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Title: Barbara Rebell
Author: Lowndes, Marie Belloc, 1868-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Barbara Rebell" ***

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                     [Illustration: BARBARA REBELL]



                             BARBARA REBELL


                                  _By_
                          MRS. BELLOC-LOWNDES
                   Author of "The Heart of Penelope"


                            Frontispiece by
                             GILBERT WHITE


                          _AUTHORIZED EDITION_


                                NEW YORK
                        B. W. DODGE AND COMPANY
                                  1907



                               PROLOGUE.

    "Have regard to thy name; for that shall continue with thee
    above a thousand great treasures of gold."
                                              ECCLESIASTICUS xl. 12.


Barbara Rebell's tenth birthday,--that is the ninth of June, 1870,--was
destined to be long remembered by her as a day of days; both as having
seen the first meeting with one who, though unknown till then, had
occupied a great place in her imagination, if only because the name of
this lady, her godmother, had been associated every night and morning
with that of her father and mother in her prayers, and as having
witnessed the greatest of her childish disappointments.

Certain dates to most of us become in time retrospectively memorable,
and doubtless this sunny, fragrant June day would in any case have been
remembered by Barbara as the last of a long series of high days and
holidays spent by her in her French home during the first few years of
her life. Barbara Rebell left St. Germains two months after her tenth
birthday; but the town which has seen so few changes in its stately,
ordered beauty, since it afforded a magnificent hospitality to the last
Stuart King and Queen of England, always remained to her "home," in the
dear and intimate sense of the word, and that for many years after
everything save the actual roof and walls of the villa where Mr. and
Mrs. Rebell had lived such long, and on the whole such peaceful years,
had been destroyed--overwhelmed with locust-like destruction--by the
passage of an alien soldiery.

But early in the June of 1870 there was nothing to show what July and
August were to bring to France, and the various incidents which so much
impressed the child's imagination, and made the day memorable, were
almost wholly connected with that solitary inner life which is yet so
curiously affected by material occurrences.

Barbara's birthday began very differently from what she had thought it
would do. The little girl had pleasant recollections of the fashion in
which her last fête day, "la Sainte Barbe," had been celebrated. She
remembered vividly the white bouquets brought by the tradespeople, the
cakes and gifts offered by her little French friends, they who dwelt in
Legitimist seclusion in the old town--for St. Germains was at that time
a Royalist stronghold--far from the supposed malign influence of the
high forest trees, and broad, wind-swept Terrace, which had first
attracted Barbara's parents, and caused them to choose St. Germains as
their place of retreat.

And so Barbara had looked forward very eagerly to her tenth birthday,
but by eleven o'clock what, so far, had it brought her? No bouquets, no
cakes, no trifling gifts of the kind she loved! As she sat out in her
little chair on the balcony of which the gilt balustrade was now
concealed by festoons of green leaves and white roses, and from which
opened the windows of her mother's drawing-room, the child's conscience
pricked her somewhat. Had not her parents early called her into their
room and presented her with a beautiful little gold watch--a gift, too,
brought specially from London by Mr. Daman, a Queen's Messenger, who was
one of her father's oldest friends, and one of the very few
English-speaking folk who ever sought out Mr. and Mrs. Rebell in their
seclusion?

"You may wear it all to-day," her mother had said with some solemnity,
"but after to-night I will put it away until you are old enough to take
care of a watch." In time the little watch became a cherished
possession, a dear familiar friend, but on this first day of ownership
Barbara took small pleasure in her gift.

The child had not liked to ask if any further birthday treat was in
contemplation. She stood in great awe of her quiet-mannered, preoccupied
father: and, while loving her gentle, kind mother with all her eager
passionate little heart, she did not at that time understand how
tenderly she herself was loved in return by the fragile, pensive looking
woman, who seemed to those about her absorbed rather in her husband than
in her daughter.

And so, after having been dismissed rather curtly by her father, Barbara
had made her way disconsolately out to the balcony which was in a sense
her play-room, for there she spent many of her solitary hours. Sitting
in her own little wicker chair, with _The Fairchild Family_ lying on the
osier table by her side, and _Les Malheurs de Sophie_ on her lap, she
wondered rather wistfully what the day to which she had so much looked
forward was likely to bring forth.

Dressed in a white India muslin frock, her long dark hair curled, as was
the fashion in those days, and tied neatly out of the way with a pale
blue ribbon, her unseeing eyes gazing at one of the most beautiful views
in the world, little Barbara Rebell, not for the first time, fell to
wondering why her life was so different from that of the English
children of whom she read in the books her mother had lately sent for
from the home of her own childhood. Even the Fairchilds were a family,
not a solitary little girl; each of the French children she knew had at
least one brother or sister apiece to bear them company, and all through
her thoughts--her disconnected, discontented birthday thoughts--there
ran a thread of uneasy wonder as to why she and her parents were living
here in France instead of in far away England.

Barbara had of late become dimly aware that her mother made no effort to
enter into the eager, cheerful life about her; even after many years
spent entirely in France Mrs. Rebell still spoke French with a certain
difficulty, and she had tacitly refused to form any tie but one of
courteous acquaintance with the few French families with whom--entirely
for the sake of her child, but Barbara did not know that--she had
entered into social relation, using a Protestant banker as a connecting
link.

                               * * * * *

The summer before her tenth birthday Barbara had overheard some
fragments of a conversation held between two mothers of some of her
little French friends; and the few words, so carelessly uttered, had
roused a passion of emotion in the innocent eavesdropper: the feeling
which most predominated being the unreasoning, pathetic surprise felt by
a childish mind when brought suddenly across anything in the nature of a
masked attack.

"Enfin qu'est que ce Monsieur Rebell a bien pu faire de si terrible?
Pour moi il a un air sinistre, cet homme-là!"

"Peut-être a-t-il tué quelqu'un en duel! Il parait qu'en Angleterre on
est devenu féroce sur ce châpitre-là."

"En tous cas, cette pauvre Madame Rebell est bien jolie, et bien à
plaindre!"

The effect of these few carelessly uttered words had been to transform
the listener from a happy baby into a thoughtful, over-sensitive little
girl. Barbara had felt a wild revolt and indignation in the knowledge
that her parents were being thus discussed--that her father should be
described as "sinister," her mother pitied. Again and again she repeated
to herself the words that she had heard: their meaning had stamped
itself on her mind. Could her father have indeed killed a man in a duel?
To Barbara the thought was at once horrible and fascinating, and she
brooded over it, turning the idea this way and that: the constant
companionship of her mother--for Mrs. Rebell rarely left her alone with
their French servants--having unconsciously taught her a deep and almost
secretive reserve.

Were her father guilty of what these French ladies suspected, then--or
so thought Barbara--his subdued, melancholy air was indeed natural, as
also his apparent dislike of meeting fellow countrymen and countrywomen,
for he and his wife always markedly avoided any English visitors to St.
Germains. Now and again Mr. Rebell would spend a long day in Paris,
returning laden with a large parcel of books, the latest English novels
for his wife, more serious volumes for his own perusal; but both Mrs.
Rebell and Barbara had learnt to dread these expeditions, for they
brought with them sad after-days of silent depression and restlessness
which left their effect on the wife long after the traveller himself had
regained his usual sombre quietude of manner.

Barbara was secretly proud of the fact that her father was so extremely
unlike, both in manner and in appearance, the Frenchmen who now formed
his only acquaintances. This was perhaps owing in a measure to the
periodical visit of his London tailor, for Richard Rebell had retained
amid his misfortunes--and he was fond of telling himself that no living
man had been so unfortunate--the one-time dandy's fastidiousness about
his dress. The foreigners with whom he was unwillingly brought in
contact sometimes speculated as to the mysterious Englishman's probable
age; his hair was already grey, his pale, coldly impassive face had none
of the healthy tints of youth, yet he was still upright and vigorous,
and possessed to a singular degree what the French value above all
things, distinction of appearance. As a matter of fact Mr. Rebell was
only some twelve years older than his still girlish-looking wife; but
certain terrible events seemed to have had a petrifying effect both on
his mind and on his appearance, intensified by the fact that both he and
Mrs. Rebell tacitly chose to live as if in a world of half-lights and
neutral tints, rarely indeed alluding to the past, instinctively
avoiding any topic which could cause them emotion.

                               * * * * *

Every age,--it might be said with truth every decade,--has its ideal of
feminine beauty; and the man who had been the Richard Rebell of the
London 'fifties would instinctively have chosen and been chosen by the
loveliest girl in the brilliant world in which they both then moved and
had their being. Adela Oglander, the youngest child of a Hampshire
squire, had indeed been very lovely, satisfying in every point the ideal
of her day, of her race, and of her generation: slender and yet not over
tall: golden-haired and blue-eyed: with delicate regular features, and
rounded cheeks in which the colour soon came and went uncertainly when
Richard Rebell began to haunt the Mayfair ball-rooms where he knew he
would meet her and her placid, rather foolish mother. The girl's sunny
beauty and artless charm of manner had delighted the social arbiters of
the hour. She became, in the sense which was then possible, the fashion,
and her engagement to Richard Rebell, finally arranged at the royal
garden party which in those days took place each season in the old-world
gardens of Chiswick House, had been to themselves as well as to their
friends a happy, nine days' wonder.

Richard Rebell had been long regarded as a bachelor of bachelors, a man
whose means did not permit of such a luxury as marriage to ill-dowered
beauty. But his friends reminded themselves that he was in a sense heir
to a fine property, now in the actual ownership of his cousin, a certain
Madame Sampiero, a beautiful childless woman separated from the Corsican
adventurer whom she had married in one of those moments of amazing,
destructive folly which occasionally overwhelm a certain type of clever
and high-spirited Englishwoman. Still, if there were some who shook
their heads over the imprudence of such a marriage as that of Richard
Rebell and Adela Oglander, all the world loves a lover, and every man
who had obtained the privilege of an introduction to Miss Oglander
envied Rebell his good fortune, for his betrothed was as good and as
blithesome as she was pretty.

Later, when recalling that enchanted time, and the five happy years
which had followed, Mrs. Rebell told herself that there had then been
meted out to her full measure of life's happiness: she might, alas! have
added that since that time Providence had dealt out to her, as
completely, full measure of pain and suffering. For what was hidden from
the little circle of kindly French gossips at St. Germains had been
indeed a very tragic thing.

After those first cloudless years of happy, nay triumphant, married
life, the popular, much-envied man-about-town, the proud husband of one
of the loveliest and most considered of younger London hostesses, had
gradually become aware that he was being looked at askance and shunned
by those great folk to whose liking he attached perhaps undue
importance.

Then had followed a period of angry, incredulous amazement, till a
well-meaning friend found courage to tell him the truth. It had come to
be thought that he "sometimes" cheated at cards--more, it was whispered
that he had actually been caught red-handed in the house of a friend who
had spared him exposure in deference to what were then still the English
laws of hospitality. His chief accuser, the man to whom Rebell, once on
his track, again and again traced the fatal rumour, was, as so often
happens in such cases, himself quite unimportant till he became the man
of straw round whom raged one of the most painful and protracted libel
suits fought in nineteenth century England.

At first public opinion, or rather the opinion of those whom Rebell
regarded as important, ranged itself on his side, and there were many
who considered that he had been ill-advised to take any notice of the
matter. But when it became known, and that in the pitiless, clear
publicity afforded by a court of law, that the plaintiff's private means
were very small, much smaller than had been suspected even by those who
thought themselves his intimates, that he was noted for his high play,
and, most damaging fact of all, that he had been instrumental in forming
a new and very select club of which the stated object was play, and
nothing but play, feeling veered sharply round. Richard Rebell
admitted--and among his backers it was pointed out that such an
admission made for innocence--that a not unimportant portion of his
income had for some time past consisted of his card winnings. That this
should be even said outraged those respectable folk who like to think
that gambling and ruin are synonymous terms. Yet, had they looked but a
little below the surface, where could they have found so striking a
confirmation of their view as in this very case?

To cut the story short, the lawsuit ended in a virtual triumph for the
man whose malicious dislike and envy of the plaintiff had had to himself
so unexpected a result. Richard Rebell was awarded only nominal damages.
The old adage, "The greater the truth the greater the libel," was freely
quoted, and the one-time man of fashion and his wife disappeared with
dramatic suddenness from the world in which they had both been once so
welcome. Apart from every other reason, Mr. and Mrs. Rebell would have
been compelled, by their financial circumstances, to alter what had been
their way of life. All that remained to them after the heavy costs of
the lawsuit were paid was the income of Mrs. Rebell's marriage
settlement, and then it was that Richard Rebell's cousin, the Madame
Sampiero to whom reference has already been made, arranged to give her
cousin--who was, as she eagerly reminded him, her natural heir--an
allowance which practically trebled his small income. Thanks to her
generosity Mr. and Mrs. Rebell and their only child, born three years
after their marriage, had been able to live in considerable comfort and
state in the French town finally chosen by them as their home of exile,
where they had been fortunate in finding, close to the Forest and the
Terrace, a house which had belonged to one of the great Napoleon's
generals. The hero's descendants were in high favour at the Tuileries
and had no love for quiet St. Germains: they had accordingly been
overjoyed to find an English tenant for the stately villa which
contained many relics of their famous forbear, and of which the
furnishings, while pleasing the fine taste of Richard Rebell, seemed to
them hopelessly rococo and out of date.

As time went on, Adela Rebell suffered more rather than less. She would
have preferred the humblest lodging in the quietest of English hamlets
to the charming villa which was still full of mementoes of the soldier
who had found a glorious death at Waterloo. Sometimes she would tell
herself that all might yet go well with her, and her beloved, her noble,
her ill-used Richard--for so she ever thought of him--were it not for
their child. The knowledge that Barbara would never enjoy the happy and
lightsome youth which had been her own portion was bitter indeed: the
conviction that her daughter must be cut off from all the pleasant
girlish joys and privileges of her English contemporaries brought deep
pain.

                               * * * * *

Let us now return to Barbara and to the birthday which was to prove
eventful. The little girl was still hesitating between her French and
her English storybook when the door of the drawing-room opened, and she
saw her mother's slight figure advancing languidly across the shining
floor to the deep chair where she always sat. A moment later Barbara's
father came into the room: he held a newspaper in his hand, and
instinctively the child knew that he was both annoyed and angered.

"Adela," he said, in the formal and rather cold accent which both his
wife and child had come to associate with something painful or
unpleasant, "I should like you to read this,"--then he added: "Well, no,
I think I will ask you to listen, while I translate it," and slowly he
read, choosing his words with some care, anxious to render every shade
of meaning, the following sentences, composing one of the happily-named
"Echoes" printed on the front page of the _Figaro_, the then
newly-established, brilliant journal which had become the most widely
read paper in French society:--

"Her Majesty the Empress to-day received in private audience Madame
Sampiero, _née_ Rebell, one of the most sympathetic and distinguished of
English great ladies, and this in spite of the fact that the name of
Sampiero is full of glorious memories to those who know and care--and
what good Frenchman does not do so?--for the noble traditions of
Corsican history. Mylady Sampiero"--here Barbara's father suddenly
lowered the paper and, glancing at his wife, gave a queer sardonic
laugh--"was presented subsequently to his Majesty the Emperor by the
noted English statesman, Mylord Bosworth, who, it will be remembered,
was on terms of intimacy with our Sovereign when he, as Prince Louis
Napoleon, was living a life of exile in London. Indeed, it was Mylord
who first gratified the London world with the news that the prisoner of
Ham had escaped."

There was a slight pause: Mr. Rebell laid the _Figaro_ down on a
gilt-rimmed table which stood close to his wife's chair.

"Well?" he said, "what do you think of that? You'll see it dished up,
and who can wonder at it, in next week's _Vanity Fair_!"

The child, sitting out on the balcony, saw her mother's pale face become
gradually suffused with colour, and she heard the almost whispered
words, "Yes, most unfortunate! But, my dear, how could poor Bar have
foreseen such a thing?"

"Of course Bar did not foresee this, but equally of course Bosworth must
have supplied the _Figaro_ with the main facts--how else could this
absurdly worded note have been written?" He added slowly, "This is
obviously Bosworth's idea of a rebuff to the Embassy--Ah well! I didn't
mean to tell you, but I had it from Daman yesterday that Barbara,
immediately on her arrival in Paris, had been sent word that she must
not expect, this time, to be received at the Embassy."

As he spoke Richard Rebell walked up and down the room with quick,
rather mincing steps: again he came and stood before his wife: "Our name
dragged in!" he exclaimed, "apropos of nothing!" a note of sharp chagrin
and disgust piercing in his quiet voice. "And this ridiculous, this
farcical reference to that adventurer, if indeed Sampiero is the man's
real name, of which I always had my doubts!"

The colour faded from Mrs. Rebell's cheek; she put her hand with an
instinctive movement to her side: "Richard," she said, her voice
faltering, in spite of herself, "the letter I received to-day was from
Barbara Sampiero. She is staying, as you know, at Meurice's,
and--and--pray do not be angry, my love, but she proposes to come out
and see us here, to-day!"

Her husband made no answer. He stood speechlessly looking down at her,
and when the silence became intolerable Mrs. Rebell again spoke, but in
a firmer, less apologetic tone. "And oh! Richard, I shall be so glad to
see her--I can never never forget how good she was to me years ago--how
nobly generous she has been to us all, since that time."

Richard Rebell turned abruptly away. He walked to the open window, and
little Barbara, glancing up, noticed with surprise that her father
looked very hot, that even his forehead had reddened. Standing there,
staring out with unseeing eyes at the wonderful view unrolled below, he
closed and opened his right hand with a nervous gesture, as he at last
answered, "Of course, I also shall be glad to see her. Though, mind you,
Adela, I think that during all these long years she might have found
time to come before." Turning round, he added, "Surely you are not
afraid that I shall insult my kinswoman in what is, after all, my own
house?" and then, as his wife made no answer, he said with sudden
suspicion, "Of course, she is coming alone? She would not have dared to
propose anything else?"

Mrs. Rebell rose from her chair. She came and stood by her husband, and
for the first time became aware of her little daughter's presence on the
balcony. She had, however, said too much to retreat, and perhaps she
felt that the child, sitting out there, would make her difficult task
easier.

"No, Richard, unfortunately she does not propose to come alone. It seems
that Lord Bosworth has been given the use of one of the Imperial
carriages, and he proposes to drive her here, the whole way from Paris.
He is staying, it appears, at the Bristol."

And then, turning away, she burst into sudden stormy tears, covering her
face with her hands, swaying from head to foot with suppressed sobs.

Barbara watched the scene with bewildered surprise and terror. It is
good when a child's ideal of married life is founded on that of her own
father and mother. Richard Rebell was often impatient and irritable, but
the little girl had never seen the shadow of anything resembling a
dissension between her parents. What then did this mean, what did her
mother's tears portend? But already Mrs. Rebell was making a determined
effort to command herself. Her husband put his arm, not untenderly,
round her shoulder, and, with his face set in stern lines, led her back
to her seat. Then Barbara suddenly darted into the room, and flung
herself on her mother, putting her slender arms round that dear mother's
neck, and so making, all unconsciously, a welcome diversion. Mrs. Rebell
even laughed a little. "Dear child--my little Barbara--you didn't know
that grown-up people ever cried!"

But Barbara was already retreating to the balcony, and she heard her
father say in a low voice, as if for the first time he realised that his
words might be overheard: "I am sure you do not seriously contemplate
our receiving Bar and--and Bosworth, together? The idea is monstrous!
Whatever has come and gone, however degraded I may have become among my
fellows, I still have the right to protect my wife from insult, and to
expect her to obey me in such a matter as this."

But Mrs. Rebell clasped her hands together and looked up in the troubled
face of the man opposite her with a look at once appealing and
unsubmissive. "Richard!" she cried, "oh Richard! I always _do_ obey you.
When have you ever known me go against your wish, or even desire to do
so?"

He shook his head impatiently, and she added urgently, "But in this one
matter--oh, my dear love--pray try and look at it from my point of view!
It is Barbara I wish to receive--Barbara who is of consequence to us. I
know well all you would say," the speaker gave a sudden imperceptible
look towards the open window, "but you would not put so cruel an affront
on that noble, generous creature! Ah, yes, Richard, she _is_ noble, she
_is_ generous."

"Her generosity shall cease to-morrow--nay, to-day," he said grimly.

"Do not say so!" she cried, starting up; and her little daughter, gazing
fascinated, thought she had never till to-day seen her mother look
really alive, alive as other women are. Mrs. Rebell had pushed her fair
hair off her forehead, and her cheeks were red, her blue eyes bright,
with excitement.

"Ah no, Richard, I was not thinking of _that_--not of such generosity as
can be made to cease to-morrow or to-day; but of Barbara's long goodness
to us both, nay, if you like to put it so, of her goodness to me, who am
in no way related to her! Could any sister have been kinder than she has
been? Were any of my own sisters as kind? True, we did not choose to
avail ourselves of her hospitality."

"I think that now, even you, Adela, must see that I was right in that
matter." Richard Rebell spoke rather drily.

"I never questioned it," she said, sharply; "you know, Richard, I never
questioned your decision!"

There was a pause. The memories of both husband and wife were busy with
the past, with an offer which had been made to them by Richard Rebell's
kinswoman, the offer of a home in England, and of a chance, or so the
wife had thought at the time, of ultimate rehabilitation for one whom
many even then thought completely innocent of the charge brought against
him.

Adela Rebell was a woman of high honesty, and so, "That is not quite
true," she said reluctantly, "I _did_ question your decision in my
heart, and I see now that you were right. And yet perhaps, my dear, if
we had been there----?"

Richard Rebell got up. He went and deliberately closed the window,
making a temporary prisoner of the little girl: then he came back, and
answered, very composedly, the meaning of the half-question which his
wife's shrinking delicacy had prevented her putting into words. "Our
being there, Adela, would not have made the slightest difference," he
gave her a peculiar, not unkindly look, "for as a matter of fact I was
then aware of what you apparently only began to suspect long after; and
I think that you will admit that the state of things would have made our
position at Chancton intolerable. We should very naturally have been
expected to shut our eyes--to pander----"

"Yes--yes indeed!" his wife shrank back. "But you never told me this
before----Why did you not tell me at the time?"

"My dear," he answered, very quietly, "that is not the sort of thing a
man cares to tell, even his wife, when the heroine of the tale is his
own cousin. And Barbara, as you have reminded me to-day, had behaved,
and was behaving, very generously to us both."

"But if--if you felt like that, why----"

Mrs. Rebell looked up imploringly; she knew what this conversation meant
in pain and retrospective anguish to them both. But again Richard Rebell
answered, very patiently, his wife's unspoken question, "Well, I admit
that I am perhaps illogical. But what happened two years ago, I mean the
birth of Barbara's child--has made a difference to my feeling. I don't
think"--he spoke questioningly as if to himself, "I hope to God I don't
feel as I do owing to any ignoble disappointment?"

"No, no, indeed not!" There was an accent of eager protest in Adela
Rebell's voice: "Besides, she wrote and said--she has said again and
again--that it will make no difference."

"In any case," he spoke rather coldly, "Barbara Sampiero is certain to
outlive me, and I do not think anything would make her unjust to our
girl. But to return to what I was saying, and then, if you do not mind,
Adela, we will not refer to the subject again----The birth of the child,
I say, has altered my feeling, much as it seems to have done, from what
I gather from Daman, that of the rest of the world."

"I always so disliked Mr. Daman," his wife said irrelevantly.

"No doubt, no doubt--I grant you that he's not a very nice fellow, but
he's always been fond of her, and after all he has always stuck to us.
There's no doubt as to what he says being the truth----"

"But Richard--is not that very unfair?" Mrs. Rebell spoke with a fire
that surprised herself: "if, as you tell me now, you always knew the
truth concerning Bar and Lord Bosworth, should what happened two years
ago make such a difference?"

"Till two years ago,"--he spoke as if he had not heard her
words,--"Barbara held her own completely; so much is quite clear, and
that, mind you, with all the world, even including the strait-laced folk
about Chancton. I suppose people were sorry for her--for them both, if
it comes to that----Besides, it was nobody's business but their own.
Now----" he hesitated: "Daman tells me that she's absolutely solitary, I
mean of course as regards the women." He added musingly, as if to
himself, "She's acted with extraordinary, with criminal folly over this
matter."

"Then she is being treated as we should have been treated,--indeed as we
were, by most people, during the short time we stayed in England eight
years ago?"

"I do not think," Mr. Rebell spoke very coldly, "that your comparison,
Adela, holds good. But now, to-day, the point is this: am I to be
compelled to receive, and indeed to countenance, Barbara Sampiero and
her lover? and further, am I to allow my wife to do so? Do you
suppose"--he spoke with a sudden fierceness,--"that either Barbara or
Bosworth would have ever thought of doing what you tell me they have
actually written and proposed doing, to-day, had our own circumstances
been different? Barbara may be--nay she is, as you very properly point
out--a noble and generous creature, but in this matter, my dear Adela,
she's behaving ungenerously; she's exacting a price, and a heavy price,
for her past kindness. But it is one which after to-day I shall take
care she shall not be in a position to exact.

"Yes," he went on slowly, "we shall of course have to give up this
house," his eyes glanced with a certain affection round the room which
had always pleased his taste. "Our requirements," he concluded, "have
become very simple. We might travel, and show our child something of the
world."

A light leapt into his wife's eyes; oh! what joy it would be to leave
St. Germains, to become for a while nomadic, but with a sigh she
returned to the present. "And to-day, what is to happen to-day, Richard?
There is no time to stop them--they will be here in two or three hours."

Mr. Rebell remained silent for some moments, and then: "Not even to
please you," he said, "can I bring myself to receive them. But I admit
the force of what you said just now. Therefore, if you care to do so,
stay--stay and make what excuse for my absence seems good to you.
Bosworth will know the reason well enough, unless he's more lost to a
sense of decency than I take him to be. But Bar--poor dear Bar," a note
of unwilling tenderness crept into his cold voice, "will doubtless
believe you if you tell her, what indeed is true enough, that I have an
important engagement to-day with Daman, and that, if she cares to see
me, I will come and see her before she leaves Paris----"

The speaker went to the window and opened it. He bent down and touched
Barbara's forehead with his dry lips. "I trust," he said in his thin
voice, "that you will have a pleasant birthday. I will bring you back a
box of chocolates from Marquis'," and then, without waiting to hear the
child's murmured thanks, he turned on his heel and was gone. Barbara did
not see her father again till the next morning.

                               * * * * *

It was early afternoon, and the fair-haired Englishwoman and her little
dark, eager-eyed daughter were sitting out on the rose-wreathed balcony
of the Villa d'Arcole. Mrs. Rebell was very silent. She was longing for,
and yet dreading, the coming meeting with one she had not seen since
they had parted, with tears, at Dover, eight long years before. Her
restlessness affected the child, the more so that Barbara knew that her
marraine, that is to say in English, her godmother, the source of many
beautiful gifts, was at last coming to see them, and in her short life
the rare coming of a visitor had always been an event.

Below the balcony, across the tiny formal garden now bright with
flowers, the broad sanded roadway stretching between the Villa d'Arcole
and the high cool screen formed by the forest trees, was flecked with
gay groups of children and their be-ribboned nurses. St. Germains was
beginning to awake from its noonday torpor, and leisurely walkers,
elegant women whose crinolines produced a curious giant blossom-like
effect, elderly bourgeois dressed in rather fantastic summer garb,
officers in brilliant uniforms--for in those days Imperial France was a
land of brilliancy and of uniforms--were already making their way to the
Terrace, ever the centre of the town's life and gossip.

Suddenly there came on Barbara's listening ears a sound of wheels, of
sharply ringing hoofs, of musical jingling of harness bells. Several of
the strollers below stayed their footsteps, and a moment later Mrs.
Rebell became aware that before the iron-wrought gilt gates of the villa
there had drawn up the prettiest and most fantastic of equipages, while
to the child's eager eyes it seemed as if Cinderella's fairy chariot
stood below!

Had Richard Rebell been standing by his wife, he would doubtless have
seen something slightly absurd, and in any case undignified, in the
sight presented by the low, pale blue victoria, drawn by four white
horses ridden by postillions, two of whom now stood, impassive as
statues, each at one of the leaders' heads. But to Richard Rebell's
little daughter the pretty sight brought with it nothing but pure
delight; and for a few moments she was scarcely aware of the two figures
who sat back on the white leather cushions. And yet one of these
figures, that of the woman, was quite as worthy of attention as the
equipage which served to frame her peculiar and striking beauty, and so
evidently thought the small crowd which had quickly gathered to gaze at
what had been at once recognised as a carriage from the Imperial
stables.

Dowered, perhaps to her own misfortune, with a keen dramatic instinct,
and a rather riotous love of colour, Barbara Sampiero had chosen to
dress, as it were, for the part. Her costume, a deep purple muslin gown,
flounced, as was the fashion that spring, from hem to waist, her
cross-over puffed bodice, and short-frilled sleeves, the broad Leghorn
hat draped with a scarf of old lace fastened down with amethyst bees,
and the pale blue parasol matching exactly in tint the colour of the
carriage in which she was sitting, recalled a splendid tropical flower.

A certain type of feminine beauty has about it a luminous quality; such
was that of Barbara Sampiero, now in full and glowing perfection: some
of its radiance due to the fact that as yet Time--she was not far from
forty--had spared her any trace of his swift passage. The involuntary
homage of those about her proved that she was still as attractive as she
had been as a younger woman; her beauty had become to her an
all-important asset, and she guarded and tended it most jealously.

Her companion was also, though in a very different way, well worthy of
attention. Before stepping out of the carriage he stood up for a
moment, and, as he looked about him with amused and leisurely
curiosity, the spectators at once recognised in him a typical
Englishman of the ruling class. Every detail of his dress, the very
cut of his grizzled hair and carefully trimmed whiskers, aroused the
envy of those Frenchmen among the crowd who judged themselves to be of
much his own age. He had not retained, as had done his contemporary
and one-time friend, Richard Rebell, the figure of his youth, but he
was still a fine, vigorous-looking man, with a bearing full of dignity
and ease.

As his eyes quickly noted the unchanged aspect of the place where he
found himself, he reminded himself, with some quickening of his pulses,
that no Englishman living had a right to feel in closer touch with the
romance of this French town. In the great grim castle--so unlike the
usual smiling château--which rose to the right behind the Villa
d'Arcole, his own Stuart forbears had spent their dignified exile. More,
he himself had deliberately chosen to associate the most romantic and
enchanting episode of a life which had not been lacking in enchanting
and romantic episodes, with this same place, with St. Germains. He and
Madame Sampiero had good reason to gaze as they were both doing at that
famous hostelry, the Pavillon Henri IV., of which they could see,
embowered in trees, the picturesque buildings overhanging the
precipitous slopes.

Julian Fitzjames Berwick, Lord Bosworth of Leicester, had always made it
his business to extract the utmost out of life. He had early promised
himself that, whoever else were debarred from looking over the hedge, he
would belong to the fortunate few who are privileged to walk through the
gate. So far he had been wonderfully successful in attaining the various
goals he had set himself to attain. This had been true even of his
public life, for he had known how to limit his ambitions to what was
easily possible, never taking undue risks, and ever keeping himself free
from any connection with forlorn hopes. This perhaps was why this
fortunate man was one of the very few statesmen in whom his fellow
countrymen felt a comfortable confidence. All parties were apt to
express regret when he was out of office, and though he was no longer in
any sense a young man, it was believed that he had a future or several
futures before him.

Many of Lord Bosworth's contemporaries and friends would have shrunk
from taking part in such an expedition as that of to-day, but the
intelligent epicurean had so arranged every detail of this visit to
Richard Rebell and his wife, that it must bring, at any rate to himself,
more pleasure than annoyance. Still, he was not sorry to stand for a
moment enjoying the pretty, bright scene, the wonderful view, and his
own and his beautiful companion's sentimental memories, before going in
to face, as he fully believed he was about to do, the man who was at
once Barbara Sampiero's unfortunate kinsman and his own former intimate.

Meanwhile Mrs. Rebell had made her way swiftly down the house: hurriedly
she herself opened the front door, waving back the French servant: then,
when she saw the little crowd gathered round the gate, she retreated
nervously, leaving her two guests to make their way alone up the
geranium-bordered path. But once they had passed through into the cool
dim hall, once the light and brightness were shut out, then with a cry
of welcome Adela Rebell put her arms round the other woman's neck, and
with a certain shy cordiality gave her hand to the man whose coming
to-day had caused Richard Rebell to be absent from this meeting, and
this although, Mrs. Rebell eagerly reminded herself, Lord Bosworth also
had been true and kind during that bitter time eight years ago.

At last all four, for little Barbara was clinging to her mother's
skirts, made their way up the narrow turning staircase, and so into the
long, sparsely furnished drawing-room, full of grateful quiet and
coolness to the two who had just enjoyed a hot if a triumphal drive from
Paris.

At once Madame Sampiero sat down and drew the child to her knee: "And
so," she said, in a deep melodious voice, "this is little Barbara
Rebell? my god-daughter and namesake! For do you know, my child, that I
also am a Barbara Rebell? One always keeps, it seems, a right to one's
name, and lately--yes really, Adela, I have sometimes thought of going
back to mine!" Then, with a quick change of voice, her eyes sweeping the
room and the broad balcony, "But where is Richard?" she asked. "Surely
you received my letter? You knew that I was coming, to-day?"

But she accepted with great good humour Mrs. Rebell's faltered
explanation, perhaps secretly relieved that there need be no meeting
with the cousin who owed her so much, and who yet, she had reason to
believe, judged with rather pitiless severity the way she had chosen to
fashion her life.

Meanwhile, Lord Bosworth and little Barbara had gone out on the balcony,
and there, with the tact for which he had long been famed, and which had
contributed not a little to his successes when Foreign Minister, he soon
made friends with the shy, reserved child.

But Madame Sampiero took no advantage of the _tête-à-tête_ so
thoughtfully arranged by her friend; instead, but looking intently the
while into Adela Rebell's sensitive face, she dwelt wholly on the
immediate present; telling of her stay in Paris, the first for many
years; of her visit to St. Cloud--in a few satirical sentences she
described to her silent listener the interview with the Empress Eugénie
amid the almost theatrical splendour of the summer palace. But the gay
voice altered in quality as she asked the quick question, "I suppose
Richard reads the _Figaro_? Did he tell you of that reference to--to my
visit to St. Cloud?" As her companion bent her head, she added: "It has
annoyed us so very much! I am sorry that Richard saw it--I cannot
imagine how they became aware of my maiden name, or why they brought in
that reference to Corsica!"

Mrs. Rebell, the kindest, least critical of women, yet felt a certain
doubt as to whether in this matter her cousin was speaking the truth,
but Madame Sampiero had already dismissed the subject with an impatient
sigh. She rose from her chair, and walked to and fro, examining with
apparent interest the fine pieces of First Empire furniture at that time
so completely out of fashion as to appear curiosities. Then she said
suddenly, "Surely we might go out of doors. May little Barbara take
Julian to the church where James II. is buried? He is anxious to see the
inscription the Queen has had placed there. Meanwhile you and I might
wait for them on the Terrace; I seem to have so much to tell you, and
you know we cannot stay much more than an hour," and, as she noted
remorsefully Mrs. Rebell's flush of keen disappointment, she added, "Did
I not tell you in my letter that Julian was anxious to see the little
place near here belonging to James Berwick, I mean the hunting lodge
bought years ago by Julian's brother? However, there may be no time for
that, as we are going on to St. Cloud, and also---- But I will ask you
about that later."

                               * * * * *

Once out of doors, leaning over the parapet of the Terrace, gazing down
on the wide plain below, and following abstractedly the ribbon-like
windings of the river, Madame Sampiero at last touched on more intimate
matters, on that which had been in both her own and her companion's
minds ever since Mrs. Rebell had drawn her, with such eager hands, into
the hall of the villa.

"If Richard had been here," she said, "I could not have spoken to you of
my child--of my darling Julia. And though I'm sorry not to see him, I'm
glad to have this opportunity of telling you, Adela, that I regret
nothing, and that I do not feel that I have any reason to be ashamed."
As the other looked at her with deeply troubled eyes, she continued: "Of
course I know you think I have acted very wrongly. But in these matters
every woman must judge for her own self. After all, that man over
there,"--she waved her hand vaguely as if indicating some far distant
spot, and Mrs. Rebell, slight though was her sense of humour, felt a
flash of melancholy amusement as she realised that the place so
indicated meant the Corsican village where Napoleone Sampiero was
leading a most agreeable life on the income which he wrested only too
easily from his English wife,--"That man, I say, has no claim on me! If
there came any change in the French divorce laws he could easily be
brought to do what I wish----Oh Adela, if you only knew what a
difference my child has made to me,--and in every way!"

For a few moments there was silence between them. Adela Rebell opened
her lips--but no words would come, and so at last, timidly and tenderly
she laid her hand on the other woman's, and Barbara again spoke. "I used
to feel--who would not have done so in my position?--how little real
part I played in Julian's life. The knowledge that Arabella and James
Berwick were to him almost like his own children was, I confess, painful
to me, but now that he knows what it is to have a child of his own--ah,
Adela, I wish you could see them together! Only to-day he said to me: 'I
love you, Barbara, but I adore our Julia!' I used to think he would
never care to spend much of the year in the country; but now, since the
child came, he seems quite content to stay for long weeks together at
Fletchings."

"And I suppose," said Mrs. Rebell,--she did not know how to bring
herself to speak of little Julia--"I suppose that James and
Arabella--how well I remember them as small children--are a great deal
with him?"

"Well, no," for the first time during the conversation Madame Sampiero
reddened deeply. "Arabella has been taken possession of by her mother's
people. They have not been quite kind about--about the whole matter--and
I think at first Julian felt it a good deal. But after all it would have
been rather awkward for him to have charge of a niece of eighteen. As to
James Berwick, of course he comes and goes, and I'm told he's
prodigiously clever. He doesn't grow better-looking as he grows older.
Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that the ugly little fellow is
Julian's nephew!"

"And Jane Turke?"

"Oh! I've left her and Alick McKirdy at Chancton, in charge of Julia, of
course."

"Will you remember me to him--I mean to Doctor McKirdy,--you know I
always liked him in old days."

"Yes, a very good fellow! Of course I'll tell him. He'll feel very
flattered, I'm sure, that you remember him."

"And the Priory--I wish stones could feel! For then, Bar, I should ask
you to give my love to the Priory--I do so cherish that place! Sometimes
I dream that we, Richard and I, are there, as we used to be long
ago----" Mrs. Rebell's voice broke.

Madame Sampiero put her hand through her companion's arm, and slowly
they began to pace up and down. "As I told you," she said, rather
suddenly, "we cannot stay long, for we are driving round by St. Cloud,
and--and, Adela, I have a great favour to ask of you"--there came an
eager, coaxing note into the low, full voice. "May I take little Barbara
too? I mean with us to St. Cloud? The Prince Imperial is giving a
children's party. Look, I have brought her a special invitation all to
herself!" and from her pocket--for those were the days of voluminous
pockets--the speaker drew a small card on which was written in gold
letters, "Le Prince Impérial a l'honneur d'inviter Mademoiselle Barbara
Rebell à gouter. St. Cloud, 9 Juin, 1870." "I told the Empress," she
added eagerly, "that I should like to bring my god-daughter and
namesake, and she made the boy--he is such a well-mannered little
fellow--write Barbara's name on the card."

"Dear Bar, it was more than kind of you. But I fear--I know, that
Richard would not allow it!"

"But Adela--if I take all the blame! Surely you would not wish the child
to miss such a delightful experience?" Madame Sampiero spoke in a
mortified tone, but Adela Rebell scarcely heard the words; to her the
proposal did not even admit of discussion. "I cannot allow what Richard
would certainly disapprove," she said; and then, with the eager wish of
softening her refusal, "You do not realise, Barbara, my poor Richard's
state of mind. We go nowhere, we know nobody; it was with the greatest
difficulty I persuaded him to allow the Protestant banker to bring me in
touch with a few people who have children of our child's own age. More
than once we have been offered introductions which would have brought us
in contact with the Tuileries and with St. Cloud, but Richard feels that
in the circumstances we cannot live too quietly. And on the whole," she
hastened to add, "I agree with him."

Before another word could be uttered on either side, the two oddly
contrasted figures of Lord Bosworth and his small companion were seen
hastening towards them. The man and the child had already become good
friends, and, as they drew near to Madame Sampiero and Mrs. Rebell,
little Barbara, a charming figure in her white muslin frock, blue sash
and large frilled hat, ran forward with what was for her most unusual
eagerness and animation.

"Oh mamma," she cried, "have you heard? The Prince Imperial has invited
me to his _gouter_, and my marraine and this gentleman are going to take
me to St. Cloud! There is a little seat in the carriage which can be let
down." Her voice wavered; perhaps she had already become aware of her
mother's look of utter dismay, "You know that Marthe Pollain went last
year, and the little Prince danced with her--I do wonder if he will
dance with me!"

She stopped, a little out of breath, and Madame Sampiero turned with a
half-humorous, half-deprecating look at her cousin, "Come, Adela," she
said, "surely you would never have the heart to refuse those pleading
eyes?"

But the words seemed to nerve Mrs. Rebell to instant decision. "No,
Barbara," she said, in a very low tone. "My poor little girl--I cannot
allow you to accept this invitation. It would make your father very very
angry." And then, as the child, submitting at once, to Bosworth's
admiring surprise, turned away, the tears running down her cheeks, the
mother added, even more really distressed than was the nervous, excited
little girl herself: "I am so very sorry, Barbara, but we will try to
think of something to do to-morrow which you will like almost as well."

Madame Sampiero bent towards the child. "Never mind, little Barbara,"
she said, her voice trembling a little, "only wait till you see me
again, I will bring you the sweetest of playfellows! And some day I will
myself persuade your father to let me take you to a real ball, at the
Tuileries!" Turning to Mrs. Rebell, she added: "Julian and I both agree
that in time, say in six or eight years, I should do very well to take
some small château near Paris, and spend there part of each year. Julia
will then be old enough to have masters, and I am sure, indeed we both
think,"--she turned to the impassive man now walking slowly by her
side,--"that I had better really try and make a half Frenchwoman of her,
and perhaps ultimately, who knows, settle her in France!"

Mrs. Rebell suddenly laughed. "Oh Barbara," she said, "how fond you have
always been of making plans, of looking forward! Surely this is rather
premature?"

Madame Sampiero smiled. "English people," she said, quickly, "don't give
half enough thought to the future. But, Adela, I was not only thinking
of my Julia, but also of your little Barbara. Richard cannot mean her
always to lead a cloistered life. In eight years she will be grown-up,
eager to see something of the world. Where could she make her début so
delightfully as at the Tuileries? Well, little Barbara"--and again she
bent over the child--"look forward to the time when I shall be quite
ready to play my _rôle_ of fairy godmother, and so introduce you to the
most beautiful, the most brilliant, the most delightful Court in the
world!"

The group of walkers turned, and slowly they made their way back to the
Villa d'Arcole. Then, after long clinging leave-taking, Mrs. Rebell and
Barbara, both with bitter tears in their eyes, watched the fairy-like
equipage disappear down the sanded road leading to the Grande Place, and
so towards the broad highway which would bring it ultimately to St.
Cloud.

                               * * * * *

When the carriage was clear of the town, Bosworth, laying his large
powerful hand on that of his companion, as if to deaden the full meaning
of his words, said suddenly, "I suppose, Barbara, that you never had the
slightest doubt as to Richard Rebell's complete innocence?"

"Never!" she said sharply. "Never the slightest doubt! In fact I would
far rather believe myself guilty of cheating at cards than I would
Richard. I think it was an infamous accusation! Why, surely you, Julian,
felt and feel the same?" She looked at him with real distress and anger
in her blue eyes.

"Oh yes," he said slowly, "I certainly felt the same at the time. Still,
his present way of going on looks very odd. It doesn't seem to me that
of an innocent man. Why should he compel his wife to lead such a life as
that she evidently does lead at St. Germains?"

"But how young she still looks," said Madame Sampiero eagerly. "I really
think she's as pretty as ever!"

"H'm!" he said. "Rather faded--at least so I thought. And then,--another
notion of Richard's no doubt,--there seemed something wrong about her
dress."

Barbara Sampiero laughed. "You are quite right," she said, "but how odd
that you should have noticed it! Richard won't allow her to wear a
crinoline! Isn't he absurd? But she hasn't changed a bit. She loves him
as much as ever--nay, more than ever, and that, Julian,"--again their
hands clasped,--"is, you must admit, very rare and touching after all
that has come and gone."

But each of the speakers felt that this visit to St. Germains had been
vaguely disappointing, that it had not yielded all they had hoped it
would do.

Barbara Sampiero made up her mind that before leaving Paris she would
come again, and come alone. She did not carry out her good resolution,
and many long years were to pass by before she and her god-daughter met
again. And to both, by the time of that second meeting, St. Germains had
become a place peopled with sad ghosts and poignant memories which both
strove rather to forget than to remember.


                          END OF THE PROLOGUE.



                               CHAPTER I.

    "Mon pauvre coeur maladroit, mon coeur plein de révolte et
    d'espérance...."

            "The past is death's, the future is thine own."

                                                        SHELLEY.


Fifteen years had gone by since the eventful birthday and meeting at St.
Germains.

As Barbara Rebell, still Barbara Rebell, though she had been a wife, a
most unhappy wife, for six years, stepped from the small dark vestibule
into the dimly-lighted hall of Chancton Priory, her foot slipped on the
floor; and she would have fallen had not a man's hand, small but
curiously bony and fleshless, grasped her right arm, while, at the same
moment, a deep voice from out the darkness exclaimed, "A good omen! So
stumbled the Conqueror!"

The accent in which the odd words were uttered would have told a tale as
to the speaker's hard-bitten nationality to most English-speaking folk:
not so to the woman to whom they were addressed. Yet they smote on her
ear as though laden with welcome, for they recalled the voice of a
certain Andrew Johnstone, the Scotch Governor of the West Indian island
of Santa Maria, whose brotherly kindness and unobtrusive sympathy had
been more comfortable to her, in a moment of great humiliation and
distress, than his English wife's more openly expressed concern and more
eagerly offered friendship.

And then, as the stranger advanced, hesitatingly, into the hall, she
found herself confronted by an odd, indeed an amazing figure, which yet
also brought a quick sense of being at last in a dear familiar place
offering both welcome and shelter. For she was at once aware that this
must be the notable Jane Turke, Madame Sampiero's housekeeper, one to
whom Barbara's own mother had often referred when telling her little
daughter of the delights of Chancton Priory--of the Sussex country house
to which, when dying, the thoughts of Richard Rebell's wife seemed ever
turning with sick longing and regret.

Mrs. Turke wore a travesty of the conventional housekeeper's costume.
There, to be sure, were the black apron and lace cap and the bunch of
jingling keys, but the watered silk of which the gown was made was of
bright yellow, and across its wearer's ample bosom was spread an
elaborate parure of topazes set in filigree gold, a barbaric ornament
which, however, did not seem out of place on the remarkable-looking old
lady. Two earrings, evidently belonging to the same set, had been
mounted as pins, and gleamed on the black lace partly covering Mrs.
Turke's grey hair, which was cut in a straight fringe above the shrewd,
twinkling eyes, Roman nose, and firm, well-shaped mouth and chin.

For a few moments the housekeeper held, as it were, the field to
herself: she curtsied twice, but there was nothing servile or menial
about the salutation, and each time the yellow gown swept the
stone-flagged floor she uttered the words, "Welcome, Ma'am, to
Chancton," running her eyes quickly the while over the slender stranger
whose coming might bring such amazing changes to the Priory.

Then, as Mrs. Rebell, half smiling, put out her hand, the old
woman--for, in spite of her look of massive strength Mrs. Turke was by
now an old woman--said more naturally, "You don't remember Jane Turke,
Ma'am, but Jane Turke remembers you, when you was little Missy, and your
dear Mamma used to bring you here as a babby."

Mrs. Turke's voice was quite amazingly unlike that which had uttered,
close to the door, the few words of what Barbara had felt to be a far
sincerer welcome. It was essentially a made-up, artificial voice,--one
to which only the old-fashioned but expressive word "genteel" could
possibly apply: an intelligent listener could not but feel certain that
Mrs. Turke would be bound to speak, if under stress of emotion, in quite
other accents.

A muttered exclamation, a growl from that other presence who still stood
apart, hidden in the deep shadows cast by the music gallery which
stretched across the hall just above the head of the little group,
seemed to nerve the housekeeper to a fresh effort: "This gentleman,
Ma'am," she cried, waving a fat be-ringed hand towards the darkness, "is
Doctor McKirdy. He also knew your dear Mamma, and is very pleased to see
you once more at Chancton Priory."

From behind Barbara Rebell lumbered forth into the light another strange
figure, a man this time, clad in evening dress. But he also seemed oddly
familiar, and Mrs. Rebell knew him for a certain Alexander McKirdy, of
whom, again, she had often heard from her mother. "I'll just thank ye,"
he said harshly, "to let me utter my own welcome to this lady. My words,
no doubt, will be poor things, Mrs. Turke, compared to yours, but they
will have the advantage of being my own!"

Alexander McKirdy was singularly ugly,--so much had to be conceded
to his enemies and critics, and at Chancton there were many who
felt themselves at enmity with him, and few who were capable of
realising either the Scotchman's intellectual ability or his entire
disinterestedness. Of fair height, he yet gave the impression of being
short and ungainly, owing to the huge size of his head and the
disproportionate breadth of his shoulders. His features were rough-hewn
and irregular, only redeemed by a delicate, well-shaped mouth, and
penetrating, not unkindly pale blue eyes. His hair, once bright red, now
sandy grey streaked with white, was always kept short, bristling round a
high intelligent forehead, and he was supposed to gratify Scotch economy
by cutting it himself. He was clean-shaven, and his dress was habitually
that of a man quite indifferent to his outward appearance; like most
ugly and eccentric-looking men, Doctor McKirdy appeared at his best on
the rare occasions when he was compelled to wear his ancient dress
clothes.

Such was the man who now turned and cast a long searching look at
Barbara Rebell. "I shall know if you are welcome--welcome to me, that
is--better an hour hence than now, and better still to-morrow than
to-day"--but a twinkle in his small bright eyes softened the
ungraciousness of his words: "Now," he said, "be off, Mrs. Turke! You've
had your innings, and said your say, and now comes my turn."

"You're never going to take Mrs. Rebell up to Madam now,--this very
minute?--before she has taken off her bonnet?--or seen her room?--or had
her dinner?" but the man whom she addressed with such fussy zeal made no
reply. Instead, he jerked his right shoulder, that as to which Barbara
wondered if it could be higher than the other, towards the shadows from
which he had himself emerged, and Mrs. Turke meekly turned away, her
yellow silk gown rustling, and her barbaric ornaments jingling, as she
passed through the swing door which shut off the hall, where they had
all three been standing, from the commons of the Priory.

Doctor McKirdy lifted one of the high lamps, which seemed to make the
darkness of the hall more visible, in his strong, steady hands. Then he
turned abruptly to Mrs. Rebell. "Now," said he, "just a word with you,
in your private ear."

Without waiting for an answer, he started walking down the hall, Barbara
following obediently, while yet finding time to gaze, half fearfully, as
she went, at the quivering grotesque shadows flung by herself and her
companion across the bare spaces of flagged floor, and over the
high-backed armchairs, the Chinese screen, and the Indian cabinets which
lined the walls on either side of the huge fire-place.

At last they stopped before a closed door--one curiously ornate, and
heavy with gilding. Doctor McKirdy motioned to his companion to open it,
and as she did so they passed through into what was evidently the
rarely-used drawing-room of the Priory.

Then, putting the lamp down on the top of a china cabinet, the Scotchman
turned and faced his companion, and with a certain surprise Mrs. Rebell
realised that he was much taller than herself, and that as he spoke she
had to look up into his face.

"I should tell you," he said, with no preamble, "that it was I who wrote
you the letter bidding you come."

Barbara shrank back: of course she had been aware,--painfully
aware,--that the letter which had indeed bidden her, not unkindly, to
leave the West Indian island where she had spent her wretched married
life, and make Chancton Priory her home, had not been written by her
godmother's own hand. The knowledge had troubled her, for it implied
that her letter of appeal, that to which this was an answer, had also
been read by alien eyes.

"Yes," the doctor repeated, as though unwilling to spare her, "I wrote
it--of course at Madam's dictation: but it was my notion that when going
through London you should see Goodchild. He's an honest man,--that is,
honest as lawyers go! I thought may-be he might explain how matters are
here--Well, did you see him?"

"Yes, I went there this morning. Mr. Goodchild told me that my godmother
was paralysed,--but that, of course, I knew already. Perhaps you have
forgotten that you yourself long ago wrote and told me of her illness?
Mr. Goodchild also explained to me that Madame Sampiero sees very few
people. He seemed to doubt"--Barbara's soft, steady voice suddenly
trembled--"whether she would consent to see me; but I do hope"--she
fixed her dark eyes on his face with a rather piteous expression--"I do
hope, Doctor McKirdy, that she will see me?"

"Don't fash yourself! She _is_ going to see you,--that is, if I just
wish it!"

He looked down at the delicate, sensitive face of the young woman
standing before him, with an intent, scrutinising gaze, allowed it to
travel slowly downwards till it seemed wholly to envelop her, and yet
Barbara felt no offence: she realised that this strange being only so
far examined her outward shape, inasmuch as he believed it would help
him to probe her character and nature.

In very truth the doctor's mind was filled at the present moment with
the thought of one in every way differing from Mrs. Rebell. How would
this still young creature--Barbara's look of fragility and youth gave
him something of a shock--affect Madame Sampiero? That was the question
he had set himself to solve in the next few moments.

"Are you one of those," he said suddenly, and rather hoarsely, "who
shrink from the sight of suffering?--who abhor distortion?--who only
sympathise with pain when they themselves are in the way to require
sympathy?"

Barbara hesitated. His questions, flung at her with quick short words,
compelled true answers.

"No," she said, looking at him with steady eyes, "I have not--I have
never had--the feelings you describe. I believe many people shrink from
seeing suffering, and that it is not to their discredit that they do so
shrink----" There was a defiant note in her voice, and quickly her
companion registered the challenge, but he knew that this was no time to
wage battle.

Mrs. Rebell continued: "I have never felt any horror of the sick and
maimed, and I am not given to notice, with any repugnance, physical
deformity." Then she stopped, for the strong lined face of her companion
had become, as it were, convulsed with some deep feeling, to which she
had no clue.

"Perhaps I will just tell you," he said, "why I believe Madame Sampiero
may see you, apart from the fact that she desires to do so. Mrs. Turke
was quite right," he went on with apparent irrelevancy, "I _did_ know
your mother. I had a sincere respect for her, and----" Again his
thoughts seemed to take an abrupt turn. "I suppose you realise that I am
Madame Sampiero's medical attendant,--I have no other standing in this
house,--oh no, none in the world!"

Barbara divined the feeling which had prompted the last words to be
bitter, bitter.

"I know," she said gently, "that you have been here a long time, and
that my mother"--a very charming smile lighted up her sad face--"fully
returned the feeling you seem to have had for her."

But Doctor McKirdy hardly seemed to hear the words, for he hurried on,

"One day, many years ago--I think before you were born--your mother and
I went for a walk. It was about this time of the year--that is the time
when keepers and vermin are busy. We were walking, I say, and I--young
fool!--was full of pride, for it was the first walk a lady had ever
deigned to take with me. I was uglier, yes, and I think even more
repulsive-looking than I am now!" he gave Barbara a quick glance from
under his shaggy eyebrows, but she made no sign of dissent, and he
smiled, wryly.

"Well, as I say, I was pleased and proud, for I thought even more ill of
women than I think now; but Mrs. Richard,--that's what we call her here,
you know,--was so beautiful, such a contrast to myself: just a pretty
doll, I took her to be, and as thoughts are free, looking at her there
walking along, I was glad to know that I had all the sweets of her
company and none of the bitter!"

And still Barbara Rebell, staring at him, astonished at his words, felt
no offence.

"At last," he went on, "we reached the edge of the first down. I'll take
you there some day. And we heard suddenly a piteous squeal: it was a
puppy, a miserable little beastie, caught in a rabbit trap. You've never
seen such a thing? Ay, that's well, I hope you never will: since that
day you run no risk of doing so in Chancton Woods! 'Twas a sickening
sight, one of the doggie's paws nearly off, and I felt sick--wanted to
get away, to fetch someone along from the village. But Mrs. Richard--she
was the tenderest creature alive, remember--never flinched. Those were
not the days of gun ladies, but there, with me standing by, foolish,
helpless, she put an end to the poor beastie--she put it out of its
misery--with my knife too. Now that deserved the Humane Society's medal,
eh? I never go by there without thinking of it. It's a pity," he said,
in abrupt irrelevant conclusion, "that you're not more like her. I mean,
as regards the outer woman"--he added hastily--"you are dark, like your
father. Well now, I'll be calling Mrs. Turke, and she shall show you
your rooms. We thought you would like those Mrs. Richard used to have
when she came here. She preferred them to those below, to those grander
apartments on Madam's floor."

"And when shall I see my godmother?"

Doctor McKirdy looked at her consideringly:

"Time enough when you've had a rest and a good supper. Never fear, she's
as eager to see you as you are to see her," then, as he watched her
walking back into the hall, he muttered under his breath, "There's
something of Mrs. Richard there after all!"

                               * * * * *

A few moments later Barbara was following the stout housekeeper up the
small winding stair which occupied, opposite the porch and vestibule,
one of the four corners of the great hall, for those who had designed
and built the newer portion of Chancton Priory had had no wish to
sacrifice any portion of the space at their disposal to the exigencies
of a grand staircase.

Mrs. Turke, on the first landing, called a halt, and Barbara looked
about her with languid curiosity. To the right stretched a dark recess,
evidently the music gallery which overlooked the hall; to the left a
broad well-lighted corridor led, as Mrs. Rebell at once divined, if only
because of the sudden silence which had fallen on her companion, to the
apartments of the paralysed mistress of the Priory, to those of her
godmother, Madame Sampiero.

Then Mrs. Turke, her loquacity stilled, laboured on up more narrow
winding stairs till they reached the third storey, and, groping her way
down many winding turnings, she finally ushered Mrs. Rebell with some
ceremony--for every incident connected with daily life was to Mrs. Turke
a matter of ritual--into a suite of low-ceilinged, plainly furnished
rooms, of which the windows opened on to the Tudor stone balcony which
was so distinctive and so beautiful a feature of the great house, as
seen from the spreading lawns below.

                               * * * * *

Till Barbara found herself left solitary--she had declared herself well
able, nay, desirous to unpack and dress alone--all that had taken place
during the last hour had seemed hardly real.

It is said that the first feeling of those who, after being buffeted in
the storm, tossed to and fro by the waves, are finally cast up on dry
land, is not always one of relief. Barbara was no longer struggling in
deep water, but she still felt terribly bruised and sore, and the smart
of the injuries which had befallen her was still with her. Standing
there, in the peaceful rooms which had been those of her own mother, a
keen, almost a physical, longing for that same dear tender mother came
suddenly over her.

Slowly she put on her one evening dress, a white gown which had been
hurriedly made during the hours which had elapsed between the arrival of
the Johnstones' invitation to Government House, and the leaving by her
of her husband's plantation. Then she looked at herself in the glass,
rather pitifully anxious to make a good impression on her godmother--on
this paralysed woman, who, if the London lawyer said truly, was yet
mentally so intensely and vividly alive.

To give herself courage, Barbara tried to remember that her hostess was
not only of her own blood, but that she had been the one dear, intimate,
and loyal friend of her mother--the only human being whom Richard
Rebell's wife had refused to give up at his bidding, and even after
Madame Sampiero and her kinsman had broken off all epistolary
relationship. Why had they done so? Out of the past came the memory of
sharp bitter words uttered by Barbara's father concerning Madame
Sampiero and a certain Lord Bosworth. Then, more recently, when she was
perhaps about thirteen, had come news of a child's death--the child had
been called Julia--and Barbara's mother had wept long and bitterly,
though admitting, in answer to her young daughter's frightened
questions, that she had not known the little Julia.

Mrs. Rebell wrapped a shawl, one of Grace Johnstone's many thoughtful
gifts, round her white gown, and so stepped through her window on to the
stone balcony. Standing there, looking down on the great dark spaces
below, she suddenly felt, for the first time, a deep sense of peace and
of protection from past sorrows and indignities. For the first time also
she felt that she had been justified in coming, and in leaving the man
who,--alas! that it should be so, he being kinsman as well as
husband,--had treated her so ill.

During the long, solitary journey home--if, indeed, England was
home--there had been time for deep misgiving, for that quick examination
of conscience which, in a sensitive, over-wrought nature, leads to
self-accusation, to a fear of duty neglected. Barbara Rebell was but now
emerging from what had been, and that over years, the imprisonment of
both body and soul. Physically she had become free, but mentally she
still had often during the last five weeks felt herself to be a
bondswoman. During the voyage--aye, even during the two days spent by
her in London--she had seemed to suffer more sentiently than when
actually crushed under the heel of Pedro Rebell, the half-Spanish
planter whose name seemed the only English thing about him. Since she
had escaped from him, Barbara had felt increasingly the degradation of
her hasty marriage to one whose kinship to herself, distant though it
was, had seemed to her girlish inexperience an ample guarantee. That she
had once loved the man,--if, indeed, the romantic, high-strung fancy
which had swept over the newly-orphaned girl could be dignified by the
name of love,--served but to increase her feeling of shame.

To-night, leaning over the stone balcony of Chancton Priory, Barbara
remembered an incident which had of late receded in her mind: once more
she seemed to feel the thrill of indignation and impotent anger which
had overwhelmed her when she had found out, a few weeks after her
wedding day, that the sum of money paid yearly by Madame Sampiero to
Richard Rebell's account, and untouched by him for some ten years before
his death, had been discovered and appropriated by her bridegroom, with,
if she remembered rightly, the scornful assent of Madame Sampiero.

Again she turned hot, as though the episode had happened but yesterday
instead of six long years before; and she asked herself, with sudden
misgiving, how she had ever found the courage to petition her godmother
for the shelter of her roof. She could never have brought herself to do
so but for the kindly letter, accompanied by a gift of a hundred pounds,
which had reached her once a year ever since her ill-fated marriage.
These letters seemed to tell her that the old link which had bound her
mother and Barbara Sampiero so closely had not snapped with death, with
absence, or even, on the part of the writer of them, with physical
disablement.

At last Barbara turned back into the room, and, taking up a candle, made
her way slowly and noiselessly down the old house.



                              CHAPTER II.


    "Et voilà que vieillie et qu'infirme avant l'heure
    Ta main tremble à jamais qui n'a jamais tremblé,
    Voilà qu'encore plus haute et que toujours meilleure
    L'âme seule est debout dans ton être accablé...."
                                                               P. D.

    "Who ever rigged fair ships to lie in harbours?"
                                                              DONNE.


Mrs. Rebell was surprised to note the state and decorum with which the
meal to which she sat down in the dining-room was served. She looked
with some curiosity at the elderly impassive butler and the young
footman--where had they been at the moment of her arrival?

Barbara had yet to learn that implicit obedience to the wills of Doctor
McKirdy and of Mrs. Turke was the rule of life in Chancton Priory, but
that even they, who when apart were formidable, and when united
irresistible, had to give way when any of their fancies controverted a
desire, however lightly expressed, of their mistress.

Doctor McKirdy would long ago have abolished the office of butler, and
even more that of footman; it irked him that two human beings,--even
though one, that selected by himself, was a Scotchman,--should be eating
almost incessantly the bread of idleness. But Madame Sampiero had made
it clear that she wished the entertainment of her infrequent guests to
be carried on exactly as if she herself were still coming and going with
fleet, graceful steps about the house of which she had been for so many
years the proud and happy mistress. She liked to feel that she was still
dispensing hospitality in the stately dining-room, from the walls of
which looked down an odd collection of family portraits, belonging to
every period of English history and of English art; some, indeed the
majority, so little worthy from the artistic point of view, that they
had been considered unfit to take their places on the cedarwood panels
of the great reception rooms.

                               * * * * *

Barbara found the doctor waiting for her in the hall, walking
impatiently up and down, his big head thrust forward, his hands clasped
behind his back. He was in high good humour, well pleased with the new
inmate of the Priory, and impressed more than he knew by Barbara's
fragile beauty and air of high breeding. In theory no living man was
less amenable to the influence of feminine charm or of outward
appearance, but in actual day-to-day life Alexander McKirdy, doubtless
owing to the old law of opposites, had a keen feeling for physical
perfection, and all unconsciously he abhorred ugliness.

As Mrs. Rebell came silently towards him from behind the Chinese screen
which concealed the door leading from the great hall to the dining-room,
he shot but at her a quick approving glance. Her white gown, made more
plainly than was the fashion of that hour, fell in austere folds about
her upright slender figure; the knowledge that she was about to see
Madame Sampiero had brought a flush to her pale cheeks and a light to
her dark eyes. Without a word the doctor turned and led the way up the
winding stair with which Barbara was already feeling a pleasant sense of
familiarity; an old staircase is the last of household strongholds which
surrenders to a stranger.

When they reached the landing opposite the music gallery, the doctor
turned down the wide corridor, and Barbara, with a sudden feeling of
surprise, realised that this upper floor had become the real
centre,--the heart, as it were,--of Chancton Priory. The great hall, the
drawing-room in which she had received Doctor McKirdy's odd confidences,
even the dining-room where a huge fire blazed in her honour, had about
them a strangely unlived-in and deserted air; but up here were light and
brightness, indeed, even some of the modern prettinesses of life,--huge
pots of fragrant hothouse flowers, soft rugs under-foot.

