--no--he has returned to himself. He
can never--never again--I do not doubt him.' She sprang to her feet.
'Oh, Effie! I do not doubt, but sometimes I fear. What do I fear? Why,
I know there may be failure, but there can never again be disgrace.'

'You think of him so much, Armorel,' said Effie, with a touch of
jealousy.

'I cannot think of him too much.' She looked out upon the sunlit sea
at their feet, talking as one who talks to herself. 'How can I think
of him too much? I have thought of him every day for five years--every
day. I love him, Effie. How can you think too much of the man you
love? Suppose I were to hear that he had failed again. That would make
no difference. Suppose he were to sink low--low--deep down among the
worst of men--that would make no difference. I love the man as he may
be--as he shall be--by the help of God, if not in this world, then in
the world to come! I love him, Effie!'

She stopped because her voice choked with a sob. The strength of her
passion--not for nothing was the Castilian invader wrecked upon
Scilly!--frightened the other girl. She had never dreamed of such a
passion; yet she knew that Armorel thought continually of this man.
She did not dare to speak. She looked on with clasped hands, in
silence.

Armorel softened again. The tumult of her heart subsided. She turned
to Effie and kissed her.

'Forgive me, dear: you know now--but you have guessed already. Let us
say no more. But I must see him soon. I must go to see him if he
cannot come to see me. Let us go over the hill. This little orchard is
like a hothouse this morning.'

When they reached the top of the hill they saw the steamer from
Penzance rounding Bar Point on St. Mary's and coming through the North
Channel.

'They have had a fine passage,' said Armorel. 'The boat must have done
it in three hours. I wonder if she brings anything for us. It is too
early for the magazines. I wrote for those books, but I doubt if there
has been time. And I wrote to Philippa, but I do not expect a letter
in reply by this post.'

'And I wrote to Archie, but I do not know whether I shall get a letter
to-day. Suppose there should come a visitor?'

'Few visitors come to Scilly in the winter--and none to Samson. We are
alone on our desert island, Effie. See, the steamer is entering the
port: the tide is low: she cannot get alongside the quay. It is such a
fine day that it is a pity we did not sail over this morning and meet
the steamer. There goes the steam-launch from Tresco.'

It is quite a mile from Samson to the quay of Hugh Town; but the air
was so clear that Armorel, whose eyes were as good as any ordinary
field-glass, could plainly make out the agitation and bustle on the
quay caused by the arrival of the steamer.

'The boat always carries my thoughts back to London,' said Armorel.
'And we have been talking about London, have we not? When I was a
child the boat came into the Road out of the Unknown, and next day
went back to the Unknown. What was the other side like? I filled it up
with the vague splendour of a child's imagination. The Unknown to me
was like the sunrise or the sunset. Well ... now I know. The poets say
that knowledge makes us no happier. I think they are quite wrong. It
is always better to know everything, even though it's little joy--

    To feel that Heaven is farther off
    Than when one was a boy.

'There is a boat,' she went on, after a while. 'She is putting out
from the port. I wonder what boat it is. Perhaps she is going to
Bryher--or to St. Martin's--or to St. Agnes. It is not the lighthouse
boat. She is sailing as if for Samson; but she cannot be coming here.
What a lovely breeze! She would be here in a quarter of an hour. I
suppose she must be going to Tresco. See what comes of living on a
desert island. We are actually speculating about the voyage of a
sailing-boat across the Road! Effie, we are little better than village
gossips. You shall marry Mr. Paul Pry.'

'She looks very pretty,' said Effie, 'heeling over with the wind,
wherever she is going.'

'They are steering south of Green Island,' said Armorel. 'That is very
odd. If she had been making for Bryher or Tresco she would leave Green
Island on the lee and steer up the channel past Puffin. I really
believe that she is coming to Samson. I expect there is a parcel for
us. Let us run down to the beach, Effie. We shall get there just in
time.'

They ran down the hill. As the boatman lowered the sail and the boat
grounded on the firm white sand of the beach, the girls arrived. The
boat brought, however, no packet----

'Oh!' cried Effie. 'It is Roland Lee!'

It was none other than that young man of whom they had been speaking.
Armorel changed colour: she blushed a rosy red: then she recovered
quickly and stepped forward, as Roland leaped out upon the sand.
'Welcome back to Samson!' she said, giving him her hand with her old
frankness. 'We expected you to come, but we did not know when.'

'May I stay?' he murmured, taking her hand and looking into her face.

'You know--yourself,' she replied.

