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Title: Double Harness
Author: Hope, Anthony, 1863-1933
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 "Double Harness" ***

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Transcriber's note: Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the
original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors
have been corrected.











         I. SOME VIEWS OF THE INSTITUTION                 1
        II. THE FAIRY RIDE                               12
       III. THE WORLDLY MIND                             24
        IV. INITIATION                                   36
         V. THE BIRTH OF STRIFE                          49
        VI. NOT PEACE BUT A SWORD                        62
       VII. A VINDICATION OF CONSCIENCE                  73
      VIII. IDEALS AND ASPIRATIONS                       85
        IX. A SUCCESSFUL MISSION                         98
         X. THE FLINTY WALL                             112
        XI. THE OLIVE BRANCH                            126
       XII. IMAGES AND THEIR WORK                       139
      XIII. THE DEAD AND ITS DEAD                       152
       XIV. FOR HIS LOVE AND HIS QUARREL                165
        XV. IN THE TEETH OF THE STORM                   181
       XVI. THE UPPER AND THE NETHER STONE              196
      XVII. WANDERING WITS                              210
     XVIII. THE RISING GENERATION                       224
       XIX. IN THE CORNER                               238
        XX. THE HOUR OF WRATH                           252
       XXI. AN UNCOMPROMISING EXPRESSION                265
      XXII. ASPIRATIONS AND COMMON SENSE                278
     XXIII. A THING OF FEAR                             293
      XXIV. FRIENDS                                     304
       XXV. PICKING UP THE PIECES                       320
      XXVI. THE GREAT WRONG                             335
     XXVII. SAMPLES OF THE BULK                         351
    XXVIII. TO LIFE AND LIGHT AGAIN                     365
      XXIX. WITH OPEN EYES                              379




The house--a large, plain white building with no architectural
pretensions--stood on a high swell of the downs and looked across the
valley in which Milldean village lay, and thence over rolling stretches
of close turf, till the prospect ended in the gleam of waves and the
silver-grey mist that lay over the sea. It was a fine, open, free view.
The air was fresh, with a touch of salt in it, and made the heat of the
sun more than endurable--even welcome and nourishing. Tom Courtland,
raising himself from the grass and sitting up straight, gave utterance
to what his surroundings declared to be a very natural exclamation:

"What a bore to leave this and go back to town!"

"Stay a bit longer, old chap," urged his host, Grantley Imason, who lay
full length on his back on the turf, with a straw hat over his eyes and
nose, and a pipe, long gone out, between his teeth.

"Back to my wife!" Courtland went on, without noticing the invitation.

With a faint sigh Grantley Imason sat up, put his hat on his head, and
knocked out his pipe. He glanced at his friend with a look of satirical

"You're encouraging company for a man who's just got engaged," he

"It's the devil of a business--sort of thing some of those fellows would
write a book about. But it's not worth a book. A page of strong and
indiscriminate swearing--that's what it's worth, Grantley."

Grantley sighed again as he searched for his tobacco-pouch. The sigh
seemed to hover doubtfully between a faint sympathy and a resigned

"And no end to it--none in sight! I don't know whether it's legal
cruelty to throw library books and so on at your husband's head----"

"Depends on whether you ever hit him, I should think; and they'd
probably conclude a woman never would."

"But what an ass I should look if I went into court with that sort of

"Yes, you would look an ass," Grantley agreed. "Doesn't she give
you--well, any other chance, you know?"

"Not she! My dear fellow, she's most aggressively the other way."

"Then why don't you give her a chance?"

"What, you mean----?"

"Am I so very cryptic?" murmured Grantley as he lit his pipe.

"I'm a Member of Parliament."

"Yes, I forgot. That's a bit awkward."

"Besides, there are the children. I don't want my children to think
their father a scoundrel." He paused, and added grimly: "And I don't
want them to be left to their mother's bringing-up either."

"Then we seem to have exhausted the resources of the law."

"The children complicate it so. Wait till you have some of your own,

"Look here--steady!" Grantley expostulated. "Don't be in such a hurry to
give me domestic encumbrances. The bloom's still on my romance, old
chap. Talking of children to a man who's only been engaged a week!" His
manner resumed its air of languid sympathy as he went on: "You needn't
see much of her, Tom, need you?"

"Oh, needn't I?" grumbled Courtland. He was a rather short, sturdily
built man, with a high colour and stiff black hair which stood up on his
head. His face was not wanting in character, but a look of plaintive
worry beset it. "You try living in the same house with a woman--with a
woman like that, I mean!"

"Thanks for the explanation," laughed Grantley.

"I must go and wire when I shall be back, or Harriet'll blow the roof
off over that. You come too; a stroll'll do you good."

Grantley Imason agreed; and the two, leaving the garden by a little side
gate, took their way along the steep road which led down to the village,
and rose again on the other side of it, to join the main highway across
the downs a mile and a half away. The lane was narrow, steep, and full
of turns; the notice "Dangerous to Cyclists" gave warning of its
character. At the foot of it stood the Old Mill House, backing on to a
little stream. Farther on lay the church and the parsonage; opposite to
them was the post-office, which was also a general shop and also had
rooms to let to visitors. The village inn, next to the post-office, and
a dozen or so of labourers' cottages exhausted the shelter of the little
valley, though the parish embraced several homesteads scattered about in
dips of the downs, and a row of small new red villas at the junction
with the main road. Happily these last, owing to the lie of the ground,
were out of sight from Grantley Imason's windows, no less than from the
village itself.

"And that's the home of the fairy princess?" asked Courtland as they
passed Old Mill House, a rambling, rather broken-down old place, covered
with creepers.

"Yes; she and her brother moved there when the old rector died. You may
have heard of him--the Chiddingfold who was an authority on Milton. No?
Well, he was, anyhow. Rather learned all round, I fancy--Fellow of
John's. But he took this living and settled down for life; and when he
died the children were turned out of the rectory and took Old Mill
House. They've got an old woman--well, she's not very old--with the
uneuphonious name of Mumple living with them. She's been a sort of
nurse-housekeeper-companion: a mixed kind of position--breakfast and
midday dinner with the family, but didn't join his reverence's evening
meal. You know the sort of thing. She's monstrously fat; but Sibylla
loves her. And the new rector moved in a fortnight ago, and everybody
hates him. And the temporary curate, who was here because the new rector
was at Bournemouth for his health, and who lodged over the post-office,
has just gone, and everybody's dashed glad to see the last of him. And
that's all the news of the town. And, behold, Tom, I'm the squire of it,
and every man, woman, or child in it is, by unbroken tradition and
custom, entitled to have as much port wine out of my cellar as his, her,
or its state of health may happen to require."

He threw off this chatter in a gay self-contented fashion, and Tom
Courtland looked at him with affectionate envy. The world had been very
good to him, and he, in return, was always amiable to it. He had been
born heir and only child of his father; had inherited the largest share
in a solid old-fashioned banking-house; was now a director of the great
joint-stock undertaking in which the family business had consented to
merge itself on handsome terms; had just as much work to do as he liked,
and possessed, and always had enjoyed, more money than he needed. He was
thirty-three now, and had been a social favourite even before he left
school. If it was difficult to say what positive gain his existence had
been to society, there was no doubt that his extinction would at any
time have been considered a distinct loss.

"A country squire with a rosy-cheeked country girl for wife! That's a
funny ending for you, Grantley."

"She's not rosy-cheeked--and it's not an ending--and there's the
post-office. Go in, and be as civil as you can to Lady Harriet."

A smile of pity, unmistakably mingled with contempt, followed Courtland
into the shop. The tantrums of other men's wives are generally received
with much the same mixture of scepticism and disdain as the witticisms
of other parents' children. Both are seen large, very large indeed, by
sufferers and admirers respectively.

The obligation of being as civil as he could to his wife caused
Courtland to take three or four minutes in framing his telegram, and
when he came out he found Grantley seated on the bench that stood by the
inn and conversing with a young man who wore a very old coat and rough
tweed knickerbockers. Grantley introduced him as Mr. Jeremy
Chiddingfold, and Courtland knew that he was Sibylla's brother. Sibylla
herself he had not yet seen. Jeremy had a shock of sandy hair, a wide
brow, and a wide mouth; his eyes were rather protuberant, and his nose
turned up, giving prominence to the nostrils.

"No family likeness, I hope?" Courtland found himself thinking; for
though Jeremy was a vigorous, if not a handsome, masculine type, the
lines were far from being those of feminine beauty.

"And he's enormously surprised and evidently rather shocked to hear I'm
going to marry his sister--oh, we can talk away, Jeremy; Tom Courtland
doesn't matter. He knows all the bad there is about me, and wants to
know all the good there is about Sibylla."

One additional auditor by no means embarrassed Jeremy; perhaps not a
hundred would have.

"Though, of course, somebody must have married her, you know," Grantley
went on, smiling and stretching himself luxuriously like a sleek
indolent cat.

"I hate marriage altogether!" declared Jeremy.

Courtland turned to him with a quick jerk of his head.

"The deuce you do!" he said, laughing. "It's early in life to have come
to that conclusion, Mr. Chiddingfold."

"Yes, yes, Jeremy, quite so; but----" Grantley began.

"It's an invention of priests," Jeremy insisted heatedly.

Courtland, scarred with fifteen years' experience of the institution
thus roundly attacked, was immensely diverted, though his own feelings
gave a rather bitter twist to his mirth. Grantley argued, or rather
pleaded, with a deceptive gravity:

"But if you fall in love with a girl?"

"Heaven forbid!"

"Well, but the world must be peopled, Jeremy."

"Marriage isn't necessary to that, is it?"

"Oho!" whistled Courtland.

"We may concede the point--in theory," said Grantley; "in practice it's
more difficult."

"Because people won't think clearly and bravely!" cried Jeremy, with a
thump on the bench. "Because they're hidebound, and, as I say, the
priests heaven-and-hell them till they don't know where they are."

"Heaven-and-hell them! Good phrase, Jeremy! You speak feelingly. Your
father, perhaps----? Oh, excuse me, I'm one of the family now."

"My father? Not a bit. Old Mumples now, if you like. However that's got
nothing to do with it. I'm going on the lines of pure reason. And what
is pure reason?"

The elder men looked at one another, smiled, and shook their heads.

"We don't know; it's no use pretending we do. You tell us, Jeremy," said

"It's just nature--nature--nature! Get back to that, and you're on solid
ground. Why, apart from anything else, how can you expect marriage, as
we have it, to succeed when women are what they are? And haven't they
always been the same? Of course they have. Read history, read fiction
(though it isn't worth reading), read science; and look at the world
round about you."

He waved his arm extensively, taking in much more than the valley in
which most of his short life had been spent.

"If I'd thought as you do at your age," said Courtland, "I should have
kept out of a lot of trouble."

"And I should have kept out of a lot of scrapes," added Grantley.

"Of course you would!" snapped Jeremy.

That point needed no elaboration.

"But surely there are exceptions among women, Jeremy?" Grantley pursued
appealingly. "Consider my position!"

"What is man?" demanded Jeremy. "Well, let me recommend you to read

"Never mind man. Tell us more about woman," urged Grantley.

"Oh, lord, I suppose you're thinking of Sibylla?"

"I own it," murmured Grantley. "You know her so well, you see."

Descending from the heights of scientific generalisation and from the
search after that definition of man for which he had been in the end
obliged to refer his listeners to another authority, Jeremy lost at the
same time his gravity and vehemence. He surprised Courtland by showing
himself owner of a humorous and attractive smile.

"You'd rather define man, perhaps, than Sibylla?" suggested Grantley.

"Sibylla's all right, if you know how to manage her."

"Just what old Lady Trederwyn used to say to me about Harriet,"
Courtland whispered to Grantley.

"But it needs a bit of knowing. She's got the deuce of a temper--old
Mumples knows that. Well, Mumples has got a temper too. They used to
have awful rows--do still now and then. Sibylla used to fly out at
Mumples, then Mumples sat on Sibylla, and then, when it was all over,
they'd generally have a new and independent row about which had been
right and which wrong in the old row."

"Not content with a quiet consciousness of rectitude, as a man would

"Consciousness of rectitude? Lord, it wasn't that! That would have been
all right. It was just the other way round. They both knew they had
tempers, and Mumples is infernally religious and Sibylla's generous to
the point of idiocy in my opinion. So after a row, when Sibylla had
cheeked Mumples and told her to go to the devil (so to speak), and
Mumples had sent her to bed, or thumped her, or something, you know----"

"Let us not go too deep into family tragedies, Jeremy."

"Why, when it had all settled down, and the governor and I could hear
ourselves talking quietly again----"

"About marriage and that sort of question?"

"They began to have conscience. Each would have it borne in on her that
she was wrong. Sibylla generally started it. She'd go weeping to
Mumples, taking all her own things and any of mine that were lying about
handy, and laying them at Mumples' feet, and saying she was the
wickedest girl alive, and why hadn't Mumples pitched into her a lot
more, and that she really loved Mumples better than anything on earth.
Then Mumples would weigh in, and call Sibylla the sweetest and meekest
lamb on earth, and say that she loved Sibylla more than anything on
earth, and that she--Mumples--was the worst-tempered and cruellest and
unjustest woman alive, not fit to be near such an angel as Sibylla. Then
Sibylla used to say that was rot, and Mumples said it wasn't. And
Sibylla declared Mumples only said it to wound her, and Mumples got hurt
because Sibylla wouldn't forgive her, when Sibylla, of course, wanted
Mumples to forgive her. And after half an hour of that sort of thing, it
was as likely as not that they'd have quarrelled worse than ever, and
the whole row would begin over again."

Grantley lay back and laughed.

"A bit rough on you to give your things to--er--Mumples?" suggested

"Just like Sibylla--just like any woman, I expect," opined Jeremy, but
with a more resigned and better-tempered air. His reminiscences had
evidently amused himself as well as his listeners.

"Wouldn't it have been better to have a preceptress of more equable
temper?" asked Grantley.

"Oh, there's nothing really wrong with Mumples; we're both awfully fond
of her. Besides she's had such beastly hard luck. Hasn't Sibylla told
you about that, Imason?"

"No, nothing."

"Her husband was sent to quod, you know--got twenty years."

"Twenty years! By Jingo!"

"Yes. He tried to murder a man--a man who had swindled him. Mumples says
he did it all in a passion; but it seems to have been a cold sort of
passion, because he waited twelve hours for him before he knifed him.
And at the trial he couldn't even prove the swindling, so he got it
pretty hot."

"Is he dead?"

"No, he's alive. He's to get out in about three years. Mumples is
waiting for him."

"Poor old woman! Does she go and see him?"

"She used to. She hasn't for years now. I believe he won't have her--I
don't know why. The governor was high sheriff's chaplain at the time, so
he got to know Mumples, and took her on. She's been with us ever since,
and she can stay as long as she likes."

"What things one comes across!" sighed Tom Courtland.

Grantley had looked grave for a moment, but he smiled again as he said:

"After all, though, you've not told me how to manage Sibylla. I'm not
Mumples--I can't thump her. I should be better than Mumples in one way,
though. If I did, I should be dead sure to stick to it that I was

"You'd stick to it even if you didn't think so," observed Courtland.

For a moment the remark seemed to vex Grantley, and to sober him. He
spent a few seconds evidently reflecting on it.

"Well, I hope not," he said at last. "But at any rate I should think so

"Then you could mostly make her think so. But if it wasn't true, you
might feel a brute."

"So I might, Jeremy."

"And it mightn't be permanently safe. She sees things uncommonly sharp
sometimes. Well, I must be off."

"Going back to Haeckel?"

Jeremy nodded gravely. He was not susceptible to ridicule on the subject
of his theories. The two watched him stride away towards Old Mill House
with decisive vigorous steps.

"Rum product for a country parsonage, Grantley."

"Oh, he's not a product; he's only an embryo. But I think he's a
promising one, and he's richly amusing."

"Yes, and I wonder how you're going to manage Miss Sibylla!"

Grantley laughed easily. "My poor old chap, you can't be expected to
take a cheerful view. Poor old Tom! God bless you, old chap! Let's go
home to tea."

As they walked by the parsonage a bicycle came whizzing through the open
garden-gate. It was propelled by a girl of fifteen or thereabouts--a
slim long-legged child, almost gaunt in her immaturity, and lamentably
grown out of her frock. She cried shrill greeting to Grantley, and went
off down the street, displaying her skill to whosoever would look by
riding with her arms akimbo.

"Another local celebrity," said Grantley. "Dora Hutting, the new
parson's daughter. That she should have come to live in the village is a
gross personal affront to Jeremy Chiddingfold. He's especially incensed
by her lengthy stretch of black stockings, always, as he maintains, with
a hole in them."

Courtland laughed inattentively.

"I hope Harriet'll get that wire in good time," he said.

No remark came into Grantley's mind, unless it were to tell his friend
that he was a fool to stand what he did from the woman. But what was the
use of that? Tom Courtland knew his own business best. Grantley shrugged
his shoulders, but held his peace.



Courtland went off early next morning in the dog-cart to Fairhaven
station--no railway line ran nearer Milldean--and Grantley Imason spent
the morning lounging about his house, planning what improvements could
be made and what embellishments provided against the coming of Sibylla.
He enjoyed this pottering both for its own sake and because it was
connected with the thought of the girl he loved. For he was in love--as
much in love, it seemed to him, as a man could well be. "And I ought to
know," he said, with a smile of reminiscence, his mind going back to
earlier affairs of the heart, more or less serious, which had been by no
means lacking in his career. He surveyed them without remorse, though
one or two might reasonably have evoked that emotion, and with no more
regret than lay in confessing that he had shared the follies common to
his age and his position. But he found great satisfaction in the thought
that Sibylla had had nothing to do with any of the persons concerned.
She had known none of them; she was in no sense of the same set with any
one of the five or six women of whom he was thinking; her surroundings
had always been quite different from theirs. She came into his life
something entirely fresh, new, and unconnected with the past. Herein lay
a great deal of the charm of this latest, this final affair. For it was
to be final--for his love's sake, for his honour's sake, and also
because it seemed time for such finality in that ordered view of life
and its stages to which his intellect inclined him. There was something
singularly fortunate in the chance which enabled him to suit his desire
to this conception, to find the two things in perfect harmony, to act on
rational lines with such a full and even eager assent of his feelings.

He reminded himself, with his favourite shrug, that to talk of chance
was to fall into an old fallacy; but the sense of accident remained. The
thing had been so entirely unplanned. He had meant to buy a place in the
North; it was only when the one he wanted had been snapped up by
somebody else that the agents succeeded in persuading him to come and
look at the house at Milldean. It happened to take his fancy, and he
bought it. Then he happened to be out of sorts, and stayed down there an
unbroken month, instead of coming only from Saturday to Monday. Again,
Sibylla and Jeremy had meant to go away when the rector died, and had
stayed on only because Old Mill House happened to fall vacant so
opportunely. No other house was available in the village. So the chances
went on, till chance culminated in that meeting of his with Sibylla: not
their first encounter, but the one he always called his meeting with her
in his own thoughts--that wonderful evening when all the sky was red,
and the earth too looked almost red, and the air was so still. Then he
had been with her in his garden, and she, forgetful of him, had turned
her eyes to the heavens, and gazed and gazed. Presently, and still, as
it seemed, unconsciously, she had stretched out her hand and caught his
in a tight grip, silently but urgently demanding his sympathy for
thoughts and feelings she could not express. At that moment her beauty
seemed to be born for him, and he had determined to make it his. He
smiled now, saying that he had been as impulsive as the merest boy,
thanking fortune that he could rejoice in the impulse instead of
condemning it--an end which _a priori_ would have seemed much the more
probable. In nine cases out of ten it would have been foolish and
disastrous to be carried away in an instant like that. In his case it
had, at any rate, not proved disastrous. From that moment he had never
turned back from his purpose, and he had nothing but satisfaction in its
now imminent accomplishment.

"Absolutely the right thing! I couldn't have done better for myself."

He stood still once in the middle of the room and said these words
aloud. They exhausted the subject, and Grantley sat down at his
writing-table to answer Mrs. Raymore's letter of congratulation. He had
never been in love with Mrs. Raymore, who was his senior by ten years;
but she was an old and intimate friend--perhaps his most intimate
friend. She had been more or less in his confidence while he was wooing
Sibylla, and a telegram apprising her of his success had called forth
the letter to which he now owed a response.

"If I had been a poor man," he wrote in the course of his reply, "I
wouldn't have married--least of all a rich wife. Even as a well-to-do
man, I wouldn't have married a rich wife. You have to marry too much
besides the woman! And I didn't want a society woman, nor anybody from
any of the sets I've knocked about with. But I did want to marry. I want
a wife, and I want the dynasty continued. It's come direct from father
to son for five or six generations, and I didn't want to stand on record
as the man who stopped it. I'm entirely contented, no less with the
project than with the lady. It will complete my life. That's what I
want--a completion, not a transformation. She'll do just this for me. If
I had taken a child and trained her, I couldn't have got more exactly
what I want; and I'm sure you'll think so when you come to know her.
Incidentally, I am to acquire a delightful brother-in-law. He'll always
be a capital fellow; but, alas, he won't long be the jewel he is now:
just at that stage between boy and man--hobbledehoy, as you women used
to make me so furious by calling me--breathing fury against all
institutions, especially those commonly supposed to be of divine origin;
learned in ten thousand books; knowing naught of all that falls under
the categories of men, women, and things; best of all, blindly wrath at
himself because he has become, or is becoming, a man, and can't help it,
and can't help feeling it! How he hates women and despises them! You
see, he has begun to be afraid! I haven't told him that he's begun to be
afraid; it will be rich to watch him as he achieves the discovery on his
own account. You'll enjoy him very much."

Grantley ended his letter with a warm tribute to Mrs. Raymore's
friendship, assurances of all it had been to him, and a promise that
marriage should, so far as his feelings went, in no way lessen, impair,
or alter the affection between them.

"He's very nice about me," said Mrs. Raymore when she had finished
reading; "and he says a good deal about the brother-in-law, and quite a
lot about himself. But really, he says hardly one word about Sibylla!"

Now it was, of course, about Sibylla that Mrs. Raymore had wanted to

Late afternoon found Grantley cantering over the downs towards
Fairhaven. Sibylla had been staying the night there with a Mrs.
Valentine, a friend of hers, and was to return by the omnibus which
plied to and from Milldean. Their plan was that he should meet her and
she should dismount, leaving her luggage to be delivered. He loved his
horse, and had seized the opportunity of slipping in a ride. When she
joined him he would get off and walk with her. As he rode now he was not
in the calm mood which had dictated his letter. He was excited and eager
at the prospect of meeting Sibylla again; he was exulting in the success
of his love, instead of contemplating with satisfaction the orderly
progression of his life. But still he had not, and knew he had not,
quite the freedom from self-consciousness which marks a youthful
passion. The eagerness was there, but he was not surprised, although he
was gratified, to find it there. His ardour was natural enough to need
no nursing; yet Grantley was inclined to caress it. He laughed as he let
his horse stretch himself in a gallop; he was delighted, and a trifle
amused, to find his emotions so fresh: none of the luxury, none of the
pleasure-giving power, had gone out of them. He was still as good a
lover as any man.

He was cantering over the turf thirty or forty yards from the road when
the omnibus passed him. The driver cried his name, and pointed back with
his whip. Grantley saw Sibylla a long way behind. He touched his horse
with the spur, and galloped towards her. Now she stood still, waiting
for him. He came up to her at full speed, reined in, and leapt off.
Holding his bridle and his hat in one hand, with the other he took hers,
and, bowing over it, kissed it. His whole approach was gallantly
conceived and carried out.

"Ah, you--you come to me like Sir Galahad!" murmured Sibylla.

"My dear, Sir Galahad! A banker, Sir Galahad!"

"Well, do bankers kiss the hands of paupers?"

"Bankers of love would kiss the hands of its millionaires."

"And am I a millionaire of love?"

Grantley let go her hand and joined in her laugh at their little bout of
conceits. She carried it on, but merrily now, not in the almost painful
strain of delight which had made her first greeting sound half-choked.

"Haven't I given it all to you--to a dishonest banker, who'll never let
me have it back?"

"We pay interest on large accounts," Grantley reminded her.

"You'll pay large, large interest to me?"

She laid her hand on his arm, and it rested there as they began to walk,
the good horse Rollo pacing soberly beside them.

"All the larger if I've embezzled the principal! That's always the way,
you know." He stopped suddenly, laughing, "It's quite safe!", and kissed

He held her face a moment, looking into the depths of her dark eyes. Now
he forgot to be amused at himself or even gratified. If he was not as a
boy-lover, it was not because he advanced with less ardour, but that he
advanced with more knowledge; not because he abandoned himself less, but
that he knew to what the self-abandonment was.

She walked along with a free swing under her short cloth skirt;
evidently she could walk thus for many a mile with no slackening and no
fatigue. The wind had caught her hair, and blew it from under, and round
about, and even over the flat cap of red that she wore; her eyes gazed
and glowed and cried joy to him. There under the majestic spread of sky,
amid the exhilaration of the salt-tasting air, on the green swell of the
land, by the green and blue and white of the sea, she was an
intoxication. Grantley breathed quickly as he walked with her hand on
his wrist.

"It's so new," she whispered in a joyful apology. "I've never been in
love before. You have! Oh, of course you have! I don't mind that--not
now. I used to before--before you told me. I used to be very jealous! I
couldn't be jealous now--except of not being allowed to love you

"When I'm with you I've never been in love before."

"I don't believe you ever have--not really. I don't believe you
could--without me to help you!" She laughed at her boast as she made it,
drumming her fingers lightly on his arm; his blood seemed to register
each separate touch with a beat for each. "When we're married, Grantley,
you shall give me a horse, such a good horse, such a fast horse--as good
and as fast as dear old Rollo. And we'll ride--we'll ride together--oh,
so far and so fast, against the wind, right against it breathlessly!
We'll mark the setting sun, and we'll ride straight for it, never
stopping, never turning. We'll ride straight into the gold, both of us
together, and let the gold swallow us up!"

"A bizarre ending for a respectable West End couple!"

"No ending! We'll do it every day!" She turned to him suddenly, saying,
"Ride now. You mount--I'll get up behind you."

"What? You'll be horribly uncomfortable!"

"Who's thinking of comfort? Rollo can carry us easily. Mount, Grantley,
mount! Don't go straight home. Ride along the cliff. Come, mount,

She was not to be denied. When he was mounted she set her foot lightly
on his, and he helped her up.

"My arm round your waist!" she cried. "Why, I'm splendid here! Gallop,
Grantley, gallop! Think somebody's pursuing us and trying to take me

"Must poor Rollo drop down dead?"

"No, but we'll pretend he will!"

Now and then he cried something back to her as they rode; but for the
most part he knew only her arm about him, the strands of her hair
brushing against his cheek as the wind played with them, her short quick
breathing behind him. The powerful horse seemed to join in the revel, so
strong and easy was his gait as he pulled playfully and tossed his head.
They were alone in the world, and the world was very simple--the perfect
delight of the living body, the unhindered union of soul with soul--all
nature fostering, inciting, applauding. It was a great return to the
earliest things, and nothing lived save those. They rode more than king
and queen; they rode god and goddess in the youth of the world,
descended from High Olympus to take their pleasure on the earth. They
rode far and fast against the wind, against it breathlessly. They rode
into the gold, and the gold swallowed them up.

The blood was hot in him, and when first he heard her gasp "Stop!" he
would pay no heed. He turned the horse's head towards home, but they
went at a gallop still. He felt her head fall against his shoulder. It
rested there. Her breath came quicker, faster; he seemed to see her
bosom rising and falling in the stress. But he did not stop. Again her
voice came, strangled and faint:

"I can't bear any more. Stop! Stop!"

One more wild rush, and he obeyed. He was quivering all over when they
came to a stand. Her hold round him grew loose; she was about to slip
down. He turned round in his saddle and caught her about the waist with
his arm. He drew her off the horse and forward to his side. He held her
thus with his arm, exulting in the struggle of his muscles. He held her
close against him and kissed her face. When he let her go and she
reached earth, she sank on the ground and covered her face with both
hands, all her body shaken with her gasps. He sat on his horse for a
moment, looking at her. He drew a deep inspiration, and brushed drops of
sweat from his brow. He was surprised to find that there seemed now
little wind, that the sun was veiled in clouds, that a waggon passed
along the road, that a dog barked from a farmhouse, that the old
ordinary humdrum world was there.

He heard a short stifled sob.

"You're not angry with me?" he said. "I wasn't rough to you? I couldn't
bear to stop at first."

She showed him her face. Her eyes were full of tears; there was a deep
glow on her cheeks, generally so pale. She sprang to her feet and stood
by his horse, looking up at him.

"I angry? You rough? It has been more than I knew happiness could be. I
had no idea joy could be like that, no idea life had anything like that.
And you ask me if I'm angry and if you were rough! You're opening life
to me, showing me why it is good, why I have it, why I want it, what I'm
to do with it. You're opening it all to me. And all the beauties come
out of your dear hand, Grantley. Angry! I know only that you're doing
this for me, only that I must give you in return, in a poor return, all
I have and am and can be--must give you my very, very self."

He was in a momentary reaction of feeling; his earnestness was almost
sombre as he answered:

"God grant you're doing right!"

"I'm doing what I must do, Grantley."

He swung himself off his horse, and the ready smile came to his face.

"I hope you'll find the necessity a permanent one," he said.

She too laughed joyfully as she submitted to his kiss.

It was her whim, urged with the mock imperiousness of a petted slave,
that he should mount again, and she walk by his horse. Thus they wended
their way home through the peace of the evening. She talked now of how
he had first come into her life, of how she had begun to---- She
hesitated, ending, "How I began first to feel you----" and of how,
little by little, the knowledge of the feeling had disclosed itself. She
was wonderfully open and simple, very direct and unabashed; yet there
was nothing that even his fastidious and much-tested taste found
indelicate or even forward. In glad confidence she told all, careless of
keeping any secrets or any defences against him. The seed had quickened
in virgin soil, and the flower had sprung up in a night--almost by
magic, she seemed to fancy. He listened tenderly and indulgently. The
flame of his emotion had burnt down, but there was an after-glow which
made him delightfully content with her, interested and delighted in her,
still more thoroughly satisfied with what he had done, even more glad
that she was different from all the others with whom he had been thrown.
While she displayed to him at once the joy and the spontaneity of her
abandonment of her whole existence and self to him, she made him surer
of his wisdom in taking her and all she offered, more convinced of the
excellence of this disposition of his life. She could give him all he
pictured as desirable--the stretches of tranquillity, the moments of
strong feeling. She had it in her to give both, and she would give all
she had to give. In return he gave her his love. No analysis seemed
needful there. He gave her the love of his heart and the shelter of his
arm; what more he could give her the afternoon had shown. But in the end
it was all contained and summed up in a word--he gave his love.

They came to the crest of the hill where the road dipped down to
Milldean, and paused there.

"What a wonderful afternoon it's been!" she sighed.

The enchantment of it hung about her still, expressing itself in the
gleam of her eyes and in her restlessness.

"It's been a very delightful one," he leaned down and whispered to her.
"It's given us something to look back on always."

"Yes, a great thing to look back on. But even more to look forward to.
It's told us what life is going to be, Grantley. And to think that life
used to mean only that!"

She waved her hand towards Milldean.

Grantley laughed in sheer enjoyment of her. Amusement mingled with his
admiration. His balance had quite come back to him. A review of the
afternoon, of their wild ride, made him give part of his amusement to
his own share in the proceedings. But who expects a man, or need expect
himself, to be wise when he is in love? If there be a chartered season
for sweet folly, it is there.

"Can we always be careering over the downs in the teeth of the wind,
riding into the gold, Sibylla?" he asked her in affectionate mockery.

She looked up at him, answering simply:

"Why not?"

He shook his head with a whimsical smile.

"Whatever else there is, our hearts can be riding together still."

"And when we're old folks? Isn't it only the young who can ride like

She stood silent for a moment or two. Then she turned her eyes up to his
in silence still, with the colour shining bright on her cheeks. She took
his hand and kissed it. He knew the thought that his words had called
into her mind. He had made the girl think that, when they were old, the
world would not be; there would be young hearts still to ride, young
hearts in whom their hearts should be carried still in the glorious
gallop, young hearts which had drawn life from them.

They parted at the gate of Old Mill House. Grantley urged her to come up
to his house in the evening and bring Jeremy with her, and laughed again
when she said, "Bring Jeremy?" She was confused at the hint in his
laughter, but she laughed too. Then growing grave, she went on:

"No, I won't come to-night. I won't see you again to-night. I want to
realise it, to think it all over."

"Is it so complicated as that? You're looking very serious!"

She broke into a fresh laugh, a laugh of joyful confession.

"No, I don't want to think it over. I really want to live it over, to
live it over alone, many, many times. To be alone with you again up on
the downs there."

"Very well. Send Jeremy up. By now he must be dying for an argument; and
he's probably not on speaking terms with Mrs. Mumple."

He gave her his hand; any warmer farewell there in the village street
was quite against his ways and notions. He observed a questioning look
in her eyes, but it did not occur to him that she was rather surprised
at his wanting Jeremy to come up after dinner. She did not propose to
spend any time with Jeremy.

"I'll tell him you want him," she said; and added in a whisper,
"Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!"

He walked his horse up the hill, looking back once or twice to the gate
where she stood watching him till a turn of the lane hid him from her
sight. When that happened, he sighed in luxurious contentment, and took
a cigarette from his case.

To her the afternoon had been a wonder-working revelation; to him it
seemed an extremely delightful episode.



For a girl of ardent temper and vivid imagination, strung to her highest
pitch by a wonderful fairy ride and the still strange embrace of her
lover, it may fairly be reckoned a trial to listen to a detailed
comparison of the hero of her fancy with another individual--who has
been sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude for attempted murder!
Concede circumstances extenuating the crime as amply as you please (and
My Lord in scarlet on the Bench had not encouraged the jury to concede
any), the comparison is one that gives small pleasure, unless such as
lies in an opportunity for the exercise of Christian patience. This
particular virtue Jeremy Chiddingfold suspected of priestly origin;
neither was it the strongest point in his sister's spiritual panoply. He
regarded Sibylla's ill-repressed irritation and irrepressible fidgeting
with a smile of malicious humour.

"You might almost as well come up to Imason's," he whispered.

"She can't go on much longer!" moaned Sibylla.

But she could. For long years starved of fruition, her love revelled
luxuriantly in retrospect and tenderly in prospect; and she was always
good at going on, and at going on along the same lines. Mrs. Mumple's
loving auditors had heard the tale of Luke's virtues many a time during
the period of his absence (that was the term euphemistically employed).
The ashes of their interest suddenly flickered up at the hint of a
qualification which Mrs. Mumple unexpectedly introduced.

"He wasn't the husband for every woman," she said thoughtfully.

"Thank heaven!" muttered Jeremy, glad to escape the superhuman.

"Eh, Jeremy?"

She revolved slowly and ponderously towards him.

"Thank heaven he got the right sort, Mumples."

"He did," said Mrs. Mumple emphatically; "and he knew it--and he'll know
it again when he comes back, and that's only three years now."

A reference to this date was always the signal for a kiss from Sibylla.
She rendered the tribute and returned to her chair, sighing desperately.
But it was some relief that Mrs. Mumple had finished her parallel, with
its list of ideal virtues, and now left Grantley out of the question.

"Why wasn't he the husband for every woman, Mumples?" inquired Jeremy as
he lit his pipe. "They're all just alike, you know."

"You wait, Jeremy!"

"Bosh!" ejaculated Jeremy curtly.

"He liked them good-looking, to start with," she went on; "and I was
good-looking." Jeremy had heard this so often that he no longer felt
tempted to smile. "But there was more than that. I had tact."

"Oh, come now, Mumples! You had tact? You? I'm--well, I'm----"

"I had tact, Jeremy." She spoke with overpowering solidity. "I was there
when he wanted me, and when he didn't want me I wasn't there, Sibylla."

"Didn't he always want you?" Brother and sister put the question
simultaneously, but with a quite different intention.

"No, not always, dears.--Is that your foot on my table? Take it off this
instant, Jeremy!"

"Quite a few thousand years ago there was no difference between a foot
and a hand, Mumples. You needn't be so fussy about it."

Sibylla got up and walked to the window. From it the lights in
Grantley's dining-room were visible.

"I haven't seen him for ten years," Mrs. Mumple went on; "and you've
known that, my dears, though you've said nothing--no, not when you'd
have liked to have something to throw at me. But I never told you why."

Sibylla left the window and came behind Mrs. Mumple, letting her hand
rest on the fat shoulder.

"He broke out at me once, and said he couldn't bear it if I came to see
him. It upset him so, and the time wouldn't pass by, and he got thinking
how long the time was, and what it all meant. Oh, I can't tell you all
he said before he was stopped by the--the man who was there. So I
promised him I wouldn't go any more, unless he fell ill or wanted me.
They said they'd let me know if he asked for me and was entitled to a
visit. But word has never come to me, and I've never seen him."

She paused and stitched at her work for a minute or two.

"You must leave men alone sometimes," she said.

"But, Mumples, you?" whispered Sibylla.

Mrs. Mumple looked up at her, but made no answer. Jeremy flung down his
book with an impatient air; he resented the approaches of
emotion--especially in himself.

"He'll be old when he comes out--comes back--old and broken; they break
quickly there. He won't so much mind my being old and stout, and he
won't think so much of the time when I was young and he couldn't be with
me; and he'll find me easier to live with: my temper's improved a lot
these last years, Sibylla."

"You silly old thing!" said Sibylla.

But Jeremy welcomed a diversion.

"Rot!" he said. "It's only because you can't sit on us quite so much
now. It's not moral improvement; it's simply impotence, Mumples."

Mrs. Mumple had risen in the midst of eulogising the improvement of her
temper, and now passed by Jeremy, patting his unwilling cheek. She went
out, and the next moment was heard in vigorous altercation with their
servant as to the defects of certain eggs.

"I couldn't have done that," said Sibylla.

"Improved your temper?"

"No, stayed away."

"No, you couldn't. You never let a fellow alone, even when he's got

"Have you got it now?" cried Sibylla, darting towards him.

"Keep off! Keep off! I haven't got it, and if I had I shouldn't want to
be kissed."

Sibylla broke into a laugh. Jeremy relit his pipe with a secret smile.

"But I do call it fine of Mumples."

"Go and tell her you've never done her justice, and cry," he suggested.
"I'm going up to Imason's now, so you can have it all to yourselves."

"I don't want to cry to-night," Sibylla objected, with a plain hint of
mysterious causes for triumph.

Jeremy picked up his cap, showing a studious disregard of any such

"You're going up the hill now? I shall sit up for you."

"You'll sit up for me?"

"Yes. Besides I don't feel at all sleepy to-night."

"I shall when I come back."

"I shan't want to talk."

"Then what will you want? Why are you going to sit up?"

"I've ever so many things to do."

Jeremy's air was weary as he turned away from the inscrutable feminine.
While mounting the hill he made up his mind to go to London as soon as
he could. A man met men there.

No air of emotion, no atmosphere of overstrained sentiment, hung, even
for Jeremy's critical eye, round Grantley Imason's luxurious table and
establishment. They suggested rather the ideal of comfort lovingly
pursued, a comfort which lay not in gorgeousness or in mere expenditure,
but in the delicate adjustment of means to ends and a careful exclusion
of anything likely to disturb a dexterously achieved equipoise. Though
Jeremy admired the absence of emotion, his rough vigorous nature was
challenged at another point. He felt a touch of scorn that a man should
take so much trouble to be comfortable, and should regard the
achievement of his object as so meritorious a feat. In various ways
everything, from the gymnastic apparatus in the hall to the leg-rest in
front of the study fire, sought and subserved the ease and pleasure of
the owner. That, no doubt, is what a house should be--just as a man
should be well dressed. It is possible, however, to be too much of a
dandy. Jeremy found an accusation of unmanliness making its way into his
mind; he had to banish it by recalling that, though his host might be
fond of elegant lounging, he was a keen sportsman too, and handled his
gun and sat his horse with equal mastery. These virtues appealed to the
English public schoolboy and to the amateur of Primitive Man alike, and
saved Grantley from condemnation. But Jeremy's feelings escaped in an

"By Jove, you are snug here!"

"I don't pretend to be an ascetic," laughed Grantley, as he stretched
his legs out on the leg-rest.


Grantley looked at him, smiling.

"I don't rough it unless I'm obliged. But I can rough it. I once lived
for a week on sixpence a day. I had a row with my governor. He wanted me
to give up---- Well, never mind details. It's enough to observe, Jeremy,
that he was quite right and I was quite wrong. I know that now, and I
rather fancy I knew it then. However, his way of putting it offended me,
and I flung myself out of the house with three-and-six in my pocket.
Like the man in Scripture, I couldn't work and I wouldn't beg, and I
wouldn't go back to the governor. So it was sixpence a day for a week
and very airy lodgings. Then it was going to be the recruiting-sergeant;
but, as luck would have it, I met the dear old man on the way. I suppose
I looked a scarecrow; anyhow, he was broken up about it, and killed the
fatted calf--killed it for an unrepentant prodigal. And I could do that
again, though I may live in a boudoir."

Jeremy rubbed his hands slowly against one another--a movement common
with him when he was thinking.

"I don't tell you that to illustrate my high moral character--as I say,
I was all in the wrong--but just to show you that, given the motive----"

"What was the motive?"

"Pride, obstinacy, conceit--anything you like of that kind," smiled
Grantley. "I'd told the fellows about my row, and they'd said I should
have to knuckle down. So I made up my mind I wouldn't."

"Because of what they'd say?"

"Don't be inquisitorial, Jeremy. The case is, I repeat, not given as an
example of morality, but as an example of me--quite different things.
However, I don't want to talk about myself to-night; I want to talk
about you. What are you going to do with yourself?"

"Oh, I'm all right!" declared Jeremy. "I've got my London B.A. (It
didn't run to Cambridge, you know), and I'm pegging away." A touch of
boyish pompousness crept in. "I haven't settled precisely what line of
study I shall devote myself to, but I intend to take up and pursue some
branch of original research."

Grantley's mind had been set on pleasing Sibylla by smoothing her
brother's path. His business interest would enable him to procure a good
opening for Jeremy--an opening which would lead to comfort, if not to
wealth, in a short time, proper advantage being taken of it.

"Original research?" He smiled indulgently. "There's not much money in

"Oh, I've got enough to live on. Sibylla's all right now, and I've got a
hundred a year. And I do a popular scientific article now and then--I've
had one or two accepted. Beastly rot they have to be, though."

Grantley suggested the alternative plan. Jeremy would have none of it.
He turned Grantley's story against him.

"If you could live on sixpence a day out of pride, I can live on what
I've got for the sake of--of----" He sought words for his big vague
ambitions. "Of knowledge--and--and----"

"Fame?" smiled Grantley.

"If you like," Jeremy admitted with shy sulkiness.

"It'll take a long time. Oh, I know you're not a marrying man; but
still, a hundred a year----"

"I can wait for what I want."

"Well, if you change your mind let me know."

"You didn't let your father know."

Grantley laughed.

"Oh, well, a week isn't ten years, nor even five," he reminded Jeremy.

"A man can wait for what he wants. Hang it, even a woman can do that!
Look at Mumples!"

Grantley asked explanations, and drew out the story which Mrs. Mumple
had told earlier in the evening. Grantley's fancy was caught by it, and
he pressed Jeremy for a full and accurate rendering, obtaining a clear
view of how Mrs. Mumple herself read the case.

"Quite a romantic picture! The lady and the lover, with the lady outside
the castle and the lover inside--just for a change."

Jeremy had been moved by the story, but reluctantly and to his own
shame. Now he hesitated whether to laugh or not, nature urging one way,
his pose (which he dignified with the title of reason) suggesting the

"A different view is possible to the worldly mind," Grantley went on in
lazy amusement. "Perhaps the visits bored him. Mumples--if I may presume
to call her that--probably cried over him and 'carried on,' as they say.
He felt a fool before the warder, depend upon it! And perhaps she didn't
look her best in tears--they generally don't. Besides we see what
Mumples looks like now, and even ten years ago----! Well, as each three
months, or whatever the time may be, rolled round, less of the charm of
youth would hang about her. We shouldn't suggest any of this to Mumples,
but as philosophers and men of the world, we're bound to contemplate it
ourselves, Jeremy."

He drank some brandy and soda and lit a fresh cigar. Jeremy laughed
applause. Here, doubtless, was the man of the world's view, the rational
and unsentimental view to which he was vowed and committed. Deep in his
heart a small voice whispered that it was a shame to turn the light of
this disillusioned levity on poor old Mumples' mighty sorrow and
trustful love.

"And when we're in love with them they can't do anything wrong; and when
we've stopped being in love, they can't do anything right," Grantley
sighed humorously. "Oh, yes, there's another interpretation of Mr.
Mumple's remarkable conduct! You see, we know he's not by nature a
patient man, or he wouldn't have committed the indiscretion that brought
him where he is. Don't they have bars, or a grating, or something
between them at these painful interviews? Possibly it was just as well
for Mumples' sake, now and then!"

Despite the small voice Jeremy laughed more. He braved its accusation of
treachery to Mumples. He tried to feel quite easy in his mirth, to enjoy
the droll turning upside down of the pathetic little story as pleasantly
and coolly as Grantley there on his couch, with his cigar and his brandy
and soda. For Grantley's reflective smile was entirely devoid of any
self-questioning or of any sense of treachery to anybody or to anything
with claims to reverence or loyalty. It was for Jeremy, however, the
first time he had been asked to turn his theories on to one he loved and
to try how his pose worked where a matter came near his heart. His mirth
did not achieve spontaneity. But it was Grantley who said at last, with
a yawn:

"It's a shame to make fun out of the poor old soul; but the idea was
irresistible, wasn't it, Jeremy?"

And Jeremy laughed again.

Jeremy said good-night and went down the hill, leaving Grantley to read
the letters which the evening post had brought him. There had been one
from Tom Courtland. Grantley had opened and glanced at that before his
guest went away. There were new troubles, it appeared. Lady Harriet had
not given her husband a cordial or even a civil welcome; and the letter
hinted that Courtland had stood as much as he could bear, and that
something, even though it were something desperate, must be done. "A man
must find some peace and some pleasure in his life," was the sentence
Grantley chose to read out as a sample of the letter; and he had added,
"Poor old Tom! I'm afraid he's going to make a fool of himself."

Jeremy had asked no questions as to the probable nature of Courtland's
folly (which was not perhaps hard to guess); but the thought of him
mingled with the other recollections of the evening, with Mrs. Mumple's
story and the turn they had given to it, with Grantley's anecdote about
himself, and with the idea of him which Jeremy's acute though raw mind
set itself to grope after and to realise. The young man again felt that
somehow his theories had begun to be no longer theories in a vacuum of
merely speculative thought; they had begun to meet people and to run up
against facts. The facts and the people no doubt fitted and justified
the theories, but to see how that came about needed some consideration.
So far he had got. He had not yet arrived at a modification of the
theories, or even at an attitude of readiness to modify them, although
that would have been an unimpeachable position from a scientific

The sight of Sibylla standing at the gate of their little garden brought
his thoughts back to her. He remembered that she had promised to sit
up--an irrational proceeding, as her inability to give good ground for
it had clearly proved; and it was nearly twelve--a very late hour for
Milldean--so well had Grantley's talk beguiled the time. Sibylla herself
seemed to feel the need of excuse, for as soon as she caught sight of
her brother she cried out to him:

"I simply couldn't go to bed! I've had such a day, Jeremy, and my head's
all full of it. And on the top of it came what poor Mumples told us;
and--and you can guess how that chimed in with what I must be thinking."

He had come up to her, and she put her hand in his.

"Dear old Jeremy, what friends we've been! We have loved one another,
haven't we? Don't stop loving me. You don't say much, and you pretend to
be rather scornful--just like a boy; and you try to make out that it's
all rather a small and ordinary affair----"

"Isn't it?"

"Oh, I daresay! But to me? Dear, you know what it is to me! I don't want
you to say much; I don't mind your pretending. But just now, in the
dark, when we're all alone, when nobody can possibly hear--and I swear I
won't tell a single soul--kiss me and tell me your heart's with me,
because we've been true friends and comrades, haven't we?"

It was dark and nobody was there. Jeremy kissed her and mumbled some
awkward words. They were enough.

"Now I'm quite happy. It was just that I wanted to hear it from you

Jeremy was glad, but he felt himself compromised. When they went in, his
first concern was to banish emotion and relieve the tension. Mrs.
Mumple's workbox gave a direction to his impulse. If a young man be
inclined, as some are, to assume a cynical and worldly attitude, he will
do it most before women, and, of all women, most before those who know
him best and have known him from his tender age, since to them above all
it is most important to mark the change which has occurred. So Jeremy
not only allowed himself to forget that small voice, and, turning back
to Mrs. Mumple's story, once more to expose it to an interpretation of
the worldly and cynical order, but he went even further. The view which
Grantley had suggested to him, which had never crossed his mind till it
was put before him by another, the disillusioned view, he represented
now not as Grantley's, but as his own. He threw it out as an idea which
naturally presented itself to a man of the world, giving the impression
that it had been in his mind all along, even while Mrs. Mumple was
speaking. And now he asked Sibylla, not perhaps altogether to believe in
it, but to think it possible, almost probable, and certainly very

Sibylla heard him through in silence, her eyes fixed on him in a regard
grave at first, becoming, as he went on, almost frightened.

"Do ideas like that come into men's minds?" she asked at the end. She
did not suspect that the idea had not been her brother's own in the
beginning. "I think it's a horrible idea."

"Oh, you're so high-falutin!" he laughed, glad, perhaps, to have shocked
her a little.

She came up to him and touched his arm imploringly.

"Forget it," she urged. "Never think about it again. Oh, remember how
much, how terribly she loves him! Don't have such ideas." She drew back
a little. "I think--I think it's almost--devilish: I mean, to imagine
that, to suspect that, without any reason. Yes--devilish!"

That hit Jeremy; it was more than he wanted.

"Devilish! You call it devilish? Why, it was----" He had been about to
lay the idea to its true father-mind; but he did not. He looked at his
sister again. "Well, I'm sorry," he grumbled. "It only struck me as
rather funny."

Sibylla's wrath vanished.

"It's just because you know nothing about it that you could think such a
thing, poor boy!" said she.

It became clearer still that Grantley must not be brought in, because
the only explanation which mitigated Jeremy's offence could not help
Grantley. Jeremy was loyal here, whatever he may have been to Mrs.
Mumple. He kept Grantley out of it. But--devilish! What vehement
language for the girl to use!



Mrs. Raymore was giving a little dinner at her house in Buckingham Gate
in honour of Grantley Imason and his wife. They had made their honeymoon
a short one, and were now in Sloane Street for a month before settling
at Milldean for the autumn. The gathering was of Grantley's friends, one
of the sets with whom he had spent much of his time in bachelor days.
The men were old-time friends; as they had married, the wives had become
his acquaintances too--in some cases (as in Mrs. Raymore's) more than
mere acquaintances. They had all been interested in him, and
consequently were curious about his wife--critical, no doubt, but
prepared to be friendly and to take her into the set, if she would come.
Mrs. Raymore, as she sat at the head of her table, with Grantley by her
and Sibylla on Raymore's right hand at the other end, was thinking that
they, in their turn, might reasonably interest the young bride--might
set her thinking, and encourage or discourage her according to the
conclusions she came to about them. She and Raymore would bear scrutiny
well as things went. There was a very steady and affectionate friendship
between them; they lived comfortably together, and had brought up their
children--a boy and a girl--successfully and without friction.
Raymore--a tall man with a reddish face and deliberate of speech--was
always patient and reasonable. He had never been very impassioned; there
had not been much to lose of what is most easily lost. He might have had
a few more intellectual tastes, perhaps, and a keener interest in things
outside his business; but she had her own friends, and on the whole
there was little to complain of.

Then came the Fanshaws--John and Christine. He was on the Stock
Exchange; she, a dainty pretty woman, given up to society and to being
very well dressed, but pleasant, kind, and clever in a light sort of
way. They liked to entertain a good deal, and got through a lot of
money. When Fanshaw was making plenty, and Christine had plenty to
spend, things went smoothly enough. In bad times there was trouble, each
thinking that retrenchment could best be practised by the other and in
regard to the expenses to which the other was addicted: it was, for
instance, the stables against the dressmaker then. The happiness of the
household depended largely on the state of the markets--a thing which it
might interest Mrs. Grantley Imason to hear.

Next came the Selfords--Richard and Janet. He was a rather small frail
man, of private means, a dabbler in art. She was artistic too, or would
have told you so, and fond of exotic dogs, which she imported from
far-off places, and which usually died soon. They were a gushing pair,
both towards one another and towards the outside world; almost
aggressively affectionate in public. "Trying to humbug everybody," Tom
Courtland used to say; but that was too sweeping a view. Their excessive
amiability was the result of their frequent quarrels--or rather tiffs,
since quarrel is perhaps an over-vigorous word. They were always either
concealing the existence of a tiff or making one up, reconciling
themselves with a good deal of display. Everybody knew this, thanks in
part to their sharp-eyed sharp-tongued daughter Anna, a girl of sixteen,
who knew all about the tiffs and could always be got to talk about them.

The last pair were the Courtlands themselves. All the set was rather
afraid of Lady Harriet. She was a tall, handsome, fair woman, still
young; she patronised them rather, but was generally affable and
agreeable when nothing occurred to upset her. Tom Courtland grew more
depressed, heavy, and dreary every day. A crisis was expected--but Lady
Harriet's small-talk did not suffer. Mrs. Raymore thought that the less
Grantley's wife saw or knew of that household the better.

The party was completed by Suzette Bligh, a girl pretty in a faded sort
of way, not quite so young as she tried to look, and in Mrs. Raymore's
opinion, quite likely not to marry at all; and finally by young Blake,
Walter Dudley Blake, a favourite of hers and of many other people's,
known as a climber of mountains and a shooter of rare game in his
energetic days; suspected of enjoying life somewhat to excess and with
riotous revelry in his seasons of leisure; impetuous, chivalrous,
impulsive, and notably good-looking. Mrs. Raymore had put him on
Sibylla's right--in case her husband should not prove amusing to the
honoured guest.

On the whole, she thought, they ought not to frighten Sibylla much.
There was one terrible example--the Courtlands; but when it comes to
throwing things about, the case is admittedly abnormal. For the rest
they seemed, to the student of matrimony, fair average samples of a bulk
of fair average merit. Perhaps there might have been an ideal
union--just to counter-balance the Courtlands at the other extreme. If
such were desirable, let it be hoped that the Imasons themselves would
supply it. In regard to one point, she decided, the company was really
above the average--and that the most important point. There had been
rumours once about Christine Fanshaw--indeed they were still heard
sometimes; but scandal had never assailed any other woman there. In
these days that was something, thought Mrs. Raymore.

Grantley turned from Christine Fanshaw to his hostess.

"You're very silent. What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"Sibylla's really beautiful, and in a rather unusual way. You might pass
her over once; but if you did look once, you'd be sure to look always."

"Another woman's looks have kept your attention all this time?"

"Your wife's," she reminded him with an affectionately friendly glance.
"And I was wondering what she thought of us all, what we all look like
in those pondering thoughtful questioning eyes of hers."

"Her eyes do ask questions, don't they?" laughed Grantley.

"Many, many, and must have answers, I should think. And don't they
expect good answers?"

"Oh, she's not really at all alarming!"

"You can make the eyes say something different, I daresay?"

He laughed again very contentedly. Mrs. Raymore's admiration pleased
him, since she was not very easy herself to please. He was glad she
approved of Sibylla, though as a rule his own opinion was enough for

"Well, they aren't always questioning. That would be fatiguing in a
wife--really as bad as continually discussing the Arian heresy, as old
Johnson says. But I daresay," he lowered his voice, "Lady Harriet would
excite a query or two."

"You've told me nothing about Sibylla. I shall have to find it all out
for myself."

"That's the only knowledge worth having; and I'm only learning myself
still, you know."

"Really, that's an unusually just frame of mind for a husband. I've high
hopes of you, Grantley."

"Good! Because you know me uncommonly well."

She thought a moment.

"No, not so very well," she said. "You're hard to know."

He took that as a compliment; probably most people would, since it seems
to hint at something rare and out of the common; inaccessibility has an
aristocratic flavour.

"Oh, I suppose we all have our fastnesses," he said with a laugh which
politely waived any claim to superiority without expressly abandoning

"Doesn't one give up the key of the gates by marrying?"

"My dear Kate, read your Bluebeard again!"

Mrs. Raymore relapsed into the silence that was almost habitual to her,
but it passed through her mind that the conversation had soon turned
from Sibylla to Grantley himself, or at least had dealt with Sibylla
purely in her bearing on Grantley; it had not increased her knowledge of
Mrs. Imason as an independent individual.

"Well, with business what it is," said Fanshaw in his loud voice--a
voice that had a way of stopping other people's voices--"we must cut it
down somewhere."

"Oh, you're as rich as Crœsus, Fanshaw!" objected young Blake.

"I'm losing money every day! Christine and I were discussing it as we
drove here."

"I like your idea of discussion, John," remarked Christine in her
delicate tones, generally touched with sarcasm. "I couldn't open my

"He closured you, and then threw out your Budget?" asked Grantley.

"He almost stripped my gown from my back, and made an absolute clutch at
my diamonds."

"I put forward the reasonable view," Fanshaw insisted rather heatedly.
"What I said was, begin with superfluities----"

"Are clothes superfluities?" interjected Christine, watching the gradual
flushing of her husband's face with mischievous pleasure.

"Nothing is superfluous that is beautiful," said Selford; he lisped
slightly, and spoke with an affected air. "We should retrench in the
grosser pleasures--eating and drinking, display, large houses----"

"Peculiar dogs!" suggested Blake, chaffing Mrs. Selford.

"Oh, but they are beautiful!" she cried.

"Horses!" said Christine, with sharp-pointed emphasis. "You should
really be guided by Mr. Selford, John."

"Every husband should be guided by another husband. That's axiomatic,"
said Grantley.

"I'm quite content with my own," smiled Mrs. Selford. "Dick and I always

"They must be fresh from a row," Tom Courtland whispered surlily to Mrs.

"About money matters the man's voice must in the nature of things be
final," Fanshaw insisted. "It's obvious. He knows about it; he makes

"Quite enough for him to do," Christine interrupted. "At that point we
step in--and spend it."

"Division of labour? Quite right, Mrs. Fanshaw," laughed Blake. "And if
any of you can't manage your department, I'm ready to help."

"They can manage that department right enough," Fanshaw grumbled. "If we
could manage them as well as they manage that----" He took a great gulp
of champagne, and grew still redder when he heard Christine's scornful
little chuckle.

Raymore turned to Sibylla with a kind fatherly smile.

"I hope we're not frightening you, Mrs. Imason? Not too much of the
seamy side?"

Blake chimed in on her other hand:

"I'm here to maintain Mrs. Imason's illusions."

"If we're talking of departments, I think that's mine, Blake, thank
you," called Grantley with a laugh.

"I'm sure I've been most considerate." This was Lady Harriet's first
contribution to the talk. "I haven't said a word!"

"And you could a tale unfold?" asked Blake.

She made no answer beyond shrugging her fine shoulders and leaning back
in her chair as she glanced across at her husband. A moment's silence
fell on the table. It seemed that they recognised a difference between
troubles and grievances which could be discussed with more or less
good-nature, or quarrelled over with more or less acerbity, and those
which were in another category. The moment the Courtlands were in
question, a constraint arose. Tom Courtland himself broke the silence,
but it was to talk about an important cricket-match. Lady Harriet smiled
at him composedly, unconscious of the earnest study of Sibylla's eyes,
which were fixed on her and were asking (as Mrs. Raymore would have
said) many questions.

When the ladies had gone, Fanshaw buttonholed Raymore and exhibited to
him his financial position and its exigencies with ruthless elaboration
and with a persistently implied accusation of Christine's extravagance.
Selford victimised young Blake with the story of a picture which he had
just picked up; he declared it was by a famous Dutch master, and watched
for the effect on Blake, who showed none, never having heard of the
Dutch master. Tom Courtland edged up to Grantley's side; they had not
met since Grantley's wedding.

"Well, you look very blooming and happy, and all that," he said.

"First-rate, old boy. How are you?"

Tom lowered his voice and spoke with a cautious air.

"I've done it, Grantley--what I wrote to you. By God, I couldn't stand
it any longer! I'd sooner take any risk. Oh, I shall be very careful! I
shan't give myself away. But I had to do it."

Grantley gave a shrug.

"Oh, well, I'm sorry," he said. "That sort of thing may turn out so

"It'd have to be infernally awkward to be worse than what I've gone
through. At any rate I get away from it sometimes now, and--and enjoy

"Find getting away easy?"

"No; but as we must have shindies, we may as well have them about that.
I told Harriet she made the house intolerable, so I should spend my
evenings at my clubs."

"Oh! And--and who is she?"

He looked round warily before he whispered:

"Flora Bolton."

Grantley raised his brows and said one word:


Tom nodded with a mixture of ruefulness and pride.

"If you're going to the devil, you may as well go quickly and
pleasantly," he said, drumming his fingers on the cloth. "By heaven, if
I'd thought of this when I married! I meant to go straight--you know I

Grantley nodded.

"I broke off all that sort of thing. I could have gone straight. She's
driven me to it--by Jove, she has."

"Take care, old chap. They'll notice you."

"I don't care if---- Oh, all right, and thanks, Grantley. I don't want
to make an exhibition of myself. And I've told nobody but you, of

Sibylla, never long in coming to conclusions, had made up her mind about
the women before the evening was half over. Lady Harriet was strange and
terrible when the known facts of the case were compared with her
indolent composure. Mrs. Selford was trivial and tiresome, but a good
enough little silly soul. Suzette Bligh was entirely negligible; she had
not spoken save to flirt very mildly with Blake. Mrs. Raymore elicited a
liking, but a rather timid and distant one; she seemed very
clear-sighted and judicial. Christine Fanshaw attracted her most, first
by her dainty prettiness, also by the perfection of her clothes (a thing
Sibylla much admired), most by her friendly air and the piquant
suffusion of sarcastic humour that she had. She seemed to treat even her
own grievances in this semi-serious way--one of them certainly, if her
husband were one. Such a manner and such a way of regarding things are
often most attractive to the people who would find it hardest to acquire
the like for themselves; they seem to make the difficulties which have
loomed so large look smaller--they extenuate, smooth away, and, by the
artifice of not asking too much, cause what is given to appear a more
liberal instalment of the possible. They are not, however, generally
associated with any high or rigid moral ideas, and were not so
associated in the person of pretty Christine Fanshaw. But they are
entirely compatible with much worldly wisdom, and breed a tolerance of
unimpeachable breadth, if not of exalted origin.

"We'll be friends, won't we?" Christine said to Sibylla, settling
herself cosily by her. "I'm rather tired of all these women, except Kate
Raymore, and she doesn't much approve of me. But I'm going to like you."

"Will you? I'm so glad."

"And I can be very useful to you. I can even improve your frocks--though
this one's very nice; and I can tell you all about husbands. I know a
great deal--and I'm representative." She laughed gaily. "John and I are
quite representative. I like John really, you know; he's a good man--but
he's selfish. And John likes me, but I'm selfish. And I like teasing
John, and he takes a positive pleasure sometimes in annoying me."

"And that's representative?" smiled Sibylla.

"Oh, not by itself, but as an element, sandwiched in with the rest--with
our really liking one another and getting on all right, you know. And
when we quarrel, it's about something, not about nothing, like the
Selfords--though I don't know that that is quite so representative,
after all." She paused a moment, and resumed less gaily, with a little
wrinkle on her brow: "At least, I think John really likes me. Sometimes
I'm not sure, though I know I like him; and when I'm least sure I tease
him most."

"Is that a good remedy?"

"Remedy? No, it's temper, my dear. You see, there was a time when--when
I didn't care whether he liked me or not; when I--when I--well, when I
didn't care, as I said. And I think he felt I didn't. And I don't know
whether I've ever quite got back."

Ready with sympathy, Sibylla pressed the little richly beringed hand.

"Oh, it's all right. We're very lucky. Look at the Courtlands!"

"The poor Courtlands seem to exist to make other people appreciate their
own good luck," said Sibylla, laughing a little.

"I'm sure they ought to make you appreciate yours. Grantley and Walter
Blake are two of the most sought-after of men, and you've married one of
them, and made quite a conquest of the other to-night. Oh, here come the

Young Blake came straight across to them, and engaged in a verbal
fencing-match with Christine. She took him to task for alleged
dissipation and over-much gaiety; he defended his character and habits
with playful warmth. Sibylla sat by silent; she was still very ignorant
of all the life they talked about. She knew that Christine's charges
carried innuendoes from the way Blake met them, but she did not know
what the innuendoes were. But she was not neglected. If his words were
for gay Christine, his eyes were very constantly for the graver face and
the more silent lips. He let her see his respectful admiration in the
frank way he had; nobody could take offence at it.

"I suppose you must always have somebody to be in love with--to give,
oh, your whole heart and soul to, mustn't you?" Christine asked

"Yes, it's a necessity of my nature."

"That's what keeps you a bachelor, I suppose?"

He laughed, but, as Sibylla thought, a trifle ruefully, or at least as
though he were a little puzzled by Christine's swift thrust.

"Keeps him? He's not old enough to marry yet," she pleaded, and Blake
gaily accepted the defence.

Their talk was interrupted by Lady Harriet's rising; her brougham had
been announced. Grantley telegraphed his readiness to be off too, and he
and Sibylla, after saying good-night, followed the Courtlands
downstairs, Raymore accompanying them and giving the men cigars while
their wives put their cloaks on. Grantley asked for a cab, which was
some little while in coming; Tom Courtland said he wanted a hansom too,
and stuck his cigar in his mouth, puffing out a full cloud of smoke. At
the moment Lady Harriet came back into the hall, Sibylla following her.

"Do you intend to smoke that cigar in the brougham as we go to my
mother's party?" asked Lady Harriet.

"I'm not aware that your mother minds smoke; but as a matter of fact I'm
not going to the party at all."

"You're expected--I said you'd come."

"I'm sorry, Harriet, but you misunderstood me."

Tom Courtland stood his ground firmly and answered civilly, though with
a surly rough tone in his voice. His wife was still very quiet, yet
Raymore and Grantley exchanged apprehensive looks; the lull before the
storm is a well-worked figure of speech, but they knew it applied very
well to Lady Harriet.

"You're going home, then?"

"Not just now."

"Where are you going?"

"To the club."

"What club?"

"Is my cab there?" Grantley called to the butler.

"Not yet, sir; there'll be one directly."

"What club?" demanded Lady Harriet again.

"What does it matter? I haven't made up my mind. I'm only going to have
a rubber."

Then it came--what Sibylla had been told about, what the others had seen
before now. They were all forgotten--host and fellow-guests, even the
servants, even the cabman, who heard the outburst and leant down from
his high seat, trying to see. It was like some physical affliction, an
utter loss of self-control; it was a bare step distant from violence. It
was the failure of civilisation, the casting-off of decency, a being
abandoned to a raw fierce fury.

"Club!" she cried, a deep flush covering her face and all her neck.
"Pretty clubs you go to hard on midnight! I know you, I know you too
well, you--you liar!"

Sibylla crept behind Grantley, passing her hand through his arm. Tom
Courtland stood motionless, very white, a stiff smile on his lips.

"You liar!" she said once again, and without a look at any of them swept
down the steps. She moved grandly. She came to the door of her brougham,
which the footman held for her. The window was drawn up.

"Have you been driving with the windows shut?"

"Yes, my lady."

"I told you to keep them down when it was fine. Do you want to stifle
me, you fool?" She raised the fan she carried; it had stout ivory sticks
and a large knob of ivory at the end. She dashed the knob against the
window with all her strength; the glass was broken and fell clattering
on the pavement as Lady Harriet got in.

The footman shut the door, touched his hat, and joined the coachman on
the box.

With his pale face and set smile, with his miserable eyes and bowed
shoulders, Tom Courtland went down the steps to his cab. Neither did he
speak to any of them.

At last Raymore turned to Sibylla.

"I'm so sorry it happened to-night--when you were here," he said.

"What does it mean?" she gasped.

She looked from Grantley to Raymore and back again, and read the answer
in their faces. They knew where Tom Courtland had gone. Grantley patted
her hand gently, and said to Raymore:

"Well, who could stand a savage like that?"

It was the recognition of a ruin inevitable and past cure.



There are processes undergone which people hardly realise themselves,
which another can explain by no record, however minute or laborious.
They are in detail as imperceptible, as secret, as elusive as the
physical changes which pass upon the face of the body. From day to day
there is no difference; but days make years, and years change youth to
maturity, maturity to decay. So in matters of the soul the daily
trifling sum adds up and up. A thousand tiny hopes nipped, a thousand
little expectations frustrated, a thousand foolish fears proved not so
foolish. Divide them by the days, and there is nothing to cry about at
bedtime, nothing even to pray about, if to pray you are inclined. Yet as
a month passes, or two, or three, the atoms seem to join and form a
cloud. The sunbeams get through here and there still, but the clear fine
radiance is obscured. Presently the cloud thickens, deepens, hardens. It
seems now a wall, stout and high; the gates are heavy and forbidding,
and they stand where once there was ready and eagerly welcomed entrance
and access. Think of what it is to look for a letter sometimes. It comes
not on Monday--it's nothing; nor on Tuesday--it's nothing; nor on
Wednesday--odd! nor on Thursday--strange! nor on Friday--you can't
think! It comes not for a week--you are hurt; for a fortnight--you are
indignant. A month passes--and maybe what you prized most in all your
life is gone. You have been told the truth in thirty broken sentences.