When opposite to the high door with which the corridor terminated,
Doctor McKirdy turned and looked for a moment at his companion; and, as
he did so, it seemed to Barbara that he was deliberately smoothing out
the deep lines carved by ever-present watchfulness and anxiety on the
rugged surface of his face. Then he knocked twice, sharp quick knocks,
signal-like in their precision; and, scarcely waiting for an answer, he
walked straight through, saying as he did so, "Just wait here a
moment--I will make you a sign when to come forward."

And then, standing just within the door, and gazing with almost painful
eagerness before her, Mrs. Rebell saw as in a vision that which
recalled, and to a startling degree, a great Roman lying-in-state to
which she had been taken, as a very young girl, during a winter spent by
her with her parents in Italy.

Between the door and the four curtainless windows, through one of which
now gleamed the young October moon, Barbara became aware that on a long
narrow couch, placed catafalque fashion, in the centre of the room, an
absolutely immobile figure lay stretched out. The light shed from
candles set in branching candlesticks about the room threw every detail
of the still figure, and especially of the head supported on high
pillows, into prominent relief.

From the black satin cushion on which rested two upright slippered feet,
the gazer's fascinated eyes travelled up--past the purple velvet gown
arranged straightly and stiffly from waist to hem, past the cross-over
lace shawl which almost wholly concealed the velvet bodice, and so to
the still beautiful oval face, and the elaborately dressed, thickly
powdered hair. On the mittened hands, stiffly folded together, gleamed a
diamond and a ruby. There was present no distortion--the whole figure,
only looking unnaturally long, was simply set in trembling immobility.

Madame Sampiero--the Barbara Rebell of another day--was still made up
for the part she chose to play to the restricted audience which
represented the great band of former adorers and friends, some of whom
would fain have been about her still had she been willing to admit them
to her presence in this, her time of humiliation.

As the door had opened, her large, wide open deep blue eyes, still full
of the pride of life, and capable of expressing an extraordinary amount
of feeling, turned with a flash of inquiry to the left, and a touch of
real colour--a sign of how deeply she was moved--came into the
delicately moulded, slightly rouged cheeks. The maid who stood by,--a
gaunt Scotchwoman who, by dint of Doctor McKirdy's fierceness of manner,
and the foreknowledge of constantly increased wages, had been turned
into little more than a trained automaton,--retreated noiselessly
through a door giving access to a room beyond, leaving the doctor, his
patient, and Mrs. Rebell alone.

Tears started to Barbara's eyes, but they were brought there, not so
much by the sight she saw before her, as by the sudden change which that
same sight seemed to produce in the elderly man who now stood by her.
Doctor McKirdy's whole manner had altered. He had become quite gentle,
and his face was even twisted into a wry smile as he put his small
strong hands over the trembling fingers of Madame Sampiero.

"Well, here's Mrs. Barbara Rebell at last!" he said, "and I'm minded to
think that Chancton Priory will find her a decided acquisition!"

Barbara was amazed, indescribably moved and touched, to see the light
which came over the stiff face, as the dark blue eyes met and became
fixed on her own. Words, nay, not words, but strange sounds
signifying--what did they signify?--came from the trembling lips. Mrs.
Rebell herself soon learned to interpret Madame Sampiero's muffled
utterances, but on this first occasion she thought Doctor McKirdy's
quick understanding and translating of her godmother's meaning almost
uncanny.

"Madam trusts you enjoyed a good journey," he said; and then, after
apparently listening intently for a moment to the hoarse muttered
sounds, "Ay, I've told her that already,--Madam wants you to understand
that the rooms prepared for you were those preferred by Mrs. Richard."
He bent forward, and put his hand to his ear, for even he had difficulty
in understanding the now whispered mutterings, "Ay, ay, I will tell her,
never fear--Madam wishes you to understand that there are some letters
of your mother's,--she thinks you would like to see them and she will
give them to you to-morrow. And now if you please she will say
good-night."

Following a sudden impulse, Mrs. Rebell bent down and kissed the
trembling mittened hands. "I do thank you," she said, almost inaudibly,
"very very gratefully for having allowed me to come here."

The words seemed, to the woman who uttered them, poor and inadequate,
for her heart was very full, but Doctor McKirdy, glancing sharply at
their still listener, saw that Madame Sampiero was content, and that his
experiment--for so the old Scotchman regarded the coming of Barbara
Rebell to Chancton--was likely to be successful.

                               * * * * *

Had Mrs. Rebell, as child and girl, lived the ordinary life of a young
Englishwoman, she would have realised, from the first moment of her
arrival at Chancton Priory, how strange, how abnormal were the
conditions of existence there; but the quiet solitude brooding over the
great house suited her mood, and soothed her sore humiliation of spirit.

As she moved about, that first morning, making acquaintance with each of
the stately deserted rooms lying to the right and left of the great
hall, and seeking to find likenesses to her father--ay, even to
herself--in the portraits of those dead and gone men and women whose
eyes seemed to follow her as she came and went among them, she felt a
deep voiceless regret in the knowledge that, but for so slight a chain
of accidents, here she might have come six years ago.

In fancy she saw herself, as in that case she would have been by now, a
woman perhaps in years--for Barbara, brought up entirely on the
Continent, thought girlhood ended at twenty--but a joyous single-hearted
creature, her only past a not unhappy girlhood, and six long peaceful
years spent in this beautiful place, well spent too in tending the
stricken woman to whom she already felt so close a tie of inherited love
and duty.

Ah! how much more vividly that which might have been came before her
when she heard the words with which Mrs. Turke greeted her--Mrs. Turke
resplendent in a black satin gown, much flounced and gathered, trimmed
with bright red bows, and set off by a coral necklace.

"I do hope and trust, Miss Barbara"----and then she stopped, laughing
shrilly at herself, "What am I saying?--well to be sure!--I _am_ a silly
old woman, but it's Madam's fault,--she's said it to me and the doctor a
dozen times this fortnight, 'When Miss Barbara's come home so-and-so
will have to be done,'--And now that you are come home, Ma'am (don't you
be afraid that I'll be 'Missing' you again), I'll have the holland
covers taken off the furniture!"

For they were standing in the first of the two great drawing-rooms, and
Mrs. Turke looked round her ruefully: "I did want to have it done
yesterday, but the doctor he said, 'Let them be.' Of course I know
there'll be company kept now, and a good thing too! If it wasn't for the
coming here so constant of my own young gentleman--of Mr. James Berwick,
I mean--we would be perished with dulness. 'The more the
merrier'--you'll hardly believe, Ma'am, that such was used to be the
motto of Chancton Priory. That was long ago, in the days of Madam's good
father, and of her lady mother. I can remember them merry times well
enough, for I was born here, dear only daughter to the butler and to
Lady Barbara's own woman--that's what they called ladies' maids in those
days. Folk were born, married, and died in the same service."

"Then I suppose you have never left Chancton Priory?" Mrs. Rebell was
looking at the old woman with some curiosity.

"Oh! Lord bless you _yes_, Ma'am! I've seen a deal of the world. There
was an interlude, a most romantic affair, Miss Barbara--there I go
again--well, Ma'am, I'll tell you all about it some day. It's quite as
interesting as any printed tale. In fact there's one story that reminds
me very much indeed of my own romantic affair,--no doubt you've read
it,--Mr. James Berwick, he knows it quite well,--that of the Primrose
family. Olivia her name was, and she was deceived just as I was,--but
there, I made the best of it, and it all came to pass most
providentially. Why, they would never have reared Mr. Berwick if it
hadn't been for me and my being able to suckle the dear lamb, and
_there_ would have been a misfortune for our dear country!"

A half shuffling step coming across the hall checked, as if by magic,
Mrs. Turke's flow of reminiscence. She looked deprecatingly into
Barbara's face. "You won't be mentioning what I've been telling you to
the doctor, will you, Ma'am? He hates anything romantic, that he do, and
as for love and poetry,--well, he don't even know the meaning of those
expressions! I've often had to say that right out to his face!"

"And then what does he say?"

"It just depends on the mood he's in: sometimes--I'm sorry to say it of
him, that I am--he uses most coarse expressions,--quite rude ones! Only
yesterday, he said to me, 'If you will talk about spades, Mrs. Turke,
then talk about spades, don't call them silver spoons,'--as if I would
do such a silly thing! But there, he do lead such a horrid life, all
alone in that little house of his, it's small wonder he don't quite know
how to converse with a refined person. But he's wonderfully
educated--Madam's always thought a deal of him."

As Doctor McKirdy opened the door Mrs. Turke slipped quickly past him,
and silently he watched her go, with no jibe ready. He was looking
straight at Mrs. Rebell, hesitating, even reddening dully, an odd
expression in his light eyes.

Barbara's heart sank,--what was he going to tell her?--what painful
thing had he to say? Then he came close to her, and thrust a large open
envelope into her hand. "Madam bid me give you these," he said; "when
you are wanting anything, just send one or more along by post,--duly
registered, of course,"--and under her hand Barbara felt the crinkle of
bank notes. "She would like you to get your things, your clothes and a'
that, from Paris. Old Léonie, Madam's French maid,--I don't think you've
seen her yet,--will give you the addresses. Madam likes those about her
to look well. I'm the only one that has any licence that way--oh! and
something considerably more valuable she has also sent you," he fumbled
in his pocket and held out a small gilt key. "Madam desires you to take
her writing-table, here, for your own use. Inside you'll find the
letters she spoke of yesterday night--those written by Mrs.
Richard,--the other packets, you will please, she says, not disturb."

He waited a moment, then walked across to the Louis XV. escritoire which
was so placed at right angles to one of the windows that it commanded
the whole wide view of woods, sea, and sky. "Now," he said, "be pleased
to place that envelope in there, and turn the key yourself." As Barbara
obeyed him, her hand fumbling with the lock, he added with a look of
relief, "After business, let's come to pleasure. Would you be feeling
inclined for a walk? Madam will be expecting you to tell her what you
think of the place. She's interested in every little thing about it."

Doctor McKirdy hurried her through into the hall, and Barbara was
grateful indeed that he took no notice and seemed oblivious of the
tears--tears of oppressed, moved gratitude--which were trickling slowly
down her cheeks. "Don't go upstairs to your room,--no bonneting is
wanted here!" he said quickly, "just put this on." He brought her the
long white yachting cloak, yet another gift, this time disguised as a
loan, of Grace Johnstone, and after he had folded it round her with
kindly clumsy hands, and when she had drawn the white hood over her dark
hair,--"You look very well in that," he observed, in the tone in which
he might have spoken to a pretty child, "I'm minded to take you up to
Madam and let her see you so--and yet--no, we've not so long a time
before your dinner will be coming," and so they passed through the porch
into the open air.

                               * * * * *

Alexander McKirdy had come to have something of the pride of ownership
in Chancton Priory, and as he walked his companion quickly this way and
that,--making no attempt to suit his pace to hers,--he told her much
that she remembered afterwards, and which amused and interested her at
the time, of the people who had lived in the splendid old house. The
life-stories of some of Barbara's forbears had struck the Scotchman's
whimsical fancy, and he had burrowed much in the muniment room where
were kept many curious manuscripts, for the Rebells had ever been
cultivated beyond the usual degree of Sussex squiredom.

When they had skirted the wide lawns, the doctor hurried her through a
small plantation of high elms to the stables. In this large quadrangular
building of red brick, wholly encompassed by trees, reigned a great air
of desolation: there were three horses stabled where there had once been
forty, and as they passed out from the courtyard where grass grew
between each stone, Barbara asked rather timidly, for her liking for the
doctor was still tempered by something very like fear, "Why are there no
flowers? I thought in England there were always flowers."

Now Doctor McKirdy was unaccustomed to hear even the smallest word of
criticism of Chancton Priory. "What do ye want flowers for?" he growled
out, "grass and trees are much less perishable. Is not this prospect
more grand and more permanently pleasing than that which would be
produced by flowers? Besides, you've got the borders close to the
house."

He had brought her to an opening in the high trees which formed a
rampart to the lawn in front of the Priory, and, with his lean arm
stretched out, he was pointing down a broad grass drive, now flecked
with long shafts of golden October sunlight. On one side of this grassy
way rose a holly hedge, and on the other, under the trees, was a drift
of beech leaves.

Turning round, Barbara suddenly gave a cry of delight; set in an arch,
cut out of the dense wall of holly, was a small iron gate, and through
the aperture so made could be seen a rose garden, the ancient rosery of
Chancton Priory, now a tangle of exquisite colouring, a spot evidently
jealously guarded and hidden away even from those few to whom the
familiar beauties of the place were free.

Doctor McKirdy followed her gaze with softened melancholy eyes. He had
not meant to bring Mrs. Rebell to this spot, but silently he opened the
little iron gate, and stood holding it back for her to pass through into
the narrow rose-bordered way.

Surrounded by beech trees and high hedges, the rosery had evidently been
designed long before the days of scientific gardening, but in the
shadowed enclosure many of the summer roses were still blooming. And yet
a feeling of oppression came over Barbara as she walked slowly down the
mossy path: this lovely garden, whose very formality of arrangement was
an added grace, looked not so much neglected as abandoned, uncared for.

As the two walked slowly on side by side, they came at last to a
fantastic fountain, set in the centre of the rosery, stone cupids
shaking slender jets of water from rose-laden cornucopias, and so to the
very end of the garden--that furthest from the Priory. It was bounded by
a high red brick wall, probably all that remained of some building older
than the rosery, for it had been cleverly utilised to serve as a
background and shelter to the earliest spring roses, and was now bare of
blossom, almost of leaves. In the centre of this wall, built into the
old brick surface, was an elaborate black and white marble tablet or
monument, on which was engraved the following inscription:--

    "Hic, ubi ludebas vagula olim et blandula virgo,
      Julia, defendunt membra foventque rosæ.
    Laetius ah quid te tenuit, quid purius, orbis?--
      Nunc solum mater quod fueris meminit"

"What is it? What is written there?" Barbara asked with some eagerness.
"How strange a thing to find in a rose garden!"

She had turned to her companion, but for a while he made no answer. Then
at last, speaking with an even stronger burr than usual, Doctor McKirdy
translated, in a quiet emotionless voice, the inscription which had been
composed by Lord Bosworth, at the bidding of Madame Sampiero, to the
memory of their beloved child.

    "Here, where thou wert wont once to play, a little sweet
    wandering maid, Julia, the roses protect and cherish thy limbs.
    Ah, what happier or purer thing than thee did the world contain?"

"Do ye wish to hear the rest?" he said, rather sharply, "'Twas put in
against my will and conscience, for 'tis false--false!"

She bent her head, and he read on,

    "Now, only thy mother remembers that thou wast."

Barbara looked up, questions trembling on her lips, but her eyes dropped
as they met his. "Madam would have her put here," he said; "Julia's
garden,--that's what we used to call it, and that is what it still is,
for here she lies,--coffinless."

Again he pointed to the last line, "Madam ought not to have had that
added when there's not a man or woman about the place who's forgotten
the child! But beyond the walls,--ah! well, who knows what is remembered
beyond the walls?"

"What do you mean?" asked Barbara in a low tone; out of the past she was
remembering a June day at St. Germains. What had she been promised?--ah,
yes! "the sweetest of playfellows."

"Well, I was just meaning that Madam, when she made us put in those
words, was thinking may-be of some who do not belong to the Priory, who
live beyond the walls. I make no doubt that those folk have no time to
cast their minds back so far as to remember little Julia."

He turned sharply round and walked as if in haste through the garden,
his head thrust forward, his hands clasped behind his back, in what
Barbara already knew to be his favourite attitude.

Once outside the gate, Doctor McKirdy looked long, first towards the
Priory, then down the broad grass drive. "And now," he said briskly,
"let's get away to the downs,--there's more air out there than here!"

                               * * * * *

The road leading from the Priory gates to the open downs lay along a
western curve of country-side, and was over-arched by great elms. To the
west Mrs. Rebell caught glimpses of a wide plain verging towards the
sea, and in the clear autumn air every tree and bush flamed with glory
of gold and russet.

As they walked along the white chalky ridged cart track, the doctor
looked kindly enough at the woman by his side. She was not beautiful as
had been her mother, and yet he saw that her features were very perfect,
and that health,--perfect recovery from what had evidently been a bad
illness,--might give her the bloom, the radiance, which were now
lacking. The old Scotchman also told himself with satisfaction that she
was intelligent--probably cultivated. With the one supreme exception of
Madame Sampiero, Doctor McKirdy had had very little to do with
intelligent women; but Barbara, from her way of listening to his stories
of Chancton Priory, from her questions and her answers, had proved--or
so thought the doctor--that she was one of the very few members of her
sex who take the trouble to think for themselves.

"I suppose Mr. Sampiero is dead?"

Never was man more unpleasantly roused from an agreeable train of
thought.

"He was dead last time we heard of him, but that happened once before,
and then he came to life again--and most inopportunely."

There was a pause, and Doctor McKirdy added, in a tone which from him
was new to Barbara, "I wonder if you are one to take offence, even if
the offensive thing be said for your own exclusive benefit?" He did not
wait for her reply, "I think you should just be informed that the
man--that individual to whom you referred--is never to be mentioned.
Here at Chancton he is forgotten, completely obliterated--wiped out." He
made a fierce gesture as though his strong hands were destroying,
crushing the life out of, some vile thing.

"Since I came here, thirty years ago, no one has dared to speak of him
to me, and the only time that Madam had to communicate with me about him
she wrote what she had to say--I, making answer to her, followed the
same course. I thought, may-be, I'd better let you know how he is felt
about in this place."

"I am sorry," faltered Barbara. "I did not know--My father and mother
told me so little----"

"They're a fearsome gossiping lot in Chancton," Doctor McKirdy was still
speaking in an angry ruffled voice; "I don't suppose you'll have much
call to see any of them, but Madam may just mean you to do so, and you
may as well be put on your guard. And then you'll be having your own
friends here, I'm thinking"--he shot a quick look at her--"Madam bid me
tell you that she has no idea of your shutting yourself up, and having
no company but Mrs. Turke and,"--he turned and made her an odd, ungainly
little bow--"your most humble servant here!"

"I have no friends," said Barbara, in a very low tone. "Nay, I should
not say that, for I have two very good friends, a Mr. Johnstone, the
Governor of Santa Maria, and his wife--also, since yesterday, a
third,--if he will take me on trust for my mother's sake." She smiled on
her companion with a touch of very innocent coquetry. Doctor McKirdy's
good humour came back.

"Ay," he said, "there's no doubt about that _third_ friend," but his
brow clouded as Barbara added, "There is one person in Chancton I'm very
anxious to see,--a Mrs. Boringdon. She is the mother of my friend Mrs.
Johnstone."

The mention of this lady's name found Doctor McKirdy quite prepared, and
ready with an answer. "Well, I'm not saying you'll like her, and I'm not
saying you'll dislike her."

"If she's at all like her daughter I know I shall like her."

"May-be you will prefer the son, Mr. Oliver Boringdon--I do so myself,
though I've no love to waste on him."

How the doctor longed to tell Mrs. Rebell what he really thought of this
Mrs. Boringdon, the mother of Madame Sampiero's estate agent, and of how
badly from his point of view this same young gentleman, Oliver
Boringdon, sometimes behaved to him! But native caution, a shrewd
knowledge that such warnings often bring about the exact opposite to
what is intended by those who utter them, kept him silent.

Barbara's next words annoyed him keenly.

"Oliver!" she cried, "of course I shall like him!"

"Oliver? Then you're already acquainted with him?" The doctor felt
beside himself with vexation. He was a man of feuds, and to him the land
agent, all the more so that he was a highly educated man, who had been a
civil servant, and later, for a brief period of glory, a member of
Parliament, was a very real thorn in the flesh.

But Barbara was laughing, really laughing, and for the first time since
her arrival at Chancton. "If I were acquainted with him," she cried,
"surely I should not be calling him by his Christian name! But of course
his sister, Mrs. Johnstone, has talked to me of him: he is her only
brother, and she thinks him quite perfect."

"It's well there are two to think him so! I refer, o' course, Ma'am, to
the youth himself, and to this lady who is a friend of yours."

"Is he conceited? Oh! what a pity!"

"Conceited?" Doctor McKirdy prided himself on his sense of strict
justice and probity: "Nay, nay, that's no' the word for it. Mr. Oliver
Boringdon just considers that he is always right, and that such a good
thinker as himself can never be wrong. He's encouraged in his ideas by
the silly women about here."

"Does my godmother like him?--he's her land-agent, isn't he?"

"Madam!" cried Doctor McKirdy indignantly, "Madam has never wasted a
thought upon him,--why should she?"

He looked quite angrily at his companion. Barbara was still smiling: a
delicate colour, the effect of walking against the wind, had come into
her face.

"They're all alike," growled the doctor to himself, "just mention a
young man to a young woman and smiling begins," but the harsh judgment,
like most harsh judgments, was singularly at fault. Poor Barbara was
waking up to life again, ready to take pleasure in the slightest matter
which touched her sense of humour. The doctor, however, had become
seriously uneasy. Why this strange interest in the Boringdons? Mrs.
Rebell now belonged to the Priory, and so was surely bound to adopt
without question all his, Alexander McKirdy's, views and prejudices. Her
next words fortunately gave him the opening he sought.

"I suppose there are many young ladies at Chancton?"

"There is just one," he said, brightening, "a fine upstanding lass. The
father of her is General Thomas Kemp. May-be you've heard of him, for
he's quite a hero, Victoria Cross and a' that, though the fools about
here don't recognise him as such."

"No," said Barbara, "I never heard of the heroic General Kemp."

Her eyes were brimming over with soft laughter. Living with her parents
first in one and then in another continental town, she had had as a
young girl many long solitary hours at her disposal, and she had then
read, with keen zest, numberless old-fashioned novels of English life.
This talk seemed to bring back to her mind many a favourite story, out
of which she had tried in the long ago to reconstruct the England she
had then so longed to know. Ah! now she must begin novel-reading again!
And so she said, "I suppose that Oliver Boringdon is in love with the
General's daughter."

Doctor McKirdy turned and looked at her, amazed and rather suspicious;
"you show great prescience--really remarkable prescience, Ma'am. I was
just about explaining to you that there is no doubt something like a
kindness betwixt them. There's another one likes her, a Captain Laxton,
but they say she won't have aught to say to him."

"Oh no! she must be true to Mr. Boringdon, and then, after a long
engagement,--oh! how wise to have a long engagement,"--Barbara sighed
instinctively--"they will be married in the little church which I look
down upon from my stone balcony? and then--why then they will live happy
ever after!"

"No, no, I cannot promise you that," said Doctor McKirdy gruffly, "that
would be forecasting a great deal too much!"

Even as he spoke the deeply rutted path was emerging abruptly on a vast
expanse of rolling uplands. They were now on the open down; Barbara laid
a detaining hand on the old Scotchman's arm, and looked about her with
enraptured eyes. Before her, to the east, lay a dark oasis, a
black-green stretch of fir plantation, redeemed a hundred years ago from
the close cropped turf, and a large white house looked out from thence
up the distant sea. To the north, some three miles away, rose the high
sky-line. A dense wood, said to be part of the primeval forest, crept
upwards on a parallel line. There, so says tradition, Boadicea made her
last stand, and across this down a Roman road still asserts the final
supremacy of the imperial force.

A sound of voices, of steady tramping feet, broke the exquisite
stillness. Towards them, on the path which at a certain point sharply
converged from that on which Doctor McKirdy and Barbara stood, advanced
Fate, coming in the shape of two men who were in sharp contrast the one
to the other.

Oliver Boringdon--dark, upright, steady-eyed--had still something of the
Londoner and of the Government official about his appearance. His dark,
close-cropped hair was covered by a neat cap which matched his serge
coat and knickerbockers. His companion, James Berwick, looked--as indeed
he was--far more a citizen of the world. He was bare-headed, his fair
hair ruffled and lifted from his lined forehead by the wind; his
shooting clothes, of rough tweed and ugly yellow check colouring, were
more or less out of shape. He was smoking a huge pipe, and as he walked
along, with rather ungainly steps--the gait of a man more at home in the
saddle than on foot--he swung an oak stick this way and that, now and
again throwing it in the air and catching it again--a trick which sorely
tried the patience of his staider companion.

When they reached the nearest point to Doctor McKirdy and Mrs. Rebell,
the one took off his cap and the other waved his stick vigorously by way
of greeting. Indeed Berwick, as Doctor McKirdy very well saw, would have
soon lessened the ten yards space between the two groups, but Boringdon,
looking before him rather more straightly than before, was already
walking on.

"Well," said the doctor, "you have now had your wish, Ma'am: that was
Mr. Oliver Boringdon, and the other is his fidus Achates, Mr. James
Berwick: _he's_ a conceited loon if you like. But then he's more reason
to be so! Now what d'ye think they reminded me of as they walked along
there?"

"I don't know," faltered Barbara. She was still feeling as if a sudden
blast of wind had beaten across her face--such had been the effect of
the piercing, measuring glance of the man whom she took to be Oliver
Boringdon. No doubt the over-bold look was excused by the fact that he
recognised in her his sister's friend. Barbara flushed deeply; she was
wondering, with acute discomfort, what account of her, and of her
affairs, Grace Johnstone--impetuous, indiscreet Grace--had written to
her mother and brother? Oh! surely she could be trusted to have kept
secret certain things she knew--things which had been discovered by the
Johnstones, and admitted by Barbara in her first moments of agonised
relief from Pedro Rebell's half-crazy ill-usage.

"Well, I'll tell you what the sight of the two of them suggested to me,"
went on Doctor McKirdy, "and in fact what they exactly appeared like,
just now,----" he hesitated a moment, and then with manifest enjoyment
added, "The policeman and the poacher! That's what any stranger might
well ha' taken them for, eh?" But Barbara had given no heed to the bold
gazer's more drab companion.



                              CHAPTER III.

    "Mates are chosen marketwise
    Coolest bargainer best buys,
    Leap not, nor let leap the heart;
    Trot your track and drag your cart,
    So your end may be in wool
    Honoured and with manger full."

                                                    GEORGE MEREDITH.


Mrs. Boringdon, sitting in the drawing-room at Chancton Cottage, looked,
in spite of her handsome dress and her manner and appearance of
refinement, strangely unsuited to the place in which she found herself.
Even the Indian tea-table--one of the few pieces of furniture added to
the room by its present occupant, and now laden with substantial silver
tea-pot, cream-jug, and sugar-basin burnished to their highest point of
brilliancy--was out of keeping with its fragile charm. The room, indeed,
had been scarcely altered since it had been furnished, some sixty years
before, as a maiden retreat for one of Madame Sampiero's aunts, the Miss
Lavinia Rebell of whom tradition still lingered in the village, and
whose lover had been killed in the Peninsular War.

On her arrival at Chancton Mrs. Boringdon would have dearly liked to
consign the shabby old furniture, the faded water-colours and colour
prints, to some unhonoured lumber-room of the Priory, but even had such
desecration been otherwise possible, the new mistress of Chancton
Cottage was only too well aware that she lacked the means to make the
old-fashioned house what she would have considered habitable. Indeed,
she had been thankful to learn that the estate agency offered to her son
through the intermediary of his friend, James Berwick, carried with it
the use of a fully furnished house of any sort.

Whenever Mrs. Boringdon felt more than usually dissatisfied and critical
of the furnishings of the rooms where she was fated to spend so much of
her time--for she had no love of the open air--she tried to remind
herself that this phase of her life was only temporary; that soon--her
son thought in two or three years, but Berwick laughed at so prudent a
forecast--the present Government would go out, and then "something" must
surely be found for her clever Oliver.

To-day, her son had brought his friend back to lunch, and the two young
men had stayed on in the dining-room and in the little smoking-room
beyond, talking eagerly the one with the other. As the mother sat in her
drawing-room patiently longing for her cup of tea, but content to wait
Oliver's good pleasure--or rather that of James Berwick--she could hear
the voices rising and falling, and she rejoiced to think of the intimacy
which those sounds betokened.

Mrs. Boringdon was one of the many in whom the mere possession of wealth
in others excites an almost hypnotic feeling of interest and goodwill.
When in his presence--nay, when simply even in his neighbourhood--she
never forgot that her son's intimate friend and one-time chief, James
Berwick, was an enormously rich man. That fact impressed her far more,
and was ever more present to her mind, than the considerable political
position which his personality and his wealth together had known how to
win for him. When with Berwick Mrs. Boringdon was never wholly at ease,
never entirely her cool, collected self. And now this afternoon, sitting
there waiting for them to come in and join her, she wondered for the
thousandth time why Oliver was not more amenable to his important
friend--why he had not known how to make himself indispensable to James
Berwick. Had there only been about him something of the sycophant--but
Mrs. Boringdon did not use the ugly word--he would never have been
allowed to slip into this backwater. She was one of the few remaining
human beings who believe that everything is done by "influence," and she
had never credited her son's assurance that no "job" was in the least
likely to be found for him.

His mother's love for Oliver was tempered by fear; she was keenly
desirous of keeping his good opinion, but of late, seeing how almost
intolerable to him was the position he had accepted, she had been sorely
tempted to speak--to point out to him that men in the position of James
Berwick come to expect from those about them something like
subserviency, and that then they often repay in lavish measure those who
yield it them.

At last the dining-room door opened and the two men came in.

"Well," cried Berwick, "we've thrashed out the whole plan of campaign!
There's never anything like a good talk with Oliver to confirm me in my
own opinion! It's really absurd he should stick on here looking after
the Chancton cabbages, dead and alive--but he's positively
incorruptible! I'm thinking of starting a newspaper, Mrs. Boringdon, and
to coax him into approval--also, I must say, to secure him a little
freedom--I offered him the editorship, but he won't hear of it."

Berwick had thrown himself as he spoke into a low chair, which creaked
ominously under his weight. How indignant would Mrs. Boringdon have felt
had any other young man, looking as James Berwick now looked, his fair
hair tossed and rumpled with the constant ruffling of his fingers, come
and thrown himself down in this free and easy attitude on one of the few
comfortable chairs in Chancton Cottage! But his hostess smiled at him
very indulgently, and turned a look of gentle reproach at her son's
stern dark face.

"An editorship," she said, vaguely, "that sounds very nice. I suppose it
would mean going and living in London?" Her quick mind, darting this way
and that, saw herself settled in a small house in Mayfair, entertaining
important people, acting perhaps as hostess to Berwick's friends and
supporters! She had once been able to render him a slight service--in
fact, on two occasions he had been able to meet a friend, a lady, in her
drawing-room. In doing what she had done Mrs. Boringdon had lowered
herself in her own eyes, and she had had the uncomfortable sensation
that she had lost in his some of the prestige naturally attaching to his
friend's mother, and yet, for all she knew, these interviews might have
been of a political nature. Women now played a great part in politics.
Mrs. Boringdon preferred to think that the fair stranger, concerning
whose coming to her house there had been so much mystery, had been one
of these.

Her son's next words rudely interrupted her pleasant dream.

"The ownership of a newspaper," Oliver was saying abruptly, "has never
yet been of any use to a politician or statesman, and has certainly
prevented some from getting into the Cabinet," and he named two
well-known members of Parliament who were believed to be financially
interested in certain important journals. "It isn't as if you wanted
what the Americans call a platform," he went on. "No man is more sure of
a hearing than you are yourself. But just now, the less you say the more
you will be listened to when the moment comes for saying it!"

The speaker was walking up and down the narrow room, looking restless
and impatient, with Berwick smiling lazily up at him, though evidently
rather nettled at the frank, unasked-for advice.

Mrs. Boringdon judged the moment had come to intervene. "I hear that
Lord Bosworth and your sister are back at Fletchings, and that they are
expecting a good many people down--" She added, in a tone of apology,
"Chancton, as you know, has half-a-dozen Court newsmen of its own."

"To me"--Berwick had jumped up and was helping himself to sugar, to
cake, with the eager insouciance of an intimate--"to me Chancton always
has been, what it is now more than ever, the most delightful spot on
earth! I know that Oliver doesn't agree with me, but even he, Mrs.
Boringdon, ought to enjoy the humours of the place. What other village
can offer such a range of odd-come-shorts, of eccentrics? Where else in
these prosaic days can one see gathered together in one spot our
McKirdys, our Vipens----"

"Our Mrs. Turkes," said Oliver slily. He came forward smiling, good
humour restored, and took his share of the good things his mother had
provided.

"Oh! yes," said Berwick, rather hastily, "of course we must throw in my
foster-mother--in fact, I'm sure she would be deeply offended at being
left out! And then, there's another thing I think I can claim for
Chancton. Here one may always expect to come across the unexpected!
To-day whom should we meet, Mrs. Boringdon, but McKirdy, wrapped in his
historic plaid and snuff-coloured hat, and accompanied by a nymph, and
an uncommonly attractive nymph too!"

Mrs. Boringdon looked gently bewildered. "A nymph!" she exclaimed, "do
you mean a lady? What an extraordinary thing!"

Berwick looked across at his hostess and grinned. Now and again Oliver's
mother actually reminded this whimsical young man of Mistress Quickly,
and it was an added delight to picture to himself her surprise and
horror if only she had known what was in his mind.

But Boringdon was frowning. "Nonsense!" he said, irritably, "From what I
could see, she was simply a very oddly dressed young woman! McKirdy has
always been fond of making friends with the summer visitors, and he
always prefers strangers to acquaintances. I must say the doctor is one
of the Chancton characters with whom I, for one, could well dispense! He
was really insolent to me yesterday, but there is no redress possible
with an old man like that. His latest notion is that I must only
communicate with Madame Sampiero through him!"

James Berwick turned round, and Mrs. Boringdon thought he looked
annoyed; he always chose to regard everything and everybody connected
with the Priory as his very particular concern. "I must be off now," he
said, "Arabella has several people arriving this afternoon, and I ought
to be there to look after them. Walk with me as far as the great gates,
old fellow?"

But Boringdon shook his head. "Sorry I can't," he said, shortly, "but
I'm expecting one of the village boys to come in any minute. Kemp
promised me to talk to him, to try and persuade him to enlist, and he's
coming up to tell me the result."

"Then you're not returning to the Priory to-night, Mr. Berwick?" a note
of delicate reserve had come into Mrs. Boringdon's voice; she never, if
she could help it, referred to the Priory or to the Priory's mistress.

"No, I'm still at Chillingworth. But I expect to be over just for the
night to-morrow. Then I'm off for a month's yachting."

                               * * * * *

Oliver came back from the hall door and sat down. His mother saw with a
pang how tired and how discouraged he looked. "I think," she said, "that
you might have done, dear, what Mr. Berwick asked you to do--I mean, as
to seeing him back part of the way to Fletchings. That village lad could
have waited for you--and--I suppose it was all a joke about the new
paper and the editorship?"

"Oh! no, he's thinking of it," he said. "I suppose, mother, you never
heard of the _Craftsman_, the paper in which the great Duke of Berwick's
friend, Lord Bolingbroke, wrote. Some fellow has been talking to him
about it, and now he thinks he would like to resuscitate it. Incredible
that so shrewd a man should sometimes choose to do such foolish things,
actuated, too, by the silliest of sentimental motives! If I were he, I
should feel anything but proud of my descent from the Stuarts. However,
I hope I've choked him off the whole idea."

As he caught her look of fresh disappointment, he added, with a certain
effort, "I'm afraid, mother, that you've as little reason to like
Chancton as I have. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't do better to
throw it all up and go to London. I certainly don't want to edit any
paper for Berwick, but I dare say I could get work, literary work of
sorts; and, after all, I should be far more in touch there with the
things I really care about."

His tone of dejection went to her heart, but she answered, not the last,
but the first sentence he had uttered. "You are right," she said, rather
slowly, "I do not like Chancton any better than you do, but I shall
always be glad we came here, if only because it has brought us in
contact with the Kemps--or perhaps I should say with their daughter."

Oliver looked up at his mother uneasily; he was aware that with her a
confidence was rarely spontaneous.

"I wonder," she said, and turning she fixed her eyes on the fire, away
from his face, "I have often been tempted to wonder lately, my dear boy,
what you really think of Lucy--how you regard her? Pray do not answer me
if you would rather not do so."

Boringdon hesitated. His mother's words, her extreme frankness, took him
completely by surprise; for a moment he felt nearer to her than he had
done for years. Still, he was glad that she went on staring into the
fire, and that he was safe from meeting the acute, probing glance he
knew so well.

"You've asked me a very difficult question," he said at last--"one I
find almost impossible to answer truly."

Mrs. Boringdon's hands trembled. She also felt unwontedly moved. She had
not expected so honest a confession.

But Oliver was again speaking, in a low, preoccupied voice. "Perhaps we
have not been wise, you and I, in having so--so"--his lips sought to
frame suitable words--"so charming a girl," he said at last, "constantly
about the house. I have certainly become fond of Lucy--in fact, I think
I may acknowledge to you, mother, that she is my ideal of what a girl
should be." How odd, how inadequate, how priggish his words sounded to
himself! Still he went on, with gathering courage, "But no one knows
better than you do how I am situated. For what I am pleased to call my
political ambitions, you have already made sacrifices. If I am to do
what I wish with my life, such a marriage--indeed, any marriage, for
years to come--would be for me quite out of the question. It would mean
the condemnation of myself to such a life as that I am now leading, and
I do not feel--perhaps I ought to be ashamed of not feeling--that my
attraction to Miss Kemp is so strong as to make me desirous of giving up
all I have striven for."

Mrs. Boringdon made no reply. She still stared on into the fire; a
curious look, one of perplexity and hesitation, had come over her face.

"Mother!" he cried, and the tone forced her to look round at him,
"surely you don't think--it is not your impression that Lucy----"

"I think she has become very fond of you," said Mrs. Boringdon
deliberately. "But I confess that I have sometimes thought that she
seemed fonder of me than of you." She smiled as she spoke, but to
Boringdon this was no smiling matter--indeed, it was one which to his
mind could scarcely be discussed with decency by himself and his mother.
Then a vision of Lucy Kemp, steady, clear-eyed Lucy, almost too
sensible--so the people at Chancton, he knew, regarded her to be--came
to his help. "No, no," he said, with a sudden sense of relief, "I'm
quite sure, mother, that any feeling--I mean the kind of feeling of
which we are speaking--has been entirely on my side! We will be more
careful. I am willing to admit that I have been foolish."

But Mrs. Boringdon scarcely heard what he was saying. She who so seldom
doubted as to her course of action, was now weighing the pros and cons
of what had become to her a matter for immediate decision. Unfortunately
her son's next words seemed to give her the opening she sought.

"Sometimes I am tempted to think"--Oliver had got up, he was
leaning against the mantel-piece, looking down into his mother's
face--"Sometimes, I say, I am tempted to think that after all money is
the one important thing in life! When I look back to how I regarded
James Berwick's marriage--he once accused me of condemning what he did,
and I could not deny that I had done so--I see how much more wise he was
than I. Why, to him that marriage which so shocked me was the turning
point--ay, more, that money, together, perhaps, with his wife's death,
steadied him--amazingly--I refer of course to his intellectual
standpoint, and to his outlook on life! And you, mother--you've always
thought more of money than I've ever done. But even you once thought
that it could be too dearly purchased."

Mrs. Boringdon reddened. Her son's words gratified her. She was aware
that he was alluding to an offer of marriage which she herself had
unhesitatingly rejected at a time when her daughter was still in the
schoolroom, and her son at Charterhouse. Her middle-aged wooer had been
a man of some commercial standing and much wealth, but "not a
gentleman," so the two pitiless young people had decided, and Mrs.
Boringdon, her children believed, had not hesitated for a moment between
a life of poor gentility and one of rather vulgar plenty.

"Oh! yes," she said slowly, "money can certainly be too dearly
purchased. But still, you on your side, you and your sister Grace, have
always thought far too little of it. Of late I have sometimes wondered,
Oliver, if you knew--whether you are aware"--for the life of her she
could not help the sudden alteration in her measured voice--"that our
dear little friend, Lucy Kemp, is something of an heiress--that in four
years time, when she is five-and-twenty, that is, there will be handed
over to her £25,000?"

And then, while her son listened to her in complete silence, giving no
clue as to how he regarded the information, she explained her knowledge
as having come to her from an absolutely sure source, from a certain
Miss Vipen, the chartered gossip of Chancton, whose information could be
trusted when actual facts were in question.

Even after Mrs. Boringdon had done speaking, Oliver still sat on,
resting his head on his hands. "I wonder if Laxton knows of this?" he
said at last. "What a brute I should think him if he does!" and Mrs.
Boringdon felt keenly, perhaps not unreasonably, irritated. Her son's
words also took her by surprise--complete silence would have satisfied
her, but this odd comment on the fact she had chosen to reveal was very
different from what she had expected.

But when, some three hours later, the mother and son had finished their
simple dinner, and Oliver announced to his mother that he must now go
down to the Grange for half an hour in order to consult General Kemp
over that village lad whose conduct was giving Oliver so much trouble,
Mrs. Boringdon smiled. Her son caught the smile and it angered him. How
utterly his mother misunderstood him, how curiously little they were in
sympathy the one with the other!

As he left the house she heard the door bang, and sitting in the
drawing-room knitting him a pair of silk socks, she allowed her smile to
broaden till it transformed her face almost to that likeness which
Berwick sometimes saw in her, to that of a prim Mistress Quickly.

                               * * * * *

Boringdon did not go straight down to the Grange. Instead, after having
groped his way through the laurel hedges and so into the moonlit road,
he turned to the left, and struck out, making a long round before
seeking the house for which he was bound.

Both his long talk with Berwick, and the short, strange conversation
with his mother, had disturbed and excited him, bringing on a sudden
nostalgia for the life he had left, and to which he longed so much to
get back. During his eager discussion with the man whom he regarded as
being at once his political chief and his political pupil, Chancton and
its petty affairs had been forgotten, and yet now, to-night, he told
himself with something like dismay that even when talking to Berwick he
had more than once thought of Lucy Kemp. The girl had become his friend,
his only confidante: into her eager ears he had poured out his views,
his aspirations, his hopes, his ambitions, sure always of sympathy, if
not of complete understanding. A bitter smile came over his face--no
wonder Mrs. Boringdon had so often left them together! Her attitude was
now explained.

Boringdon had no wish to pose, even to himself, as a Don Quixote, but,
in his views as to the fitting relationship of the sexes, he was most
punctilious and old-fashioned, perhaps lacking the essential nobility
which would have been required in such a man as himself to accept a
fortune, even from a beloved hand. What, take Lucy's £20,000--or was it
£25,000--in order to start his bark once more on the perilous political
sea? How little his mother understood him if she seriously thought he
could bring himself to do such a thing, and in cold blood!

As he strode along in the darkness, there came back to his mind the
circumstances connected with an experience in his life which he had
striven not unsuccessfully to forget,--the passion of feeling he had
wasted, when little more than a boy, on James Berwick's sister.

Those men and women who jeer at first love have surely never felt its
potent spell. Twelve years had gone by since Boringdon had dreamed the
dream which had to a certain extent embittered and injured the whole of
his youth. What a fool he had been! But, on the other hand, so he
remembered now, how little he had thought--if indeed he had thought at
all--as to any question connected with Arabella Berwick's fortune or
lack of it!

Miss Berwick had been mistress of her uncle's house, that Lord Bosworth
who was a noted statesman as well as a man of rank: of course she must
have money, so Boringdon in his young simplicity had thought, and
certainly that belief had been no bar to what he had brought himself
tremblingly to believe might come to pass. The beautiful girl, secure in
her superior altitude of twenty-five years of life, and an already
considerable knowledge of the world, had taken up the clever boy, her
brother's Oxford friend, with pretty enthusiasm. She had liked him quite
well enough to accept smilingly his adoration, to allow that he should
amuse her (so he had realised ever since) in the intervals of a more
serious love affair. Well, as he reminded himself to-night, they had
been quits! Small wonder indeed that even now, after twelve years had
gone by, the recollection of certain bitter moments caused Boringdon to
quicken his footsteps!

To-night it all came back to him, in a flood of intolerable memories. It
had been late in the season, on the eve--or so he had thought--of his
dream's fruition, during the last days of his first spring and summer in
London after he had gone down from Oxford. Some merciful angel or some
malicious devil--he had never quite known which--had caused him, one
Sunday afternoon, while actually on the way to Bosworth House, to turn
into Kensington Gardens.

There, in a lonely grassy by-way among the trees, where he had turned
aside to think in solitude of his beautiful lady, he had suddenly come
on her face to face,--on Arabella Berwick, on his goddess, on the woman
whose every glance and careless word had been weighed by him with
anxious thought,--finding her in such a guise that for a moment he had
believed that his mind, his eyes, were playing him some evil trick.

Miss Berwick, her eyes streaming with tears, was clinging to a man's
arm; and, what made the scene the more unreal, the more incredible, to
the amazed onlooker, Boringdon knew the man quite well, and had often,
in his young importance, looked down on him as being so much less
intimate at Bosworth House than he was himself. The man into whose
plain, powerful face Arabella Berwick was gazing with such agonised
intensity was Daniel O'Flaherty, an Irish barrister, but lately come to
practise at the English Bar, a Paddy whose brogue--so Berwick had
assured his friend Boringdon--you could cut with a knife, but who was,
he had added good-naturedly, said by many people to be a clever fellow!

And now Oliver was walking straight upon them,--on O'Flaherty and
Arabella Berwick. He stopped short, staring with fascinated,
horror-stricken eyes, making no effort to pass by, to show the decent
hypocrisy he should have shown; and what he heard made it only too easy
to reconstitute the story. Miss Berwick had also dreamed her dream, and
she was now engaged in deliberately putting it from her.

At last the man had cut the painful scene short, but not before
Boringdon had seen the woman, whom he had himself set on so high a
pedestal, fling her arms round her companion's neck in one last agonised
attempt to say good-bye. It was the Irishman, of whom Boringdon had made
such small account in his own mind, who at last--with the measured
dignity born of measureless grief and loss--led her towards the
spectator whom he vaguely recognised as one of James Berwick's younger
friends. "Perhaps you will kindly take Miss Berwick home?" and then he
had turned and gone, and she who had renounced him, taking no heed of
Boringdon, had stood and gazed after him as long as he remained in
sight.

During the walk back to Bosworth House it had been Boringdon's lot to
listen while his companion told him, with a sort of bald simplicity, the
truth.

"I love him, Mr. Boringdon, with all my heart--with all my body--with
all my soul! But certain things are impossible in this world,--apart
from everything else, there is the fact that for the present we are both
penniless. He admits that often years go by before a man situated as he
is makes any real way at the Bar. I ought not to have allowed it to come
to this! I have been a fool,--a fool!" She had tried to smile at him.
"Take example by me, Mr. Boringdon, never allow yourself to really care.
It's not worth it!"

She had gone on, taking very little notice of him, talking as if to
herself--"Of course I shall never marry, why should I? I have
James,--till now I have never cared for anything but James." Then at
last had come a word he had felt sorely. Arabella Berwick had looked at
him with something like fear in her eyes,--"You will not say anything of
this to my brother, Mr. Boringdon? I trust to your honour,"--much as she
might have spoken to a schoolboy, instead of to a man--a man, as he
angrily reminded himself, of one-and-twenty!

How well he remembered it all still, and yet what a long time ago all
that happened! He himself had altered, incredibly, in these short years.
O'Flaherty was no longer an unknown, uncouth Irishman: he had won a
place even in the Berwicks' high little world: steady, moderate
adherence to his country's unpopular cause had made him something of a
personage even in the House of Commons, and he was known to be now
earning a large,--nay, a huge,--income at the Bar. Of the two men who at
one and the same moment had loved Arabella Berwick, it was he who had
forged ahead, Oliver Boringdon who had lagged behind.

And the heroine of the adventure? She was still what all those about
her, with the possible exception of these two men, had always thought
her to be--the accomplished, rather cold, brilliant woman of the world,
content to subordinate exceptional intellectual gifts to the exigencies
of her position as mistress of her uncle's house; bending her fine mind
to the problem of how to stretch Lord Bosworth's always uncertain and
encumbered income to its furthest possible limit, for one of Miss
Berwick's virtues had always been a great horror of debt. More, she had
so fashioned her life during the last ten years that she was regarded by
many shrewd observers as being quite as remarkable a person as her
brother--in fact, where he was concerned, the power behind the throne.
She loved, too, to exercise her power, to obtain good places for her
favourites, to cause some humble climber of the ladder of fame to leap
at one bound several of the hard intervening bars. It was admitted that
the only strong feeling finding place in her heart was love of her
brother, James Berwick, and for him, in a worldly sense, she had indeed
done well.

Since that afternoon, twelve years before, Miss Berwick and Oliver
Boringdon had never been on really cordial terms. She had at first
tried, foolishly, to make a friend of him, a confidant, but he had not
been possessed of the requisite amount of philosophy, and she had drawn
back mortified at the condemnation, even at the dislike, which she had
read in his eyes.

Very early Berwick had said to his friend, "I don't know what has
happened to my sister and yourself, old fellow, but it will not make any
difference to us, will it?" But, as Boringdon was well aware, it had
made a difference. The sister's influence was on the whole always thrown
in against that of the friend. It had certainly not been with Miss
Berwick's goodwill that Boringdon had been offered, through her
brother's intermediary, work which would bring him within two miles of
Lord Bosworth's country house; but Oliver Boringdon was very rarely at
Fletchings, and never without a direct invitation from its mistress.

                               * * * * *

As so often happens, the stirring of heart depths brings up to the
surface of the mind more than one emotion. Had it not been for his
mother's smile, Boringdon would not now have turned into the Grange
gate, but it was his great wish that what had been said this day should
make no difference to his relations with the Kemps--save, of course,
that of making him personally more prudent in the one matter of his
indulging in Lucy's society.

Alas for Boringdon's good resolutions! He had meant that this evening
call at the Grange should be of a purely business character, and at the
door he asked only for General Kemp.

"The master's upstairs with Mrs. Kemp. She's got a chill, but I'll tell
him you're here, sir," and Oliver had been shown as a matter of course
into the panelled parlour where Lucy sat reading alone. The very sight
of the girl seemed to bring with it peace--restored in subtle measure
the young man's good opinion of himself. And then she seemed so simply,
so unaffectedly glad to see him! Within the next hour, he was gradually
brought to tell her, both of the long talk with Berwick--Lucy had proved
an apt student of political economy within the last year--even of the
proposed newspaper and the editorship, of which the offer, coming from
anyone else, would, he said, "have tempted me."

"Ah! but you think Mr. Berwick ought not to start such a paper--that it
might do him harm?" Lucy looked up with quick intelligent eyes.

Boringdon had scarcely said so,--in so many words,--yet, yet--certainly
yes, that was what he had meant, and so, "Exactly!" he exclaimed; "and
if I don't join in, the scheme will probably come to nothing." Lucy
allowed her softened gaze to linger on the face of the man who had
gradually made his way into her steadfast heart. How good, how noble he
was, she thought, and, how unconscious of his own goodness and nobility!

The girl was in that stage of her mental development when the creature
worshipped must necessarily appear heroic. Two men now fulfilled Lucy's
ideal--the one was her father, the other Oliver Boringdon. Poor Laxton,
with his humble passion for herself, his half-pretended indifference to
the pleasures and duties of the British officer's life in time of
profound peace, his love of hunting and rough out-door games,--all
seemed to make him most unheroic in Lucy's eyes. She was dimly aware
that Captain Laxton's love for her was instinctive, that he was
attracted in spite of himself; and the knowledge perplexed and angered
her. She knew well, or thought she knew well, the sort of woman with
whom the young soldier ought to have fallen in love,--the well-dressed,
amusing, "smart" (odious word, just then coming into fashion!) type of
girl, whom he undoubtedly, even as it was, much admired. But Oliver
Boringdon--oh! how different would be the natural ideal of such a man.

Lucy was only now beginning to see into her own heart, and she still
believed that her regard for Boringdon was "friendship." Who could
hesitate as to which was the better part--friendship with Boringdon, or
marriage with Laxton?

"I--I want to ask you something." Lucy's heart was beating fast.

"Yes, what is it?" He turned sharply round.

"I've been reading the life of Edmund Burke."

He bent forward eagerly. "It's interesting, isn't it?"

"Yes, yes, indeed it is! But I want to ask you why a hundred years have
made such a change? Why it is that now a young man who has every
aptitude for political life----" Lucy hesitated, the words were not
really her own, they had been suggested--almost put into her mouth--by
Oliver's mother.

"Yes?" he said again, as if to encourage her.

"Why such a person cannot now accept money from--from--a friend, if it
will help him to be useful to his country?"

"You mean"--he went straight to the point--"why cannot I take money from
James Berwick?" He was looking at her rather grimly. He had not thought
that Mrs. Boringdon would find the girl so apt a pupil.

Poor Lucy shrank back. "Forgive me," she said, in a low tone, "I should
not have asked you such a question."

"You have every right," he said, impulsively. "Are we not friends, you
and I? Perhaps you did not know that this was an old quarrel between my
mother and myself. Berwick did once make me such an offer, but I think
you will see--that you will feel--with me that I could not have accepted
it."

General Kemp, coming down half an hour later, found them still eagerly
discussing Edmund Burke, and so finding, told himself, and a little
later told his wife, that the world had indeed changed in the last
thirty years, and that he, for his part, thought the old ways of love
were better than the new.



                              CHAPTER IV.

    "Il est plus aisé d'être sage pour les autres que de l'être pour
    soi-même."
                                                   LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.


Chancton Priory had been, from his earliest boyhood, even more James
Berwick's home than was his uncle's house over at Fletchings, and it was
incomparably dearer to him in every sense than Chillingworth, which came
to him from his dead wife, together with the huge fortune which gave him
such value in Mrs. Boringdon's eyes. The mistress of the Priory had
always lavished on Lord Bosworth's nephew a measure of warm affection
which she might just as reasonably have bestowed on his only sister, but
Miss Berwick was not loved at Chancton Priory, and, being well aware
that this was so, she rarely came there. Indeed, her brother's real love
for the place, and for Madame Sampiero, was to her somewhat
inexplicable: she knew that at the Priory he felt far more at home than
he was at Fletchings, and the knowledge irked her.

In truth, to James Berwick one of the greatest charms of Chancton Priory
had come to be the fact that when there he was able almost to forget the
wealth which had come to him with such romantic fulness when he was only
four-and-twenty. Madame Sampiero, Doctor McKirdy, and Mrs. Turke never
seemed to remember that he was one of the richest men in the kingdom,
and this made his commerce with them singularly agreeable.

                               * * * * *

Certain men and women have a curious power of visualising that fifth
dimension which lies so near and yet so far from this corporeal world.
For these favoured few, unseen presences sometimes seem to cast visible
shadows--their intuition may now and then be at fault, but on the other
hand, invisible guides will sometimes lead them into beautiful secret
pastures, of which the boundaries are closely hidden from those of their
fellows who only cultivate the obvious. It was so with James Berwick,
and, as again so often happens, this odd power--not so much of second
sight as of divination--was quite compatible with much that was
positive, prosaic, and even of the earth earthy, in his nature and
character. He attributed his undoubted gift to his Stuart blood, and was
fond of reminding himself that the Old Pretender was said always to
recognise a traitor when approached by one in the guise of a loyal
servant and friend.

On the afternoon following that spent by him at the Boringdons', Berwick
walked across to Chancton from Fletchings. He came the short way through
the Priory park--that which finally emerged by a broad grass path into
the lawn spreading before the Elizabethan front of the great mass of
buildings. As he moved across, towards the porch, he thought the fine
old house looked more alive and less deserted than usual, and having
passed through the vestibule, and so into the vast hall, he became at
once aware of some influence new to the place.

He looked about him with an eager, keen glance. A large log fire was
burning in the cavernous chimney, but then he knew himself to be
expected: to that same cause he attributed the rather unusual sight of a
china bowl full of autumn flowers reflected in the polished mahogany
round table, on which, as he drew near, he saw three letters, addressed
in McKirdy's stiff clear handwriting, lying ready for the post. Berwick,
hardly aware of what he was doing, glanced idly down at them: then, as
he moved rather hastily away, he lifted his eyebrows in surprise--one
was addressed to his sister, Miss Arabella Berwick, at Fletchings; yet
another, with every possible formality of address, to the Duchess of
Appleby and Kendal, at Halnakeham Castle; while the third bore the name
of another great lady living some ten miles from Chancton, and to
whom--Berwick would have been ready to lay any wager--no communication
had been sent from the Priory for some twenty odd years, though both she
and the kindly Duchess had in the long ago been intimate with Madame
Sampiero.

Once more Berwick looked round the hall, and then, abruptly, went out
again into the open air, and so made his way across at right angles to a
glass door giving direct access to a small room hung with sporting
prints and caricatures, unaltered since the time it had been the estate
room of Madame Sampiero's father. Here, at least, Berwick felt with
satisfaction, everything was absolutely as usual. He went through into a
narrow passage, up a short steep staircase to the upper floor, and so to
the old-fashioned bedroom and dressing-room which no one but he ever
occupied, and which were both still filled with his schoolboy and
undergraduate treasures. There was a third room on each of the floors
composing the two-storied building which had been added to the Priory
some fifty years before, and these extra rooms--two downstairs, one
upstairs--were sacred to Mrs. Turke.

There, as Berwick well knew, she cherished the mahogany cradle in which
she had so often rocked him to sleep: there were photographs of himself
at every age, to which, of late years political caricatures had been
added, and there also were garnered the endless gifts he had made and
was always making to his old nurse. James Berwick had been sadly spoilt
by the good things life had heaped on him in almost oppressive
lavishness, but no thought of personal convenience would have made him
give up, when at the Priory, these two rooms--this proximity to the
elderly woman to whom he was so dear, and who had tended him so
devotedly through a delicate and fretful childhood.

As he walked about his bedroom, he looked round him well pleased. A good
fire was burning in the grate, still compassed about with a nursery
fender, and his evening clothes, an old suit always kept by him at
Chancton, were already laid out on the four-post bed. Everything was
exactly as he would have wished to find it; and so seeing, he suddenly
frowned, most unreasonably. Why was it, he asked himself, that only
here, only at the Priory, were things done for him as he would have
always wished them to be--that is, noiselessly, invisibly? His own
servants over at Chillingworth never made him so comfortable! But then,
as he was fond of reminding himself, he was one of those men who dislike
to be dependent on others. A nice regard, perhaps, for his own dignity
had always caused him to dispense with the services of the one dependant
to whom, we are told, his master can never hope to be a hero.

There came a knock, a loud quavering tap-tap on the door. Berwick walked
forward and opened it himself, then put his arms round Mrs. Turke's fat
neck, and kissed her on each red cheek. The mauve and white striped gown
was new to him, but each piece of handsome jewellery set about the
substantial form had been his gift. "Well, Turke! well, old Turkey! it's
an age since I've seen you all! I was in the village for a moment
yesterday----"

"For a moment? Fie, Mr. James, I know all about it, sir! You was at the
Cottage for hours!"

"Well, I really hadn't a minute to come over here! But make me welcome
now that I am come, eh Turkey?"

"Welcome? Why, bless you, sir, you know well enough that you're as
welcome as flowers in May! We _have_ missed you dreadful all this
summer! I can't think why gentlemen should want to go to such outlandish
spots: I looked out the place in 'Peter Parley,' that I did, and I used
to shake in my bed when I thought of all you must be going through, when
you might be at home, here, with everything nice and comfortable about
you."

"I'll tell you what we'll do, Turkey--you can tell McGregor to lay
dinner in the business room to-night, and you shall have it with me."

As if struck by a sudden idea, he added, "And we'll have beans and
bacon!"

Mrs. Turke went off into a fit of laughter. "In October!" she cried.
"Why, my lamb, where's all your fine learning gone to? Not but what,
thanks to glass and the stoves, the fruits of the earth do appear at
queer times nowadays, but it would be a sin to waste glass and stoves on
beans!"

Berwick was not one whit abashed, "If we can't have broad beans, we can
have toasted cheese. My sister has got a French chef at Fletchings, and
luncheon to-day was--well, you know, Turkey!"

"I know, sir, just kickshaws! Taking the bread out of honest
Englishwomen's mouths. I'd chef him!" and Berwick realised from the
expression of her face that Mrs. Turke thought to chef was French for to
cook.

But there was a more important matter now in hand to be discussed, and
she said slily, "You'll have better company than me to-night, Mr.
James,--you'll have to put on your company manners, sir, for there's a
lady staying here now, you know."

"A lady?" he cried, "the devil there is!"

"You remember Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rebell, surelye? They were here
constant,--now let me see, a matter of twenty-five years ago and more,
when you, Mr. James, were ten years old, my dear."

"What?" he said, his tone suddenly altering, "do you mean--surely you
cannot mean that poor Richard Rebell's daughter is staying here--in the
Priory?--now?"

"Yes, that's just what she is doing--staying."

"Oh!" he said, in an altered voice, "perhaps after all I had better go
back to Chillingworth to-night." He added abruptly, "She married (her
name is Barbara, isn't it?) one of the West Indian Rebells. Is he here
too?"

Mrs. Turke folded her hands together, and shook her head sadly, but with
manifest enjoyment. It was well that Mr. James knew nothing, and that it
had been her part to tell the great news. "Oh no, we never mention him;
his name is never heard! From what I can make out from the doctor,--but
you know, Mr. James, what he's like,--the poor young lady, I mean Mrs.
Rebell, has been most unlucky, matrimonially speaking; just like--_you
know who_, sir----"

"Oh! she's left her husband, has she? It seems to run in the family. Has
she been here long, Turkey?"

"Only since the day before yesterday. But Madam has already took to her
wonderful: she does the morning reading now."

"I should think that would be a great improvement on McKirdy's. But, by
the way, isn't McKirdy jealous?"

Mrs. Turke shook her finger at the speaker. "That's only your fun now,
Mr. James! What call would the doctor have to be such a thing as
jealous? Fie! Besides, he's quite taken to her himself."

"Why then, the girl we saw with McKirdy yesterday must have been Mrs.
Rebell! A tall, dark, slim creature, eh, Turkey? Very oddly dressed?" He
turned and looked hard at his old nurse; she, in return, gave her
nurseling a quick shrewd glance from out of her bright little eyes.

"She's not what I call dressed at all," she said, "I never did see a
young lady so shabby, but there, out in those hot climates----" she
paused tolerantly. "Never mind; we'll soon make that all right. Madam
set Léonie to work at once. As for looks," Mrs. Turke bridled, "Mrs.
Rebell favours her poor papa more than she does her poor mamma," she
said, primly, "but she's a very pleasant-spoken young lady. I do think
you'll like her, Mr. James; and if I was you, sir, I would make up my
mind to stay to-night and to be kind to her. I don't think you'll want
much pressing----"

Again she gave him that quick shrewd look which seemed to say so much
more than her lips uttered. Sometimes Berwick felt an uncomfortable
conviction that very little he thought and did remained hidden from his
old nurse. To-night, as Mrs. Turke had felt quite sure he would do, he
made up his mind to remain at Chancton Priory and to follow, in this
matter of Mrs. Rebell, the advice given him.

                               * * * * *

Meanwhile, the subject of their discussion was sitting on a stool at the
foot of her godmother's couch. It was strange how two days of constant
communion with this stricken woman had impressed Barbara Rebell with a
sense of Madame Sampiero's power of protecting and sheltering those over
whom was thrown the mantle of her affection. The whole of Barbara's past
life, her quiet childhood, her lonely girlhood, even the years she had
spent with Pedro Rebell, had accustomed her to regard solitude as a
normal state, and she now looked forward eagerly to what so many would
have considered the long dull stretch of days spread out before her.

All she desired, but that most ardently, was to become dear,--she would
whisper to herself, perhaps necessary,--to Madame Sampiero. The physical
state others might have regarded with repugnance and horror produced no
such effect on Barbara's mind and imagination. All the tenderness of a
heart long starved, and thrown back on itself and on the past, was now
beginning to be lavished on this paralysed woman who had made her so
generously welcome, and who, she intuitively felt, was making so great
and so gallant a stand against evil fortune.

Even to-night Mrs. Rebell, coming into the room, had been struck by
the mingled severity and splendour of Madame Sampiero's appearance.
The white velvet gown, the black lace cross-over, and the delicate
tracery of the black coif heightened the beauty of the delicate
features,--intensified the fire in the blue eyes, as a brighter scheme
of colouring had not known how to do.

Léonie--the lean, clever-looking, deft-fingered French maid who had
grown old in the service of her mistress--stood by the couch looking
down at her handiwork with an air of pride: "Madame a voulu faire un
petit bout de toilette pour Monsieur Berwick," she explained
importantly. Poor Barbara was by now rather nervously aware that there
was something about her own appearance to-night which did not please her
godmother. Indeed, sitting there, in this lofty room full of beautiful
and extremely ornate pieces of furniture and rich hangings, she felt
acutely conscious that she was, as it were, out of the picture. Words
were not needed to tell her that, for some mysterious reason, her
godmother wished her to look well before this Mr. James Berwick, who, if
Mrs. Turke was to be believed, seemed to come and go so often at the
Priory, but regarding whom, she, Barbara, felt as yet no interest.

Almost involuntarily she answered the critical expression which rested
on the clear-cut face. "I care so little how I look,--after all what
does it matter?"

But more quickly than usual she realised the significance of the
murmured words, "Nonsense, child, it does matter, very much!" and she
divined the phrase, "A woman should always try to look her best."
Barbara smiled as Léonie joined in with "Une jolie femme doît sa beauté
à elle-même," adding, in response to another of those muffled
questioning murmurs, "Mais oui, Madame, Monsieur Boringdon a dû venir
avec Monsieur Berwick."

Mrs. Rebell looked up rather eagerly; if Oliver Boringdon were to be
there this evening, and if outward appearance were of such consequence
as these kind people, Madame Sampiero and the old Frenchwoman, seemed to
think, then it was a pity that one of the only two people whom she had
wished to impress favourably at Chancton should see her at a
disadvantage.