He made answer by shouldering his portmanteau. 'No new road has been
made, I suppose,' he said. 'Shall I go first? How well I remember the
way over the hill! Samson has changed little since I was here last.'

He led the way, all laughing and chatting as if his visit was
expected, and as if it were the most natural thing in the world and
the most common thing to run down to the beach and meet a morning
caller from London Town. But Effie, who was as observant as a poet
ought to be, saw how Roland kept looking round as he led, as if he
would be still catching sight of Armorel.

'Come, Dorcas,' cried Armorel, when they arrived at the house. 'Come,
Chessun--here is Mr. Roland Lee. You have not forgotten Mr. Lee. He
has come to stay with us again.' The serving-women came out and shook
hands with him in friendly fashion. Forgotten Mr. Lee? Why, he was the
only young man who had been seen at Holy Farm since Armorel's brothers
were drowned--victims to the relentless wrath of those execrable
rubies.

'You shall have your old room,' said Dorcas. 'Chessun will air the bed
for you and light a fire to warm the room. Well, Mr. Lee, you are not
much altered. Your beard is grown, and you're a bit stouter. Not much
changed. You're married yet?'

'Not yet, Dorcas.'

'Armorel, she's a woman now. When you left her she was little better
than a child. I say she's improved, but perhaps you wish she was a
child again?'

'Indeed, no,' said Roland.

Everything was quite commonplace. There was not the least romance
about the return of the wanderer. It was half-past two. He had had
nothing to eat since breakfast, and after three hours and more upon
the sea one is naturally hungry. Chessun laid the cloth and put the
cold beef--cold boiled beef--upon the table. Pickles were also
produced--a pickled walnut is not a romantic object. The young man was
madly in love: he had come all the way from town on purpose to
explain and dilate upon that wonderful accident: yet he took a pickled
walnut. Nay, he was in a famishing condition, and he tackled the beef
and beer--that old Brown George full of the home-brewed with a head of
foam like the head of a venerable bishop--as if he was not in love at
all. And Armorel sat opposite to him at the table talking to him about
the voyage and his studio and whether he had furnished it, and all
kinds of things, and Chessun hovered over him suggesting more pickles.
And he laughed, and Armorel laughed--why not? They were both as happy
as they could be. But Effie wondered how Armorel, whose heart was so
full, whose soul was so charged and heavy with love, could laugh thus
gaily and talk thus idly.

After luncheon, which of course was, in Samson fashion, dinner, Roland
got up and stood in the square window, looking out to sea. Armorel
stood beside him.

'I remember standing here,' he said, 'one morning five years ago. A
great deal has happened since then.'

'A great deal. We are older--we know more of the world.'

'We are stronger, Armorel'--their eyes met--'else I should not be
here.'

It was quite natural that Armorel should put on her jacket and take
her hat, and that they should go out together. Effie took her seat in
the window and lay in the sunshine, a book neglected in her lap.
Armorel had got her lover back. She loved him. Oh! she loved him. So
heavenly is the contemplation of human love that Effie found it more
soothing than the words of wisdom in her book, more full of comfort
than any printed page. Human love, she knew well, would never fall to
her lot: all the more should she meditate on love in others. Well, she
has her compensations: while others act she looks on: while others
feel, she will tell the world, in her verse, what and how they feel:
to be loved is the chief and crowning blessing for a woman, but such
as Effie have their consolations.

She looked up, and saw old Dorcas standing in the door.

'They have gone out in the boat,' she said. 'When I saw him coming
over the hill I said to Chessun, "He's come again. He's come for
Armorel at last." I always knew he would. And now they've gone out in
the boat to be quite alone. Is he worth her, Miss Effie? Is he worth
my girl?'

'If he is not she will make him worth her. But nobody could be worth
Armorel. Are you sure you are not mistaken, Dorcas?'

'No--no--no, I am not mistaken. The love-light is in his eyes, and the
answering love in hers. I know the child. She loved him six years ago.
She is as steadfast as the compass. She can never change. Once love
always love, and no other love. She has thought about him ever since.
Why did she go away and leave us alone without her for five long
years? She wanted to learn things so as to make herself fit for him.
As if he would care what things she knew if only he loved her! 'Twas
the beautiful maid he would love, with her soft heart and her tender
voice and her steadfast ways--not what she knew.'

'Oh! but, Dorcas, perhaps--you are not quite sure--we do not know--one
may be mistaken.'