Sibylla Imason took a reckoning--in no formal manner, not sitting down
to it, still less in any flash of inspiration or on the impulse of any
startling incident. As she went to and fro on her work and her pleasure,
the figures gradually and insensibly set themselves in rows, added and
subtracted themselves, and presented her with the quotient. It was
against her will that all this happened. She would have had none of it;
there was nothing to recommend it; it was not even unusual. But it would
come--and what did it come to? Nothing alarming or vulgar or
sensational. Grantley's gallantry forbade that, his good manners, his
affectionate ways, his real love for her. It was forbidden too by the
moments of rapture which she excited and which she shared; they were
still untouched--the fairy rides on fairy horses. But is not the virtue
of such things to mean more than they are--to be not incidents, but
rather culminations--not exceptions, but the very type, the highest
expression, of what is always there? Even the raptures she was coming to
doubt while she welcomed, to mistrust while she shared. Would she come
at once to hate and to strive after them?

In the end it was not the identity her soaring fancy had pictured--not
the union her heart cried for, less even than the partnership which
naked reason seemed to claim. She had not become his very self, as he
was of her very self--nor part of him. She was to him--what? She sought
a word, at least an idea, and smiled at one or two which her own
bitterness offered to her. A toy? Of course not. A diversion? Much more
than that. But still it was something accidental, something that he
might not have had and would have done very well without; yet a
something greatly valued, tended, caressed--yes, and even loved. A great
acquisition perhaps expressed it--a very prized possession--a cherished
treasure. Sometimes, after putting it as low as she could in chagrin,
she put it as high as she could--by way of testing it. Put it how she
would, the ultimate result worked out the same. She made much less
difference to Grantley Imason than she had looked to make; she was much
less of and in his life, much less of the essence, more of an accretion.
She was outside his innermost self--a stranger to his closest
fastnesses. Was that the nature of the tie or the nature of the man? She
cried out against either conclusion; for either ruined the hopes on
which she lived. Among them was one mighty hope. Were not both tie and
man still incomplete, even as she, the woman, was in truth yet
incomplete, yet short of her great function, undischarged of her high
natural office? Was there not that in her now which should make all
things complete and perfect? While that hope--nay, that
conviction--remained she refused to admit that she was discontent. She
waited, trying meanwhile to smother the discontent.

Of course there was another side, and Grantley himself put it to Mrs.
Raymore when, in her sisterly affection for him and her motherly
interest in Sibylla, she had ventured on two or three questions which,
on the smallest analysis, resolved themselves into hints.

"In anything like a doubtful case," he complained humorously (for he was
not taking the questions very seriously), "the man never gets fair play.
He's not nearly so picturesque. And if he becomes picturesque, if he
goes through fits hot and cold, and ups and downs, and all sorts of
convulsions, as the woman does and does so effectively, he doesn't get
any more sympathy, because it's not the ideal for the man--not our
national idea, anyhow. You see the dilemma he's in? If he's not
emotional he's not interesting; if he's emotional he's not manly. I'm
speaking of a doubtful case all the time. Of course you may have your
impeccable Still-Waters-Run-Deep sort of man--the part poor old Tom
ought to have played. But then that is a part--a stage part, very seldom
real. No; in a doubtful case the man's nowhere. Take it how you will,
the woman is bound to win."

"Which means that you don't want to complain or criticise, but if I will
put impertinent questions----"

"If you put me on my defence----" he amended, laughing.

"Yes, if I put you on your defence, you'll hint----"

"Through generalities----"

"Yes, through generalities you'll hint, in your graceful way, that
Sibylla, of whom you're very fond----"

"Oh, be fair! You know I am."

"Is rather--exacting--fatiguing?"

"That's too strong. Rather, as I say, emotional. She likes living on the
heights. I like going up there now and then. In fact I maintain the
national ideal."

"Yes, I think you'd do that very well--quite well enough, Grantley."

"There's a sting in the tail of your praise?"

"After all, I'm a woman too."

"We really needn't fuss ourselves, I think. You see, she has the great
saving grace--a sense of humour. If I perceive dimly that somehow
something hasn't been quite what it ought to have been, that I
haven't--haven't played up somehow--you know what I mean?"

"Very well indeed," Mrs. Raymore laughed gently.

"I can put it all right by a good laugh--a bit of mock heroics,
perhaps--some good chaff, followed by a good gallop--not at all a bad
prescription! After a little of that, she's laughing at herself for
having the emotions, and at me for not having them, and at both of us
for the whole affair."

"Well, as long as it ends like that there's not much wrong. But take
care. Not everything will stand the humorous aspect, you know."

"Most things, thank heaven, or where should we be?"

"Tom Courtland, for instance?"

"Oh, not any longer, I'm afraid."

"It won't do for the big things and the desperate cases; not even for
other people's--much less for your own."

"I suppose not. If you want it always, you must be a looker-on; and
you'll tell me husbands can't be lookers-on at their own marriages?"

"I tell you! Facts will convince you sooner than I could, Grantley."

He was really very reasonable from his own point of view, both
reasonable and patient. Mrs. Raymore conceded that. And he was also
quite consistent in his point of view. She remembered a phrase from his
letter which had defined what he was seeking--"a completion, not a
transformation." He was pursuing that scheme still--a scheme into which
the future wife had fitted so easily and perfectly, into which the
actual wife fitted with more difficulty. But he was dealing with the
difficulty in a very good spirit and a very good temper. If the scheme
were possible at all--given Sibylla as she was--he was quite the man to
put it through successfully. But she reserved her opinion as to its
possibility. The reservation did not imply an approval of Sibylla or any
particular inclination to champion her; it marked only a growing
understanding of what Sibylla was, a growing doubt as to what she could
be persuaded or moulded into becoming. Mrs. Raymore had no prejudices in
her favour.

And at any rate he was still her lover, as fully, as ardently as ever.
Deep in those fastnesses of his nature were his love for her, and his
pride in her and in having her for his own. The two things grew side by
side, their roots intertangled. Every glance of admiration she won,
every murmur of approval she created, gave him joy and seemed to give
him tribute. He eagerly gathered in the envy of the world as food for
his own exultation; he laughed in pleasure when Christine Fanshaw told
him to look and see how Walter Blake adored Sibylla.

"Of course he does--he's a sensible young fellow," said Grantley gaily.
"So am I, Christine, and I adore her too."

"The captive of your bow and spear!" Christine sneered.

"Of my personal attractions, please! Don't say of my money-bags!"

"She's like a very laudatory testimonial?"

"I just wonder how John Fanshaw endures you."

He answered her with jests, never thinking to deny what she said. He did
delight in his wife's triumphs. Was there anything unamiable in that? If
close union were the thing, was not that close? Her triumphs made
his--what could be closer than that? At this time any criticism on him
was genuinely unintelligible; he could make nothing of it, and reckoned
it as of no account. And Sibylla herself, as he had said, he could
always soothe.

"And she's going on quite all right?" Christine continued.

"Splendidly! We've got her quietly fixed down at Milldean, with her
favourite old woman to look after her. There she'll stay. I run up to
town two or three times a week--do my business----"

"Call on me?"

"I ventured so far--and get back as soon as I can."

"You must be very pleased?"

"Of course I'm pleased," he laughed, "very pleased indeed, Christine."

He was very much pleased, and laughed at himself, as he had laughed at
others, for being a little proud too. He had wanted the dynasty carried
on. There was every prospect of a start being made in that direction
very prosperously. He would have hated to have it otherwise; there would
have been a sense of incompleteness then.

"I needn't tell a wise woman like you that there's some trouble about
such things," he went on.

"No doubt there is," smiled Christine. "But you can leave most of that
to Sibylla and the favourite old woman," she added a moment later, with
her eyes on Grantley's contented face, and that touch of acidity in her
clear-toned voice.

Between being pleased--even very much pleased indeed--and a little proud
over a thing (notwithstanding the trouble there is about it), and
looking on it as one of the greatest things that Heaven itself ever did,
there is a wide gulf, if not exactly of opinion, yet of feeling and
attitude. From the first moment Sibylla had known of it, the coming of
the child was the great thing, the overshadowing thing, in life. Nature
was in this, and nature at her highest power; more was not needed. Yet
there was more, to make the full cup brim over. Her great talent, her
strongest innate impulse, was to give--to give herself and all she had;
and this talent and impulse her husband had not satisfied. He was
immured in his fastness; he seemed to want only what she counted small
tributes and minor sacrifices--they had appeared large once, no doubt,
but now looked small because they fell short of the largest that were
possible. The great satisfaction, the great outlet, lay in the coming of
the child. In pouring out her love on the head of the child she would at
the same time pour it out at the feet of him whose the child was. Before
such splendid lavishness he must at last stand disarmed, he must throw
open all his secret treasure-house. His riches of love--of more than
lover's love--must come forth too, and mingle in the same golden stream
with hers, all separation being swept away. Here was the true
realisation, foreshadowed by the fairy ride in the early days of their
love; here was the true riding into the gold and letting the gold
swallow them up. In this all disappointments should vanish, all nipped
hopes come to bloom again. For it her heart cried impatiently, but chid
itself for its impatience. Had not Mrs. Mumple waited years in solitude
and silence outside the prison gates? Could not she wait a little too?

It need hardly be said that in such a position of affairs as had been
reached Mrs. Mumple was much to the fore. Her presence was
indispensable, and valued as such, but it had some disadvantages. She
shared Sibylla's views and Sibylla's temperament; but naturally she did
not possess the charm of youth, of beauty, and of circumstance which
served so well to soften or to recommend them. The sort of atmosphere
which Mrs. Mumple carried with her was one which should be diffused
sparingly and with great caution about a man at once so self-centred and
so fastidious as Grantley Imason. Mrs. Mumple was lavishly affectionate;
she was also pervasive, and, finally, a trifle inclined to be tearful on
entirely inadequate provocation--or, as it appeared to any masculine
mind, on none at all, since the tendency assailed her most when
everything seemed to be going on remarkably well. Her physical bulk too
was a matter which she should have considered; and yet perhaps she could
hardly be expected to think of that.

Of course Jeremy Chiddingfold, neither lover nor father, and with his
youthful anti-femininism still held and prized, put the case a thousand
times too high, exaggerating all one side, utterly ignoring all the
other, of what Grantley might be feeling. None the less, there was some
basis of truth in his exclamation:

"If they go on like this, Grantley'll be sick to death of the whole
thing before it's half over!"

And Jeremy had come to read his brother-in-law pretty well--to know his
self-centredness, to know his fastidiousness, to know how easily he
might be "put off" (as Jeremy phrased it) by an intrusion too frequent
and importunate, or a sentiment extravagant in any degree or the least
overstrained. Too high a pressure might well result in a reaction; it
would breed the thought that the matter in hand was, after all,
decidedly normal.

But altogether normal it was not destined to remain. Minded, as it might
seem, to point the situation and to force latent antagonisms of feeling
to an open conflict, Mistress Chance took a hand in the game. On
arriving at the Fairhaven station from one of his expeditions to town,
Grantley found Jeremy awaiting him. Jeremy was pale, but his manner kept
its incisiveness, his speech its lucidity. Sibylla had met with an
accident. She had still been taking quiet rides on a trusty old horse.
To-day, contrary to his advice and in face of Grantley's, she had
insisted on riding another--the young horse, as they called it.

"She was in one of her moods," Jeremy explained. "She said she wanted
more of a fight than the old horse gave her. She would go. Well, you
know that great beast of a dog of Jarman's? It was running loose--I saw
it myself; indeed I saw the whole thing. She was trotting along,
thinking of nothing at all, I suppose. The dog started a rabbit, and
came by her with a bound. The horse started, jumped half his own
height--or it looked like it--and she--came off, you know, pitched clean
out of her saddle."

"Clear of the----?"

"Yes, thank God--but she came down with an awful--an awful thud. I ran
up as quick as I could. She was unconscious. A couple of labourers
helped me to take her home, and I got Mumples; and on my way here I
stopped at Gardiner's and sent him there, and came on to tell you."

By now they were getting into the dog-cart.

"Do you know at all how bad it is?" asked Grantley.

"Not the least. How should I?"

"Well, we must get home as quick as we can."

Grantley did not speak again the whole way. His mind had been full of
plans that morning. His position as a man of land at Milldean was
opening new prospects to him. He had agreed to come forward for election
as a county alderman; he had been sounded as to contesting the seat for
the Division. He had been very full of these notions, and had meant to
spend two or three quiet days in reviewing and considering them. This
sudden shock was hard to face and realise. It was difficult, too, to
conceive of anything being wrong with Sibylla--always so fine an
embodiment of physical health and vigour. He felt very helpless and in
terrible distress; it turned him sick to think of the "awful thud" that
Jeremy described. What would that mean? What was the least it might, the
most it could, mean?

"You don't blame me?" Jeremy asked as they came near home.

"You advised her not to ride the beast: what more could you do? You
couldn't stop her by force."

He spoke rather bitterly, as though sorrow and fear had not banished
anger when he thought of his wife and her wilfulness.

Jeremy turned aside into the garden, begging to have news as soon as
there was any. Grantley went into his study, and Mrs. Mumple came to him
there. She was pitiably undone and dishevelled. It was impossible not to
respect her grief, but no less impossible to get any clear information
from her. Lamentations alternated with attempted excuses for Sibylla's
obstinacy; she tried to make out that she herself was in some way to
blame for having brought on the mood which had in its turn produced the
obstinacy. Grantley, striving after outward calm, raged in his heart
against the fond foolish old woman.

"I want to know what's happened, not whose fault it'll be held to be at
the Day of Judgment, Mrs. Mumple. Since you're incapable of telling me
anything, have the goodness to send Dr. Gardiner to me as soon as he can
leave Sibylla."

Very soon, yet only just in time to stop Grantley from going upstairs
himself, Gardiner came. He was an elderly quiet-going country
practitioner; he lived in one of the red villas at the junction with the
main road, and plied a not very lucrative practice among the farmhouses
and cottages. His knowledge was neither profound nor recent; he had not
kept up his reading, and his practical opportunities had been very few.
He seemed, when he came, a good deal upset and decidedly nervous, as
though he were faced with a sudden responsibility by no means to his
liking. He kept wiping his brow with a threadbare red silk handkerchief
and pulling his straggling grey whiskers while he talked. In a second
Grantley had decided that no confidence could be placed in him. Still he
must be able to tell what was the matter.

"Quickly and plainly, please, Dr. Gardiner," he requested, noting with
impatience that Mrs. Mumple had come back and stood there listening; but
she would cry and think him a monster if he sent her away.

"She's conscious now," the doctor reported, "but she's very
prostrate--suffering from severe shock. I think you shouldn't see her
for a little while."

"What's the injury, Dr. Gardiner?"

"The shock is severe."

"Will it kill her?"

"No, no! The shock kill her? Oh, no, no! She has a splendid
constitution. Kill her? Oh, no, no!"

"And is that all?"

"No, not quite all, Mr. Imason. There is--er--in fact, a lesion, a local
injury, a fracture, due to the force of the impact on the ground."

"Is that serious? Pray be quiet, Mrs. Mumple. You really must restrain
your feelings."

"Serious? Oh, undoubtedly, undoubtedly! I--I can't say it isn't serious.
I should be doing wrong----"

"In one word, is it fatal or likely to be fatal?"

Grantley was nearly at the end of his forced patience. He had looked for
a man--he had, it seemed, found another old woman; so he angrily thought
within himself as old Gardiner stumbled over his words and worried his

"If I were to explain the case in detail----"

"Presently, doctor, presently. Just now I want the result--the position
of affairs, you know."

"For the moment, Mr. Imason, there is no danger to Mrs. Imason--I think
I may say that. But the injury creates a condition of things which
might, and in my judgment would, prove dangerous to her as time went on.
I speak in view of her present condition."

"I see. Could that be obviated?"

Gardiner's nervousness increased.

"By an operation directed to remove the cause which would produce
danger. It would be a serious, perhaps a dangerous, operation----"

"Is that the only way?"

"In my judgment the only way consistent with----"

A loud sob from Mrs. Mumple interrupted him. Grantley swore under his

"Go on," he said harshly.

"Consistent with the birth of the child, Mr. Imason."

"Ah!" At last he had got to the light, and the nervous old man had
managed to deliver himself of his message. "I understand you now.
Setting the birth of the child on one side, the matter would be

"Oh, yes, much simpler--not, of course, without its----"

"And more free from danger?"

"Yes, though----"

"Practically free from danger to my wife?"

"Yes; I think I can say practically free in the case of so good a
subject as Mrs. Imason."

Grantley thought for a minute.

"You probably wouldn't object to my having another opinion?" he asked.

Relief was obvious on old Gardiner's face.

"I should welcome it," he said. "The responsibility in such a case is so
great that----"

"Tell me the best man, and I'll wire for him at once."

Even on this point Gardiner hesitated, till Grantley named a man known
to everybody; him Gardiner at once accepted.

"Very well; and I'll see my wife as soon as you think it desirable." He
paused a moment, and then went on: "If I understand the case right, I
haven't a moment's hesitation in my mind. But I should like to ask you
one question: am I right in supposing that your practice is to prefer
the mother's life to the child's?"

"That's the British medical practice, Mr. Imason, where the alternative
is as you put it. But there are, of course, degrees of danger, and these
would influence----"

"You've told me the danger might be serious. That's enough. Dr.
Gardiner, pending the arrival of your colleague, the only thing--the
only thing--you have to think of is my wife. Those are my definite
wishes, please. You'll remain here, of course? Thank you. We'll have
another talk later. I want to speak to Jeremy now."

He turned towards the window, meaning to join Jeremy in the garden and
report to him. Mrs. Mumple came forward, waving her hands helplessly and
weeping profusely.

"Oh, Mr. Imason, imagine the poor, poor little child!" she stammered. "I
can't bear to think of it."

Grantley's impatience broke out in savage bluntness.

"Against her I don't care that for the child!" he said, snapping his
fingers as he went out.



No doubt the bodily shock, the laceration of her nerves, and the
condition she was in had something to do with the way Sibylla looked at
the matter and with the attitude which she took up. These accidental
circumstances gave added force to what was the natural outcome of her
disposition. A further current of feeling, sweeping her in the same
direction, lay in the blame which she eagerly fastened on herself. Her
wilfulness and heedlessness cried out to her for an atonement; she was
eager to make an appeasing sacrifice and caught at the opportunity,
embracing readily the worst view of the case, drawing from that view an
unhesitating conclusion as to what her duty was. Thus deduced, the duty
became a feverish desire, and her only fear was that she might be
baulked of its realisation. She had risked her child's life; let her
risk her life for her child. That idea was by itself, and by its innate
propriety, enough to inspire her mind and to decide her will. It was but
to accumulate reasons beyond need when she reminded herself that even
before the accident all her weal had hung on the child, every chance
that remained of overcoming certain failure, of achieving still the
splendid success of which she had dreamed, in her life and marriage. The
specialist was to arrive the next morning; she was reluctant to wait
even for that. Old Gardiner was for her an all-wise all-sufficient
oracle of the facts, because he had declared them to be such as fitted
into the demands of her heart and of her mood. Left to herself, she
would have constrained his fears, overborne his doubts, and forced him
to her will; he would have stammered all in vain about what was the
British medical practice. As it was, open-eyed, refusing to seek sleep,
strung up by excitement, all through the evening she battled against her
husband for her way.

If she had no hesitation in one view, Grantley never wavered from the
other. The plain unreasonableness of not awaiting the specialist's
verdict was not hard to enforce. Sibylla, professing to yield, yet still
assumed what the verdict should be, and pressed for a promise. At first
he evaded her urgency by every device of soothing counsels, of
entreaties that she would rest, of affectionate reproofs. She would not
allow evasion. Then when his refusal came, it came tenderly, inspired by
his love for her, based on an appeal to that. It was on this that he had
relied. He was puzzled that it failed of the full effect he had looked
for; and, beyond the puzzle, gradually a sense of bitter hurt and
soreness grew up in his mind. He did not know of the secret connection
in her thoughts between the child and an ideal perfecting of the love
between her and him; she was at once too centred on her own desire to
make him see, and too persuaded that such hopes must be secret if they
were to remain hopes at all. He saw only that when he persuaded,
cajoled, flattered, and caressed as a lover he failed. His power seemed
gone. Her appeal was to him in another character, and that very fact
seemed to put him on a lower plane. He had not doubted, for a moment,
what came first to him--it was her life, her well-being, his love of
her. As she persisted in her battle, the feeling grew that she made an
inadequate return, and showed an appreciation short of what was his due.
Gradually his manner hardened, his decision was expressed more firmly;
he stiffened into a direct antagonism, and interposed his will and his
authority to effect what his love and his entreaties had failed to do.
He never lacked courtesy; he could not, under such circumstances as
these, desire to fail in gentleness. But it was his will against hers
now, and what his will was he conveyed clearly.

A trained nurse had arrived from Fairhaven; but Sibylla vehemently
preferred the presence of Mrs. Mumple, and it was Mrs. Mumple whom
Grantley left with her when he came down to his study about midnight. He
had not dined, and a cold supper was laid out on the table. Jeremy was
there, trying to read, eyeing the supper ravenously, yet ashamed of
being hungry. He fell on the beef with avidity when Grantley observed
that anyhow starving themselves could serve no useful purpose. Grantley
was worried, but not anxious; he had confidence in the specialist, and
even in Gardiner's view there was no danger if the right course were
followed. To the disappointment which that course involved he had
schooled himself, accepting it almost gladly as by so far the lesser

"If you were to talk to Sibylla now," he said, "I think you'd be
reminded of those old days you once told me about. Fate has thumped her
pretty severely for anything she did, but she's mortally anxious to be
thumped more, and very angry with me because I won't allow it. Upon my
word, I believe she'd be disappointed if Tarlton told us that the thing
wasn't so bad after all, and that everything would go right without
anything being done."

"I daresay she would; but there's no chance of that?"

"Well, I'm afraid not. One must believe one's medical man, I suppose,
even if he's old Gardiner--and he seems quite sure of it." Grantley
drank and sighed. "It's uncommonly perverse, when everything was so
prosperous before."

The day had left its traces on Jeremy. Though he had not told Grantley
so, yet when he saw Sibylla thrown he had made no doubt she was
killed--and she was the one person in the world whom he deeply loved.
That fear was off him now, but the memory of it softened him towards
her--even towards her foolishness, which he had been wont to divide very
distinctly from her, and to consider himself free to deal with

"At best it'll be a most awful disappointment to her."

"Yes, it must be that--and to me too," said Grantley.

"She was just living in and for the thing, you know."

Grantley made no answer this time; a shade of annoyance passed over his

"She never could give herself to more than one thing at a time--with her
that one thing was always the whole hog, and there was nothing else.
That's just how it's been now."

Jeremy's words showed true sympathy, and, moreover, a new absence of
shame in expressing it; but Grantley did not accord them much apparent
welcome. They came too near to confirming his suspicions; they
harmonised too well with the soreness which remained from his impotent
entreaties and unpersuasive caresses. Again without answering, he got up
and lit his cigar.

"Oh, by the way," Jeremy went on, "while you were with Sibylla that girl
from the rectory came up--you know, Dora Hutting--to ask after Sibylla
and say they were all awfully sorry and anxious, and all that, you

"Very kind of them. I hope you told her so, and said what you could?"

"Yes, that's all right. The girl seems awfully fond of Sibylla,
Grantley. By Jove, when we got talking about her, she--she began to

Grantley turned round, smiling at the unaccustomed note of pathos struck
by Jeremy's tone.

"Rather decent of her, wasn't it?" asked Jeremy.

"Very nice. Did you console her?"

"Oh, I didn't see what the devil I could say! Besides I didn't feel very
comfortable--it was rather awkward."

"I believe the girl's afraid of me--she always seems to come here when
I'm away. Is she a pleasant girl, Jeremy?"

"Oh, she--she seemed all right; and I--I liked the way she felt about

"So do I, and I'll thank her for it. Is she getting at all prettier?"

"Well, I shouldn't call her bad-looking, don't you know!"

"She used to be a bit spotty," yawned Grantley.

"I don't think she's spotty now."

"Well, thank heaven for that anyhow!" said Grantley piously. "I hate
spots above anything, Jeremy."

"She hasn't got any, I tell you," said Jeremy, distinctly annoyed.

Grantley smiled sleepily, threw himself on to his favourite couch, laid
down his cigar, and closed his eyes. After the strain he was weary, and
soon his regular breathing showed that he slept. Jeremy had got his pipe
alight and sat smoking, from time to time regarding his brother-in-law's
handsome features with an inquiring gaze. There was a new stir of
feeling in Jeremy. A boy of strong intellectual bent, he had ripened
slowly on the emotional side, and there had been nothing in the
circumstances or chances of his life to quicken the process thus
naturally very gradual. To-day something had come. He had been violently
snatched from his quiet and his isolation, confronted with a crisis that
commanded feeling, probed to the heart of his being by love and fear.
Under this call from life nascent feelings grew to birth and suppressed
impulses struggled for liberty and for power. He was not now resisting
them nor turning from them. He was watching, waiting, puzzling about
them, hiding them still from others, but no longer denying them to
himself. He was wondering and astir. The manhood which had come upon him
was a strange thing; the life that called him seemed now full of new and
strange things. Through his fear and love for Sibylla he was entering on
new realms of experience and of feeling. He sat smoking hard and
marvelling that Grantley slept.

Connected with this upheaval of mental conceptions which had hitherto
maintained an aspect so boldly fundamental, and claimed to be the
veritable rock of thought whereon Jeremy built his church, was the
curious circumstance that he suddenly found himself rather sensitive
about Grantley's careless criticism of Miss Dora Hutting's appearance.
He had not denied the fact alleged about it, though he had the
continuance of it. But he resented its mention even as he questioned the
propriety of Grantley's sleeping. The reference assorted ill with his
appreciation of Dora's brimming eyes and over-brimming sympathies. That
he could not truthfully have denied the fact increased his annoyance. It
seemed mean to remember the spots that had been on the face to which
those brimming eyes belonged--as mean as it would have been in himself
to recall the bygone grievances and the old--the suddenly
old-grown--squabbles which he had had with the long-legged rectory girl.
That old epithet too! A sudden sense of profanity shot across him as it
came into his mind; he stood incomprehensively accused of irreverence in
his own eyes.

Yet the spots had existed; and Sibylla had been wrong--had been wrong,
and was now, it appeared, unreasonable. Moreover, beyond question,
Mumples was idiotic. Reason was alarmed in him, since it was threatened.
He told himself that Grantley was very sensible to sleep. But himself he
could not think of sleep, and his ears were hungry for every sound from
the floor above.

The stairs creaked--there was a sniff. Mrs. Mumple was at the door.
Jeremy made an instinctive gesture for silence because Grantley slept.
He watched Mrs. Mumple as she turned her eyes on the peacefully reposing
form. The eyes turned sharp to him, and Mrs. Mumple raised her fat hands
just a little and let them fall softly.

"He's asleep?" she whispered.

"You see he is. Best thing for him to do, too." His answering whisper
was gruff.

"She's not sleeping," said Mrs. Mumple; "and she's asking for him

"Then we'd better wake him up." He spoke irritably as he rose and
touched Grantley's shoulder. "He must be tired out, don't you see?"

Mrs. Mumple made no answer. She raised and dropped her hands again.

Grantley awoke lightly and easily, almost unconscious that he had slept.

"What were we talking about? Oh, yes, Dora Hutting! Why, I believe I've
been asleep!"

"You've slept nearly an hour," said Jeremy, going back to his chair.

Grantley's eyes fell on Mrs. Mumple; a slight air of impatience marked
his manner as he asked:

"Is anything wrong, Mrs. Mumple?"

"She's asking for you again, Mr. Imason."

"Dear me, Gardiner said she should be kept quiet!"

"The doctor's lying down. But she'll not rest without seeing you; she's
fretting so."

"Have you been letting her talk about it and excite herself? Have you
been talking to her yourself?"

"How can we help talking about it?" Mrs. Mumple moaned.

"It's infernally silly--infernally!" he exclaimed in exasperation.
"Well, I must go to her, I suppose." He turned to Jeremy. "It'll be
better if you'll keep Mrs. Mumple with you. We'll get the nurse to go to

"I can't leave her as she is," said Mrs. Mumple, threatening a fresh
outburst of tears.

Grantley walked out of the room, muttering savagely.

The strain of irritation, largely induced by Mrs. Mumple's lachrymosely
reproachful glances and faithful doglike persistency, robbed him of the
tenderness by which alone he might possibly have won his wife's willing
obedience and perhaps convinced her reason through her love. He used his
affection now, not in appeal, but as an argumentative point. He found in
her a hard opposition; she seemed to look at him with a sort of dislike,
a mingling of fear and wonder. Thus she listened in silence to his cold
marshalling of the evidences of his love and his deliberate enforcing of
the claims it gave him. Seeing that he made no impression, he grew more
impatient and more imperious, ending with a plain intimation that he
would discuss the question no further.

"You'll make me the murderess of my child," she said.

The gross irrational exaggeration drove him to worse bitterness.

"I've no intention of running even the smallest risk of being party to
the murder of my wife," he retorted.

Lying among her pillows, very pale and weary, she pronounced the
accusation which had so long brooded in her mind.

"It's not because you love me so much; you do love me in a way: I please
you, you're proud of me, you like me to be there, you like to make love
to me, you like taking all I have to give you, and God knows I liked to
give it--but you haven't given the same thing back to me, Grantley. I
don't know whether you've got it to give to anybody, but at any rate you
haven't given it to me. I haven't become part of you, as I was ready to
become--as I've already become of my little unborn child. Your life
wouldn't be made really different if I went away. In the end you've been
apart from me. I thought the coming of the child must make all that
different; but it hasn't: you've been about the child just as you've
been about me."

"Oh, where on earth do you get such notions?" he exclaimed.

"Just the same as about me. You wanted me and you wanted a child too.
But you wanted both with--well, with the least disturbance of your old
self and your old thoughts: with the least trouble--it almost comes to
that really. I don't know how to put it, except like that. You enjoyed
the pleasant parts very much, but you take as little as you can of the
troublesome ones. I suppose a lot of people are--are like that. Only
it's a--a little unfortunate that you should have happened on me,
because I--I can't understand being like that. To me it seems somehow
rather cruel. So, knowing you're like that, I can't believe you when you
tell me that you think of nothing but your love for me. I daresay you
think it's true--I know you wouldn't say it if you didn't think it true;
and in a way it's true. But the real, real truth is----" She paused, and
for the first time turned her eyes on him. "The real truth is not that
you love me too much to do what I ask."

"What else can it be?" he cried desperately, utterly puzzled and upset
by her accusation.

"What else can it be? Ah, yes, what else?" Her voice grew rather more
vehement. "I can answer that. What have I been doing these five months
but learning the answer to that? I'll tell you. It's not that you love
me so much, it's that you don't care about the child."

The words brought a suspicion into his mind.

"That old fool Mrs. Mumple has been talking to you? She's been repeating
something I said? Well, I expressed it carelessly, awkwardly, but----"

"What does it matter what Mumples has repeated? I knew it all before."

"Meddlesome old idiot!" he grumbled fiercely.

To him there was no reason in it all. The accusation angered him
fiercely and amazed him even more; he saw no shadow of justice in it. He
put it all down to Sibylla's exaggerated way of talking and thinking. He
was conscious of no shortcomings; the accusation infuriated the more for
its entire failure to convince. "When two women put their heads together
and begin to talk nonsense, there's no end to it; bring a baby, born or
unborn, into the case, and the last chance of any limit to the nonsense
is gone." He did not tell her that (though it expressed what he felt) in
a general form; he fell back on the circumstances of the minute.

"My dear Sibylla, you're not fit to discuss things rationally at
present. We'll say no more now; we shall only be still more unjust to
one another if we do. Only I must be obeyed."

"Yes, you shall be obeyed," she said. "But since it's like that, I think
that, whatever happens now, I--I won't have any more children,


He was startled out of the cold composure which he had achieved in his
previous speech.

She repeated her words in a low tired voice, but firmly and coolly.

"I think I won't have any more children, you know."

"Do you know what you're saying?"

"Oh, surely, yes!" she answered, with a faint smile.

Grantley walked up and down the room twice, and then came and stood by
her bed, fixing his eyes on her face in a long sombre contemplation. The
faint smile persisted on her lips as she looked up at him. But he turned
away without speaking, with a weary shrug of his shoulders.

"I'll send the nurse to you," he said as he went towards the door.

"Send Mumples, please, Grantley."

Mrs. Mumple had done all the harm she could. "All right," he replied.
"Try to sleep. Good-night."

He shut the door behind him before her answer came.

On the stairs he met Mrs. Mumple. The fat woman shrank out of his path,
but he bade her good-night not unkindly, although absently; she needed
no bidding to send her to Sibylla's room. He found Jeremy still in the
study, still wide awake.

"Oh, go home to bed, old fellow!" he exclaimed irritably, but
affectionately too. "What good can you do sitting up here all night?"

"Yes, I suppose I may as well go--it's half-past two. I'll go out by the
garden." He opened the window which led on to the lawn. The fresh night
air came in. "That's good!" sniffed Jeremy.

Grantley stepped into the garden with him, and lit a cigarette.

"But is it all right, Grantley? Is Sibylla reasonable now?"

"All right? Reasonable?" Grantley's innermost thoughts had been far

"I mean, will she agree to what you wish--what we wish?"

"Yes, it's all right. She's reasonable now."

His face was still just in the light of the lamp which stood on a table
in the window. Jeremy saw the paleness of his cheeks and the hard set of
his eyes. There was no sign of relief in him or of anxiety assuaged.

"Well, thank heaven for that much, anyhow!" Jeremy sighed.

"Yes, for that much anyhow," Grantley agreed, pressing his arm in a
friendly way. "And now, old boy, good-night."

Jeremy left him there in the garden smoking his cigarette, standing
motionless. His face was in the dark now, but Jeremy knew the same look
was in the eyes still. It was hard for the young man, even with the new
impulses and the new sympathies that were alive and astir within him, to
follow, or even to conjecture, what had been happening that night. Yet
as he went down the hill it was plain even to him, plain enough to raise
a sharp pang in him, that somehow the little child, unborn or whether it
should yet be born, had brought not union, but estrangement to the
house; not peace but a sword.



It was a dull chilly afternoon in March. Christine Fanshaw huddled her
slight little figure--she looked as if the cold would cut right through
her--over a blazing fire in her boudoir. She held a screen between the
flames and her face, and turned her eyes on Anna Selford, who was paying
her a call. Anna was a plump dark girl, by no means pretty, but with a
shrewd look about her and an air of self-confidence rather too assured
for her years; she was dressed in a would-be artistic fashion, not well
suited to her natural style.

"Awfully sad, isn't it?" she was saying. "But mamma says Mrs. Raymore is
splendid about it. Mr. Raymore was quite upset, and was no good at all
at first. It was Mrs. Raymore who went and got Charley away from the
woman, and hushed up all the row about the money--oh, he had taken some
from the office: he was in a solicitor's office, you know--and arranged
for him to be sent out to Buenos Ayres--did the whole thing in fact.
She's quite heart-broken about it, mamma says, but quite firm and brave
too. How awful to have your son turn out like that! He was only
nineteen, and Mrs. Raymore simply worshipped him."

"He used to be a very pretty little boy. A little boy! And now!"
Christine plucked idly at the fringes of her hand-screen.

"And mamma says the woman was thirty, and not very good-looking either!"

"What a lot you know, Anna! You're hardly seventeen, are you? And
Suzette Bligh's twenty-seven! But she's a baby compared to you."

"Oh, mamma always tells me things--or else I hear her and papa talking
about them. When I'm washing the dogs, they forget I'm there, especially
if they're squabbling at all. And I keep my ears open."

"Yes, I think you do."

"But generally mamma tells me. She always must talk to somebody, you
see. When I was little she used to tell me things, and then forget it
and box my ears for knowing them!"

Anna spoke without rancour; rather with a sort of quiet amusement, as
though she had given much study to her mother's peculiarities and found
permanent diversion in them.

"Poor Kate Raymore! So they're in trouble too!"

"Charley was awfully sorry; and they hope he'll come back some day, if
he behaves well out there."

"Poor Kate Raymore! Well, there's trouble everywhere, isn't there,
Anna?" She shivered and drew yet a little nearer the fire. "How are
things at home with you?"

"Just as usual; nothing ever happens with us."

"It might be much worse than that."

"I suppose it might. It's only just rather dull; and I suppose I shall
have to endure it for a long while. You see, I'm not very likely to get
married, Mrs. Fanshaw. No men ever come to our house--they can't stand
it. Besides I'm not pretty."

"Oh, come and meet men here; and never mind not being pretty; I could
dress you to look quite smart. That's it! You should go in for
smartness, not prettiness. I really believe it pays better nowadays. Get
Janet--get your mother to give you an allowance, and we'll put our heads
together over it."

"That's awfully kind of you, Mrs. Fanshaw."

"Oh, I like dressing people; and I do think girls ought to have their
chances. But in those things she makes you wear--oh, my dear Anna!"

"Yes, I know. I'll ask her. And----"

Anna hesitated, then rose, and came over to Christine. Suddenly she
kissed her.

"It's nothing, my dear," said Christine, amused but annoyed; she was
very ready to help Anna, but did not care in the least for being kissed
by her.

Anna sat down again, and there ensued a long pause.

"And as for not marrying," Christine resumed, "it's six of one and half
a dozen of the other, I think. Oh, I should have hated to be an old
maid; but still one would have avoided so much worry. Look at these poor
Raymores! They've always got on so well too, up to now!"

She laid down her screen and pulled up her dress, to let the warmth get
to her ankles. Anna looked at her dainty face lit up by the glow.

"I wish I was like you, Mrs. Fanshaw!"

Christine did not refuse the compliment; she only denied the value of
the possession which won it for her.

"Much good it's done me, my dear!" she sighed. "But people who've not
got looks never will believe how little good they are. Oh, I didn't mean
to be rude, Anna! I believe in you, you know. I can do something with
you. Only----" She stopped, frowning a little and looking vaguely
unhappy. "Well," she resumed, "if it turns out that I can't take you
under my wing, we must get hold of Sibylla. She's always ready to do
things for people--and they've got lots of money, anyhow."

Anna's curiosity was turned in the direction of Sibylla.

"What was the truth about Mrs. Imason, Mrs. Fanshaw?"

"I made sure you'd know that too!" smiled Christine. "And if you don't,
I suppose I oughtn't to tell you."

"I know she--she had an accident."

"Oh, well, everybody knows. Yes, she had, and they thought it was worse
than it was. The country doctor down at Milldean made a mistake--took
too serious a view, you know. And--and there was a lot of bother. But
the London man said it would be all right, and so it turned out. The
baby came all right, and it's a splendid boy."

"It all ended all right, then?"

Christine looked a little doubtful.

"The boy's all right, and Sibylla's quite well," she answered.

"But mamma said Mrs. Raymore hinted----"

"Well, Sibylla wouldn't believe the London man, you see. She thought
that he--that he'd been persuaded to say she needn't have the operation
she wanted to have, and that they meant to---- Well, really, Anna, I
can't go into details. It's quite medical, my dear, and I can't express
myself discreetly. Anyhow Sibylla made a grievance of it, you know, and
relations were a little strained, I think."

"Oh, well, I suppose that's over now, since everything's gone right,
Mrs. Fanshaw?"

"It ought to be," said Christine, shy of asserting the positive fact.
"But very often fusses about nothing do just as much harm as fusses
about something big. It's the way one looks at them."

"Yes, I ought to know that, living in our house," remarked Anna Selford.

"You do give your parents away so!" Christine complained, with a smile
in which pity was mingled.

The pity, however, was not for the betrayed, but for the traitor. Anna's
premature knowingness and the suggestion of hardness it carried with it
were the result of a reaction against the atmosphere of her home,
against the half-real gush and the spasmodic emotionality of the family
circle. In this revolt truth asserted itself, but sweetness suffered,
and freshness lost its bloom. Christine was sorry when that sort of
thing happened to young girls. But there it was. Anna was not the
_ingénue_, and it was no good treating her as if she were.

"I'm really half glad you don't live in this house. I'm sure John and I
couldn't bear the scrutiny--not just now, anyhow." She answered Anna's
questioning eyes by going on: "Oh, it's terrible, my dear. We've no
money--now, really, don't repeat that! And John's full of business
worries. It's positively so bad that I have to try to be amiable about

"I'm so sorry, and I really won't talk about it, Mrs. Fanshaw."

"No, don't, my dear--not till we're in the bankruptcy court. Then
everybody'll know. And I daresay we shall have some money again; at
least bankrupts seem to have plenty generally."

"Then why don't you?"

"Anna! John would cut his throat first. Oh, I really believe he would!
You've no idea what a man like him thinks of his business and of his
firm's credit. It's like--well, it's like what we women ought to think
(again Christine avoided asserting the actual fact) about our
reputations, you know. So you may imagine the state of things. The best
pair is being sold at Tattersall's this very day. That's why I'm
indoors--cabs are so cold and the other pair will have to go out at

Shiveringly she nestled to the fire again.

"I'm so awfully sorry, Mrs. Fanshaw! It'll all come right, won't it?"

"It generally does; but I don't know. And John says I've always been so
extravagant--and I suppose I have. Well, I thought it was just that John
was stingy. He had a splendid business, you know." She paused and smiled
at Anna. "So now you know all of everybody's troubles," she ended.

Christine was not in the habit of giving praise beyond measure or
without reservation either to herself or to other people, and she had
done no more than justice to her present effort to be amiable. Money was
the old cause of quarrel between her husband and herself; the
alternation of fat and lean years had kept it always alive and
intermittently active. But hitherto, while the fat seasons had meant
affluence, the lean had never fallen short of plenty or of solvency. It
had been a question of more or less lavish expenditure; that was all.
Christine was afraid there was more now. Her husband was worried as he
had never been before; he had dropped hints of speculations gone wrong
and of heavy commitments; and Christine, a constant glancer at City
articles and an occasional dabbler in stocks, had read that there was a
crisis in the market in which he mainly dealt. Things were black; she
knew it almost as well as he. Both showed courage, and the seriousness
of the matter forbade mere bickering. Nor was either invulnerable enough
to open the battle. Her extravagance exposed her to attack; he was
conscious of hazardous speculations which had wantonly undermined the
standing, and now threatened the credit, of a firm once strong and of
excellent repute. Each needed at once to give and to receive charity.
Thus from the impending trouble they had become better friends, and
their underlying comradeship had more openly asserted itself. This
amount of good there was in it, Christine thought to herself; and John,
in his blunt fashion, had actually said as much to her.

"We're in the same boat, and we must both pull at our oars, old girl,"
he said, and Christine was glad he should say it, although she hated
being called "old girl." John had a tendency towards plebeian
endearments, she thought.

So the best pair went to Tattersall's, and some of the diamonds to a
corresponding establishment in the jewellery line; and various other
things were done or attempted with the view of letting free a few
thousand pounds and of diminishing expenditure in the future. But John
Fanshaw's brow grew no clearer. About these sacrifices there hung the
air of doing what was right and proper--what, given the worst happening,
would commend itself to the feelings of the creditors and the Official
Receiver--rather than of achieving anything of real service. Christine
guessed that the speculations must have been on a very large scale and
the commitments very heavy. Could it be that ruin--real ruin--was in
front of them? She could hardly realise that--either its coming or what
life would be after it had come. And in her heart--here too she had said
no more than truth--she did doubt whether John would stay in the world
to see. Well, what could she do? She had three hundred a year of her own
tied up, and (since they had no children) to go back to her people on
her death. If the ruin came, she could find crusts for herself and
John--if John were there. These were the thoughts which had kept
intruding into her mind as she talked to Anna Selford and shivered now
and then over the blazing fire. Yet she could face them better than
John, thanks to a touch of fatalism in her nature. She would think of no
violent step to avoid what she feared. Hating it, she would sit
shivering by the fire, and wait for it all the same. She knew this of
herself, and therefore was even more sorry for John than on her own
account. This state of mind made the amiability easier. It also awoke
her conscience from a long sleep with regard to the way in which she had
treated John in the past. Against this, however, she struggled not only
fiercely, but with a conviction of justice. Here conscience was
overdoing its part, and passing from scrupulousness to morbidity. The
thing in question, the thing conscience had awoken about, belonged to
the far past; it had been finished off and written off, enjoyed and
deplored, brooded over and violently banished from thought, ever so long
ago. Hardly anybody knew about it; it was utterly over. None the less,
the obstinate irrational digs which conscience--awake again--gave her
about it increased as John's face grew gloomier.

Late in the afternoon John Fanshaw came to his wife's room for a cup of

"The pair went for only two hundred and forty-five," he said; "I gave
four hundred for them six months ago. Ah, well, a forced sale, you

"It doesn't make much difference, does it?" she asked.

"No," he said, absently stirring his tea. "Not much, Christine."

She sat very quiet by the fire watching him; her screen was in her hand

"It's no use, we must face it," he broke out suddenly. "Everything's
gone against me again this week. I had a moral certainty; but--well,
that isn't a certainty. And----"

He took a great gulp of tea.

A faint spot of colour came on Christine's cheek.

"What does it mean?" she asked.

"I've been to see Grantley Imason to-day. He behaved uncommonly well.
The bank can't do anything more for me, but as a private friend----"

"Had you to ask him for money, John?"

"Well, friends often lend one another money, don't they? I don't see
anything awful in that. I daren't go to the money-lenders--I'm afraid
they'll sell the secret."

"I daresay there's nothing wrong in it. I don't know about such things.
Go on."

"He met me very straight; and I met him straight too. I told him the
whole position. I said, 'The business is a good one, but I've got into a
hole. Once I get out of that, the business is there. On steady lines (I
wish to God I'd kept on them!) it's worth from eight to ten thousand a
year. I'll pay you back three thousand a year, and five per cent. on all
capital still owing.' I think he liked the way I put it, Christine. He
asked if he could take my word for it, and I said he could; and he said
that on the faith of that he'd let me have fifteen thousand. I call that

"Grantley always likes to do the handsome thing." She looked at him
before she put her question. "And--and is that enough?"

He was ashamed, it was easy to see that--ashamed to show her how deep he
was in the bog, how reckless he had been. He finished his tea, and
pottered about, cutting and lighting a cigar, before he answered.

"I suppose it's not enough?" said Christine.

"It's no use unless I get some more. I don't know where else to turn,
and I must raise thirty thousand in a fortnight--by next settling
day--or it's all up. I shall be hammered, Christine."

"If we sold up absolutely everything----?"

"For God's sake no! That would ruin our credit; and then it wouldn't be
thirty thousand we should want, but--oh, I don't know! Perhaps a
hundred! We've sold enough already; there's nothing more we can do on
the quiet."

He sat down opposite to her, and stared gloomily at the fire. Christine
rather wondered that he did not turn to abuse of himself for having got
into the bog, but she supposed that the speculative temper, which
acknowledges only bad luck and never bad judgment, saved him from that.
He looked at her covertly once or twice; she saw, but pretended not to,
and waited to hear what was in his mind: something, clearly, was there.

"No, I don't know where to turn--and I shall be hammered. After thirty
years! and my father forty years before me! I never though of its coming
to this." After a long pause he added: "I want another fifteen thousand,
and I don't know where to turn." He smoked hard for a minute, then flung
his cigar peevishly into the fire.

"I do wish I could help you, John!" she sighed.

"I'm afraid you can't, old lady." Again he hesitated. "Unless----" He
broke off again.

Christine had some difficulty in keeping her nerves under control. When
he spoke again it was abruptly, as though with a wrench.

"I say, do you ever see Caylesham now?"

A very slight, almost imperceptible, start ran over her.

"Lord Caylesham! Oh, I meet him about sometimes. He's at the Raymores'
now and then--and at other places of course."

"He never comes here now, does he?"

"Very seldom: to a party now and then." She answered without apparent
embarrassment, but her eyes were very sharply on the watch; she was on
guard against the next blow.

"He was a good chap, and very fond of us. Lord, we had some fine old
times with Caylesham!" He rose now and stood with his back to the fire.
"He must be devilish rich since he came into the property."

He looked at her inquiringly. She said nothing.

"He's a good chap too. I don't think he'd let a friend go to the wall.
What do you think? He was as much your friend as mine, you know."

"You'd ask him, John? Oh, I shouldn't do that!"

"Why not? He's got plenty."

"We see so little of him now; and it's such a lot to ask."

"It's not such a lot to him; and it's only accidental that we haven't
met lately." He looked at her angrily. "You don't realise what the devil
of a mess we're in. We've no choice, I tell you, but to get it from
somewhere; and there's nobody else I know to ask. Why, he'll get his
money back again, Christine."

Her screen was before her face now, so that he saw no more than her

"I want you to go and ask him, Christine. That's what you can do for me.
You said you wanted to help. Well, go and ask Caylesham to lend me the

"I can't do that, John."

"Why not? Why can't you?"

"I should hate your asking him, and I simply couldn't ask him myself."

"Why do you hate my asking him? You said nothing against my asking
Grantley, and we haven't known him any better."

She had no answer to that ready. The thrust was awkward.

"Anyhow I couldn't ask him--I really couldn't. Don't press me to do
that. If you must ask him, do it yourself. Why should I do it?"

"Why, because he's more likely to give it to you."

"But that's--that's so unfair. To send a woman because it's harder to
refuse her! Oh, that isn't fair, John!"

"Fair! Good heavens, can't you understand how we're situated? It's ruin
if we don't get it--and I'm damned if I'll live to see it! There!"

She saw his passion; his words confirmed her secret fear. She saw, too,
how in the stress of danger he would not stand on scruples or be baulked
by questions of taste or of social propriety. He saw possible salvation,
and jumped at any path to it; and the responsibility of refusing to
tread the path he put on her, with all it might mean.

"If I went and he said 'No,' you couldn't go afterwards. But you can go
first, and you must go."

Christine raised her head and shook it.

"I can't go," she said.

"Why not? You're infernally odd about it! Why can't you go? Is it
anything about Caylesham in particular?"

"No, no, nothing--nothing like that; but I--I hate to go."

"You must do it for me. I don't understand why you hate it so much as
all that."

He was regarding her with an air at once angry and inquisitive. She
dared hide her face no longer. She had to look at him calmly and
steadily--with distress perhaps, but at all costs without fear or

"My good name depends on it, and all we have in the world; and--by God,
yes!--my life too, if you like!" he exclaimed in rising passion. "You
shall go! No, no! I don't mean that--I don't want to be rough! But, for
heaven's sake--if you've ever cared about me, old woman--for heaven's
sake, go!"

She hesitated still, and at this his passing touch of tenderness
vanished; but it had moved her, and it worked with the fear that was on

"If you've a special reason, tell it me," he urged impatiently: "a
special reason against asking Caylesham; somebody we must ask."

"I have no special reason against asking Lord Caylesham," she answered

"Then you'll go?"

A last struggle kept her silent a moment. Then she answered in a low

"Yes, I'll go."

"There's a brave little woman!" he cried delightedly, and bent down as
if he would kiss her; but she had slipped her screen up nearly to her
eyes again, and seemed so unconscious of his purpose that he abandoned
it. His spirits rose in a moment, as his sanguine mind, catching hold of
the bare chance, twisted it into a good chance--almost into a certainty.

"Gad, I believe he'll give it you! You'll put it in such a fetching way.
Oh, his money's safe enough, of course! But--well, you'll make him see
that better than I could. He liked you so much, you know. By Jove, I'm
sure he'll do it for you, you know!"

Christine's pain-stricken eyes alone were visible above the screen.
Underneath it her lips were bent in an involuntary smile of most mocking
bitterness. Conscience had not been at her without a purpose. At her
husband's bidding she must go and ask Caylesham for money. She bowed to
conscience now.



A sudden rigidity seemed to affect Mrs. Raymore from the waist upwards.
Her back grew stiff, her head rose very straight from the neck, her eyes
looked fixedly in front of her, her lips were tight shut. These symptoms
were due to the fact that she saw Tom Courtland approaching, in company
with a woman who was certainly not Lady Harriet. Thanks to the gossip
about among Tom's friends, Kate Raymore guessed who she was; the woman's
gorgeous attire, her flamboyant manner, the air of good-natured rowdyism
which she carried with her, all confirmed the guess. Yet Tom was walking
with her in the broad light of day--not in the street, it is true; it
was in a rather retired part of the Park. Still, people came there and
drove by there, and to many his companion was known by sight and by
repute. His conduct betrayed increasing recklessness. There was nothing
to do but to pass him by without notice; he himself would wish nothing
else and would expect nothing else. Still Mrs. Raymore was sorry to have
to do it; for Tom had been kind and helpful in obtaining that position
in a railway company's office in Buenos Ayres which had covered the
disastrous retreat of her well-beloved son.

This lamentable affair had been hushed up so far as the outer world was
concerned; but their friends knew the truth. In the first terrible days,
when there had been imminent risk of a criminal prosecution, Raymore had
rather lost his head and had gone round to Grantley Imason, to Tom
Courtland, to John Fanshaw, making lament and imploring advice. So they
all knew--they and their wives; and the poor boy's sister Eva had been
told, perforce. There the public shame stopped, but the private shame
was very bitter to the Raymores. Raymore was driven to accuse himself of
all kinds of faults in his bringing-up of the boy--of having been too
indulgent here or too strict there--most of all, of having been so
engrossed in business as not to see enough of the boy or to keep proper
watch on his disposition and companions, and the way he spent his time.
Kate Raymore, who even now could not get it out of her head that her boy
was a paragon, was possessed by a more primitive feeling. To her the
thing was a nemesis. She had been too content, too sure all was well
with their household, too uplifted in her kindly but rather scornful
judgment of the difficulties and follies which the Courtland family, and
the Fanshaw family, and other families of her acquaintance had brought
before her eyes. She had fallen too much into the pose of the judge, the
critic, and the censor. Well, she had trouble enough of her own now; and
that, to say nothing of Tom's kindness about Buenos Ayres, made her
sorrier to have to cut him in the Park.

She was a religious woman, of a type now often considered old-fashioned.
The nemesis which she instinctively acknowledged she accepted as a just
and direct chastisement of Heaven. Her husband was impatient with this
view, but he had more sympathy with the merciful alleviation of her
sorrow which Heaven had sent. In the hour of affliction her son's heart,
which had wandered from her in the waywardness of his heady youth, had
come back to her. They could share holy memories of hours spent before
Charley went, after forgiveness had been offered and received, and they
were all drawn very close together. With these memories in their hearts
they could endure, and with a confident hope look forward to, their
son's future. Meanwhile they who remained were nearer in heart too. Eva,
who had been inclined to flightiness, was frightened and sobered into a
greater tenderness and a more willing obedience; and Edgar Raymore
himself, when once he had pulled himself together, had behaved so well
and been such a help to his wife in the trial that their old relations
of mellow friendship took on a more intimate and affectionate character.

It was Sibylla Imason whom Mrs. Raymore chose to pour out these feelings
to. Who could better share them than the young wife still in the first
pride and glory of her motherhood?

"Children bring you together and keep you together, whether in trouble
or in joy. That's one reason why everybody ought to have children," Kate
Raymore said with a rather tremulous smile. "If there are none, there's
such a danger of the whole thing getting old and cold, and--and
worn-out, you know."

Sibylla was in wonderful health now, and at the best of her looks. Her
manner too had grown more composed and less impulsive, although she kept
her old graciousness. To Kate Raymore she seemed very fair and good to
gaze on. She listened with a thoughtful gravity and the wonted hint of
questioning or seeking in her eyes. There was a hint of pain in them
also, and of this Mrs. Raymore presently became aware.

"That's how it ought to be," said Sibylla. "But--well, the Courtlands
have children too."

The remark struck Kate Raymore as rather odd, coming from Sibylla, and
associated with the hint of pain in Sibylla's eyes; but she was just now
engrossed in her own feelings. She went on describing family life on the
true lines--she wouldn't have it that they were unreal or merely
ideal--and was quite content that Sibylla should listen.

Sibylla did listen; it was easier to do that than to talk on the subject
herself. But she listened without much interest. It was old ground to
her, broken by imagination, if not by experience--very familiar to her
thoughts some months before. She had lived with--nay, seemed to live
on--such ideas in the early days of her marriage, before the accident
and all that had come from it. The things Kate Raymore said were no
doubt true sometimes; but they were not true for her. That was the
upshot of the matter. They were not true for Grantley Imason's wife, nor
for the mother of his child. Her reason, dominated by emotion and almost
as impulsive as its ruler, had brought her to that conclusion before
ever her child was born. It dated from the night when she battled with
Grantley, and she had never wavered in it since. She had abandoned hope
of the ideal.

What of that? Do not most people have to abandon the ideal? Many of them
do it readily enough, even with a secret sense of relief, since there is
always something of a strain about an ideal: it is, in famous phrase, so
categorically imperative. But Sibylla was a stickler for ideals; they
were what she dealt in, what she proposed to barter and to bargain with;
she had no place in her stock for humbler wares. Ideals or nothing! And,
in the ideal, wifehood and motherhood were so indissolubly united that
the failure of one soured her joy in the other. She loved the little
child, but loved him with bitterness. He had become the symbol of her
lost ideal.

But she did not say this to Kate Raymore, for with the loss of the ideal
comes a certain shame of it. We see it then as we did not before, as we
know now that others--so many others--see it; and we veil the broken
image. The heart, once its throne, becomes its hiding-place.

All this was not for Kate Raymore. She must be left to wonder that
Sibylla said so little about the baby--left to be amazed at an apparent
coldness in the young mother--left to miss gracious extravagances of
maternal joy and pride. For if Sibylla could not be open, neither would
she play the hypocrite by parading a light-hearted enjoyment and
exultation in the child. How should she display the boy and her proud
pleasure in him to the world outside, when her pleasure was not shared
at home, and her pride made her love covert there?

Christine Fanshaw, sharply guessing, had cried once:

"But surely Grantley's manner is irreproachable?"

Even now Sibylla's humour rose at the challenge.

"Yes, irreproachable. Of course it would be. All through, his solicitude
for both of us was--beautiful! Even Mumples was shaken!"

"Shaken? Why, I thought----"

"Shaken in her bad opinion, I mean, Christine dear. Yes, if ever a man
did his duty, did and said all the proper things, Grantley did. And he
wasn't the least angry with me; he was only annoyed with Adam and Eve,
you know. Of course he was awfully busy just then: County Council
elections and what not. But you'd never have guessed it. He never seemed
hurried, and he was always very--very solicitous."

"And now, Sibylla?"

"Just the same--and quite pleased. Only I think he wishes babies were
like kittens--more animated and growing up quicker, you know. We happen
to have a kitten, and I think he's more at his ease with that."

"Nonsense! Men are men, you know."

"Most of them seem to be," admitted Sibylla.

"It would be becoming," Christine observed, "if you recollected that
you'd been in the wrong all through. You believed in the wrong doctor,
you wanted the wrong thing, you were quite unreasonable. Hadn't you
better remember that?"

"I do remember it. And if you want another admission--well, Grantley
never reminds me of it by a look or a word."

"He's very much of a gentleman, Sibylla."

"He's never the least ungentlemanlike, Christine."

Christine enjoyed a distinction; she laughed gently.

"And you're a very lucky woman," she went on.

"Don't I say so in my prayers?"

"In a very dangerous state of mind."

Christine's eyes were set on her friend. Sibylla met them full and
square. Her mirth, real or affected, vanished. She looked hard at
Christine, and made no answer for a moment.

"Yes, I suppose I know what you mean by that," she said at last.

"It's so much easier to despair of your husband than of anybody else in
the world--except your wife."

"I try to consider him a type."

"Well, don't find an exception. Oh, I'm not talking at random. I know!"
She paused a moment and then went on: "There's a question I should like
to ask you, but I suppose it's a question nobody ought to ask; it's too
impertinent, even for me, I'm afraid."

Sibylla looked at her, and a faint touch of colour rose on her cheeks.
There was a little defiance about her manner, as though she were
accused, and stood on her defence rather uneasily. She understood what
question it was that even Christine could not ask.

"Grantley and I are--perfectly good friends," she said.

Christine's next question was drawled out in a lazy murmur, and was
never completed, apparently from mere indolence.

"It's you who----?"

Sibylla nodded in an abrupt decisive fashion.

"And who do you see most of?" asked Christine.

The colour deepened a little on Sibylla's face.

"That doesn't follow. Don't talk like that."

"I've gone a great deal too far?"

"I really think you have, rather, and without an atom of reason."

"Oh, entirely! I apologise. That sort of thing happens to be--to be in
my thoughts."

Sibylla, in some anger, had risen to go. The last words arrested her
movement, and she stood in the middle of the room, looking down on
Christine's little figure, nestling in a big armchair.

"Your thoughts? That sort of thing in your thoughts?"

"Oh, entirely in retrospect, my dear; and it generally comes of not
being appreciated, and of wanting an outlet for--for--well, for
something or other, you know."

"Are you going to speak plainly, Christine?"

"Not for worlds, my dear! Are you going to drop my acquaintance?"

"Why is it in your thoughts? You say it's--it's all in the past?"

"Really I'm beginning to doubt if there's such a thing as the past; and
if there isn't, it makes everything so much worse! I thought it was all
done with--done with long ago; and now it isn't. It's just all--all over
my life, as it used to be. And I--I'm afraid again. And I'm lying again.
It means so many lies, you know." She looked up at Sibylla with a
plaintiveness coloured by malice. "So if I've been impertinent, just put
it down to what I happen to be thinking about, my dear."

Sibylla stood very quiet, saying nothing. Christine went on after a

"Can't you manage to be wrapped up in the baby, my dear?"

"No, I can't." The answer was hard and unhesitating. "You've told me
something people don't generally tell. I'll tell you something that I
didn't think I ever should tell. I love my baby--and sometimes I hate to
have to see him." Her eyes were on Christine's face, and there was
distress--hopeless distress--in them. "Now I should think you'd drop my
acquaintance," she ended with a laugh.

"Oh, I've never had a baby--I'm not shocked to death. But--but why,

"Surely you can guess why! It's horrible, but it's not unintelligible,

"No, I suppose it's not," Christine sighed.

Christine's legs had been curled up on her chair; she let them down to
the ground and rose to her feet.

"That's all from both of us for to-day?" she asked, with a wry smile.

"All for to-day, I think," answered Sibylla, buttoning her glove.

"I meant to be--friendly."

"You have been. I never guessed anything--anything of what you've
said--about you."

"Nobody hinted it? Not even Harriet Courtland? She knew."

"I never see her. How did she know?"

"She was my great friend then. Rather funny, isn't it? I'm told Tom's
getting quite regardless of appearances."

"Oh, I can't bear to talk about that!"

"No? Well, you can think of it now and then, can't you? It's rather
wholesome to reflect how other people look when they're doing the things
that you want----"

"Christine! Good-bye!"

"Oh, good-bye, my dear! And take care of yourself. Oh, I only mean the
wind's cold."

But her look denied the harmless meaning she claimed for her parting

Grantley's attitude admits of simpler definition than his wife's. He
attributed to her an abnormally prolonged and obstinate fit of sulks.
People who have been in the wrong are generally sulky; that went a long
way to account for it. Add thereto Sibylla's extreme expectations of a
world and of an institution both of which deal mostly with compromises
and arrangements short of the ideal, and the case seemed to him clear
enough and not altogether unnatural, however vexatious it might be. He
flew to no tragical or final conclusion. He did not despair; but neither
did he struggle. He made no advances; his pride was too wounded, and his
reason too affronted for that. On the other hand he offered no
provocation. The irreproachability of his manner continued; the
inaccessibility of his feelings increased. He devoted his mind to his
work, public and commercial; and he waited for Sibylla to come to her
senses. Given his theory of the case, he deserved credit for much
courtesy, much patience, and entire consistency of purpose. And he,
unlike Sibylla, neither talked to intimate friends nor invited questions
from them. Both pride and wisdom forbade. Finally, while he acknowledged
great discomfort (including a disagreeable element of the ludicrous),
the idea of danger never crossed his mind; he would have laughed at
Christine Fanshaw's warning, had it been addressed to him.

Whatever Sibylla's faults, levity was not among them, and danger in
Christine's sense--danger of a break-up of the household, as
distinguished from a continuance of it, however unsatisfactory that
continuance might be--there would probably have been none, had not
Walter Blake, after a lively, but not very profitable, youth, wanted to
reform his life. He might have wanted to be wicked without creating any
peril at all for the Imason household. But he wanted to be good, and he
wanted Sibylla to make him good. This idea had occurred to him quite
early in their acquaintance. He too had a faculty--even a facility--for
idealising. He idealised Sibylla into the image of goodness and purity,
which would turn him from sin and folly by making virtue and wisdom not
better (which of course they were already), but more attractive and more
pleasurable. If they were made more attractive and more pleasurable, he
would be eager to embrace them. Besides he had had a good deal of the
alternatives, without ever being really content with them. By this time
he was firmly convinced that he must be good, and that Sibylla, and
Sibylla alone, could make him good. He did not at all think out what the
process was to be, nor whither it might lead. He had never planned much,
nor looked where things led to. Until they led to something alarming, he
did not consider the question much. How she was to reform him he seemed
to leave to Sibylla, but his demand that she should do it grew more and
more explicit.

This was to attack Sibylla on her weak spot, to aim an arrow true at the
joint in her harness. For (one is tempted to say, unfortunately) she
knew the only way in which people could be reformed and made good, and
caused to feel that wisdom and virtue were not only better (which of
course they felt already), but also more pleasurable than folly and sin.
(People who want to be reformed are sometimes, it must be admitted, a
little exacting.) That could be done only by sympathy and understanding.
And if they are thorough, sympathy and understanding compose, or depend
on, or issue in love--in the best kind of love, where friend gives
himself unreservedly to friend, entering into every feeling, and being
privy to every thought. This close and intimate connection must be
established before one mind can, lever-like, raise another, and the
process of reformation be begun. So much is old ground, often trodden
and with no pretence of novelty about it. But much of the power of a
proposition may depend not on its soundness, but on the ardour with
which it is seized upon, and the conviction with which it is held--which
things, again, depend on the character and temper of the believer.
Sibylla's character and temper made the proposition extraordinarily
convincing. Her circumstances, as she conceived them, were equally
provocative in the same direction. What was wrong with her? In the end
that she was not wanted, or not wanted enough, that she had more to give
than had been asked of her, and no outlet (as Christine had put it)
sufficient to relieve the press of her emotions. It was almost
inevitable that she should respond to Blake's appeal. He was an outlet.
He was somebody who wanted her very much, whom she could help, with whom
she could expand, to whom she could give what she had to give in such
abundant measure.

Thus far the first stage. The next was not reached. There was plenty of
time yet. Sibylla loved the child. Blake had set up his idol, but he had
not yet declared that he was the only devotee who knew how properly to
honour and to worship it.

He sat watching Sibylla as she played with her baby-boy. He took a hand
in the game now and then, since, for a bachelor, he was at his ease with
babies; but most of the time he watched. But he watched sympathetically;
Sibylla did not fear to show her love before his eyes. The baby was very
young for games--for any that a man could play. But Sibylla knew some
that he liked; he gave evidence of a strangely dawning pleasure distinct
from physical contentment--of wonder, of amusement, of an appreciation
of fun, of delight in the mock assaults and the queer noises which his
mother directed at him. Sometimes he made nice, queer, gurgling noises
himself, full of luxurious content, like a cat's purring, and laden with
a surprise, as though all this was very new. She had infinite patience
in seeking these signs of approval; half a dozen attempts would miscarry
before she succeeded in tickling the infant groping senses. When she hit
the mark, she had infinite delight. She would give a cry of joy and turn
round to Blake for approval and applause; it was a very difficult thing,
but she had kept confidence in her instinct, and she had won the day!
Spurred to fresh effort, she returned to her loved work. A gurgle from
the little parted lips, a movement of the wide-open little eyes--eyes of
that marvellous transient blue--marked a new triumph.

"Isn't he wonderful?" she called to Blake over her shoulder.

"Oh, yes, rather!" he laughed, and added, after a short moment: "And so
are you."

Sibylla was not looking for compliments. She laughed gaily and went back
to her work.

"But can't he talk, Mrs. Imason?"

"How silly you are! But he's just wonderful for his age as he is."

"Oh, they all are!"

He was so obviously feigning scorn that Sibylla only shook her head at
him in merry glee.