Again came low murmurs of which the significance entirely escaped
Barbara, but which Léonie had heard and understood: quickly the maid
went across the great room, and in a moment her brown hands had pulled
open a deep drawer in the Buhl wardrobe which had once adorned the bed
chamber of the last Queen of France. Now Léonie was coming back towards
her mistress' couch, towards Barbara, her arms laden with a delicate
foam of old lace.

A few minutes of hard work with a needle and white thread, much eager
chatter of French, and Barbara's thin white silk gown had been
transformed from a straight and, according to the fashion of that day,
shapeless gown, into a beautiful and poetic garment.

A gleam of amused pleasure flashed across Madame Sampiero's trembling
lips and wide open blue eyes: she realised that a little thought, a
little trouble, would transform her god-daughter, if not into a beauty,
then into a singularly distinguished and attractive-looking young woman.

Like most beautiful people, Barbara Sampiero had always been generous in
her appreciation of the beauty of others, and she would have been
pleased indeed had Richard Rebell's daughter turned out as lovely as had
been her mother,--lovely with that English beauty of golden hair and
perfect colouring. But Barbara's charm, so far at least, seemed of the
soul rather than of the body, and, recognising this fact, Madame
Sampiero had at first felt disappointed, for her own experience--and in
these matters a woman can only be guided by her own personal
experience--was that in this world beauty of body counts very much more
in obtaining for those who possess it their heart's desire than does
beauty of soul.

                               * * * * *

The mistress of Chancton Priory had hesitated painfully before allowing
Doctor McKirdy to write the letter which had bidden Barbara Rebell come
to England. The old Scotchman, who to her surprise had urged Madame
Sampiero to send for her god-daughter, regarded the coming of Barbara as
a matter of comparatively small moment. If the experiment was not
successful, well then Mrs. Rebell could be sent away again; but the
mistress of the Priory knew that to herself the coming of Richard
Rebell's daughter must either bring something like happiness, and the
companionship for which she sometimes craved with so desperate a
longing, or the destruction of the dignified peace in which she had
known how to enfold herself as in a mantle.

For a few days, Barbara's fate had indeed hung in the balance, and could
money have taken the place of the shelter asked for, it would have been
sent in ample measure. At last what had turned the balance and weighed
down the scale had been a mere word said by Mrs. Turke--a word referring
incautiously to James Berwick as the probable future owner of Chancton
Priory.

Hearing that word, the present owner's trembling lips had closed tightly
together. So that was what they were all planning? That the Priory
should be, in the fulness of time, handed over to James Berwick, to be
added to the many possessions he had acquired by the sale of
himself--Madame Sampiero, discussing the matter in the watches of her
long night, did not choose and pick her words--by that of his young
manhood, and of his already growing political reputation, to a sickly
woman, older than himself, whose death had been the crowning boon she
had bestowed on her husband.

And so Chancton, which Madame Sampiero loved with so passionate an
affection, was meant to take its place, as if by chance, at the end of
the long list of Berwick's properties--that list which all who ran might
read in those books of reference where the mightiness of Lord Bosworth's
nephew was set forth--after Chillingworth, after the town house, after
Churm Paddox, Newmarket, even after the property he had inherited from
his own father in France. The thought whipped her as if with
scorpions--perhaps the more so that for one moment, in the long ago, at
a time when Barbara Sampiero wished to share everything with the man she
loved, and before little Julia, that _enfant de miracle_, was born, she
had seriously thought of making Lord Bosworth's nephew her heir. But his
marriage had revolted her profoundly, and had, of course, made the
questions of his future and his career, which had at one time been a
matter for anxious thought on the part of his uncle and political
godfather, more than secure. Well, indeed, had he, or rather his sister
Arabella, feathered James Berwick's nest!

Like most lonely wealthy women, Madame Sampiero had made and destroyed
many wills in the course of her life, but since the death of her child
she had made no new disposition of her property. Let the place go to any
Rebell who could establish his or her claim to it--such had been her
feeling. But while Barbara's short, pitiful, and yet dignified letter
still remained unanswered, and while Mrs. Turke's incautious word still
sounded in her ears, she had sent for her lawyer, and, after making a
will which surprised him, had dictated to Doctor McKirdy the letter
bidding Mrs. Rebell come and take up her permanent home at Chancton.

And now--ah! even after only very few hours of Barbara's company, Madame
Sampiero lay and trembled to think how nearly she had let this good
thing which had suddenly come into her shadowed life slip by. All her
life through she had acted on impulse, and often she had lived to regret
what she had done, but this time, acting on what was to be, so she had
assured herself, the last memorable impulse of her life, her instinct
had guided her aright.

What Barbara had felt, on the first morning when she wandered about the
beautiful old house, her god-mother had since also experienced, with
increasing regret and self-reproach. Why had she not sent for the girl
immediately after Richard Rebell's death? Why had she allowed the
terrible grief and physical distress which then oppressed her to prevent
the accomplishment of that act of humanity and mercy? True, poor Barbara
had already met the man whom she had married almost immediately
afterwards, but had she, Madame Sampiero, done her duty by her
god-daughter, the girl might have been saved from the saddest because
the least remediable fate which can befall a woman, that of an unhappy
uncongenial marriage--how unhappy, how uncongenial Madame Sampiero did
not yet fully know.

But now it was no use to waste time in lamenting the irreparable, and
the paralysed woman set her clear mind to do all that could be done to
make the life of her young kinswoman as much as might be honoured and
happy. Those old friends and neighbours whose disapproval and
reprobation the owner of Chancton Priory had endured during many years
with easy philosophy, and whose later pity and proffered sympathy she
had so fiercely rejected when her awful loss and subsequent physical
disability had made them willing to surround her once more with love,
with sympathy, ay and almost with the respect she had forfeited, should
now be asked to show kindness to Richard Rebell's daughter. Hence the
letters dictated to Doctor McKirdy which Berwick had seen lying ready
for post in the hall.

Other epistles, of scarcely less moment from the point of view of Madame
Sampiero, had also been despatched from the Priory during the last two
days. Barbara must be made fit in every way for the place which she was
to take now, and in the future, at Chancton Priory. In material matters,
money can do so much! Madame Sampiero knew exactly how much--and alas!
how little--money can do. Her wealth could not restore poor Barbara's
girlhood, could not obliterate the fact that far away, in a West Indian
island, there lived a man who might some day make Barbara as wretched as
she herself had been made by Napoleone Sampiero. But there remained the
power of so acting that Barbara should be armed _cap-à-pie_ for any
worldly warfare that might come--the power of surrounding her with that
outward appearance of importance and prosperity which, as Madame
Sampiero well knew, means much in this world.

Hence milliners and dressmakers were told to hie them to Chancton, from
Bond Street, and, better still, from the Rue de la Paix. Doctor McKirdy
was amused, bewildered, touched to the heart, as he bent his red-grey
head over the notepaper, and drew heavy cheques "all for the covering of
one poor perishable body." So much fling he allowed himself, and then
suddenly "Madam" had said something,--now what had she said? The doctor
was completely nonplussed, angry with himself--he, whose mind always
leapt to hers! Again and again the long sentence was murmured forth--it
must be something of the utmost importance--luckily Mrs. Turke just then
bustled into the room, and with startling clearness had come the words,
"You tell him, Turkey!" Again the muttered incomprehensible murmur, and
Mrs. Turke's instant comprehension, "Why, of course, Madam reminds you,
doctor, that

    "The very sheep and silkworms wore
    The selfsame clothing long before!"

Well, well, as long as it all added a moment of cheerfulness, of
forgetfulness of the bitter past to his patient, what did anything
matter? Doctor McKirdy told himself rather ruefully that Madam had
always been fond of fine raiment: for his part, he thought Mrs. Rebell
looked very well as she was, especially when wearing that long white
cloak of hers, but if it pleased Madam to dress her up like a doll, why,
of course, they must all give in with a good grace.

Meanwhile, oh! yes, he quite understood that she was not to be shown
overmuch to the critical eyes of the village--there was to be no going
to church, for instance, till the fine feathers were come which were to
transform the gentle modest dove-like creature into a bird of paradise.

To-day, for the first time for many years, Madame Sampiero could have
dispensed with the presence of James Berwick at the Priory. Of all men
he was the most fastidious in the matter of women's looks. A first
impression, so Barbara's godmother reminded herself, counts so much with
a man, and what James thought now of Barbara Rebell would be sure to be
reported at once at Fletchings.

Fletchings, never long out of Madame Sampiero's thoughts, yet rarely
mentioned to those about her--Fletchings the charming, rather small
manor-house originally bought by Lord Bosworth in order that he might be
close--and yet not too close, in the eyes of a censorious world--to
Chancton Priory. This had been some thirty years ago, long before the
memorable later period when both of them became entirely indifferent to
what that same world might think.

And now James Berwick had come to be the only link between Fletchings
and the Priory. It had been Madame Sampiero's will, ruthlessly carried
out, that all relationship between herself and Lord Bosworth should
cease--that they should no longer meet, even to mourn together their
child Julia. She wished to be remembered as she had been, not as she now
was, a living corpse, an object of repulsion--so she told herself with
grim frankness--to any sanely constituted man.

The mistress of Chancton Priory never allowed herself to regret her
decision, but still there were times when James Berwick's prolonged
absences saddened her and seemed to make the lamp of her life burn very
low. From him alone she chose to learn what her old friend was thinking
and doing, and how he regarded those struggles in the political arena of
which she was still almost as interested a spectator as he was himself.
Through Berwick, she was thus able to follow each phase of the pleasant
life Lord Bosworth had made for himself, in this, the evening of his
days.

Madame Sampiero, during the long hour just before the dawn, had debated
keenly within herself as to whether it would be well for Barbara to go
to Fletchings. Certainly, yes, if the so doing would add to her
happiness or consolidate her position, but then Arabella Berwick must be
won over and propitiated, made to understand that Mrs. Rebell was
destined to become a person of importance. What Arabella should be
brought to think rested with James Berwick. For the first time for
years, Madame Sampiero would have given much to be downstairs, to-night,
to see what was going on in the great Blue drawing-room which lay just
below her own room.



                               CHAPTER V.

    "So every sweet with sour is tempered still,
        That maketh it be coveted the more;
    For easy things that may be got at will
        Most sorts of men do set but little store."
                                                            SPENSER.


Berwick walked up and down the hall waiting for Mrs. Rebell. Not only
Mrs. Turke's ambiguous utterances, but his own knowledge of her parents,
made him look forward with a certain curiosity to seeing her.

The story of Richard Rebell, the one-time brilliant and popular man
about town, who, not long after his marriage to a reigning beauty, had
been overwhelmed by the shameful accusation of cheating at cards; the
subsequent libel case which had developed into a mid-Victorian _cause
célèbre_; the award of nominal damages; and Mr. and Mrs. Richard
Rebell's ultimate retreat, for ever, to the Continent--it was all well
known to James Berwick.

Still, he would rather have met this Mrs. Rebell anywhere else than at
Chancton Priory. Her presence here could not but destroy, for himself,
the peculiar charm of the place.

How unpunctual she was! Why was it that women--with the one exception of
his sister Arabella--were always either too early or too late?

McGregor's voice broke across the ungallant thought, "Mrs. Rebell, sir,
is in the Blue drawing-room. She has been down some time."

The words gave Berwick a disagreeable shock. The Blue drawing-room?
Years had gone by since the two charming rooms taking up the whole west
side of the Priory had been in familiar use. He remembered very well the
last time he had seen them filled with a feminine presence. It had been
just after his first term at Oxford, when he still felt something of the
schoolboy: Madame Sampiero, beautiful and gracious as she only knew how
to be, had received him with great kindness, striving to put him
completely at his ease. There had been there also his uncle, Lord
Bosworth, and a certain Septimus Daman, an old friend and habitué of the
Priory in those later days of Lord Bosworth and Madame Sampiero's
intimacy, when no woman ever crossed its stately threshold.

Just before the little party of four, the three men and their hostess,
had gone in to dinner, a radiant apparition had danced into the room,
little fair-haired Julia, the incarnation of happy childhood. Her mother
had placed her, laughing, beside the rather fantastic portrait which was
then being painted of the child by an Italian artist, and which now hung
in Lord Bosworth's study at Fletchings, bearing silent witness to many
past events.

With the memory of this scene singularly vivid, it shocked Berwick that
now, even after the lapse of so many years, another woman should be
installed as mistress of the room towards which he was bending his
steps. So feeling, he hesitated, and waited for a moment, a frown on his
face, before turning the handle of the door.

                               * * * * *

James Berwick cultivated in himself a sense of the unusual and the
picturesque; especially was he ever consciously seeking to find these
qualities in those women with whom chance brought him into temporary
contact. As he passed through into the Blue drawing-room, he became at
once aware that the former ordered beauty of the apartment had been
restored, and that the tall white figure standing by the fire
harmonised, in some subtle fashion, with the old French furniture
covered in the rather bright blue silk which gave its name to the room.

Barbara Rebell was gazing down into the wood fire, one slender hand and
arm resting on the rose marble mantel-piece. She looked singularly young
and forlorn, and yet, as she turned towards him, he saw that her whole
bearing was instinct with a rather desperate dignity. She was not at all
what the man advancing towards her had thought to find--above all she
now looked curiously unlike the clear-eyed vigorous creature she had
appeared when walking by McKirdy's side along the open down.

As James Berwick came into the circle of light thrown by the tall shaded
lamps, she turned and directly faced him,--the expression of her face
that of a shrinking and proud embarrassment. Then she spoke, the words
she uttered bringing to her hearer discomfiture and rather piqued
surprise.

"I have been wishing so much to see you, Mr. Boringdon, and also your
mother. I think your sister must have written and told you of her
kindness to me--though indeed I do not suppose for a moment she can have
made you understand how very very good she and Mr. Johnstone both were.
I am the bearer of several things from Grace. Also"--her low grave voice
faltered--"I wish to ask if you will be so kind as to arrange for the
sending back to your brother-in-law of some money he lent me." She held
out as she spoke an envelope, "It is fifty pounds, and I do not know how
to convey it to him."

Berwick felt keenly annoyed,--there is always something lowering to
one's self-esteem in being taken for another person, and especially in
receiving in that character anything savouring of a confidential
communication.

"You are making a mistake," he said, rather sharply; "my name is
Berwick--James Berwick. Oliver Boringdon, Mrs. Johnstone's brother,
lives at Chancton Cottage. You will certainly meet him in the course of
the next day or two."

Mrs. Rebell looked for a moment extremely disconcerted: a flood of
bright colour swept over her face, but Berwick, now considering her
closely, saw that, if confused, she was also most certainly relieved.
Her manner altered,--she became, in a gentle and rather abstracted way,
at ease. The man now standing close to her suddenly felt as if in the
presence of a shy and yet confiding creature--one only half tame, ready
to spring away at any rough unmannerly approach. He caught himself
wondering how it was that she had already made friends with McKirdy, and
he told himself that there was about this woman something at once
delicately charming and at the same time disarming--he no longer grudged
her presence at the Priory.

On their way to the dining-room, during their progress through the hall,
Berwick looked down at the fingers resting on his arm. They were
childishly small and delicate. She must have, he thought, a singularly
pretty foot: yes, there was certainly something of the nymph about
her,--his first instinct had not been at fault, after all.

Mrs. Rebell walked to the further side of the large round table,
evidently regarding her companion as her guest, and from that moment
onwards, James Berwick never disputed Barbara Rebell's sovereignty of
Chancton Priory. Indeed, soon he was glad that she had chosen so to
place herself that, whenever he looked up, he saw her small head--the
ivory tinted face so curiously framed by short curling dark hair, and
the rather widely set apart, heavy-lidded eyes--sharply outlined against
the curtainless oriel window, of which the outer side was swept by the
branches of a cedar of Lebanon.

Berwick felt himself in an approving mood. His old nurse had been right;
Mrs. Rebell would add to, not detract from, the charm of the Priory.
Many trifling matters ministered to his fancy. The dining-table was bare
of flowers and of ornament: McGregor, it was clear, had lost touch with
the outside world. Berwick was glad too that Mrs. Rebell wore no
jewels,--not even, to his surprise, a wedding ring. She must be even
more out of touch with her contemporaries than McGregor! And yet her
dress,--yes, there could be no doubt about it--had an air of
magnificence, in spite of its extreme plainness. Now that he came to
think of it, her white lace gown, vaporous and mysterious, resembled,
quite curiously so, that of a bride.

So, doubtless, sitting there, as they were sitting now, more than one
Rebell bride and bridegroom had sat in this old dining-room, at this
very round table, in those days when men brought their newly-wedded
wives straight home. The last Rebells to have done so must have been
Madame Sampiero's grandfather and grandmother, her own and her
god-daughter's common ancestors. Berwick wondered swiftly if it was from
that bride of a hundred years ago that Barbara had taken her eyes--those
singularly desolate eyes which alone in her face implied experience.

He looked across the table with a whimsical, considering look. A
stranger passing by outside that window would take them for husband and
wife. So do folk judge by mere appearance! The fact that for himself as
well as for her marriage was out of the region of practical
possibilities made amusing,--gave something of piquancy to this little
scene of pseudo-domesticity.

Barbara also looked up and across at him. She saw clearly, for the first
time, for the lamps in the Blue drawing-room gave but a quavering light,
the tanned and tense-looking face, of which perhaps the most arresting
features were the penetrating bright blue eyes. The strong jaw--not a
handsome feature, this--was partly concealed by a ragged straw-coloured
moustache, many shades lighter than the hair brushed straight across the
already seamed forehead. She smiled, a delicate heart-whole smile,
softening and brightening, altering incredibly the rather austere lines
of her face.

"I'm thinking," she said, "of Mrs. Turke. I was in her sitting-room
to-day, and she showed me the many portraits she has there of you; that
being so, I certainly ought not to have mistaken you, even for a moment,
for Mr. Boringdon!"

But with the mention of the name the smile faded, and a look of
oppression came over her face.

"Grace Johnstone," Berwick's sudden utterance of the name was an
experiment: he waited: ah! yes, that was it! The painful association was
with Mrs. Johnstone, not with Oliver Boringdon or his mother.

"Grace Johnstone," he repeated, "is a very old friend of mine, Mrs.
Rebell, and it is always a pleasure to me to have news of her."

Barbara was opening and shutting her ringless left hand with a nervous
gesture: she began crumbling the bread by her plate.

"I have not known her very long," she said, "but nothing could have
exceeded her kindness to me. I was very ill, and Mrs. Johnstone took me
into her own house and nursed me well again. It seemed so very strange a
coincidence that her mother and brother should be living at Chancton, so
near to my godmother." But Berwick realised that the coincidence was not
regarded by the speaker as a happy one.

"Mrs. Boringdon," he said slowly, "is quite unlike her daughter. I
should think there was very little confidence between them. If you will
allow me to be rather impertinent, to take advantage of our
relationship--you know my great-grandfather very wisely married your
great-grandmother's sister--I should like to give you a piece of
advice----"

Barbara looked at him anxiously--the youthfulness which had so disarmed
him again became manifest in her face.

"My advice is that you write a note to the Johnstones, and then confide
it to my care to send off with the fifty pounds you are returning to
them. I will see that they receive it safely." Some instinct--the
outcome, perhaps, of many money dealings with pretty women--made him
add, with a touch of reserve, "But perhaps Mrs. Johnstone did not know
of this loan?"

"Oh! yes, of course she did! Indeed it was she who suggested it. But for
that I could not have come home." Barbara was blushing, and Berwick saw
tears shining in her eyes. He felt oddly moved. He had often heard of,
but he had never seen, the shedding of tears of gratitude.

"Yes," he said hastily, "I felt sure that was the case. But I do not
think Mrs. Boringdon need be informed of the fact."

Mrs. Rebell had risen. A sudden fear that she might be going upstairs,
that he would not see her again that night, came over Berwick.

"Do go into the drawing-room and write that note to the Johnstones, and
I will join you there in a few moments. I am going over to my own
quarters to fetch something which will, I think, interest you."

Berwick held open the door, waited till the echo of her footsteps had
gone, then quickly lighted a pipe, and walking across the dining-room
pushed open one of the sections of the high oriel window. Then he made
his way round, almost stealthily, to the stretch of lawn on which opened
the French windows of the two drawing-rooms. The curtains were not
drawn: McGregor, and his satellite, the village lad who was being
transformed into a footman, had certainly grown careless,--and yet it
would have been a pity to shut out the moon, and it was not at all cold.

Pacing up and down, Berwick, every few moments, saw, set as in a frame,
the whole interior of the Blue drawing-room, forming a background to
Barbara Rebell. Indeed, she was quite near the window, sitting--an hour
ago the fact would have shocked him--at Madame Sampiero's own
writing-table, at that exquisite Louis XV. escritoire which had been
discovered by Lord Bosworth in a Provençal château, and given by him,
now many a long year ago, to the mistress of Chancton Priory.

Barbara had lighted the two green candles which her unseen watcher could
remember as having been there so long that their colour had almost
faded. She was bending over the notepaper, her slight supple figure
thrown forward in a curiously graceful attitude. Again and again
Berwick, walking and smoking outside, stopped and looked critically at
the little scene. It is seldom that a man can so look consideringly at a
woman, save perhaps at a place of public amusement, or in a church.

At last, slightly ashamed of himself, he turned round for the last time,
and plunged into the moonlit darkness lying the other side of the house.
In his room was a graceful sketch of Mrs. Richard Rebell, Barbara's
lovely mother. He felt certain that the daughter would greatly value it.
How surely his instinct had guided him he himself hardly knew. Barbara
had loved her mother passionately, and after this evening she never
glanced at the early presentment of that same beloved mother without a
kind thought for the giver of it.

                               * * * * *

A curious hour followed: spent by Berwick and Mrs. Rebell one on each
side of Madame Sampiero's couch--Barbara listening, quite silently,
while Berwick, never seen to more advantage than when exerting himself
to please and interest the stricken mistress of Chancton Priory, told
news of that absorbing world of high politics which to Madame Sampiero
had long been the only one which counted, and in which much of her past
life had been spent.

So listening, Barbara felt herself pitifully ignorant. Pedro Rebell,
proud as he had been of his British name and ancestry, made no attempt
to keep in touch with England. True, certain names, mentioned so
familiarly before her, were remembered as having been spoken by her
father, but this evening, seeing how much this question--this mysterious
question of the Ins and the Outs--meant to Madame Sampiero, Barbara made
up her mind, rather light-heartedly considering the magnitude of the
task, to lose no time in mastering the political problems of her
country.

It must be admitted that Berwick's eager out-pouring--though it included
what one of his listeners knew was a masterly forecast of the fate he
hoped was about to overwhelm the Government which had already earned the
nickname of "The Long Parliament"--did not add much to Mrs. Rebell's
knowledge of contemporary statecraft. Still, her attention never
flagged, and the speaker, noting her absorption, thought he had never
had so agreeable an audience, or one which showed more whole-heartedly
its sympathy with Her Majesty's Opposition.

The entrance of Doctor McKirdy into the room proved a harsh
interruption.

"Be off!" he cried unceremoniously. "Madam won't be having a glint of
sleep this night!" and then as Madame Sampiero spoke, her speech sadly
involved, "Ay, ay, I've no doubt that all this company and talking has
made ye feel more alive, but we don't want you to be feeling dead
to-morrow, Madam--eh, what? That wouldn't matter? It would indeed
matter, to those who had your death on their consciences!"

But already Berwick and Mrs. Rebell were in the corridor. "I hope I have
not tired her?" he said ruefully.

"No--no, indeed! You heard what she said? You made her feel alive--no
wonder she looks forward to your coming! Oh! I hope you will be here
often."

Berwick looked at her oddly, almost doubtfully, for a moment. "I expect
to be here a good deal this winter," he said slowly.

But if he thought that the evening, so well begun, was to be concluded
in the Blue drawing-room downstairs, he was disappointed. Barbara turned
and made him an old-fashioned curtsey--such an obeisance as French and
Italian girls are taught to make to those of rank, and to the aged,--and
then in a moment she was gone, up the winding staircase, leaving Berwick
strangely subjugated and charmed.

He was turning slowly when there came the sound of shuffling feet.
"Madam insists on your coming back just for a moment. Now don't go
exciting of her or she'll never live to see you occupying that chair of
little ease."

"What chair?" asked Berwick lazily: he was fond of McKirdy with an old
fondness dating from his earliest childhood.

"The high seat, the gallows of fifty cubits set apart for the Prime
Minister of this great country!"

"I'm afraid Madam will have to wait a long time before she sees me
there!"

"Well, man, give her at least the chance of living to see that glorious
day!"

But Madame Sampiero had, as it turned out, very little to say, and
nothing of an exciting nature.

"Do I think Arabella will like her?" Berwick was rather taken aback and
puzzled. He had not thought of his sister and Mrs. Rebell in
conjunction, and the idea was not a particularly agreeable one. "Well,
yes, why shouldn't she? They are absolutely unlike," a not unkindly
smile came over his face. He added, "I am sure my uncle will be charmed
with her," then bent forward to catch the faltering utterance, "Yes, I
know Richard Rebell was a friend of his--but do I understand that you
want Arabella to ask her to Fletchings?" There was a rather long
pause--"Yes, yes, Arabella shall certainly call on Mrs. Rebell, and at
once."

                               * * * * *

One fact necessarily dominated Berwick's relations with, and attitude
towards, women. That he often forgot this fact, and would remain for
long periods of time quite unaware that it lay in wait for him to catch
him tripping, was certain. But even so, any little matter, such as a
moment of sudden instinctive sympathy with some pretty creature standing
on the threshold of life, was apt to bring back the knowledge, to make
the Fact the one thing to be remembered.

Again, it was never forgotten--not for a moment--by the human being who
had Berwick's interest most at heart, and who had played from his
earliest boyhood a preponderant part in his life. Arabella Berwick
always remembered that her brother's dead wife, behaving on this unique
occasion as a man might have done, and as men have often done, had so
left her vast fortune that even the life interest must pass away from
him, and that irrevocably, in the event of his making a second marriage.

At the time of his wife's death, James Berwick had been annoyed--keenly
so--by the comment this clause in her will had provoked--far more so
indeed than by the clause itself. His brief experience of married life
had not been such as to make him at all desirous of repeating the
experiment; and what he saw of marriage about him did not incline him to
envy the lot of the average married man. Accordingly, the condition of
bachelorhood attaching to his present wealth pressed very lightly on
him. It was, however, always present to Miss Berwick, and when her
brother was staying at Fletchings--even more, when she was acting, as
she sometimes did, as hostess to his friends--attractive girls were
never included in the house party, and the agreeable, unattached widow,
who has become a social institution, was rigorously avoided by her.

Unless the attraction is so strong as to cause him to overleap each of
the many barriers erected by our rather elaborate civilisation, a man of
the world--a man interested supremely in politics, considerably in
sport, and in the hundred and one matters which occupy people of wealth
and leisure--is generally apt to know, in an intimate social sense, only
those women with whom he is brought in contact by his own womenfolk.
Berwick went into many worlds to which his sister had no wish to have
access, but both before his marriage and since he had become a widower,
she had been careful to throw him, as far as lay in her power, with
women who could in no way dispute her own position as his trusted
counsellor and friend. This was made the more easy because James Berwick
in all good faith disliked that feminine type which plays in politics
the part of francs-tireurs--he called them by the less agreeable name of
"stirabouts." Miss Berwick cultivated on her brother's behalf every type
of pretty, amusing, and even clever married woman, but no worldly mother
was ever more careful in keeping her daughter out of the way of
detrimentals than was Arabella Berwick in avoiding for her brother
dangerous proximities of an innocent kind.

Unfortunately Berwick was not always as grateful as he should have been
to so kind and far-sighted a sister. He would suddenly take a fancy to
the freshest and prettiest _débutante_, and for a while, perhaps from
June to August, Arabella would tremble. On one occasion she had conveyed
some idea of her brother's position to an astute lady who had regarded
him as a prospective son-in-law, and when once the mother had thoroughly
realised the dreadful truth concerning the tenure of his large income,
the young beauty had been spirited away.

Then, again,--and this, it is to be feared, happened more
frequently--Berwick would deliberately put himself in the way of some
devastating charmer, who, even if technically "safe" from his sister's
standpoint, belonged to the type which breeds mischief, and causes those
involuntary appearances in the law courts of his country which stand so
much in the way of the ambitious young statesman. Such ladies, as Miss
Berwick well knew, have a disconcerting knack of getting rid of their
legal impediment to re-marriage. Berwick had lately had a very narrow
escape from such a one. In the sharp discussion between the brother and
sister which had followed, he had exclaimed sardonically, "Really,
Arabella, what you ought to look out for--I mean for me--is some poor
pretty soul with a mad husband safe out of the way. You know lunatics
live for ever." And Arabella, though she had smiled reprovingly, had
been struck by the carelessly uttered words.

Miss Berwick's attitude to certain disagreeable and sordid facts of
human life had been early fixed by herself as one of disdainful
aloofness. She did not permit herself to judge those about her, and far
preferred not to know of their transgressions. When such knowledge was
thrust upon her--as had necessarily been the case with her uncle, Lord
Bosworth, and Madame Sampiero--she judged narrowly and hardly the woman,
contemptuously and leniently the man.



                              CHAPTER VI.

    "Crois-tu donc que l'on peut commander à son coeur?
    On aime malgré soi, car l'Amour est un hôte
    Qui vient à son caprice, et toujours en vainqueur."

                                                          E. AUGIER.


During the ten days which followed that on which Mrs. Boringdon had held
a certain conversation with her son, Lucy Kemp gradually became aware of
two things. The first, which seemed to blot out and exclude everything
else, was that she loved--in the old-fashioned pathetic sense of the
abused word--Oliver Boringdon.

Hitherto she had been able to call the deep feeling which knit her to
him "friendship," but that kindly hypocrisy would serve no longer: she
was now aware what name to call it by. She had known it since the
evening she had noticed that his manner had altered, that he had become
more reserved, less really at ease. The second thing of which Lucy
became aware, during those long dragging empty days, was the fact of her
keen unhappiness, and of her determination to conceal it from those
about her--especially from the father and mother who, she knew, were so
strangely sensitive to all that concerned her.

                               * * * * *

Major-General and Mrs. Kemp had been settled at Chancton Grange for some
years, and the Mutiny hero, the man whose gallant deed had once thrilled
England, Mrs. Kemp, and their young daughter, had come to be regarded by
the village folk with that kindly contempt which is bred, we are told,
by familiarity.

The General's incisive, dry manner was rather resented by those of his
neighbours who had hoped to make of him a local tea-party celebrity, and
his constructive interest in local politics won him but tepid praise
from the villagers, while the fact that Mrs. Kemp's large-minded charity
and goodness of heart was tempered by a good deal of shrewd
common-sense, did not make her the more loved by those, both gentle and
simple, whom she was unwearying in helping in time of trouble.

The husband and wife were, however, rather grudgingly regarded as a
model couple. It had soon been noticed that they actually appeared
happier together than apart, and, surprising fact, that in the
day-to-day life of walking and driving, ay and even of sitting still
indoors, they apparently preferred each other's company to that of any
of their neighbours!

Why one man succeeds, and another, apparently superior in every respect,
fails in winning the prizes, the pleasant places, and the easy paths of
life, is a mystery rather to their acquaintances than to their intimate
friends--people who, according to the schoolboy's excellent definition,
"know all about you, but like you all the same." Now the peculiarity
about General Kemp was that he had neither succeeded nor failed, or
rather he had been successful only up to a certain point. He had won his
V.C. as a subaltern in the Mutiny, and promotion had naturally followed.
But after he had attained to field rank, he saw his career broken off
abruptly, and that for no shortcomings of his own, for nothing that he
could have helped or altered in any way.

It was a prosaic misfortune enough, being simply the relentless knife of
economy, wielded by a new and enthusiastic Secretary at War, which cut
off at one sweep General Kemp and various of his contemporaries and
comrades in arms. The right honourable gentleman, as he explained to an
admiring House of Commons, was able to save the difference between the
full pay and the retired pay of these officers--a substantial sum to be
sure, but still not so much as was afterwards expended by the right
honourable gentleman's successors in bringing the establishment of
officers up to its proper strength again.

General Kemp was a deeply disappointed man, but he kept his feelings
strictly to himself, and only his wife knew what compulsory retirement
had meant to him, and, for the matter of that, to herself, for Mrs.
Kemp, very early in life, had put all her eggs in Thomas Kemp's basket.

But in one matter there had been no disappointment. The fact that Lucy's
childhood had been spent, though not unhappily, far from her parents,
seemed to make her doubly dear to them: and then, to their fond eyes and
hearts, their child was everything a girl should be. Unlike the girls of
whom Mrs. Kemp sometimes heard so much, she showed no desire to leave
her father and mother--no wish even to enjoy the gaieties which fell to
the lot of her contemporaries who lived amid livelier scenes than those
afforded by a remote Sussex village, and this though she was as fond of
dancing and of play as other young creatures of her age.

Until a year ago,--nay, till six months back,--Mrs. Kemp would have
disbelieved an angel, had so august a visitant foretold that there would
soon arise, and that through no fault of hers or of the girl's, a cloud
between her daughter, her darling Lucy, and herself; and yet this thing,
this incredible thing, had come to pass.

The worst the mother had feared, and she had sometimes feared it
greatly, was that her only daughter, following in this her own example,
would marry to India, or, worse still, to some far-away colony. But,
even so, Mrs. Kemp would have made the sacrifice, especially if Lucy's
lover had in any way recalled the Tom Kemp of thirty years before.

However, as so generally happens, the danger the mother had dreaded
passed by harmlessly: Lucy received and rejected the offer of a soldier,
the son of one of the General's oldest friends; and her girlish heart
had turned to something so utterly different, so entirely unexpected,
that neither Mrs. Kemp nor Lucy's father had known how to deal with the
situation which had come upon them with a suddenness which had amazed
them both.

                               * * * * *

In spite of her look of unformed youth and gravely young manner, Lucy
Kemp was in no sense a child. There are surely many women who at some
stage of their life, paraphrasing the famous phrase, might well exclaim,
"I think, therefore I am--a woman." But such a test would convict many
women of eternal childhood.

Lucy, during the last year, had thought much--too much, perhaps, for her
comfort. She had early made up her mind as to what she did not wish to
do with her life. In no circumstances would she become the wife of
Captain Laxton, but she had found it difficult to convince him of her
resolution.

So it was that now, during those dreary days when the flow of constant
communication between Oliver Boringdon and the Grange had ceased, as if
by a stroke of malignant magic, poor Lucy had had more than time to
examine her mind and heart, and to feel a dreadful terror lest what she
found there should also be discovered by those about her, and especially
by Oliver himself.

Mrs. Kemp was not well--so rare an occurrence as to alter all the usual
habits of the Grange. The General wandered disconsolately about the
garden, and through the lower rooms, reading, smoking, and gardening,
but it always ended in his going up to his wife's room. Lucy, standing
apart, was not too busy with her thoughts to realise, more than she had
ever done before, the vitality, the compelling bondage, of such an
attachment as that between her quiet, rather silent, father and her
impulsive affectionate mother. Watching those two with a new, and an
almost painful, interest, the girl told herself that, for a year of such
happy bondage between herself and Oliver Boringdon, she would willingly
give the rest of her life in exchange.

Looking back, especially on the last few months, Lucy was able to recall
many moments, nay hours, when Oliver had undoubtedly regarded her as
being in a very special sense his friend. Bending over her work, sitting
silent by her mother's bedside, Lucy would suddenly remember, with a
fluttering of the heart, certain kindly looks, certain frankly uttered
confidences--and, remembering these things, she would regain some of the
self-respect which sometimes seemed to have slipped away from her in a
night. To Lucy Kemp the thought of seeking before being sought was
profoundly repugnant, and she was deeply ashamed of the feeling which
possessed her, and which alone seemed real in her daily life.

There had been no love-making on Oliver's part--no, indeed!--but the
very phrase has acquired a vulgar significance. The girl thought she
knew every way of love, and she shrank from being "made love to."
Captain Laxton's eager desire to anticipate her every trifling wish, his
awkward and most unprovoked compliments, the haunting of her when she
would so much rather have been alone--ah! no, Oliver could never behave
like that, in so absurd, so undignified a manner, to any woman. If
Captain Laxton was a typical lover, then Lucy Kemp felt sure that
Boringdon was incapable of being, in that sense, in love, and she
thought all the better of him for it.

Nay, more,--the belief that Oliver was in this so different from other,
more commonplace, men, brought infinite comfort. Lucy, compelled to
admit that he had at no time shown any wish to make love to her, brought
herself to think it possible that Boringdon was in very truth incapable
of that peculiar jealous passionate feeling of which the girl now knew
herself to be as much possessed as was Captain Laxton himself--that
strange state of feeling so constantly described in those novels which
she and her mother read, and of which her soldier lover, when in her
company, seemed the living embodiment.

During the past ten days, Lucy had only twice seen Oliver, and this in
village life must mean deliberate avoidance. So feeling, pride, and
instinctive modesty, had kept her away from the Cottage, and Mrs.
Boringdon--this was surely strange--had made no effort to see her. Once,
in a by-way of Chancton, Lucy had met Oliver face to face,--he had
stopped her, inquired eagerly concerning Mrs. Kemp, and seemed inclined,
more than she had done at the moment, to talk in the old way, to
linger--then with an odd, almost rude abruptness, he had turned and left
her, and tears, of which she had been bitterly, agonisingly ashamed, had
rushed into poor Lucy's brown eyes.

Their other meeting--one which was infinitely pleasanter to look back
upon--had been at the Grange. Boringdon had come with a note from his
mother to Mrs. Kemp; Lucy had taken it from him at the door, and unasked
he had followed the girl through the hall out into the old-fashioned
garden. There, after a word said by her as to the surprising result of
an important by-election,--since she had known him Lucy had become very
much of a politician,--Oliver had suddenly taken from his pocket a
letter which concerned him nearly, and acting as if on an irresistible
impulse, he had begged her to read it.

The letter was from a man who had been one of his principal constituents
and supporters during his brief period of Parliamentary glory, and
contained private information concerning the probable resignation of the
member who had been Boringdon's successful rival at the last
election--it of course amounted to an invitation to stand again.

For a moment standing, out there in the garden, Time seemed to have been
put back: Oliver and she were talking in the old way--indeed, he was
just telling her exactly what he meant to write in answer to this
all-important letter, when, to Lucy's discomfiture and deep chagrin,
General Kemp had suddenly appeared in the garden porch of the Grange and
had put a quick sharp end to the discussion. "Your mother wants you,
Lucy--will you please go up to her at once?" and the girl had obeyed
without saying good-bye, for she felt sure--or perhaps, had hoped to
ensure--that Boringdon would wait till she came down again. But alas!
when she ran down, a few minutes later, the young man was gone, and her
father answered her involuntary look of deep disappointment with one
that made her hang her head and blush! The child in Lucy asked itself
pitifully how father could have been so unkind.

General Kemp had indeed been angry--nay, more than angry. The showing of
a letter by a man to a woman is an action which to an onlooker has about
it something peculiarly significant and intimate. Standing just within
the threshold of his house, seeing the two figures standing on the path
close to one another, and so absorbed in what they were saying that some
moments elapsed before they looked up and became aware of his presence,
the father realised, more than he had done before, Lucy's odd relation
to the young man. "What the devil"--so General Kemp asked himself with
rising anger--"what the devil did Boringdon mean by all that sort of
thing?"

"Il faut qu'une porte soît ouverte ou fermée!" The wise French saying
which provided de Musset with a title for one of his most poignant
tragi-comedies, was probably unknown to General Kemp, but it exactly
expressed his feeling. The upright soldier had no liking for half-open
doors--for ambiguous sentimental relations.

                               * * * * *

"I can't think what the man was thinking of--taking a letter out of his
pocket, and showing it to her for all the world as if she were his wife!
I wish, Mary, you'd say a word to Lucy."

"What word would you have me say, Tom?" Mrs. Kemp raised herself
painfully in bed. She still felt in all her bones the violent chill she
had caught, and the being compelled to lie aside had made her, what she
so seldom was, really depressed. On this unfortunate afternoon she had
followed with intuitive knowledge every act of the little drama enacted
downstairs: she had heard the General's sharply uttered command; noted
Lucy's breathless eager longing to be down again; and then she had heard
the front door open and shut; and she had listened, almost as
disappointedly as Lucy might have done, to Boringdon's firm steps
hurrying up the road past her windows. If only she had not caught this
stupid cold, all this might have been prevented! To-morrow she must
really persuade the doctor to let her come down again.

"Surely, Mary, you don't need to be told what to say to the child! A
mother should always know what to do and what to say in such a case. If
we had a son and I thought him behaving badly to some girl, I should be
at no loss to tell him what I thought of his conduct,--in fact, I should
think it my duty as his father to do so." The General came and stood by
his wife's bed. He glowered down at her with frowning, unhappy eyes.

"But that would be so different, Tom! I should be quite willing to speak
to Lucy if I thought she were behaving badly--if she were to flirt, for
instance, as I have seen horrid girls do! But this, you see, is so
different--the poor child is doing nothing wrong: it is we who have been
wrong to allow it to come to this."

The General walked up and down the room. Then he suddenly turned and
spoke, "Well, I think something ought to be done. Get the matter settled
one way or the other. I never heard of such a state of things! Lucy
looks very far from well. Such a case never came my way before."

"Oh! Tom, is that quite true?"

"Certainly it is!"--he turned and faced her,--"quite true. Of course
I've known men behave badly to women, very badly indeed, who hasn't? and
women to men too, for the matter of that. But I've never come across
such an odd fellow as Boringdon. Why, he scowled at me just now,--upon
my word you might have thought I was the stranger and he her father! but
I took the opportunity of being very short with him--very short indeed!"
Then, as Mrs. Kemp sighed a long involuntary sigh, "No, Mary, in this
matter, you must allow me to have my own way. I don't approve of that
sort of conduct. It's always so with widows' sons--there are certain
things only a man can knock into 'em! I wish I'd had that young fellow
in the regiment for a bit. It would have done him a great deal more good
than the House of Commons seems to have done. And then again I can't at
all see what Lucy sees in him. He's such a dull dog! Now Laxton--I could
understand any girl losing her heart to Laxton!" He walked to the
window. "There's McKirdy coming in. I'll go down and have a talk with
him. Meanwhile, you think over all I've been saying, Mary."

Poor Mrs. Kemp! as if she ever thought nowadays, in a serious sense, of
anything else! But she was inclined, in her heart of hearts, to share
Lucy's view of Boringdon's nature. Perhaps he was one of those men--she
had known a few such--who are incapable of violent, determining feeling.
If that were so, might not his evident liking for, and trust in, Lucy,
develop into something quite sufficiently like love amply to satisfy the
girl?

                               * * * * *

And Boringdon? Boringdon also was far from happy and satisfied during
those days which had followed on his talk with his mother. The result of
the conversation had been to make him deliberately avoid Lucy Kemp. But
at once he had become aware that he missed the girl--missed, above all,
the power of turning to her for sympathy, and even to a certain extent
for counsel, more than he would have thought possible. He felt suddenly
awakened to a danger he would rather not have seen,--why, oh! why, had
not his mother left well alone? The state of things which had existed
all that summer had exactly suited him. Looking back, Oliver felt sure
that Lucy had not misunderstood the measure of affection and liking
which he was willing, nay, eager, to bestow on her.

As the days went by, the young man wondered uneasily why his mother had
suddenly left off asking the girl to lunch and to tea, as she had done,
at one time, almost daily. He knew that Mrs. Boringdon rarely acted
without a definite motive. Often her eyes would rest on his moody face
with a questioning look. He longed to know why Lucy never came to the
Cottage, but he was unwilling to give his mother the satisfaction of
hearing him make such an inquiry. Then he reminded himself that, after
all, Mrs. Kemp was really ill: the whole village watched with interest
the daily visit to the Grange of the Halnakeham doctor. Perhaps Lucy
found it difficult to leave home just now.

Even concerning his village worries--those connected with his work as
land-agent to the Chancton estate--Boringdon had got into the way of
turning to Lucy Kemp for comfort, and so he felt cut off from the only
person to whom he could talk freely. Then had come that short meeting in
the lane, and something timid, embarrassed in Lucy's manner had suddenly
made him afraid, had put him on his guard--but afterwards he had been
bitterly ashamed of the way in which he had behaved in leaving her so
abruptly.

His heart grew very tender to her, and, had he not known that his mother
was watching him, he would almost certainly have "made it up"--have
given way--and nature would have done the rest. But Oliver was aware
that any sign of weakness on his part would be a triumph for Mrs.
Boringdon--a proof that she had known how to shepherd him into a
suitable engagement with a well-dowered girl: and so he had held out,
knowing secretly that it only rested with him to restore his old
relation with Lucy to its former footing.

At last, it had been Mrs. Boringdon who had asked him, in her most
innocent and conventional voice, to take a note from her to Mrs. Kemp,
and the accident that it had been Lucy who had opened the front door had
been enough to shake his resolution, and to break down the barrier which
he had put up between himself and her. At the time he had been carrying
the letter concerning his old constituency about with him for two days,
and the temptation to tell Lucy all about it proved too strong. Hence he
had followed her through into the quiet fragrant garden which held for
him so many pleasant associations of interesting, intimate talk with
both the mother and the daughter.

Then, almost at once, had come the sharp, he told himself resentfully
the utterly unwarrantable, interruption--more, there had been no
mistaking General Kemp's manner--that of the man who cries "hands off!"
from some cherished possession. Boringdon's guilty conscience--it was
indeed hard that his conscience should feel guilty, for he was not aware
of having done anything of which he should be ashamed--Boringdon's
guilty conscience at once suggested the terrible thought that General
Kemp doubtless regarded him as a fortune-hunter. When the front door of
the Grange had closed on him he felt as if he could never come there
again, and as if one of the pleasantest pages of his life had suddenly
closed.

He determined to say nothing of the pregnant, even if almost wordless,
little scene to his mother, and it was with a nervous dread of questions
and cross questions that he entered the drawing-room of the Cottage with
words concerning a very different person from Lucy Kemp on his lips.
"Don't you think," he asked, "that the time has come when we ought to do
something about Mrs. Rebell? She has been here, it seems, at least a
week, and several people have already called on her."

Mrs. Boringdon looked at her son with some surprise, and he saw with
satisfaction that his little ruse had been successful; the news he
brought had made her forget, for the moment, the Grange and Lucy Kemp.

"Several people?" she repeated, "I think, my dear boy, you must be
mistaken. No one _ever_ calls at Chancton Priory. How could
anyone--unless you mean Miss Vipen and the Rectory," she smiled
slightingly--"have even been made aware of this Mrs. Rebell's arrival?"

"And yet there's no doubt about it," he said irritably, "I had the list
from McKirdy, who seemed to take these calls as a personal compliment to
himself! Miss Berwick drove over two or three days ago, and so did the
Duchess of Appleby and Kendal." He waited a moment, feeling rather
ashamed. He had known how to rouse his mother to considerable interest
and excitement.

"The Duchess?" she echoed incredulously.--Most country districts in
England have a duchess, and this district was no exception to the
rule,--"what an extraordinary thing! I should have called on Mrs.
Rebell, Grace's friend, before now, but it seemed so strange that she
was not in church. It made me fear"--Mrs. Boringdon looked slightly
shocked and genuinely grieved--"that she was going to follow the example
of all the other people connected with the Priory."

"I don't know why you should say that, mother. It is quite impossible
for Madame Sampiero to go to church, even if she wished to do so. As for
McKirdy, I suppose he is a Presbyterian, but the Priory servants all go,
don't they?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Boringdon, reluctantly, "the servants certainly do
go,--that is, the lower servants. No one has ever seen the housekeeper
at church, and, of course the state of things here must grieve Mr.
Sampson very much."

Oliver smiled grimly. "If that is really so, Sampson doesn't know when
he's well off. The sight of Mrs. Turke, resplendent in a new gown each
Sunday, would certainly distract the congregation from his dull sermon!"
But Mrs. Boringdon bent her head gravely, as if refusing to discuss so
unsavoury and painful a subject.

"Have you seen her?" she asked with some natural curiosity. She added
hastily, "I mean, of course, Mrs. Rebell."

"No," he said, "but I expect to do so in a few minutes. I saw McKirdy in
the village just now, and profiting by his absence, I'm going to try and
establish some kind of communication between Madame Sampiero and myself.
There's a most urgent matter which ought to be settled at once, and
McKirdy was so disagreeable the last time we met that I do not wish to
bring him into it if I can possibly avoid it."

                               * * * * *

The Chancton estate, in addition to two villages, comprised many large
farms stretching out on the fringe of the downs, and no day went by
without the transaction by Boringdon of much complicated and tiresome
business. In this, however, there would naturally have been much to
interest such a man as himself, especially as he and Berwick had
theories about agricultural problems and were eager to try
experiments--in fact, Berwick was already doing so very successfully on
his Sussex estate.

But for Boringdon, the new work to which he had set his hand had soon
been poisoned, owing to the peculiar conditions under which he was
compelled to do it. His immediate predecessor had been Doctor McKirdy,
whose duties as medical attendant to Madame Sampiero had comprised for a
while that of being her vice-regent as regarded estate matters. That
arrangement had been anything but a success, hence the appointment,
through Lord Bosworth's, or rather through James Berwick's, influence,
of Oliver Boringdon. The change had been made the more easy because
McKirdy, with an obstinacy worthy of a better cause, had always refused
to accept any payment for this extra labour.

At first, the old Scotchman had been glad to give up the work he knew
himself to have performed inadequately. Then, as time went on, he began
to interfere, and Boringdon discovered, with anger and astonishment,
that many matters were being gradually referred, both by the greater and
the lesser tenants, directly to Madame Sampiero, or rather to the man
who was still regarded, and with reason, as her vice-regent.

The doctor also insisted on being the sole means of communication
between his patient and Boringdon. This was after he had found them
speaking together,--or rather Boringdon speaking and Madame Sampiero
listening,--concerning some public matter quite unconnected with
Chancton. From that moment, Alexander McKirdy had set his very
considerable wits to work against the younger man. He had informed him
with sharp decision that his weekly audiences with his employer must
cease: pointing out that almost everything that must be referred to her
could be so done through him. Boringdon, for a while, had felt content
that this should be so--he had always had a curious fear and repugnance
of the still stiff figure, which seemed to be at once so physically dead
and so mentally alive.

Then had come the gradual awakening, the realisation of his folly in
consenting to an arrangement which destroyed his authority with those
with whom he was brought into daily contact. Even the humblest cottager
had soon discovered that the doctor, or "Kirdy," as he was
unceremoniously styled amongst themselves, was once more the real
over-lord of Chancton, and Boringdon found himself reduced to the
disagreeable _rôle_ of rent collector, his decisions concerning any
important matter being constantly appealed from, and revoked by, the
joint authority of Madame Sampiero and Doctor McKirdy.

The situation soon became almost intolerable to the high-spirited and
sensitive young man: if it had not been for his mother, and for the fact
that the very generous income allotted to him for the little he now did
was of the utmost importance to her, he would ere this have resigned the
land agency.

His pride prevented any mention of the odious position in which he found
himself to Berwick, the more so that in theory he had all the power--it
was to him, for instance, that Madame Sampiero's lawyers wrote when
anything had to be settled or done. McKirdy also always allowed him to
carry on any negotiations with neighbouring landowners. Boringdon had a
free hand as regarded the keepers and the shooting--indeed, it was only
with regard to the sporting amenities of the estate that he was really
in the position of master rather than servant.

To his mother he always made light of his troubles, though he
was well aware that he had her ardent sympathy, which took the,
to him, disagreeable form of slight discourtesies to Doctor
McKirdy--discourtesies which were returned with full interest by the old
Scotchman. To Lucy and to Lucy's mother he had been more frank, and all
she knew had not contributed to make Lucy feel kindly to Doctor McKirdy,
though he was quite unconscious of how he was regarded by her.

To-day, matters had come, so felt Boringdon, to a head. On his way from
the Cottage to the Grange, he had stopped for a moment at the estate
office, and there had engaged in a sharp discussion with one of the more
important Chancton farmers concerning a proposed remittance of rent. The
man had brought his Michaelmas rent in notes and gold, the sum
considerably short, according to Boringdon, of what should have been
paid. The land-agent had refused to accept the money, and the farmer,
naturally enough, had declared it to be his intention to make an appeal
to Madame Sampiero through Doctor McKirdy.

It had been partly to turn his mind from the odious memory of this
conversation that the young man had not been able to resist the
temptation of following Lucy through into the garden with which he had
so many pleasant memories, and once there, of showing her the letter
which seemed to point to an ultimate escape from Chancton, and all that
Chancton now represented of annoyance and humiliation.

Leaving the Grange, he had passed Doctor McKirdy, and had made up his
mind to try and see Madame Sampiero within the next few hours. If it
came to the point, he believed he could conquer, only, however, by
calling to his aid the Bosworth faction, but the thought of an appeal to
Berwick was still, nay, more than ever, disagreeable. At the same time
this was a test case. He was sorry that his mother had not called on
Mrs. Rebell, for he was dimly aware that the trifling lack of courtesy
would give McKirdy a slight advantage, but during the last few days he
had had other things to think of than his sister's unfortunate protégée,
in whom, however, he unwillingly recognised another adherent to the
McKirdy faction.

And yet the first meeting of Boringdon and Barbara Rebell fell out in
such wise that it led to a curiously sudden intimacy, bred of something
between pity and indignation on her side and gratitude on his.



                              CHAPTER VII.

    "She whom I have praised so,
    Yields delight for reason too:
    Who could dote on thing so common
    As mere outward-handsome woman?
    Such half-beauties only win
    Fools to let affection in."
                                                             WITHER.


Mrs. Rebell was sitting by her god-mother's couch, pouring out tea. She
had just come in from a walk on the downs, and as she sat there, her
eyes shining, the colour coming and going in her cheeks, Madame
Sampiero's gaze rested on her with critical pleasure and approval,
lingering over every detail of the pretty brown cloth gown and neat
plumed hat, both designed by a famous French arbiter of fashion who in
the long ago had counted Madame Sampiero as among his earliest and most
faithful patronesses.

The last few days had been to Mrs. Rebell days of conquest. She had
conquered the right to come in and out of her god-mother's room without
first asking formal leave of Doctor McKirdy, and he had given in with a
good grace. She had won the heart of Mrs. Turke, and was now free of the
old housekeeper's crowded sitting-room; and she had made friends also
with all the dumb creatures about the place.

Then again, the pretty gowns, the many charming trifles which had come
from Paris, and which she had been made to try on, one by one, in her
god-mother's presence, contributed, though she felt rather ashamed of
it, to her feeling of light-heartedness. Barbara Rebell, moving as one
at home about the Priory, looked another creature from the shrinking
sad-eyed woman who had arrived at Chancton a fortnight before, believing
that youth, and all the glad things that youth represents, lay far
behind her.

There came a knock, McGregor's discreet knock, at the door. Barbara
sprang up, and a moment later came back with a letter, one which the
bearer had apparently not dared to put by, as was the rule with such
missives, and indeed with all letters addressed to the mistress of the
Priory, till Doctor McKirdy was ready to read them, and to transmit such
portions of their contents as he thought fit to his friend and patient.

"A note for you, Marraine!" The French equivalent for god-mother had
always been used by Barbara Rebell both as child and girl in her letters
to Madame Sampiero, and she had now discovered that it was preferred to
its more formal English equivalent, or to the "Madam" which all those
about her used. "Shall I read it to you?"

Barbara was looking down at the letter which she held in her hand with
some surprise. The ink was not yet dry,--it must therefore have been
written, in great haste, just now in the hall, and must call for an
immediate answer. She waited for a sign of assent, and then opened the
envelope:--

    "DEAR MADAME SAMPIERO,--I am sorry to trouble you, but I fear I
    must ask you to see me at your early convenience about a certain
    matter concerning which your personal opinion and decision are
    urgently required. Perhaps you will kindly send me word as to
    what time will suit you for me to come and see you.

                           "Yours faithfully,
                                                 "OLIVER BORINGDON."

Madame Sampiero's eyelids flickered, "Would you like to see him,
child--our Chancton _jeune premier_?" and the ghost of a satirical smile
hovered over the still face and quivering mouth.

"Yes, indeed, Marraine, if it would not tire you! You know it was his
sister who was so kind to me in Santa Maria. May I send for him now? He
evidently wants to see you about something very important--"

But McGregor, convinced that there would be no answer to the note he had
most unwillingly conveyed upstairs, had not waited, as Barbara had
expected to find, in the corridor. She hesitated a moment, then,
gathering up her long brown skirts, ran down to the hall.

Boringdon was walking up and down, waiting with dogged patience for the
message which might, after all, not be sent to him. "Will you kindly
come up--now--to Madame Sampiero? She is quite ready to see you!" To the
young man the low, very clear voice, seemed at that moment the sweetest
in the world: he turned round quickly and looked at the messenger with a
good deal of curiosity.

No thought that this elegant-looking girl could be Mrs. Rebell came to
his mind. Doubtless she was one of the few people connected with Madame
Sampiero's past life--perhaps one of the cousins who sometimes came to
Chancton, and whom, occasionally, but very rarely as the years had gone
on, the paralysed woman consented to receive.

Rather bewildered at the ease with which the fortress had been stormed
and taken, he followed the unknown young lady upstairs. But once in the
corridor, when close to Madame Sampiero's door, Barbara stopped, and
with heightened colour she said, "I know that you are Grace Johnstone's
brother, I have been hoping the last few days to go and see your mother.
Will you please tell her how much I look forward to meeting her?" And
before he could make any answer, she whom Boringdon now knew to be Mrs.
Rebell had opened the door, and was motioning him to precede her into
the room into which he had not been allowed to come for two months.

A moment later he stood at the foot of Madame Sampiero's couch, feeling
the place in which he found himself curiously transformed, the
atmosphere about him more human, less frigid than in those days when his
weekly conferences with the owner of Chancton had been regarded by him
with such discomfort and dread.

The presence of the low table on which now lay a tea-tray and a bowl of
freshly-gathered roses affected him agreeably, though he still quailed
inwardly when his eyes met those of the paralysed woman stretched out
before him: Boringdon was not imaginative, and yet these wide open blue
eyes had often haunted him--to-day they rested on him kindly, and then
looked beyond him, softening as they met those of her god-daughter.

Before he was allowed to begin on what he felt to be such disagreeable
business, Mrs. Rebell--the woman whom he now knew to be his sister's
friend, and regarding whom he was being compelled to alter, moment by
moment, all his preconceived notions--had poured him out a cup of tea,
and had installed him by her side. Later, when she made a movement as if
to leave him alone with Madame Sampiero, she was stopped with a look,
and Boringdon, far from feeling the presence of a third person as
disagreeable and as unwarranted as he had always felt that of McKirdy or
of Mrs. Turke, was glad that Mrs. Rebell had been made to stay, and
aware, in some odd way, that in her he would have an ally and not, as
had always been the case with McKirdy, a critic, if not an enemy.

After a short discussion, he was allowed to go with the point settled to
his satisfaction. Madame Sampiero had retained all her shrewdness, and
all her essential justness of character; moreover, his case, presented
partly through the medium of Barbara's voice, had seemed quite other
than what it would have done explained inimically by Alexander McKirdy.
Indeed, during the discussion Boringdon had the curious feeling that
this soft-voiced stranger, who, after all, was in no position to judge
between himself and the peccant farmer, was being made to give the
ultimate decision. It was Barbara also who had to repeat, to make clear
to him, reddening and smiling as she did so, her god-mother's last
words, "If you're not busy, you might take Mrs. Rebell down to the
Beeches. The trees won't look as well as they are doing now in a week's
time;" and while murmuring the words Madame Sampiero's eyes had turned
with indefinable longing towards the high windows which commanded the
wide view she loved and knew so well, but which from where she lay only
showed the sky.

                               * * * * *

A rude awakening awaited both Barbara and Boringdon in the hall below;
and a feeling of guilt,--an absurd unwarrantable feeling, so he told
himself again and again when he thought over the scene later,--swept
over the young man when he saw Doctor McKirdy pacing, with quick angry
steps, that very stretch of flag-stones where he himself had walked up
and down so impatiently half an hour before.

"So you've been up to see her? Against my very strict orders--orders,
mind ye, given as Madam's medical man! Well, well! All I can say is,
that I'm not responsible for what the consequences may be. Madam's not
fit to be worried o'er business--not fit at all!" The words came out in
sharp jerky sentences, and as he spoke Doctor McKirdy scowled at the
young man, twisting his hands together, a trick he had when violently
disturbed.

As the two culprits came towards him he broke out again, almost turning
his back on them as he spoke, "I cannot think what possessed the man
McGregor! He will have to be dismissed, not a doubt about it! He has the
strictest, the very strictest orders--he must have been daft before he
could take up a stranger to Madam's room!" There was a world of scorn in
the way in which McKirdy pronounced the word "stranger."

Angry as Boringdon had now become, indignant with the old man for so
attacking him in the presence of one who was, as Oliver did not fail to
remind himself, the real stranger to all their concerns, he yet felt
that to a certain extent the doctor's anger and indignation were
justified. Boringdon knew well enough that, but for McKirdy's absence
from the Priory that afternoon, he could never have penetrated into
Madame Sampiero's presence. He had also been aware that McGregor was
acting in direct contravention of the doctor's orders, and that nothing
but his own grim determination to be obeyed had made the man take his
note upstairs. All this being so, he was about to say something of a
conciliatory nature, when suddenly Mrs. Rebell came forward--

"It is I," she said--and Boringdon saw that she showed no sign of
quailing before Doctor McKirdy's furious looks--"who asked my god-mother
to see Mr. Boringdon, and so it is I alone, Doctor McKirdy, who should
be blamed for what has happened. Madame Sampiero asked my advice as to
whether she should see him, and as the matter seemed urgent, I decided
that she had better do so at once, instead of waiting, as I should
perhaps have done, to ask you if she was fit to do so."

She looked inquiringly from one man to the other--at the old Scotchman
whose face still twitched with rage, and whose look of aversion at
herself she felt to be cruelly unjust, almost, she would have said, had
she not become really fond of him, impertinent; and at Boringdon, who
also looked angry, but not as surprised as she would have expected him
to be before so strange an outburst.

There was a moment of tense silence, and then, suddenly, Barbara herself
caught fire. Like most gentle, self-restrained natures, she was capable
of feeling deep instant gusts of anger, and one of these now swept over
her.

"If you will go up and see Madame Sampiero," she spoke very coldly, "I
think you will admit, Doctor McKirdy, that my god-mother has not been in
any way injured by seeing Mr. Boringdon." She turned, rather
imperiously, to the young man. "I think," she said, "that now we had
better go out. I suppose it will take at least half an hour to walk
round by the Beeches, and later my god-mother will be expecting me back
to read to her."

Without again glancing at Doctor McKirdy, Mrs. Rebell walked across to
the vestibule, and so out into the open air, Boringdon following her
rather shamefacedly, and in silence they struck off down the path which
led round the great meadow-like enclosure to the broad belt of beeches
which were the glory of Chancton Priory.

Then, somewhat to his own surprise, Boringdon found himself making
excuses for the old Scotchman, while explaining to Mrs. Rebell the odd
position in which he often found himself. The conversation which
followed caused strides, which might otherwise have taken weeks or even
months to achieve, in his own and Barbara's intimacy.

Very little was said of Grace Johnstone and of Santa Maria; it was of
the Priory, and of its stricken mistress, of Chancton and of Doctor
McKirdy, that they talked, and it was pleasant to Boringdon to hear his
own part being taken to himself, to hear McKirdy severely censured in
the grave low voice whose accents had sounded so sweetly in his ears
when it had come to call him to Madame Sampiero's presence.

So eager was their talk, so absorbed were they in what they were saying,
that neither had eyes for the noble trees arching overhead; and when at
last they came out, from the twilight of the beeches, into the open air,
Barbara felt respect and liking for the young man.

When they were once more close to the house, she put up her hand with a
quick gesture. "Don't come up with me to the porch," she said, "I am
sure you had better not meet Doctor McKirdy--I mean for the present." He
obeyed her silently, though for the moment he felt not unkindly towards
the old man he had conquered in what, he confessed to himself, had been
unfair fight. With Mrs. Rebell on his side he could afford to smile at
McKirdy's queer susceptibilities and jealousies. He must come and see
her to-morrow; there seemed so much more to say, to ask too, about
Grace--dear Grace, who had written with such warm-hearted feeling of
this charming, interesting woman who ought to be, so Boringdon told
himself, a most agreeable and softening influence at the Priory.

                               * * * * *

That same evening, Mrs. Boringdon, after much hesitation and searching
of heart, ventured to ask her son a question.

"How did you find them all at the Grange? It seems a long time since I
have seen Lucy."

Oliver's face clouded over, but he was surprised at his own calmness,
his absence of annoyance; that disagreeable episode at the Grange now
seemed to have happened long ago.

"Everything was as usual," he answered hesitatingly; "--at least, no, I
should not say that, for General Kemp's manner to me was far from being
usual. I cannot help thinking, mother, that you made a mistake the other
day--I mean as regards Lucy;"--a note of reserve and discomfort crept
into his voice as he pronounced her name,--"The General's manner was
unmistakable, he all but showed me the door! I think it would be as
well, both for you and for me, if we were to put all thought of her from
our minds, and to see, in the future, less of her."

Boringdon found it less easy to answer his mother's next question, "And
Madame Sampiero,--I suppose you did not see her to-day? I wonder if she
sees anything of Mrs. Rebell?"

"Yes," he said, rather reluctantly, "McKirdy was out, and I had, on the
whole, a satisfactory interview with Madame Sampiero, owing it, in a
measure, to Mrs. Rebell. Madame Sampiero is evidently very fond of her.
By the way, she--I mean Mrs. Rebell--sent you a nice message about
Grace."