'_You_ may be mistaken, Miss Effie. As for me, I've been married for
five-and-fifty years. A woman of my age is never mistaken. I saw the
love-light in his eyes, and I saw the answering love in hers. And I
know my own girl that I've nursed and brought up since the cruel sea
swallowed up her father and her mother and her brothers. No, Miss
Effie, I know what I can see.'

One does not, as a rule, go in a small open boat upon the water in
December, even in Scilly, whose winter hath nor frost nor snow. But
these two young people quite naturally, and without so much as asking
whether it was summer or winter, got into the boat. Roland took the
oars--Armorel sat in the stern. They put out from Samson what time the
midwinter sun was sinking low. The tide was rising fast, and the wind
was from the south-east. When they were clear of Green Island, Roland
hoisted the sail.

'I have a fancy,' he said, 'to sail out to Round Island and to see
Camber Rock again, this first day of my return. Shall we have time? We
can let the sun go down: there will be light enough yet for an hour.
You can steer the craft in the dark, Armorel. You are captain of this
boat, and I am your crew. You can steer me safely home, even on the
darkest night--in the blackest time,' he added, with a deeper meaning
than lay in his simple words.

The sail caught the breeze, and the boat heeled over. Roland sat
holding the rope while Armorel steered. Neither spoke. They sailed up
New Grinsey Channel between Tresco and Bryher, past Hangman's Island,
past Cromwell's Castle. They sailed right through beyond the rocks and
ledges outlying Tresco, outside Menovawr, the great triple rock, with
his two narrow channels, and so to the north of Round Island. The sky
was aflame: the waters were splendid with the colours of the west.
They rounded the island. Then Roland lowered the sail and put out the
oars. 'We must row now,' he said. 'How glorious it all is! I am back
again. Nine short months ago--you remember, Armorel?--how could I have
hoped to come here again--to sail with you in your boat?'

'Yet you are here,' she said simply.

'I have so much to say, and I could not say it, except in the boat.'

'Yes, Roland.'

'First of all, I have sold that picture. It is not a great price that
I have taken. But I have sold it. You will be pleased to hear that.
Next, I have two commissions, at a better price. Don't believe,
Armorel, that I am thinking about nothing but money. The first step
towards success, remember, is to be self-supporting. Well--I have
taken that first step. I have also obtained some work on an
illustrated paper. That keeps me going. I have regained my lost
position--and more--more, Armorel. The way is open to me at last:
everything is open to me now if I can force myself to the front.'

'No man can ask for more, can he?'

'No. He cannot. As for the time, Armorel, the horrible, shameful
time----'

'Roland, you said you would not come here until the shame of that time
belonged altogether to the past.'

'It does: it does: yet the memory lingers--sometimes, at night, I
think of it--and I am abased.'

'We cannot forget--I suppose we can never forget. That is the burden
which we lay upon ourselves. Oh! we must all walk humbly, because we
have all fallen so far short of the best, and because we cannot
forget.'

'But--to be forgiven. That also is so hard.'

'Oh! Roland, you mistake. We can always forgive those we
love--yes--everything--everything--until seventy times seven. How can
we love if we cannot forgive? The difficulty is to forgive ourselves.
We shall do that when we have risen high enough to understand how
great a thing is the soul--I don't know how to put what I wish to say.
Once I read in a book that there was a soul who wished--who would
not?--to enter into heaven. The doors were wide open: the hands of the
angels were held out in love and welcome: but the soul shrank back. "I
cannot enter," he said, "I cannot forgive myself." You must learn to
forgive yourself, Roland. As for those who love you, they ask for
nothing more than to see your foot upon the upward slope.'

'It is there, Armorel. Twice you have saved me: once from death by
drowning: once from a worse death still--the second death. Twice your
arms have been stretched out to save me from destruction.'

They were silent again. The boat rocked gently in the water: the
setting sun upon Armorel's face lent her cheek a warmer, softer glow,
and lit her eyes, which were suffused with tears. Roland, sitting in
his place, started up and dipped the oars again.

'It is nearly half-tide now,' he said. 'Let us row through the Camber
Pass. I want to see that dark ravine again. It is the place I painted
with you--you of the present, not of the past--in it. I have sold the
picture, but I have a copy. Now I have two paintings, with you in
each. One hangs in the studio, and the other in my own room, so that
by night as well as by day I feel that my guardian angel is always
with me.'

Through the narrow ravine between Camber Rock and Round Island the
water races and boils and roars when the tide runs strongly. Now, it
was flowing gently--almost still. The sun was so low that the rock on
the east side was obscured by the great mass of Round Island: the
channel was quite dark. The dipping of the oars echoed along the black
walls of rock; but overhead there was the soft and glowing sky, and in
the light blue already appeared two or three stars.