Was not this the real, the great thing? Blake's mind, disengaging from
the past memories of what had once been its delights, and turning now in
distaste from them, declared that it was. Nature had the secret of the
keenest pleasure--it was to be found along nature's way. There pleasure
was true to a purpose, achieving a great end, concentrated in that, not
dissipated in passing and unfruitful joys. Blake was sure that he was
right now, sure that he wanted to be reformed, more sure than ever that
wisdom and virtue were more pleasurable (as well as being better) than
their opposites. A man of ready sensibility and quick feeling, he was
open to the suggestion and alive to the beauty of what he saw. It seemed
to him holy--and the feelings it evoked in him seemed almost holy too.
"Motherhood!" he said to himself, not knowing, at least not
acknowledging, that his true meaning was this woman as mother,
motherhood incarnate in her. Yet that it was. If his aspirations were
awake, his blood too was stirred. But the moment for that to come to
light was not yet. The good seemed still unalloyed, his high-soaring
aspirations were guiltless of self-knowledge.

Sibylla played with the child till she could play no more--till she
feared to tire him, she would have said--in truth till the tenderness
which had found a mask in the sport would conceal its face no more, and
in a spasm of love she caught the little creature to her, pressing her
face to his.

"Poor little darling!" Blake heard her say in a whisper full of pity as
well as of love.

Whence came the pity? The mother's natural fear that her sheltering may
not avail against all the world? Most likely it was only that. But the
pity was poignant, and he wondered vaguely.

They were thus, she and the child locked together, the young man dimly
picturing the truth as he watched, when Grantley Imason came in. A start
ran through Sibylla; she caught a last kiss from the little face, and
then laid her baby down. Swiftly she turned round to her husband. Blake
had risen, watching still--nay, more eagerly. For all he could do, his
eyes sought her face and rested there, trying to trace what feeling
found expression as she turned to her husband from her child.

"Glad to see you, Blake. Ah, you've got the little chap there!"

He chucked the child under its chin, as he went by, gently and
affectionately, and came with outstretched hand to his friend--for he
liked sunny impetuous young Blake, though he thought very lightly of
him. As they shook hands, Blake's eyes travelled past him, and dwelt
again on Sibylla. She stood by her child, and her regard was on her
husband. Then, for a moment, she met Blake's inquiring gaze. The
slightest smile came on her lips, just a touch of colour in her cheeks.

"Yes, but it's time for him to go upstairs," she said.

Grantley had passed on to the table, and was pouring himself out a cup
of tea. Sibylla walked across the room and rang the bell for the baby's
nurse. Blake took up his hat.

The spell was broken. What had it been and why was it dispelled? Blake
did not know, but turgid feelings mingled with his aspirations now, and
he looked at Grantley Imason with a new covert hostility.



Efforts were on foot to avert the scandal and public disaster which so
imminently threatened the Courtlands. Grantley Imason, who had a real
friendship for Tom, interested himself in them. Not merely the home was
in danger, but Tom's position and career, also Tom's solvency. He had
always lived up to his income; now, without doubt, he was spending sums
far beyond it; and, as has been seen, the precautions which he had
declared he would use were falling into neglect as the sense of
hopelessness grew upon his mind. From such neglect to blank effrontery
and defiance looked as though it would be but a short step. And he
refused obstinately to make any advances to his wife; he would not hear
of suing for peace.

"My dear fellow, think of the children!" Grantley urged.

Poor Tom often thought of the children, and often tried not to. He knew
very well where he was going and what his going there must mean to them.
Yet he held on his way, obstinately assuring himself that the fault for
which they must suffer was not his.

"I do think of them, but---- It was past bearing, Grantley."

"I think you must have given her a real fright by now. Perhaps she'll be
more amenable."

"Harriet amenable! Good Lord!"

"Look here, if she can be got to express regret and hold out the olive
branch, you know, will you drop all this, and give the thing one more

It was a favourable moment for the request, since Tom happened to be
cross with his pleasures too--they were so very expensive. He allowed
himself to be persuaded to say yes.

But who was to beard Lady Harriet in her den? There was no eagerness to
undertake the task; yet everybody agreed that a personal interview was
the only chance. Grantley fairly "funked it," and honestly said so.
Raymore's nerves were still so upset that his excuses were accepted--it
was morally certain that Harriet, if she became angry, would taunt him
about his boy. Selford? That was absurd. And it was not a woman's work.
The lot fell on John Fanshaw--John, with his business prestige and high
reputation for common sense. And Lady Harriet liked him best of them
all. The choice was felt to be excellent by everyone--except John

"Haven't I enough worries of my own?" he demanded. "Why the devil am I
to take on Tom Courtland's too?"

"Oh, do try! It can't hurt you if she does fly into a passion, John."

He grumbled a great deal more; and Christine, in an unusually chastened
mood, performed the wifely function of meeting his grumbles with mingled
consolation and praise.

"Well, I'll go on Sunday," he said at last, and added, with a look
across the table: "Perhaps some of my own troubles will be off my mind
by then."

Christine flushed a little.

"Oh, I hope so," she said rather forlornly.

"I do hope so!" he declared emphatically. "I build great hopes on it. It
is to-day you're going, isn't it?"

"Yes, to-day. After lunch I said I'd come."

"Did he write back cordially?"

"Well, what could the poor man do, John?"

"Ha, ha! Well, I suppose a fellow generally does answer cordially when a
pretty woman proposes to call on him. Ha, ha!" John's hopes made him
merry and jovial. "I say, I shall get back as early as I can from the
City, and try to be here in time to welcome you. And if it's gone all
right, why----"

"Don't let yourself be too sure."

"No, I won't. Oh, no, I won't do that!"

But it was not hard to see how entirely he built all his trust on this
last remaining chance. He rose from the breakfast-table.

"All right. To-day's Thursday. I'll go to Lady Harriet on Sunday. Not
much harm can happen in three days. Good-bye, old girl, and--and good

Christine suffered his kiss--a ceremony not usual to their daily parting
in the morning. When he had gone, she sat on a long while behind the
tea-things at the breakfast-table, deep in thought, trying to picture
the work of the day which lay before her. It was extraordinarily hateful
to her, and she had hardly been able to endure John's jocularity and his
talk about pretty women coming to call.

Because there had once been some talk, she had told Caylesham that she
would bring a friend with her, naming Anna Selford. Anna would go in
with her, and wait in another room while they had their meeting.
Caylesham thought this rather superfluous, but had no objection to make.
He could not form any idea why she was coming, until it occurred to him
that perhaps he had a few letters of hers somewhere, and that women were
apt to get frights about letters, picturing sudden deaths, and not
remembering that a wise man chooses a discreet executor. With this
notion in his head he hunted about, and did find two or three letters.
But they were quite harmless; in order to see this he read them through,
and then laid them down with a smile. After a few moments of reflection
he put them into an envelope, sealed them up, and placed them on a table
by him, ready for Christine. He was a man of forty-five, and he looked
it. But he was tall, thin, well set-up, and always exceedingly well
turned-out. Beyond his rank and his riches, his only fame lay in
sporting circles. He and John Fanshaw had first made acquaintance over
horses, and he still went in for racing on a considerable scale. He was
unmarried, and likely to remain so. There was a nephew to inherit: and
he had pleased himself so much that he found it hard to please himself
any more now. And he had, unlike Walter Blake, no aspirations. He had a
code of morals, and a very strict one, so far as it went; but it was not
co-extensive with more generally recognised codes.

Directly Christine came in, he noticed how pretty and dainty and young
she looked; she, at least, pleased him still. He greeted her with great
cordiality and with no embarrassment, and made her sit down in a chair
by the fire. She was a little pale, but he did not observe that; what he
noted--and noted with a touch of amusement--was that she met his eyes as
seldom as possible.

"I really couldn't think to what I owed this pleasure----" he began.

But she interrupted him.

"You couldn't possibly have guessed. I've got to tell you that."

"It's not these?"

He held up the letters in their envelope.

"What are they?"

"Only two or three notes of yours--all I've got, I think."

"Notes of mine? Oh, put them in the fire! It wasn't that."

"I suppose we may as well put them in the fire," he agreed.

As the fire burnt up the letters, Christine looked at the fire and said:

"John has sent me here."

"John sent you here?"

He was surprised, and again perhaps a trifle amused.

"You don't suppose I should have come of my own accord? I hate coming."

"Oh, don't say that! We're always friends, always friends. But suppose
you do insist on 'hating' to come--well, why have you come?"

She looked at him now.

"I couldn't help it. I refused at first, but I--I had no reason to give
if I'd gone on refusing. He'd have--suspected."

"Ah!" The explanation drew an understanding nod from him.

"So I came. He's sent me to borrow money from you."

"To borrow money? What, is John----?"

"Yes, he's in great difficulties. He wants a lot of money at once."

"But why didn't he come himself? It's rather odd to----"

"I suppose he hated it too. He has done it once. I mean, he's been to
Grantley Imason. And--and he thought--you'd be more likely to do it if I

"Did he? Does that mean----?"

"No, no, not in the least. He only thought you were--that you liked
pretty women." She held out a piece of paper. "He's put it all down
there. I think I'd better give it to you. It says what he wants, and
when he must have it, and how he'll pay it back. I promised to tell you
all that, but you'd better read it for yourself."

He took the paper from her and studied it. She looked round the room,
which she had known very well. It was quite unchanged. Then she watched
him while he read. He had grown older, but he had not lost his
attractiveness. For a moment or two she forgot the present state of

"Fifteen thousand! It's a bit of money!" This remark recalled
Christine's thoughts. "Has Imason lent him that?"

"Yes, on the same terms that he suggests there."

"Well, Imason's a good fellow, but he's a banker, and--well, I should
think he expects to get it back. I say, John's been having a bit of a
plunge, eh? Consequently he's in deep water now? Is he very much cut

"Terribly! It means ruin, and the loss of his reputation, and--oh, I
don't know what besides!"

"Poor old John! He's a good chap, isn't he?"

She made no answer to that, and he muttered:

"Fifteen thousand!"

"Frank," she said, "I've done what I had to do, what I promised to. I've
shown you the paper; I've told you how much this money means to us; I've
told you it means avoiding ruin and bankruptcy and all that disgrace.
That's what John made me promise to tell you, and its all I have to tell
you from him. I've done what I said I would on his behalf."

"Yes, yes, that's all right. Don't distress yourself, Christine. I just
want to have another look at this paper, and to think it over a little.
It is a goodish bit of money, you know. But then old John's always been
a good friend of mine, and if times weren't so uncommon bad----"

He wrinkled his brow over the paper again.

"And now I have to speak on my own account. Frank, you must find some
good, some plausible, reason for refusing. You mustn't lend John the


He looked up from the paper in great surprise.

"You see, John doesn't know the truth," she answered.

He rose and stood by the fire, looking down on her thoughtfully.

"No, of course he doesn't, or--or you wouldn't be here," he said after a

Then he fell into thought again.

"And if he did know, he'd never ask you for the money," she said.

Caylesham made a wry little grimace. That might be true of John, but he
would hesitate to say the same about every fellow. Christine, however,
did not see the grimace.

"And you don't want me to lend it--not though it means all this to

"I don't want you to lend it, whatever it means. Pray don't lend it,

"Is that---- Well, I don't quite know how to put it. I mean, is that on
John's account or on your own?"

"I can't give you reasons; I can't put them in words. It's just terribly
hateful to me."

He was puzzled by the point of view, and still more by finding it in
her. Perhaps the last six years had made a difference in her way of
looking at things; they had made none in his.

"And if I do as you wish, what are you going to say to John? Are you
going to say to him that in the end you told me not to lend the money?"

"Of course not. I shall say that you said you couldn't; you'll have to
give me the reasons."

He looked discontented.

"It'll look rather shabby," he suggested.

"Oh, no! It's a large sum. It would be quite likely that it wouldn't be
convenient to you."

"Is he expecting to get it?"

"I don't think that has anything to do with it. I suppose--well,
drowning men catch at straws."

She smiled dolefully.

The phrase was unlucky for her purpose. It stirred Caylesham's pity.

"Poor old John!" he murmured again. "What'll he do if he doesn't get

"I don't know--I told you I didn't know."

He was puzzled still. He could not get down to the root of her
objection; and she could not, or would not, put it plainly to him. She
could not express the aspect of the affair that was, as she said, so
terribly hateful to her. But it was there. All she had given she had
given long ago--given freely long ago. Now was she not asking a price
for it--and a price which her husband was to share? Only on that ground
really was she there. For now the man loved her no more; there was no
glamour and no screen. After all these years she came back and asked a
price--a price John was to share.

But the case did not strike Caylesham at all like this. John suspected
nothing, or John would not have sent his wife there. John had been a
very good friend, he would like to do John a good turn. In his case the
very circumstances which so revolted Christine made him more inclined to
do John a good turn. Although he could not pretend that the affair had
ever made him uncomfortable, still its existence in the past helped
John's cause with him now.

"You're not a very trustworthy ambassador," he said, smiling. "I don't
think you're playing fair with John, you know."

"Why, do you--you--expect me to?" she asked bitterly.

He shrugged his shoulders in a discreet evasion, seeing the threatened
opening of a discussion of a sort always painful and useless.

"John will take failure and all that devilish hard."

He took up the paper again and looked at it. He knew the business was a
very good one; after such a warning as this a man would surely go
steady; and Grantley Imason had lent money. He built a good deal on
that. And--yes--in the end he was ready to run a risk, being a
good-natured man and fond of John, and feeling that it would be a very
becoming thing in him to do a service to John.

"Look here, I shall attend to your official message. I shan't take any
notice of these private communications," he said lightly, but kindly,
almost affectionately. "And you mustn't feel that sort of way about it.
Why, I've got a right to help you, anyhow; and I can't see why I mustn't
help John."

He went to the table and wrote. He came back to her, holding a cheque in
his hand.

"Here it is," he said. "John will send me a letter embodying the
business side. I've post-dated the cheque four days, because I must see
my bankers about it. Oh, it's not inconvenient; only needs a few days'
notice--and it'll be in time for what John wants. Here, take it,

He pressed the cheque into her hands, and with a playful show of force
shut her fingers upon it.

"I know this has been a--a----" He looked round the room, seeming to
seek an apt form of expression. "This has been an uncomfortable job for
you, but you really mustn't look at it like that, you know."

"If you give it me, I must take it. I daren't accept the responsibility
of refusing it."

He was quite eager to comfort her.

"You're doing quite right. You were perfectly square with me; now you're
being perfectly square with John."

Perfectly square with John! Christine's lips curved in a smile of scorn.
But--well, sometimes one loses the right or the power to be perfectly

"And I'm downright glad to help--downright glad you came to me."

"I only came because I couldn't help it."

"Then I'm downright glad you couldn't help it."

She had loved this unalterable good-temper of his, and admired the
tactful way he had of humouring women. If they wouldn't have it in one
way, he had always been quite ready to offer it to them in the other, so
long as they took it in the end; and this they generally did. She rose
to her feet, holding the cheque in her hand.

"Your purse, perhaps?" he suggested, laughing. "You see, it might puzzle
your young friend. And give old John my remembrances--and good luck to
him. Are you going now?"

"Yes, Frank, I'm going now."

"Good-bye, Christine. I often think of you, you know. I often
remember---- Ah, I see I mustn't often remember! Well, you're right, I
suppose. But I'm always your friend. Don't be in any trouble without
letting me know."

"I shall never come to you again."

He grew a little impatient at that, but still he was quite good-natured
about it.

"What's the use of brooding?" he asked. "I mean, if you're running
straight now, it's no good being remorseful and that sort of thing; it
just wears you out. It would make you look old, if anything could. But I
don't believe anything could, you know."

She gave him her hand. Her lips trembled, but she smiled at him now.

"Good-bye, Frank. If I have any hard thoughts, they won't be about you.
You can always"--she hesitated a minute--"always disarm criticism, can't

Caylesham stooped and kissed her hand lightly.

"Don't fret, my dear," he said. "You're better than most by a long way.
Now take your cheque off to poor old John, and both of you be as jolly
as you can." He pressed her hand cordially and led her to the door. "I'm
glad we've settled things all right. Good-bye."

She shook her head at him, but still she could not help smiling as she
said her last good-bye. With the turning of her face the smile

Caylesham's smile lasted longer. He stood on his hearthrug, smiling as
he remembered; and an idea which forced its way into his head did not
drive away the smile. He wondered whether, by any chance, old John had
any vague sort of--well, hardly suspicion--but some vague sort of an
inkling. He would not have hinted that to Christine, since evidently she
did not believe it, and it might have upset her. But really, in the end,
was it not more odd to send Christine if he had no inkling at all than
if he had just some sort of an idea that there was a reason why her
request might be very much more potent than his own? He was inclined to
think that John suspected just a flirtation. The notion made him
considerably amused at John, but not at all angry with him. It was not a
thing he would have done himself, perhaps. Still you can never tell what
you will do when you are in a really tight corner. His racing
experiences had presented him with a good many cases which supported
this conclusion.

Christine felt very tired, but she was not going to give way to that;
Anna Selford was too sharp-witted. She chatted gaily as they drove home,
mainly about the subject which grieved them both so much--Mrs. Selford's
taste in frocks. Matters were in an even more dire way now; Anna could
get no frocks! Between pictures and dogs, she declared, her wardrobe
stood no chance. Christine was genuinely unable to comprehend such a
confusion of relative importance.

"I detest fads," she said severely.

"It doesn't give me a fair chance," lamented Anna, "because I should pay
for dressing, shouldn't I, Mrs. Fanshaw?"

Christine reiterated her belief to that effect. It was a melancholy
comfort to poor Anna.

"Suppose I'd been going to see Lord Caylesham, dressed like this!"

"My dear, he's old enough to be your father."

"That doesn't matter. He's so smart and good-looking. I see him riding
sometimes with Mr. Imason, and he's just the sort of man I admire. I
know I should fall in love with him."

Christine laughed, but turned her face a little away.

"I won't help you there; our alliance is only on the subject of frocks."

But how well she knew what Anna meant and felt! And now she was a trifle
uneasy. Had any of that talk filtered through leaky Selford
conversations to Anna's eagerly listening ears?

"Mamma once told me he'd been very, very wild."

"Stuff! They always say that about a man if he's a bachelor. Sheer
feminine spite, in my belief, Anna!"

"What did you go to see him about? Oh, is it a secret?"

Christine was really rather glad to hear the question. It showed that
nothing very much of the talk had filtered. And she had her story ready.

"Oh, about a horse. You know we've had to sell our bays, and he's got
one that we thought we could buy cheap. John was so busy that I went.
But, alas, it's beyond us, after all."

"Yes, you told me you'd sold a pair." Anna nodded significantly.

Christine smiled. She was reflecting how many crises of life demand a
departure from veracity, and what art resides in the choice of a lie.
She had chosen one which, implying that Anna was in her confidence,
pleased and quieted that young woman, and sent her off home without any
suspicions as to the visit or its connection with the financial crisis
otherwise than through the horses.

She did not ask Anna in to tea, because John would be there, home early
from the City, waiting. Now that the thing was done, she was minded to
make as light of it as possible. Since she had been compelled to go, let
John forget under what pressure and how unwillingly she had gone. Thus
the faintest breath of suspicion would be less likely to rest on her
secret. She trusted to her self-control; she would chaff him a little
before she told him of the success of her mission.

But the first sight of his face drove the idea out of her head. It might
be safer for her; it would actually be not safe for him. She was
convinced of this when she saw the strain in his eyes and how his whole
figure seemed in a tension of excitement. She closed the door carefully
behind her.

"Well," he cried, "what news? By God, I've been able to do no work! I
haven't been able to think of anything else all day. Don't--don't say
you've failed!"

"No," she said, opening her purse, "I haven't failed. Here's a cheque
from Lord Caylesham. It's post-dated, but only a day or two. That
doesn't matter?"

She came to him and gave him the cheque. He put it on the table and
rested his head on his arm. He seemed almost dazed; the stiffness had
gone out of his body.

"By Jove, he's a good sort! By Jove, he is a good sort!" he murmured.

"He was very kind indeed. He made no difficulties. He said he was sure
he could trust you, and was glad to help you. And he sent his
remembrances and good luck to you, John."

She had taken off her fur coat and her hat as she was speaking, and now
sank down into a chair.

"By Jove, he is a good sort!" John suddenly sprang up. "It means
salvation!" he cried. "That's what it means--salvation! I can pay my
way. I can look people in the face. I shan't bring the business to ruin
and shame. Oh, I've had my lesson--I go steady now! And if I don't pay
these good chaps every farthing call me a scoundrel! They are good
chaps, Grantley and old Caylesham--devilish good chaps!"

"Don't go quite off your head, John dear! Try to take it quietly."

"Ah, you take it quietly enough, don't you, old girl?" he exclaimed,
coming up to her. "But you've done it all--yes, by heaven you have! I
know you didn't like it; I know you hated it. You're so proud, and I
like that in you too. But it wasn't a time for pride, and you put yours
in your pocket for my sake--yes, for my sake, I know it. We've had our
rows, old girl, but if ever a man had a good wife in the end, I have,
and I know it."

He caught hold of her hands and pulled her to her feet, drawing her
towards him at the same time.

"Quietly, John," she said, "quietly."

"What, don't you want to give me a kiss?"

"I'll give you a kiss, but quietly. Poor old John!"

She kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Now let me go! I--I'm tired."

"Well, you shall rest," he said good-naturedly, and let her go.

She sank back in her seat and watched him turn to the cheque again.

"It's salvation!" he repeated, and paid no heed to a sudden quick gasp
of breath from her throat.

Even Caylesham would have allowed that he had no suspicion. But
Christine sat a prey to vague forebodings. She felt as though the thing
were not finished yet. The dead would not bury its dead.



There was one point about Jeremy Chiddingfold's system of philosophy--if
that name may be allowed to dignify the rather mixed assortment of facts
and inferences which he had gathered from his studies: This point was
that there was no appeal against facts. Nature was nature, feelings were
feelings, and change was development. One thing was right to-day; it
became wrong to-morrow without ceasing to have been right yesterday. Let
there be an end of ignorant parrot-like chatter about inconsistency. Is
evolution inconsistency? Inconsistency with what? He put this question
and kindred ones quite heatedly to Mrs. Mumple, who did not at all
understand them, and to whom they savoured of unorthodoxy; she had ever
distrusted a scientific education. If Jeremy could have put his case in
a concrete form, he would have won her sympathy. But she did not know
where such general principles would stop, and she had heard that there
were persons who impugned the authority of Moses.

Jeremy did not care much about Mrs. Mumple's approval, though he tried
his arguments on her as a boxer tries his fists on a stuffed sack (she
suggested the simile). He did not expect to convince her, and would have
been rather sorry if he had. In her present mental condition she was
invaluable as a warning and a butt. But it was exasperating that Mrs.
Hutting should hold antique, ludicrous, and (in his opinion) in the end
debased views about social intercourse between the sexes--in fact (to
descend to that concrete which Jeremy's soul abhorred) about girls of
seventeen taking walks with young men of twenty-two. Mrs. Hutting's
views on this point imposed on Jeremy proceedings which he felt to be
unbecoming to a philosopher. He had to scheme, to lie in wait, to plan
most unlikely accidents, on occasion to palter with truth, to slip
behind a waggon or to hide inside a barn. A recognition on Mrs.
Hutting's part of nature, of facts, and of development would have
relieved Jeremy from all these distasteful expedients.

But Mrs. Hutting was an old-fashioned woman. She obeyed her
husband--usually, however, suggesting on what points he might reasonably
require obedience. She expected her daughter to obey her. And she had
her views, which she had enforced in a very quiet but a very firm way.
Modern tendencies were not in favour at the rectory; that being
established as a premise, it followed that anything which was
disapproved of at the rectory was a modern tendency; wherefore
clandestine and spuriously accidental meetings between young men and
young women were a modern tendency, or, anyhow, signs of one--and of a
very bad one too. No ancient instances would have shaken Mrs. Hutting on
this point; the train of logic was too strong. Certainly Dora never
tried to shake her mother's judgment, or to break the chain. For Dora
was old-fashioned too. She admitted that clandestine and spuriously
accidental meetings were wrong. But sometimes the clandestine character
or the spuriousness of the accident could be plausibly questioned;
besides, a thing may be wrong, and yet not be so very, very bad. And the
thing may be such fun and so amusing that--well, one goes and tries not
to be found out. On these ancient but not obsolete lines Miss Dora
framed her conduct, getting thereby a spice of excitement and a fearful
joy which no duly licensed encounters could have given her. But she had
no doubt that Mrs. Hutting was quite right. Anna Selford's critical
attitude towards her parents was not in the rectory way.

"Suppose she'd seen us!" Dora whispered behind the barn, as the rectory
pony-chaise rolled slowly by.

"We're doing nothing wrong. I should like to walk straight out and say

"If you do, I'll never speak to you again."

"I hate this--this dodging!"

"Then why don't you take your walks the other way? You know I come here.
Why do you come if you feel like that about it?"

Thus Dora fleshed her maiden sword. It was an added joy to make Jeremy
do things which he disliked. And all this time she was snubbing him and
his tentative approaches. Lovers? Certainly not--or of course she would
have told mamma! Accepted Jeremy? No--she liked to think that she was
trifling with him. In fine, she was simply behaving shamefully badly, in
a rapturously delightful way; and to see a pretty girl doing that is
surely a refreshing and rejuvenating sight!

Well, the word pretty is perhaps a concession to Jeremy. The only girl
in the place is always pretty. Dora was, at any rate, fresh and fair,
lithe and clean-limbed, gay and full of fun.

A dreadful peril threatened, with which Dora appalled her own fancy and
Jeremy's troubled heart. At seventeen school is still possible--a
finishing-school. Mrs. Hutting had brandished this weapon, conscious in
her own mind that the rectory finances would hardly suffice to put an
edge on it. Dora did not realise this difficulty.

"You remember that time we were seen? Well, there was an awful row, and
mamma said that if it happened once again I should go--for a year!"

Jeremy felt that something must be done, and said so.

"What could I do?"

That was a little more difficult for Jeremy.

"You must take pains to avoid me," said Dora, schooling her lips to
primness. "You don't want to get me sent away, do you?"

Certainly these spring months were very pleasant to Miss Dora. But,
alas, calamity came. It happened in Milldean just as it might have
happened in the West End of London. The school-teacher said something to
the post-mistress. There was nobody much else to say anything--for the
wise-eyed yokels, when they met the youth and the maid, gave a shrewd
kindly nod, and went on their way with an inarticulate but appreciative
chuckle. However the school-teacher did say something to the
post-mistress, whence the something came to Mrs. Hutting's ears. There
was another "row," no doubt even more "awful." The finishing-school was
brandished again, but, after a private consultation on finance, put
aside by the rector and Mrs. Hutting. Another weapon was chosen. Mrs.
Hutting dictated a note, the rector wrote and sealed it; it was sent
across to Old Mill House by the gardener, addressed to "Jeremy
Chiddingfold, Esq." In fact no circumstance of ceremony was omitted, and
Dora watched the messenger of tyranny from her bedroom window. In the
note (which began "Sir") Jeremy was plainly given to understand that he
was no gentleman, and that all relations between the rectory and himself
were at an end.

Jeremy stumped up and down the room, furiously exclaiming that he did
not care whether he was a gentleman or not. He was a man. That was
enough for him, and ought to be enough for anybody. Mrs. Mumple was
positively frightened into agreeing with him on this point. But however
sound the point may be, relations with the rectory were broken off! What
was to be done? Jeremy determined to go to town and lay before Grantley
and Sibylla the unparalleled circumstances of the case. But first there
was--well, there would be--one more stolen meeting. But it was not quite
of the sort which might have been anticipated. Dora's levity was gone;
she played with him no more. But neither did she follow the more
probable course, and, under the influence of grief and the pain of
separation, give the rein to her feelings, acknowledge her love, and
exchange her vows for his. The old-fashioned standards had their turn;
evidently the rectory upbraidings had been very severe. Every
disobedience, every trick, every broken promise rose up in judgment, and
declared the sentence to be just, however severe. Jeremy was at a loss
how to face this. He had been so convinced that nature was with them,
and that nature spelt rectitude. He was aghast at a quasi-theological
and entirely superstitious view that no good or happiness could come out
of a friendship (Dora adhered obstinately to this word) initiated in
such a way. He refused to recognise her wickedness and even his own.
When she announced her full acceptance of the edict, her determination
to evince penitence by absolute submission, he could only burst out:

"They haven't been cruel to you?"

"Cruel? No! They've been most--most gentle. I've come to see how wrong
it was."

"Yet you're here!" He could not resist the retort.

"For the last time--to say good-bye. And if you really care at all, you
must do as I wish."

"But--I may write to you?"

"No, no, you mustn't."

"You can't stop me thinking about you."

"I shan't think of you. I shall pray to be able not to. I'm sure I can
be strong."

She had got this idea in her head. It was just the sort of idea that
Sibylla might have got. She wanted to immolate herself. For such views
in Sibylla Jeremy had always had denunciations ready. He had no
denunciation now--only a despairing puzzle.

"I can't accept that, and I won't! Do you love me?"

"I'm going to keep my promise to say nothing. I've told you what I must
do and what you must. I made up my mind--and--and then I went to the
Sacrament to-day."

Jeremy rubbed his wrinkled brow, eyeing this determined penitent very
ruefully. A sudden return to rectitude is disconcerting in an
accomplice. He did not know what to do. But his bulldog persistence was
roused and his square jaw set obstinately.

"Well, I shall consider what to do. I believe you love me, and I shan't
sit down under this."

"You must," she said. "And now, good-bye."

He came towards her, but her raised hand stopped him.

"Good-bye like this? You won't even shake hands?"

"No, I can't. Good-bye."

Of course he was sorry for her, but he was decidedly angry too. He
perceived a case of the selfishness of spiritual exaltation. His
doggedness turned to surliness.

"All right, then, good-bye," he said sulkily.

"You're not angry with me?"

"Yes, I am."

She accepted this additional cross, and bore it meekly.

"That hurts me very much. But I must do right. Good-bye."

And with that she went, firm to the last, leaving Jeremy almost as
furious with women as in the palmiest days of his youth, almost as angry
with her as he had ever been with the long-legged rectory girl.

Pursuing (though he did not know it) paths as well trodden as those
which he had already followed, he formed an instant determination in his
mind. She should be sorry for it! Whether she should sorrow with a
lifelong sorrow or whether she should ultimately, after much grief and
humiliation, find forgiveness, he did not decide for the moment; both
ideas had their attraction. But at any rate she should be sorry, and
that as soon as possible. How was it to be brought about? Jeremy
conjectured that a remote and ill-ascertained success in original
research would not make her sorry, and his conclusion may be allowed to
pass; nor would a continuance of shabby clothes and an income of a
hundred a year. This combination had once seemed all-sufficient. Nay, it
would suffice now for true and whole-hearted love. But it was not enough
to make a cruel lady repent of her cruelty, nor to convict a misguided
zealot of the folly of her zeal. It was not dazzling enough for that. In
an hour Jeremy threw his whole ideal of life to the winds, and decided
for wealth and mundane fame--speedy wealth and speedy mundane fame
(speed was essential, because Jeremy's feelings were in a hurry). Such
laurels and fruits were not to be plucked in Milldean. That very night
Jeremy packed a well-worn leather bag and a square deal box. He was
going to London, to see Grantley and Sibylla, to make them acquainted
with the state of the case, and to set about becoming rich and famous as
speedily as possible. His mind o'erleapt the process and saw it already
completed--saw his return to Milldean rich and famous--saw his renewed
meeting with Dora, the confusion of the rector and Mrs. Hutting, the
unavailing--or possibly at last availing--regret and humiliation of
Dora. It cannot truthfully be said that he went to bed altogether
unhappy. He had his dream, even as Dora had hers; he had his luxury of
prospective victory as she had hers of unreserved and accepted
penitence; and they shared the conviction of a very extraordinary and
unprecedented state of things.

So to town came Jeremy, leaving Mrs. Mumple in Old Mill House. She was
not idle. She was counting months now--not years now, but months; and
she was knitting socks, and making flannel shirts, and hemming big red
handkerchiefs, and picturing and wondering in her faithful old heart
what that morning would be like for whose coming she had waited so many
many years. Great hopes and great fears were under the ample breast of
her unshapely merino gown.

In the Imason household the strain grew more intense. With rare
tenacity, unimpaired confidence, and unbroken pride, Grantley maintained
his attitude. He would tire out Sibylla's revolt; he would outstay the
fit of sulks, however long it might be. But the strain told on him,
though it did not break him: he was more away; more engrossed in his
outside activities; grimmer and more sardonic when he was at home;
careful to show no feeling which might expose him to rebuff; extending
the scope of this conduct from his wife to his child, because his wife's
grievance was bound up with the child. And Sibylla, seeing the attitude,
seeing partially only and therefore more resenting the motives, created
out of it and them a monster of insensibility, something of an inhuman
selfishness, seeming the more horrible and unnatural from the
unchanging, if cold, courtesy which Grantley still displayed. This image
had been taking shape ever since their battle at Milldean. It had grown
with the amused scorn which was on his face as he told her of the
specialist's judgment, and made her see how foolish she had been, what
an unnecessary fuss she had caused, how dangerous and silly it was to
let one's emotions run away with one. It had defined itself yet more
clearly through the months before and after the boy's birth, as Grantley
developed his line of action and adhered to it, secure apparently from
every assault of natural tenderness. Now the portentous shape was all
complete in her imagination, and the monster she had erected freed her
from every obligation. By her hypothesis it was accessible by no appeal
and sensitive to no emotion. Why, then, labour uselessly? It would
indeed be to knock your head--yes, and your heart too--against a flinty
wall. As for trying to show or to cherish love for it--that seemed to
her prostitution itself. And she had no tenacity to endure such a life
as Grantley, or her image of Grantley, made for her. In her headlong
fashion she had already pronounced the alternatives--death or flight.

And there was the baby boy in his helplessness; and there was young
Blake with his ready hot passion, masked by those aspirations of his,
and his fiery indignation seconding and applauding the despair of her
own heart. For Blake knew the truth now--the truth as Sibylla's
imaginings made it; and in view of that truth the thing his passion
urged him to became a holy duty. His goddess must be no more misused;
her misery must not be allowed to endure.

Knowing his thought and what his heart was towards her, Sibylla turned
to him as a child turns simply from a hard to a loving face. Here was a
life wanting her life, a love asking hers. She had always believed
people when they said they loved and wanted her--why, she had believed
even Grantley himself!--and was always convinced that their love for her
was all they said it was. It was her instinct to believe that. She
believed all--aye, more--about young Blake than he believed about
himself, though he believed very much just now; and she would always
have people all white or all black. Grantley was all black now, and
Blake was very white, white as snow, while he talked of his aspirations
and his love, and tempted her to leave all that bound her, and to give
her life to him. He tempted well, for he offered not pleasure, but the
power of doing good and bestowing happiness. Her first natural love
seemed to have spent itself on Grantley; she had no passion left, save
the passion of giving. It was to this he made his appeal; this would be
enough to give him all his way. Yet there was the child. He had not yet
ventured on that difficult uncertain ground. That was where the struggle
would be; it was there that he distrusted the justice of his own demand
on her, there that his passion had to drown the inward voices of

It might have happened that Jeremy, with his fresh love and fresh
ambitions, would have been a relief to such a position; that his appeal
both to sympathy and to amusement would have done something to clear the
atmosphere. So far as he himself went, indeed, he was irresistible; his
frankness and his confidence were not to be denied. Trusting in the
order of nature, he knew no bashfulness; trusting in himself, he had no
misgivings. Without a doubt he was right. They all agreed that the old
ideal of original research and a hundred a year must be abandoned, and
that Jeremy must become rich and famous as soon as possible.

"Though whether you ought to forgive her in the end is, I must say, a
very difficult point," remarked Grantley with a would-be thoughtful
smile. "In cases of penitence I myself favour forgiveness, Jeremy."

"But there is the revelation of her character," suggested Sibylla,
taking the matter more seriously, or treating its want of seriousness
with more tenderness.

"I'm inclined to think the young lady's right at present," said Blake.
"What you have to do is to give her ground for changing her views--and
to give her mother ground for changing hers too."

Jeremy listened to them all with engrossed interest. Whatever their
attitude, they all confirmed his view.

"You once spoke of a berth in the City?" he said to Grantley.

"Not much fame there; but perhaps you may as well take things by

"I don't like it, you know. It's not my line at all."

Blake came to the rescue. The Selfords drew their money from large and
important dyeing-works, although Selford himself had retired from any
active share in the work of the business. There was room for scientific
aptitude in dyeing-works, Blake opined rather vaguely. "You could make
chemistry, for instance, subserve the needs of commerce, couldn't you?"

"That really is a good suggestion," said Jeremy approvingly.

"Capital!" Grantley agreed. "We'll get at Selford for you, Jeremy; and,
if necessary, we'll club together, and send to Terra del Fuego, and buy
Janet Selford a new dog."

"I begin to see my way," Jeremy announced.

Whereat the men laughed, while Sibylla came round and kissed him,
laughing too. What a very short time ago, and she had been even as
Jeremy, as sanguine, as confident, seeing her way as clearly, with just
as little warrant of knowledge!

"Meanwhile you mustn't mope, old chap," said Grantley.

"Mope? I've no time for moping. Do you think I could see this Selford

"I'll give you a letter to take to him," laughed Grantley. "But don't
ask for ten thousand a year all at once, you know."

"I know the world. When I really want a thing, I can wait for it."

But it was evident that he did not mean to wait very long. Grantley said
ten thousand a year: a thousand would seem riches to the Milldean
rectory folk.

"That's right. If you want a thing, you must be ready to wait for it,"
agreed Grantley, with smiling lips and a pucker on his brow.

"So long as there's any hope," added Sibylla.

These hints of underlying things went unheeded by Jeremy, but Blake
marked them. They were becoming more frequent now as the tension grew
and grew.

"There's always a hope with reasonable people."

"Opinions differ so much as to what is reasonable."

"Dora's not reasonable at present, anyhow."

Jeremy's mind had not travelled beyond his own predicament.

The contrast he pointed, the mocking memories he stirred, made his
presence accentuate and embitter the strife, confirming Sibylla's
despair, undermining even Grantley's obstinate self-confidence; while to
Blake his example, however much one might smile at it, seemed to cry,
"Courage!" He who would have the prize must not shrink from the

That night Sibylla sat long by her boy's cot. Little Frank slept quietly
(he had been named after his godfather, Grantley's friend, that Lord
Caylesham who was also the Fanshaws' friend), while his mother fought
against the love and the obligation that bound her to him--a sad fight
to wage. She had some arguments not lacking speciousness. To what life
would he grow up in such a home as theirs! Look at the life the
Courtland children led! Would not anything be better than that--any
scandal in the past, any loss in present and future? She called to her
help too that occasional pang which the helpless little being gave her,
he the innocent cause and ignorant embodiment of all her perished hopes.
Might not that come oftener? Might it not grow and grow till it
conquered all her love, and she ended by hating because she might have
loved so greatly? Horrible! Yes, but had it not nearly come to pass with
one whom she had loved very greatly? It could not be called impossible,
however to be loathed the idea of it might be. No, not impossible! Her
husband was the child's father. Did he love him? No, she cried--she had
almost persuaded herself that his indifference screened a positive
dislike. And if it were not impossible, any desperate thing would be
better than the chance of it. But for Grantley she could love, she could
go on loving, the child. Then why not make an end of her life with
Grantley--the life that was souring her heart and turning all love to
bitterness? Grantley would not want the child, and, not wanting it,
would let her have it. She did not believe that he would burden himself
with the boy for the sake of depriving her of him. She admitted with a
passing smile that he had not this small spitefulness--his vices were on
a larger scale. She could go to Grantley and say she must leave him. No
law and no power could prevent her, and she believed that she could take
the boy with her.

Why not do that? Do that, and let honour, at least, stand pure and

The question brought her to the issue she had tried to shirk, to the
truth she had sought to hide. Her love for the boy was much, but it was
not enough, it did not satisfy. Was it even the greatest thing? As it
were with a groan, her spirit answered, No. The answer could not be
denied, however she might stand condemned by it. Of physical passion she
acquitted herself--and now she was in no mood for easy self-acquittal;
but there was the greater passion for intercourse of soul, for union,
for devotion, for abandonment of the heart. These asked a responding
heart, they asked knowledge, feelings grown to full strength, a
conscious will, an intellect adult and articulate. They could be found
in full only where she had thought to find them--in the love of woman
and man, of fit man for fit woman, and of her for him. They could not be
found in the love for her child. Christine Fanshaw had asked her if she
could not be wrapped up in the baby. No. She could embrace it in her
love, but hers was too large for its little arms to enfold. She cried
for a wider field and what seemed a greater task.

And for what was wrong, distasteful, disastrous in the conclusion? She
had the old answer for this. "It's not my fault," she said. It was not
her fault that her love had found no answering love, had found no sun to
bloom in, and had perished for want of warmth. Not on her head lay the
blame. So far as human being can absolve human being from the commands
of God or of human society, she declared that by Grantley's act she
stood absolved. The contract in its true essence had not been broken
first by her.

Ah, why talk? Why argue? There were true things to be said, valid
arguments to use. On this she insisted. But in the end the imperious cry
of her nature rang out over all of them and drowned their feebler
voices. Come what might, and let the arguments be weak or strong, she
would not for all her life, that glorious life Heaven had given her,
beat her heart against the flinty wall.



Suzette Bligh was staying at the Courtlands'--that Suzette who had been
at Mrs. Raymore's party, and was, according to Christine Fanshaw, a baby
compared with Anna Selford, although ten years her senior. She had
neither father nor mother, and depended on her brother for a home. He
had gone abroad for a time, and Lady Harriet had taken her in, partly
from kindness (for Lady Harriet had kind impulses), partly to have
somebody to grumble to when she was feeling too conscientious to grumble
to the children. This did happen sometimes. None the less the children
heard a good deal of grumbling, and in Suzette's opinion knew far too
much about the state of the household. They were all girls, Lucy, Sophy,
and Vera, and ranged in age from thirteen to nine. They took to Suzette,
and taught her several things about the house before she had been long
in it; and she relieved Lady Harriet of them to a certain extent,
thereby earning gratitude no less than by her readiness to listen to
grumblings. Tom was little seen just now; he came home very late and
went out very early; he never met his wife; he used just to look in on
the children at schoolroom breakfast, which Suzette had elected to share
with them, Lady Harriet taking the meal in her own room. It was not a
pleasant house to stay in, but it was tolerably comfortable, and
Suzette, not asking too much of life, was content enough to be there,
could tell herself that she was of use, and was happy in performing an
act of friendship.

Of course the question was how long Lady Harriet would stand it. The
little girls knew that this was the question; they were just waiting for
mamma to break out. They had not disliked their mother in the past;
occasional fits of temper are not what children hate most. They endure
them, hoping for better times, or contrive to be out of the way when the
tempest arises. Cracks with any implement that came handy were the order
of the day when the tempest had risen; but on calm days Lady Harriet had
been carelessly indulgent, and, in her way, affectionate to the girls.
But now the calm days grew rarer, the tempests more frequent and
violent. Fear grew, love waned, hatred was on its way to their hearts.
They had never disliked their father; though they had no great respect
for him, they loved him. They regarded him with compassionate sympathy,
as the person on whom most of the cracks fell; and they quite understood
why he wanted to keep out of the way. This was a bond of union. They had
even vague suspicions as to where he went in order to get out of the
way. They had listened to their mother's grumbling; they had listened to
the talk of the servants too. Suzette was no check on their
speculations; they liked her very much, but they were not in the least
in awe of her.

"Will you take us for a walk this afternoon, Miss Bligh?" asked Sophy,
at schoolroom breakfast on Sunday. "Because Garrett says mamma's not
well to-day, and we'd better not go near her--she's going to stay in her
own room till tea-time."

"Of course I will, dears," said Suzette Bligh.

"Oh, there's nothing the matter with mamma, really," declared
Lucy--"only she's in an awful fury. I met Garrett coming out of her
room, and she looked frightened to death."

"Ah, but you don't know why!" piped up Vera's youthful voice in accents
of triumph. "I do! I was in the hall, just behind the curtain of the
archway, and I heard Peters tell the new footman. Papa was expected last
night, and mamma had left orders that she should be told when he came
in. But he didn't----"

"We know all that, Vera," Sophy interrupted contemptuously. "He sent
word that he'd been called out of town and wouldn't be back till

"And the message didn't get here till twelve o'clock. Fancy, Miss

"Well, I'm glad you're going to take us to church, and not mamma, Miss

"I hope she won't send for any of us about anything!"

"I hope she won't send for me, anyhow," said Vera, "because I haven't
done my French, and----"

"Then I shouldn't like to be you if you have to go to her," said Lucy,
in a manner far from comforting.

Lady Harriet was by way of teaching the children French, and had not
endeared the language to them.

"I wonder what called papa away!" mused Sophy.

"Now, Sophy, that's no business of yours," said poor Suzette,
endeavouring to do good. "You've no business to----"

"Well, I don't see any harm in it, Miss Bligh. Papa's always being
called away now."

"Especially when mamma's----"

"I can't listen to any more, dears. Does the vicar or the curate preach
in the morning, Lucy dear?"

"Don't know, Miss Bligh. I say, Vera, suppose you go and ask mamma to
let us have some of that strawberry jam at tea."

"Yes, let's make her go," Sophy chimed in gleefully.

"You may do anything you like," declared Vera, "but you can't make me
go--not if you kill me, you can't!"

The two elder girls giggled merrily at her panic.

Poor Suzette was rather in despair about these children--not because
they were unhappy. On the whole they had not been very unhappy. Their
mother's humours, if alarming, were also the cause of much excitement.
Their father's plight, if sorrowful, was by no means wanting in the
comic aspect. The suspense in which they waited to see how long Lady
Harriet would stand it had a distinct spice of pleasure in it. But the
pity of it all! Suzette's training, no less than her fidelity to Lady
Harriet, inclined her to lay far the heavier blame on Tom Courtland. But
she did have a notion that Lady Harriet must be very trying--and the
more she listened to the children the more that idea grew. And, between
them, the mother and the father were responsible for such a childhood as
this. The children were not bad girls, she thought, but they were in
danger of being coarsened and demoralised; they were learning to laugh
where they had better have cried. It was Suzette's way to be rather
easily shocked, and she was very much shocked at this.

They were just starting for their afternoon walk, when John Fanshaw
arrived and found them all in the hall. He was an old friend--Vera's
godfather--and was warmly welcomed. John was very cheery to-day; he
joked with the children, and paid Suzette Bligh a compliment. Then Vera
wanted to know why he had called:

"Because papa's not at home, you know."

"Never mind that, puss. I've come to see your mamma."

"You've come to see mamma!" exclaimed Lucy.

Glances were exchanged between the three--humorous excited glances;
admiring amused eyes turned to John Fanshaw. Here was the man who was
going to enter the lion's den.

"Shall we start, dears?" suggested Suzette Bligh apprehensively.

No notice was taken. Sophy gave John a direct and friendly warning.

"You'd better look out, you know," she said; "mamma's just furious
because papa's not come back."

"But it's not my fault, pussie," said John. "She can't put me in the
corner for it."

"Well, if you happen to be there----" began Lucy, with an air of

"We must really start, Lucy dear," urged Suzette.

"What have you come to see mamma about?" asked Vera shrilly.

"To find out how to keep little girls in order," answered John,
facetiously rebuking curiosity.

"I expect you've come about papa," observed Vera, with disconcerting
calmness and an obvious contempt for his joke.

"I'm going to start, anyhow," declared poor Suzette. "Come along, dears,

"Well, if there's a great row, Garrett'll hear some of it and tell us,"
said Sophy, consoling herself and her sisters as they reluctantly walked
away from the centre of interest.

John Fanshaw's happiness was with him still--the happiness which
Caylesham's cheque had brought. It was not banked yet, but it would be
to-morrow; and in the last two days John had taken steps to reassure
everybody, to tell everybody that they would be paid without question or
difficulty, to scatter the cloud of gossip and suspicion which had
gathered round his credit in the City. It was now quite understood that
John's firm had weathered any trouble which had threatened it, and could
be trusted and fully relied on again. Hence John's happy mind, and, a
result of the happy mind, a sanguine and eager wish to effect some good,
to bring about some sort of reconciliation and a _modus vivendi_ in the
Courtland family. His hopes were not visionary or unreasonable: he did
not expect to establish romantic bliss there; a _modus vivendi_
commended itself to him as the best way of expressing what he was going
to suggest to Lady Harriet. In this flush of happy and benevolent
feeling he was really glad that he had consented to undertake the

Lady Harriet liked John Fanshaw. She called him John and, though he did
not quite venture to reciprocate the familiarity, he felt that it gave
him a position in dealing with her. Also he thought her a very handsome
woman; and since she was aware of this, there was another desirable
element in their acquaintance. And he thought that he knew how to manage
women--he was sure he would not have made such a bad job of it as poor
Tom had. So he went in without any fear, and found justification in the
cordiality of his welcome. Indeed the welcome was too cordial, inasmuch
as it was based on an erroneous notion.

"You're the very man of all men I wanted to see! I was thinking of
sending for you. Come and sit down, John, and I'll tell you all about

"But I know all about it," he protested, "and I want to have a talk to

"Nobody can know but me; and I believe you're the best friend I have. I
want to tell you everything and take your advice how I'm to act."

Evidently she didn't suppose that he was in any sense an ambassador from
her husband. He was to be her friend. John found it difficult to correct
this mistake of hers.

"I'm at the end of my patience," she said solemnly. "I'm sure anybody
would be. You know what's happening as well as I do, and I intend to put
an end to it."

"Oh, don't say that! I--well, I'm here just to prevent you from saying

"To prevent me? You know what's happening? Do you know he's staying away
from home again? What do the servants think? What must the children
begin to think? Am I to be exposed to that?"

She looked very handsome and spirited, with just the right amount of
colour in her cheeks and an animated sparkle in her eyes.

"Why, I could name the woman!" she exclaimed. "And so could you, I

"Don't make too much of it," he urged. "We're not children. He doesn't
really care about the woman. It's only because he's unhappy."

"And whose fault is it he's unhappy?"

"And because of that he's being foolish--wasting all his money too, I'm

"Oh, I've got my settlement. I shall be all right in case of

"Now pray don't think of proceedings, Lady Harriet."

"Not think of them! I've made up my mind to them. I wanted to ask you
how to set about it."

"But it would ruin his career; it would destroy his public position."

"I can't help that. He should have thought of that for himself."

"And then think of the girls!"

"Anything would be better than going on like this--yes, better for them

John saw that he must face an explanation of his embassy. He got up and
stood on the hearthrug.

"I'm here as the friend of you both," he began.

The colour and the sparkle both grew brighter.

"Oh, are you?" said Lady Harriet.

"It comes to this. Tom's friends--I and one or two more--have been
speaking seriously to him. We've got him to say that he's ready to
drop--to drop what you very properly object to--and to make another
effort to find a--a _modus vivendi_."

"I'm glad he's got so much decent feeling! Only it comes rather late. He
wants me to forgive him, does he?"

"I don't think we can put it quite so simply as that." John risked a
timid smile. "There must be a give-and-take, Lady Harriet--a
give-and-take, you know."

"Well?" She was relapsing into that dangerous stillness of hers. She was
very quiet, but her eyes shone very bright. Tom Courtland would have
known the signs, so would the girls.

"We've got him to say what I've told you; but there must be something
from your side."

"What am I to do, John?" she asked, with deceptive meekness.

"Well, I think you might--well--er--express some regret that--that
things haven't gone more harmoniously at home. You might hold out an
olive branch, you know."

"Express regret?"

"Don't stand on a point of pride now. Haven't you sometimes been--well,
a little exacting--a little quick-tempered?"

"Oh, you're in that old story, are you? Quick-tempered? Suppose I am!
Haven't I enough to make me quick-tempered?"

"Yes, now you have. But what about the beginning?"

"Do you mean it was my fault in the beginning?"

"Don't you think so yourself? Partly, at all events?"

Lady Harriet took up a tortoiseshell paper-knife and played with it. Her
eyes were set hard on John, who did not like the expression in them. He
became less glad that he had undertaken the embassy.

"May a man desert and deceive his wife because she's a little

"No, no, of course not; that's absurd."

"It's what you're saying, isn't it?"

"We must look at it as men and women of the world."

"I look at it as a wife and a mother. Do you mean to say it was my fault
in the beginning?"

John was losing patience; he saw that some plain speaking would be
necessary, but his want of patience made it hard for him to do the plain
speaking wisely.

"Well, yes, I do," he said. "In the beginning, you know. Tom's a
good-natured fellow, and he was very fond of you. But you--well, you
didn't make his home pleasant to him; and if a man's home isn't
pleasant, you know what's likely to happen."

"And you're the friend I meant to send for!"

"I am your friend--that's why I venture to speak to you freely. There's
no hope unless you both realise where you've been wrong. Tom
acknowledges his fault and is ready to change his ways. But you must
acknowledge yours and change too."

"What is my fault?"

John took a turn up and down the room.

"I must let her have it," he decided, as he came back to the hearthrug.

"You make everybody afraid of you with your lamentable fits of temper,"
he told her. "Tom's afraid of you, and afraid of what you might drive
him into. Your children are afraid of you. Everybody's afraid of you.
You make the house impossible to live in. You're even violent sometimes,
I'm afraid, Lady Harriet."

If breaking a paper-knife in two be violence, she was violent then. She
threw the pieces down on the table angrily.

"How dare you come to me and talk like this? I've done nothing; I've
nothing to blame myself with. What I've had to put up with would have
spoilt anybody's temper! Express regret? I shall do nothing of the kind.
If that's what you came to ask, you can take your answer and go."

She was working herself up to the full tide of her rage. John's
undertaking was quite hopeless now, but he would not recognise it yet;
he determined to "let her have it" a little more still.

"Look at that!" he said, pointing to the broken paper-knife. "Just try
to think what that--that sort of thing--means! What man can be expected
to stand that? The state of things which has arisen is your fault.
You've made no effort to govern your temper. You're reaping the fruit of
what you've sown. If poor Tom had shown more firmness it might have been

"You'd have shown more firmness, I suppose?"

"Yes, I should; and I believe it would have done some good. You may
suppose it gives me great pain to speak like this, but really it's the
only way. Unless you realise how greatly you've been to blame, unless
you determine to conquer this deplorable failing, there's no hope of
doing any good."

She sat quiet for a moment or two longer with shining eyes, while John,
now confident again and very masculine, developed the subject of the
real truth about her. Then she broke out.

"You fool!" she said. "You silly fool! You come to me with this
nonsense! You tell me you'd have shown more firmness! You tell me it's
my fault Tom's gone off after this creature! Much you know about it all!
Wonderfully wise you are! Leave other men's wives alone, and go back and
look after your own, John."

"There's nothing that I'm aware of wrong in my house, Lady Harriet. We
needn't bring that into the question."

"Oh, we needn't, needn't we? And there never was anything wrong, I
suppose? I'm such a bad wife, am I? Other men have bad wives too."

"Do you attach any particular meaning to that?" he asked coldly, but
rather uneasily.

"Do I attach----? Oh, what an idiot you are! You to come and lecture me
as if I was a child! I may be anything you like, but I've never been
what your wife was, John Fanshaw."

He turned on her quickly.

"What do you mean by that?"

"That's my affair."

"No, it isn't. You've dared to hint----"

"Oh, I hint nothing I don't know!"

"You shall give me an explanation of those words. I insist upon that."

"You'd better not," she laughed maliciously.

John was moved beyond self-control. He caught her by the wrist. She rose
and stood facing him, her breath coming quick. She was in a fury that
robbed her of all judgment and all mercy; but she had no fear of him.

"You shall withdraw those words or explain them!"

"Ask Christine to explain them!" she sneered. "What a fool you are!
Here's a man to give lectures on the management of wives, when his own
wife----" She broke off, laughing again.

"You shall tell me what you mean!"

"Dear me, you can't guess? You've turned very dull, John. Never mind!
Don't make too much of it! Perhaps you were quick-tempered? Perhaps you
didn't make her home pleasant? And if a woman's home isn't
pleasant--well, you know what's likely to happen, don't you?"

Perspiration was on John Fanshaw's brow. He pressed her wrist hard.

"You she-devil!" he said. "Tell me what you mean, I say!"

"Oh, ask Christine! And if she won't tell you, I advise you to apply to
Frank Caylesham, John."

"Is that true?"

"Yes, it is. Don't break my wrist."


He held her wrist a moment longer, then dropped it, and looked aimlessly
round the room.

She rubbed her wrist and glared at him with sullen eyes, her fury dying
down into a malicious rancour.

"There, that's what you get from your meddling and your preaching!" she
said. "I never meant to give Christine away, I never wanted to. It's
your doing; you made me angry, and I hit out at you where I could. I
wish to God you had never come here, John! Christine's one of the few
women who are friendly to me, and now I've---- But you've yourself to
thank for it."

He sank slowly into a chair; she heard him mutter "Caylesham!" again.

"If you know I've a quick temper, why do you exasperate me? You
exasperate me, and then I do a thing like that! Oh, I'm not thinking of
you; I'm thinking of poor Christine. I hate myself now, and that's your
doing too!"

She flung herself into her chair and began to sob tempestuously. John
stared past her to the wall.

"It's just what Tom's always done," she moaned through her sobs--"making
me lose my temper, and say something, and then----" Her words became

Presently her sobs ceased; her face grew hard and set again.

"Well, are you going to sit there all day?" she asked. "Is it so
pleasant that you want to stay? Do you still think you can teach me the
error of my ways?"

From the first moment John Fanshaw had not doubted the truth of what she
said. Things forced out by passion in that way were true. Her stormy
remorse added a proof--a remorse which did not even attempt retractation
or evasion. And his memory got to work. He knew now why Christine had
been so reluctant to go to Caylesham. There were things back in the past
too, which now became intelligible--how that acquaintance had grown and
grown, how constant the companionship had been, one or two little things
which had seemed odd, and then how there had been a sudden end, and they
had come to see very little of Caylesham, how neither of them had seen
him for a long while, till John had sent Christine to borrow fifteen
thousand pounds.

"For God's sake, go!" she cried.

He rose to his feet slowly, and her fascinated eyes watched his face.
His eyes were dull, and his face seemed to have gone grey. He asked her
one question:

"How long ago?"

"Oh, all over years ago," she answered, with an impatient groan,
drumming her fingers on the arms of her chair.

He nodded his head in a thoughtful way.

"Good-bye, Lady Harriet," he said.

"Good-bye, John." Suddenly she sprang up. "Stop! What are you going to
say to Christine?"

He looked bewildered still.

"I don't know. Oh, really I don't know! My God, I never had any idea of
this, and I don't know! I can't--can't realise it all, you know--and
Caylesham too!"

"Are you going to tell her I told you?"

"I don't know what I'm going to do, Lady Harriet--I don't know."


With a cry of exasperation she turned away and sat down in her chair

"Good-bye," he muttered, and slouched awkwardly out of the room.

She sat on where she was, very still, frowning, her hand holding her
chin, only her restless eyes roving about the room. She was like some
handsome, fierce, caged beast. There she sat for close on an hour,
thinking of what she was and of what she had done--of how he had shown
her the picture of herself, and of how, from malice and in her wrath,
she had betrayed Christine. Once only in all this time her lips moved;
they moved to mutter:

"What a cursed woman I am!"



By this time young Walter Blake had not only clearly determined what he
wanted and meant to do, he had also convinced himself of his wisdom and
courage in wanting and meaning to do it. He was not blind, he declared,
to the disagreeable and distressing incidents. There were painful
features. There would be a scandal, and there would be an awkward and
uncomfortable period--a provisional period before life settled down on
its new and true lines. That was inevitable, since this case--the case
of himself and Sibylla--was exceptional, whereas laws and customs were
made for the ordinary cases. He did not condemn the laws and customs
wholesale, but he was capable of seeing when a case was exceptional, and
he had the wisdom and the courage to act on what he perceived. He even
admitted that very few cases were really exceptional, and took the more
credit for perceiving that this one really was. He did not take Grantley
into account at all, neither what he was nor what he might do. Grantley
seemed to him negligible. He confined his consideration to Sibylla and
himself--and the exceptional nature of the case was obvious. He was a
prey to his ready emotions and to his facile exaltation. Desires
masqueraded as reasons, and untempered impulses wore the decent cloak of
a high resolve. If he could have put the case like that to himself, it
might not have seemed so plainly exceptional.

He was never more convinced of his wisdom and courage than when he
listened to Caylesham's conversation. They were racecourse and club
acquaintances, and had lunched together at Caylesham's flat on the
Sunday on which John Fanshaw went to Lady Harriet's house in order to
show her the error of her ways. Blake glowed with virtue as he listened
to his friend's earthly views and measured his friend's degraded
standards against his own.

"The one duty," said Caylesham, somewhat circumscribing the domain of
morality, as his habit was, "is to avoid a row. Don't get the woman into
a scrape." From gossiping about Tom Courtland they had drifted into
discussing the converse case. "That really sums it all up, you know." It
was a chilly day, and he warmed himself luxuriously before the fire. "I
don't set myself up as a pattern to the youth, but I've never done that,

Virtuous Blake would have liked to rehearse to him all the evil things
he had done--the meanness, the hypocrisy, the degradation he had caused
and shared; but it is not possible to speak quite so plainly to one's

"Yes, that's the gospel," he said sarcastically. "Avoid a row. Nothing
else matters, does it?"

"Nothing else matters in the end, I mean," smiled Caylesham,
good-naturedly conscious of the sarcasm and rather amused at it. "As
long as there's no row, things settle down again, you see. But if
there's a row, see where you're left! Look what you've got on your
hands, by Jove! And the women don't want a row either, really, you know.
They may talk as if they did--in fact they're rather fond of talking as
if they did, and they may think they do sometimes. But when it comes to
the point, they don't. And what's more, they don't easily forgive a man
who gets them into a row. It means too much to them, too much by a deal,

"And what does it mean when there's no row?"

"Oh, well, there, of course, in a certain sense you have me," Caylesham
admitted with a candid smile. "If you like to take the moral line, you
do have me, of course. I was speaking of the world as we know it; and I
don't suppose it's ever been particularly different. Not in my time
anyhow, I can answer for that."

"You're wrong, Caylesham, wrong all through. If the thing has come to
such a point, the only honest thing is to see it through, to face it, to
undo the mistake, to put things where they ought to have been from the

"Capital! And how are you going to do it?"

"There's only one way of doing it."

Caylesham's smile broadened; he pulled his long moustache delicately as
he said:


Blake nodded sharply.

"Oh, my dear boy!"

He laughed in a gentle comfortable way, and drew his coat right up into
the small of his back.

"Oh, my dear boy!" he murmured again.

Nothing could have made Walter Blake feel more virtuous and more

"The only honest and honourable thing," he insisted--"the only
self-respecting thing for both."

"You convert the world to that, and I'll think about it."

"What do I care about the world? It's enough for me to know what I think
and feel about it. And I've no shadow of doubt."

His face flushed a little and he spoke rather heatedly.

"I wouldn't interfere with your convictions for the world, and, as I'm a
bachelor, I don't mind them." He was looking at Blake rather keenly now,
wondering what made the young man take the subject so much to heart.
"But if I were you I'd keep them in the theoretical stage, I think."

He laughed again, and turned to light a cigar. Blake was smoking too,
one cigarette after another, quickly and nervously. Caylesham looked
down on him with a good-humoured smile. He liked young Blake in a
half-contemptuous fashion, and would have been sorry to see him make a
fool of himself out and out.

"I'm not going to ask you any questions," he said, "though I may have an
idea about you in my head. But I'm pretty nearly twenty years older than
you, I fancy, and I've knocked about a good bit, and I'll tell you one
or two plain truths. When you talk like that, you assume that these
things last. Well, in nine cases out of ten, they don't. I don't say
that's nice, or amiable, or elevated, or anything else. I didn't make
human nature, and I don't particularly admire it. But there it is--in
nine cases out of ten, you know. And if you think you know a case that's
the tenth----"

This was exactly what Blake was sure he did know.

"Yes, what then?" he asked defiantly.

"Well," answered Caylesham slowly, "you be jolly sure first before you
act on that impression. You be jolly well sure first--that's all." He
paused and laughed. "That's not moral advice, or I wouldn't set up to
give it. But it's a prudential consideration."

"And if you are sure?"

"Sure for both, I mean, you know."

"Yes, sure for both."

"Well, then you're in such a bad way that you'd better pack up and go to
the Himalayas or somewhere like that without an hour's delay, because
nothing else'll save you, you know."

Blake laughed rather contemptuously.

"After all, there have been cases----"

"Perhaps--but I don't like such long odds."

"Well, we've had your gospel. Now let's hear how it's worked in your
case. Are you satisfied with that, Caylesham?"

He spoke with a sneer that did not escape Caylesham's notice. It drew
another smile from him.

"That's a home question--I didn't question you as straight as that.
Well, I'll tell you. I won't pretend to feel what I don't feel; I'll
tell you as truly as I can." He paused a moment. "I've had lots of fun,"
he went on. "I've always had plenty of money; I've never had any work to
do; and I took my fun--lots of it. I didn't expect to get it for
nothing, and I haven't got it for nothing. Sometimes I got it cheap, and
sometimes, one way and another, it mounted to a very stiff figure. But I
didn't shirk settling day; and if there are any more settling days, I
won't shirk them if I can help it. I don't think I've got anything to
complain about." He put his cigar back into his mouth. "No, I don't
think I have," he ended, twisting the cigar between his teeth.

What a contempt for him young Blake had! Was ever man so ignorant of his
true self? Was ever man so sunk in degradation and so utterly
unconscious of it? Caylesham could look back on a life spent as his had
been--could look back from the middle-age to which he had now come, and
find nothing much amiss with it! Blake surveyed his grovelling form from
high pedestals of courage and of wisdom--absolutely of virtue pure and

"Nothing very ideal about that!"

"Good Lord, no! You wanted the truth, didn't you?"

"Well, I suppose I thought like that once--I was contented with that

"You certainly used to give the impression of bearing up under it,"
smiled Caylesham. "But things are changed now, are they?"

"Yes, thank God! Imagine going on like that all your life!"

Caylesham threw himself into a chair with a hearty laugh.

"Now we've gone just as far as we can with discretion," he declared.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Blake rather angrily.

"Well, I'm not an idiot, am I, as well as a moral deformity?"

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"Yes, but I know what you've been talking about, Blake. I know it all
except one thing--and that I don't propose to ask."

Blake rose with a sulky air and tossed away the end of his cigarette.

"And what's that?"

"The lady's name, my boy," said Caylesham placidly.

This talk was fuel to Blake's flame. It showed him the alternative--the
only alternative. (He forgot that suggestion about the Himalayas, which
did not, perhaps, deserve to be forgotten.) And the alternative was
hideous to him now--hideous in its loss of all nobility, of all the
ideal, in its cynically open-eyed acceptance of what was low and base.
He would have come to that but for Sibylla. But for him, even
Sibylla--Sibylla mated to Grantley--might have come to it also. It was
from such a fate as this that they must rescue one another. One wise
decision, one courageous stroke, and the thing was done. Very emotional,
very exalted, he contrasted with the life Caylesham had led the life he
and Sibylla were to lead. Could any man hesitate? With a new impetus and
with louder self-applause he turned to his task of persuading Sibylla to
the decisive step.

Part of the work was accomplished. Sibylla had cast Grantley out of her
heart; she disclaimed and denied both her love and her obligation to
him. The harder part remained: that had been half done in her vigil by
the baby's cot. But it was ever in danger of being undone again. A cry
from the boy's lips, the trustful clinging of his arms from day to day,
fought against Blake. Only in those gusts of unnatural feeling, those
spasms of repugnance born of her misery, was she in heart away from the
child. On these Blake could not rely, nor did he seek to, since to speak
of them brought her to instant remorse; but, left to be brooded over in
silence, they might help him yet. He trusted his old weapons more--his
need of her love and her need to give it. Caylesham's life gave him a
new instance and added strength to his argument. He told her of the man,
though not the man's name, sketching the life and the state of mind it
brought a man to.

"That was my life till you came," he said. "That was what was waiting
for me. Am I to go back to that?"

He could attack her on another side too.

"And will you lead the sort of life that man has made women live? Is
that fit for you? You can see what it would do to you. You would get
like what he's like. You would come down to his level. First you'd share
his lies and his intrigues, perforce, while you hated them. Gradually
you'd get to hate them less and less: they'd become normal, habitual,
easy; they'd become natural. At last you'd see little harm in them. The
only harm or hurt at last would be discovery, and you'd get cunning in
avoiding that. Think of you and me living that life--aye, till each of
us loathed the other as well as loathing ourselves. Is that what you

"Not that, anyhow not that," she said in a low voice, her eyes wide open
and fixed questioningly on him.

"If not that and not the other, what then? Am I to go away?" But he put
Caylesham's alternative in no sincerity. He put it to her only that she
might thrust it away. If she did not, he would spurn it himself. "And
where should I go? Back to where I came from--back to that life?"

She could not tell him to go away, nor to go back to that life. She sat
silent, picturing what his life and what her own life would be through
all the years, the lifelong years, when even the boy's love would be
bitterness, and she could have a friend in nobody because of the great
sad secret which would govern all her life.

"I can't tell you. I can't decide to-day."

Again and again she had told him that, fighting against the final and
the irrevocable.

But Blake was urgent now, wrought up to an effort, very full of his
theories and his aspirations, full too of a rude natural impatience
which he called by many alien names, deceiving his very soul that he
might have his heart's desire, and have it without let or hindrance. He
launched his last argument, a last cruel argument, whose cruelty seemed
justice to a mind absorbed in its own selfishness. But she had eyes for
no form of selfishness save Grantley's. To ask all did not seem
selfishness to her; it was asking nothing or too little that she banned.