"Oh! then she's a pleasant woman--I'm so glad! Everything makes a
difference in a little place like Chancton. I suppose," Mrs. Boringdon
spoke absently, but her son knew that she would require an answer, "that
Mrs. Rebell did not mention Miss Berwick, or the Duchess?"

"Oh! no, mother," Oliver answered rather drily, "Why should she have
done so--to me?"

"Oh! well--as a kind of hint that I ought to have called. I hope you
explained the matter to her? I mean to go there to-morrow."

Boringdon made no remark. He had no intention, nay, he had an
instinctive dislike to the idea, of discussing Mrs. Rebell with his
mother, and he vaguely hoped that they would never become intimate.

                               * * * * *

Arabella Berwick was sitting in the little room, originally a powder
closet, which was set aside for her use at Fletchings. It was well out
of the way, on the first floor of the old manor-house, tucked away
between the drawing-room, which was very little used except in the
evening, and the long music gallery, and it was characteristic of Miss
Berwick that very few among the many who came and went each summer and
autumn to Fletchings were aware of the existence of this, her favourite
retreat.

In the Powdering Room, as it was still called, Lord Bosworth's niece
wrote her letters, scrutinised with severely just eyes the various
household accounts, and sometimes allowed herself an hour of complete
relaxation and rest. The panelled walls, painted a pale blue, were hung
with a few fine engravings of the more famous Stuart portraits,
including two of that Arabella Stuart after whom Miss Berwick had been
herself named. There was also, on the old-fashioned davenport at which
she wrote her letters, a clever etching of her brother, done when James
Berwick was at Oxford.

The mistress of such a house has a well-filled, and indeed often a
tiring, life, unless she be blessed with a highly paid, and what is not
always the same thing, a highly competent, housekeeper and factotum, to
take the material cares off her shoulders. Lord Bosworth was nothing if
not hospitable. There was a constant coming and going of agreeable men
and women in whatever place he happened to find himself. He disliked
solitude, and in the long years Miss Berwick had kept her uncle's house,
she could scarcely remember a day in which they had been absolutely
alone together.

As a high-spirited, clever girl, brought suddenly from the companionship
of an austere aunt and chaperon, she had found the life a very agreeable
one, and she had set her whole mind to making it successful. Even now,
she had pleasant, nay delightful, moments, but as she grew older, and
above all, as Lord Bosworth grew older, much in the life weighed upon
her, and any added trouble or anxiety was apt to prove almost
unbearable.

To-day, she had received a letter from her brother which had caused her
acute annoyance. James Berwick was coming back, a full fortnight before
she had expected him,--his excuse, that of wishing to be present at the
coming-of-age festivities of Lord Pendragon, the Duke of Appleby and
Kendal's only son, which were shortly to take place at Halnakeham
Castle. He had always had,--so his sister reminded herself with curling
lip,--a curious attachment to this neighbourhood, a great desire to play
a part in all local matters; this was the more strange as the Berwicks'
only connection with Sussex had been the purchase of Fletchings by their
uncle, and James Berwick's own inheritance from his wife of
Chillingworth, the huge place, full of a rather banal grandeur, where
its present possessor spent but little of his time.

There were three reasons why Miss Berwick would have much preferred that
her brother should carry out his original plan. The first, and from her
point of view the most important, concerned, as did most important
matters to Arabella, Berwick himself. She had just learned, from one of
the guests who had arrived at Fletchings the day before, that the woman
whom, on the whole, she regarded as having most imperilled her brother,
would almost certainly be one of the ducal house-party at Halnakeham.
This lady, a certain Mrs. Marshall, was now a widow, and the sister
feared her with a great fear.

The second reason was one more personal to herself. Miss Berwick was
trying to make up her mind about a certain matter, and she felt that her
brother's presence--nay, even the mere fact of his being in the
neighbourhood--would make it more difficult for her to do so. She knew
herself to be on the eve of receiving a very desirable offer of
marriage. Its acceptance by her would be, in a sense, the crowning act
of her successful life. The man was an ambassador, one of the most
distinguished of her uncle's friends, a childless widower, who, as she
had long known, both liked and respected her. In a few days he would be
at Fletchings, and she knew that the time had come when she must make up
her mind to say yes or to say no.

The third complication, from the thought of which Miss Berwick shrank
with a pain which surprised herself, was the fact that both Lord
Bosworth, and now her brother in this letter which lay before her, had
requested her to write and ask Daniel O'Flaherty--the man whom she had
once loved--to come and spend a few days at Fletchings. They had met
many times since that decisive interview in Kensington Gardens which had
been so strangely interrupted by Oliver Boringdon--for such meetings are
the unforeseen penalties attendant on such conduct as had been that of
Arabella--but both had hitherto contrived to avoid staying under the
same roof. Now, however, she felt she could no longer put off giving
this invitation, the more so that it was for her brother's sake that
Lord Bosworth wished O'Flaherty to be asked to Fletchings.

Miss Berwick had early found it advisable, when something painful had to
be done, to "rush her fences." She took up her pen and wrote, in her
fine, characteristic hand-writing, the words, "Dear Mr. O'Flaherty."

Then she laid the pen down, lay back in her chair, and closed her eyes.
Even after so long a time had gone by, the memory of what had passed
between Daniel O'Flaherty and herself was intolerably bitter. Arabella
even now never thought of him without asking herself how it happened
that she had not realised what manner of man he really was, and why she
had not foreseen how sure he was to make his way. She never saw his name
printed, never heard it uttered, without this feeling of shamed surprise
and acute self-reproach coming over her.

The strong attraction she had felt for the then untried Irishman had in
a sense blinded her--made her distrustful of his real power. Her uncle,
Lord Bosworth, had been more clear-sighted, in those far-off days when
he had encouraged the unknown barrister to come about Bosworth House,
just before she herself so ruthlessly sent him away.

And now she found the wording, as well as the writing, of her letter
difficult: she wished to leave the matter of Daniel O'Flaherty's coming
to Fletchings, or his staying away, entirely to his own sense of what
was fitting. He had become, as she had reason to know, a man much sought
after: perhaps the dates which she was able to offer him would all be
filled up.

                               * * * * *

There came a slight sound; Miss Berwick opened her eyes, she sat up, an
alert look on her face, ready to repel the intruder whoever he might be.
Lord Bosworth, introducing his ample person through the narrow door of
the tiny room, was struck by the look of age and fatigue which had come
over--it seemed to him only since yesterday--his niece's delicate
clear-cut features and shadowed fairness. Arabella Berwick had always
been a good-looking replica of her remarkable-looking brother, but
youth, which remains so long with many women, had gone from her. She
often looked older than thirty-eight, and her deep-set compelling bright
blue eyes, of which the moral expression was so different from that
produced by those of James Berwick, gave an impression of singular
disenchantment.

"Am I disturbing you?"--Lord Bosworth spoke very courteously--"if so, I
will speak to you some other time." Arabella at once hid the great
surprise she felt at seeing him here, for this was, as far as she could
remember, her uncle's first visit to the Powdering Room: "Oh! no," she
said, "I was only writing to Mr. O'Flaherty. You would like him to come
soon, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, certainly! I am told he will have to be Attorney-General. He is
the sort of man James ought to have got hold of long ago. We seem to
have lost sight of him. I know I went to some trouble for him years
ago--and then somehow he disappeared. Perhaps it was my fault--in that
case I ought to write him a line myself."

Then he became silent, looking at his niece with a curious persistent
gaze which embarrassed her. There had never been any real intimacy
between the uncle and niece, and the thought that Lord Bosworth had
suspected anything concerning what had occurred between herself and
O'Flaherty would have been intensely disagreeable to Arabella. She felt
herself flushing, but met his look with steady eyes, comforted by the
knowledge that, whatever he knew or suspected, he would most certainly
say nothing.

"I see," he said, "that you guess what I have come to tell you. I have
had a letter from Umfraville--you know he comes to-morrow? It is a very
good letter, a better letter than I should have thought he could have
written on such a subject, but it amounts to this: before offering
himself, he wishes to be sure of what your answer will be, and he wants
you to make up your mind within the next few days,--in fact before he
leaves us. It would be a great position, my dear, and one which you
would fill admirably."

As he spoke the colour had faded from Miss Berwick's face. She felt
relieved and rather touched. "But what would _you_ do?" she said
involuntarily.

Lord Bosworth made none of the answers which might have been expected
from him. He said no word as to his niece's happiness being of more
consequence than his own comfort, and if he had done so, Miss Berwick
would not have believed him.

"I do not suppose that you are aware,"--he put his strong hands on the
table before him, and looked at her with a sudden pleading look which
sat oddly on his shrewd, powerful face--"I do not suppose, Arabella,
that you are aware that I made Madame Sampiero an offer of marriage some
six or seven years ago, not long after the death of--of Sampiero. I
believe her answer was contained in one of the very last letters she
ever wrote with her own hand. Well, now--in fact for a long time past--I
have been contemplating a renewal of that offer. Nay more, should she
again refuse, which I know well to be more than probable, I cannot see
why, at our time of life, especially in view of her present state, we
should even so not be together."

His niece looked at him in frank incredulous astonishment. She felt
mortified to think how little she had known this man with whom she had
lived for so long.

"Surely," she said, "surely you would find such an existence absolutely
intolerable?"

"I do not know what I have done that you should judge me so
severely."--Lord Bosworth's answer was made in a very low tone. "You are
a clever woman, Arabella, and I have always done full justice to your
powers, but, believe me, there are certain things undreamt of in your
philosophy, and I do not think"--he stopped abruptly, and finished the
sentence to himself, "I do not think Umfraville is likely to bring them
any nearer to you."

He got up. "I thought I ought to tell you," he said, with a complete
change of tone, "because my intention may influence your decision.
Otherwise, I should not have troubled you with the matter." Then his
heart softened to her: he suddenly remembered her long and loyal, if
loveless, service. "Quite apart from any question of our immediate
future, you must remember, my dear, that I'm an old man. I cannot help
thinking that your life alone would be very dreary, and, much as you
care for James, I cannot see either of you making in a permanent sense
any kind of life with the other. In your place--and I have thought much
about it--I should accept Umfraville. The doing so would enable you to
lead the same life that you have led for the last twenty years, with
certain great added advantages. Then Umfraville, after all, is a very
good fellow,--good yet not too good, clever and yet not too clever!"

She smiled at him an answering but rather wavering smile, and he went
out, closing the door behind him, leaving her alone with her thoughts,
and with her scarcely begun letter to O'Flaherty lying before her.



                              CHAPTER VIII.

    "I beg to hint to all Equestrian Misses
        That horses' backs are not their proper place;
    A woman's forte is music--love--or kisses,
        Not leaping gates, or galloping a race;
    I sometimes used to ride with them of yore,
    And always found them an infernal bore."

                                             Ascribed to LORD BYRON.


It was the morning of the first meet of the South Sussex Hunt, and in
spite of the humble status of that same hunt among sporting folk, the
whole neighbourhood was in an agreeable state of excitement.

Even in a country district where hunting plays a subordinate part in the
local life, the first meet of the season is always made the occasion for
a great gathering. There had been a time when it had taken place on the
lawn of Chancton Priory, and the open-handed hospitality of that Squire
Rebell who had been Madame Sampiero's father was still regretfully
remembered by the older members of the S.S.H.

Nowadays the first meet was held at a place known locally as Whiteways,
which, though close to no hospitable house, had the advantage of
proximity to the town of Halnakeham, being situated just outside the
furthest gate of the park stretching behind Halnakeham Castle.

Whiteways was a singularly beautiful and desolate spot, forming the apex
of a three-sided hill commanding an amazing view of uplands and
lowlands, and reached by various steep ways, cut through the chalk,
which gave the place its name, and which circled ribbon-wise round the
crest of the down, the highest of the long range which there guards the
coasts of Sussex.

General Kemp had taken to hunting in his old age, and though in theory
he disapproved of hunting women, in practice he often allowed his
daughter many a happy hour with the hounds, although she had to be
contented with the sturdy pony, "warranted safe to ride and drive," a
gift from Captain Laxton to Mrs. Kemp.

                               * * * * *

At the Grange breakfast was just over. The General looking his best--so
Mrs. Kemp assured herself with wifely pride--in his white riding
breeches and grey coat, stood by the window of the pretty room opening
out on to the lawn.

"I think it's time you went up and dressed, Lucy. You know it's a good
way to Whiteways, and we don't want the horses blown."

Lucy looked up obediently from a letter she was reading, "Yes, father,
I'll go up at once. It won't take me long to dress."

The girl would have given much to have been allowed to stay at home. But
she knew that her doing so would probably mean the giving up on the part
of her mother of one of the few local festivities which Mrs. Kemp
heartily enjoyed. Even more, Lucy feared her father's certain surprise
and disappointment, followed, after the first expression of these
feelings, by one of those ominous silences, those tender questioning
glances she had come to look for and to dread.

General Kemp was treating his daughter with a consideration and
gentleness which were growing daily more bitter to Lucy. The poor child
wondered uneasily what she could have done to make her father see so
clearly into her heart. She would have given much to hear him utter one
of his old sharp jokes at her expense.

Nothing was outwardly changed in the daily life of the village, Chancton
had been rather duller than usual. Mrs. Rebell's back had been seen at
church in the Priory pew, but she had gone out, as she had come in, by
the private door leading into the park. Mrs. Boringdon had been away for
nearly a fortnight, staying with an invalid sister, and so there had
been very little coming and going between the Cottage and the Grange,
although the Kemps and Oliver had met more than once on neutral ground.

To-day, as Lucy well knew, was bound to be almost an exact replica of
that first day out last autumn. Then, as now, it had been arranged that
Mrs. Boringdon should drive Mrs. Kemp to Whiteways; then, as now, Lucy
and her father were to ride there together, perhaps picking up Captain
Laxton on the way. But, a year ago, Oliver Boringdon had ridden to the
meet in their company, while this time nothing had been said as to
whether he was even going to be there. A year ago, the day had been one
full of happy enchantment to Lucy: for her father had allowed her to
follow the hounds for over an hour, with Boringdon as pilot, and he,--or
so it seemed to the happy girl,--had had no eyes, no thought for anyone
else! The knowledge that to-day would be so like, and yet, as a subtle
instinct warned her, so unlike, was curiously painful.

Still, no thought of trying to escape from the ordeal entered Lucy's
mind. But mothers--such mothers as Mrs. Kemp--often have a sixth sense
placed at their disposal by Providence, and the girl's mother divined
something of what Lucy was thinking and feeling.

"I wonder," she said, "if you would rather stop at home? You look tired,
child, and you know it is a long way to Whiteways, and a rather tiring
experience altogether! Of course I should go just the same."

General Kemp turned to his wife inquiringly, as if asking for a lead,
and Lucy intercepted the look which passed between them. "Why, mother,"
she cried, "I shouldn't think of doing such a thing! I've been looking
forward to to-day for ever so long! I know what you are thinking"--she
flushed vividly, "but I'm sure Captain Laxton is much too old a friend
to bear me a grudge, or to feel any annoyance as to meeting me. After
all, he need not have come back----" and without giving either of her
parents time to answer, she ran out of the room.

General Kemp was much taken aback. This was the first time he had heard
Lucy allude to Captain Laxton's affection for herself, or to the offer
which she had rejected. To his mind such an allusion savoured almost of
indelicacy. He did not like to think his daughter guilty of
over-frankness, even to her father and mother.

"Can it be, Mary," he said, puzzled, "that she's thinking of Laxton
after all?"

Mrs. Kemp shook her head. She knew very well why Lucy had mentioned her
lover--that his image had been evoked in order to form as it were a
screen between herself and what she had divined to be her mother's
motive in suggesting that she should stay at home, but it would be
hopeless to try and indicate such feminine subtleties to Lucy's father.

                               * * * * *

In the country, as in life, there are always many ways of reaching the
same place. The pleasantest carriage road to Whiteways lay partly
through the Priory park, and it was that which was chosen by Mrs.
Boringdon and Mrs. Kemp. Lucy and her father preferred a less frequented
and lonelier path, one which skirted for part of the way the high wall
of James Berwick's property, Chillingworth.

They had now left this place far behind, and were riding slowly by the
side of a curving down: Captain Laxton had evidently gone on before, or
deliberately chosen to linger behind, and the father and daughter were
alone. Soon they left the road for the short turf, broken here and there
with hawthorn bushes; and Lucy, cheered by the keen upland air, was
making a gallant effort to bear herself as she had always done on what
had been such happy hunting days last winter. Already she could see, far
away to her left, a broad shining white road, dotted with carriages,
horsemen and horsewomen, and groups of walkers all making their way up
towards the castellated gate-way which frowned on the summit of the hill
above them.

When the father and daughter reached the large circular space, sheltered
on one side by two wind-blown fir-trees, they found that they were
rather late, and so had missed the pretty sight of the coming of the
huntsman and his hounds over the brow of the down. Lucy made her way at
once through the crowd close to where Mrs. Boringdon's low pony-carriage
was drawn up just beneath the high stone gate-way, next to that of Mrs.
Sampson, the Chancton rector's wife, who had weakly consented to bring
Miss Vipen. Even Doctor McKirdy had vouchsafed to grace the pretty
scene, and he was sitting straightly and lankily on the rough old pony
he always rode, which now turned surprised and patient eyes this way and
that, for the doctor had never before attended a meet of the S.S.H.

As yet Lucy could see nothing of Captain Laxton or of Boringdon, and she
felt at once relieved and disappointed. Perhaps Oliver was too busy to
give up a whole day to this kind of thing, and yet she knew he always
enjoyed a day with the hounds, and that he had theories concerning the
value of sport in such a neighbourhood as this. She reminded herself
that if he had not been really very busy, more so than usual, he would
certainly have found time to come to the Grange during his mother's
absence from Chancton.

As these thoughts were coming and going through her mind in between the
many greetings, the exchange of heavy banter such an occasion always
seems to provoke, she suddenly heard Boringdon's voice, and realised
that he was trying to attract her attention. Lucy's pony, feeling the
agitation his young mistress was quite successfully concealing from the
people around her, began to quiver and gave a sudden half-leap in the
air.

"What has come over sober Robin?"--Boringdon was smiling; he looked in a
good-tempered, happy mood--"I did so hope you would be here! I looked
out for you on the road for I wanted to introduce----"

There was a sudden babel of voices; an old gentleman and his two
talkative daughters, all three on foot, were actually pulling Lucy's
habit to make her attend to what they were saying. Oliver shook his
head, shrugged his shoulders, and to Lucy's bitter, at the moment almost
intolerable disappointment, turned his horse through the crowd towards
the fir-trees close to which were drawn up several carriages, including
the Fletchings phaeton, driven, so the girl observed, by Miss Berwick,
by whose side an elderly man was looking about him with amused indulgent
eyes.

Still, the day was turning out pretty well. Oliver would surely come
back soon,--doubtless with whoever it was he wished to introduce to her.
It was always a great pleasure to Lucy to meet any of Boringdon's old
political acquaintances. Such men were often at Fletchings. Of course
Lucy Kemp knew Miss Berwick, but by no means well,--besides, an instinct
had told her long ago that Oliver had no liking for his friend's sister.

There was a pause. Then Lucy saw that Oliver was riding towards her, and
that he was accompanied by a lady, doubtless one of the Fletchings
party, for she was mounted on a fine hunter, a certain Saucebox, locally
famous, which belonged to James Berwick, and which was often ridden by
his sister.

The unknown horsewoman was habited, booted, and hatted, in a far more
_cap-à-pie_ manner than was usual with the fair followers of the South
Sussex Hunt, and she and her mount together, made, from the sportsman's
point of view, a very perfect and pretty picture, though she was too
pale, too slight, perhaps a thought too serious, to be considered pretty
in the ordinary sense.

Still, both horse and rider were being looked at by many with eyes that
were at first critical but soon became undisguisedly admiring, and the
Master, old Squire Laxton, was noticed to cut short a confidential
conversation with the huntsman in order to give the stranger an
elaborate salutation.

Even Mrs. Kemp felt a slight touch of curiosity. "Who is that with whom
your son is riding?" she inquired of Mrs. Boringdon.

"I don't know--perhaps one of the Halnakeham party. The Duke always
makes a point of being here to-day."

Mrs. Boringdon's eyes rested appreciatively on the group formed by her
son and the unknown horsewoman; they took in every detail of the
severely plain black habit, the stiff collar, neat tie, and top hat.
Oliver seemed to be on very good terms with his companion--doubtless she
was one of his old London acquaintances. What a pity, thought Mrs.
Boringdon with genuine regret, that he saw so few of that sort of people
now--prosperous, well-dressed, well-bred women of the world, who can be
so useful to the young men they like!

Lucy, also becoming conscious of the nearness of Oliver and his
companion, looked at the well-appointed horsewoman with less kindly eyes
than the two older ladies sitting in the pony carriage had done. The
girl told herself that such perfection of attire, worn at such a meet as
this of Whiteways, was almost an affectation on the part of the lady
towards whom Oliver was bending with so pleased and absorbed a glance. A
moment later the two had ridden up close to her, and Boringdon was
saying, "Miss Kemp----Mrs. Rebell, may I introduce to you Miss Lucy
Kemp?"

Barbara's eyes rested very kindly on the girl. She remembered what
Doctor McKirdy had told her, during that walk that he and she had taken
together on the downs on the morning of her first day at Chancton. It
was nice of Oliver Boringdon to have brought her up at once, like this,
to the young lady whom he admired, but who was not,--so Barbara thought
she remembered McKirdy saying,--as yet his _fiancée_.

Mrs. Rebell had lately seen a great deal of Grace Johnstone's brother,
in fact he was constantly at the Priory and always very much at her
service; they had become quite good friends, and since she had "made it
up" with the old doctor, she had taken pains to show both him and Madame
Sampiero that Oliver Boringdon had a right to more consideration than
they seemed willing to give him.

Then Lucy's steady gaze rather disconcerted her; she became aware of the
girl's scanty riding habit--General Kemp's favourite form of safety
skirt--of the loose well-worn covert coat, and the small bowler hat
resting on her bright brown hair.

"I feel rather absurdly dressed"--Lucy was struck by Barbara's soft full
voice--"but my god-mother, Madame Sampiero, ordained that I should look
like this. My last riding habit was made of khaki!"

The note of appeal in Mrs. Rebell's accent touched Lucy at once. "Why,
of course you look absolutely right! My father often says what a pity it
is that so many women have given up wearing plain habits and top hats,"
Lucy spoke with pretty sincere eagerness----

"She is a really nice girl," decided Barbara to herself; and Oliver also
looked at his old friend Lucy very cordially. To his mind both young
women looked exactly right, that is, exactly as he liked each of them to
look--Lucy Kemp perhaps standing for the good serviceable homespuns of
life, Barbara Rebell for those more exquisite, more thrilling moments
with which he had, as yet unconsciously, come to associate her.

"Of course," he said, a little quickly, "this is Mrs. Rebell's first
experience of hunting, though she has ridden a great deal,--in fact, all
her life. Otherwise Madame Sampiero would hardly have suggested sending
over to Chillingworth for Saucebox. Hullo, Laxton!"--his voice became
perceptibly colder, but Lucy noticed with some surprise that Mrs. Rebell
bowed and smiled at the newcomer, but Boringdon gave her no time to
speak to him--"You had better come over here," he said urgently, "we
shall be getting to work soon," and in a moment, or so it seemed to
Lucy, he and the lady whom she knew now to be Mrs. Rebell had become
merged in the crowd, leaving Captain Laxton by her side looking down on
her with the half bold, half fearful look she knew so well.

                               * * * * *

Boringdon had taken Barbara to the further side of the great stone
gateway, and she was enjoying every moment of the time which seemed to
many of those about her so tedious. She was even amused at listening to
the quaint talk going on round her. "Scent going to be good to-day?"
"Well, they _say_ there's always a scent some time of the day, and if
you can find the fox _then_, why you're all right!"--and the boastful
tone of a keen weather-beaten elderly man, "I never want a
warranty,--why should a man expect to find a perfect horse?--he don't
look for perfection when he's seeking a wife, eh?" "Oh! but there's two
wanted to complete that deal. The old lady 'as not come up to the
scratch yet, 'as she, John?" "Well, when she does, I shan't ask for any
warranty, and I bet you I'll not come out any worse than other folk
do!"--and then the old joke, one of Solomon's wise sayings, uttered by
an old gentleman to a nervous girl, "Their strength shall be in sitting
still!"

Mrs. Rebell looked straight before her. Of all the cheerful folk
gathered together near her, none seemed to have eyes for the beauty, the
amazing beauty of the surrounding country. To the right of the kind of
platform upon which the field was now gathered together, the hill
dropped abruptly into a dark wood, a corner of the ancient forest of
Anderida, that crossed by Cæsar when he came from Gaul--a forest
stretching from end to end of the South Downs, broken by swift rivers
running down to the sea. It was here--but Barbara, gazing with delighted
eyes down over the treetops, did not know this--it was here, in this
patch of primeval woodland, that the first fox of the season was always
sought for and often found.

Yet another "white way" wound down towards the red-roofed farmhouses
which lined the banks of the tidal stream glistening in the vale below;
and opposite, in front, a gleaming cart-track led up to a strip of fine
short grass, differing in quality and even in colour from the turf about
it, and marking the place where, according to tradition, Boadicea made
her last stand. From thence, by climbing up the low bank on which a
hedge was now set, the lover of the downs looked upon one of the
grandest views in the South of England--that bounded on one side by the
sea, on the other, beyond the unrolled map-like plain, by the long blue
barrier of the Surrey hills.

Barbara's eyes dilated with pleasure. The fresh autumn wind brought a
faint colour to her cheeks. She felt a kind of rapture at the beauty of
the sight before her. It was amazing to her that these people could be
talking so eagerly to one another, gazing so critically at the huntsman
and at the hounds gathered on their haunches, while this marvellous
sight lay spread out around and before them.

Mrs. Kemp, sitting by the side of Mrs. Boringdon in the pony-carriage,
had something of the same feeling. She turned--foolishly, as she
somewhat ruefully admitted to herself a moment later--to her companion
and contemporary for sympathy--"I never saw Whiteways looking so
beautiful as it does to-day!"

Mrs. Boringdon looked deliberately away from the sight which lay before
her, and gazed thoughtfully at the sham Norman gateway. "Yes," she said,
"very pretty indeed! Such a charming background to the men's red coats
and to the dogs! Still, I wonder the Duke allows so many poor and dirty
people to come streaming through the park. It rather spoils the look of
the meet, doesn't it? If I were he, I should close the gates on this one
day of the year at any rate."

Mrs. Kemp made no answer, but she bethought herself it was surely
impossible that Lucy should be happy, in any permanent sense, if made to
live in close proximity to Oliver Boringdon's mother.

                               * * * * *

Time was going on. The walkers and those who had driven to Whiteways
were asking one another uneasily what the Master was waiting for. Miss
Vipen, sitting bolt upright by Mrs. Sampson's side, addressing now and
again a sharp word of reproof to the two young Sampsons sitting opposite
to her, alone divined the cause of the delay. The Master of the South
Sussex Hunt, that is, Tom Laxton--she had known him all her life, and
even as a boy he had been afraid of her--was, of course, waiting for the
Duke, for the Duke and the Halnakeham party! It was too bad to keep the
whole field waiting like this, and probably the fault of the Duchess,
who was always late at all local functions. Miss Vipen told Mrs. Sampson
her opinion of the Duke, of the Duchess, and last but not least of the
Master, whose subserviences to the great she thoroughly despised.

All at once there was a stir round the gate-way: "The Duke at last!"
looking for all the world, so Miss Vipen observed to Mrs. Sampson, like
an old fat farmer, and apparently quite pleased at having kept everybody
waiting. As for Lord Pendragon, he was evidently very much the fine
gentleman--or, stay, the weedy scholar from Oxford who despised the
humble sports of a dull neighbourhood. But the time would come--Miss
Vipen nodded her head triumphantly--when he, Lord Pendragon, would
become very fat, like his mother, who, it was well known, was now too
stout to ride. "They say," whispered Miss Vipen in Mrs. Sampson's
unwilling ear, "that he is in love with a clergyman's daughter, and that
the Duke won't hear of it! If they made her father a Bishop, I suppose
it would be less objectionable-- Ah! there's the Duchess. They say her
carriages are always built just about a foot broader than anybody else's
in order that her size may not show so much."

A move was now made for Whitecombe wood, and the Master trotted down
towards a point from which on many a former occasion he had viewed a fox
break away in the direction of the open down, and had been able to get a
good start before he could be overtaken by what he used to call "all
these confounded holiday jostlers."

While all this was going on, Captain Laxton had not stirred from Lucy's
side, and together they rode over up towards Boadicea's camp. "If they
find soon, which I think very doubtful," he said quietly, "and if, what
is even less likely, the fox breaks, he is sure to head this way"--he
pointed to the left--"because of the wind."

Lucy looked at him with a certain respect: she herself would never have
thought of that! Captain Laxton, in the past, had often surprised her by
his odd little bits of knowledge. She suddenly felt glad that he was
there, and that apparently he bore her no grudge. More, she reminded
herself that during the whole of the past summer she had missed his
good-natured presence--that they had all missed him, her mother even
more than herself. If he had not come to Whiteways to-day, she would now
be by herself, down among those foolish people who were riding quickly
and aimlessly up and down the steep roads near the wood, her father
throwing her a word now and then no doubt, but Oliver giving her neither
look, word, nor thought.

Lucy had become aware that Boringdon and Mrs. Rebell had chosen, as she
and Laxton had done, a point of vantage away from the rest of the field,
and that Oliver, with eager glowing face, was explaining the whole
theory of hunting to his companion--further, that she was hanging on his
words with great interest.

Meanwhile, Captain Laxton was looking at Lucy Kemp no less ardently than
Boringdon was gazing at Barbara Rebell. The young man had come out
to-day with the definite intention of saying something to the girl, and
now he wished to get this something said and over as quickly as
possible.

"I hope that what happened last time I saw you won't make any
difference, Lucy--I mean as to our being friends, and my coming to the
Grange?"

He had always called her Lucy--always, that is, since her parents had
come home from India when she was twelve years old. Now it is difficult,
or so at least thought Lucy Kemp, to cherish any thought of romance in
connection with a man who has called you by your Christian name ever
since you were a little girl!

She hesitated. To her mind what had happened when they had last met
ought to make a difference. She remembered how wretched his evident
disappointment and unhappiness had made her at the time, and how kindly,
since that time, had been her thoughts of him, how pained her father and
mother had been. And now? Even after so short a time as three months,
here he was, looking as cheerful and as good-tempered as ever! It was
clear he had not cared as much as she had thought, and yet, according to
her mother, he had wanted to speak to her nearly two years ago, and had
been asked to bide his time. It was the knowledge of this constancy on
his part which had made Lucy very tender to him in her thoughts.

Laxton misunderstood her silence: "You need not be afraid, Lucy,
that--that I will bother you again in the same way. But honestly, you
don't know how I have missed you all, how awfully lonely I've felt
sometimes."

Lucy became aware that he was looking at her with a troubled, insistent
face, and she suddenly remembered how much he used to be with them,
making the Grange his home when she was still a very young girl, though
he was more than welcome at another house in the neighbourhood. As for
old Squire Laxton, Lucy knew only too well why he now always looked at
her so disagreeably; the coming and going of this young soldier cousin
to Laxgrove had been the old sporting bachelor's great pleasure, apart
of course from hunting, and he had missed him sorely that summer.

Why should not everything go on as it had done before, if Captain Laxton
really wished it to do so? And so she said in a low tone, "Of course we
have missed you too, all of us, very much."

"Oh! well then, that's all right! I will come over to the Grange
to-morrow--I suppose you would all be tired out this evening? I've been
at Laxgrove nearly a week already, and I must be back at Canterbury on
Monday, worse luck! I say, Lucy----"

"Yes?" Lucy smiled up at him quite brightly, but her mind was absorbed
in the scene below her: the Duke, the great potentate of the
neighbourhood, had come up to Mrs. Rebell--she was now following him
towards the victoria in which sat the ample Duchess, and Boringdon had
ridden off, galloping his mare down the steep rough road where the
Master, with anxious eyes, was watching the hounds slipping in and out
of the wood. Lucy was rather puzzled. How was it that this strange lady,
who had only arrived at the Priory some three weeks ago, and who never
came into the village--she had been out driving when Mrs. Boringdon had
called on her--knew everybody? She said suddenly, "I did not know that
you knew Mrs. Rebell: we have none of us seen her excepting in church."

"I can't say I know her, but old Cousin Tom has made great friends with
her. You know she's been riding Saucebox every morning, and they, she
and Boringdon, always go past Laxgrove about twelve o'clock. The first
morning there was quite a scene. The mare didn't quite understand Mrs.
Rebell, I suppose, for a steam roller came up, and in a minute she was
all over the place. Mrs. Rebell sat tight, but it gave her rather a
turn, and Tom made her come into the house. Then yesterday--you know
what a down-pour there was--well, she and Boringdon came in again. I was
rather glad to see them, for he and Tom have had rather an
unpleasantness over the Laxgrove shooting. However, now, thanks to this
Mrs. Rebell, they've quite made it up. She's a nice-looking woman, isn't
she?--quite the kind of figure for a showy beast like Saucebox!"

But Lucy made no answer: could it be, so thought Laxton uneasily, that
she did not like to hear another woman praised? To some girls, the young
man would never have said anything complimentary concerning another
lady, but Lucy Kemp was different; that was the delightful thing about
Lucy,--both about the girl and her mother.

Old Tom, sitting over the smoking-room fire the evening before, had told
his young kinsman to give up all thought of Lucy Kemp. "Whoever you
marry now, it will be all the same about ten years hence!" so the
cynical bachelor had observed, but then, what did Tom Laxton know about
it? The younger man was well aware, in a general sense, that this was
true of many men and their wives. It would probably be true of him were
he to choose, and to be chosen, from among the group of pleasant girls
with whom he had flirted, danced, and played games during the last few
months. But with Lucy, ah! no,--Lucy Kemp had become a part of his life,
and he could not imagine existence without her somewhere in the
background. Of course, to his old cousin, to Tom Laxton, Miss Kemp was
simply a quiet rather dull girl who could not even ride really
well--ride as women ought to ride if they hunted at all. The old
sportsman had only two feminine ideals,--that of the loud, jolly,
hail-fellow-well-met sort of girl, or else the stand-offish, delicate,
high-bred sort of woman, like this Mrs. Rebell.

Lucy was looking straight before her, seeing nothing, thinking much.
Oliver's absence from the Grange was now explained: he had been riding
every morning with Mrs. Rebell, putting off the dull hours which he had
to spend in the estate office till the afternoons. The girl thought it
quite reasonable that Boringdon should ride with Madame Sampiero's
guest, in fact, that sort of thing was one of those nondescript duties
of which he had sometimes complained to her as having been more than he
had bargained for. But how strange that he had not asked her, Lucy Kemp,
to come too! When a certain girl cousin of Oliver's was at the Cottage,
the three young people often enjoyed delightful riding expeditions,--in
fact, that was how Lucy had first come to know Oliver so well.

"They've found at last! This way, Lucy!--"

Lucy woke up as if from a dream. The sharp unmistakable cry of Bluebell,
one of the oldest hounds in the pack, broke on her ears. She and Laxton
galloped down to the left--then waited--Laxton smiling broadly as the
whole field swept past them just below, the men jostling one another in
their eagerness to get first to a gate giving access to a large meadow
which enclosed a stretch of down.

Rather on one side Lucy saw Mrs. Rebell and Boringdon, and
Oliver--quiet, prudent Oliver--was actually giving Saucebox a lead over
a low hedge! A group of town-folk from Halnakeham clapped their hands on
seeing the lady clear the obstacle. Laxton laughed. "Miss Vipen would
talk about circus performances, eh! Lucy?" He had never liked Boringdon,
the two men had nothing in common. "But, of course, Mrs. Rebell may have
told him she wanted to jump. They were doing that sort of thing
yesterday down at Laxgrove, and I must say I thought it very sensible of
Boringdon."

                               * * * * *

But in point of fact the hounds had not found. They had struck a strong
drag in the lower end of the cover, but, after running for only thirty
or forty yards, scent had quickly failed, and a few minutes afterwards
the majority of the field had reappeared near the old gate on the crest
of the hill.

"Well, it's not been much use so far, has it? I see that Mrs. Boringdon
and your mother have gone home"--General Kemp seemed in high good
humour. "And now that the Duchess is off, too, we shall be able to try
the Bramber wood." The speaker's eyes twinkled; the Duchess of Appleby
and Kendal had been a keen sportswoman in her day, and it had been hoped
that the hounds would find in the ducal covers. "Would you like to go
on, child?" He thought Lucy had been quite long enough with Laxton--that
is, if, as his wife assured him, she had not changed her mind about the
young man whom he himself liked so cordially.

"I think, father, if you don't mind, I'd rather go home." The General's
face fell--it seemed such a pity to turn back now, just when the real
work of the day was to begin. He had heard the Master's dry words:--"The
Duchess is gone, isn't she? Then let's make for Highcombe without losing
a minute." But Laxton was interposing eagerly--"May I take Lucy home,
sir? I will look after her all right, and perhaps Mrs. Kemp will give me
a little lunch."

The General looked doubtfully at the two young people. They had remained
close to one another during the last hour--what did it all mean? He
wished his wife were there to give him a word, a glance, of advice.

"All right!" he said, "but in that case, I should advise you to go back
over the downs. It's a pleasanter way, and you'll be at Chancton twice
as quickly."

Lucy looked gratefully at the young man: it was really nice of him to do
this--to give up his afternoon to her, and to brave, as he was certainly
about to do, old Squire Laxton's anger: the Master of the S.S.H. had
never understood his favourite kinsman's attitude to the noblest sport
ever devised by man. And so she assented eagerly to the proposal that
they should ride back over the downs.

"But wouldn't you rather stay?"

"I'm really glad of the excuse to get away!"--he smiled down on
her--"I've been simply longing to see your mother!"

Slowly they made their way over the brow of the hill, and then down the
wide grassy slopes skirting the high wall which shut off Chillingworth
from the rest of the world.

Lucy was very subdued, and very gentle. It was a relief to be with
someone who did not suspect, as her parents seemed to do, the truth as
to her feeling for Oliver Boringdon. Soon she and her companion were
talking quite happily together, he asking her about all sorts of
familiar matters. Again she bethought herself that she really had missed
him, and that it was nice to have him back again.

Then there was a pause--Laxton had felt the kindness, the confidence of
her manner. Suddenly bending down, he saw that the tears were in her
eyes--that her lips were trembling. Could it be--? Oh! God, was it
possible that she relented--that his intense feeling had at last roused
an answering chord? A flood of deep colour swept over his fair sunburnt
face. "Lucy!" he said hoarsely, "Lucy!" She looked up at him with sudden
mute appeal, but alas! he misunderstood the meaning of the look. "If it
is ever any good--any good now, my asking you again, you will let me
know--you will be kind?" Poor, inadequate words, so he felt them to be,
but enough, more than enough, if he had interpreted aright the look he
had surprised.

But Lucy shook her head, "It is no good, I only wish it were--though I
don't know why you should care so much."

They rode on into the village, and Laxton showed the good stuff he was
made of by coming, as he had said he would, to the Grange, where Mrs.
Kemp, after glancing at Lucy, entertained him with a pitying and heavy
heart.



                              CHAPTER IX.

    "Falling in love is the one illogical adventure, the one thing
    of which we are tempted to think as supernatural, in our trite
    and reasonable world."
                                                            R. L. S.


Love has been described, by one who had a singularly intuitive knowledge
of men's hearts, as a vital malady, and in one essential matter the
similitude holds good--namely, in the amazing suddenness with which the
divine fever will sometimes, nay often, seize upon its victim, driving
out for the time being all other and allied ills, leaving room only for
the one all-consuming passion.

James Berwick was one of those men--more rarely found perhaps in England
than on the Continent, and less often now than in the leisurely days of
the past--who can tell themselves that they are pastmasters in the art
of love. Two things in life were to him of absorbing interest--politics
and women, and he found, as have done so many of his fellows, that the
two were seldom in material conflict. His sister, Miss Berwick, did not
agree in this finding, but she kept her views and her occasional
misgivings to herself.

Women had always played a great part in James Berwick's life, and that,
as is generally true of the typical lover, in a very wide sense, as
often as not "en tout bien tout honneur." He thought no hour wasted
which was spent in feminine company: he was tender to the pruderies,
submissive to the caprices, and very grateful for the affection often
lavished on him by good and kindly women, to whom the thought of any
closer tie than that of friendship would have been an outrage.

More than once he had been very near, or so he had thought at the time,
to the finding of his secret ideal,--of that woman who should be at once
lover and friend. But some element, generally that of the selfless
tenderness for which his heart craved, was lacking in the unlawful loves
to which he considered himself compelled to confine his quest.

He based his ideal on the tie which had bound his uncle, Lord Bosworth,
to Madame Sampiero, and of which he had become aware at a moment when
his youth had made him peculiarly susceptible to what was fine and
moving in their strange, ardent romance.

To his ideal,--so he could still tell himself when on one of those
lamentable return journeys from some experimental excursion in that most
debatable land, le pays du tendre,--he could and would remain faithful,
however faithless he might become to the actual woman who, at the
moment, had fallen short of that same ideal.

Berwick constantly made the mistake of consciously seeking love, and so
of allowing nothing for that element of fantasy and surprise which has
always played so great a part in spontaneous affairs of the heart.

He asked too much, not so much of love, as of life--intellect, passion,
tenderness, fidelity, all these to be merged together in one who could
only hope to be linked with her beloved in unlawful, and therefore, so
whispered experience, in but temporary bonds.

During the last ten years--Berwick was now thirty-five, and, while his
brief married life lasted, he had been absolutely faithful to the poor
sickly woman whose love for him had fallen short of the noblest of
all--he had found some of the qualities he regarded as essential to a
great and steadfast passion, first in one, and then in another, but
never had he found them all united, as his uncle had done, in one woman.

Mrs. Marshall, of whom his sister was still so afraid had first
attracted him as a successful example of that type of woman to whom
beauty, and the brilliant exercise of her feminine instincts, stand in
lieu of mind and heart, and whose whole life is absorbed in the effort
to excite feelings which she is determined neither to share nor to
gratify. To vivify this lovely statue, to revenge, may-be, the wrongs of
many of his sex, had been for Berwick an amusing diversion, a game of
skill in which both combatants were to play with buttoned foils.

But Mrs. Marshall, caught up at last into the flames in which she
had seen so many burn--holocausts to her vanity and intense
egotism--suddenly began to love Berwick with that dry, speechless form
of passion which sears both the lover and the beloved, and which seems
to strip the woman of self-respect, the man of that tenderness which
should drape even spurious passion.

The death of the lady's husband had occurred most inopportunely, and had
been followed, after what had seemed to Berwick--now wholly
disillusioned--a shockingly short interval, by one of those scenes of
horror which sometimes occur in the lives of men and women and which
each participant would give much to blot out from memory. During the
interview he shuddered to remember, Berwick had been brought to say, "My
freedom is dearer to me, far more so, than life itself! If I had to
choose between marriage and death, I should choose death!"

Arabella need not have been afraid. Louise Marshall's very name had
become hateful to him, and the fact that she was still always trying to
throw herself across his path had been one reason why he had spent the
whole summer far from England.

                               * * * * *

It was in this mood, being at the moment out of love with love, that
Berwick had come back this autumn to Sussex and to Chancton Priory. It
was in this same mood that he had first met Barbara Rebell, and had
spent with her the evening of which he was afterwards to try and
reconstitute every moment, to recall every word uttered by either. He
had been interested, attracted, perhaps most of all relieved, to find a
woman so different from the type which had caused him so much distress,
shame, and--what was perhaps, to a man of his temperament,
worse--annoyance.

Then, after that short sojourn at the Priory, he had gone away, and
thought of Barbara not at all. Certain matters had caused him to come
back to Chillingworth before going on to Halnakeham Castle, and during
those days, with a suddenness which had left him defenceless, had come a
passion of deep feeling--none of those about them ventured to give that
feeling its true name--for the desolate-eyed, confiding creature, who,
if now thrown defenceless in his way as no woman had ever yet been, was
yet instinct with some quality which seemed to act as a shield between
himself and the tremulous, tender heart he knew was there, if only
because of the love Barbara lavished on Madame Sampiero.

During those early days, and for the first time in Berwick's experience,
humility walked hand in hand with love, and the lover for a while found
himself in that most happy state when passion seems intensified by
respect. James Berwick had hitherto been always able to analyse every
stage of his feeling in regard to the woman who at the moment occupied
his imagination, but with regard to Mrs. Rebell he shrank from such
introspection.

Yet another feeling, and one oddly new, assailed him during those long
hours which were spent in Barbara's company--now in the quiet stately
downstair rooms of the Priory, now out of doors, ay, and even by Madame
Sampiero's couch, for there Barbara, as if vaguely conscious of pursuit,
would often take refuge. Jealousy, actual and retrospective jealousy,
sharpened the edge of Berwick's feeling,--jealousy of Boringdon, of whom
he gathered Barbara had lately seen so much, and with whom, as he could
himself see, she must be on terms of pleasant comradeship--jealousy, far
more poignant and searching, of Pedro Rebell, and of that past which the
woman Berwick was beginning to regard as wholly his, had spent with him.

Mrs. Rebell never made the slightest allusion to her husband, and yet
for six long years--those formative years between nineteen and
five-and-twenty--Pedro Rebell must have been, and in a sense rarely
allowed to civilised man, the master of this delicate, sensitive woman,
and, when he so pleased, her lover. Who else save the half-Spanish West
Indian planter could have brought that shadow of fear into Barbara's
eyes, and have made her regard the passion of love, as Berwick had very
soon divined she did regard it, as something which shames rather than
exalts human nature?

From one and another, going even to Chancton Cottage, and questioning
Mrs. Boringdon in his desire to know what Barbara he knew well would
never tell him, Berwick had so far pieced together her past history as
to come somewhere near the truth of what her life had been. He could
picture Barbara's quiet childhood at St. Germains: could follow her
girlhood--spent partly in France, partly in Italy--to which, as she grew
to know him better, she often referred, and which had given her a kind
of mental cultivation which, to such a man as himself, was peculiarly
agreeable. Then, lastly, and most often, he would recall her long
sojourn in the lonely West Indian plantation. There, if Grace Johnstone
was to be believed, she had at times suffered actual physical
ill-treatment from the man whom she had married because he had come
across her path at a moment when she had been left utterly alone; and
also because--so Berwick, as he grew to understand her, truly
divined--Pedro Rebell bore her father's name, and shared the nationality
of which those English men and women who are condemned to exile are so
pathetically proud.

                               * * * * *

Mrs. Turke, Doctor McKirdy, and Madame Sampiero all watched with varying
feelings the little drama which was being enacted before their eyes.

Of the three, Mrs. Turke had the longest refused to believe the evidence
afforded by her very shrewd senses. The old housekeeper took a frankly
material view of life, and Doctor McKirdy had not been far wrong when he
had once offended her by observing, "I should describe you, woman, as a
grand old pagan!" There were few things she would not have done to
pleasure James Berwick; and that he should enjoy a passing flirtation
with Mrs. Rebell would have been quite within his old nurse's view of
what should be--nay more, Mrs. Turke would have visited with
condemnation any lady who had shown herself foolishly coy in accepting
the attentions of such a gentleman.

But when the old woman realised, as she soon came to do, that Berwick's
feeling for Madame Sampiero's kinswoman was of a very different quality
from that with which she had at first credited him, then Mrs. Turke felt
full of vague alarm, and she liked to remind herself that Mrs. Rebell
was a wife, and, from certain indications, a good and even a religious
woman in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

These stormy November days, so rough without, so peaceful within, each
big with the presage of coming winter, reminded Mrs. Turke of another
autumn at Chancton, and of other lovers who had found the atmosphere of
the Priory strangely conducive to such a state of feeling as that which
seemed to be brooding over James Berwick and Barbara Rebell.

True, Madame Sampiero and Lord Bosworth had been far more equally
matched in the duel which had ended in the defeat of both: but the
woman, in that conflict, had been troubled with fewer scruples. They
also had begun by playing at friendship--they also had thought it within
their power to absorb only the sweet, and to reject the bitter, of the
feast spread out before them. In those far away days Mrs. Turke had
been, to a certain limited extent, the confidante of her mistress, and
now she felt angered at the knowledge that her foster-son was becoming
impatiently aware of her watching eyes, and nervously afraid of any
word, even said by his old nurse in joke, concerning his growing
intimacy with Mrs. Rebell.

To Madame Sampiero, the present also brought back the past, and that,
ah! yes, most poignantly. As she lay in her beautiful room, her solitude
only broken by those two whom she had begun to watch so painfully, or by
Doctor McKirdy who gave her news of them, she felt like the wounded
warrior to whom heralds bring at intervals news of the conflict raging
without. A word had been said by Mrs. Turke soon after Berwick's return,
but the housekeeper had been rebuked by her paralysed mistress with
sharp decision.

The thought that the creature who was beginning not to take, so much as
to share, in her heart the place of her dead child, could be caught in
the net out of which she herself had not even yet cut herself free, was
intolerable--the more so that she had been amused, rather cynically
amused, at the effect her god-daughter had produced on the austere
Boringdon. To see them together, to see his growing infatuation, and
Barbara's utter unconsciousness of the feeling which, after the first
memorable interview, brought him daily to the Priory, had been to
Barbara's god-mother a delicious comedy. The woman in her delighted in
the easy triumph of this other woman, more particularly because at first
she had not credited Barbara Rebell with the possession of feminine
charm.

In this matter Boringdon showed Madame Sampiero how wrong she had been,
and not he only, but many others also had at once come under her spell.
And then, as is nearly always the way with those women who inspire
sudden passions, Mrs. Rebell's charm was not, in its essence, one of
sex. The grim, silent Scottish woman, Madame Sampiero's night attendant,
smiled when Barbara came into the room, and Léonie, the French maid, had
very early informed her mistress, "Je sens que je vais adorer cette
Madame Rebell!" while as for James Berwick, his attitude the more moved
and interested Madame Sampiero, because she had never seen him in any
relation save in that of her own kind, cool, and attentive guest.

Every nature betrays feeling in a manner peculiarly its own. Berwick
would have been surprised indeed had he realised his constant betrayal
of a passion so instinctive as to be as yet only partially revealed to
his innermost self. For the first time in his experience he loved
nobly--that is, with tenderness and abnegation. To be constantly with
Barbara, to talk to her with that entire intimacy made possible by the
solitary circumstances of her life, was all he asked as yet. Barbara
Rebell, during those same short weeks, was also happy, and wholly
content with the life she saw spread out before her--looking back to the
six years spent with Pedro Rebell as to a terrible ordeal lying safely
far behind her, so deep, so racial had been, after the first few weeks
of their married life, the antagonism between them.

Feeling her physical helplessness more than she had ever done, Madame
Sampiero asked herself, with a foreboding which deepened into pain,
whether certain passages in her own life were now about to be enacted
over again in that of her own cousin? Lying there, her mind alone free,
she told herself that while regretting nothing that had been, she yet
would do all in her power to prevent one she loved from going through
what she had endured--the more so that, to her mind, James Berwick was
not comparable to the man for whom she had herself sacrificed
everything. Lord Bosworth's only desire, and that over long years, had
been to make the woman he loved his wife. She knew well that the nephew
had a more ingenious and a less simple nature--that the two men looked
at life from a very different standpoint.

Madame Sampiero also realised to the full what Berwick's great wealth
had meant and did mean to him, and how different a man he would have
been without it. Had Barbara Rebell been free, so the paralysed woman
now told herself, James Berwick would have fled from the neighbourhood
of the Priory at the first dawn of his attraction.

Barbara's god-mother would have given much to know what neither her own
observation nor Doctor McKirdy's could tell her--namely, how Berwick's
undisguised passion was affecting the object of it. Every day the older
woman looked for some sign, for some conscious look, but Barbara
remained in this one matter an enigma to those about her. Madame
Sampiero knew--as every woman who has gone through certain experiences
is bound to know--the deep secrecy, the deeper self-repression, which
human beings, under certain conditions, can exercise when the question
involved is one of feeling, and so sometimes, but never when Mrs. Rebell
was actually with her, she wondered whether the attitude of Barbara to
Berwick hid responsive emotion, which, when the two were alone together,
knew how to show itself articulate.

One thing soon became clear. Barbara much preferred to see either
Boringdon or Berwick alone; she avoided their joint company; and that,
so the three who so closely observed her were inclined to think, might
be taken as a sign that she knew most surely how it was with them, if
still ignoring how it was with herself.

                               * * * * *

Concerning love--that mysterious passion which Plotinus so well
describes as part god part devil--Doctor McKirdy was an absolute
fatalist. He regarded the attraction of man to woman as inevitable in
its manifestations as are any of the other maleficent forces of nature,
and for this view--not to go further than his own case--he had good
reason. Till he was nearly thirty, he had himself experienced, not only
a distaste but a positive contempt for what those about him described as
love.

However much the fact was disguised by soft phrases, he, the young
Alexander McKirdy, knew full well that the passion was wholly base and
devilish--playing sometimes impish, more often terrible, tricks on those
it lured within its labyrinth; causing men to deviate almost
unconsciously from the paths lying straight before them; generally
injuring their careers, and invariably--and this, to such a nature as
his own, seemed the most tragic thing of all--making, while the spell
was upon the victims, utter fools of them. Above all had he condemned,
with deepest scorn and intolerance--this, doubtless, owing in a measure
to his early religious training--that man who allowed himself to feel
the slightest attraction for a married woman; indeed, for such a one, he
felt nothing but scathing contempt. The whole subject of man's relation
to woman was one on which the doctor had been, even as a very raw and
shy youth, always ready to hold forth, warning and admonishing those
about him, especially his own sentimental countrymen cast up on the
lonely and yet siren-haunted sea of London life.

Then, holding these views more than ever, though perhaps less eager to
discuss them, a chance had brought him to Chancton, there to fall
himself in the same snare which he believed in all good faith so easy to
avoid. After one determined effort to shake himself free, he had bowed
his neck to the yoke, gradually sacrificing all that he had once thought
made life alone worth living to a feeling which he had known to be
unrequited, and which for a time he had believed to be unsuspected by
the object of it.

Who was he, Alexander McKirdy, so he asked himself during those days
when he watched with very mingled feelings Berwick and Barbara--who was
he to jeer, to find fault, even to feel surprised at what had now
befallen James Berwick and Barbara Rebell? And yet, as was still apt to
be his wont, the old Scotchman blamed the woman far more than the
man--for even now, to his mind, man was the victim, woman the Circe
leading him astray. This view angered the mistress of the Priory, but
not even to please Madame Sampiero would the doctor pretend that he
thought otherwise than he did.

"Is this, think you, the first time she soweth destruction?" he once
asked rather sternly. "I tell ye, Madam, she cannot be so simple as ye
take her to be! I grant her Jamie"--falling back in the eagerness of the
discussion on what had been his name for Berwick as a child--"we all
know he's a charmer! But how about that poor stiff loon, Oliver
Boringdon? would you say that there she has not been to blame?"

But the answering murmur was very decided, "I am sure it is the first
time she has sowed destruction, as you call it."

"Well then, she has been lacking the opportunities God gives most women!
If she has not sowed, it has not been for lack of the seed: she has a
very persuasive manner--very persuasive indeed! That first night before
she stumbled into this house, I was only half minded that she should see
you, and she just wheedled me into allowing her to do so--oh! in a very
dignified way, that I will admit. Now as women sow so shall they reap."

"That," muttered Madame Sampiero, "is quite true;" and the doctor had
pursued, rather ruthlessly, his advantage. "Can you tell me in all
honesty," he asked, peering forward at her, meeting with softened gaze
the wide open blue eyes, "if you yourself sowed destruction
innocently-like, that is without knowing it? Was there ever a time when
you were not aware of what you were doing?"

For a moment the paralysed woman had made no answer, and then her face
quivered, and he knew that the sounds which issued from between her
trembling lips signified, "Yes, McKirdy, I always did know it! But
Barbara is a better woman than I ever was----"

"Ay, and not one half so beautiful as you ever were!" The doctor had
remained very loyal to his own especial Circe.

                               * * * * *

It now wanted but a week to Lord Pendragon's coming-of-age ball, and
Chancton Priory shared in the general excitement. Madame Sampiero was
well aware that this would be her god-daughter's real introduction to
the neighbourhood, and she was most anxious that the first impression
should be wholly favourable. As regarded what Barbara was to wear,
success could certainly be achieved; but in whose company she should
make her first appearance at Halnakeham Castle was more difficult to
arrange, for it had come to Doctor McKirdy's knowledge that James
Berwick intended that he and Mrs. Rebell should share the long drive
from Chancton to the Castle.

This the mistress of the Priory was determined to prevent, and that
without signifying her sense of its indecorum. The way out of the
difficulty seemed simple. Madame Sampiero intimated her wish that Doctor
McKirdy should be the third occupant of the Priory carriage, and that
with this strange-looking cavalier, Barbara should make her appearance
at the Castle: in that matter she thought she could trust to Berwick's
instinct of what was becoming, and further, she had little fear that he
would wish to attract the attention of the Duchess of Appleby and Kendal
to his friendship with Mrs. Rebell. But, to Madame Sampiero's
astonishment and chagrin, Doctor McKirdy refused to lend himself to the
plan.

"Nay," he said, "I've been thinking the matter over, and I cannot make
up my mind to oblige ye. Your wit will have to find out another way."
There had been a pause, and he added, with one of his curious twisted
smiles, "It's not such as I who would dare to intervene at 'the canny
hour at e'en'!"

"Then I must tell James it cannot be!" Madame Sampiero spoke the words
with the odd muffled distinctness which sometimes came over her
utterance. But Doctor McKirdy had been thinking carefully over the
situation: "Why not ask Mrs. Boringdon?" he growled out. "The woman does
little enough for the good living she gets here!"

Madame Sampiero looked at her faithful old friend with real gratitude.
How foolish she had been not to have thought of that most natural
solution! But to her, Oliver Boringdon's mother was the merest shadow,
scarcely a name.

And so it was that James Berwick's plan was defeated, while Barbara
Rebell, who had not as yet become as intimate with Grace Johnstone's
mother as she hoped to do, was made, somewhat against her will, to write
and invite Mrs. Boringdon and her son to share with her the Priory
carriage.



                               CHAPTER X.

    "Never, my dear, was honour yet undone
    By love, but by indiscretion!"

                                                             COWLEY.


It was the second day of the three which were being devoted to the
coming-of-age festivities of Lord Pendragon, and Miss Berwick had asked
herself to lunch at Halnakeham Castle. Because of the great ball which
was to take place that evening, this day was regarded by the Duchess and
the more sober of her guests as an off-day--one in which there was to be
a lull in the many old-fashioned jollifications and junketings which
were being given in honour of the son of the house.

The Duchess of Appleby and Kendal had been a very good friend to
Arabella and to her brother, and that over long years. Owing to a
certain inter-marriage between her own family and that of the Berwicks,
she chose to consider them as relations, and as such had consistently
treated them. She was fond of James, and believed in his political
future. Arabella she respected and admired: both respect and admiration
having sure foundations in a fact which had come to the Duchess's
knowledge in the days when she was still young, still slender, and
still, so she sometimes told herself with a sigh, enthusiastic! This
fact had been the sacrifice by Arabella Berwick of the small fortune
left her by her parents, in order that some debts of her brother's might
be paid.

At the present moment James Berwick was actually staying at the Castle,
and his sister had asked herself to lunch in order, if possible to see,
and if not, to hear, on what terms he found himself with that one of his
fellow guests whom his hostess, knowing what she did know of Arabella's
fears, should not have allowed him to meet under her roof.

To Miss Berwick's discomfiture, Louise Marshall was at lunch, more
tragic, more mysterious in her manner, alas! more lovely, in her very
modified widow's dress, than ever; but Arabella's brother, so her host
informed her when they were actually seated at table, had gone over for
the day to Chillingworth! This meant that the sister had had a four-mile
drive for nothing--a drive, too, which was to be repeated that same
evening, for the whole of the Fletchings party, even Lord Bosworth, were
coming to the ball.

                               * * * * *

One of the most curious of human phenomena met with by the kindly and
good-hearted who are placed by Providence in positions of importance and
responsibility, is the extreme willingness shown by those about them to
profit by that same kindliness and good-heartedness--joined to a keen
disapproval when those same qualities are exercised on behalf of others
than themselves!

There had been a time when the Duchess's rather culpable good-nature,
strengthened by her real affection for the two young people concerned,
had been of the utmost service to Arabella Berwick--when, indeed,
without the potent help of Halnakeham Castle, Miss Berwick would have
been unable to achieve what had then been, not only the dearest wish of
her heart, but one of the utmost material moment--the marriage of her
brother to the great heiress whose family had hoped better things for
her than a union with Lord Bosworth's embarrassed though brilliant
nephew and heir.

But the kind Duchess's services on that occasion were now forgotten in
Arabella's extreme anger and indignation at the weak folly which had led
to Mrs. Marshall's being asked to meet Berwick. The sister had come over
to Halnakeham determined to say nothing of what she thought, for she was
one of those rare women who never cry over spilt milk,--the harm, if
harm there were, was already done. But the old habit of confidence
between the two women, only separated by some ten years in age, had
proved too strong, especially as the opportunity was almost thrust upon
the younger of the two by her affectionate and apologetic hostess.

"Qui s'excuse s'accuse"; the Duchess, sitting alone after lunch with her
dear Arabella, should surely have remembered the wise French proverb,
the more so as she had not made up her mind how much she meant to say,
and how much to leave unsaid, concerning James Berwick's strange
behaviour during the few days he had been sleeping,--but by no means
living,--at the Castle.

"Well, my dear, we need not have been afraid about your brother and poor
Louise Marshall--from what I can make out, he has hardly said a word to
her since he has been here! In fact, he has hardly been here at all. He
goes off in the morning and comes back late in the afternoon. He did
stay and help yesterday, and made, by the way, a most charming little
speech,--but then he took his evening off! I've been wondering whether
there can be any counter attraction in the neighbourhood of
Chillingworth--?"

The speaker looked rather significantly at her guest. She had been at
some trouble to find out what that attraction could be which took
Berwick daily to Chancton, and as her own confidential maid was Mrs.
Turke's niece, and a Chancton woman, she had come to a pretty shrewd
idea of the truth.

But Miss Berwick was absorbed in her grievance. "No," she said sharply,
"certainly not! James hasn't ever been over to Fletchings, and we have
no one staying there whom he could want to see. I suppose the truth is
he wisely tries to escape from Mrs. Marshall. Knowing all you know,
Albinia, and all I said to you last year, how _could_ you have the woman
here? I was really aghast when I heard that she was coming, and that
James was hurrying back to see her--of course everyone must be putting
two and two together, and he will find himself at last in a really bad
scrape!"

The Duchess began to look very uncomfortable. "The poor soul wrote and
asked if she might come," she said feebly; "I do think that you are
rather hardhearted. It would melt your heart if you were to hear her
talking about him to me. She has paid a woman--some poor Irish lady
recommended to her--to look up all his old speeches, and she devotes an
hour every day to reading them over, and that although she doesn't
understand a word of what she's reading! It's really rather touching,
and I do think he owes her something. Of course you know what she would
like, what she is hoping for against hope--old Mr. Marshall was a very
rich man----"

Miss Berwick knew very well, but she thought the question an outrage--so
foolish and so shocking that it was not worth an answer. Indeed, she
shrugged her shoulders, a slight but very decided shrug, more eloquent
than any words could have been from such a woman.

The Duchess, kind as she was, and with a power of sympathetic insight
which often made her unhappy, felt suddenly angered. She took up a book.
It had a mark in it. "Reading this sentence," she said rather nervously,
"I could not help thinking of your brother."

Miss Berwick held out a languid hand. She thought this rather a mean way
of avoiding a discussion. Then she read aloud the sentence--

"It is the punishment of Don Juanism to create continually false
positions, relations in life which are false in themselves, and which it
is equally wrong to break or to perpetuate."

There was a pause. Arabella put the book down, and pushed it from her
with an almost violent gesture. "I cannot understand," she cried, "how
this can in any way have suggested James! I never met a man who was less
of a Don Juan. If he was so he would be happier, and so should I.
Imagine Don Juan and Louise Marshall--why, he would have made mincemeat
of such a woman; she would have been a mere episode!"

"And what more has poor Louise been? No woman likes to be a mere
episode! I do not say"--the Duchess spoke slowly; she knew she had gone
a little too far, and wished to justify herself, also to find out, for
the knowledge had made her very indignant, if Arabella was aware of how
her brother was now spending his time,--"I do not say by any means that
your brother is a Don Juan in the low and mean sense of the term, but
circumstances and you--yes, you, in a measure--have made his relations
to women essentially false and unnatural. Yes, my dear girl, that sort
of thing _is_ against nature! You are amazed and indignant when I speak
of it as being possible that he should marry Louise Marshall, and yet I
am quite sure that James is a man far more constituted for normal than
for abnormal conditions, and that he would be happier, and more
successful in the things that you consider important for him if, like
other men, he realised that--that----"

The Duchess stole a look at her guest's rigid face, then went on with
dogged courage--

"Well, that a certain kind of behaviour nearly always leads to a man's
having to take a woman--generally the wrong woman, too--to church, that
is, if he is, in the ordinary sense, an honourable man! I fear,"
concluded the Duchess dolefully, "that you think me very coarse. But
James and Louise between them have made me quite wretched the last few
days, so you must forgive me, and really I don't think you have anything
to fear--Louise is leaving the day after to-morrow."

The speaker got up; why, oh! why, had she allowed herself to be lured
into this odious discussion?