'A strange thing has happened to me, Armorel,' Roland said, speaking
low, as if in a church--'a very strange and wonderful thing. It is a
thing which connects me with you and with your people and with the
Island of Samson. You remember the story told us one evening--the
evening before I left you--by the Ancient Lady?'

'Of course. She told that story so often, and I used to suffer such
agonies of shame that my ancestor should act so basely, and such
terrors in thinking of the fate of his soul, that I am not likely to
forget the story.'

'You remember that she mistook me for Robert Fletcher?'

'Yes; I remember.'

'She was not so very far wrong, Armorel; because, you see, I am Robert
Fletcher's great-grandson.'

'Oh! Roland! Is it possible?'

'I suppose that there may have been some resemblance. She forgot the
present, and was carried back in imagination to the past, eighty years
ago.'

'Oh! And you did not know?'

'If you think of it, Armorel, very few middle-class people are able to
tell the maiden name of their grandmother. We do not keep our
genealogies, as we should.'

'Then how did you find it out?'

'Mr. Jagenal, your lawyer, found it out. He sent for me and proved it
quite clearly. Robert Fletcher left three daughters. The eldest died
unmarried: the second and third married. I am the grandson of the
second daughter who went to Australia. Now, which is very odd, the
only grandson of the third daughter is a man whose name you may
remember. They call him Alec Feilding. He is at once a painter, a
poet, a novelist, and is about to become, I hear, a dramatist. He is
my own cousin. This is strange, is it not?'

'Oh! It is wonderful.'

'Mr. Jagenal, at the same time, made me a communication. He was
instructed, he said, by you. Therefore, you know the nature of the
communication.'

'He gave you the rubies.'

'Yes. He gave them to me. I have brought them back. They are in my
pocket. I restore them to you, Armorel.' He drew forth the packet--the
case of shagreen--and laid it in Armorel's lap.

'Keep them. I will not have them. Let me never see them.' She gave
them back to him quickly. 'Keep them out of my sight, Roland. They are
horrible things. They bring disaster and destruction.'

'You will not have them? You positively refuse to have them? Then I
can keep them to myself. Why--that is brave!' He opened the case and
unrolled the silken wrapper.

'See, Armorel, the pretty things! They sparkle in the dying light. Do
you know that they are worth many thousands? You have given me a
fortune. I am rich at last. What is there in the world to compare with
being rich? Now I can buy anything I want. The Way of Wealth is the
Way of Pleasure. What did I tell you? My feet were dragged into that
way as if with ropes: now they can go dancing of their own accord--no
need to drag them. They fly--they trip--they have wings. What is
art?--what is work?--what is the soul?--nothing! Here'--he took up a
handful of the stones and dropped them back again--'here, Armorel, is
what will purchase pleasure--solid comfort! I shall live in ease and
sloth: I shall do nothing: I shall feast every day: everybody will
call me a great painter because I am rich. Oh, I have a splendid
vision of the days to come, when I have turned these glittering things
into cash! Farewell drudgery--I am rich! Farewell disappointment--I am
rich! Farewell servitude--I am rich! Farewell work and struggle--I am
rich! Why should I care any more for Art? I am rich, Armorel! I am
rich!'

'That is not all you are going to say about the rubies, Roland. Come
to the conclusion.'

'Not quite all. In the old days I flung away everything for the Way of
Wealth and the Way of Pleasure--as I thought. Good Heavens! What
Wealth came to me? What Pleasure? Well, Armorel, in your presence I
now throw away the wealth. Since you will not have it, I will not.'

He seized the case as if he would throw it overboard. She leaned
forward eagerly and stopped him.

'Will you really do this, Roland? Stop a moment. Think. It is a great
sacrifice. You might use that wealth for all kinds of good and useful
things. You could command the making of beautiful things: you could
help yourself in your Art: you could travel and study--you could do a
great deal, you know, with all this money. Think, before you do what
can never be undone.'

Roland, for reply, laid the rubies again in her lap. It was as if one
should bring a Trespass offering and lay it upon the altar. The case
was open, and the light was still strong enough overhead for the
rubies to be seen in a glittering heap.

He took them up again. 'Do you consent, Armorel?'

She bowed her head.