"You've gone too far," he told her. "You can't turn back now. Look what
you've done to me since you came into my life. Think what you've taught
me to hope and believe--how you've let me count on you. You've no right
to think of the difficulties or the distress now. You ought to have
thought of all that long ago."

It was true, terribly true, that she ought to have thought of all that
before. Was it true that she had lost the right to arrest her steps and
the power to turn back?

"You're committed to it. You're bound by more than honour, by more than
love. You'll be untrue to everybody in turn if you falter now."

It was a clever plea to urge on a distracted mind. Where decision is too
difficult, there lies desperate comfort in being convinced that it is
already taken, that facts have shaped it, and previous actions
irrevocably committed the harassed heart.

"You've made my love for you my whole life. You knew you were doing it.
You did it with full knowledge of what it meant. I say you can't draw
back now."

He had worked himself up to a pitch of high excitement. There was
nothing wanting in his manner to enforce his words. His case was very
exceptional indeed to him; and so it seemed to her--believing in his
love because of the love she had herself to give, yearning to satisfy
the hunger she had caused, to make happy the life which depended utterly
on her for joy.

The long fight, first against Grantley, latterly against herself, had
worn and almost broken her. She had no power left for a great struggle
against her lover now. Her weariness served his argument well. It cried
out to her to throw herself into the arms which were so eagerly ready
for her. One way or the other anyhow the battle must be ended, or surely
it would make an end of her.

But where was an end if she stayed with Grantley? That life was all
struggle, and must be so long as it endured. Who could find rest on a
flinty wall?

She was between that monstrous image she had made of her husband, and
the shape which Blake presented to her as himself--far more alluring,
not a whit less false. But for the falseness of either she had no eyes.

"I want your promise to-day," he said. "Your promise I know you will

He had become quiet now. There was an air of grave purpose about him.
The excitement and ardour had done their work with her; this succeeding
mood, or manner (for he had lost all distinction between what he felt
and what he made himself seem to feel), had its place, and was well
calculated to complete his victory.

"I will send you my answer to-night," she said.

"It means all that I am--everything in the world to me. Remember that."

And he urged her no more, leaving with her these simple sincere-sounding
words to plead for him.

That was what the answer meant to him. What would it mean to Grantley
Imason? She asked herself that as she sat silent opposite to him at
dinner. It chanced that they were alone, though of late she had schemed
to avoid that. And to-night she could not speak to him, could say
nothing at all, though his raised brows and satirical glance challenged
her. Things might be uncomfortable, but why lose either your tongue or
your manners, Grantley seemed to ask. You might have a grievance (Oh,
real or imaginary, as you please!) against your husband, but why not
converse on topics of the day with the gentleman at the other end of the
table? He seemed to be able to do his part without any effort, without
any difficulty to avoid open war, and yet never to commit himself to any
proposition for peace. All through the years, thought Sibylla, he would
go on suavely discussing the topics of the day, while life went by, and
love and joy and all fair things withered from the face of the earth.

The servants disappeared, and Grantley's talk became less for public

"I wonder how old John has got on with Harriet Courtland!" he said in an
amused way. "He was uncommonly plucky to face her. But, upon my word,
the best thing from some points of view would be for him to fail. At
least it would be the best if old Tom wasn't such a fool. But as soon as
Tom sees a chance of getting rid of one woman, he saddles himself with

"Could he have got rid of Lady Harriet?"

"They might have arranged a separation. As it is, there'll be an open
row, I'm afraid."

"Still if it puts an end to what's intolerable----?" she suggested, as
she watched him drinking his coffee and smoking his cigarette with his
delicate satisfaction in all things that were good.

"A very unpleasant way out," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Would you have endured what Mr. Courtland couldn't?"

He smiled across at her; the sarcastic note was strong in his voice as
he asked:

"Do you think me an impatient man? Do you think I've no power of
enduring what I don't like, Sibylla?"

She flushed a little under his look.

"It's true," he went on, "that I endure vulgarity worst of all; and
Harriet Courtland's tantrums are very vulgar, as all tantrums are."

"Only tantrums? Aren't all emotions, all feelings, rather vulgar,

He thought a smile answer enough for that. It is no good arguing against
absurd insinuations, or trying to show them up. Let them alone; in time
they will die of their own absurdity.

"Grantley, would you rather I went away? Don't you find life unendurable
like this?"

"I don't find it pleasant," he smiled; "but I would certainly rather you
didn't go away. If you want a change for a few weeks, I'll endeavour to
resign myself."

"I mean, go away altogether."

"No, no, I'm sure you don't mean anything so---- Forgive me, Sibylla,
but now and then your suggestions are hard to describe with perfect

She looked at him in a wondering way, but made no answer; and he too was
silent for a minute.

"I think it would be a good thing," he went on, "if you and Frank betook
yourselves to Milldean for a few weeks. I'm so busy that I can see very
little of you here, and country air is good for nerves."

"Very well, we'll go in a day or two. You'll stay here?"

"Yes, I must. I'll try to get down now and then, and bring some cheerful
people with me. Blake will come sometimes, I daresay. Jeremy won't till
he's rich and famous, I'm afraid."

In spite of herself, it flashed across her that he was making her path
very easy. And she wondered at the way he spoke of Blake, at his utter
absence of suspicion. Her conscience moved a little at this.

"Yes, I'm sure you'll be better at Milldean," he went on; "and--and try
to think things over while you're there."

It was his old attitude. He had nothing to think over--that task was all
for her. The old resentment overcame her momentary shame at deceiving

"Are they so pleasant that I want to think them over?"

"I think you know what I mean; and in this connection I don't appreciate
repartee for its own sake," said Grantley wearily, but with a polite

A sudden impulse came upon her. She leant across towards him and said:

"Grantley, have you seen Frank to-day?"

"No, I haven't to-day."

"I generally go and sit by him for a little while at this time when I'm
free. Did you know that?"

"I gathered it," said Grantley.

"You've never come with me, nor offered to."

"I'm not encouraged to volunteer things in my relations with you,

"Will you come with me now?" she asked.

She herself could not tell under what impulse she spoke--whether it were
in hope that at the last he might change, in the hope of convincing
herself that he would never change. She watched him very intently, as
though much hung on the answer that he gave.

Grantley seemed to weigh his answer too, looking at his wife with
searching eyes. There was a patch of red on his cheeks. Evidently what
she had said stirred him, and his composure was maintained only by an
effort. At last he spoke:

"I'm sorry not to do anything you ask or wish, but as matters are, I
will not come and see Frank with you."

"Why not?" she asked in a quick half-whisper.

His eyes were very sombre as he answered her.

"When you remember that you're my wife, I'll remember that you're the
mother of my son. Till then you are an honoured and welcome guest in
this house or in any house of mine."

Their eyes met; both were defiant, neither showed a hint of yielding.
Sibylla drew in her breath in a long inhalation.

"Very well, I understand," she said.

He rose from his chair.

"You're going upstairs now?" he suggested, as though about to open the

"I'm going, but I'm not going upstairs to-night," she answered as she
rose. "I shall go and write a letter or two instead."

He bowed politely as she passed out of the room. Then he sat down at the
table again and rested his head on both his hands. It took long--it took
a very long while. She was hard to subdue. Hard it was too to subdue
himself--to be always courteous, never more than permissibly ironical,
to wait for his victory. Yet not a doubt crossed his mind that he was on
the right track, that he must succeed in the end, that plain reason and
good sense must win the day. But the fight was very long. His face
looked haggard in the light as he sat alone by the table and told
himself to persevere.

And Sibylla, confirmed in her despair, bitterly resentful of the terms
he had proposed, seeing the hopelessness of her life, fearing to look on
the face of her child lest the pain should rend her too pitilessly, sat
down and wrote her answer to Walter Blake. The answer was the promise he
had asked.

The images had done their work--hers of him and his of her--and young
Blake's fancy picture of himself.



"Well, have you managed to amuse yourself to-day?" asked Caylesham,
throwing himself heavily on a sofa by Tom Courtland, and yawning widely.

He had dropped in at Mrs. Bolton's, after dinner. Tom had spent the day
there, and had not managed to amuse himself very much, as the surly
grunt with which he answered Caylesham's question sufficiently
testified. He had eaten too much lunch, played cards too long and too
high, with too many "drinks" interspersed between the hands; then had
eaten a large dinner, accompanied by rather too much champagne; then had
played cards again till both his pocket and his temper were the worse.
There had been nothing startling, nothing lurid about his day; it had
just been unprofitable, boring, unwholesome. And he did not care about
Mrs. Bolton's friends--not about Miss Pattie Henderson, nor about the
two quite young men who had made up the card-party. His face was a
trifle flushed, and his toothbrushy hair had even more than usual of its
suggestion of comical distress.

"Been a bit dull, has it?" Caylesham went on sympathetically. "Well, it
often is. Oh, I like our friend Flora Bolton, you know, so long as she
doesn't get a fit of nerves and tell you how different she might have
been. People should never do that. At other times she's a good sort, and
just as ready to ruin herself as anybody else--nothing of the good old
traditional harpy about her. Still perhaps it works out about the same."

It certainly worked out about the same, as nobody knew better than Tom
Courtland. He was thinking now that he had paid rather high for a not
very lively day. The only person he had won from was Miss Henderson, and
he was not sure that she would pay.

"Must spend your time somewhere," he jerked out forlornly.

"A necessity of life," Caylesham agreed; "and it doesn't make so much
difference, after all, where you do it. I rather agree with the fellow
who said that the only distinction he could see between--well, between
one sort of house and the other sort--was that in the latter you could
be more certain of finding whisky and soda on the sideboard in the
morning; and now I'm hanged if that criterion isn't failing one! Whisky
and soda's got so general."

The card-party at the other end of the room was animated and even a
little noisy. Mrs. Bolton was prone to hearty laughter. Miss Henderson
had a penetrating voice, and usually gave a little shriek of delight
when she won. The two young men were rather excited. Caylesham regarded
the whole scene with humorous contempt. Tom Courtland sat in moody
silence, doing nothing. He had even smoked till he could smoke no more.
He had not a pleasure left.

Presently Miss Pattie threw down her cards and came across to them. She
was a tall ladylike-looking young woman; only the faintest trace of
Cockney accent hung about the voice. She sat down by Caylesham in a
friendly way.

"We hardly ever see you now," she told him. "Are you all right?"

"All right, but getting old, Pattie. I'm engaged in digging my own

"Oh, nonsense, you're quite fit still. I say, have you heard about me?"

"Lots of things."

"No, don't be silly. I mean, that I'm going to be married?"

"No, are you, by Jove? Who's the happy man?"

"Georgie Parmenter. Do you know him? He's awfully nice."

"I know his father. May I proffer advice? Get that arrangement put down
in writing. Then at the worst it'll be worth something to you."

Miss Pattie was not at all offended. She laughed merrily.

"They always said you were pretty wide-awake, and I believe it!" she
observed. "He'll have ten thousand a year when his father dies."

"In the circumstances you mention he won't have a farthing a year till
that event happens, I'm afraid, Pattie. A man of strong prejudices, old
Sir George."

"Well, I'm sure I've got letters enough to----"

"That's all right. I shall watch the case with interest."

He yawned again and rose to his feet.

"Tom's pretty dull, isn't he?" asked Miss Pattie with a comical pout.

"Yes, Tom's pretty dull, certainly."

"I'm sleepy," said Tom Courtland.

"So am I. I shall go home," and Caylesham walked off to bid the lady of
the house good-night.

The lady of the house came into the hall and helped him on with his
coat. It appeared that she wanted to have a word with him--first about
the wisdom of backing one of his horses, and secondly about Tom
Courtland. Caylesham told her on no account to back the horse, since it
wouldn't win, and waited to hear what she had to say about Tom.

"I'm distressed about him, Frank," she said. "You know I do like Tom,
and I never saw a man so down in the mouth." Her face was rather coarse
in feature and ruddy in tint, but kindly and good-natured; her concern
for Tom was evidently quite genuine. "What a devil that wife of his must

"She has her faults. Perhaps we have ours. Be charitable, Flora."

"Oh, you can be as sarcastic as you like. Heaven knows I don't mind
that! But I'm worried to death about him, and about what she'll do. And
then there's the money too. I believe he's hard up. It's very tiresome
all round. Oh, I don't care much what people say of me, but I don't want
to go through the court again, if I can help it."

"Which of the two courts do you refer to?" he asked, as he buttoned his
coat. "Bankruptcy or----?"

"Either of them, Frank, you old fool!" she laughed.

"Send him back to his wife. You'll have to soon, anyhow--when the
money's gone, you know. Do it now--before those two men come and stand
opposite to see who goes in and out of the house."

"But the poor chap's so miserable, Frank; and I like him, you see."

"Ah, I can't help you against honest and kindly emotions. They're not
part of the game, you know."

"No, they aren't; but they come in. That's the worst of it," sighed Mrs.
Bolton. "Well, good-night, Frank. We shall get through somehow, I

"That's the only gospel left to this age, Flora. Good-night."

He had not been able to help poor Mrs. Bolton much; he had not expected
to be able to. That things could not be helped and must be endured was,
as he had hinted, about the one certain dogma of his creed. The thing
then was to endure them as easily as possible, to feel them as little as
one could either for oneself or for other people. There was Flora
Bolton's mistake, and a mistake especially fatal for a woman in her
position. She would probably have been much happier if she had not been
just as ready to ruin herself as she was to ruin anybody else--if she
had, in fact, been the old traditional harpy through and through.

In truth it was not the least use distressing himself about Tom
Courtland. Still he was rather worried about the affair, because Tom,
again, was not thoroughly suited to the part he was now playing. Plenty
of men were, and they demanded no pity. But poor old Tom was not. He
could not spend his money without thinking about it; he could not do
things without considering their bearings and their consequences; he
could not forget to-morrow. He had none of the qualifications. His
tendencies were just as little suited to the game as were Flora Bolton's
honest and kindly emotions. Tom was pre-eminently fitted to distribute
the bacon at the family breakfast and to take the children for their
Sunday walk; to work away at his politics in a solid undistinguished
way, and to have a good margin in hand when he came to make up the
annual budget of his household. But Lady Harriet had prevailed to rout
all these natural tendencies. A remarkable woman, Lady Harriet!

Suddenly Caylesham saw ahead of him a figure which he recognised by the
light of the street lamps. It was John Fanshaw going in the direction of
his home. It was rather late for John to be about, and Caylesham's first
idea was to overtake him and rally him on his dissipated hours. He had
already quickened his steps with this view, when it struck him that,
after all, he would not accost John. It might look as if he wanted to be
thanked for his loan. Anyhow John would feel bound to thank him, and he
did not desire to be thanked. So he fell behind, and followed in that
fashion till his road home diverged from John's. But the encounter had
turned his thoughts in a new direction. Tom and Lady Harriet were no
more in his mind, nor was Flora Bolton. He was thinking about Christine
as he turned into his flat, and being sorry that she had felt so much
dislike to taking the money from him. It was all right that she should
dislike it, but still he was sorry for her. Christine's small dainty
face had always kept so much of the child about it that it had the power
of making him very sorry for her just because she was sorry for herself,
apart from any good reasons at all. His feelings, however well schooled
they might be, would not easily have faced a great distress on
Christine's face. But as he got into his dressing-gown the sombre hue
passed from his mind. Either there was nothing to worry about, or it was
no good worrying. Everybody would get through somehow.

John Fanshaw pursued his homeward way heavily and slowly. He had gone
straight from the Courtlands' house to the quietest of his clubs, and
sent a messenger to his wife to say that he was going to dine there, and
that she was not to sit up in case he were late back. He wanted to think
the thing over, and he did not want to see Christine. He could not even
try to doubt; Harriet Courtland's passionate taunt and her passionate
remorse--her remorse most of all--had carried, and continued to carry,
absolute conviction; and memory, hideously active and acute, still plied
him with confirmatory details. After these six years he remembered
things which at the time he could hardly have been said to know; they
emerged from insignificance and took on glaring meanings. How had he
been so blind? Yet he had been utterly blind. He had had many quarrels
with Christine--over money and so forth; he had blamed her for many
faults, sometimes justly, sometimes not. This one thing he had never
suspected--no, nor dreamed of her. It seemed to shatter at one blow all
his conceptions of their married life. He was confused and bewildered at
the thought of it--so it cut away foundations and tore up deep-grown
roots. Christine do that? Orderly, cool, sarcastic, self-controlled
Christine! She seemed the old Christine no more. He did not know how to
be towards her. He would hate to have her near him--she would not seem
to be his.

He found himself wishing he had known of the thing at the time. It would
have been a fearful shock, but by now he would have grown used to it.
Something would have been done, or, if nothing had been done, the thing
would have become ancient history--a familiar fact to which they would
have adjusted themselves. It was awful to be told of it now, when it
seemed too late to do anything, when the wound was so old, and yet the
smart of it so fresh!

And she had been such a good wife--yes, on the whole. Their bickerings
had been only bickerings, and he had often been as much to blame as she.
On the whole, she had been such a loyal friend and such a comforting
companion. He had liked even her acid little speeches--on the whole. He
had always thought her not very demonstrative perhaps, but very
true--true as steel. Cold perhaps--he had felt that and resented it
sometimes--but always true. He had never had a misgiving as to that in
all his married life.

When he got home he went straight to his study and sat down at his
writing-table. It was one o'clock, and Christine would have gone to
bed--he was glad of that. He made an effort to collect his mind, because
the immediate question was not of what Christine had done, not of the
blow to him, not whether he wanted to see Christine or even could bear
to see her, not of the change all his life and all his ideas had
undergone. There was plenty of time to think of all that later on. He
must think now of the other thing--of how he stood and of what he was
going to do.

He took out his keys and unlocked the despatch-box that stood on the
table. After pausing to take a drink of whisky and water, he opened the
upper drawer and drew forth Caylesham's cheque for fifteen thousand
pounds. It had been post-dated to the Monday--it was already Monday now.
In nine hours it was to have been credited to his account at the bank,
ready to answer his obligations, to discharge his commitments, to
reassure his creditors, to drive away all the clouds which had obscured
the fair fame of his firm. Caylesham's cheque and Grantley's were to
have been salvation. Grantley's alone was no use. And Caylesham's--he
held it in his fingers and looked at it with a poring scrutiny.

Twice he reached for an envelope, in the mind to send it back--to send
it back either with the truth or with a lie. Once he took hold of either
end, as though to tear it across. But a paralysis fell on his fingers.
How should he send back, how should he destroy, that all-potent little
slip of paper? It meant credit, honour, comfort, peace--perhaps even
life. His imagination pictured two scenes--going to the City, to his
office, next day, with that slip of paper; and going without it. The
sketch was enough--his thoughts were too busy to fill in the details.
One picture meant a gradual ascent from out of all his troubles; the
other, a fall into a gulf of calamity unfathomable. His hands refused to
destroy or to send back the cheque.

But if he kept it, used it, owed salvation to it--what would that mean?
The question bewildered him. He could not make out what that would mean
as regarded either himself or Caylesham or Christine--least of all what
it would mean as regarded Christine. He was duly conscious that the act
would be in some sort a condonation. A condonation going how far?
Imposing what attitude and what course of conduct on him? How far would
it condition his bearing towards Caylesham, how far affect his estimate
of himself? Above all, how far dictate his relations to Christine? He
knew very well what would come of destroying the cheque or of sending it
back. He could not reason out what he would stand committed to if he
kept and used it.

Ah, this horrible question could not have arisen, either, if he had
known of the thing at the time. It was fearful to be told of it now.

"It's a terrible situation for a man to be placed in--terrible!" he said

The thought flashed across his mind that he could pretend not to know.
He could give Lady Harriet a caution; he could tell her he attached no
importance to her words; she would take the hint and be glad. Caylesham
would suspect nothing. He could keep the cheque. And Christine? Could he
make that pretence to Christine?

He was sitting shrunk low into his chair, the cheque still in his
fingers, when the door opened softly, and Christine came in. She had
heard him open and close the front door, and had wondered why he did not
come upstairs. His delay, taken with his staying out all the evening,
made her ask whether anything had happened. She was in a white
dressing-gown, which she had thrown on when she got out of bed, and
little slippers of white fur. She looked very small, very dainty, very
childish; her hair was like a child's too, brushed smoothly away from
the forehead.

"Why, John, what's kept you so late? And what are you doing here?"

She came some steps towards him, before she saw what it was that he held
in his hand. Then she smiled, saying:

"You're gloating over that cheque, you foolish man!"

He raised dull slow eyes to her.

"Yes, I've got it here," he muttered.

Christine walked to the rug; his table was on one side of the fireplace,
and she was within five or six feet of him.

"What are you doing with it?" she asked, with an impatient ring in her
voice. She did not enjoy the sight of the cheque, and had hoped to be
able by degrees to forget it.

"It's dated for Monday. I ought to pay it in in the morning."

"Well, why not? Of course you'll pay it in." A sudden hope rose in her.
"Nothing's occurred to make it unnecessary?"

He shook his head heavily, and laid the paper down on the table.

"No, nothing," he said, and then his eyes rested on her again.

"John, aren't you well?" she asked.

Her littleness and her childishness made no appeal to his tender
feelings. Their contrast with what she had done, with the way she had
deceived and betrayed him, roused all his repulsion again, and with it
came now a man's primitive fierce anger. It was impossible for him to
pretend not to know.

"Go away!" he said in a thick harsh whisper. "Go to bed--I don't want
you. I want to be alone."

Her eyes seemed to grow large; a fearful apprehension dawned in them.

"What's the matter? What have I done?" she asked, trying to summon her
wits, wondering at what point she was attacked. Already her thoughts
were on Caylesham, but she did not yet see whence suspicion could have

He gave her no clue. His eyes had fallen to the cheque again; he kept
shuffling his legs about and fidgeting with his short stiff beard.

"Ah," she cried suddenly, "you went to Harriet Courtland's to-day! Has
she said something about me? John, you wouldn't believe what she said
against me?"

He made no answer. In truth she needed none. She knew Harriet Courtland,
who had been her friend and in her confidence. It had not been
considered safe to send Raymore, because Harriet would have taunted him
about his erring son. She knew what Harriet, blind with rage, had found
to taunt John Fanshaw with. She was hardly conscious of resentment
against the traitor. It was all too hopeless for that, and it all seemed
too inevitable. From the moment she had agreed to go to Caylesham for
the money, her forebodings had told her that calamity would come. That
was opening the grave. Now the dead bones had come to life. She felt as
though she could not struggle against it--could not protest nor deny.
She did not see how anybody could believe her denial.

"Why haven't you gone? I told you to go. In God's name, go!" he growled
threateningly. "Leave me alone, I tell you."

She gathered her dressing-gown closer round her. She felt as though the
cold struck through it to her body. She felt utterly prostrated--and,
oh, so terribly, so helplessly sorry for poor old John! She hated
leaving him alone, and wished there was somebody else there to console
him. She made an advance towards him, holding out her hands.

"Don't come here! Don't come near me!" he said in a low voice.

She drew back; her eyes were on him and full of pity. Now the cheque
came into her mind.

"And that?" she whispered.

"I think I shall kill you if you don't go," he said, with a sudden
unsteadiness in his voice.

"Oh, I'll go!" she murmured disconsolately. "I'll leave you alone." She
put her hands up before her face and gave a choking sob. "It's all no
use now."

She began to walk across the room, her face covered in her hands, her
dressing-gown trailing on the floor behind her. But when she had got
half-way, she turned on him in a fit of weak petulance.

"I didn't want to go to him; I tried not to. I did all I could to avoid
going to him. It was you who insisted. You made me go. How could I help
it? I hated it! And now----" She came a step towards him, and her voice
changed to a very humble sad pleading: "It's very long ago, dear John,
many years ago. It was all over many years ago."

He did not speak. He motioned her away with his hand; her appeal did not
seem to reach him at all. For all he did, he might not have heard it.
With a long sigh she turned away, and walked unsteadily to the door.
When she reached it, she turned again, and looked at him. He was putting
the cheque back in the despatch-box with awkward trembling hands. She
went slowly up to her room and sat down before the dying embers of the
fire there.

John would send back the cheque! He must send it back now; it would be a
fearful thing to keep it, knowing what he did. And if he sent it back,
all that happened then would be on her head! He mustn't send it back!
She started up once in a panic, ready to rush down and implore him to
keep it--implore him to commit the baseness of keeping it. No, she could
not do that. If she were never to speak with him again, her last word
ought to be to beseech him to send it back. But to send it back was
ruin. Between the remorseless alternatives of calamity and degradation
her mind oscillated in helpless indecision.

Through long hours of the night John Fanshaw wrestled with himself; and
when at last he crawled up to his dressing-room, flung off his coat and
waistcoat, put on his slippers, and stretched himself exhausted on his
bed, he declared that he could come and had come to no conclusion--that
it was too hard for him. He was trying to deceive himself. There was a
conclusion which he would not own, which had crept and insinuated itself
into his mind, while he struggled against it and denied it to himself.

He could not send back nor destroy the cheque. Still his hands had
refused that office. He could not face the City without it, could not
endure the calamity and the ruin which the loss of it would mean. But
neither would he face that fact and what it meant--that he was to become
a party to the transaction, to recognise, to condone, and to pardon. He
had no right to keep his anger, his indignation, the repulsion which
made him drive Christine from his presence, if he were her accomplice.
If he kept and used the cheque, what right had he to moral indignation,
to a husband's just anger, to a true man's repulsion at the shame and
the deceit? Yet he would not give up these things. He hugged them in his
heart, even while he hugged the idea of the cheque, and all the virtue
of the cheque, in his mind. He would be saved, but he would not touch
the hand that saved him. That conclusion did not bear thinking of. But
conclusions which do not bear thinking of are none the less thought out;
they take possession of the protesting mind; they establish themselves
there. Then they seek sophisms, excuses, pleas for themselves; they
point to the good results which spring from them. Time and familiarity
rob them of some of their ugliness; they grow habitual; they govern
actions, shape lives, and condition character. John Fanshaw would have
it both ways--salvation by his wife's sin, and horror at it.

So Harriet Courtland would have love and loyalty, though she bridled not
her evil rage. So Mrs. Bolton would think honest and kindly emotions
could flourish in a life like hers. So Grantley Imason asked all her
inmost life and love of another, though the lock was kept turned on his
own. So Sibylla would give the rein to impulse, and persuade herself
that she performed a duty. So young Blake would seek to be made good by
the enjoyment of his darling sin. Only dainty little Christine looked
open-eyed at the pleasure she had won and at the ruin it had made. She
saw these things clearly as she sat sleepless through the night. And
when she watched her husband start for his work the next morning, though
he had told her nothing, though not a word had passed between them, she
knew well that Caylesham's cheque was in his pocket and would find its
way to the bank that day. John would have his salvation--with or without
its price.



Jeremy Chiddingfold had established himself in London greatly to his
satisfaction. He had hired a bedroom in Ebury Street, an attic, and had
made friends with one Alec Turner, a journalist, who lodged in the same
house. Alec Turner took him often to the Metropolitan Radical Club, and
had proposed him for membership. Here he could eat at moderate charges,
play chess, smoke, and argue about all things in heaven (assuming
heaven) and earth (which, anyhow, was full of matter for argument). And
at Ebury Street he was not only within easy reach of the Imasons in
Sloane Street, but equally well in touch with the Selfords in Eccleston
Square, and the Raymores in Buckingham Gate. A third-class on the
Underground Railway from Victoria carried him to Liverpool Street,
whence he proceeded to the dyeing-works near Romford, in Essex. For the
dyeing-works project was taking shape. Jeremy had been down to Romford
several times to look round and see what the processes were like. He had
digested the article on dyeing in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, and had
possessed himself of the _Dictionary of Dyeing_ and the _Manual of
Dyeing_. His talk both at the Metropolitan Radical Club and at the
houses he frequented was full of the learning and the terminology of
dyeing--things you dyed, and things you dyed the things with, and the
things you did it in, and so forth. He fascinated Eva Raymore by
referring airily (and at this stage somewhat miscellaneously) to warm
vats, and copperas, and lime vats, to insoluble basic compounds, to
mordants and their applications, to single and double muriate of tin.
You could go so far on the article without bothering about the
_Dictionary_ or the _Manual_ at all; but then Eva did not know that, and
thought him vastly erudite. In fact Jeremy was in love with dyeing, and
rapidly reconsidered his estimate of the Beautiful--the Beautiful as
such, even divorced from Utility--in the scheme of nature and of life.
On Alec Turner's recommendation he read Ruskin and William Morris, and
thought still better of the Beautiful.

He soon made himself at home both at the Selfords' and at the Raymores',
dropping in freely and casually, with an engaging confidence that
everybody would be glad to see him and pleased to allow him to deposit
his long angular body in an armchair, and talk about dyeing or the
Social Armageddon. He was, however, interested in other things too--not
so much in pictures, but certainly in dogs. He had country lore about
dogs and their diseases, and so won Mrs. Selford's respect. He found
Anna Selford's keen mind an interesting study, and delighted to tease
the pretty innocence of Eva Raymore. In neither house was there a young
man--no son at the Selfords', and the Raymores' house was empty of
theirs; and Jeremy, in his shabby coat, with his breezy jollity and
vigorous young self-assertion, came like a gust of fresh wind, and
seemed to blow the dust out of the place. Mrs. Raymore, above all,
welcomed him. He went straight to her heart; she was for ever comparing
and contrasting him with her own boy so far away--and only just the
inevitable little to his disadvantage. Jeremy, in his turn, though
unconsciously, loved the atmosphere of the Raymores' house--the abiding
sense of trouble, hard to bear, but bravely borne, and the closeness of
heart, the intimacy of love which it had brought. Being at the Selfords'
amused him; but being at the Raymores' did more than that.

And what of his broken heart? Anna Selford had heard the story and asked
him once in her mocking way.

"You seem so very cheerful, Mr. Chiddingfold!" said she.

Jeremy explained with dignity. His heart was not broken; it had merely
been wounded. Not only did he consider it his, and any man's, duty to be
cheerful, but as a fact he found no difficulty in being cheerful,
occupied as he was with the work of life, and sustained by a firm
purpose and an unshaken resolve.

"Only I don't care to talk about it," he added, by which he meant,
really, that he did not care to talk about it to persons of a satirical
turn. Mrs. Raymore could get him to talk about it very freely, while to
Eva he would sometimes (usually for short times) be so moody and
melancholy as to excite an interest of a distinctly sentimental nature.
It is to be feared that, like most lovers, Jeremy was not above a bit of
posing now and then. He was having a very full and happy life, and,
without noticing the fact, began gradually to be more patient about the
riches and the fame.

None the less, affairs were in train. Selford's working partners were
disposed to be complaisant about Jeremy and the dyeing-works; they were
willing to oblige Selford, and found themselves favourably impressed by
the young man himself. But business is business. They could give him a
pittance for ever, no doubt. If he wanted that very different thing--an
opening--other considerations came to the front. Good openings are not
lightly given away.

In fine, Jeremy could come and try his hand at a nominal salary. If he
proved his aptitude, they would be willing to have him for a junior
partner; but in that case he must put five thousand pounds into the
business. The sum was not a large one to ask, they said; and with all
their good opinion of Jeremy and all their desire to oblige Selford,
they could not, in justice to themselves, their wives, and their
families, put the figure any lower.

It was rather a shock to Jeremy, this first practical illustration of
the pervading truth that in order to get money you must have some first.
He might give all he had in the world, and not realise five thousand
pounds. He went to tea at the Raymores' that evening with his spirits
dashed. He had consulted Alec Turner, but that young man had only
whistled, implying thereby that Jeremy might whistle for the money too.
The journalistic temperament was not, Jeremy felt, naturally
sympathetic; so he laid the question before Mrs. Raymore.

To her it was the opening of the sluice-gates. She was full of maternal
love, dammed up by distance and absence. She was tender and affectionate
towards Eva, but her love for her daughter was pale and weak beside her
feeling for her only son; and now a portion of the flow meant for
far-off Charley was diverted to Jeremy. She loved and could have wept
over his brave simplicity, his sincere question as to how he could
speedily make five thousand pounds. He was not a fool; he knew he could
not break the bank at Monte Carlo, or write a play or a novel, or get
the desired sum thereby if he did; but he had the great folly which
clings to men older than he was--the belief that blind impartial fortune
may show special divine favour. Kate Raymore smiled and sighed.

"Have you no friends who would guarantee it--who would advance it? You
could pay interest, and pay off the capital gradually," she suggested.

That was not at all Jeremy's idea.

"No, I don't want to do that. I don't want to be indebted to anybody."

"But it's a pity to let the chance slip, from a feeling of that sort,"
she urged.

"Besides there's nobody in our family who ever had such a lot of money
to spare," said Jeremy, descending to the practical. He sighed too, and
acknowledged the first check to his ardent hopes, the first
disillusionment, in the words: "I must wait."

When a man says that he must wait, he has begun to know something of the
world. The lesson that often he must wait in vain remains behind.

"But I shall find out some way," he went on (the second lesson still
unlearnt). "I've got a fortnight to give my answer in. They'll keep it
open for me till then."

Eva came in, with her large learning eyes, and her early charming girl's
wonder at the strength and cleverness of the young men she liked. In a
very few minutes Jeremy was confident and gay, telling her how he had
the prospect of a partnership in quite a little while. Oh, yes, a junior
partnership, of course, and a minor share. But it ought to be worth four
or five hundred a year anyhow--yes, to start with. And what it might
come to--in vigorous hands, with new blood, new intellect, new
energy--well, nobody could tell. Mr. Thrale's casks and vats were not
really--as a potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of
avarice--comparable to Jeremy's vats and mordants and muriates. Eva was
wonderfully impressed, and exclaimed, in childish banter:

"I hope you'll know us still, after you're as rich as that?"

Jeremy liked that. It was just the sort of feeling which his wealth was
destined to raise in Dora Hutting. Meanwhile, pending the absence and
obduracy of Dora, it was not unpleasant to see it reflected in Eva's
wondering eyes. Mrs. Raymore listened and looked on with a fixed
determination to lose no time in telling Grantley Imason that for a
matter of five thousand pounds the happiness of a life--of a life or
two--was to be had. The figure was often cheaper than that, of course;
less than that often meant joy or woe--far less. Witness Charley in
Buenos Ayres, over youthful folly and a trifle of a hundred and fifty!
But Grantley was rich--and she did not know that he had recently lent
John Fanshaw fifteen thousand pounds.

In requital for services rendered at the Metropolitan Radical, Jeremy
had introduced his friend, Alec Turner, to the Selfords. Alec had come
up to town from the staff of a provincial journal, and found very few
houses open to him in London, so that he was grateful. He had a native,
although untrained, liking for art, and could talk about pictures to
Selford, while Jeremy talked about dogs to Mrs. Selford; and both the
young men sparred with Anna, whose shrewd hits kept them well on their
defence. Alec went about his avocations in a red tie, a turned-down
collar, and lively mustard-coloured clothes. A dress suit he assumed
reluctantly when he was sent to report the speeches of prosperous
Philistine persons at public dinners. He hated prosperous Philistine
persons, especially if their prosperity (and consequent Philistinity)
came from art or letters, and delighted in composing paragraphs which
should give them a little dig. He was, however, not really ill-natured,
and would not have hurt the prosperous persons seriously, even if he
could have; he was anxious to declare that neither he nor anybody else
could, in fact, hurt them seriously, owing to the stupidity of the
public--which was incalculable. He was a decided assistance to Jeremy in
enlivening the Selford household and in keeping Anna's wits busy and

"I suppose nothing would induce you to be successful?" she said to him
with malicious simplicity.

"Success for me means something quite different," Alec explained. "It
lies in influencing the trend of public opinion."

"But the public's hopelessly stupid! It seems to me rather foolish to
spend your time trying to influence hopelessly stupid people."

Jeremy chuckled. He did not see how Alec was going to get out of that.

"I spoke of the bulk. There is a small intelligent minority on whom one
can rely."

"If you can rely on them already, why do they want influencing?"
objected Anna.

"On whom one can rely for a hearing and for intelligent appreciation,
Miss Selford."

"Then the fewer people who care what you say, the more successful you
really are?"

"That's hardly the way I should put it----"

"No, I don't suppose you would," interrupted Anna. "But it comes to
that, doesn't it, Jeremy?"

"Of course it does," agreed Jeremy. "The fact is, writing about things
is all rot. Go and do something--something practical."

Dyeing was doing something practical.

"Oh, yes, go into business, of course, and get rich by cheating.
Trading's only another name for cheating."

"Well, you're right there for once," said Anna.

"Right?" cried Jeremy fiercely. "Well, then, why isn't it cheating when
he" (he pointed scornfully at Alec) "charges a ha'penny for his beastly
opinion about something?"

"Oh, it's not for me to say! You must ask Mr. Turner that."

In fact the discussions were of a most spirited order, since everybody
was always quite wrong, and each in turn could be rapidly and
ignominiously refuted, the other two uniting in a warm but transient
alliance to that end.

This young and breezy society was good for Selford and for his wife too.
It gave them something to think about, and did not leave each so much
time to consider the unreasonableness of the other. Tiffs became less
frequent, the false sentimentalism of their reconciliations was less in
demand; and as they watched Anna's deftness and brightness, they began
to ask whether they had been as proud of her as they ought to be.

"She's got brains, that girl of ours," said Selford, nodding his head

"And a taking manner, don't you think, Dick?"

"Those boys find her attractive, or it looks like it, anyhow!"

"Of course she's not exactly pretty, but I do think she's rather
distinguished somehow."

"Your daughter would be sure to be that, my dear Janet," he remarked

"No, I really think she's more like you," insisted Janet amiably. "I
must make an effort" (Mrs. Selford was fond of that phrase) "and take
her out into society more. I don't think we're quite giving her her

"Ah, you've begun to think of match-making!" he cried in playful

But it pleased him highly to think that he had, after all, an attractive
daughter. He took much more notice of her than he had been used to take,
and Mrs. Selford eyed her with critical affection. Decidedly the
increase of human interest, as opposed to artistic and canine, was a
good influence in the Selford household.

Anna soon saw how her position had improved. She was not demonstrative
about it, but she appreciated it. She was also sharp enough to use it.
The next time an invitation to a party came, she refused to go unless
she might have a frock of her own choosing.

"I won't go if I'm to look a guy!" she said.

There was a battle over that; a battle between her and Mrs. Selford, and
a tiff between father and mother to boot. For Selford was with Anna now.
They won the day, and Anna, with a cheque in her pocket, went off to
consult Christine Fanshaw, nursing in her heart that joy which only the
prospect of being dressed really just as you'd like to be dressed seems
able to excite.

"Merely a malicious desire to cut out the other girls," commented Alec

"I really don't think you ought to talk about dress," retorted Anna,
eyeing the mustard suit.

But when Anna appeared in the frock which Christine had sedulously and
lovingly planned, she carried all before her. She was most undoubtedly

"Well, I suppose you've come to an age when that charming simplicity
which used to suit you so well must give way to something more stylish,"
even Mrs. Selford admitted, capitulating and marching out--but with the
honours of war.

Grantley Imason was rich; yet fifteen thousand pounds is a solid sum of
money. To put that sum at John Fanshaw's disposal had not caused him
serious inconvenience, but it had entailed a little contriving. To lay
out another five thousand in Jeremy's service would involve more
contriving, and the return of the money rested, of necessity, in a
distant and contingent future. Nevertheless, when Kate Raymore suggested
that the happiness of a life should be secured, he found the proposition
attractive. He was a man lavish of money and appreciative of all the
various pleasures of giving it away--both those of a more and those of a
less self-regarding order. He enjoyed both the delight of the recipient
and the sense of his own generosity and his own power. He would like
Jeremy to be indebted to him for the happiness of his life--of course
that was an exaggerated way of putting it, but it was a telling
exaggeration. He also liked Jeremy very much for his own sake. And it
would be altogether a handsome thing to do--under present circumstances
a peculiarly handsome thing. For Sibylla had left him and gone down to
Milldean, accompanied by the boy, without a word of friendship or a hint
of reconciliation; and Jeremy's welfare was very dear to his sister. To
help Jeremy, and thereby prepare for her the pleasure of seeing Jeremy
prosper, to do this secretly, to have it as a private merit and a hidden
claim on her, was an idea which appealed strongly to Grantley. In his
imaginings she was to discover what he had done in the future, but not
till after their reconciliation. Would it not have an effect then? One
effect it was to have was, in plain words, to make Sibylla feel ashamed;
but Grantley did not put it so simply or so nakedly as that--that would
have been to recognise the action as almost pure revenge. He blinked
that side of it, and gave prominence to the other sides. But that side
was there among the rest, and he would suffer wrong at her hands with
the more endurance the greater were the obligations she was under to
him. His love for her and his quarrel with her joined hands to urge him.
Commanding Kate Raymore to respect his desire for secrecy, he undertook
to consider the matter. But his mind was really made up; and since the
thing was to be done, it should be done liberally and splendidly. He had
lent his money to Fanshaw, as Caylesham had surmised, with a very
satisfactory prospect of repayment; to Jeremy he was ready to lend it on
no security, careless about repayment, because he loved Sibylla and
because he had so grievous a quarrel against her. It was all a part of
his broad and consistent plan of conquering her by his unchanging
patience, unchanging love, unchanging persistence in being just what he
had always been to her from the beginning, however sore a trial her
unreasonableness and her vagaries might put him to. This generosity to
Jeremy would be a fine example of his chosen attitude, a fine move in
the strategy on which he had staked the ultimate success of his campaign
against Sibylla.

"If I decide to do it, I'll tell Sibylla myself, at my own time, and in
my own way--remember that," he said to Kate Raymore.

She had an idea that things had not been going quite smoothly, and
nodded in a wise fashion. She was picturing a pretty scene of sentiment
when Grantley confessed his generosity. Of the real state of his mind
she had no idea, but her own conception of the case was enough to ensure
her silence.

Grantley went to work quietly, saying nothing to Jeremy, approaching the
working partners through Selford, learning what they thought of Jeremy,
not letting them suppose that the sum required was lightly to be come
by, or was considered a small one, making, like a good man of business,
the best bargain that he could for the object of his bounty. These
negotiations took some days, and during those days Jeremy's heart lost
something of its buoyancy, though nothing of its courage. London was
having its effect on his receptive mind--the crowd, the stress, the
push, the competition. Courage and brains enough to rise by? Perhaps,
but not enough to rise by quickly. A walk about the streets, a look at
the newspapers, the talk at the Metropolitan Radical, all taught him
that. Wait and work--wait and work! That was what they all said--and
they none of them said that it was easy to lay your hands on five
thousand pounds.

The light of truth began to glimmer through those folds of young
self-confidence. Jeremy grew sober; he was no more so gay and so assured
in talking with Eva Raymore. He allowed himself to dwell less on that
mythical return to Milldean with fame and riches. Now and then, it must
be confessed, he had to brace himself up lest his very courage should
falter. He contrived to keep it; but with it there came now a feeling
new to Jeremy--a humility, a sense that he was, after all, as other men
were, and neither by natural endowment nor by any rare caprice of
fortune to be different from them or to find his life other than theirs.
He too was not above the need of a helping hand; for want of it he too
might have to tread very long and very dreary paths before he made much
impression on the hill which he had set out to climb so gaily, and with
so little provender for the journey. In such a mood as this he was as
incapable of expecting any sudden interposition of outside aid as of
refusing it when it came. He would protest, he would declare that he
must refuse, but refuse in the end he could not. The fierce jealousy of
his independence was cooled by his new experience of the world.

He heard first of what was being done from one of the partners down at
Romford. The matter was practically concluded, he was told; in two
years' time he was to have the junior partnership, and the share
allotted to him at that date would be somewhat larger in consideration
of the stipulated capital being paid immediately--it happened to be
wanted for an extension of the buildings. Jeremy threw over work for
that day, and hurried back to London--to refuse. But all the way he was
thinking of the incredible difference this benevolent interposition
would make.

He found Grantley in his study after lunch. The deed regulating the
arrangements between the partners on the one side and Jeremy and himself
on the other was before him. A look at Jeremy's face told him that
Jeremy knew.

"I--I can't take it, you know," Jeremy blurted out.

"You can't escape the obligations Sibylla has brought on you by marrying
me," smiled Grantley.

"Of course Sibylla's been at you--told you she couldn't be happy

"Nothing of the kind. Sibylla knows nothing about it; and, what's more,
she isn't to know till I choose to tell her--till I choose, not
you--that's part of the bargain, Jeremy."

Jeremy sat down. Anxious to avoid a formal talking-over of the matter,
Grantley got up and lit a cigarette.

"Then why have you done it?" asked Jeremy.

Grantley shrugged his shoulders.

"Of course it's the one thing in the world for me; but--but I wanted to
do it for myself, you know." Grantley still smiled on him, with a touch
of mockery now. "Yes, well, I know I couldn't." He looked at Grantley in
a puzzled way. "What makes it worse," he went on, "is that I've been
doing you an injustice in a kind of way. I knew you were always kind
and--and jolly, but somehow I thought you were a fellow who wouldn't put
himself out very much for--for anybody else."

"I am not putting myself out. I like it."

"Planking down five thousand, and not knowing when you'll get it back,
if you ever do? If you like that for its own sake, it's rather a rare

"Now don't jaw any more," said Grantley with friendly impatience. "I was
just going to sign the deed when you came in--I should have done it by
now, but I must have a witness, and I didn't want to ring Thompson up
from his dinner. We'll ring for him now."

"I'm not an ass," said Jeremy. "I don't think that because a man marries
a woman he's bound to provide for her family--or to like them either."

"You grow in worldly wisdom."

"Yes, I fancy I do. I know a bit more about myself too. I might have
worked ten years and not got this money."

"Oh, thank my forefathers! I've not worked ten years, or ten minutes
either, for you!" His back had been to Jeremy. He turned round now as he
said slowly, "You may consider it as a thanksoffering for my happiness
with Sibylla."

"And why isn't she to know?"

"I like it better that way for the present. I'm entitled to make that

Jeremy went back to his defence of himself against himself.

"A week ago I--I'd have backed myself to make it somehow. But--well, one
soon learns how devilish hard it is to get what one wants. What a
conceited young idiot you must have thought me when we used to talk down
at Milldean!"

"You were always an excellent companion. Let's ring for Thompson and
execute the deed."

Jeremy could not refuse, and could not yet consent. Grantley stood
smoking airily and looking at him with a whimsical smile. Then the door
opened and the butler came in, unsummoned.

"Ah, the fates decide!" exclaimed Grantley with a laugh. "Where's a pen,

"For you, sir," said Thompson, holding out a salver with a letter on it.

"Oh!" Grantley laid down his pen, took the letter, and sat down at the
writing-table. "Wait a minute; I want you to witness something for me,"
he said to the butler.

Thompson stood in serene immobility. His thoughts were far away,
engrossed in a discussion he had been having with the groom as to the
"form" of that same horse of Caylesham's about which Mrs. Bolton had
wanted to know. Jeremy sat making up his mind to endure being helped,
and poignantly remorseful about the view he had taken of Grantley. The
view was earnestly disclaimed now; the help seemed very fine and
wonderful. He did so want hope, scope, a chance, a start, and that all
his talk of what he would do should not come to naught. In turn Dora,
Eva, and Anna passed through his mind, each bringing her own influence
to bear, giving him a new picture of the future. And why refuse? If ever
a gift had been freely, grandly offered, this was. Would it not be even
churlish to refuse? Reasons or no reasons, his heart and his hand went
out instinctively; he could not refuse the beginning of all things.

Giving his head a restless little jerk as at last he accepted this
decision, he chanced to turn his eyes on Grantley's face. Their
attention was caught and arrested by it. There was something strange
there. The cheeks were rather pale, the jaw set rigidly. Grantley read
his letter with a curious engrossment--not hurriedly nor off-hand, as
a man generally reads when other business is at a standstill till he
reaches the end. He turned back, it seemed, once or twice, to look at
another sentence again. Jeremy could not stop staring at him. Even
Thompson awoke to the fact that he was being kept waiting a long while,
and that the groom would probably finish the beer and go away, leaving
their important discussion unfinished and the proper odds unascertained.

Grantley had recognised Christine Fanshaw's large irregular handwriting,
and had expected nothing more serious than an invitation to dinner. But
he was not reading an invitation to dinner now.

     "I have just heard from Sibylla--from Milldean. She encloses a
     letter for you, which she says I am to send on to you _to-morrow_.
     She insists that I am not to send it before; and if I won't do as
     she asks, I am to burn it. You are _not_ to have it to-day. I
     cannot disobey her in this; but she says nothing about my telling
     you she has sent a letter; the only thing is that I must not
     deliver it to you till to-morrow. I had no idea you had let her go
     down to Milldean alone. How could you let her do this? There is one
     other thing I must say to you. Walter Blake was to have dined here
     to-night. This morning he wired excuses, saying he was going for a
     cruise in his yacht. You must consider what that means. I beg you
     not to wait for the letter, but to go to Milldean _this afternoon_.
     Say nothing of having heard from me. Just go as if it was by
     accident; say you got your work done sooner than you expected, or
     anything you like; but go. I believe you'll be sorry all your life
     if you don't go. Let nothing stop you, for your own sake, and still
     more for _hers_.--C.F."

That was the letter; the sentence he had turned back to re-read was the
one in which Walter Blake's movements were mentioned.

Grantley looked across to Jeremy.

"Have you heard from Sibylla since she went to Milldean?" he asked.

"Not a line. But she doesn't write much to me."

Again Grantley looked at the paper. Then he laid it down and took up his

"Now for the deed," he said, and drew it to him.

He signed. Thompson fulfilled the formality for which he was required,
and then left them alone. Jeremy did not break out into new thanks. That
unexplained something in Grantley's face forbade him.

"I can only say that I'll try to justify your extraordinary kindness,"
he said soberly.

Grantley nodded absently, as he rose and put Christine's letter into the
fire. It was better there--and there was no danger that he would forget
the contents.

"I say, there's no bad news, is there?" Jeremy could not help asking.

"No news at all, good or bad," answered Grantley, as he held out his
hand. "Good-bye and good luck, Jeremy."

Jeremy took his hand and gripped it hard, emotion finding a vent that
way. Grantley returned the pressure more moderately.

"Remember, under no circumstances, a word about it to Sibylla!" he said.

"I give you my honour."


He released Jeremy's hand and turned away. He had much self-control, but
he could not be sure of what was showing on his face.

Jeremy had his great good-fortune, but his joy was dashed. Grantley
looked like a man whom heavy calamity finds unprepared.

"All the finer of him to sign the deed then and there," Jeremy muttered
as he left the house. "Whatever has happened, he didn't forget his word
to me."

But it had not been of Jeremy or of his word that Grantley had been
thinking when he signed. His signature was a defiance of his wife and of
his fate.



An instinct of furtiveness, newly awakened by the suggestion of
Christine Fanshaw's letter, had led Grantley Imason to send no word of
his coming. He hired a fly at the station, and drove over the downs to
Milldean. It was a wild evening. A gale had been blowing from the
south-west all day, and seemed to be increasing in violence. A thick
rain was driven in sharp spats against the closed windows. The old horse
toiled slowly along, while the impatient man chafed helplessly inside.

At last he stopped at Old Mill House and dismissed the carriage. Mrs.
Mumple's servant-girl came to the door, and said her mistress was up at
his house, and was, she thought, to stay there all night. Grantley
nodded, and began to trudge up the hill. He had no thought but to seek
and find Sibylla. It was now between seven and eight, and dusk had

He saw a light in the dining-room windows. He walked into the hall and
took off his hat. A servant saw him and ran to help him. Saying briefly
that he would want some dinner, he went into the dining-room. Mrs.
Mumple sat there alone over a chop.

"You come home, Mr. Imason!" she exclaimed. "Sibylla didn't expect you,
did she?"

"No, I didn't expect to come. I didn't think I could get away, and it
wasn't worth wiring. Where is Sibylla?"

"How unlucky! She's gone away--to Fairhaven. She didn't expect you.
She's to sleep the night there."

He came to the table and poured himself out a glass of sherry. He was
calm and quiet in his manner.

"To sleep at Fairhaven? Why, who's she going to stay with?"

"Mrs. Valentine. You know her? She lives by the church--a red house with

Mrs. Valentine was, as he knew, an old, but not an intimate,
acquaintance. He shot a keen glance at Mrs. Mumple's simple broad face.

"I'm here to look after baby. But of course since you've come----"

"No, no, you stay here; and go on with your dinner. They'll bring
something for me directly."

He pulled up a chair and sat down.

"To sleep at Mrs. Valentine's? Has she often done that before when I've
been away?"

"She used to as a girl sometimes, Mr. Imason; but no, never lately, I
think--not since she married."

There were no signs of disturbance or distress about Mrs. Mumple.
Grantley sat silent while the servant laid a place for him and promised
some dinner in ten minutes.

"Has Sibylla been all right?"

"Oh, yes! A little fretful the last day or two, I think. But Mr. Blake
came over from Fairhaven yesterday, and she had a nice walk with him;
and she was with baby all the morning."

"All the morning? When did she go to Fairhaven?"

"I think it was about three o'clock. It's a terrible evening, Mr.

"Very rough indeed."

"The wind rose quite suddenly this morning, and it's getting worse every

Grantley made no answer. After a pause the old woman went on--

"I've got some news."

"News have you? What news?"

He was suddenly on the alert.

She glanced at the door to make sure the servant was not within hearing.

"Very great news for me, Mr. Imason. My dear husband's to come home
three months sooner than I thought. I got a letter to say so just after
Sibylla started."

"Oh, really! Capital, Mrs. Mumple!"

"It's only a matter of six months now. You can't think what I feel about
it--now it's as near as that. I haven't seen him for hard on ten years.
What will it be like? I'm full of joy, Mr. Imason; but somehow I'm
afraid too--terribly afraid. The thought of it seems to upset me, and
yet I can't think of anything else."

Grantley rubbed his hand across his brow. Old Mrs. Mumple's talk reached
him dimly. He was thinking hard. This sleeping at Mrs. Valentine's
sounded an unlikely story.

Mrs. Mumple, in her turn, forgot her chop. She leant back in her chair,
clasping her fat hands in front of her.

"We shall have to pick up the old life," she went on, "after seventeen
years! I was thirty-five when he left me, and nearly as slight as
Sibylla herself. I'm past fifty now, Mr. Imason, and it's ten years
since I saw him; and he's above sixty, and--and they grow old soon in
there. It'll be very different, very different. And--and I'm half afraid
of it, Mr. Imason. It's terribly hard to pick up a life that's once been

The servant brought in Grantley's dinner, and Mrs. Mumple pretended to
go on with her chop.

"Nurse said I was to tell you Master Frank is sleeping nicely," the
servant said to Mrs. Mumple, as he placed a chair for Grantley.

That was a strange story about Mrs. Valentine.

"We must have patience, and love on," said Mrs. Mumple. "He's had a
grievous trial, and so have I. But I don't lose hope. All's ready for
him--his socks and his shirts and all. I'm ahead of the time. I've
nothing to do but wait. These last months'll seem very long, Mr.

Grantley came to the table.

"You're a good woman, Mrs. Mumple," he said.

She shook her head mournfully. He looked at the food, pushed it away,
and drank another glass of sherry.

"Don't think I've no sympathy with you, but--but I'm worried."

"Nothing gone wrong in town, I hope, Mr. Imason?"


He stood there frowning. He did not believe the story about Mrs.
Valentine. He walked quickly to the bell and rang it loudly.

"Tell them to saddle Rollo, and bring him round directly."

"You're never going out on such a night?" she cried.

"I must"; and he added to the surprised servant, "Do as I tell you

"Where are you going?" she asked wonderingly.

"I'm going to Mrs. Valentine's."

"But you've no cause to be anxious about Sibylla, Mr. Imason; and she'll
be back to-morrow."

Grantley was convinced that she, at least, was innocent of any plot.
Simple sincerity spoke on her face, and all her thoughts were for
herself and her dearly cherished fearful hopes.

"I must see Sibylla on a matter of urgent business to-night," he said.

"It'll be hardly safe up on the downs," she expostulated.

"It'll be safe enough for me," he answered grimly. "Don't sit up for me;
and look after the baby." He smiled at her kindly, then came and patted
her hand for a moment. "Yes, it would be hard to pick up a life that's
once broken, I expect," he said.

She looked up at him with a sudden apprehension in her eyes. His manner
was strangely quiet; he seemed to her gentler.

"There, I mean nothing but what I say," he told her soothingly. "I must
go and get ready for my ride."

"But, Mr. Imason, you'll take something to eat first?"

"I can't eat." He laughed a little. "I should like to drink, but I
won't. Good night, Mrs. Mumple."

Ten minutes later he was walking his horse down the hill to Milldean, on
his way to Fairhaven. But he had little thought of Mrs. Valentine; he
had no belief in that story at all. It served a purpose, but not the
purpose for which it had been meant. What it did was to remove the last
of his doubts. Now he knew that Christine's suggestion was true. He was
going to Fairhaven not to find Sibylla at Mrs. Valentine's, but to seek
Sibylla and Blake he knew not where.

He thought not much of Sibylla. He had taught himself to consider his
wife incalculable--a prey to disordered whims, swept on by erratic
impulses. This whim was more extraordinary, more disorderly, more
erratic than any of the others; but it was of the same nature with them,
the same kind of thing that she had done when she determined to hold
herself aloof from him. This blow had fallen entirely and utterly
unforeseen, but he acknowledged grimly that it had not been
unforeseeable. He thought even less of young Blake, and thought of him
without much conscious anger. The case there was a very plain one. He
had known young Blake in the days when aspirations did not exist, and
when the desire to be good was no part of his life. He took him as he
had known him then, and the case was very simple. Whatever an attractive
woman will give, men like Blake will take, recking of nothing,
forecasting nothing, careless of themselves, merciless to her whom they
are by way of loving. In regard to Blake the thing had nothing strange
in it.

Here too it was unexpected, but again by no means unforeseeable.

No, nothing had been unforeseeable; and in what light did that fact
leave him? What flavour should that give to his meditations? For though
he rode as quickly as he could against the gale and the rain which now
blinded and scorched his eyes, his mind moved more quickly still. Why,
it set him down as a fool intolerable--as the very thing he had always
laughed at and despised, as a dullard, a simpleton, a dupe. He could
hear the mocking laughter and unashamed chuckling, he could see the
winking eyes. He knew well enough what men had thought of him. They had
attributed to him successes with women; they had joked when he married,
saying many husbands would feel safer; they had liked him and admired
him, but they had been of opinion that he wanted taking down a peg. How
they would laugh to think that he of all men had made such a mess of it,
that he had let young Blake take away his wife--young Blake, whom he had
often chaffed for their amusement or instructed for their entertainment!
Imason had got a pretty wife, but he couldn't keep her, poor old boy!
That would be the comment--an ounce of pity to a hundredweight of
contempt, and--yes, a pound of satisfaction. And it would be all true.
Somehow--even allowing for Sibylla's vagaries and unaccountable whims,
he could not tell how--somehow he had been a gross dupe, a blockhead
blindly self-satisfied, a dullard easily deluded, a fool readily
abandoned and left, so intolerable that not all his money, nor his
houses, nor his carriages could make it worth while even to go on with
the easy task of deceiving him. He was not worth deceiving any more; it
was simpler to be rid of him. In the eyes of the world that fact would
be very significant of what he was. And that same thing he was in his
own eyes now. The stroke of this sharp sword had cloven in two the
armour of his pride; it fell off him and left him naked.

Could he endure this fate for all his life? It would last all his life;
people have long memories, and the tradition does not die. It would not
die even with his life. No, by heaven, it would not! A new thought
seized him. There was the boy to whom he had given life. What had he
given to the boy now? What a father would the boy have to own! And what
of the boy's mother? The story would last the boy's life too. It would
always be between him and the boy. And the boy would never dare speak of
his mother. The boy would be kept in ignorance till ignorance yielded,
perforce, to shame. His son's life would be bitterness to him, if it
meant that--and bitterness surely to the boy too. As he brooded on this
his face set into stiffness. He declared that it was not to be endured.

He came to where Milldean road joined the main road by the red villas,
and turned to the right towards Fairhaven. Here he met the full force of
the gale. The wind was like a moving rushing wall; the rain seemed to
hit him viciously with whips; there was a great confused roar from the
sea below the cliffs. He could hardly make headway or induce his horse
to breast the angry tempest. But his face was firm, his hand steady, and
his air resolute as he rode down to Fairhaven, sore in the eyes,
dripping wet, cold to the very bone. His purpose was formed. Fool he
might be, but he was no coward. He had been deluded, he was not beaten.
His old persistence came to his rescue. All through, though he might
have lost everything else, he had never lost courage. And now, when his
pride fell from him, and his spirit tasted a bitterness as though of
death, his courage rose high in him--a desperate courage which feared
nothing save ridicule and shame. These he would not have, neither for
himself nor for his boy. His purpose was taken, and he rode on. His
pride was broken, but no man was to behold its fall. In this hour he
asked one thing from himself--courage unfearing, unflinching. It was
his, and he rode forward to the proof of it. And there came in him a
better pride. In place of self-complacency there was fortitude; yet it
was the fortitude of defiance, not of self-knowledge.

He rode through the gale into Fairhaven, thinking nothing of Mrs.
Valentine's house, waiting on fate to show him the way. Just where the
town begins, the road comes down to the sea, and runs along by the
harbour where a sea-wall skirts deep water. A man enveloped in oilskins
stood here, glistening through the darkness in the light of a gas-lamp.
He was looking out to sea, out on the tumble of angry waves, stamping
his feet and blowing on his wet fingers now and then. It was no night
for an idle man to be abroad; he who was out to-night had business.

"Rough weather!" called Grantley, bringing his horse to a stand.

The man answered, not in the accents of the neighbourhood, but with a
Cockney twang and a turn of speech learnt from board schools and
newspapers. He was probably a seaman then, and from London.

"Terribly severe," he said. "No night to keep a man on the look-out."

He looked at Grantley, evidently not knowing him.

"A bad night for a ride too, sir," he added; "but it's better to be
moving than standing here, looking for a boat that's as likely to come
as the Channel Squadron!" He spat scornfully as he ended.

"Looking for a boat?"

For the moment Grantley was glad to talk; it was a relief. Besides he
did not know what he was going to do, and caught at a brief respite from

"Aye," the man grumbled, "a boat to come from Portsmouth. Best luck for
her if she's never started, and next best if she's put in for shelter on
the way. She'd never make Fairhaven to-night."

"Then what's the good of looking for her?"

"Because I get five shillings for it. The owner's waiting for
her--waiting at the Sailors' Rest there." He pointed to the inn a
hundred yards away. "She was to have been here by midday, and he's in a
hurry. Best for him if she doesn't come, if he means to sail to-night,
as he says he does." He paused and spat again. "Pretty weather for a
lady to go to sea, ain't it?" he ended sarcastically.

The fates were with Grantley Imason. They sent guidance.

"What boat is it?" he asked quietly.

"The _Ariadne_" ("Hairy Adny," he pronounced the name).

"Ah, yes! Mr. Blake's yacht?"

"You know him, sir? Well, you'll find him and his lady at the 'Rest'
there; and if you're a friend of theirs, you tell 'em not to expect her
to-night, and not to go on board her if she comes."

"Here's another shilling for you, and good-night."

Grantley rode on to the inn, thanking fate, realising now how narrow the
chance had been. But for the storm, but for the wind that had buffeted
and almost beaten him, no pride, no resolution, would have been of any
avail. With fair weather the yacht would have come and gone. He saw why
Christine Fanshaw was not to deliver his letter till the morrow. Without
the storm, no pride, no resolution, no courage would have availed him.
The _Ariadne_ would have put to sea, and Sibylla would have been gone
for ever. Now, thanks to fate, she was not gone. Grantley drew a long
breath--the breath of a man whom a great peril has narrowly passed by.
The plan had been well laid, but the storm had thwarted it. There was
time yet.

Was there? That question could not but rise in his mind. He faced it
fairly and squarely, and jogged on to the Sailors' Rest.

"Praise to this fine storm!" he cried within himself--to the storm which
beat and raged, which had feigned to hinder his coming, but was his ally
and friend. Good luck to it! It had served his turn as nothing else
could. And how it was attuned to his mood--to the fierce stern conflict
which he had to wage! This was no night for gentleness. There were
nights when nature's gentleness mocked the strife to which her own
decrees condemned the race of men. But to-night she herself was in the
fight. She incited, she cheered, she played him on; and she had given
him his field of battle. The sense of helplessness passed from him. He
was arrayed for the fight. He drank in the violent salt air as though it
were a potion magic in power. His being tingled for the struggle.

There was a light in an upper window of the Sailors' Rest. The blinds
were not drawn. No, the pair in that room were looking out to sea,
looking for the boat which did not come, looking in vain over the
tumbling riot of waves. But stay! Perhaps they looked no more now;
perhaps they had abandoned that hope for the night. Christine was not to
deliver his letter till the morrow; they would think that they had
to-night. The thought brought back his pain and his fierceness. They
would think that they had to-night! They were wrong there; but it was
ten o'clock. "Ten o'clock!" he muttered, as he drew rein at the door of
the Sailors' Rest and cast his eyes up to the light in the window over
his head.

Within, young Blake was turning away from the window.

"She won't come to-night," he said. "I suppose they started, or I should
have had a wire. They must have put back or put in for shelter
somewhere. And if she did come, I couldn't take you to sea to-night." He
came across to where Sibylla sat over the fire. "It's no use expecting
her to-night. We must get away to-morrow morning. There's plenty of
time." He meant time before Grantley Imason would receive Sibylla's
letter and come to Fairhaven, seeking his wife.

"It's too perverse," Sibylla murmured forlornly.

Her vision of their flight was gone. The rush through the waves, the
whistling wind, the headlong course, the recklessness, the remoteness
from all the world, the stir, the movement, the excitement--all were
gone. On the yacht, out in mid-sea, no land in sight, making for a new
world, they two alone, with all that belonged to the old life out of
view and out of thought--the picture had caught and filled her fancy. In
her dream the sea had been as Lethe, the stretch of waters a flood
submerging all the past and burying the homes of memory. She had stood
arm in arm with him, revelling in the riot of the open seas. No further
had the vision gone. The room in the inn was very different. It was
small, stuffy, and not too clean. The smell of stale tobacco and of
dregs of liquor hung about it. The fire smoked, sending out every now
and then a thick dirty cloud that settled on her hands and hair. Her
dainty cleanliness rose in revolt. It was a sordid little room. It was
odious then; it would never be pleasant in retrospect. Somehow it
carried a taint with it; it brought into prominence all that her
thoughts had forgotten; its four dingy walls shut out the glowing
picture which her fancy had painted.

Blake came and stood behind her chair, laying his hand on her shoulder.
She looked up at him with a sad smile.

"Nothing's quite what you expect," she said. "I wanted my voyage! I
suppose I didn't want--reality! But I'm not a child, Walter. I have
courage. This makes no difference really."

"Of course it doesn't--so long as we're together."

"I didn't come to you to make the good times better, but to make the bad
times good--to do away with the bad times. That's what you wanted me
for; that's what I wanted to do." She rose and faced him. "So I'll
always welcome trouble--because then I'm wanted, then I can do what I've
come to do."

"Don't talk about trouble, Sibylla. We're going to be very happy."

"Yes, I think so," she said, looking at him with thoughtful eyes. "I
think we shall be."

"By God, I love you so!" he burst out suddenly, and then walked off to
the window again.

She spread out her hands in an instinctive gesture of deprecation, but
her smile was happy.

"That's how I can do what I want to do for you," she said. "That's how I
can change your life, and--and find something to do with mine."

He came slowly back towards her, speaking in a low restrained voice:

"It's really no use waiting for the boat. She won't come."

Sibylla stood very still; her eyes were fixed on his face. He met her
gaze for a moment, then turned away, sat down by the table, and lit a
cigarette--doing it just by habit, and because he was so restless, not
because he wanted to smoke.

She stood there in silence for two or three minutes. Once she shuddered
just perceptibly. She was striving to yield, to do what he asked, to
live up to her gospel of giving everything so that she might make happy
him whom she had chosen to receive her gifts--might make him happy, and
so fill, enrich, and ennoble his life and hers. She had not thought
there would be a struggle; that had got left out in the visions--the
visions which were full of the swish of the wind, the dance of the
waves, and the sailing to worlds new and beautiful. What struggled? Old
teachings, old habits, instincts ingrained. She was acting in obedience
to ideas, not to feeling. And feeling alone has power to blot such
things out of being.

But for good and evil she was a fanatic--she owned her ideas as masters,
and forced herself to bend to them as a slave. What they asked must be
given--whatever the sacrifice, the struggle, the repulsion. That they
might realise what her nature craved, they must be propitiated by what
her nature did not love. On that condition alone would they deal with
her. And now these ideas, with all their exacting relentless claims, had
found embodiment in Walter Blake.

Blake turned his head and looked at her. She came quickly to him and
fell on her knees by him. His hand rested on the table, and she laid
hers lightly on it.

"Walter, it's hard!"

"If you love me----" he murmured.