Arabella had also risen, and for a moment the two women, perfectly
contrasted types of what centuries have combined to make the modern
Englishwoman of the upper class, faced one another.

The Duchess was essentially maternal and large-hearted in her outlook on
life. She was eager to compass the happiness of those round her, and
thanked God daily for having given her so good a husband and such
perfect children--unconscious that she had herself made them to a great
extent what they were. Particular to niceness as to her own conduct, and
that of her daughters, she was yet the pitying friend of all black sheep
whose blackness was due to softness of heart rather than hardness of
head. On the whole, a very happy woman--one who would meet even those
natural griefs which come to us all with soft tears of submission, but
who would know how to avert unnatural disaster.

To her alone had been confided the story of Miss Berwick's love passages
with Daniel O'Flaherty. To-day, looking at the still youthful figure and
proud reserved face of her friend, she marvelled at the strength of
character, the mingled cruelty and firmness, Arabella had shown, and she
wondered, not for the first time, whether the agony endured had been in
any sense justified by its results. Then she reminded herself that as
Mrs. O'Flaherty the sister could hardly have brought about, as Miss
Berwick had known how to do, her brother's marriage to one of the
wealthiest unmarried women of her day.

"I think we ought to be going downstairs: and--and--please forgive me
for speaking as I did just now--you know I am simply tired out!"

And indeed the Duchess had endured that which had gone far to spoil her
innocent happiness in her son's coming-of-age festivities. After each
long day of what was on her part real hard work, the poor lady, whom all
about her envied, would call on her only confidant, the Duke, to scourge
her for the folly to which her kindness of heart and platonic sympathy
with the tender passion had led her; and husband-wise he would by turns
comfort and scold her, saying very uncomplimentary things of both the
sinners now in full enjoyment of his hospitality. Berwick, generally the
most agreeable and serviceable of guests, was moody, ill at ease, and
often absent for long hours--behaving indeed in a fashion which only his
hosts' long kindness to him could, in any way, excuse or authorise.

As to Mrs. Marshall, she made no effort to disguise her state of mind.
She gloried in her unfortunate and unrequited passion, and made the
object of it appear--what he flattered himself he had never yet
been--absurd. She made confidences to the women and entertained the men
with eulogies of Berwick. Now, to-day, she was looking forward, as her
hostess well knew, to the evening. At the ball it would surely be
impossible for her lover to escape her, though her anxiety--and this,
the Duchess's fatal knowledge of human nature also made clear to
her--was somewhat tempered by the fact that on this occasion, in honour,
as she plaintively explained, of dear Pendragon, and in order to cast no
gloom over the festivity, she would once more appear in a dress showing
the lovely shoulders which had once been described as "marmorean"--the
word had greatly gratified her--by a Royal connoisseur of feminine
beauty.

The fact that the whole affair much enlivened the party and gave an
extraordinary "montant" to what would otherwise have been rather a prosy
gathering,--that her guests so much enjoyed an item which had no place
in the long programme of entertainments arranged by the Duke and
herself--was no consolation to the Duchess.

                               * * * * *

"One moment, Albinia!"

The younger woman had turned very pale. The Duchess's words concerning
Berwick and his sentimental adventures had cut her to the quick.
Heavens! was this the way people were talking of her brother? The words,
"an honourable man," sounded in her ears. How cruelly, how harshly, men
and women judged each other!

"Of course, what you said just now concerning James and his love
affairs,--if one may call them so,--impressed me. How could it be
otherwise? As you know, I have no sympathy, I might almost say no
understanding, of his attitude in these matters. There is a whole side
of life to which I feel," her voice dropped, "the utmost repugnance. I
have never allowed anyone to make me those confidences which seem so
usual nowadays, nay, more, I have never even glanced at the details of
any divorce case. I once dismissed a very good maid--you remember
Bennett?--because I found her reading something of the kind in my room.
I could not have borne to have about me a woman who I knew delighted in
such literature----"

"But my dear Arabella----"

"Let me speak! Bear with me a moment longer! Now, about James. Of course
I know he's in a difficult position--one that is, as you say, unnatural.
But, after all, many men remain unmarried from choice, ay, and even free
from foolish intrigues--to me such episodes are not love affairs. If
there is any fear of such folly leading to marriage, well then, for my
brother the matter becomes one of terrible moment----"

"You mean because of the money?" The Duchess had sunk down again into a
chair--she was looking up at her friend, full of remorse at having
seemed to put Arabella on her defence.

"Yes, Albinia, because of the money. You do not know--you have never
known--what it is to lack money. I have never wanted it for myself, but
I have longed for it, Heaven alone knows how keenly, simply to be
relieved from constant care and wearing anxieties. I seem to be the
first Berwick who has learnt how _not_ to spend! As for James, it is
impossible to imagine him again a poor man."

"And yet he is not extravagant."

Miss Berwick looked pityingly at the Duchess. "What is extravagance?
Perhaps in the common sense of the word James is not extravagant. But he
cares supremely for those things which, in these ignoble times of ours,
money alone ensures--Power--the power to be independent--the indefinite,
but very real, prestige great wealth gives among those who despise the
prestige of rank."

"But do those people matter?" asked the Duchess, rather superbly.
"Snobbish radicals--I've met 'em!"

"But that is just what they are _not_!" cried Arabella feverishly. "They
care nothing for rank, but they do care, terribly so, for money. The man
who is known to have it--fluid at his disposal (that's how I heard one
of James's friends once describe it)--at the disposal, if so it be
needed, of the party, commands their allegiance and their respect, as no
great noble, every penny of whose income is laid out beforehand, can
hope to do. If James, instead of marrying as he did do, had gone on as
he began, where would he be now? What position, think you, would he
occupy? I will tell you, Albinia,--that of a Parliamentary free-lance,
whose very abilities make him feared by the leaders of every party; that
of a man whose necessities make him regard office as the one thing
needful, who is, or may be, open to subtle forms of bribery, whose mouth
may be suddenly closed on the bidding of--well, say, of his uncle, Lord
Bosworth, because he gives him, at very long and uncertain intervals,
such doles as may keep him out of the Bankruptcy Court. Can you wonder
that I am anxious? To me he is everything in the world----"

She stopped abruptly, then began speaking again in far more bitter
accents.

"Louise Marshall! You spoke just now of his possible marriage to that
woman. She may be rich, but I tell you fairly that I would rather see
James poor than rich through her. I cannot find words to express to you
what I think of her. She sold herself, her youth, her great beauty, her
name, and her family connections--you among them, Albinia--to that
vulgar old man, and now that the whole price has been meted out to her,
she wishes to re-invest it in a more pleasant fashion. She has sold and
now she wishes to buy----"

"My dear Arabella!"

"Yes, it is I who am coarse,--horribly so! But I am determined that you
shall hear my side of the case. You speak of my brother's honour. Do you
know how Louise Marshall behaved last year? Do you know that, when that
wretched old man lay dying, she came to Bosworth House--to _my_
house--and insisted on seeing James, and--and"--the speaker's voice
broke, the Duchess could see that she was trembling violently; "Why do
you make me remember those things--those horrible things which I desire
to forget?"

Emotion of any sort is apt to prove contagious. The Duchess was very
sorry for her friend; but she had received, which Arabella had not, Mrs.
Marshall's confidences, and then she knew, what Arabella evidently did
not know, how James Berwick was now spending his time, and what had
dislodged--or so she believed--Louise Marshall from his heart. And so--

"As you have spoken to me so frankly," she said, "I also owe you the
truth. Perhaps I am not so really sorry for Louise as you seem to think
me, but, during the last few days, a fact has come to my knowledge--I
need hardly tell you that I have said nothing to Louise about it--which
has made me, I must say, feel rather indignant. I asked you just now,
Arabella, whether there could be any rival attraction at Chillingworth;
that, I confess, was rather hypocritical on my part, for there _is_ an
attraction--at Chancton Priory."

"At Chancton Priory?" repeated Miss Berwick, "why there's absolutely no
one at Chancton Priory! Who can you possibly mean?"

All sorts of angry, suspicious thoughts and fears swept through her
mind. As is so often the case with women who keep themselves studiously
aloof from any of the more unpleasant facts of real life, she was
sometimes apt to suspect others of ideas which to them would have been
unthinkable. She knew that her friend's maid was a niece of Madame
Sampiero's housekeeper. Was it possible that there had been any gossip
carried to and fro as to Berwick's attraction for some rustic beauty?
Well, whatever was true of him, that would never be true. To him
temptation did not lie that way.

But it was the Duchess's turn to look astonished. "Do you mean," she
exclaimed, "that you have not seen and know nothing of Barbara
Sampiero's cousin,--of this Mrs. Rebell, who has been at Chancton for
the last six weeks, and whom, if I judge rightly from the very pathetic
letter which poor dear Barbara Sampiero dictated for me to that old
Scotch doctor of hers, she is thinking of making her heiress?"

"Mrs. Rebell?"--Miss Berwick's tone was full of incredulous relief--"My
dear Albinia, what an extraordinary idea! Certainly, I have seen her. My
uncle made me call the very moment she arrived, and I never met a more
apathetic, miserable-looking woman, or one more _gauche_ and ill at
ease."

"She did not look _gauche_ or ill at ease at the Whiteways meet."

"Mrs. Rebell was not at the meet," said Arabella positively. "If she had
been, I should, of course, have seen her. Do you mean the woman who was
riding Saucebox?--that was some friend of the Boringdons."

It was the Duchess's turn to shrug her shoulders: "But I spoke to her!"
she cried. "I can't think where your eyes could have been. She's a
strikingly attractive-looking woman, with--or so I thought, when I
called on her some ten days after she arrived at Chancton--a
particularly gentle and self-possessed manner."

"Oh! but you," said Miss Berwick, not very pleasantly, "always see
strangers _en beau_. As to James, all I can say is that I only wish he
did admire Mrs. Rebell--that, at any rate, would be quite safe, for she
is very much married, and to a relation of Madame Sampiero."

"You would wish James to admire this Mrs. Rebell? Well, not so I! To my
mind his doing so would be a most shocking thing, a gross abuse of
hospitality"--and as she saw that Miss Berwick was still smiling
slightly, for the suggestion that her brother was attracted to the
quiet, oppressed-looking woman with whom she had spent so uncomfortable
a ten minutes some weeks before, seemed really ludicrous--the Duchess
got up with a sudden movement of anger. "Well, you will be able to see
them together to-night, and I think you will change your opinion about
Mrs. Rebell, and also agree with me that James should be off with the
old love before he is on with the new!"

"Albinia"--Miss Berwick's voice altered, there came into it something
shamed and tremulous in quality--"Sir John Umfraville has left us. When
it came to the point--well, I found I couldn't do it."



                              CHAPTER XI.

    "To the fair fields where loves eternal dwell
    There's none that come, but first they fare through Hell."

                                              BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.


It is wonderful how few mistakes are made by those who have the sending
out of invitations to a great country function. The wrong people are
sometimes included, but it rarely happens that the right people are left
out.

Halnakeham Castle was famed for its prodigal hospitality, and on such an
occasion as the coming-of-age ball of the only son, the ducal
invitations had been scattered broadcast, and not restricted, in any
sense, to those for whom the word "dancing" was full of delightful
significance. In Chancton village alone, Miss Vipen could show the
Duchess's card, and so could Doctor McKirdy, while both the Cottage and
the Vicarage had been bidden to bring a party.

This being the case, it was felt by Mrs. Kemp's neighbours to be very
strange and untoward that no invitation had been received at Chancton
Grange, but, as so often happens, those who were supposed to be the most
disturbed were really the least so. General Kemp and his wife were not
disposed to resent what Miss Vipen eagerly informed their daughter was a
subtle affront, and a very short time after the amazing omission became
known, Lucy Kemp received five invitations to join other people's
parties for the ball, and declined them all.

Then came an especially urgent message from Mrs. Boringdon, brought by
Oliver himself. "Of course you will come with us," he said insistently,
"my mother is to have the Priory carriage, and," he added, smiling as if
speaking in jest, "I will tell you one thing quite frankly--if you
refuse to come, I shall stay at home!"

Lucy gave him a quick, rather painful glance. What could he mean by
saying that to her?--but Mrs. Kemp, again dowered with that sixth sense
sent as a warning to those mothers worthy of such aid, asked rather
sharply, "Are you and Mrs. Boringdon then going alone, for Lucy's father
would not wish her in any case to remain up very late?" and Oliver
answered at once, "Oh! no, Mrs. Rebell will, of course, be with us--in
fact, in one sense we are going as her guests. It is she who is so
anxious that Lucy should come too, and you need have no fear as to our
staying late, for we are going especially early in order to be home
before one o'clock." And then, to Mrs. Kemp's surprise, Lucy suddenly
declared that she would come after all, and that it was very kind of
Mrs. Rebell to have asked her.

On the great day, but not till five o'clock, the belated invitation did
at last arrive at the Grange, accompanied by a prettily worded sentence
or two of apology and explanation as to a packet of unposted cards. The
General and Mrs. Kemp, however, saw no reason to change the arrangement
which had been made; more than once Mrs. Boringdon had chaperoned their
daughter to local entertainments, and, most potent reason of all, every
vehicle in the neighbourhood had been bespoken for something like a
fortnight. If Lucy's father and mother wished to grace the ducal ball
with their presence, they would have to drive there in their own
dog-cart, and that neither of them felt inclined to do on a dark and
stormy November night, though there were many to inform them that they
would not in so doing find themselves alone!

                               * * * * *

Lucy Kemp had a strong wish, which she hardly acknowledged to herself,
to see Mrs. Rebell and Oliver Boringdon together. The girl was well
aware that Oliver's manner to her had first changed before the coming of
this stranger to the Priory, but she could not help knowing that he now
saw a great deal of Mrs. Rebell. She knew also that, thanks to that
lady's influence, the young man was now free to see Madame
Sampiero--that hidden mysterious presence who, if invisible, yet so
completely dominated the village life of Chancton.

This, of course, was one reason why he was now so often at the Priory.
Indeed, his mother complained to Lucy that it was so: "I suppose that,
like most afflicted persons, Madame Sampiero is very capricious. As you
know, in old days she would never see Oliver, and now she expects him to
be always dancing attendance on her!"

Lucy implicitly accepted this explanation of the long mornings spent by
her old friend at the Priory; but it may be doubted whether in giving
it, Mrs. Boringdon had been quite honest. On making Mrs. Rebell's
acquaintance, which she had not done till Barbara had been at Chancton
for some little time, the mistress of the Cottage realised that the
Priory now contained within its walls a singularly attractive woman.

The excuse which Boringdon made, first to himself, and then to his
mother, concerning Madame Sampiero's renewed interest in village
affairs, was one of those half-truths more easily believed by those who
utter them than by those to whom they are uttered. During the fortnight
Mrs. Boringdon was away, Oliver spent the greater part of each day in
Mrs. Rebell's company; the after-knowledge of that fact, together with
his avoidance of Lucy Kemp, made his mother vaguely suspicious. She
also, therefore, was not sorry for the opportunity now presented to her
of seeing her son and Mrs. Rebell together, but she would have liked on
this occasion to be with them alone, and not in company with Lucy Kemp.

In this matter, however, her hand was forced. Boringdon, when bringing
his mother's note to the Grange, told the truth, as indeed he always
did; the taking of Lucy to Halnakeham Castle was Mrs. Rebell's own
suggestion, and in making it Barbara honestly believed that she would
give her good friend--for so she now regarded Oliver Boringdon--real
pleasure. Also, she was by no means anxious for a drive spent in the
solitary company of this same good friend and his mother--especially his
mother. In Mrs. Boringdon, Barbara had met with her only disappointment
at Chancton. There had arisen between the two women something very like
antipathy, and more than once Mrs. Rebell had felt retrospectively
grateful to James Berwick for having given her, as he had done the first
evening they had spent together, a word of warning as to the mistress of
the cottage.

                               * * * * *

Certain days, ay and certain hours, are apt to remain vividly marked,
and that without any special reason to make them so, on the tablets of
our memories.

Lucy Kemp always remembered, in this especially vivid sense, not only
the coming-of-age ball of Lord Pendragon, but that drive of little more
than half an hour, spent for the most part in complete silence by the
occupants of the old-fashioned, roomy Priory carriage.

Lucy and Oliver, sitting with their backs to the horses, were in
complete shadow, but the carriage lamps threw a strong, if wavering,
light on Mrs. Boringdon and Barbara Rebell. For the first time the girl
was able to gaze unobserved at the woman who--some instinct told
her--had come, even if unknowingly, between herself and the man she
loved.

Leaning back as far as was possible in the carriage, Barbara had a
constrained and pre-occupied look. She dreaded the festivity before her,
fearing that an accident might bring her across some of her unknown
relations--some of the many men and women who had long ago broken off
all connection with Richard Rebell and his belongings; for these people
Richard Rebell's daughter felt a passion of dislike and distaste.

Barbara also shrank from meeting James Berwick in that world from which
she herself had always lived apart, while belonging to it by birth and
breeding; she found it painful to imagine him set against another
background than that where she had hitherto seen him, and she felt as if
their singular intimacy must suffer, when once the solitude with which
it had become encompassed was destroyed.

That afternoon there had occurred in Mrs. Turke's sitting-room a curious
little scene. Barbara and Berwick had gone in there after lunch, and
Berwick had amused both Mrs. Rebell and his old nurse by telling them
something of the elaborate preparations which were being made at
Halnakeham Castle for the great ball. Suddenly the housekeeper had
suggested, with one of her half-sly, half-jovial looks, that Mrs. Rebell
should, there and then, go and put on her ball-dress--the beautiful gown
which had arrived the day before from Paris, and which had already been
tried on by her in Madame Sampiero's presence.

For a moment, Barbara had not wholly understood what was being required
of her, and Mrs. Turke mistook the reason for her hesitation: "La,
ma'am, you need not be afraid that your shoulders won't bear
daylight--why, they're milky white, and as dimpled as a baby's, Mr.
James!" And then, understanding at last the old woman's preposterous
suggestion, and meeting the sudden flame in Berwick's half-abashed,
wholly pleading eyes, Barbara had felt inexplicably humiliated--stripped
of her feminine dignity. True, Berwick had at once altered his attitude
and had affected to treat Mrs. Turke's notion as a poor joke, quickly
speaking of some matter which he knew would be of absorbing interest to
his old nurse.

But even so Mrs. Rebell, sitting there in the darkness, felt herself
flush painfully as she remembered the old housekeeper's shrewd,
appraising look, and as she again saw Berwick's ardent eyes meeting and
falling before her own shrinking glance.

                               * * * * *

"I don't know that we shall have a really pleasant evening"--Mrs.
Boringdon's gentle, smooth voice struck across the trend of Barbara's
thoughts. "It is certain to be a terrible crush--the Duke and Duchess
seem to have asked everybody. Even Doctor McKirdy is coming! I suppose
he will drive over in solitary state in one of the other Priory
carriages?"

Mrs. Rebell stiffened into attention: "No," she said, rather distantly,
"Doctor McKirdy is going to the Castle with a certain Doctor Robertson
who lives at Halnakeham." Here Oliver interposed--"Robertson is one of
the Halnakeham doctors, and, like McKirdy himself, a bachelor and a
Scotchman; he is, therefore, the only medical man hereabouts whom our
friend honours with his intimate acquaintance."

And then again silence fell upon the group of ill-assorted fellow
travellers.

                               * * * * *

One of the long low rooms on the ground floor of the Castle, a portion
of the kitchens and commons in the old days when Halnakeham was a Saxon
stronghold, was now turned into a cloak-room and dressing-room. There it
was that Lucy and Mrs. Boringdon--animated by very different
feelings--watched, with discreet curiosity, their companion emerging
from the long black cloak which concealed her gown as effectually as if
it had been a domino.

Some eyes, especially when they are gazing at a human being, only obtain
a general agreeable or disagreeable impression, while others have a
natural gift for detail. To Lucy Kemp, the sight of Mrs. Rebell,
standing rather rigidly upright before a long mirror set into the stone
wall, presented a quite unexpected vision of charm and feminine
distinction. But, even after having seen Barbara for a whole evening,
the girl could not have described in detail, as Mrs. Boringdon could
have done after the first quick enveloping glance, the dress which
certainly enhanced and intensified the wearer's rather fragile beauty.
The older and keener eyes at once took note of the white silk skirt,
draped with festoons of lace caught up at intervals with knots of dark
green velvet and twists of black tulle--of the swathed bodice encrusted
with sprays of green gems, from which emerged the white, dimpled
shoulders which had been so much admired by Mrs. Turke, and which
Barbara had inherited from her lovely mother.

Gazing at the figure before her with an appreciation of its singular
charm far more envious than that bestowed on it by Lucy Kemp, Mrs.
Boringdon was speculating as to the emeralds--might they not, after all,
be only fine old paste?--which formed the _leit motif_ of the costume.

"Paris?" Mrs. Boringdon's suave voice uttered the word--the
question--with respect.

Barbara started: "Yes, Peters. My god-mother has gone to him for years.
He once made her a gown very like this, in fact trimmed with this same
lace,"--Mrs. Rebell hesitated--"and of the same general colouring. I am
so glad you like it: I do think it really very pretty!"

And then, suddenly looking up and seeing the vision of herself and her
dress in the mirror, again the memory of that little scene in Mrs.
Turke's sitting-room came over Barbara in a flash of humiliation. Now,
in a moment, she would see Berwick--Berwick would see her, and a vivid
blush covered her face and neck with flaming colour.

"I hope you don't think the bodice is--is--cut oddly off the shoulders?"
she said, rather appealingly.

"Oh! no--quite in the French way, of course, but very becoming to you."
Mrs. Boringdon spoke amiably, but her mind was condemning Madame
Sampiero for lending fine old lace and priceless jewels to one so
situated as was Barbara Rebell. It was such a mistake--such ill-judged
kindness! No wonder the woman before her had reddened when admitting, as
she had just tacitly done, that the splendid gems encrusted on her
bodice were only borrowed plumes.

"You will have to be careful when dancing," she said, rather coldly, "or
some of those beautiful stones may become loosened and drop out of their
setting."

Barbara looked at her and answered quickly--"I do not mean to dance
to-night,"--but she felt the touch of critical enmity in the older
woman's voice, and it added to her depression. Instinctively she turned
for a word of comfort to Lucy Kemp.

In her white tulle skirt and plain satin bodice, the girl looked very
fresh and pretty: she was smiling--the very sight of the lovely frock
before her had given her a joyous thrill of anticipation. Lucy had never
been to a great ball, and she was beginning to look forward to the
experience. "Oh! but you must dance to-night, mother says that at such a
ball as this everybody dances!" The other shook her head, but it pleased
her to think that she had been instrumental in bringing this pretty,
kind young creature to a place which, whatever it had in store for
her--Barbara--could only give Lucy unclouded delight.

                               * * * * *

Walking with stately steps up the great staircase of Halnakeham Castle,
Mrs. Boringdon became at once conscious that her party had arrived most
unfashionably early, and she felt annoyed with Mrs. Rebell for having
brought about so regrettable a _contretemps_. While apparently gazing
straight before her, she noticed that her present fellow-guests were in
no sense representative of the county; they evidently consisted of folk,
who, like Barbara, had known no better, and had taken the ducal
invitation as literally meaning that the Duchess expected her guests to
arrive at half-past nine!

Mrs. Boringdon accordingly made her progress as slow as she could, while
Lucy, just behind her, looked about and enjoyed the animated scene. The
girl felt happier than she had done for a long time; Oliver's manner had
again become full of affectionate intimacy, and she had experienced an
instinctive sense of relief in witnessing Mrs. Rebell's manner to him. A
woman, even one so young as Lucy Kemp, does not mistake a rival's manner
to the man she loves.

At last, thanks to a little manoeuvre on the part of the older lady, she
and Lucy, with, of course, her son, became separated from Mrs. Rebell.
Barbara was soon well in front, speeding up the staircase with the light
sliding gait Oliver so much admired, and forming part of, though in no
sense merged in, the stream of rather awe-struck folk about her.

The kindly Duchess, standing a little in front of a brilliant, smiling
group of men and women, stood receiving her guests on the landing which
formed a vestibule to the long gallery leading to the ball-room. There
came a moment when Barbara Rebell--so Boringdon felt--passed out of the
orbit of those with whom she had just had the silent drive, and became
absorbed into that stationary little island of people at the top of the
staircase. More, as he and his mother shook hands with the Duchess, he
saw that the woman who now filled his heart and mind to the exclusion of
almost everything else, was standing rather in the background, between
James Berwick and an old gentleman whom he, Oliver Boringdon, had long
known and always disliked, a certain Septimus Daman who knew everyone
and was asked everywhere.

Down on Mr. Daman--for he was very short and stout--Mrs. Rebell was now
gazing with her whole soul in her eyes; and to-night old Septimus found
that his one-time friendship with poor forgotten Richard Rebell
conferred the pleasant privilege of soft looks and kindly words from one
of the most attractive women present. To do him justice, virtue was in
this case rewarded, for Septimus Daman had ever been one of the few who
had remained actively faithful to the Rebells in their sad disgrace, and
when Barbara was a little girl he had brought her many a pretty toy on
his frequent visits to his friends in their exile.

But of all this Boringdon could know nothing, and, like most men, he
felt unreasonably annoyed when the woman whom he found so charming
charmed others beside himself. That Mrs. Rebell should exert her powers
of pleasing on Madame Sampiero and on old Doctor McKirdy had seemed
reasonable enough,--especially when she had done so on his behalf,--but
here, at Halnakeham Castle, he could have wished her to be, as Lucy
evidently was, rather over-awed by the occasion, and content to remain
under his mother's wing. In his heart, he even found fault with
Barbara's magnificent dress. It looked different, so he told himself,
from those worn by the other women present: and as he walked down the
long gallery--every step taking him, as he was acutely conscious it did,
further away from her in whom he now found something to condemn--his
eyes rested on Lucy's simple frock with gloomy approval.

"Mrs. Rebell's gown?" he said with a start, "no, I can't agree with
you--Frankly, I don't like it! Oh! yes, it may have come from Paris, and
I dare say it's very elaborate, but I never like anything that makes a
lady look conspicuous!"

So, out of the soreness of his heart, Oliver instructed Lucy as to the
whole duty of woman.

                               * * * * *

To the Duchess, this especial group of guests was full of interest,
and--if only Mrs. Boringdon had known it--she felt quite grateful to
them all for coming so early! On becoming aware of Mrs. Rebell's
approach, she was woman enough to feel a moment's keen regret that
Arabella Berwick was not there to see the person whom she had called
_gauche_ and insignificant, coming up the red-carpeted staircase. Even
the Duke had been impressed and interested, but rather cross with
himself for not knowing who it was, for he prided himself on knowing
everybody in the neighbourhood.

"Who's this coming up alone?" he asked, touching his wife's elbow.

"Poor Richard Rebell's daughter--I told you all about her the other day.
Barbara Sampiero seems to be going to adopt her; don't you see she's
wearing the Rebell emeralds? Remember that you saw and spoke to her at
Whiteways!"

"Bless me, so I did to be sure! She looked uncommonly well then, but
nothing to what she does now, eh?"

And so it was that Barbara successfully ran the gauntlet of both kind
and indifferent eyes, and finally found herself absorbed into the group
of people standing behind her host and hostess.

Then the Duchess passed on to Mrs. Boringdon and her son, treating them
with peculiar graciousness simply because for the moment she could not
remember who they were or anything about them! She felt sure she had
seen this tall dark man before--probably in London. He looked rather
cross and very stiff. A civil word was said to Lucy and an apology
tendered for the mistake made about the invitation. "Let me see," the
speaker was thinking, "this pretty little girl is to marry Squire
Laxton's soldier cousin, isn't she? Pen must be told to dance with her."

                               * * * * *

An hour later; not eleven o'clock, and yet, to the Duchess's infinite
relief, every guest--with the important exception of the Fletchings
party--had arrived. She was now free to rest her tired right hand, and
to look after the pleasure of those among her guests who might feel shy
or forlorn. But, as the kind hostess filled up one of the narrow side
doors into the ball-room, she saw that everything seemed to be going
well. Even Louise Marshall, to whom the Duchess had spoken very
seriously just before dinner, appeared on the whole to be leaving James
Berwick alone, and to have regained something of her power of judicious
flirtation. She looked very lovely; it was pleasant to have something so
decorative, even if so foolish, about! Too bad of Lord Bosworth to be so
late, but then he was privileged, and a cordon of intelligent heralds
had been established to announce his approach; once the Fletchings
carriages drew up at the great doors, the Duchess would again take up
her stand at the top of the staircase.

Lucy Kemp was thoroughly enjoying herself. Had she cared to do so she
could have danced every dance twice over--in fact, she would willingly
have spared some of the attention she received from the young men of the
neighbourhood, the sons of the local squires and clergy, who all liked
her, and were glad to dance with her.

Oliver seemed to have gone back to his old self. He and Lucy--though
standing close to Mrs. Boringdon and an old lady with whom she had
settled down for a long talk--were practically alone. Both felt as if
they were meeting for the first time after a long accidental absence,
and so had much to say to one another. Mrs. Rebell's name was not once
mentioned,--why indeed should it have been? so Lucy asked herself when,
later, during the days that followed, she went over every word of that
long, intermittent conversation. Their talk was all about Oliver's own
affairs--especially they discussed in all its bearings that important
by-election which was surely coming on.

Then something occurred which completed, and, as it were, rounded off
Lucy's joy and contentment. James Berwick made his way across the vast
room, now full of spinning couples, to the recess where they were both
standing, and at once began talking earnestly to Oliver, tacitly
including the girl by his side in the conversation. At the end of the
eager, intimate discussion, he turned abruptly to Lucy and asked her to
dance with him, and she, flushing with pleasure, perceived that
Boringdon was greatly pleased and rather surprised by his friend's
action. As for herself, she felt far more flattered than when the same
civility--for so Lucy, in her humility, considered it--had been paid her
earlier in the evening by the hero of the day, shy Lord Pendragon
himself. That Berwick could not dance at all well made the compliment
all the greater!

                               * * * * *

And Barbara Rebell? Barbara was not enjoying herself at all. It has
become a truism to say that solitude in a crowd is the most trying of
all ordeals. In one sense, Mrs. Rebell was not left a moment solitary,
for both the Duke and the Duchess took especial pains to introduce her
to those notabilities of the neighbourhood whom they knew Madame
Sampiero was so eager, so pathetically anxious, that her god-daughter
should know and impress favourably. But, as the evening went on, she
felt more and more that she had no real link with these happy people
about her. Even when listening, with moved heart, to old Mr. Daman's
reminiscences of those far-off days at St. Germains, when his coming had
meant a delightful holiday for the lonely little English girl to whom he
was so kind, she felt curiously, nay horribly, alone.

With a feeling of bewildered pain, she gradually became aware that James
Berwick, without appearing to do so, avoided finding himself in her
company. She saw him talking eagerly, first to this woman, and then to
that; at one moment bending over the armchair of an important dowager,
and then dancing--yes, actually dancing--with Lucy Kemp. She also could
not help observing that he was very often in the neighbourhood of the
woman who, Barbara acknowledged to herself, was the beauty of the ball,
a certain Mrs. Marshall, whose radiant fairness was enhanced by a black
tulle and jet gown, and who was--so Mr. Daman informed her with a
chuckle--but a newly-made widow. And in truth something seemed to hold
Berwick, as if by magic, to the floor of the ball-room. He did not
wander off, as did everybody else, either alone or in company, to any of
the pretty side-rooms which had been arranged for sitting out, or into
the long, book-lined gallery; and yet Mrs. Rebell had now and again
caught his glance fixed on her, his eyes studiously emptied of
expression. To avoid that strange alien gaze, she had retreated more
than once into the gallery, but the ball-room seemed to draw her also,
or else her companions--the shadow-like men and women who seemed to be
brought up to her in an endless procession, and to whom she heard
herself saying she hardly knew what--were in a conspiracy to force her
back to where she could not help seeing Berwick.

Oh! how ardently Barbara wished that the evening would draw to a close.
It was good to remember that Mrs. Boringdon and Lucy had both expressed
a strong desire to leave early. Soon her martyrdom, for so in truth it
was, would cease, and so also, with this experience--this sudden light
thrown down into the depths of her own heart--would cease her intimacy
with James Berwick.

The anguish she felt herself enduring frightened her. What right had
this man, who was after all but a friend and a friend of short standing,
to make her feel this intolerable pain, and, what was to such a nature
as hers more bitter, such humiliation? There assailed her that instinct
of self-preservation which makes itself felt in certain natures, even in
the rarefied atmosphere of exalted passion. She must, after to-night,
save herself from the possible repetition of such feelings as those
which now possessed her. She told herself that those past afternoons and
evenings of close, often wordless, communion and intimacy yet gave her
no lien on James Berwick's heart, no right even to his attention.

Sitting there, with Mr. Daman babbling in her ear, mocking ghosts, evil
memories, crowded round poor Barbara. She remembered the first time--the
only time that really mattered--when she had been told, she herself
would never have suspected or discovered it, of Pedro Rebell's
infidelity, of his connection with one of their own coloured people, and
the passion of outraged pride and disgust which had possessed her,
wedded to a sense of awful loneliness. Even to herself it seemed amazing
that she should be suffering now much as she had suffered during that
short West Indian night five years ago. Nay, she was now suffering more,
for then there had not been added to her other miseries that feeling of
soreness and sense of personal loss.

                               * * * * *

"Are you enjoying yourself, Doctor McKirdy?" His hostess was smiling
into the old Scotchman's face. She had seen with what troubled interest
his eyes followed Mrs. Rebell and James Berwick--the Duchess would have
given much to have been able to ask the doctor what he really thought
about--well, about many things,--but her courage failed her. As he
hesitated she bent forward and whispered, "Don't say that it's a
splendid sight; you and I know what it is--a perfect _clanjamfray_!
Confess that it is!" and as Doctor McKirdy's ugly face became filled
with the spirit of laughter, the Duchess added, "You see I didn't have a
Scotch mother for nothing!"

And Mrs. Boringdon, watching the little colloquy with a good deal of
wonderment, marvelled that her Grace could demean herself to laugh and
joke with such an insufferable nobody as she considered Doctor McKirdy
to be!



                              CHAPTER XII.

    "Que vous me coûtez cher, ô mon coeur, pour vos plaisirs!"

                                                     COMTESSE DIANE.


"Will you please introduce me to the lady with whom Mr. Daman has been
talking all the evening? I have something I very much want to ask her,
and I don't wish to say it before that horrid old man, so will you take
him aside while I speak to her?"

Louise Marshall was standing before James Berwick. She looked beautiful,
animated, good-humoured as he had not seen her look for a very long
time, and the plaintive, rather sulky tone in which she had lately
always addressed him was gone. There are women on whom the presence of a
crowd, the atmosphere of violent admiration, have an extraordinary tonic
effect. To-night, for the first time since she had become a widow, Mrs.
Marshall felt that life, even without James Berwick, might conceivably
be worth living; but unfortunately for himself, the man to whom she had
just addressed what he felt to be so disquieting a request, did not
divine her thoughts. Instead, suspicions--each one more hateful than the
other--darted through his mind, and so, for only answer to her words he
looked at her uncertainly, saying at last, "You mean Mrs. Rebell?"

She bent her head; they were standing close to the band, and it was
difficult to hear, but he realized that she had some purpose in her
mind, and there shone the same eager good-tempered smile on the face
which others thought so lovely.

"Very well," he said, "I will take you across to her," and slowly they
skirted the walls of the great room, now filled with movement, music,
and colour.

                               * * * * *

Up to the last moment, Berwick had seriously thought of escaping the
ordeal of this evening. The mere presence of Louise Marshall in his
neighbourhood induced in him a sense of repulsion and of self-reproach
with which he hardly knew how to cope in his present state of body and
mind. And now had come the last day. Escape was in sight; not with his
good will would he ever again find himself under the same roof with
her--indeed, in any case he was actually going back to Chillingworth
that very night. Wisdom had counselled him to avoid the ball, but the
knowledge that Mrs. Rebell would be there had made him throw wisdom to
the winds. Why spend hours in solitude at Chillingworth while he might
be looking at Barbara--talking to Barbara--listening to Barbara?

But when it came to the point Berwick found that he had over-estimated
the robustness of his own conscience. From the moment he had seen Mrs.
Rebell coming up the broad staircase of Halnakeham Castle, he had
realised his folly in not following the first and wisest of his
instincts. Although the two women were entirely different in colouring,
in general expression, indeed in everything except in age, there seemed
to-night, at least to his unhappy, memory-haunted eyes, something about
Barbara which recalled Mrs. Marshall, while in Mrs. Marshall there
seemed, now and again, something of Barbara. So strong was this
impression that at last the resemblance became to Berwick an acute
obsession--in each woman he saw the other, and as the evening went on,
he avoided as far as possible the company of both.

Now it had become his hateful business to serve as a link between them.

                               * * * * *

For a moment Mrs. Marshall looked at Barbara, then smilingly shook her
head. "A string band would have been so much nicer, don't you think so,
but the Duke believes in encouraging local talent. I wonder if you would
mind coming out here for a moment--it is so much quieter in there--and I
want to ask you to do me such a favour!"

Even as she spoke, she led the way from the ball-room into one of the
book-lined embrasures of the long, now almost deserted, gallery, and
Barbara, wondering, followed her.

Louise Marshall put on her prettiest manner. "I do hope you won't think
me rude," she said, "but I am so very anxious to know if your beautiful
gown came from Adolphe Peters? I do not know if you have noticed it, but
of course I saw it at once,--there's a certain family likeness between
my frock and yours! They say, you know, that Peters can only think out
one really good original design every season--but then, when he has
thought it out, how good it is!"

Mrs. Marshall spoke with a kind of sacred enthusiasm. To her, dress had
always been, everything considered, the greatest and most absorbing
interest of life.

After having received the word of assent she sought, she hurried on, "Of
course, I felt quite sure of it! It is easy to see that he has followed
out the same general idea--la ligne, as he calls it--in my frock as in
yours. Several times this evening, I couldn't help thinking how awful it
would have been if our two gowns had been exactly alike! I am probably
going to India very soon"--Mrs. Marshall lowered her voice, for she had
no wish that Berwick, who was standing a few paces off, his miserable
eyes fixed on the two women while he talked to Septimus Daman, should
thus learn the great news,--"but I shall be in Paris for a few days, and
I have been wondering if you would mind my asking Peters to make me a
gown exactly like yours, only of grey silk instead of white, and with
mauve velvet bows and white tulle instead of green and black--that
mauve," she added eagerly, "which is almost pale blue, while yet quite
mourning! Well, would you mind my telling him that I have seen your
dress?"

"No, of course not," said Barbara with some wonderment. "But I think
that you should say that the gown in question was that made to the order
of Madame Sampiero; he won't remember my name."

"Thanks so much! Madame Sampiero? Oh! yes, I know--I quite understand.
Are you a niece of hers? Oh! only a god-daughter, that's a comfort, for
then you need never be afraid of becoming like her,"--a look of very
real fear came over the lovely, mindless face,--"I've often heard about
her, and the awful state she's in! Isn't it a frightful thing? Do you
think people are punished for the wicked things they do,--I mean, of
course, in this life?"

Barbara stared at her, this time both amazed and angered. "Yes," she
said, slowly, "I am afraid one cannot live long in this world and not
believe that, but--but----"

Mrs. Marshall, however, gave her no time to speak, and indeed Barbara
would have found it difficult to put into words what she wished to
convey concerning the courage, aye, the essential nobility, of the poor
paralysed woman whom she had come to love so dearly.

"I wish you had been staying here during the last few days, I'm sure we
should have become great friends." The speaker took a last long
considering look at Barbara's bodice. "Your black tulle is dodged in and
out so cleverly," she said, with a touch of regret, "mine is not twisted
half so well, it looks more lumpy"--without any change of tone she
added, "Since you are Madame Sampiero's god-daughter, I suppose you have
known James Berwick quite a long time, as he is Lord Bosworth's nephew."

"But I have never seen, and do not know, Lord Bosworth," Barbara spoke
rather stiffly.

"How very strange! But you know he is expected here to-night. He's a
dear, splendid old thing, always particularly nice to _me_. But there he
is!--there they all are--the whole Fletchings party,--coming in now!"

Barbara turned eagerly round. She was intensely desirous of seeing Lord
Bosworth, and she fixed her eyes, with ardent curiosity, on the group of
figures slowly advancing down the gallery.

Slightly in front of the others came the Duchess, and by her side paced
a tall, large-framed man; now he was bending towards his companion,
listening to what she was telling him with amused interest. The Duke and
Arabella Berwick walked just behind them, and some half-dozen men and
women ended the little cortége.

Men wear Court dress with a difference. To Lord Bosworth, the velvet
coat, the knee-breeches, and silk stockings, lent an almost majestic
dignity of deportment. The short stout Duke, trotting just behind him,
looked insignificant, over-shadowed by the larger figure--indeed, even
the Garter gracing the ducal leg seemed of no account when seen in
contrast with the red riband of the Bath crossing Lord Bosworth's
stalwart chest.

As the procession came nearer, Barbara saw that the man in whom she took
so great an interest still looked full of the pride of life, and just
now his large powerful face was lighted up by a broad smile. His curling
grey hair had receded, leaving a large expanse of broad forehead, and
the shaggy eyebrows, which were darker than his hair, overhung two
singularly shrewd grey eyes. Thanks to the many months of each year now
spent by him in the country--thanks also to the excellent care taken of
him by his niece--Lord Bosworth's face was ruddy with the glow so easily
mistaken for that of health. Of the many who looked on him that night,
marvelling at the old statesman's air of robust power, and inclined
perhaps to criticise his long retirement from public affairs--for he had
been one of the most successful, and therefore one of the most popular,
Foreign Ministers of his generation--only two people--that is he himself
and a certain famous doctor who had come to the ball as member of a
house-party--were aware that Lord Bosworth would in all probability
never see old age, in the sense that many of his Parliamentary
contemporaries and former colleagues might hope to do.

And now, as Barbara Rebell saw him walking down the gallery, talking
with mellow sonorous utterances, and now and again laughing heartily at
the remarks of the Duchess, there swept over her a sudden rush of revolt
and indignation. She contrasted the fine, vigorous figure, advancing
towards her, with that of the paralysed woman, whom she had left
to-night lying stretched out in that awful immobility; and she recalled
Madame Sampiero's last muttered words to herself--"I think you will see
Lord Bosworth to-night. I should like you to have word with him--you
will tell me how he looks--how he seems----"

As the Duchess and her honoured guest drew close to the embrasure where
Barbara and Mrs. Marshall were standing, Lord Bosworth's acute
eyes--those eyes which had been early trained to allow nothing of
interest, still less nothing of an agreeable nature, to escape
them--became focussed on the charming group formed by the two women, the
one as dark as the other was fair, who stood together against the soft
deep background made by the backs of the Halnakeham Elzevirs.

Lord Bosworth bent his head, and asked the Duchess a question--then in a
moment the whole expression of the powerful, still handsome face
altered, the smile faded from his lips, and a look of extreme gravity,
almost of suffering, came over the firm mouth and square chin. The
Duchess stayed her steps, and Barbara heard distinctly the
eager--"Certainly, I shall be delighted! I have been most anxious to
meet her. Yes--once, when she was a child, long ago, in France."

A moment later the formal group had broken up; Barbara's name was
uttered, she felt her right hand taken in a strong grasp, and
unceremoniously Lord Bosworth turned away with her. Still holding her
hand, he led her aside and, looking down at her with a moved expression
on his face, "I have been wishing much to see you," he said, "but, as
you perhaps may know, I am not allowed to come to Chancton. I was
attached, most truly so, to both your parents." He hesitated, and added
in a lower tone, "Barbara,--that is your name, is it not?--to me the
most beautiful, the noblest of women's names!"

Meanwhile, much by-play was going on around them, but of it all Mrs.
Rebell was quite unconscious. Even Berwick was for the moment forgotten,
and she did not see Arabella's mingled look of quick interest and slowly
gathering surprise as Miss Berwick realised with whom her uncle had
turned aside.

Still less was Barbara aware that the Duchess was speaking rather
urgently to Mrs. Marshall. "There is no one in my sitting-room," she was
saying, "and you will never have such a good opportunity again to-night.
Do take him there now! I am sure, Louise, you will be acting wisely as
well as rightly, but do not be too long, for everyone wants to see
you,--even in the last few moments several people have come up and asked
who you were, and wanted to be introduced to you. I have never seen you
looking better than you look to-night." There was a commanding as well
as a caressing quality in the kind voice.

Then the Duchess looked round, and in answer to her glance, Berwick, ill
at ease and looking haggard, came forward. He also had been watching his
uncle and Mrs. Rebell, wondering what they could have to say to one
another that seemed to move Barbara so much; but he was not given much
time for that or any other thought. Timidly, with more grace of manner
than she usually showed, Louise Marshall turned towards him. "The
Duchess," she said, nervously, "wants us to go into her sitting-room--I
have something to say to you there."

For a moment, the man addressed looked round, as if seeking a way of
escape: then he realised that the moment he had so dreaded, and which he
had up to the present instant so successfully evaded, had come, and must
be both faced and endured. A feeling of rage came over him--a
self-scourging for his own exceeding folly in being here to-night. But
without making any answer, he followed her down the gallery, only
Arabella Berwick and the Duchess having overheard Mrs. Marshall's words,
and witnessed their result.

                               * * * * *

In matters of feeling and emotion, as in everything else, it is the
unexpected which generally happens. When at last James Berwick found
himself alone with Mrs. Marshall in the small, dimly-lighted room which
had but a few hours before seen the interview between the Duchess and
his sister, his companion's words--even her action, or lack of
action--took him entirely by surprise. He had expected, and was ashamed
for so expecting, that the woman who had compelled him to follow her to
this solitary place, would turn and fling herself into his arms with a
cry of "Jimmy!"--the name which she herself had invented for him, and
which he had always thought grotesque--on her lips.

While walking quickly down the long corridors which led from the more
modern side of the Castle to this older portion, he had strung himself
up to meet any affectionate demonstration with good-humour and
philosophy, for, whatever else was not sure, this he was determined
should be the last meeting between them, even if he had to give up half
his friends and all his acquaintances in consequence.

But Mrs. Marshall's behaviour was quite different from that which he had
expected. After he had shut the door of the boudoir, she walked away
from him, and sitting down began to play with the fringe of a table
cover, while he stood moodily staring down at her.

"Must you stand?" she asked at last, in the plaintive tone which he so
much disliked.

"Oh! no, not if you wish me to sit down," and he sat down, fiercely
waiting till it should be her pleasure to begin.

How could he have allowed himself to be so entrapped? He had heard it
asserted that women never stood by one another--well, in that case the
Duchess was an exception! He ground his teeth with anger at the thought
of the trick which had been played him. But stay--now, at last, Mrs.
Marshall was speaking--

"Albinia has been talking to me. She has been telling me things which I
did not really know before,--I mean about your position, and how
important it is to you that you should remain free. You remember our
talk last year?"

Berwick bent his head, but into his strained face there came no sign of
the inward wincing which her words brought with them. Still, he began
unconsciously to revise his opinion of the Duchess; she had meant well
by him after all, but he wished she had kept out of his affairs, and
left him to manage them himself--

Mrs. Marshall was again speaking: "I could not understand what you meant
by what you said then, it seemed so unkind! But now, of course, I
realise that you were right--in fact I've brought you here to-night to
tell you that I do understand."

There was a long pause. Berwick was at an utter loss for words, and
every moment he expected the woman before him to make some more direct
allusion to the condition under which he held his fortune. He felt a
kind of helpless rage to think of his affairs being thus discussed, even
by one so good-natured and well-meaning as had evidently been, in this
matter, the Duchess of Appleby and Kendal. But what did all this
preamble signify?

"I am glad you do understand," he said at last in a hoarse voice which
he scarcely recognised as his own. "I know I must have seemed a great
brute."

"If you had only trusted me more," she said plaintively. "Of course I
should have understood at once! I should have known that what I could
offer was not enough--that there was no comparison----"

Berwick made a sudden movement. Was it really necessary that he should
listen to this? Was it part of his punishment that he should endure such
unforgettable abasement? But, alas for him! Louise Marshall was in a
sense enjoying both the scene and the situation. While she was speaking,
there came into the still air of the room the sound of distant melody,
and she felt as if she were looking on at a touching last act in some
sentimental play. Also there was, after all, something uplifting in the
sensation--to her a novel one--of doing a noble action, for so had the
Duchess, with innocent cunning, represented her renunciation of James
Berwick.

This frivolous, egoistical woman, ever guided by her instincts, never by
her heart or conscience, thoroughly understood, as many shrewd and
clever women fail to do, the value of money. From the plane whence Mrs.
Marshall took her survey of life, the gratification of that instinct
which she called love had always been a luxury, and the possession of
wealth with which to gratify all other instincts an absolute necessity
of existence. The contempt which most women, even those themselves
ignoble, naturally feel for a man whom they suspect of putting material
possessions before the deepest feelings of the heart, would to her have
savoured of gross hypocrisy.

The Duchess--clever woman as she was, and dealing, in this case, with
one whose intellect she despised--would have been surprised indeed had
she known that what had really impressed and influenced Louise Marshall
during their painful talk that day, had been the short statement, thrown
in as an after-thought, of Berwick's financial position and of what he
would lose if he married again. That, so Mrs. Marshall at once told
herself, made all the difference. To her mind it absolutely justified
James Berwick in rejecting the offer practically made by her within a
few weeks of her husband's death, for what were her few thousands a year
compared to the huge income which he would lose on a second marriage?
She was, however, inclined to consider that he had shown false delicacy
in not at once telling her the circumstances of the case. Then, at any
rate, they might have sorrowed together over the inscrutable dictates of
Providence. But instead of taking that sincere and manly course,
Berwick, during that interview which even she shrank from recalling, had
actually implied that his distaste to her was personal, his horror of
marriage a singular idiosyncracy! Now it behoved her to beat a dignified
retreat. And so, "As things are----"

Berwick began to realise that the woman before him had prepared what she
wished to say, nay more, that she had probably rehearsed the present
scene--

"As things are, Jimmy, I think it will be best for us to part, and so I
have made up my mind to go to India with the Thorntons." She hurried
over the words, honestly afraid of provoking in herself emotion of a
disfiguring nature, for the thought of her unselfishness naturally
brought the tears to her eyes. "That's all," she said in abrupt
conclusion, "and now I think we had better go back to the ball-room."

She gave Berwick a quick, furtive look, and suddenly felt sorry for him.
How he must have cared after all! For, as he stood opening the door for
her to pass through, his face had turned ashen, and his blue eyes were
sunken. So might a man look who, suddenly relieved of an intolerable
weight, is, for a moment, afraid to move or to speak, lest the burden
should again descend upon his shrinking shoulders.

                               * * * * *

When once more in the ball-room, Berwick made
his way straight to his sister. Even before he stood by her, the
expression on his face had aroused her quick anxious attention. But
Arabella had learnt to spare her brother feminine comment.

"Have you yet spoken to Mrs. Boringdon?" he asked her, rather sharply.

"No, I have not even seen her; do you wish me to speak to her? I think
she must know many of the people here. Where is she?"

"Over there, sitting with that old lady. I should be glad if you would
tell her that we--that is, that you--are going to drive Mrs. Rebell back
to Chancton to-night. The Boringdons have to leave early, and it would
of course be absurd for Mrs. Rebell to go away just when you have
arrived, and when the Duke has arranged for her to sit at supper next to
Monsieur Parisot."

Now Monsieur Parisot was the French Ambassador.

"Of course, if you really wish it, it can be managed." Miss Berwick
spoke hesitatingly; in these little matters she did not like to have her
hand forced. "But, James, it will not be very convenient." And she
looked at her brother with puzzled eyes.

Was it possible, after all, that Albinia had been right and she wrong?
If so, why that obedient following of Louise Marshall out of the gallery
half an hour before, and why this strange look on his face now? Miss
Berwick had just spoken to Barbara Rebell, but her eyes were still
holden; indeed, her feeling as to Madame Sampiero's god-daughter, or
rather as to her beautiful gown and superb jewels, had not been unlike
that of Mrs. Boringdon, and would have translated itself into the homely
phrase, "Fine feathers make fine birds." Arabella did not credit, for
one moment, the Duchess's belief that the mistress of Chancton Priory
intended to make the daughter of Richard Rebell her heiress. Miss
Berwick had persuaded herself that Chancton would pass in due course
into her brother's possession, and she knew that there had been some
such proposal years before, in the heyday of Lord Bosworth's intimacy
with Madame Sampiero. This being so, it surely seemed a pity that Mrs.
Rebell should now be treated in a way that might ultimately cause
disappointment.

"I do wish it, and it will be quite convenient!" Berwick's tone was very
imperious. "I myself am going back to Chillingworth to-night. I offered
long ago to leave here to-day, for they have every attic full. I have of
course arranged for an extra carriage, so you will be put to no
inconvenience,"--but his bright blue eyes, now full of strange fire,
fell before his sister's challenging glance, and the altered accent with
which she observed, "Oh! of course if you and Mrs. Rebell have arranged
to go back together----"

Berwick's hand closed on his sister's arm and held it for a moment in a
tight, to her a painful, grip.

"You have no right to say, or even to think, such a thing! The
arrangement, such as it is, was made by me, Mrs. Rebell knows nothing of
it; she is quite willing, and even eager, to go back now with the
Boringdons. The other proposal must come from you----" he hesitated,
then, more quietly, muttered, "I don't often ask you to oblige me."

Arabella gave in at once, but with a strange mingling of
feelings,--relief that she had been wrong as to Louise Marshall's
hold on her brother; a certain pique that in this matter the Duchess
had understood James better than she had herself; and, above all,
there was a sensation of bewildered surprise that such a man as
Berwick, one so intelligent, so eagerly absorbed in public affairs,
should require this--this--Arabella did not know how to qualify, how
to describe, even to herself, her brother's passion for romance, his
craving for sentimental adventure. Well, if it was so, better far
that he should find what he sought, that he should follow his
will-of-the-wisp in their own neighbourhood, and, for the moment,
with so colourless--so the sister seeking for another word, could
only find that of respectable--yes, so respectable a woman as was this
Mrs. Rebell!

Miss Berwick, on her way to Mrs. Boringdon, allowed her eyes to sweep
over the great ball-room. Barbara was standing talking to Mr. O'Flaherty
whom Lord Bosworth had just introduced to her. "She certainly looks
intelligent," said Arabella to herself, "and quite, yes quite, a lady.
Perhaps my first impression of her was wrong after all. But how foolish,
how wrong of poor Barbara Sampiero to let her wear those emeralds!" Yet
perhaps the jewels played their part in modifying her view of Barbara
Rebell. The wearing of fine gems is a great test of a woman's
refinement.

Then Miss Berwick's gaze softened as it became fixed on Barbara's
companion. Thank Heaven, all men were not like James, or all women like
Louise Marshall. Daniel O'Flaherty had the steadfast, pre-occupied look
which soon becomes the mark of those men who are architects of their own
fortunes; such men can find time for a great passion, but none for what
the French happily describe as _passionettes_. As for Barbara Rebell,
there was a look of pride and reserve as well as of intelligence in her
dark eyes and pale face. "If James likes to flirt with her, and
Dan,"--her thought lingered over the homely name,--"likes to talk to
her, we must see about having her to Fletchings!"



                             CHAPTER XIII.

    "Friendship, I fancy, means one heart between two."

                                                    GEORGE MEREDITH.
    "I will hold your hand so long as all may,
    Or so very little longer."

                                                    ROBERT BROWNING.


Barbara Rebell, wrapped in her black domino-like cloak, bent forward and
looked out of the carriage window.

There was something fantastic, magnificent, almost unreal in the scene
she saw. The brougham in which she sat by Berwick's side was gliding
quietly and smoothly between pillars of fire. The glare lighted up the
grey castle walls, and gave added depth to the forked shadows lying
across the roadway. Already the loud shouts, the sound of wheels and
trampling horses filling the courtyard, lay far behind. In a few moments
they would be under the tower, through the iron gates, now opened wide
to speed the parting guests, and driving down the steep streets of
sleeping Halnakeham town--so into the still darkness of the country
lanes.

Suddenly, to the left of the Gate Tower under which they were about to
pass, there quickened into brightness a bengal light, making vividly
green the stretch of grass, and lending spurious life to the fearsome
dragons and stately peacocks which were the pride of the Halnakeham
topiarist.

Barbara clasped her hands in almost childish pleasure.

"Oh! how beautiful!"--she turned, sure of sympathy, to the silent man by
her side, and then reddened as she met his amused smile, and yet it was
a very kind and even tender smile, for he also felt absurdly
light-hearted and content.

Till the last moment, Berwick had trembled lest his scheme should
miscarry. Well, Providence, recognising his excellent intentions, and
realising how good an influence such a woman as Mrs. Rebell could not
but exercise on such a man as himself, had been kind. He felt as
exultant as does a schoolboy who has secured a longed-for treat, and it
was a boy's expression which rose to his mind concerning his
sister--"Arabella behaved like a brick!"

Looking back, he could still see the group of people standing in the
square entrance hall of the castle, himself gradually marshalling
Arabella's guests into the Fletchings omnibus and the Fletchings
carriage. Again he felt the thrill with which at last he had heard his
sister's clear voice say the words, "Now, Mrs. Rebell, will you please
get in there, and kindly drop my brother at Chillingworth on your way
back to Chancton?"

The whole thing had been over in a moment. He himself had placed
Barbara, bewildered but submissive, in the little brougham which he had
bought that last spring in Paris, and which was supposed to be the
_dernier cri_ in coachbuilding luxury; and then, taking the place beside
her, had found himself at last alone with her.

The old Adam in Berwick also rejoiced in having, very literally, stolen
a march on Madame Sampiero and Doctor McKirdy. These two good people had
gone to some trouble to prevent his being with Mrs. Rebell on the way to
the ball, but in the matter of her return they had proved powerless. And
yet, now that he came to think of it, what right had they to interfere?
Who could be more delicately careful of Barbara than he would ever
be?--so Berwick, sitting there, feeling her dear nearness in each fibre
of his being, asked himself with indignation. He had made every
arrangement to prevent even the most harmless village gossip. Fools all
of them, and evil-minded, not to divine the respect, the high honour in
which he held the woman now by his side! But he meant to be with her
every moment that was possible, and 'ware those who tried to thwart this
wholly honourable intention!

Thinking these thoughts, and for the moment well satisfied, he turned
his head and looked at Barbara Rebell. Her lips were smiling, and she
looked absorbed in some happy vision. The long night had left no trace
of fatigue on her flushed face and shining eyes. Berwick, with a pang of
mingled pain and pleasure, realised how much younger she was than
himself.

"You must be tired. Would you like to go to sleep?" his voice shook with
tenderness, but he put a strong restraint on himself. He was bound by
every code of honour to treat her to-night as he would have done any
stranger confided by his sister to his care.

Barbara started slightly, and shook her head. She had been living again
the last three hours of the ball. How delightful and how unexpected it
had all been! She had enjoyed intensely her long talk with the French
Ambassador. He also had spent his childhood, and part of his youth at
St. Germains, the stately forest town where the brighter days of her
parents' exile had been passed. It is well sometimes to meet with one
who can say, "I too have been in Arcadia." Even Monsieur Parisot's
little compliments on her good French had reminded Barbara of the sweet
hypocrisies which make life in France so agreeable to the humble-minded,
and especially to the very young.

Lord Bosworth had surely been the magician, for it was after his arrival
that everything had changed from grey to rose-colour. It was then that
James Berwick had again become to her what he always was in manner, and
the uncle and nephew had vied with one another in amusing and
interesting her. And then had come this delightful conclusion, the drive
back in this fairy chariot!

"This is a very pretty, curious little carriage," her eyes met his
frankly; "I feel like Cinderella going to, not coming back from, the
ball!"

Berwick allowed himself to look his fill. The brougham was lined with
some sort of white watered silk, and never would Barbara have a kinder
background, or one which harmonised more exquisitely with her rather
pale, dark beauty. Women were then wearing their hair cut straight
across the forehead, and dressed in elaborate plaits about the nape of
the neck; Barbara's short curls seemed to ally her with a more refined,
a less sophisticated age,--one when innocence and archness were
compatible with instinctive dignity.

And yet, such being the nature of man, Berwick would have been better
pleased had she not been now so completely, so happily at her ease. He
felt that between them there lay--not the drawn sword which played so
strange and symbolical a part in mediæval marriage by procuration--but a
sheaf of lilies. Berwick would have preferred the sword.

His had been the mood which seeks an extreme of purity in the woman
beloved. Till now he had been glad to worship on his knees, and where
she walked had been holy ground. But now he craved for some of the
tenderness Barbara lavished on Madame Sampiero. Could she not even spare
him the warmth of feeling shown by her when speaking of Grace and Andrew
Johnstone? Since that last interview with Mrs. Marshall he had felt
free--free as he had not felt for over a year. Was he to have no profit
of his freedom?

"It is you who look tired, Mr. Berwick; I'm afraid you stayed on for my
sake?"

Barbara was looking at him with real concern. How unlike himself he had
been all that evening! Perhaps, when she had been stupidly annoyed at
his supposed neglect of her, he had really been suffering. His face
looked strained and thin in the bright light thrown by a cunning little
arrangement of mirrors. She felt a pang of fear. How would she be able
to bear it if he fell ill, away from her, in that large bare house which
seemed so little his home?

It was well perhaps that Berwick could not see just then into her heart,
and yet it was still an ignorant and innocent heart. The youngest girl
present at the Halnakeham Castle ball could probably have taught Mrs.
Rebell more than she now knew of the ways of men--almost, it might be
said, of the ways of love. Her father had had the manhood crushed out of
him by his great misfortune. Barbara, as child and girl, had
reverenced--not the chill automaton, caring only for the English papers
and a little mild play, which Richard Rebell had become in middle
life,--but the attractive early image of him sedulously presented to her
by her mother. She had had no brothers to bring young people to the many
homes of her girlhood. Then, across her horizon, had come the baleful
figure of Pedro Rebell, but at no time, after her marriage, had she made
the mistake of regarding him as a normal man. No, her first real
knowledge of the average Englishman had been during those weeks of
convalescence, spent at the Government House of Santa Maria, when she
had been slowly struggling back into a wish to live. There she had
known, and had shrunk from the knowledge, that all those about her were
aware of what sort of life she had been compelled to lead on her
husband's plantation. Every step of Mr. Johnstone's negotiations with
Pedro Rebell was followed by her new friends with intense sympathy, and
when at last the planter had been half persuaded, half bribed into
signing a document binding him not to molest his wife, her only longing
had been to go away, and never to see any of the people connected with
the island again.

What could Barbara Rebell know of men--of such men as James Berwick and
Oliver Boringdon? She dowered them with virtues and qualities, with
unselfish impulses and powers of self-restraint, which would have
brought a Galahad to shame. She knew enough of a certain side of life to
recognise and shrink from such coarseness as was not the saving grace of
Mrs. Turke. She realised that that type of mind must see evil in even
the most innocent tie between a man and a woman, but on such minds she
preferred not to dwell. She knew how close had been the affection
between her mother and Madame Sampiero. Why should not some such
feeling, close and yet sexless, link her to James Berwick, to whom she
had experienced,--so much she had perforce to acknowledge to herself,--a
curious, intimate attraction from the first time they had met?

So it was that to-night she looked at him with concern, and spoke with a
new note of anxiety in her voice, "I should have been quite content to
go back with the Boringdons--I fear you stayed on for my sake."

"But I should not have been at all content if you had gone back with the
Boringdons! Why should I not stay on for your sake?" he was smiling at
her. She looked at him rather puzzled. When they were alone, they two,
with no third influence between them, Barbara always felt completely
happy and at ease. His presence brought security.

"Only if you were tired," she said rather lamely, and then again with
that new anxiety, "Old Mr. Daman said to someone before me, 'James
Berwick's looking rather fagged to-night'----"

"Let us talk of you, not of me," he said rather hastily. Heavens! what
might she not have heard during this evening concerning him and his
affairs? He lowered for a moment the window to his right and looked out
into the starless moonless night, or rather early morning.

"We are now on the brow of Whiteways. I wish it were daylight, for then
you would see the finest view in Sussex."

"But I have seen the view. I was at the meet, and thanks to your
kindness, for I rode Saucebox. Mr. Berwick, I do not think I have ever
thanked you sufficiently for Saucebox!"

He turned to her with a quick movement. "I do not think there should
ever be a question of thanks between you and me. We are--at least I hope
so--too good friends for that." And with a certain gravity he added, "Do
you not believe friendship possible between a man and woman?" He waited
a moment, then hurried on, "Listen! I offer you my friendship; I have
never done so, in the sense I do now, to any other woman. Shall I tell
you who has been my best, indeed my only, woman friend? only my sister,
only Arabella. I owe her more than one debt of very sincere gratitude.
You will not grudge her place in my--" again he hesitated,--"in my
heart."

Barbara smiled tremulously. What a strange question to ask her! She felt
a little afraid of Miss Berwick, and yet how friendly and gracious had
been her manner to-night.

"Tell me," he said urgently, "you do not mind my saying this to you? I
only wish to seal an existent compact. Ever since we met, have we not
been close friends, you and I? I take it we are both singularly placed,"
he bent down and tried to look into her downcast eyes, "I am very
solitary, and you have only Madame Sampiero--is not that so?"

Barbara bent her head. She felt that Berwick's low, ardent voice was
slowly opening the gates of paradise, and drawing her through into that
enchanted garden where every longing of the heart may be safely and
innocently satisfied.

The carriage was going slowly down the steep hill leading from Whiteways
to Chillingworth, and Berwick knew that he would soon have to leave her.
His voice dropped to a lower key--he ventured, for a moment, to take her
ringless left hand and hold it tightly: "I ask but little--nothing you
do not think it right to give. But your friendship would mean much to
me--would protect me from evil impulses of which, thank God, you can
know nothing. Even to-night I suffered from misdeeds--to put it plainly,
from past sins I should not have been even tempted to commit had I known
you when I committed them."