He took a handful of the stones and dropped them in the water. There
was a little splash, and the precious stones, the fortune of Robert
Fletcher, the gems of the Burmah mines, dropped like a shower upon the
surface. They were, as we know, nothing but bits of paste and glass,
but this he did not know. And therefore the Trespass offering was rich
and precious. Then he took the silken kerchief which had wrapped them
and threw the rest away, as one throws into the sea a handful of
pebbles picked up on the beach.

'So,' he said, 'that is done. And now I am poor again. You shall keep
the empty case, Armorel, if you like.'

'No--no. I do not want even the case. I want never to be reminded
again of the rubies and the story of Robert Fletcher.' Roland dipped
the oars again, and with two or three vigorous strokes pulled the boat
out of the dark channel--the tomb of his wealth--into the open water
beyond. There in the dying light the puffins swam and dived, and the
sea-gulls screamed as they flew overhead, and on the edge of the rocks
the shags stood in meditative rows.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far away in the studio of the poet-painter--the cleverest man in
London--sat two who were uneasy with the same gnawing anxiety. Roland
Lee--they knew by this time--had the rubies. When would the discovery
be made? When would there be an inquiry? What would come out? As the
time goes on this anxiety will grow less, but it will never wholly
vanish. It will change perhaps into curiosity as to what has been done
with those bits of glass and paste. Why has not Roland found out? He
must have given them to his wife, and she must have kept them locked
up. Some day it will be discovered that they are valueless. But then
it will be far too late for any inquiry. As yet they do not speak to
each other of the thing. It is too recent. Roland Lee has but just
acquired his fortune: he is still gloating over the stones: he is
building castles in the air: he is planning his future. When he finds
out the truth about them--what will happen then?

       *       *       *       *       *

'I have had a bad dream of temptation with rubies, Armorel. Temptation
harder than you would believe. How calm is the sea to-night! How warm
the air! The last light of the west lies on your cheek, and--Armorel!
Oh! Armorel!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly six o'clock, long after dark, when the two came home.
They walked over the hill hand in hand. They entered the room hand in
hand, their faces grave and solemn. I know not what things had been
said between them, but they were things quite sacred. Only the lighter
things--the things of the surface--the things that everybody
expects--can be set down concerning love. The tears stood in Armorel's
eyes. And, as if Effie had not been in the room at all, she held out
both her hands for her lover to take, and when he bent his head she
raised her face to meet his lips.

'You have come back to me, Roland,' she said. 'You have grown so
tall--so tall--grown to your full height. Welcome home!'

       *       *       *       *       *

At seven the door opened and the serving-folk came in. First marched
Justinian, bowed and bent, but still active. Then Dorcas, also bowed
and bent, but active. Then Chessun. Effie turned down the lamp.

Dorcas stood for a moment, while Chessun placed the chairs, gazing
upon Roland, who stood erect as a soldier surveyed by his captain.

'You have got a good face,' she said, 'if a loving face is a good
face. If you love her you will make her happy. If she loves you your
lot is happy. If you deserve her, you are not far from the Kingdom of
Heaven.'

'Your words, Dorcas,' he replied, 'are of good omen.'

'Chessun shall make a posset to-night,' she said. 'If ever a posset
was made, one shall be made to-night--a sherry posset! I remember the
posset for your mother, Armorel, and for your grandmother, the first
day she came here with her sweetheart. A sherry posset you shall
have--hot and strong!'

The old man sat down and threw small lumps of coal upon the fire. Then
the flames leaped up, and the red light played about the room and
showed the golden torque round Armorel's neck and played upon her
glowing face as she took her fiddle and stood up in the old place to
play to them in the old fashion.

Dorcas sat opposite her husband. At her left hand, Chessun with her
spinning-wheel. It was all--except for the Ancient Lady and the hooded
chair--all exactly as Roland remembered it nearly six years before.
Yet, as Armorel said, though outside there was the music of the waves
and within the music of her violin--the music was set to other words
and arranged for another key. Between himself of that time and of the
present, how great a gulf!

Armorel finished tuning, and looked towards her master.

'"Dissembling Love"!' he commanded. ''Tis a moving piece, and you play
it rarely, "Dissembling Love"!'


_Spottiswoode & Co. Printers, New-street Square, London._


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious typographical errors have been repaired. Hyphenation
inconsistencies have been standardized to most frequently used.

Illustrations were moved to the text which they illustrated, and page
references within their original captions have been removed.

Original used single quotation marks for normal conversation, and
double quotation marks for quoted material within conversations. This
has been retained.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Armorel of Lyonesse - A Romance of To-day" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home