She knew by now that love can be unmerciful. With a little sigh she
raised his hand and kissed it. She was half reconciled to her surrender,
because she hated it. Had anyone been there to interpose and forbid, her
reluctant acceptance would have been turned into an ardent desire to
complete her sacrifice.

Young Blake flung away his cigarette and sprang to his feet. He was not
thinking of his aspirations now. Wanting to be good was not present to
his mind, nor the leading of a new life. He was full of triumph. He
forgot the yacht that had not come, and anything there might be
uncongenial in the surroundings. He caught Sibylla's hands. She looked
at him with a smile half of wonder, half of pity. She had put away her
shrinking, though it might come back; but it was a little strange that
good could be done only on conditions.

They were standing thus when they heard a voice, the loud gruff voice
belonging to the retired merchant-skipper who kept the inn. He was
rather a rough customer, as indeed the quality of his patrons rendered
necessary; he did not hesitate to throw a man out or (as Fairhaven's
report averred) to lay a stick across the back of the saucy buxom
daughter who served the bar for him if her sauciness became too
pronounced. On the whole he was the sort of character popular in the
nautical quarter of Fairhaven.

The loud voice came from a distance--from the bottom of the stairs
apparently. The landlord was talking to himself, for all that
appeared--no other voice made itself heard. He was saying that he had
made a promise, and that he was a man of his word. He said this several
times. Blake and Sibylla stood hand in hand, their eyes turned in the
direction of the door. Then the landlord observed that "times were hard,
and that he was a poor man." Blake and Sibylla heard that too. Then the
landlord's heavy step came half-way up the stairs. "A poor man," they
heard him say with strong emphasis. Still they could hear no other voice
and no other step. But they had dropped one another's hands by now, and
stood quite still a couple of paces apart.

"Oh, he's bargaining with somebody for the price of a bed!" said young
Blake, with an attempt at lightness.

The landlord's steps were heard descending the stairs again. And now
another step drew near.

Suddenly young Blake darted towards the door and locked it. He turned a
scared face round on Sibylla. The steps sounded along the passage. His
eyes met hers. He did not know the step, but he knew the one thing that
he feared, and his uneasy mind flew to the apprehension of it.

"Can it be--anybody?" he whispered.

"It's Grantley," she answered quietly. "Unlock the door. I'm not afraid
to meet him. In the end I believe I'm glad."

"No, no! You're mad! You mustn't see him. I'll see him. You go into the
other room." There was a communicating door which led to a bedroom.
"I'll not let him come near you. I'll stand between you and him."

"I must see him. I'm not afraid, Walter. Unlock the door."

"Oh, but I shan't let him come in. I shall----"

"If it's Grantley, he'll come in. Unlock the door. At any rate we can't
have the door broken in."

She smiled a little as she said this, and then sat down in the chair by
the table where Blake had been sitting when she kissed his hand and gave
him her surrender.

A knock came on the door. Young Blake unlocked it, and stood opposite to
it. His face was pale now.

"He shan't come near you," he whispered to Sibylla over his shoulder.

She made no sign. She sat resting her clasped hands on the table and
gazing intently towards the door. There was no sign of confusion or of
guilt about her. Her face was composed and calm. Young Blake's fists
were clenched. He seemed to keep himself still with an effort.

The door opened, and Grantley appeared on the threshold. He was very
wet; the rain dripped from his hat as he took it off his head; salt
spray hung on the hair over his ears. He shook himself as he shut the
door behind him. Then he looked from Sibylla to Blake, and back to
Sibylla, at last fixing his eyes on her.

"You can't come in here," said Blake. "I'll come outside with you, if
you like, but you can't come in here."

Grantley took no notice. His eyes were on Sibylla.

"Am I too late, Sibylla?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered tranquilly, "too late."

A sudden flush swept over Grantley's face, but in an instant his usual
pallor had returned.

"In the sense in which I spoke, is that true, Sibylla?"

She shrugged her shoulders a little. She seemed composed and almost
careless as she answered, with a touch of contempt:

"No; but it is true, for all that."



"Then you must come back with me," said Grantley. Young Blake sprang
forward a step, crying--"By God, no!"

Neither of them heeded him; their eyes were on one another. Already the
fight was between the two, and the two only.

"Do you really think that?" she asked. "I don't know how you come to be
here--I suppose Christine warned you somehow; but it's by mere accident
that you are here, and that I haven't gone before now. It makes no
difference. You're not in time, as you call it. The thing is settled
already; it was settled when I planned to come, not when I came. What
you meant doesn't count. Do you really think I shall come back now?"

"Yes, you must come back now."

"Back to that life? Never! Of course you don't know what it was to me,
and I don't suppose I could tell you. You wouldn't understand."

Blake threw himself into a chair by the window. He was helplessly
impatient of the situation. Grantley came a little nearer the table and
stood there, to all seeming impassive. The appearance was not very
deceptive. He was not now dominated by emotion; he was possessed by a
resolve. His love for his wife was far buried in his heart; his set
purpose was all he knew.

"I don't see what you had to complain of," he said coldly. "The way we
lived was your choice, not mine. But I'm not going to discuss that. I'm
here to take you home to your husband's house and to your child."

"I've faced all that a thousand times, and answered it a thousand times.
It can't move me now. You'd better go away, Grantley."

Again Blake rose; he did not lack physical courage.

"I'll go with you. I'm at your service," he said. "But outside; you
shan't stay here."

He waited a moment for an answer, but, getting none, nor so much as a
look, sank awkwardly into his seat again.

Grantley spoke to his wife.

"I know what happened. Before you did this, you fogged your mind with
all sorts of fantastic ideas. You're not the woman to do this kind of
thing easily."

"Fantastic ideas! Yes, they seem so to you. The fantastic idea of having
something to live for, some life, something else than a prison, than
repression, than coldness. I had lots of those fantastic ideas,

"You had your child."

"I tell you I've faced it." She pressed her fingers hard into her cheek
and frowned. "The child made it worse," she jerked out fiercely. "Seeing
you with the child was----" She shook her head with a shiver.

Grantley raised his eyebrows.

"As bad as that?" he asked mockingly. He paused, and went on: "But this
is all beside the point. Supposing it was as bad as you say, what then?
You had made your bargain; you chose to take me; you relied on your own
opinion. Say it was a mistaken opinion--what difference does that make?"

"It does make a difference. I'm not called upon to throw away every
chance of happiness because of one mistake."

"That's just what you are called upon to do--in civilised society."

"You don't actually propose an abstract argument," she asked,
"now--under these circumstances?" She smiled derisively.

"Oh, no! But your point of view compelled a protest. I'm not here to
argue; I'm here to take you back--or, if you won't come, to tell you the

"I'm prepared for the consequences."

That gave young Blake another chance. He rose and came forward.

"Yes, she is--and so am I," he said; "and that ought to end the matter
between us. We're prepared for the trouble and the scandal and all that;
and I'm prepared for anything else you may think proper to ask. We've
weighed all that, and made up our minds to it. That's the answer we have
to give."

He spoke in a low voice, but very quickly and with passion; evidently he
had hard work to keep control of himself. When he finished speaking,
there was a moment's silence. He looked from Grantley to Sibylla, then
went back to his chair; but he drew it nearer and listened intently.

"It is so," said Sibylla. "We've made up our minds to all that."

Grantley passed his hand across his brow--almost the first movement that
he had made. He was about to speak when another short fit of vehemence
caught hold of Sibylla.

"Yes," she cried, striking the table with her hand, "and it's better
than that life of sham and fraud and failure and heartbreak! Yes, a
thousand, thousand times better!"

He let the gust pass by, and then spoke slowly, as though he weighed his

"Those are the consequences to you and your--your friend here," he said.
"Have you thought of the consequences to me?"

"To you? Am I so necessary?" She laughed bitterly.

"And to the boy?"

"Not so bad as growing up in such a home as ours!" she flashed out
fiercely again.

"Oh, that's the way you argued that?" he said with a smile. "I was
rather wondering. However there are other consequences still." He came
yet a pace nearer to her, so that he was close to the table, and rested
one hand on it. "There will be other consequences still," he said. "I
don't accept the position you propose for me. I don't accept these
consequences which you have been so good as to face and decide upon. I
refuse them totally--both for myself and for my son I refuse them
utterly. It's fair you should understand that. I refuse them root and

Blake leant forward, ready to spring up. The idea of violence came into
his head, the idea that Grantley might be armed. Grantley noticed his
movement, and at last addressed a word to him.

"Don't be afraid. I don't mean that," he said with a short laugh.

Sibylla spoke to him, sadly now.

"You can't refuse. It's put out of your power. This thing must be. It
has become inevitable. There's no use in talking of refusing the
consequences. They won't be as bad as you think."

"It's not inevitable; it's not out of my power. It's entirely in my
power to accept your consequences or not to accept them, to face them or
not to face them; and I have decided. I won't be, and I won't be known
as, what you're making me; and your son shan't have to confess you his
mother before men."

Young Blake looked at him with a puzzled impatience; Sibylla with a slow
pondering glance. She twisted a ring on her finger as she asked:

"What do you mean by that?"

"In this world nothing need happen to us that we don't choose to bear,
and nothing to those who are in our power that we don't choose to accept
for them."

"What are you talking about?" asked Blake fretfully. "It sounds all
nonsense to me."

He leant back with a scornful toss of his head. This sort of thing had
lasted long enough, in his opinion.

"Tell me what you mean," said Sibylla, leaning forward across the table.

Grantley announced the resolve that possessed him, born of those bitter
meditations, of those intolerable pictures of the future which had
formed themselves in his mind as he battled through the storm to
Fairhaven. He uttered it not as a threat, but as a warning; it was, as
he had said, fair that she should understand.

"If you persist, I shall kill Frank and myself to-night."

Blake broke into a loud scornful laugh, sticking his hands in his
pockets. Grantley turned towards him, smiling slightly.

"Oh, this isn't a melodrama, you know," Blake said, "and we're not to be
bluffed like that. Don't be so damned absurd, Imason! On my soul, I've
had enough of this business without having to listen to stuff like

"Do you think it's bluff and melodrama?" Grantley asked Sibylla. "Do you
think I've no real intention of doing it?"

She looked up at him intently.

"You love yourself more than the boy, and your pride more than life or
happiness," she said slowly. He frowned, but heard her without
interruption. "So I think you might do it," she ended.

"Sibylla!" cried Blake, leaning forward again.

A gesture from her arrested his speech. He rose slowly to his feet and
stood listening.

"I may be made a fool of. I don't make a fool of myself. If I pledge
myself to you to do it, you know I shall do it, Sibylla?"

"Yes, then you would do it," she agreed.

"Oh, but it's nonsense, it's rank madness, it's--it's inconceivable!"
Blake broke out.

"I do now so pledge myself," said Grantley.

Sibylla nodded; she understood. She leant back in her chair now,
regarding her husband thoughtfully.

Grantley's pale face was set in a fixed smile; he met her gaze steadily.

"It's madness--you'll be stopped!" Blake burst out. "I can't believe you
mean it. Anyhow, you'll be stopped."

"By you? Will you send for a policeman? or will you come to my house and
stop me? Nothing can stop me unless you kill me. Is that your choice?"

He spoke to Blake, but he looked still at Sibylla. Blake came near and
scrutinised the pale face with eyes whose expression grew from wonder
and incredulity into a horrified apprehension. The silence now seemed

"Yes," said Sibylla at last, "it's like you. That's what you'd do. I
never thought of it; but I'm not surprised. It's you. It's just that in
you which has made my life an impossible thing. You sacrificed me to it.
You would sacrifice yourself and your son. Yes, it's you."

She put her hands up before her face for a moment, pressing her fingers
on her eyelids. Then her eyes sought his face again.

"But, Sibylla----" cried Blake.

"Yes, he'd do it, Walter," she interrupted, not turning round.

Blake took two restless paces to and fro, and sank into his chair again.

"You understand now. It lies with you," said Grantley to his wife. "I've
told you. I was bound to tell you. Now it lies with you."

Again passion seized her.

"No, no, that's false! It doesn't lie with me! It lies at your door,
both the crime--the hideous crime--and, I pray God, the punishment!"

"I'm not talking about the crime or the punishment," he said coldly. "I
take those on myself as much as you like. What depends on you is whether
the thing happens. That's all I meant to say."

Young Blake was staring at him now as if fascinated by his firm and
hideous resolve. Slowly it had been driven into Blake's brain that the
man meant what he said, that he would do the thing. The man looked like
it, and Sibylla believed he would. He would kill himself--yes, and the
pretty child with whom Sibylla had been used to play. He could see the
picture of that now--of Sibylla's beautiful motherhood. His heart turned
sick within him as he began to believe Grantley's sombre pledge.

"It's a lie," said Sibylla in grim defiance. "Nothing depends on me.
It's the evil of your own heart. I've nothing to do with it."

"It's with you to bring it about or to prevent it."

"No!" she cried, rising to her feet in the agonised strain of her
heart--"no, no! That's a lie--a lie! On your head be it! Ah, but perhaps
it would be best for him! God knows, perhaps it would be best!"

"So I think," said Grantley quietly. "And you accept that?"

"No, I acknowledge no responsibility--not a jot."

"Well, leave the question of responsibility. But it's your will that
this shall happen sooner than that you should leave this man?"

"Sooner than that I should come back to you, that life of ours begin
again, and Frank grow up to a knowledge of it!"

"And it's my will, sooner than that he should grow up to a knowledge of
how his mother ended it. That's settled then?"

"It's no bargain!" she protested fiercely. "You have settled it."

"But it is settled?" he persisted.

"If you do it, may God never pardon you!"

"Perhaps. But you know that it is settled?"

She made no answer.

"You can't deny that you know. So be it."

He faced her for a moment longer; her figure swayed a little, but she
stood her ground. She was not beaten down. And she knew the thing was
settled, unless by chance, at the last, pity should enter Grantley's
heart. But she did not believe pity could enter that heart; he had never
shown her that there was a way.

The smile rested still on Grantley's face as he regarded his wife. She
looked very beautiful in her fierce defiance, her loathing of him, her
passionate protest, her refusal to be beaten down, her facing of the
thing. She had a fine spirit; it did not know defeat or cravenness. She
was mad with her ideas. Perhaps he was mad with his. And the ideas
clashed--with ruin to her life, and his, and the child's. But she did
not bow her head any more than he would bend his haughty neck.

"At least you have courage," he said to her. "It is settled. And now
I'll say good-bye and go. I'll interrupt you no more."

It was his first taunt of that kind. It seemed to pass unheeded by
Sibylla; but young Blake's face turned red, and he clenched his hands;
but not in anger. A wave of horror passed over him. He would not
interrupt longer what his coming had interrupted--that was what Grantley
Imason meant. He would leave them to themselves while he went back alone
to his home, and there found the sleeping child. But the idea of
that--the picture of the one house and the other--was too fearful. How
could the two bear to think of that? How could they stand there and
decide on that? It was unnatural, revolting, alien from humanity. Yet
they meant it. Blake doubted that no more, and the conviction of it
unmanned him. He had been prepared for scandal, he had been ready to
risk his life. Those things were ordinary; but this thing was not.
Scandal is one thing, tragedy another. This grim unyielding pair of
enemies threw tragedy in his appalled face. It was too much. A groan
burst from his lips.

"My God!" he moaned.

They both turned and looked at him--Sibylla gravely, Grantley with his
rigid smile.

"My God, I can't bear it!" He was writhing in his chair, as though in
keen bodily pain. "It's too awful! We--we should think of it all our
lives. I should never get rid of it. I should see the poor little
beggar's face. I can't stand that. I never thought of anything like
that. I never meant anything like that. Poor little Frank! My God, you
can't mean it, Imason?"

"You know I mean it. It's nothing to you. The responsibility is ours.
What do you count for? It was you or another--that's all. Neither my
life nor my son's is anything to you."

"But it would--it would always be there. I could never sleep at nights.
I should feel like--like a murderer. For pity's sake----"

He came towards Grantley, stretching out his hands for mercy. Grantley
made no sign. Blake turned to Sibylla. She too was stiff and still, but
her eyes rested on him in compassion. He turned away and threw himself
into the chair again. A convulsive movement ran through his body, and he
gave a loud sob.

Sibylla walked slowly away to the hearthrug, and stood looking at the
agonised young man. Grantley waited in immovable patience. The thing was
not finished yet.

"The horror of it!" Blake moaned almost inarticulately. He turned to
weak rage for an instant and hissed across to Grantley: "If I had a
revolver, I'd shoot you where you stand."

"That would be better for me, but not better for the boy," said

"I can't understand you," Blake gasped, almost sobbing again.

"Why should you? My account is not to be rendered to you. If I've ruined
my wife's life--and you've heard her say I have--if I take my own and my
son's, what is it to you?"

In Grantley's slow measured words there breathed a great contempt. What,
he seemed to say, were any great things, any stern issues, to this
unmanned hysterical creature, who dressed up his desires in fine
clothes, and let them beguile him whither he knew not, only to start
back in feeble horror at the ruin that he had invited? What was it all
to him, or he to it? It was he or another. The real battle was still
between himself and Sibylla. With what eyes was she looking on this
young man? He turned from the collapsed figure and faced his wife again.

But her eyes were now on Walter Blake, with a pleading, puzzled, pitying
look. The next moment she walked quickly across the room and knelt down
by his side, taking one of his hands in both of hers. She began to
whisper consolation to him, praying him not to distress himself, to be
calm and brave, tenderly reproaching his lack of self-control. She was
with him as Grantley had seen her with the child. He wondered to see
that, and his wonder kept his temper under command. There did not seem
enough to make a man's passion rage or his jealousy run wild, even
though she whispered close in Blake's ear, and soothingly caressed his

"Don't be so distressed," he heard her murmur. "It's not your fault,
dear. Don't be frightened about it."

He tried to shake her off with a childish petulance, but she persevered.
Yet she could not calm him. He broke from her and sprang to his feet,
leaving her kneeling.

"I can't face it! By God, I can't!" he cried.

"It will happen," said Grantley Imason. "If not to-night--if anything
prevents me to-night--still very soon. You'll hear of it very soon."

The young man shuddered.

"The poor little chap--the poor innocent little chap!" he muttered
hoarsely. He turned to Grantley. "For Heaven's sake, think again!"

"It's you who have to think. I have thought. I've little time for more
thought. You've all your life to think about it--all your life with that
woman, who is the mother of the child."

"Why do you torment him?" broke out Sibylla angrily.

But she rose slowly and drew away from Blake as she spoke.

Grantley shrugged his shoulders scornfully.

"The fellow has no business in an affair like this," he said. "He'd
better get back to his flirtations."

"I never thought of anything like this."

The repetition came from Blake like some dull forlorn refrain.

He put his hand to his throat and gulped with a hard dry swallow. He
looked round the room, made for a table where some whisky stood, and
took a drink of it. Then he half staggered back to his chair, and sat
down all in a heap. His limit was reached. He was crushed between the
upper and the nether stone--between Grantley's flinty pride and the
ruthless fanaticism of Sibylla's ideas. Between them they would make
him, who had wanted to be good, who had had such fine aspirations, such
high-coloured dreams, such facile emotions, so impulsive a love--between
them they would make him a murderer--a murderer in his own eyes.
Whatever hands did the deed, to the end of his days conscience would cry
out that his were red.

Sibylla sighed. Her eyes were very mournful. She spoke, as it seemed,
more to herself than to either of them.

"I wanted to make him happy, and I've made him very unhappy. I can do
it, but he can't do it. I mustn't ask it of him. He would never be
happy, I could never make him happy. Even if I could be happy, he
couldn't; it's too hard for him. I don't know what to do now."

Grantley neither spoke nor moved.

"I've no right to ask it of any man. Nobody could agree to it, nobody
could endure it. There's misery both ways now."

She went to Blake, who was sitting in the apathetic stupor which had
followed his raving outburst. Again she knelt by him and whispered to
him soothingly. At last Grantley spoke.

"It would be well if we were home before it's light and the servants
up," he said.

She looked across at him from beside Blake's knee. She looked long and
searchingly. His smile was gone; his manner and air were courteous,
however peremptory.

"Yes, it would be well," she said. She rose and came a little way
towards him. "There's no help for it. I can't escape from you. I'm bound
to you in bonds I can't loosen. I've tried. I've stood at nothing. I
wish to Heaven I could! Going back is like going back to death. But
perhaps he's right. Better my living death than the thing you meant to
do." She paused and ended: "I'll go back to the child, but I will not
come back to you."

"You give all I've asked," said Grantley with cold politeness.

She looked round at young Blake with a pitiful smile.

"It's the only way, my dear. With this man what he is, it's the only
way. I must leave you alone."

Blake leaned towards her with a passionate cry of pain. She reasoned
gently with him.

"But you know the alternative--you've heard it. We can't help it. This
man is capable of doing it, and he would find out a way. I don't see
that we could do anything at all to stop him. Then when you heard it, it
would be so terrible to you. You'd hate yourself. Oh, and, my dear, I
think you'd hate me! And I couldn't bear that. No, you must be
reasonable. There's no other way."

Blake hid his face in his hands. He made no further effort. He knew that
her words were true.

Sibylla walked into the bedroom, leaving the two alone. Neither now
moved nor spoke. The storm outside seemed to have abated, for the rain
dashed no more against the windows, and the wind was not howling round
the walls of the house. It was very still. Grantley Imason presently
began to button his coat, and then to dust the wet off his hat with his
coat sleeve.

Sibylla came back in her hat and cloak.

"We must get something to carry you," said Grantley. "I wonder if we
could raise a cart here!"

"How did you come?"

"I rode over."

"I don't want a cart. I shall walk beside your horse."

"Impossible! At this time of night! And such a night!"

"I shall walk--I must walk! I can't sit in a cart and----"

Her gesture explained the rest. Struggling along on foot, she might keep
her wits. Madness lay in sitting and thinking.

"As you will," said Grantley.

She had begun to draw on her gloves; but when she looked at Blake she
drew them quickly off again, and thrust them into a pocket of her cloak.
She walked past Grantley to Blake, and took hold of both his hands.
Bending over him, she kissed him twice.

"Thank you for having loved me, Walter," she said. "Good-bye."

Blake said nothing. He held her hands and looked up imploringly in her
face. Then she disengaged herself from his grasp and turned round to her

"I'm ready," she said. "Let us go."

Grantley bowed slightly, went to the door, and opened it for her. She
looked back once at Blake, murmuring:

"For having loved me, Walter," and kissed her hand to him.

With no sign of impatience Grantley waited. Himself he took no heed of
Blake, but followed Sibylla out of the room in unbroken silence.

When he found himself alone, young Blake sprang towards the door, giving
a cry like some beast's roar of rage and disappointment. But his feet
carried him no more than half-way. Half-way was all he ever got. Then he
reeled across to where the liquor was, and drank some more of it,
listening the while to the paces of Grantley's horse on the stone flags
outside the inn. As they died away, he finished his liquor and got back
to his chair. He sat a moment in dull vacancy; then his nerves failed
him utterly, and he began to sob helplessly, like a forsaken frightened
child. As Grantley Imason said, he had no business in an affair like



Grantley's pride was eager to raise its crest again. It caught at the
result of the struggle and claimed it as a victory, crying out that
there was to be no pointing of scornful fingers, no chuckles and winks,
no shame open and before the world. The woman who walked by his horse
was a pledge to that. He was not to stand a plain fool and dupe in the
eyes of men. If that thought were not enough, look at the figure young
Walter Blake had cut! Who had played the man in the fight? Not the
lover, but the husband. Who had won the day and carried off the prize?
The woman who walked by his horse was the evidence of that. Who had
known his will, and stood by it, and got it? The woman answered that. He
bore her off with him; young Blake was left alone in the dingy inn,
baulked in his plan, broken in spirit, disappointed of his desire.

The night was still and clear now. Broad puddles in the low-lying road
by the sea, and the slipperiness of the chalky hill up to the cliffs,
witnessed to the heaviness of the recent downpour, as the flattened
bushes in the house gardens proved the violence of the tempest. But all
was over now, save the sulky heaving of big rollers. A clear moon shone
over all. They met nobody: the man who had vainly watched for the yacht
had gone home. Sibylla did not speak. Once or twice she caressed Rollo,
who knew her and welcomed her. For the rest she trudged steadily through
the puddles, and set her feet resolutely to climb the sticky road. She
never looked up at her companion. The brutality of his pride rejoiced
again to see her thus. Here was a fine revenge for her scornful words,
for the audacity with which she had dared to bring him within an ace of
irremediable shame--him and the child she had borne to him! She was well
punished; she came back to him perforce. Was she weary? Was she cruelly
weary? It was well. Did she suffer? It was just. Woe to the
conquered--his was the victory! Even in her bodily trial his fierceness
found a barbaric joy.

But deep within him some mocking spirit laughed at all this, and would
not let its gibes be silenced. It derided his victory, and made bitter
fun of his prancing triumph. "I'll go back to the child, but I will not
come back to you." "Going back is like going back to death." "Thank you
for having loved me, Walter." The mischievous spirit was apt at
remembering and selecting the phrases which stung sharpest. Was this
triumph? it asked. Was this victory? Had he conquered the woman? No,
neither her body nor her soul. He had conquered--young Blake! The spirit
made cheap of that conquest, and dared Grantley to make much of it.
"Rank, blank failure," said the spirit with acrid merriment. "And a
lifetime of it before you!" The world would not know, perhaps, though it
can generally guess. But his heart knew--and hers. It was a very fine
triumph that!--a triumph fine to win against the woman who had loved
him, and counted her life worth having because it was hers to give to
him! Through the blare of the trumpets of his pride came this piercing
venomous voice. Grantley could not but hear. Hearing it, he hated
Sibylla, and again was glad that she trudged laboriously and painfully
along the slimy oozing road. The instinct of cruelty spoke in him. She
had chosen to trudge. It was her doing. That was excuse enough. Whatever
the pain and labour, she had her way. Who was to blame for it?

They passed the red villas, and came where the Milldean road branched
off to the left at the highest point of the downs. From here they looked
over the cliffs that sloped towards their precipitous fall to the sea.
The moon was on the heaving waters; a broad band of silver cut the waves
in two. Grantley brought his horse to a stand, and looked. At the
instant Sibylla fell against the horse's shoulder, and caught at his
mane with her hands, holding herself up. Rollo turned his head and nosed
her cloak in a friendly fashion. A stifled sob proclaimed her exhaustion
and defeat. She could walk no more. The day had been long, full of
strain, compact of emotion and struggle; even despair could inspire no
more exertion. In a moment she would fall there by the horse's side.
Grantley looked down on her with a frowning face, yet with a new
triumph. Again she failed; again he was right.

"Of course you couldn't do it! Why did you try?" he asked coldly. "The
result is--here we are! What are we to do now?"

She made no answer; her clutch on Rollo's mane grew more tenacious--that
alone kept her up.

"You must ride. I'll get down," he said surlily. Then he gave a sudden
laugh. "No, he can carry us both--he's done it once before. Put your
feet on the stirrup here--I'll pull you up."

She made no sign of understanding his allusion. He saw that she was
dazed with weariness. He drew her up, and set her behind him, placing
her arm about his waist.

"Take care you don't let go," he warned her curtly, as he jogged the
horse on again, taking now to the turf, where the going was better.

Her grasp of his waist was limp.

"Hold on, hold on!" he said testily, "or you'll be slipping off." There
was no hint of tenderness in his voice.

But Sibylla recked nothing of that now. With a long-drawn sigh she
settled herself in her place. It was so sweet to be carried along--just
to be carried along, to sit still and be carried along. She tightened
her grip on him, and sighed again in a luxury of content. She let her
head fall against his shoulder, and her eyes closed. She could think no
more and struggle no more; she fell into the blessed forgetfulness, the
embracing repose, of great fatigue.

The encircling of her arm, the contact of her head, the touch of her
hair on his neck moved him with a sudden shock. Their appeal was no less
strong because it was utterly involuntary, because the will had no part
in the surrender of her wearied-out body. Memory assailed him with a
thousand recollections, and with one above all. His face set in a sullen
obstinate resistance; he would not hear the voice of his heart answering
the appeal, saying that his enemy was also the woman whom he loved. He
moved the horse into a quicker walk. Then he heard Sibylla speaking in a
faint drowsy whisper: "Good Rollo, good Rollo, how he carries us
both--as easily as if we were one, Grantley!" She ended with another
luxurious sigh. It was followed by a little shiver and a fretful effort
to fold her cloak closer about her. She was cold. She drew nearer to
him, seeking the warmth of contact. "That's a little better," she
murmured in a childish grumbling voice, and sought more comfortable
resting for her head on his shoulder.

He knew that her wits wandered, and that the present was no more present
to her. She was in the past--in the time when to be near him was her
habit and her joy, the natural refuge she sought, her rest in weariness,
the end of her every journey, when his arms had been her home. Certainly
her wits must be wandering, or she would never rest her head on his
shoulder, nor suffer her hair to touch his neck, nor speak nor sigh like
that, nor deliver herself to his charge and care in this childish holy
contentment. Wandering wits, and they alone, could make her do anything
of this. So it was not to be regarded. How should any sane man regard it
from the woman who had forsaken her child and sought to dishonour her
home, whom he had but just torn from the arms of a lover?

He was afraid. Hence came his summoning of the hardest thoughts, his
resort to the cruellest names. He braced himself to disregard the appeal
she made, to recall nothing of all that her intimate presence thrust
upon his mind. He would not be carried back across the gulf of the last
year, across the chasm which those months had rent between them. For
here was no such willing submission as he asked. It was all unconscious;
it left her rebellion unquelled and her crime unexpiated. Yet he waited
fearfully to hear her voice again. Whither would the errant wits next
carry her? Whither must they carry her? He seemed to be able to answer
that question in one way only. They must go right back to the beginning.
With a sense of listening to inevitable words, he heard her soft drowsy
whisper again:

"Let's ride straight into the gold, Grantley, straight into the gold,
and let the gold----"

The faint happy murmur died away in a sigh, and her head, which had been
raised a moment, nestled on his shoulder again.

It had come--the supreme touch of irony which he had foreseen and
dreaded. The errant wits had overleapt the stupendous gulf; they
crimsoned the cold rays of the moon into the glory of summer sunset;
they coloured desolate ruins with the gleaming hues of splendid youth.
Her soul was again in the fairy ride, the fairy ride which had led
whither? Which had led to this? Nothing that waking wits, or an
ingenuity pointed by malice, might have devised, could have equalled
this. She might have searched all her armoury in vain for so keen a
weapon. Nay, she would have rejected this, the sharpest of all; no human
being could have used it knowingly. It would have been too cruel. He
listened in dull terror for a repetition of the words. They did not come
again. What need? He heard them still, and a groan broke the seal of his

"My God, must she do that?" he muttered to himself. "Get on, Rollo, get

For now the triumph faded away, the unsubstantial pageant was no more.
There was no blare of trumpets to deaden the mocking voice. The little
victory stood in its contemptible dwarfishness beside the magnitude of
his great defeat. That the past had been, that the present was--that was
enough. The fairy ride and the struggle in the inn--they stood side by
side and bade him gaze on the spectacle. Beside this it seemed as though
he had suffered nothing that day and night--nothing in the thought of
ridicule and shame, nothing in the dishonour of his house and home,
nothing in the jealousy and anger of a forsaken man. This thing alone
seemed to matter--that the past had been that, and that the present was
this, and that they had been so shaped in the hands of him, the
fashioner of them.

Then suddenly, with a quick twist of thought, he was bitterly sorry for
Sibylla: because words and memories which come back like that, unbidden
and of themselves, when the wits are wandering, must have meant a great
deal and had a great place once. At such a time the mind would not throw
up trifles out of an unconscious recollection. The things which have
been deepest in it, which have filled--yes, and formed it--those were
the things that it would throw up. In themselves they might sound wild
trifles, but they were knit to great deep things, towards which they
stood as representatives. They expressed nethermost truths, however idle
and light they sounded. When she babbled of riding into the gold, and
sank her spirit in the memory of the fairy ride, she went back all
unconsciously to the great moment of her life and to its most glorious
promise. She spoke of the crown of all her being.

It was strange to him, this new sorrow for Sibylla. He had never felt
that yet. It was odd he should feel it now--for the woman who had
forsaken her child and sought to dishonour her husband and her son. But
the feeling was very strong on him. It found its first utterance in
words of constrained civility. He turned his head back, saying:

"I'm afraid you're very tired?"

She answered nothing.

"I hope you're not very cold?"

A little shiver of her body ran into his.

"We shall be home very soon."

"Home!" she murmured sleepily. "Yes, soon home now, Grantley!"

"God help me!" he muttered.

He could not make it out. Somehow his whole conception of her, of the
situation, of himself, seemed shaken. This guilty woman behind him (was
she not guilty in all that was of consequence, in every decision of her
will and every impulse of her nature?) seemed to accuse not herself, but
him. He was torn from the judgment-seat and set rudely in the dock,
peremptorily bidden to plead, not to sentence, to beg mercy in lieu of
pronouncing doom. Her wandering wits and drowsy murmurs had inexplicably
wrought this transformation. And why? And how?

Was it because she had been capable of the fairy ride and able to make
it eternal? Capable--yes, and confident of her ability. So confident
that, in the foolhardiness of strength, she had engaged herself to try
it with young Blake--with that poor light-o'-love, who was all unequal
to the great issues which he himself had claimed as the kernel of the
fight. Where lay the failure of the fairy ride? Where resided its
nullity? How came it that the bitter irony of contrast found in it so
fair, so unmatched a field? Who had turned the crimson of the glorious
sunset to the cold light of that distant unregarding moon?

On a sudden her grasp of him loosened; her arm slipped away. She gave a
little groan. He wrenched himself round in the saddle, dropping the
reins. Old Rollo came to a standstill; Grantley darted out his hands
with a quick eager motion. Another second, and she would have fallen
heavily to the ground. With a strain he held her, and brought her round
and set her in front of him. She seemed deathly pale under the
blue-white moon rays. Her lips opened to murmur "Grantley!" and with a
comfortable sigh she wreathed her arms about his neck. He almost kissed
her, but thought of young Blake, and took up his reins again with a
muttered oath.

So they rode down the hill into Milldean, old Rollo picking his steps
carefully, since the chalk was slimy and there were loose flints which
it behoved a careful and trusted horse to beware of. The old scene
dawned on Grantley, pallid and ghostly in the moonlight--the church and
the post-office; Old Mill House, where she had lived when he wooed her;
his own home on the hill beyond. Sibylla's cold arms about his neck
prayed him to see it again as he had seen it once--nay, in a new and
intenser light; to see it as the place where his love had been born,
whence the fairy ride had started and whither returned. He did not try
to loosen her grasp about his neck. She seemed a burden that he must
carry, a load he bore home from out the tempest of the winds and waves
which he had faced and fought that night. And ever, as he went, he
sought dimly, saying, "Why, why?" "How did it come about?" "Haven't I
loved her?" "Hasn't she had everything?" Or exclaiming, "Blake!" Or
again, "And the child!"--trying to assess, trying to judge, trying to
condemn, yet ever feeling the inanimate grasp, looking on the oblivious
face, returning to pity and to grieve.

A groom was waiting up for him. Grantley roused himself from his
ponderings to give the man a brief explanation. Mrs. Imason had meant to
stay at Mrs. Valentine's, but he had wanted to talk to her on business,
and she had insisted on coming back with him. Unfortunately she had
attempted to walk, and it had been too much for her; her bag would be
sent home to-morrow. He had arranged this with the gruff innkeeper, and
paid him a good sum to hold his tongue. But he was conscious that
tongues would not be held altogether, and that the groom was puzzled by
the story, and certainly not convinced. This seemed to matter very
little now--as little as young Blake had mattered. Let them guess and
gossip--what was that compared to the great unexplained thing between
himself and Sibylla, compared to the great questioning of himself by
himself which had now taken possession of him? What the outside world
might think seemed now a small thing--yes, although he had been ready to
kill himself and the child because of it.

He bore Sibylla into the hall of the house. One lamp burned dimly there,
and all was quiet--save for a shrill fractious cry. The child was crying
fretfully. The next moment old Mrs. Mumple came to the top of the
stairs, carrying a bedroom candle and wrapped in a shabby voluminous

"You're back, Mr. Imason?" She did not see Sibylla, and held up her
hand. "Hark to poor little Frank!" she said. "He's been crying all the
evening. I can't quiet him. He misses his mummy so."

Could words more sorely condemn Sibylla--the woman who had forsaken her
child? But Grantley gathered her gently into his arms and began to carry
her upstairs. Then Mrs. Mumple saw, and turned on him eyes full of

"She's unconscious, I think," he said. "She can do nothing for herself.
I'll take her to her room, and you must put her to bed. She's very cold
too. You must make her warm, Mrs. Mumple."

The old woman followed him into the bedroom without a word. He laid
Sibylla down on the bed. For an instant she opened her eyes and smiled
tenderly at him; then she fell into oblivion again. Mrs. Mumple moved
quickly to her. Standing by her, ranged on her side in a moment by some
subtle instinct, she faced Grantley with an air of defiance.

"Leave her to me, Mr. Imason. Leave the poor child to me."

"Yes," he answered. "Get her to bed as soon as you can. Good night."

Mrs. Mumple was feeling Sibylla's face, her hands, her ankles. She began
to unbutton the wet boots hastily.

"What have you done to her?" she asked in motherly indignation. "Poor

She pulled off the boots, and felt the damp stockings with low
exclamations of horror. She was in her element, fussing over somebody
she loved. She got a rough towel, and knelt down to strip off the

"I can leave her to you now," said Grantley, and he walked out of the
room, closing the door behind him.

In the stillness of the house he heard the little peevish cry again; the
complaint in it was more intense, as though the child missed old Mrs.
Mumple's care and feared to be alone. Grantley went along the passage
and into the nursery. A night-light burned by the cot. The door of the
adjoining room stood open a few inches, but all was dark and quiet in
there. When Grantley came near, the child saw him, and stretched out his
little arms to him in a gesture which seemed to combine welcome and
entreaty. Grantley shook his head, smiling whimsically.

"I wonder what the little beggar wants! I'm devilish little use," he
murmured. But he lifted little Frank from the cot, wrapped him in a
blanket, and carried him to the fireside. "I wonder if I ought to feed
him?" he thought. "What's the nurse up to? Oh, I suppose she's left him
to old Mumple. Why didn't she feed him?"

Then it struck him that perhaps Frank had been fed too much, and he
shook his head gravely over such a trying situation as that. Frank was
lamenting still--more gently, but in a remarkably persevering way. "He
must want something," Grantley concluded; and his eye fell on a cup
which stood just within the fender. He stooped down and stuck his finger
into it, and found it half-full of a warm, thick, semi-liquid stuff.

"Got it!" he said in lively triumph, picking up the cup and holding it
to Frank's lips. The child sucked it up. "Well, he likes it anyhow;
that's something. I hope it won't kill him!" mused Grantley, as he
gently drew the cup away from the tenacious little fingers.

Frank stuck one of the fingers in his mouth, stopped crying, and in an
instant, seemingly, was sound asleep. Grantley got him into a position
that he guessed would be comfortable, and lay back in the chair, nursing
him on his knees.

In half an hour Mrs. Mumple came in and found them both sound asleep in
front of the fire. She darted to them, and shook Grantley by the
shoulder. He opened his eyes with a start.

"My gracious, you might have dropped him!"

"Not a bit of it! Look how he's holding on!" He showed the little hand
clenched tightly round his forefinger. "He could hang like that, I

"Hang indeed!" muttered Mrs. Mumple resentfully. "Give him to me, Mr.

"Oh, by all means! But, by Jove, he doesn't want to go, you know!"

He did not want to go, apparently, and Grantley was quite triumphant
about it. Mrs. Mumple was merely cross, and grumbled all the time till
she got the little fingers unlaced and Frank safe in his cot again.
"It's a mercy he didn't fall into the fire," she kept repeating, with a
lively and aggressive thankfulness for escape from a danger excessively
remote. But she made Grantley ashamed of not having thought of it. At
last she spoke of Sibylla.

"She's warm and comfortable and sleeping now, poor lamb!" she said.

"It's time we all were," said Grantley, making for the door.

"You won't disturb her, Mr. Imason?"

He turned round to her, smiling.

"No," he said.

Mrs. Mumple moved her fat shoulders in a helpless shrug. She had made
out nothing about the matter; she was clear only that Sibylla had
somehow been disgracefully ill-used, and that Frank might very well have
fallen into the fire. Of these two things she was unalterably convinced.
But she spoke of one of them only; the other was declared in her hostile

Against his will--perhaps against his promise--Grantley was drawn to his
wife's bedside. He trod very softly. The only light in the room came
from the bright flickering flames of the fire. They lit up her face and
her throat where she had torn her nightgown apart. He felt the white
neck very lightly with his hand. It was warm--healthily warm, not
feverish. She had taken no hurt either from storms within or from storms
without. She slept deeply now; she would awake all well on the morrow.
She would be herself again on the morrow. He thanked Heaven for that,
and then recollected what it meant. Herself was not the woman who
murmured "Grantley!" and dreamed of the gold and the fairy ride. Herself
was the woman who could not live with him, who had forsaken the child,
who had gone to Walter Blake. To that self she would awake to-morrow.
Then was it not better that she should never awake? Ought he not to be
praying Heaven for that--praying that the death which had passed by him
and his son should, in its mercy, take her now?

Aye, that was the easiest way--and from his heart and soul Grantley
despised the conclusion. His face set as it had when he faced her in the
dingy inn and tore her from her lover's ready arms. His courage rose
unbroken from the ruins of his pride. He would fight for her and for
himself. But how? There must be a way.

Suddenly she raised herself in the bed. In an instant he had drawn back
behind the curtains. She neither saw him nor heard. For a moment she
supported herself on her hand, with the other flinging back her hair
over her shoulders. Then, with one of her splendid, lithe, easy
movements, she was out of bed and had darted quickly across to the door.

Grantley watched her, holding his breath, in a strange terror lest she
should discover him, fearful that in such a case her delusion might
still keep its hold on her--fearful too of the outrage his presence
would seem if it had left her. She opened the door wider, and stood
listening for fully a couple of minutes; it seemed to him that the time
would never end. Then she carefully set the door half-way ajar, and
turned to come back to her bed. She walked slowly now, and looked
towards the fire, stretching out her hands towards it for a moment as
she came opposite to it. The flames illuminated her face again, and he
saw on her lips a smile of perfect happiness. All was well; there was no
crying in the house; the child slept. That was all she thought of, all
she cared about; her brain was dormant, but her instinct could not
sleep. Now that it was satisfied, with a buoyant spring she leapt on the
bed and cuddled the clothes about her happily.

In a few seconds Grantley stole silently from the room. He went
downstairs, and he ate and drank: he had touched next to nothing for
twelve hours. His blood stirred as warmth and vigour came back to him.
He thanked Heaven that he lived, and the boy lived, that she lived and
was with him still. His head was high and his courage unbroken. He
looked on what he had been, and understood; yet he was not dismayed.
Guided by the smile on her lips, he had found the way. He had been right
to bring her back, or she could not have smiled like that--in all the
plenitude of love for the little child, a love that waked while reason
slept, but would not let her sleep till it was satisfied. If that was in
her who had forsaken the child, so her love for him was in her who had
left him to go to Walter Blake. If that were true, then there must be a

Somehow, he knew not how, salvation should come through the child. His
mind leapt on to a vision of bonds of love joined anew by the link of
those little hands.



The Raymores were holding up their heads again--such good reports came
from Buenos Ayres. The head of Charley's department had written a letter
to Raymore, speaking highly of the lad's good conduct and ability, and
promising him early promotion. Raymore showed it to Kate, and she read
it with tears in her eyes.

"You see he's going to give him a holiday at Christmas, and let him
spend a month with us," said Raymore, pointing out a passage in the

"Come on a visit, he says." She looked up with a questioning glance.

Raymore understood the question.

"Yes, my dear," he said gently. "He'll pay us a visit--many visits, I
hope--but his career must lie over there. That's inevitable, and best on
all grounds, I think." He came and took her hand, adding, "We must be
brave about that."

"I'll try," said Kate.

She knew that was the penalty which must be paid. Over here the past
would never be utterly buried. Charley would never be quite safe from
it. He must buy safety and a fresh start at the price of banishment. His
mother faced the bitter conclusion.

"We must make the most of the visits," she sighed. "And, yes, I will be

"We must give him a splendid time while he's with us," said Raymore, and
kissed her. "You've been fine about it," he whispered: "keep it up."

The penalty was high, or seemed so to a mother, but the banishment was
not all evil. The boy's absence united them as his presence had never
done. At home he had been an anxiety often, and sometimes a cause of
distress to them. All that was gone now. He was a bond of union, and
nothing else. And his own love for them came out. When he was with them,
a lad's shamefacedness, no less than the friction of everyday life, had
half hidden it. His heart spoke out now from across the seas; he wrote
of home with longing; it seemed to grow something holy to him. He
recounted artlessly the words of praise and the marks of confidence he
had won; he was pleading that they made him worthy to pay his Christmas
visit home. Whenever his letters came, Raymore and Kate had a good talk
together over them; the boy's open heart opened their hearts also to one
another--yes, and to Eva too. They paid more attention to Eva, and were
quicker to understand her growth, to see how she reached forward to
womanhood, and to be ready to meet her on this new ground. She responded
readily, with the idea that she must do all she could to lighten the
sorrow and to make Charley's absence less felt. In easy-going times
people are apt to be reserved. The trouble and the worry broke up the
crust which had formed over their hearts. All of them--even the boy so
far away--were nearer together.

This softened mood and the gentler atmosphere which reigned in the
Raymores' household, had its effect on Jeremy Chiddingfold's fortunes.
It caused both Kate and Raymore to look on at his proceedings with
indulgence. They were constantly asking themselves whether they had not
been too strict with Charley, and whether the calamity might not have
been prevented if they had encouraged him to confide in them more, and
to bring his difficulties to them. They were nervously anxious to make
no such mistake in regard to Eva. They were even in a hurry to recognise
that Eva must consider herself--and therefore be considered--a young
woman. A pretty young woman, to boot! And what did pretty young women
like--and attract? Eva was not repressed; she was encouraged along her
natural path. And it was difficult to encourage Eva without encouraging
Jeremy too--that at least was Kate Raymore's opinion, notwithstanding
that she had been made the repository of the great secret about Dora
Hutting. "A boy and girl affair!" she called it once to Raymore, and
made no further reference to it.

Kate was undoubtedly in a sentimental mood; the small number and the
distant advent of the hundreds a year from the dyeing works did not
trouble her. Half unconsciously, in the sheer joy of giving Eva
pleasure, in the delight of seeing her girl spread her wings, she threw
the young folk together, and marked their mutual attraction with
furthering benevolence.

"We've been happy, after all," she said to Raymore; "and I should like
to see Eva happily settled too."

"No hurry!" he muttered: "she's a child still."

"Oh, my dear!" said Kate, with a smile of superior knowledge; fathers
were always like that.

Eva exulted in the encouragement and the liberty, trying her wings,
essaying her power with timid tentative flights. Yet she remained very
young; her innocence and guilelessness did not leave her. She did not
seek to shine, she did not try to flirt. She had not Anna Selford's
self-confidence, nor her ambition. Still, she was a young woman, and
since Jeremy was very often at hand, and seemed to be a suitable
subject, she tried her wings on him. Then Kate Raymore would nod
secretly and significantly at her husband. She also observed that Eva
was beginning to show a good deal of character. This might be true in a
sense, since all qualities go to character, but it was hardly true in
the usual sense. Christine Fanshaw used always to say that Eva was as
good as gold--and there she would leave the topic, without further

Well, that was the sort of girl Jeremy liked! He saw in himself now a
man of considerable experience. Had he not grown up side by side with
Sibylla, her whims and her tantrums? Had he not watched the development
of Anna Selford's distinction, and listened to her sharp tongue? Had he
not cause to remember Dora Hutting's alternate coquettishness and
scruples, the one surely rather forward (Jeremy had been revising his
recollections), the other almost inhuman? Reviewing this wide field of
feminine variety, Jeremy felt competent to form a valid judgment; and he
decided that gentleness, trustfulness, and fidelity were what a man
wanted. He said as much to Alec Turner, who told him, with unmeasured
scorn, that his ideas were out of date and sadly retrograde.

"You want a slave," said Alec witheringly.

"I want a helpmeet," objected Jeremy.

"Not you! A helpmeet means an equal--an intellectual equal," Alec
insisted hotly. He was hot on a subject which did not seem necessarily
to demand warmth because he too had decided what he wanted. He had
fallen into a passion which can be described only as unscrupulous. He
wanted to marry clever, distinguished, brilliant Anna Selford--to marry
her at a registry office and take her to live on two pounds a week (or
thereabouts) in two rooms up two pairs of stairs in Battersea. Living
there, consorting with the people who were doing the real thinking of
the age, remote from the fatted _bourgeoisie_, she would really be able
to influence opinion and to find a scope for her remarkable gifts and
abilities. He sketched this _ménage_ in an abstract fashion, not
mentioning the lady's name, and was much annoyed when Jeremy opined that
he "wouldn't find a girl in London to do it."

"Oh, as for you, I know you're going to become a damned plutocrat," Alec
said, with a scornful reference to the dyeing works.

"Rot!" remarked Jeremy, but he was by no means so annoyed at being
accused of becoming a damned plutocrat as he would have been a year
earlier, before he had determined to seek speedy riches and fame in
order to dazzle Dora Hutting, and when he had not encountered the gentle
admiring eyes of Eva Raymore. Whatever else plutocrats (if we may now
omit the _epiphetus ornans_) may or may not do in the economy and
service of the commonwealth, they can at least give girls they like fine
presents, and furnish beautiful houses (and fabrics superbly dyed) for
their chosen wives. There are, in short, mitigations of their lot, and
possibly excuses for their existence.

Jeremy's state of mind may easily be gauged. The dye works were
prominent, but the experience of life was to the front too. He was
working hard--and had his heart in his play besides. For his age it was
a healthy, and a healthily typical, existence. The play part was rich in
complications not unpleasurable. The applause of large admiring brown
eyes is not a negligible matter in a young man's life. There was enough
of the old Jeremy surviving to make the fact that he was falling in love
seem enough to support an excellent theory on the subject. But on the
other hand he had meant the fame and riches for Dora Hutting--to dazzle
her anyhow--whether to satisfy or to tantalise her had always been a
moot point. In imagination Jeremy had invariably emerged from the
process of making wealth and fame either unalterably faithful or
indelibly misogynistic, Dora being the one eternal woman, though she
might be proved unworthy. It had never occurred to him that he should
label the fame and riches to another address. To be jilted may appear
ludicrous to the rest of the world, but the ardent mind of the sufferer
contrives to regard it as tragic. A rapid transference of affection
tends to impair the dignity of the whole matter. Still, large brown
admiring eyes will count--especially if one meets them every day. Jeremy
was profoundly puzzled about himself, and did not suppose that just this
sort of thing had ever occurred before.

Then a deep sense of guilt stole over him. Was he trifling with Eva? He
hoped not. But of course there is no denying that the idea of trifling
with girls has its own attractions at a certain age. At any rate to feel
that you might--and could--is not altogether an unpleasing sensation.
However Jeremy's moral sense was very strong--the stronger (as he was in
the habit of assuring Alec Turner) for being based on pure reason and
the latest results of sociology. Whenever Eva had been particularly
sweet and admiring, he felt that he ought not to go to Buckingham Gate
again until he had put his relations with Dora Hutting on an ascertained
basis. He would knit his brow then, and decline to be enticed from his
personal problems by Alec's invitations to general discussion. At this
stage of his life he grew decidedly more careful about his dress, not
aiming at smartness, but at a rich and sober effect. And all the while
he started for Romford at eight in the morning. He was leading a very
fine existence.

"These are very roseate hues, Kate," Christine Fanshaw observed with
delicate criticism as she sipped her tea. Kate had been talking about
Eva and hinting benevolently about Jeremy.

"Oh, the great trouble's always behind. No, it's not so bad now, thank
heaven! But if only he could come back for good! I'm sure we want
roseate hues!"

"I daresay we do," said Christine, drawing nearer the fire. It was
autumn now, and she was always a chilly little body.

"Look at those wretched Courtlands! And somehow I don't believe that
Grantley's marriage has been altogether successful."

She paused a moment, and there had been a questioning inflection in her
voice; but Christine made no comment.

"For myself I can't complain----"

"And you won't get anything out of me, Kate."

"But we do want the young people to--to give us the ideal back again."

"I suppose the old people have always thought the young people were
going to do that. And they never do. They grow into old people--and then
the men drink, or the women run away, or something."

"No, no," Kate Raymore protested. "I won't believe it, Christine.
There's always hope with them, anyhow. They're beginning with the best,

"And when they find it isn't the best?"

"You're--you're positively sacrilegious!"

"And you're disgracefully sentimental."

She finished her tea and sat back, regarding her neat boots.

"Walter Blake's back in town," she went on.

"He's been yachting, hasn't he?"

"Yes, for nearly two months. I met him at the Selfords'."

A moment's pause followed.

"There was some talk----" began Kate Raymore tentatively.

"It was nonsense. There's some talk about everybody."

Kate laughed.

"Oh, come, speak for yourself, Christine."

"The Imasons are down in the country."

"And Walter Blake's in town? Ah, well!" Kate sighed thankfully.

"In town--and at the Selfords'." She spoke with evident significance.

Kate raised her brows.

"Well, it can't be Janet Selford, can it?" smiled Christine.

"I think he's a dangerous man."

"Yes--he's so silly."

"You do mean--Anna?"

"I've said all I mean, Kate. Anna has come on very much of late. I've
dressed her, you know."

"Oh, that you can do!"

"That's why I'm such a happy woman. Teach Eva to dress badly!"

Again Kate's brows rose in remonstrance or question.

"Oh, no, I don't mean it, of course. What would be the good, when most
men don't know the difference?"

"You're certainly a good corrective to idealism."

"I ought to be. Well, well, Anna can look after herself."

"It isn't as if one positively knew anything against him."

"One might mind one's own business, even if one did," Christine

"Oh, I don't quite agree with you there. If one saw an innocent

"Eva? Oh, you mothers!"

"I suppose I was thinking of her. Christine, did Sibylla ever----?"

"Not the least, I believe," said Christine with infinite composure.

"It's no secret Walter Blake did."

"Are there any secrets?" asked Christine. "It'd seem a pity to waste
anything by making a secret of it. One can always get a little comfort
by thinking of the pleasure one's sins have given. It's really your duty
to your neighbour to be talked about. You know Harriet Courtland's begun
her action? There'll be no defence, I suppose?"

"Has she actually begun? How dreadful! Poor Tom! John tried to bring her
round, didn't he?"

A curious smile flickered on Christine's lips. "Yes, but that didn't do
much good to anybody."

"She flew out at him, I suppose?"

"So I understood." Christine was smiling oddly still.

"And what will become of those unhappy children?"

"They have their mother. If nature makes mistakes in mothers, I can't
help it, Kate."

"Is she cruel to them?"

"I expect so--but I daresay it's not so trying as a thoroughly
well-conducted home."

"Really it's lucky you've no children," laughed Kate.

"Really it is, Kate, and you've hit the truth," Christine agreed.

Kate Raymore looked at the pretty and still youthful face, and sighed.

"You're too good really to say that."

Christine shrugged her shoulders impatiently.

"Perhaps I meant lucky for the children, Kate," she smiled.

"And I suppose it means ruin to poor Tom? Well, he's been very silly. I
met him with the woman myself."

"Was she good-looking?"

"As if I noticed! Why, you might be a man! Besides it was only decent to
look away."

"Yes, one looks on till there's a row--and then one looks away. I
suppose that's Christianity."

"Now really, I must beg you, Christine----"

"Well, Eva's not in the room, is she, Kate?"

"You're quite at your worst this afternoon." She came and touched her
friend's arm lightly. "Are you unhappy?"

"Don't! It's your business to be good and sympathetic--and stupid," said
Christine, wriggling under her affectionate touch.

"But John's affairs are ever so much better, aren't they?"

"Yes, ever so much. It's not John's affairs. It's---- Good gracious,
who's this?"

Something like a tornado had suddenly swept into the room. It was Jeremy
in a state of high excitement. He had a letter in his hand, and rushed
up to Kate Raymore, holding it out. At first he did not notice

"I've had a letter from Sibylla----" he began excitedly.

"Any particular news?" asked Christine quickly.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Fanshaw! I--I didn't see you." His manner
changed. Christine's presence evidently caused him embarrassment. "No;
no particular news. It's--it's not about her, I mean."

"I'll go if you like, but I should dearly like to hear." She looked
imploringly at Jeremy; she was thinking that after all he was a very
nice boy.

"Give me the letter, Jeremy. Show me the place," said Kate Raymore.

Jeremy did as she bade him, and stood waiting with eager eyes. Christine
made no preparations for going; she thought that with a little tact she
might contrive to stay and hear the news. She was not mistaken.

"Dora Hutting engaged!" said Kate, with a long breath.

Jeremy nodded portentously.

"Good gracious me!" murmured Kate.

"To a curate--a chap who's a curate," said Jeremy. His tone was full of

"Wasn't she always High Church?" asked Christine sympathetically.

"Why, you never knew her, Mrs. Fanshaw?"

"No, but most curates are High Church now, aren't they?"

"It's very curious, isn't it, Jeremy?" asked Mrs. Raymore. "Met him at
her aunt's, I see Sibylla says."

Jeremy stood before the fire with knitted brows. "Yes, at her aunt's,"
he repeated thoughtfully.

"Why is it curious, Kate?"

"Oh, you know nothing about it, Christine."

"I'm trying to learn--if Mr. Chiddingfold would only tell me."

"It's nothing. It's--it's just a girl I used to know, Mrs. Fanshaw."

"Ah, those girls one used to know, Mr. Chiddingfold!"

Jeremy laughed--he laughed rather knowingly.

"And she's consoled herself?" pursued Christine.

"Oh, come now, I say, Mrs. Fanshaw!"

"It's no use trying to be serious with her, Jeremy. We'll read all about
it when she's gone."

"Yes, all right. But to think----! Well, I'm dining here, aren't I?"

"Oh, yes," said Christine reassuringly.

"Christine, you're very impertinent. Yes, of course, Jeremy, and we'll
discuss it then. Why don't you find Eva? She's in the library, I think."

"Oh, is she? Then I--I might as well, mightn't I?" He spoke listlessly,
almost reluctantly. And he did not leave the room by a straight path,
but drifted out of it with an accidental air, fingering a book or two
and a nick-nack or two on his devious way. Christine's eyes followed
his erratic course with keen amusement.

"You wicked woman!" she said to Kate as the door closed. "You might have
given him one afternoon to dedicate to the memory of Miss Dora--what was
her name?"

"She was the rector's daughter down at Milldean. Well, I'm really glad.
I fancy she was a flighty girl, Christine."

"Oh dear me, I hope not," said Christine gravely. "What an escape for
the poor dear boy!"

"You shan't put me out of temper," beamed Kate Raymore.

"I should think not, when your machinations are triumphing!"

"He's too nice a boy to be thrown away. And I don't think he was quite
happy about it."

"I don't suppose he deserved to be."

"And now he can----"

"Oh, I won't hear any more about it! As it is, I've heard a lot more
than anybody meant me to, I suppose." She got up. "I must go home," she
said, with a little frown. "I'm glad I came. I like you and your silly
young people, Kate."

"Oh, no, stay a little," Kate begged. "I want to ask you about a frock
for Eva."

Christine was glad to talk about frocks--it was the craft whereof she
was mistress--and glad too to stay a little longer at the Raymores'.
There was youth in the air there, and hope. The sorrow that was
gradually lifting seemed still to enrich by contrast the blossoming joy
of the young lives which had their centre there. Her chaff covered so
keen a sympathy that she could not safely do anything except chaff. The
thought of the different state of things which awaited her at home did
as much to make her linger as her constitutional dislike of leaving a
cheery fire for the dreary dusk outside. Once she was near confiding the
whole truth to Kate Raymore, so sore a desire had she for sympathy. But
in the end her habit of reticence won the day, and she refused to betray
herself, just as she had declined to be false to Sibylla's secret. What
would Kate Raymore do for her? To speak of her trouble would only be to
cast a shadow over the joy of a friendly heart.

When she did go, chance tempted her to a very mean action, and she fell
before the temptation without the least resistance. The lights were not
yet turned up on the staircase or in the hall, and Christine, left by
her own request to find her way downstairs, found the library door
open--it gave on to the hall. The room was not lighted either, except by
a bright fire. She saw two figures sitting by the fire, and drew back
into the gloom of the hall with a smile on her lips.

Eva was wondering at Jeremy. Of course he had said nothing of the news
to her; indeed she knew nothing explicit of Dora Hutting--she had heard
only a hint or two from her mother. But this evening there was a
difference in Jeremy. Hitherto an air of hesitation had hung about him;
when he had said anything--well, anything rather marked--he would often
retreat from it, or smooth it down, or give it some ordinary (and rather
disappointing) explanation in the next sentence. He alternated between
letting himself go and bringing himself up with a jerk. This demeanour
had its interesting side for Eva, but it had also been rather
disquieting; sometimes it had seemed almost to rebuke her for listening
to the first sentence without displeasure, since the first had been open
to the interpretation which the second so hastily disclaimed. In fact
Jeremy's conscience had kept interposing remarks between the
observations of another faculty in Jeremy. The result had not been
homogeneous. Conscience spoils love-making; it should either let it
alone, or in the proper cases prevent it altogether.

This evening things had changed. His chagrin and his relief--his grudge
against Dora and her curate, and his sense of recovered liberty--joined
forces. He did not let the grass grow under his feet. He engaged in the
primeval art of courting without hesitation or reserve. His eyes spoke
in quick glances, his fingers sought excuses for transient touches. He
criticised Eva, obviously meaning praise where with mock audacity he
ventured on depreciation. Eva had been sewing embroidery; Jeremy must
have the process explained, and be shown how to do it. To be sure, it
was rather dark--they had to lean down together to get the firelight.
His fingers were very awkward indeed, and needed a lot of arranging.
Eva's clear laugh rang out over this task, and Jeremy pretended to be
very much hurt. Then, suddenly, Eva saw a line on his hand, and had to
tell him what it meant. They started on palmistry, and Jeremy enjoyed
himself immensely. The last Christine saw was when he had started to
tell Eva's fortune, and was holding her hand in his, inventing nonsense,
and not inventing it very well.

Well or ill, what did it matter? Old or new, it mattered less. The whole
thing was very old, the process as well ascertained as the most
primitive method ever used in Jeremy's dyeing works. "Poor children!"
breathed Christine, as she stole softly away towards the hall door. She
could not stand there and look on and listen any more. Not because to
listen was mean, but because it had become intolerable. She was ready to
sob as she let herself out silently from the house of love into the
chilly outer air. She left them to their pleasure, and set her face
homewards. But her mind and her heart were full of what she had seen--of
the beauty and the pity of it; for must not the beauty be so
short-lived? Had not she too known the rapture of that advancing flood
of feeling--yes, though the flood flowed where it should not? How the
memories came back--and with what mocking voices they spoke! Well had it
been for her to stand outside and look. For of a surety never again
might she hope to enter in.

A man came full beneath the light of a street-lamp. It was a figure she
could never forget nor mistake. It was Frank Caylesham. He saw her, and
raised his hat, half-stopping, waiting her word to stop. She gave an
involuntary little cry, almost hysterical.

"Fancy meeting you just now!" she gasped.



Christine had neither desire to avoid nor strength to refuse the
encounter. Her emotions had been stirred by what she had seen at Kate
Raymore's; they demanded some expression. Her heart went forth to a
friend, forgetting any bitterness which attached to the friendship. The
old attraction claimed her. When Caylesham said that it was quite dark
and there was no reason why he should not escort her, she agreed
readily, and was soon babbling to him about Eva and Jeremy. She put her
arm in his, talked merrily, and seemed very young and fresh as she
turned her face up to his and joked fondly about the young people. None
of the embarrassment which had afflicted her visit to his flat hung
about her now. She had somebody she could talk to freely at last, and
was happy in his society. It was a holiday--with a holiday's
irresponsibility about it. He understood her mood; he was always quick
to understand at the time, though very ready to forget what the feeling
must have been and what it must continue to be when he had gone. He
shared her tenderness, her pity, and her amusement at the youthful
venturers. They talked gaily for a quarter of an hour, Christine not
noticing which way they went. Then a pause came.

"Are we going right?" she asked.

"Well, not quite straight home," he laughed.

"Oh, but we must," she said with a sigh. He nodded and took a turn
leading more directly to her house.

"I hear things are much better with John. I met Grantley and he told me
they were in much better shape."

"Thanks to Grantley Imason and you. Yes, and you."

"I was very glad to do it. Oh, it's nothing. I can trust old John, you

"Yes; he'll pay you back. Still it was good of you." She lifted her eyes
to his. "He knows, Frank," she said.

"The devil he does!" Caylesham was startled and smiled wryly.

"I don't know why I told you that. I suppose I had to talk to somebody.
Yes; Harriet Courtland told him--you remember she knew? He made her
angry by lecturing her about Tom, and she told him."

"He knows, by Jove, does he?" He pulled at his moustache; she pressed
his arm lightly. "But, I say, he's taken the money!" He looked at her in
a whimsical perplexity.

"So you may imagine what it is to me."

"But he's taken the money!"

"How could he refuse it? It would have meant ruin. Oh, he didn't know
when he sent me to you--he'd never have done that."

"But he knew when he kept it?"

"Yes, he knew then. He couldn't let it go when once he'd got it, you
see. Poor old John!"

"Well, that's a rum thing!" Caylesham's code was infringed by John's
action--that was plain: but his humour was tickled too. "How did
he--well, how did he take it?"

"Awful!" she answered with a shiver.

"But I say, you know, he kept the money, Christine."

"That makes no difference--or makes it worse. Oh, I can't tell you!"

"It doesn't make it worse for you anyhow. It gives you the whip hand,
doesn't it?"

She did not heed him; she was set on pouring out her own story.

"It's dreadful at home, Frank. Of course I oughtn't to talk to you _of_
all people. But I've had two months and more of it now."

"He's not unkind to you?"

"If he was, what do I deserve? Oh, don't be fierce. He doesn't throw
things at me, like Harriet Courtland, or beat me. But I----" She burst
into a little laugh. "I'm stood in the corner all the time, Frank."

"Poor old Christine!"

"He won't be friends. He keeps me off. I never touch his hand, or

A long-dormant jealousy stirred in Caylesham.

"Well, do you want to?" he asked rather brusquely.

"Oh, that's all very well, but imagine living like that! There's nobody
to speak to. I'm in disgrace. He doesn't talk about it, but he talks
round it, you know. Sometimes he forgets for five minutes. Then I say
something cheerful. Then he remembers and--and sends me back to my
corner." Her rueful laugh was not far from a sob. "It's awfully
humiliating," she ended, "and--and most frightfully dull."

"But how can he----?"

"One good scene would have been so much more endurable. But all day and
every day!"

Caylesham was amused, vexed, exasperated.

"But, good heavens, it's not as if it was an ordinary case. Remember
what he's done! Why do you stand it?"

"How can I help it? I did the thing, didn't I?"

His voice rose a little in his impatience.

"But he's taken my money. He's living on it. It's saved him. By gad, how
can he say anything to you after that? Haven't you got your answer? Why
don't you remind him gently of that?"

"That would hurt him so dreadfully."

"Well, doesn't he hurt you?"

"He'd never be friends with me again."

"He doesn't seem particularly friendly now."

"I feel quite friendly to him. I want to be friends."

"It does you credit then," he said with a sneer.

She pressed his arm lightly again, pleading against his anger and his
unwonted failure to understand.

"It would be an end of all hope if I threw the money in his teeth. He's
unhappy enough about it as it is." She looked up as she added: "I've got
to live with him, you know, Frank."

Caylesham gave her a curious quick glance.

"Got to live with him?"

"Yes; all my life," she answered. "I suppose you hadn't thought of

It was not the sort of thing which Caylesham was in the habit of
thinking about, but he tried to follow her view.

"Yes, of course. It would be better to be friends. But you shouldn't let
him get on stilts. It's absurd, after what he's done. I mean--I mean
he's done a much queerer thing than you have."

"Poor old John! How could he help it?"

He glanced at her sharply and was about to speak, when she cried, "Why,
where are we? I didn't notice where we were going."

"We're just outside my rooms. Come in for a bit."

"No, I can't come in. I'm late now, and--and--really I'm ashamed to tell
even you. Well, I'm always questioned where I've been. I have to give an
account of every place. I have to stand with my hands behind me and give
an account of all my movements, Frank."

He whistled gently and compassionately.

"Like a schoolgirl!"

"How well you follow the metaphor, Frank! So I can't come in. I'll go
home. No, don't you come."

"I'll come a bit farther with you. Oh, it's quite dark."

"Well, not arm in arm!"

"But doesn't that look more respectable?"

"You're entirely incurable," she said, with her old pleasure in him all

"It's infernal nonsense," he went on. "Just you stand up for yourself.
It's absolute humbug in him. He's debarred himself from taking up any
such attitude--just as much as he has from making any public row about
it. Hang it, he can't have it both ways, Christine!"

"I've got to live with him, Frank."