His words--his confession--moved Barbara to the soul. "I am your
friend," she spoke with a certain difficulty, and yet with solemnity.
She looked up, and he saw that her eyes were full of tears.

The carriage stopped, and they both, or perhaps it was only Berwick,
came down again to the everyday world where friendship between a man and
a woman is regarded as so dangerous a thing by the prudent.

"Good-night! Thank you for bringing me." He added a word or two as to
the carriage and the Priory stables--his coachman was a Chancton
man--and then he was gone, leaving Barbara to go on alone, happy,
content with life, as she had never thought it possible to be.

                               * * * * *

James Berwick, making his way quickly up the steep path leading from the
wall built round Chillingworth Park to the high plateau on which stood
the house, felt less content and very much less happy. Had he not been
rather too quixotic in this matter of leaving Barbara to go on her way
alone? Why should he not have prolonged those exquisite moments? What
harm could it have done had he given himself the pleasure of
accompanying his friend to the Priory, and then driving back to
Chillingworth by himself? Perhaps there had been something pusillanimous
in his fear of idle gossip. Oh! why had he behaved in this matter so
much better than there was any occasion to do?

So our good deeds rise up and smite us, and seldom are we allowed the
consolation of knowing what alternative action on our part might have
brought about.

Thus it was an ill-satisfied and restless man who let himself in by a
small side-door into the huge silent house. He had given orders that no
one should sit up, and in such a matter disobedience on the part of a
servant would have meant dismissal. Yet Berwick was an indulgent master,
and when he walked into the comparatively small room which he always
used when at Chillingworth, the only apartment in the house which in any
way betrayed its owner's tastes and idiosyncrasies, he became aware that
his comfort, or what it had been thought would be his comfort, had been
studied; for a tray, laden with food and various decanters of wines and
spirits, stood on a table, and the remains of what had been a large fire
still burned in the grate.

He stifled an exclamation of disgust. How hot, how airless the room was!
He walked over to the high window, pulled back the curtains and threw it
open. It was still intensely dark, but along the horizon, above the
place where he knew the sea to be, was a shaft of dim light--perhaps the
first faint precursor of the dawn. Leaving the window open he came back
to the fireplace and flung himself down in a chair, and there came over
him a feeling of great depression and of peculiar loneliness.

Soon his longing for Barbara's soothing intimate presence became
intolerably intense. For the first time since they had come to know one
another well, Berwick deliberately tried to analyse his feeling towards
her. He was not in love with Barbara Rebell--of that he assured himself
with a certain fierceness. He thought of what he had said to her
to-night. In a sense he had told her the exact truth. He had never
offered any other women the friendship he had asked her to accept. He
had always asked for less--or more--but then, looking back, he could
tell himself that there was no one woman who had ever roused in him the
peculiar sentiment that he felt for Mrs. Rebell. The feeling he now
experienced was more akin, though far deeper and tenderer in texture, to
the fleeting fancy he had had for that pretty _débutante_ whom Arabella
had so greatly feared. But, whereas he had borne the girl's defection,
when it had come, with easy philosophy, he knew that his relation to
Barbara was such that any defection there would rouse in him those
primeval instincts which lead every day to such sordid tragedies in that
class where the passion of love is often the only thing in life bringing
hope of release and forgetfulness from ignoble and material cares.

Berwick had many faults, but personal vanity was not one of them. He
considered Oliver Boringdon more a man to attract women than he was
himself, and he had thought his friend lamentably backward in making use
of his opportunities. Now, the knowledge that Boringdon was daily in
Mrs. Rebell's company was distinctly disturbing. Was Barbara the type of
woman--Berwick knew there were many such--who make a cult of sentimental
friendships? Then he felt deeply ashamed of the thought, and in his
heart he begged her forgiveness.

A Frenchman, once speaking to him of an acquaintance whose unhappy
passion for a celebrated beauty was being much discussed, had observed,
"Il l'a dans la peau! Dans ces cas-là il n'y a rien à faire!" He had
thought the expression curiously apt, and he remembered it to-night.
More than once during the last few days he had found himself planning
his immediate future entirely by the light, as it were, of Chancton
Priory. By every post he was refusing invitations, and avoiding coming
political engagements. But there was one great exception. Even while
speaking to Arabella at the ball, he had been wondering whether he could
persuade her to secure Mrs. Rebell's inclusion in a very small and
entirely political house-party in Scotland, the occasion of which was a
series of important political meetings, and to which both brother and
sister had been for some time pledged. It would be good to be away with
Barbara, among strangers, far from Chancton and from Chillingworth.

Berwick hated Chillingworth. When there he felt himself to be the
unwelcome guest of the man who had built the huge place, and whose
personality it seemed to express and to perpetuate, as houses so often
do the personality of their builders. The creator of Chillingworth had
been an acute early Victorian manufacturer, a worthy man according to
his lights, and a pillar of the Manchester School. He had taken fortune
at the flood, and his late marriage to a woman of slightly better birth
and breeding than his own had produced the sickly, refined daughter whom
Berwick had married.

Chillingworth seemed plastered with money. Every room bore evidence of
lavish expenditure; money spent on furniture, on pictures, on useless
ornaments, during a period of our history when beauty seemed wholly in
eclipse; and this was all the more pitiable because the house was
gloriously placed on a spur of the down, and the views from its windows
rivalled those of Chancton Priory.

Even had Berwick wished to do so, he could not have made any serious
alterations to the place, for the trustees of his marriage settlement
were the very people, distant relatives of his wife's, whose children
would benefit were he to forfeit his life interest in her fortune. To
these people Chillingworth spelt perfection, and was a treasure-house of
beautiful, because costly, objects of art. Occasionally, perhaps once in
two years, its present owner would fill the great mansion for a few
weeks with men and women--political acquaintances and their wives--to
whom an invitation to James Berwick's Sussex estate gave pleasure, but
otherwise he was little there, and the neighbourhood had long since left
off wondering and exclaiming at his preference for Chancton Priory.

                               * * * * *

"If Miss Berwick sends over for a carriage, the French brougham which
was used last night is not to go."

"Very good, Sir." And then, after a short pause, "Anything wrong with
the carriage, Sir?"

"No. By the way, it may be required at Chancton. I have told Madame
Sampiero that she may have the use of it for the lady who is staying
there. Where's Dean?"

Berwick, haggard-looking, and evidently in a mood which his servants
knew and dreaded, was looking sharply round the stable yard. If he, the
master, was up and about by nine o'clock, the morning after the
Halnakeham Castle ball, then surely his coachman could be the same.

"Dean's in trouble, Sir. He will be sending to ask if you can spare him
to-day. Wife was taken ill last night, babby dead."

The laconic words struck Berwick with a curious chill, and served to
rouse him from his self-absorption. He was fond of Dean. The man had
been with him for many years. They were the same age,--Berwick could
remember him as a stolid Chancton child--and he had only been married
about a year, after one of those long, faithful engagements common in
those parts. Heavens! If Dean felt for his wife a tenth of what he,
Berwick, felt for Barbara Rebell, what must not the man have gone
through that night--that early morning?

Muttering some expression of concern, he turned and went off into the
house, there to consult with the housekeeper as to the sending of
practical relief to the stricken household, and to write a note telling
Dean he could be absent for as long as he wished.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

    "Men may have rounded Seraglio Point: they have not yet doubled
    Cape Turk."

                                                    GEORGE MEREDITH.


Miss Vipen's cottage was exactly opposite the Chancton Post Office. Even
in winter it was a pretty, cheerful-looking little house closely covered
with evergreen creepers, the path up to the porch guarded by four lemon
trees cut into fantastic shapes.

From her sitting-room window, the old lady could see all that went on in
the main street of Chancton village, and take note of the coming and
going both of familiars and of strangers, thus providing herself with
the material whereby she wove the web of the destinies of those about
her.

They who exist only to sow spite and malice should always live in the
country. A town finds them at a disadvantage, for there those about them
have too much to do to find more than a very passing amusement in their
conversation. But in a country neighbourhood, such a woman as Miss Vipen
is a godsend, partly because, in addition to being a centre of gossip,
she is often the source of authentic news. People tell her things they
would be ashamed to tell each other, and, with the strange lack of
imagination or excess of vanity which afflicts most of us in certain
circumstances, each member of the large circle formed about such a
woman, and with whom she is often actually popular, believes himself or
herself exempt from her biting tongue.

Here, in Chancton, each and all admired Miss Vipen's easy kindness,--a
quality which so often accompanies evil speaking. Yet another thing was
accounted to her for righteousness. She never mentioned the mistress of
the Priory,--never spoke either good or evil of Madame Sampiero, of the
one human being who had for long years provided even the staid and
prudent with legitimate subjects of scandal and gossip.

As a matter of fact, Miss Vipen owed her cottage, her income, her very
position in Chancton, to the mistress of the Priory. Her father had been
land-agent to Madame Sampiero's father. The two women had been girls
together, and when finally the arrangements had been made which provided
for Miss Vipen's later life and for what she cared for so much more, the
keeping up of her adequate position in the neighbourhood where she had
spent her whole existence, her old friend had said to her: "I only ask
one thing. I beg you, Martha, never to speak of me again, kindly or
unkindly, in love or in anger!"--and Miss Vipen had faithfully kept her
side of the bargain.

Only two people in Chancton had the moral courage steadily to avoid her
dangerous company. The one was Doctor McKirdy, who, as a young man, and
when still a stranger to the place, had extracted from her a written
apology for something she had said of him which identified him too
closely for his taste with the physiologists who were then beginning to
be much discussed. The other was General Kemp. Making one day sudden
irruption into her sitting-room, he had overheard a remark made by her
concerning his own daughter and Captain Laxton; at once he had turned on
his heel, and, after giving his wife a short sketch of what would have
happened to Miss Vipen had she worn breeches instead of petticoats, he
had declared it to be his intention never willingly to meet her again.

Malice, to be effective, however vulgar in its essence, should on the
whole be refined in its expression. There were certain people, notably
poor Mrs. Sampson, the rector's wife, to whom Miss Vipen felt she could
say anything, sure of a fascinated, even if a fearful, listener. With
others she was more careful, and to Mrs. Boringdon she had soon become a
valuable ally, and a precious source of information.

                               * * * * *

This was the woman from whose company and conversation Oliver Boringdon,
two days after the Halnakeham Castle ball, came straight down the
village street to Chancton Grange. He had been to see Miss Vipen on a
matter of business connected with a slight leakage in her roof, but the
hawk-eyed old lady, as was her wont, had in a very few moments planted
an envenomed dart in his mind and brain.

Partly perhaps because he knew her to be so intensely disliked by Doctor
McKirdy, and partly because she was one of the very few people who never
tried to extract from him information concerning Madame Sampiero and the
Priory, Oliver actually liked Miss Vipen. She was an intelligent woman,
and her kindnesses to the village people were intelligent kindnesses.
She would lend books and papers to the sick and ailing, and more than
once he had come across traces of her good deeds among the poor of the
place,--men and women with whom she had life-long links of familiarity
and interest. She was aware that Boringdon liked her, and she took
trouble to keep his good opinion. So it was that to-day her few
remarks--said more, or so it seemed, in pity than in anger, had been
carefully chosen--and only amounted to the regrettable fact that James
Berwick's frequent visits to the Priory, and the long hours he was said
to spend alone with Mrs. Rebell, were causing unpleasant remark both in
the village and in the neighbourhood.

Boringdon had listened in absolute silence, then, taking up his hat and
stick, had gone, leaving his hostess rather uncomfortable. But Miss
Vipen's words had met with unquestioning belief, and they had made her
listener's smouldering jealousy and unhappiness--for in these days
Oliver was very jealous and wretchedly unhappy--burst into flame.

Since the ball the young man had seen practically nothing of Barbara,
although she had been present at each of his daily interviews with
Madame Sampiero; and when one day, late in the afternoon, he had gone
contrary to his custom, to the Priory, the admirably trained McGregor
had informed him that Mrs. Rebell was "not at home," although Boringdon
had seen her shadow and that of Berwick cast on the blind of the blue
drawing-room.

James Berwick's attitude towards women had always been inexplicable to
Oliver, for he was entirely out of sympathy with his friend's interest
in Woman _qua_ Woman. In no circumstances would the younger man have
been capable of imagining the peculiar relationship which had sprung up
between these two people, to each of whom--and it was an aggravating
circumstance--he felt himself bound by so close a tie.

During the last two days his jealousy and suspicion of Berwick's motives
had almost prompted him to say something to Mrs. Rebell, but there was
that in Barbara which made it very difficult to approach such a subject
with her. Also, even if lacking in a sense of humour, Boringdon was yet
dimly aware that she might well retort with a _tu quoque_ argument which
he would find it difficult to meet. For there had been one fortnight in
which, looking back, he was obliged to admit to himself that he had
spent far more time in Mrs. Rebell's company than he could accuse
Berwick of now doing. He and she had walked together, ridden together,
and talked together of everything under heaven and earth. Even--fool
that he had been--he had told her much of Berwick, and all to that
dangerous sentimentalist's advantage.

Then there had come a sudden change over his own and Mrs. Rebell's
pleasant and profitable relationship. Saucebox had kicked herself in the
stable, and had gone back, in disgrace, to Chillingworth, so the rides
had perforce come to an end. Little by little, or so it now seemed to
Oliver, he had been shepherded into only going over to the Priory in the
morning--made to feel that at other times he was not welcome.

The young man remembered well the first time he had come over to the
Priory to find Berwick installed, almost as master, in the great hall,
and Barbara listening to this new acquaintance as she had hitherto only
listened to him, to Boringdon himself. And yet what was there to be
done? Madame Sampiero's attitude filled him with indignation; surely it
was her duty to save her god-daughter from the snares of such a fowler
as she must know Berwick to be?

Boringdon had long been aware of the type of feminine companionship his
friend was always seeking, and dimly he understood that hitherto the
pursuit had been unavailing. But now?--Mrs. Rebell, so Boringdon, with
something like agony, acknowledged to himself, fulfilled all the
conditions of Berwick's ideal; and a nobler, more unselfish feeling than
mere personal instinct stirred him to revolt, while he was also swayed
by an anger born of keen jealousy, dignified by him with a hundred
names, of which the most comfortable to his self-esteem and conscience
was care for Mrs. Rebell's reputation.

At certain moments he reminded himself how much Berwick had been at the
Priory before Mrs. Rebell's arrival, but even so, such a man's constant
presence there was terribly dangerous! Some kind, wholly disinterested
woman must tell Barbara that in England Berwick's conduct would surely
compromise her, whatever might be the case at Santa Maria or on the
Continent.

                               * * * * *

Casting about in his mind, Boringdon could think of but one person in
the neighbourhood who was fitted to undertake so delicate a task, and
who would, so he told himself, understand his own personal share in the
matter; this person was Mrs. Kemp. To the Grange he accordingly made his
way, after having listened in silence to Miss Vipen's softly uttered
remarks.

From the first fortune favoured him, for Mrs. Kemp was alone. The
General and Lucy were gone to Halnakeham for the afternoon; and
Boringdon, coming in out of the late November air full of suppressed
excitement and ill at ease, felt soothed by the look of warmth and
comfort with which Lucy's mother always managed to surround herself.

To Oliver's own mother, to Mrs. Boringdon, an appearance of comfort,
even of luxury, was all-important when guests were expected at Chancton
Cottage. Then everything was suitably lavish, and even luxurious. But
when the young man and his mother were alone, fires were allowed to burn
low, the food, poor in quality, was also limited as to quantity, and it
was well for Oliver that he cared as little as on the whole he did for
creature comforts. In Mrs. Boringdon's mind the page boy was set against
the sweets at luncheon and the cakes at tea which Oliver would have
enjoyed, but then in the country a man-servant was essential--an
essential portion of her own and her son's dignity.

It was now four o'clock. At home Boringdon would have had to wait
another hour for tea, and so would any passing guest who could be
regarded as an intimate friend, but here, at the Grange, it appeared as
if by magic a few minutes after the visitor had sat down opposite Mrs.
Kemp, and Oliver soon felt heartened up to approach what even he felt to
be a rather difficult subject.

The kind woman whose aid he was about to invoke made it easy for him to
begin, for she was very cordial; thanks to Boringdon, Lucy had
thoroughly enjoyed the ball at Halnakeham Castle, and the mother felt
grateful for even this small mercy. During the last two days she had
reminded herself more than once that affairs of the heart, when not
interfered with unduly, have an odd way of coming right.

"I need not ask," he said, rather awkwardly, "if Lucy is no worse for
the ball."

Mrs. Kemp was not sure whether she liked to hear Boringdon call her
daughter Lucy; he had only begun doing so lately, and she had not
thought it necessary to mention it to the General. There was still a
certain coolness between Oliver and Lucy's father--they avoided each
other's company.

He went on without waiting for an answer: "Mrs. Rebell seems to have
found it a trying experience, and yet she did not dance at all. I went
to the Priory this morning, and she was too tired to come down."

"But then she came back so much later than you all did. I understand
that she stayed on with the Fletchings party, and I heard some of their
carriages going through the village at four o'clock in the morning!"

Boringdon looked at her with quick suspicion. He had just learnt from
Miss Vipen of Berwick's solitary drive with Mrs. Rebell. But the remark
Mrs. Kemp had just made was wholly innocent in intention; she never
dealt in innuendoes.

"I wish," he said, impulsively, "that you would get to know Mrs. Rebell!
Everyone else in the neighbourhood has called on her; have you any
reason for not doing so?"

She hesitated, then said slowly, "No. No real reason, except, of course,
that we have never received, during all the years we have been here, any
mark of attention or civility from Madame Sampiero, whose tenants after
all we are. Also I fancied, from something that Doctor McKirdy said,
that Mrs. Rebell did not wish to make many acquaintances in the
neighbourhood."

"It's a great pity, for she must feel very lonely, and I'm sure it would
be much to her to have such friends as yourself, and as--as Lucy."

The mother's heart hardened; Mrs. Kemp was no gossip, but she knew how
much time Oliver had spent at the Priory during the fortnight Mrs.
Boringdon had been away.

"Yes, she must be rather lonely," and then she could not help adding,
"but you are a great deal over there, are you not?"

His answer made her feel ashamed of what she had said. "I am over there
most days, but she cannot make a companion, a friend, of a man, as she
could of you or of Lucy." Now surely was his opportunity for saying what
he had come to say, but he found the task he had set himself demanded a
bluntness, a crudity of speech, that was almost intolerable to him.

"Mrs. Kemp, may I speak frankly to you?"

There was a strong note of appeal in the speaker's voice. Mrs. Kemp gave
him a quick, anxious look, and took her knitting off the table.
"Certainly, frankness is always best," she said, then wondered with
beating heart what he was about to tell her. She had felt, during the
last few minutes, that Boringdon was only marking time. He was once more
on his old terms of friendship with Lucy, indeed, the girl had lunched
at Chancton Cottage that very day. But his next words shattered Mrs.
Kemp's dream, and that most rudely.

"I want you to call on Mrs. Rebell," he was saying in a low eager tone,
"and to come really to know her, because--well, because I fear she is in
some danger. It isn't a matter one wants to discuss, but James Berwick
is constantly at the Priory, and his visits there are already being
talked about in the neighbourhood. She is, as you know, a friend of my
sister, and I feel a certain responsibility in the matter. Someone ought
to put her on her guard."

Mrs. Kemp put down her work and looked at him with a steady,
disconcerting look of surprise. He no longer felt sure, as he had done a
moment ago, of her sympathy, but he met her glance with a dogged
courage. He cared so little what she thought; the great point was to
enlist her help. Boringdon had known her do really quixotic things with
reference to certain village matters and scandals--and always with
healing results.

It is fortunate that we cannot see into each other's minds. What would
Oliver have felt had he become aware of the feeling, half of dislike,
half of pity, with which he was being regarded at that moment by the
woman to whom he had made his appeal? Mrs. Kemp withdrew her eyes from
his face; it was possible,--just possible,--that it was as he said, and
that he was animated by worthy and impersonal motives. Berwick was not a
man with an absolutely good reputation as regarded women; his position,
too, was a singular one,--of so much even Mrs. Kemp was aware.

"As you have spoken frankly to me, so will I speak frankly to you," she
said. "I have never known any good come from interfering,--or rather I
have never known any good come from speaking, in such a case, to the
woman. The person to reach is Mr. Berwick. If he is indeed compromising
Mrs. Rebell, he is doing a very wrong and treacherous thing, not only to
her, but to Madame Sampiero, who has always been, so I understand,
especially kind to him. Still, you must remember that, long before this
lady came here, he was constantly at the Priory. Also, may I say that,
if your information as to the gossip about them comes from Miss Vipen,
its source is tainted? I never believe a word she says about anything or
anybody!"

"Miss Vipen did certainly say something--she had heard----"

"What had she heard?"

"That Berwick drove back with her"--Mrs. Kemp noticed the use of the
pronoun--"alone, the night of the ball, and that they sat up, talking,
till morning, in the hall of the Priory. No wonder Mrs. Rebell still
feels tired!" The speaker had gone grey in the lamplight.

"Well, that story is false, vilely false! I do not know how, or with
whom, Mrs. Rebell came home; but by an odd chance I do happen to know
that Mr. Berwick went straight from Halnakeham to Chillingworth, and
that he was there in the morning. His coachman's wife, who is staying
here in Chancton with her parents, was taken ill that night. I was there
by six the next morning--perhaps you know that the poor baby died--and
the man told me that he had driven his master home, and that he would
send him over a message asking leave to stay with his wife. Mr. Berwick
is a very good master, they seem all devoted to him----" Then, struck by
his look, "Surely you believe me? Do you put Miss Vipen's piece of
spiteful gossip against what I tell you?"

Boringdon hesitated. "I don't know what to believe," he said. "James
Berwick, when conducting an intrigue, is capable of--of----"

"If you think so ill of Mrs. Rebell as that----!"

"But I don't!" he cried hastily, "indeed I don't! It is Berwick, only
Berwick, that I blame in this matter. I think Mrs. Rebell is wholly
innocent! I feel for her the greatest respect! She is incapable, I feel
sure, of a wrong thought,"--he spoke with growing agitation. "But think
of the whole circumstances--of Madame Sampiero's past life, of Mrs.
Rebell's present position! Can you wonder that I feel sure your
friendship, even your countenance, might make a great difference? But
pray,"--he got up, and looked at Mrs. Kemp very earnestly,--"pray do not
suppose I think ill of Mrs. Rebell! Were it so, should I suggest that
you--that Lucy--should make a friend of her?" and wringing her hand he
left the room, eager to escape before the return of General Kemp and his
daughter.

                               * * * * *

There are times when the presence of even the best-loved and most
trusted grown-up son or daughter could be well spared by father and
mother. Mrs. Kemp, during the evening which followed Oliver's afternoon
call, thought constantly of the conversation she had held with him, and
she longed to tell her husband what had passed. Men were such strange,
such inexplicable beings! Doubtless Tom would be able to reassure her as
to Oliver Boringdon's interest in this Mrs. Rebell, whose charm had won
over Lucy too, for the girl spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty and of
the kindness of Madame Sampiero's god-daughter. But nothing could be
said in the presence of Lucy, who had regained, during the last day or
two, her old lightness of heart and manner, and who showed no wish to go
early to bed.

At last Mrs. Kemp went up alone, and when, an hour later, the General
followed her, and she had the longed-for opportunity of telling her
tale, her listener proved most irritatingly quiescent. He went in and
out of his dressing-room, saying "Yes," and "That's it, is it?" at
suitable intervals. Still, when she stopped speaking, he would suddenly
appear in some leisurely state of _déshabillé_ and his wife would feel
encouraged, to go on, and even to ask for his opinion and advice.

"And now, Tom, what do you _really_ think of the whole matter?"

General Kemp came and stood before the fire. He wore his
dressing-gown,--a sure sign that he was ready for discussion, if
discussion should prove necessary.

"Well, Mary, what I _really_ think can be put in a very few words." He
advanced till he stood at the foot of the large four-poster, and, with a
twinkle in his eye, declaimed the lines:--

    "'And it was you, my _Berwick_, you!
        The friend in whom my soul confided!
    Who dared to gaze on her--to do,
        I may say, much the same as I did!'"

"Oh! Tom, you should not make fun of such a serious matter," but Mrs.
Kemp could not help smiling--the lines were indeed apt.

"Well, my dear, what else is there to say? I can't say I should be sorry
if Boringdon were to burn his wings a bit! I hate your fellow who is
always trying to set the world straight. To take his information from
Miss Vipen too--!" The General had also heard of Oliver's renewed
interest in the Priory, and his wife's talk had not surprised him quite
as much as she, in the innocence of her heart, expected it to do.
"Berwick, from what you tell me, and from what I hear," he added in a
low voice, "knows what he's after, and that's more than your friend
Boringdon seems to do! I hate a man who goes dangling after a woman for
her good; that's what he told you, I take it?"

"Well, something rather like it; but I think better of him than you do,
Tom."

"They generally get caught at last." General Kemp gave a quick, short
sigh: "and then comes--unless the chap's as clever as Boringdon
doubtless means to be--pretty heavy punishment, eh, Mary?"

And he went off back into his dressing-room, and Mrs. Kemp, turning on
her side, wet her pillow with sudden bitter tears.

                               * * * * *

Some days later Lucy and her mother called at the Priory, only to be
informed that Mrs. Rebell was at Fletchings, staying there as the guest
of Lord Bosworth and Miss Berwick till the following Saturday. This
then,--so thought Mrs. Kemp with a quick revulsion of feeling,--was why
Boringdon now found time hang so heavy on his hands, and why he had
been, of late, so often at the Grange. Life, even at Chancton, was full
of inexplicable cross currents,--of deep pools and eddies more likely to
bring shipwreck than safe haven to the creature whom she loved so
dearly, and for whom she felt that responsibility which only mothers
know.



                              CHAPTER XV.

    "But as we walked we turned aside
        Into a narrow tortuous lane
    Where baffling paths the roads divide
        And jealous brambles prick to pain:
    Then first I saw, with quick surprise,
    The strange new look in friendship's eyes.

    "And now, in one stupendous dream,
        We wander through the purple glades,
    Which love has tinted with the gleam
        Of wonderful, enchanting shades:
    But I--would give it all away
    For those dear hours of friendship's day."

                                                      ELEANOR ESHER.


Mrs. Rebell had now been at Fletchings five days. It was Saturday
night--in three days more she would be back at Chancton.

Standing before her dressing-table, she found herself counting the last
hours of a holiday which had proved more enchanting than she had thought
possible. How sorry she would be to leave the curious pretty room in
which she found herself! This room, and that next door now turned into a
dressing-room, had been fitted up when the wonders of China were first
becoming known to the Western world. It was instinct with the strange
charm so often found in those old English country houses where
Christendom and Goblindom fight for mastery.

The greatest poet of his time had spent at Fletchings the honeymoon
which formed a beginning to the most disastrous of marriage tragedies;
and Septimus Daman, now Barbara's fellow guest, had managed to convey to
her his belief that the rooms which she now occupied had been those set
aside for the hapless pair. Was it here, so Barbara wondered--here, or
perhaps sitting at the lacquer table in the dressing-room--that the
bride had written the formal, yet wholly contented, letter to her
parents, with its concluding sentence: "I cannot tell you any more for
Lord Byron is looking over my shoulder!"--playful, intimate words,
written by the proud, headstrong girl who was to lead a later life of
such harsh bitterness.

Barbara felt a vague retrospective pity for the long-dead writer of
these words. How far superior is friendship to what people call love!
Every day she was proving the truth of this, her own, and--yes, her
friend's--discovery.

After those five perfect days, it seemed strange to remember that she
had wondered if she were acting rightly in accepting Miss Berwick's
invitation. There had not been much time for thought. The note had come
only two days after the ball at Halnakeham Castle, and, as she held it
in her hand, before telling any of those about her of its contents,
there had swept over Barbara Rebell a foreboding memory. Was she about
to expose herself to a repetition of what she had gone through during
those first hours at the ball? Was she to see Berwick avoiding her
company,--gazing at her, when he looked her way, with alien eyes?

But then Berwick himself had come, full of eagerness, and with his
abrupt first words--"Has Arabella written? That's right!--I think you
will like it. My uncle wants me to be over there in order to see
something of Daniel O'Flaherty, and we are also to have old Septimus
Daman; he always spends part of November at Fletchings"--her fears, her
scruples had vanished.

Just before leaving the Priory, Barbara's heart had again misgiven her.
Madame Sampiero, looking at her with the wide-open, dark-blue eyes which
could express so many shades of feeling, had murmured, "Do not be too
long away, child. Remember what befell the poor Beast when Beauty stayed
away too long!" How could she have had the heart to write, on the second
day of her visit, "They want me to stay on till Tuesday"?

And now it was Saturday night. In a few days she would again take up the
life which till so very lately had seemed to fulfil each aspiration, to
content every longing of her heart. Now, she found herself dreading her
god-mother's glances of uneasy, questioning tenderness; Mrs. Turke's
eager interest in Berwick's comings and goings; most of all, and for
reasons of which her mind avoided the analysis, Barbara shrank from the
return to the long mornings--they had become very long of late--spent by
Boringdon at the Priory.

In contrast to all that awaited Mrs. Rebell at Chancton, how happy these
few days at Fletchings had been! With the possible exception of Daniel
O'Flaherty--and, after all, both he and Arabella knew better--the six
people gathered there under Lord Bosworth's roof, were linked in close
bonds of old and new friendship, of old and new association.

Barbara could tell herself in all honesty that she did not seem to see
very much of James Berwick, and yet, in truth, they were much together,
he encompassing her with a depth of voiceless tenderness, and a devotion
so unobtrusive that it seemed to lack every gross element of self. Then
again, her host had been especially kind. To Lord Bosworth she had been
"Barbara" from the first, and during that week he had talked much to her
of that wide world in which he himself had played so noted and agreeable
a part; of her own parents as they had been during the unshadowed years
of their life; of present politics which he had soon discovered
interested her in a singular degree. One day he had exclaimed--and had
been surprised to see the vivid blush his words called forth--"Why, we
shall make a politician of you yet!" During those days, however,--and
the omission pained her,--Lord Bosworth made no allusion to Madame
Sampiero.

Perhaps, of all those at Fletchings, the most contented of the party was
Septimus Daman. Because he seemed to each of the others the odd man out,
they were all particularly kind to him, and eager that he should not
feel himself neglected. The old man did not, however, burden his
fellow-guests with much on his company, for he was busily engaged in
writing his recollections, and he rarely made his appearance downstairs
before the afternoon.

                               * * * * *

To-day, quite suddenly and for no apparent reason, Berwick's mood had
changed. Arabella was the first to become aware of it; she knew of old
the danger signals. The day had been spent by him and by O'Flaherty at
Laxgrove, where Squire Laxton was as proud of his coverts as of his
hounds. The two men came in wet and tired, and Berwick, after a long
fruitless search for his sister and Mrs. Rebell, at last found them
sitting together where Arabella so seldom entertained a guest--in the
powder closet.

"I have been looking for you everywhere!" he exclaimed. "Daman is
wandering about downstairs, evidently afraid to pour himself out a cup
of tea and O'Flaherty has disappeared,--tealess,--to his room!"

While he was speaking, gazing at his sister and her friend with an
accusing glance, Barbara went out, and for a moment the other two stayed
on alone together.

Arabella rose and faced her brother. Her own nerves were not wholly
under control. Neither her conscience nor her heart was really at ease.

"I don't know, James, and I don't inquire, what your relations to Mrs.
Rebell may be! But this I do know--you will not advance your friendship
with her by being savage to me. Besides, it is so absurd! However
delightful she finds your company, she may yet prefer to be occasionally
with me. I have been doing--I am doing--all I can for you."

"What do you mean?"

Berwick's steady, angry gaze disconcerted his sister, but she was
mentally adroit, and determined not to fear him in his present mood.

"You know best what I ought to mean!" she cried. "You apparently take
pleasure in Mrs. Rebell's company, and it was to please you that I asked
her to come here. I mean nothing else. But I should like to add that,
now I know her, I have grown to like, and even to respect her."
Berwick's face softened, but again he looked at her in the way she
dreaded as she added, "I do not think you should act so as to make those
about you aware that you so greatly prefer her company to that of our
other guests. I am sure Mr. O'Flaherty has noticed it. Perhaps I ought
to add that I am speaking entirely for her sake."

                               * * * * *

On leaving Miss Berwick and her brother, Mrs. Rebell went up to her
room. There she sat down and fulfilled a neglected duty,--the writing of
a long letter to Grace Johnstone. She did not find the task an easy one.
She knew that her friend would expect to be told much of the occupants
of Chancton Cottage, and especially of Oliver. The writer was well aware
how letters were treasured at Santa Maria, and, till the last fortnight
she had written to the woman who had been so good a friend to her by
every mail. Suddenly she bethought herself of the ball. Why, here was a
subject all ready to her pen! But Barbara was no polite letter-writer,
and she found the description difficult; especially did her references
to Oliver and to his mother seem hypocritical. During those hours at
Halnakeham Castle she had been scarcely aware of the young man's
existence, while Mrs. Boringdon she actually disliked.

One reason why Barbara had been glad to come to Fletchings had been that
it meant escape from Boringdon's constant presence at the Priory, and
the daily morning walk with him to the home farm. She had come to resent
Oliver's assumption of--was it brotherly?--interest in what she did and
left undone. The thought that in three days she would again be subject
to his well-meant criticism and eager, intimate advice certainly added
another and a curiously acute touch of discomfort to her return to
Chancton.

                               * * * * *

For the first time since Mrs. Rebell's stay at Fletchings, dinner,
served in a blue and white octagon room which seemed to have been
designed to serve as background to Miss Berwick's fair, delicate type of
beauty, passed almost silently and rather dully. Berwick and O'Flaherty,
tired after their long day in the open air, scarcely spoke; Mr. Daman
alone seemed entirely at ease, and he babbled away happily, trying to
extract material for his recollections from Lord Bosworth's better
garnished memory.

And so it was with a sense of relief that Barbara followed her hostess
out of the room. During the last few days the two women had become, in a
sense, intimate. Each liked the other better than either would have
thought possible a week before. They had one subject in common of which
neither ever tired, and yet how surprised they both would have been to
learn how constantly their talk drifted to the political past, the
uneventful present, the brilliant nebulous future, of James Berwick!

Arabella led the way up to the music gallery, and there, very soon, the
two younger men joined them.

Miss Berwick was sitting at an inlaid spinet, playing an old-fashioned,
jingling selection of Irish melodies, and O'Flaherty, taking up his
stand by the fire-place, was able to look down at the player without
seeming to do so.

Listening to the woman he had loved making music for him, Daniel
O'Flaherty's mind went back, setting out on a sentimental excursion,
dolorous as such are apt to be, into the past. No other woman's lips had
touched his since their last interview, thirteen years before; and yet,
standing there, his arm on the mantel-piece, his right hand concealing
his large rather stern mouth, he told himself that his love for Arabella
Berwick had burned itself out, and that he could now look at her quite
dispassionately.

Still, love may go, and interest,--even a certain kind of
sentiment,--may remain. What else had brought him to Fletchings? Above
all, what else had made him stay on there, as he was now doing?
O'Flaherty still felt an odd closeness of heart,--aye, even of body,--

Miss Berwick, to this woman whom others found so unapproachable. The
years which had gone by, the long separation, had not made them
strangers. After she had left him, as he thought so cruelly, he had made
up his mind to put away all thought of her. He had believed it certain
that she would marry--indeed, during that last interview she had told
him that she intended to do so--and thinking of this, to a man so
callous and incredible a statement, his heart had hardened, not only to
her, but in a sense to all women.

Then time had gone on, and Lord Bosworth's niece had remained
unmarried--wholly devoted, so said rumour, to her brother, but living
with her uncle instead of with James Berwick because of her filial
affection and gratitude to the older man. That O'Flaherty had known not
to be true, for no special tie bound Arabella to her uncle. The
arrangement was probably one of convenience on either side.

And now, during these last few days? O'Flaherty acknowledged that Miss
Berwick's manner to him had been perfect--courteous and kind, nay, even
deferential, and then sometimes a look, a word, would subtly acknowledge
his claim on her special attention, while putting forward none of her
own. How could he help being flattered? From where he now sat, he could
see, without seeming to observe too closely, the delicate, cameo-like
profile, the masses of flaxen hair, less bright in tint than when he had
first admired what was still Arabella's greatest beauty.

The barrister was under no illusion as to why he had received this
invitation to Lord Bosworth's country house. His present host, and of
course his hostess, wished him not merely to be on James Berwick's side
in the coming political struggle, for that he was already, but to ally
himself in a special sense with this future Cabinet-Minister, and to
join the inner circle of his friends and supporters. Neither of them yet
understood that in politics all O'Flaherty cared for supremely was his
own country, in spite of the fact that he had always sat for an English
constituency, and had never identified himself, in any direct sense,
with the Irish party. Whatever his future relations to Miss Berwick
might be, his attitude to her brother must be influenced by Berwick's
attitude to Ireland and Irish affairs. Perhaps it would be more honest,
so he told himself to-night, to let Arabella know this fact, for during
the last few days he had avoided any political discussion with his host
or his hostess.

Daniel O'Flaherty had watched James Berwick's career with painful
interest. During his brief, passionate intimacy with the sister, the
young Irishman had disliked the brother intensely. He had despised him
for squandering,--as for a while Berwick had seemed to do,--his many
brilliant gifts. Perhaps O'Flaherty had also been jealous of those
advantages which came to the younger man by the mere fact of his name,
and of his relationship to Lord Bosworth.

Then, with the passing of years, the barrister had become, as the
successful are apt to do, more indulgent, perhaps more understanding, in
his view of the other's character and ambitions. Also nothing succeeds
like success, and James Berwick had himself by no means lagged behind.
To O'Flaherty there had been nothing untoward in Berwick's marriage. He
had regarded it as one of those strokes of amazing luck which seem to
pursue certain men; and though a trifling circumstance had made the
barrister vividly aware of the young politician's conditional tenure of
his dead wife's fortune, the man who had fought his way to eminence
naturally regarded the other as belonging to that class which seems in
this country sufficiently wealthy, with the garnered wealth of the past,
to consider the possession of a larger or of a lesser income as of
comparatively small account.

Daniel O'Flaherty was an Irishman, a lonely man, and a Roman
Catholic--thus traditionally interested in romance. And so, during these
days at Fletchings, he had become aware, almost in spite of himself, of
Berwick's evident attraction to Mrs. Rebell--to the gentle, intelligent
woman whom he, O'Flaherty, naturally regarded as Arabella's widowed
friend. It amused him to see the course of true love running smooth.
What amazing good fortune seemed to pursue James Berwick!

True, the shrewder half of O'Flaherty's mind warned him that Miss
Berwick's action in deliberately throwing her brother with so charming a
woman as Barbara was an odd, an almost unaccountable move on her part.
But there was no getting over the fact that she was doing this, and most
deliberately.

Well, all that money could do for Berwick had surely been accomplished.
The barrister, watching the two--this man and woman wandering in a
paradise of their own making--felt that Berwick was indeed to be envied,
even if he was on the eve of forfeiting the huge income which had for so
many years given him an almost unfair prestige and power among his
fellows. Still, now and again,--to-night for instance, when he became
aware that Berwick and Mrs. Rebell had retreated together to the further
end of the long, bare room,--he wondered if Arabella was acting
sentiently, if she really wished her brother to marry again.

                               * * * * *

Mrs. Rebell and the man she called her friend stood together, half
concealed by the organ which gave the gallery its name. They were
practically alone, for the long room was only lighted by the candles
which threw a wavering light on Arabella's music-book. For the first
time since she had arrived at Fletchings, Barbara felt ill at ease with
her companion. Twice during dinner she had looked up and seen Berwick's
eyes fixed on her, or so she thought, coldly and accusingly. What had
she done? For what must she ask forgiveness?

"Where were you before dinner?" he said at last, in a low
voice. "I looked for you everywhere. I found you, and then you
disappeared--utterly! We were close to the Priory to-day, and I went in
for a moment, thinking you would like to have news of Madame Sampiero.
By the way, McGregor gave me some letters for you."

He put two envelopes down on the ledge of a prie-dieu behind which
Barbara was standing, and which formed a slight barrier between them.
She took the letters in her hand, and then, partly because of the dim
light, put them back again on the prie-dieu. One note, unstamped, was
from Oliver Boringdon,--she knew the handwriting, and so did Berwick.
Barbara was to have gone back to-day; doubtless this note concerned
some village matter which the writer was unwilling to mention to
Doctor McKirdy. The other envelope bore the peculiar blue West Indian
stamp. Why had not McGregor kept these letters till Tuesday? For the
moment Barbara wanted to forget Boringdon and his rather morbid
susceptibilities--to forget, till her next letter to the Johnstones,
Santa Maria.

"Won't you read your letters?" Berwick was looking straight across at
her with a singular expression--was it of appeal or of command?--in his
eyes.

"Why should I--now?" But a moment later she changed her mind, "Yes, of
course I will; Mr. Boringdon may have sent some message to my god-mother
which ought to be seen to at once----" She opened the note, glanced
through it, then put it down on the ledge of the prie-dieu.

Berwick had turned away while she read Boringdon's note, but now he was
again staring at her with those strange, appealing eyes which seemed to
shine in the dim light.

Reluctantly, as if in spite of herself, Barbara stretched out her hand
and took up the other letter. Yes, it was, as she thought, from Andrew
Johnstone--a bare word of kindly acknowledgment for the return of the
fifty pounds which he had lent her.

She looked round, still holding the letter in her hand, but they were
far from the fire--

Berwick's face became set. Ah! no, that should not be.

"Mrs. Rebell--?"

He had not called her so, to herself, since the drive back from
Halnakeham Castle, and she had not noticed his avoidance of her name;
but now, the formal mode of address fell strangely on her ears.

"Yes?"

"May I read these two letters?" He added, almost inaudibly, "You cannot
think more ill of me than I do of myself."

Barbara suddenly felt as if she were taking part in an unreal scene, a
dream colloquy, and yet she knew this was no dream. What had happened,
what evil magic had so transformed her friend? That maternal instinct
which slumbers lightly in the depths of every woman's heart, woke into
life; she did not stay to diagnose the disease of which this strange
request was a symptom: "Do read them," she said, and tried to speak
indifferently, "I do not think ill of you--far from it, as Doctor
McKirdy would say."

She put Johnstone's letter down by the other, but Berwick left them
lying there; he still looked at her with a probing, suspicious look, and
she began to be desperately afraid. At Santa Maria she had once met a
miserable white man, the overseer of a neighbouring plantation, who was
said to have suddenly gone "fantee"--so had that man looked at her, as
Berwick was doing now, dumbly. Was this what he had meant when he had
spoken to her in the carriage of ungovernable impulses--of actions of
which he had afterwards felt bitterly ashamed?

Very slowly, still looking at her, he at last took up the two letters.
Then, with a sudden movement, and without having looked at it, he put
Boringdon's back on the ledge of the prie-dieu. "No," he said roughly,
"not that one--I do not think he ought to write to you, but no matter!"
Barbara felt herself trembling. She was beginning to understand.
Berwick's hands fingered nervously the West Indian letter; at last he
held it out to her, still folded, in his hand. "Here it is--take it--I
won't read it!"

"Oh! but do," she said. "It is from Mr. Johnstone, saying that he has
received the money you so kindly arranged to send back for me."

But Barbara's words came too late.

"Mr. Johnstone?" Berwick repeated the name, then laughed harshly. "Fool
that I was not to think of him! But all to-day, since McGregor gave me
that letter, I have been in hell. Of course you know what I
believed"--Barbara's lips quivered, and her look of suffering ought to
have disarmed the man who was staring at her so insistently, but he
was still possessed by a jealous devil. "Tell me"--and, leaning over
the prie-dieu, he grasped her hands--"We may as well have it out now.
Do you hear from him--from your husband, I mean? Do you write to
him--sometimes?"

She shook her head, and Berwick, at last free to see the agony and
surrender in the face into which he was looking down, and to which he
suddenly felt his lips so near, was swept by an irresistible rush and
mingling of feelings--remorse and fierce relief, shame and exultant joy.

"I think we ought to go downstairs,"--Arabella's clear voice broke into
and echoed through the silent room.

Berwick straightened himself slowly. Before releasing Barbara's hands he
kissed first one and then the other. As he did so, passion seemed to
melt into tenderness. How fragile, how childish he had thought the
fingers resting on his arm that first evening of their acquaintance! He
remembered also the fluttering, the trembling of her ringless left hand
when for a moment he had covered it with his own during that drive from
Halnakeham to Chillingworth, when he had made so much--or was it so
little?--of his opportunity.

The two walked down the gallery, towards O'Flaherty, who was still
standing by the wood fire, and Arabella, who was putting out the candles
with the rather disdainful thoroughness and care she gave to small
household matters. Lord Bosworth's servants were old, like himself, and
grew unmindful of their duties.

Berwick suddenly left Mrs. Rebell's side, but not till he had reached
the door did he turn round and say, "I am not coming down, for I have
work to do, so good-night!" A moment after, he was gone, with no more
formal leave-taking.

                               * * * * *

That night Barbara cried herself to sleep, but to her tears brought no
relief--rather an added shame for the weakness which made them flow so
bitterly. She felt overwhelmed by a great calamity--face to face with a
situation out of which she must herself, unaided, find an issue.

She had asked so little of the shattered broken life which remained to
her--only quietude and the placid enjoyment of a friendship which had
come to her unsought, and in which there could be no danger, whatever
Madame Sampiero or Mrs. Turke might think. Did not the feeling which
bound her to James Berwick enjoy the tacit approval of such a woman as
was Arabella Berwick? What else had made Miss Berwick say to her, as she
had done, that her brother could never marry? Surely the words had been
uttered with intention, to show Mrs. Rebell how desirable it was that he
should have--friends?

Till to-night, love, to Barbara Rebell, had borne but two faces. The
one, that of the radiant shadow-like figure, half cupid half angel, of
her childhood and girlhood, was he who had played his happy part in the
love affair of her father and mother, binding them the one to the other
as she, Barbara, had seen them bound. It was this love--noble, selfless,
unmaterial in its essence, or so she had thought--that lighted up Madame
Sampiero's face when she spoke, as she sometimes did speak, in the same
quivering breath, of Lord Bosworth and her little Julia.

Love's other face, that which she shuddered to know existed, had been
revealed to her by Pedro Rebell. It was base, sensual, cunning,
volatile, inconstant in its very essence, and yet, as Barbara knew, love
after all--capable, for a fleeting moment, of ennobling those under its
influence. Such, for instance, was love as understood by the coloured
people, among whom she had spent these last years of her life, and with
whose elementary joys and sorrows she had perforce sympathised.

Now, to-night, she realised that love could come in yet a third
guise--nay, for the first time she saw that perhaps this was the only
true love of them all, and that her first vision of the passion had been
but its shadow. Some such feeling as that which now, she felt with
terror, possessed her body as well as her soul, must have made her
mother cling as she had clung, in no joyless way, to sombre, disgraced
Richard Rebell.

Love again--warm, tender, passionate love--had linked together Lord
Bosworth and Barbara Sampiero for so many years, and had found
expression in their child. Thinking of those last two, Barbara lay and
trembled. Bitter words of condemnation uttered by her father leapt from
the storehouse of memory, as did the fact that her mother had once
implied to her that but for Madame Sampiero, but for something--was it
something wrong, or merely selfish and unwise which she had
done?--Barbara's father might have returned in time to England and made
some attempt to rehabilitate himself.

                               * * * * *

The maid who brought in her cup of tea in the morning laid a parcel down
on Barbara's bed. It was a book wrapped in brown paper, and fully
addressed to her with the superscription:--

    "DEAR MRS. REBELL,--Here is the book I promised to send you.

                             "Yours truly,
                                                    "JAMES BERWICK."

Some instinct made her wait till she was alone. Then, opening
the parcel, she saw that, with the volume of Jacobite songs
Berwick had indeed promised to give her, was a large envelope
marked "private." From it she drew out slowly some twenty sheets
or more, closely covered with the as yet unfamiliar writing of
the man she loved. To the end of her life Barbara could have
repeated portions of this, her first love letter, by heart, and
yet, before going downstairs, she burnt each separate sheet.

Over the last she hesitated. Indeed, she cut out the three
words, "my heart's darling." But the little gilt scissors had
belonged to her mother--how would her mother have judged what
she was now doing?--and the slip of paper went into the fire
with the rest.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

    "He smarteth most who hides his smart
    And sues for no compassion."

                                                            RALEIGH.


"Would you mind taking me with you to church this morning? Miss Berwick
tells me that her uncle won't be shocked."

When Mrs. Rebell made her request, Daniel O'Flaherty was walking up and
down the small hall, waiting for the carriage in which he was to drive
that Sunday morning to the nearest Roman Catholic chapel. He had shared
with the two ladies a comparatively early breakfast, for the service he
was to attend took place at ten.

"Yes, of course," he said, rather awkwardly, "I shall be very glad of
your company, but I'm afraid you won't be comfortable, for Mass is said,
it seems, in a little mission room." O'Flaherty had a vividly unpleasant
recollection of the last time he had taken "a smart lady" to church. She
had apparently expected to find a Notre Dame or Sistine Chapel in the
wilds of Herefordshire, and she had been very much annoyed with the
inartistic furnishings of the iron chapel. So it was that Mrs. Rebell's
request fell disagreeably on his ear.

                               * * * * *

Barbara's whole soul was possessed with the desire of putting off the
meeting with Berwick. How could she greet him before his sister? how
could she behave as if last night--as if his soul-stirring, ardent
letter, had not been? Berwick had written, among a hundred other
contradictory things, "Everything shall go on as before. I will school
myself to be content with the least you can give me." But even she knew
that that was impossible, and she blessed the chance which had now come
to her of escaping for a few hours the necessity of playing a part
before Lord Bosworth and Arabella.

So absorbed was Barbara in her thoughts that she scarcely noticed Mr.
Daman, when she crossed him on the broad staircase on her way to her
room to get ready for her expedition. The old man, however, had seen the
light from a large window beat straight on her absorbed face. For the
first time Barbara reminded him of her father, of Richard Rebell, and
the reminiscence was not pleasing. Pretty women, he said to himself
rather crossly, should study their looks; they owed it to those about
them. They ought not to get up too early in the morning and go racing
upstairs! Why, it was now only half-past nine, and Mrs. Rebell had
evidently already breakfasted. He himself was up at this unwonted hour
because it was Sunday, and on Sunday everything should be done to spare
the servants in a country house. Septimus Daman lived up to his own
moral code much more completely than many of those who regarded him as a
selfish old worldling could pretend to do. Still, he did not like to be
baulked of innocent pleasures, and not least among them was that of
having his tea poured out for him on Sunday morning by a pretty woman.

"Then you've breakfasted too?" Failing Barbara, Mr. Daman would have
liked the company of Daniel O'Flaherty. "Oh, I forgot! of course you're
going to your church"--a note of commiseration crept into the thin
voice; the old Queen's Messenger belonged to a generation when an
Irishman's religion was still the greatest of his disabilities.

"Yes, and I'm taking Mrs. Rebell with me." Septimus Daman's vested
interest in Barbara amused the barrister.

"Are you indeed?" Old Septimus always went to church on Sunday, but he
liked to have the duty sweetened by the presence of youth and beauty in
the pew. "You never saw her mother, did you?"

"No. The Rebell Case took place some years before I came to London." It
was not the first time Mr. Daman had asked the question, but O'Flaherty
answered very patiently, and even added--also not for the first
time--"She must have been an exceptionally beautiful and charming
woman."

"Perfection, absolute perfection! Her daughter isn't a patch on her as
to looks. I remember now the first time I saw Mrs. Richard Rebell I
thought her the loveliest creature I'd ever set eyes upon. Her name was
Adela Oglander, and people expected her to do uncommonly well for
herself. Awful to think what she did do, eh? But Richard Rebell was a
very taking fellow in those days. When I was a young man women were
content to look--well, as Mrs. Richard Rebell looked! One doesn't see
such pretty women now," Mr. Daman sighed, "I suppose our Mrs. Barbara
lost her complexion in the West Indies. Those climates, so I've always
understood, are damnation to the skin. Not that hers has roughened--eh,
what? And she can still blush--a great thing that, almost a lost art!"
he chuckled. "From what Bosworth tells me she had an awful time with the
brute she married."

"Was he in the Army?"

O'Flaherty was vaguely interested. He and Mrs. Rebell had had a
good deal of desultory talk, but she never alluded to her married
life. Those years--he roughly guessed them to be from twenty to
seven-and-twenty--seemed dropped out of her memory.

"Not that I ever heard of. He's always been a sugar planter, a
descendant of a Rebell younger son who went out to the West Indies to
make his fortune a hundred years ago. Poor Barbara Sampiero told me
about it at the time of the marriage."

"And how long has Mrs. Rebell been a widow?"

"She's not a widow. Whatever gave you such an idea?" The old man shot a
sudden shrewd look at the barrister; O'Flaherty's face expressed
surprise, yes, and profound annoyance. Dear, dear, this was distinctly
interesting!

Mr. Daman lowered his voice to a whisper, "Her husband's very much
alive, but he's signed, so Bosworth tells me, some kind of document
promising to leave her alone. Of course he keeps her fortune, such as it
is, for she was married before this act which makes women, I understand,
so very independent of their lords and masters. But that's rather a good
thing, for it takes away his only reason for molesting her. Still,
there'll be trouble with him, if, as I'm told, Madame Sampiero intends
to leave her well off. Good Lord, what a business we all had with
Napoleone Sampiero! He was a regular leech. Strange, isn't it, that both
these poor dear women--each, observe, a Barbara Rebell--should make such
a mess of their lives? However, in this case there's no _Bosworth_ to
complicate matters!"

O'Flaherty wheeled round, and looked hard at the old man, but Septimus
Daman had spoken with no after-thought in his mind. He had come to the
stage of life when old people are curiously unobservant, or perhaps it
should be said, no longer capable of realising the proximity of passion.

                               * * * * *

Condemnation of James Berwick, who, it seemed to O'Flaherty, should
remember the fact that he was under his sister's roof, and a certain
pity for, and shrinking from Mrs. Rebell, the woman now sitting so
silently by his side in the victoria, filled the barrister's mind. He
was also aware of experiencing that species of bewilderment which brings
with it the mortifying conviction that one has been excessively,
inexcusably blind. O'Flaherty cast his mind back over the last week.
That which he in his simplicity had taken for love,--love capable of
inducing such a man as Berwick to make a great sacrifice,--was doubtless
but the preliminary to one of those brief intrigues of which he heard so
much in the world in which he now lived.

And Mrs. Rebell? He had really liked her--unconsciously thought the
better of Arabella for having such a woman, one so gentle, kindly,
unassuming, for her friend. He knew the tragic story of Richard Rebell,
of his banishment from the pleasant world in which he had held so
prominent a place; and Barbara had been the more interesting, the more
worthy of respect in his eyes because she was in no sense ashamed of her
parentage. Was it possible that she was one of those women--he had
sometimes heard of them--who are said to possess every feminine virtue
save that on which, as he, the Irish farmer's son, absolutely believed,
all the others really depend?

O'Flaherty had seen a great deal of Mrs. Rebell; they had had more than
one long talk together. Never had he met a woman who seemed to him more
pure-minded in the very essence of her. And yet--well, the Irishman had
seen--as indeed who could help seeing, save that self-centred and _naif_
egoist, Septimus Daman?--that Barbara loved Berwick. The sight of these
two, so absorbed in one another, had deeply moved the one who looked on,
and quickened his own feeling for Arabella into life.

The barrister had envied Berwick the devotion of such a woman, thinking
a fabulous fortune well forfeited in the winning of Barbara Rebell as
companion on that mysterious, dangerous journey which men call life.
Realising the kind of intimate sympathy which seemed to bind these two,
O'Flaherty had recalled the phrase, "a marriage of true minds," and he
had thought of all it would mean to Berwick, even as regarded his public
career, to have so conciliatory, so charming a creature by his side.
Arabella Berwick, in spite of her many fine qualities and intellectual
gifts, possessed neither the tact nor the self-effacement so essential
to the fulfilment of the _rôle_ of statesman's wife or sister.

And now O'Flaherty learned that all the time he had been thinking these
things, Mrs. Rebell was well aware that there could be nothing permanent
or avowable in her tie with Berwick; while Berwick, on his side, was
playing the most delightful and absorbing of the great human games with
dice so loaded that, come what might, he was bound to win. The barrister
told himself that he had indeed been simple-minded to suppose that such
a man as Arabella's brother would sacrifice to love the wealth which
gave him an absolute and preeminent position among those he wished to
lead. "A marriage of true minds?"--an ugly look came over the plain,
strong face of the man sitting by Mrs. Rebell, and she, catching that
look, wondered what hateful thought, or sudden physical discomfort, had
brought it there.

But, when once he found himself kneeling in the humble little iron
chapel, long habit acted on Daniel O'Flaherty's mind, cleared it of
sordid images, made him think more charitable thoughts of the woman who
crouched rather than knelt by his side, in what seemed a position of
almost painful abasement. Poor Barbara Rebell! Mingling with the prayers
he knew by heart, and which were, after all, one long supplication for
mercy and forgiveness, came the slow conviction that she might not be
deserving of so much condemnation as he had at first assumed. Perhaps
she had come here, with him, to-day, to be out of the way of temptation,
and not, as he had unkindly suspected, to satisfy an idle and not very
healthy curiosity.

Busy as he had been last night in the music gallery with thoughts of his
own self and Arabella, O'Flaherty had yet been aware that an eager
colloquy was going on by the organ. He had heard Berwick's voice become
urgent and imperious, and he had put down the other man's rather
dramatic disappearance, and Mrs. Rebell's extreme quietude during the
rest of the evening, to some lovers' quarrel between these two, who up
to that time had required no such artificial stimulus to their passion.
Perhaps what had taken place between them had been more tragic, for Mrs.
Rebell looked to-day very unlike her gentle, composed self.

Barbara had risen from her knees, and sat apparently listening to the
little sermon. The expression of her face suddenly recalled to Daniel
O'Flaherty an evening in his life--that which had followed his parting
from Arabella Berwick. He had been taken by friends to the play, and on
leaving the theatre had found that his mind had retained absolutely
nothing of what had gone on before him on the stage. Not to save his
life could he have recalled a single scene, or even the most telling of
the speeches to which he had been listening the last three hours.
Doubtless he had then looked as Barbara looked now; and a feeling of
great concern and infinite pity took the place of that which had filled
his mind during the drive from Fletchings. But this new-born charity did
not extend to Berwick; for him, O'Flaherty still felt nothing but
condemnation.

They waited till the small congregation had streamed out, and then
walked slowly down the little aisle. "You don't look fit to walk back. I
expect I can easily get a carriage if you will wait a little while."

But Barbara answered with nervous decision, "I would much rather walk,
in fact, I was about to ask you if you would mind going round by
Chancton; it is scarcely out of our way, and I want to see Madame
Sampiero."

                               * * * * *

"I beg you to send for me--to-day--home again. I am tired of being away
from you! Oh! do not refuse, Marraine, to do as I ask----"

Barbara was kneeling by Madame Sampiero's couch, holding the stiff,
trembling hands, gazing imploringly into the set face and the wide open
eyes, now fixed on her with rather sad speculation and questioning.

"Why should I refuse? Have I not missed you? Ask McKirdy if we have not
all missed you, child?"

The muffled tones were even less clear than usual, but Barbara gave a
sigh, almost a sob, of relief. "You must insist on my coming back, at
once,--at once, Marraine--or they will want to keep me! Some people are
coming over to lunch to-morrow, and Miss Berwick will wish me to be
there."

"Why go back at all?"

"I must go back. Someone is waiting for me outside." Madame Sampiero's
eyelids flickered--"Oh, no, no! Marraine, not Mr. Berwick, but a Mr.
O'Flaherty. Besides, they would all be so surprised if I were not to
come back now. Send for me this afternoon."

She bent over and kissed her god-mother's hands. "How nice it is to be
home again!" and her voice trembled, "What, darling Marraine? Was Lord
Bosworth kind? Yes, indeed--more than good and kind! I have been very
happy--very, very happy!" and then she turned away to hide the tears
rushing to her eyes.

                               * * * * *

While waiting for Mrs. Rebell, Daniel O'Flaherty looked with great
interest at the splendid old house before which he was pacing up and
down. This, then, was Chancton Priory, the place belonging to the woman
who some said had made, and others said had marred, Lord Bosworth's
life.

The story had been widely known and discussed. Madame Sampiero had made
a desperate and an unsuccessful effort to break her marriage to the
Corsican adventurer whom she had married in a moment of headstrong,
girlish folly; and the world, hers and Lord Bosworth's, had been loud in
its sympathy. But for the fact that the ceremony had been solemnised
according to French law, she would easily have obtained release.

For a while, all had gone fairly well. Each lived his and her own life;
Madame Sampiero had acted as hostess to Lord Bosworth's friends, both at
Chancton, and in her London house, for she was a wealthy woman, and all,
save the very strait-laced, had condoned a situation which permitted the
exercise of tolerant charity.

Then had come the sudden appearance on the scene of a child, of the
little Julia concerning whose parentage scarcely any mystery was made,
and the consequent withdrawal of that feminine countenance and support
without which social life and influence are impossible in such a country
as England.

O'Flaherty looked up at the mullioned windows sunk back in the grey
stone; behind which of them lay the paralysed woman, now bereft of
lover, of child, of the company of friends, of everything which made
life worth living to such as she? Septimus Daman had talked of Madame
Sampiero again and again during the last few days, and had apparently
rejoiced in the thought that Mrs. Rebell was so devoted to the mistress
of Chancton Priory. What a strange life the two women must lead here!
The barrister looked round him consideringly. November is the sad month
of our country year. Even the great cedars added to the stately
melancholy of the deserted lawns, and leafless beeches.

Now, at last Mrs. Rebell was coming towards him from the porch; he saw
that she looked, if not happier, more at peace than she had done before
going into the Priory, yet her eyelids were swollen, and if victorious
she seemed one whose victory has cost her dear.

As she led the way down the broad grass drive, she began to talk of
indifferent matters, making what O'Flaherty felt was rather a pitiful,
and yet a gallant attempt to speak of things which might interest him.

Suddenly they touched on politics, "My father," Barbara's face softened,
became less mask-like, "cared so much about English politics. As a young
man he actually stood for Parliament, for in those days Halnakeham had a
member, but he was defeated. I have sometimes thought, since I have
heard Mr. Berwick and Mr. Boringdon talk--I don't know if you have met
Mr. Boringdon--how different everything might have been if my poor
father had been elected. He only lost the seat by thirty votes."

When she mentioned Berwick, the colour had flooded her face, and
O'Flaherty had looked away. "Oh yes, I've met Oliver Boringdon," he said
quickly, and to give her time to recover herself he went on, "I remember
him in the House. But I had the luck to get in again, and he was thrown
out, at the last General Election. The two friends are an interesting
contrast. I regard James Berwick as the typical Parliament man; not so
Mr. Boringdon, who is much more the permanent official, the plodding
civil servant--that was what he was originally, you know--and Berwick
did him a bad turn in taking him away from that career and putting him
into Parliament."

"But you do think well of Mr. Berwick? I mean, do you consider, as does
his sister, that he has a great future before him?"

She looked at her companion in undisguised anxiety, and O'Flaherty felt
rather touched by the confidence Barbara evidently reposed in his
judgment.

"I think," he said--and he offered up a mental prayer that he might so
speak as to help, not hinder, the woman by his side--"that James
Berwick's future will depend on the way he shapes his life. Do not think
me priggish--but the one thing that seems to me sure is that character
still tells more than ability in English public life. Character and
ability together are apt to prove irresistible."

"But what," asked Barbara in a low voice, "do you exactly mean by
character?"

"I mean something which Oliver Boringdon possesses to a supreme
degree--a number of qualities which together make it positively more
difficult for a man to go wrong than to go right, especially in any
matter affecting his honour or probity."

"Then--surely you regard Mr. Berwick as a man of character?"

O'Flaherty hesitated. The conversation was taking a strange turn, but he
made up his mind to tell her the truth as far as he saw it. "I think,"
he said deliberately, "that it is very difficult for a man of great
ability to be also a man of flawless character. He is probably tempted
in a thousand ways which pass the less gifted nature by; on the other
hand, his fate is much more in his own control. Berwick has come very
well out of ordeals partly brought about by his own desire to succeed.
Take his rather singular marriage."--the speaker looked straight before
him--"Of course I well remember that episode in his life. Men marry
every day for money, but Berwick conducted himself with propriety and
dignity under extremely trying circumstances."

"Did you ever see her?"--there was a painful catch in Barbara's
voice--"she was a friend, was she not, of Miss Berwick?"

"Hardly a friend--rather a worshipping acquaintance. No, I never saw
Mrs. James Berwick. She was rather an invalid both before and after the
marriage. I think she did a very wrong thing by her husband--one that
may even yet have evil consequences. You are doubtless aware that in the
event of Berwick's making a second marriage he loses the immense fortune
his wife left to him."

"That, then, was what Miss Berwick meant when she said he could never
marry." Barbara seemed to be speaking to herself, but the words fell on
O'Flaherty's ear with an unpleasing significance. His mind made a sudden
leap. Could Arabella be planning--oh! what a horrible suspicion
concerning the woman he had once loved! But it came back again and again
during the hour which followed. Had he not himself thought Miss Berwick
was doing all in her power to throw her brother and Mrs. Rebell
together?