"Oh, you said that before."

"And I'm very fond of him."

"What?" He turned to her in a genuine surprise and an obvious vexation.

"Yes, very. I always was. We used to spar, but we were good friends. We
don't spar now; I wish we did. It's just iciness. But I'm very fond of

"Of course, if you feel like that----"

"I always felt like that, even--even long ago. I used to tell you I did.
I suppose you thought that humbug."

"Well, it wouldn't have been very strange if I had."

"No, I suppose not. It must have looked like that. But it was true--and
it is true. The only thing I've got left to care much about in life is
getting to be friends with John again--and I don't suppose I ever
shall." Her voice fairly broke for a moment. "That's what upset me so
much when I saw those silly children at Kate Raymore's."

Caylesham looked at her. There was a roguish twinkle in his eye, but he
patted her hand in a very friendly sympathy.

"I say, old John's cut me out after all!" he whispered.

"You're scandalous! You always were," she said, smiling. "The way you
put things was always disreputable. Yes, it was, Frank. But no; it's not
poor old John who's cut you out--or at least it's John in a particular
capacity. Life's cut you out--John as life. John, as life, has cut you
out of my life--and now I've got to live with John, you see."

Caylesham screwed up his mouth ruefully. Things certainly seemed to
shape that way. She had to live with John. John's conduct might be
unreasonable and unjustifiable, but people who must be lived with
frequently presume on that circumstance and behave as they would not
venture to behave if living with them were optional. John really had not
a leg to stand on, if it came to an argument. But arguing with people
you have to live with does not conduce to the comfort of living with
them--especially if you get the better of the argument. He was
exceedingly sorry for Christine, but he didn't see any way out of it for

"Of course there's a funny side to it," she said with a little laugh.

"Oh, yes, there is," he admitted. "But it's deuced rough luck on you."

"Everything's deuced rough luck." She mimicked his tone daintily. "And I
don't suppose it's ever anything worse with you, Frank! It was deuced
rough luck ever meeting you, you know. And so it was that John wanted
money and sent me to you. And that Harriet's got a temper, and, I
suppose, that we've got to be punished for our sins." She took her arm
out of his--she had slipped it in again while she talked about John as
life. "And here I am, just at home, and--and the corner's waiting for
me, Frank."

"I'm devilish sorry, Christine."

"Yes, I'm sure you are. You always meant to be kind. Frank, if ever I do
make friends with John, be glad, won't you?"

"I think he's behaved like a----"

"Hush, hush! You've always been prosperous--and you've never been good."
She laughed and took his hand. "So don't say anything against poor old

"I tell you what--you're a brick, Christine. Well, good-bye, my dear."

"Good-bye, Frank. I'm glad I met you. I've got some of it out, haven't
I? Don't worry--well, no, you won't--and if I succeed, do try to be
glad. And never a word to show John that I've told you he knows!"

"I shall do just as you like about that. Good-bye, Christine."

He left her a few yards from her house, and she stood by the door
watching his figure till it disappeared in the dark. He had done her so
much harm. He was not a good friend. But he was good to talk to, and
very kind in his indolent, careless way. If you recalled yourself to
him, he was glad to see you and ready to be talked to. A moment of
temptation came upon her--the temptation to throw up everything, as Tom
Courtland had thrown everything up, to abandon the hard task, to give up
trying for the only thing she wanted. But Caylesham had given her no
such invitation. He did not want her--that was the plain English of
it--and she did not want him in the end either. She had loved the thing
and still loved the memory of it; but she did not desire it again,
because in it there was no peace. She wanted a friend--and John would
not be one. Nobody wanted her--except John; and because he wanted her,
he was so hard to her. But Frank Caylesham had been in his turn too hard
on John. She was the only person who could realise John's position and
make allowances for him. Yet all the light died out of her face as she
entered her home.

John was waiting for her. His mind was full of how well things were
going in the City. In the old days this would have been one of their
merry, happy, united evenings. He would have told her of his success,
and "stood" a dinner and a play, and brought her home in the height of
glee and good companionship, laughing at her sharp sayings, and admiring
her dainty little face. All this was just what he wanted to do now, and
his life was as arid as hers for want of the comradeship. But he would
not forgive; it seemed neither possible nor self-respecting. That very
weak point in his case, with which Caylesham had dealt so trenchantly,
made him a great stickler for self-respect; nothing must be
done--nothing more--to make her think that he condoned her offence or
treated it lightly. It was part of her punishment to hear nothing of the
renewed prosperity in the City, to know nothing of his thoughts or his
doings, to be locked out of his heart. This was one side; the other was
that obligation to make full disclosure of all she did, and of how her
time was spent. She must be made to feel the thing in these two ways
every day. Yet he considered that he was treating her very mercifully;
he was anxious to do that, because he was all the time in his heart
afraid that she would throw Caylesham's money--the money which was
bringing the renewed prosperity--in his face.

She faced the punishment with her usual courage and her unfailing
humour. There was open irony in the minuteness with which she catalogued
her day's doings; she did not sit down, but stood on the other side of
his writing-table, upright, and with her hands actually behind
her--because she liked the schoolgirl parallel which Caylesham had
drawn. John saw the humour and felt the irony, but he was helpless. She
did what she was told; he could not control the manner in which she did

"And then I walked home--yes, walked. Didn't take a bus, or a tram, or a
steam-engine. I just walked on my two legs, going about three miles an
hour, and oh, yes, taking one wrong turn, which makes me five minutes
later than I ought to be. Quite a respectable turn--just out of the way,
that's all. May I go and get myself some tea?"

He did so want to tell her about the successes in the City. And in fact
he admired the courage and liked the irony. They were her own, and of
her. Doing justice was very hard, with that provoking dainty face at
once resenting and mocking at it. But justice must be done; his
grievance should not be belittled.

"I'm not stopping you getting yourself tea. Is it a crime to ask where
my wife's been?"

"It's mere prudence, I'm sure. Only what makes you think I should tell
you the truth?"

She had her tea now--a second tea--and was sipping it leisurely.

"At any rate I know your account, and if I heard anything different----"

"That's the method? I see." Her tone softened. "Don't let's quarrel.
What's the good? Had a good day in the City?"

"Just like other days," grunted John.

"Nothing particular?"


"There never is now, is there?"

He made no answer. Opening the evening paper, he began to read it.
Christine knew what that meant. Saving what was unavoidable, he would
talk no more to her that evening.

The wound to her vanity, her thwarted affection, her sense of the
absurdity of such a way of living together, all combined to urge her to
take Caylesham's view of the position, and to act upon it--to make the
one reply, the one defence, which was open to her. The very words which
she would use came into her mind as she sat opposite to John at dinner.
Living on Caylesham's generosity--it would be scarcely an exaggeration
to say that. And from what motive came the bounty? It would not be hard
to find words--stinging words--to define that. John could have no answer
to them; they must shame him to the soul. At every sullen short word, at
every obstinate punitive silence, the temptation grew upon her. Knowing
that she knew all, how could he have the effrontery to behave in this
fashion? She steeled herself to the fight, she was ready for it by the
time dinner was done and they were left alone, John sitting in glum
muteness as he drank his port, Christine in her smart evening frock,
displaying a prettiness which won no approving glances now. It was
insufferable--she would do it!

Ah, but poor old John! He had been through so many worries, he had so
narrowly escaped dire calamity. He had been forced into a position so
terrible. And they had been through so many things together; they had
been comrades in fair and foul weather. What would be the look in his
eyes when he heard that taunt from her? He would say little, since there
would be little to say--but he would give her a look of such hopeless
fierce misery. No; in the end she was responsible for the thing, and she
must bear the burden of it. Caylesham's view might be the man's view,
perhaps the right view for a man to take. It could not be the woman's;
the wife was not justified in looking at it like that. No, she couldn't
do it.

But neither could she go on living like this. Her eyes rested
thoughtfully on him. He was looking tired and old. Poor old John! He
wanted livening up, some merriment, a little playful petting to which he
might respond in his roughly jocose, affectionately homely fashion--with
his "old girl" and "old lady" and so on. He never called her "old girl"
now. Would she hate it as much now? She longed for it extraordinarily,
since it would mark happiness and forgetfulness in him. But it seemed as
if she would never hear it again. Suddenly she broke out with a
passionate question:

"Are we to live like this always?"

He did not seem startled; he answered slowly and ponderously; "What have
you to complain of? Do I say anything? Do I reproach you? Have I made a
row? Look at what I might have done! Some people would think you were
very lucky."

"It makes you miserable as well as me."

"You should have thought of all that before."

He took out a cigar and lit it, then turned his chair half-way round
from the table, and began to read his paper again. Christine could not
bear it; she began to sob softly. He took no visible notice of her; his
eyes were fixed on a paragraph and he was reading it over and over
again, not following in the least what it meant. She rose and walked
towards the door; he remained motionless. She came back towards him in a
hesitating way.

"I want to speak to you," she said, choking down her sobs and regaining

He looked up now. There was fear in his eyes, a hunted look which went
to her heart. At the least invitation she would have thrown herself on
her knees by him and sought every means to comfort him. She was thinking
only of him now, and had forgotten Caylesham's gay attractiveness. And
in face of that look in his eyes she could not say a word about
Caylesham's money.

"I'm going away for a little while, John. I'm going to ask Sibylla to
let me come down to Milldean for a bit."

"What do you want to go away for?"

"A change of air," she answered, smiling derisively. "I can't bear this,
you know. It's intolerable--and it's absurd."

"Am I to blame for it?"

"I'm not talking about who's to blame. But I must go away."

"How long do you want to stay away?"

"Till you want me back--till you ask me to come back." He looked at her
questioningly. "It must be one thing or the other," she went on.

"It's for me to decide what it shall be."

"Yes; which of the two possible things. It's for you to decide that. But
this state of things isn't possible. If you don't want me back, well, we
must make arrangements. If you ask me to come back, you'll mean that you
want to forget all this wretchedness and be really friends." Her feeling
broke out. "Yes, friends again," she repeated, holding her arms out
towards him.

"You seem to think things are very easily forgotten," he growled.

"God knows I don't think so," she said. "Do you really think that's what
I've learnt from life, John?"

"At any rate I've got to forget them pretty easily!"

She would not trust herself to argue lest in the heat of contention that
one forbidden weapon should leap into her hand.

"We can neither of us forget. But there's another thing," she said.

He would not give up his idea, his theory of what she deserved and of
what morality demanded.

"You may go for a visit. I shall expect you back in two or three weeks."

"Not back to this," she insisted.

He shrugged his shoulders and held the paper up between them.

"If you don't want me back, well, I shall understand that. But I shan't
come back to this." She walked to the door, and looked back; she could
not see his face for the paper. She made a little despairing movement
with her hands, but turned away again without saying more, and stole
quietly out of the room.

John Fanshaw dashed his paper to the ground and sprang to his feet. He
gave a long sigh. He had been in mortal terror--he thought she was going
to talk about the money. That peril was past. He flung his hardly
lighted cigar into the grate and walked up and down the room in a frenzy
of unhappiness. Yes, that peril was past--she had said nothing. But he
knew it was in her heart; and he knew how it must appear to her.
Heavens, did it not appear like that to him? But she should never know
that he felt like that about it. That would be to give up his grievance,
to abandon his superiority, to admit that there was little or nothing to
choose between them,--between her, the sinner, and him, who profited by
the sin, whose salvation the sin had been, who knew it had been his
salvation and had accepted salvation from it. No, no; he must never
acknowledge that. He must stick to his position. It was monstrous to
think he would own that his guilt was comparable to hers.

He sank back into his chair again and looked round the empty room. He
thought of Christine upstairs, alone too. What a state of things! "Why
did she? My God, why did she?" he muttered, and then fell to lashing
himself once more into a useless fury, pricking his anger lest it should
sleep, setting imagination to work on recollection, torturing himself,
living again through the time of her treachery, elaborating all his
grievance--lest by chance she should seem less of a sinner than before,
lest by chance his own act should loom too large, lest by chance he
might be weak and open his heart and find forgiveness for his wife and

"By God, she had no excuse!" he muttered, striking the table with his
fist. "And I--why, the thing was settled before I knew. It was settled,
I say!" Then he thought that if things went on doing well he would be
able to pay Caylesham sooner than the letter of his bond demanded. Then,
when he had paid Caylesham off--ah, then the superiority would be in no
danger, there would be no taunt to fear. Why, yes, he would pay
Caylesham off quite soon. Because things were going so well. Now to-day,
in the City, what a stroke he had made! If he were to tell Christine
that----! For a moment he smiled, thinking how she would pat his cheek
and say, "Clever old John!" in her pretty half-derisive way; how she

He broke off with a groan. No; by heaven, he'd tell her nothing. His
life was nothing to her--thanks to what she'd done--to what she had
done. Oh, he did well to be angry!--Even to think of what she had

So he struggled, lest perchance forgiveness and comradeship should win
the day.



As soon as the first shot was fired, Tom Courtland struck his flag.
There was no fight in him. His career was compromised, and by now his
affairs were seriously involved. He resigned his seat; he wasn't going
to wait to be turned out, he said, either by divorce or by bankruptcy,
or by both at once. He never went home now. As a last concession to
appearances, he took a room at his club. Mrs. Bolton now urged him to
fight--since things had gone so far. Of course he would have to tell
lies! But there were circumstances in which everybody told lies! She was
ready to back him through thick and thin. If they could get Lady Harriet
into the box and cross-examine her thoroughly, they could rely on a
great deal of sympathy from a jury of husbands. It was really a good
fighting case--given the lies, of course. She urged fighting, which was
unselfish of her from one point of view, since an undefended case would
do her little real harm, while a cross-examination in open Court could
not be a pleasant ordeal for her, any more than it ought to be for
Harriet Courtland. But she liked Tom--although incurable habit had
caused her to make his affairs so involved--and she hated that Harriet
should "have a walk over." She was angry with Tom because he gave in
directly, and took it all "lying down," as she said. But Tom was broken;
he could only mutter that he did not "care a damn" what they did; it was
all over for him. His bristly hair began to turn a dull grey in these
troublesome days. When he was not with Mrs. Bolton he was haunting the
streets and parks, hoping he might meet his girls taking their walk with
the maid or with Suzette Bligh. Such stray encounters were his only
chance of ever seeing them now--the only chance of ever seeing them in
the future, he supposed, unless the Court gave him "access." And much
pleasure there would be in access, with Harriet to tell them the sort of
man he was before every such visit as the law might charingly dole out
to him! He grumbled disconsolately about everything--the suit, his
affairs, his children, the access, all of it--to Mrs. Bolton; but he did
and tried to do nothing. He was in a condition of moral collapse.

Harriet Courtland's state was even worse. She was almost unapproachable
by the children and Suzette Bligh--and none other tried to approach her.
She had no friends left. Not one of Tom's set was on her side; she had
wearied them all out. The last to keep up the forms of friendship was
Christine Fanshaw. Now that was at an end too. She had heard nothing
from Christine. From the day of John's visit there had been absolute
silence. She knew well what that meant. She brooded fiercely over what
she had done to Christine--her one remaining friend--had done not
because she wanted to hurt Christine or to lose her friendship, had done
with no reasonable motive at all, but just in blind rage, because in her
fury she wanted to strike and wound John, and this had been the readiest
and sharpest weapon. She could not get what she had done out of her
head; she was driven to see what a light it cast on the history of her
own home; it showed her the sort of woman she was. But she held on her
way, and pressed on her suit. Realising what she was bred in her no
desire to change. There was no changing such a woman as she was--a
cursed woman, as she called herself again and again. So there she sat,
alone in her room, save when her nervous children came perforce to cower
before her--alone with the ruin she had made, in bitter wrath with all
about her, in bitterest wrath with herself. She was a terror in the
house, and knew it. Nobody in the house loved her now--nay, nobody in
the world. It had come to this because of her evil rage. And the rage
was not satiated; it had an appetite still for every misfortune and
every shame which was to afflict and disgrace her husband. In that lay
now her only pleasure; her sole joy was to give pain. Yet the thought
that her girls had ceased to love her, or had come to hate her, drove
her to a frenzy of anger and wretchedness. What had they to complain of?
How dared they not love her! She exacted signs of love from them. They
dared not refuse a kiss for fear of a blow being given in its place; but
Harriet knew now why they kissed her and accepted her kisses. "Little
hypocrites!" she would mutter when they went out, accusing the work of
her own hands. But they should love her--aye, and they should hate their
father. She swore they should at least hate their father, even if they
only pretended to love her. The woman grew half mad at the idea that in
their hearts they loved their father, pitied him, thought him ill-used,
grieved because he came no more; that they were in their hearts on their
father's side and against her. She wished they were older, so that they
could be told all about the case. Well, they should be told even now, if
need be, if that proved the only way of rooting the love of their father
out of their hearts.

An evil case for these poor children! They had no comfort save in gentle
colourless Suzette Bligh. To all her friends she had seemed a
superfluous person. She used to be invited just to balance
dinner-parties, or on a stray impulse of kindness. But fate had found
other work for her now. The once useless superfluous woman was all the
consolation these three children had; any love they got she gave them.
She stood between them and desolation. She warned them what temper their
mother was in, whether it were safe to approach her, and with what
demeanour. More than once her love gave the meek creature courage, and
she stood between them and wrath. Lamentable as the state of affairs
was, Suzette had found a new joy in life. She took these children into
her life and her heart, and became as a mother to them. Gradually they
grew to love her.

But none the less--perhaps all the more--they tormented her, bringing to
her all the doubts and questions which were rife in their minds. The
portentous word "divorce" had come to their ears--Harriet was not
careful in her use of it. They connected it quickly with their father's
now continuous absence. Whatever else it might mean--and they thought it
meant something bad for their father, to be suffered at the hands of
their mother--they understood it at least to mean that he would be with
them no more. Suzette knew nothing at all about "access," and could only
fence feebly with their questions; they ventured to put none to Harriet.
They grew clear that their father had gone, and that they were to be
left to their mother.

One and all they declined such a conclusion. They loved Tom; they did
not love Harriet. Tom had always been a refuge, sometimes a buffer. They
had no doubt of what they wanted. They wanted to go to their father, and
to take Suzette Bligh with them. That scheme conjured up the vision of a
happy home, free from fear, where kisses would be volunteered, not
exacted, and the constant dread would be no more.

"But we daren't tell mamma that," said Sophy, in a tremble at the bare

Lucy shook her head; Vera's eyes grew wide. They certainly dared not go
to Harriet with any such communication as that. They had been shrewd
enough to see that they were expected to hate their father: Vera had
been roughly turned out of the room merely for mentioning his name.

After much consultation, carried on in a secrecy to which not even
Suzette was privy, a plan was laid. They would write to their father and
tell him that, whether he were sentenced to divorce or not, they wanted
to come and live with him--and to bring Suzette if they might.

"We won't say anything about mamma. He'll understand," Sophy observed.

Vera piped out in terror:

"But when mamma finds out?"

"We shall be gone, don't you see?" cried Lucy. "We shall ask papa to
meet us somewhere, and he'll take us with him, and then just write and
tell mamma."

"He can say we're sorry when he writes to tell mamma."

"Oh, yes, I see," said Vera. "It will be splendid, won't it? I wish we
could tell Suzette!"

The elder girls were dead against that. Suzette was a dear, but she was
too much afraid of mamma; the great secret would not be safe with her,
and if it were discovered before they were out of reach--significant
nods expressed that situation with absolute lucidity.

So Sophy--who wrote the best hand--squared her elbows and sat down to
her task in the schoolroom. A scout was posted at the foot of the
stairs, another at the top. On the least alarm the letter was to be
destroyed, and the scribe would be discovered busy on a French exercise.

     "DEAREST PAPA," Sophy wrote,--

     "We all send our love, and, please, we do not want to stay here now
     that you have gone away. Please let us come and live with you. We
     promise not to be troublesome, and Suzette might come too, might
     not she, and look after us? Dearest papa, do not make us stay here.
     Because we love you, and we want to come and live with you. Please
     tell us where to meet you, and we will make Suzette bring us, and
     you can take us home with you. Please let it be soon. We do so want
     to see you. Please do not make us stay here. We each of us send you
     a kiss, and are your loving daughters."

The signatures were attached, the letter closed and addressed to Tom's
club; they knew where that was, because he had taken them to see it one
Sunday morning, and they had admired the great armchairs and all the
wonderful big books. The same afternoon Lucy broke away from Suzette,
ran across to a pillar post, and dropped the important missive in. She
came back with an air of devil-may-care triumph, nodding at her sisters,
frankly refusing to tell Suzette anything about it.

"You'll see very soon," she promised in mysterious triumph, and that
evening the three had a wonderful talk over the letter, speaking in low
cautious tones, agreeing that their manner must be carefully guarded,
that meekness and affection towards their mother must be the order of
the day, and that one of them must always be on the watch for the
postman's coming, lest by chance Tom's answer should fall into the hands
of the enemy.

"Would she open it?" shuddered Vera.

"I expect she would," said Sophy.

They saw the danger, and the hours were anxious. But they tasted some of
the delights of conspiracy too. And hope was on the horizon. One more
"row" could be endured if after that the doors were open to freedom.

Tom's heart was touched by the little scrawl, written on a sheet torn
from a copybook. In his broken-down state he was inclined to be maudlin
over it. He carried it to Mrs. Bolton, and showed it to her, saying that
he could not be such a bad chap after all if the little ones loved him
like that, pitying them because they were exposed to Harriet's tempers,
bewailing his own inability to help them, or to comply with their
artless request.

"I shouldn't be allowed to keep them," he said ruefully, trying to
smooth his bristly hair.

Mrs. Bolton made a show of sympathy, and was in fact sorry for him; but
she did not encourage any idea of trying to take or keep them. He
suggested smuggling them out of the jurisdiction. She was firm, if
kindly, in asking how he meant to support them. Anyhow Lady Harriet
could feed them! Tom was very much under her influence, and had no
longer the strength of will needed for any venturous plan. The
conclusion that he could do nothing was not long in coming home to him.

"But I must write to the poor little things," he said, "and tell them I
shall come and see them sometimes. That'll comfort them. I'm glad
they're so fond of me. By Jove, I haven't been a bad father, you know!"
He read Sophy's letter over again and laid it down on Mrs. Bolton's
mantelpiece; when he went back to the club he forgot it and left it

There Mrs. Bolton's friend, Miss Pattie Henderson (she was not married
to Georgie Parmenter yet--negotiations were pending with his family),
found it, and it was from her that a suggestion came which appealed
strongly to Mrs. Bolton. As she drank her glass of port, Miss Henderson
opined that it would be "a rare score" to send the letter to Harriet
Courtland. "It'll make her properly furious," said Miss Pattie,
finishing her port with hearty enjoyment.

Mrs. Bolton caught at the notion. Harriet was putting her to a great
deal of annoyance, and so was Tom's refusal to stand up to Harriet. It
was meet and right that any person who was in a position to give Harriet
a dig should give it. Neither of them thought of what might be entailed
on the little folk who had dared to send the letter; in the end they had
a very inadequate idea of the terror Harriet inspired. Mrs. Bolton
laughed as she contemplated the plan.

"Just stick in a word or two of your own," Miss Pattie advised.
"Something spicy!"

Mrs. Bolton at once thought of several spicy little comments which would
add point to Sophy's letter. One was so spicy, so altogether satisfying
to Mrs. Bolton's soul, and to Miss Pattie Henderson's critical taste,
that it was irresistible. It--and Sophy's letter--were posted to Harriet
before lunch that day; and Mrs. Bolton's eyes were only opened at all to
what she had done when she told Caylesham (who had dropped in in the
afternoon), and heard him exclaim:

"But, by Jove, she'll take it out of those unhappy children, you know! I
say, you don't know Harriet Courtland, or you'd never have done that!"

His concern seemed so great that Mrs. Bolton's heart was troubled. If
she did not upbraid herself, at any rate she denounced Miss Henderson.
But what was to be done? Nothing could be done. By now the letter must
be almost in Harriet Courtland's hands. Caylesham said a few plain words
about the matter, but his words could not help now. They had, however,
one effect. They made Mrs. Bolton afraid to let Tom know what she had
done: and she persuaded Caylesham not to betray her. When Tom next came
she told him that she had accidentally burnt Sophy's letter in mistake
for one of her own.

"Well, I've sent them an answer, poor little beggars--under cover to
Suzette Bligh," said Tom. "But I'm sorry. I should have liked to keep
that letter of theirs, Flora."

"I know. Of course you would. I'm sorry," said Mrs. Bolton, now feeling
very uncomfortable, although she had not lost her pleasure at the idea
of giving Harriet such a fine dig.

Tom's letter reached its destination first, and Suzette read it to the
little girls. It was a kind and a good letter. He told them to behave
well towards their mother, and to love her. He said he was obliged to be
away from them now, but presently he would see them and hoped to see
them very often, and that they were not to forget to go on loving him,
because he loved them very much.

Suzette's voice broke a little over the letter, and the children
listened in an intent and rather awed silence. They were divided between
relief that an answer had come safely, and depression at what the answer
was. But they understood--or thought they did--that if they were good
they would presently be allowed to see their father very often.

"That's what he means, isn't it?" Lucy asked Suzette.

"Yes, dear, that's it," Suzette told her, not knowing what else to tell

"We'd better burn papa's letter," Sophy suggested.

There was no difference of opinion about that. Vera was accorded the
privilege of putting it in the fire, and of stamping carefully on the
ashes afterwards.

"Because," she said, justifying this precaution, "you remember the story
where the man was found out just because he didn't stamp on it after
he'd burnt it, Sophy!"

This was the last day on which Tom Courtland was entitled to put in a
defence to his wife's suit. He had made no sign. Harriet was the fiercer
against him. His ruin was not enough; she desired herself to see it made
visible and embodied in a trial whose every word and proceeding should
aggravate his shame and satisfy her resentment. She had nursed the
thought of that, making pictures of him and of the woman undergoing the
ordeal and being branded with guilt while all the world looked on. Now
Tom refused her this delight; there would be no trial, because he would
not fight.

It was a fine moment for the letter to arrive. The mine was all laid,
only the match was wanting. Harriet was dressing for dinner when it
came; her maid Garrett was doing her hair before the glass. As she read,
Garret saw a sudden change come over her face--one quick flush, then a
tight setting of her lips. Garrett knew the signs by experience.
Something in that letter had upset her ladyship. Warily and gently
Garrett handled her ladyship's hair; if she blundered in her task now,
woe to her, for her ladyship's temper was upset.

"Dearest papa, do not make us stay here. Because we love you and want to
come and live with you"----"Please do not make us stay here."

That was the truth of it, that was what they really thought, these
little hypocrites who came and kissed her so obediently every morning
and evening, those meek little creatures with their "Yes, mamma dear,"
"No, dear mamma," accepting all her commands so docilely, returning her
kisses so affectionately. All that was a show, a sham, a device for
deluding her, for keeping her quiet, while they laid their vile
plots--none the less vile for being so idiotic--and sent their love to
"dearest papa"--to that man, to Flora Bolton's lover--while they gave
Flora Bolton the means of mocking and of triumphing over her.

She sat very still for awhile, but Garrett was not reassured. Garrett
knew that the worst fits of all took a little time in coming. They
worked themselves up gradually.

"Is that to your ladyship's satisfaction?" asked Garrett, as she put the
last touches to her work.

"No, it isn't," snarled Harriet. "No, don't touch me again. Let it
alone, you clumsy fool."

Garrett went and took up the evening dress. Harriet Courtland rose and
stood for a moment with Sophy's letter to Tom in her hand.

"I'm going to the schoolroom for a few minutes. Wait here," she said to
Garrett, and walked out of the room slowly, taking the letter with her.
Another slip of paper she tore into shreds as she went; that was Mrs.
Bolton's comment on the situation, as "spicy" and as vulgar as she and
Miss Pattie Henderson could make it. Yet Harriet was not now thinking of
Mrs. Bolton.

Garrett stood where she was for a moment, then stole cautiously after
her mistress. She knew the signs, and a morbid curiosity possessed her.
She would have a sensational story to retail downstairs, if she could
manage to see or hear what happened--for beyond a doubt something had
put her ladyship in one of her tantrums. Pity for the children struggled
with Garrett's seductive anticipations of a "scene."

Suzette Bligh was reading a story aloud in the schoolroom when Harriet
marched in. She held the letter in her hand. The children could make,
and had leisure to make, no conjecture how the catastrophe had come
about, but in a flash all the little girls knew that it was upon them.
The letter and their mother's face told them. They sat looking at her
with terrified eyes.

"So you don't want to stay here?" she said sneeringly. "You want to go
to your dearest papa? And you dare to write that! Who wrote it? Was it
you, Lucy?"

"I--I didn't write it, mamma dear," said Lucy.

Suzette rose in distress.

"Dear Lady Harriet----" she began.

"Hold your tongue. So you wrote it, Sophy. Yes, I see now it's your
writing. Oh, but you were all in it, I suppose. So you love your papa?"

Garrett had stolen to within two or three yards of the door now, and it
stood half open. She could hear all and see something of what happened.

"So you love your papa?"

Sophy had most courage. Desperate courage came to her now.

"Yes, we do."

"And you want to go to him?"

"Yes, mamma."

"And you don't love me? You don't want to stay with me?"

Sophy glanced for a moment at her sisters.

"Papa's so kind to us," she said.

"And I'm not kind?" asked Harriet with a sneering laugh. "When you're
older, my dears, thank me for having been kind--really kind. It's really
kind to teach you not to play these tricks--these mean and disgraceful
little tricks."

All the children rose slowly and shrank back. They tried to get behind
Suzette Bligh. Harriet laughed again when she saw the manœuvre.

"You needn't stay, Suzette," she said. "I know how to manage my own

Suzette was very white, and was trembling all over; it seemed as if her
legs would hardly support her.

"What are you going to do?"

"It's no business of yours. They know very well. Leave me alone with

It was a terrible moment for timid Suzette. But love of the children had
laid hold of her heart, and gave her strength.

"I can't go, Lady Harriet," she said in a low voice. "I can't leave you
alone with them--not now."

"Not now?" cried Harriet fiercely.

"You're--you're not calm now. You're not fit----"

"You'd stand between me and my own children?"

"Dear Lady Harriet, I--I can't go away now." For she remembered so
vividly all that the children's reminiscences, their nods and nudges,
had hinted to her; she realised all the things which they had not told
her; and she would not leave them now.

Her resistance set the crown to Harriet Courtland's rage. After an
instant's pause she gave a half-articulate cry of anger, and rushed
forward. Suzette tried to gather the children behind her, and to thrust
the angry woman away. But Harriet caught Sophy by the arm and lifted her
midway in the air. Garrett came right up to the door and peeped through.

"So you love papa and not me?"

Sophy turned her pale, terrified little face up to her mother's. The
worst had happened, and the truth came out.

"No, we--we hate you. You're cruel to us; we hate you, and we love

Harriet's grip tightened on the child's arm. Sophy's very audacity kept
her still for a moment. But at the next she lifted her higher in the
air. Suzette sprang forward with a cry, and Garrett dashed into the
room, shrieking, "Don't, don't, my lady!"

They were too late. The child was flung violently down; her head struck
the iron fender; she rolled over and lay quite still, bleeding from the
forehead. Suzette and Garrett caught Harriet Courtland by the arms. A
low, frightened weeping came from the other two little girls.

Harriet stood for a moment in the grasp of the two women who sought to
restrain her and would have thrown themselves upon her had she tried to
move. But restraint was no more necessary. Sophy had ransomed her
sisters, and lay so quiet, bleeding from the head. In a loud voice
Harriet Courtland cried, "Have I killed her? Oh, my God!" and herself
broke into a tempest of hysterical sobbing. She fell back into Garrett's
arms, shuddering, weeping, now utterly collapsed. Suzette went and knelt
by Sophy.

"No, she's not dead, but it's no fault of yours," she said.

Harriet wrenched free from Garrett and flung herself on her knees by the
table, stretching her arms across it and beating her forehead on the
wood. The two children looked at her, wondering and appalled.



On the morrow of her attempted flight and enforced return a leaden
heaviness had clogged Sibylla's brain and limbs. Her body was quick to
recover; her thoughts were for long drowsy and numb. She seemed to have
died to an old life without finding a new one. Blake was to her as a
dead friend; she would see and hear of him no more; she harboured no
idea of meeting him again. The bonds between them were finally rent.
This attitude towards him saved his character from criticism and his
weakness from too close an examination, while it left her free to brood
in the security of despair on all that she had thought to find in him
and on the desolation his loss had made. The instinctive love for her
child, which had asserted itself while her intellect was dormant, could
not prevail against the sullen preoccupation of re-awaking thoughts,
or, if it could penetrate into them, came no more fresh and pure, but
tainted with the sorrow and the anger which circled round that innocent
head. She was tender, but in pity, not in pride; she loved, but without
joy. The shadows hung so dark about the child's cot. They hid from her
eyes still the sin of her own desertion, and hindered the remorse which
might best lead her back to love unalloyed. Still she arraigned not
herself but only Grantley and the inevitable. Grantley was the
inevitable; there stood the truth of it; she bowed her head to the
knowledge, but did not incline her heart to the lesson it had to teach.

Yet the knowledge counted; she looked on Grantley with different eyes.
The revelation of himself, wrung from him by overpowering necessity, did
its work. The resolve he had then announced, presumptuous beyond the
right of mortal man, less than human in its cruelty, almost more than
human in its audacity of successful revolt against destiny, might leave
him hateful still, but showed him not negligible. He could not be put on
one side, discarded, eliminated from her life. He was too big for that.
Against her will he attracted her attention and constrained her
interest. The thought of what lay beneath his suave demeanour sometimes
appalled, sometimes amused, and always fascinated her now. She saw that
her old conception had erred; it had been too negative in character;
what he could not do or be or give had seemed the whole of the matter to
her. In the light of the revelation that was wrong. The positive--a very
considerable positive--must be taken into account. The pride she had
loathed was not a barren self-conceit, nor merely a sterile
self-engrossment. It had issue in an assurance almost supernatural and a
courage above morality. Sibylla's first relief came in the reflection
that though she might have married a monster, at least she had not given
herself to a stick or a stone; she was clear as to her preference when
the choice was reduced to that alternative.

His behaviour appealed to her humour too--that humour which could not
save her from running away with Blake under the spell of her ideas, but
would certainly have made her want to run away from him when the glamour
of the ideas had worn off. The old perfection of manner found a new
ornament in his easy ignoring of the whole affair. He referred to it
once only, then indirectly and because he had a reason. He suggested
apologetically that it would be well for them to exchange remarks more
freely when the servants were waiting on them at meals.

"It will prevent comment on recent events," he added, as though that
were his only reason.

Sibylla was deceived at first, but presently detected another and more
important motive. The suggestion marked the beginning of a new campaign
on which his inexhaustible perseverance engaged. He understood that his
wife accused him of not taking her into his confidence, and of not
making her a partner in his life. He was no more minded than before that
she should have even plausible grounds for complaint. Starting, then,
from general topics and subjects arising out of the journals of the day,
he slid placidly and dexterously into frequent discussions of his own
plans and doings, his business, his work on the County Council, his
Parliamentary ambitions, his schemes for improving the property at
Milldean. Sibylla acknowledged the cleverness of these tactics with a
rueful smile. She had claimed to share his life; yet most of these
topics happened to seem to her rather tedious. But she was debarred from
saying that to Grantley; his retort was so obvious. She was often bored,
but she was amused that boredom should be the first result of the new

"I hope all this interests you?" Grantley would inquire politely.

"Of course, since it concerns you," equal politeness obliged her to
reply--and not politeness only. She had to be interested; it had been
her theory that she would be, her grievance that she had been denied the
opportunity of being. Nor could she make out whether Grantley had any
inkling of her suppressed indifference to the County Council and so
forth. Was he exercising his humour too? She could not tell, but
curiosity and amusement tempered the coldness of her courtesy. They got
on really very well at dinner, and especially while the servants were in
the room; there was sometimes an awkward pause just after they were left
alone. But on the whole the trifling daily intercourse went better than
before Sibylla's flight--went indeed fairly well, as it can generally be
made to if people are well bred and moderately humorous.

The great quarrel remained untouched, no span bridged the great chasm.
Grantley might consent to talk about his County Council; that was merely
a polite concession, involving no admission of guilt, and acknowledging
no such wrong to his wife as could for a moment justify her action. When
it came to deeper matters, he was afflicted with a shame and
helplessness which seemed to paralyse him. To gloss over the absence of
love, or even of friendship, was a task at which he was apt and tactful;
to gain it back was work of the heart--and here he was as yet at a
standstill. His instinct had told him to work through the child. But if
he caressed the child in order to conciliate Sibylla, he would do a mean
thing, and yet not succeed in his deception; he would admit a previous
fault and gain no absolution by a calculated and interested confession.
He could not bring himself to it. His manner to the child was as
carelessly kind as ever; and when Sibylla was there the carelessness was
almost more apparent than the kindness. Grantley's nature was against
him; to do violence to it was a struggle. Ever ready to be kind, he
disliked to show emotion. He felt it was being false to himself; being a
sham and a hypocrite. To be gushing was abhorrent to him; to pretend to
gush surely touched a more profound depth? His efforts achieved no
success; and he did not let Sibylla perceive even the efforts
themselves. For once his will, strong as it was, and his clear
perception were both powerless before his temper and the instincts of
his nature. The result was a deadlock. Matters could not move.

Such was the juncture of affairs when Christine Fanshaw came to
Milldean. Her resolve to escape from the atmosphere of disgrace at home
perhaps alone could have brought her; for she came in some trepidation,
rather surprised that Sibylla had welcomed her, wondering whether the
welcome was of Sibylla's own free will. Had she not betrayed Sibylla?
Was she not responsible for the frustration of the great plan? Yet an
acute curiosity mingled with and almost overpowered her apprehensions,
and she was prepared to defend herself. The rumours about Walter Blake
would be a weapon, if she needed one--a weapon effective, if cruel. As
regards her own treachery, she made haste to throw herself on Sibylla's

"Of course you must have known it was through me?" she ended.

"Oh, yes, I knew that, of course."

"Here's your letter--the one you sent me to hand on to Grantley. He
wired me not to send it."

"Oh, I thought he'd read it," said Sibylla thoughtfully.

She took it and put it in her pocket.

Christine looked at her with a smile.

"And yet you ask me to stay!" she remarked.

Sibylla smiled mockingly.

"Since this household owes all its happiness to you, it's only fair that
you should come and look on at it."

"That's not at all a comfortable thing to say, Sibylla."

"No, it isn't, and it departs from our principle, which is to say

"That's not always very comfortable either."

Christine was giving a thought to her own affairs here.

"And we won't say anything more about what you did," Sibylla went on.
"We won't discuss whether you were right, or whether I'm grateful, or
anything of that sort."

"You ought to be."

"Or even whether I ought to be--though, of course, you'd want to think

Christine was disappointed. In her heart she had rather hoped to be put
on her defence just enough to entitle her to use her weapon, and to tell
some of the truth about Walter Blake. Sibylla's attitude gave her no

Though she would say nothing more about what Christine had done, Sibylla
was easily persuaded to break the principle of silence about the main
affair. Christine's curiosity lost the zest of difficult satisfaction;
she had the whole history for the asking. She heard it, marvelling at
the want of reticence her friend displayed, seeking how to reconcile
this seeming immodesty with the rest of her impression of Sibylla. She
recollected being very shy and ashamed (in the midst of her exultation)
when she had let Harriet Courtland worm out the secret of her love for
Caylesham. Sibylla was not ashamed--she was candid. Sometimes she was
excited, sometimes she played the judge; but she was never abashed.
Christine's wits sought hard for an explanation of this. Suddenly it
came to her as she gazed on Sibylla's pure face and far-away eyes.

"My dear, you were never in love with him!" she cried.

If she hoped to surprise, or even to win a compliment on her
penetration, she was utterly deceived.

"Oh, no!" said Sibylla. "In the way you mean I've never been in love
with anybody except Grantley."

"Then why did you? Oh, tell me about it!" Christine implored.

"He appealed to my better feelings," Sibylla smiled back to her, mocking
again. "I'd give the world that we hadn't been stopped! No, I can't say
that, because----"


"I think Grantley would have done what he said."

Christine was the last woman in the world to rest ignorant of what
Grantley had said. Sibylla was again disappointingly ready to tell the
whole thing without any pressure worth mentioning.

"And you really believe he would have?" Christine half whispered when
she had heard the story.

"If I didn't believe it with my whole heart, I shouldn't be here. I
should be--well, somewhere--with Walter Blake."

"Thank God you're not!"

"Why do you say that? The proprieties, Christine?"

"Oh, only partly; but don't you think lightly of them, all the same. And
the rest of the reasons don't matter." Christine got up and walked
across the room and back again before she came to a stand opposite
Sibylla. "I call that a man worth being in love with," she said.


"Heavens, no! Grantley Imason! Oh, I know he's your husband! But

Sibylla broke into a gentle laugh.

"It has the attraction of the horrible," she admitted. "He'd have done
it, you know."

"It's mediæval," said Christine fondly. "And you were going away with
Walter Blake!" She drew her little figure up straight. "Sibylla, you're
no woman if you don't manage a man like that in the end. He's worth it,
you know."

"You mean--if I don't let him manage me?" Sibylla was a little
contemptuous. "I don't care about tyranny, even tempered by epigrams,"
she explained.

"Well, not when you only do the epigrams," smiled Christine.

"That's not true. I only ask a real partnership."

"You must begin by contributing all you have."

"I did. But Grantley----"

"Paid a composition? Oh yes, my dear; men do. That's as old as Byron
anyhow." She came suddenly to Sibylla and kissed her. "And you'd be
adorable, properly deluded."

"You shan't put it like that, Christine."

"Yes, I will--and I know he loves you."

"He can't love anything--not really."

"I shall watch him. Oh, my dear, what a comfort to watch anybody except
John! Oh yes, yes, I suppose you'd better have my story too. You've had
most of it before--without the name. But look away. I've no theories,
you know--and--well, I was in love."

She laughed a little, blushing red. But her composure returned when she
had finished her confession.

"And now what do we think of one another?" she asked, with her usual
satirical little smile. "You don't know? Oh yes! You think me rather
wicked, and I think you very silly; that's about what it comes to."

"I suppose that is about it," Sibylla laughed reluctantly.

"But I've repented, and you're only going to repent."


"Yes, you are. I take no credit for having done it first. It's much
easier to repent of wickedness than of nonsense. The wickedness is much
pleasanter at the time, and so seems much worse afterwards."

"And now you're in love with John?"

"Good heavens, no!" She pulled herself up. "Well, I don't know. If I'm
in love now, it's not what I used to mean by it. One gets to use words
so differently as time goes on."

"I don't think I shall ever learn that."

Destiny assumed Christine's small neat features for a moment in order to
answer sternly:

"But you must!"

It was the worst way of dealing with Sibylla.

"I won't!" she answered in overt rebellion, her cheek flushing now as
her confession had not availed to make it flush.

Christine did not fail to perceive the comic element in the case--strong
enough, at all events, to serve as a relief to conversation, almost
piquant when Grantley conscientiously related all manner of
uninteresting things in order that Sibylla might be at liberty to take
an interest in them. But this aspect did not carry matters very far or
afford much real consolation. Substantially no progress was made. The
failure endured, and seemed to Christine as complete as the devastation
wrought in her own life. Nay, here there was an aggravation. In her
home--she almost smiled to use the word now--there was no child. Here
there was the boy. Her thoughts flew forward to the time when he would
wonderingly surmise, painfully guess, at last grow into knowledge.

And already the mind stirred in little Frank. His intelligence grew, his
affection blossomed as the first buds of a flower. He was no more merely
a passive object of love and care. He began to know more than that he
was nursed and fed, more than that his right was to these ministrations.
The idea of the reason dawned in him. He stretched forth his hand no
longer for bounty only, but for the inspirer of bounty--for love. Strung
to abnormal sensitiveness, Christine deluded herself with the fancy that
already he felt the shadow over the house, that his young soul was
already chilled by the clouds of anger, and vainly cried for the
sunshine of sympathy. If she did not truly see, yet she foresaw truly.
Seeing and foreseeing, then, she asked where was the hope. And on this,
with a bound, her thoughts were back to her own sorrow, and back to poor
lonely old John in London, all by himself, with nobody to talk to,
nobody to congratulate him on the success of his business, nobody to
open his heart to, alone with his grievance against her, alone with the
thought that, notwithstanding his grievance, he had taken Frank
Caylesham's money, and grew prosperous again by the aid of it.

When Christine had been at Milldean a fortnight or so, business carried
Grantley to town. The change his departure made was instantaneous and
striking. A weight was off the house, the clouds dispersed. Sibylla was
full of gaiety, and in that mood she could make all about her share her
mirth. Above all, her devotion to Frank was given full rein. The child
was always with her, and she knew no happiness save in evoking and
responding to his love. She was now open and ostentatious about it,
fearing no frigid glances and no implied criticism of her fond folly.
Christine might well have found new ground for despair, so plainly did
Sibylla display to her the blighting influence of Grantley's presence.
He it was who froze up love--so Sibylla declared with an impetuous
aggressive openness. But Christine would not despair. A wholesome anger
rose in her heart and forbade despair. Her manner took on a coldness
exceeding Grantley's indifference. She would not be a sharer in the
games, a partner in the merriment, a sympathiser in the love. Sibylla
was not slow to see how she stood off and drew herself away. Quickly she
sought for reasons. Was it that Christine would not join in what seemed
to be a league against Grantley; or was there another reason? She had
told Christine how it was through Walter Blake's weakness and not
through her scruples that little Frank had not been left to his fate.
Did her love then seem hypocrisy? That was not true--though it might be
true that remorse now had a share in it. The more the child grew to
life, the more horrible became the thought that he might have died.
After a day or two of smouldering protest, she broke out on Christine.

"You think I've no right to love him," she asked, "after what I was
ready to do? Is that what you think? Oh, speak out plainly! I see you've
got something against me."

Christine was cold and composed. Never had her delicately critical
manner been more pronounced.

"I'm sure I hope you repent," she observed meditatively; "and I hope you
thank heaven that man was what he turned out to be."

"Well, call it repentance, then. I suppose I've a right to repent? You
can't understand how I really feel. But if it is repentance, why need
you discourage it?"

"I don't discourage repentance, and I'm glad you're beginning to see
that you ought to repent. But it's not that I'm thinking of."

"What are you thinking of, then?" cried Sibylla in unrestrained

"You're prepared for an open quarrel?"

"Oh, I shan't quarrel with you!" Her smile was rather disdainful.

"No, you won't quarrel with me; I'm not of enough importance to you! I'm
very glad I'm not, you know. Being important to you doesn't seem to be
consistent with being an independent creature."

Sibylla glanced at her in arrested attention.

"What do you mean by that?" she asked in low quick tones. The charge was
so strangely like that which she was for ever formulating against
Grantley. Now Christine levelled it at her.

"You call Grantley selfish," Christine went on. "You're just as bad
yourself--yes, worse! He is trying to be different, I believe. Oh, I
admit the poor man doesn't do it very well: he gets very little
encouragement! But are you trying? No! You're quite content with
yourself. You've done no wrong---- Well, perhaps it was a little
questionable to be ready to leave Frank to die! But even that would be
all right if only I could understand it!"

"You'd better go on now," said Sibylla quietly.

"Yes, I will go on; I am going on. You were ready to leave the child to
die sooner than go on living as you'd been living. Isn't that how you
put it? You were willing to give his life to prevent that? Well, are you
willing to give any of your own life, any of your way of thinking, any
of what you call your nature, or your temperament, or what not? Not a
bit of it! You can love Frank when there's no danger of Grantley's
thinking it may mean that you could forgive him! As soon as there's any
danger of that, you draw back. You use the unhappy child as a shield
between Grantley and yourself, as a weapon against Grantley. Yes you do,
Sibylla. Whenever you're inclined to relent towards Grantley, you go and
sit by that child's cot and use your love for him to fan your hatred
against Grantley. Isn't that true?"

Sibylla sat silent, with attentive frightened eyes. This was a new
picture--was it a true one? One feature of it at least struck home with
a terribly true-seeming likeness of her own mind. She used her love for
her child to fan her hatred against Grantley!

"You complain," Christine went on in calm relentlessness, "of what
Grantley is to the child. That's a sham most of the time. You're
thinking of what he is to you. And even where it's true, don't you do
all you can to make him feel as he does? How is he to love what you make
the stalking-horse of your grievances?" She turned on Sibylla
scornfully, almost fiercely now. "Your husband, your son, the whole
world, aren't made for your emotions to go sprawling over, Sibylla! You
must have caught that idea from young Blake, I think."

She walked off to the window and stood there, looking out. No sound came
from Sibylla. Presently Christine looked round rather nervously. She had
gone a little too far perhaps. That phrase about emotions "sprawling"
was--well, decidedly uncompromising. She met Sibylla's eyes. They wore a
hunted look--as though some peril walled her in and she found no way of
escape. Her voice trembled as she faltered:

"Is that what you really think of me, Christine?"

"A bruised reed thou shalt not break." Christine had the wisdom to
remember that. Remorse must fall short of despair, self-knowledge of
self-hatred, or there remains no possibility of a rebound to hope and
effort. Christine came across to her friend with hands outstretched.

"No, no, dear," she said, "not you--not yourself! But this mood of
yours, the way you're going on. And, true or false, isn't it what you
must make Grantley think?"

Sibylla moved her hands in a restless gesture, protesting against the
picture of herself--even thus softened--denying its truth, fascinated by

"I don't know," she murmured, "I don't know. Christine, it's a horrible

Christine fell on her knees beside her.

"If only you hadn't been so absurdly in love with him, my dear!" she



Rumour spoke truly. Young Walter Blake was back in town with an entirely
new crop of aspirations maturing in the ready soil of his mind. The
first crop had not proved fortunate. It had brought him into a position
most disagreeable and humiliating to reflect upon, and into struggles
for which he felt himself little fit. He had been given time to meditate
and to cool--to cool even to shuddering when he recalled that night in
the Sailors' Rest, and pictured the tragedy for which he had so nearly
become responsible. His old desires waning, his aspirations were
transfigured at the suggestion of a new attraction. He had been on the
wrong tack--that was certain. Again virtue seemed to triumph in this
admission. He no longer desired to be made good--it was (as he had
conceived and attempted it) such a stormy and soul-shaking process. Now
he desired to be kept good. He did not now want a guiding star which he
was to follow through every peril, over threatening waves and through
the trough of an angry sea. The night at the Sailors' Rest disposed of
that metaphor and that ideal. Now he wanted an anchor by whose help he
might ride out the storm, or a harbour whose placid bosom should support
his gently swaying barque. Strength, constancy, and common sense
supplanted imagination, ardour, and self-devotion as the requisites his
life demanded.

Again Caylesham showed tact. He would not ask the lady's name. But when
Blake next dined with him, he enjoyed the metamorphosis, and silently
congratulated Grantley Imason.

"So it's St. George's, Hanover Square, and everything quite regular this
time, is it?" he asked, with an indulgent humour. "Well, I fancy you're
best suited to that. Only take care!"

"You may be sure that the woman I marry will be----" Blake began.

"Perfection? Oh, of course! That's universal. But it's not enough." He
lay back comfortably in his armchair, enjoying his cigar. "Not enough,
my boy! I may have two horses, and you may have two horses, and each of
my horses may be better than either of your horses; but when we come to
driving them, you may have the better pair. Two good 'uns don't always
make a good pair." He grew quite interested in his subject--thanks,
perhaps, to the figure in which he clothed it. "They've got to
match--both their paces and their ways. They've got to go kindly
together, to like the feel of one another, don't you know? Each of 'em
may be as good as you like single, but they may make--by Jove, yes!--the
devil of a bad pair! It's double harness we're talking about, Blake, my
boy. Oh, you may think I know nothing about it, but I've seen a
bit---- Well, that's not a thing I boast about; but I have seen a bit,
you know."

"That's just what I've been thinking," said young Blake sagaciously. He
referred to Caylesham's doctrines, not his experiences.

"Oh, you've been thinking, have you?" smiled Caylesham. "Come a mucker
then, I suppose?"

"I--I miscalculated. Well, we must all learn by experience."

"Devilish lucky if we can!"

"There's no other way," Blake insisted.

"Have I said there is?" He looked at Blake in an amused knowledge.
"Going in for the straight thing this time?"

Half in pride, half in shame, Blake answered:


"Quite right too!" Caylesham was very approving.

"Well, if you say so----" began Blake, laughing.

"Quite right for you, I mean." There was a touch of contempt somewhere
in his tone. "But don't forget what I've been saying. It's double
harness, my boy! Pace, my boy, and temper, and the feel--the feel! All
the things a fellow never thinks about!"

"Well, you're a pretty preacher on this subject!"

"I've heard a lot of things you never have. Oh, well, you may have once,
perhaps." His glance was very acute, and Blake flushed under it. "You're
well out of that affair," Caylesham went on, dropping his mask of
ignorance. "Oh, I don't want to know how it happened. I expect I can

"What do you mean?" Blake's voice sounded angry.

"You funked it--eh?"

It was a strong thing to say to a man in your own house. But a sudden
gust of impatience had swept Caylesham away. The young man was in the
end so contemptible, so incapable of strength, such a blarney over his

"Now don't glare at me; I'm not afraid. You tackled too big a job, I
fancy. Oh, I'm not asking questions, you know." He got up and patted
Blake's shoulder. "Don't mind me. You're doing quite right. Hope you
won't find it devilish dull!"

Blake's bad temper vanished. He began to laugh.

"That's right," said Caylesham. "I'm too old to convert, and nearly too
old to fight; but I'll be your best man, Walter."

"It'll keep me straight, Caylesham."

"Lord bless you, so it will!"

He chuckled in irrepressible amusement.

"The other thing's no go!"

"No more it is. It needs---- No, I'm not going to be immoral any more.
Go ahead! You're made for double harness, Walter. Choose her well!
you'll have to learn her paces, you know."

"Or she mine?"

Blake was a little on his dignity again.

"Have another whisky and soda," said Caylesham, with admirable tact.

His advice, meant as precautionary, proved provocative. Memory worked
with it--the carking memory of a failure of courage. Blake might blarney
as he would about awakened conscience, but Caylesham had put his finger
on the sore spot. Pleasure's potentiality of tragedy had asserted
itself. It had been supremely disconcerting to discover and recognise
its existence. Young Blake was for morality now--not so much because its
eyes were turned upwards as for the blameless security of its embrace.
He had suffered such a scare. He really wondered how Caylesham had
managed to stand the strain of pleasing himself--with the sudden tragic
potentialities of it. He paid unwilling homage to the qualities
necessary for vice--for candid unmasquerading vice; he knew all about
the other species.

Yet he was not hard on Sibylla. He recognised her temperament, her
unhappy circumstances, and his own personal attractions. What he did not
recognise was the impression of himself which that night in the Sailors'
Rest would leave on her. He conceived an idea of his own magnanimity
resting in her mind--yes, though such a notion could gain no comfortable
footing in his.

Caylesham let him go without more advice--though he had half a mind to
tell him not to marry a pretty woman.

"Oh, well, in his present mood he won't; and it would do him lots of
good if he did," the impenitent, clear-sighted, good-humoured sinner
reflected, with all the meaning which his experience could put into the
words. He was of opinion that for certain people the only chance of
salvation lay in suffering gross injustice. "If what a fellow brings on
himself is injustice," he used to say. He always maintained that fellows
brought it on themselves--an expiring gasp of conscience, perhaps.

Gossip and conjecture had played so much with Walter Blake's name that
Mrs. Selford had at first been shy of his approaches and chary of her
welcome. "We must think of Anna," she had said to her husband. But
thinking of or for Anna was rapidly becoming superfluous. The young
woman took that department to herself. Her stylishness grew
marvellously, and imposed a yoke of admiring submission. It was an
extraordinary change from the awkward, dowdy, suppressed girl to this
excellently appointed product. The liberty so tardily conceded was
making up for lost time, and bade fair to transform itself into a
tyranny. The parents were ready subjects, and cast back from the
theories of to-day a delusive light on the practices of the past. They
concluded that they had always indulged Anna, and that the result was
most satisfactory. Then they must indulge her still. So Blake's visits
went on, and the welcome became cordial. For Anna was quite clear that
she at least had nothing against Blake. His attraction for her was not
what had been his charm in Sibylla's eyes. Her impulse was not to
reform; it was to conquer. But gossip and conjectures as to his past
life were as good incentives to the one task as to the other. His good
looks, his air of fashion, his comfortable means, helped the work. He
widened the horizon of men for her, and made her out of conceit with her
first achievements. She was content that Jeremy should disappear from
her court; she became contemptuously impatient of Alec Turner's suit.
She was fastidious and worldly-wise.

Again Mrs. Selford rejoiced. She had been in some consternation over
Alec Turner's now obvious attachment, coming just at the time when Anna
had established the right to please herself. Suppose her first use of
liberty had been to throw herself away? For to what end be stylish if
you are going to marry on a hundred and fifty pounds a year? But Anna
was quite safe--strangely safe, Mrs. Selford thought in her heart,
though she rebuked the wonder. Almost unkindly safe, she thought
sometimes, as she strove to soften the blows which fell on poor
Alec--since, so soon as he ceased to be dangerous, he became an object
of compassion.

"Anna is so sensible," she said to Selford. "She's quite free from the
silliness that girls so often show"; but she sighed just a little as she

"She'd make a good wife for any man," declared Selford proudly--a
general declaration in flat contradiction to Caylesham's theories about
double harness.

Anna paid no heed to opinions or comments. She went about her business
and managed it with instinctive skill. It sometimes puzzled poor Alec
Turner to think why his presence was so often requested, when his
arrival evoked so little enthusiasm. He did not realise the part he
played in Anna's scheme, nor how his visits were to appear to Walter
Blake. Anna's generalship had thought all this out. The exhibition of
Alec was a subsidiary move in the great strategic conception of
capturing Walter Blake on the rebound from Sibylla.

But the pawn was not docile, and objected violently so soon as its
function began to be apparent. Anna precipitated what she did not
desire--a passionate avowal in which the theme of her own gifts and
fascination was intermingled with the ideal of influencing the trend of
public opinion from a modest home and on a modest income. She was told
that she could be removed from the vanities of life and be her true, her
highest self. When she showed no inclination to accept the path in life
thus indicated, Alec passed through incredulity to anger. Had he cast
his pearls before---- Well, at inappreciative feet? At this tone Anna
became excusably huffy; to refuse a young man is not to deny all the
higher moral obligations. Besides Alec annoyed her very much by assuming
persistently that the dictates of her heart called her towards him, and
that worldly considerations alone inspired her refusal.

"Oh, you're silly!" she cried. "I tell you it's nothing of the sort."

The dusk of the afternoon softened her features; the light of the fire
threw up in clear outline the stylish well-gowned figure. Poor Alec, in
his shabby mustard suit, stood opposite her, his hands in his pockets,
in dogged misery and resentment, with all the helpless angry surprise of
a first experience of this kind, fairly unable to understand how it was
that love did not call forth love, obstinate in clinging to the theory
of another reason as the sole explanation. Things did not exist in vain.
For what was his love?

"But--but what am I to do?" he stammered.

Rather puzzled--after all rather flattered, Anna prayed him to be
sensible and friendly. He consented to hope for her happiness, though he
was obviously not sanguine about it. For himself all was over! So he
said as he flung out of the room, knowing nothing of what lay before him
on the path of life; discerning nothing of a certain daughter of a poor
old political writer--a little round woman who made her own gowns, was
at once very thrifty and very untidy, was inclined to think that the
rulers of the earth should be forcibly exterminated, and lavished an
unstinted affection on every being, human or brute, with which she was
ever brought into contact. And if she did not greatly influence the
trend of public opinion--well, anyhow she tried to. Just now, however,
Alec knew nothing about her; he was left to think hopelessly of the trim
figure and the lost ideals--the two things would mix themselves up in
his mind.

To his pathetic stormy presence there succeeded Walter Blake, with all
his accomplishment in the art of smooth love-making, with his
aspirations again nicely adjusted to the object of his desires (he was
so much cleverer than poor Alec over that!), with his power to flatter
not only by love but still more by relative weakness. He, of course, did
not run at the thing as Alec had done. That would be neither careful of
the chances nor economical of the pleasure. Many a talk was needed
before his purpose became certain or Anna could show any sign of
understanding it.

He dealt warily with her; he was trying, unconsciously perhaps, to
perform the task Caylesham had indicated to him--the task of learning
her paces and adapting his thereto. It was part of his theory about her
that she must be approached with great caution; and of course he knew
that there was one very delicate bit of ground. How much had she heard
about himself and Sibylla? It was long before he mentioned Sibylla's
name. At last he ventured on throwing out a feeler. Anna's unruffled
composure persuaded him that she knew nothing of the facts; but her
shrewd analysis of Sibylla showed, in his judgment, that she quite
understood the woman. It was the dusk of the afternoon again (Anna
rather affected that time of day), and Blake, with a sigh which might be
considered in the nature of a confession, ventured to say:

"I wish I could read people as you can. I should have avoided a lot of

"You can read yourself anyhow, can't you?" asked Anna.

"By Jove, that's good--that's very good! No, I don't know that I can.
But I expect you can read me, Miss Selford. I shall have to come to you
for lessons, shan't I?"

"I'll tell you all the hard bits," she laughed.

"You'll have to see a lot of me to do that!"

Anna was not quite so sure of the need, but she did not propose to stop
the game.

"Do I seem so very reluctant to see a lot of you?" she inquired.

Blake's eyes caught hers through the semi-darkness. She was aware of the
emotion with which he regarded her. It found an answer in her, an answer
which for the moment upset both her coolness and her sense of mastery.
She had a revelation that her dominion, not seriously threatened, yet
would be pleasantly chequered by intervals of an instinctive submission.
This feeling almost smothered the element of contempt which had hitherto
mingled in her liking for him and impaired the pride of her conquest.

"I was judging you by myself. Compared with me, you seem reluctant," he
said in a low voice, coming a little nearer to her. "But then it does me
such a lot of good to come and see you. It's not only the pleasure I
come for, though that's very great. You keep up my ideals."

"I'm so glad. The other day I was told I'd ruined all somebody's ideals.
Well, I oughtn't to have told you that, I suppose; but it slipped out."

Things will slip out, if one takes care to leave the door open.

She was standing by the table, and Blake was now close by her.

"Since I've known you----"

"Why, you've known me for years, Mr. Blake!"

"No, I only knew a little girl till--till I came back to town this
time." He referred to that yachting cruise on which he had ultimately
started alone. "But since then I've been a different sort of fellow. I
want to go on being different, and you can help me." His voice trembled;
he was wrapped up in his emotion, and abundantly sure of its sincerity.

Anna moved away a little, now rather nervous, since no instinct, however
acute, can give quite the assurance that practice brings. But she was
very triumphant too, and, moreover, a good deal touched. That break in
young Blake's voice had done him good service before: it never became
artificial or overdone, thanks to his faculty of coming quite fresh to
every new emotional crisis; it was always most happily natural.

"Anna!" he said, holding out his hands, with those skilfully appealing
eyes of his just penetrating to hers.

With a long-drawn breath she gave him her hand. He pressed it, and began
to draw her gently towards him. She yielded to him slowly, thinking at
the last moment of what she had decided she would never think about and
would show no wisdom in recalling. The vision of another woman had shot
into her mind, and for a few seconds gave her pause. Her hesitation was
short, and left her self-confidence unbroken. What she had won she would
keep. The dead should bury its dead--a thing it had declined to do for
Christine Fanshaw.

"Anna!" he said again. "Do you want me to say more? Isn't that saying it
all? I can't say all of it, you know."

She let him draw her slowly to him; but she had spoken no word, and was
not yet in his arms, when the door opened, and she became aware of a man
standing on the threshold. Young Blake, all engrossed, had noticed
nothing, but he had perceived her yielding.

"Ah, my Anna!" he whispered rapturously.

"Hush!" she hissed, drawing her hand sharply away. "Is that you,

Richards was the Selfords' manservant.

The man laughed.

"If you'd turn the light on, you couldn't mistake me for anybody so
respectable as Richards," he said. "I've been with your father in the
study, and he told me I should find your mother here."

Anna recognised the voice.

"Mr. Imason! I didn't know you were in London."

"Just up for the day, and I wanted to see your father."

Anna moved to the switch, and turned on the light. She glanced hastily
at young Blake. He had not moved; his face was rather red, and he looked
unhappy. Anna's feeling was one of pronounced anger against Grantley
Imason. His appearance had all the effect of purposed malice; it made
her feel at once jealous and absurd. But it was on her own behalf that
she resented it. She was not free from a willingness that Blake should
be made uncomfortable; so much discipline would be quite wholesome for
him. For her own part, though, she wanted to get out of the room.

"May I ring for the real Richards, and---- Oh, I beg your pardon, Blake,
how are you? May I ring for the real Richards, and send word to your
mother, Anna?"

Grantley was, as usual, urbane and unperturbed.

"I'll go and find her for you. I think she's lying down."

"Oh, well, then----"

"No, I know she'll want to see you," and Anna ran lightly out of the

Grantley strolled to an armchair and sank into it. He did not look at
Blake, nor, his formal greeting given, appear conscious of his presence.

Young Blake was in a turmoil. He hated to see Grantley; all the odious
thought of his failure and defeat was brought back. He hated that
Grantley should have seen him making love to Anna Selford, for in his
heart he was conscious that he could not cheat an outside vision as he
could manage to cheat himself. But both these feelings, if not swallowed
up in fear, were at least outdone by it. His great desire had been to
settle this matter finally and irrevocably before a hint of it came to
the ears either of Grantley or of Sibylla. What would Grantley do now?

"You saw us?" he asked in a sullen anxious voice.

"I couldn't help it. I'm sorry," said Grantley in colourless politeness.


"I really don't understand your question, Blake. At least, you seem to
mean it for a question."

"You do know what I mean. I'm not going to ask any favours of you. I
only want to know what you intend to do?"

"About what?"

"About what you saw--and heard too, I suppose?"

Grantley rose from his chair in a leisurely fashion, and stood with his
back to the fire. He was looking at young Blake with a slight smile;
Blake grew redder under it.

"Oh, I can't beat about the bush!" Blake went on impatiently. "You
might, if you chose, tell Miss Selford what you know."

"Well?" said Grantley in his turn.

"And--and---- Oh, you see what might happen as well as I do. I--I meant
to--to explain at my own time; but----"

"I shouldn't let the time come in a hurry, Blake. It'll be a very
awkward quarter of an hour for both of you, and quite unnecessary."


There was a ring of hope in Blake's voice; he liked to be told that any
such confession was unnecessary, and would have welcomed such an
assurance even from Grantley's hostile lips.

"Certainly; and equally unnecessary that I should tell Anna anything."
He paused a moment, and then went on. "In a different case I might think
I had a different duty--though, being what you might call an interested
party, I should consider carefully before I allowed myself to act on
that view. But as matters stand, you yourself have made any action on my
part superfluous."

"I have?"

"Oh yes! You so far injured the fame of the woman for whom you hadn't
afterwards the pluck to fight, that it's not necessary for me to tell
Selford that you were in love with her a few months before you made love
to his daughter, nor that you tried to run away with her, but that in
the end you funked the job. I needn't tell him, because he knows--and
his wife knows. You took care of that."

Young Blake said nothing, though he opened his lips as if to speak.

"And I needn't tell Anna either. That's unnecessary, for the same
reason. She knows just as well as her father and mother know."

"She knows nothing, I tell you. She hasn't an idea----"

"Did you see her face when she saw that I wasn't Richards?"

"I tell you---- She was embarrassed, of course---- But----"

"She knows quite well, Blake. Oh, not the details, but the main thing.
She knows that quite well. And she will have made her decision. There's
no duty incumbent on me."

"You'll say nothing then?"

"I shall say nothing at all."

Grantley relapsed into silence--a most easy self-possessed silence. His
eyes were on young Blake no more, but rested placidly on one of
Selford's best pictures on the opposite wall. Blake cleared his throat,
and shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.

"Why do you stay?" asked Grantley mildly. "Wouldn't it be better to
continue your interview with Anna elsewhere? Mrs. Selford's coming in
here, you see."

Blake broke out:

"God knows, Imason, it's difficult for me to say a word to you, but----"

Grantley raised his hand a little.

"It's impossible," he said. "There can be no words between you and me
about that. And what does it matter to you what I think? I shall hold my
tongue. And you'll feel sure I've no real cause of complaint--quite sure
if only I hold my tongue. And I think Anna will hold her tongue. Then
you'll forget she knows, and go on posturing before her with entire
satisfaction to yourself." He turned his eyes on him and laughed a
little. "As long as you can humbug yourself or anybody else, or even get
other people to let you think you're humbugging them, you're quite
happy, you know."

Blake looked at him once and twice, but his tongue found no words. He
turned and walked towards the door.

"Wait in the dining-room," said Grantley.

Blake went out without turning or seeming to hear. After a moment or two
Anna's step came down the stairs.

"Mamma'll be down directly, Mr. Imason," she called as she reached the
door. Then her eyes took in the room. "Mr.--Mr. Blake?" she asked, with
a sudden quick rush of colour in her cheeks.

"I think you'll find him in the dining-room," said Grantley gravely.