He went on speaking, as if impelled to say what he really thought.
"Well, such a thing as that is enough to test a man's character. From
being a poor man, practically dependent on his uncle, Berwick became the
owner of almost unlimited money, to the possession of which, however,
was attached a clause which meant that in his case none of the normal
conditions of a man's life could be fulfilled--no wife, no child,
friendship with women perpetually open, as I know Berwick's more than
once has been, to misconstruction."

"And yet other men--?" Barbara looked at him deprecatingly, "You
yourself, Mr. O'Flaherty"--then she cried, "Forgive me! I have no right
to say that to you!"

"Nay," he said, "I give you for the moment every right to say, to ask,
what you like! I have no wife, no child, no home, Mrs. Rebell, because
the woman I loved rejected me; and also because, though I have tried to
like other women, I have failed. You see, it was not that I had made a
mistake, such as men make every day, for she loved me too--that makes
all the difference. She was in a different position to my own; I was
very poor, and there was the further bar of my religion, even of my
nationality"--he spoke with a certain difficulty. "At the time she acted
as she thought best for both our sakes. But, whatever my personal
experiences or motives for remaining unmarried may be, I have no
doubt,--no doubt at all,--as to the general question. To my mind, James
Berwick's friends must regret that he has never, apparently, been
tempted to make the great sacrifice; and for my part, I hope the day
will come when he will meet with a woman for whom he will think his
fortune well lost, whom he will long to make his wife in a sense that
the poor creature he married never was, and in whom he will see the
future mother of his children." He paused, then added in a low voice,
"In no other tie can such a man as he find permanent solace and
satisfaction. If report speaks truly, he has more than once tried an
alternative experiment."

He dared not look at her. They walked on in absolute silence.

At last she spoke, "Please say nothing of our walk round by Chancton
Priory." And when, some hours later, there came a letter from Doctor
McKirdy declaring that Madame Sampiero was not well, and longed for Mrs.
Rebell's presence, Daniel O'Flaherty thought he understood. A pang of
miserable self-reproach struck his heart and conscience. What right had
he to have put this woman to the torture--to take on himself the part of
Providence?

After they had all seen Barbara off, after he had noted her very quiet
but determined rejection of Berwick's company on the way to Chancton
Priory, Daniel O'Flaherty was in no mood to go for the walk to which
Miss Berwick had been looking forward all that afternoon.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

    "Look in my face: my name is Might-have-been,
    And I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell."

                                             DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.


The days following Barbara's return to Chancton Priory went slowly by,
and she received no sign, no word from Berwick. She had felt quite sure
that he would come--if not that same evening of her leaving Fletchings,
then the next morning; if not in the morning, then in the afternoon.

During those days she went through every phase of feeling. She learnt
the lesson most human beings learn at some time of their lives--how to
listen without appearing to do so for the sounds denoting arrival, how
to hunger for the sound of a voice which to the listener brings
happiness, however indifferently these same accents fall on the ears of
others. She schooled herself not to flinch when the days went by
bringing no successor to that letter in which Berwick had promised her
so much more than she had ever asked of him.

Even in the midst of her restless self-questioning and unhappiness, she
was touched and pleased at the gladness with which she had been welcomed
home again by Madame Sampiero, and even by Doctor McKirdy. It seemed
strange that neither of them spoke of the man who now so wholly occupied
her thoughts; no one, with the exception perhaps of his old nurse, noted
Berwick's absence, or seemed to find it untoward. Barbara had at first
been nervously afraid that Madame Sampiero would make some allusion to
the few moments they had spent together that Sunday morning, that she
would perhaps ask her what had induced her eager wish to leave
Fletchings; but no such word was said, and Barbara could not even
discover whether Doctor McKirdy was aware that her sudden return to the
Priory had been entirely voluntary.

And then, as the short winter days seemed to drag themselves along, Mrs.
Rebell, almost in spite of herself, again began to see a great deal of
Oliver Boringdon. There was something in his matter-of-fact eagerness
for her society which soothed her sore heart; her manner to him became
very gracious, more what it had been before Berwick had come into her
life; and again she found herself taking the young man's part with
Madame Sampiero and the old Scotchman. Boringdon soon felt as happy as
it was in his nature to be. He told himself he had been a jealous fool,
for Barbara spoke very little of her visit to Fletchings, and not at all
of Berwick; perhaps she had seen him when there at a disadvantage.

As Oliver happened to know, Berwick had left Sussex; he was now in
London, and doubtless they would none of them see anything of him till
Easter. The young man took the trouble to go down to the Grange and tell
Mrs. Kemp that he had been mistaken in that matter of which he had
spoken to her. He begged her, rather shamefacedly, to forget what he had
said. Lucy's mother heard him in silence, but she did not repeat her
call on Mrs. Rebell. So it was that during those days which were so full
of dull wretchedness and suspense to Barbara Rebell, Oliver Boringdon
also went through a mental crisis of his own, the upshot of which was
that he wrote a long and explicit letter to Andrew Johnstone.

They were both men to whom ambiguous situations were utterly alien.
Boringdon told himself that Johnstone might not understand, or might
understand and not approve, his personal reason for interference; but
Johnstone would certainly agree that Mrs. Rebell's present position was
intolerable from every point of view, and that some effort should be
made to set her legally free from such a man as was this Pedro Rebell.
Once Barbara was free,--Oliver thrust back the leaping rapture of the
thought--

After much deliberation he had added, as a postscript: "I have no
objection to your showing this letter to Grace."

Doctor McKirdy watched Mrs. Rebell very narrowly during these same early
December days, and as he did so he became full of wrath against James
Berwick. He and Madame Sampiero had few secrets from one another. The
old Scotchman had heard of Barbara's sudden Sunday morning appearance at
the Priory, and of her appeal--was it for protection against herself? He
made up his mind that she and Berwick must have had, if not a quarrel,
then one of those encounters which leave deeper marks on the combatants
than mere quarrels are apt to do.

More than once the rough old fellow was strongly tempted to say to her:
"If you wish to make yourself ill, you are just going the way to do it!"
but Mrs. Rebell's determination to go on as usual, to allow no one to
divine the state of her mind, aroused his unwilling admiration, nay
more, his sympathy. He had known, so he told himself, what it was to
feel as Barbara felt now, but in his case jealousy, an agony of
jealousy, had been added to his other torments, and shame too for the
futility of it all.

                               * * * * *

Nine days after Barbara had left Fletchings she received a letter from
Berwick. It bore the London postmark, but was dated the evening of the
day they had parted,--of that day when she had successfully eluded his
desire, his determination, to see her alone.

A certain savagery of anger, hurt pride, over-mastering passion breathed
in the few lines of the short note which began abruptly, "I have no wish
to force my presence on you," and ended "Under the circumstances perhaps
it were better that we should not meet for a while." Something had been
added, and then erased; most women would have tried to find out what
that hasty scrawl concealed, but if it hid some kinder sentiment the
writer, before despatching his missive, had repented, and to Barbara the
fact that he did not wish her to read what he had added was enough to
prevent her trying to do so.

With deep trouble and self-reproach she told herself that perhaps she
had been wrong in taking to flight--nay, more, that she had surely owed
Berwick an explanation. No wonder he was hurt and angry! And he would
never know, that was the pity of it, that it was of herself she had been
afraid--

Then those about her suddenly began to tell Mrs. Rebell that which would
have made such a difference before the arrival of Berwick's letter. "I
suppose you know that James Berwick is in London? He was sent for
suddenly," and Boringdon mentioned the name of the statesman who had
been Prime Minister when Berwick held office.

"Has he been gone long?"--Barbara's voice sounded indifferent.

"Yes, he seems to have had a wire on a Sunday, on the day you came back
from Fletchings."

And Boringdon had never told her this all-important fact! Barbara felt a
sudden secret resentment against the young man. So it had lain with him
to spare her those days of utter wretchedness; of perpetually waiting
for one whom she believed to be in the near neighbourhood; nay more,
those moments of sick anxiety, for at times she had feared that Berwick
might be ill, physically unable to leave Fletchings or Chillingworth.
But this most unreasonable resentment against Oliver she kept in her own
heart.

The next to speak to her of Berwick had been Mrs. Turke. "So our Mr.
Berwick's in London? But he'll be back soon, for he hasn't taken Dean
with him. Sometimes months go by without our seeing the dear lad, and
then all in a minute he's here again. That's the way with gentlemen; you
never know when you have 'em!" And she had given Barbara a quick,
meaning look, as if the remark had a double application.

                               * * * * *

Then came a day, the 8th of December, which Mrs. Rebell became aware was
not like other days. For the first time since she had been at the Priory
Madame Sampiero inquired as to the day of the month. Doctor McKirdy was
more odd, more abrupt even than usual, and she saw him turn Boringdon
unceremoniously from the door with the snarling intimation that Madame
Sampiero did not wish to-day to be troubled with business matters. Mrs.
Turke also was more mysterious, less talkative than usual; she went
about her own quarters sighing and muttering to herself.

A sudden suspicion came into Barbara's heart; could it be that James
Berwick was coming back, that they expected him to-day, and that none of
them liked to tell her? If so, how wise of McKirdy to have sent away
Oliver Boringdon! But then cold reason declared that if such was indeed
the case, to make so great a mystery of the matter would be an insult to
her, surely the last thing that any of them, with the exception perhaps
of the old housekeeper, would dare to do?

Still, when at last, late in the morning, she was sent for by Doctor
McKirdy, and informed curtly that someone was waiting for her in the
grass walk, she made no doubt of who it could be. In her passion of
relief, in her desire to bear herself well, to return, if it might be
possible, to the old ideal terms on which she and Berwick had been
before he had been seized with what she to herself now characterised as
a passing madness, Barbara hardly noticed how moved, how unlike himself
the old Scotchman seemed to be, and how, again and again, he opened his
lips as if to tell her something which native prudence thrust back into
his heart.

So great, so overwhelming was Barbara's disappointment when she saw that
the man leaning on the iron gate leading to the now leafless rosery was
Lord Bosworth, and not James Berwick, that she had much ado to prevent
herself from bursting into tears. But she saw the massive figure before
she herself was seen, and so was able to make a determined effort to
conceal both her bitter deception, and also her great surprise at
finding him there.

"As you are doubtless aware," Lord Bosworth began abruptly, "I come here
three or four times a year, and McKirdy is good enough to arrange that
on those occasions I can visit my child's grave without fear of
interruption. I ventured to ask that you might be told that I wished to
see you here, because I have a request to make you--"

He hesitated, and with eyes cast down began tracing with the heavy stick
he bore in his hand imaginary geometrical patterns on the turf.

"If my daughter Julia had lived, she would have been seventeen to-day,
and so it seemed to me--perhaps I was wrong--to be a good opportunity to
make another effort to soften Barbara's heart." He put his hand on Mrs.
Rebell's shoulder, and smiled rather strangely as he quickly added, "You
understand? I mean my own poor Barbara's heart, not that of this kind
young Barbara, who I am hoping will intercede for me, on whom I am
counting to help me in this matter. I do not know how far I should be
justified in letting her know what is undoubtedly the truth, namely,
that I have not very long to live. McKirdy absolutely refuses to tell
her; but perhaps, if she knew this fact, it would alter her feeling, and
make her more willing to consider the question of--of--our marriage."

And then, as Barbara started and looked at him attentively, he went on
slowly, and with a quiet dignity which moved his listener deeply: "Of
course you know our story? Sometimes I think there is no one in the
whole world who does not know it. There were years, especially after the
birth of our little Julia, when I think I may say we both had marriage
on the brain. And then, when at last Barbara was free, when Napoleone
Sampiero"--his face contracted when he uttered the name--"was dead, she
would not hear of it. She seemed to think--perhaps at the time it was
natural she should do so--that the death of our poor child had been a
judgment on us both. But now, after all these years, I think she might
do as I ask. I even think--perhaps you might put that to her--that she
owes me something. No husband was ever more devoted to a wife than I
have been to her. Now, and Heaven knows how many years it is since we
last met, I think of her constantly. She is there!--there!" He struck
his breast, then went on more calmly: "My niece knows my wishes, there
would be no trouble with her; and as for my nephew, James Berwick, you
know how attached he has always been to Barbara. Why, I'm told he's much
more here now than he is at Chillingworth!"

He turned abruptly, and they walked slowly, side by side, down the broad
grass path till there came a spot where it became merged in the road
under the beeches. Here he stopped her.

"You are surely not going to walk back all the way alone!" she cried,
for she saw with emotion that he looked older even in the few days which
had elapsed since he had bade her good-bye at Fletchings.

"No, the carriage is waiting for me down there. I only walked up through
the park. Then I have your promise to speak to Madame Sampiero?" he held
her hand, and looked down with peculiar earnestness into her face. As
she bent her head, he added, "You'll let me have word when you can? Of
course, if she's still of the same mind, I'll not trouble her." He
walked on, and then turned suddenly back and grasped Barbara's hand once
more. "Better not use the health argument," he said, "doctors do make
mistakes--an old friend of mine married his cook on, as he thought, his
death-bed, and then got quite well again!" He smiled at her rather
deprecatingly, "I know my cause is in good hands," and she watched him
walk with heavy, deliberate steps down the leaf-strewn way.

For the first time Barbara drew the parallel those about her had so
often drawn. Was James Berwick capable of such constancy, of such long
devotion as his uncle had shown? Something whispered yes; but even if
so, how would that affect her, how would that make her conduct less
reprehensible, were she ever to fall short of what had been her own
mother's standard?

                               * * * * *

Before her interview with Lord Bosworth, it had seemed to Barbara that
she constantly spent long hours alone with her god-mother; but, after
that memorable eighth of December, she felt as if those about Madame
Sampiero had entered into a conspiracy to prevent her being ever left
alone with her god-mother for more than a very few moments at a time.
Doctor McKirdy suddenly decided to have his house repapered, and he
accordingly moved himself bodily over to the Priory, where Barbara could
not complain of his constant presence in "Madam's" room, for he always
found something to amuse or interest his patient.

Twice he spoke to Barbara of Lord Bosworth, each time with strange
bitterness and dislike. "No doubt his lordship was after seeing Madam?"
and, as Barbara hesitated: "Fine I knew it!--but he might just as well
go and kill her outright. I've had to tell him so again and again"--

Barbara kept her own counsel, but she could not resist the question,
"Then he comes often?"

"Often?--that he does not! He's never been one to put himself out, he's
far too high! He just sends for me over to Fletchings, and I just go,
though I've felt more than once minded to tell him that I'm not his
servant. Madam's determined that he shall never see her as she is now,
and who can blame her? Not I, certainly! Besides, he hasn't a bit of
right to insist on such a thing." And he looked fiercely at Barbara as
he spoke, as if daring her to contradict him.

"I think he has a right," she said in a low tone--then with more
courage, "Of course he has a right, Doctor McKirdy! I'm sure if my
god-mother could see Lord Bosworth, could hear him----" her voice broke,
and she bit her lip, sorry at having said so much.

But the interview with Madame Sampiero's old friend, and the little
encounters with Doctor McKirdy, did Barbara good. They forced her to
think of something else than of herself, of another man than James
Berwick; and at last she made up her mind that she would tell her
god-mother she wished to speak to her without this dread of constant,
futile interruption. At once her wish was granted, for the paralysed
mistress of the Priory could always ensure privacy when she chose.

But, alas for Barbara, the result of the painful talk was not what she
had perhaps been vain enough to think herself capable of achieving on
behalf of Lord Bosworth: indeed, for a moment she had been really
frightened, on the point of calling Doctor McKirdy, so terrible, so
physically injurious had been Madame Sampiero's agitation.

"I cannot see him! He must not see me in this state--he should not ask
it of me." Such, Mrs. Rebell had divined, were the words her god-mother
struggled over and over again to utter. "Marriage?"--a lightning flash
of horror, revolt, bitter sarcasm, had illumined for a moment the
paralysed woman's face. Then, softening, she had added words signifying
that she was not angry, that she forgave--Barbara!

Very sadly, with a heart full of pain at the disappointment she knew she
was about to inflict, Mrs. Rebell wrote to Lord Bosworth. She softened
the refusal she had to convey by telling, with tenderness and
simplicity, how much the man to whom she was writing seemed to be ever
in her god-mother's thoughts, how often Madame Sampiero spoke of him,
how eagerly she had cross-questioned her god-daughter as to the days
Barbara had spent at Fletchings and her conversations with her host.

Mrs. Rebell wrote this difficult letter in the drawing-room, sitting at
the beautiful bureau which had been the gift of the man to whom she was
writing, and which even now contained hundreds of his letters. Suddenly,
and while she was hesitating as to how she should sign herself, James
Berwick walked, unannounced, into the room, coming so quietly that for a
moment he stood looking at Barbara before she herself became aware that
he was there. So had Barbara looked, on that first evening he had seen
her; but then he had been outside the window and gazing at the woman
bending over the bureau with cool, critical eyes.

Now, he was aware of nothing, save that the hunger of his eyes was
appeased, and that he had come to eat humble pie and make his peace, for
in his case that prescription which is said to be so excellent for
lovers--absence--had only made him feel, more than he had done before,
that he could not and would not live without her.

                               * * * * *

An hour later Berwick was gone, as Barbara believed in all sincerity,
for ever. He knew better, but even he felt inclined to try another dose
of that absence, of that absorption in the business that he loved, to
compel forgetfulness. It was clear--so he told himself when rushing back
to Chillingworth through the December night air--it was clear that what
this woman wanted was a stone image, not a man, for her friend!

For a while, perhaps for half the time he had been with her, standing by
the mantel-piece while she sat two or three yards off, there had been a
truce of God. Berwick had thought out a certain line of action, and he
tried to be, as some hidden instinct told him she wished to see him,
once more the tender, self-less, sexless friend. He even brought his
lips to mutter something like a prayer for forgiveness, and the tears
came into her eyes as with uplifted hand she checked the words. Poor
Barbara! She was so divinely happy, for his mere presence satisfied her
heart. She had never known him quite so gentle, quite so submissive, as
to-day. So glad had she been to see him that for a moment she had felt
tempted to show him how welcome he was! But he had chosen,--and she was
deeply grateful to him for this--to behave as if he had only parted from
her the day before. Fletchings, all that happened there, was to be as if
it had not been--as if the scene in the music gallery had been blotted
out from their memories.

Then came an allusion on his part to his forthcoming visit to Scotland,
and to the invitation which he knew his sister had been at some pains to
procure for Mrs. Rebell, and which Barbara would receive the next
morning.

"I cannot accept it; it is very kind of Miss Berwick, but how could I
leave my god-mother again so soon?"

"Is that the only reason?" he said, and she heard with beating heart the
under-current of anger, of suppressed feeling in his voice. "If so, I am
sure I can make it all right. It would only be ten days, and Madame
Sampiero would like you to meet the people who will be there. But
perhaps"--he came nearer and stood glowering down at her--"perhaps that
is not your only reason!"

And Barbara, looking up at him with beseeching eyes, shook her head.

"Do you mean"--Berwick spoke so quietly that his tone deceived her, and
made her think him in amicable agreement with herself--"Do you mean that
you do not wish to find yourself again under the same roof with me? Did
what happened at Fletchings make that difference?"

She hesitated most painfully. "I have been very unhappy," she whispered
at last, "I know we have both regretted----"

"By God, I have regretted nothing--excepting your coldness!" He grasped
her hands not over-gently, and the look came into his eyes which had
come there in the music room at Fletchings. "Do you wish us to go back
to coldly-measured friendship?" Then he bent down and gathered her into
his arms, even now not daring to kiss her. "Tell me," he said with
sudden gentleness, "am I--am I--disagreeable to you, my dearest? I shall
not be angry if you say yes." And Barbara, lying trembling, and as he
thought inertly, unresponsively, in his arms, found the courage to
answer, "I do care--but not as you wish me to do. Why cannot we go back
to where we were?"

On hearing the whispered words he quickly released her, and, turning,
made his way to the door. Barbara, for an agonised moment, nearly called
out to him to come back and learn from her arms--her lips--how untrue
were the words which were driving him away.

But in a moment, or so it seemed to her, he had thrust her from him and
had gone, hastening down the great hall, and out through the porch into
the air.

                               * * * * *

By the morning she had taught herself to think it was better he should
never come back, for never would she find the strength to send him away
again as she had done last night.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


    "Nay, but the maddest gambler throws his heart."

                                                    GEORGE MEREDITH.

    "L'orgueil, remède souverain, qui n'est pas à l'usage des âmes
    tendres."

                                                           STENDHAL.


The pretty Breton legend setting forth that, during the night, angels
take sanctuary from evil spirits in the neighbourhood of sleeping
maidens, often came to Mrs. Kemp's mind when she said good-night to
Lucy. There was something very virginal, very peaceful and bright, in
the girl's room, of which the window overlooked the paddock of the
Grange, the walled kitchen garden of the Priory, and beyond that a
splendid stretch of meadow land and beechwood.

Small low-shelved mahogany bookshelves, put together at a time of the
world's history when women's hands were considered too fragile and
delicate to hold heavy volumes, made squares of dark colour against the
blue walls. Lucy Kemp had always been a reader, both as child and as
girl. Here were all her old books, from that familiar and yet rather
ill-assorted trio, "The Fairchild Family," "The Swiss Family Robinson,"
and "The Little Duke," to "Queechy," "Wives and Daughters," and "The
Heir of Redclyffe," for their owner's upbringing had been essentially
old-fashioned.

Lucy lay back in the dreamless sleep of girlhood. It was a cold January
morning, and the embers of last night's fire still slumbered in the
grate. Suddenly there broke on the intense stillness the rhythmical
sound of pebbles being thrown with careful, sure aim against the window,
open some inches from the top. The sleeper stirred uneasily, but she
slept on till a small stone, aimed higher than most of those which had
preceded it, fell into the room. Then Lucy Kemp woke with a great start
and sat up in bed listening.

Yes, there could be no doubt about it, someone was standing in the
paddock below trying to attract her attention! She got up, wrapped
something round her, and then lifted the window-sash. In the dim light
she saw a man standing just below, and Boringdon's hoarse, quick tones
floated up to her.

"Lucy--Miss Kemp! Would you ask your mother if she could come to the
Priory as soon as possible? There's been an accident there--a fire--and
I fear Mrs. Rebell has been badly burnt."

His voice filled Lucy with varying feelings--joy that he had
instinctively turned to the Grange for help, horror and concern at what
he had come to tell.

"Mother's away," she cried in a troubled tone. "She and father have gone
over to Berechurch for three nights. Should I be of any use? I shouldn't
be a moment getting ready."

In less than ten minutes she joined him, and together they hastened
through a seldom opened door giving access from the garden of the Grange
into the Priory Park. Soon Oliver was hurrying her up the path, walking
so quickly that she could scarcely keep up with him, towards the great
silent mass of building the top windows of which, those which lay half
hidden by the Tudor stone balcony, were now strangely lit up, forming a
coronal of light to the house beneath.

"What happened?" she asked breathlessly.

"It's impossible to say what happened," Boringdon spoke in sharp
preoccupied tones, "Mrs. Rebell seems to have been reading in bed and to
have set fire to a curtain. She behaved, as she always does, with great
good sense, and she and McGregor--heaven knows how--managed to put out
the flames; not, however, before the fire had spread into the
sitting-room next her bedroom. McKirdy, it seems, has always insisted
that there should be buckets of water ready on every landing." Oliver
would have scorned to defraud his enemy of his due. "When the whole
thing was over, then they all--that stupid old Mrs. Turke and the
maids--saw that she was badly burnt!"

The speaker's voice altered; he paused for a moment, and then continued,
"They sent for McKirdy, who, as bad luck would have it, went back to his
own house last week, and found him away, for he's been helping that
Scotch doctor at Halnakeham with a bad case. Then they came on to me.
Even now they're like a pack of frightened sheep! Madame Sampiero knows
nothing of what has happened, and Mrs. Rebell is extremely anxious that
her god-mother should not be agitated--why, she actually wanted to go
down herself to tell her that everything was all right."

Lucy listened in silence. How Oliver cared, how dreadfully he cared! was
the thought which would thrust itself into the girl's mind. "Is Mrs.
Rebell very badly hurt?" she asked. "Oh! I wish that mother was here.
Have you sent for another doctor?"

"I don't know how far she is hurt," he muttered, "her arm and shoulder,
some of her hair--" then, more firmly, "No, she won't let me send for
anyone but McKirdy. Besides, by the time we could get a man over from
Halnakeham, he would certainly be back. But it will be everything to her
to have you there, if only to keep order among the frightened,
hysterical women."

                               * * * * *

Lucy had never before been inside Chancton Priory; and now, filled
though she was by very varying emotions, she yet gazed about her, when
passing through into the great hall, with feelings of deep interest and
curiosity: it looked vast, cavernous, awe-inspiring in the early morning
light.

A moment later they were hastening up the corner staircase. At the first
landing, they were stopped by Madame Sampiero's French maid, who put a
claw-like hand on Boringdon's arm--"Do come in and see my mistress, Sir.
She divines something, and we cannot calm her."

Boringdon hesitated, then he turned to Lucy.

"I must go," he said, "I promised I would. You go on straight upstairs,
as far as you can go; once there you will be sure to find someone to
show you the way to the room where we have put Mrs. Rebell." And the
girl went on alone, groping her way up the dark, to her they seemed the
interminable, stairs.

An amazing figure--Mrs. Turke in _déshabillé_--awaited Lucy on the top
landing, and greeted her with considerable circumstance.

"The young lady from the Grange, I do declare! A sad day for your first
visit to the Priory, missy! But la, never mind. I've often seen you, you
and your dear papa, and I read all about him in a book I've got. What a
brave gentleman! But reading about it gave me the shivers, that it
did--I would like to see that Victoria Cross of his! So Mr. Boringdon
thinks you may be of use to Mrs. Rebell? Well, miss, I'll take you in to
her. But she's made us all go away and leave her--she says she'd rather
be alone to wait for the doctor."

Mrs. Turke preceded Lucy down the passage, and finally opened the door
of a pretty, old-fashioned bedroom; the girl went in timidly and then
gave a sigh of relief; the woman whom Oliver Boringdon had described as
having been "badly burnt" was sitting up in a large armchair. She was
wrapped in some kind of ample white dressing-gown, and a large piece of
wadding had been clumsily attached to her left arm, concealing the left
side of her face and hair.

Mrs. Rebell's eyes were fixed eagerly on the door through which Lucy had
just come in. She did not show any surprise at seeing the girl, but at
once began talking to her eagerly; and as she did so Lucy saw that she
was shivering, for the room was very cold. A fire was laid in the grate,
but evidently no one had thought of lighting it. Three candles, placed
on the narrow mantel-piece, threw a bright light on as much of Barbara's
face as Lucy could see. Her cheeks were red, her dark eyes bright, with
excitement.

"It is kind of you to have come," she said. "Mr. Boringdon told me he
would fetch your mother. I suppose Doctor McKirdy will be here soon? Has
Mr. Boringdon gone to fetch him?"

"No," Lucy looked at her doubtfully; was it possible that anyone who
looked as Mrs. Rebell did now, so excited, so--so strangely beautiful,
could be really hurt, in pain? "He has gone to tell Madame Sampiero that
all danger is over, that there is nothing more to fear."

A look of great anxiety crossed Barbara's face. "My god-mother is very
brave. I do not think she will give much thought to the fire, but I hope
he will tell her that I am not really hurt. Perhaps, after Doctor
McKirdy has come, I can go down, and show her that there is really
nothing the matter."

As she spoke, she winced. "Are you much hurt?" asked Lucy in a low
voice, and her shrinking eyes again glanced at the sheet of wadding
which wholly concealed Mrs. Rebell's arm, left breast, and one side of
her head.

Barbara looked at her rather piteously. "I don't know," she said; "It
hurt dreadfully at first, but now I feel nothing, only a slight pricking
sensation." She repeated, "It hurt dreadfully till they fetched Mr.
Boringdon, and then he found--I don't know where or how--the oil and
wadding, which he made poor old Mrs. Turke put on. He was so good and
kind!" She smiled at the girl, a friendly smile, and the look in her
eyes brought a burning blush to Lucy's cheeks.

There was a pause; then Lucy, having taken off her hat and jacket,
lighted the fire.

"Miss Kemp," Barbara's voice sank to a whisper, "I want you to do
something for me. That fire which you have so kindly lighted has made me
think of it. Will you go into my room, two doors from here, and bring me
a packet of letters you will find in my dressing-table drawer? The
drawer is locked, but the key is in my purse. When you have brought it,
I want you to burn the letters, here, before me," and as Lucy was
turning to obey her, she added, "Take one of the candles. Mr. Boringdon
said the two rooms were to be left exactly as they are, and everything
must be dripping with water, and in fearful confusion."

Lucy never forgot her little expedition down the dark passage, and the
strange scene which met her eyes in the two rooms which had evidently
been, till that night, as neat, as delicately clean, as was her own at
the Grange. Well was it for poor Barbara that she had so few personal
treasures. But the dressing-table had escaped injury save from the
water, which in the bedroom had actually done more harm than the fire.

When she got back into the room where Mrs. Rebell was sitting, it seemed
to Lucy that Barbara had changed in the short interval--that she looked,
not well, as she had done when Lucy had first seen her half an hour
before, but very, very ill. The colour now lay in patches on her cheek,
and she watched with growing feverishness the burning of the few
letters, from each of which, as she put it in the bright crackling fire,
Lucy averted her eyes, a fact which Mrs. Rebell, in spite of her
increasing dizziness and pain, saw and was grateful for.

"Miss Kemp," the speaker's voice was very low, "come here, close to me.
Someone may come in, and I am feeling so strange----Perhaps I may forget
what I want to tell you. You know Mr. Berwick?" Lucy was kneeling down
by the arm-chair, and Barbara put her right hand on the girl's slight
shoulder--"But of course you do, I was forgetting the ball----Why, he
danced with you. If I die, only if I die, promise me----" an agonised
look came into the dark eyes--

"I promise," said Lucy steadily; "only if you die----"

"If I die, you are to tell him that I cared as he wished me to
care,--that when I sent him away, and in the letters I have written to
him since, I said what was not true----"

Lucy felt the burning hand laid on her shoulder press more heavily: "No
one else must ever know, but you promise that you will tell him----"

"I promise," said Lucy again. "I will tell him exactly what you have
told me, and no one else shall ever know."

A slight noise made her look round. Doctor McKirdy stood in the doorway.
He was bare-headed, but he still wore the great coat in which he had
driven from Halnakeham. He was pale, his plain face set in a watchful,
alert grimace, as his eyes took in every detail of the scene, of the
room before him.

Barbara gave a cry--or was it a moan?--of relief. He turned and slipped
the bolt in the door. "Time for talking secrets will come next week,"
then he took off his great coat, washed his hands--with a gruff word of
commendation at the fact that there were water, soap, a towel, in what
had been a disused room--turned up his sleeves, and bade Lucy stand
aside.

"Now," he said, quickly, "would ye rather go away, Miss Lucy? If yes,
there's the door!"

"Can I help you?" Lucy was very pale; she felt sick, a little faint.

"If ye were ye're mother, I should say _yes_----"

"Then I'll stay," said Lucy.

"'Twould be an ill thing if such a brave pair had produced a
chicken-livered lass, eh?"

He did not speak again till everything there was to see had been seen,
till everything there was to do had been done; it seemed a very long
business to Lucy, and by the time the doctor had finished tears were
rolling down her face. How could she have thought that perhaps Mrs.
Rebell was not much hurt after all? "Now ye're just to have a good sip
of that brandy ye've been giving Mrs. Rebell. I'm well pleased with ye
both!" And when Lucy shook her head, he gave her such a look that she
hastened to obey him, and suddenly felt a flash of sympathy for
drunkards. How wonderful that a few spoonfuls of this horrid stuff
should check her wish to cry, and make her feel sensible again!

As Doctor McKirdy unceremoniously signified that he could dispense with
her presence, as he unlocked the door for her to pass through, something
in Lucy's face made him follow her, unwillingly, into the passage. "What
is it?" he said sharply.

"Oh, Doctor McKirdy! Do you think she will die?"

"Die? Are ye mad, my poor lass? There's no question of such a thing.
She's more likely to die o' cold than anything else! Now go downstairs
and send your fine friend Mr. Boringdon and McGregor this way. We've got
to move her to the Queen's Room. There have been big fires there all
this week--regard for the furniture, the apple of Mrs. Turke's eye, I
said they were to get it ready--but we shall have a business getting her
down there."

                               * * * * *

The long, painful progress down the winding staircase was safely over.
Barbara was comfortably settled in the great square canopied bed, where,
if tradition could be believed, Queen Elizabeth and her less magnificent
successor had both, at intervals of fifty years, reposed. Madame
Sampiero's Scotch attendant was installed as nurse, and there was
nothing left for Lucy Kemp to do but to go home to her solitary
breakfast at the Grange. Boringdon, after having done his part, and a
very useful one, in lifting and carrying Mrs. Rebell down the two
flights, had retreated into the broad corridor, and was walking up and
down waiting--he himself hardly knew for what.

But Doctor McKirdy had quite made up his mind as to the next thing to be
done. "Now then, you must just take Miss Kemp home again, and I charge
you to see that she has a good breakfast! Take her down through the
Park. The village will be a buzzing wasps' nest by this time; half of
them seem to think--so Mrs. Turke's just told me--that we're all burnt
to cinders! You just stay with the poor lass as long as you can, and
don't let Miss Vipen or any other havering woman get at her to be asking
her useless questions. If I want you I'll send to the Grange."

And so it was to Doctor McKirdy that Lucy owed the happy, peaceful hours
spent by her that morning. Boringdon had dreaded the going back to the
Cottage, to his mother's excited questionings and reflections, to her
annoyance that he had gone to the Grange, rather than to her, for help.
He knew he would have to tell her everything. She was not a woman from
whom it was possible to conceal very much, and in the long run she
always got at the truth, but just now it was much to be able to put off
his return home.

Dear Lucy! How good, how sensible, how _quiet_ she had been! She
stumbled over the porch flag-stone, and he drew her arm through his. So
together they walked down to the Grange. Oliver had never before
breakfasted with the Kemps; how comfortable, how homely everything was!
The eggs and bacon seemed crisper and fresher, also better, than those
ever eaten at the Cottage; the tea poured out by Lucy was certainly
infinitely nicer--not for a moment would Oliver have admitted that this
was owing to the fact of its being a shilling a pound dearer than that
made by his mother!

Each tacitly agreed not to speak of all that had just happened at the
Priory. They talked of all sorts of other things. Lucy heard with
startled interest that Oliver was thinking very seriously of giving up
his land agency, and of going back, if it were in any way possible, to
London. What had become the great central desire of his life must never
be mentioned to any human being, not even to his dear friend Lucy, till
its realisation was possible--legally possible. But even to talk of his
plans, as he was now doing, was a comfort; his present listener, unlike
his mother, always seemed to understand his point of view, and to
realise why he had altered his mind without his being compelled to go
into tiresome explanations.

After to-day Lucy and Mrs. Rebell would surely become friends. Even
within the last few days Barbara had said to him, "I should like to
see more of Miss Kemp. It was a pity she and her mother called when I
was away." He liked to think of these two in juxtaposition. If the
thought of life without Barbara was intolerable, not indeed to be
considered,--once she was free from that West Indian brute, his great
love must, in the long run, win return,--the thought of existence with
no Lucy Kemp as friend was distinctly painful. He, Barbara, and Lucy,
would all be happy; and then, not yet, but in some years to come, for
she was still so young, his and Barbara's friend would marry some good
honest fellow--not Laxton, no, but such a man as he himself had been
till Mrs. Rebell came to the Priory, one to whom Lucy's fortune would be
useful in promoting a public career.

At last, about twelve, he reluctantly rose, and Lucy went with him to
the door. Suddenly it struck him that she looked very tired, "Lucy," he
exclaimed--they had just said good-bye, but he still held her
hand--"promise me that you will rest all this afternoon. Perhaps you
would be wiser to go to bed, and then no one--not even Miss Vipen--can
come and trouble you!" He spoke with his usual friendly--one of those
near and dear to Lucy would have described it as priggish--air of
authority. She drew away her hand, and laughed nervously,--but he again
repeated, "Please promise me that you will have a good rest."

"I promise," said Lucy.

                               * * * * *

"I promise"--Lucy, sleeping restlessly through the winter afternoon and
evening, found herself repeating the two words again and again. What had
she promised? That she would rest. Well, she was fulfilling that
promise. As soon as Oliver had left her, she had gone up, full of
measureless lassitude, to bed. Then she would wake with a start to hear
Mrs. Rebell's imploring voice, "Promise--if I die--" and then, "No one
must know--"

How would Mr. Berwick take the piteous message? Lucy had always felt
afraid of him, but she had promised--

Then came the comforting recollection of Doctor McKirdy's gruff whisper.
Oh no, poor Mrs. Rebell was not going to die, and she, Lucy, would never
have to redeem her promise. But if Mrs. Rebell cared for Mr. Berwick,
would not Oliver be unhappy?

And Lucy, sitting up in bed, pushed her fair hair off her hot forehead.
The whole thing seemed so unreal! Barbara Rebell was not free to care
for anyone. Of course there were horrid women in the world who cared for
other people than their own husbands, though Lucy had never met any of
them, but she knew they existed. But those were the sort of women who
rouged and were "fast"--not gentle, kindly souls like poor brave Mrs.
Rebell.

General and Mrs. Kemp, paying a short visit to Anglo-Indian friends who
had taken a house in the neighbourhood, little knew the physical and
mental ordeal to which their absence had exposed their darling.

                               * * * * *

Three days had gone by since the fire. Doctor McKirdy was quite honest
in telling Madame Sampiero that he was pleased and astonished at the
progress Barbara had made, and yet the paralysed woman felt that her old
friend was keeping something back.

"What is it?" she muttered. "You are not telling me everything,
McKirdy!"

And so he spoke out: "When a human being has gone through such an
experience as that of the other night, what we doctors have to fear,
quite as much as the actual injury,--which in this case, as I tell you,
is not so very bad, after all,--is shock." He paused, and his listener
made him feel, in some subtle fashion, that she could have well spared
this preamble. "Now, the surprising thing about Mrs. Rebell is that she
is _not_ suffering from shock! Her mind is so full of something else,
perhaps 'twould be more honest to say of someone else, that she has no
thought to spare for that horrid experience of hers. She is concerned,
very much so, about her appearance," the old Scotchman's eyes twinkled.
"There she's as much the woman as any of them! But she has good
nights--better nights, so she confesses, than she had before the fire.
There she lies thinking, not of flames mind you, but of--well, you know
of whom she's thinking! She's wondering if any of us have written and
told Jamie of the affair; she's asking herself how he'll take it,
whether he'll be hurrying back, whether, if he does come, she'll be
informed of it. Then there's Boringdon's fashing himself to bits,
wondering how long it will be before he is allowed to see her, trying to
get news of her in devious ways, even coming to me when all else fails!
Mrs. Kemp's lass is the only sensible one among 'em. I've been thinking
of getting her to come and sit with Mrs. Rebell for a bit, 'twould just
distract her mind----"

So it was that Lucy Kemp received a note from Doctor McKirdy asking her
to be good enough to come and see Mrs. Rebell, and Mrs. Kemp was struck
with the eagerness with which the girl obeyed the call.

Lucy's parents had found her still tired and listless when they came
back, cutting short their visit as soon as they heard the news of the
fire, and the part their daughter had played; but with the coming of the
old doctor's summons all Lucy's tiredness had gone--"If you will come up
after you have had your tea," so ran the note, "you might sit with her
an hour. I have ascertained that she would like to see you."



                              CHAPTER XIX.

    "Il n'y a rien de doux comme le retour de joie qui suit le
    renoncement de la joie, rien de vif, de profond, de charmant,
    comme l'enchantement du désenchanté."


Oliver Boringdon held in his hand the West Indian letter which he knew
was an answer to the one he had written to his brother-in-law rather
more than a month before. For nearly a week he had made it his business
to be always at home when the postman called, and this had required on
his part a certain amount of contrivance which was intensely
disagreeable to his straightforward nature. He had missed but one
post--that which had come on the morning of the fire at Chancton Priory.

Three days had gone by since then, but his nerves were still quivering,
not yet wholly under his own control, and to such a man as Boringdon
this sensation was not only unpleasant, but something to be ashamed of.
The hand holding the large square envelope, addressed in the neat clear
writing of Andrew Johnstone, shook so that the letter fell, still
unopened, on the gravel at Oliver's feet. He stooped and picked it up,
then turned into the garden and so through a large meadow which led
ultimately to the edge of the downs, at this time of the year generally
deserted. Not till he was actually there, with no possibility of sudden
interruption, did he break the seal of his brother-in-law's thick
letter.

At once he saw with quick disappointment that what had so weighted the
envelope was one of his sister Grace's long letters; her husband's note
only consisted of a few lines:--

    "Grace insists on your being told more than I feel we are
    justified in telling. Still, I believe her information is
    substantially correct. There would be very serious difficulties
    in the way of what you suggest. By next mail you shall know
    more."

For a moment he felt full of unreasoning anger against Johnstone. He had
asked a perfectly plain question--namely, whether it would not be
possible for Mrs. Rebell to obtain a divorce from the man of whom Grace
had given so terrible an account; and in answer to that question his
brother-in-law merely referred him to Grace and spoke of "serious
difficulties"! Well, whatever these were, they must be surmounted.
Oliver had already made up his mind to resign his post of agent to the
Chancton estate, and he would use his little remaining capital in going
out to Santa Maria, there to do what lay in his power to set Barbara
free. Again he glanced at Johnstone's laconic note, and between the
lines he read considerable disapproval of himself. He set his teeth and
turned to the sheets of paper covered with Grace's large handwriting.

Then, in a moment, there leapt to his eyes a sentence which brought with
it such a rush of uncontrollable relief that the sensation seemed akin
to pain,--and yet he felt a species of horror that this was so, for the
words which altered his whole outlook on life were these:--

"My darling Oliver, Pedro Rebell is dying."

What matter if Grace went on to qualify that first statement
considerably,--to confess that she only knew of the wretched man's
condition from a not very trustworthy source, but that before next mail
Andrew would go over himself, "though he does not like the idea of doing
so," to see if the report was well founded? "Andrew says," she went on,
"that of course it will be his duty to try and keep him alive."

Boringdon beat the turf viciously with his stick, and then felt bitterly
ashamed of himself.

Only one passage in his sister's letter gave definite information--

    "Is it not odd that a place where they send consumptive people
    from home should have so many native cases? Pedro Rebell treats
    himself in the most idiotic manner--he is being actually
    attended by a witch doctor! I am more glad than I can say that
    poor Barbara got safe away before he became suddenly worse.
    Andrew confesses that he knew the man was very ill when we moved
    her here, but he said nothing, so like him, because he thought
    that if Barbara knew she simply wouldn't leave the
    plantation----"

Again Oliver turned to Johnstone's note--"still, I believe that her
information is substantially correct;" it was curious how immensely that
one dry cautious sentence enhanced the value of Grace's long letter.

Boringdon walked slowly back into the village by the lovely lane--lovely
even in its present leafless bareness--down which Doctor McKirdy had
accompanied Mrs. Rebell the first morning of her stay at the Priory
three months ago. Oliver recalled that first meeting; it had taken place
just where he was now walking, where the lane emerged on the open down.
He remembered his annoyance when Berwick had stared so fixedly at the
old Scotchman's companion.

James Berwick! The evocation of his friend's peculiar, masterful
personality was not pleasant. But a slight, rather grim smile, came over
Boringdon's lips. The moment Mrs. Rebell became a widow, she would be
labelled "dangerous" in the eyes of James and Arabella Berwick. Oliver
had known something of the Louise Marshall episode, and, without for a
moment instituting any real comparison between the two cases, his mind
unconsciously drew the old moral, "The burnt child dreads the fire." If
it became advisable, but he did not think it at all likely that it
would, he would certainly tell Berwick the news contained in Grace's
letter.

When passing the Priory gates, he met Lucy Kemp. "Mrs. Rebell must be
much better," she said gladly, "for Doctor McKirdy has asked me to go
and sit with her for an hour." Oliver turned and went with her up to the
porch of the great house, lingered a moment to receive the latest good
but colourless bulletin, and then walked down to the estate office.

He had not been there many moments when a carriage dashed furiously up
the steep village street, the horses galloping past the window of the
room in which Boringdon sat writing.

                               * * * * *

Doctor McKirdy was waiting in the hall, and, as Lucy came forward rather
timidly, he looked at her not very pleasantly. "You've been a long
while," he said crossly, "a very long while, and who was it came with
you to the door? But I won't trouble ye to answer me, for I heard the
voice--I've heard it more than once this day. I doubt that ye ever were
told, Miss Lucy, of the bachelors' club to which Rabbie Burns belonged
as a youth. Membership was only conferred on the spark who could prove
his allegiance to more than one lass. Your friend Mr. Oliver Boringdon
would ha' been very eligible, I'm thinking!"

"I don't think you have any right to say such a thing, Doctor McKirdy!"

"Toots! Toots!" The doctor felt like a lion confronted with an angry
lamb; he saw he had gone too far. Bless us, what a spirit the girl had!
He rather liked her for it. "This way," he said, more amiably; "not so
far up as the other morning, eh? When you're with her, you just chatter
about the things ladies like to talk about--just light nonsense, you
know. No going back to the fire, mind! She doesn't trouble her head much
about it, and I don't want her to begin."

He opened a door, and Lucy walked through into the beautiful room where
Barbara now lay, in the immense canopied bed, her left shoulder and arm
outlined by a wicker cage-like arrangement. Her hair was concealed by a
white hood, Léonie's handiwork, and, as Lucy drew near, she lifted her
free hand off the embroidered coverlet, and laid it on that of the girl.

Doctor McKirdy stood by. "Well, I'll tell old Jean she needn't disturb
you for a bit, and now I'll be going home. You'll see me after supper."
He nodded his head, but Barbara, still holding Lucy's gloved hand, was
speaking. "You won't forget the _Scotsman_----" in her eagerness she
moved, and in doing so she suddenly winced.

"Never fear it! But the one we want to see won't be here till to-morrow
afternoon--the meeting was only last night." He spoke in a very gentle
voice, and then walked quickly to the door.

"Sit down just there, behind the leaf of the screen, and then I can see
you. I'm afraid I gave you a great fright the other night? How good you
were to me! Doctor McKirdy tells me that it might have been much worse,
and that I shall be all right in a few weeks----"

Suddenly Barbara lifted her head a little,--"Miss Kemp! Lucy! What is
the matter?"

"Nothing--nothing at all! Doctor McKirdy made a remark that annoyed me.
It is stupid of me to mind." Poor Lucy tried to smile, but her lips
quivered; she repeated, "It really was nothing, but you know how odd he
is, and--and rude, sometimes?"

The sound of a carriage coming quickly up through the trees, and then
being driven more carefully round the broad sweep of lawn, and so to the
space before the porch, put an end to a moment of rather painful
silence. Then the bell pealed loudly through the house--a vigorous peal.
"Someone coming to inquire how you are," suggested Lucy diffidently, but
Barbara made no answer, she was listening intently. Would McGregor never
answer that insistent summons? At last they heard the front door being
opened, and then quickly shut again. Now the carriage was driving away,
quite slowly, in very different fashion from that of its arrival.

Barbara closed her eyes, absurdly disappointed. What reason had she to
suppose that Berwick would hasten back as soon as he heard of the great
danger she had been in? And even if something in her heart assured her
that in this matter her instinct was not at fault, who would have
conveyed the news to him? Not Oliver Boringdon, not Doctor McKirdy? Poor
Barbara was very ignorant of the geography of her own country, but she
knew that Scotland was a long way off, and the most important of the
meetings he had gone there to attend had taken place only the night
before.

But hark! there came a sound of quick muffled footsteps down the short
corridor. A knock at the door, and Berwick was in the room--Berwick,
haggard, sunken-eyed, bearing on his face, now ravaged with contending
feelings, a look of utter physical fatigue. For a moment he stood
hesitating. McGregor had told him that Miss Kemp was with Mrs. Rebell,
but, as he looked round with a quick searching look, the room seemed to
him to hold only Barbara--he saw nothing but Barbara's little head lying
propped up on a large pillow, her eyes, her lips smiling at him with an
odd look of deprecating tenderness, as if his being there was the most
natural thing in the world, and yet as if she understood the dreadful
night and day he had gone through, and felt grieved to think he was so
tired.

Very slowly, still held by her eyes, he came forward, and as he sank on
his knees, and laid his cheek on the hand stretched out on the coverlet,
he saw with shuddering pain by what her other hand and arm were
concealed, and he broke into hard, difficult sobs.

Lucy got up, and almost ran to the door,--she felt a passion of sympathy
and pity for them both. Then she waited in the corridor, wondering what
she ought to do--what Barbara would wish her to do. But that point, as
generally happens in this world, was settled for her. Doctor McKirdy
suddenly loomed in front of her, and even before she saw him, as the
staircase creaked under his heavy footsteps, Lucy heard him muttering
something to himself.

"Then he's in there, eh? And they've sent you out here?"

"Nothing of the sort!" said Lucy briefly: "I came out without being
sent."

"Well, now, you must just go in again, and I'll follow. A fine thing it
would be for the jabbering folk of Chancton to learn of these crazy
comings and goings!" And, as Lucy made no haste to obey him, he added
sharply, "Now you just knock and open the door and walk right in. We
don't want old Jean to be the one to disturb them, eh?"

Lucy knocked, and opened the door with hesitating fingers. What she then
saw was James Berwick quietly engaged in putting some coal on the fire;
as the girl and Doctor McKirdy came in, he did not look round, but went
on mechanically picking up the little lumps and putting them noiselessly
into the grate.

"Well now, you've had two visitors, that's quite enough for one
day,"--the doctor spoke very gently. "Here's Miss Kemp come to say
good-bye, and Mr. Berwick no doubt will do himself the pleasure of
taking her to the Grange, for it's a very dark night." He added in an
aside, "I'm always finding you cavaliers, eh, Miss Lucy?"

Berwick came forward: "Yes, of course I will! By the way, I'm staying
here to-night, so will you dine with me, McKirdy?"

"Well, no, I don't think I will. By the way, I'll be staying here too,
and you'll do well to have your dinner in your bed, I'm thinking." He
followed Barbara's two visitors to the door: "I can't make out how you
ever did it, man, if it's true the meeting didn't break up till after
twelve----"

For the first time Berwick laughed. "Come," he said, "where are your
wits? Specials, of course--and if we hadn't had a stupid, an inexcusable
delay at Crewe, I should have been here hours ago!"

And then, without again looking at Barbara, he followed Lucy out into
the corridor, and down into the hall.

"Just one moment, Miss Kemp. I must put on my boots. I took them off
before coming upstairs."

"But I can go home alone perfectly well."

"No, indeed! I should like to take you. Mrs. Rebell has been telling me
how good you were to her the other night."

And not another word was said by him or by Lucy till they exchanged a
brief good-night at the Grange gate.

                               * * * * *

The Priory and its inmates settled down to a long period of quietude.
With the possible exception of Lucy Kemp and Oliver Boringdon--who both
called there daily--little or nothing was known in the village save that
Mrs. Rebell was slowly, very slowly, getting better. No Chancton gossip
could discover exactly how much she had been injured, and even Mrs.
Boringdon could learn nothing definite from her son.

At last there came a day when the mistress of Chancton Cottage thought
she would make a little experiment. "Is it true that Mrs. Rebell is now
allowed to be downstairs?"

"Yes."

"Then you are seeing her, I suppose?"

"Yes, sometimes, for a little while."

"Parliament met last week, didn't it?" The question sounded rather
irrelevant.

Oliver looked up: "Yes, mother, of course--on the fifteenth."

"Then Mr. Berwick won't be able to be here so much. Miss Vipen tells me
that the village people all think he must be in love with Mrs. Rebell!"

Mrs. Boringdon's words had an effect very different from what she had
intended them to have. They drew from her son neither assent nor denial,
but they confirmed and made real to him certain facts from which he had
shrunk, and which he had tried to persuade himself did not exist. For
five long weeks he had been alive to the knowledge that Berwick was
continually with Barbara--in fact, that he was with her whenever he
chose to be, excepting during those few moments when he, Boringdon, was
grudgingly allowed to have a few minutes' talk, generally in the
presence of some third person, with the invalid. The state of things at
the Priory had made the young man so wretched, so indignant, that more
than once he had felt tempted to attack Doctor McKirdy. What did they
all mean by allowing James Berwick to behave as if he were Mrs. Rebell's
brother instead of a mere acquaintance?

And so Mrs. Boringdon's words spurred her son to do that which he had
hoped would not be necessary. They showed him that the time had come for
a clear explanation between himself and Berwick. He told himself that
the latter would probably be surprised to learn how his constant visits
to the Priory were regarded; still, the matter could not be to him one
of vital concern, and when once the man who had been for so many years
his friend told him how matters stood, he would surely leave Chancton.

Boringdon thought he knew only too well James Berwick's peculiar moral
code; certain things he might be trusted not to do. Thus, Oliver had
heard him speak with condemnation of the type of man who makes love to a
happily-married woman, or who takes advantage of his amatory science to
poach on an intimate's preserves. Surely he would withdraw from this
strange sentimental friendship with Barbara Rebell the moment it was
made clear to him that she would soon be free,--free to be wooed and won
by any honest man, and, as a matter of fact, already loved by Boringdon,
his friend of so many years' standing? Accordingly, after a day or two
of painful hesitation, Oliver wrote a note, more formal in its wording
than usual, and asked Berwick for an appointment.

He received his answer--life is full of such ironies--in Mrs. Rebell's
presence, on the day when she was allowed to take her first drive in the
little French brougham, which, as Boringdon noted with jealous eyes, had
been sent over for her use from Chillingworth. Oliver happened to come
up to the porch of the Priory as Berwick was actually settling her and
the grim Scotchwoman, Jean, into the carriage. Barbara was flushed and
smiling--a happy light in her eyes. "I'm so sorry to be going out just
now," she cried, "Will you come to tea this afternoon, Mr. Boringdon?
Miss Kemp is coming, and I shall be down in the Blue drawing-room for
the first time. To-day is a day of first times!"

Then Berwick turned round: "I didn't answer your note because I thought
I should almost certainly be seeing you to-day. Would you like to come
over to Chillingworth this evening? Come to dinner, and we can have a
talk afterwards----"

But Boringdon answered quickly: "Thanks, I won't come to dinner, I'll
turn up about nine."

                               * * * * *

And now Berwick sat waiting for Boringdon in the room where he had spent
the rest of the night after his drive with Barbara from Halnakeham
Castle.

He was in that delightful state of mind which comes so rarely to
thinking mortals,--when the thinker wishes to look neither backwards nor
forwards. It was worth while to have gone through all he had gone
through, to have won such weeks as had been his! Nay more, he was in the
mood to tell himself that he would be content were life to go on as it
was now for ever and a day, were his relations with Mrs. Rebell to
remain as close, as tender--ay, even as platonic--as they had been
during that strange period of her convalescence. With what emotion, with
what sympathy she had described to him her interview with Lord Bosworth;
there had been such complete comprehension of his attitude, such keen
distress that Madame Sampiero had repulsed him!

But, deep in Berwick's heart, something told him that Barbara's attitude
to him and to their joint future was changing, and that she was in very
truth on the eve of surrender. Nature, so he assured himself to-night
had triumphed over convention, and, as a still voice also whispered,
proved stronger than conscience. Berwick's own conscience was not ill at
ease, but he experienced many phases of feeling, and went through many
moods.

Lately he had asked himself boldly whether there was any real reason why
he and Barbara should not repeat, in happier fashion, the example set
them by the two beings for whom they both had so sincere and--yes, it
might be said, reverent--an affection? Those two, Lord Bosworth and
Madame Sampiero, had shown that it was possible to be grandly faithful
to a tie unsanctioned by law, unsanctified by religious faith. Already
Berwick's love for Barbara had purified and elevated his nature; surely
together they might use his vast fortune to better purpose than he had
done alone, for he had long ago discovered how tender, how charitable
were all her impulses. Then, again, he would acknowledge to himself,
with something like impatient amazement, that he loved Barbara too well,
too intimately, to ask her to do violence to her sensitive, rather
scrupulous conscience. She could scarcely be more his own than he felt
her to be now.

Of the man for whom he was now waiting, Berwick had long ago ceased to
be jealous. He felt ashamed to remember that he had ever been so; nay,
he now understood from Barbara that Boringdon liked Lucy Kemp. Was she
not just the sort of girl whom he would have expected such a man as
Oliver to choose for a wife? As to Barbara Rebell, of course Boringdon
had liked to be with her,--had been perhaps, if all the truth were
known, caught for a moment by her charm, as who could help being? But
Berwick was not in a mood to waste much thought on such speculations,
and no presentiment of what Oliver was coming to say to him to-night
shadowed his exquisite content, or his satisfaction with himself, with
the woman he loved, and with the whole of this delightful world.

In fact, he thought he knew quite well why Boringdon wished to see him.
The head of the public department in which Oliver had begun his suddenly
interrupted career as a member of the Civil Service, had lately said to
Berwick, "So your friend Boringdon wants to come back to us? I think in
his case an exception might be made!" And Berwick had done what was in
his power to gratify the other's rather inexplicable wish to get once
more into official harness. The Chancton experiment had evidently been a
mistake. Boringdon had not possessed the qualities necessary for such a
post as that of land agent to Madame Sampiero; he had not understood,
or, if he had understood, he had not chosen to take, his friend's hint
to keep on the right side of old McKirdy. Well, it couldn't be helped!
Of course Oliver must feel the telling of his news rather awkward, but
he, Berwick, would meet him half way, and make it clear that, though he
was personally sorry Boringdon was leaving Chancton, he thoroughly
understood his reasons for doing so, and, what was more, sympathised
with them.

                               * * * * *

As it struck nine from the various clocks which had been a special hobby
of the man who had built Chillingworth, Boringdon walked in, and his
first abrupt words confirmed Berwick's belief concerning the subject of
their coming conversation: "I am leaving Chancton, and I felt that I
ought to tell you my determination before speaking to Madame Sampiero.
There seems a chance of my getting back to the old shop!"

Berwick nodded his head; he pushed a large box of cigars across the
table which stood between them. "I know," he said, "I met Kingdon last
week, and by a word he let fall I gathered that you were thinking of
doing this. Well, of course I'm sorry, but I know you've done your best,
and after all no one could have foreseen how difficult the position
would be! I suppose they will have to go back to the unsatisfactory plan
with McKirdy." But at the back of the speaker's mind was the thought
that, if he was as much at the Priory as he hoped to be, he might
himself be able to look into things rather more--

Neither man spoke again for a few moments; then Boringdon got up, and
stood with his back to the fire, "But that," he said, "is not all I have
come to say to you. I am really taking this step because it is my
intention"--he hesitated, and Berwick perceived that a peculiarly dogged
expression had come over the dark, rather narrow face,--"I wish to tell
you that it is my intention," repeated Oliver, "to ask Mrs. Rebell to
become my wife."

His host looked up at him with frank astonishment, and a good deal of
concern. "But, my dear fellow," he began rather hurriedly, "is it
possible that you don't know?----"

"I know everything." Boringdon raised his voice, then went on more
calmly, "But I do not suppose that you yourself, Berwick, are aware that
Mrs. Rebell's husband is dying, that there is every chance that in a few
months, or perhaps in a few weeks, she will be a widow--free, that is,
to accept an offer of marriage."

In one sense Boringdon had certainly succeeded in his object. More than
he was ever destined to know, his words, his revelation, had brought the
man before him sharp up to his bearings. James Berwick was both amazed
and discomfited by this unexpected piece of news, and for the moment it
made him very ill at ease.

He had been playing with a tortoiseshell paper knife; suddenly it
snapped in two, and, with an oath, he threw the pieces down on the table
and got up from the chair in which he had been lying back.

"Are you quite sure of your information?" he said slowly. "It's ill
waiting for dead men's shoes." Then he felt ashamed of what he had just
said, and he added, more to give himself time for thought than anything
else: "Have you any reason to suppose that Mrs. Rebell----?" Then he
stopped abruptly, realising that he had been betrayed into making a
remark which to Boringdon must seem an outrage.

But the other had not apparently taken it in that sense. "No, I have no
reason to suppose that Mrs. Rebell has ever thought of such a thing. I
think far too well of her to suppose it for a moment," Oliver was
speaking very deliberately. "I received the news of the man's state
within a very few days of the fire at the Priory, and it has since been
confirmed. He has, it seems, some kind of bad chest disease,
accelerated, I fancy, by drink. As yet she knows nothing of it. Perhaps
I ought to add that I have no reason to suppose that she will accept the
offer I mean to make her as soon as a decent interval of time has
elapsed. But, on the other hand, I should like to assure you that if she
refuses me I intend to go on asking her. Nothing, short of her marriage
to someone else, will make me give her up." He repeated, and as he did
so Boringdon fixed his eyes on his friend with a peculiar, and what
Berwick felt to be a terrible, look: "Nothing--you understand me,
Berwick--nothing but her _marriage_ to another man."

The speaker of these strange words took a step forward. For a moment the
two stood opposite one another. The man Barbara loved was a brave man,
but he quailed before the other's eyes. "I have now told you what I came
to say. Of late you seem to have become very intimate with Mrs. Rebell,
and I wish to warn you that the day may come when I shall require your
good offices. Good-night,"--and without offering to shake hands with
Berwick, Boringdon turned on his heel and left the room.



                              CHAPTER XX.

    "Shall I to Honour or to Love give way?

                               * * * * *

    For, as bright day, with black approach of night,
    Contending makes a doubtful puzzling light,
    So does my Honour and my Love together
    Puzzle me so I can decide on neither."

                                                            SPENSER.


As time went on, as harsh winter turned into soft spring, Boringdon
tried to assure himself that his conversation with Berwick had achieved
all that he had hoped.

James Berwick was certainly less often at the Priory, but this was
doubtless owing in a measure to the fact that he had to be constantly in
London, attending to his Parliamentary duties. Even now he was far more
frequently at Chancton than he had been the year before, and Oliver was
still jealous, sometimes intolerably so, for some subtle instinct told
him that he was on a very different footing with Mrs. Rebell from that
on which she stood with Berwick. As to his own relation with the man
with whom his intimacy had once been so close, it had become, since
their conversation, that of mere formal acquaintance. Mrs. Boringdon
felt sure there had been a quarrel, but she was afraid to ask, so
taciturn, so unapproachable, had her son become.

Oliver had one subject of consolation. To the amazement of those about
her, with the exception perhaps of Doctor McKirdy, the paralysed
mistress of the Priory now caused herself to be moved down each day to
the Blue drawing-room, and this, as Boringdon of course realised, made
it very difficult for James Berwick, when at Chancton, to see much of
Mrs. Rebell alone.

                               * * * * *

And Barbara? To her, as to Berwick, the weeks which had immediately
followed the fire had been a time of deep content and tranquil
happiness. She was well aware that there must come a day of painful
reckoning; but, unlike Berwick, she put off the evil moment of making up
her mind as to what form that reckoning would take.

She looked back with a kind of shrinking horror to the mental struggle
she had gone through before the accident which had so wholly changed all
the circumstances of her life. Those days when she believed that Berwick
would never return to her were ill to remember. Then had come the fire,
followed by hours of physical pain and terror of death, but now she
looked back on those hours with positive gratitude, for they had surely
brought an experience nothing else could have given her.

At once, with a resistless, quiet determination which had constrained
those about Barbara into acquiescence, Berwick had established his right
to be with her. The putting on of the coal--that act of service on the
first evening--had been, so Doctor McKirdy later told himself with a
twist of his thin lips, symbolic of what was to be his attitude to the
Queen's Room and its present inmate. Berwick soon came and went as
freely as if he had been the invalid's twin brother, or he a father, and
Barbara his sick child,--with, however, the one significant exception
that both he and she refrained wholly from caress.

The old Scotchman won a deep and an abiding place in the hearts of the
two over whom he threw, during these days, the ample mantle of his
eccentricity and masterful disposition. He moved over to the Priory,
occupying a room close to Berwick's, and in some odd fashion he made
each member of the large household believe that it was by his order and
wish that Berwick was so often with his patient, concerning the extent
of whose injury many legends grew, for she was only tended by Scotch
Jean, French Léonie, Doctor McKirdy, and--James Berwick. And so it was
that, as often happens with regard to events which none could have
foretold, and which would have been described before they occurred as
clearly impossible, what went on excited, at any rate within the Priory,
no comment.

The strange situation which had arisen did not pass wholly without
outside remark. Lucy Kemp at first came daily--indeed, sometimes twice a
day--to sit with Barbara and to read to her; and though at those times
Berwick kept out of the Queen's Room, there came a moment in Barbara's
illness when she perceived, with a sad feeling of humiliation, that
Lucy's visits were being curtailed, also that she never came to the
Priory unaccompanied.

To the girl herself her father's sudden stern objection to her daily
visits to Mrs. Rebell had been inexplicable,--even more so her mother's
refusal to discuss the question. Then a word said before her by Mrs.
Boringdon, a question put to Oliver as to James Berwick's prolonged stay
at Chancton, had partly opened Lucy's eyes.

"Do you dislike my going to see Mrs. Rebell because Mr. Berwick is
there?"

With some hesitation Mrs. Kemp answered her: "Yes, my dear, that is the
reason your father does not wish you to go to the Priory so often."

And then Lucy had turned and asked one of those questions, difficult to
answer truthfully to one who, even if in her parents' eyes a child, was
yet a woman grown: "Mother, I want to ask you something. Is it very
wrong, always wrong, for a woman to like another man better than she
likes her husband? How can she help it if the man to whom she is married
is such a man as Mr. Pedro Rebell seems to be?"

But Mrs. Kemp answered with unwonted decision and sharpness: "There is a
moment--there is always a moment--when the matter is in a woman's own
hands and conscience. And in any case, Lucy, two wrongs don't make a
right!"