She understood--and she did not lack courage. She had enough for
two--for herself and for Blake. She met Grantley's look fair and square,
drawing up her trim stylish figure to a stiff rigidity, and setting her
lips in a resolute line. Grantley admired her attitude and her open
defiance of him. He smiled at her in a confidential mockery.

"Thanks, Mr. Imason, I'll look for him. You'll be all right till mamma

"Oh yes, I shall be all right, thanks, Anna."

He smiled still. Anna gave him another look of defiance.

"I intend to go my own way; I know what I'm about. I don't care a pin
what you think." The glance seemed to Grantley as eloquent as Lord
Burghley's nod. And no more than Lord Burghley did she spoil its effect
by words. She gave it to Grantley full and square, then turned on her
heel and swung jauntily out of the room.

Grantley's smile vanished. He screwed up his lips as if he had tasted
something rather sour.



Grantley Imason had intended to go down to Milldean that same evening,
but a summons from Tom Courtland reached him, couched in such terms that
he could not hesitate to obey it. He sought Tom at his club the moment
he received the message. Tom had been sent for to his own house in the
morning, and had heard what had happened there. He had seen the wounded
child and the other two terrified little creatures. Suzette Bligh gave
him her account. The doctor told him that Sophy was no longer in danger,
but that the matter was a grave one--a very serious shock and severe
local injury; the child would recover with care and with quiet, but
would always bear a mark of the wound, an ineffaceable scar. That was
the conclusion, half good, half bad, reached after a night of doubt
whether Sophy would not die from the violence and the shock.

"Did you see your wife?" Grantley asked.

"See her? I should kill her if I saw her," groaned Tom.

"But--but what's being done?"

"She's in her room--she's been there ever since it happened. Suzette's
seen her--nobody else. Nobody else will go near her. Of course, while
there was a doubt about Sophy--well, the doctor made it a condition that
she should confine herself to her room till the thing took a definite
turn. I hope she's frightened at last. I don't know what to do. The
woman ought to be hanged, Grantley."

But wrath and horror at his wife were not the only feelings in Tom's
mind; the way the thing had happened raised other thoughts. He was
prostrate under the sense that the fury which had smitten poor little
Sophy had been aimed at him; his acts had inspired and directed it. He
had made his children's love for him a crime in their mother's eyes. All
his excuses, both false and real, failed him now. His own share in the
tragedy of his home was heavy and heinous in his eyes.

"I ought to have remembered the children," he kept repeating
desperately. He ought to have stayed and fought the battle for and with
them, however hard the battle was. But he had run away--to Mrs. Bolton,
and left them alone to endure the increased fury of Harriet's rage.
"I've been a damned coward over it," he said, "and this is what comes of
it, Grantley."

It was all true. Tom had not thought of the children. Even though he
loved them, he had deserted them treacherously, because he had
considered only his own wrongs, and had been wrapped up in his personal
quarrel with his wife. What he had found unendurable himself he had left
those helpless little creatures to endure. All the arguments which had
seemed so strong to justify or to palliate his resort to the Bolton
refuge sounded weak and mean to him now--and to Grantley too, who had
been used to rely on them, lightly accepting them with a man of the
world's easy philosophy. His friends had almost encouraged Tom in his
treacherous desertion of his children; they too had looked at nothing
but the merits of his quarrel with Harriet, putting that by itself in a
false isolation from the total life of the family, of which it was in
truth an integral indivisible part. So Grantley meditated as he listened
to Tom's laments; and the meditation was not without meaning and light
for him also.

Tom had a request to make of him--that he would go round to the house
and spend the evening there.

"I daren't trust myself near Harriet," he said, "and I'm uneasy with
only the servants there. They're all afraid of her. She was cowed,
Suzette says, while there was danger; but she may break out
again--anything might start her again. If you could stay till she's
safely in bed----"

"I'll stay all night, if necessary, old fellow," said Grantley promptly.

"It'll take a weight off my mind--and I've got about enough to bear. I'm
going to stay here, of course; so you'll know where to find me if I'm
wanted, though I don't see what can happen now."

Terror brooded over the Courtlands' house. Grantley rejoiced to see how
his coming did something to lift the cloud. The two children left
Suzette's side (they loved her, but she seemed to them a defence all too
frail), and came to him, standing on either side of his knee and putting
their hands in his. The listening strained look passed out of their eyes
as he talked to them. Presently little Vera climbed up and nestled on
his knee, while Lucy leant against his shoulder, and he got them to
prattle about happy things, old holidays and bygone treats, to which Tom
had taken them. At last Lucy laughed merrily at some childish memory.
The sound went straight to Grantley's heart; a great tenderness came
upon him. As he kissed them, his thoughts flew to his own little
son--the child who had now begun to know love, to greet it and to ask
for it. How these poor children prized even a decent kindness! Grantley
seemed to himself to have done a fine day's work--as fine a day's work
as he had ever done in his life--when he sent them off to bed with
smiling lips and eyes relieved of dread.

"You won't go away to-night, will you?" Lucy whispered as she kissed him

"Of course he's not going!" cried little Vera, bravely confident in the
strength of her helplessness.

"No, I'll stay all night--all the whole night," Grantley promised.

He made his camp in the library on the ground floor, and there presently
Suzette Bligh came to see him. She gave a good account of the wounded
child. Sophy slept; the capable cheery woman who had come as nurse gave
her courage to sleep.

"We must get her away to the seaside as soon as possible, and she'll get
all right, I think; though there must be a mark always. And of course
the permanent question remains. Isn't it all hopeless, Mr. Imason?"

"It's a terrible business for you to be involved in."

"Oh, I can only thank heaven I was here! But for me I believe she'd have
killed the child."

"What state is she in now?"

"I really don't know. She won't speak to me. She sits quite still, just
staring at me. I try to stay with her, but it's too dreadful. I can't
help hating her--and I think she knows it."

Grantley had some experience of coming to know what people felt about

"I expect she does," he nodded.

"What will happen, Mr. Imason?"

"I don't know--except that the children mustn't stay with her. Is she
afraid of being prosecuted, do you think?"

"She hasn't said anything about it. No, she doesn't seem afraid; I don't
think that's her feeling. But--but her eyes look awful. When I had to
tell her that the doctor had forbidden her to come near the children,
and said he would send the police into the house if she tried to go to
them--well, I've never seen such an expression on any human face before.
She looked like--like somebody in hell, Mr. Imason."

"Ah!" groaned Grantley with a jerk of his head, as though he turned from
a fearful spectacle.

"I've just been with her. I persuaded her to go to bed--she's not slept
since it happened, I know--and got her to let me help her to undress.
Her maid won't go to her; she's too frightened. I hope she'll go to
sleep, or really I think she'll lose her senses." She paused and then
asked: "Will this make any difference in--in the proceedings?"

"Well, it gives Tom something to bargain with, doesn't it? But you can't
tell with her. The ordinary motives may not appeal to her, any more than
the natural feelings. I hope it may be possible to frighten her."

"Anyhow the children won't have to stay--you're sure of that?"

"We must try hard for that," said Grantley.

But Tom had made even that more difficult, because he had considered
only his own quarrel, and, not thinking of the children, had run away to
refuge with Mrs. Bolton, saving his own skin by treacherous flight.

Suzette bade Grantley good-night. She too must sleep, or her strength
would fail.

"You'll keep the door open?" she asked. "And her room is just over this.
You'll hear if she moves, though I don't think she will. It is good of
you, Mr. Imason. We shall all sleep quietly to-night. Oh, but how tired
you'll be!"

"Not I!" he smiled. "I've often sat up till daylight on less worthy
occasions. You're the hero! You've come through this finely."

Suzette's cheeks flushed at his praise.

"I do love the poor children," she said, as Grantley pressed her hand.

He sat down to his vigil. The house became very still. Once or twice
steps passed to and fro in the room above; then there was silence. In a
quarter of an hour, perhaps, there were steps again; then another
interval of quiet. This alternation of movement and rest went on for a
long time. If Harriet Courtland slept, her sleep was broken. But
presently Grantley ceased to mark the sound--ceased even to think of the
Courtlands or of the house where he was. Led by the experiences of the
day and by the feelings they had evoked, his thoughts took their way to
Milldean, to his own home, to his wife and son. How nearly tragedy had
come there too! Nay, was it yet gone? Was not its shadow still over the
house? And why? He looked back again at the Courtlands--at Harriet's
unhallowed rage, at Tom's weakness and desertion, at the fate of the
children--not thought of and forgotten by the one, ill-used and put in
terror by the other. He recollected how once they used to joke about the
Courtlands' being at any rate useful as a warning. That joke had taken
on too keen an edge to sound mirthful now. But the serious truth in it
came home to him, making plain what he had been groping after ever since
that night at the Sailors' Rest at Fairhaven, ever since Sibylla had
opened her mouth against him and spoken the bitterness of her heart.
Yes, he thought he saw where the truth lay now. Calamity held up a torch
to light his wandering feet.

No borrowed light had made plain the steps of the woman upstairs. The
glare of her own ruin had been needed to illuminate the way she trod, so
dense was the turbid darkness of her spirit. She saw now where she
stood--and there seemed no going back. She had fallen into fits of
remorse before--she had called herself cursed over her betrayal of
Christine: that was nothing to this; yet she remembered it now, and it
went to swell the wave of despair which overwhelmed her. Well might her
eyes look like the eyes of one in hell, for she was cut off from all
love and sympathy. She herself had severed all those bonds whereby a
human being becomes other than a roving solitary brute. There was no
re-binding them. Nobody would come near her; nobody could endure her
presence; she was a thing of hatred and of fear. Even Suzette Bligh
shrank while she served, and loathed while she ministered. Her husband
could not trust himself in the house with her, and she could not be
trusted in the room with her children. By the narrowest luck she was not
a murderess; in the hearts of all, and in her own heart, she seemed a
leper--a leper among people who were whole--an unclean thing--because of
her bestial rage.

These thoughts had been in her mind all the night before and all the
day. They did not consort with sleep nor make terms with peaceful rest.
Sometimes they drove her to wild and passionate outbursts of weeping and
imprecation; oftener they chained her motionless to her chair, so still
that only her angry eyes showed life and consciousness. They left little
room for fear of any external punishment, or for shame at any public
exposure. They went deeper than that, condemning not the body but the
soul, pronouncing not the verdict of the world, but of herself and of
nature's inexorable law. They displayed the procession of evil--weakness
growing to vice, vice turning to crime, crime throttling all the
good--till she had become a thing horrible to those about her, horrible
and incredible even to herself. And there was no going back, no going
back at all. Her will was broken, and she had no hope in herself. The
weights were on her feet, and dragged her down the abyss which now lay
open and revealed before her eyes.

Suzette had persuaded her to undress and go to bed. She must sleep--yes,
or she would go mad with the thoughts. But where was sleep with the
agony of their sting? She had her chloral--an old ally--and had recourse
to it. Then she would fling herself on the bed and try to think she
could sleep. Exasperation drove her up again, and she paced the room in
wrathful despair, cursing herself because she could not sleep, battling
against the remorseless thoughts, exclaiming against their tortures,
refusing the inquisition to which they subjected her. Then--back to bed
again for another futile effort, another cry of despair, to be followed
by another outburst of wild impatience, another fierce unavailing
struggle against her tormentors, new visions of what she was and of what
her life must be.

This was not a thing that she would endure; nobody could endure it and
keep sanity. It should be ended! Her fierce defiant fury rose yet once
more; the temper which had wrought all the calamity was not tamed by it
in the end. She turned to her drug again. She knew there was danger in
that, but she put the notion behind her scornfully. Why, the stuff would
not even make her sleep! Could it hurt her when it could not even give
her sleep? That was nonsense, stupid nonsense. She would have sleep!
Nature fell victim to her rage now; she would beat nature down by her
fury, as she had been wont to beat down all opposing wills. She had
listened to nothing in her tempests. Now she rose again to the whirlwind
of passion, denying what she knew, refusing to look at it. Kill herself?
Not she! Yet if she did, what matter? Had she anything to look for in
life? Would anybody grieve for her? It would be a riddance for all of
them if she died. But she wouldn't die. No danger of that--and no such
luck either! Each dose left her more pitiably wide-awake, more
gruesomely alert in mind, more hideously acute to feel the sting of
those torturing thoughts. An over-dose indeed! No dose, it seemed, could
serve even to dull the sharpness of her mordant reflections. But she
would have sleep--at all costs, sleep! She cursed herself vilely because
she could not sleep.

Thus came, as of old, now for the last time, the madness and blindness
of her rage, the rage which forgot all save itself, merged every other
consciousness, spared nobody and nothing. It was turned against herself
now, and neither did it spare herself. She drugged herself again, losing
all measure, and then flung herself heavily on the bed. Ah! Yes, surely
there was a change now? The horrid pictures grew mercifully dim, the
sting of the torturing thoughts was drawn, the edge of conscience
blunted. Her rage had had its way, it had beaten down nature. For a
moment she grasped this triumph, and exulted in it in her old barbarous
gloating over the victories of her fury. All things had been against her
sleep. But now it came; she had won it. She ceased to move, to curse,
even to think. The blessed torpor stole over her. Her life and what it
must be passed from her mind; a compassionate blankness spread over her
intellect. She was at peace! To-morrow--yes, to-morrow! All things could
wait now till to-morrow. She would be better able to face them
to-morrow--after a good night's sleep. Who had dared to say she could
not sleep? Her eyes closed, and her heavy breathing sounded through the
room. She stirred no more. Her rage had its way with her, as with all
others. It had demanded sleep. She slept.

Dawn had broken when a hand laid on his shoulder roused Grantley Imason
from an uneasy doze. He found Suzette by him in her dressing-gown and
barefooted. Instinctively he listened for an instant to hear if there
were any sound from the room above. There was none, and he asked her:

"Is anything wrong?"

"Yes," whispered Suzette, "Come upstairs!"

Not knowing what the evil chance might be, he followed her, and she led
him into Harriet Courtland's room. She had already opened one of the
shutters, and the early light streamed in on to the bed. Harriet lay on
her side, with her head thrown back on the pillow and her eyes turned up
to the ceiling. She lay above the clothes of the bed, and her nightgown
was torn away from her throat. Suzette had thrown a dressing-gown over
her body from breast to feet. She looked wonderfully handsome as she lay
there, so still, so peaceful, like some splendid animal in a reaction of
exhaustion after savage grand exertion. He drew near. The truth came
home to him at once. The two stood and looked at Harriet. At last he
turned to Suzette. He found her very pale, but quite calm.

"She's dead, Mr. Imason," Suzette said.

"How?" he asked.

"An over-dose of chloral. She often used to take it--and of course she
would be very likely to want a sleeping-draught last night."

"Yes, yes, of course she would. Her nerves would be so much upset."

Their eyes met--Suzette's seemed puzzled.

"What do you think?" asked Grantley in a whisper.

"I really don't know. She would really have been quite likely to take
too much. She would be impatient if it didn't act quickly, you know."

"Yes, yes, of course she would. Have you sent for a doctor?"

"Oh, yes, directly I found her--before I came to you. But I've done some
nursing, and--and there's not the least----" She stopped suddenly, and
was silent for several seconds. Then she said quietly and calmly:
"There's not the least chance, Mr. Imason."

Grantley knew what word she had rejected in favour of "chance," and why
the word had seemed inappropriate. He acknowledged the justice of the
change with a mournful gesture of his hands.

"Well, we can never know whether it was accidental or not," he said, as
he turned to leave the room.

"No, we can never know that," said Suzette.

How should they know? Harriet Courtland had not known herself. As
always, so to the end, her fury had been blind, and had destroyed her

She had struck at herself as recklessly as at her child; and here her
blow had killed. Her rage had run its final course, and for the last
time had its way. She slept.

And while she slept, her home was waking to the life of a new day.



The calamity at the Courtlands' struck on all their acquaintance like a
nip of icy wind, sending a shudder through them, making them, as it
were, huddle closer about them the protecting vesture of any hope or any
happiness that they had. The outrage on the child stood out horrible in
the light of the mother's death: the death of the mother found an
appalling explanation in the child's plight. Whether the death were by a
witting or an unwitting act seemed a small matter; darkness and
blindness had fallen on the unhappy woman before the last hours, and
somehow in the darkness she had passed away. There was not lacking the
last high touch of tragedy; the catastrophe which shocked and awed was
welcome too. It was the best thing that could have happened. Any end was
better than no end. To such a point of hopelessness had matters come, in
such a fashion Harriet Courtland had used her life. The men and women
who had known her, her kindred, her friends, and her household, all whom
nature had designed to love her, while they shuddered over the manner of
her going, sighed with relief that she was gone. The decree of fate had
filled the page, and it was finished; but their minds still tingled from
it as they turned to the clean sheet and prayed a kinder message.

Grantley Imason, so closely brought in contact with the drama, almost an
eye-witness of it, was deeply moved, stirred to fresh feelings, and
quickened to a new vision. The devastation Harriet had wrought, Tom's
cowardly desertion, the pitiable plight of the children, grouped
themselves together and took on, as another of their company, the
heightened and freshened impression of stale sentimentality, and a
self-delusion trivial to vulgarity, which he had carried away from his
encounter with Walter Blake. To all this there seemed one clue; through
it all one thread ran. He felt this in the recesses of his mind, and his
fingers groped after the guiding-line. That must be found, lest,
treading blindly through the labyrinth, he and his too should fall into
the pit whence there was no upward way. They had been half over the
brink once: a preternatural effort--so it might properly be called--had
pulled them back; but they were still on the treacherous incline.

Out of his sombre and puzzled reflections there sprang--suddenly as it
seemed, and in answer to his cry for guidance--an enlightening
pity--pity for his boy, lest he too should bear on his brow the scar of
hatred, almost as plain to see as the visible mark which was to stamp
little Sophy's for evermore--and pity for Sibylla, because her empty
heart had opened to so poor a tenant: in very hunger she had turned to
Blake. He no longer rejected the hope of communion with the immature
infantile mind of his son; he ceased to laugh scornfully at a love
dedicated to such a man as Walter Blake. A new sympathy with his
boy--even such as he had felt for Tom Courtland's little girls--spurred
him to fresh efforts to understand. Contempt for his wife's impulsive
affections gave way to compassion as his mind dwelt, not on what she had
done, but on what had driven her to do it--as he threw back his thoughts
from the unworthy satisfaction her heart had sought to the straits of
starvation which had made any satisfaction seem so good. This was to
look in the end at himself, and to the task of studying himself he was
now thrust back. If he could not do that, and do it to a purpose,
desolation and pitiableness such as he had witnessed and shuddered at
stood designated as the unalterable future of his own home.

Then, at last, he was impatient; his slow persevering campaign was too
irksome, and success delayed seemed to spell failure. The time comes
when no man can work. The darkness might fall on his task still
unperformed. He became afraid, and therefore impatient. He could not
wait for Sibylla to come to him. He must meet her--in something more
than civility, in something more than a formal concession of her
demands, more than an acquiescence which had been not untouched by irony
and by the wish to put her in the wrong. He must forget his claims and
think of his needs. His needs came home to him now; his claims could
wait. And as his needs cried out, there dawned in him a glow of
anticipation. What would it not mean if the needs could be satisfied?

He stayed in London for Harriet Courtland's funeral, and in the evening
went down to Milldean, a sharper edge given to his thoughts by the sight
of Tom and the two little girls (Sophy could not come) following
Harriet's coffin to the grave. Christine Fanshaw was in the carriage
which met him at the station, and was his companion on the homeward
drive. The Courtland calamity had touched her deeply too, but touched
her to bitterness--if, indeed, her outward bearing could be taken as a
true index of her mind. She bore herself aggressively towards fate and
its lessons; an increased acidity of manner condemned the follies of her
friends; she dropped no tears over their punishment. Still there was
very likely something else beneath; she had not heard from John since
she came down to Milldean.

"How have you all been getting on?" Grantley asked, as he took the reins
and settled himself beside her.

"We've done excellently since you went away. Of course we've been upset
about this horrible business, but----"

"Otherwise you've done very well?" he smiled.

"Oh, yes, very!"

"Since I went away?"

"Yes, since you went away," Christine repeated.

"Perhaps it's not a very good thing for me to come back?"

"We can hardly banish you from your own house."

The concession was grudging. Grantley laughed, and the tone of his laugh
brought her eyes sharply round to his face.

"You seem very cheerful," she remarked with an accusing air.

"No, I'm not that exactly; but I've got an idea--and that brightens one
up a bit, you know."

"Any change does that," Christine admitted waspishly.

"I saw John for a minute. He looked a bit worried. Does he complain?"

"He hasn't complained to me."

"Oh, then it's all right, I suppose. And he says the business is all
right, anyhow. How's the boy?"

"As merry and jolly as he can be."

"And Sibylla?"

"Yes, Sibylla too, as merry as possible."

"They both have been, you mean?"

"Yes, of course I do."

"While I've been away?"

"Yes, while you've been away."

Grantley laughed again. Christine looked at him in dawning wonder. She
had expected nothing from this drive but a gloom deepening--or at least
a constraint increasing--with every yard they came nearer to Milldean.
But there was something new. With some regret she recognised that her
acidity, her harping on "Since you went away," had not been the best
prelude to questioning or much of an invitation to confidence; and it
had, moreover, failed in its primary purpose of annoying Grantley by its
implied comment on his conduct. Her voice grew softer, and, with one of
her coaxing little tricks, she edged herself closer to his side.

"Any good news among all the bad, Grantley?"

"There's no good news yet," said he.

She caught at his last word.

"Yet? Yet, Grantley?"

"I'm not going to talk any more. That off-horse is a young 'un, and----"

"It's something to have a 'yet' in life again," she half whispered.
"'Yet' seems to imply a future--a change, perhaps!"

"Do you want a change too?"

"Oh, come, you're not so dull as to have to ask that!"

"You've told me nothing."

"And I won't. But I'll ask you one question--if you'll leave it at

"Well, what's the question?"

"Did John send his love to me?"

Grantley looked at her a moment, and smiled in deprecation.

"It would have been tactful to invent the message," smiled Christine.

"I'm getting a bit out of heart with tact, Christine."

"Quite so, my dear man. And get out of patience with some other things
too, if you can. Your patience would try Job--and not only from jealousy

Grantley's only answer was a reflective smile.

"And what about Tom Courtland?" she went on. "Is he with the children?"

"No, he's living at the club."

"Hum! At the club officially?"

"You're malicious--and you outrage proper feeling. At the club really,
Christine. He feels a bit lost, I fancy. I think it rather depends on
somebody else now. He's a weak chap, poor old Tom."

"You're full of discoveries about people to-day. Any other news?"

"No, none."

"But, you see, I've heard from Janet Selford!"

"Will you consider my remarks about your remarks as repeated--with more

"Oh, yes, I will! You're talking more as you used to before you were

"That's a compliment? I expect so--coming from a woman. Christine, have
you read Sibylla Janet Selford's letter?"

"Parts of it."

"I wish you hadn't. I didn't want her to know. I saw the fellow
there--with Anna."

"Anna's a very clever girl. She does me great credit."

"I should wait a bit to claim it, if I were you. I'm sorry you told

"If you're going to be generous as well as patient, there's an end of
any chance of your turning human, Grantley."

"You're quite good company to-day."

"I'm always ready to be; but one can't manage it without some help."

"Which you haven't found in my house?"

"Yes, I have--since you went away."

But she said it this time in a different way, with a hint, perhaps an
appeal, in her upturned eyes, and the slightest touch of her hand on his
sleeve--almost like the delicate soft pat of a kitten's paw, as quick,
as timid, and as venturous. Grantley turned his head to look at her. Her
eyes were bright and eager.

"We've actually begun to be pleasant," he said, smiling.

"Yes, almost to enjoy ourselves. Wonderful! But we're not at the house

"Not quite!" he said.

His face set again in firm lines.

"You'd so much better not look so serious about it. That's as bad as
your old County Council!"

"Are you quite sure you understand the case?"

"Meaning the woman? Oh, no! She's difficult. But I understand that, when
one thing's failed utterly, you don't risk much by trying another."

They came to the top of the hill which runs down to Milldean. Christine

"Poor old Harriet! She was a jolly girl once, you know, and so handsome!
I've had some good times with Harriet. Do you think she's at peace,

"She has paid," said he. "She has paid for what she was and did. I hope
she's at peace."

Christine's eyes grew dreamy; her voice fell to a gentle murmur.

"I wonder if it's quite silly to fancy that she's paid something for
some of us too, Grantley? I was thinking something like
that--somehow--when I said, 'Poor old Harriet!'"

"I daresay it's silly, but I don't know that it seems so to me," he

Just once again he felt the tiny velvety touch. So they came to

The twofold pity which had roused Grantley from a lethargy of feeling,
misconceived as self-control, had its counterpart in the triple blow
with which the course of events assailed Sibylla's estimate of herself.
In the first place, the news about young Blake announced in Janet
Selford's letter--indirectly indeed, but yet with a confident
satisfaction--made her ask whether her great sacrifice had been offered
at a worthy shrine, and her great offering received with more than a
shallow and transitory appreciation. In the second, the thought and
image of the Courtland children spoke loud to the instinct which her
ideas had lulled to sleep, bitterly accusing her desertion of the child
and her indifference to his fate, rousing her ever underlying remorse to
quick and vengeful life. Lastly, she was stirred to see and recognise
the significance of the third turn of fate--the meaning of the nemesis
which had fallen on Harriet Courtland: how she had let her rage spare
nothing, neither self-respect, nor decency, nor love; and how, in the
end, thus enthroned in tyranny, it had not spared herself. The three
accusations, each with its special import, each taking up a distinct
aspect of the truth, and enforcing it with a poignant example, joined
their indictments into one, and, thus united, cried out their
condemnation of her, taking for their mouthpiece Christine Fanshaw's
pretty lips, using her daintily scornful voice, and the trenchant
uncompromising words from which the utterer herself had afterwards
recoiled as too coarse and crude to be a legitimate weapon of attack.
The logic of events was not so squeamish; it does not deal in glosses or
in paraphrase; it is blunt, naked, and merciless, and must be, since
only when all other appeals and warnings have failed does its appointed
work begin. It fastened with what almost seemed malicious glee on
Christine's biting word, and enforced it by a pitiless vividness of
memory, an unceasing echo in Sibylla's thoughts. Her emotions had gone
"sprawling" over everything. The description did not need elaboration.
It was abominably expressive and sufficient. And it did not admit of
pleading or of extenuation. It showed her touching, on one extreme,
Blake's shallow and spurious sentiment; on the other, Harriet
Courtland's licence of anger. It pointed her attention to the ruin of
Tom's life, to the piteous plight of his children, to Harriet's fate, to
Blake's facile forgetfulness of love too heedlessly and wantonly
offered. It stripped her fantastic ideas of their garish finery, leaving
them, in the revulsion of her feelings, bereft of all beauty and
attractiveness. Impelled to look back, she seemed to find the same trail
over everything--even in those childish days of which Jeremy
Chiddingfold had once given a description that would not have reassured
her; even in the beginning of her acquaintance with Grantley, in the
ready rapture of her first love, in the intoxication of the fairy ride.
Changing its form, now hostile to her husband instead of with him, the
same temper showed in all the events which led up to the birth of little
Frank: its presence proved that her madness over Blake was no isolated
incident, but rather the crown of her development and the truest
interpreter of a character empty of worth, strength, or stability. Many
bitter hours brought her to this recognition; but when light came, the
very temper which she condemned was in her still, and turned the
coolness of recognition and analysis into an extravagant heat of scorn
and self-contempt.

What was the conclusion? Was she to throw herself at Grantley's feet,
proclaiming penitence, imploring pardon, declaring love? "No, no!" she
cried. That would be so easy, so short a cut, so satisfying to her
roused feelings. She put the notion from her in horror; it was the
suggestion of her old devil in a new disguise. Her love for Grantley had
bitten too deep into her nature to be treated like that, with that
levity and frivolity of easy impulse, that violence of headstrong
emotion, those tempests of feeling so remote from true sincerity of
heart. The cure did not lie in pampering sick emotions into a plump
semblance of healthy life. Where did it lie, if it were possible at all?
It must lie in the most difficult of all tasks--a change not of other
people or of their bearing and feelings towards her, but a change of
herself and of her own attitude towards others and towards the world,
and in her judgment and her ruling of herself. If things were to go
differently with her, she must be different. The arrogance of her nature
must be abated, the extravagant claims she had made must be lowered. The
thought struck on her almost with despair. So hard seemed the lesson, so
rough the path. And it seemed a path which must be trodden alone. It was
not as the easy pleasant road of emotion, beguiled by enchanting
companionship, strewn with the flowers of fancy, carpeted with pleasure.
This way was hard, bleak, and solitary. Merely to contemplate it chilled
her. Even that happiness with her child, which had so struck Christine
and afforded matter for one of those keen thrusts at Grantley Imason,
appeared to her in a suspicious guise. She could not prevent it nor
forgo it--nature was too strong; but she yielded to it with qualms of
conscience, and its innocent delights were spoilt by the voice of
self-accusation and distrust. Could it be real, genuine, true in the
woman who had deserted the child and been indifferent to his fate?

Both penitents, both roused to self-examination, Grantley Imason and his
wife seemed to have exchanged parts. Each suffered an inversion, if not
of character, yet of present mood. Each sought and desired something of
what had appeared to deserve reprobation when displayed by the other.
Their own propensities and ideals, carried to an extreme, had threatened
ruin; they erected the opposite temper of mind into a standard, and
thereto sought to conform their conduct at the cost of violence to
themselves. It seemed strange, yet it was the natural effect of the
fates and the temperaments which they had seen worked out and displayed
before their eyes, in such close touch with them, impinging so sharply
on their own destinies.

Sibylla had not been at home when Grantley arrived. She met him first in
the nursery, when she went to see little Frank at his tea. No mood, be
it what it would, could make Grantley a riotous romping companion for a
tiny child: that effort was beyond him. But to-day he played with his
son with a new sympathy; talked to him with a pleasant gravity which
stirred the young and curious mind; listened to his broken utterances
with a kindly quizzical smile which seemed to encourage the little
fellow. Grantley had never before found so much answering intelligence.
He forgot the quick development which even a few weeks bring at such a
time of life. He set all the difference down to the fact that never
before had he looked for what he now found so ready and so obvious.
Anything he did not find for himself the nurse was eager to point out,
and with the aid of this enthusiastic signpost Grantley discovered the
road to understanding very readily. He and the boy were, without doubt,
enjoying one another's society when Sibylla came in.

She stood in the doorway, waiting with an aching heart for the usual
thing, for a withdrawal of even such sign of interest as Grantley had
ever shown in old days. It did not come. He gave her a cheery
recognition, and went on playing with Frank. Irresistibly drawn, she
came near to them. Something was signalled in Frank's struggling speech
and impatiently waving arms. Grantley could not follow, and now turned
his eyes to Sibylla, asking for an explanation. The nurse had gone into
the other room, busied about the preparations for the meal. Sibylla took
Frank in her arms.

"I know what he means," she said proudly.

Her eyes met Grantley's. His were fixed very intently on her.

"I don't," he said. "Is it possible for a man to learn these mysteries?"

His tone and words were light; they were even mocking, but not now with
the mockery which hurts.

She flushed a little.

"You'd like to learn?" she asked. "Shall we try to teach him, Frank--to
teach him your code?"

"I'll watch you with him."

For a moment she looked at him appealingly, and then knelt on the floor
and arranged the toys as Frank had wanted them. The little fellow
laughed in triumph.

"How did you know?" asked Grantley.

"I've not lost that knowledge--no, I haven't," she answered almost in a

The scene was a spur to his newly stirred impulses. He had rejoiced in
his wife before now; but the clouds had always hung about the cot, so
that he had not rejoiced nor gloried in the mother of his child. His
heart was full as he sat and watched the mother and the child.

"You've got to watch him very carefully still; but he's getting ever so
much more--more----"

"Lucid?" Grantley suggested, smiling.

"Yes," she laughed, "and, if possible, more imperious still. I believe
he's going to be like you in that."

"Oh, not like me, let's hope!"

He laughed, but there was a look of pain on his face.

Sibylla turned round to him and spoke in a low voice, lest by chance the
nurse should hear.

"You mustn't be sure I agree altogether with that," she said, and turned
swiftly away to the child again.

Grantley rose.

"Lift him up to me and let me kiss him," he said.

With grave eyes Sibylla obeyed.

But the natural man is not easily subdued, nor does he yield his place
readily. In the end Grantley was not apt at explanations or apologies.
The evening fell fair and still, a fine October night, and he joined
Sibylla in the garden. Christine remained inside--from tact perhaps,
though she was very likely chilly too. Grantley smoked in silence, while
Sibylla looked down on the little village below.

"This thing has shaken me up dreadfully," he said at last. "The
Courtlands, I mean."

"Yes, I know." She turned and faced him. "And isn't there something else
that concerns you and me?"

"I know of nothing. And you can hardly say the Courtlands concern us

"They do; and there is something else, Grantley. I know what Janet
Selford wrote."

"That's nothing at all to me."

"But it is something to me. You know it is."

"I won't talk of that. It's nothing." He put his hand out suddenly to
her. "Let's be friends, Sibylla."

She did not take his hand, but she looked at him with a friendly gaze.

"We really ought to try to manage that, oughtn't we? For Frank's sake,
if for nothing else. Or do you think I've no right to talk about Frank?"

"Suppose we don't talk about rights at all? I'm not anxious to."

"It'll be hard; but we'll try to be friends for his sake--that he may
have a happy home."

Grantley's heart was stirred within him.

"That's good; but is that all?" he asked in a low voice full of feeling.
"Is it all over for ourselves? Can't we be friends for our own sakes?"

"Haven't we lost--well, not the right--if you don't like that--but the

"I'm an obstinate man; you know that very well."

"It'll be hard--for both of us; but, yes, we'll try."

She gave him her hand to bind the bargain; he gripped it with an
intensity that surprised and alarmed her. She could see his eyes through
the gloom. Were they asking friendship only? There was more than that in
his heart and in his eyes--a thing never dead in him. It had sprung to
fresh vigour now, from the lessons of calamity, from the pity born in
him, from the new eyes with which he had looked on the boy in his
mother's arms. She could not miss the expression of it.

"Is that the best we can try for?" he whispered. "There was something
else once, Sibylla."

He had not moved, yet she raised her hands as though to check or beat
off his approach. She was afraid. All that the path he again beckoned
her on had meant to her came to her mind. If she followed him along it,
would it not be once more to woo disillusion, to court disaster, to
invite that awful change to bitterness and hatred?

"You are you, and I am I," she protested. "It--it is impossible,

His face assumed its old obstinate squareness as he heard her.

"I don't want that," she murmured. "I'll try to be friends. We can
understand one another as friends, make allowances, give and forgive.
Friendship's charitable. Let's be friends, Grantley."

"You have no love left for me?" he asked, passing by her protests.

"For months past I've hated you."

"I know that. And you have no love left for me?"

She looked at him again, with fear and shrinking in her eyes.

"Have you forgotten what I did? No, you can't have forgotten! How can
you wish me to love you now? It would be horrible for both of us. You
may forgive me, as I do you--what I may have to forgive; but how can we
be lovers again? How can we--with that in the past?"

"The past is the past," he said calmly.

She walked away from him a little. When she came back in a minute or so,
he saw that she was in strong agitation.

"That's enough to-night--enough for all time, if you so wish," he said
gently. "Only I had to tell you what was in my heart."

"How could you, Grantley?"

"I haven't said it was easy. I'm coming to believe that the easy things
aren't worth much."

"You could love me again?"

"I've never ceased to love you--only I hope I know a bit more about how
to do it now."

She stood there the picture of distress and of fear. At last she broke

"Ah, I've not told you the real thing! I'm afraid Grantley, I'm afraid!
I dare not love you. Because I loved you so beyond all reason and
all--all sanity, all this came upon us. And--and I daren't love you
again now, even if I could. Yes, I ought to have learnt something too;
perhaps I have. But I daren't trust myself with my knowledge." She came
a step nearer to him, holding out her hands beseechingly. "Friends,
friends, Grantley!" she implored. "Then we shall be safe. And our love
shall be for Frank. You'll get to love Frank, won't you?"

"Frank and I are beginning to hit it off capitally," said Grantley
cheerfully. "Well, I shall go in now: we mustn't leave Christine alone
all the evening." He took her hand and kissed it. "So we're friends?" he

"I'll try," she faltered. "Yes, surely we can manage that!"

He turned away and left her again gazing down on the village and Old
Mill House. He lounged into the drawing-room where Christine sat, with
an easy air and a smile on his face.

"A beautiful evening, isn't it?" asked Christine with a tiny shudder, as
she hitched her chair closer to the bit of bright fire and threw a
faintly protesting glance at the open window.

"Beautiful weather--and quite settled. I shall enjoy my holiday down

"Oh, you're going to stay down here, and going to have a holiday, are
you?" she asked with a lift of her brows.

"Well, hardly a holiday, after all. I've got a job to do," he answered
as he lit his cigarette--"rather a hard job at my time of life."

"Is it? What is the job?"

"I'm going courting again--and a very pretty woman too," he said.

A rather tremulous smile came on Christine's face as she looked at him.

"It's rather a nice amusement, isn't it?" she asked. "And you always had
plenty of self-conceit."

"Why, hang it, I thought it was just the opposite this time!" exclaimed
Grantley in whimsical annoyance.

Christine laughed.

"I won't be unamiable. I'll call it self-confidence, if you insist."

He took a moment to think over her new word.

"Yes, in the end I suppose it does come to that. Look here, Christine; I
wish the people who tell you you ought to change your nature would be
obliging enough to tell you how to do it."

Christine's answer might be considered encouraging.

"After all there's no need to overdo the change," she said. "And there's
one thing in which you'll never change: you'll always want the best
there is."

"No harm in having a try for it--as soon as you really see what it is,"
he answered, as he strolled off to the smoking-room.



Mrs. Bolton was very much upset by what had happened at the Courtlands'.
An unwonted and irksome sense of responsibility oppressed her. She
discussed the matter with Miss Henderson and made Caylesham come to see
her--Miss Pattie Henderson, who knew all about how Sophy's letter had
reached her mother's hands; and Caylesham, whom Mrs. Bolton had made a
party to the joke. It did not seem so good a joke now. She and Pattie
were both frightened when they saw to what their pleasantry had led.
Little Sophy's suffering was not pleasant to think of, and there was an
uncomfortable uncertainty about the manner of Harriet's death. A scheme
may prove too successful sometimes. Caylesham had warned Mrs. Bolton
that she was playing with dangerous tools. He was not now inclined to
let her down too easily, nor to put the kindest interpretation on the
searchings of her conscience.

"You always time your fits of morality so well," he observed cynically.
"I don't suppose poor old Tom's amusing company just now, and he's
certainly deuced hard up."

Mrs. Bolton looked a very plausible picture of injured innocence, but of
course there was something in what Frank Caylesham said; there generally
was, though it might not be what you would be best pleased to find. Tom
was not lively nor inclined for gaiety, and he had just made a
composition with his creditors. On the other hand, Miss Henderson was in
funds (having completed her negotiations with the Parmenter family), and
had suggested a winter on the Riviera, with herself for hostess. There
are, fortunately, moments when the good and the pleasant coincide; the
worst of it is that such happy harmonies are apt to come rather late in
the day.

"It's all different now that woman's gone," observed Mrs. Bolton. "It's
the children now, Frank."

"Supposing it is, why am I to be dragged into it?"

"We must get him to go back to them."

Various feelings combined to make Mrs. Bolton very earnest.

"He wants to stay here, does he?"

"No, he hates being here now. Yes, he does. He only comes because he's
got nobody else to speak to. And he's in awful dumps all the time. It's
not very cheerful for me."

"I daresay not, Flora. But why doesn't he go back then?"

Mrs. Bolton had been moving about the room restlessly. Her back was to
Caylesham as she answered:

"He won't. He says he can't. He says----"

Caylesham threw a glance at her, his brows raised.

"What does he say, Flora?"

"Oh, it's nonsense--and he needn't say it to me, anyhow. It really isn't
particularly pleasant for me. Oh, well, then, he says he's not fit to go
near them." She turned round to him; there was a flush on her face.
"Such nonsense!" she ended impatiently.

Caylesham pulled his moustache, and smiled reflectively.

"I suppose it might take him like that," he observed, with an impartial

"Oh, I know you're only laughing at me! But I tell you, I don't like it,

"These little incidents are--well, incidental, Flora. Innocent children,
you know! And I shouldn't be surprised if he even made excuses for
Harriet now?"

"No, he doesn't do that. It's the children. Stop smiling like that, will

"Certainly, my dear Flora. My smile was a pure oversight."

"It was all I could do to get him to go to the funeral. Do you think she
killed herself, Frank?"

"I've not the least intention of examining the question. What can it

Mrs. Bolton shrugged her shoulders impatiently. It did seem to her to
matter, but she would not let Caylesham think that it mattered much. She
returned to her point about the children.

"He's miserable thinking about them, and yet he won't go near them. I
call it idiotic."

"So do I. But then they aren't our children."

"Well, I'm not going to stand his saying it again and again to me."

"I really agree. There can't be any reason for saying such a thing more
than once."

She broke into a vexed laugh.

"When you've had all the fun you can get out of me, perhaps you'll begin
to help me. You see, I want it settled. I want to be off to Monte with

"I see. You want to go with Pattie and----?"

Mrs. Bolton shook her head.

"Just you and Pattie?"

"She's going to stand it to me: I haven't got a farthing. And, I say,
Frank, he ought to go back to those poor little wretches now. You can
make him do it if you like, you know."

"I? Well, I'm an odd sort of party for such a job."

"Not a bit. He'll listen to you just because--well, because----"

"I haven't spared your feelings, Flora, don't mind mine."

"Because he knows you don't talk humbug or cant."

"You're being complimentary after all--or at any rate you're meaning to
be. And you'd never see him again?"

"He'll never want to see me." She was facing Caylesham now. "I've been
fond of poor old Tom. Come, you know I have? Say that for me."

"Yes, I know you have. I've reproved you for it myself."

"But he'll not want to see me--and soon I shan't want to see him

She looked a little distressed for a minute, then shrugged her shoulders
with a laugh.

"That's the way of the world."

"Of part of it," Caylesham murmured as he lit a cigar.

But he was really sorry for Mrs. Bolton. Notwithstanding a notable
mixture of motives, in which the condition of her purse and the
opportunity of going to the Riviera figured largely, she was grieved at
the way in which her friendship with Tom was ending--grieved that it
must end, and hurt that Tom should desire to have it ended. She had
always suffered from this unfortunate tendency to kindly emotions which
the exigencies of her position did not permit her to indulge. Indeed it
was very likely the kindly emotions which had originally produced the
position. That did not make the matter any better; the ultimate
incongruity was none the less undesirable. With his indifference to
accepted codes, Caylesham thought it rather lamentable too. Still she
did want, above all things, to go to the Riviera with Pattie Henderson.
One must compromise with life, and it was not clear that she was getting
the worst of the bargain.

With Flora Bolton set aside (and of course she had no reasonable title
to consideration), the case seemed a simple one to Caylesham, and his
mission an obvious utterance of common sense. He could not enter fully
into Tom Courtland's mind. Tom was not naturally a lawless man;
desperation had made him break loose. The bygone desperation was
forgotten now in pity for his children and for the woman whom, after
all, he had once loved; and he looked with shame on the thing he had
done, attributing to it all the results which Harriet's fury had
engrafted on it. Broken in fortune and in career, broken too in
self-respect, he had been likely to drift on in a life which he had come
to abhor. He felt his presence an outrage on his children. If the death
of his wife had seemed to save him from a due punishment, here was a
penalty different, but hardly less severe. While he was in this mood
Caylesham was the best man to carry the message to him. The only chance
with Tom was to treat what he had done as natural, but to insist that
the sequence of events was utterly unexpected and essentially
unconnected with it. To urge the gravity of his offence would have been
to make reparation and atonement impossible. Caylesham took a very
strong and simple line. He declined to discuss the state of Tom's
conscience, or the blackness of Tom's mind, or even the whiteness of the
minds of the children. Everybody was very much alike, or would be in a
few years anyhow, and Tom was not to be an ass. The line of argument was
not exalted, but it was adapted to the needs of the case.

"My dear chap, if you come to that, what man is fit to look his children
in the face?" he asked impatiently.

But then it occurred to him that he was idealising--a thing he hated.

"Not that children aren't often wicked little beggars themselves," he
added cheerfully. "They steal and lie like anything, and torment one
another devilishly. I know I did things as a boy that I'd kick any grown
man for doing, and so did my brothers and sisters. I tell you what it
is, Tom, the devil's there all the time; he shows himself in different
ways--that's all."

Tom could not swallow this gospel; he would give up neither his own
iniquity nor the halo of purity to which his mind clung amid the sordid
ruin of his life and home.

"If I could pull straight----" he murmured despairingly.

"Why shouldn't you? You're getting on in life, you know, after all."

"They--they guess something about it, I expect, Frank. It's not pleasant
for a man to be ashamed before his own children. And Miss Bligh--I
thought she looked at me very queerly at the funeral."

"You'll find they'll be as nice as possible to you. The children won't
understand anything, and Suzette's sure to be on your side. Women always
are, you know. They're not naturally moral--we've imposed it on them,
and they always like to get an excuse for approving of the other thing."

Tom grew savage.

"I know what I've done, but anyhow I'm glad I don't think as you do."

"Never mind my thoughts, old chap. You go home to your kids," said
Caylesham cheerfully.

He was very good-humoured over the matter; neither all the unnecessary
fuss nor Tom's aspersions on his own character and views disturbed him
in the least; and he did not leave Tom until he had obtained the
assurance that he desired. This given, he went off to his club, thanking
heaven that he was quit of a very tiresome business. If he did his bad
deeds without misgiving, he did his good without arrogance; perhaps they
were not numerous enough to give that feeling a plausible excuse for

"It's all right," he wrote to Mrs. Bolton in reporting his success. "I
made him promise not to be an ass. So you can go off with Pattie with a
mind free of care. Good luck to you, and lots of plunder!"

The immoral friendliness of this wish for her success quite touched Mrs.

"Frank's a really good-hearted fellow," she told Miss Henderson as she
settled herself in the train and started on her journey, the fortunes of
which it is not necessary to follow.

For days Lucy and little Vera had crept fearfully through the silent
house, knowing that a dreadful thing had happened, not allowed to put
questions, and hardly daring to speculate about it between themselves.
When Sophy began to be about again, pale and shaken, with the bandage
still round her head, she took the lead as she was wont to do, and her
bolder mind fastened on the change in the situation. There was no need
to be afraid any more; that was the great fact which came home to her,
and which she proclaimed to her sisters. It might be proper to move
quietly and talk low for a little while, but it was a tribute to what
was becoming, not a sign of terror or a precaution against danger. It
was Sophy too who ventured to question Suzette, and to elicit
instructions as to their future conduct. They were to think very kindly
of mamma and love her memory, said Suzette, but they were not to talk
about her to papa when he came back, because that would distress him.
And they were not to ask him why he had gone away, or where he had been.
Of course he had had business; and, anyhow, little girls ought not to be
inquisitive. A question remained in Sophy's mind, and was even canvassed
in private schoolroom consultations. What about that portentous word
which had been whispered through the household--what about the divorce?
None of them found courage to ask that, or perhaps they had pity on poor
Suzette Bligh, who was so terribly uncomfortable under their
questioning. At any rate nothing more was heard about the divorce. Since
it had appeared to mean that papa was to go away, and since he was
coming back now, presumably it had been put on the shelf somehow. All
the same, their sharp instincts told them that their father would not
have come back unless their mother had died, and that he was coming back
now--well, in a sort of disgrace; that was how they put it in their

A committee consisting of Kate Raymore, Janet Selford, and John Fanshaw
(a trustee under the Courtland marriage settlement, and so possessing a
status), had sat to consider Suzette Bligh's position. Suzette loved the
children, and it would be sad if she had to leave them; moreover she was
homeless, and a fixed salary would be welcome to her. Lastly--and on
this point Janet Selford laid stress--she was not exactly a girl; she
was just on thirty. John nodded agreement, adding that nobody outside of
an asylum could connect scandal with the name of Suzette Bligh. So it
was decided that she should stay, for the present at all events, in the
capacity of companion or governess. The children wondered to find
Suzette so gently radiant and affectionate one evening. She had not told
them of the doubt which had arisen, nor how great a thing it was to her
to stay. They had never doubted that she would stay with them now.

It was late one afternoon when Tom Courtland slunk home. He had sent no
word of his coming, because he did not know till the last minute whether
he would have courage to come. Then he had made the plunge, given up his
room at the club, packed his luggage, and left it to be called for. But
the plunge was very difficult to him--so that his weak will would not
have faced it unless that other door at Mrs. Bolton's had been firmly
shut in his face. He was uncomfortable before the man who let him in; he
was wretchedly apprehensive of Suzette Bligh and of the children. He
needed--very badly needed--Caylesham at his elbow again, to tell him
"not to be an ass." But Caylesham had gone back to employments more
congenial than he ever professed to find works of benevolence. Tom had
to endure alone, and he could find no comfort. Against Harriet he could
have made a case--a very good case in the judgment of half the world.
But he seemed to have no excuse to offer to the little girls, nor any
plea to meet the wondering disapprobation of Suzette Bligh.

He was told that the children were in the schoolroom with Suzette, and
thither he bent his steps, going slowly and indecisively. He stopped
outside the door and listened. He could hear Suzette's mild voice;
apparently she was reading to them, for nothing except the continuous
flow of her words was audible, and in conversation she was not so
loquacious as that. Well, he must go in; perhaps it would be all right
when once the ice was broken. He opened the door and stood on the
threshold, blushing like a schoolboy.

"Well, my dears, here I am," he said. "I've come home."

He caught Suzette's eye. She was blushing too, blushing a very vivid
pink--rather a foolish pink somehow. He felt that both he and Suzette
were looking very silly. For quite a long time, as it seemed, he looked
at Suzette before he looked at the little girls. After that there was,
or seemed to be, another long silence while the little girls looked
first at him, then at Suzette, then at one another. Tom stood there
through it all--in the doorway, blushing.

The next moment all the three were upon him, clinging to his hands and
his coat, kissing him, crying out their gladness in little excited
exclamations, the two elder taking care to give Vera a fair chance to
get at him, Vera insisting that the chance was not a fair one, all the
three dragging him to an armchair, and sitting him down in it. Two of
them got on his knees, and Lucy stood by his side with her arm round his

"My dears!" Tom muttered, and found he could say no more.

His eyes met Suzette Bligh's. She was standing by the table, looking on,
and her eyes were misty.

"See how they love you, Mr. Courtland!" she said.

Yes! And he had forsaken them, and the bandage was about Sophy's head.

"You won't go away again, will you?" implored Lucy.

"No, I shan't go away again."

"And Suzette'll stay too, won't she?" urged Vera.

"I hope she will, indeed!"

"You will, Suzette?"

"Yes, dear."

"We shall be happy," said Sophy softly, with a note of wonder in her

It really seemed strange to have the prospect of being
happy--permanently, comfortably, without fear; the prospect of
happiness, not snatched at intervals, not broken by terror, but secure
and without apprehension.

Tom Courtland pressed his little children to him. Where were the
reproaches he had imagined, where the shame he had feared? They were
annihilated by love and swallowed up in gladness.

"We do love you so!" whispered Lucy.

Vera actually screamed in happiness.

"Oh, Vera!" said Suzette, rather shocked.

That set them all laughing, the little girls, Tom, presently even
Suzette herself. They were all laughing, though none of them could have
told exactly why. Their joy bubbled over in mirth, and the sound of
gladness was in the house. Tom Courtland held his head up and was his
own man again. Here was something to live for, and something to show
that even his broken life had not been lived in vain. The ghosts of the
past were there; he could not forget them. But the clasp of the warm
little arms which encircled him would keep their chilling touch away
from his heart. Freed from torments that he had not deserved, rescued
from pleasures that he had not enjoyed, he turned eagerly to the
delights of his home which could now be his. His glad children and
kindly Suzette were a picture very precious in his eyes. Here were
golden links by which the fragments of his life could be bound together,
though the fractures must always show--even as the scar would show
always on Sophy's brow, however much her lips might smile or her eyes
sparkle beneath it.

They were roused by a voice from the door.

"It's not hard to tell where you all are! Why, I heard you at the bottom
of the stairs! What a hullabaloo!"

John Fanshaw's bulky figure stood there, solid and bowed with weight and
his growing years. He looked on the scene--on the happy little folk in
their gloomy black frocks--with a kindly smile, and the mock reproof of
his tone hid more tenderness than he cared to show.

"Papa's come back--back to stay!" they cried exultantly. "Isn't that
splendid, Mr. Fanshaw?"

"I hoped I should find you here, Tom; but I came to call on Miss Bligh."

"I hope you'll always find her here too," said Tom.

Suzette was flattered, and fell to blushing again. She was acutely
grateful to anybody who wanted her. She took such a desire as a free and
lavish gift of kindness, never making out any reason which could account
for it.

"I'm only too happy to stay if--if I can be of any use," she murmured.

John sat down and made one of the party. They all chattered cheerfully
till the time grew late. Sophy, still treated as an invalid, had to go
to bed. She kissed John, who held her closely for a moment; then threw
herself in Tom's arms, and could hardly be persuaded to let him go.

"I shall write to Mr. Imason and tell him you've come back," she
whispered as a great secret. "He was so kind to Lucy and Vera
when---- You know, papa?"

Tom passed his hand over her flaxen hair.

"Sleep quietly, darling," he said.

For quiet and peace were possible now.

There had been no expectation that Tom would be home to dinner; and
though Suzette assured him that something could easily be prepared (and
that homely sort of attention was new and pleasant to Tom), he accepted
John Fanshaw's invitation to take pot-luck with him. They walked off
together, rather silent, each full of his own thoughts. They did not
speak until they had almost reached John's door.

"That's the sort of sight that makes a man wish he had children," said
John slowly.

"I've often wished I had none. Poor Harriet!"

"But you're glad of them now?"

"Why, I've nothing else! It just makes the difference to life." He
paused a moment, and then broke out: "And they've nothing but love for
me. Not a word, not a thought of reproach! Just because I've never been
cruel to them, whatever else I've been! Poor little beggars! We can't
keep like that when we grow up. We're too fond of our grievances--eh?"

John looked at him for a moment, but said nothing. They went into the
house in renewed silence. It seemed very large, empty, and dreary.

"Your wife not back yet? I heard she was staying with the Imasons."

"She's there still. I don't know when she's coming back."

"Rather dull for you, isn't it? You know you always depended on her a

John made no answer, but led the way into his study. He gave Tom an
evening paper, and began to open his letters. But his thoughts were not
on the letters. They were occupied with what he had seen that afternoon
and with the words which had fallen from Tom Courtland's lips. The
children forgave with that fine free forgiveness which will not even
recognise the need for itself or the existence of any fault towards
which it should be exercised. It is there that forgiveness rises to and
is merged in love. But when people grow up, Tom had said, they are too
fond of their grievances. John had been very fond of his grievance. It
was a fine large one--about the largest any man could have, everybody
must admit that; and John had declined to belittle it or to shear off an
inch or two of its imposing stature. All it demanded he had given. But
had he? What about Frank Caylesham's money? Had it not demanded there
something which he had refused? But he had given all it asked so far as
the sinner who had caused it was concerned. Against her he had nursed
and cosseted it; for its sake he had made his home desolate and starved
his heart. Aye, he had always depended on Christine. Tom was right. But
because of his grievance he had put her from him. He was fond of his
grievance indeed! If Tom's children had been old enough to recognise the
true value and preciousness of a big grievance, they would never have
received Tom as they had that afternoon; they would have made him feel
what he had been guilty of. He would have been made to feel it
handsomely before he was forgiven. Children were different, as Tom
Courtland said.

John got up and poked the fire fiercely.

"The house is beastly cold!" he grumbled.

"Ah, it wouldn't be if Mrs. John was at home!" laughed Tom. "She always
looks after the fire, doesn't she?"

John Fanshaw bitterly envied him his peace and happiness. He forgot how
hardly they had been achieved. The vision of the afternoon was before
his eyes, and he declared that fate was too kind to Tom. A heavy dulness
was over his face, and a forlorn puzzled look in his eyes. He must have
done right, he must be doing right! How could a self-respecting man do
otherwise? And yet he was so desolate, so starved of human love, in the
end so full of longing for Christine--for her gracious presence and her
dainty little ways.

With an effort he collected his thoughts from these wanderings, and
began to read his letters. Tom was still occupied with his paper and his
cigar; but he looked up at the sound of an "Ah!" which escaped from
John's lips. John had come on a letter which set his thoughts going
again--a letter from Sibylla. She upbraided him playfully for not having
come down to see them and Christine.

"I'm sure Christine must be hurt with you, though she's much too proud
to say so. We want to keep her over Christmas. Will you come as soon as
you can and stay over Christmas and as long as possible? I've not told
her I'm asking you, so that she mayn't be disappointed if you can't

There was diplomacy in Sibylla's letter, since she knew the state of the
case far better than her references to Christine implied. But John was
not aware of this. His attention was fixed only on the invitation, and
on the circumstances in which it came. He could not go to Milldean and
take his grievance with him; it was too big and obtrusive for other
people's houses--it could flourish properly only in a domestic
_tête-à-tête_. So he must stay at home. He sighed as he laid down the
letter. Then his fingers wandered irresolutely to it again as he looked
across at Tom Courtland, who had now ceased reading and was smoking with
a quiet smile on his face.

"Anything up, old fellow?" asked Tom, noting the gravity of his

"No. It's only from Mrs. Imason, asking me to go down there at

"You go!" counselled Tom. "Better than bringing your wife back here."

There was a third course--the course favoured by the grievance. John did
not speak of it, but it was present in his thoughts. He shook his head
impatiently, and began to talk of general topics; but all the evening
Sibylla's letter was in his mind, ranging itself side by side with the
scene which he had witnessed at Tom Courtland's.

The gloomy idol he had set up in his heart was not yet cast down. But
the little hands of the children had given its pedestal a shake.



The Raymores were lodging over the post-office at Milldean, in the rooms
once occupied by the curate. The new curate did not need them; he was
staying at the rectory, and meant, after his marriage with Dora Hutting,
to build himself a little house, go on being curate, and ultimately be
rector. He had a well-to-do father who had bought the advowson for him
as a wedding present. His path in life was clear, visible to the very
end, and entirely peaceful--unless Dora decided otherwise. So the rooms
came in handy for the Raymores; and it suited Jeremy's inclination and
leisure to stay the while with his sister on the hill. He had a bit of
work to finish down at Milldean, while the Raymores were there. However
assiduous you may be, love-making in London is liable to interruption;
it must be to a certain degree spasmodic there: business, society, and
such-like trifles keep breaking in. A clear week in the country will do
wonders. Thus thought Jeremy, and it was his brilliant suggestion that
brought the Raymores to Milldean for a month. What more obvious, since
Charley was to land at Fairhaven and to stay a month in England? Spend
that month in London, where things interrupted, and people stared, and
old-time talk was remembered? No! Kate Raymore jumped at the idea that
this wonderful month should be spent in the country, in quiet and
seclusion, among old friends whose lips would be guarded, whose looks
friendly, whose hearts in sympathy.

When Jeremy made this arrangement--so excellent a one that he may be
pardoned for almost forgetting the selfish side of it--he had not failed
to remember Dora Hutting. There had always been alternative endings to
that story. Jeremy's present scheme was a variation from both of them.
None the less, he had come decidedly to prefer it to either. But he had
not allowed for the presence of the curate; and this circumstance,
casually brought to his knowledge by Grantley Imason on the evening of
his arrival, had rather disturbed him. There was another feature in the
case for which he was quite unprepared. The name of the curate was a
famous one--actually famous through the length and breadth of the land!
This was rather a staggerer for Jeremy, who might deride, but could not
deny, the curate's greatness. Certain forms of glory may appeal more to
one man than to another, but all are glorious. The curate was Mallam of

"The Mallam?" asked Jeremy.

"Yes, the Mallam," said Grantley gravely.

"By Jove!" Jeremy murmured.

"I think you ought to forgive her," Grantley suggested. "He's played
twice for England, you know, and made a century the first time."

"I remember," Jeremy acknowledged, looking very thoughtful.

This was quite a different matter from the ordinary curate. Ritualistic
proclivities, however obnoxious to Jeremy in their essence, became a
pardonable eccentricity in a man whose solid reputation had been won in
other fields.

It was not surprising that Dora carried her head very high, or that the
cold politeness of her bow relegated Jeremy to a fathomless oblivion.
Knowing the ways of girls, and reluctantly conscious of Mr. Mallam's
greatness--conscious too, perhaps, that his own riches and fame were not
as yet much in evidence--he was prepared for that. But, alas, Charlie
was a cricketer too, and had infected Eva with his enthusiasm for the
game. She was quite excited about Mallam. Jeremy did not appreciate this
feeling as generously as he might have; yet Eva made no attempt to
conceal it. She rather emphasised it; for she had come to the stage when
she sought defences. After the first eager spring to meet the offered
and congenial love, there comes often this recoil. The girl would have
things stay as they are, since they are very pleasant, and the next step
is into the unknown. She loves delay then, and, since the man will not
have it for its own sake (not knowing its sweetness nor the fear that
aids its charm), she enforces it on him by trickery, and makes him
afraid of losing the draught altogether by insisting on his sipping it
at first. She will use any weapon in this campaign, and an ardent
admiration for Mr. Mallam was a very useful weapon to Eva Raymore. She
said more than once that she considered Dora Hutting a very lucky girl.
She thought Dora must be charming, since Mallam was in love with her.
She held Mallam to be very handsome, and refused to believe--well, that
his talent was so highly specialised as Jeremy tried to persuade her in
words somewhat less gentle than these.

Jeremy's knowledge of girls gave out before this unexpected call upon
it. He recollected how Dora had served him, and how Anna Selford had
trifled with Alec Turner. He grew apprehensive and troubled--also more
and more in love. He forecast complicated tragedies, and saw Mallam
darkening his life wherever he turned. But the women understood--Kate
Raymore, Christine, even Sibylla. They glanced at one another, and
laughed among themselves. They were rather proud of Eva, who played
their sex's game so well.

"Thank goodness, she's learnt to flirt!" said Christine. "A woman's
nowhere without that, my dear, and I don't care whether she's married or

"She just adores Jeremy," Kate assured Sibylla. "Only men can't see, you

Sibylla laughed. She understood now better than in the days when she
herself was wooed. But she blushed a little too, which was strange,
unless, perchance, she found some parallel to Eva's conduct which she
was not inclined to discuss with her friends. Jeremy was not the only
man who went courting just now in Milldean. Nor was Kate Raymore the
only woman whose heart expected a wanderer home, and trembled at the joy
of a long-desired meeting. The period of Mrs. Mumple's expectation was
almost done. In two or three weeks she was to go on a journey; she would
come back to Old Mill House not alone. The house was swept and
garnished, and Mrs. Mumple had a new silk gown. The latter she showed to
Kate, and a new bonnet too, which was a trifle gayer than her ordinary
wear; it had a touch of youth about it. Mrs. Mumple knew very well who
was the best person to show these treasures to, who the best listener to
her speculations as to the manner of that meeting. And she, in turn, was
eager to listen to Kate when the news came that Charley's ship was to be
in quite soon. Kate could not say much about that to anybody except to
Mrs. Mumple; but she was sure that Mrs. Mumple would understand.

When on the top of all this came the announcement that Dora Hutting's
wedding was fixed for that day three weeks, Christine Fanshaw was moved
to protest.

"Really, Grantley," she exclaimed, "this village is a centre of
love-making, of one sort or another!"

"All villages are," said Grantley, suavely tolerant, "or they couldn't
go on being villages. It's life or death to them, Christine."

"That's a contemptible evasion. The atmosphere is horribly sentimental.
I don't think I'm in sympathy with it at all."

"Don't talk to me then," said Grantley. "I like it, you know. Oh, you
needn't fret, my dear friend! There's been lots of trouble--and there'll
be lots more."

"Yes, trouble--and hatred too?"

"Oh, well, suppose we suppose there won't be that?" he suggested. "But
the trouble, anyhow."

"Then everybody oughtn't to pretend that there won't! The way people
talk about marriages is simply hypocrisy."

"When the bather is on the bank, it's no moment for remarking that the
water is cold. And the truth is in our hearts all the time. Am I likely
to forget it, for instance? Or are you likely to forget poor old Tom and
that unhappy woman?"

"Or am I likely to forget myself?" Christine murmured, looking out of
the window. As she looked, Dora passed by, and broad-shouldered young
Mallam with her. "Oh, well, bless the children!" she said, laughing.

"It doesn't do, though, to be too knowing--too much up to all nature's
little tricks," Grantley went on, as he came and stood beside her. "We
oughtn't to give the old lady away. She seems a bit primitive in her
methods sometimes, but, if we don't interfere, she usually gets there in
the end. But we mustn't find out all her secrets."

Christine looked up with a smile and the suspicion of a blush.

"Oh, well, one can always forget them again," she said.

"With the proper assistance," he agreed, smiling. "And after all she's
very accommodating. If you do what she wants, she doesn't care a hang
about your private reasons."

"I call that unscrupulous," Christine objected.

"Oh, yes, the most immoral old hussy that ever was!" he laughed. "I love
her for that. In her matrimonial advertisement the woman is always rich,
beautiful, and amiable!"

"And the man handsome, steady, and constant!"

"So we pay the fees--and sometimes get the article."

"Sometimes," said Christine. "Of course we always suit the description

"A faith in one's self--secure, impregnable, eternal--is the one really
necessary equipment."

"So you've found?"

"Don't be personal--or penetrating, Christine. The forms of faith
vary--the faith remains."

Christine looked up at him again. Something in her eyes made him pat her
lightly on the shoulder.

"Oh, it's all very well," she murmured in rueful peevishness, "but I
shan't be able to stand too much happiness here."

"Think of the others," he advised, "and you'll regain the balance of
your judgment."

To think of the others was decidedly a good thing. Reason dictated the
survey of a wider field, the discovery and recognition of an average
emerging from the inequalities. The result of such a process should be
either a temperate self-satisfaction or a clear-sighted resignation; you
would probably find yourself not much above nor much below the level
thus scientifically demonstrated. But the ways of science are not always
those of the heart, and that we are less miserable than some people is
not a consolation for being more unhappy than others--least of all when
the happy are before our eyes and the wretched farther off. Neither the
preacher of Grantley's doctrine nor its hearer was converted. Grantley
still wanted the best, and Christine, asking nothing so very great, was
the more aggrieved that she was denied even what she demanded.

Kate Raymore's day came. Only Jeremy accompanied the family to meet the
boat. Kate said they would want somebody to bustle about after the
luggage. In truth, Jeremy seemed to her already as one of her own house.
But he did not seem so to himself. Eva had been very wayward, full of
admiration for Mr. Mallam, and on the strict defensive against Jeremy's
approaches. He was so distressed and puzzled that he might have
comforted even Christine Fanshaw, and that he was in fact exceedingly
bad company for anybody. But the party did not ask for conversation. A
stillness fell on them all as they waited for the boat, Kate clasping
her husband's arm tight while her eyes were fixed on the approaching

The boy came down the gangway and saw them waiting. He was a
good-looking young fellow, tall and slim, with curly hair. Joy and
apprehension, shame and pride, struggled for mastery on his face. Kate
saw, and her heart was very full. His fault, his flight, his banishment,
were vivid in his mind, and, to his insight, vivid in theirs too. But
there was something else that his eyes begged them to remember--the
struggle to retrieve himself, the good record over-seas, the thought
that they were to be together again for a while without fear and without
a cloud between them. Their letters had breathed no reproach, and had
been full of love. But letters cannot give the assurance of living eyes.
He still feared reproach; he had to beg for love, and to fear to find it
not unimpaired.

"My boy!" whispered Kate Raymore as she clasped him to her arms.

"You're looking well, Charley," said Raymore, "but older, I think."

Yes, he was older; that was part of the price which had fallen to be
paid, and the happiness of reunion could not avail against it. His own
hand had overthrown the first glory of his youth; it had died not
gradually, but by a violent death--the traces were on his face. There
was a touch of awe in Eva's eyes as she kissed her brother--the awe
evoked by one who had fallen, endured, and fought. He had to pay the
uttermost farthing of his debt.

Yet the joy rose supreme, deeper and tenderer for the grief behind it,
for the struggle by which it was won, because it came as a victory after
a heavy fight. To Kate it seemed as though he had suffered for their
sakes as well as for his own sin, since in sorrow over him and his
banishment their hearts had come closer together, and love reigned
stronger in their home. A strange remorse struck her and mingled with
her compassion and her gladness as she held her son at arm's length and
looked again in his eyes. It was hard to keep track of these things, to
see how the good and the evil worked, to understand how no man was unto
himself alone, and not to accuse of injustice the way by which one paid
for all, while all sorrowed for one.

As they turned away to the carriage, Eva touched Jeremy on the arm. He
turned to find her smiling, but her lips trembled.

"If I drive back with them, I shall cry, and then I shall look a
fright," she whispered. "Besides they'd rather have him to themselves
just now. Will you walk back with me?"