And with this the girl had to be content, but the question made Mrs.
Kemp more than ever determined to discontinue her daughter's growing
intimacy with poor Barbara. First Oliver Boringdon, and then James
Berwick,--this Mrs. Rebell must indeed be an unfit friend for her little
Lucy!

To Madame Sampiero, who lay at the other end of the corridor out of
which opened the Queen's Room, the doctor would sometimes declare, "I've
little mind for the part I am playing." But when she answered, with
perplexity and fear in her large blue eyes, "Why then do you play it?"
he would content himself with shrugging his shoulders, and muttering
between his teeth, "Because I'm a sentimental old fool!"

But, whatever the reason, so well had Doctor McKirdy managed the
extraordinary situation, that not till Mrs. Rebell was promoted to
getting up and coming downstairs, did the long hours spent by Berwick in
her company provoke the kind of gossip which had finally reached the
ears of Mrs. Boringdon. Even then what was repeated had been said in
jest. Was it likely, so the humble gossips of Chancton would have
declared, that such a gentleman as Mr. Berwick would fancy a lady who
was by all accounts half burnt to a cinder!

                               * * * * *

When Madame Sampiero had suddenly made up her mind to be moved
downstairs, Barbara knew that the old Scotchman and her god-mother had
entered into a conspiracy to put an end to what she considered her
innocent, if peculiar, intimacy with James Berwick. There took place in
her heart a silent, but none the less strong, movement of passionate
revolt,--she thought this attempt to check their friendship the more
cruel inasmuch as Berwick had to be away a good deal and could only now
and again snatch a day from London. Still, it was then, not perhaps till
then, that Mrs. Rebell began to foresee the logical outcome of the
situation into which she had allowed herself to drift.

Every day came his letters,--nearly always more than one together, by
each of the two daily posts,--but he never asked her--significant
omission--to answer them, for had she done so, all Chancton must have
known of the correspondence. And yet all the world might have seen the
letters Barbara cherished, and on which her heart lived from day to day;
they were a diary of the writer's doings, a history of what was going on
in the House, such brief, intimate notes as many a politician writes
daily to his wife.

A woman is always quicker to perceive certain danger-signals than is a
man. Barbara was aware of the change of attitude in Doctor McKirdy and
in Madame Sampiero long before Berwick noticed it. That these two could
threaten or destroy his intimacy with Mrs. Rebell had never occurred to
him as being possible. On the other hand, he had resented deeply
Boringdon's interference, and, as far as was possible, he put out of his
mind what had been undoubtedly intended as a threat. The reminder that
Pedro Rebell lived had been an outrage; that Barbara's husband was
mortal, nay, on the eve of death, a piece of information which Berwick
could have well spared. For the present he was content, as was
apparently Barbara, to let things drift on as they were.

                               * * * * *

But there came a day when, after a long afternoon spent by them both in
Madame Sampiero's company, Berwick asked Barbara with sudden deep
irritation, "Why is it that we never seem to be alone together? I have
hardly spoken to you since I have been here! Is it impossible for you to
leave Madame Sampiero? Is there no room in the whole of this great house
where we can talk together in peace? I have a thousand things to say to
you!"

They were on their way to the dining-room, there to be respectfully
chaperoned by McGregor, and Barbara had no answer ready. Suddenly
looking into her downcast face, he understood the unspoken answer to his
imperious questioning, and his eyes flashed wroth. And yet what could he
do? He could not, nay, he would not, ask her to stoop to any kind of
deception, to make secret assignations outside the house. On the other
hand, he no longer felt "on honour" as regarded the woman he loved; even
less was he bound to consider the feelings of Madame Sampiero.

So it came to pass that Berwick was less often at the Priory; his
letters to Barbara altered in tone, and became those of an ardent, of an
impatient lover. Sometimes Barbara wondered whether he possessed secret
means of his own for knowing all that went on at the Priory, and of
obtaining news of its inmates. Occasionally she would be surprised, even
amused, at his apparent knowledge of little incidents which occurred
during his absences. The source of his information, if it was as she
suspected, must of course be Mrs. Turke! Mrs. Rebell felt a little
afraid of the old woman, of her far-seeing, twinkling eyes, and of her
sly hilarity of manner; she kept as much as possible out of the
housekeeper's way.

To Boringdon, who came with pertinacious regularity, Barbara gave
scarcely any thought, save perhaps to wonder why Lucy Kemp was so fond
of him. In old days, when he had talked to her of politics, and of
things in which she had begun to take a new and keen interest, she had
liked to listen to him; but now he seemed tongue-tied when in her
presence, and she perceived that he was no longer on good terms with
James Berwick.

With Madame Sampiero, Barbara's relations also seemed to have become
less affectionate, less intimate, than before the fire, and this
troubled them both. Mrs. Rebell knew herself to be the subject of
anxious thought on the part of her god-mother; for what other reason
than that of protecting her from some imaginary danger had Madame
Sampiero altered the habits of dignified seclusion to which she had
remained rigidly faithful for so many years? She did not see--or was it
that she saw only too well--the force of her own past example on such a
nature as that of her god-daughter? But it was too late now to try and
separate Barbara Rebell from the one human being who made life worth
living, and sometimes the younger woman longed to tell her so.

At last there came a break in the monotony of a life which was beginning
to tell on Barbara's health and nerves. At the end of one of Berwick's
short, unsatisfactory visits, he mentioned that he would not be able to
come down again for another two or three weeks.

And when he was gone, after a cold, estranged farewell, uttered perforce
in the presence of Madame Sampiero, Barbara turned her face away to hide
her tears.

Almost at once her god-mother asked her, "Would you not like to go away,
with Léonie, to Paris for a few days?" She caught with feverish relief
at the proposal; it was good, it was more than kind, of Marraine to
suggest so delightful a plan! But she would prefer, honestly so, to go
alone, not to take the old French servant whom in her heart she well
knew the paralysed woman could ill spare. It would have been a great
pleasure to Barbara to have had the company of Lucy Kemp, but she had
not dared suggest it, being afraid of a refusal. If she could not have
Lucy for a companion, she felt she would rather go alone. And Madame
Sampiero had at last consented to this modification of her plan,--a plan
which had not met with Doctor McKirdy's approval, but as to which his
old friend, as was usually the case, got her own way.

                               * * * * *

And now had come the last night but one before Mrs. Rebell's departure.
She felt excited and pleased at the thought of the little holiday.
Berwick had evidently been told as soon as the household knew of her
coming journey, and yet, when writing, he had only once alluded to it,
and she had felt rather hurt, for to herself it was a matter of much
moment. This journey would be, in a sense, a pilgrimage; Barbara meant
to go to some of the places, within easy reach of Paris, where she and
her parents had spent most of their exile. During the last few days she
had passed much time in discussion with Doctor McKirdy as to what she
was to see, and in helping him to draw up a little plan of the places
she was to go to,--Versailles, St. Germains, Fontainebleau, with all of
which she had cherished associations! The moments went by so quickly
that, for the first time for many weeks, Barbara thought but little of
Berwick, and of her own strange relation to him.

Now she was on her way to bed. She would have only two more nights in
the Queen's Room, for she had herself insisted that a humbler apartment,
but still one on the same floor as that of Madame Sampiero, should be
found for her, and the change was to take place on her return. She
looked round the beautiful room which had become to her a place of so
many memories, and as she did so a shadow came over her face. Would she
ever again be as happy as she had been in this room, so simply,
childishly content as during those days when she had lain on the great
canopied bed, while those about her ministered to her slightest
wish--when she had been the spoiled darling of Doctor McKirdy, of the
grim Scotch nurse, and last, not least, of James Berwick?

There came a knock at the door--a hesitating, low knock, very unlike
that of Jean or Léonie. Barbara suddenly felt an odd pang of fear: "Come
in," she cried loudly,--what, after all, had she to be afraid of?

There was a pause, and then Mrs. Turke, resplendent in the bright yellow
gown in which Barbara Rebell had first seen her, advanced tip-toeing
into the room. "Hush, Ma'am--I don't want anyone to hear us! Will you be
pleased to come down at once to my parlour? There's someone there been
waiting such a time, and most anxious to see you--!"

Barbara seemed in no hurry to follow the old woman; a look of suffering,
of humiliation, came over her face. Must she and Berwick stoop to this?

But Mrs. Turke was in an agony of impatience. "He's got to go back this
very night!" she whispered, and the jovial, sly look faded from her
rubicund face. "He's walked all the way from Halnakeham, that he has, in
the pouring rain, and he's wet through, that he is! Am I to tell him
that you won't come down then?" and she pretended to edge towards the
still open door.

"No," said Barbara irresolutely, "of course I am coming down--"

Mrs. Turke's account of Berwick's long walk in the rain had done its
work, and yet shame of a very keen quality almost blotted out Mrs.
Rebell's joy at the thought of seeing him, and of seeing him--the first
time for weeks--without fear of interruption.

As she went quickly down, following Mrs. Turke's ample person, and so
through the stone corridors of what had been the mediæval monastery,
Barbara's heart softened strangely. Had he not made this hurried journey
to bid her good-bye, God-speed? And she had thought he did not care--

Mrs. Turke knew her place far too well to risk being present at the
meeting in her parlour. She stopped at the foot of the short flight of
stairs leading up to her own bedroom and Berwick's old nursery, but
Barbara clung to the fat, ring-laden hand: "Do come, Mrs. Turke,--I am
sure Mr. Berwick will want to see you----"

"Bless you, _no_, Ma'am, that he won't! Why, I declare your hand's
burning! There's nothing to be afraid of, he's a most reasonable
gentleman, he wouldn't hurt a hair of your pretty head!"

And then, rather to the old housekeeper's surprise, Mrs. Rebell suddenly
let go her hand, and walked forward, alone, down the passage.

When she reached the door of the room to which she was bound, she
stopped irresolutely. But Berwick had been listening; he flung open the
door, and as she crossed the threshold he bent forward and took her
hands in a tight grip.

Barbara said nothing, but she looked at him rather sadly, and as she did
so she perceived that he was dressed in a rough shooting suit she had
often seen him wear the autumn before. She understood, without a word,
that it was worn to-night as a half disguise,--he wished no one to know
of this secret visit to the Priory,--and again a feeling of shame, of
humiliation, swept over her. And yet how glad she was to see him, how
infinitely dear he had become to her!

Suddenly she felt herself being drawn,--nay driven,--into the shelter of
his arms. His lips trembled on her closed eyelids, were pressed on the
slight scar left by the burn on her forehead, and then swiftly sought
and found her soft quivering mouth----. But even then Berwick was very
gentle with her, taking care to bruise neither the soul nor the body of
the creature who was now, at last, completely subject to his will.

Barbara tried to withdraw herself from his arms, but he still held her
to him with a passion of mute feeling in his eyes; and then, while
looking down at her strangely, as if wishing to see into her very heart,
he suddenly exclaimed "Barbara, this can't go on! What is to happen to
you and to me? As long as they left us alone I was content--ah no, not
content, but submissive. But now? Do you think it is pleasant for me to
do what I have had to do to-night,--to come here like a thief? While I
was waiting for you, I told myself that doubtless you would refuse to
come down. I had no right to ask you to come to me. It is I--I--who
should always come to you----"

He had released her, and drawn himself away. Now he was speaking with a
tired bitterness which frightened her, and in a moment the desire to
soothe, to comfort him, drove out from her every thought of self. "Of
course I came down,--I will always come when you want me," she smiled at
him with a look of shy, wistful tenderness.

"Will you? Always? Is that true? Oh! Barbara, if I could only believe
you mean those words, I could find courage to ask you--to say to
you----"

"What do you want to say to me?" Her voice sank to a whisper; then,
seized with a sudden rush of love, of pity, of self-abnegation, she
added, "Nay, I will tell you! You have come to ask of me what Lord
Bosworth must once have come to ask of Madame Sampiero, and, like her, I
will say, yes,--" she covered her face with her hands.

And then she listened, very quietly, while Berwick told her, with broken
words of passionate gratitude and endearment, of the plan which he had
scarcely dared to believe he would have courage to propose. She knew he
had a house, an old hunting lodge built by Louis XIII., on the edge of
the Forest of St. Germains. It was a curious solitary pavilion, bought
by his father as a very young man, and dear to Berwick and his sister as
having been the scene,--the speaker's accents became more deeply
tender,--of their parents' honeymoon. Within a drive of this enchanting
spot was the little town of Poissy, where the mail train could be made
to stop and where, the day after to-morrow, he would be waiting--

Barbara sat listening. She had raised her head and was staring straight
before her. Berwick looked at her with entreating eyes--"It is close to
Paris! Besides, they know you will be moving about."

"It is not that," she spoke with difficulty, hardly knowing why she felt
so torn by conflicting feelings of shame and pain. Perhaps it was only
because the evocation of St. Germains brought the presence of her mother
before her.

She tried to tell herself that she had known that this would--nay,
must--happen. The battle had been fought and lost before to-night.
During the long solitary days Barbara had just lived through, she had
acknowledged that she could not give up Berwick,--rather than that they
must inevitably come to do what Lord Bosworth and Madame Sampiero had
done. And yet this discussion, the unfolding of this plan, filled her
with humiliation and misery. "When I come back," she said, looking at
him, for the first time straight in the eyes, "I shall have to tell my
god-mother--and--and Doctor McKirdy the truth."

"You will do what you wish. We shall both do exactly what you think
right, my dearest!" Berwick could hardly believe in his own amazing good
fortune, and yet he also felt ill at ease. "Barbara," he said suddenly,
"before I go--and I ought to be going now, for I shall cross to France
to-morrow--I want to tell you something----"

"Something else?" there was a tone of appeal in her voice.

"Yes, it will not take long. Perhaps I ought to have begun by doing so.
Some time ago Oliver Boringdon made me a curious confidence. He told me
that, were you ever free to marry, he meant to make you an offer, and if
you refused,--he was good enough to intimate that he thought this quite
possible,--to go on doing so at intervals unless you became the wife of
another man!"

Barbara looked at him, and then began to laugh helplessly, though the
words had jarred on her horribly. "Oliver Boringdon? You can't have
understood; how dared he say such a thing--about me?" and the tears ran
down her cheeks.

"Nay, he was right, perhaps, to say what he did. In any case I am sure
you ought to know--it was my duty to tell you."

"But why?" cried Barbara. "Why?"

"A sop," he said with sudden sharpness, "to my own conscience."

But conscience proved an unappeased, upbraiding companion during James
Berwick's four-mile walk to Halnakeham station.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

    "They have most power to hurt us whom we love;
    We lay our sleeping lives within their arms."

                                              BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.


A short avenue of chestnut trees, now in their scented glory of
rose-pink blossom, hid the square red-brick hunting lodge, still known
by its pre-Revolution name of Le Pavillon du Dauphin, from the broad
solitary roadway skirting the Forest of St. Germains. Under this avenue
James Berwick, his hands clasped behind him, his eyes bent on the
ground, was walking up and down the morning of the day he was expecting
Barbara to join him.

It was seven o'clock--not early, according to French hours, for now and
again the heavy wheels of a market cart, the jingling of the tiny bells
hung on to the blue worsted-covered harness, the neighing of the horses,
would break on his ear, and serve to remind him that he was in
France--in the land where, if long tradition speaks truly, the thing
that he was about to do would find many more honest apologists than in
his own; in France which had given, close to this very spot, so
magnificent a hospitality to his own Stuart ancestors. All about him lay
the deep, mysterious, unbroken calm of the great forest; every trace of
last summer's merrymakers--if, indeed, such people ever made their way
to this, the further edge of the wooded peninsula,--had been completely
obliterated. What more enchanting spot could be found in the wide world
to form the setting of what he believed would be a life-long romance?

Like most men, he had always seen something offensive, almost grotesque,
in the preliminaries now usual to conventional marriage. Heavens! what a
lack of imagination had the modern bride and bridegroom! Especially in
England--especially in his own class. Here the mating birds, amid
awakening spring, would sing his own and Barbara's epithalamium.

And yet Berwick was not happy, as he had thought to be, to-day. Again
and again during the long wakeful night he had just passed he had caught
himself wondering whether his uncle, at the beginning of his long
intimacy with Madame Sampiero, had felt such scruples as these which now
tormented him. If so, they had soon vanished; Lord Bosworth, during many
years, had been supremely content with life, and all that life brought
him.

Perhaps he, Berwick, was made of more scrupulous stuff. To-day he had to
face the fact that in his cup of honey there was a drop of exceeding
bitterness. The knowledge that Boringdon might be mistaken,--that
Barbara might, after all, never be free,--made the matter scarcely more
tolerable. Oliver had so spoken that at the time his words had carried
conviction. Berwick asked himself why he had not told her the whole
truth, and then let her be the judge as to what they should do. He had
always been aware that there were the two streaks in his character--the
two Stuart streaks--that of extreme nobility, and that which makes a man
capable of acts of inexplicable betrayal.

In vain he tried to persuade himself that now was too late to change.
Human nature has its limits; in a few hours Barbara would be here, and
with quickening pulses he tried to think only of the immediate future.
Later on, there would--there must--come inevitable pain and difficulty;
they would have to face the reproachful gaze of Madame Sampiero, the
undoubted disapproval of Lord Bosworth, and yet whose example were he
and Barbara now about to follow?

The present was his own, no one--no one, that is, but himself--could
deprive him of to-day's completed joy; and yet he would have given much
to hasten the march of the lagging hours, to sleep, to dream the time
away. Perhaps, when he was in the actual presence of the woman he loved
with a depth of feeling which, to a certain extent, purified and
rendered selfless his longing for her, he would find courage to tell her
the whole of what Boringdon had said--

This concession to his conscience lightened his heart, and he looked
with leisurely and pleased gaze at the finely proportioned building--a
miniature replica of what the central portion of the Palace of
Versailles must have looked like in the days of Louis XIII. No wonder
the curious, stately little pavilion had caught the fancy of his
father--that whimsical, unfortunate Charles Berwick, whose son thought
of him far oftener than he had ever done as a younger man. The Pavilion
du Dauphin, put up for sale in one of France's many political
convulsions, had only cost its English purchaser twenty thousand francs;
and now each year Berwick received an offer from the French Government
to buy the place back at five times that sum! He always refused this
offer, and yet he came there but seldom, sometimes in the autumn for a
few days, occasionally, perhaps once in two or three years, with
Arabella. Since the death of his own mother, no woman save James
Berwick's sister had enjoyed the rare charm of the old hunting lodge.

The building was not fitted for ordinary life. It consisted of two vast
central rooms,--that above the central hall being little more than a
loft,--out of which opened smaller apartments, each and all bearing
traces of the prodigal wealth and luxurious fancy of that fermier
général into whose acquisitive hands the place had drifted for a while
during the last half of the eighteenth century. It was he, doubtless,
who had added the painted ceilings, the panels which Berwick's father
believed had been painted by Nattier, and which, if this were so, would
have made the Pavilion du Dauphin a bargain even at the price which
Berwick yearly refused for it.

When Arabella was there, the brother and sister managed very well
without English servants, done for, and that most adequately, by an old
garde de chasse, Jean Lecerf, and his wife, whom Berwick paid generously
for looking after the property during the winter months of the year.

This old couple,--with the solitary exception of Lord Bosworth, who
rarely alluded to his younger brother,--were the only people who ever
spoke to Berwick and his sister of their parents. Those eccentric
parents, whose marriage had been in itself a wilful, innocent romance,
culminating in a runaway wedding, had spent five summers here, bringing
with them, after the first year, their baby daughter. The stories the
Lecerfs had to tell of that time lost nothing in the telling!

Mère Lecerf--a name generic of the soil in that part of Northern
France--knew very little of her present employer, saving the agreeable
fact that he must be very rich. She was quite unaware that he was a
widower, and she had accepted with apparent satisfaction, and quaintly
expressed felicitations, the story he had seen fit to tell her within an
hour of his arrival the day before--namely that he was now married, and
that his wife was coming to join him for a few days!

Berwick would have preferred to make no such explanation, but something
had to be said, and, after all, would not he henceforth regard Barbara
Rebell as in very truth his honoured, his cherished wife?

He walked from the outside air into the spacious room, into which the
morning sun was streaming through the one immense window which gave on
to a steep clearing, now carpeted with the vivid delicate green of
lily-of-the-valley leaves. One of the qualities which had most delighted
him in Barbara during the early days of their acquaintance had been her
perception of, and delight in, natural beauty. How charmed she would be
with this place! How the child which had awakened in her would revel in
the strangeness of a dwelling-place which so little resembled the
ordinary conventional house!

Groups of fair shepherdesses, each attended by her faithful swain,
smiled down from the pale grisaille walls, but close to the deep
chimney,--indeed, fixed inside, above the wooden seat--was a reminder of
an age more austere, more creative than that of Nattier. This was a
framed sheet of parchment--a contemporary copy of Plantin's curious
sonnet, "Le Bonheur de ce Monde," whose _naif_ philosophy of life has
found echoes in many worthy hearts since it was first composed by the
greatest of Flemish printers.

    "Avoir une maison, commode, propre, et belle,
    Un jardin tapissé d'espaliers odorans,
    Des fruits, d'excellent vin, peu de train, peu d'enfants,
    Posséder seul sans bruit une femme fidèle.

    "N'avoir dettes, amour, ni procès, ni querelle,
    Ni de partage à faire avecque ses parens,
    Se contenter de peu, n'espérer rien des Grands,
    Régler tous ses desseins sur un juste modèle.

    "Vivre avecque franchise et sans ambition,
    S'adonner sans scrupule à la dévotion,
    Domter ses passions, les rendre obéissantes.

    "Conserver l'esprit libre et le jugement fort,
    Dire son Chapelet en cultivant ses entes,
    C'est attendre chez soi bien doucement la mort."

With the exception, perhaps, of three or four lines, Berwick now found
himself in unexpected agreement with old Plantin's analysis of human
happiness.

And Barbara? Ah! she undoubtedly would agree with almost every word of
it; he caught himself wondering whether the position he had won, and
which he owed in a measure,--perhaps in a very great measure,--to his
wife's fortune, would be really forfeited, were he to become again a
comparatively poor man. Berwick had by no means forgotten what it was to
be straitened in means; and he realised that want of substantial wealth
had been a great bar even to Lord Bosworth. Still, oddly enough, the
thought of giving up his wealth for the sake of Barbara was beginning to
appeal to his imagination. He went so far as to tell himself that, had
he come across her as a girl, he would of course have married her, and
forfeited his large income without a regret.

So it was that, during the long solitary spring day, spent by him almost
wholly in the forest, Berwick experienced many phases of acute and
varying feeling, most of which tended to war with the course to which he
was being inexorably driven by his sense of honour rather than by his
conscience.

But for Boringdon's revelation as to Pedro Rebell's state, Berwick's
conscience would have been at ease. So much he had the honesty to admit.
Apart from that one point which so intimately involved his honour, he
was without scruple, and that although he loved Barbara the more for
being, as he well knew she was, scrupulous, and, as he thought,
conscience-ridden. Nothing, so he told himself again and again during
those hours of fierce battle, could alter the fact that she belonged to
him in that special sense which is, as concerns a man and a woman, the
outcome of certain emotional experiences only possible between two
natures which are drawn to one another by an over-mastering instinct.

In the days that followed the fire at Chancton Priory, there had arisen,
between Berwick and Barbara, a deep, wordless intimacy and communion,
which at the time had had the effect of making him divine what was in
her mind, with a clearness which had struck those about them as being
actually uncanny. And yet it was then, during those days, that Berwick
had sworn to himself that his love was pure and selfless in its essence.
As she had lain there, her hand quivering when it felt his touch, every
gross element of his nature had become fused and refined in the clear
flame of his passion. It had been during these exquisite, to him sacred
moments, that he had told himself that on these terms of spiritual
closeness and fusion he would be content to remain.

But alas! that mood had quickly changed; and the interview with
Boringdon had reawakened the violent primeval instinct which had
slumbered,--only slumbered,--during the illness of Barbara. The
knowledge that another man loved her, with an ordinary, natural love by
no means free from that element of physical attraction which Berwick
himself had been striving, not unsuccessfully, to control in his own
heart, had had a curious effect upon him. His soul, ay, and something
much less spiritual and more tangible than his soul, rushed down from
Heaven to earth, and he began to allow himself, when in the company of
the woman he loved, certain experiments, slight, almost gossamer in
texture, but which he would afterwards recall with a strange mingling of
shame and rapture, for they proved him master of that most delicate and
sensitive of human instruments, a pure and passionate heart.

The wide solitary glades carpeted with flowers, the chestnut groves,
skirting the great avenue of firs, which is one of the glories of the
Forest,--everything to-day seemed to minister to his passion, to bring
Barbara Rebell vividly before him. Coming on a bank from whose mossy
surface sprang high, delicately tinted windflowers, Berwick was suddenly
haunted by a physical memory--that of Barbara's movement of surrender
two days before. Again he felt her soft quivering mouth yielding itself
to his lips, and, still so feeling, he suddenly bent down and put these
lips, now sanctified, to the cool petals of a windflower. Was it a sure
instinct which warned him that Barbara's love for him, even if it
contained every element the natural man seeks to find in his mate, was
so far governed by conscience that she would never be really content and
unashamed so long as they were outside the law? More, if Boringdon were
right, if Pedro Rebell were indeed dying, and Barbara became in time
James Berwick's wife, would she ever forget, would she ever cease to
feel a pang of pain and remorse in, the fact of this episode, and of the
confession which would--which must--follow after? He had to ask himself
whether he was prepared to cast so dark a shadow over the picture of
these days, these hours, which her mind would carry into all the future
years of their lives.

                               * * * * *

More difficult, because far more subtle and unanswerable, was the
knowledge that Boringdon might after all have been wrong, and that
Barbara might never be free. In that case, so Berwick with fierce
determination told himself, he would be fool indeed to retard the
decisive step which would resolve what had already become, both to him
and to Barbara, if the truth were to be faced honestly, an intolerable
situation.

But in his heart Berwick knew well that Oliver Boringdon had spoken the
truth. Even now, to-day, release might have come, and Barbara might be a
free woman. Slowly, painfully, as he fought and debated the question
with himself, he became aware that only one course was compatible with
his own self-respect.

A secret misgiving, a hidden, unmentionable dread, which would have
troubled, perhaps with reason, many a man in Berwick's position, was
spared this man. He knew that he need have no fear that Barbara would
misunderstand, or question, even in her heart of hearts, his sacrifice.
It would not be now, but later, that she would suffer,--when they went
back to their old humiliating position at Chancton, as lovers
unacknowledged, separated, watched.

And so, at last, the outcome of the struggle which saw him go through so
many different moments of revolt and sharp temptation, was that Berwick
brought himself to envisage that immediate renunciation, which seemed so
much more difficult to face than did the further, if less poignant,
sacrifice which still lay in the distant future, when, to make Barbara
his wife, he would give up so much that had hitherto, or so he had
thought, made life worth living.

Slowly he made his way back to the Pavilion du Dauphin, there to set
himself grimly to do all that was possible to make his decision, if not
irrevocable, then most difficult of revocation. Mère Lecerf was abruptly
told that as her master must leave the hunting lodge that night she must
arrange to come and sleep there, in order that "Madame" should not be
alone in the solitary building. But that, as Berwick well knew, was by
no means enough, for Mère Lecerf would acquiesce in any change of plan
with joyful alacrity.

So it was that six o'clock saw him passing into the Pavilion Henri IV.,
the famous hostelry which terminates the long Terrace of St. Germains.
There he was well known, and could, in his present mood, have well
spared the delight with which his orders were received, as also the few
sentences in which the landlady's young daughter aired her English. "But
how so! Of course! The most beautiful of our rooms shall be ready for
Monsieur's occupation. Perhaps for three nights? La, la! What a short
sojourn! A carriage now, at once? Another one to be at the Pavilion du
Dauphin this evening? But yes, certainly!"

                               * * * * *

Barbara, stepping down from the high French railway carriage, looked
about her with a strange shrinking and fear in her dark eyes. From the
moment she had left the boat she had been reminded, and that
intolerably, of another journey taken, not alone,--on the day of her
marriage to Pedro Rebell. The last few months seemed obliterated, and
Berwick for the moment forgotten. She was haunted by two very different
presences,--that of her mother, and that of the West Indian planter,
whose physical nearness, which had ever, from their marriage day onward,
filled her with agonised revolt and terror, she seemed now to feel as
she had not felt it for years, for he had soon tired of his victim. Had
it not been that thoughts of Madame Sampiero, and of the duty she owed
to the paralysed woman, restrained her, she would have been tempted to
open the railway carriage door and step out into the rushing wind, and
so end, for ever, the conflict in her mind.

There are women, more women than men, who are born to follow the
straight way,--to whom crooked paths are full of unknown terrors. Such a
woman was Barbara Rebell. And yet the sight of Berwick,--Berwick, pale
indeed, but quiet, self-possessed and smiling, as they advanced towards
each other across the primitive little station,--brought comfort, and
even security, to her heart. It was so clearly impossible that he would
wish to work her any ill--

No other passenger had got out at Poissy, and the station-master, who
knew the owner of the Pavillon du Dauphin, looked with curiosity at the
man and woman now going towards one another. The information given to
Mère Lecerf had already reached him, "Cold types, these English!" but he
cheered up when he saw Berwick suddenly bend down and kiss each of the
traveller's pale cheeks, in French husbandly fashion. "Salut Monsieur!
Salut Madame!" the familiar accents fell sweetly on Barbara's ear as she
walked through to the town square, where a victoria was waiting to take
them to the Pavillon du Dauphin.

As she sat, silent by his side, Berwick took her hand in his. Again and
again he opened his lips to speak, to tell her of his decision. But
something seemed to hold him back from doing so now. Later, when they
were alone, would be time enough.

And Barbara? Still full of vague, unsubstantial fears, she yet felt
free--absolutely free--from the presence which had journeyed by her
side. Berwick now stood between herself and Pedro Rebell, but, during
the long silent drive up the steep road leading from the valley to the
forest plateau, Barbara's mother seemed to stand sentinel between
herself and Berwick.

                               * * * * *

At last they were alone,--alone in the shadow-filled hall where the
beams of the May moon, slanting in through the wide, curtainless window,
warred with the light thrown by the lamp still standing on the table
where they had sat at supper half an hour before.

As she heard the door shut behind Madame Lecerf, Barbara had risen and
gone over to the friendly glow of the fire. She was now sitting, rather
rigidly upright, on the wooden bench which formed a kind of inglenook
within the stone fireplace. Just above her head hung the faded gilt
frame containing Plantin's sonnet; her hands were clasped loosely over
her knees, and she was looking straight into the heart of the burning
peat.

Berwick, himself in shadow, watched her in tense silence; there was
something enigmatical, and to him rather fearful, in her stillness,--in
some ways he felt her more remote from himself than he had ever felt her
to be since the night they had first met.

When driving from Poissy, he had taken her hand, and she had let it rest
in his; but only for one brief moment, during the last two hours, had
the woman he loved shown any sign of emotion. This was when, as they sat
at table, the old French woman serving them had said, in answer to some
question: "Mais oui, Madame Berwick!" and Barbara's face had suddenly
become flooded with colour.

At last she looked round from the fire, and sought to see where her
companion was sitting. Berwick thought the gesture beckoned; he leapt up
and came forward with a certain eagerness, and, standing before her,
smiled down into her serious eyes.

Suddenly she put out her hand and touched his sleeve. "Won't you sit
down," she said, "here, by me?"

He obeyed, and she felt his arm slowly gathering her to him, while he,
on his side, became aware that she first shrank back, and then gradually
yielded to his embrace. Nay more, she suddenly laid her cheek against
his lips with a curious childish abandonment, but he knew there was
something wanting,--something which had been there during the moment
that their souls, as well as their bodies, had rushed together the
last,--the only time, till now,--that he had held her in his arms.

She made a slight, an ineffectual effort to disengage herself as she
asked in a low voice: "Why did your servant call me that? Call me, I
mean, by your name?"

"Because," he answered, rather huskily, "because I told her that you
were my wife. I hope that name is what all will call you some day."

Barbara's lips trembled. "No," she said very slowly, "I do not think
that will ever happen. God will not let me be so happy. I have not
deserved it." Yet even as she said the words, he felt, with quick,
overmastering emotion, that she was surrendering herself, in spirit as
well as in body, and that she came willingly.

He turned and caught her more closely to him.

"Listen," he said hoarsely, "listen while I say something to you that
perhaps I ought to have said before, earlier, to-night."

Then, rather suddenly, he withdrew his arms from about the slight
rounded figure enfolded in them. The utterance of what he had made up
his mind must now be said had become immeasurably more difficult during
the last few moments. He asked himself, with rough self-reproach and
self-contempt, why he had so delayed, why he had allowed her to come
here to be so wholly at his mercy, and he--yes, he--at hers? He got up
and walked slowly to the other side of the great room, and came back,
even more slowly, to where Barbara was sitting.

There he knelt down by her.

"Barbara," he said, "be kind to me! Help me! My pure angel, what does
your heart tell you would be to-night the greatest proof of my love--of
my adoration of you?"

And then the most amazing, and, to the man looking up at her with
burning eyes the most moving, change came over the face bent down to
his. Barbara had understood. But she said nothing,--only slipped down
and put her arms, a wholly voluntary movement of caress, round him, in a
strange speechless passion of gratitude and tenderness.

"Ah, Barbara," he said, "you have made me know you too well. You have
allowed me to see too clearly into your heart not to know that I was a
brute to ask you to do this thing,--to do that which I knew you believed
to be wrong." And, as she pressed more closely to him, her tears wetting
his face, he went on: "But I promise,--I swear,--I will never ask it of
you again. We will go on as we did,--as we found ourselves able to
do,--after the fire."

"But will not that make you unhappy?" Her lips scarcely moved as she
whispered the words, looking into his strained face with sad, beseeching
eyes.

"Yes," he said, rather shortly, "if I thought it impossible, or even
improbable, that you would become my wife, it would make me very
unhappy, but that, or so I believe, is not impossible, not even
improbable. Ah, Barbara, must I tell you,--do you wish me to tell
you,--everything?"

She looked up at him with a sudden fear and perplexity. What did he
mean, what was it he had heard and wished to keep from her? But she
would trust him, trust him to the end, and so, "No," she whispered,
"tell me nothing you would ever regret having told me. I am quite
content, nay, more than content, with your goodness to your poor
Barbara."

                               * * * * *

An hour later Berwick was driving away from the Pavillon du Dauphin, not
to the station as Mère Lecerf believed, but to St. Germains, within
easy, tantalising distance of the woman he had just left,--a very
tearful, a very radiant, a most adoring, and alas! a most adorable
Barbara.

Looking out with absent eyes across the great moonlit plain to his left,
Berwick thought over the strange little scene which had taken place. He
hardly knew what he had said,--in any case far less than he had meant.
Not a word, for instance, of what Boringdon had told him,--how could he
have spoilt, with the image of death, such an evening as had just been
theirs? Heavens! how strangely Barbara had altered, even before that
whispered assurance that he would never, never ask her to do that which
she thought wrong.

When he had first brought her into the Pavilion, there had been
something tragic, as well as touching, in her still submissiveness of
manner. But afterwards--ah, afterwards!--he had been privileged to see a
side of her nature--ardent, yet spiritual, passionate, yet pure,--which
he felt that he alone had the power to awaken, which had manifested
itself only for him. How happy each had been in the feeling of nearness
to the other, in the knowledge that they were at last free from
watching, even if kindly, eyes, and listening ears,--what happiness they
promised each other for the morrow! They would give themselves, so
Berwick told Barbara, three days in this sylvan fairy land, and then he
would take her to Paris, and go himself back to England.

                               * * * * *

Barbara Rebell never knew that those three days, of to her unalloyed
bliss, held dark hours for her companion--hours when he cursed himself
for a quixotic fool. But, even in the midst of that strange experience,
Berwick was able to write in all honesty to his sister, the only human
being to whom he confided the fact that he was in France,--might she not
already have learnt it from some less trustworthy source?--certain
cryptic words, to which she could then attach no meaning: "One word
more. I wish to remind you that appearances are deceitful, and also to
tell you that I have at last found that it is possible to be good, to be
happy, and also to have a good time."



                              CHAPTER XXII.

    "There are moments struck from midnights!"

                                                    ROBERT BROWNING.


Within a week of her return to Chancton Priory, Barbara heard of Pedro
Rebell's serious condition. A short, dry note from Andrew Johnstone
conveyed to her the fact that he was dying, and that, whether he lived a
few weeks or a few months longer was in his own hands,--a question,
however, only of time, and of a short time.

Berwick had judged truly the woman he had grown to love with so intimate
an understanding and sympathy. The news of approaching release let loose
in Barbara's mind a flood of agonising memories, which crowded out for a
while everything else. During the long years she had endured every
humiliation such a man as Pedro Rebell could inflict on so proud, and so
sensitive a human being as herself, she had never foreseen this way of
escape. He had ever seemed instinct with a rather malignant vitality,
and the young,--Barbara had remained in some ways very young after her
marriage,--are not apt to take death into their calculations.

For some days she told none of those about her of the astounding news
she had received from Santa Maria, but the two in whose thoughts she
dwelt constantly divined her knowledge. It quickened Boringdon's desire
to leave Chancton, and, with that self-delusion to which men who love
are so often prone, in Mrs. Rebell's new coldness of manner to himself,
he saw hope. Not so James Berwick,--he, judging more truly, was seized
with a great fear lest Barbara should think it her duty to go back to
Santa Maria. Rather than that, so he told himself during those days of
strain and waiting for the confidence which she withheld, he would go
himself,--men have gone stranger pilgrimages on behalf of their
beloveds.

At last he told her that he knew what was so deeply troubling her. "And
you are thinking," he said quietly, "that perhaps you ought to go back
and look after him till the end? Is not that so?"

Barbara looked at him very piteously,--they were walking under the
beeches, and, having wandered off the path, were now utterly alone. But,
before she could speak, he again opened his lips: "If such action is
necessary, if you do not think he will be well cared for by those about
him, I will go for you."

"You?" Barbara's dark eyes dilated with sudden fear--"Oh! no, not
you!----"

"Indeed, you could trust me to do all that was possible. You do not
think, surely, that your actual presence would be welcome to him?" The
words were uttered very quietly, but, as he asked the apparently
indifferent question, Berwick clenched the stick he held with a nervous
movement.

"No, I should not be personally welcome." Barbara spoke in a low voice,
almost in a whisper; she felt it impossible to make those confidences
regarding her life with Pedro Rebell which another woman would, perhaps,
in her place, have been eager to make. And yet she longed to convey to
Berwick how short-lived on his part had been the sudden attraction which
had led this half-Spaniard to behave, in those sad weeks just before and
after her father's death, so as to bring her to believe that marriage
with him was the only way out of a difficult and undignified situation;
how little, when once he was married to her, the man who was now dying
had taken her into his scheming, vicious life.

But now she could say nothing of all this. And yet those few words with
Berwick comforted her, and made her see more clearly, even gave her
courage to telegraph to the Johnstones,--only to receive the decided
answer that all that could be done was being done, and that her coming,
from every point of view, was undesirable.

Then, and not till then, did Mrs. Rebell tell her god-mother the news
which meant so much to her, indeed to them both.

Madame Sampiero made but one comment--"James Berwick must have known
this before you went to France!"

Barbara bent forward to hear the quickly muttered words. The suggestion
surprised her, perhaps troubled her a little. She hesitated,--but surely
such knowledge could not have reached him before it reached herself, and
so, "No--I do not think so," she said.

"Ah! well, I do think so----"

Madame Sampiero said no other word, but when her mind--that shrewd,
acute mind, as keenly able to weigh actions and to judge those about her
as ever it had been--pondered the confession Barbara had made to her
immediately on her return from France, her heart grew very tender to
James Berwick. She realised, what one who had been a better woman than
herself would perhaps not have understood so well, the force of the
temptation which must have assailed the man who loved Barbara with so
jealous and instinctive a passion. At last, too, Madame Sampiero
understood the riddle of Oliver Boringdon's sudden resignation of the
conduct of her business. It must have been from him that Berwick had
learnt that Mrs. Rebell was on the eve of becoming a free woman. But not
even to Doctor McKirdy did the paralysed mistress of the Priory say what
was in her mind; the old Scotchman divined that her view as to the
danger of the relation of her god-daughter and Berwick had altered, and
that the change had come about because of some confidence--or was it
confession?--made by Barbara within a few hours of her return from
Paris. Only Madame Sampiero,--and, long afterwards, Arabella
Berwick,--ever knew of those three days spent by Berwick and Barbara at
St. Germains.

                               * * * * *

The one person in Chancton, to whom Boringdon made any explanation
concerning his resignation of the post he had now held for nearly two
years, was Lucy Kemp. His mother told her many acquaintances that the
public office her son had left to enter Parliament had found it quite
impossible to carry on its portion of the nation's work without him, and
that a very great inducement had been held out to him to persuade him to
go back! But of these confidences of Mrs. Boringdon's he was happily
ignorant, and to Lucy alone Oliver felt a longing to justify the future
as well as the present.

Shortly, baldly, making no excuse for himself, unconsciously trusting to
her sympathy, and to the instinctive understanding she had always shown
where he and his feelings were concerned, he told her the truth, adding
in conclusion: "You, now knowing her as you did not know her before the
fire, can understand my----" he hesitated, then brought the words out
with a certain effort,--"my love for her. I shall wait a year; I should
not insult her by coming any sooner. I do not expect to be listened
to--at first. She has suffered----" Again he stopped abruptly, then went
on: "Lucy, do you think it strange that I should tell you all this?"
And, as she shook her head, he added: "Lately she has seemed to avoid
me,--that is, since her return from France, in fact since I know that my
brother-in-law's letter must have reached her."

A sharp temptation assailed Lucy Kemp. Would it be so very wrong to
break her promise to Mrs. Rebell,--that promise given so solemnly the
night of the fire? Could she not say a word, only a word, indicating
that he was making a terrible mistake? What hope could there be for
Oliver Boringdon if Barbara loved James Berwick? But the girl fought
down the longing, and Boringdon's next words showed her that perhaps he
knew or guessed more than she had thought possible.

"Perhaps you have heard,--I know my mother has done so,--foolish gossip
concerning Mrs. Rebell and James Berwick, but I can assure you that
there is no truth in it. Berwick's financial condition makes it
impossible that he should think of marriage." And, as something in
Lucy's look or manner made him aware that she also had heard of, perhaps
had noticed, the constant presence of Berwick at the Priory, Oliver bit
his lip and went on, rather hurriedly: "I am not excusing him. I think
his assumption of friendship with Mrs. Rebell has been regrettable. But,
Lucy, I spoke to him about it, and though in doing so I lost his
friendship, I am quite sure that it made a difference, and that it
caused him to realise the harm he might be doing. In a country
neighbourhood such as this, a man cannot be too careful." Oliver
delivered himself of this maxim with considerable energy.

He seemed to be about to add something, then changed his mind. One
further word, however, he did say:

"I wonder if you would let me write to you sometimes, and if Mrs. Kemp
would mind your sometimes writing to me? In any case I hope my mother
will hear from you."

And then, for a short space of time, a deep calm settled over Chancton.
Berwick, who was staying at Fletchings, came almost daily, spending,
'tis true, long hours in Barbara's company, but treating her, during
that strange interval of waiting, with a silent, unmaterial tenderness
which moved and rather surprised those about them.

                               * * * * *

Barbara and her god-mother were in the Blue drawing-room, spending
there, not unhappily, a solitary evening. Spring had suddenly become
summer. It was so hot that the younger woman, when coming back from the
dining-room, had left the doors deliberately wide open, but no sound
came from the great hall and upper stories of the Priory.

Madame Sampiero preferred the twilight, and the two candles, placed far
behind her couch, left her own still face and quivering lips in shadow,
while casting a not unkindly light on her companion.

Barbara had been fanning the paralysed woman, but during the last few
moments she had let the fan fall idly on her knee, and she was looking
down with a look of gravity, almost of suffering, on her face. She was
thinking, as she so often did think in these days, of Pedro Rebell,
wondering if she ought to have gone back to Santa Maria as soon as she
received Andrew Johnstone's letter. Had she believed that her presence
would bring pleasure or consolation to the man who, she was told, was so
soon to die, she might have found the strength to go to him,--her mother
would have said that in any case her duty was to be there,--but then her
mother had never come across, had never imagined--thank God that it was
so!--such a man as her daughter had married. And so little does even the
tenderest and most intelligent love bridge the gulf between any two of
us, that Madame Sampiero, taking note of the downcast eyes, thought
Barbara absorbed in some happy vision of dreams come true.

A good and noble deed, even if it takes the unusual form of supreme
personal self-abnegation, often has a far-reaching effect, concealed,
and that for ever, from the doer. How amazed James Berwick would have
been to learn that one result of his renunciation had been to broaden,
to sweeten Madame Sampiero's whole view of human nature! She realised,
far more than Barbara Rebell could possibly do, the kind of heroism such
conduct as that of Berwick had implied in such a nature as his, and she
understood and foresaw its logical consequence--the altering, the
reshaping in a material form, of the whole of his future life and
career.

Sometimes, when gazing at her god-daughter with those penetrating blue
eyes which had always been her greatest beauty, and which remained, in a
peculiar pathetic sense, the windows of her soul and the interpreters of
her inmost heart, the mistress of Chancton Priory wondered if Barbara
was aware of what James Berwick had done, and of what he evidently meant
to do, for her sake.

To-night these thoughts were specially present to Madame Sampiero;
slowly, but very surely, she also was making up her mind to what would
be, on her part, an act of supreme self-humiliation and renunciation.

"Barbara," she said, in the hoarse muffled tone of which the
understanding was sometimes so difficult--"listen--" Mrs. Rebell started
violently, the two words broke the silence which seemed to brood over
the vast house. "I have determined to receive Julian--Lord Bosworth. You
will prepare him"--she paused a moment, then concluded more
indistinctly, "for the sight he is to see."

"But, Marraine, it is _you_ he loves, and not--not----" Mrs. Rebell's
voice was choked by tears. She slipped down on her knees, and laid her
two hands on Madame Sampiero's stiff fingers, while she looked
imploringly up into the still face.

Suddenly, as she knelt there, a slight sound fell on Barbara's ears; she
knew it at once as that of the door, leading from the great hall to the
vestibule, being quietly closed from the inside. A moment later there
came the rhythmical thud of heavy footsteps making their way, under the
music gallery, across to the staircase. A vague feeling of fear
possessed the kneeling listener. Into her mind there flashed the thought
that whoever had come in must have walked across the lawn very softly,
also that the footfalls striking so distinctly on her ear were
unfamiliar.

Then, in a moment, an amazing, and, to Barbara Rebell, a very awful
thing took place. The stiff fingers she held so firmly slipped from her
grasp, she felt a sudden sensation of void, and, looking up, she saw
Madame Sampiero, drawn to her full height, standing by the empty couch.
A moment later the tall figure was moving with steady swiftness towards
the door which stood open at the other end of the long room--Barbara
sprang up, and rushed forward; she was just in time to put her arms
round her god-mother as Madame Sampiero suddenly swayed--wavered--

There was a moment of tense silence, for outside in the hall the heavy
footsteps had stayed their progress--

"It is Julian." Madame Sampiero spoke quite distinctly, but she was
leaning heavily, heavily, on her companion, and Barbara could feel the
violent trembling of her emaciated body. "He used to come--in that
way--long ago--He thinks I am upstairs. You must go and find him--"

To Barbara, looking back, as she often did look back during her later
life, to that night, three things, in their due sequence, stood out
clearly--the terrifying sight of the paralysed woman walking with such
firm swift steps down the long room; the slow and fearful progress back
to the couch; and then, her own fruitless, baffling search through the
upper stories of the Priory--a search interrupted at intervals by the
far-away, but oh! how clear and insistent voice, crying out "Barbara!"
"Barbara!" a cry which, again and again, brought the seeker hurrying
down, but with never a word of having found him whom she sought.

                               * * * * *

Doctor McKirdy, coming in as he always did come each evening, was the
only human being to whom Mrs. Rebell ever told what had occurred; and
she was indifferent to the knowledge that he discredited her statement
as to how far Madame Sampiero had walked before she, Barbara, had caught
the swaying figure in her arms. Would she herself have believed the
story, had it been told her? No, for nothing could have convinced her of
its truth but the evidence of her own eyes.

As was his way when what he judged to be serious illness or disturbance
was in question, the old Scotchman was very silent, intent at first only
on soothing his patient, and on having her transported upstairs as
quickly and as quietly as possible. At last Barbara heard the words, "I
promise ye most solemnly I will look mysel', but no doubt he's away by
now, slipt out somehow"--uttered in the gentle voice he only kept for
the woman to whom he was speaking, and which he rarely used even to her.
And so, when Madame Sampiero was finally left with Jean--Jean, whose
stern countenance showed no quiver of curiosity or surprise, though she
must have known well enough that something very unusual had
happened--Mrs. Rebell followed Doctor McKirdy downstairs.

"Then you do think it really was Lord Bosworth?" she asked rather
eagerly.

"Indeed I do not!" he turned on her fiercely, "I just think it was
nobody but your fancy!"

Barbara felt foolishly vexed.

"But, Doctor McKirdy, some man undoubtedly came in, and walked across
the hall. We both heard him, quite distinctly."

"And of whom were ye thinking,--ay, and may-be talking,--when ye both
heard this mysterious person?"

It was a random shot, but Barbara reddened and remained silent.

Doctor McKirdy, however, did not pursue his advantage. "Look ye here,"
he said, not unkindly, "try and get that notion out of her head, even if
ye can't out of yours. If I thought he had come, that it was he"--he
clenched his hands, "'Twould be a dastardly thing to do after what I've
told him of her state! But, Mrs. Barbara, believe me, 'twas all
fancy,"--he looked at her with an odd twisted smile, "I'll tell you
something I've never told. Years ago, just after Madam's bad illness, I
went away, more fool I, for what they call a change. Well, wherever I
went they followed me--she and little Julia, as much there before me as
you are now! 'Twas vain to reason with myself. Julia, poor bairn, was
dead--who should know it as well as I?--and Madam lay stretched out
here. And yet--well, since then I've known that seeing is not all
believing. Once I got back,--to her, to them,--I laid their wraiths."

Barbara shuddered. "Then you are not going to look any more? I quite
admit that whoever came in is probably gone away by now."

"Of course I'll make a round of the place. D'ye think I'd break my word
in that fashion?"

Together they made a long and fruitless search through the vast old
house, and up to the last moment Barbara thought it possible they might
find someone in hiding, some poor foot-sore sailor tramp, may-be, who
had wandered in, little knowing of the trouble he was bringing--but the
long search yielded nothing.

"Are ye satisfied _now_?" Doctor McKirdy held up the hooded candle, and
turned the light on her flushed, excited face.

"Yes!--no!--I mean that of course I know now there is no one in the
house, but someone, a man, certainly came in."

For long hours Barbara lay awake, listening with beating heart for any
unwonted sound, but none broke across the May night, and she fell asleep
as the birds woke singing.

At eight in the morning Léonie brought her a note just arrived from
Fletchings: "DEAREST,--Your kind heart will be grieved to learn that my
uncle died, quite suddenly, last evening. I nearly came over, then
thought it wisest to wait till the morning. Better perhaps make McKirdy
break it to her."



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

    "O sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!"


A whole year had gone by, and it had been, so Chancton village and the
whole neighbourhood agreed, the dullest and longest twelve months the
place had ever known. What events had happened had all been of a
disturbing or lugubrious character, and even Miss Vipen confessed that
there had been really nothing pleasant to talk about!

The Cottage was again empty, for Oliver Boringdon and his mother had
gone, and their departure, especially that of Mrs. Boringdon, had
certainly been viewed with sincere regret. She was such an agreeable,
pleasant person, and the village people on their side had soon regretted
Oliver's just dealings, which compared most commendably with the
favouritism and uncertain behaviour of Doctor McKirdy, who now, as
before Mr. Boringdon's brief tenure of the land agency, acted as
go-between to the tenants and Madame Sampiero.

Another occurrence, which had certainly played its part in bringing
about the general dulness and flatness that seemed to hang over the
place as a pall, had been the death, from sudden heart failure, of Lord
Bosworth. The owner of Fletchings had been for many years the great man
of the neighbourhood; his had been the popular presence at all the local
functions he could be persuaded to attend, and there had been a constant
stream of distinguished and noteworthy folk to and from his country
house. Even those who only saw Lord Bosworth's distinguished guests
being conveyed to and from the station, shared in the gratification
afforded by their presence. The only day which stood out in the
recollection of both gentle and simple was that of Lord Bosworth's
funeral; quite a number of really famous people had come down from
London to be present.

Then had followed many pleasant discussions, in Miss Vipen's
drawing-room and elsewhere, concerning the late peer's will. Lord
Bosworth had left everything that could be left away from his heir to
the latter's sister, and this of course was as it should be. But there
had been a few curious bequests; a considerable legacy, for instance, to
Madame Sampiero's old housekeeper, Mrs. Turke; the dead man's watch and
chain, a set of pearl studs, and a valuable snuff-box which had been
given to him by the Emperor of the French, actually became the property
of Doctor McKirdy, who--so said popular rumour--had begun by declining
the legacy, and then, in deference to Madame Sampiero's wish, had
accepted it! All agreed that it had been very generous of her to
interest herself in the matter, for strange, very strange, to say, her
name was not mentioned at all in the will! Oddest of all, in the opinion
of the neighbourhood, was the bequest to Mrs. Rebell of the portrait of
the child, described as that of "My daughter Julia"; but the picture
still hung in what had been Lord Bosworth's study at Fletchings. There
was a crumb of comfort inasmuch as the little estate had not been sold.
Perhaps the new Lord Bosworth, to whom such an insignificant possession
could be of but little account, intended to present it to his sister,
Miss Berwick.

The fact that all the Priory servants had been put into mourning had
given most people subject for remark, and had rather scandalised
everybody; it seemed to dot the i's and cross the t's of the now
forgotten scandal. Indeed, the more charitable were inclined to think
that the servants' mourning was really worn because of the death of Mrs.
Rebell's husband, which had become known at Chancton two days after that
of Lord Bosworth,--a fact which had prevented its attracting as much
attention and comment as perhaps the event deserved.

It had been noted, however, with a good deal of concern, that Mrs.
Rebell did not wear proper widow's weeds; true, she made her widowhood
the excuse for living a life of even greater seclusion than she had done
before, and she wore black, but no one--so those interested in the
matter declared--would take her for a newly-made widow.

Yet another thing which had certainly contributed to the dulness of the
neighbourhood had been the absence, the whole summer and autumn through,
of the new Lord Bosworth,--for this of course had meant the shutting up
of Chillingworth. After making an ineffectual, and, so most of the
people belonging to that part of the world thought, a very ridiculous
attempt to assert his right to go on sitting in the House of Commons, he
had started "in a huff" for a tour round the world. But he wrote, so
said report, very regularly to Madame Sampiero, and to his old nurse,
Mrs. Turke. He had also sent to various humble folk in Chancton
wonderful presents; no one connected with Chillingworth had been
forgotten, not even Dean's new baby,--to whom, by the way, Dean's master
had acted, being of course represented by proxy, as god-father.

Now, however, the neighbourhood was waking up a little; for one thing
the wanderer was home again, having hurried back to be present at the
distribution of the Liberal loaves and fishes,--strange though it seemed
that a peer should continue to be a Radical, especially such an
immensely wealthy peer as was the new Lord Bosworth.

With only one group of people might time be said to have stood quite
still. These were General and Mrs. Kemp and their daughter Lucy. But
Lucy was certainly less bright--perhaps one ought to say duller--than
she used to be. On the other hand, she had become very intimate with
Mrs. Rebell; they were constantly together, and people could not help
wondering what the latter saw in Lucy Kemp.

                               * * * * *

It was the third of April. Miss Vipen prided herself upon remembering
dates; the anniversaries of birthdays, of weddings, of deaths, lingered
in her well-stored mind, and she also kept a little book in which she
noted such things. To-day was to be long remembered by her, for, having
most fortunately had occasion to go across to the post office just after
luncheon, she had seen, lying on the counter, a telegram containing a
most extraordinary and unexpected piece of news.

Miss Vipen regarded telegrams as more or less public property, and she
had met the flustered postmaster's eye,--an eye she had known absolutely
from its infancy,--with a look of triumphant confidence. Then, by
amazing good luck, while on the way back to her own house, she had come
across Mrs. Sampson, the rector's wife, and from her had won ample,
overwhelming confirmation, of the most interesting event which had
happened in the neighbourhood for years and years!

It was a delightful spring day and Miss Vipen decided that, instead of
waiting calmly at home until her usual circle gathered about her at tea
time, she would make a number of calls, ensuring a warm welcome at each
house by the amazing and secret tidings she would be able to bring. Mrs.
Sampson was still bound to silence, and only the fact that Miss Vipen
was already acquainted with the morning's happenings had made the
rector's wife reluctantly complete, and as it were, round off, the
story.

Miss Vipen's first call was at Chancton Grange. Since General Kemp had
behaved so strangely some two years before, turning on his heel and
leaving her drawing-room before he had even said how do you do, she had
scarcely ever crossed Mrs. Kemp's threshold. But to-day an unwonted
feeling of kindness made her aware that the important piece of gossip
she came to bring would make her welcome to at least one of the Grange's
inmates, and to the one whom she liked best, for she had always been, so
she assured herself to-day, rather fond of Lucy. Poor Lucy, wasting her
youth in thinking of a man who would certainly never think of her, and
yet with whom, so Miss Vipen understood, her parents very wrongly
allowed her to correspond!

The old lady was naturally delighted to find the inmates of the Grange
all at home, and all three sitting together in the room into which she
was shown. Both the General and his wife made what they flattered
themselves was a perfectly successful attempt to conceal their surprise
at seeing Miss Vipen, but they were not long left in doubt as to why she
had come, for she plunged at once into the matter, looking sharply from
her host to her hostess, and from Mrs. Kemp to Lucy, as she exclaimed,
"I suppose that you have not heard the great news? You have no idea of
what took place this morning? Here, in Chancton Church?"

But General and Mrs. Kemp shook their heads, but their daughter began to
look, or so Miss Vipen thought, rather guilty.

"Well, there was a wedding at our church this morning! But you will
never guess,--I defy any of you to guess,--who was the bride and who the
bridegroom!"

Then the speaker saw with satisfaction that General Kemp gave a sudden
anxious glance at Lucy. "The lady has not lost much time," continued
Miss Vipen, "for her husband has only been dead four or five months. Now
can you guess who it is?"

But Lucy broke the awkward silence. "Just ten months, Miss Vipen--Mrs.
Rebell became a widow early in June----"

"Well, no matter, but can you guess the name of the happy man? Of course
one could give _two_ guesses----"

But alas! Miss Vipen was denied her great wish to be the first to tell
the delightful piece of news, for, while she was enjoying Mrs. Kemp's
obvious discomfort, Lucy again spoke, and in a sharp voice very unlike
her own,

"Why, Mr. Berwick--I mean Lord Bosworth, of course! Who else could it
be?" Then she looked rather deprecatingly at her parents: "I could not
say anything about it, because it was told me only yesterday, as a
great, a very great, secret."

"And do you know," continued Miss Vipen in a rather discomfited tone,
"who were the witnesses?"

"No," said Lucy, "that I do not."

"Doctor McKirdy for Lord Bosworth, and Daniel O'Flaherty, that Home
Ruling barrister who is mixed up in so many queer cases, for Mrs.
Rebell! I can tell you another most extraordinary thing. She was
actually married in a white dress--not a veil of course, but a white
gown and a hat. And who else do you think were there? Mrs. Turke--it's
the first time to my knowledge that she's been in that church for
years--the Scotchwoman, Jean, the French maid Léonie, and the butler
McGregor! Mrs. Turke wore a pale blue watered silk dress and a pink
bonnet; she cried, it seems, so loudly that Mr. Sampson became quite
confused----"

"And Miss Berwick?" said Lucy quietly, "was she not there too?"

"Yes, of course; I was forgetting Miss Berwick. Well, this must be a sad
day for her--after all her striving and scheming for her brother! No
wonder he kept Fletchings, for I suppose they will have to live there
now," Miss Vipen spoke with deep and sincere commiseration. "What a
change for _him_ after Chillingworth! He becomes a pauper--for a peer,
for a Cabinet Minister, an absolute pauper! They are going to France
this afternoon for the honeymoon, but they are to be back soon."

                               * * * * *

When Miss Vipen had been seen safely out of the gate by General Kemp, he
came back to find his wife alone. Lucy had gone up to her room.

"I suppose you expected this, Mary?"

"Yes--no"--Mrs. Kemp had an odd look on her face--"and yet I always
liked Mr. Berwick from the very little I saw of him. But I confess I
never thought this would happen. Indeed, I was afraid, Tom,--there is no
harm in saying so now,--I was afraid that in time Oliver Boringdon would
obtain what seemed to be the desire of his heart----"

"Afraid?" cried the General, "Nothing could have pleased me better,
excepting that I should have been sorry for Mrs. Rebell! I suppose that
now you are quite delighted, Mary, at the thought that Boringdon will
again begin haunting Lucy. It is not by my good will that you have
allowed them to write to one another."

Poor Mrs. Kemp! She had no answer ready. During the last year she had
learnt what hatred was, for she had hated Oliver Boringdon with all the
strength of her strong nature; not only had he left Chancton taking
Lucy's heart with him, but he had made no effort to free himself of the
unwanted possession. Nay, more, almost at once a regular correspondence
had begun between the two, and though Lucy was not unwilling that her
mother should see his letters, Mrs. Kemp did not find much to console
her in them.

And now? The mother realised that she must make haste to transform her
feeling towards Oliver Boringdon into something akin to liking. As a
beginning she now went up to Lucy's room, her heart yearning over the
girl, but with no words prepared. Perhaps now her child would come back
to her--the last year had been a long, sad year to Mrs. Kemp.

Lucy was sitting idly by the rosewood davenport. There were traces of
tears on her face. "Mother!" she said, "Oh, mother!" Then she took Mrs.
Kemp's hand and laid her cheek against it. In a very different tone she
added, "I felt rather ashamed at not telling you yesterday. Barbara
would not have minded your knowing, but Lord Bosworth was anxious that
no one should be told."

"Is that why you are crying?" asked Mrs. Kemp in a low voice.

"No, no, of course not! I am afraid--Oh! mother! do you think it will
make _him_ very unhappy?"

"For a little while," said Mrs. Kemp drily, "he will fancy himself so,
and then he will begin to wonder whether, after all, she was quite
worthy of him!"

"Don't say that--don't think so unkindly of him!" Lucy stood up, she put
her hand through her mother's arm, "Do you think people ever leave off
caring, when they have once cared--so much?"

"Lucy," said Mrs. Kemp, "have you ever wondered why your father and I
married so late? You know we were engaged--first--when I was only
nineteen----"

"Because you were too poor!" cried Lucy quickly, "because father was in
India!" and then, as her mother looked at her quite silently, the girl
added, with a kind of cry, "Oh! mother! what do you mean?"

"I mean,--I do not think that now he would be unwilling that you should
know, my darling,--that a woman came between us. Someone not so good,
not so innocent as Barbara Rebell,--for I do think that in this matter
she was quite innocent, Lucy."

"But father always liked you best, mother? How could he help it?"

"No," said Mrs. Kemp, "there was a time when he did not like me best.
There were years when he loved the other woman, and I was--well,
horribly unhappy. And yet, you see, he came back to me,--I fought
through,--and you, my dear one, will fight through, please God, to be as
happy a woman as your mother has been ever since you have known her."


                                THE END.



                           Transcriber Notes:

Passages in italics were indicated by _underscores_.

Small caps were replaced with ALL CAPS.

Throughout the document, the oe ligature was replaced with "oe".

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of
the speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up
paragraphs and so that they are next to the text they illustrate. Thus
the page number of the illustration might not match the page number in
the List of Illustrations, and the order of illustrations may not be the
same in the List of Illustrations and in the book.

Errors in punctuation and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected
unless otherwise noted.

On page 3, "beautifu" was replaced with "beautiful".

On page 37, the word after "the doctor" was unclear, but it is listed
as "repeated".

On page 38, "tnat" was replaced with "that".

On page 38, "t  sight" was replaced with "the sight".

On page 38, "who  nly" was replaced with "who only".

On page 58, a period was added after "wiped out".

On page 83, "why it is" was replaced with "Why it is".

On page 96, "rom" was replaced with "from".

On page 96, "hours o" was replaced with "hours of".

On page 97, "  me," was replaced with "time,".

On page 99, "conimprehensible" was replaced with "incomprehensible".

On page 116, "ndoors" was replaced with "indoors".

On page 121, " elling" was replaced with "telling".

On page 144, a period was added after "herself".

On page 226, "back to Chanc" was replaced with "back to Chancton".

On page 226, "leave early, and" was replaced with "leave early, and it".

On page 228, "woman s refinement" was replaced with "woman's
refinement".

On page 237, a period was placed after "prudent".

On page 239, "pirmeval" was replaced with "primeval".

On page 240, " ar from" was replaced with "far from".

On page 240, "he fel" was replaced with "he felt".

On page 243, "exemp" was replaced with "exempt".

On page 247, "nstinct" was replaced with "instinct".

On page 258, "onging" was replaced with "longing".

On page 279, "which he had been listening the last three hours.to" was
replaced with "to which he had been listening the last three hours.".

On page 300, "L'orgueil, reméde souverain, qui n'est pas à l'usage des
âmes endres." was replaced with "L'orgueil, remède souverain, qui n'est
pas à l'usage des âmes tendres."

Oh page 310, a comma was placed after "again repeated".

On page 321, a period was placed after "night".





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