"All right," said Jeremy curtly.

His feelings, too, had been touched, so that his manner was cool and
matter-of-fact almost to aggressiveness. He preferred to make nothing at
all of walking back with Eva, though the way was long, and the winter
sun shone over the sea and the downs, the wind was fresh and crisp, and
youthful blood went tingling through the veins.

"It's cold driving, anyhow," he added, as an after-thought.

It was not cold walking, though, or Jeremy did not so find it. It was in
his mind that now he had his chance, if he could find courage to use it
and to force an issue. For him too Charley and Charley's sorrow had done
something. They had induced in Eva a softer mood; the armour of her
coquetry was pierced by a shaft of deep feeling. As they walked she was
silent, forgetting to torment him, silently glad of his friendship and
his company. She said nothing of Dora Hutting's good-fortune or of
Mallam's good looks now. She was thinking of her mother's face as she
welcomed Charley, and was musing on love. It was Jeremy's moment, if he
could make use of it. But in this mood she rather frightened him,
raising about herself defences different from the gleaming barrier of
her coquetry, yet not less effective. He feared to disturb her thoughts,
and it seemed to him that his wooing would be rude and rough.

Suddenly she turned to him.

"You'll be friends with Charley, won't you? Real friends, I mean? You
won't let what--what's happened stand in the way? You see, he'll be
awfully sensitive about it, and if he fancies you're hanging back, or
anything of that kind----"

Her eyes were very urgent in their appeal.

"Of course I shall be friends with him; I shouldn't dream of----"

"I'm sure you'll like him for his own sake, when you know him. And till
then, for mother's sake, for our sake, you'll be nice to him, won't

"Do you care particularly about my being nice to him?"

"Of course I do! We're friends, you see."

Jeremy's fear wore off; excitement began to rise in him; the spirit of
the game came upon him. He turned to his work.

"Are we friends?" he asked. "You've not been very friendly lately."

"Never mind me. Be friendly with Charley."

"For your sake?"

"For our sake, yes."

"I said, for your sake."

A smile dimpled through Eva's gravity.

"'Your' is a plural, isn't it?" she asked.

"Then--for thy sake?" said Jeremy. "That's singular, anyhow."

"Oh, for my sake, then, if you think it worth while."

"I don't think anything worth while except pleasing you, Eva. I used to
manage it, I think; but somehow it's grown more difficult lately."

He stopped in his walk and faced her. She walked on a pace or two, but
he would not follow. Irresolutely she halted.

"More difficult? Pleasing me grown more difficult?"

"Well, pleasing you as much as I want to, I mean." Jeremy in his turn
smiled for a moment; but he was in deadly earnest again as he stepped up
to her and caught hold of her hands. "Now's the time," he said. "You've
got to say yes or no."

"You haven't asked me anything yet," she murmured, laughing, her eyes
away from him and her hands in his.

"Yes, I have, dozens of times--dozens and dozens. And I'm not going to
ask it again--not in words, anyhow. You know the question."

"It's horribly unfair to--to do this to-day--to-day, when I'm----"

"Not a bit. To-day's the very day for it, and that's why you must answer
to-day." A deeper note came into his words, deeper than he had commanded
when he made love to Dora Hutting on these same downs not so very long
ago. "I make love to you to-day because love's in your heart to-day.
You're wanting to love; it's round about us, Eva."

For an instant she saw in him a likeness she had never noticed before--a
likeness to Sibylla: Sibylla's ardent all-demanding temper seemed to
speak in his words.

"Yes, this is the day--our day. And this day shall be the beginning or
the end. You know the question. What's the answer, Eva?"

He let go of her hands, and drew back two or three paces. He left her
free; if she came to him, it must be of her own motion.

"How very peremptory you are!" she protested.

Her cheeks were red now, and the look of sorrow had gone out of her
eyes. Her breath came quick, and when she looked at the sea the waves
seemed to dance to the liveliest music. At sea and land she looked, at
the sky and at the wintry sun; her glance touched everywhere save where
Jeremy stood.

"The answer!" demanded Jeremy.

For a moment more she waited. Then she came towards him hesitatingly,
her eyes not yet seeking his face. She came up to him and stood with her
hands hanging by her side. Then slowly she raised to his face the large
trustful eyes which he had known and loved so well.

"The answer is Yes, Jeremy," she said. "For all my life and with all my
heart, dear!"

"I knew this was the right day!" cried Jeremy.

"Oh, any day was right!" she whispered as she sought his arms.

A couple of hours later he burst into Grantley Imason's room, declaring
that he was the happiest man on earth. This condition of his, besides
being by no means rare in young men, was not unexpected, and
congratulations met the obvious needs of the occasion. Sibylla, who was
there, was not even very emotional over the matter; the remembrance of
Dora Hutting inclined her mind towards the humorous aspect--so hard is
it to appreciate the changeful processes of other hearts. But Jeremy
himself was excited enough for everybody, and his excitement carried him
into forgetfulness of a solemn pledge which he had once given. He wrung
Grantley's hand with a vigour at once embarrassing and painful, crying:

"I owe it all to you! I should never have dared it except for the
partnership that's coming, and that was all your doing. Without your

"Damn you, Jeremy," said Grantley in a quiet whisper, rescuing his hand
and compassionately caressing it with its uninjured brother.

The imprecation seemed to be equally distributed between Jeremy's two
causes of offence, but Jeremy allocated it to one only.

"Oh, good lord!" he said, with a guilty glance at Sibylla.

"What money?" asked Sibylla.

She had been sitting by the fire, but rose now, and leant her shoulder
against the mantelpiece.

Jeremy looked from her to Grantley.

"I'm most awfully sorry. I forgot. I'm a bit beside myself, you know."
Grantley shrugged his shoulders rather crossly. "I won't say another
word about it."

"Oh, yes, you will, Jeremy," observed Sibylla with a dangerous look.
"You'll tell me all about it this moment, please."

"Shall I?" Jeremy turned to Grantley again.

"I expect the mischief's done now; but you needn't have lost your memory
or your wits just because you're going to marry Eva Raymore."

"Marrying does make people lose their wits sometimes," said Sibylla
coldly. Grantley's brows lifted a little as he plumped down in a chair
with a resigned air. "Tell me what you mean, Jeremy."

"Well, I had to put money into the business if I was ever to be more
than a clerk--if I was ever to get a partnership, you know."

"And Grantley gave you the money?"

"I'm going to pay it back when--when----"

"Yes, of course, Jeremy dear. How much was it?"

Grantley lit a cigarette, and came as near looking uncomfortable as the
ingrained composure of his manner allowed.

"Five thousand," said Jeremy. "Wasn't it splendid of him? So, you see, I
could afford----"

"Five thousand to Jeremy!" said Sibylla. She turned on Grantley. "And
how much to John Fanshaw?"

"You women are all traitors. Christine had no business to say a word. It
was pure business; he pays me back regularly. And Jeremy's going to pay
me back too. Come, I haven't done any harm to either of them."

"No, not to them," she said. And she added to Jeremy: "Go and tell
Christine. She'll be delighted to hear about you and Eva."

"By Jove, I will! I say, I'm really sorry, Grantley."

"You ought to be. No, you may do anything except shake my hand again."

"I can't help being so dashed jolly, you know."

With that apology he darted out of the room, forgetting his broken
pledge, intent only on finding other ears to hear his wonderful news.

"It's very satisfactory, isn't it?" asked Grantley. "I think they'll get
on very well, you know. He's young, of course, and----"

"Please don't make talk, Grantley. When did you give him that money?"

"I don't remember."

"There are bank-books and so on, aren't there?"

"How businesslike you're getting!"

"Tell me when, please."

Grantley rose and stood opposite to her, even as they had stood in the
inn--at the Sailors' Rest at Fairhaven.

"I don't remember the date." He paused, seemed to think, and then went
on: "Yes, I'll tell you, because then you'll understand. He came to me
the morning of the day you--you went over to Fairhaven. While he was
there, Christine's letter came. And I gave him the money because I
wanted to put you in the wrong as much as I could. Oh, I liked Jeremy,
and was willing to help him--just as I was ready to help old John. But
that wasn't my great reason. My great reason was to get a bigger
grievance against you--for the way you had treated me, and were going to
treat me, you know."

"If it had been that, you'd have told me--you'd have told me that night
in the inn. You must have known what it would have been to me to hear it
then; but you never told me."

"I wouldn't part with the pleasure of having it against you--of nursing
it against you secretly. I want you to understand the truth. Are you
very angry?"

Sibylla appeared to be angry; there was a dash of red on her cheeks.

"Yes, I'm angry," she said; "and I've a right to be angry. You're good
to John Fanshaw; you're good to Jeremy. Have you been good to me?"

"It was done in malice against you--and in petty malice, I think now,
though I didn't think that then."

"Doing it was no malice to me. You did it in love of me!" Her words were
a challenge to him to deny; and, looking at her, he could not deny. He
had never denied his love for her, and he would not now. "The wrong you
did me was not in doing it, but in not telling me; yes, not telling me
about that, nor about what you did for John Fanshaw either."

"I couldn't risk seeming to try to make a claim, especially when----"

"Especially when making a claim on me might have saved me! Is that what
you mean? When it might have made all the difference to me and to Frank?
When it might have turned me back from my madness? All was to go to ruin
sooner than that you should risk seeming to make a claim!"

He attempted no answer, but stood very still, listening and ready to
listen. Her voice lost something of its hardness, and became more
appealing as she went on.

"They're allowed to know your good side, the kind things you do, how you
stand by your friends, how you help people, how you lavish gifts on my
brother for my sake. You don't hide it from them. They know you can
love, and love to give happiness. There are only two people who mayn't
know--the two people in all the world who ought to know, whose happiness
and whose trust in themselves and in one another lie in knowing. They
must be hoodwinked and kept in the dark. They're to know nothing of you.
For them you find the bad motive, the mean interpretation, the selfish
point of view. And you're so ingenious in finding it for them! Grantley,
to those two people you've done a great wrong."

He was silent a moment. Then he asked:

"To you and the little boy, you mean?"

"No: he's too young. Anyhow, I didn't mean him; I wasn't thinking of
him. You know that sometimes I don't think of him--that sometimes, in
love or in hatred, I can think of nothing in the world but you, but you
and me. And it's to me and to yourself that you've done the wrong."

"To you--and myself?"

"Yes, yes! Oh, what's the use of doing fine things if you bury them from
me, if you distort them to yourself, if you won't let either me or
yourself think them generous and good? Why must you trick me and
yourself, of all the world? Oughtn't we to know--oughtn't we of
everybody in the world to know? What's the good of kindness if you dress
it up as selfishness? What's the good of love if you call it malice?"

"I've spoken the truth as I believed it."

"No, I say no, Grantley! You've spoken it as you would have me believe
it, as you try to make yourself believe it. But it's not the truth!" She
came one step nearer to him. "I used to pray that you should change,"
she said imploringly. "I don't pray that now. It's impossible. And I
don't think I want it. Don't change; but, oh, be yourself! Be yourself
to me and to yourself. You haven't been to either of us. Open your heart
to both of us; let us both know you as you are. Don't be ashamed either
before me or before yourself. I know I'm difficult! Heavens, aren't
you--even the real you--difficult too? But if you won't be honest in the
end, then God help us! But if you'll be yourself to me and to yourself,
then, my dear, I think it would be enough."

He came to her and took her hand.

"No man ever loved woman more than I love you," he said.

"Then try, then try, then try!" she whispered, and her eyes met his.

There seemed in them a far-off gleam of the light which once had blazed
from them on the fairy ride.



"You do think they'll be happy?" Mrs. Selford asked a little
apprehensively. Her manner craved reassurance.

"Why put that question to me--to me, of all people? Is it on the
principle of knowing the worst? If even a cynic like me thinks they'll
be happy, the prospect will be very promising--is that it?"

"Goodness knows I don't expect the ideal! I've never had it myself. Oh,
I don't see why I need pretend with you, and I shouldn't deceive you if
I did. I've never had the ideal myself, and I don't expect it for Anna.
We've seen too much in our set to expect the ideal. And sometimes I
can't quite make Anna out." Mrs. Selford was evidently uneasy. "She gets
on better with her father than with me now; and I think I get on better
with Walter than Richard does."

"Young Walter has a way with him," smiled Caylesham.

"I hope we shan't get into opposite camps and quarrel. Richard and I
have been such good friends lately. And then, of course----" She
hesitated a little. "Of course there may be a slight awkwardness here
and there."

Caylesham understood the covert allusion; the marriage might make
matters difficult with the Imasons.

"The young folks will probably make their own friends. Our old set's
rather broken up one way and the other, isn't it? Not that I was ever a
full member of it."

"We've always been glad to see you," she murmured absently.

"On the whole I feel equal to encouraging you to a certain extent," he
said, standing before the fire. "Anna will be angry pretty often, but I
don't think she will be, or need be, unhappy. She doesn't take things to
heart too readily, does she?"

"No, she doesn't."

The assent hardly sounded like praise of her daughter.

"Well, that's a good thing. And she's got lots of pluck and a will of
her own."

"Oh, yes, she's got that!"

"From time to time he'll think himself in love with somebody. You're
prepared for that, of course? But it's only his way. She'll have to
indulge him a little--let the string out a little here and there; but
she'll always have him under control. Brains do count, and she's got
them all. And she won't expect romance all the time."

"You said you were going to be encouraging."

"I am being encouraging," Caylesham insisted.

"Oh, I shouldn't think it so bad if we were talking about myself. But
when it's a question of one's child----"

"One is always unreasonable? Precisely. The nature of the business isn't
going to change in the next generation. But I maintain that I'm
encouraging--for Anna, anyhow. I rather fancy Master Blake will miss his
liberty more than he thinks. But that'll be just what he needs. So from
a moral point of view I'm encouraging there too."

"Of course you don't understand the feeling of responsibility, the fear
that if she's the--the least bit hard, it may be because of her bringing

"Don't be remorseful, Mrs. Selford. It's the most unprofitable of

He had preached the same doctrine to Christine.

"When it's too late to go back?"

"And that's always." He looked down at her with a cheerful smile.
"That's for your private ear. Don't tell the children. Walter Blake's
quite great on remorse."

Mrs. Selford laughed rather ruefully.

"I suppose it'll turn out as well as most things. Do you know any
thoroughly happy couples?"

"Very hard to say. One isn't behind the scenes. But I'm inclined to
think I do. Oh, ecstasies aren't for this world, you know--not permanent
ecstasies. You might as well have permanent hysterics! And, as you're
aware, there are no marriages in heaven. So perhaps there's no heaven in
marriages either. That would seem to be plausible reasoning, wouldn't
it? But they'll be all right; they'll learn one another's paces."

"I can't help wishing she seemed more in love."

"Perhaps she will be when she flirts with somebody else. Don't frown!
I'm not a pessimist. If I don't always look for happiness by the
ordinary roads, I often discern it along quite unexpected routes."

"It's pleasant to see people start by being in love."

"How eternally sentimental we are! Well, yes, it is. But capacities
differ. I daresay she doesn't know she's deficient, and she certainly
won't imagine that her mother has given her away."

"I suppose I deserve that, but I had to talk to somebody. And really
it's best to choose a man; sometimes it stops there then."

"Why not your husband? No? Ah, he has too many opportunities of
reminding you of the indiscretion! You were quite right to talk to me.
We shall look on at what happens with all the greater interest because
we've discussed it. And, as I've said, I'm decidedly hopeful."

"We might have developed her affections when she was a child. I'm sure
we might."

"Oh, I shall go! You send for a clergyman!"

Mrs. Selford shook her head sadly, even while she smiled. She could not
be beguiled from her idea, nor from the remorse that it brought. The
pictures, the dogs, and sentimental squabbling with her husband had
figured too largely in the household; she connected with this fact the
disposition which she found in Anna.

"Being a bit hard isn't a bad thing for your happiness," Caylesham added
as a last consolation.

Anna herself came in. No consciousness of deficiency seemed to afflict
her; she felt no need of a development of her affections or of being
more in love with Walter Blake. On the contrary she exhibited to
Caylesham's shrewd eyes a remarkable picture of efficiency and of
contentment. She had known what she wanted, she had discerned what means
to use in order to get it, and she had achieved it. A perfect
self-confidence assured her that she would be successful in dealing with
it; her serene air, her trim figure and decisive movements gave the
impression that here at least was a mortal who, if she did not deserve
success, could command it. Caylesham looked on her with
admiration--rather that than liking--as he acknowledged her very
considerable qualities. The thing which was wanting was what in a
picture he would have called "atmosphere." But here again her luck came
in, or, rather, her clear vision; it was not fair to call it luck. The
man she had pitched upon--that was fair, and Caylesham declined to
withdraw the expression--at the time when she pitched upon him, was in a
panic about "atmosphere." He had found too much of it elsewhere, and was
uneasy about it in himself. He was not asking for softness, for
tenderness, for ready accessibility to emotion or to waves of feeling.
Her cleverness had turned to account even the drawback which made
Caylesham, in the midst of his commendation, conscious that he would not
choose to be her husband--or perhaps her son either.

"You'll make a splendid head of the family," he told her cheerfully.
"You'll keep them all in most excellent order."

She chose to consider that he had exercised a bad influence over Walter
Blake, and treated him distantly. Caylesham supported the entire
injustice of her implied charge with good-humour.

"You're not fond of excellent order, I suppose?" she asked.

"In others," said he, smiling. "May I come and see it in your house
sometimes? I promise not to disturb it."

"I don't think you could."

"She taunts me with my advancing years," he complained to Mrs. Selford.

Anna's disapproval of him was marked; it increased his amusement at the
life which lay before Walter Blake. Blake would want to disturb
excellent order sometimes; he would be indulged in that proclivity to a
strictly limited extent. If Grantley Imason were a revengeful man, this
marriage ought to cause him a great deal of pleasure. Caylesham, while
compelled to approve by his reason, could not help deploring in his
heart. He saw arising an ultra-British household, clad in the very
buckram of propriety. Who could say that morality did not reign in the
world when such a nemesis as this awaited Walter Blake, or that morality
had not a humour of its own when Walter Blake accepted the nemesis with
enthusiasm? Yet the state of things was not unusual--a fair sample of a
bulk of considerable size. Caylesham went away smiling at it, wondering
at it, in the depths of his soul a trifle appalled at it. It seemed to
him rather inhuman; but perhaps his idea of humanity had gone a trifle
far in the opposite direction.

And, after all, could not Walter Blake supply the other element? There
was plenty of softness about him, and the waves of feeling were by no
means wanting in frequency or volume. Considering this question,
Caylesham professed himself rather at a loss. He would have to wait and
look on. But would he hear or see much? Anna had evidently put him under
a ban, and he believed that her edicts would obtain obedience in the
future. So far as he could see now, he had a vision of the waves stilled
to rest, of the gleam of frost forming upon them, of an ice-bound sea.
Now he felt it in his heart to be sorry for young Blake. Not because
there was any injustice. The nemesis was eminently, and even
ludicrously, just. He felt sorry precisely because it was so just. He
was always sorry for sinners who had to pay the penalty of their deeds;
then a fellow-feeling went out to them. Of course they were fools to
grumble. The one wisdom he claimed for himself was not grumbling at the

He paid another visit that day, under an impulse of friendliness, and
perhaps of curiosity too. He went to Tom Courtland's, and found himself
repaid for his trouble by Tom's cordiality of greeting. The Courtland
family was in the turmoil of moving; they had to go to a much smaller
house, and to reduce the establishment greatly. But the worries of a
move and the prospect of comparative poverty--there was very little left
besides Harriet's moderate dowry--were accepted by Tom very cheerfully,
and by the children with glee; they were delighted to be told that there
would be no more menservants and fewer maids, and that they would have
to learn to shift for themselves as much and as soon as possible. They
were glad to be rid of "this great gloomy house," over which the shadow
of calamity still brooded.

"The children don't like to pass Lady Harriet's door at night," Suzette
whispered in an aside to Caylesham.

Tom himself seemed younger and more sprightly; and he was the slave of
his little girls. His grey hair, the lines on his face, and the enduring
scar on Sophy's brow spoke of the sorrow which had been; but the sorrow
had given place to peace--and it might be that some day peace would turn
to joy. For there was much youth there, and, where youth is, joy must
come, if only it be given a fair chance.

"We're rather in narrow circumstances, of course," Tom explained when
Suzette and the children were out of earshot. "That's because I made
such an ass of myself."

"Well, don't be hard on Flora. She was a good friend to you."

"I'm not blaming her; it's myself, Frank. I ought to have remembered the
children. But we can rub along, and perhaps I shall get a berth some

Caylesham did not think that prospect a very probable one, but he
dissembled and told Tom that his old political friends ought certainly
to do something for him:

"Because it never came to an absolute public row, did it?"

"Everybody knew," sighed Tom, with a relapse into despondency.

"Anyhow you won't starve," Caylesham said with a laugh. "I reckon you
must have above a thousand a year?"

"It's not much; but--well, I tell you what, Frank, Suzette Bligh's
pretty nearly as good as another five hundred, and I only pay her
seventy pounds a year. You wouldn't believe what a manager that little
woman is! She makes everything go twice as far as it did, and has the
house so neat too. Upon my soul, I don't notice any difference, except
that I've dropped my champagne."

"Well, with champagne what it mostly is nowadays, that's no great loss,
my boy, and I'm glad you've struck it rich with Miss Bligh."

"We should be lost without her. I don't know what the children would do,
or what I should do with them, but for her. One good thing poor Harriet
did, anyhow, was to bring her here."

Yes; but if Harriet had known how it was to fall out, had foreseen how
Suzette was to reign in her stead, and with what joy the change of
government would be greeted! Caylesham imagined, with a conscious
faintness of fancy, the tempest which would have arisen, and how short a
shrift would have been meted out to Suzette and all her adherents. He
really hoped that poor Harriet, who had suffered enough for her faults,
was not in any position in which she could be aware of what had
happened; it would be to her (unless some great transformation had been
wrought) too hard and unendurable a punishment.

"The children are changed creatures, Frank," Tom went on. "We don't try
to repress them, you know. That would be hypocrisy, wouldn't it, under
the circumstances? The best thing is for them to forget. Suzette says
so, and I quite agree."

Suzette, it seemed, could achieve an epitaph of stinging quality--quite
without meaning it, of course. Caylesham agreed that the best thing the
girls could do was to forget their mother.

"So we let them make a row, and they're to go out of mourning very soon.
That's what Suzette advises."

A merciful Providence must spare even poor Harriet this! She was to be
forgotten--almost by a violent process of obliteration; and this by
Suzette's decree--an all-powerful decree of gentle inconspicuous

The man of experience foresaw. Weak kindly Tom Courtland must always
have a woman to fend for him. Because Harriet had not filled that part,
ruin had come. The children must have a guardian and a guide in feminine
affairs. The bonds were becoming too strong to be broken--so strong that
the very idea of their ever being broken would cause terror, and impel
steps to make them formally permanent. Here was another sample from a
bulk of goodly dimensions, one of those by no means rare cases where a
woman who would not otherwise have got a husband--or perhaps taken
one--passes through the stage of the indispensable spinster to the
position of the inevitable wife. Caylesham saw the process begun, and he
was glad to see it. It was the best thing that could happen to Tom, and
for the girls the best way of piecing together the fragments of that
home-life which Harriet's cruel rage had shattered. Only they were all
still so delightfully unconscious of what seemed so obvious to an
outsider with his eyes about him. Caylesham smiled at their blindness,
and took care not to disturb Tom's mind, or to rally him about his
harping on Suzette's name and Suzette's advice. He was quite content to
leave the matter to its natural course. But coming, as it did, on the
top of his visit to the Selfords' and of his impressions of what he had
seen there, it raised another reflection in his mind. How many roads
there were to Rome! And most of them well trodden. Primitive instinct or
romantic passion was only one of many--anyhow if the test of
predominating influence were taken. It was not the prevailing factor
with Anna Selford; it would hardly count at all with Tom and Suzette.
Since then the origin was so various, what wonder the result was various
too! Various results were even expected, aimed at, desired. Add to that
cause of variation human error and the resources of the unexpected, and
the field of chance spread infinitely wide. Save for the purpose of
being amusing--an end to which all is justifiable that is not actually
unseemly--only a fool or a boy would generalise about the legal state
which was the outcome of such heterogeneous persons, aims, and tempers.
But then at the end old nature--persistent old nature--would come back
and give the thing a twist in her direction, with her babies and her
nursery. She made confusion worse confounded, and piled incongruity on
incongruity. But she would do it, and a pretty mixture was the general
result. To make his old metaphor of double harness at all adequate to
the subject which it sought to express, you must suppose many breeds of
horses, and a great deal of very uneven and very unsuitable pairing of
them by the grooms. It was probably all necessary, but the outcome was
decidedly odd.

"It's all been pretty bad. I can't bear to think of poor Harriet, and
I'm not fond of thinking about myself," said Tom Courtland, rubbing his
bristly hair. "But the worst of it's over now. There's peace anyhow,
Frank, and at least the children were always fond of me."

"You're going to get along first-rate," Caylesham assured him. "And mind
you make Miss Suzette stick to you. She's a rare woman; I can see that."

"You're a good chap, Frank. You stick to your friends. You stuck to me
all through."

"Much less trouble than dropping you, old fellow."

"That's rot!"

"Well, perhaps it is. After all, if I hadn't some of the minor virtues,
I should be hardly human, should I? They're just as essential as the
minor vices."

"If you ever see Flora, tell her--well, you'll know what to tell her."

"I'll say something kind. Good-bye, Tom. I'm glad to find you so

The girls came round him to say good-bye. He kissed them, and gave each
of them half a crown. He used to explain that he always tipped children
because in after years he was thus made sure of finding somebody to
defend his character in pretty nearly any company. Since, however, this
was absolutely the only step he ever took with any such end in view, the
explanation was often received with scepticism. His action was more
probably the outcome of one of his minor virtues.

"How kind you are to children! What a pity you're a bachelor!" smiled

"Thanks! I don't often get such a testimonial," he said, risking a
whimsical lift of his brows for Tom Courtland's eye.

He had been seeking impressions of marriage. Chance gave him one more
than he had looked for or desired. Just outside Tom Courtland's, as he
was going away, he ran plump into John Fanshaw, who was making for the
house. There was no avoiding him this time. The men had not met since
Caylesham lent John money and John learnt from Harriet Courtland the
truth of what the man from whom he took the money had done. But there
had been no rupture between them. Civil notes had been written--on
John's side even grateful notes--as the business transaction between
them necessitated. And both had a part to play--the same part, the part
of ignorance. Caylesham must play it for Christine. John had to assume
it on his own account, for his own self-respect. The last shred of his
pride hung on the assumption that, though he knew, and though Christine
was aware of his knowledge, Caylesham at least believed him ignorant.

But heavy John Fanshaw was a clumsy hand at make-believe. His
cordiality was hesitating, fumbling, obviously insincere; his
unhappiness in his part very apparent. Caylesham cut short his effort to
express gratitude, saying, "You shall do anything in the world except
thank me!" and went on to ask after Christine in the most natural manner
in the world.

"She's been a little--a little seedy, and has gone down to stay with the
Imasons for a bit," John explained, taking care not to look at

"Oh, I hope she'll be all right soon! Give her my remembrances when you
write--or perhaps you'll be running down?"

"I don't know. It depends on business."

"Come, you'll take Christmas off, anyhow?"

Then John took refuge in talking about Tom Courtland. But his mind was
far from Tom. He managed at last to look Caylesham in the face, and grew
more amazed at his perfect ease and composure. He was acutely conscious
of giving exactly the opposite impression himself, acutely fearful that
he was betraying that hidden knowledge of his. Actuated by this fear, he
tried to increase his cordiality, hitting wildly at the mark, and
indulging in forced friendliness and even forced jocosity.

Caylesham met every effort with just the right tone, precisely the right
amount of effusiveness. He had taken a very hard view of what John had
done--harder than he could contrive to take of what he himself had--and
had expressed it vigorously to Christine. But now he found himself full
of pity for poor John. The sight of the man fighting for the remnant of
his pride and self-respect was pathetic. And John did it so lamentably

"You're a paragon of a debtor," Caylesham told him, when he harked back
to the money again. "My money's a deal safer in your hands than in my
own. I'm more in your debt than you are in mine."

"You shall have every farthing the first day I can manage it."

His eagerness told Caylesham what a burden on his soul the indebtedness
was. It was impossible to ignore altogether what was so plainly shown;
but he turned the point of it, saying:

"I know how punctilious you men of business are. I wish fellows were
always the same in racing. I'm ready to take it as soon as you're ready
to pay, and to wait till you're ready."

"I shan't ask you to wait a day," John assured him.

Enough had passed for civility; Caylesham was eager to get away--not for
his own sake so much as for John's.

"By Jove, I've got an appointment!" he exclaimed suddenly, diving for
his watch. "Half-past six! Oh, I must jump into a cab!" He held the
watch in one hand, and hailed a cab with his stick. "Good-bye, old
fellow," he said, turning away. He had seen John begin to put out his
hand in a hesitating reluctant way. He would have liked to shake hands
himself, but he knew John hated to do it. John made a last demonstration
of ignorance.

"Come and see us some day!" he called almost jovially.

"Yes, I will some day before long," Caylesham shouted back from the step
of his hansom.

As he drove off, John was still standing on the pavement, waving a hand
to him. Caylesham drove round the corner, then got down again, and
pursued his way on foot.

He was quite clear in his own mind that John took the thing
unnecessarily hard, but he was genuinely sorry that John should so take
it. Indeed John's distress raised an unusually acute sense of discomfort
in him. Nor could he take any pride in the tact with which he himself
had steered the course of the interview. He could not avoid the
conclusion that to John he must have seemed a hypocrite more
accomplished than one would wish to be considered in the arts of
hypocrisy. He had hitherto managed so well that he had not been forced
into such situations; he had been obliged to lie only in his actions,
and had not come so near having to lie in explicit words. He did not
like the experience, and shook his head impatiently as he walked along.
It occurred to him that since marriage was in its own nature so
difficult and risky a thing as he had already decided, it was hardly
fair for third persons to step in and complicate it more. He had to get
at any state of mind resembling penitence by roads of his own; the
ordinary approaches were overgrown and impassable from neglect. But in
view of John's distress and of the pain which had come on Christine, and
on a realisation of the unpleasant perfection of art which he himself
had been compelled (and able) to exhibit, he achieved the impression
that he had better have left such things alone--well, at any rate where
honest old duffers as John Fanshaw were involved in the case. Having got
so far, he might not unnaturally have considered whether he should
remodel his way of life.

But he was not the man to suffer a sudden conversion under the stress of
emotion or of a particular impression. His unsparing clearness of vision
and honesty of intellect forbade that.

"I shall get better when I'm too old for anything else," he told himself
with a rather bitter smile. "I suppose I ought to thank God that the
time's not far off now."

It was not much of an effort in the way of that unprofitable emotion
against which he had warned Christine Fanshaw and Janet Selford; but it
was enough to make him take a rather different view, if not of himself,
at least of old John Fanshaw. He decided that he had been too hard on
John; and at the back of his mind was a notion that he had been rather
hard on Christine too. In this case it seemed to him that he was getting
off too cheaply. John and Christine were paying all the bill--at least a
disproportionate amount. The upshot of it all was expressed in his

"I don't want the money. I wish to heaven old John wouldn't pay me

He would have felt easier for a little more demerit in John. It is
probable, though his philosophising did not lead him so far as this
conclusion, that he too was a sample, and from a bulk not inconsiderable
in quantity. Where it is possible, we prefer that the people we have
injured should turn out to have deserved injury from somebody.



It was the eve of Dora Hutting's wedding--a thing in itself quite enough
to put Milldean into an unwonted stir. Everybody was very excited about
the event and very sympathetic. Kate Raymore had come to the front; not
even preoccupation with Charley could prevent a marriage from
interesting her. She had given much counsel, and had exerted herself to
effect a reconciliation between the bride and Jeremy Chiddingfold. Into
this diplomatic effort Sibylla also had been drawn, and peace had been
signed at a tea-party. With the help of Christine's accomplished manner
and Grantley's tactful composure, it had been found possible to treat
the whole episode as a boy-and-girl affair which could be laughed at and
thus dismissed into oblivion. The two principals could not take quite
this view; but they consented to be friends, to wish each other well,
and to say nothing about the underlying contempt which each could not
but entertain for the other's fickleness. For Jeremy would have been
faithful if Dora had been, and Dora could not perceive how the fact of
her having made a mistake as to her own feelings explained the
extraordinary rapidity with which Jeremy had been able to transfer an
affection professedly so lasting and so deep. Christine warned her that
all men were like that--except Mr. Mallam; and Grantley told Jeremy that
Dora was flighty, as all girls were--except Eva Raymore. So peace,
though not very cordial peace, was obtained, the satirical remarks which
the parties felt entitled to make privately not appearing on the face of
the formal proceedings.

Important though these matters might be, they were not in Sibylla's mind
as she stood at the end of the garden and looked down on Old Mill House.
Twenty-four hours before, Mrs. Mumple had started on her journey.
Sibylla, Eva, and Jeremy had escorted her to Fairhaven. The fat old
woman was very apprehensive and tremulous; anxious about her looks and
the fit of her new silk gown; full of questionings about the meeting to
which she went. It was impossible not to smile covertly at some of these
manifestations, but over them all shone the beauty of the love which had
sustained her through the years. Sibylla prayed that now it might have
its reward, half wondering that it had lived to claim it--had lived so
long in solitude and uncomforted. It had never despaired, however long
the waiting, however much it was starved of all satisfaction, bereft of
all pleasure, condemned to seeming uselessness, even unwelcomed, as one
well might fear. These things had brought pain and fear, but not despair
nor death. Yet Mrs. Mumple was not by nature a patient woman; naturally
she craved a full return for what she gave, and an ardent answer to the
warmth of her affection. None the less she had not despaired; and as
Sibylla thought of this, she accused herself because, unlike the old
woman, she had allowed herself to despair--nay, had been ready, almost
eager, to do it, had twisted everything into a justification for it, had
made no protest against it and no effort to avoid it. That mood had led
to ruin; at last she saw that it would have been ruin. Was there now
hope? It was difficult to go back, to retrace the steps so confidently
taken, to realise that she too had been wrong. Yet what else was the
lesson? It came to her in one form or another from every side--from the
Courtlands, where death alone had been strong enough to thwart the evil
fate; from the Raymores, where trust, bruised but not broken, had
redeemed a boy's life from evil to good; even from Christine, who waited
in secret hope; above all, from the quarter whence she had least looked
for it--from Grantley himself, for whom no effort was too great, who
never lost confidence, who had indeed lacked understanding but had never
lacked courage; who now, with eyes opened and at her bidding, was
endeavouring the hardest thing a man can do--was trying to change
himself, to look at himself with another's eyes, to remodel himself by a
new standard, to count as faults what he had cherished as virtues, to
put in the foremost place not the qualities which had been his pets, his
favourites, his ideals, but those which another asked from him, and
which he must do himself a violence to display. Had she no corresponding
effort to make? She could not deny the accusation. It lay with her too
to try. But it was hard. John Fanshaw found it sorely difficult, grossly
against his prejudices, and even in conflict with principles which he
held sacred, to belittle his grievance or to let it go. Sibylla was very
fond of her grievances too. She was asked to look at them with new eyes,
to think of them no more as outrages, as stones of stumbling and rocks
of offence. She was asked to consider her grievances as opportunities.
That was the plain truth about it, and it involved so much recantation,
such a turning upside down of old notions, such a fall for pride. It was
very hard to swallow. Yet unless it were swallowed, where was hope? And
if it were swallowed, what did it mean? An experiment--only another
difficult experiment. For people are not changed readily, and cannot be
changed altogether. Difficulties would remain--would remain always; the
vain ideal which had once governed all her acts and thoughts would never
be realised. She must not be under any delusion as to that. And now, in
her heart, she was afraid of delusion coming again; and again
disillusion must follow.

She turned to find Grantley beside her, and he gave her a telegram
addressed to her. She opened it with a word of thanks.

"From John Fanshaw!" she exclaimed eagerly. "He's coming down here

"Well, you told him to wire whenever he found he could get down, didn't

"Yes, of course. But--but what does it mean?"

He smiled at her.

"I'm not surprised. Christine had a letter from him this morning. I saw
the handwriting. I'm taking a very sympathetic interest in Christine, so
I look at the handwriting on her letters. And she's been in a state of
suppressed excitement all the morning. I've noticed that--with a
sympathetic interest, Sibylla."

"I think I ought to go and see her."

"Not just yet, please. Oh yes, I hope it'll be a good day for her! And
it'll be a great day for your poor old Mumples, won't it? I hope Mr.
Mumple will behave nicely."

"Oh, so do I with my whole heart!" cried Sibylla.

"I'm taking a very sympathetic interest in the Mumples also, Sibylla.
Likewise in Dora and her young man, and Jeremy and his young woman. Oh,
and in the Raymores and Charley! Anybody else?"

Sibylla looked at him reprovingly, but a smile would tremble about the
corners of her mouth.

"You see, I've been thinking over what you said the other day," Grantley
went on with placid gravity, "and I've made up my mind to come and tell
you whenever I do a decent thing or have an honest emotion. I shan't
like saying it at all, but you'll like hearing it awfully."

"Some people would be serious about it, considering--well, considering
everything," Sibylla remarked, turning her face away.

"Yes, but then they wouldn't see you smile--and you've an adorable
smile; and they wouldn't see the flash in your eyes--and you've such
wonderful eyes, Sibylla."

He delivered these statements with a happy simplicity.

"You're not imposing on me," she said. "I know you mean it." Her voice
trembled just a little. "And perhaps that's the best way to tell me."

"On the other hand, I shall become a persistent and accomplished
hypocrite. You'll never know how I grind the faces of the poor at the
bank, nor my inmost thoughts when Frank drops half his food on my best

"You're outrageous. Please stop, Grantley."

"All right. I'll talk about something else."

"I think I'd better find Christine. No, wait a minute. If you're going
to do all these fine things, what have you planned for me?"

"Nothing. You've just to go on being what you can't help being--the most
adorable woman in England."

"I don't know what you mean to do, but what you are doing is----"

"Making love to you," interposed Grantley.

"Yes, and in the most unblushing way."

"I'm doing the love-making, and you're doing the----"

"Stop!" she commanded, with a hasty merry glance of protest.

"You ought to be used to it. I've been doing it for a month now," he

Sibylla made no answer, and Grantley lit a cigarette. When she spoke
again she was grave and her voice was low.

"Don't make love to me. I'm afraid to love you. You know what I did
before because I loved you. I should do it again, I'm afraid. I haven't
learnt the lesson."

"Are you refusing the only way there is of learning it? How have I
learnt all the fine lessons that I've been telling you?"

"I've not learnt the lesson. I still ask too much."

"If I give all I have, it'll seem enough to you. You'll know it's all
now, and it'll seem enough. All there is is enough--even for you, isn't

"You didn't give me all there was before."

"I had a theory," said Grantley. "I'm not going to have any more

She turned to him suddenly.

"Oh, you mustn't ask--you mustn't stand there asking! That's wrong,
that's unworthy of you. I mustn't let you do that."

"That was the theory," Grantley said with a smile. "That was just my
theory. I'm always going to ask for what I want now. It's really the
best way."

"We're friends, Grantley?" she said imploringly.

"Is that all there is? Would it seem to you enough?"

"And we've Frank. You do love him now, you know."

"In and through you."

She made no answer again. He stood with his eyes fixed on her for some
moments. Then he took the telegram gently from her hand and went into
the house with it, to seek Christine Fanshaw.

He left Sibylla in a turmoil of feeling. That she loved him was nothing
new; she had always loved him, and she had never loved any other man in
that fashion. The fairy ride had never been rivalled or repeated; and
she had never lost her love for him, even when she hated him as her
great enemy. It had always been there, whether its presence had been
prized or loathed, welcomed or feared, whether it had seemed the one
thing life held, or the one thing to escape from if life were to be
worthy. Blake had not displaced it; he had been a refuge from it.
Grantley's offence had never been that he did not love her, nor that he
could not hold her love; it was that he loved her unworthily and claimed
to hold her as a slave. Her case was not as Christine Fanshaw's, any
more than her temper was the temper of her friend. And now he came
wooing again, and she was sore beset. So memory helped him, so the
unforgettable communion of bygone love enforced his suit. Her heart was
all for yielding--how should it not be to the one man whose sway it had
ever owned? He was to her mind an incomparable wooer--incomparable in
his buoyant courage, in the humour that masked his passion, in the
passion which used humour with such a conscious art, feigning to conceal
without concealing, pretending to reveal without impairing the secrecy
of those impenetrable sweet recesses of the heart, concerning which
conjecture beats knowledge and the imagination would not be trammelled
by a disclosure too unreserved. But she feared and, fearing, struggled.
They were friends. Friends could make terms, bargains, treaties,
arrangements. Friendship did not bar independence, absolute and
uninfringed. Was that the way with love--with the love of woman for man,
of wife for husband? No, old Nature came in there with her unchanging
decisive word, against which no bargain and no terms, no theory and no
views, no claims or pretensions, no folly and no wisdom either, could
prevail. All said and done, all concessions made, all promises pledged,
all demands guaranteed, they all went for little. The woman was left to
depend on the trust she had, helpless if the trust failed her and the
confidence were misplaced. If she were wrong about herself or about the
man, there was no help for it. The love of the woman was, after all and
in spite of all, surrender. Times might change, and thoughts and
theories; this might be right which had been wrong, and that held wrong
which had been accounted right. The accidents varied, the essence
remained. The love of the woman was surrender, because old Nature would
have it so. If she gave such love--or acknowledged it, for in truth it
was given--she abandoned all the claims, the grievances, the wrongs, all
that had been the basis of what she had done. She took Grantley on faith
again, she put herself into his hands, again she made the great venture
with all its possibilities. She had seemed wrong once. Would she seem
wrong again?

There was a change in him: that she believed. Was there a change too in
her? Unless there were, she did not dare to venture. Had all that she
had suffered, all that she had seen others suffer, brought nothing to
her? Yes, there was something. When you loved you must understand, and,
knowing the truth, love that or leave it. You must not make an image and
love that, then make another image and hate that. You must love or leave
the true thing. And to do that there is needed another surrender--of
your point of view, your own ideas of what you are and of how you ought
to be treated. To get great things you must barter great things in
return. There are seldom cheap bargains to be had in costly goods. Had
not Grantley learnt that? Could not she? It took generosity to learn it.
Was she less generous than Grantley? The question hit her like a blow.
If Grantley had done as she had, would she still have loved, would she
have come again to seek and to woo? Ah, but the case was not truly
parallel. Grantley sought leave to reign again--to reign by her will,
but still to reign. That was not what was asked of her.

Was it not? Eagerly stretching out after truth, seeking the bed-rock of
deep truth, her mind, spurred by its need, soared above these
distinctions, and saw, as in a vision, the union of these transient
opposites. Was not to reign well to serve well, was not faithfully to
obey the order of the universe to be a king of life? If that vision
would abide with her, if that harmony could be sustained, then all would
be well. The doubts and fears would die, and the surrender be a great
conquest. When she had tried before, she had no such idea as this. Much
had been spent, much given, in attaining to the distant sight of it. But
if it were true? If Grantley, ever courageous, ever undaunted, had won
his way to it and now came, in a suppliant's guise, to show her and to
give her the treasures of a queen?

While she still mused, the little boy came toddling over the lawn to her
side, holding up a toy for her interest and admiration. She caught him
up and held him in her arms. Had he nothing to say to it all? Had he
nothing to say? Why, his eyes were like the eyes of Grantley!

The clock of the old church struck five, and on the sound a cab appeared
over the crest of the opposite hill. Sibylla, with Frank in her arms,
watched its descent to Milldean, and then went into the house to put on
her hat. In view of the ancient love between her and Mumples, it was her
privilege to be the first to greet the returned wanderer; she alone
would properly understand and share Mumples' feeling. For all her
sympathy, Kate Raymore was a friend of too recent standing--she had not
witnessed the years of waiting. Jeremy's affection was true enough, but
Mumples feared the directness of his tongue and the exuberance of his
spirits. Highly conscious of the honour done to her, somewhat alarmed at
the threatened appeal to her ever too ready emotion, Sibylla went down
the hill.

A pale frail old student with the hands of a labouring man--that was her
first impression of Mumples' husband. He had the air of remoteness from
the world and of having done with the storms of life which comes to men
who have lived many years in a library; his face was lined, but his eyes
calm and placid. Only those incongruous hands, with their marks of toil,
hinted at the true story. He spoke in a low voice, as though it might be
an offence to speak loud; his tones were refined and his manner
respectful and rather formal. It was evidently unsafe to make any parade
of sympathy with Mumples--she was near breaking-point; but the exchange
of a glance, on which Sibylla ventured, showed that her agitation was of
joy and satisfaction. Evidently the meeting had disappointed the worst
of her fears and confirmed the dearest of her hopes.

"I have to thank you, madame," the old man said, "for the great kindness
you and your family have shown to my wife during my absence."

"We owe her far more than she owes us. I don't know what we should have
done without her."

"The knowledge that she had good friends did much to enable me to endure
my absence," he went on. "She's looking well, is she not, madame? She
appears to me less changed than I had thought possible."

Sibylla could not resist another quick glance at Mumples.

"And I haven't seen her for ten years."

He paused and looked at Sibylla in a questioning way.

"Don't worry any more about that, Luke," said Mrs. Mumples with her hand
on his shoulder. "You knew what suited you best. What was the good of my
coming, if it wasn't to be a comfort to you."

"It was selfish of me, madame; but you've no idea what it is to be
in--in such circumstances as I was. I've been unfortunately a man of
quick temper, and I couldn't trust myself in all cases. I got beside
myself if I was reminded of the outside world--of all I was losing--how
the years went by--of my wife, and the home and the life I might have
had. It was because I loved her that I wouldn't see her----"

"Yes, yes, I'm sure of that," said Sibylla hastily.

"But it was selfish, as love sometimes is, madame. I ought to have put
her first. And I never thought what it would mean to her when I did what
brought me to that place. Well, I've paid for it with my life. They've
taken my life from me."

"You've many years before you, dear," whispered Mrs. Mumple.

"I have so few behind me," he said. "They've blotted out two-thirds of
my life. Looking back on it now, I can't see it as it was. It seems
long, but very empty--a great vacant space in my life, madame."

"Ah, but you've your home and your dear wife now--and we shall all be
your friends."

How dull and cold her words seemed! Yet what else was there to say in
face of the tragedy?

"I'm deeply grateful to her and to Heaven; but I--I have nothing left.
It seems to me that the years have taken everything."

Mrs. Mumple put her hand down to his worn hand and caressed it.

"You'll be better by-and-by, dear," she said.

"I'm deadened," he persisted sadly.

"Don't feel like that," Sibylla implored. "Your life will come back to
you in the sunshine and the country air. We shan't let you feel like
that. Why, it's full of life here. There's a wedding to-morrow, Mr.
Mumple! And another engaged couple--my brother and Miss Raymore! And
you'll like my husband, and I'll bring my baby boy to see you."

"Such a pretty little dear," exclaimed Mumples.

"You must take an interest in us," smiled Sibylla; "and then you'll be
pleased when we are--won't he, Mumples? Because you're to be one of us,
just as your wife is."

Mrs. Mumple suddenly turned away and, murmuring something about getting
tea, escaped from the room. The old man fixed his eyes on Sibylla's face
in a long inquiring gaze.

"You say that to me, madame? I don't deserve to have that said to me.
You're a beautiful young lady, and very kind, I know, and good, I'm
sure. Your husband is lucky, and so is your son. But I've been a convict
for seventeen years, and it's only by a chance I'm not a murderer. I'm
not fit to come near you nor yours--no, not near your little boy."

Sibylla came to him and took his work-worn hand. He saw that she meant
to kiss it and held it back.

"A convict and in heart a murderer, madame," he said, his lips trembling
a little and his calm eyes very sad. "I'm not fit for you to touch."

"I'll tell you something," said Sibylla. "You call me kind and good--you
say my husband and my boy are lucky, and you tell me you're not fit for
me to touch--for me to touch! I tried to run away from my husband, and I
was ready to leave my little boy to his death."

A great wonder came into the old man's eyes; he asked no question, but
he ceased to resist her persuading grasp. She raised his hand to her
lips and kissed it.

"I thought my heart was dead, as you think yours is. But light and life
have come back into mine, and you mustn't shut yours against them. You
must try to be happy, if it's only for dear old Mumples' sake. She's
thought of nothing but making you happy all these years." She laid her
hand on his shoulder. "And love us too. For my husband's and my boy's
sake keep the secret I've told you, but remember it when you feel
despairing. It wasn't easy for me to speak of it, but I thought it would
give you hope; and it will prevent you feeling the sort of thing you
felt about me, and I hope about any of us."

He turned his eyes to hers.

"You're telling me the truth, I know, madame," he said slowly. "It's a
very strange world. I'll try not to despair."

"No, no, don't despair; above all, don't despair," whispered Sibylla.

"I have a remnant of my days, and I have the love of my wife. God has
left me something out of the wreck that I've made."

Sibylla stooped and kissed him on the brow. He caught her hands and
looked again in her eyes for a long time.

"It is true? And your eyes are like the eyes of an angel."

He relaxed his hold on her, and sank back in his chair with a sigh.

"I'm tiring you," said Sibylla. "I'll go now, and leave you alone with
Mumples. I'll call her back here. No, I can't stay to tea--you've made
me think of too much. But I'll come to-morrow and bring my little boy."

"If what you say is true, you must pray for yourself sometimes? Pray for
me too, madame."

"Yes, I'll pray for you the prayer I love best: 'Those things which for
our unworthiness we dare not and for our blindness we cannot ask----' I
will pray for those, for you and for me. And because you're an old man
and have suffered, you shall give me your blessing before I go."

She knelt to receive his trembling benediction, then rose with a glad
smile on her face. She saw Mumples standing now on the threshold of the
room, and kissed her hand to her.

"The old is done, and the new is begun," she said to the old man as she
pressed his hand in farewell.

She walked slowly up the hill in the peaceful dusk. Lights burned in the
church: the village choir was laboriously practising an ambitious effort
for the next day. There were lights in the windows over the post-office;
one was open to the mild evening air, and Jeremy's voice in a
love-ballad competed enviously with the choir's more pious strains, till
it was drowned in a merry protest of youthful shouts. When she reached
home, there was a light in the nursery, and the nurse was singing softly
to the little boy. Her agitation was passed, her emotion was gentle now,
and her face peacefully radiant. Her grievances seemed small beside the
old man's suffering, her woes nothing beside his punishment, her return
to life and light so much easier than his. He had but a remnant of life
left--the rest had been demanded of him in ransom for his deed, and the
ransom had been exacted to the uttermost farthing. He was poor, though
not destitute; but she was rich. Her life lay still before her with all
its meaning and its possibilities--its work and its struggles, its
successes and its failures, the winning of more victories, the effort
and the resolve not to lose what had been so hardly won. Soberly she
looked forward to it, assessing and measuring her strength and weakness
and the strength and weakness of those with whom her life was cast. She
had no more of the blind and reckless confidence of her first essay; her
eyes were open. Her knowledge did not forbid her soul reaching out to
the joy that was to come, but it whispered that the joy was not all, and
that the joy must be fairly won. Yet she welcomed the joy with the
innate ardour of her mind, exultant that now she might take it, that now
it could prove no delusion because she had learnt wherein lay the truth
of it. The clue was in her fingers. The path might be rough sometimes,
uphill sometimes, not all in pleasant valleys and soft beguiling scenes;
there would be arid tracts, perhaps, and bleak uplands. Such was the Way
of Life: she recognised it now. The clue was in her hand, and though she
might weary and stumble, she would not be utterly lost or belated.



Sibylla had allotted to Christine a small sitting-room on the first
floor of the house to be her private resort during her visit; they
neither of them liked a drawing-room existence all day long. Here
Christine sat waiting John Fanshaw's arrival. She had taken much thought
wherewithal she should be clothed, but that was rather the instinct
which asserted itself in her on any occasion of moment than a token of
confidence in the weapon of becoming apparel. A fair appearance was
never to be wholly neglected by the wise, but she did not rely on it
now. The most that any charming could do would be to extort a passing
admiration, which in its turn might secure a transient forgiveness; but
a reaction of feeling would surely wait on it. She did not want to be
forgiven in that way. In truth she hardly wanted forgiveness at all; at
any rate she would greatly dislike the process. She had been put in the
corner, as she said. The position was not pleasant; but being called out
again with the admonitions suitable to the moment was scarcely a more
agreeable situation. By parting her from him, first in spirit, then in
daily life, John had hardened her heart towards him. He had made her
dwell more and more not on her sin, but on his right to inflict a
penalty. More and more she had remembered what Caylesham had said, and
had asked if he who benefited by the act--of his own will benefited by
it--had any title to despise the hand which was guilty of it. John's
distress, his doubts, struggles, and forlornness, had pleaded against
this judgment of him while she was with him. The idea of them had grown
faint with absence; John had left himself to be dealt with by reason
then, and reason saw only what he had done; the eye could no longer
trace the sorrow and the struggle which had gone with his deed.

Her mind was on Caylesham too. She had just read a letter from Anna
Selford. It was full of Anna and her frocks. (Much advice was
needed--when was Mrs. Fanshaw coming back to town?) It had a good deal
to say of Blake and his handsome presents; and it touched on Caylesham
with a rather acrimonious note. He had been to see them, and had not
made himself very agreeable; really Anna did not see that there was
anything to criticise, nor, above all, that Lord Caylesham had any call
to set up as a critic if there were. Christine smiled over the passage,
picturing so well the veiled irony and the intangible banter which
Caylesham would mingle with his congratulations and infuse into his
praises. Anna would not shrink nor retreat, but she would be angry and
rather helpless before the sting of these slender darts. Memories
stamped on her very soul stood out in salient letters, and the face of
Caylesham seemed to hang in the air before her eyes. To remember loving
is not to love, but it may make all other love seem a second-rate thing.
She loved Caylesham no longer, but she was without power to love anyone
as she had loved him. Others had his vices, others his virtues such as
they were. The blend in him had been for her the thing her soul asked.
Time could not wither the remembrance, though it had killed the feeling
itself. Not John's displeasure was the greatest price she had paid; not
John's forgiveness could undo or blot out the past. John's friendship
and comradeship were the best thing the world had to offer her now--and
she wanted them; but she wanted them not as the best, but because there
was nothing better.

She had no thought of blame for Caylesham, nor of bitterness against
him. Here her fairness of mind came in--her true judgment of herself.
All along she had known what he was and what he gave, as well as what
she was and gave. He had given all he had ever professed to give. (She
was not thinking of words or phrases, but of the essence of the
attachment, well known to both.) If it had not been all she sought,
still she had accepted it as enough--as enough to make her happy, enough
return for all she had to offer. She would not repudiate the bargain
now. Frank had been straight and fair with her, and she would cast no
stone at him. Only it was just very unlucky that matters should fall out
in the way they had, and that she should be the sort of person she
was--a bad sinner, because she could not minimise nor forget--a bad
penitent, because she could not feel remorse that the fault had been
committed, nor humbly seek forgiveness for it. It had abided with her
always--now as a pleasure, now as a threatening danger, as both together
sometimes. Even at this moment it was at once the cause of all her
sorrow and her greatest solace in the world.

Yet in the days between the end of her love for Caylesham and the
discovery which had been made by John there had been another
happiness--when she was on good terms with her old friend John, when
things went well with them, when he admired her--yes, when he treated
her as something precious, clever, and brilliant. Then she had rejoiced
in his pride in her, and given of the best she had to preserve and to
strengthen it. Now, in resentment against John, she sought to deny this.
But in what mood would John come? The maintenance of her denial depended
largely on that.

Suddenly she heard the sound of wheels stopping before the gate of the
house. She sat erect and listened. The hall-door opened. She waited till
she heard it close again, then sprang up, cast a glance at a
looking-glass over the mantelpiece, then turned and faced the door. Her
lips were a little parted; she stood very still. Expectation mingled
with defiance in her bearing. A few minutes passed before there was a
knock at the door. She cleared her throat to cry:

"Come in!"

John entered and closed the door carefully behind him; but he did not
advance towards her at once. He stood where he was, with a curious
deprecatory smile on his face. She thought he looked rather old and
worn, and he was shabbily dressed, as his habit was when he had to look
after his own wardrobe without advice and criticism. He carried the
sense of forlornness, as he had when he sat with Caylesham's cheque
before him, and the air of being ashamed too. But his manner gave now no
hint of anger. Christine's heart went out to him in a quick impulse of
sympathy; but she crushed the feeling down, and would give no outward
sign of it. She waited in stillness and silence. It was for him to
speak, for him to set the note of their interview, and of more than
their interview--of their future life, and of how they were to be to one
another henceforward.

"Here I am, Christine. Mrs. Grantley told me I should find you in this
room; and here I am."

She nodded her head coolly, but gave him no other welcome. He came two
or three steps towards her, holding out his hands in front of him in an
awkward way, and with that ashamed pleading smile still on his lips.

"I can't get on without my old girl," he said.

In a flash of her quick intuition she knew his mind. The one sentence
revealed anything which his manner had left doubtful. He was doing what
he thought wrong, and doing it because he could not help it. He was
abandoning a great and just grievance, and thereby seemed to be
sacrificing the claims of morality, condoning what deserved no
forgiveness, impairing his own self-respect. His position, with all its
obvious weakness, had not become untenable in theory, and his reason,
hard-bound in preconceptions, was not convinced. He came under the
stress of feeling, because his life had become intolerable, because, as
he said in one of his phrases of rough affection, he could not get on
without his old girl. The need he had of her conquered the grievance
that he had against her, and brought him back to her. He came with no
reproaches, no parade of forgiveness, with neither references to the
past nor terms for the future.

It was a triumph for Christine, and of the kind she prized and
understood best--a woman's triumph. It had not been expected; it was
none too well deserved. A colour came on her cheeks, and she breathed
rather quickly as she realised the completeness of it. For a moment she
was minded to use it to the full, and, since she was no longer the
criminal, to play the tyrant in her turn. But the very perfection of the
victory forbade. It inspired in her a feeling which reproaches would
have been powerless to raise--a great pity for him, a new and more
genuine condemnation of herself. Had she been so much as that to him,
and yet had used him so ill?

"I've been lonely too, John," she said. "Come and kiss me, my dear."

He came to her diffidently, and hardly touched her cheek when he kissed

"That doesn't feel a bit like you, John," she said, with a nervous
laugh, as she made him sit by her on the sofa. "Now tell me all about
everything! I know that's what you want to do."

That was what he wanted to do--to take her back into the life which was
so empty and incomplete without her--to have her again to share his
interests and to be a partner in his fortunes. Yet for the moment he
could not do as she bade him. He was much moved, and was very unready at
expressing emotion. He sat in silence, gently caressing her hand. It was
she who spoke.

"Of course there's a lot to say; but don't let's say it, John. You'll
know I'm feeling it, and I shall know that about you too. But don't
let's say it." She broke into a smile again. "I should argue, you
know--I always argue! And then---- But if we say nothing about it,
perhaps we--well, perhaps we can nearly forget it, and take up the old
life where we broke it off. And it wasn't a bad old life, after all, was
it, in spite of the way we both grumbled?"

"My dear old girl!" he murmured.

"I suppose you must be as vulgar as you like to-day!" said Christine,
with a dainty lift of her brow and an affected resignation. Then
suddenly she turned and kissed him, saying gravely: "I'm grateful, John,
and don't--don't think there's anything wrong in being generous."

"I only know I've got to have you back with me," he said. "That's all I
know about it anyhow."

"I think it's enough, then," she whispered softly.

Presently the gates of John's mouth were loosed, and he began to tell
all his news. It was mainly about his business--how it flourished, how
he had built up his credit again, of the successes he had won; that as
soon as he had paid off his debts--a moment of embarrassment befell him
here--they would be as well off as ever they had been; horses could be
bought again, the diamonds could reappear, there would be no need to
stint Christine of any of the things that she loved. All that he had
longed for sympathetic ears to hear in the last months came bubbling out
now. And Christine was ready to listen. As he talked and she heard, the
old life seemed to revive, the old interests of every day came back,
exercised anew their uniting power, and brought with them the old
friendship and comradeship. Christine had said that they could "nearly
forget." The words had her courage in them; they had her caution too. To
forget what had come upon them and between them was impossible--in
Christine's obstinate heart even at this moment hardly desired; but it
was possible nearly to forget--at most times so nearly to forget as to
relegate the thing to some distant chamber of the heart and not let it
count in the commerce and communion of the life which they lived
together and which bound them to one another with all its ties. That was
the best thing which could be looked for, since the past, being
irrevocable in deed, is also not to be forgotten in thought. They were
picking up and piecing together the fragments. The ruin here had not
been as utter as it had at poor Tom Courtland's, where the same process
was being undertaken; but there had been a crash, and, though the pieces
might be joined, there would be marks to show the fracture. Yet even the
memory that refused to die brought its good with it. After the ruin came
the love which had in the end sought restoration; if the one could not
be forgotten, the other would always claim an accompanying remembrance.
From this remembrance there might well emerge an affection deeper,
stronger, and more proof against the worries and the friction of common
life which in the old days had so often disturbed their peace and
interrupted their friendship.

Before dinner Christine found an opportunity to visit Sibylla in her
room. Her own brief excitement and agitation had passed off; Sibylla
seemed the more eager of the two about the event of the day. Christine
related it. Her comments on it and on what it meant ran very much in the
foregoing vein, but was modified by her usual veneer of irony for which
her friend made easy allowance. Sibylla had been prepared for an ecstasy
of sympathetic congratulation; but it was evident that though
congratulation might be welcomed, ecstasy would be out of place. Neither
Christine's conclusions from the past nor her anticipations of the
future invited it.

"How reasonable you are, Christine!" sighed Sibylla. "And how immoral!"
she added, with a smile. "You're not really very sorry about it all, you
know. You're just very glad the trouble is over. And you don't expect a
bit more than it's quite likely you'll get! Do you know, you're very
useful to me?"

"My reasonableness or my immorality?"

"One's an example and the other's a warning," laughed Sibylla.

"I don't think I'm immoral. I've had an awful lesson, and I intend to
profit by it. There'll be nothing more of that sort, you know."

"Why not?" Sibylla asked, curious to probe her friend's mind.

"I don't know. No temptation--being sorry for John--being afraid--being,
between ourselves, thirty-five. It all sounds rather mixed, but it
results in a good resolution. And as for the future----" She frowned
just a little. "Oh, it'll be all right, and a great deal better than
I've been thinking lately."

"I must get more like you--not quite like you, but more like you. I
must--I must!" Sibylla declared vehemently. "Has being thirty-five a
great deal to do with it? Because then I can wait and hope."

"I should think it had a good deal to do with it," admitted Christine
dispassionately. "Oh, well, I needn't run myself down too much. Really
John has a good deal to say to it."

"I've Frank too."

"Yes, you have; and you're in love with your husband, my dear."

"That doesn't always make it easier."

"At any rate it keeps up one's interest in the whole affair," smiled

"You're happy, anyhow?"

"Happy? Yes, reasonably happy--and I suppose immorally too. At any rate,
I'm settled, and that's really a comfort in its way."

"I don't know that I care so much about being settled. Perhaps I shall
at thirty-five!"

The idea of years making any difference to her moods or her needs seemed
rather a new one to Sibylla. Evidently she was holding it in her mind
and turning it over in her thoughts.

The idea was with her still as she sat rather silent at the dinner-table
that evening. They had a little party, for all the Raymores joined them,
and young Mallam was there also, their guest for the night. Christine
was very gay and satirical. John watched her with ready admiration, but
less ready understanding. The young men were rather noisy, toasting
to-morrow's wedding to the confusion of the bridegroom and the equal
confusion of Eva Raymore, to whose not distant destiny both Jeremy's
words and Jeremy's eyes made references by no means covert. Kate Raymore
and her husband looked on with the subdued and tempered happiness which
was the outcome of their great sorrow, their triumph over it, and the
impending departure of their son, to complete the working out of his
atonement. They talked of the Selfords with some irony, of poor Harriet
Courtland, of Tom and his children with a sympathetic hopefulness and a
touch of amusement at the importance their dear old Suzette Bligh was
assuming and was, it seemed, to assume in the household. Sibylla's own
thoughts widened the survey, embracing in it the couple down at Old Mill
House--the faithful patient woman whose love made even the ridiculous
touching; the broken old man who had given the best of his life in
expiation for a brief madness, and now crept home to end his days,
asking nothing but peace, hoping at best not to be despised or shunned.
Above in his cot lay her little son, at the other end of the scale, at
the beginning of all things; and opposite to her was Grantley himself,
unbroken, but not unchanged; obedient to the lessons, but never put out
of heart by them; doing violence to what he had held most truly and most
preciously himself in order to the search and discovery of something
more true and precious still. The idea of the ever-passing years and of
feelings and fortunes appropriate to each stage of life helped her, but
was not enough. There were differences of minds too, of tempers and of
views; and every one of them implied a fitting in, perhaps a paring away
here or an addition there--a harmonising; these things must be if the
system was to work. Reluctantly and gradually her ardent mind, by nature
ever either buoyant in the heaven of assured hope or cast down to the
depths of despair, bowed to the middle conclusion, and consented to look
through the eyes of wisdom and experience. Happy he who can so look and
yet look without bitterness, who can see calamity without despair, and
accept partial success without peevishness. There were the hopeless
cases. These must be explained, or left unexplained, by what creed or
philosophy you chose to hold. There were--surely there were!--the few
perfect ones, where there was not even danger nor the need for effort or
for guard. Of such she had deemed hers one. It had needed much to open
her eyes--much sorrow and wrong in her own life--much sorrow, wrong, and
calamity in the lives which passed within her view. But her eyes were
open now. Yet she took courage--she took courage from Grantley, whose
crest was not lowered, though his heart was changed.

So spoke reason, and to it Sibylla bowed. The array of cases, the
marshalling of instances--all that the people and the lives about her
had represented and typified--their moral was not to be denied. But
reason is not the sole governor, nor even the only teacher. It might
open her eyes; it might even moderate the arrogance of her demands; it
could not change the temper of her heart. She was not even chilled, far
less embittered. She went forth to meet life and love as ardently as
ever. The change was that she knew more what these things were which she
started forth to welcome, and perceived better to what she must attune
herself. She would hope and enjoy still. But she asked no more a
privilege over her fellows. She could hope as a mortal without immunity
from evil, and enjoy as one to whom there is allotted a portion of
sorrow--and not of her own only, nor perhaps of her making, nor of her
fault, since by her own act and by nature's will her being was bound up
with the being of others, and her happiness or misery, success or
failure, lay in the common fortune and the common weal. For any mortal
perfect independence is a vain thing fondly imagined--most vain and fond
when it is demanded together with all for which any approach to it was
once eagerly abandoned.

The battle was won. As John Fanshaw sacrificed his great grievance, so
she hers. As old Mumple had expiated his fault and paid his price, so
she hers. As Grantley schooled his heart, so she hers. She walked with
him that night in the garden while the rest made merry with games and
songs and jokes within, their gay laughter echoing down to the old house
where the long-parted husband and wife sat at last hand in hand. She
bowed her head, and put her hands in Grantley's, saying:

"At the first sign from you it was easy to forgive. How could I not
forgive you? But it's hard to ask to be forgiven, Grantley?"

"It was necessary that these things should come," he answered gravely.
"They have come and gone. What are they now between thee and me?"

Wisdom had made her point, and for a while now she wisely held her
peace, leaving her work to another who should surely bring it to an
excellent issue--to love, tempered by sorrow and self-knowledge, yet
triumphant, and looking forward to new days, new births, new victories.

"The old time is done," said Grantley. "There's a new dawn. And,
Sibylla, the sunrise is golden still."

"My ever true lover, we'll ride on the downs to-morrow," said she.

"Into the gold?" he asked, in loving banter.

"Yes," she answered bravely. "Haven't we found the way now?"

"It may be hard to keep it."

"We shall be together--you and I. And more than you and me.
And--and--well, I intend to be unreasonable again just for this evening!
I'll expect everything, and demand everything, and dream everything
again, just for to-night--just for to-night, Grantley!"

She ended in a merry laugh, as she stood opposite him with dancing eyes.

"You're always thorough. I was afraid you were going to be a bit too
thorough with those delusions. Need we make quite so clean a sweep of

"As if I ever should!" Sibylla sighed.

"Perhaps we've been doing one or two of them a little injustice?" he

"We'll let them stay a little bit and see if they can clear their
characters," said she. "There might be one great truth hidden among

"I rather fancy there is," said Grantley Imason, "and we'll have the
fellow out of his disguise."




_Uniform edition, each volume in crown 8vo, handsome cloth gilt, 3s. 6d._




      MRS. J. H. NEEDELL.













      B. L. FARJEON.


      ROSA N. CAREY.



      A. W. MARCHMONT.

      F. F. MONTRÉSOR.

      F. F. MONTRÉSOR.



      ROSA N. CAREY.

      A. W. MARCHMONT.

      ROSA N. CAREY.



      J. A. STEUART.

      F. F. MONTRÉSOR.


      ROSA N. CAREY.




      M. E. BRADDON.


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